A Point-By-Point Rebuttal
"The institution of marriage is unique. It is the one institution that binds women and men together to form a family, and this serves broad societal purposes."
As thesis statements go, this one's pretty weak. Many institutions are unique, and just stating that doesn't axiomatically mean that they are sacrosanct. Slavery, for instance, was a unique institution in its day, and it, too served a broad societal purpose. I'm not equating marriage with slavery, just pointing out that Jackson's thesis statement doesn't mean as much as he wants it to.
"The majority of Californians, including two-thirds of the state's black voters, have just had their core civil right -- the right to vote -- stripped from them by an openly gay federal judge who has misread history and the Constitution to impose his views on the state's people."
I hate to begin by calling Bishop Jackson a liar, but then it occurs to me that I actually began by calling him a bigot, so it's too late for niceties. But this statement is a lie. The voters of Californians have had no rights stripped from them whatsoever. Our right to vote (did I mention that I live in California?) remains inviolate. In fact, not only has my right to vote not been touched, I still have the right to vote on laws that are not constitutional, such as, say, Proposition 8.
Bishop Jackson would have you believe that all that's necessary for something to become law is that the people vote for it. That we have a Constitution that our laws must measure up to is something he'd like you to forget, as is the fact that the Constitution is designed specifically to protect minorities from the unthinking bigotry of the majority.
If the voters of California voted to re-institute slavery, would Bishop Jackson object if a federal judge (especially an African-American one) struck it down? We still have the right to vote. What we have never had is the right to vote in laws that violate the United States Constitution. His rhetoric is deliberately misleading, divisive, and - for some reason - racially inflammatory.
On the subject of the judge's sexuality, the implication is clear - a gay judge cannot be trusted to make a decision on a civil rights matter involving sexuality. By this same logic, a straight judge would be equally suspect, no? It would seem to me, then, that the only solution is to find a bisexual judge to determine this matter, which strikes me as a curious solution.
"The implicit comparison Judge Vaughn Walker made between racism and opposition to same-sex marriage is particularly offensive to me and to all who remember the reality of Jim Crow. It is not bigotry, it is biology that discriminates between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples."
Forgive me for being confused by this statement, but is it not also biology that determines the color of one's skin? Bishop Jackson claims to remember Jim Crow, but he seems to have forgotten the arguments against miscegenation that stated that it was biology, and not bigotry that demanded segregation between the races.
"A marriage requires a husband and a wife, because these unions are necessary to make new life and connect children to their mother and father."
Of all the inane and ignorant comments the Bishop makes in his article, this one is most dizzying, I think. It feels absurd to have to state this in the presence of adults, but a marriage is, of course, not necessary at all to make new life. Any two drunk strangers in a bar can conceive, and parents do not need a license to connect with their children. In 2010, it's not even necessary to have sex to conceive a child. If his point really is that we must stop gay marriage because only married straight people can have children, we can stop this nonsense right now. On a purely factual level, the Bishop is fundamentally, profoundly, deeply and disturbingly wrong.
"Judge Walker's decision will not stand the test of time and history. "
Now we're down to matters of opinion, but even here, I would argue, the good Bishop is wrong again. Happily, most younger Americans are already past the kind of bigotry that sees gay marriage as a threat to anything. By the time Jackson's generation dies off, this issue will have gone the way of all previous bigotries in our country's history. School children will be taught that once there was a time when ignorant people fought to prevent others from loving freely, and they'll shake their heads in shocked disbelief the way my generation did when we learned about Jim Crow.
"Congress and the Supreme Court must act to protect all Americans' right to vote for marriage."
I'm not even sure what this means. No one's right to vote is being threatened. As I said earlier, we can even vote to reinstate slavery. That doesn't mean it'll stand the test of the courts, but no one's going to take away our right to vote any time soon, even for ridiculous laws that cannot possibly be implemented. (Although, speaking as a resident of California, I do wish these laws were vetted before being offered up for a vote. Might save us some much-needed tax dollars.)
Beyond that, though, the statement is fundamentally dishonest. How does voting to REDUCE the number of marriages constitute being FOR marriage? Judge Walker just made a decision for marriage, and this guy wants to take that away... and he's the pro-marriage guy? This makes no sense at all, on even the most basic level.
"Advocates of making same-sex marriage a legally recognized right claim that this will have no impact on traditional marriage -- that it can peacefully coexist alongside traditional marriage."
That they even have to make this argument is, frankly, embarrassing. I've been married. It didn't work out, but I suspect if you spent a day with my ex-wife and me compiling a list of reasons for that, neither of us could say that anyone else's marriage was the reason. The only marriage that threatened our marriage was OUR marriage. Yours had no bearing on the matter.
My house is between two other homes. In both of those homes, the residents are married. Those relationships have no bearing on mine, and mine has none on theirs. The idea that one person's marriage can affect another's is the fight song of this stupid movement, and it's time to call it out for the idiocy that it is.
"On the contrary, it will have profound impacts. It will create a conflict for people of faith (and nonreligious people as well) who fervently believe in traditional man-woman marriage and the law."
No one is asking those people - or you - to marry a homosexual. What you think marriage ought to be matters strictly and solely to you and the person you marry. If you're offended by someone else's marriage, or relationship, or taste in shoes, then don't hang out with them. Nobody's forcing you to live in their house. You can judge someone else's relationship to your heart's content, but decency demands that you keep it to yourself. You do not get to dictate how others must live, any more than we get to dictate how you live.
The irony, of course, is that the only relationship that threatens anyone's marriage is the one between people like Jackson and his own bigotry.
"The Bible is so clear in its support of heterosexual marriage there is little need for us to go through an exhaustive definition of biblical marriage versus the types of unions allowed by law today. The Scriptures say in Genesis 2:24 that a man is to leave his family and cleave to his wife."
That same Bible also makes it clear that I should be stoned to death for working on a Sunday, so unless Jackson is prepared to go the distance and argue that the United States Constitution should be replaced by his Bible in its totality, he would do well to stick to arguments that relate to this issue. He is entitled to his religious views. Thanks to those canny fellows who created the Constitution and Bill of Rights that govern this country, he does not have the right to impose his religious restrictions on those of us who do not share his beliefs.
"This concept is repeated in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7. All the scriptures in the Bible concerning marriage presuppose heterosexual marriage."
Yes, but setting aside that he's bringing the Bible into a legal discussion, I would point out that some of those heterosexual marriages involved one man and a whole lotta women. I take it, then, that Jackson favors polygamy, selling one's daughters into slavery, killing people who eat shrimp, and killing pregnant women who don't believe in his specific God.
Where does it end? Where does it begin? How am I supposed to know which parts of his Bible he wants me to live by and which he wants me to ignore? For all I know, Bishop Jackson thinks I should be put to death for arguing with him (Deuteronomy 17:12-13 is pretty clear on that one.)
If you're going to pick and choose which parts of the Bible you're going to abide by, you have to be gracious enough to let the rest of us do the same.
"We can teach our kids that there are important spiritual and societal reasons to believe in traditional marriage and oppose same-sex marriage. "
We can also teach our kids that some races are superior to others, or that the Earth is flat. One of the great joys of the American experiment is that even though we, as a society, know better, we still make allowances for people who wish to raise their children in ignorance, stupidity and bigotry. We do, however, try to keep those people from making our laws. The next time Bishop Jackson drinks from the same water fountain as I do, I hope we can both take a moment and be thankful for that particular quirk of American jurisprudence.
"But if same-sex marriage becomes legally recognized across the country, our kids will be told that gay marriage is a civil rights issue and that those who oppose it are akin to the racists of history who opposed interracial marriage and supported slavery."
Yes. They will. But here's the thing he fails to grasp - our kids already know that. That's why Jackson's movement is doomed to fail.
"We can teach our children at home that marriage is between a man and a woman, but our children's public schools will teach them that marriage includes same-sex couples. Both would be "equal marriages" under the law."
Yup. You can even teach your children Creationism at home, if you want, but they're still going to be taught Evolution at schools. That's how it works with religion in America. Beliefs are lovely things, and ought to be cherished. But you don't get to use yours to dictate how the rest of us should live.
"What might this look like? In Massachusetts, where a ruling legalized same-sex marriage in 2004, kids in public schools are reading books depicting same-sex families."
Yes, they are. And there was a time when people objected to them being shown images of bi-racial couples for fear that it might cause those children to think black/white marriages were acceptable. Happily, progress destroyed those bigots, as it always does; as it always will.
"At a California charter school in 2008, kindergartners' parents objected when a school newsletter alerted them to "National Coming Out Day;" a parent told a local ABC-TV affiliate that a teacher at the school screened a film to kindergartners the previous year showing gay families."
What would he have them do? Pretend such things don't exist, even when some of their fellow students come from such families? Surely he cannot believe that that's going to create a healthy environment for those children he claims to care for so much.
"These kinds of ill-advised social experiments may produce a host of unexpected consequences. If gay marriage is allowed, the nation will soon begin to experience an increased degradation of the nuclear family -- resulting in fewer kids being raised by both a mom and a dad."
The nuclear family collapsed a long time ago. The Bishop needs to look at the numbers. The divorce rate and the number of single parents in America make an absolute mockery of his thesis, and, like every other statement he makes here, this is barely worth responding to.
"Beyond that, those of us who believe in traditional marriage and are in a regulated profession -- such as counselor, physician, attorney or accountant -- and act in concert with our beliefs, may be vulnerable to losing our professional license and our livelihood."
To the best of my knowledge, religious leaders are in no danger of losing their licenses for spewing distortions and bigotry, so I'm not sure what the Bishop is concerned about.
"We can be a religious charity faithfully fulfilling our mission by serving our community, such as by providing adoption and other services, but if we refuse to provide those services to a same-sex couple, we have the choice of abandoning our beliefs or ending our mission."
Setting aside the regulatory issue, if Bishop Jackson is providing adoptions to childless couples, then he is a liar and a hypocrite. You either believe marriage is for the sole purpose of creating children, or you do not. If he is providing adoptions for people who cannot have children, his entire thesis falls down like the duplicitous house of cards it is. Or, perhaps, he only offers children to unmarried couples? Or couples who have already conceived? Neither seems particularly charitable, though...
I wonder if he's prepared to argue that infertile couples shouldn't be allowed to marry? If not, then how can he argue that gay couples - many of whom can give birth - shouldn't be?
"An even more substantive danger lies in the consequences of gay marriage on the next generation. Redefining marriage redefines family. Changing the concept of family will change both the definition and the pattern of parenting."
Every generation redefines these terms. There was a time in our culture in which it was taken for granted that fathers worked and mothers stayed at home. Nothing else was acceptable. That is no longer the case. Marriage - like family, like culture, like religion, like everything - is redefined by each generation depending on its needs and understandings and circumstances.
"What will the landscape of America look like if same-sex marriage is legalized across our nation? Social scientists report what most Americans have always known: Both boys and girls are deeply affected in biological and psychological ways by the presence of their fathers."
Then he should be doubly thrilled at the prospect of a child growing up with two of them.
"If the American family loses the presence of the birth dad in the home, there will be huge consequences to the growth and stability of the next generation of children in that family."
Many American families lost the presence of the birth dad a long time ago. Why single out gay families? More to the point, why single out lesbian families?
What Jackson fails to grasp is that ideals and reality are two different things. We may all agree what the ideal family looks like (we won't, but let's say for purposes of discussion that we can), but that won't affect the fact that most families aren't going to look like that ideal. Some families are better off broken - if the father is a violent alcoholic, say, or the mother is a crack addict, or a BP spokesperson. People muddle through with all manner of impediment, and to suggest that this specific group should be penalized because they - like every other family in the world - doesn't live up to some ideal is, in the end, rampant bigotry. That is all it is, by the way. Isolating one group based solely on your disapproval of them is pretty much a textbook definition of bigotry.
"For example, repeatedly, scholarly studies focused on adolescence show that early onset of puberty in girls is associated with negative psychological, social, and health problems including depression, alcohol consumption, and higher teenage pregnancy. An eight-year study of girls and their families showed that a father's presence in the home, with appropriate involvement in his children's lives, contributed to daughters' reaching puberty at a later age."
Wonderful. Now let's look at the studies that show what happens to girls who are sexually assaulted by their fathers. Or girls who are neglected by their fathers. Or girls who are raised to believe that African-Americans are subhuman by their dads. Of all the people Jackson wants to take action against - of all the people he could take action against - he focuses on the ones whose sin is loving their children?
What is WRONG with this man?
"Despite the incredible adaptability of children, our entire culture should advocate for family structures that promote the most positive environments for coming generations."
On this, we agree. Problem is, we'd start in different places. I, for instance, would want to ban parents from exposing their children to bigoted religious leaders who use the Bible to promote discrimination and hatred. Bishop Jackson, on the other hand, would start by banning parents who love their children. He's entitled to his view, of course, but I'm entitled to point out that his is small, petty, hateful and morally indefensible.
Here's what he fails to grasp or acknowledge - For a gay couple to raise kids involves a level of commitment that no straight couple ever has - or ever will - be forced to live up to. The amount of love and conviction it takes for two men, or two women to start a family is inconceivable to someone like Jackson or me. We'll never have to climb so many mountains to get something that so many people take for granted.
No gay couple ever has (or ever will) woken up hungover and discovered they've accidentally made a baby they don't want. Gay couples don't get abortions.
Direct to Bishop Jackson
Bishop Jackson, I've addressed your arguments point by point, but now I'd like to address you directly, because this is a very personal issue. In fact, that's ALL it is, as it has no other bearing on the world, save how people relate to one another. It doesn't affect taxes, it doesn't affect our roads, it doesn't affect the environment, and it has no bearing at all on any of the wars we're currently involved in.
These people want to love, to live, and to raise good, strong, healthy children, just like every other family. For you to devote this much time and energy to preventing that is unconscionable, sir, and if the God you believe in is real, I assure you, he's hanging His head in shame at your words.
One last thing, in the spirit of full disclosure. I am single, straight, have no children, and don't really want them. I'm just not father material. I am a great uncle, though. My sister is a lesbian, in a committed relationship that's lasted twenty years now (significantly longer than my own), and has three beautiful, brilliant, incredibly well-adjusted and loving children.
As much as my views on these matters are based on principle - and easy principles, at that, as your position is absurd and hateful - I cannot help but take this issue somewhat personally. I do not know three better raised, happier or more well-adjusted children in this world, nor do you. When I hear people like you espousing your ignorance, fear and bigotry, I think of those kids, and I think of a world in which people like you get to deny people like my sister the right to raise her family in a healthy and loving environment, and I think to myself, I would die to keep your world from being their reality.
And then I think about all the real problems we face, the destruction of the environment, the collapsing economy, and endless wars, and I resent you all the more for the way you waste all of our time, all of our lives, all of our love, and I wish like hell people like you would just crawl back under your rocks and die off so that the rest of us can get on with the important business of evolving and growing and making this a better world for those children whose lives you seek to destroy.
Go away, sir. You have wasted more than enough of our time.
(Lesbians kissing: via Flickr)