Thursday, October 20, 2005

my political interview

A very nice centrist political blog I read called ChargingRino (see the link on the right there) had an interview today with Congressman Tanner of Tennessee about a redisctricting bill in the House. I've never spoken to a Congressman, or at least they never reply when I speak to them, but I did have an email exchange once about same sex marriage with the President of an organization opposing it in Tennessee. As the email exchange was private, I have removed all information about that person's name or organization. I also changed my name to Paca for no good reason because I think everyone knows who I am. You will see I tried to express my beliefs in language that the Other Person might share.

Me:

Please do not keep advocating for the passage of the amendment against same sex marriage.  Since I just moved from Tennessee my opinion may not count anymore, but since my heart remains in Tennessee I have to speak.
 
Please see that you are not preserving a sacred institution but instead writing discrimination into the very constitution.  There is a difference between religious marriage and state marriage.  State marriage is a legal institution like entering contracts, owning property, making wills, and voting, and we all get to participate.  I do not have the right to decide who gets married, and neither do you or anyone else.  Legal marriage is up to the two people and filling out the right forms.  Religious marriage is up to the church and God.

Let God try men's souls and judge the holy sanctity of a couple's marriage, but let our legislators and our judges and our constitution stand for legal equality for all.

However I confess I am pessimistic and fully expect Tennessee to pass the amendment, and in the end it will be yet one more chapter in Tennessee's history of denying legal rights to its citizens.  Women owning property was against tradition, non-white people voting was against tradition, and same-sex legal marriage may be against tradition, but in the end tradition is not the same as righteousness. 

Thank you,

Paca
formerly of Spring Hill with Tennessee still on my mind

Other person:

I appreciate the 'tone' of your email, Paca.

I really cannot stop advocating for a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage here in Tennessee.  Our state constitution will be amended, the only question is who will do the amending.  Will it be some judge or will the decision rest with the people and their elected representatives.

The last poll showed that 82% of Tennesseans oppose same-sex marriage.  EVERY TIME the people have the opportunity to have a voice, they vote overwhelmingly to affirm traditional marriage.  Eleven states did so last November. This is something people care deeply about.

Paca, this is not about being against anything it is about recognizing that marriage is so special and so fundamental that it is worth protecting.

There are some other reasons to ponder:
1. Same-sex families always deny children either their mother or father.

2. Same-sex family is a vast, untested social experiment with children.

3. Where does it stop? How do we say "no" to group marriage?

4. Schools will be forced to teach that the homosexual family is normal. Churches could be legally forced to perform same-sex ceremonies.

Homosexuals can choose whatever living arrangements they like, but that does not translate into the right to fundamentally change our culture.

In Scandinavia since same-sex marriage was legalized, marriage has lost its meaning and even hetrosexuals don't get married like they did before.

I assume you are in school in Hawaii.  I hope your time there is profitable.
Other Person

Me:

I thank you kindly for responding, and I mean that.  I have written various politicians in the past, and have gotten nothing other than form responses or silence.  Of course, I realize that you are a private individual and not an elected representative.  I appreciate that you took the time to write me.

I am afraid several issues are being put together that need not be.  For instance, the argument about same-sex families.  I hear this as saying 'I do not mind same-sex marriage, but I do mind same-sex families.'  So it seems then we should all be supporting same-sex legal marriage and then saying no to the next question about families.  The same sort of thing goes for the argument against same-sex marriage because of the opposition to polygamy.  There is no legal institution of group marriages in the United States, so we would have to create a whole new legal form to get there.  As you can tell, my worry is that this amendment does not allow all people to be treated equally under the law.  Since there is no legal institution of group marriage, equal protection is not an issue. 

You mention churches being forced to perform same-sex marriages.  Here I have to admit ignorance.  My personal experience was my brother getting married. My family is Methodist and my sister-in-law is Catholic.  Her church's priest could not perform the ceremony since my brother is not Catholic.  From this, I believed that churches have the liberty currently to not perform ceremonies with which they disagree, and that this would extend to same-sex marriages.  This may be wrong.

I will not write too much, as a discussion like this about one's deepest values is not best carried on over anonymous email.  My concern is that an amendment banning same-sex marriage is a tyranny of the majority.  We don't get to vote on legal protection.  The entire purpose of our Bill of Rights and the courts is to protect small minorities against the desires of the majority even when the majority is overwhelming.  I am sure 82% of Tennesseans were against interracial
marriage 30 years ago as well.  But in the end, it is not our business. I don't want Bill Clinton or George Bush or John Wilder or Phil Bredeson or me voting on someone's right to legally marry the one they love.  Whenever I think of this issue, I think of the gay men and women I have known in my life and their partners, the actual people and not a group with a label.  I cannot imagine what right I have to tell "Rebecca" she cannot marry the person she has already dedicated her life to. I also think of my own son and the world I want for him, and I can only think it would be a better one when any adult gets to decide for him or herself their own legal affairs. I think that is a fundamental change worth fighting for.

May we both fight for what we believe and hold our own opinions with appropriate humility.

Other Person:

I am a private individual but I am president of GroupX, the local chapter of a national pro-family organization.  I have been a full-time lobbyist at the state capitol for XX years.

As you may know the legislature is in session right now and I have an extremely busy schedule, but, although I really don't have the time to get into a running dialogue, I did want to take just a few minutes to respond to your email.

I don't know where you have heard the distinction between same-sex marriage and same-sex families. I have not heard that any where.

You are right, there is not legal polygamy right now, however, until the Massachusetts decision, there was NEVER any legal same-sex marriage in the US either.

There are presently legal restrictions on marriage: age, relative status, etc.

Currently churches do have the authority to set whatever criteria for marriage they want.  But already in Canada, because of their hate crime law and acceptance of same-sex marriage, some pastors have gotten into trouble for preaching Biblical truth.

This is intended to be an incrementally enacted agenda (I am sending in a separate email an article that explains my comment.)  For many homosexuals, they are content to live lives and arrangements of their own choosing, which is as it should be.  For some others, pushing for 'marriage' is a goal. For other groups of homosexuals, they are pushing for marriage as a way of destroying the institution of marriage and they have been quoted saying precisely that.

Same-sex marriage cannot be rightly compared to interracial marriage as interracial marriage was still between a man and a woman.  Homosexuality cannot be compared to immutable characteristics such as race and gender.

I since the compassion in your email and you are to be commended for that.

Your friend "Rebecca" is free to love and to make whatever living arrangement she chooses.

You are very correct when you say having a 'conversation' about deeply held values is difficult.

You say: "I also think of my own son and the world I want for him, and I can only think it would be a better one when any adult gets to decide for himself his own legal affairs."

On the one hand, each of us can NOW decide our own legal affairs but within the parameters of out state and national laws.  To have complete unrestrained freedom would produce anarchy.  

We are blessed to live in a country where we can as individuals support our positions on issues and have civil debates.

Me:

Again thanks for taking the time to respond.  We might have taken the conversation about as far as possible through email and busy schedules.  I was not expecting to change the world through this email, but I think you understand that there are plenty of morally-upright (well I try to be) people who view amendments against the marriage of two of-age consenting adults as an attack on the rights of all of us.  For now, perhaps we can agree on this:  I believe we both share two moral principles.  1) We believe in the importance of marriage and 2) we believe in legal equality for all Americans.  I can only ask that as you do what is right by your conscience, you try to satisfy both principles, and I will do the same.

Other Person:

Thank you Paca - I am sure we both will!

3 comments:

pacatrue said...

I never replied to Other Person's last email in a substantive way, but since I thought other blog readers might, I stuck my thoughts in below. I am the person after the in between the == and ==

I am a private individual but I am president of GroupX, the local chapter of a national pro-family organization.  I have been a full-time lobbyist at the state capitol for XX years.

As you may know the legislature is in session right now and I have an extremely busy schedule, but, although I really don't have the time to get into a running dialogue, I did want to take just a few minutes to respond to your email.

I don't know where you have heard the distinction between same-sex marriage and same-sex families. I have not heard that any where. == Didn't hear it anywhere either. I thought about it. There is a distinction between two people who have signed a marriage contract and same said people raising children. It is worth stating that I am not in fact against families with two mothers or fathers. The reason for the distinction is that a person could be in support of the former and not the latter.==

You are right, there is not legal polygamy right now, however, until the Massachusetts decision, there was NEVER any legal same-sex marriage in the US either. == This shows how we view the debate differently. My point is that there is already a legal institution in which two people sign a legal contract called marriage. Since we forbid certain adults from entering this contract, there is an issue of legal equality. But there is no legal institution where three people enter a marriage contract. Such a contract does not exist for anyone, so there is no issue of legal equality. Summary: 2-person marriage - legal for some, not for others; 3-person marriage - illegal for all.==

There are presently legal restrictions on marriage: age, relative status, etc. == Yes. Age is an important factor in thousands of laws with a huge amount of legal precedent upholding these statutes. But gender is not the same. In fact, I assume there has been a large amount of legal precedent indicating that gender cannot be used to deny people certain legal rights. It is unconstitutional to not allow someone to vote or hold property because they are female.==

Currently churches do have the authority to set whatever criteria for marriage they want.  But already in Canada, because of their hate crime law and acceptance of same-sex marriage, some pastors have gotten into trouble for preaching Biblical truth. == It's good this is America and not Canada then? To take the worry more seriously, I could imagine not opposoing a companion law that churches cannot be forced to perform marriages against their beliefs.==

This is intended to be an incrementally enacted agenda (I am sending in a separate email an article that explains my comment.)  For many homosexuals, they are content to live lives and arrangements of their own choosing, which is as it should be.  For some others, pushing for 'marriage' is a goal. For other groups of homosexuals, they are pushing for marriage as a way of destroying the institution of marriage and they have been quoted saying precisely that. == People have all sorts of good and bad reasons for doing things. Because there are people who agree with you for reasons you don't share, it doesn't mean your own reasons are wrong.==

Same-sex marriage cannot be rightly compared to interracial marriage as interracial marriage was still between a man and a woman.  Homosexuality cannot be compared to immutable characteristics such as race and gender. == Ohhh! Now be careful here. The proposed Tenn constitutional amendment isn't against homosexual people getting married. Homosexual men can marry any woman they wish under this rule, and of course a lesbian can marry any man she wishes. The amendment is that a man cannot marry a man and a woman cannot marry a woman. This is exactly an immutable characteristic like gender. This is the place to bring up the constant use of the term "homosexuals" to refer to men and women in love with someone of their gender. Conservatives use this term because it makes certain people a distinct group from everyone else. To put the linguistic spin on it, for conservatives "homosexual" is a noun. Homosexuals do this, want this, believe this. For me, "homosexual" is an adjective. Homosexual men do this, want this, believe this. The former is a Them. The latter is a man.==

I since the compassion in your email and you are to be commended for that.

Your friend "Rebecca" is free to love and to make whatever living arrangement she chooses. == Well, I won't go into issues of housing discrimation and the like right now. Ignoring all that, I'd like for "Rebecca" to be able to enter any legal arrangement she'd like as well.==

You are very correct when you say having a 'conversation' about deeply held values is difficult.

You say: "I also think of my own son and the world I want for him, and I can only think it would be a better one when any adult gets to decide for himself his own legal affairs."

On the one hand, each of us can NOW decide our own legal affairs but within the parameters of out state and national laws.  To have complete unrestrained freedom would produce anarchy. == I really don't think that if "Rebecca" marries "Janet" that anarchy will result.

We are blessed to live in a country where we can as individuals support our positions on issues and have civil debates. == We agree!==

== I should add that while in the end the conversation was very frustrating, probably on Other Person's part as well, it was nice to see some sort of actual exchange of ideas. I had no expectation that I would change an opinion when I wrote my email. But I did want Other Person to know that there were other opinions.

Christopher Robin said...

Good for you for trying to do something to help this country take a step forward. I really don't see what the harm is in allowing same-sex marriages. You would think that religious groups could put some effort into cleaning up their own house (ie priests who are pedophiles) and not worry to much about something that really won't change the church.

But hey, I'm Canadian, I'm a heathen to begin with ;)

kristybox said...

"Churches could be legally forced to perform same-sex ceremonies."

Bull. The First Amendment, incidentally, protects churches. I know it's hard to imagine, but it's true.

Sincerely,

Your Lawyer Cyber-friend