The march of progress

Increased civil liberties are on the horizon:

Fifty-three percent of Americans support making gay marriage legal, a Gallup poll showed on Friday, a marked reversal from just a year ago when an equal majority opposed same-sex matrimony.

The latest Gallup findings are in line with two earlier national polls this spring that show support for legally recognized gay marriage has, in recent months, gained a newfound majority among Americans.

It’s hard to say exactly what it is that is causing this shift. I suspect it’s actually a number of factors. For instance, the five states that have given basic civil rights to gays have not fallen into ruin, so people might be recognizing that the fear mongering of conservative bigots was just a bunch of lies. It could also be that more and more people are coming out the closet. As Harvey Milk said, if people realize that they know gays and gay couples, they’re less likely to hate. Or it could be that people are actually recognizing the principles they claim to hold, thus applying them consistently. After all, “I won’t give my approval!” is a rather dishonest argument.

Of course, there is one thing that can’t be missed:

In a sign of a generation gap, Gallup found 70 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 support gay marriage, compared to only 39 percent among those 55 and older.

The irrelevant generations do tend to hold back progress, but it really is so often that the energy and improved perspective of younger generations that brings about important, needed, and principled change.

“I won’t give my approval!”

This post title is increasingly one of the most common lines that anti-gay bigots use. “Why, I didn’t vote for equal rights for gays because that’s like asking for my approval of their ‘behavior’! It’s just absurd!” It’s little more than bigot talk and here’s why.

Imagine 38 states get together with Congress and the President and want to pass a constitutional amendment that says the KKK can no longer have parades or organize or do any of the things they legally do today. We all get an opportunity to vote in favor or against the amendment. If the bigots who hate gays – and come on, that’s all this is about for them – were at all consistent, they would immediately vote in favor of the amendment; I’m sure a few of them actually would. But I think an overwhelming majority would recognize that the question on the ballot isn’t “Do you approve of the KKK?” Only a fucking moron would think that. No, most people would realize that they hate the KKK, but that there are dire consequences when we take away one group’s rights. Most people would have to vote the proposal down.

And they would be right – without approving of the KKK in the least. In fact, most of today’s bigots do actually say they support X group’s right to free speech despite not liking the group. This is really basic, really easy, really obvious logic. It is a lie, a damn convenient lie, when a bigot claims not to have voted for a civil rights measure because he would then be approving of the group facing discrimination.

We have a huge number of states all across the country that still don’t have protections for sexual orientation in housing, education, work, and other areas of daily life. Think about that. Gays can fire straight people for being straight. Straight people can deny gays home loans simply for being gay. It is absurd. And the bigots want us to believe that it’s all because fixing the problem and protecting civil rights would be the same as giving moral approval for a group? Puh-lease.

It would be nice if the bigots of the world could stop lying and just come clean: They hate gays because 1) their religion, not reason or rationality, tells them it’s wrong to be fair, 2) they don’t understand them, 3) they’re ignorant and unwilling to learn, 4) gays are different and they find that yucky, and 5) they are sexually immature little infants.

The moral advancement of Hawaii

Hawaii is about to increase the happiness of many of its citizens. And with no ill consequences.

Hawaii lawmakers gave final approval to civil unions Wednesday and sent the legislation to Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who plans to sign it into law.

Civil unions would begin Jan. 1, 2012, making the state the seventh to grant virtually the same rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself.

Now we just need these states to adhere to the Supreme Court ruling that said separate can never be equal. (Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if same-sex marriage was federally recognized and sanctioned in every state. At least we would all be on board with the constitution at that point.)

Same-sex marriage in Maryland

If there’s one thing we know about the U.S. constitution, it’s that none of our laws are allowed to support any particular religion. And by “we”, I mean those of us who haven’t been blinded by, well, a particular religion. For that other group – you know, the irrational one – things aren’t so clear.

Supporters of same-sex marriage came to Annapolis on Tuesday armed with personal stories, emotional pleas for equal treatment and arguments about how allowing gay couples to marry could help Maryland’s economy.

Opponents countered with biblical verses, research suggesting that children are better off with both a mother and a father, and warnings that “redefining marriage” could undermine other social institutions.

Emphasis added.

As for the rest, there is no research which says children are better off with a mother and father versus with two mothers or two fathers. This is exactly what I was talking about when I lamented the abuse of science. It’s so ugly when science is abused to support bigotry. The only silver lining here is that this makes it all the more clear that the bigots have no real arguments; their dogma demands they resort to just making it all up.

Fortunately, according to the people on the right side of history, this bill has a good chance.

Before the proceedings, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) put the chance of passing a same-sex marriage bill by his chamber at 60 to 70 percent, saying a vote could come next week.

If the bill clears the Senate, then the House of Delegates, typically the more liberal chamber on social issues, would take up the issue, deciding whether Maryland should join the District and five states that allow same-sex marriage.

I don’t know what the state’s citizen appeals process looks like, much less how many bigots populate the state, but all the reports make it sound like it’s just a matter of time until Maryland becomes the newest state to treat more of its citizens fairly – and with absolutely no ill consequences, just like in every other instance.

The horrors of Uganda

At the hand of Christian hate, gays are being targeted and murdered in Uganda.

David Kato, a Ugandan gay rights campaigner who sued a local newspaper which outed him as homosexual, has been beaten to death, activists have said.

Police have confirmed the death and say they have arrested one suspect.

Uganda’s Rolling Stone newspaper published the photographs of several people it said were gay, including Mr Kato, with the headline “Hang them”.

US President Barack Obama was quoted as saying he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Mr Kata’s death.

His Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged authorities to investigate and prosecute the killers.

I have no idea how anyone can say ideas don’t kill people. We’re composed of ideas, of motivations, of convictions – of influences. If we can’t say humans are compositions of ideas, I don’t know how we can even talk about humanity. Anti-gay propaganda, rhetoric, hate, and violent encouragement led to the death of David Kato. And the fire, created from ignorance, is constantly being stoked by a strong Christian faith in the country – along with a strong influence from American Christians who hate gays.

This article would be longer if I wasn’t so sickened.

Another two quick things

First, I was recently discussing with a friend Sean Penn’s movie “Milk”, an excellent film about civil rights activist Harvey Milk. One of the points Penn’s character made again and again was that in order to advance equality for gays was (and is) to get people to realize that they know and care for someone who is gay. Once people know that anti-gay stances actually hurt real human beings, they will be less likely to cause harm to others (such as through voting against civil rights measures for gays).

And it’s true.

Watch the movie. Like I say about “Brokeback Mountain”, even people who don’t like gays can appreciate this film for its qualities as a piece of art.

Second, I’m interested to give a listen to the new stuff Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic have in the works.

According to a report by Spin Magazine, the surviving members of Nirvana regrouped for the first time in more than a decade at a “secret” Foo Fighters show in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. Of course, being that Nirvana was officially just a trio, all that means is that Foo Fighters’ frontman Dave Grohl (pictured) was joined by original Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. However, the duo were also joined by Nirvana’s touring guitarist Pat Smear. Grohl, who sings and plays guitar for the Foos, played drums for Nirvana. The hugely influential group disbanded in 1994 following leader Kurt Cobain’s suicide.

To those paying close attention, Tuesday night’s reunion, while unexpected, should come as little surprise — it’s been widely reported that Grohl recently employed his old bassist’s services for a track which will appear on the new, forthcoming Foo Fighters album. That album, incidentally, is also being produced by Butch Vig, who masterminded Nirvana’s 1991 seminal breakthrough, ‘Nevermind.’

While the Foo Fighters used the intimate show to showcase some of their new material, the short Nirvana segment saw Novoselic and Smear join Grohl on stage to perform ‘Marigold’ — originally a b-side for the hit single ‘Heart Shaped Box,’ it’s the only original composition that Grohl contributed to Nirvana. While many celebrities were allegedly spotted in the audience, we’re guessing that Courtney Love was not one of them.

I am not, however, excited that Pat Smear is involved. He really hurt a lot of the vocals on many of Nirvana’s live songs.

Anyway. Here’s “Marigold”.

Fourteen year old gives an incredible speech

A fourteen year old student came to the defense of his teacher who was suspended for kicking two students out of class. One of the kids that was kicked out was wearing a Confederate flag. The other one made anti-gay remarks. Both clearly have a lot of growing up to do and clearly required discipline. The student who stood up and made an amazing speech was Graeme Taylor and he did it at a school board meeting. It’s worth it to watch the video.

(If anyone knows how to get the embedding code, I would appreciate it.)

Uganda is a terrible place

It’s just awful.

More than 20 homosexuals have been attacked over the last year in Uganda, and an additional 17 have been arrested and are in prison, said Frank Mugisha, the chairman of Sexual Minorities Uganda. Those numbers are up from the same period two years ago, when about 10 homosexuals were attacked, he said.

This all has come after the introduction of an anti-gay bill that would have imposed the death penalty on gays. (The bill eventually died.) By attacking the basic rights of gays, the legislators in Uganda have incited an increasing uprising against them; pretend like gays should have fewer or different rights than heterosexuals and you’re asking for discrimination. We see it all the time in the United States; Uganda has taken it to the extreme.

But you say you aren’t convinced of the similarities between what happens here and what happens in Uganda? How about the perpetuation of myths, then?

The Oct. 9 article in a Ugandan newspaper called Rolling Stone – not the American magazine – came out five days before the one-year anniversary of the controversial legislation. The article claimed that an unknown but deadly disease was attacking homosexuals in Uganda, and said that gays were recruiting 1 million children by raiding schools, a common smear used in Uganda.

Sounds an awful lot like that dastardly HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA!!ONE1!!, doesn’t it? Oh, but maybe it’s just one of them there backward places, huh? Well…

Rolling Stone does not have a large following in Uganda, a country of 32 million where about 85 percent of people are Christian and 12 percent are Muslim.

They do have very strong backwards thinking, but it derives from the same place as much of the backwards thinking in the U.S.

U.S. military: Open to gays

Finally.

The military is accepting openly gay recruits for the first time in the nation’s history, even as it tries in the courts to slow the movement to abolish its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

At least two service members discharged for being gay began the process to re-enlist after the Pentagon’s Tuesday announcement.

Unfortunately, there still exists the possibility of this policy changing (though probably only temporarily), so many civil rights groups for gays are advising that people don’t come out of the closet just yet. It takes time to tear down blind bigotry.

What gay marriage is about

There’s this insipidly stupid argument floating around conservative (i.e., non-thinking) circles. It’s that gay marriage is all about children and societal security. This argument is designed to knock down the position that gay marriage is a civil rights issue.

Societies have a vested interest in the welfare of their children because they are the future of that society. A society is more likely to flourish if these children grow up to become responsible, productive and contributing members of that society. In the last half century, social science research has overwhelmingly validated what societies throughout history have learned through practical experience: Children do best by far on every measure of development, achievement and welfare when they are raised by their married biological parents.

In truth, this is an emotional appeal. In other words, it’s useless bull that doesn’t actually mean anything. Let’s start at the top.

The most glaring issue with this is the abuse of science. Aside from almost surely not citing any specific studies, the author is intentionally destroying context. That is, the studies he cites are comparing married parents to unmarried couples, single parents, and possibly parents who adopted. None of these categories is gay parents.

He’s begging the question here. He has set out to show that gay couples will make unstable homes for children yet he assumes that very idea in his argument. That is, he is assuming gay couples are equal to any couple which is not married and the biological parents of the children involved. But if he’s trying to prove that point, he most certainly cannot assume it in his argument. It’s a logical fallacy. “Gay parents are unfit. How do I know they are unfit? Because they are gay parents.”

But here’s the gem of the pro-bigot brigade. They argue that anti-discrimination activists are wrong to compare gay rights to civil rights.

Former Secretary of State General Colin Powell also rejects the argument that sexual orientation is comparable to race. He has testified that: “Skin color is a benign, nonbehavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument.”

The most interesting thing about all this is that both sides are wrong. Anti-discrimination activists are wrong because the civil rights being violated are not based upon sexual orientation. Pro-bigots are wrong because it is a civil rights issue. It just isn’t about sexual orientation.

Marriage is a secular contract between two people of sound capacity to consent to entering a legal agreement. In other words there are pertinent requirements to entering any contract recognized by the government. In this case they include being of age as determined by state, being willfull, and being able to understand the conditions of the contract. To say that two women cannot marry is discriminate based upon some external requirement to the ones listed. That “external requirement” is not sexual orientation. It is gender. Two women or two men are disallowed from entering a contract based upon gender. That is a civil rights issue. It is against the law – moreover, it is against all common sense. Pro-bigots don’t realize their rights are being trampled, too (mostly because they’re doing the ignorant trampling).

It is primarily to encourage the most positive outcomes for their children that societies encourage men and women to marry and provide special protections and incentives for this social institution. Because same-sex couples obviously cannot produce children, societies historically have never even contemplated allowing them to “marry.”

Liar. Or he’s stupid. Societies have never contemplated allowing gay marriage because societies have historically been filled with bigotry. It has nothing to do with children. But at any rate, this argument is only valid if it is extended properly. Infertile couples must be forbidden from marriage. Elderly couples beyond the ability to reproduce who do not already have children and grandchildren must get divorced; they do not fit the reason for marriage and are thus being rewarded with special protections and incentives without justification.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would so radically change the existing social institution of marriage that it would destroy its time-proven ability to provide essential benefits to society. It would transform marriage from a primarily child-centered institution into something that would be little more than governmental recognition of the professed affection of any two people for each other regardless of their gender.

This is just a bad argument. How does a married gay couple do anything to change the status of a married straight couple? Any interest there is for children in this secular contract can be maintained precisely the same as it has been for so many decades. It is nice, however, that he says “regardless of gender”. It’s good that there’s a twinkle of hope he realizes that this civil rights issue is centered around gender, not sexual orientation.

The link will eventually go dead (unless you want to pay $2.99 for access to old articles from a paper that normally costs $0.75), so I’m posting the article in full here.

Gerald Talbot (“Civil marriage about equal protection of all under the law”) is certainly entitled to his own opinion that allowing homosexuals to marry is a civil rights issue similar to the black civil rights struggle. But he appears to be outside of the mainstream thinking of most U.S. black leadership.

Barack Obama opposes same-sex marriage and he is not only the most prominent black political leader in the world but a former constitutional law professor. No one would seriously argue that he is not a champion of true civil rights.

Former Secretary of State General Colin Powell also rejects the argument that sexual orientation is comparable to race. He has testified that: “Skin color is a benign, nonbehavioral characteristic. Sexual orientation is perhaps the most profound of human behavioral characteristics. Comparison of the two is a convenient but invalid argument.”

Dee Garrett, a black civil rights leader in the South in the 1960s, also rejects the claim that this is a legitimate civil rights issue. In an eloquent statement that is posted on YouTube and was widely circulated in the California black community, she said, “It’s (same-sex marriage) not about civil rights. Racism was about civil rights. Marriage is about society, the future and about our children.”

In California, seven out of 10 black voters agreed and voted for Prop 8, which amended the state’s constitution to eliminate same-sex marriage. Many credit these black voters for passing the amendment.

Garrett understands what Talbot clearly does not. Marriage is not about adult needs, desires or convenience, whether for social and governmental recognition and acceptance, for economic advantages and tax breaks or simply to make their life easier. As she points out, marriage is primarily about children and the future of society. Understanding this fundamental truth allows us to place the demands of this tiny minority to be allowed to “marry” into the correct and socially responsible perspective.

Societies have a vested interest in the welfare of their children because they are the future of that society. A society is more likely to flourish if these children grow up to become responsible, productive and contributing members of that society. In the last half century, social science research has overwhelmingly validated what societies throughout history have learned through practical experience: Children do best by far on every measure of development, achievement and welfare when they are raised by their married biological parents.

It is primarily to encourage the most positive outcomes for their children that societies encourage men and women to marry and provide special protections and incentives for this social institution. Because same-sex couples obviously cannot produce children, societies historically have never even contemplated allowing them to “marry.”

Given the critical role of marriage in society, it is easy to understand that defending man/woman marriage is not discrimination. There is no inherent “right” to marry and societies have always regulated this institution for the best interests of society. Brothers and sisters or parents and children cannot marry, for example, nor can minors.

Legalizing same-sex marriage would so radically change the existing social institution of marriage that it would destroy its time-proven ability to provide essential benefits to society. It would transform marriage from a primarily child-centered institution into something that would be little more than governmental recognition of the professed affection of any two people for each other regardless of their gender.

There is absolutely no assurance that this new social institution of “genderless marriage” would, or even could, provide these same essential societal benefits. If it cannot, society and future generations will suffer serious harm. Whether to legalize genderless marriage is much more than a minority “rights” issue.

Bob Emrich, Plymouth, is director of the Maine Jeremiah Project, a grassroots coalition of social conservatives, organizations and churches who support “the sanctity of life, traditional family values, freedom of religion and educational choice” and a state constitutional amendment to protect marriage in Maine; http://www.mainejeremiahproject.com.