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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: Just Defending Marriage? Don’t Believe it!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Just Defending Marriage? Don’t Believe it!

We’ve all heard it before, the desire by some to pass laws in all fifty states and ultimately amend the U.S. Constitution to restrict the legal definition marriage to mean a union of one man and one woman. The goal is not to discriminate against gay people but to protect the institution of marriage. Gay marriage, they argue, undermines such a vital institution by making a mockery of what we have always known as marriage. I have always had my doubts that this was the true goal of the so-called defenders of marriage. With new ballot referendums concerning rights of gay couples the upcoming elections in November, the forces behind the so-called marriage protection movement are showing their true colors.

Here in Colorado, there are two items on the ballot which deal with these issues. The first, Referendum I, provides legal protections for gay couples in the state of Colorado such as inheritance rights, the right to visit each other in the hospital, make medical decisions, and make funeral arrangements. The organization behind the referendum, Coloradans for Fairness and Equality, insists that the referendum is not marriage but basic legal rights.

The other item Colorado voters will decide is Amendment 43 of the state constitution. The purpose of the amendment is to prohibit gay marriage by defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Christian Right organizations such as James Dobson’s Focus on the Family are behind Amendment 43, which should come to no one’s surprise. Dobson’s efforts do not stop at supporting Amendment 43, however. Initially Dobson’s organization did not take a position on Referendum I but it did not take long before simply defending marriage was no longer enough.

It seems to me that supporting both measures would be a reasonable compromise position for both sides of the issue. Gay couples get the legal rights they want and the definition of the traditional marriage is preserved. A September 19th Rocky Mountain News/CBS 4 poll shows the majority of Coloradans support such a compromise with 58% supporting Referendum I and 52% supporting Amendment 43.

James Dobson and co. are in no mood for such a compromise. Allowing gay couples register as domestic partners to have the same inheritance rights, make funeral arrangements, or visit each other in the hospital still apparently somehow undermines traditional marriage in their view. This is a point-of-view I simply do not understand. A marriage is only as strong as the individuals involved. My marriage to my wife will not suffer one iota if my neighbor decides to marry or register as domestic partners with someone of the same sex.

To better understand Focus on the Family’s position on this issue, one really has to take a look at the broader picture of their political activity. This Christian Right organization was behind the recent increase in FCC broadcast ‘indecency’ fines. Trusting parents to use the V-chip, which practically every television made within the last decade now has, is no longer good enough. No, Dobson wants to take that responsibility away from parents and tell you and me what we can or cannot watch on television. Dobson’s group also opposed the Supreme Court ruling in Gonzales vs. Oregon which upheld the ‘Death with Dignity Law’ which was passed by voters. I thought Dobson only wanted the courts to support the will of the people! Focus on the Family also supported the flag desecration amendment, increased laws against adult pornography (.pdf), and opposed legalizing gambling, and other such activities which are commonly apart of a free society that they view as a threat to ‘Christian’ America.

On the organization’s ‘About Us’ page, Dobson summarizes his ministry’s goals:

For nearly 40 years I have been watching a nonstop, withering attack from social and political liberals that is tearing families apart, undermining marriage, belittling Christian values and endangering our children. Most of what we as Christians believe is now either viewed as passé — or openly ridiculed. It’s time to say, “Enough is enough!”

If we don’t act now, most of what we hold dear will be trampled in the name of political correctness. But incredibly, Americans, and Christians in particular, have not responded to protect our most precious rights, liberties and beliefs. I want to address this apathy. And the only way to do it is through an agile, aggressive cultural and family advocacy organization like Focus on the Family Action.

How far is Dobson willing to go using the force of government to protect Christians from being ‘openly ridiculed’ or protect them from having their values ‘belittled’? Apparently gay marriage or even civil unions ridicule and belittle Christians as do the other previously mentioned activities. It is impossible for me to sit idly by while Dobson and his ilk attempt to use their political power to undermine the Bill of Rights and attempt to take individual choices away from American citizens. What is he so afraid of? Is he afraid his fellow Christians might partake of these ‘sinful’ activities? Has he no regard for the Lockean philosophy of life, liberty, and property?

Clearly, this disconnect makes it difficult for Dobson to understand why he and his followers are so often subject of ridicule. If Dobson were content with broadcasting his message on his radio show or in his articles, perhaps this ridicule would be less deserved. But the fact is Dobson and others insist that it is their job to make their moral code the law of the land; therefore, he deserves every ounce of ridicule he is receiving. No, the Christian Right are not ‘just defending marriage,’ they are trying very hard to bring about a Christian theocracy in America (whether they will admit it or not) and the gay marriage issue is but one of the many avenues they are taking to reach that goal.


Blogger Renee said...

Can I take a stab at your concerns?

Recently had a discussion in my own blog regarding what you have raised.

I’ve taken some excerpts that could help from my Catholic point of view, I really do not know much about “Focus on the Family”

"Much of the discussion talks about all these legalities and rights, but experiencing what makes my marriage work is legitimizing that the bond between my husband and I overrules all others in our families in everyday personal matters. Dealing with boundaries with the “in laws” on both sides is the biggest issue. The ability to tell a well meaning parent, sibling or family member “This is our decision” whether it is what type of home to buy, career choices, family planning or where to celebrate the holidays they have to trust us and butt out and for that request to be honored (sometimes not)."

In response to others…

I KNOW I don't hate homosexuals, even though I don't understand homosexuality I do trust their judgment when they request laws to protect their relationships and fight against unjust prejudices. What I really don't understand is why in many conversations they completely disregard the male/female dynamic in heterosexual relationships, I'm not asking them to understand heterosexuality or practice it. All I'm asking is that they trust me that we have different needs and laws should reflect those differences. To them they see no difference, or they are in denial that we are different. To talk to a gay man about a woman's arousal is like speaking Chinese to him.

It seems that here in Massachusetts nothing but "marriage" is what they will accept, even if it means destroying the definition and the underlying principles why the state recognizes marriage in the first place. I really struggle with many of the examples discussed in Family Scholars, such as one man obtaining the social security benefits of another man. I believe everyone receives their own social security benefits, but is the husband passes and the wife is still alive, the wife ONLY gets the husband's benefits if they are a larger amount and forgoes her own. She doesn't receive two checks. Right?

The reason why the wife's social security check is smaller is because probably she was out of the workforce to have and raise children, hence that is the reason for that spousal benefit. It reminds how feminists complain women only make 70% or whatever a man makes "on average", but fail to account women reducing the work for family needs as a personal choice. I'm not going to kill myself to be equal; I'm going to do what is best for marriage and family.
Then we talked about sexual acts, in which a homosexual man was upset I didn’t see oral and anal sex as equal to “coitus”, which is penal penetration into the vagina.…..

For heterosexuals oral and anal sex is inferior. It isn't to be hurtful but consider the lengths heterosexuals go to, so they can have "coitus" sex with limiting their ability to conceive a child. If oral and anal sex was the same as “coitus” sex, heterosexuals would only engage in “coitus” sex for procreation and we wouldn’t need contraception or effective sexual abstaining.

Homosexuals never have to walk down the “family planning” aisle of a drug store, educated themselves on their fertility, or take or do something or monitor their fertility daily. A heterosexual man will put on a condom to have "coitus" over having anal or oral sex. A woman will go on "the Pill" so her partner can engage in "coitus" sex over oral or anal sex. Couples who use natural family methods would rather both abstain during a woman's fertile phase of her cycle; rather then engage in oral or anal sex. Heterosexuals have "coitus" sex even if they have serious or grave reason to avoid pregnancy at that particular moment.

I was asked…"What kind of law protecting homosexual relationships would vote for? What would it look like??

"Good question.

It is more then just the title we use. Calling something “civil unions” and “marriage” when they have the same legal effect isn’t good enough for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. We have a severe problem with “no fault” divorce, in which it does a disservice for both types of relationships. The Goodridge couple ended up in divorce two years later. Massachusetts marriage laws did nothing to strengthen their relationship. Sadly some supporters of gay marriage thought it was great they had a right to a divorce, I doubt gay or straight anyone entering in a committed relationship are thinking about separating the day they make that commitment.

If a divorce complaint is made, I do think the judge needs to take different considerations for heterosexuals and homosexuals. To have different considerations, we need different sets of laws. Since we see our sex lives in much different terms and sex is an expected part of the relationship, especially if infertility for heterosexuals becomes a concern for divorce or the sacrifices raising offspring from the sex life comes to issue. But I could see a homosexual partner making sacrifices that are like heterosexuals, such as moving across country for the other partner to proceed with his career. I wouldn’t drop everything and move cross country with a boyfriend, but I would consider it if he was my husband."

As a supporter of at least not making marriage laws any weaker, it is hard to say that heterosexuals and homosexuals have a different dynamic without being labeled as discrimination or a bigot or some negative term relating to my religious beliefs. It seems in our conversations we couldn’t relate or have a frame of reference concerning things like sex, birth control, family planning, infertility, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and birth that effect a marriage. Giving gays marriage, when marriage itself is pretty meaningless in today’s society does nothing for either of us.

Nothing as a matter of civil law prevents, deters, or stops my husband or me from “screwing” each other over and leaving. As a religious person though, I really believe in the Sacrament of Marriage in which man and woman are complimentry and to be bonded for life so it seems a belief in God is what really holds us together. For me and my husband we are one in the same, to hurt each other is to hurt ourselves.

6:49 PM  
Blogger Stephen Littau said...

Renee, Focus on the Family is a very powerful and politically active Christian Right group. In fact, the Christian Right is the most active group of all activist groups in the country and unfortunately has tremendous influence in the Republican Party.

As to your response to this post, while I find your observations about the mechanics of heterosexual sex versus homosexual sex fascinating (I really do I’m not trying to be a smart ass here), I fail to understand what these mechanics have to do with legal rights as specified in Referendum I. Can’t we agree that both heterosexual couples and homosexual couples should both have the legal ability to commit themselves to each other and have basic rights such as inheritance, hospital visitation, medical decisions, and make funeral arrangements?

10:44 AM  
Blogger Renee said...

From Stephen Safranek who is a law professor at Ave Maria Law School (Catholic ) writes on which is a libertarian site. Hopefully this can help further explain what is truly wrong with marriage laws through American legal history.

“Marriage is an institution in which humans invest enormous capital; it is therefore important that those investments be protected. Indeed, marriage may be for some an investment that will last for more than 50 years. Consequently, like long terms bonds on public works projects, stable expectations are critical. The term capital here cannot be narrowly conscripted as cash or its equivalents. Instead, capital is the entire process in which persons invest themselves.

Marriage involves three critical personal, social and legal aspects all of which are "capital" investments for those entering marriage. First, marriage always includes a series of agreements and compromises between the two or more persons involved in a marriage projecting into the distant future (contract). Second, marriage naturally gives rise to the birth of children who must be nurtured by the parents (children). Third, marriage may involve the most intimate joining of two persons who have become one (commitment or covenant creating a status). All three of these elements, contract, children and covenant, have long been considered part of marriage in America. Historically, the law was arranged to promote and protect these three aspects of marriage….”
“Interestingly, although divorce has gone through these different stages, marriage – the allowance of it and what it means to people and who could perform it – have been quite stable. Most people knew what was expected; most honored the commitment because of the social and personal costs of failing to do so. Common law marriage has been known since time immemorial. In order to eliminate the need to "prove" that a marriage had occurred, states increasingly disallow "common law marriage" and require a license to be married. This is one of those innovations made for the benefit of proof – nothing is considered a better piece of evidence than a signed license registered by the state. Such licenses are remarkably easy and inexpensive to obtain. Furthermore, the actual marriage can be witnessed by a variety of persons including priests and ministers. The "marriage" laws of most states encompass a few short statutes setting forth age and relationship limitations. These limitations go to the ability of the individual to make informed choices before an agreed age and to cultural values common to nearly all human cultures.
Today marriage – the legal creation of the state of being married – through a license is one of the easiest legal events of great significance.The ease with which marriage is contracted fails to make participants aware of the weight and significance of the contract they are signing.
As mentioned a one size fits all approach to marriage law isn’t the answer, I honestly believe there is a distinct difference between a male/female dynamic in marriage vs, the needs of other relationships. Can the state address the complicated issues of how a man and woman invest their whole lives to one another, wouldn’t it be easier before entering into marriage for the man and woman to figure it out for themselves and put it on paper (It gives me the creeps how two people can try to apply for a mortgage together and not know each others credit history. It happens a lot!) If they can’t maybe they shouldn’t get married. Why not everything move to pre-nuptial contracts, so if there is conflict and a need for the legal system the courts can handle it better.

My husband and I helped out at the marriage preparation course at my parish, the priest and deacon do a great job explaining Catholic theology on marriage, but it is up to the married couples to talk about issues that arise in their own marriage and for those engages to seriously reflect through several exercises personally done between the two of them to write down what their expectations of their marriage. We stress to the couples even though they are neck high in their wedding plans to use this time to consider do I still want to marry this person.

When we think about it, we are only experts of our own marriage and can only trust that other couples reflect as seriously as one personally does regarding their own marriage. If a couple decides not to get married, we consider that a success because we prevented a divorce. The reality is many couples do not have this opportunity to sit down and weigh all these issues, the state encourages couples to not consider all the aspects that civil marriage brings leading many couples knee deep in an investment they never thought about and society and children pay a big price to bail them out.

All those legal aspects you speak that have similarities should be written in a pre-nup, which could have its clauses changed mutually by the participants even while married through a post-nuptial. Why does the state need to play helicopter parent? If two people are mature enough they can be responsible to be committed to one another then they can write up a contract deciding inheritances, hospital visitation, medical decisions, and funeral arrangements. Just as a personal note, when my husband went for blood work they asked if he had a medical directive. He said, “Why, I married.” It didn’t matter, the hospital pushed that he should have one on file. Even in Massachusetts gays obtaining marriage rights means very little to the points advocates of gay marriage argue. All of the private legal paper work that non-married couples have whether they are homosexual or not have a lot more weight then any civil law regarding marriage and divorce, many homosexual couples are much better off without civil marriage.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One can get enlightened about the real agenda of guys like Dobson and Perking by tracing their ties to traditional, white-sheet, stars-and-bars organizations.

Bigotry is what they do. Bigotry is what they're all about. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.

8:52 AM  
Blogger Renee said...

I would disagree the defending the instiution of marriage in all aspects doesn't lead one to bigotry though.

Marriage is between a man and a woman. Marriage recognizes the male/female dynamic in an intimate relationship. It recognizes that men and women open themselves to be responsible in procreational activities and marriage is suppose to protect women and children and address the sacrifice woman make through pregnancy, birth, and raising of young children.

It also acknowledges that the husband provides and sacrifices himself for his wife and children, and beyond the raising of the young because wome put themselves in an economic disadvantage from being out of the workplace.

I really have been listening to the needs of same sex couples, but to a homosexual man they think pregnancy is just "getting fat". Not out of misunderstanding or ignorance, it just seems heterosexuals and homosexuals relate on the same level regarding their relationships.

Homosexuals can recieve all their needs without the neutering of marriage. We have a marriage problem in this country, and allow same sex couples be labeled "married" doesn't make them married. Just like making a law stating the sky is red or half of the year to have time fall back an hour (which would be and is constitutional), doesn't make the sky red or create time travel.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Renee said...

wanted to edit....

I really have been listening to the needs of same sex couples, but to a homosexual man they think pregnancy is just "getting fat". Not out of misunderstanding or ignorance, it just seems heterosexuals and homosexuals (do not) relate on the same level regarding their relationships.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Stephen Littau said...

Jolly Roger:

While I am very much opposed to most of what Dobson and Focus on the Family are about, I think making assertions that it has roots in the KKK is going a little too far. Their beliefs are based on a book in which they believe is infallible and above criticism (clearly it is not). America is populated by many others who believe basically the same thing except they do not try to make their religious beliefs the law of the land.

I will agree though that Dobson’s opposition to gay marriage is somewhat reminiscent of the Jim Crow South. I believe that Republicans have unfairly been portrayed as racists because of certain principled stands such as stands against affirmative action. It was Southern Democrats (sometimes known as Dixiecrats) after all, who opposed much of the civil rights movement. Without the help of the Republicans, the civil rights laws which LBJ signed would not have passed. Having said that, the unholy Christian Right/Republican Party alliance does not help the party’s reputation as one of limited government, equal rights, or philosophical heirs of America’s founding principles of life, liberty, and property. I hope that one day the Republican Party will part ways with the Christian Right and return to some of these principles, but I won’t hold my breath.

On a more encouraging note, Dobson has publicly stated that he is frustrated with the Republican Party despite all the influence he and his organization have. I say goodbye and good riddance! Go join the so-called Constitution Party (a misnomer if there ever was one) or better yet, stay home and pray instead of vote. See how well that works for you!


You seem to be of the mind that the sole purpose of marriage is procreation. I have recently read some of your posts on the subject of sexuality and have done some of my own research on Catholic views on sexuality. What I have read really disturbs me a great deal. Do you truly believe we would be better off if birth control was never practiced? Could you imagine the out of control growth of the world population? I can’t even imagine what the welfare state would look like in America if we relied solely on natural birth control methods. We already have far too many people having too many children who have no business being parents and far too often the American taxpayer is footing the bill. Perhaps the Catholic Church could put its money where its mouth is and help pay for all the unplanned children it is partially responsible for.

Not every married couple wants to be parents. Those who wish not to have children should not be compelled to do so. I know your answer would be that ‘they shouldn’t have sex then.’ Get real. There is so much more to sex than procreation. When God said in the Bible to ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ the world’s population wasn’t 6,446,131,400. I don’t think the human race is going to be extinct anytime soon from failure to procreate.

1:20 PM  
Blogger Renee said...

Actually "sex" is all about procreation, why do you deny the fertility and reproductive aspect of your body? Every time you ejaculate you ejaculate your little boy swimmers who only directive is to find an egg.

"Sexuality" is about finding a partner, your body is driven to "mate" through your reproductive organs. Hormones created from your testes or ovaries push to find a partner to be sexually responsible with that person to prevent STDs or jealousy that occurs with multiple partners and ensure that the fruits of your sexuality are protected i.e. children.

BTW Catholic theology doesn't say have all the children that you can, it says be responsible. Catholic theology doesn't believe in artificial birth control, but fertility awareness methods are incredible effective in preventing conception by understanding a women's fertility/sexuality. Sexuality, especially a woman's isn't a disease but over the past 40 years we are taught that through hormonal contraception. Our entire bodies are driven to conceive a child, that is why estrogen levels rise right before ovulations and we find sex most desirable at that point.

Many non-Catholics practice natural family planning. You can check out for non-religious information.

If you can't handle the aspect of wanted to be parents, then don't have sex. Easy as that, you should know being the responsible libertarian. I couldn't marry or have sex with a man that wanted me but the thought of me having his child disgusts him. I guess he really doesn't love me. Does he? Women everyday out of "choice" terminate their unborn children's lives they take drastic measures with their bodies ingestion artificial hormones on a daily basis or a mega dose of artificial hormones right after sex.

We tell men that sex is only recreational, they don't have to be responsible that only women are responsible for the effects of sex if conception happens. That is why we have a welfare state because women can bare killing their child, unborn or not are seen as irresponsible ones but men are allowed walk away from being husbands and fathers. The Church does walk the walk, not just talk the talk. We help many women abandoned by this selfish culture, but we also encourage couples to commit to one another first before opening themselves to procreational activity.

We live in a society where people are disgusted by breast feeding. Boobs aren't for babies, but for only male gratification. I understand that sex is for love and affection and welcome the fruits of my sexuality, procreation. That's Catholic belief on sex, and I don't understand what is disturbing about it. I acknowledge the reproductive aspect and my husband and I are responsible for our family. It isn't that I believe marriage is just about procreation, the problem lies with those who believe that sex/marriage has nothing to do with procreation..

I hope I’m not sounding too negative, I’m just trying to share that’s all.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don’t even know where to begin. When it comes to using Natural Birth Control, what do you say to the women that don’t know when their cycle will start? There are so many women out there that do not have periods on a regular basis, me being one of them, the only way to regulate it would be to go on the pill, or use other forms of birth control. You make it sound so cut and dry and it isn’t. You stated that “If you can't handle the aspect of wanted to be parents, then don't have sex”. I’m sorry, but that is the craziest thing I have ever heard. Not all people want or are meant to be parents, they should not feel guilty about taking the means necessary to prevent pregnancy, and it’s not even that men are disgusted with having a pregnant wife.

Many couples like to travel, have careers that take a lot of their time, enjoy being able to do whatever they want at the drop of a hat. If you don’t have that intimacy, that would be a dull marriage and be like having a roommate, should those people just stay single and celibate for the rest of their lives instead? And what about the couples that flat out can’t have kids? You have mentioned several times in your posts and your last comment about the morning after pill. You do know that all it does is prevent the egg from being fertilized right? If a woman took it after she did become pregnant, it would not cause her to miscarry. The thought of only having sex with the possibility of creating life would take out any spontaneity, romance, excitement and the overall pleasure of being with the one you love.

I have had 3 kids; 2 boys and a girl. My husband and I are happy and content with the 3, we decided together that for us and our family it would be best to make sure we couldn’t have anymore kids. I volunteered to get my tubes tied. While at times I would like to have maybe had one more, I know that would irresponsible of us as parents to do so. It would put a strain on the whole family financially and there just isn’t enough time in the day between work and school (that includes myself and my husband) to have undivided attention to the kids we do have.

“We tell men that sex is only recreational, they don't have to be responsible that only women are responsible for the effects of sex if conception happens”. You can be damn sure that my boys will know that if they get a girl pregnant, that they will take responsibility for that baby from day one and continue that responsibility. When you are in a committed relationship be it married or long-term, then sex can be and is recreational, it is not always meant to create life. I have to stop here because I am just bewildered at the way you view things (but you probably feel the same about me).

6:56 PM  

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