So, I was really surprised to see this clip floating around the internet. Bill O’Reilly takes Family Law attorney Don Schweitzer to task over not being able to actually explain why he’s opposed to gay marriage, without invoking religion.

OREILLY: “You’ve got to go beyond religion if you want to win the fight against gay marriage. You’ve got to go into a reason why this is not good for the state of California. Now what would that reason be?”

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Here’s the best part of the discussion (which I found at Republic of T’s place), in case you don’t have time to watch the whole thing:

O’REILLY: …What’s the the reason that you oppose gay marriage?

SCHWEITZER: I don’t oppose, uh, a civil union. We already have that. We’ve had that for three years.

O’REILLY: (Talking over Schweitzer.) Alright, alright … Gay marriage, Mr. Schweitzer, why do you oppose that?

SCHWEITZER: I only oppose the defintion of marriage applying to same-sex marriage, because it’s an age-old definition. It’s like naming one thing from another.

(Crosstalk.)

O’REILLY: But are … Isn’t change good? This is a year of change? Everybody wants change?

SCHWEITZER: Well, that’s a decision for the people, and the people determined that they don’t want it. Year’s ago there was a referendum, and the people spoke, and the California Supreme Court overruled the people’s voice, in this regard…

O’REILLY: So you really don’t don’t have a good reason for me about why you oppose gay marriage.

SCHWEITZER: Yes I do. I think the reason is that the people want a definition making a distinction between gay marriages and …

O’REILLY: Why do they want that distinction?

SCHWEITZER: Because of the fact that it is different. It is just a different distinction. They’re two different relationships. And they don’t want to be grouped together in the same type of relationship.

O’REILLY: Isn’t that bigoted?

SCHWEITZER: No. No, it’s like describing Summer from Winter. They’re two different things.

O’REILLY: I don’t think that’s gonna cut it.

SCHWEITZER: How is that bigoted, Bill?

O’REILLY: I’m not saying it’s bigoted. I just asked the question. I mean, if it’s … Look. I think you guy are going to have to come up with a cogent reason to convince independents, who are going to make the decision on this, because it is now getting closer, why gay marriage isn’t good for California. And you really haven’t done it tonight.

SCHWEITZER: OK. Well, I beg to differ with you, and I think the people will speak in November. They’re gonna say that we just want the definition. They’re not gonna say that it’s…’

O’REILLY: “We just want it.” OK. Maybe you’re right, but I think that there’s got to be a more pointed definition.

Wow…if the blowhards can see it, maybe the tide is turning. There IS no reason, other than religious discrimination, to oppose gay marriage. And we used to be FOR freedom of religion in this country.

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So, the other day I was reading letters to the editor at the Deseret News (this isn’t as bad as reading the reader comments, though people still say some pretty silly things sometimes). And I came across this letter which was a response to this letter.

The first letter asks a question that I have often asked myself, not just about Obama but other Democratic candidates, and not just for LDS members but for all Christians:

What is it about the Obama message that is so off-putting to LDS Utahns? Actually I would think it is the exact message to which we LDS members would gravitate in great numbers. Why have we strayed from our emotional and spiritual roots?

The response from the 2nd letter writer is thus:

Let’s see, maybe it’s because his views are opposite the core of the LDS faith? His stances on abortion and gay marriage are just two issues.

Ah, now I understand.

Except I don’t, really. Even before I became dedicated to gay rights issues (and came out), even when I was a faithful LDS member, I gravitated towards Democratic candidates because I agreed more with their stances than with their Republican counterparts. I think LDS people in general, and the larger Christian community, have fallen too easily for the point of view first argued in the early 80s during the rise of the Religious Right, that abortion and gay marriage/rights are the only two “values” issues that matter.

Why, for instance, does killing an unborn fetus trump killing adults in a war that even many Republicans, the Legislature, independent analysts and most other countries in the world recognize as being started under false pretenses and exaggerated threats? I’m not saying I don’t understand and even agree with people who believe abortion is wrong – but seriously, at this moment in our history, can we really afford to vote for someone who will continue this war and probably start a new one with Iran, mainly because he says he’s pro-life?

Why does preventing gay couples from getting married trump the fact that the number of children living in poverty increased by more than 11 percent between 2000 and 2005. Can we really call ourselves Christians when there is so much needless suffering in our country? Why isn’t more attention paid to the fact that the percent of all children who lack health insurance increased for the first time in nearly a decade in 2005—from 10.8% in 2004 to 11.2% in 2005.

Why not consider electing a man who is not among the nations top 1% wealthiest individuals, and who will therefore hopefully fight for the smallest and weakest among us, those children who need more help than another corporate bailout will provide?

It just feels very hypocritical to me to fixate on abortion and gay marriage, and call yourself a Christian voter. There is a movement among some evangelicals to start focusing on other values, such as poverty and war, but it doesn’t have much political traction yet. Though some are predicting that this is the year we’ll see a shift among that voting base.

The other thing that I think keeps many Republicans still solidly voting Republican (but wasn’t mentioned by the letter-writer above) is fear of socialism. This is also something, from a Mormon perspective, that I don’t quite understand. Mormons believe in the law of consecration, which is basically a form of socialism – pooling collective resources that are then re-dispersed based on need. I’m not saying I think socialism is better for our country, in our current situation, than capitalism – but I do wonder why LDS people in general are so afraid of the idea, and particularly in relation to Obama. Why do the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys only have to say “socialism” in regard to Obama to put so many people off? Just because he’s for mandated health coverage doesn’t mean he’s going to turn the country into communist Russia.

I guess it just seems like the Christian right, for the most part, has been sold a bill of goods about manifesting their values in their voting patterns. If you read the four Gospels, the books that actually focus on Jesus’ personal ministry, there is no mention of abortion or gay marriage. There are admonitions not to sin, or to repent and sin no more, but there are countless more admonitions to care for the hungry and poor, to turn the other cheek, to be kind and loving to one another. Jesus himself outlined what should be most important:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
–Matthew 22:34-40

I’m not sure how that translates into the current religious-political environment, where working to outlaw abortion and gay marriage seem to be the only laws or commandments that matter.

I’m not saying I don’t understand the moral argument behind the anti-abortion and anti-gay stances. All i’m saying is – aren’t there more important things that we, as Christians, should be voting to protect?

Well, the requests for a stay, including one from Utah’s own attorney general Mark Shurtleff, were denied today by the CA Supreme Court. Gay couples will be able to marry after June 17.

I would just like everyone to remember that the 4-3 majority who voted on the original decision and against this stay, are Republicans or were appointed by Republican governors.

I would also like attorney general Mark Shurtleff to remember that not only does Utah have a constitutional amendment, the United States also has the Defense of Marriage Act. Why was he even wasting his time filing this objection? Oh yeah, I remember, I wrote about it in my last post. We hate gays in Utah and we like to take every opportunity we can to make sure they know that.

Well, you can suck it, Mark Shurtleff.

What has happened to Mark Shurtleff, by the way? Local Utah voters may recall that he issued a statement back in 2004 when Utah voters were about to decide to vote Amendment 3 into the state constitution saying that it was a bad law and would deny a group of citizens the ability to be protected under the law. So what’s changed, Mark? If you thought Amendment 3 was bad, why wouldn’t you WANT a legal challenge in the form of a Utah couple getting married in CA and coming back here to challenge the status quo. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? Why have you changed your stance?

He went a little nutty over the school voucher issue too, trying to force the school board to enact the voucher law despite the fact that it was going to a referendum with voters. So…when it comes to vouchers, it’s best to enact before the voters get their say, but when it comes to gay marriage, god forbid we let that happen before the voters have their say? And what happens if the voters don’t vote for an amendment in CA? Well, the world will end of course.

Why don’t we have any moderate Republicans in Utah? Or we don’t hear from them, at any rate. It seems that even the moderate ones become raging righties before long. Does the Eagle Forum really have that much power? Or is it something in the water up at the capital building?

Meanwhile, back in CA, joining Ellen and Portia in the gay celebrity wedding column, Mr. Sulu from Star Trek will wed his partner of 20 years in September. There is a difference of opinion on whether having high-profile gays get married in CA will help or hurt the overall gay marriage cause. I think only time will tell…and I think time will come out on our side, but it may take a LOT of it. (time, that is.) I think there will probably be somewhat of a backlash first…but my hope is that if CA doesn’t vote in the amendment, life will go on as normal and after a while people will realize that God isn’t going to smite anyone down.

I read something today on Republic of T’s blog about the CA Supreme Court decision that I think really illustrates why the marriage discussion is important and why, even though the CA decision is momentous, with the Defense of Marriage act in place, there can never be true equality.

Here’s a “for instance.” Let’s say that David and Jonathan, a same-sex couple legally married in the state where they live, go on vacation with Mary and Joseph, a legally married heterosexual couple who live down the street from David and Jonathan. They decide on a road trip to see some historic sites in the next state over.

After they cross the state line, they check into a hotel and decide to head out for dinner. On the way to dinner, the two couples are in an automobile accident. David and Joseph are both seriously injured, and both are rushed to the same hospital. Jonathan and Mary both make their way to the hospital. Mary tells the paramedics, “I’m his wife” and she rides along in the ambulance. Jonathan, unsure of how he’ll be treated — whether, as a partner in a civil union or domestic partnership from another state, he will be allowed to ride in the ambulance with David — asks a police officer for a ride to the hospital behind his “friend’s” ambulance. Well, at least they both make it to the hospital.

At the hospital, Mary tells the emergency room personnel, “I’m his wife,” and is ushered into an area with her husband, and later to a waiting area where she receives regular updates on his condition until she’s able to see him.

Jonathan, upon seeing David being removed from the ambulance, forgets his earlier caution, jumps out of the police car, and runs along behind David’s gurney as he’s wheeled to an examination area. At some point, a hospital employee notices Jonathan, stops him, and asks who he is. Upon saying “I’m his partner,” Jonathan is told that unless he can produce proof of their relationship, he will not be allowed to see David or get any information about his condition, because he is “not next of kin.”

Fortunately, David and Jonathan never travel without their legal documents — advanced directives, medical powers of attorney, etc. But Jonathan realizes the documents are in their luggage, back at the hotel. After looking up the number of a taxi service, a seemingly endless wait, and a equally long taxi ride back to the hotel, Jonathan finds the luggage, locates their documents, takes the taxi (which has been waiting) back to the hospital, shows them to hospital staff, and is finally admitted to see David.

It’s been at least three hours since they first arrived at the hospital, and longer since the accident itself. Mary, during this time, has been with her husband. All she needed was three words. Jonathan, on the other hand, had to retrieve legal documents to prove his relationship to David, and had to do so all the while not knowing David’s condition, or whether David would be alive when he got back to the hospital. Fortunately, Jonathan made it back in time. But sometimes we don’t.

He then links to a story from a Denver TV station:

John Crisci and Michael Tartaglia, his partner of 33 years, thought they had done everything right. They had wills and other paperwork drawn up giving each other the right to make medical and financial decisions for each other, and specifying which relatives should inherit their assets when they die.

They packed the papers for long trips Crisci didn’t have the documents with him when Tartaglia collapsed at a gym on the morning on his 70th birthday nearly two years ago. An EMT suggested he run home to get the paperwork rather than risk getting into a dispute with hospital officials over medical decisions.

Crisci knew he was too late when a doctor and chaplain were waiting to talk to him at the hospital. To him, the story shows why same-sex couples should be able to register as domestic partners and get many of the same rights as married couples under Colorado law.

“You don’t lose that extra 30 or 40 minutes which may be the last time you can hold on to each other,” Crisci said.

That’s one of my greatest fears. Not being allowed in, or getting there to late with the paperwork. And the thing is, I know there are other problems, arguably more important problems, facing our country right now. The economy is tanking, the mess in Iraq doesn’t get any better, rumors abound that Bush will instigate something in Iran before he’s out of office. There’s plenty to be angry about. And that makes me even angrier that these basic rights, these basic ways people care for each other, are not afforded to me and my partner, and so I have to spend energy working on those issues too. I didn’t intend so many of my posts here to be about gay rights, but honestly, it’s hard to feel secure enough to get involved in other political causes when, as a couple, we really aren’t allowed to care for our most basic needs.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been sick for about 10 days now, but I feel very discouraged about the whole thing, despite the “progress” of the CA decision. I’ve blown about 25 pounds of snot out of my nose in the past 2 days, and would really just like to feel better now.

Okay…something more optimistic next time, I promise…

Sorry for a bit of inactivity here – we were on vacation last week and this week I’ve been fighting a cold that has left me too tired to think about much beyond getting through the workday.

But my blog stats are showing quite a lot of visits today and I’m guessing some of you are looking for commentary on the CA Supreme Court decision yesterday. I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I think it’s great progress and about time. On the other hand, I worry about the timing. Just when it was looking like gay marriage *wouldn’t* be a major wedge issue in this year’s presidential election…this is sure to energize the right and the consequences of that could very well continue 8 disastrous years of Bush policy by helping to elect John McCain.

Despite a promise to myself that I wouldn’t ever read them again, I found myself reading comments on the local newspaper websites about the CA decision. It’s always shocking to me, even though it shouldn’t be.

Here’s an example from the Deseret News story from someone calling himself “Phantom Panther”:

The gays have the California Supreme Court on their side. It is highly unlikely the Court is going to listen to pro-traditional family activists. Like the gays they are carrying water for, the Supreme Court is determined to force Californians to accept homosexuality as a “right.” Considering their liberal mindset, it would not surprise me if the California Supreme Court ruled that homosexuality was superior to traditional marriage and outlawed traditional marriage. All in the name of “tolerance” and stopping “hate speech.” We live in perilous times.

My reaction to this is: Really?? I don’t understand how ignorant you have to be to believe that gay marriage threatens straight marriage. And the idea that the courts will somehow rule that gay marriages are “superior” and say that straight people can’t get married – well, there’s not even a response to that unless you are crazy. Do people really believe that?? Honestly?? Is this a contest where only one kind of couple can be the winner?? It boggles my mind. Plus, the ruling isn’t that people have to accept homosexuality as a right, as this very intellegent Phantom Panther (seriously dude, you need pick a less gay online name) postulates. If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get one! Unless you are a closeted gay yourself, something that affirms gay marriage or gay people in general is not going to suddenly make you gay! And if you believe being gay is immoral, then go to church and pray for us! But the last time I checked, religion wasn’t mandated in this country and the idea that we are denying rights to people based on religious beliefs doesn’t get any less shocking to me the more I think about it. I wish more people were offended by THAT.

Someone else (I don’t have the stomach to weed through them again to find the person’s name) posted about how gay people shouldn’t get to take advantage of her tax money by getting married. Wait…excuse me? How does that happen? How is my marrying my partner going to filch her out of her tax money? What it WILL do is make OUR tax money come back to us in the form of collecting on each other’s social security if one of us dies (and social security isn’t bankrupt in the meantime). But we are both paying INTO social security, so I think we’re the ones being cheated by NOT being able to get married. Maybe that’s what she meant – she should be able to collect on MY social security instead of my partner because she’s morally superior to us? That’s the only conclusion I can draw.

*sigh*

One last rant and then on to the brighter side of things. I love how the rightwing loves to talk about judicial activism when judges rule on something that they don’t agree with. This part frightens me a lot, actually. The idea that we might seriously consider some measure that would limit the courts’ power and so completely alter the make up of this country, should be frightening for more people. Aren’t the conservatives always the ones talking about original intent of the founding fathers? I think they intended for there to be a balance of power! Why isn’t that talked about more? The intent when the 3 branches of government were created was to keep one branch from having too much power and thus corrupting the government as a whole. The courts have always protected the rights of the minority against the tyranny of the majority. And I’m sorry if you don’t agree with a court ruling, this one in particular – but isn’t that the basis of our democracy?

I’m not going to go into the LDS church’s response. Of course they will say that. It doesn’t make me angry. In fact, I felt that the way it was worded was much more thoughtful and compassionate than it might have been even a few years ago. So…for whatever that’s worth, that’s really all I have to say about that.

One of the best comments I’ve read in the coverage of the CA ruling comes from Mildred Loving, who was the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case in 1967 that overturned laws banning inter-racial marriage:

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, and how much it meant to me to have the freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.”

She was a black woman who wanted to marry a white man in the era when that was a punishable crime, and she fought for her right to be with the person she loved. (The quote actually comes from a speech last summer, but was mentioned in an article about the CA decision. You can read the rest of her speech here.) I think most people would agree, 40 years later, that there is no question a person should be allowed to marry a person of a different race. It’s interesting to realize that similar arguments used against inter-racial marriage at the time are being used against gay marriage now. I can only hope that eventually we will see the same outcome, from courts or legislative bodies or courageous individual politicans (or a combination of all those things, which is more likely) – and even if it takes a while I think that most people will come to see that there is no threat at all to them or their “traditional” marriages by permitting gay people to marry and care for each other.

Anyone who is scared of gay marriage should consider the case of Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon who have been together for over 50 years. How many straight couples can say that? Why shouldn’t these two be allowed to leave their house, which they have lived in together for most of their lives, to each other??

And lastly, if you haven’t seen Ellen’s announcement, you should watch it here. I hope they are very happy!

Despite the fact that this new SLC registry is almost entirely symbolic, in that most if not all companies that want to offer partner benefits already do, I still think it’s an important step in our state, and hopefully in the long term as more and more cities and states offer some protection under the law, there will be changes on a federal level as well.

This debate becomes so emotional, and I understand why. Even though the truth is not that marriage has always been a sacred union between one man and one woman, but in fact was for most of history a purely business transaction between families with interest in joining land and other property, I can still understand people’s gut reaction to the idea that two men or two women don’t constitute a marriage.

But I find in talking to people about specifics, most of them are shocked to find out what being denied the ability to marry really means, in practical terms. Here is what it means to me, and to my partnership:

* We can be denied the ability to see each other in the hospital or make decisions regarding each other’s care. For us, we are lucky that both sets of our parents are supportive of us and would not deny us this. And we can and should fill out paperwork to designate each other as having power of attorney and to designate any health care requirements (DNR, etc.), but in an emergency, if you don’t happen to have your paperwork on you, who wants to be hassled by a well-meaning but ignorant doctor or nurse about your right to be in the room with your loved one? Married couples do not have to worry about this. I’m willing to bet even unmarried straight couples rarely get questioned on their right to be in a hospital room.

* My partner’s business offers domestic partner health benefits, although because I am also employed we don’t take advantage of it. We each have separate health insurance policies. But if I were ever unemployed, and we signed up for partner benefits, we would have to pay income tax on the value of the insurance policy.

* We recently purchased our first home together. We are co-borrowers on the loan and we hold the title jointly, with right of survivorship, which means if one of us dies the other will automatically inherit the “other half” of the house. We can and should also make wills, spelling out that we are each others benefactors. But because we are not married, the surviving partner will have to pay inheritance taxes on the portion of the house they inherit. This means that many “widowed” partners still end up losing their homes after the death of their partner.

* We both have 401(k) policies with our employers, and we have designated each other as beneficiaries. However, because we aren’t married, if one of us dies the surviving partner would have to pay up to 70% of that policy in taxes and penalties. A married spouse would be able to inherit the policy without taxes or penalties.

* If one of us becomes ill or disabled, the other is not eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. We would have to continue working, and limit the care we could offer each other, or we would have to quit our jobs.

These very basic things that inhibit our ability to take care of each other, and the part I don’t understand is why giving us these rights would impart harm on anyone else’s marriage or bring about the end of western civilization as we know it. I wish the discussion could take a more practical approach more often, because I really believe that if more people knew what is actually involved, they would have less of a gut reaction that gay marriage is wrong, and realize that if we are committed to each other, we should be able to provide for each other. Period. End of sentence.

with the Deseret News’s coverage of this story.

Registry quietly launches

Just don’t read the reader comments, it’s too depressing.