Does this make them proud?

There was an election day recap article in the local paper for 11/5. One part of it was very striking.

“It just makes me very, very sad,” said Diane Sammer, 49, of Harpswell.

Her partner of 28 years died last year. For many years they wanted to be married in Maine, and their hopes had risen since same-sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts in 2004.

When Sammer’s partner died, Sammer was not allowed to claim the body, and she was excluded from the arrangement process at the funeral home.

“They didn’t want to deal with me. They just wanted her parents to come and sign documents,” Sammer said. “Because we weren’t married, they didn’t acknowledge me as a legal participant in her life.”

Twenty-eight years. Does anyone for a moment believe that Diane’s partner didn’t want her wife-in-everything-but-legalities to take care of her final arrangements? Who in his right mind believes it is okay to do this to people. What in the fuck did Diane Sammer and her partner ever do to anyone?

I wonder. When these on-par-with-racists bigots read things like this, are they proud? Do they dance and cheer? Do they really think they’ve done any family a service? Do they believe that gay couples all of a sudden have just gone away?

And just to cap off the inanity in this article, lead bigot Bob Emrich tells this lie.

“No on 1 (supporters) were much more organized,” he said. “They had that down to a science. They had a remarkable strategy of early identification of voters.”

Yes on 1 bigots had the ENTIRE FUCKING CATHOLIC CHURCH on its side. You don’t get more organized than that. Or ignorant.

Bad news

It looks like outright contempt for civil liberties will be victorious tonight. I cringe at the interviews where these fucking bigots are so proud of their ability to oppress a minority. It’s utterly disgusting. I have seriously run through my mind the likelihood of being able to move out of state to a place where my civil liberties are not so at risk. (This rejection of rights is not merely a rejection of rights for one group; my neighbor’s rights are my rights.) In all objectivity, it’s anger which drives me to this consideration, but that makes it no less real.

The single consolation in the all-but-certain results from tonight is that they are not the end of this. Maine spent roughly a decade fighting to protect sexual orientation in education, housing, employment, and other areas. Voters rejected this fight multiple times until it finally won in 2005. Soon after, another petition was generated to yet again attempt to repeal these protections and it had to be aborted due to lack of support. The exact same thing will happen with same-sex marriage – unless of course someone brings the issue to court. I hope that doesn’t happen for a couple years since it could trigger a constitutional amendment vote; it’s too early for that.

But I think it’s important to start asking certain questions. Those who voted to repeal Maine’s bill on personal liberties as they pertain to marriage have no concept of the gravity of what they have just done. Where does this all end? They have just affirmed that marriage is a religious institution that is to be legally sanctified by the state. Religion is such a dangerous weapon always, but that is especially true here. If marriage is a religious institution, then it is only really valid in the eyes of these bigots if it is done in front of their particular sky fairy. So what group faces the chopping block next? Muslims? Probably not too soon since Lewiston has a large black* Islamic population. Hindus? Not enough of a threat, really. Buddhists? Too amorphous to attack. Atheists? That’s a good target. It’s an unpopular group (even more so than gays), and not only do they not have the right god, they have no god at all. Why not take away their rights to marriage? And really, it isn’t taking away any rights. Marriage is now legally defined as a privilege. It can be taken away by the whim of the majority at any time, principles, rights, and liberties be damned.

*I specifically mention that they are black because a disproportionately high number of blacks in California voted against same-sex marriage. In Lewiston they went 3:1 against it. It’s astounding. This is a group with a still relevant history of oppression and discrimination against them (which specifically includes marital rights), yet they go and pull these tremendous stunts. They should know better. Stupidity knows no racial bonds; it is ubiquitous.

Question 1

The results for question 1 will be coming in soon and I hope my home state is smart enough to not discriminate against an entire group of people. However, if bigotry and a disregard for civil liberties do prevail, it will not be the end of the world. This issue will return soon enough. That’s how it was with Maine’s law that bans discrimination in employment, housing, education, and a few others things based upon sexual orientation. It took the better part of a decade until people realized, ‘Hey, it is illegitimate to fire, say, an accountant because she’s gay’, but it happened.

If the drive for equal rights fails due to the blinding hatred of religious institutions, it will not be the last the state hears of the issue.

Rights and why they matter

I have found descriptions of this blog and myself on the Internet where I am labelled a defender of gay rights. That is only superficially true. I am no less a defender of gay rights than I am a defender of straight rights. It is the same fight.

That said, here is a piece I’ve written specifically for those likely to vote Yes on 1 on the upcoming ballot in Maine.

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I want you to really consider the concept of rights. They are far more important than any personal beliefs one may hold insofar as government is concerned. You violate one individual’s rights and you’ve violated the rights of all people.

James Madison espoused a separation of church and state in much the same manner as Thomas Jefferson. He is recorded as expressing these views in these Congressional minutes,

Mr. Madison said, he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience.

And we can go one step further into Madison’s mind with more recordings from the same session,

Mr. Madison thought, if the word national was inserted before religion, it would satisfy the minds of honorable gentlemen. He believed that the people feared one sect might obtain a pre-eminence, or two combine together, and establish a religion to which they would compel others to conform. He thought if the word national was introduced, it would point the amendment directly to the object it was intended to prevent.

It’s hard to see how a reasonable person could misinterpret this. Madison obviously rejected the notion that religious beliefs should be codified into law, thus establishing them as the moral directives of other individuals. That is, religious beliefs should not be made law because that essentially makes government an enforcer of religion – and that is far from its role. Good government doesn’t dictate morality.

Moving beyond Madison, a discussion of the concept of rights needs to happen. What is a right? A succinct definition is hard to formulate, but I think a good idea can be created. Something which does not infringe upon another’s rights should be a right. This alone isn’t much of a definition because it assumes the existence of rights, the very thing we want to define. But within a certain context it does give a good approximation of what a right should be; we already have established rights (free speech, religious beliefs, protest, etc), so assuming we agree on many of those, we can ask ourselves, does X infringe upon these? If the answer is “no”, then there’s a good chance that X is a right.

But more is needed. I think it is eminently appropriate to include safety and security as one defining piece of rights. Does X cause bodily harm to me or others? Does it cause me undue financial hardships? Does it put me at risk of life or health? If the answer is “no”, we again have another good indicator that X is a right.

I hope it hasn’t escaped anyone that the previous two paragraphs are speaking of natural rights. These are rights which extend to all peoples, not merely Americans or Europeans or Russians or any one particular group. They are effectually based upon the idea that rights are to be based upon humanity and the human condition (which may extend to other animals, but I digress).

So why are rights so important? I think it should be obvious. If a society (or the world as a whole) goes about imposing restrictions upon minorities or the meek, then the statement that some people are not equal to others is being made. This seems like nothing less than a superiority complex manifested.

Yet restrictions go beyond this statement of superiority. They implicitly say any group can be superior to another. The reasoning behind the superiority isn’t important (whether from religious doctrine or philosophical notions). What matters is that (usually unknowingly) there are people who do not accept the idea that rights are universal. They can’t. They believe that the very concept of rights can be ignored if it runs counter to some other line of thought. Does Religion X say public prayer is immoral? If so and if Religion X’s followers are a majority, they can stampede the rights of those who wish to publicly pray. This can only be because the teachings of Religion X are being claimed to be superior to the rights of others. And this can only be true if rights are not universal and if we agree that morality trumps individual rights. I, for one, disagree.