Kicking A Lion

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Gay marriage letter sparks opposing view

Gay marriage letter sparks opposing view

With respect to the letter of Nov. 14 “People have spoken on gay marriage bans,” I feel the writer made several wrong points.

Despite the writer’s feelings that California’s vote on Proposition 8 is a dead topic, it is still in debate if the vote (52-48 percent) was enough of a majority to cause a “revision” to California’s constitution (needing 67 percent in favor) rather than an “amendment.” Most constitutions were written with an understanding of the magnitude of turning over a basic premise (equality) versus “amending” a minor issue.

The writer speaks as if the slight majority of California has spoken with a thundering voice that Proposition 8 was the right thing to do, when in reality, even with all of the misinformation spread about the rights of gay people to marry, the law passed by a very thin majority, too thin, many feel, to overturn the more powerful basic stature of the California Constitution.

The writer then goes on to talk about marrying minors and goats, and comparing that to two adult human beings who are in love.

Laws protect minors because the legislature and the voters feel minors have not reached the age of consent and therefore cannot make an adult decision on an act that will affect the rest of their lives.

Goats (and animals of most types) do not have the cognizant capabilities to have “consent.” It would be impossible for a goat to enter into marriage, since the goat would not have the ability to understand the phrase “I do,” to make the commitment of a lifetime of love and respect.

We are not talking about children, nor are we talking about goats. We are talking about two consenting human beings who want to have exactly the same rights – including divorce, having a family, earning respect – as do millions of other couples.

Those people who feel that “civil unions” convey these rights must never have studied law. Law is based on words, phrases and precedence, which sometimes follow a tricky path.

What is a “civil union” in one state may or may not exist in another. What does it mean to be “civil unioned” in Vermont and “un-civil-unioned” in Texas, which does not support civil unions? Is it the same as “divorce?”

What if you are “married” in Massachusetts and need to get “divorced” in a state that does not recognize that marriage? As a country we recognize the bond of marriage in all of our states. This is not true of “civil unions.”

Like it or not, the laws of a nation, and indeed the world, have been written around a word. How we treat a couple in love, their rights and obligations, is based on that word “marriage.”

Unless we go through every law and every statute and make sure that the laws are consistent, then there is no equal rights under the law for one group to be “civil unioned” and one group to be “married.”

The word that defines an unequivocal and inseparable love and a commitment to that love is “marriage.” That the word “marriage” does not mean only a commitment between a man and a woman is shown in our vernacular: “I am married to my job;” “I am married to my cause.”

We use these phrases every day. The phrase “married” in these cases mean commitment, love and duty. These are the things that two people mean when they say their vows, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual.

The writer of that letter feels the “voters have spoken.” I am old enough to remember the 1950s, and I can tell you that the “voters spoke” over civil rights, particularly in the South, and they rejected civil rights for African Americans.

Fortunately, some brave judges and some brave politicians stood up and declared that discrimination as being wrong, and from that the civil rights amendments and laws were created. I still have hope that this will happen again and that the recent attack on the constitution of California will be overturned.

For those who feel that the equalization of marriage will happen “in good time,” “in good time” will not help two of my male friends who shared 40 years of fidelity and love. They will never be able to say that they were “married.” One of them died last year of brain cancer.

I hope that the American people will finally see the inequality and inhumanity of what they are doing and allow gay marriage to happen before too many more couples are parted in death.

Goats? And (better yet) taxpaying goats? The argument is not just ridiculous, it is just plain baaaaad.

Jon A. Hall

Amherst

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Written by kickingalion

November 30, 2008 at 5:32 am

The Difference between Marriage and Civil Unions

The Difference between Gay Marriage and Civil Unions

by Kathy Belge

You hear the politicians saying it all the time. “I support Civil Unions, but not gay marriage.” What exactly does this mean? Some even say they support equal rights for gays and lesbians, but not gay marriage. Is this possible? And why do gays and lesbians want marriage so badly when they can have civil unions?

First of all, What is Marriage? When people marry, they tend to do so for reasons of love and commitment. But marriage is also a legal status, which comes with rights and responsibilities. Marriage establishes a legal kinship between you and your spouse. It is a relationship that is recognized across cultures, countries and religions.

What is a Civil Union? Civil Unions exist in only a handful of places: Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut. California and Oregon have domestic partnership laws that offer many of the same rights as civil unions.

Vermont civil unions were created in 2000 to provide legal protections to gays and lesbians in relationships in that state because gay marriage is not an option. The protections do not extend beyond the border of Vermont and no federal protections are included with a Civil Union. Civil Unions offer some of the same rights and responsibilites as marriage, but only on a state level.

What about Domestic partnership? Some states and municipalities have domestic partnership registries, but no domestic partnership law is the same. Some, like the recently passed California domestic partnership laws comes with many rights and responsibilities. Others, like the one in Washington offer very few benefits to the couple.

What are some of the differences between Civil Unions and Gay Marriage?

Recognition in other states: Even though each state has its own laws around marriage, if someone is married in one state and moves to another, their marriage is legally recognized. For example, Oregon marriage law applies to people 17 and over. In Washington state, the couple must be 18 to wed. However, Washington will recognize the marriage of two 17 year olds from Oregon who move there. This is not the case with Civil Unions. If someone has a Civil Union in Vermont, that union is not recognized in any other state. As a matter of fact, two states, Connecticut and Georgia, have ruled that they do not have to recognize civil unions performed in Vermont, because their states have no such legal category. As gay marriages become legal in other states, this status may change.

Dissolving a Civil Union v. Divorce:

Vermont has no residency requirement for Civil Unions. That means two people from any other state or country can come there and have a civil union ceremony. If the couple breaks up and wishes to dissolve the union, one of them must be a resident of Vermont for one year before the Civil Union can be dissolved in family court. Married couples can divorce in any state they reside, no matter where they were married.

Immigration:

A United States citizen who is married can sponsor his or her non-American spouse for immigration into this country. Those with Civil Unions have no such privilege.

Taxes:

Civil Unions are not recognized by the federal government, so couples would not be able to file joint-tax returns or be eligible for tax breaks or protections the government affords to married couples.

Benefits:

The General Accounting Office in 1997 released a list of 1,049 benefits and protections available to heterosexual married couples (*).  These benefits range from federal benefits, such as survivor benefits through Social Security, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans benefits and insurance breaks. They also include things like family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to. Civil Unions protect some of these rights, but not all of them.

But can’t a lawyer set all this up for gay and lesbian couples?

No. A lawyer can set up some things like durable power of attorney, wills and medical power of attorney. There are several problems with this, however.

1. It costs thousands of dollars in legal fees. A simple marriage license, which usually costs under $100 would cover all the same rights and benefits.

2. Any of these can be challenged in court. As a matter of fact, more wills are challenged than not. In the case of wills, legal spouses always have more legal power than any other family member.

3. Marriage laws are universal. If someone’s husband or wife is injured in an accident, all you need to do is show up and say you’re his or her spouse. You will not be questioned. If you show up at the hospital with your legal paperwork, the employees may not know what to do with you. If you simply say, “He’s my husband,” you will immediately be taken to your spouse’s side.

Defense of Marriage Law

Even with lesbian and gay marriages being performed and recognized in some states, the Federal Defense of Marriage Law prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay and lesbian relationships. This puts gay and lesbian couples who are married in a legal limbo. How do they file their tax returns? Do they have to pay the tax on their partner’s health insurance? How do they fill out legal and other forms, single or married?

Creating Civil Unions creates a separate and unequal status for some of America’s citizens. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that creating a separate class for gay and lesbian citizens is not permissible and that is why they have voted that only marriage equals marriage. The precedent was set with Brown v. The Board of Education regarding segregation in public education. Ironically, Massachusetts marriage law went into effect on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

The United States Constitution guarantees equality for all. As you can see, marriage and civil unions are not the same. Creating equal access to marriage is the only fair way to ensure equality for gay and straight couples alike.

* Benefits & Protections unavailable to GLBT persons without marriage: 

Here are some of the legal rights that married couples have and gays and lesbians are denied:

  1. Joint parental rights of children
  2. Joint adoption
  3. Status as “next-of-kin” for hospital visits and medical decisions
  4. Right to make a decision about the disposal of loved ones remains
  5. Immigration and residency for partners from other countries
  6. Crime victims recovery benefits
  7. Domestic violence protection orders
  8. Judicial protections and immunity
  9. Automatic inheritance in the absence of a will
  10. Public safety officers death benefits
  11. Spousal veterans benefits
  12. Social Security
  13. Medicare
  14. Joint filing of tax returns
  15. Wrongful death benefits for surviving partner and children
  16. Bereavement or sick leave to care for partner or children
  17. Child support
  18. Joint Insurance Plans
  19. Tax credits including: Child tax credit, Hope and lifetime learning credits
  20. Deferred Compensation for pension and IRAs
  21. Estate and gift tax benefits
  22. Welfare and public assistance
  23. Joint housing for elderly
  24. Credit protection
  25. Medical care for survivors and dependents of certain veterans

These are just a few of the 1400 state and federal benefits that gays and lesbians are denied by not being able to marry. Most of these benefits cannot be privately arranged or contracted for within the legal system.

Written by kickingalion

November 22, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Gay Marriage & Social Evolution

What is Social Evolution?

Sociocultural evolution is the combination of theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, which is how cultures and societies develop over time. Social evolution deals specifically with theories of social change from which human societies move from simple to more complex forms of organization. Some of the leading theorists are: Herbert Spencer, Talcott Parsons and Emile Durkheim.

Applying the principles of social evolution, we will trace how the institution of marriage has not remained the same institution over the millennia. It has grown from a simple arrangement made by parents, to include an elaborate system to include many forms of marriage.

Dowries

 

 

Dowries made their appearance in Europe after 500 B.C. The “worth” of the bride was directly related to the financial status of the family, including land holdings. Future “worth” of the bride would be decided prior to her birth, and often parents promoted future couplings when the children were at a very young age. This would involve negotiations and espousal contracts, and betrothal rings were exchanged.

Puritans

 

 

Anglicans brought several customs to the New World; in Scotland love knots on the bride’s dress were untied to ease the pain of future childbirth, in Holland “banns” (announcements) were posted for three days before the wedding could proceed, and in France, chefs began adding icing to cakes, the forerunner of the bridal cake. But, Puritans believed that these customs were excessive, and that marriage was not an unbreakable union blessed by God. It was a civil contract, without rituals and could be dissolved by humans. To them, it was true love that was the foundation of a good marriage.

Quakers

 

 

Marriage was meant to be based on common belief, condemned marrying outside of their religion and marriage between first and second cousins was forbidden. A marriage would also have to be accepted by the families and entire Quaker congregation.

The Victorian Era

 

 

Finding the best beau was one of the very few ways in which a woman could move up in society, and etiquette dictated exacting rules of courtship, to ignore which would be unforgivable. For example, you could not kiss until you were engaged. The minimal amount of time between engagement and the wedding was three months. To be unmarried by 30 was an economic hardship to the family.

19th Century South

 

 

The English traditions and standards were the norm, with parents still playing a role in developing couplings and promoting that love would follow after marriage. First cousin marriages and prenuptial agreements were also part of the norm. April would become a favorite wedding month as this is when jasmine and camellias would bloom.

American Wild West

 

 

With land to be tamed, there was little time for courtship, and a few weeks was good enough. To avoid peak farming months, weddings were held in very early spring or the winter. The wedding itself was a simple affair, often lacking enough food to go around. Dancing became the focus of the party.

Mail Order Brides

 

 

The early settlers of the American continent were mostly men, seeking a bride from Europe. And during WWII many soldiers wrote to ladies back home seeking engagements also. By the 1980s, Western men began seeking outside their own country, many times to Asia, seeking a wife. Once the Iron Curtain fell, Russian brides became available. During the same time period, the introduction of the internet replaced the older paper catalogues.

Divorce
 

 

Divorce existed back to ancient Mesopotamia but during Roman times, it was believed that “marriages out to be free” (matrimonia debent esse libera). Either a husband or wife could seek to dissolve the union, where prior a magistrate held this power. During the reign of Christian emperors, the divorce laws were relaxed the upheld in varying degree. By the 10th century in Europe divorce was out of favor, but annulments were common. Civil courts had no power over annulments, which were determined by the Church. Divorce was granted only because one party had violated a sacred vow. If both had broken vows, the divorce was denied. The Church lost it’s power in the 1920s, when civil courts regained their control of divorce laws in America.

Polygamy
 

 

The history of Mormon polygamy begins with claims that Mormon founder Joseph Smith received a revelation from God on July 17, 1831 that some Mormon men would be allowed to practice “plural marriage”. Polygamy was illegal in the state of Illinois so a splinter group, led by Brigham Young, moved to Utah. What had been kept private from the rest of the country was revealed in 1852 when the Apostle Orson Pratt began preaching sermons of plural marriage. By 1856 the Republican Party’s platform was to “prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery”. By 1862 the Congress and White House issued the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. The LDS Church believed that plural marriages were protected by the Constitution, but lost their 1878 Supreme Court case (Reynolds vs. United States). Penalties of ignoring the act could include disincorporating the church and seizure of church property. Members fled to both Canada and Mexico. In 1890 LDS President Wilford Woodruff issued a Manifesto announcing the discontinuance of the practice. The LDS Church now ex-communicates members found practicing polygamy, however it is estimated that 18,500 Fundamentalists still maintain plural marriages (Salt Lake Tribune).

Interracial Marriage in the U.S.
 

 

During the years of slavery, “marriage” was not acknowledged between a couple of slaves. Seen as property of a master, blacks could be sold to separate owners, splitting up couples and families.

Interracial marriage was illegal in 19 states until 1967, when the Supreme Court ruled in Loving vs. Virginia, a landmark civil rights case, that Virginia’s “Racial Integrity Act of 1924” was unconstitutional, thereby lifting any restrictions on race in regards to marriage.

Will gay marriage be the latest step in social evolution in the U.S. view of marriage?
 

 

Attitudes are rapidly shifting in regards to gay marriage.

2008 Polling question: “Should gay and lesbian couples be allowed to marry, giving them full legal rights of married couples, or not?” In a June poll, 42% replied should. In an August poll, 47% replied should. (pollingreport.com)

A Harris Poll released in early 2000 shows 57% oppose gay marriage, while 15% approve.

In 1996, the Gallup Organization found that 68% of American adults opposed gay marriages; 27% were in favor.

Written by kickingalion

November 19, 2008 at 6:05 pm