Monday, August 18, 2008

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness?

Noted below is my response to the comment on my previous post, when challenged why those who advocate California’s Protect Marriage Amendment, Proposition 8, would seek to deny the rights of “Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” of those with a “same gender attraction.” Sorry for the length, but it is critical to lay necessary foundations for understanding each other in the dialog.

Are the advocates of traditional Marriage, or marriage between one man and one woman, really seeking to deny liberty and happiness to those who are attracted to their same gender? What is really at risk? Are trampling the rights of others when we stand for traditional Marriage, even in our support of an Amendment to the US Constitution? In my opinion, the answers are clearly – No, Freedom and No.

Without equivocation, extremes exist in our society that advocate on both sides of the Marriage argument. It is not my intent to elicit stereotypical extremes, but to advocate a rational, reasoned and substantive argument supporting the answers above.

Foundationally, there are certain assumptive ground rules to the argument.

1) Word definitions - notwithstanding society’s redefinition of certain words, I will try to adhere to words that are clear and distinct in definition. For example:

a. “same gender attraction” is more specific and definitive than gay or lesbian and it’s connotation is clear and without confusion with “gay lifestyles” – there is a distinct perceptional difference, hence it’s use;

b. “agency” or “choice” – man’s agency or choice have been redefined in society as an entitlement without consequence or accountability that seeks to justify man’s right to choose whatever he will without consequential impact on self or others, i.e., I can do whatever I wish, it is my body, hence my choice. The argument of Pro-Choice is reflective of society’s interest to justify and rationalize the position of a “woman’s right to choose” without regard to accountability for creating life. Choice or Agency is not a “right” or “entitlement” if we deny or reject consequential accountability. In fact, we are all entitled to “agency,” it is a God-given gift, but inherent in its right reside responsibility, accountability and the consequential affects thereof. To redefine choice and agency as a right without consequence is simply a veiled attempt to pervert the God-given gift that it is;

c. “tolerance” vs. “acceptance” – tolerance in our society seems to have been redefined to further justify passivity and compromise to core values and principles, i.e., to be “politically correct” and not offend others. The situational standards of society have attempted to define tolerance and acceptance as the same – they are starkly different. As members of society we should be tolerant, i.e., respecting and understanding, of others. Even so, tolerance does not dictate nor demand that we are accepting of that which is contrary to our core principles.

2) Assumptions – notwithstanding society’s stereotypes, I hold to the following positions:

a. Individuals with same gender attraction are not by definition lascivious in their lifestyle and do not advocate promiscuity. Surely there are some, both heterosexual and homosexual, that do advocate and promote promiscuity and lasciviousness in their lifestyles, but these are the minority on both sides, and not to whom I speak. Those who fall outside of this dialog are wrong in their lifestyles and will never know happiness therein.

b. The situational standards of society have been used to justify and rationalize lifestyle and behavior. For example, a man who is kind, loving, and sensitive, even effeminate is often deemed to have same gender attractions, and is therefore classified and justified in choosing such a lifestyle – it is an “acceptable societal norm.” Unfortunately, the perversions of our society’s foundational norms have sought to classify individuals by their sexuality and hence justify and even advocate “alternate lifestyles.” This is not an argument of genetics or environment, only to state that our society is seeking to redefine and justify the rights of men and women by sexual orientation, without consequence.

c. The “traditional family” is and has been the foundation to our society and society’s through the ages. It is fundamental to God’s plan for man, to provide a nurturing environment for the development of the human soul within the bounds set forth by a loving Heavenly Father.

To the argument –

Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are enumerated in our Declaration of Independence, which is foundational to, and even the lens for, our Constitution. Even so, to put it in perspective, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The reference to unalienable Rights endowed by our Creator sets the framework for the argument, for our Rights, as so noted, are endowed within the bounds set forth by our Creator, our God, even our Heavenly Father. The unalienable Rights, within this framework and bounds set forth, are not without responsibility or accountability, for no man can have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness unto himself as it would contravene the very society in which we live and the basis for our Declaration and Constitution. Our liberty and pursuit of happiness are set forth within our society, a society of laws, order and boundaries that preserve our freedom and liberty. Government and laws are not to trample upon our freedom and liberty, but in fact exist to preserve them. It is a fine line that seems to be getting lost in the judiciary of our day. Government and laws exist to preserve and protect, not dictate or determine our lifestyle.

Marriage has existed through the ages, and specifically our society, as a sacred and religious institution and covenant between one man and one woman (“Marriage”). The origin of Marriage began with the creation of man and was given by God for the nurturing of the human soul in a loving, divinely established family (The Family: A Proclamation to the World). The laws of our society have recognized and accepted Marriage in this form, a “status” if you will, and thus are set forth to preserve and protect the integrity of the institution as it was intended. It is neither within the purview nor authority of our Government to redefine or dictate the terms of Marriage, but to respect and preserve the sanctity thereof. Government did not create, nor establish the institution of Marriage, and thus cannot regulate it, only preserve and protect it. Therefore, the role of the Government is to defend and protect the status of Marriage as it was instituted by God. When governments seek to legislate lifestyle, or dictate who may enter into the covenant of Marriage, they overstep the bounds upon which they were founded and thus trample upon the liberties and freedoms of its citizens. It would be no different than the Government dictating that those, whose beliefs may be contrary to a given institution or church, are entitled by right and not privilege, in the preservation of liberty, to membership therein. We set foot on a slippery slope when we concede to governments the privilege of religious belief, the determination of our religious institutions, and the capacity to redefine the practices therein to the situational standards of society.

Some may say it is discriminatory, even disparaging, to deny those with same gender attraction the privilege of Marriage, hence the need for government intervention. Marriage is a privilege granted by God and a status protected by our nation, not a Right, even though some in society would say otherwise. The situational standards of society would have us believe that the sanctity of Marriage, as defined by God, discriminates against, and disparages, those of same gender attraction. On the contrary, governed by the order of eternal principles and privilege, of which Marriage is an integral part, obedience, fidelity and complicity thereto are fundamental – it is our choice to accept and obey, or reject the governing principles, again – accountability for our choices. If we choose to comply and obey we reap the blessings, if not, we receive not. The paradox in our society is that those whose attitudes and beliefs are contrary to the eternal principles of Marriage seek for the blessings and “entitlement” without paying the price of admission. The blessings of Marriage are available to all willing to comply with the principles whereby it is governed. With the privilege and sanctity of Marriage come responsibilities and obedience to the principles thereof, which responsibilities demand fidelity and complicity to its governing principles! Marriage and family have been and will continue to be critical to the foundation upon which our nation is sustained and preserved. If we question the veracity of the previous statement, look to the history of man, Rome, Greece and elsewhere where societies have failed when they have neutered Marriage and family.

If individuals with same gender attractions believe that choosing a lifestyle consistent thereto brings happiness, they are protected under the laws of the land to do so, provided however, that they do not seek to force or impose that lifestyle upon others. This equally applies to a society seeking to impose Marriage on the unwilling. Marriage is an elective covenant recognized and protected in our society and not legislated or imposed upon others, willing or unwilling. Again, the role of our Government is to protect and preserve the liberties and rights of its citizens. If individuals with same gender attractions wish to contractually cede certain rights to one another, as in any legal and binding contract, they are free to do so and the laws of the land should protect such. But to seek to define such an agreement as Marriage, reconstitutes and redefines sacred existing covenants, thus contravening and trampling upon the liberties of those who willingly entered into this sacred covenant.

Unfortunately, it has been the course of our society, and/or certain extremes therein, under the guise of tolerance, liberty, choice and lifestyle, to justify and legitimize the extreme. In effect, by twisting and redefining interpretations, and employing the liberality of the courts, there are certain elements of our society that would seek to impose and legitimize their lifestyle, behavior and opinions to the detriment of our liberty, our freedom and the foundation upon which our country was formed. As a society we are being led downward, with "flaxen cord," into a society where our freedom and liberty are being trampled upon, under the guise of “tolerance,” “choice” and “discrimination.”


Chino Blanco said...

Interesting points, but I'm gonna go with Senator Barry Goldwater, the founder of the conservative wing of the Republican Party and nominee for President in 1964, who stated, “To see the party that fought communism and big government now fighting the gays, well, that’s just plain dumb.”

More recently, Republican activist Ward Connerly stated, "For anyone to say that this is an issue for people who are gay and that this isn't about civil rights is sadly mistaken. If you really believe in freedom and limited government, to be intellectually consistent and honest you have to oppose efforts of the majority to impose their will on people."

Pa said...

We can agree to disagree. However, this is not an effort to disparage those with same gender attraction to any degree. Contrarily, it is to preserve a status of Marriage, divinely established. If I am not mistaken, the point of the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress and Proposition 8 in California is defending the status of Marriage, as it is those in the same gender attraction community that are seeking to impose their will and desires upon the quiet majority who stand in preserving the sanctity of Marriage.

Thanks for sharing your point of view.


You state that, “Government did not create, nor establish the institution of Marriage, and thus cannot regulate it, only preserve and protect it,” but you seem to have forgotten that barely 60 years ago the state of California did indeed regulate marriage in such a way that it was only available to couples of the same race. This was also overturned by an 'activist court' and against the will of the people. The Massachusetts law, dating back to 1913, forbidding out-of-state couples to marry if their marriage would not be legal in their home state is an artifact of this prohibition.

I would also like to point out that all of the 1000+ rights and privileges conferred on married couples are administered by the state and not by the church, and it is precisely these rights and privileges that motivated my partner and I to marry shortly after the California Supreme Court's decision became binding. A primary concern of ours was the protection of our jointly held property.

Years ago a friend of mine from Florida lost his partner of many years to pancreatic cancer. Within days of his partner's passing, he was contacted by the lawyer of his partner's family who informed him, since the relationship was not recognized by the state – again state not church – it was their intention to contest the will and take ownership of their deceased son's property. Due to the financial hardships that had arisen from his partner's protracted hospitalization and associated loss of income he was unable to mount a sufficient legal defense and even if he had prevailed at court or the family had not chosen this course of action the inheritance tax (since property was passing between two people who were, in the eyes of the state, unrelated) would have caused him to loose the house. As a result he was placed in the position of having to buy the family out of their 50% share in the house that he and his partner had owned together or sell his 50% share of the property to them. Since they insisted that this transaction be concluded quickly he was unable to raise the necessary funds and was forced to sell. They also disputed the ownership of a majority of the house's contents and he was forced, more or less, to leave his home over a decade with only those items that he could prove beyond a doubt were his – meaning his clothing and the 'leftovers' his partner's family decided they did not want.

Prior to the advent of domestic partnership registries not only were situations like this, even in the presence of a will and/or other legally binding agreements between the partners, not uncommon and when the wills/agreements were contested the courts tended to side with the 'family' as the surviving partner was legally a 'stranger' with no standing. The same thing happened to Sharon Smith when her partner Diane Whipple was mauled to death in the hallway of her San Francisco apartment building by her neighbors' dogs. Initially when Sharon attempted to bring a wrongful death suit against the owners of the dogs, who had already been convicted of involuntary manslaughter in Diane's death, the defendants initially claimed that since Sharon and Diane were only domestic partners and not legally married Sharon had no legal standing to bring the suit. It was only through direct intervention by the California state legislature that allowed the case to go forward, which Sharon ultimately won. The same reasoning has also been used to deny same-gender partners access to their loved ones that are in intensive care on the basis that they are not members of the immediate family. There was another case, the exact details of which escape me at the moment, where the family of a dying woman used this distinction between spouse by marriage and domestic partner to deny their daughter's partner access to her in the hospital. They even went so far as to use it in court to successfully bar their daughter's surviving partner from attending the funeral!!

If you think that this kind of discrimination and infliction of emotional pain is warranted, then please vote yes on Prop. 8.

In closing, please remember that just because a Priest, Reverend, or Rabbi says, “I now pronounce you Man and Wife,” it will not afford you any of the benefits of marriage unless it is accompanied by a state issued marriage license.

Pa said...

RJ – Thank you for sharing your position, although you needn’t be cynical in your closing remarks. These are serious matters that demand a rational argument without cynicism. Even so, you raise some interesting issues.

To your points –
I haven’t forgotten past judicial interventions, nor do I believe that errors or wrongs in the past make things right in the future. The underlying principle doesn’t change; Marriage is a status recognized and protected under our laws. And, yes the Rights associated therewith fall under the protective arm of government. However, protection is not an entitlement to change the defined parameters whereby Marriage originated. Further, I appreciate the issues manifest in the situations that you have enumerated. The easy solution would be to amend the definition of Marriage, but for its consequence on the general population, and the trampling upon the liberties of others by the dictates and demands of the few. My point of trampling liberties is further illustrated by the reference to Mark Hemingway’s article and story of the New Mexico photographers. When the government, by virtue of perceived entitlement dictates, even forces individuals to act contrary to their core principles and values, we have subordinated our freedom to the judiciary and those who make claims thereto. This is wrong. Further, when Marriage is redefined as has been done by the California Supreme Court, the government will now dictate to the clergy whom they must marry and where, be it contrary to their religious beliefs or not. The government has neither role nor authority it dictating religious beliefs and/or actions. We live in a free society and individuals can choose their lifestyles accordingly, and thus must abide by the consequences of their choices. To meet the measure of your concerns, the answer is not in trampling upon liberties and government imposition where they have no place, but in the legislature to establish laws that accommodate the needs of one without compromising the liberties of the other. Proposition 8, contrary to Jerry Brown's description, does not deny rights to those of same gender attraction, it preserves status of Marriage and protects the rights of the Married. Often in our society, individuals in an effort to claim rights or entitlement, tend to trample those of others. There are other solutions to your issues - you are entitled to liberty as we all are, and you are entitled to the pursuit of happiness, as we all are - just don't deny me my liberty and rights in the process. You open a pandora's box of infinite proportion when you empower government as you are seeking to do.

I see the argument below, but cannot agree, as it is not founded on principles of liberty and freedom, but on passion and wants at the expense of others.

Quality. Together with its ally fairness, equality of outcome will always be the beginning point for those opposed to any part of God's plan.

Those of same gender attraction are people, too. They have the same emotions as anyone else. It is only fair that they be given equal rights. They should not be second-class citizens.

Sympathy. Emotion is evoked by specific situations, in this case having two women in their 80s be the first same-sex marriage in California.

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin have the same loving and caring feelings for each other that any man and wife in a traditional marriage experience, and have been true to those feelings for five decades. Why can't society allow them a simple measure of happiness?

Hate. The opposition must be shamed, vilified, and demonized. These descriptors of defenders of traditional marriage can already be found in anti-Prop 8 literature and blogs, and the list will grow:
Christian extremists, anti-gay, right-wing radicals, old-fashioned, hung-up, homophobes, bigots, stupid, intolerant, mean-spirited, knuckle-draggers.

Change. With emotions high and the opposition villainized, a bow to fairness makes the proposed solution look reasonable.

It's time to change, to break free of oppression. There are many types of families, and marriage should be broadened to include all of them. It's only fair, and if it will make them happy, why not?

Guarantee. This time the guarantee is not what someone will get, but a reassurance of what will not change.

Same-sex marriage will not harm anyone. Heterosexual marriage will not be hurt. Nothing will change except all people will have every right that anyone else has.
Appreciating your comments, I am sure that we will not convince the other in our positions, but the dialog has been enlightening.