Alex Blaze

There is compromise on this issue, but this isn't it

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 23, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: David Blankenhorn, fundies, gay marriage, homosexual agenda, jonathan rauch, lesbian, LGBT, marriage, marriage equality, New Jersey, religious organizations, religious right, religious rights, right to conscience, same-sex marriage

Guest blogger Jack Drescher and Nan Hunter both addressed this recent NY Times column on a supposed compromise on the issue of same-sex marriage. I wanted to address the column from a different point of view, but both of their entries are definitely worth reading.

Jonathan Rauch, a vocal conservaqueer and same-sex marriage advocate, and David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, a rightwing think tank, have (not) reached across the aisle to come to this compromise:

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

How in the world is that a compromise? It sounds a lot more like rolling over on our backs and letting the Religious Right have 90% of what they want, when our side is the inherent compromise position (it's not like we're asking that heterosexual couples be denied relationship recognition).

It reminds me of those "bipartisan" compromises that always seem to lean very far to the right. In fact, in this day and age, the definition of "bipartisanship" seems to be giving the right whatever they want without much of a fight. This compromise does more of the same.

After the perfunctory pats on the back Rauch and Blankenhorn give themselves for being so high-minded as to reach an accord (because sometimes conservatives disagree, and it's just so terrible for the nation to have to live through that!), their proposal asks us to support civil unions under the condition that "robust" right of conscience protections are given to religious organizations.

Same-sex marriage is already the compromise position. Civil unions is a compromise between that and what the right wants: no recognition of same-sex couples at all. Throwing in the right of conscience exemption is just another way for the left on this issue to cave in to the right, moving the debate further in their direction. Moreover, right of conscience rules are a huge regression for liberals, not a step in the right direction.

Right of conscience rules exist already in many states so that doctors can refuse medical treatment to women based on their personal morality, and which the Bush Department of Health and Human Services further expanded towards the end of his lame duck period by allowing pretty much anyone who works in a clinic to refuse anything they deem to be abortion (which includes contraception).

These rules are based on the idea that the far-right is in the process of entrenching that if you really, really don't want to follow a law, you don't have to. And if you're a church, the government shouldn't be able to make you do anything. It's a way of expanding their power and getting us all used to the idea that religious organizations (specifically their religious organizations) are above the law.

And it's all for the purpose of protecting discriminatory attitudes and subjugating women. It's a process argument, much like "judicial activists" and "state rights," that's nothing more than a veneer for ideas that we should be fighting against, not appeasing.

Further, as Nan Hunter stated earlier today:

It was striking to me that the op-ed completely omitted any discussion of the impact when non-church (etc) entities - like charities or hospitals with a religious affiliation - accept public funds. When all of our tax dollars are supporting these organizations, then all of us have a legitimate concern about the services they provide.

Indeed. It's almost as if this "compromise" was written by two people who really don't care about the separation of church and state, or any other progressive value for that matter.

It'd be nice if the compromises these pundits fall backwards over each other to congratulate themselves for would actually involve the left at all. But I guess they cut out the step of waiting for the left to cave to the right and decided to find a compromise amongst themselves. They're practical that way.

And while Rauch and Blankenhorn dismiss people who actually have values by referring to themselves as "reasonable people of good will" (because people who stick to their goals are unreasonable or acting out of ill will?) they show what their "good will" actually amounts to:

What if a church auxiliary or charity is told it must grant spousal benefits to a secretary who marries her same-sex partner or else face legal penalties for discrimination based on sexual orientation or marital status?

OMFG THE HORROR! A church might be expected to help someone get medical help. What kind of world do we live in where fine, upstanding religious folks are expected to take part in such filthy acts like paying for their employees' families health care?

Now I'm totally in favor of separating health care from marital status as well as employment status. I don't have health care when I'm in the US (or here either, at the moment), and marrying someone isn't going to solve that. I agree with Nan's policy-level objections, and agree that many of the rights associated with marriage should be expanded beyond marriage to many relationship that are important to people, and that civil unions should be created both federally and at the state-level, open to all people who want to enter them.

I also agree with Jack Drescher that compromise is sometimes necessary, and that there's no sense in looking down our noses at civil unions that can provide many of the rights same-sex couples need sooner.

But this proposal isn't a compromise, and it isn't a step in the right direction. It's right-wing position paper posing as a right-left compromise, helping to move the debate far in the favor of the Religious Right.

And there's no guarantee that they'd accept it. James Dobson and Tony Perkins, who have loads more influence among the Religious Right than David Blankenhorn does, just put this out today:

Three states voted in November to define marriage in their constitutions as the union of one man and one woman. But family advocates have had little time to celebrate.

Across the nation, a new wave of legislation is threatening the definition of marriage.

"As we speak, a dozen or so states are on high alert for legislation that could radically alter the family," said Tony Perkins, president of FRC Action. "Unless you and your church family engage, we stand to lose a lot of important ground."

In the Northeast, several states seem set on legalizing homosexual "marriage," including Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Hawaii and Washington are looking to sanction civil unions, while Colorado and New Mexico soon could take up domestic-partnership legislation -- all of which would grant some or all of the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples.

Jenny Tyree, marriage analyst at Focus on the Family Action, said there's no doubt that civil-union and domestic-partnership bills act as stepping stones toward the redefinition of marriage.

"These bills are advanced to promote an agenda that ignores the stabilizing influence of marriage for children, adults and our economy," she said.

"Our country is in a period of economic uncertainty, and people should contact their state legislators and urge them to promote family and societal stability."

And the claim that the biggest objection these folks have to same-sex marriage is that religious institutions might be forced to recognize a same-sex marriage is laughable. They're homophobic and think that society will fall apart if homosexual relationships are recognized by the government. They're also Randian, free market fetishists who like to keep us, and everything related to the decline of Rockefeller-esque nuclear families, as a scapegoat for everything wrong in society so that people don't notice what rich folks are doing to shore up wealth.

And their followers are all too ready to fall in line. The best way to go is to push for civil unions first, as well as for the expansion of many of the rights of marriage to include many relationships outside of marriage.

But thinking that a right of conscience exemption has to come with civil unions is absurd. Even statistics Rauch and Blankenhorn cite show that support for civil unions is high enough to get them passed. There's no need to further expand right of conscience rules and further normalize the idea that churches don't have to follow the same rules the rest of us rubes have to follow.

There's no need for this kind of compromise, and the Religious Right sees it the same way too. The only folks who think of it differently are the compromise-for-the-sake-of-compromise seekers who are more concerned with stopping "a scorched-earth debate" than they are with the material protections that all sorts of families need in America.

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Who empowered these two men to even offer a proposal publically on our behalf? It undercuts our position and settles the negotiating point at far less than equality before we even begin to talk.

No one asked any Lesbian mother whose partner has no rights to her children should she become ill, incapicated or die; no one asked the Lesbian who could be refused visitation to a partner by this, no one asked Lesbians who would benefit from partner's benefits when that partner is employed by the secular subsidiaries of churches, such as the publically funded faith based intitiative programmes?

And while we are on the subject of arrogating the power to deny rights to others, who asked the Lesbians about stripping gender expression from ENDA when HRC decided to give Congress the grewen light to do so, despite the numbers of Lesbians that would have been left unprotected.

Just more of the same from an accomodationist elitist group of "good gays" of the sort that have sold us out over and over again and preached incessantly on blogs of the "dangers" of the protests of Stonewall 2.0, preferring us to leave things to their judgement.

Well, if this is what leaving things to the conserva-queers will get us, just colour me a Lesbian Anarchist.

The original title of this post was "Who died and left Jonathan Rauch in charge speaking for queers everywhere?" I went in a different direction, but you're right: the arrogance on display here, as well as the entitlement, are breath-taking.

Alex, as usual, you are brilliant. There is absolutely nothing I can closed.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | February 23, 2009 10:27 PM

There is a fine line between brilliance and sanity. If you think you are patient enough to get votes to go your way have at it! As I know how to count I remain skeptical. This is only a proposal by a couple of columnists, not a fact, and it would be an immediate improvement.

I have said before. It is about children, parental rights, stability and basic human rights first. Nice feelings later. Are you talking about changing, what, 1,500 laws or make one imperfect accommodation on the way to change that will allow more people to be "out" and known. Familiarity breeds more understanding between people. I addressed college psychology classes before the APA change so I have a lot of faith in that.

As a privileged white person you have no idea of what real discrimination means. African Americans spent 99 years of "freedom" before they obtained even a partial enfranchisement. Homophobia will fall and the situation will improve incrementally.

As a privileged white person you have no idea of what real discrimination means. African Americans spent 99 years of "freedom" before they obtained even a partial enfranchisement.

Please, Robert, explain the Black Experience for all of us! We'd like to understand more.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | February 24, 2009 10:45 AM

How many African Americans have you employed,(four for me) shared classrooms with since kindergarden,(too many to count) lived in their neighborhoods for five decades, played with them as children, sponsored them in special Olympics and Little League, worked with them in community organizations to keep their children safe from gangs and drugs?

How many black children have been adopted into your family? (two in my case) How many nephews do you have who are mixed race. I have a great nephew. How many funerals have you attended for black people? (so many I can't recall)

How many black people have you rented an apartment to treating them completely as an equal?

Their example as an underclass of America for 100 years following "freedom," gaining small incremental victories since, have led us to where a proud black man can rise to today. We should expect no less and will, in fact, have an easier road to follow than they did.

Really, Robert?
No idea what discrimination means?

Try being imprisoned and sentenced to hard labour without trial for speaking your mind as a woman.

Try being first a legally exiled and then a socially exiled woman, forbidden to reenter your native country.

I am happy that you know the inner workings of discrimination thanks to your role as benefactor and employer. But you get a different take on it when you are cowering on the floor while some beats you with a cane. Something happens within you, flames are lit, that crackle and speak the phrase"freedom and equality"

This proposal gives us neither.
And I will keep fighting til we have both.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | February 24, 2009 8:07 PM

Maura, I doubt this description applies to the author of this piece either.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | February 24, 2009 8:41 PM

Another difference is that persons of color have no ability to blend into the larger group as so many Gay persons have done. They have a common bond that unites them in ways I wish GLBT persons could only learn. Measured in the shrill tones there is much we could do to improve community. Learning to accept improvements and moving on the the next fight with a plan would build bridges rather than roadblocks.

I am no ones benefactor and I am honored and enriched by the opportunity to be fair to my fellow person. I and my partner lived openly together while we both fought for what we believed and acted rather than spoke. I will admit that I certainly "dropped out" of the Gay struggle years ago. It is simple, talent goes to where it is appreciated and can see progress. Whatever small talent I offer has not been wasted. Injustice to anyone is unfair to everyone and corrections to this are seldom by some magical universal sudden change. They are incremental, but they have the advantage of truly helping everyone, even to give them hope. And I would add that I have every idea of what discrimination means. I never discuss when I have been discriminated against myself. I do not accept being a victim and forge on.

my apologies for being snarky Robert,
I am a bit rigid when it comes to any kind of compromise on human rights

I have two things to say:

(1) This "compromise" is actually no compromise at all, because I know of no court decision, ballot initiative, or legislative bill that seeks to force any religious organization to recognize same-sex marriage. If the RR wingnuts would read the wording, they would understand that.

(2) If we can get nation-wide same-sex marriages (or civil unions) via the political ploy of calling this a "compromise" --- Hell, let's go for it! A substantial portion of us have a kiss-my-ass attitude toward most religious groups anyway.

The strategy is absolutely insane. The result could be very close to exactly what we want.

Boot the religious exemptions and it's a fine compromise actually. The exemptions from basic civil rights is what gets my goat.

Haha, and what gets mine is more the way it was written.

Bil and Alex and anyone else: Forgive me if I am being just plain thick-headed, but what exactly would the "religious exemptions" do that you so strongly object to?

(1) No law could require that any church recognize any marriage --- that would be unconstitutional, and I would oppose this myself --- so I assume we're all clear on that.

(2) Are we saying that if a G/L employee of a church organization is in a same-sex relationship, then that employer does not have to supply, say, health insurance for the legally recognized same-sex partner, even though a secular employer in the same situation would be so required?

Well, if that is the problem, then it is similar to a conservative pharmacist not having to dispense contraceptives or the "morning after" pill. Although we may not like them, such exceptions already exist and act as precedents. We have already gone down this road more than once (I could point out other examples, but I'll move on) --- and why aren't people in our movement, and similar progressive movements, raising Hell about that? Why is our movement so sacro-sanct, but it's OK if other contentious issues resort to compromise?

(Actually, I have mixed feelings about this, and I'm playing Devil's advocate here. There are also "shades of gray" at play --- a Catholic group refusing to pay domestic partner benefits and a Catholic hospital not allowing a man to visit his same-sex spouse can easily be framed as two fundamentally different issues.)

The only civil unons that will be recognized by the fed are those in states having marriage or civil unions. This is a weak compromise that will lead to decades of enforced second class status

beachcomberT | February 24, 2009 5:28 AM

So a couple of pundits want us to settle for the half slave, half free model of the pre-Lincoln era? I cannot understand how this could be a workable solution. Would gay retired couples in Florida have to move to Massachusetts so they could get Social Security survivor benefits? Would gays in Georgia have to crowd into Connecticut so they could get the tax benefits of claiming a spouse as a dependent? Here's a clue: Federal "rights" apply nationwide or else they violate the Equal Protection Amendment.
As for the robust church conscience protection baloney, what's wrong with the good old First Amendment that says Congress will neither establish religion nor deny people the right to practice it. Those Christianists who don't care about the Constitution and prefer idolizing the Bible can take their guidance from the "Render unto Caesar" verse.

Austin Crowder | February 24, 2009 7:51 AM

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is a very, very good sign. Not because the Right is actually caving to social liberalism, or that people are actually discussing same-sex partnerships. The key to the news blip is this: the Religious Right are clawing for a foothold -- _any_ foothold -- to stem the tide.

There isn't much compromise in a two-party system. When one party holds a majority they receive a sort of "golden ticket," assuming that everyone tows the party line. Ideologically congruent bills pass with little effort. Compromise is reserved for positions of weakness and for large, important decisions that must be unilateral.

So the Religious Right are staring down a mean trifecta:

1. The congress is Democratic.

2. The president is Democratic.

3. Public opinion favors same-sex partnership benefits.

This compromise should be framed as a fifth-grader saying, "Okay, you won the game, but _only_ because I had something in my eye!" Their attempts at compromise show weakness.

The blood, my friends, is most certainly in the water. Now is not the time to be spooked out of our boots by whatever the mean, nasty Religious Righties have to say.

That's a good point, Austen - I hadn't thought of it that way!

It sounds a lot more like rolling over on our backs and letting the Religious Right have 90% of what they want,


And there's no guarantee that they'd accept it.

You are, of course, contradicting yourself. You're saying "it's not a compromise because it's giving them what they want" and then saying "it's not giving them enough of what they want that they would accept it."

The meaning of "compromise" is that everybody gets some of what they want, no one gets all of what they want. You're free to reject this proposal as inadequate, as are Mr. Perkins, Dobson, etc., but I would appreciate it if you would be honest about your rejection. You are only hurting any chance of reasonable discussion about what options might be on the table by trying to claim that this proposal isn't any sort of compromise at all.

Alas, I'm pretty sure that's your goal, since it's usually the goal of extremists on either side of an issue. I'm sure you're right that Perkins and Dobson wouldn't accept this, but I doubt they would mis-characterize the nature of the proposal in doing so. One thing I have always appreciated about the extreme right-wing positions on sexuality is that they are very clear about what kind of world they want to force us to live in and how they want to do it. The extreme left-wing positions, on the other hand, are often muddled with falsehoods and disingenuous claims.

That makes no sense. It's 90% of what they want. They want 100%, which is what they have right now.

And I'm being completely honest about my rejection, thank you very much. Yes, I suppose this is a sort of compromise, but it's not at all a 50/50 compromise.

But thanks for bringing in the Tony Perkins and James Dobson viewpoint into this conversation.

When did demanding my rights as a citizen suddenly become extremism?

When did insisting upon true equality become extremism?

If demanding equality is "extreme", then what is total non-compliance with ALL local, state, and federal government (reciprocating the treatment we receive legally) and sitting on the porch with a .45 waiting for the tax man to come? - cuz I'm seriously getting there....

By Carlos T Mock, MD
February 24, 2009

I find myself boggled that anyone in their right mind would accept this proposal as a “compromise”

The case for allowing gays to marry begins with equality, pure and simple.

In Loving v. Virginia, (1967) where The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions in a unanimous decision, dismissing the Commonwealth of Virginia's argument that a law forbidding both white and black persons from marrying persons of another race, and providing identical penalties to white and black violators, could not be construed as racially discriminatory. The court ruled that Virginia's anti-miscegenation statute violated both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In the Court's decision, Chief Justice Warren wrote:
“Marriage is one of 'the basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival . . . To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law.”

The Gay and Lesbian community is not asking for the right to have religious organizations recognize their unions. As a matter of fact, some religions are already performing same sex marriages: both the Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish movements support gay and lesbian rights, including the right of same-sex couples to wed; In 1996, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations passed a resolution in support of same-sex marriage; In 2005, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ voted to legally recognize and advocate in favor of same-sex marriage.

However, in spite of the wonderful ability to wed in these religious ceremonies, Gay and Lesbian couples get no civil rights through them.

As a nation that was built in the separation of Church and State, Gays and lesbians are not trying to force any religious institution to recognize our marriages (really, we don’t care!)—just the federal and state governments. Gay and lesbian Americans feel they need and deserve the perquisites and protections that accompany a civil legal marriage. Federal law links many important perquisites to marital status, including Social Security survivor benefits, tax-free inheritance, spousal immigration rights and protections against mutual incrimination. All of these benefits are currently denied to same-sex couples, even those living in states that permit same-sex marriage or civil unions.

In 2003, the U. S. Supreme court Lawrence v. Texas Sodomy declared unconstitutional sodomy laws. The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, explicitly reversed Bowers v. Hardwick. (On June 30, 1986, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick, that homosexual citizens had no constitutional right to privacy.) What is significant about this decision is that under the common law, the existence of rights of sexual partners are recognized through the marriage contract. That is, in common law there is no stand-alone right to engage in sexual activity, be they male or female, adult or minor. But, it is a basic legal principle under the common and statutory laws that everything that is not forbidden by the common and statutory law is allowed. As sexual acts usually take place in private, few cases involving engagement in sodomy and fornication come before the courts, and no precedent was established under the common law forbidding fornication; with sodomy, the common law is mixed. This was most notable in Judge Scalia dissension: with this decision, Scalia concluded, the Court "has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda." While Scalia said that he has "nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means," Scalia argued that the Court has an obligation to decide cases neutrally. In Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, a later case decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, held that the Massachusetts Constitution requires that marriage be available to homosexual as well as heterosexual couples.

Now that The Lawrence decision has made our relationships “officially” legal—our rights need protection like those of any other U. S. citizen—therefore the 14th Amendment to the constitution applies fully to homosexuals: this amendment provides a broad definition of citizenship, overruling Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) which had excluded slaves and their descendants from possessing Constitutional rights. The amendment requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all persons within their jurisdictions and was used in the mid-20th century to dismantle racial segregation in the United States, as in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Its Due Process Clause has been the basis of much important and controversial case law regarding privacy rights, abortion (Roe v. Wade), and other issues.

This is the only legal compromise for same sex “civil “marriages—we are legal citizens of the U. S. of A. and pay taxes and FICA like every other citizen in the country. Until we are allowed the “civil right” to wed, we will be second class citizens—we will be deprived of more than 1,138 federal rights that accompany civil marriage, and some additional 300-600 per individual state. That means your run-of-the-mill-marriage-license-carrying heterosexual couple has access to over 1,400 rights, benefits, and protections that gay and lesbian citizens are unable to obtain! This is a clear violation of the 14th amendment to the U. S. Constitution that provides equal protection under the law to all persons regardless of sexual preference or gender orientation!

Carlos Mock, MD has published three books and is the Floricanto Press editor for its GLBT series. He was inducted in the Chicago Gay & Lesbian Hall of Fame in October of 2007. He grew up middle-class in the suburbs of San Juan, Puerto Rico. His website is: