Saturday, March 31, 2007
Anyway, conference, the protesters... I just want to again bring up my favorite conference memory: here.
The take-away conference advice: Don’t accept flags from lesbians you don’t know, and be kind to those who, by all reasonable judgment, look to be “militant queers” protesting your sacred event.
Friday, March 30, 2007
I kind of went in a new direction for the golden egg, and am still hoping for input. Below is a quick draft of the clue. It would take time to solve it, entirely, but I’m curious as to if anyone can understand how they would start off by the clues I’ve given. So, you’re flush with candy and coins you’ve hatched from plastic eggs, and you’re hoping to find the great gold egg using the following:
I wish I could make it rhyme while still keeping all the clues but I ain't that talented. Anyway, the trouble with making puzzles is that it’s much easier to make them than solve them. So, will my nieces and nephews once again curse their uncle, or is this decipherable?
I’m still not sure what I’ll do for the bronze egg, so any suggestions… (what? no puzzle, Easter egg hunt fans out there? I could have sworn this was a gay part of me ;-))
(and if any of you MoHo’s are actually a nephew or niece of mine and you use this opportunity to cheat, I’ll know it ;-))
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
1. Marriage as a Benefits Package: Often marriage law in the ideal argument is looked at and posed as some sort of government incentive, like it were some big brightly wrapped present. This is greatly wrong, and it promotes an unrealistic view of matrimony in the minds of youth. There are rights and responsibilities, and sometimes they are the same thing for different beholders.
Marriage law can be downright harsh and punitive (though not enough ;-)). Many people, people with children, do not get married, because what I see as rights when applied to the man and the family I already love, to them, appear to be burdens. Giving their partner rights to their income, taking on responsibility for their debts, and being legally tied to them actually discourages them from marriage. I’m sure we all know such couples. They are likely to not care much about the other fraction of the law either. If you don’t care enough to want to be financially responsible for and bound to another, hospital visitation and rights to make funeral arrangements may not be high on your lists either. Finally, with most families being two income families nowadays, what were there as more direct benefits for such folks are now largely irrelevant.
This gets to the heart of the causality in the ideal argument. You have to be in love with a person (or otherwise coerced or bribed into a loveless union) to see the marriage law of this culture as something desirable, otherwise it would be a horrible burden. In this chicken and egg scenario, I think it’s clear marriages came first, it’s a natural human state, and then legal marriage came in response to the way citizens live for their bonding (and divorce law came for the other part of some human nature, sadly). And, while it’s true the law has been used to reflect the coercive powers of society in, for example, restricting legal marriage by race or status, once the private marriages happened, the law has inevitably stepped up and reformed.
Simply, the “benefits” don’t cause people to marry; the private marriage makes the public marriage into a benefit, not the other way around. The law doesn’t cause people to make these lifelong connections and family--as I can clearly attest, people do that anyway :-).
2. Marriage Law as a Means to Keep Families Together: In the same vein as #1, the argument is made that the law is there to keep families together. This does work, in large part. But, again, if the familial love is not there, then the law can easily become a motivation to separate. If you’re the breadwinner, it’s true you’ll have to pay, and that may discourage you from cutting ties with a person you don’t want in your home. But if you’re not the breadwinner, divorce law, a part of marriage law, gives a motivation to split from a loveless marriage that can be great. Let the ex-wives of Donald Trump explain the economics, and, one would assume, their relief ;-).
3. The Mechanism: The assumption is made that these laws encourage the ideal family. As I wrote above, I think it’s mainly and far more clearly the families, composed of individuals who go and vote and participate in government, that encourage these laws to accommodate their marriages, but, assuming it’s true, what is the mechanism and is it really desirable? I can see a bit of sway to get a man to marry who he’d rather not because he could, say, get her on his insurance, but is that really the mechanism we want in play for marriage? To me this seems like an area where coercion is dangerous to families; their decisions should be, as much as possible, their decisions regarding family, not insurance premiums.
Is the hope that marriage law, as is, encourages gay men to marry women for these benefits? If so, I think or hope, even those gay men who have done so would think such legal gains are poor reasons to choose a particular partner. Faith and love? Fine, but money... Regardless, it’s the most conservative anti-gay-marriage states that have the highest percentage of gays having children. That’s either because the children are from heterosexual marriages entered into for coercion then ended, or gay couples in these states are somehow more compelled to adopt or use fertility treatments. Either way, the expressed interest isn’t being served by such mechanisms of “encouragement”. The evidence shows it’s a downright failure.
4. Evidence That brings me to another problem with this argument in general. I’ve gone over much evidence as to the fact that the state sees interest in 100% childless marriage, in marriages it insists be infertile and raise no children (here, here, and here). It’s there and no counter evidence is given as to show the claimed overriding state’s interest in this argument isn’t just an effective tool of debate. I’ve also shown data that demonstrate no noticeable effect of legal gay unions on the jurisdictions where they’ve been implemented (here and here). In fact, if a claim can be made from the numbers, it’d be that the health of heterosexual marriages improved after gays got such legal standing. I’ve also given many bits of evidence as to the benefits legal marriage for gays would give to society (here, here, and here), as well as the inarguable benefit it would have for the percentage of the population of adults and children in same-sex headed households (here). Such often gets overlooked or brushed off, though we are, without fail, told it’s our duty to produce it.
The burden of proof, though, is not decided by the greatest threat made by one side as to what would happen if the other wins. If I said, for example, we can’t give business licenses to left-handed people because, if we do, our economy will collapse. I can’t use the direness of that presumed threat to push the burden of argument away from myself and onto my southpaw friend. I’d have work to do as well.
To me, the burden of proof is in both camps. Legally, in fact, to discriminate on a person’s anatomy, particularly in a way that clearly harms them, one must demonstrate a “compelling interest” for the state, and thus this argument exists. Gays shouldn’t have to show the benefits, to themselves or others, though they easily can and do. They don’t need to even explain why they’d be so foolish as to be legally chained to another ;-); they just have to counter the other lawyer’s evidence of “compelling interest.”
5. A Myriad of Compelling Interests: I went over this here, but, simply and again, the State is interested in many aspects of law around marriage. It’s no accident infertile couples are allowed in. The state saves money, it arbitrates potentially costly disputes, it promoted the health benefits of fidelity, and it promotes self-reliance and bonds of family between two groups, and more, and even when no children can come of it. Merely the egalitarian act of giving equal rights regardless of anatomy has value to the state. Simply to call this ideal family the interest here is misleading.
6. The Heart of “Ideal”: It is argued the "ideal family" for “children” is their biological mother and father. This is obviously not true for many children. We are talking about individual people, the only things that feel and think, not abstractions, mothers, fathers, and children. “Children”, the group, has no feelings thoughts or rights and to assume it does will harm children, the individuals. The more ideal situation for individuals is that they are raised by the people who they have bonded to and have bonded to them, the people who have taken responsibility for them, the people who love them, the people who parent them. For many, the ideal situation is not their biological parents, who again are individuals, some of them pretty crummy.
Here, the ideal for our children is R and me. As with most all families, no one can take our place and do better for our children; neither of us is irrelevant or unimportant or able to be replaced. Even replacing one of us with the best parent in the world would be a detriment, as they do not know what we know; they are not psychologically bound to them and do not love them like we do. Even by the cold perspective of the state, we are the ideal in which the state has a stake here.
But, again, lets pretend the data shows a detriment to children of gay couples, on average. I’ve resisted pointing them out as I’d hate for another to be put under the same unfair scrutiny, but as long as my position against enforcing the so-called “ideal” is clear... For the divorce rate in the research I’ve seen, even if half right, I’m sure one could just as easily claim it’s not “ideal” for children to be raised in families where one parent is gay and the other isn’t. But I’m equally sure my friend L and his wife, for example, are the ideal parents for their children; there’s absolutely no one I’d rather the state encourage to be there. There are simply many “non-ideals.” I could show on average detriments for children in parents who: had prior marriages, have general anxiety disorder, are deaf, mixed race couples, have been raped, and I could go on and on. But each individual in these groups are most often, honestly, the ideal parents for their children, by far.
By the way you look at and the time at which you apply the word “ideal” (before or after conception or adoption), there are either zero ideal families or many. Only by using the first application of the word with gay couples, the definition of the Ideal FamilyTM no one meets, this argument has been effective. But, for the rest of the population, those far from the politics and religion surrounding gays, we know the second application is the most honest.
7. The Attack on Marriage and Family The argument eats at itself. The state is interested in the successful rearing of children. Marriage law increases that success. Therefore we deny marriage law to couples with children? The children of gays and lesbians, regardless of how anyone feels about their parents, benefit just as much by having their parents bound by law. The state benefits just as much, by not having to catch parents and children with welfare upon a tragedy.
In many ways the borders of marriage moved to include gay couples as much as gay couples changed to fit the new territory. Gays changed; society changed. Many gay-headed families do now better represent the intent of marriage law than the average married heterosexual. To ignore the commitment, dedication, love and obligation for the person’s anatomy, from my perspective, is the real insult and threat to the institution of marriage. To downplay what matters in the everyday workings of marriage for anatomy, and to make divorce simple, and the familial bonds legally invisible for couples who make these connections, couples with children every bit important as any other, is a threat to the spirit of marriage. Simply, society undermines its own idea of family by turning a blind eye to it’s best aspects where they are found.
In the end, all this reminds me of Kierkegaard’s refrain: “the crowd is untruth.” It is deceptive to look at the state as an individual, or talk about what’s ideal for “children” as what’s ideal for my children is not ideal for yours. Similarly, individuals make these legal decisions for other individuals, and can’t morally hide behind “the state”. When a citizen goes to the polls and votes to take from his neighbor’s family what his neighbor gives to him, he’s betrayed the social contract, the golden rule, and to blame it on “the state” strikes me as a copout. It’s this sort of sense of entitlement over neighbors, and ability to harm them behind such cover that, to my mind, threatens a state’s survival. It’s infectious.
But I’m no saint either :-). I do a lot of work with my local government to get equal voice, representation, and services for many other groups, but, sure, on this topic, I’m upfront concerned about my family, and the family of those I know. Nevertheless, I know things can’t stay the way they are. We have to find a solution. A couple decades ago, our families were so few and we were still reeling from the unhealthy effects of the national closet. We were in no position or state of health for such discrimination to matter very much. But now, more and more, gay couples are coupling up for life, building homes, having children right along with the rest. We’ve moved into the reasons for marriage and it will inevitably be addressed. But how? I don’t know.
(Personally, I’m hoping for Nessiage; you can keep your precious "marriage" :-))
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
2. Purposeful inclusion of infertile couples in legal marriage: It’s argued that the infertile straight couples are put into the marriageable category, for certain reasons, that supposedly do not apply to gay couples. The reasons:
a) Infertile heterosexual couples may still adopt. Here, the first “ideal” of children being raised by their biological parents, is actually put aside for a second “ideal”, that children be raised by married opposite sex couples, not their biological parents (though it can’t really be called an “ideal” anymore, right? But opposition will still often use the word here).
i) This exception gets in the way of the “ideal” in the same way it’s argued gay marriage would. Purposeful recognition of infertile marriages makes favoring the ideal of the original argument similarly “impossible” by taking biological parents out of the equation. But most people do actually understand that the “ideal” for many children is far from their biological parents, and for the state to blindly follow biology would harm many people and its interests. Similarly, many children’s ideal parents are not their biological parents or parents with different sexual anatomy, but their parents--the people who love, take responsibility for, live with, and sacrifice for them--and no one else. If the state would be amiss for promoting its ideal in one instance as it ignores genetics, why is it not amiss in the other instance by ignoring anatomy for the children who’s ideal parents are neither their biological parents nor some set of strangers who just happen to have different sexual anatomy?
ii) In adoption the point is to find the best solution available for the child, which does include avoiding protracted periods in temporary care. Even if one concedes that gay couples are, on average, inherently worse situations for children (a finding that’s not in any reputable data, though touted as gospel truth), there will still always be gay couples who can do better than the average adoption-eligible straight couple. I can show other groups involving traits that show a clear, on average, deficiency in the children they raise in the data (more deleterious than what’s even claimed by anti-gay rights folks to be found in our children), but no one in their right mind would bar everyone sharing that trait from marriage or adoption when judging individuals. They can see enough to know that would hurt the children even more, in such instances, away from the passions of gay politics. No, adoptions must be done on a case-by-case basis, and by applying averages to individuals based on anatomy is prejudice that threatens finding the best option for the child. For this reason, if the ideal is truly hoped to be promoted for these individual children, it will often include gay couples.
iii) Again, if this honestly is the reason, there are very easy ways to rule out infertile couples who also cannot adopt, and who the state would certainly not want to promote for adoption. Can any evidence be presented to show this is the state’s interest in infertile marriages then? Most of the law seems to support the opposite. For instance, even a couple with a record of child sexual abuse is allowed to marry with no attempts to stop them. Incarcerated people even have this right. All that is public record that could be used, but it doesn’t even need to be anything scandalous. Again, age is checked as part of the process already, and no adoption agency will be handing a child over to a couple celebrating their 60th anniversary. Also, again, medical tests are already done. What about an infertile couple including a person dying of cancer in a matter of months? Talk about “ideal” for children and the state taking a financial hit, and yet the state shows no interest in its marriage laws.
b) Fear of authoritarianism. This is a variation I’ve not seen much (probably because most the folks I argue with have no problems with, and in fact long for totalitarianism :-)). But Silus, is using it here. To paraphrase: The state hopes to avoid being authoritarian, as authoritarian states tend to fail, but it aims to promote its interests. The state thus chooses tools with the greatest influence and smallest footprint (the difference between influence and footprint?). In child rearing, “heterosexual marriage only” is one such tool to get that by which the state benefits. Infertile couples are thus included to keep the government from collapse (right?).
i) The state has many interests in marriage. While good child rearing may be arguably the largest concern (one that still argues for marriage rights for gays in about a third of the gay-headed homes in Utah, and growing quickly), there are many others and I think the evidence shows the state knows this. We recognize marriages knowing they are both infertile (sometimes insisting on it) and that we’d not want the couple to raise any children either, because the classification benefits everyone. I’ve listed a number of the benefits (here, here, and here), but, plainly, the state saves resources and social conflict when it treats couples as couples; it only pays in a very limited number of marriages that do apply both to straight and gay couples (e.g. a 80-year-old who marries on his death bed to a wealthy 30-year-old limits the tax dollars the state would normally take).
ii) What makes a footprint too big in meeting the state’s goal, especially compared to the footprints already there? If this argument is to be used I think an explanation as to why it’s okay to step on my family, but not on others who don’t meet the “ideal”, particularly those marriages that do far less in producing and raising healthy children than gay couples.
iii) I think it’s also fair to ask, if this is the case, what reason is there to believe government stability would be threatened by, say, a constitutional amendment to keep convicted felons from marriage? Or even keeping old women from marriage?
iv) Isn’t much of this “small footprint” addressable by the “simplicity” argument in the last post? That could be what is meant by “footprint”.
v) Alternatively “footprint” could be the number of lives altered. Even here the number of infertile couples, the last time I check the stats, was at about the same percentage of gays in the population. I can’t find the numbers but I’d bet the percentages of marriages occurring with a couple in their 70’s is quite small too, not to mention marriages with felons (or between cousins :-)). And the numbers affected for the sexual anatomy restriction is only going to grow, and that includes a host of non-gay grandparents, cousins, aunts, and so on, in the group negatively affected by the status quo too.
vi) Really, by most definitions, the current state of law here is authoritative and dehumanizing, and unstable. This argument can be more of an argument to have an even smaller footprint and change the law rather than keep it. For one example, can you imagine making it constitutionally legal to boot families from their homes because of any other inborn trait? Even if, as things stand now in Utah (though not elsewhere), no one actively looks to enforce that law, it’s still there and can you imagine what it’s like to be a parent under such threat? It just takes one grumpy neighbor to get the law to make you move because one of you is not the right sex, or at least traumatize your family through a legal battle for your home. That’s one of my larger fears, aside from the other concerns I’ve listed, here, and the minor insults, like the frustrating necessity to actually lie and mark “single” on my taxes, after 14 years together, over a decade of matrimony, and two children.
But most gay couples we know have it much worse. Some families are brought to using welfare and food stamps because their provider (or main provider) has been killed (sometimes even in military service) and their sex allows them and their children no claim to what a different sexed person would inarguably deserve. There are families here who have half their children covered on their health insurance and the others uncoverable; they take state support, as they are technically the children of an unwed, jobless, stay-at-home parent. Can anyone say that’s not dehumanizing treatment by the state? It’s not authoritarian to keep these rights and responsibilities from families because the M or F on a birth document isn’t right? Those same families, if something tragic happens, can relatively easily have children removed from parent and siblings. When the claim is that such is no big deal, or that this is just about some feel good “me too” PCness, or the retort is a dressed up “stop hitting yourself”, I don’t know what to say. These are real people, finding stable relationships and building families, as was inevitable the first day a gay kid came out and his parents lovingly sighed an “Okay.” They are following one of the most common, intrinsic, and important pursuits of pure and selfless human happiness they’ll ever have. To legally and constitutionally hobble them and their children for someone’s sex should be troubling; it should feel authoritarian. At least it shouldn’t be trivialize.
Simply, if we want people to care about society, give their family a stake in it and make the forceful extraction of funds from them fair. The whole “equal rights is no big deal, when it has to do with a person’s sex” argument should be distasteful. It should seem socially dangerous. In a decade or so, when most people know one of our families, have gone to school with our children, have been our neighbors, and so on, I don’t think things will look so forgivable, and the proposed compelling interest here won’t look so compelling, and the other compelling interests of marriage will be remembered. As the troubles that accumulate for not having such marriages recognized get noticed by more people in their personal lives and in the actual real-world price tag for the state, I’m betting this restriction will start to look more intolerably authoritarian to the average person. But I could be wrong ;-).
c) Tying up fertile humans. This is a relatively minor angle, but some may go on to say infertile heterosexual couples are included in order to keep from spreading STDs or the fertile half from impregnating an unmarried person. Quickly: i) The same applies to gay couples (one can be bi you know ;-), and STDs are spread by both sorts of sex). ii) We can still test both for fertility. iii) This goes against part of the original goal, again, by encouraging fertile people to keep from producing children in marriage and only promoting the option for them of divorce or producing children not to be raised by biological parents, if they want children.
d) Economic ideal: Marriage law, as is, is argued to have been created to deal with straight couples only; it’s ideally suited for them but not gay couples who’d need a whole other set of economic rules. Differing economics is the reason infertile heterosexuals are included in the group, but gays are not.
i) To me this argument only shows what the person doesn’t know about the lives of gay people. It’s kind of funny; of all my straight friends with children… lets see… under a third have stay-at-home parents while over two thirds of our gay friends with children do. The straight couples have two incomes and the kids in daycare in a matter of months after birth, but the gay couples have stay-at-home parents and single incomes. Nationally over 60% of children are in day care, indicating most families now do not meet the ecconomic aims of marriage. In this way many gay couples actually meet the traditional reasons behind the economics of marriage law (e.g. a claim to a breadwinner’s income, health benefits, social security, and so on) far better than a significant number of straight couples nowadays who have two income families and are less economically interdependent.
That all said, I think a lot of this is argument about fertile and infertile folks is for not. I think infertile and life-long childless couples are included because their inclusion meets many of the goals of marriage and the state, if not one of the main goals. I think we benefit by their inclusion, and that it’d be immoral to exclude them, even though I don’t think the state would fail if they were excluded. I think there are problems with the premises of the ideal family argument, not only in the explanation of the observations of what the law currently is and what most opponents of gay marriage actually promote outside of this issue. I’ll get to that in my next, and, one might hope, last :-) post on this topic.
Monday, March 26, 2007
In the ideal family situation, children are created and raised by their biological parents. The state’s interest in marriages is in promoting the creation of children in that ideal.
It should be noted, while often it isn’t specifically stated, it’s insinuated that this interest is the only interest the state has in marriage; it’s the interest.
From here I’ve got the dance down by heart. This is the place where the proponent says, “Hey, what about all those other infertile couples? Why don’t you restrict them? If this is honestly the state interest, why is it expressed nowhere in marriage law?”
The opponent’s response, in my experience, can come in a couple variations:
1. Necessary Error: The law can’t weed these people out, for any number of reasons (I’ll get to them). These infertile heterosexual couples are taking this legal designation but it’s not meant for them. Some may even think the knowingly infertile couple should be socially shunned and marriages unattended for their theft of the legal classification. Nevertheless, the law can’t weed them out. Why?
a) Privacy. They argue there is a right to privacy that can’t be breached here. You can’t ask about a person’s fertility; it’s too personal. This excuse has a number of failings, and much evidence to show this is not why the state does what it does (and the "ideal" is seemingly not, by their lack of concern for change, what the opponent is honestly after).
i) Data that can rule infertile people out is already taken as part of the marriage licensing process; it’s not private. You give your date of birth and, by that, a woman’s fertility may be absolutely known (a 90 year old isn’t going to be having babies, and the state most often would be burdened if she did).
ii) Medical tests are already a requirement for marriage in some jurisdictions; some have to get blood tests, which may reveal STDs. Talk about privacy issues. And if the opponent then goes to arguing that the to be spouse has a right to know, the same can be reasonably said for fertility.
iii) There’s a very easy work around; the existence of children is a public fact. If these rights are only made for those with children and the reason there’s testing is concern for privacy, marriage could take place as usual to still encourage child production, but state involvement only activates when children come into the family.
iv) If you know many trans folks you'd find a person’s biological sex can be a very private matter as well, and yet that info is the info you’ll be asked to give, and it will be used to discriminate between couples. I know a couple people who’s sex remains a mystery and that’s psychologically quite important to them. Hermaphrodites must be mentioned here as well. Supernatural theories about sex aside, some people are genetically and anatomically between male and female (or neither). Yet their sex is given privacy, forced into an artificial classification, or allowed to be fluid M or F in marriage law, depending upon their sexual orientation.
v) Lastly, tests for fertility are already in place, and required for marriage in some cases; privacy is no barrier to such requirements. As outlined in this post, some couples must prove they are infertile, not fertile, before they can be married. This should be counted as evidence as to what the state’s motivation actually is in marriage.
b) Simplicity: They argue it’s too complicated to write laws that addresses all the variations of infertility. Best to just leave it at a man and a woman and hope most of them caught in the imperfect net are going to have biological children. This has failings similar to the privacy argument:
i) First off, no one is asking for all infertile couples to be caught. The opponent has already settled for imperfection with their sex requirement, and all can agree, if that is the state’s true goal, perfection isn’t possible, but it may easily be better approached, if they honestly want it.
ii) Next, why is this bit of complexity a concern? Have you ever read legal code? It’s complex stuff, even around marriage. A line about the age of a woman is no noticeable difference in complexity, a drop in an ocean, and such a “complex” requirement for age is already in place. Such wouldn’t even require any new forms. Even still, a one line question in the forms asking if the couple knows, under penalty of perjury, if they are biologically infertile is a simple addition to the other questions; no more complicated than monitoring, as most now do, the couple’s biological sex. You can, with simplicity, make the selection more “perfect”. But watch the world quickly remember the benefits of recognizing marriages that don’t promote this “ideal” if a legislator ever promoted that :-).
iii) For truly complicated measures, the law here is already complicated far beyond the point of what would be needed. Much of what was written above regarding privacy applies. For example, we already make exceptions for certain couples and test to be sure they are infertile, or free of STDs before they can marry; there’s no significant added legal complexity to test for fertility. And if you don’t want to require extensive medical exams, you can weed out some couples with obvious reproductive inability, or, again, just ask (many people missing reproductive organs know it).
iiv) If the concern was actually simplicity over achieving the stated goals in the primary argument, one could make the law simpler by ignoring gender too. If simplicity is so important they'll undermine their goal in one instance, it's fair to ask why it's no longer important in this instance. They may have an explanation, but one should be given for the way they are balancing the two.
In all, I think these “oops” or “it’s too complicated” excuses are amongst the weakest in this ideal family argument. It’s difficult, when they are used, to not think they are use to only conceal and distract from the actual intention. By the last post I'll address the assumptions of the ideal family argument directly, but, still, I do think these claims are in need of address as they are prevalent.
Anyway, once those two angles are debated into the ground… and then covered with piles of thoroughly beaten dead horses, who are all beaten one more time, for good measure, with the titanium sheathed depleted-uranium hammer of a Pneumatic Dead Horse BeaterTM, it typically goes on to the argument that infertile heterosexual couples are actually included, not for a mistake or unwillingness to do "complicated" work for the ideal, but purposefully (adoption related arguments, fear of too much government intervention...).
Next post, though; this is getting too long (To avoid a tangent, I do suspect, the next post, Silus, is where you’re argument sits).
Sunday, March 25, 2007
It’s a mystery how all those drug companies pumping inordinate amounts of anti-depressants into Utah compete with Moab.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
In prior work they found there are a couple parts of the brain that interact, seemingly fight, when faced with moral dilemmas, one that’s being characterized as an “emotional” moral processor and the other a “logical” moral processor. The emotional volume is thought to be older, more instinctual, inflexible, and simple (e.g. don't kill your children), and the other is thought to be more complex and calculating, based more so in cold learning of social norms.
In normal people this research team has imaged these two areas seemingly in struggle for dominance on certain ethical questions. But, as I went over in that earlier post, on some ethical questions, one side may easily dominate the other. Here, the researchers looked at folks who have had the part of the brain that functions as their emotional moral sense damaged by a stroke, what they are calling VMPC lesions.
They describe some of the research on individual who’ve had such damage in their introduction:
“Patients with VMPC lesions exhibit generally diminished emotional responsivity and markedly reduced social emotions (for example, compassion, shame and guilt) that are closely associated with moral values, and also exhibit poorly regulated anger and frustration tolerance in certain circumstances. Despite these patent defects both in emotional response and emotion regulation, the capacities for general intelligence, logical reasoning, and declarative knowledge of social and moral norms are preserved”
The VMPC group in this work is compared to those who’ve had damage elsewhere in the brain (Control 1) and those with no damage (Control 2). They gave them all a series of questions ranging from ‘low-conflict’ questions (e.g. should you abandon your baby because it was too much of a burden?) to ‘high conflict’ questions (e.g. should you kill your baby to save the lives of others?). For those interested, their questions can be found here. Some of them certainly do not have easy answers.
All groups performed the same on the low-conflict questions; where both the emotional and logical moral sense agreed. Control 1 and Control 2 groups performed statistically alike on all questions. But for every high conflict question, those where these two areas fought in folks without this damage, the VPMC group sided with the cold logic. They consistently were more willing to do the math and harm or kill an innocent human themselves to save others.
From the discussion of their results:
“In the absence of an emotional reaction to harm of others in personal moral dilemmas, VMPC patients may rely on explicit norms endorsing the maximization of aggregate welfare and prohibiting the harming of others. This strategy would lead VMPC patients to a normal pattern of judgements on low-conflict personal dilemmas but an abnormal pattern of judgements on high-conflict personal dilemmas, precisely as was observed.”
To wake up with one of these brain lesions, in all, sounds undesirable, maybe nightmarish. Besides the above, the authors also found these people “had impaired autonomic activity in response to emotionally charged pictures (Table 2), as well as severely diminished empathy, embarrassment and guilt (Table 2).” They gained a “blunted affect and a specific defect of social emotions” and, at provocation came to abnormally show a “short-temper, irritability, and anger.” Personally, I want to be creeped out by “pictures of social disasters, mutilations, nudes”; well, maybe not nudes :-). I don’t want diminished empathy or a hot temper, to be sure, but I even like my embarrassment and guilt, to the extent that they keep me from repeating errors.
Some (You know the occupations ;-)) may think it could be nice to have an emotionless view of morality, fact and figures only. Some may envy a diminished ability for feel guilt and shame, too. And it really can be reasonable to kill one person, even your child, in “Sophie’s Choice,” the trolley scenario, and the “Laurence of Arabia” scenario, to save many other lives… That emotional sense of morality can cause us to do wrong in getting in the way. I’d hate to know what I’d do either way if faced in reality with some of these questions, yet I also think to be able to make a tough but right decision is, well, good :-).
Still, I’ll never be asking for that sort of brain surgery. I suspect it’s better to make even those exact same tough decisions, with the exact same actions and outcomes, with the guilt and intense internal battle. It does seem right to feel toubled in some cases, even if you did do the right thing and you eventually come to absolutely know that you did. I suspect there’s often a value in the way in which a tough decision is made, in the worry and second-guessing, in knowing, once it's done, it wasn’t easy.
Anyway, I’m not sure a huge connection to gay issues can be made here (I’m not bound to make one in every post, am I? :-)). The topic simply fascinates me. Though, as I’ve said repeatedly, moral decisions and realizations about being gay are at the heart of being a healthy gay man, to my mind and experience (you’ll find that in Chapter 4 Verse 12 of the Gay Book Of Scot ;-)). A gay man who is actively gay because he can only logically see it’s right but can’t emotionally feel it’s right, or a gay man who is actively gay despite his moral notions altogether can both be very dangerous men to those around them. In my experience the gay men who thrive and benefit others the most are those who either 1. were never taught there was a moral reason to fight their orientation in the first place or 2. struggled hard to realize the actual ethics of their choices, either going with his makeup or his culture. If they’ve found an honest truce between the warring factions in the moral centers of their mind, the worst part, by my observations, is over.
There, I made a connection :-).
In other news, I’m not going to be able to get back to the ideal family argument until after the weekend. I hate to put off something I said I’d do and I will next week, but I want to use it for other things and so it’s grown into what seems to be a 3-parter. And, besides, I hate the thought of posting what I have and going a weekend being misunderstood and unable to respond :-).
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
A video was produced a while back to familiarize students with the various family situations of their classmates. It has representation of children being raised in adoptive families, by their grandparents, and more, created hoping to make classroom life easier for such children. Of course, you guessed it, the families represented that have everyone upset are the families headed by same-sex couples.
You can view the actual clips of all of the family types here.
In Philadelphia this film was shown to third graders and outrage quickly followed. I think it best to watch the video before you read the articles, for context, but here are two articles on the tumult:
The First Public Hearing
The Second Public Hearing
“It was the segment on same-sex couples that drew the most ire from parents, who lined up a dozen deep to speak at a microphone - when they weren't shouting out their comments.”
“One woman stood at her seat and yelled, ‘They're 8 years old. They don't need to see homosexual people in the classroom.’”
She “stood” and “yelled” that.
Just today--I just got back--I was invited to our kid’s school (half-day, half-week preschool). I brought our microscope with a monitor and a couple other pieces of lab equipment. I put on a big show for the kids, looking at everything from a flea to bone marrow to their turtle’s lettuce, and they loved it. They didn’t “need” to see me but I can’t imagine the harm I caused that this woman has in mind. And sure, they know I’m a homosexual in that they know R and I are their friend’s parents, just as this video shows, but I’m sure the word “homosexual” means nothing to them (I don’t know my kids have ever heard the word, or “gay” even; it just hasn’t come up). Recently we were there for Dad’s Visitor Day, and before that R went with my mom for Mother’s Visitor Day. It all was wonderful, no one bats an eye, and the school is great about it; in fact, it now never comes to mind when there that it could be a problem… Then I think of people like those in these articles.
Maybe our ease comes because we know all the parents and are involved. We go to all the birthday parties. We did soccer with them all last summer, and that built our relationships and trust (I should say “soccer”, considering the age :-)). We all get along great and not one problem has emerged by our family being so clear to their children, from the classroom to play dates. Maybe we’ve found a paradise of education for our children, but that’s not seemingly what’s out there.
I feel I need to know what damage was done in the minds of such folk, those who would like to keep our families out of the classroom. The harm is done just having our family seen, by just knowing their classmates have a different home? Some possible hints:
“Others called the video ‘adult material’ and said lessons about diversity and tolerance should be taught in the home.”
“Others were less charitable, calling the video ‘disgusting.’”
“‘There was absolutely no necessity to engage third graders in sexuality. That's what you're doing,’ said David Thompson of Medford Lakes. ‘You were wrong... . I firmly believe, that someone had an agenda here.’”
It seems they are imagining something sexual every time they see gay couples. Did they watch the video? I mean, they must have some odd imagination going on, if the mere sight of a gay couple constitutes “adult material” and “sexuality”, right? Don’t they realize some of us are far more prudish than they’ve ever been :-)?
Yeah, though, there is an "agenda" here. Our kids go to school together and they have to interact and learn together. We have to find a way to make that interaction civil, humane, and productive. And all that is important to a school’s central mission of education. We gratefully have that in our little corner of Utah, and such a video is a way to encourage a healthy school environment for those who don’t.
Anyway, on the plus side, I think I did convert some kids to a particular lifestyle today :-). When asked who wants to be a scientist after I was done, most all raised their hands.
One girl, though, kept her hand down. This same girl raised her hand to ask a question while I was talking, and when I acknowledged her she said, “Your miscrocope is wrealwy borwing”.
Whatever, little girl.
That’s not even a question. And at least I can say boring. ;-)
Monday, March 19, 2007
Even ignoring the fact that many gay couples are adopting and producing children with aid, there is not one law I can find that makes children, parenting ability, or the ability to have children a requisite for marriage (if you know of one, let me know). The laws handling children’s rights and parent’s obligations are handled separately and for good reason.
Even convicted and incarcerated pedophiles who’ve preyed on their own children have the right to marry (as long as it’s heterosexually) by law, and yet no one in their right mind would say their children “deserved” them as parents. In fact, in the laws of the US, the best I can find for a legal connection to the ability to have children is found in laws that forbid a couple from marriage if they are able produce children.
a marriage between first cousins is not prohibited if: both parties are 50 years of age or older; or (ii) either party, at the time of application for a marriage license, presents for filing with the county clerk of the county in which the marriage is to be solemnized, a certificate signed by a licensed physician stating that the party to the proposed marriage is permanently and irreversibly sterile;
two (2) individuals may marry each other if the individuals are:
(1) first cousins; and
(2) both at least sixty-five (65) years of age.
first cousins may marry if both are sixty-five years of age or older or if one or both first cousins are under sixty-five years of age, upon approval of any superior court judge in the state if proof has been presented to the judge that one of the cousins is unable to reproduce.
First cousins may marry under the following circumstances:
(a) both parties are 65 years of age or older; or
(b) if both parties are 55 years of age or older, upon a finding by the district court, located in the district in which either party resides, that either party is unable to reproduce.
that marriage may be contracted between first cousins where the female has attained the age of 55 years or where either party, at the time of application for a marriage license, submits an affidavit signed by a physician stating that either party is permanently sterile.
There is no law I can find forbidding infertile couples from marriage, or women who are old enough to be past menopause, or the intersexed, or anything like that. But here the states (Utah among them, of course, for irony’s sake :-)) make a special exception for certain couples in order to give them marriage rights and obligation, only if they cannot produce children. They even make the couple (if they are young enough to be fertile) get a letter from a physician.
This notion that marriage is all about having children, is a relatively new political argument, used to keep gays from marriage (though you can find it in the more distant past, and a variant of such was used during the debate over interracial marriage). I know many sincerely believe it, and with good intentions. It's tough not to heed when someone yells the old "Think of the children!" But the benefits to the public for giving marriage rights to infertile and life-long childless couples have been clear for a long time (Many of them listed here, here, and here), and only recently has the goalpost moved into this emotion laden territory of deep and yet debasing concern for other's families. I watched the argument crafted over many months and tested, and it worked here, even though gays do have children, in far greater numbers than most understand.
I mean, how many know Utah is in the top 3 of states in the percentage of gay headed homes raising children? Clearly Utah’s laws don’t stop these children from being born or adopted. And yet, all through our amendment debate one side somehow convinced the public that to help our children they had to solidify their family’s invisible and second-class status in our constitution.
But I'm getting ahead of myself :-).
Friday, March 16, 2007
Similar to the data on marriage I looked at involving various countries (here), I’ve split the US of A by states, on how they treat same sex unions (with DC and Puerto Rico included also). It's too soon to look at trends but we can look at the current status:
The bar graph shows marriage rates in blue and divorce rates in red, all per capita and all an average of the data I could find (2003 to 2005). The groups are: 1. The average of all states, 2. The average of those with laws and constitutional amendments against equal rights for gay couples, 3. Those with only anti-gay rights laws, no amendments, 4. Those offering civil unions, and 5. Those with full state marriage rights (lonely little Massachusetts). Note that some may define gay couples away from marriage, and yet still offer some civil union recognition, and some states have not acted in this area.
As can be seen, states that have legally acted against marriage for gays do have a slightly greater marriage rate than average. But those with some sort of civil union for gay couples have a significantly higher marriage rate.
While Massachusetts is at the low end of US marriage rates, again, it must be remembered that respect for the institution is not shown in marrying often and divorcing often. As far as having a low divorce rate goes, Massachusetts is #2 in the nation and has been for most of this decade. Utah, with all our politician's talk of family values, is #32 in the nation; most states have lower divorce rates than we do here.
In fact, if you subtract the divorce rate from the marriage rate (the distance from the red to the blue bar), Massachusetts has the same score as the average of all the states. But when all the states that have at least some sort of legal rights for gay unions are averaged together, they have the highest score by far, 32% higher than the anti-gay marriage states. They have more marriages and more marriages that succeed.
Again, what to make of such numbers? It’s too soon, but I’ve heard many claim great confidence in their theories of how rights for our families will mean ruin for marriage. They sometimes claim to have evidence, but, as discussed before, it often falls flat. Here I simply wanted to show their dire if-you-have-it-we’ll-not-want-it predictions and their governments-only-give-gays-marriage-if-the-people-don’t-respect-it theories are not seen in the US data. If anything, it’s the opposite.
Data from the US government’s fedstats.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Butter’s speech at the end gives the moral of their story (as South Park tends to do). Butters is a straight kid who gets tricked in to seeming “bi-curious” and is thus sent by his dad to “Pray the Gay Out” at a camp, and the counselors keep telling him he’s confused. Mind you, he has no idea what bi-curious means. While Butters is trying to talk his “account-a-bill-i-buddy” down from a bridge, one of the counselors calls him “confused” again:
“All right, all right that does it!
I am sick and tired of everyone telling me I’m confused. I wasn’t confused until other people started telling me I was. You know what I think? I think maybe you’re the
ones who are confused. I’m not going to be confused anymore just because you say I should be.
My name is Butters, I’m eight years old, I’m blood type O, and I’m Bi-Curious. And even that’s okay, because if I’m bi-curious and I’m somehow made from God. Then I figure God must be a little bi-curious himself.”
At that, the gay kid on the bridge says “I think, I think I’d like to come down now.”
Again, it is offensive, but, if you want to see how popular culture is looking at this issue, there it is. South Park is pervasive.
And I still need help with Easter :-)
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Over months, we all pack nearly 500 plastic eggs. But the best part is the gold, silver, and bronze egg. They are hidden so that no one could find them, unless they figure out my puzzles. While they have been described, in whiny tones, as “unfair” and “too hard”, the motivation is there; the gold egg means a trip with the grandparents to near anywhere.
Easter is coming fast and all I have is this year’s silver egg puzzle (and I’m not too happy with it). Any ideas?
Recently, I’ve used crossword puzzles, simple substitution cryptography, sudoku (the solution gave the combination to a lock on a cage holding an egg :-)), picture hunts, treasure map-like directions, word search, and I’m probably forgetting a bunch. Typically I use their names as part of the gold egg puzzle, and I’m not committed to it but I’d like to this year again. I can’t though think of anything new (there are 31 grandkids, and so, for example, they were the crossword solutions and then certain letters in the solved puzzle had to be unscrambled to reveal the egg location). The kids range in age from 4 to 30, and the older kids do try for the gold egg (we try to make it so the 13 or above crowd get it, but also so that all of them can do some of it), so it can made be kind of hard (I’ll endure the whining :-)).
Just for fun I’ll post an old one. See if you’re smarter than my nieces and nephews :-). They couldn’t finish this one without hints. Posted below is part of the silver egg puzzle from two years ago. It’s the old catchphrase game; each one represents a common word or phrase. The twenty-fifth is missing, as it had my name in it (and they didn’t get it) :-).
The letters of the phrases helped lead to the egg but I’ll leave that out.
(Looking at it again, I’m not proud of one of them, too vague, but oh well…)
Anyway, if you have any new ideas, they’d be appreciated. If you have a good one I’ll put it together the night before Easter if needs be and so feel free to comment them in long after I post above this (well, make that the Saturday before Easter; most our family wouldn’t come if it were on Sunday :-)).
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Gay, a User’s Manual.
And the short, flippant version, for such tastes:
On the Box in Which Your Gayness Arrived
For what it’s worth.
I don’t want to preach or suggest I’m this bastion of knowledge :-), but this is the advice I have and I do believe it can avoid a lot of heart ache, the sort I've seen too many times. So, seeming preachy and repetition be damned; I'll accept charges.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Through his a long battle with BTD (Beloved Toy Deterioration), Whaley remained stoic and upbeat. He lost his color and signs of wear appeared on his fins, yet he soldiered on. Whaley finally succumbed to the ravages of BTD, doing what he loved best, playing with his best friend and “Papa”, B. Though his struggle was long, the ultimate cause of death was fin loss. He was surrounded by loved ones, when the time came.
We watched Whaley grow from a baby, in need of constant attention. B took very good care of him. Last Christmas, when Whaley had the honor of being the only inanimate object in our family to receive presents from Santa, we were told Whaley had become an adult. At the time of his death, Whaley was 5, in rubber Whale years.
By all appearances, Whaley was a killer whale, but to assume as much would be unfair prejudice. Whaley, in fact and as B tells anyone who makes that mistake, would never kill anyone. He was, instead, a “friendly whale”. That he was.
Whaley was certainly no ordinary whale. Above being a great toy, he was reported to have super powers, among them the ability to “run really fast,” which, if you think about it, is truly amazing for a whale. He will be sorely missed among the pantheon of crime fighting superheroes.
Whaley is survived by his papa, his uncle, his grandfathers, and his canine aunt. In lieu of flowers, the family asks you donate to the Society for the Preservation of Rubber Fish (They cover marine mammal too).
Anyway, rest in peace, Whaley.
It’s funny, as soon as I saw that fin separated, a fate we all saw coming a mile away, my heart just sunk, right along with B’s… over a little rubber whale. Children have the power to make all sorts of things meaningful. Poor B.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
It was a busy day, so busy that I didn’t have time to read the paper in the morning.
I got home to read the headline:
Guv OKs gay-club curbs
It’s odd; as I was reading I was downloading the photos from the day and there was my family with the man who just signed this bill, his arm around R. He was very friendly, and he has struck me as a good man. He still does. It’s just sad, to feel people of good conscience are on both sides of something like this. But I must also feel it as a source of hope.
It’s just much easier to just demonize the other side as cruel jerks ;-). You know, if they do shake your hand and show friendliness, it's just to hide their insults and plotting. But I know, for a good part, that's far from true. While there are some politicians I do think are malicious and for whom I don't feel so hopeful, our Governor isn't one of them, darn it :-).
Regardless, many kids, and not only the gay kids, would and do benefit by such support, and this bill will threaten that, but the beliefs and the politics are what they are. At least it seems, after the Utah taxpayer spends a good deal defending this bill when the next GSA is excluded, the clubs may stay regardless (though, I’m not sure how much I’d bet on it).
Friday, March 09, 2007
Nevertheless, I’ve collected the marriage and divorce stats from some of the Scandinavian countries that have had some sort of official union for gays, giving legal marriage rights for a significant amount of time.
The following shows the marriages per year per person in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, from 1850 to 2006. Vertical lines mark the implementation of rights for gay couples in each country.
As can be seen, as the countries modernized, making marriage less of a tool for getting along in life, marriage does decrease on a slight downward trend. But in every case, once gay unions are okayed, the number of marriages go up per year, not down (note also, gay unions are not counted in these numbers; these are heterosexual marriages only).
Of special interest is Sweden (red line). I remember a couple years ago reading an anti-gay marriage piece where Sweden was pointed out as an example of how gays threaten heterosexual marriage. The data they were using were from a couple years before rights were given to a couple years after, basically only that negative slope right where gay unions are officially implemented. Of course the author forgot to mention or show that Sweden, for a change in pension law, had a surge of marriages in 1989 in order to act before a 1990 deadline; you can see the peak. The author knew this; by his occupation, he had to, but he hid it to make a point. This surge should cause a drop in marriage rate in subsequent years, due to a drain of marriage eligible folks, and it does for a while. But, even after that, marriages begin going up again after gays get these rights.
The next graph shows divorces per year per person for the same countries in the same time.
Again, with modernity, divorces go up, as people, particularly women, need less and less to depend on their marriage for livelihood, and unhappy marriages can more easily split up. But that trend, which some like to blame on gay marriage, is there long before any rights are given. Not only that, but after the rights are given divorces, in all cases, go down or remain somewhat stable.
For comparison, the United States, a country that has a majority of states with laws disallowing gay unions, did have a higher rate of marriage, but it also had a higher rate of divorce than all three of those countries, by the most recent data, 2005. Respect for marriage isn’t, of course, shown in the rate of marriages if you’re dissolving them faster than anyone else, right? Marriage should go up and divorce shouldn't, and that's what's seen in these countries with rights for gay unions.
In fact, Spain, has one of the lowest rates of divorce in the industrialized world and it just voted in marriage for same-sex couples. It’s divorce rate is under half all those plotted and far under that of the United States.
At pointing out these positive trends, I’ve found that some then say that the trends don’t matter (of course :-)). They then say it’s the actual magnitude of the marriage rate that shows respect for marriage, and low respect leads to gay marriage (and yet they’ll still want to call their “symptom” a cause they hope to “cure”). While it’s true it’s mainly conservative countries that have the highest marriage rates, and true they most often don’t allow gays to marry, I don’t think, in general, their societies are those to aspire towards, (e.g. Iran).
Even still, look at the countries with the highest marriage rates, from here:
1 Antigua & Barbuda
7 South Africa
What should stick out (because it's bold and red :-)) is that one of the most successful countries in that top ten list is the one that has full-fledged gay marriage.
Anyway, I’d not be so bold as to say official gay unions are shown here to strengthen the institution of marriage. But others do claim the opposite, using small segments of this same data, possibly thinking no one will look it up, and they should be called on it.
That’s not to say I can’t imagine it could, though ;-). I do think the discussions of why marriage is important to gay couples and their children probably do get some others thinking, and I think promoting the union as recognizably beneficial for families and governments regardless of the involved anatomies, can promote marriage in general. But, no, it’s not clear in these numbers, and I’ll stick with the arguments I’ve given in the past for a couple more years of data ;-).
All data taken from each country's government’s official web sites of statistics, unless otherwise stated.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
My kids started soccer last year with their school friends. Unfortunately, we never got B on the field; fine, I want him to be a swimmer like his Pop anyway :-). My little A went up right away, though, but soon got chided by the coach for picking up the ball. He ran back, upset, and didn’t want to try again. I encouraged, and (maybe) pushed, along with R and the grandparents. “It’ll be fun,” “Look at all your friends out there”, “just try it again” and so on…
Eventually A got out there but wouldn’t chase the ball. The coach had me come out to encourage some more. Eventually the ball came near him and he kicked it hard. I was very happy he finally got past that barrier. But that emotion must have been on my face, and I fear it was too big of a change. He looked up and went to one of his biggest smiles, but I could see then his eyes had been welling up. He asked, first time ever, “Are you proud of me Papa?”
Those cloaking up muscles in the throat reacted immediately. Proud?! At 4, what does he know about proud, care about proud? Was he about to cry because he thought I was disappointed in him? I felt knocked down by his question and I picked him up, hugged him, and told him yes, I’m very proud of him, that he’s a wonderful little boy. He laughed and went on, happily playing the rest of the season from there.
At that moment I was keenly reminded again of the danger in being a parent. You always know it’s there; you know you have a lot of power, but when you let it spill out inadvertently it really hits you. I mean, was I making him cry over kicking a ball?
Kids seem to come disposed to caring deeply about what their parents think. It makes perfect sense, pragmatically; it’s a large part of how children survive to become the next generation. It’s useful.
But any person or group given such respect can too easily misuse it. You can cause everything from subtle neurosis to outright psychological abuse. Children easily become experts on what their parents think, and sometimes they hang on even vague interpretations of every odd twitch of their parent’s face, to a debilitating degree. I do hope that will not be our children; it’s something to fear.
It seems to be a tricky borderland between trying to raise happy, healthy, and moral children and abuse of the power you have to do so. But I do believe most all parents never mean to cross that line (sure, some miserable humans do). In the area of gay youth, I have seen this power cause many problems for kids, and I once would come down very angry at the parents. But I’m more inclined today to advocate for slack to be cut, and time to be given. As a first time parent of two, I know I’d hope for the same understanding to be given to me. Being a parent can tricky, and scary, along with wonderful beyond words, but I do believe near every parent means the absolute best for their children.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
My religious history is spelled out, here and here. Though I’ve left many modes of belief behind at finding them unsupportable, official counting from the bureaucracy of each is a different matter. The LDS church counted me as a member for most of my life, starting from my baptism, and officially counted me in their statistics even when I was holding other faiths.
I didn’t give it much thought, until the marriage debate heated up, and the LDS church began instructing members to act politically against equal rights for our families. We began to feel uncomfortable being counted as members. I mean, to be counted as a member of a group now acting against your home feels wrong for all sorts of reasons, not to mention not believing in its most basic claims, and we simply couldn’t abide by it.
R first tried to do it himself. He sent in our letters, explaining why exactly we wanted to be removed, and nothing happened. He sent another set and got some sort of dismissive reply (I wish I could remember the wording, but alas...). After some runaround on the phone, we gave up.
If I remember correctly, from there we put ourselves out in the media, speaking out against legislation. Regardless, it was no secret before then that we were gay and living together to anyone, not to our families, our neighbors, or our ward. Our Bishop was, in fact, R’s mission companion’s father and he knew well of us there. Yet, no hint of concern was shown anywhere by the church, and seemingly no desire to excommunicate us at all, even once we went from privately gay to activist gay.
Eventually the leadership did it again, and called on members to vote against our families, and that was it for us. We couldn’t be counted as part of a political force aimed at us. This time we did some online research on how, exactly, to be removed as members and found that certain specific items had to be done. It was some Baptist group that had the instructions. They were oddly complicated, but R put the right letters together, with the right wording, and sent them to the right place… But that was not the end of it.
We were asked if the Bishops could come visit us, and we agreed; we kind of knew and liked the guy. So he came. Though such a meeting is actually unnecessary to be removed, we wanted to be cordial.
At the door he was visibly uncomfortable but very pleasant. He came in and small-talked for a while. Then he asked why, exactly, we wanted out. I assumed our reasons would be more than apparent, but we explained it anyway, plainly and respectfully. But at that, he tried to talk us out of leaving. We were two gay men who had been together for a decade, live together in his ward, and speak out for equal rights for our families, and he didn’t want to let us out. Unexpected.
In asking around, I’ve known gay men who’ve been excommunicated for far less of a "gay lifestyle", but many years ago. Although I do know some gay men around these blogs were recently disciplined for their same-sex sexual activities, the cases involved breaking vows, and so I'm left a bit unclear. But it seems something must have changed, and for the better, right?
It actually became a sort of haggle with the local Bishop. He eventually talked us down from excommunication and into something else, the name of which I can’t quite remember (removal? I’ll have to find the paper.). In short, the way he explained it, we’d not be counted as members anymore, but we’d not be excommunicated, meaning, as he pointedly stated, there’d be no disciplinary action if we ever wanted back in.
Anyway, it was a solution we could both live with, though the more aggressive side of me was admittedly let down (I kind of wanted my day in court! If for nothing other than curiosity :-)).
At that we were all happy and we went back to small talk. As he left he expressed his regret for the situation and told us to call him if any of our neighbors gave us any trouble (really, unthinkable as our neighbors were great, but we very much appreciated the gesture). Again, we do very much like the guy, for obvious reasons, and I too wish the circumstances were different, but they are what they are. I was left feeling sorry for the tough position he was in.
So I guess, officially, with regards to the LDS church we’re not really Ex Coms; we’re now just like most of the world, nonmembers and potential converts ;-).
In thinking back on it, I’m struck by the LDS church’s reluctance to excommunicate two open and vocal gay men, such as us, R even being a returned missionary. I wonder if our experience is typical or rare. How much of it was in the hands of local management? It took significant effort to simply not be counted in their statistics, and they really didn’t want to take any steps. Who knows? For us there’d still be the fact that we don’t believe many of the claims of that particular faith, but maybe in our lifetime some families headed by gay couples will be welcomed and accepted in the LDS church, as is, without splitting up. Maybe we’ll show up at the next sacrament meeting with kids in tow and a bag a cheerios to test the waters ;-).
I don’t know, but this seems to be a positive and perhaps recent change in the LDS reaction to gay members, doesn’t it?
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
It is important, to make those public vows and to witness them. I’ve been honored to be a best man, twice now (but one groom was smart enough to not have a gay man through his bachelor party ;-)). I take that position with maybe more seriousness than my groom friends intend. You are putting yourself on the line, to stand beside your friend and vouch for him, in front of all that family, and I’m glad to say, for both those men, I did so with pride and confidence. And I’m happy our boys get to feel a bit of that gravity in, as they call it, their “very important job”.
I do feel everyone, in some way, accepting an invitation to a wedding has made themselves responsible to do what they can to support that union and, of course, to never attempt to undermine it in even the most subtle ways. Those promises are made in public for a reason, and people are meant to come for more than good cake and bad dancing.
Simply, even without the backing of law, I’m very happy we took that leap so many years ago, and I’m glad to just that much more familiarize our boys with the idea of marriage.
I don’t know where I was going with this post, just a bit for the chronology in this journal :-). But I do want to add one little anecdote from the wedding, one that I think typifies a great many and loving Mormon mothers.
This was my sister-in-law’s second wedding (yes, a fact I did not explain to the twins :-)). Her parents were leery of her choice to remarry a new guy and so soon, for a couple good reasons I’ll leave out. They were scheduled to meet this man for the first time at our house of all places, as my in-laws were staying with us while they recovered from a traffic accident. Suffice it to say, this guy was coming into a tense situation, but Utah Mormon tense (and I hope that’s not offensive as I do count it as my culture too, and it’s much more pleasant than regular tense, though more sneaky :-)).
But he’s a great guy, very charismatic, and he quickly won over the family. It came out that he’s a restaurant owner. As the conversation progressed he told us he was about to open a tapas Restaurant. You know: spain, small portions… Tapas.
The conversation went on and on, and smoothly. Later that day, when my in-laws were alone together, they were talking about the suitor. After a while my mother-in-law finally said “Well, he’s very nice and he seems very industrious… But I’ve never heard of topless restaurants. Do you think that will do well?” :-)
The whole time she, this very kind and proper LDS woman, had been thinking this prospective son-in-law was about to set up a half nude dining establishment, some extreme version of Hooters. I can’t imagine her distress; why couldn’t all the kids be like R :-)? She was completely befuddled, but waited until she could feel out her husband about it alone. After a good laugh, my father-in-law explained she’d heard wrong, to her relief, and let us all in on the confusion.
Anyway, tapas, topless, I do love R’s family very much, and have been glad to have them in our life and to be there with them through the these good times and the bad.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
-I know nothing about and own no moisturizers, or scents. Don’t ask me about them. On trips, my toiletry bag includes deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush… if I’m lucky.
-Same goes for hair care products. It takes, literally, 5 seconds to do my hair and it’s done while walking from the shower to the closet.
-I’m absolutely unskilled and inexperienced at “partying”. I like sitting around the diner table chatting with friends. I’ll enjoy a good board or card game, but, please, don’t expect too much in the way of what gays do on Queer As Folk. I’ll not be the wild, carefree life of the party, but, if you want a friendly designated driver, I’m your man. In fact, I’ve only been drunk enough to feel it the next day twice, ever, once after a dinner with my dad, and the other time after a night out with my brother. With the small amount I do imbibe, it takes very little to make me sick, and only those two bad influences in my rather large family seem to have enough sway on me ;-).
-No, I don’t know how to dance, except to make my kids laugh. I can show you how to do that.
-Don’t expect me to know much about the exciting gay nightlife in my city. I’ve no pointers towards fun clubs or anything like that. I know very little and what little I do know is from long ago. I’ve been in a bar fewer than once per year of my life, I’m sure.
The last time was a gay bar, though, about 6 years ago, in New Orleans on a trip with my extended family… R and I wondered through bead-greedy uninhibited women down Bourbon Street. The bar at the end of the street was a gay bar, and we did go in to see what it was like... and got out of there very quickly. It was very much like the rest of Bourbon Street... but, uh, gayer? Anyway, a stranger grabbed me (or part of me), and quite inappropriately, and within the first ten minuets! Sure, it gave us a good laugh, but I don’t think we’ll be going back to that town :-).
But, the time before that, I think, the bar was an erotic dance club, when I was in my early twenties. Does that sound scandalous? Like the seedy depths of the gay lifestyle?
:-) But, no. It was that hetero strip club on State Street. I think that should more than negate the gay bar in New Orleans. I went with a couple of buddies to cheer one of them up after a hard breakup; they got quite a kick out of my gay oil in their straight water. It was also an academic curiosity (probably the only time that excuse has been true). I left doubly gay, and sure I’d never go back there either... or look at paper currency the same way ever again, for that matter.
-I can’t stand shopping (unless it’s for electronics); don’t ask me to go; you’ll be sorry. I have, in fact, been told by numerous people that I somehow--perhaps supernaturally--sap the will to shop out of others by merely my proximity to them. Just save the frustration and don’t suggest I come with you; I might say yes. I don’t mean to have this superpower; it’s more of an ironic gay curse I have :-).
-I’ve no idea about fashion, designers, or models. Don’t ask me about it. I’ll steer you wrong, and maybe just for the amusement and to teach you a lesson about generalizing :-). I don’t think I’ve even bought an item of clothing for myself for years, save jeans to replace those worn through. I’ve only 4 pairs of shoes, in fact, half of them from Costco, and the other half taken from R. I guess I do live off of R’s purchases and judgment just fine (Wow, thinking on it, if I wasn’t gay, I’d be near naked :-)).
-I know little about stereotypical "gay" music. I can’t get into Madonna, Cher, techno, “Babs” or show tunes. I’m sorry; I tired. My musical tastes are elsewhere. In fact, I sat next to Liza Minelli once, and didn’t even notice until R told me.
-I’m pretty useless when it comes to literature and poetry as well. And don’t expect a compelling art critique when you ask my opinion of your painting. Sure, I like it, but I just don’t have the vocabulary to describe such skill exactly, and the jargon I do have, from my work, is wholly inappropriate for art ;-).
Okay, that’s all that comes to mind. Simply, I’m a limited gay. If anyone wants to engage me in the areas where my interests, such as my family and science, intersect gayety, I think I can do an okay job there. But otherwise, I’m a pretty incompetent gay. Don’t expect too much, and don't tell anyone in our elected leadership; I don't want my membership benefits revoked.
In other news: A blueberry, raspberry, and tulip later, and I'm refilled on images.
And I hope you all have a great weekend.