Monday, October 18, 2004

Measure 36

This is probably the most controversial measure on the docket this year. At least emotionally. I wonder if the polls would indicate that it really was a close issue. In a sea of Kerry/Edwards signs here in Portland, I do see an awful lot of Yes on 36 signs. People are not afraid to show their sleeves on this one, unlike the Bush supporters. We've seen, after the media made us think that national opinion was basically pro-gay on this issue, that many states are now, by popular votes, defining marriage as between a man and a woman. With the exception of Massachusetts, the nation is fairly still against gay marriage.


You can go to the Sec of State site and read the text and explanatory statement, but they are pretty brief. Here's the text right here:
It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.
That's it.

Here are the official for and against sites:
Defense of Marriage Coalition
No on Constitutional Amendment 36

Now you will see, especially on those two websites above, that there are lots of emotional arguments to both sides of this debate. Let me first do you the respect of telling you where I come from on this issue. I am a 35 year old GIS professional with a wife and two kids. I live in the Portland city limits, but it's really more like mid-county Multnomah. I am an Evangelical Christian. That should do it right there.
But it really doesn't. In the core of my beliefs I hold that God set things up, and he commanded that marriage is between a man and a woman. The question for me is not, it is OK, but what should the government's role be. I do think that any church that professes to be Christian and still maintains that it can marry homosexuals and elevate them to the positions of authority in the church should pick up their bible and study it a bit more. The whole thing.
But this is really a forum on what the Government's role is. I would like to go through some of the arguments on both sides.

  • "Because Oregon laws deserve open debate." Well, this is a reaction of what the Multnomah county commission did earlier this year. It was pretty slimy on their part, and it did contradict current Oregon state law. But I'm not sure open debate is what we are getting right now. If they have a point here it is that at least it's a public vote. But public majorities are not always right. And if this passes in November, the debate ends.
  • "Because children do best with a mom and dad." This is not debatable with me. This is actually a good reason to define it on a state and federal level. I understand that some gay people have kids through other marriages and they stay with the gay parent. They probably should stay with a parent if the alternative is worse, or someone who is not their parent. But I believe this statement, because of my faith most of all, but also there has been considerable research that documents the stability of a traditional family unit.
  • "Because Oregon law already defines it that way." This is true, but if that is the case why do we need an amendment?
  • "Because 40 states already have defense of marriage acts." And that makes it OK? Again the majority thing.
  • "Because this is our last chance to save marriage." I don't really buy this all together. As a Christian I am sickened by how unseriously even people of faith take marriage. Most churches turn the other way when divorce happens. The divorce rate among Christians is pretty bad, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. Society is too soft on marriage as well, but we're doing a pretty good job of sullying up marriage on our own. That said, allowing the traditional definition of marriage to linger from man/woman invites a stretching of the definition even further. Where does it end? Will polytheism be next? Where are their rights? I'll get to that in a moment.
The argument for why this needs to be a constitutional amendment from the conservative side is both ridiculous, and frighteningly serious at the same time. The conservatives know that there is already a law that defines this. It stands up to the current constitution, which doesn't really address it by itself, but conservatives fear something. Judges. It would be one thing if the state congress changed the definition, or the public by measure, but having Judges do it is something I definitely don't agree with.
See, the constitution doesn't address it specifically and there is a current law defining it. For a judge to say that the current law is not constitutional is stretching the bounds of what judicial power should be. The law as it stands passes the objectivity test. ANY man can marry ANY woman, regardless of race, creed, color, etc. I see what their argument is on this level. This is disturbing because I see judges doing this more and more. I desire to see more deconstructionism in the court, but what I see is courts deciding what THEY think the constitution and law is, not how it was intended.

  • "The constitution should not be used to settle partisan or ideological debates." Well, ordinarily I would agree with this statement. And in this case I am reluctant to do so, but I fall into the category I just mentioned (about courts and activism) and don't think that just having the law is enough. I would be against this measure if I though it was. I read someone's opinion that the government should get out of the marriage thing altogether. That would be great, but as long as married people are defined and treated differently in taxes, adoption and other areas, the government needs to define what marriage is. Oregon already has this, but current events caused conservatives to react, and this is how they have.
  • "...And it should not be changed in a way that hurts people." Really this change would not do anything but maintain the status quo. This is a flimsy argument.
  • "It would deny thousands of gay couples and their families access to health care." Actually this is not a government issue, but an insurance issue. Some insurance companies and businesses already offer this benefit.
  • "It would deny survivor rights, inheritance and the ability to make serious medical decisions to gay partners." This is also not true. Really the measure will change nothing. Any two people can make a short trip to their friendly neighborhood lawyer and get a will and power of attorney written up to solve all these problems.
The no on 36 site has "100 ways this amendment hurts families" (read "Families" as gay couples, possibly with children). Some of these are covered in what I said above. Some of them are petty, like "no right to donate partner's body or organs after death." But some are serious, and may not even be solved with power of attorney. So there is room for debate on what gay couples need in this society. But marriage isn't necessarily it.

Le Grand debates the issues:
This guy, proclaiming to be a Christian differs from my view, but he has a better argument than most.
Indeed, the law has long recognized marriages that certain churches do not. I routinely perform weddings for couples who cannot or will not marry in churches - including previously divorced people, those of different faiths and those of no faith at all. The law has never required churches to recognize such unions.
Yes, but it's still called marriage, and they have the right to adopt and raise children. The article does not talk about the ramifications of opening the door to other civil arrangements, like polygamy, which is a natural progression from this point of view.
However, I submit that a constitution is a document setting out the fundamental organization of government and the principles under which it operates. It also declares the rights of its citizens in relation to the government. It is hardly the place to establish for all time what marriage should be, especially when that serves to deny to some citizens rights enjoyed by others.
Not that the Oregon constitution has way too much junk not involved with the general principles and organization of the government already. Not that I don't agree with him, but that's not going to sway anyone.
The ACLU is, of course, against it.

As is the libertarian party. Looking at the voter's pamphlet, other than those two organizations I see a lot of individuals, interest group organizations created for just this election measure and anecdotes on the NO side. On the YES side I don't see much more, but there are lots of legislators and lawyers there, where most of the people on the NO side are unidentified.
I think the real question here is should this be an Amendment. As long as people go into this thinking about that, perhaps we can escape all the emotional crap.

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