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April 07, 2005

On Separate But Sort Of Equal

In what they refer to as an historic vote, the Connecticut Senate passed a law permitting “civil unions” for gay couples. They refer to it as a gay rights bill, as though homosexuals were not entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals. The bill passed by a three to one margin.

As if to reaffirm the state’s condemnation of homosexuals to second-class citizenry, Governor Jodi Rell said that if the bill were passed by the state House she would sign it into law – but only along with a bill that “affirmed” that marriage is something that can happen between a woman and a man.

On one hand it is important for all people to enjoy equal protection under the law, and homosexuals should no longer be denied those rights with respect to health and tax benefits and next-of-kin status. That means Billy can pull Timmy’s feeding tube, and that’s critical. One the other hand, it is an astonishing insult: if you agree that you are a sub-human degenerate, then and only then will we allow you the same rights as we hate-filled normals bestow upon each other. Oh, yeah, and sew this purple triangle onto all your garments.

“Here. Sign this confession, and we’ll stop torturing you” is a sorry excuse for legislative bigotry and religious oppression. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not a nation where the rights of the minorities go unprotected. That’s what the Bill of Rights is all about, and without the Bill of Rights we literally could not have formed our nation. A majority of citizens cannot disenfranchise any minority: 51% or even 67% of the electorate cannot send the blacks back to Africa, take away the property of non-Christians (although, at one time, Jews were not permitted to own property in Ms. Rell’s own state), or chop off the hands of left-handed people.

Can someone please tell me exactly where it says a marriage can only be between a woman and a man? Our civil laws? The ones that say Negroes are only 3/5ths human? The ones that didn’t permit Chinese-Americans the vote until the 1930s? The ones that locked Japanese-Americans up in Concentration Camps during the 1940s? The ones that permit the police to search your house and grab your medical and library records without your knowledge? I’m not even certain you can find it there – not before this current hysteria started, and 18 states (and counting) have passed laws that would feed into Ms. Rell orgasm of hatred.

Nope. I’m told it’s in the bible. My response: not my bible, asshole. Get yours out of my face and mind your own business.

Posted by Mike Gold at April 7, 2005 01:21 PM

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Nowhere, really. I think the problem is entirely that the law shares the same name with a religious ceremony. Had we, 200 years ago, decided to call married couples something else, say "Contractually bound couple" I think we wouldn't have this problem.

But imagine if the Federal Government decided that 22-year-old girls are now to celebrate their Bar Mitzvah? Wouldn't that bug a lot of Jews? Wouldn't they be saying something like "Sure, they can be recognized as adults, but they aren't Bar Mitzvah-ed!"

Perhaps that's a silly, trivial example, but that's the problem, the word has a double meaning (Religious *and* civil.) If we could move to a place where the words were different, I see no objection that anyone can logically have, without admitting they are being prejudiced.

Posted by: Londo at April 7, 2005 01:46 PM

I don't want the government telling me what is and is not sacred. Let every couple who wants to assume the legal and social rights and obligations have a civil union. Let those who want a religious ritual (marriage, communion, bar mitzvah) keep the matter among the congregation. Otherwise, I want a bris for every boy child. God said so.

Posted by: Martha Thomases at April 7, 2005 04:38 PM

I think the government should get out of the marriage business altogether. Let them perform these "civil unions" on everyone. Whoever wants to call themseleves married afterwards is welcome to do so.

Posted by: Jeff Lawson at April 8, 2005 10:04 AM

We tend to forget (if we ever knew) that the "government" hasn't been in the marriage business for very long. Prior to the 20th century, the notion of a "state-sanctioned" union of any kind was somewhat unusual. Marriage was primarily a religious institution...until the lawyers got into it.

Legal issues turned marriage into a legal institution. Let's separate marriage and the legal issues. If you want to get married, do whatever your religious affiliation dictates. If you want legal protection, get a state-sanctioned civil union, which should be both religion and gender agnostic.

BTW, Mike: A black person being 3/5 of a person is in the Constitution. Actually, I believe it was slaves, not blacks per se. And ironically, Northern states didn't want slaves to count at all for purposes of determining the number of reps from each state in the House; it was the Southern states that feared under-representation; so they insisted that slaves be counted in the census, even if only partially.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 8, 2005 04:54 PM

True on both counts. Actually, in the days before the War Between The States New Yorkers were opposed to ending slavery in the South because they made a lot of money off of their labors. Of course, good old American street smarts won out and New Yorkers (actually, Manhattanites -- New York as we know it didn't come about until the 1890s) found ways to make big bucks off of the war effort.

Oh, and Martha: I didn't have a choice about my circumcision. And my parents were quite confused when I bitched about it many years later. I called it "sexual mutilation." They talked about "health." I informed them we've got this great new thing called "soap."

"Aren't you glad you use Dial?"

Posted by: Mike Gold at April 8, 2005 05:04 PM

The problem here is that the government is in the religion business. Tax law has been enacted to reward certain religious practices, including marriage. Our system would be much better if our tax system did not reward people for having children, getting married, or buying houses. That's part of the problem with health care, too: It's often given to families.

If health care could only be conferred to individuals, then there'd be no problem. If marriage wasn't performed by the government and taxed differently, then there'd be no problem. Oh, all right, less of a problem. But wrap all these rights up in money, and folks get even more bent out of shape than normal. Think about it. If I were married to a woman, a man, a chair, and a sheep, so long as each of us paid our taxes, what problem would that be? If I wanted the woman to make the call on pulling the plug, I could just sign a document that said so. (Do hospitals ever ask for actual proof of who is a spouse or a sibling when they ask these questions, anyway? The one time I was asked to make the call it was via telephone, and it could have been anyone who picked up the phone at my house.)

Posted by: Mike Flynn at April 10, 2005 03:41 AM

Mike Flynn said: tax system did not reward people for having children, getting married, or buying houses.

People aren't rewarded for having children, at least from a tax perspective. A single person gets to deduct something like $8000, a parent gets to deduct $3000 for their child, and take an $1000 credit if they make less than some amount (I forget the ceiling.) If you figure a 28% rate, you get a child is worth about a $6500 deduction, or LESS than an adult. No real reward there, unless you think your standard deduction is a reward from the government for "breathing."

Until recently, people were PUNISHED for getting married (cf. "Marriage Penalty") and in many cases now, still can deduct more off their taxes if they don't marry than if they do. Unmarried parents living with 1 child get to file as single & head of household, which gives them a larger deduction overall.

You aren't rewarded for buying a house, but people get to take the same deduction that businesses take when they make a capital purchase. Without that benefit for businesses, many people would be put out of work, as many capital goods wouldn't be affordable. And to give such a benefit to businesses and not to people wouldn't been seen well by anyone.

Now, if your overall goal is to move us to a flat tax, then I'm with you. But the "breaks" you list are no where near the biggest tax offenses on the books.

Londo, CPA

Posted by: Londo at April 11, 2005 09:38 AM

The tax break I get for each of my two children covers their portion of my family health insurance premium, with maybe enough left over to feed them for a couple months. Forget education or clothing (and definitely forget letting them drive because their car insurance premiums added to health insurance will put you way over the top). Show me someone who's making a profit on their child tax break, and I'll show you someone who should probably be in jail for child neglect.

This is not meant as a defense of the child tax credit, but I don't think you can make much of an argument that the credit acts as some kind of incentive to have children...except among the severely mathematically challenged.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 11, 2005 01:29 PM

Re: circumcision. Yes, it's true that most men don't get to make that decision for themselves (I know a few who decided to do it as adults, but clearly that's the exception to any rule you can think of). It's related to the fact that we don't get to choose our parents, either.

Posted by: Martha Thomases at April 11, 2005 03:01 PM

What happens if Alice marries Bob, Carol marries Dan, then Bob and Dan (and/or Alice & Carol) join in "civil union" without first divorcing their spouses?

Posted by: pvaala at April 12, 2005 01:50 PM

Until precedent is established, the answer to that question will lie in the hands of dozens of contract and probate lawyers and judges.

Of course, if Alice and Carol join up, and Bob and Dan do the same, I'm sure accomodations can be made.

Still, as many commentators wisely said above, the government has no business being in the marriage racket.

Posted by: Mike Gold at April 12, 2005 02:00 PM

The Mormon Church sanctioned polygamy...until the federal government threatened to revoke the church's tax-exempt status. Under my system, Mormon elders could "marry" as many prepubescent females as their highly pious hearts desired, but their legal relationship to those various wives would be determined by state laws governing state-sanctioned civil unions.

Posted by: Rick Oliver at April 14, 2005 12:26 PM

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