Civil unions in Rhode Island

The governor of Rhode Island intends on signing a just passed civil union bill into law:

State senators voted 21-16 to endorse the bill, about two hours after it was voted out of committee. The legislation, which already has passed the state House, allows gay couples to enter into civil unions that offer the same rights and benefits given to married couples under Rhode Island law.

It is now headed to Chafee’s desk for his signature. Ahead of the vote, the independent governor called the legislation an “incremental step” toward allowing gay marriage, which he supports.

It is true this is an incremental step. There will come a day down the road when all 50 states protect equality in marriage and we’ll all be able to point to the times today as being instrumental in achieving that goal. But we’ll also be able to point to these days as a time when ‘separate but equal’ arguments were allowed to exist once again. I think future generations will understand, but they will also ultimately be disappointed that there was ever such a struggle.

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Facebook gets with the times

I know, I know. You wouldn’t think Facebook, of all companies, would ever be behind the times. But up until Thursday it was.

Jay Lassiter is no longer “in a relationship.”

Let’s clarify that: Lassiter, a media adviser for political campaigns who lives in Cherry Hill, N.J., is still with his partner of nearly eight years, Greg Lehmkuho. But since Thursday, when Facebook expanded its romantic-status options, Lassiter’s profile there echoes his relationship’s legal status: “Domestic partnership.”

It may not be a life-altering change. After all, you can call yourself anything you want on a social network. And Facebook is merely that.

But, Lassiter notes: “I’m no different from all those other Facebook users whose identity is tied up with their Facebook pages, for better or for worse.”

And so, he says: “It’s high time. It’s an affirming gesture. It’s sort of one tiny step for gays, but a giant leap for gay rights.”

Facebook’s addition of civil unions and domestic partnerships to the list of relationships its users can pick from came after talks with gay rights organizations, including GLAAD, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

I just wish everyone could stop referring to organizations as being for “gay rights” and other such nonsense. I realize it’s a conveniently short phrase, but there is no such thing as “gay rights”. Or “black rights”. Or “white rights”. Or “straight rights”. There are civil rights for everyone. When one group is denied them, we’re all denied them. After all, how can I possibly have a “right” to marriage if my state and the federal government refuses to recognize that same right for another group? As it stands, most states only have marital privileges.

Anyway. I’m glad Facebook has caught up with the reality of a huge number of human lives. Maybe the rest of the world can do the same.

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.)

Gay marriage updates

Here are just a few of the recent news stories concerning gay marriage:

  • Dubya’s daughter, Barbara, has come out in support of gay marriage. She is helping the fight for basic equality in New York. Currently, thousands of families with gay heads of the house are being forced into unnecessary financial difficulties while they face bigoted social stigma. It ought to stop.
  • Illinois has taken a step in the right direction by legalizing civil unions. Gay couples will still face unnecessary hardships, but they now have some relief. Oh, and the negatives? Nothing. Absolutely nothing negative will come from this law.
  • New Hampshire lawmakers are trying to turn the state back. They’ve attached the banning of incest to a law that would ban gay marriage. I find this repulsive for two reasons. First, the most obvious reason is that it associates two separate ideas, as if it’s okay to say homosexuality and incest go hand in hand. Second, this is simply logically offensive. It’s a classic “When are you going to stop beating your wife?” fallacy. That is, it’s asking two questions but seeking one answer. (Remember that famous Watergate inquiry, “What did Nixon know and when did he know it?”) On the plus side, it is destined to fail.

Hawaii to makes the lives of gay couples better

One of the most fundamentally dishonest positions of many marriage bigots is that marriage is all about children and reproduction. ‘Oh, we don’t hate da gays! We just want to create the best environment for children!’ I’m sure they are concerned with children, but that isn’t why they’re against gay marriage. We see this every time civil unions come up and they still oppose the measure. This is about not giving rights to a group of people based on who that group inherently is. That’s bigotry.

Now Hawaii has a chance to make the lives of gay couples better. (When put this way – an honest way – it’s all so clear.) The out-going governor, Linda Lingle, had this opportunity, but she instead decided to consult some wholly unqualified men who dress in silly garb. This undue respect given to the ignorant and silly resulted in less human happiness/more human suffering. It was unjustifiable by any reasonable measure.

But now this wrong has a good chance of being righted.

Hawaii voters opened the way for same-sex civil unions to become state law next year, with an election that gave victory to a pro-gay rights gubernatorial candidate and rejected many church-backed candidates.

The state House and Senate retained the Democratic majorities that approved a civil unions bill this year before it was vetoed, and Democratic Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie has said he will sign a similar law if passed by the Legislature.

The move would make Hawaii, long a battleground in the gay rights movement, the sixth state to grant essentially the same rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself.

This doesn’t qualify as equality, but it is currently the best Hawaii can do. I hope 2011 will be the year gay Hawaiians are treated a little more like human beings.

No equality in Hawaii

There’s a common argument that bigots will put forth in their defense of the privilege* of marriage: marriage is a sacred vow before God that is meant to better secure a happy family, complete with children. Gay people cannot naturally have children with each other, so they ought not have marriage. However, they do deserve many of the same rights. So long as they have marriage by another name, it is far less objectionable.

This argument is still bigoted, ignorant, disrespectful, and asinine, but at least it acknowledges that gay people do have rights. (It has been a struggle just to be sure employers are unable to fire people for something as irrelevant as sexual orientation in many states. Other states still refuse to accept that a gay person shouldn’t be fired from her cashiering job at Wal-Mart.)

But even this not-as-far-right-wing-as-it-could-be argument wasn’t good enough for the governor of Hawaii.

Hawaii’s governor ended months of speculation by vetoing contentious civil unions legislation that would have granted gay, lesbian and opposite-sex couples the same rights and benefits that the state provides to married couples.

Republican Gov. Linda Lingle’s action on Tuesday came on the final day she had to either sign or veto the bill, which was approved by the Legislature in late April.

This comes after Lingle sought advice from two unqualified jokes (otherwise known as rabbis). I suppose it isn’t surprising that someone who believes religion has anything to offer on this subject would also make a terrible decision with awful consequences for human beings.

Lingle said voters should decide the fate of civil unions, not politicians.

“The subject of this legislation has touched the hearts and minds of our citizens as no other social issue of our day,” she said. “It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials.”

A year after the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws, a majority of Americans still believed it was morally wrong for two people of different races to marry. The masses are not to be trusted with the rights of minorities.

*It is actively a right in 5 states and D.C.

Governor of Hawaii gives undue respect to rabbis

Governor Linda Lingle has a serious issue facing her. She has been given the opportunity to increase the rights of the gay citizens of Hawaii by approving civil unions. They will still be separate, which is never equal, but their lives will be improved by some degree. Unfortunately, she is seeking advice from two wholly unqualified individuals.

Rabbis Itchel Krasnjansky and Peter Schaktman hail from different branches of Judaism and hold starkly contrasting views on whether same-sex couples should be permitted to form civil unions in Hawaii.

What they have in common is the ear of Republican Gov. Linda Lingle, who has until June 21 to announce whether she may veto the only pending civil unions legislation in the nation.

Neither of these rabbis deserve to be consulted on this issue. Lingle is herself Jewish, but she’s also the head of a secular state in a secular country that is premised in secular notions and secular law. But even if the U.S. government was religious, no justification has been given that shows any theologian of any flavor has done anything to address any important issues. Theology is merely for those who already agree on a given premise – if A is true, then B. But no one has given any evidence for A. We’re all still waiting.

But Schaktman, who leads the Reform Temple Emanu-El, insists Judaism teaches that all people regardless of sexual orientation are and should be treated as “children of God,” and thus should not face discrimination.

“Civil unions are a legal arrangement,” he said. “Therefore, anyone who uses religion to oppose civil unions is purely using religion to further homophobia.”

Schaktman gets this all technically right for the most part. Judaism may well teach that all people are children of God. How he concludes they ought not face discrimination is subjective (especially considering what a tribal book the Torah is), but he can make a rational argument for the position. Unfortunately, that’s still if everyone agrees that Judaism is a valid source of knowledge. Since it offers no reliable methods of inquiry or useful, defined tools for coming to consistent, objective conclusions, I have to reject it.

And Schaktman gets it right that civil unions are purely legal arrangements and anyone opposing them are bigots. But he ought to go one step further. Marriage is purely a legal arrangement in the eyes of the government. People put their own values into what marriage is, but that’s irrelevant here. If marriage was purely a religious institution, then which one? Most Americans would say Christian, but the government of Hawaii is showing she clearly disagrees when she consults two rabbis. And even if it’s possible to agree on marriage being about just one religion, the institution is still rife with inconsistency when it allows other religious members (as well as the non-religious atheists, agnostics, humanists, and deists) to marry. This makes it pretty obvious that this isn’t merely about marriage being based in religion; it’s about bigotry and homophobia and sexual immaturity (the latter being one of the biggest hallmarks of religion).