Sunday, December 18, 2011
Shocked but Not Awed: Anti-Gay Bias in US Politics
On Monday December 12 Mitt Romney sat down at the Chez Vachon restaurant in New Hampshire next to Bob Garon, a sixty-three year old gruff looking army veteran wearing a Vietnam veteran hat and plaid jacket. After introductory pleasantries, Bob Garon asked Romney whether he supported the repeal of the same sex marriage law in New Hampshire and whether he was in favor of the military denying spousal benefits to same sex spouses. Romney said he did favor the repeal and the denial of benefits, because “marriage is between a man and a woman”. It was ironic and sad to see Mitt Romney tell an army vet who had served his country that the vet’s spouse deserved no federal benefits because Mitt did not approve of the marriage. Mitt is approximately the same age as Bob Garon, but arranged to avoid military service for himself. Apparently the irony was lost on Mitt.
Of course, Mitt Romney is not alone among Republican Presidential candidates in his views. Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, as well as Mitt Romney have all signed the National Organization for Marriage pledge to support a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and to appoint judges who will oppose gay marriage. Joining this group are a majority of the Republican members of Congress, the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, many Protestant churches, Islamic organizations, Orthodox Jewish organizations, etc.
After centuries of turmoil, and enormous suffering, the US has finally recognized that members of all races and genders are entitled to equal civil rights. It is shocking that now Republican candidates for President, a majority of the Republican members of Congress, religious and secular organizations, are openly devoting their efforts to denying civil rights to another minority group. The “pro-family” Republicans are devoting their efforts to ensuring that a minority group is denied the ability to marry and form families. The “anti-government” Republicans are devoting their efforts to insert the federal government into the most private of relationships. How would these righteous Republicans, religious devotees, and “pro-family” activists react if the federal government decided it should have the right to judge and dissolve their marriages?
The facts are that gender preference is overwhelmingly biological in origin and not amenable to change. In this regard gender preference is like skin color. (In contrast, Republicans support the notion that employees should be able to refuse to perform almost any function they wish if they state that their refusal is based on religious beliefs. Whatever one thinks of the merit of such a position, religion - unlike skin color and gender preference - is a voluntary choice that people make. If one advocates granting protections for individuals’ voluntary choices, one should certainly grant protections for factors over which individuals do not have control.) Same sex preference has been present in all societies for all of recorded human history. Although estimates vary, approximately five percent of individuals are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Gay individuals overall function just as well as straight individuals in the workplace and in the community. Same sex couples are just as effective as parents as heterosexual couples.
Although some heterosexual individuals at a visceral level may react negatively to same sex relationships, it does not take much in the way of academic virtuosity to understand that some individuals are just as attracted to members of the same sex, as heterosexuals are attracted to members of the opposite sex. The general public is ahead of the Republicans in this regard, a majority now favoring same sex marriage. There is a strong correlation with age in terms of attitude to same sex marriage, with younger people being much more accepting. This suggests that some individuals’ “visceral” aversion to same-sex relationships is, at least partly, a learned attitude. It also suggests that over time the societal attitude will continue to swing to a larger majority supporting same sex marriage.
Hillary Clinton delivered a powerful UN speech on the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifying gay rights as human rights. She was correct. President Obama, while doing more than any previous US President to support gay rights, still has not voiced his personal support for same sex marriage. US Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos who had testified in opposition to the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy of the US military, now states that the repeal has in fact gone extremely well and from a military perspective was a non-event.
Allowing gays to marry will not in the least negatively affect my marriage or the marriage of any other heterosexual couple. That certainly has been the experience in Massachusetts – the first US state to institute same sex marriage. While same sex marriage has no adverse effects on heterosexual marriage, the absence of same sex marriage - and the rights normally associated with marriage - is devastating to those involved. The adverse effects on gay families include not only lack of public recognition of their families, but also very practical matters such as tax benefits, pension benefits, health benefits, hospital visitation rights, etc.
Individuals who are not in favor of gay marriage should marry someone of the opposite sex. Let other individuals make their own choice and form their own families.
The hostile attitude to gays and same sex marriage is, at its core, simply bigotry. The same bigotry that over the centuries – depending on circumstance - has targeted women, Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Africans, Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics, Irish, Poles, Italians, etc.
State anti-miscegenation laws banning marriage between blacks and whites were struck down by the US Supreme Court only in 1967 in Loving vs Virginia. This decision is now universally accepted as correct; anyone who would publicly oppose this decision in the current time would be appropriately labeled as a bigot. Given this history, it is inconceivable to me that a prominent group of individuals and organizations in the US would currently band together to target another minority group and deny them the most basic of civil rights – the right to marry and form families. When the history of our time is written, these individuals and organizations will go down as the bigots of our era alongside the haters of previous generations.