Have we lost our ability to disagree?

We have devolved.

That’s not news, except to those people who haven’t been paying attention. How long ago did we actually exercise our right to disagree with facility and reason, in this representative republic, this exercise in democracy? And especially, with dignity?

Voltaire allegedly said “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Though he did not, his biographer did. But it’s a noble sentiment.

So about the concept and reality of dignity, let’s look at what’s happened lately in the cultural meltdown over social moral issues, or anything that even refers to the word ‘moral.’ Fires ignite. Flamethrowers start lighting their torches. That’s bad enough. But one of the disturbing things among many, is that we’ve lost the meaning of words in the first place, so what’s moral isn’t sometimes what’s legal, and vice versa. Which leads inevitably to the throwdown challenge, who decides.

As if there’s no reference point. As if it’s a matter of consensus maybe? Because that’s what drives our culture.

Just as the Little Sisters of the Poor lawsuit put the spotlight on government encroachment on religious liberty, the meltdown that put white hot light on the decline of our civilization is the whole Brendan Eich/Mozilla affair over the issue of gay marriage. This need not have happened this way.

So, what happened?

A rundown:

First Things ran this, under ‘Anonymous’, such is the atmosphere of fear of retribution these days.

Silicon Valley is in an uproar. Angry blog posts have been written, resignations tendered, and boycotts organized, with no sign that the furor is likely to abate. Seeing such ruckus, a casual observer might assume that some fallout had finally resulted from the shocking revelation that several of the largest names in the technology industry—including Google, Apple, Intel, and others—have secretly colluded to drive down wages among software engineers and executives for the better part of the past decade. In fact it concerns nothing of the sort, but rather the appointment of a man named Brendan Eich to the role of CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, makers of the popular Firefox web browser.

The one thing all sides can agree on is that Eich, on paper, is very well suited to the job. His most notable technical achievement is the invention of the Javascript programming language, and while some of us might sniff at the poor design decisions which made that language notoriously unpleasant to work with, it is incontestable that it forms the underpinnings of much of the modern web. Indeed, a great deal of the complexity in a modern web browser is devoted to interpreting JavaScript as quickly and correctly as possible, and a staggering amount of work has gone into finding ever more baroque methods of optimizing its execution. Eich himself is quite familiar with all of this labor, having served in senior technical roles at Mozilla since he co-founded it. In fact, he has worked there almost continuously for the past sixteen years—an aeon in Silicon Valley—and is widely-known and liked within the company, the non-profit foundation that controls it, and the broader community of programmers around it.

Why, then, the ruckus? Amazingly enough, it is entirely due to the fact that Eich made a $1,000 donation to the campaign urging a ‘yes’ vote on California’s Proposition 8. When this fact first came to light, Eich, who was then CTO of Mozilla, published a post on his personal blog stating that his donation was not motivated by any sort of animosity towards gays or lesbians, and challenging those who did not believe this to cite any “incident where I displayed hatred, or ever treated someone less than respectfully because of group affinity or individual identity.”

That is honesty. He’s saying, basically, ‘everyone has an opinion, a belief, and this is mine. By holding this belief I have in no way dishonored any person, or treated them disrespectfully.’

Then he reached out further.

Upon being named CEO last Wednesday, Eich immediately put up another post which among other things pledged in direct terms first that he would ensure Mozilla continued offering health benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees; second that he would allocate additional resources to a project that aims to bring more LGBTQ individuals into the technology world and Mozilla in particular; and third that he would maintain and strengthen Mozilla’s policies against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s worth emphasizing that Eich made this statement prior to the storm of outrage which has since erupted, and that with these policies and others Mozilla easily ranks among the most gay-friendly work environments in the United States.

Emphasis added there, because that’s a remarkable effort to show goodwill. It wasn’t made in response to outrage, but in advance of it. How many work environments have that policy in the US? Or anywhere?

None of this, however, would do him any good. Since then, the Internet has exploded with statements expressing horror, sadness, and anger at Eich’s appointment. Two board members of the Mozilla foundation have resigned, ostensibly because they felt the search committee was unduly weighted with insiders, and dozens of more junior employees and volunteers have left as well. Several major corporations have released official statements encouraging Eich’s resignation, though it is difficult to tell whether they are motivated by genuine moral outrage or by the potential for cheap publicity. Of course the tech media, preternaturally hungry for pageclicks, cannot get enough of the story.

One of the most widely-shared and lauded of the countless statements issued in response to the appointment was written by Owen Thomas, managing editor of Valleywag, a self-described “tech gossip rag.” This is such a remarkable document that I can’t help quoting from it extensively:

Go there and read it if you will. This post is long enough already.

Andrew Sullivan responded to the torching of Brendan Eich with his own horror.

The guy who had the gall to express his First Amendment rights and favor Prop 8 in California by donating $1,000 has just been scalped by some gay activists. After an OKCupid decision to boycott Mozilla, the recently appointed Brendan Eich just resigned under pressure:

‘In a post at Mozilla’s official blog, executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker confirmed the news with an unequivocal apology on the company’s behalf. “Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it,” Baker wrote. “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”

‘The action comes days after dating site OKCupid became the most vocal opponent of Eich’s hiring. Mozilla offered repeated statements about LGBT inclusivity within the company over the past two weeks, but those never came with a specific response from Eich about his thousands of dollars of donations in support of Proposition 8, a California ballot measure that sought to ban gay marriage in the state.’

End of statement. To which Sullivan responds:

Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.

Thank you, Andrew Sullivan. That is intellectual honesty. You made my point. Those who rightly expressed outrage at being bullied are now bullying others. Simply because they can. Which makes them just like their former opponents, certainly no better.

Joel Kotkin says it’s The spread of ‘debate is over’ syndrome.

In many cases, I might agree with some leftist views, say, on gay marriage or the critical nature of income inequality, but liberals should find these intolerant tendencies terrifying and dangerous in a democracy dependent on the free interchange of ideas.

There’s the key to understanding or at least beginning to see what’s going on here. There is no free interchange of ideas. Some ideas are not only vilified, but crushed to the point where those who hold them must be professionally ruined or destroyed.

This shift has been building for decades and follows the increasingly uniform capture of key institutions – universities, the mass media and the bureaucracy – by people holding a set of “acceptable” viewpoints. Ironically, the shift toward a uniform worldview started in the 1960s, in part as a reaction to the excesses of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the oppressive conformity of the 1950s.

But what started as liberation and openness has now engendered an ever-more powerful clerisy – an educated class – that seeks to impose particular viewpoints while marginalizing and, in the most-extreme cases, criminalizing, divergent views.

Harsh words maybe, but well stated certainly.

Mollie Hemingway wrote this exceptional, challenging commentary and analysis.

Libertarian Nick Gillespie said he was “ambivalent” about Eich’s removal but that Eich’s resignation simply “shows how businesses respond to market signals.” And even conservatives weren’t rallying behind Eich on the grounds that marriage is an institution designed around sexual complementarity so much as by saying that even if he’s wrong, conscience should be protected.

At the end of the day, they’re all wrong. Or at least not even close to understanding the problem with Eich’s firing. Political differences with CEOs, even deep political differences, are something adults handle all the time. Most of us know that what happened held much more significance than anodyne market forces having their way. And Eich shouldn’t be protected on the grounds that one has the right to be wrong. See, Eich wasn’t hounded out of corporate life because he was wrong. He was hounded out of corporate life because he was right. His message strikes at the root of a popular but deeply flawed ideology that can not tolerate dissent.

And what we have in Eich is the powerful story of a dissident — one that forces those of us who are still capable of it to pause and think deeply on changing marriage laws and a free society.

Now Mollie gets into territory that rivets my attention, the work and writings of Vaclav Havel…

…the Czech playwright, poet, dissident and eventual president. Havel, who died in 2011, was a great man of freedom, if somewhat idiosyncratic in his political views. He was a fierce anti-communist who was also wary of consumerism, a long-time supporter of the Green Party who favored state action against global warming, and a skeptic of ideology who supported civil unions for same-sex couples.

“The Power of the Powerless,” written under a communist regime in 1978, is his landmark essay about dissent. It’s a wonderful read, no matter your political persuasion. It asks everyone to look at how they contribute to totalitarian systems, with no exceptions. It specifically says its message is “a kind of warning to the West,” revealing our own latent tendencies to set aside our moral integrity. Reading it again after the Eich dismissal, I couldn’t help but think of how it applies to our current situation in the States.

“The post-totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline,” Havel wrote, using the term he preferred over “dictatorship” for the complex system of social control experienced in Czechoslovakia. We also have a system that is demanding conformity, uniformity and discipline — it’s not just about marriage law, to be honest. It’s really about something much bigger — crushing the belief that the sexes are distinct in deep and meaningful ways that contribute to human flourishing. Obviously marriage law plays a role here — recent court rulings have asserted that the sexes are interchangeable when it comes to marriage. That’s only possible if they’re not distinct in deep and meaningful ways. But the push to change marriage laws is just one part of a larger project to change our understanding of sexual distinctions.

This commentary is just about the best analysis of the critical issues at hand out there right now. It should be engaged. The cultural battles have devolved into incoherence.

OK, let’s step back. What does any of this have to do with views on marriage? Well, I know that we’ve had years of criminally one-sided media coverage, cowardly political leaders and elite cultural views that have conveyed to you that the only reason anyone might think sexual complementarity is key to marriage is bigotry. You may have even internalized this message. You may need to hold on to this belief for reasons of tribalism or pride. But in the spirit of Jon Stewart’s poster shown up at the top, which reads, “I may disagree with you but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler,” let’s go on an open-minded journey where we seek to understand the views of others without characterizing them as Hitler-like. It’s difficult in these times, but we can do it.

She leads the reader through this dialectic journey.

So what is the difference between marriage and other relationships? There’s no question marriage has been treated dramatically differently than other relationships by governments and society. Why? Is it that it features a more vibrant or emotional connection? Or is there some feature that is a difference in kind – that marks it out as something that ought to be socially structured? We usually don’t want government in our other relationships, right? So why is marriage singled out throughout all time and human history as a different type of recognized relationship?

Well, read her article for the whole critical thinking exercise.

This is what marriage law was about. Not two friends building a house together. Or two people doing other sexual activities together. It was about the sexual union of men and women and a refusal to lie about what that union and that union alone produces: the propagation of humanity. This is the only way to make sense of marriage laws throughout all time and human history. Believing in this truth is not something that is wrong, and should be a firing offense. It’s not something that’s wrong, but should be protected speech. It’s actually something that’s right. It’s right regardless of how many people say otherwise. If you doubt the truth of this reality, consider your own existence, which we know is due to one man and one woman getting together. Consider the significance of what this means for all of humanity, that we all share this.

Now if one wants to change marriage laws to reflect something else, that’s obviously something that one can aim to do. We’ve seen the rapid, frequently unthinking embrace of that change in recent years, described one year ago in the humanist and libertarian magazine Spiked as “a case study in conformism” that should terrify “anyone who values diversity of thought and tolerance of dissent.”

Hang in there, even if you’re emotionally charged at this point. Because this appeals to reason and not emotion.

What is marriage? That’s a good question to answer, particularly if you want to radically alter the one limiting factor that is present throughout all history. Once we get an answer for what this new marriage definition is, perhaps our media and other elites could spend some time thinking about the consequences of that change. Does it in any way affect the right of children to be raised by their own mother and father? Have we forgotten why that’s an important norm? Either way, does it change the likelihood that children will be raised by their own mother and father? Does it by definition make that an impossibility for whatever children are raised by same-sex couples? Do we no longer believe that children should be raised by their own mother and father? Did we forget to think about children in this debate, pretending that it’s only about adults? In any case, is this something that doesn’t matter if males and females are interchangeable? Is it really true that there are no significant differences between mothers and fathers? Really? Are we sure we need to accept that lie? Are we sure we want to?

We are, she posits, slipping under ‘mob rule.’ But still at a warning point.

There’s much to be thankful for in aftermath of the madness of the Eich termination. For one thing, many people have rightly figured out that what happened there is terrifying. It’s not just natural marriage advocates but even some of same-sex marriage supporters most vocal advocates.

Such as the aforementioned and quoted Andrew Sullivan.

Far more than the political folks on either side, though, is the importance of what happened to the apolitical. In one sense, the most frightening aspect of the Eich termination was the message it sent to people throughout the country: Shut up or you will lose your livelihood. But in another sense, this dissident moment may spark something previously thought impossible.

Havel says that party politics and the law are the weakest grounds on which to fight against group think. Instead, he says that the real place for dissidents to fight for freedom is in the space where the complex demands of the system affect the ability to live life in a bearable way — to not be fired for one’s views, for instance. “People who live in the post-totalitarian system know only too well that the question of whether one or several political parties are in power, and how these parties define and label themselves, is of far less importance than the question of whether or not it is possible to live like a human being,” Havel said.

Exactly. Authentically.

It’s in this sense that Eich’s most important political work was not making a paltry $1,000 donation in defense of natural marriage laws. It was in refusing to recant.

Consider first the response of one of the activist’s calling for Eich’s head. After he resigned, activist Michael Catlin wrote that he never thought his campaign against Eich would go “this far” and that he wanted “him to just apologize.” So he was “sad” that Eich didn’t say the magic words that would have allowed him to keep his job. Yeah, he really said that.

And then think about how horrified people were that Eich lost his job for his views that men and women are different in important ways. Regardless of our previous views on marriage, we saw in Eich a dissident who forced us to think about totalitarianism and our role in making society unfree. Did we mindlessly put up red equal signs when we hadn’t even thought about what marriage is? Did we rush to fit in by telling others we supported same-sex marriage? Did we even go so far as to characterize as “bigots” or as “Hitlers” those who held views about the importance of natural marriage?

We must be able to engage these ideas, consider these questions, debate them and disagree, to hold onto and preserve our dignity and civilized society.

Whether Eich and other dissidents will crack our thick, hardened crust remains to be seen. Perhaps there will need to be dozens, hundreds, thousands more dissidents losing their livelihoods, facing court cases, and dealing with social media rage mobs. But all of a sudden, the crust doesn’t seem nearly as impenetrable as it did last week.

Supreme Court marriage rulings shift American government tradition

We have always been a nation whose government serves by the consent of the governed, with separate and enumerated powers, states’ rights, rule of law and all that. Things have been ‘evolving,’ in popular parlance. With the Supreme Court rulings on marriage this week, we got a paradigm shift from self-government to ‘the tyranny of the majority,’ though that needs clarification to understand the meaning of “majority”, the way most of the language we’re using these days could benefit from clarification.

So just to recap quickly, John Adams, Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill all referred to this term, roughly to mean ‘those who control the levers of power’, in my shorthand translation. Lord Acton put it thus:

The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.
—The History of Freedom in Antiquity, 1877

It’s apt, as Pope Benedict found it to be in his address to the UN General Assembly in 2008 warning about the consensus of the few in power not necessarily representing what’s best for the people they govern.

Which gets us to this week’s Supreme Court ruling.

There is much to unpack here. Some quick picks for first analysis:

NRO editors were succinct.

The Supreme Court declined to rule that every state in the country must recognize same-sex marriage, but do not be fooled. Five justices have taken the position that there is no rationale other than hostility to homosexuals for defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. When they believe the time is right to issue a more sweeping ruling, they will. This issue will no longer be one on which democratic deliberation is allowed.

There’s the throwdown. They decided a pair of cases, one involving Prop 8 and one involving DOMA. There are reams of commentaries to digest, but here’s a blast of clarity:

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the four Democratic appointees and himself, argues that the motivation for the law was a “bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group.” The Court is not saying merely that supporters of the historic understanding of marriage are wrong, or even merely that this understanding runs afoul of the Constitution (in some unspecified way: As Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent notes, Kennedy’s opinion is hard to pin down on the question). It is saying that the supporters bring nothing but bigotry to the discussion.

This follows the type of wording Kennedy has used for at least a decade, so it didn’t surprise Court watchers though it dismayed a segment of them.

But here’s an essential point:

The real argument for continuing to treat marriage as the union of a man and a woman is that marriage and marriage law exist to channel sexual behavior in a way that promotes the flourishing of children. They exist, that is, to solve a problem that does not arise in same-sex unions: that heterosexual sex often gives rise to children. They exist to uphold the ideal that children need the mother and father who created them to stay in a stable relationship together. Recognition of same-sex marriage means that the institution is no longer about those things.

That just stated the reasons for marriage law and the State’s interest in it. It also revealed the stark reality that marriage is what the consensus defines it as now.

This, I think, is important:

What should have mattered in court was that weighing that question is not their business. Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent got it right. “Same-sex marriage presents a highly emotional and important question of public policy — but not a difficult question of constitutional law,” he writes. The Constitution is neutral on whether governmental recognition of same-sex marriage will undermine the institution of marriage, strengthen it, or have no effect at all; it does not contemplate the question.

We could come to a full stop right there. But let’s move into another analysis piece about what the Court did, by the authors of ‘What Is Marriage?’

Here’s the least reported fact about yesterday’s rulings on marriage: the Supreme Court refused to give Ted Olson and David Boies, the lawyers suing to overturn Prop 8, what they wanted. The Court refused to redefine marriage for the entire nation. The Court refused to “discover” a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Citizens and their elected representatives remain free to discuss, debate, and vote about marriage policy in all fifty states. Citizens and their elected representatives still have the right to define marriage in civil law as the union of one man and one woman.

So those of you who believe in that had better go for it, because the window is closing. Because as the NRO editors concluded…

The justices have not yet decided that we who disagree are to be permitted no influence whatsoever on the country’s marriage laws, but the clock is ticking, and this Court has no patience for self-government.

Some of my expert guests on radio this week have said justices, particularly Kennedy, are just waiting for the case to be brought that will give them cause to redefine marriage for the entire nation. And inevitably, it will.

But in the meantime, consider what those who want that redefinition are after. Dr. Paul Kengor puts a fine lens on it, one that bears reflection. All other arguments aside for the moment, marriage re-definers are after fatherless or motherless families, if children are involved at all. And that’s something we should all be concerned about. We all used to be, not that long ago, as Kengor points out.

In a speech back in 2008, President Barack Obama was emphatic in championing fatherhood:

“We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.

He added:

“Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. … If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing – missing from too many lives and too many homes. … We need fathers.

Amen to that. Who would disagree? Back then, no one. So, as Kengor asks…

…why are President Obama and the liberals suddenly pushing relentlessly for fatherless families – or, more specifically, for a new form of American families that are fatherless?

The answer, of course, is gay marriage. With their sudden embrace of gay marriage, a massive shift not only within America, American culture and human civilization, but also within the Democratic party, liberals/progressives nationwide are – whether they realize it or not – simultaneously advocating a redefinition of family that embraces fatherless ones. Think about it: married female-female parents will be households without dads.

Which used to be point – fatherless households – on which liberals and conservatives agreed. It was to be avoided whenever and however possible, because of the importance of fathers.

Kengor already cited Obama on this in 2008. Now he unifies – or universalizes – the message.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan described fathers as beacons of “strength and well-being” who are responsible for “leadership and direction and teaching them integrity, truth and humility.” He added, “Every father rises to his tallest stature as he selflessly cares for his family, his wife and his children.”…

A decade later, such sentiments were consistently reinforced by Democratic president Bill Clinton, who understood the toll delivered by fatherless homes…

That principle remains unchanged. What has changed, however, is liberals/progressives’ fierce acceptance and advancement of gay marriage. In this rapid push, they are jettisoning this national consensus on fathers, demanding a form of parenting that excludes fathers. As for those who disagree with their new paradigm, they are derided as cruel, thoughtless bigots, with no possible legitimate reason for their unenlightened position.

Actually, what today’s liberals are advocating is far more radical than that. They are pushing not only for fatherless families but also, conversely, motherless families. Think about it: married male-male parents (the other half of gay marriage) will be households without moms.

Everyone reading my words knows that mothers are utterly irreplaceable. That’s a statement of the obvious…

Why would anyone, let alone a country or culture, want to open the door for a reconstitution of parenthood and family that, by literal definition, excludes mothers?

So implied in all this is the whole category of human beings whose rights aren’t as often advocated for, because they don’t have such powerful, well funded and well connected advocates. The children.

As President Obama said in 2008, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that children need fathers. Yes, if we’re honest. They need fathers, and mothers.

The trials of marriage

The US Supreme Court hears opening arguments on same-sex marriage law Tuesday. It’s been on trial for years.

But it’s ramped up lately as never before. In January, the French held a massive rally in Paris that stunned parts of the world unaware of the sentiment there for natural marriage and family values. Especially since they saw it coming in the last election.

Extending the right to marry and adopt to same-sex couples was one of President Francois Hollande’s electoral pledges in campaigning last year.

However, once he tried it…

Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris on Sunday decrying the French president’s plan to legalize same-sex marriage and adoptions.

They converged near the Eiffel Tower, chanting and waving flags, posters and balloons.

“I do not personally agree with gay marriage as I am a Christian and believe what the Bible says about marriage being between one woman and one man for a life time,” said CNN iReporter Oluwasegun Olowu-Davies, who shot video of the march with his phone.

“If your lifestyle doesn’t allow you to conceive, there is a reason,” he said…

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, voiced his opposition at a meeting of French bishops in Lourdes last year.

Opening up marriage to same-sex couples “would be a transformation of marriage that would affect everyone,” he said.

At the same time, failing to recognize gender difference within marriage and the family would be a “deceit” that would rock the foundations of society and lead to discrimination between children, he said.

Other religious groups in France, including Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, have also expressed their concern over the draft bill, and more than 100 lawmakers are against the legislation, according to CNN affiliate BFMTV.

Hundreds of mayors around the country have also voiced their opposition, which has won wide backing from gay rights advocates.

But it passed anyway, at least the lower house of Parliament. Now it has to pass the Senate, and activists have turned out again.

Hundreds of thousands of French citizens rallied in Paris on Sunday, March 24, to protest a government plan for recognition of same-sex marriage.

Legislation allowing for homosexual unions passed easily in the lower house of parliament, supporters of the measure are confident of approval in the Senate, and the bill has strong support from President Francois Hollande. But defenders of traditional marriage, hoping to generate strong public resistance, organized the second massive demonstration for their cause.

Police estimated the crowd in Paris at 300,000. Organizers dismissed that estimate as wildly inaccurate, saying that well over 1 million people had participated.

The demonstration was peaceful until some participants tried to turn onto the Champs Elysée to approach the presidential palace, and clashed with police blocking that route. The police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, prompting protests from many bystanders who had not been involved in the confrontation with police, but were affected by the tear gas. Thousands of families, many including young children, had been involved in the rally.

This is remarkable.

The movement against gay marriage has given France a new celebrity in the form of its public face, Virginie Tellenne, a Parisian socialite who goes by the name of Frigide Barjot.

“We want the president to deal with the economy and leave the family alone,” Tellenne said Sunday.

There’s a small handful of fair and accurate reports on this in the press. Most major media were transparently tendentious.

Der Spiegel at least got the caption right that hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest government action to legalize gay marriage. But their headline, ‘Anti-Gay Activists Clash With Police’ needs a little scrutiny. First of all, why are they labeled “anti-gay activists”? Easy answer is because anyone who opposes an agenda of abortion or same-sex marriage or other social policy that uproots a civilizational ethic is labeled as “anti” something, to help shape public opinion against them. And second, why the clash with police? Who started that? Headline doesn’t say. But it was tear gas, fired at the crowd by police when the peaceful demonstration turned onto the Champs Elysee.

This report said

Protesters hoisted signs reading “Don’t touch marriage, take care of unemployment!” and “Everyone is born from a man and a woman”.

That’s the case the March for Marriage organizers plan to make on their first ever US rally on the Mall of Washington Tuesday, similar to the annual March for Life in January each year on the anniverseary of the Roe v. Wade legalization of abortion across the states.

The Court will consider two cases.

The justices are first hearing a constitutional challenge to California’s ban on same-sex marriage. A second day is devoted to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples married in the nine states where such unions are legal.

The two cases fall into the category of the truly momentous. So much so that Supreme Court advocate Tom Goldstein literally pounded the table when speaking to law students last month. “This is special,” he declared, observing that there were no cases like it when he was in law school.” This will be a “foundational decision” that “is going to be decided for centuries.”

On one side of the argument in these cases is the idea of equality. On the other, traditional notions of how society has ordered itself.

That’s a bit disingenuous, but clever. The movement to redefine marriage has been very successful in marketing their ideas as civil rights, human rights, matters of equality. Americans are sensitive to recognizing equality and conferring it, though the matter of abortion and its denial of human rights is another issue for another day.

This isn’t about equality in terms of human rights. Loyola Marymount Philosophy Professor Christopher Kaczor points out in his book The Seven Big Myths About the Catholic Church the flaws in that argument.  Here’s just one snip:

Same-sex marriage advocates will object that even though homosexuals can and do currently get marriied, they cannot marry in accordance with their sexual orientation–for example, a gay man cannot marry a man. Same-sex marriage secures the right of people to marry in accordance with their sexual orientation.

However, if there is a right to marry in accordance with sexual orientation, then a bisexual should be allowed to marry both a man and a woman at the same time. Thus, bigamy would have to be acceptable.

He’s right. In other words, moving the goal posts and changing the rules makes future changes unstoppable, as unthinkable as they are at this time. And they aren’t unthinkable by some groups watching all this to see what might be possible for them in the future.

The politician who masterminded the gay marriage campaign in Holland says that “group marriage” is now being discussed in the country.

Boris Dittrich, a former Dutch politician, gave a video interview about how he successfully introduced gay marriage. He said, “There is now a discussion in the Netherlands that sometimes people want to marry with three people and maybe even more.

“But that’s the beginning of something completely new and that will take a lot of years I guess.”

How recently were societies saying the same thing about where we are now?

Defending the right to defend marriage

The latest twist came today in the legal and verbal gynmastics over California’s Proposition 8. But for a change, it wasn’t about the merits of the law.

It was about whether the legal team representing Prop 8 supporters had any ‘standing‘ in court to defend this particular voter initiative.

This issue is significant for several reasons. First, the State of CA has the responsibility of defending its laws in court. That’s right: Proposition 8 is a duly enacted law of the State of CA. The people passed this initiative in a highly visible election that was not even a close call, 51% to 49%, approximately the same percentage of the vote that elected Barack Obama President of the United States.

Second, the elected officials charged with this duty, the Attorney General and the Governor, have consistently refused to perform their constitutional duty…

Third, given the above, the proponents of the ballot initiative, that is, the committee of people who legally filed the paperwork to get it on the ballot, have asked to have standing to defend Prop 8 against the absurd and frivolous legal attacks mounted on it. If the Proponents do not have standing to defend Prop 8, then no one does.

Fourth, if no one has standing to defend Prop 8, then this is, for all practical purposes, the end of the initiative process in CA.

And far beyond, says the Alliance Defense Fund, part of the team defending their standing. There’s a lot at stake here.

• The hearing concerns whether the people of California who voted for Proposition 8 will be defended at all.

• A federal court decision overturning Proposition 8 would bring additional years of chaos and confusion in the legal battle to preserve marriage.

• Such a decision could impact marriage laws in up to 44 other states—including the 29 other states where voters overwhelmingly adopted state constitutional amendments—along with eliminating the right of Californians to reaffirm marriage in their state constitution.

So what happened in that hearing? Here’s Jennifer Roback-Morse’s take:

The justices seemed to be concerned about over-reaching on both sides. On one side, they asked, suppose we adopt your theory, Mr. Olsen, and rule that the Prop 8 proponents do not have standing  to defend the measure?  What will be left of the initiative process?

On the other side, they asked Chuck Cooper, suppose we adopt your theory that the Proponents do have standing? Do the Proponents act as agents of the state, in place of the Attorney General?  How far does that ability to represent the state’s interest extend? Cooper made it clear that he thought it was possible and proper, for the Proponents’ right to speak for the state should be limited to the specific ballot issue, and nothing  more.

Ted Olsen, on the other hand, seemed to be completely uninterested in the question of the long-range consequences of his legal theory on the future of the initiative process.

The justices have 90 days to deliberate competing claims. Stay tuned…

Gay marriage on hold…again…for now

After declaring a California voter initiative wrongly passed because he disagreed with the citizens’ conclusion, Judge Vaughn Walker took it upon himself to declare anyone who disagreed with him ineligible to appeal to a higher court. Case closed, he thought. He was wrong.

In yet another odd twist to this saga, it’s the notorious Ninth Circuit that has made wisdom prevail, for now anyway, as this process moves forward in the appeals phase. Couples

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals put gay marriage on hold indefinitely, but agreed to expedite the case, scheduling arguments on Dec. 6…

California’s county clerks were preparing to issue same-sex marriage licenses beginning tomorrow. But they’ll now have to wait until at least the 9th Circuit’s ruling.

The case is expected to wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court eventually.

Media analysts are trying to figure out what might happen when the 9th hears the case in December and rules sometime after the first of the year….and what may come after that. One thing they’re pretty unanimous on is the certainty of an ongoing battle.

Some legal experts say if the appeals court eventually rules Proposition 8 backers cannot bring their petition for relief, the Supreme Court may not seek to intervene further, giving no clear guidance on the larger question of the constitutionality of same-sex marriage nationwide.

And some are certainly hoping that’s the case.

Unhappy in California

No matter which way it goes with Proposition 8, in elections and court rulings, some group is going to be very upset. But after the latest decision Thursday, nobody’s happy. What’s going on in California?

Tension was high Thursday morning on the courthouse steps as everyone, on both sides of the gay marriage battle, waited for Judge Vaughn Walker to decide whether he would continue the stay on his controversial ruling or not, while it goes through the appeals process. He decided not.

US District Judge Vaughn Walker refused Thursday to extend a stay – placed on his ruling that declared California’s gay-marriage ban unconstitutional – beyond next week.

The decision clears the way for same-sex marriages to begin again in California on Aug. 18, barring intervention from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Everyone is on edge because this is a decisive social, legal and cultural turning point.

The high-profile case is being watched closely by supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage, as many say it is likely to make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. If it does, the case could result in a landmark decision on whether people in the United States are allowed to marry others of the same sex.

This is surreal. Some things aren’t relative to cultural lurches like this.

Cardinal Francis George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, decried the August 4 decision of a federal judge to overturn California voters’ 2008  initiative that protected marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

“Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of any society. The misuse of law to change the nature of marriage undermines the common good,” Cardinal George said. “It is tragic that a federal judge would overturn the clear and expressed will of the people in their support for the institution of marriage. No court of civil law has the authority to reach into areas of human experience that nature itself has defined.”

Joining Cardinal George in his criticism of the court decision was Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage. Archbishop Kurtz noted that “Citizens of this nation have uniformly voted to uphold the understanding of marriage as a union of one man and one woman in every jurisdiction where the issue has been on the ballot.  This understanding is neither irrational nor unlawful,” he said. “Marriage is more fundamental and essential to the well being of society than perhaps any other institution. It is simply unimaginable that the court could now claim a conflict between marriage and the Constitution.”

And equally unimaginable that bishops of the Church are at the point where they have to appeal to reason with comments like ‘the understanding of marriage as a union of one man and one woman’ “is neither irrational nor unlawful.” That’s no longer given. It’s under urgent appeal.

Persons and acts and marriage

At the absolute core of arguments over abortion and same-sex marriage, at the heart of the matter before other points of contention are made one way or the other…..is the presumption that we either have person/body dualism or we do not. Philosophers and scholars and other intellectuals have been debating that point for a very long time. But with laws changing the way they are, it’s time to move it front and center.

How else to answer pointed and increasingly challenging questions about why, say, two people of the same gender who truly love each other can’t enjoy the same recognition of their relationship as a man and a woman? Especially the trump card….that some heterosexual couples cannot conceive children, either?

News stories abounded on the recent ruling overturning the ban on gay marriage by San Francisco based U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, but they rehashed the basics. While dropping crumb trails of claims and ideas that provoked questions. At least for anyone seriously interested in engaging this debate fairly and justly.

Let’s take one. This one from Politico, for instance.

So, as we know…

a federal judge ruled [recently] that California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.

The voters voted and they voted wrong, ruled this judge.

Walker’s ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the law violated their civil rights.

One of the organizers of that suit, Chad Griffin, held a press conference after the judge handed down this victory to his cause.

The ruling by Walker, he said, speaks to “fundamental American values of freedom and fairness. It affirms that under the Constitution, the government of the people, by the people and for the people can not discriminate against the people.”

But the government of the people, exercised by the people and for the people in the electoral process when they voted on this issue, has been overturned by this unelected judge. So that’s just rhetoric that makes it all sound good.

Back to what the judge said:

In his ruling, Walker repeatedly argued in his decision that banning same-sex marriage amounted to sex discrimination because some individuals are denied the right to marry others based solely on their gender.

That’s a stretch. But it got more unreasoned.

…excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest,” Walker wrote in his 136-page decision.

Not true.

The most common state interest discussed in same-sex marriage case law relates to procreation, either the interest in encouraging procreation for the sake of ensuring the continuation of society or the interest in responsible procreation. In one of the earliest opinions, arising from a challenge to Washington’s marriage law, the court asserted, “The fact remains that marriage exists as a protected legal institution primarily because of societal values associated with the propagation of the human race.” The court also said that the state’s failure to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples “is based upon the state’s recognition that our society as a whole views marriage as the appropriate and desirable forum for procreation and the rearing of children.” The court rejected the contention that the fact that some married couples do not have children defeats this interest, noting that “[t]hese . . . are exceptional situations.”

This is only one of many available accounts of court cases citing state interest in marriage.

Similarly, the Ninth Circuit noted that “homosexual marriages never produce offspring.” In a dissent to the Supreme Court of Hawaii’s decision that marriage is a form of sex discrimination, Judge Heen stated his belief that the purpose of the marriage law is “to promote and protect propagation.” In the Vermont same-sex marriage case, the state argued that its marriage law protected the state’s interest in “furthering the link between procreation and child rearing.” By “promoting a permanent commitment between couples who have children to ensure that their offspring are considered legitimate and receive
ongoing parental support” and counteracting a message that fathers and mothers “are mere surplusage to the functions of procreation and child rearing,” the state can “send a public message that procreation and child rearing are intertwined.”  The court dismissed this interest by saying that some opposite-sex couples do not have children and some same-sex couples do, so there is “no logical connection” between the marriage law and “the stated governmental goal.” The court also asserted that the availability of assisted reproductive technology breaks the link between procreation and child rearing.

Now that’s going out on an activist limb.

Back to the body/person dualism at top. Here’s a snip to explain the existential question…

…dualism — the idea that a person is a mind or a consciousness that has a body, rather than being a bodily entity — is both widespread and mistaken.

…liberal positions on abortion, euthanasia, marriage, and sex, are often implicitly based on the false idea that human beings are essentially non-bodily persons who inhabit and use non-personal bodies. People who embrace this view typically regard the body as a mere extrinsic tool that we may legitimately use to obtain desirable effects on our consciousness. (The consciousness is regarded by people who accept dualism as the “true” person who inhabits, or is somehow “associated with” the body.)

As Prof. Robert George explains in his book The Clash of Orthodoxies, the belief in dualism necessary for advocacy of abortion and same-sex marriage “presupposes a dualism of ‘person’ (as conscious and desiring self), on the one hand, and ‘body’ )as instrument of the conscious and desiring self) on the other. People who believe in dualism, George explains, see the “sexual organs as ‘equipment.” Or ‘plumbing’, to put it even more bluntly.

This may be casting the hook far too deep, but there’s a reason the Apostles were fishermen. We are fully-integrated human persons, or should strive to be.

The Church rejects materialism and self-body dualism. The human being is neither a mere material reality nor a soul or consciousness possessing or inhabiting a body. As Aristotle recognized, and as many Christians and others have understood for centuries, the human being is a rational animal — an integrated unity of body and soul.

Pope John Paul II’s dissertation was a work called Person and Act, though wrongly translated in the West as The Acting Person. Explained here for anyone with time and interest…

In shorter, more concise form…the Manhattan Declaration.

We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships… We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward. We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness. We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it. Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts. Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to “a more excellent way.” As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.

These Christians propose ‘a more excellent way’ to a goal we have forgotten: a full human integration.

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

We are in for a long and protracted battle.

Marriage on trial

Sometimes, the Proposition 8 battle seems surreal. But then, so do other serious, emotional and intense conflicts playing out in the nation’s courts and city halls and classrooms and media, over what we knew not long ago as core Judeo-Christian traditional values.

The closing argument by Prop 8 backers is that the marriage of a man and a woman has been the institution at the center of civilization.

Winding up a historic trial over same-sex marriage in California, the lawyer for Proposition 8’s sponsors told a federal judge Wednesday that allowing only men and women to wed promotes responsible sex and child-rearing, and ultimately ensures the future of humanity.

During more than two hours of intense and sometimes skeptical questioning by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, attorney Charles Cooper maintained that society is entitled to reserve its approval of marriage for those who can naturally conceive children.

“The marital relationship is fundamental to the existence and survival of the race,” Cooper said in closing arguments before a packed San Francisco courtroom. The reason the state regulates marriage, he said, is to steer “procreative sexual relationships” into a stable family environment so that children can be raised by their biological parents.

Other federal courts have relied on that argument to uphold measures such as Prop. 8, a November 2008 initiative that prohibited same-sex marriages in California less than six months after the state Supreme Court had legalized them.

The judge was skeptical.

But Walker, who presided over the nation’s first federal trial on the issue, sounded dubious. He note[d] that the state allows couples unable or unwilling to have children to marry, suggesting that the institution has a broader purpose that same-sex partners might equally fulfill.

“Marriage is a right which extends fundamentally to all persons, whether they’re capable of producing children, incarcerated or behind in their child-support…”

So is life. In fact, it’s the first fundamental right defined in the Declaration of Independence. Which is why abortion backers had to resort to the tortured logic of non-existent privacy rights somehow covering the freedom to tend the life of pre-born life….which they conveniently redefined as non-persons until some arbitrary point.

But back to Prop 8…

If a judge or a court rules that “marriage is a right which extends fundamentally to all persons” regardless of their circumstances, they’d better be prepared for what will necessarily follow once that precedent is set. Because nothing will stop all sorts of (what we believe are) unimaginable scenarios of pairings or groupings challening why they can be denied the same rights that have now been thrown open “to all”.

Furthermore, the citizens of California voted against same-sex marriage repeatedly.

Cooper said the male-female definition of marriage has been accepted “across cultures, across time,” and that the plaintiffs’ claim that Prop. 8 was rooted in prejudice is “a slur on 7 million Californians” who voted for the measure. 

Any way you look at it, this case and the question at the core of it is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Which is only one reason Court watchers are scrutinizing the writings and socio-political ideology of Elena Kagan, on matters that once were settled law.