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  • January 2019
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Gay marriage and individual rights

OK folks, time to roll up the sleeves, and dive into this weeks fun socio-political goat rodeo.

There has been a lot in the news lately about gay marriage, and if it is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing. Personally, what 2 people do in private makes no real difference to me. OK, lets be honest: 2 people, 3 people, huge crowds of people, random pets, livestock, fruits, vegetables, aliens, or whatever. Makes no real difference to me, but keep it private: I’m really not interested in hearing about it.

Of course, politics doesn’t work that way, so, as an introduction, a brief summary of my views on the whole issue: I don’t care, with the exception of some semantic issues, and some issues regarding personal choice that I’ll address later. The semantics are easy, and I’ve covered them before, so here’s the short form: “Marriage” refers (in my opinion – the only one that matters here) to a religious ritual/state/condition. The term has been used by governments because in the past, their definitions matched those of the religious organizations. In today’s world, that is no longer the case. Instead of getting hung up on the word “marriage”, let the government come up with some other term to replace ‘marriage’ in the legal arena, and the problem is solved. Nobody can complain if the legal term is ‘civil union’ if its the same term that is used by all couples.

OK, now for the fun part: the personal choice and individual rights issues. This is the place where one persons (or couples, or groups, or whatever – see the list I opened with) desires can (and often will) be at odds with another persons or groups. The easy example is the rabbi/priest/mullah that is asked to perform a same-sex marriage ceremony. This is something that directly contradicts the tenants of their religion (at least for those that actually follow their source documents – the Torah, Bible, or Koran). Is the rabbi/priest/mullah legally obligated to perform the ceremony? If they refuse, are they subject to being prosecuted for discrimination? What about their parent organization – the temple, church, or mosque – what happens when they refuse to allow the same sex ceremony to take place in their building? How about the religiously observant photographer, justice of the peace, caterer, event planner, etc?

Certainly all of the people involved have the right to practice their religion, and to follow the tenets of their religion as they see fit. So what happens when this conflict comes up? For rational people it’s easy: if one vendor doesn’t want to provide you with a service, you simply find one that does. Unfortunately, expecting people to be rational isn’t realistic. New Hampshire recently went through this very issue – the state government legalized same sex marriage, but the Governor vetoed the bill, and sent it back with one demand: strengthen the language protecting individuals and organizations that were at risk of being in this exact situation. After a bunch of political back-and-forth, a compromise was reached that satisfied the govorner – some language was changed, the protections were increased (but not as far as the Governor wanted), and it is expected to pass. Of course, the issue will really be decided in the courts when someone is denied service and sues for discrimination. Time will tell what the law really means.

Personally, I suspect that he majority of people WILL be rational about this, but there is always the vocal minority that is looking for a cause or a way to raise a stink (the moral minority during the Reagan era is agreat example), and I fully expect to see someone raising hell over this. There’s evena  decent chance that it will end up in the US Supreme Court. If that does happen, current indications are that the individual rights would win out – and I certainly hope that is the case.

One other issue bears looking at here: equality. The feds have recently passed what is the first of a series of employment benefit policies that allow “domestic partners” access to the same benefits as “married partners”. In concept, I think that this is a good idea. In execution, these guys just tripped over their dicks so bad that they’re not gonna be getting any for the next 20 years. The problem is that they have extended a benefit that ONLY applies to same sex couples. A hetero couple that have been living together for 15 years, but choose to not get married are denied the benefits. The argument is that hetero couples can just get married, and they’ll get the benefits. The old idea of “separate but equal” has already been shot down, and the “special treatment for minorities” is being recognised as discriminatory more and more often. While I applaud the action, by simply allowing the benefit to be applied to ANY domestic partner instead of just same sex partners, the execution of the idea could have been as good as the idea. Instead, a flawed execution almost guarantees that this too, will end up being litigated as discriminatory (which it is). My hope is that the situation will be corrected BEFORE the cost, hassle, and bad press resulting from litigation happens. If it is not, expect to see motions to halt the implementation of the plan while the courts hash it out (as should happen – discrimination is discrimination no matter how politically correct it is).

Gay rights are making slow headway -this is a good thing. However, it is essential that we remember that the goal is EQUALITY, not special privileges.