Saturday, January 15, 2011

Is The Tea Party Drifting From its Limited Government Roots?

      This is very very telling. Though the Tea Party has been traditionally concerned mainly with economic issues, it is no secret that the sizable portion of those who are in this fragment of the Republican Party are social conservatives. Today we saw, for one of the first times, a "Tea Party" rally concerned with social issues - banning gay marriage and abortion rights. From the Chicago Tribune...

About 35 people gathered for a Tea Party rally in Council Bluffs calling for a ban on gay marriage and stricter abortion laws in Iowa. 

Republican legislator Kim Pearson, of Pleasant Hill, was among the speakers at Saturday afternoon's gathering at the Mid-America Center. The Daily Nonpareil reports that Pearson said a ban would be quicker to pass than a constitutional amendment. 

In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a state law limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violated the constitutional right of equal protection. Voters removed three of those justices in November after a campaign targeted their support of the ruling. 

Pearson and two of her colleagues have drafted legislation to impeach the remaining four justices. 
      Interesting that self-styled Tea Partier's - whose goal is to limit government intervention into the private lives of its citizens - are instead pushing for said intervention. Only in the mind of a social conservative does this blatant contradiction make any sense.

BOTW - Mitt Romney and the Case for American Greatness

     This weeks Book of the Week is Mitt Romney's text from last year - No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. In this roller coaster of a ride, Romney takes us on a journey through what he views as the major issues facing american society today. From the military, to the state of the family Romney gives his two cents and his recommendations on what to do. Though I am in no sense a Republican - something that many will wonder when they see what next weeks BOTW is - and am instead a political moderate, I found myself agreeing with this self styled moderate on many issues.

     Romney begins his book with a glance at history, something that we should keep in mind as the book progresses. Four Empires - the Ottomans, Chinese, Portuguese/Spanish, and British - are looked at, with the reason for the declines of each society pointedly made clear. For the Ottomans, Romney states,
The Ottomans' growing isolation from the dynamic world of manufacture and trade was reinforced by the conviction that their holy scriptures provided all the knowledge that was necessary; foreign technology was infidel technology."
       Remember this reasoning for the future. According to Romney, the Ottomans heavy reliance upon its religious texts instead of an analysis of the real world is what led to their overall decline. The other five civilizations: the Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and British also failed as empires because they did something similar to the Ottomans - they isolated themselves from the outside world.

     It is with this context of innovation and closed mindedness that Romney begins his book. He asserts that the United States must spend more money on its national defense because of the threats from China, Russia, and jihadists. He asserts that economically, we must reduce the tax load on corporations so that they may provide jobs for the country. This is no surprise, these are typical Republican platforms. It is his thoughts on healthcare and the environment that are surprisingly refreshing.

     On healthcare, Romney upholds the Massachusetts model - the model that the current healthcare reform was built upon. An exchange of sorts that all citizens would be required to purchase insurance, some at a discounted rate, with the ultimate goal of complete coverage. But to Romney, the reform pioneered by Mass. is not enough. There must also be Tort reform as well as other private sector reforms that must take place. To Romney, his model provided that all citizens would have healthcare, but the real issue came when it was necessary to discuss the increasing costs of healthcare.

     On the Environment and Energy, Romney surprised me a great deal. For instead of the traditional conservative mantra "Drill baby Drill" he took a different approach. First, he recognized that the free market was not at work in the energy sector, and thus there can be no "free market" solutions. The oil lobby gets heavily subsidized and exert too much control in Washington today. For him, Global Warming, though he is not sure whether it is human caused, is an issue and must be dealt with in an appropriate way. That same way must encourage our society to move away from our oil based economy and instead depend upon more energy efficient and clean energy sources.

    It is the last section of the book that gives me pause though, and one where he contradicts himself from his earlier chapter about the Ottoman Empire. In the second to last chapter he states that he believes marriage is between one man and one woman; a position presumably taken because of his Mormon faith. Though he does not come out and say it as such, there is no denying that the large opposition to marriage equality is because of religious objections and such texts and the Koran and the Bible. How does this basis of intolerance towards a people group not remind him of the Ottoman empires lack of openness about things that its "religious texts" may have issue with. I think that he may be missing the forest for the trees. He can see, from hindsight that the downfall of the Ottoman empire was this focus on its religious texts, yet cannot see that he is doing the same thing when it comes to marriage equality. That for one makes me very hesitant to ever voting for him.

     All in all, I would encourage all of you to read this mans work; for he does do an excellent job laying out his ideas and goals. This is important, for he is possibly one of the contenders for the Republican party in the 2012 presidential race; thus it may be a good idea to see why he believes what he believes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

States to Watch in 2011 for Marriage Equality

     2010 was an excellent year for the gay rights movement as we saw the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, as well as excellent rulings from the Judiciary in California, Washington state, Washington D.C., and Massachusetts. 2011 looks like an even more important year for LGBT rights, for though federally the climate is grim, in the individual states there is a growing interest in LGBT issues - both in the positive and negative sense. These are the states which this blog, and you readers, should keep tabs on in the coming months.

Iowa - With the switch in control of the Governorship and the states House of Representatives to Republicans control there is concern that they will attempt to push for a voter referendum on the legalization of same sex marriage. This being said, the state Senate is still firmly in control of the democrats, and the Democratic leader of the Iowa Senate has forcefully stated that he will not allow an amendment to be put on the ballot by the Republicans.

New Hampshire - With the switch in control to the Republicans of both the House and the Senate, there has been concern by marriage advocates that they would attempt to roll back the states legalization of same-sex marriage. But just this week, the Republicans released their agenda for the year - gay marriage being an issue that is noticeably absent. Though this is the case, there is still talk that anti-marriage equality members within the House and Senate will pressure the leadership to allow a vote on the issue.

Rhode Island - As reported in this blog before, with the recent election of Lincoln Chafee to the governorship, as well as a strong pro-marriage equality majority in the state legislature, there is a very strong chance that we may see marriage equality become a reality for Rhode Islanders in the coming months!

Maryland - Again, because of the past elections, there is now a very substantial pro-marriage equality delegation in the Maryland legislature, and because of the movement of some key Senate committee seats, it is very likely that within the next three months - for the Maryland legislature has a 90 day session which began on Wednesday - that they will affirm that every Marylander has a place at the marriage alter. Governor O'Malley has affirmed that he will sign a marriage equality bill if it reaches his desk. Republicans have also vowed that they will introduce civil union legislation in this coming session as well.

New York - With the control of the state Senate moving from Democratic control to Republican control, the chances for a marriage equality bill being passed in the state has been drastically reduced. That being said, activists in the state are convinced that they can convince Republicans in that body to support a marriage equality measure - by showing them that no anti-gay marriage candidate won a state office. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that he will sign a marriage equality bill if it comes before his desk.

North Carolina/West Virginia/Minnesota/Wyoming - In these four states, marriage equality advocates have their work cut out for them. As Republicans have taken control of all three legislative bodies in these states, there is rumblings that there will be anti-marriage equality amendments proposed. These states must be watched with interest.

Colorado - Though the Republicans took control of the state House, Democrats in the body have vowed to introduce in the coming session a bill that would legalize civil unions in the state.

Hawaii - With the newly elected governor Neil Abercrombie saying that he supports civil unions, the legislature of this state will most likely move to pass the same bill that last year the previous Republican Governor vetoed.

Montana - Last year seven same-sex couples filed a lawsuit requesting a formation of a domestic partnership registry in the state. Though the state bars marriage equality because of a constitutional amendment, they have sued stating that the state should at least recognize their relationships as valid. The case is currently pending in court.

Though I am sure that there are more States to watch, these are the key States. Noticeably I left out California, for though this an important state in the marriage equality battle, its case has moved past the state level and has morphed itself into a federal issue. The same with the case currently going through the courts in Massachusetts.

Republicans and Gay Rights - An Evolving Story

      I was reading a very interesting article the other day on the dilemma that the Republican Party finds itself in in the Northeastern states. From Massachusetts to New Hampshire to Maryland, it is becoming increasingly clear to the state GOP parties that the public in those states have "moved on" in regards to gay and lesbian rights. This is why we see the New Hampshire Republican party refusing to bring up gay marriage repeal this session, for it is not a pressing issue in the state. Also, as we are seeing that in Maryland the GOP  have remarkably become "pro-civil union". This I think says something very interesting about the GOP in general and their political posturing on this issue.

     The Republican party sees itself in a quandary. It is still heavily supported by the Religious Right in certain key areas of the nation, yet at the same time the younger generations have become more socially liberal and see the GOP as encouraging bigotry and animosity towards the LGBT community. In those states which lean more liberal on such issues, and where the Religious Right does not hold as much sway, the GOP have morphed into "accepting" or not challenging pro-LGBT laws. This is what we are seeing in the Northeastern states.

      In those states where the Religious Right still holds much sway, and the Republicans chance for power depends upon their votes - such as in the South and the Mid-Western to Pacific states - it is convenient and politically the smart move to throw the LGBT community under the bus. Thus, we see anti-LGBT ordinances and amendments coming before legislatures in West Virgina, North Carolina, Wyoming, and Iowa. For the GOP, they realize that in order to keep the social conservatives, which make up their voting block in these states, they have to demonize the LGBT community and ensure that they are remembered as the party that "protected" the Religious Right from the evil gays.

     This may work for them in the short term, and I am sure that we will see anti-gay amendments and laws pass in West Virgina, North Carolina, and Wyoming in the future. But in the long term this emphasis will ensure the alienation from the party by young voters. The GOP in the Northeast have recognized this fact, thus it is only a matter of time before the GOP of the rest of the nation recognize this as well. Though it is not popular in LGBT circles to say the next statement, groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud are helping this "movement" of the GOP away from the hysteria and fear-mongering of the Religious Right, and instead towards one of tolerance and equal treatment. Thus, instead of demonizing them - as some are prone to do - we should encourage them to stay true to the principles of LGBT equality. Something that the LCR is doing a good job of and that GOProud can work on. Overall, let us be glad that history is moving forward in regards to equal rights for all Americans, and that the GOP party - even if it is their state branches - are becoming more open to the ideals of the Founding Fathers.

Republicans In West Virgina Look to "Protect" Traditional Marriage

On Wednesday, the West Virgina GOP announced that one of their main legislative agendas this congressional term is allowing the citizens of that state to vote on the marriages of others. The Associated Press has the story...

In a release sent out by Republican minority leader Tim Armstead, House Republicans call for the strengthening of West Virginia's Defense for Marriage statute to prevent it from being overturned by a Supreme Court. 
Delegate Rick Snuffer, R-Raleigh, said the people of West Virginia should be allowed to vote on the amendment and decide for themselves if "one man, one woman," marriage should be the definition in the state's constitution. 
Snuffer, a freshman delegate, said the Legislature needs to act proactively before a decision elsewhere forces lawmakers to make a decision on the issue. According to information provided at the press conference by Republican officials, the state Supreme Court of Appeals voted 3-2 to not hear a prior challenge to current law by homosexual couples. 
Republican officials in West Virginia say West Virginians overwhelmingly support traditional definitions of marriage as one man and one woman.
Snuffer goes on to say, which shows the real reasoning behind this drive for a vote, that,
A lot of times our friends across the aisle will say they are pro-choice, but they don't want to choose whether or not you choose a gun. They don't want you to choose where your kids go to school. They don't want you to choose YOUR definition of marriage, so they're not really pro-choice. If they're pro-choice, let the people choose their definition of marriage. Let the people vote and let's get it over with once and for all." (emphasis added)
You see here is where Snuffer gets into dangerous territory. Instead of recognizing that personal (mainly religious) opinions about morality and definitions do not have a place in  the public sphere, he accuses the Democrats of being "anti-choice" by not allowing those opinions to be codified into West Virgina law. 

The full text of the proposed amendment actually goes much further than this "protection" of traditional marriage. It says, 
Only a union between one man and one woman may be a marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for same-sex relationships to which is assigned the rights, benefits, obligations, qualities or effects of marriage.
Does this amendment exclude only marriage? Not at all, for it also excludes any legal status for same-sex relationships period.  It does not even allow for civil unions or domestic partnerships. This my friends, is a devaluation of our relationships, for these legislators are inferring that our relationships are somehow inferior to those of heterosexuals and thus should not be allowed to even exist legally. Kevin McCoy of the West Virgina Family Foundation states this in no uncertain terms when he says,
The amendment will also preserve the unique legal benefits that are provided for this sacred institution and prohibit counterfeit relationships such as homosexual 'civil unions' and 'domestic partner benefits,' which are homosexual 'marriage' by another name.
That is the true aim of those who are supposedly "protecting traditional marriage." They don't care a bit about the term, instead their whole ideology and goal is to delegitimize us as LGBT people, and for that we should call them out.  If you live in West Virgina, make sure to contact your legislators and tell them that this amendment goes way to far. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

NOM Plays the Victim - Its Response to Tuscon

      It its latest email - which I will paste selections of here - Brian Brown from the National Organization of Marriage in his attempt to ask for civility in the marriage equality debate, takes instead the position of a victim. Accusing the pro-marriage equality side of rhetoric similar to the eliminationist rhetoric that Paul Krugman asserts that the Tea Party uses. Brown states,

By "eliminationist rhetoric," Paul Krugman means rhetoric, which suggests that one's opponents are not just wrong, they are illegitimate—that in a better world they would not exist. 

Well, you and I know a little about rhetoric that sounds like that don’t we?

(He may only be speaking of rhetoric inciting to violence, and I want to be clear that I don't consider gay-marriage advocates on their worst day to be doing that.)

But for me the worst part of the gay marriage debate is this eliminationist quality coming (in my experience, and of course I'm speaking only about public and visible organizations and spokespeople) almost exclusively from one side: activists who support gay marriage.

They've said over and over again, until they've totally convinced themselves, that there really is "no legitimate argument" against gay marriage, no reason why marriage in virtually every known society is a union of husband and wife. 

They do not see themselves as behaving aggressively when they insist that all good people now support the redefinition of marriage, so the public and political resistance of others to their new views on marriage strikes them as incredibly aggressive.
 Having already redefined marriage in their heads, living in progressive bubbles and talking mostly with folks who agree with them, too many have concluded that our words must simply be cover for some dark desire to make other people's lives miserable. 
I've come to believe that this is not merely tactical on their part; they really experience the world in this way, which makes me sad.
       I find this very disturbing on so many fronts. To call the group that is being oppressed by a purely religious ideology as being the ones who are eliminationists, Brown is once again attempting to put those who favor "traditional marriage" into the victim category. It is eliminationist, infers Brown, if gay marriage advocates address the root of the anti-marriage equality side: That they view our relationships as illegitimate and not as valuable to society as heterosexual ones. He goes on to say,

Gay-marriage advocates and I have deep, real and important moral disagreements about the nature, meaning and purpose of marriage (and sex and gender, most likely!). If the expression of these views makes anyone feel personally attacked, I will say: that saddens me, it's not my intention, I wish I could make it otherwise. 

No American should be afraid to exercise our core civil rights, to speak, to donate, to organize, or to vote on behalf of deeply cherished moral beliefs, to fight for what we think is right. 

But together, can we reach across our deep differences to agree at least on that?
Let me first, before I go onto the next points, paraphrase the first paragraph in a different light.

"Anti-Slavery advocates and I have deep, real and important moral disagreements about the nature, meaning and purpose of slavery. If the expression of these views makes anyone feel personally attacked, I will say: that saddens me, its not my intention, I wish I could make it otherwise."
     You see, Brian Brown does not realize that he is attacking an integral part of peoples lives, something that is just as important and immutable to people as race or gender.  Thus, though he may claim that he believes gay people are "beloved by their Creator, who sent his only Son to die for them", his own rhetoric does not have the same tone. Instead, he "attacks" the very relationships of gay people, thus attacking the people themselves. For in their "ideal" world, as the email states in another section, the family is a mother and a father raising children. Thus, it is inferred that it is not ideal to have two men or women who love each other in a relationship. Though he might not out and say it, this delegitimization of the LGBT community is the bedrock of his ideology.

      He then states that it is "fundamental that Americans be able to vote on their deep seated moral beliefs." To this, I would invoke the great political philosopher John Stuart Mill, whose famous work "On Liberty" makes it clear that your freedoms and rights end when they interfere with another persons rights. One persons right to enjoy their lives and not be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation far outweighs your right to vote on the morality of their relationship.

   This claim of "victim of eliminationist rhetoric" that Brown attempts to put on may work to make his base feel sorry for themselves. But is it really being a victim when they are trying to force other people to not live their lives the way they see fit? Are they really victims when they are attempting to insert their private moral and religious beliefs into the public sphere. I would say not. Instead it is marriage equality supporters who are the real ones who are being "victimized" by eliminatinonist rhetoric. For all we want to do is live in peace as equal members of the United States and other countries around the world. Only once you stop inserting your private beliefs into our lives Mr. Brown, can the debate be rid of any of the "poison" that you claim exists in the debate over marriage equality.

Is Living in the United States a Right or a Privilege?

       This post is not on a topic that I normally discuss on this blog, but instead was just one that I was thinking about the today. After reading some articles about the situation in New Hampshire - about how the state GOP stated that repealing the gay marriage law in the state is not on the agenda for the next two years and instead they will be focusing on economic issues instead - my mind drifted towards those same economic issues, and the inevitable concept of taxes.

        Why do we pay taxes? And what is their purpose? If you talk to anyone in the Tea Party or of the Libertarian/Conservative bent, you will get the impression that taxes are a bad thing and that the government should decrease taxes. On the other hand, if you talk with a Liberal, they will not go so far as to say that taxes are good, but they will deem them to be a necessity to fund social programs and other entitlements. Then there are the arguments that high taxes hurt economic growth and are bad for nations as a whole. But lets get away from this "economic" discussion of taxes, and instead look at them in a more philosophical bent.

     I was talking with the husband a few months ago, and this concept of higher taxes was brought up. Myself - having a more economically conservative bent - was adamantly opposed to increased taxes based upon their economic impact. He on the other hand, made a very good point. We pay taxes for the privilege of living in the country that we do, and be under the government that we are. This concept opened my eyes, and I started to ask myself, "Is living in the United States (or Canada where I am presently) a right of mine, or is it a privilege?"

     Many times it is inferred that somehow we as Americans have the right to live in the United States. Though we might not say it, this overarching attitude also has the inference of our individual "uniqueness or specialness", as if just because of who we are that we are living in the United States. And, considering that the pervading thought of Americans is that the United States is the best country in the world, this naturally leads to the conclusion that we have the "right" to live in the best country in the world. But, what about the other people of the world, are they less than us because somehow we have been given this right and they have not? Instead of this mentality of a "right" to live somewhere, I find it better to think that we have the privilege of living where we do. This gets us back to the reason for why we have taxes. If living in a country is a right, the government has no reason to take any form of taxes from us, for by doing so they are infringing upon our economic rights and prosperity. Conversly, if living in a nation is a priviledge, the government does and should have the authority of funding itself through the collection of taxes.

    So what do you all think? Does is living in the United States a right or a privilege? If it is a privilege, are taxes an acceptable way for the government to gather from us the cost of that privilege. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

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