I’ve lost track

I’ve lost track of how many states have gained more freedom over the past year. Idaho is one of the latest:

A federal judge who struck down Idaho’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional denied a bid by the conservative state’s governor on Wednesday for a stay of the decision while Idaho pursues an appeal of the case.

The governor, Republican C.L. “Butch” Otter, called the ruling “regrettable” and vowed to petition a higher court to keep the state’s gay marriage prohibition intact until the case has run its course through the judicial system.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale overturned Idaho’s ban on same-sex matrimony on Tuesday, saying it relegated gay and lesbian couples to second-class status in violation of constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.

Her decision was the latest in a recent flurry of opinions by federal judges striking down restrictions on same-sex marriage in states across the country – from Utah to Virginia.

It’s only a matter of time.

Don’t be shy

People shy from frank and aggressive language in a lot of instances, but I think that’s sometimes inappropriate. For example, there’s this desire to engage in some sort of ‘respectful’ conversation with those who support ‘traditional’ marriage*, as if they deserve equal time and opportunity – despite overtly advocating to deny basic equalities and opportunities to gay people. I disagree with that desire. These people are blatant bigots and should be called as much.

Affording undue respect to scummy people like this is exactly the same as affording undue respect to a member of the KKK or some other racist organization. You lend validity to a view when you say it deserves a fair shake and a good listen. Don’t do that shit.

*I, of course, mean marriage as defined between one man and one woman in relatively recent times by, mostly, Western culture. I am not referring to marriage where dowries and goats are involved, as happened early on before our invention of particular gods.

The collapse of bigotry

Progress marches on:

A solid majority of Americans support gay marriage, capping a complete reversal in public opinion in less than a decade

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that a solid 58 percent of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage, compared with 36 percent who believe it should be illegal. The findings represent nothing less than a stunning collapse of opposition to gay marriage: As recently as 2003, the numbers were reversed, with 37 percent favoring gay marriage, and 55 percent opposing.

As the elderly die off, religious adherence decreases, and perspectives and understandings increase in a shrinking world, the equal treatment of gay members and families of society has been on the rise. I would expect nothing less.

The fact is, one of the last times we saw anti-gay bigots come away with a significant victory was in my state of Maine in 2009. That was an off-year for elections and the spending by religious groups (especially the Catholic Church) was astronomical. They were able to organize effectively and take advantage of a relatively low voter turnout. However, they failed decisively in 2012 when Mainers made marriage equal. And why did this happen? Maine is an older, rural state, so while people die and the world shrinks, those effects are not massive here. What was significant, though, was that our generally non-religious nature was able to show through. There are no honest secular arguments against marriage for gay couples, and I think people recognized that. The integrity of secular morality was able to overcome the temporary dominance of religious ideology once a fair showing of voters happened.

If the courts don’t follow the 14th Amendment and the rest of the constitution soon, equality in marriage will still become commonplace anyway. It’s a matter of time.

Why the philosophically incoherent should never speak of marriage

Really, they shouldn’t speak of anything, but this post happens to specifically be about marriage. So let’s get to it. Keith Ablow, an alleged psychiatrist and certain member of FOX Noise, has recently said some horrifically incoherent things about the government, marriage, and liberty:

Among those aged 18 to 29, only 20 percent are now married, compared to 59 percent in 1960. Just 51 percent of all those over the age of 18 are now married, compared with 72 percent in 1960.

The trend away from marriage is now accelerating, rather than slowing down, and I believe that by 2020, marriage will be a road taken by a minority of adults.

I believe the reasons for marriage falling out of favor with Americans are many, including my own clinical observations that the vast majority of married people consider their unions a source of pain, not pleasure, and that too few of them are equipped with the psychological and behavioral tools to achieve true intimacy or maintain real passion. When the architecture of a relationship is airless and seemingly without exit (without bankrupting your family by hiring lawyers and having your kids pack overnight bags every week), people will eventually learn to steer clear of it.

When I started reading this article I didn’t think about the gender of the author. I didn’t happen to glance at his name, nor was it particularly a concern of mine. However, once I got to the given reasons for why marriage is on the decline, I just knew it was a man. A woman would be far less likely to neglect to mention the difference in women’s lives between 1960 and 2011. First, 50 years ago the income gap was much more than it is today. It was virtually unsustainable for a woman to live well on her own then, through no fault of her own. It only made sense to attach one’s self to a man in order to do well. Men would do the same thing if roles were reversed. Second, it was less socially acceptable to be a single woman too far into one’s 20’s than it is today. That’s a strong motivating force to tie the knot. Moreover, if a woman was single and had a child, that was another good reason for getting hitched in the 60’s. That isn’t the case today. Third, religion has historically been a strong force in marriage. With fewer and fewer people claiming a religion today, that force is dissipating.

Perhaps no factor, however, is more responsible for the decline of marriage in America than government participation in it. The fact is that getting a marriage license means, essentially, signing a Draconian contract with the state to manage the division of your estate in the event of a divorce, without ever having read that contract.

Oh, I wasn’t aware there was no government participation in marriage in 1960.

The contract, if it included all the relevant laws pertaining to divorce, child custody, spousal support and other relevant matters, would probably run hundreds of pages. And what’s more, the contract, once signed, may be changed by the state legislature at any time, leaving the parties to it with no recourse.

Weird. I thought that democracy was a type of recourse. I must be mistaken.

This all means that getting married in America is—in the current scheme—an act of self-abandonment which subjugates one to government in a more infantilizing fashion than nearly any other voluntary action you could take.

This is plain wrong. If people didn’t want government involvement in their marriages, they simply would not get married in the eyes of their state. They would just go to their church or mosque or hippie in the woods. The fact that they aren’t tells me that even if they don’t like everything the government does in regards to marriage, they like enough of what it does. It sounds to me like a choice made freely by consenting, mature adults.

Actions have consequences. So it is no surprise that volunteering to be lorded over by the state would result in feelings of confinement while married.

Yes, because that’s why married couples feel confined. “Damn it, Mary, I need my space! Let’s get away from these damn tax returns!” And, again, maybe it’s just that I’m an ig’nint youngin’, but I could have sworn the government “lorded” over marriages in 1960.

Nor is it any surprise that signing over one’s rights to self-determination to the state…

Apparently Ablow defines “self-determination” in terms of things he thinks people should do. Someone who freely signs a contract is obviously a right-less slave.

And it is also predictable that people would eventually find this distasteful, because human beings instinctively love liberty, especially in matters as personal as love and the raising of families.

He’s hinting at something…what could it be…

The solution is obvious: Get the state entirely out of the marriage business. No more marriage licenses. No more special treatment of married couples by the IRS or any other facet of government. No state ever had a legitimate claim to issue marriage licenses, to begin with, since marriage is a spiritual commitment and quite often, a religious one. And it is, fundamentally, an intensely personal one based in autonomy—until city hall gets involved and messes everything up.

Oh, I get it now. “Self-determination”, “liberty”, “autonomy”. I remember when I first read an introductory philosophy of ethics book, too. Cute.

So where to start on this one. First, married couples act as distinct entities from individuals, ergo, their treatment is inherently “special”. And it should be. Second, no state has a legitimate claim to issue marriage licenses? Really? Which constitution prohibits that? Which populace passed a law saying as much? Last time I checked, so long as what it does not violate a given constitution or human rights, a state can have whatever law it pleases so long as that law is passed democratically. Third, so what if marriage has historically been “spiritual” or religious? I care about the fact that it does not violate human rights and has been approved democratically. Besides, does Ablow approve of government-endorsed marriage for atheists and agnostics? I’m neither spiritual nor religious, so it must be okay for me to get a marriage license from the government. Furthermore, if he wants to appeal to the historical roots of marriage, why stop at religion? Go back far enough and it will be common to find contracts entered into which were governed by various laws, whether highly organized or simply tribal.

In the new paradigm I suggest, every couple wishing to get married would state that intention to their house of worship or their community of family and friends.

This isn’t new. In fact, just about everyone does this. Then they also get married in the state’s eyes.

They would take meaningful vows in front of gatherings of loved ones. Then they would—like knowledgeable and competent adults, rather than state-dependent, incompetent children—sign financial documents they generate together (while represented by attorneys or knowledgably waiving that right) which would govern how their assets should be pooled during the term of the contract and how they should be divided in the event they decide to end the contract.

If there’s anything I want to do as competent and independent adult, it’s enter into lengthy legal contracts of dubious quality, which cost me a lot of money, and which are my only choice. Thank goodness Keith Ablow is here to take away my options. Christ. Maybe for his next article he will read past chapter one in his ethics textbook.

The state’s interest would be limited to enforcing laws about fair amounts of child support and fair visitation rights which must be included in such documents when children are born.

So the government can be involved in dictating what is fair child support and visitation rights, but not marriage contracts. Interesting. Apparently Ablow approves of the government being involved in something which necessarily must happen – reproduction – but when it comes to something voluntary – entering into a marriage – it needs to butt out.

That’s it. The state would protect kids financially and emotionally from parents who fail to protect them. Otherwise, they would have no business getting involved in people’s marriages at all. They never had any business getting involved in them, to begin with.

I think, Ablow never had any business, writing an article which addresses philosophical, and now apparently grammatical, issues, which he never understood in the first place. Random comma.

Marriage and women changing their last names

Should the day come that I tie the knot, my preference is that my wife takes my last name. It isn’t something for which I would push if she wanted to keep hers, but it is my preference. It would make things clearer in that it would more immediately demonstrate to outsiders that we are married. Of course, that is only a minor benefit, and besides that, I would not change my own last name, so it isn’t like I could not be a hypocrite while demanding she change hers. I imagine most any modern day person would see things much the same way, but apparently 50% of Americans wildly disagree with me:

While no national statistics exist, some recent studies suggest that women keeping their own name is actually becoming less popular. And a recent nationally representative survey found that half of Americans support women being legally required to take their husband’s name upon marriage.


Anti-gay bigots misstep

Anti-gay bigots are making a stink about the judge who struck down Prop 8 in California. They’re arguing that he should have recused himself or at least disclosed that he is in a long-term relationship with another man:

“Only if Chief Judge Walker had unequivocally disavowed any interest in marrying his partner could the parties and the public be confident that he did not have a direct personal interest in the outcome of the case,” attorneys for the coalition of religious and conservative groups that put Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot wrote.

Saying Walker’s sexual orientation is cause for vacating his ruling would be like saying a black judge who rules in favor of other black people is acting improperly. I don’t think this argument will fly, especially since the ruling is being appealed anyway.

But that isn’t what’s really interesting about this. Look at the argument the bigots are trying to piece together. The only way the public could be confident of Walker’s impartiality is if “he did not have a direct personal interest in the outcome of the case”. And, of course, the reason they claim he has a direct personal interest is because he’s gay. So I presume a straight judge doesn’t have a direct personal interest in the matter? So if the only way a judge would have no personal interest in this case is if he was straight, then how is it that any straight people have any personal interest? It seems to me that the bigot organizations just argued that straight people have no legitimate personal interests to raise when dealing with gay marriage.

But then, I don’t really expect any coherent arguments from these sort of people.

Atheists: More hated than Muslims and da gays

This isn’t new research, but someone recently posted it on Facebook. As far as I remember, I don’t have a post about how hated atheists are.

The most recent study was conducted by the University of Minnesota, which found that atheists ranked lower than “Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in ‘sharing their vision of American society.’ Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.” The results from two of the most important questions”

This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society…

Atheist: 39.6%

Muslims: 26.3%

Homosexuals: 22.6%

Hispanics: 20%

Conservative Christians: 13.5%

Recent Immigrants: 12.5%

Jews: 7.6%

I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group….

Atheist: 47.6%

Muslim: 33.5%

African-American 27.2%

Asian-Americans: 18.5%

Hispanics: 18.5%

Jews: 11.8%

Conservative Christians: 6.9%

Whites: 2.3%

I thought this was funny in light of PZ’s recent post about his wedding anniversary:

Today is my wedding anniversary. I’ve been married to the same woman for 31 years, without ever straying. Newt Gingrich has been married 3 times, divorced one wife while she was recovering from surgery, and has had extra-marital affairs.

Guess who is considered the defender of traditional sexual morality?

The reason PZ gives is that Gingrich represents an asymmetric societal structure where patriarchal power is deemed moral and worthy and pesty things like fairness and equality are just hippie garbage. Religion is the cornerstone of it all. (Or, to put in PZ’s absolute favoritististist word, privilege. But religion is a better and more accurate answer.)

Beyond the funny marriage part (states, by the way, with the highest religiosity? Yep, highest divorce rates*), I have a hypothesis to explain why people blindly hate atheists so much. Well, at least why the religious hate us so much. It’s probably just because atheists do so much better on religious tests than they do. Jealousy is an ugly beast.

*That doesn’t mean religion makes people divorce. I think a better explanation is that poorly educated people tend to be more religious; poorly educated people also tend to be lower on the socioeconomic ladder. It would make sense for them to marry younger (and I’m sure religious pressure helps to hurry things up as well).

The best quote from Judge Walker

Judge Vaughn Walker has made the decision today that California’s Prop 8 is unconstitutional. He lists a number of reasons it is an illegal amendment, but I think the best quote of his so far is this one:

“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license,” Walker wrote. “Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.”

Targeted persecution isn’t exactly allowed under the U.S. Constitution.

There’s going to be plenty said about this, especially when it gets to the Supreme Court, but I think the biggest complaint from bigots is going to be that this undermines the will of the people. That’s an intellectually dishonest, political, rhetorical, empty, lie of an argument. Rights aren’t dependent upon the say of the majority. As James Madison once said,

There is no maxim, in my opinion, which is more liable to be misapplied, and which, therefore, more needs elucidation, than the current one, that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong.

Or Ayn Rand,

Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).

Or Thomas Jefferson,

All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

And when the 65+ crowd starts to fade away, support for equal rights for gays will become the will of the majority. It’s just sad that, like in the greatest days of the civil rights movement, it takes a court to protect the obvious rights of a group. This does, however, shine some light on the current day bigots’ support for the past court decisions that brought some degree of equality to racial minorities – despite what the majority thought. Depending on one’s source, roughly 2/3 of Americans were against interracial marriage a full year after the Supreme Court knocked down the laws against it. If the current day bigots were honest – and they aren’t – they would be howling that past Supreme Court decisions were wrong because they were counter to the beliefs of the majority.

Gay Marriage

Let’s get one thing straight about gay marriage.

“It’s thrilling today,” Barbara Levine-Ritterman said. “We are all in one line for one form. Love is love, and the state recognizes it.”

That isn’t true. The state recognizes nothing about love. That isn’t its job. What the state of Connecticut does is recognize that two people who enter into a legal contract cannot be discriminated against based upon gender when gender is not relevant to said contract. Take a driver’s license. What is relevant is ability to drive. The state can discriminate against 10 year olds and those with DUI’s because they are unproven as safe drivers. It cannot discriminate against Asians or people named Bill. That isn’t relevant to the contract. Precisely equal, the state cannot discriminate against a contract which confers legal rights (i.e. a marriage contract) based upon something arbitrary such as gender. A secular marriage contract and the rights therein are not based upon genitalia or the ability which does or does not come with genitalia, complimentary or not. From a legal stand point, it is a very simply issue.