Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bad Ideas in Today's NY Times

I can't really conceive of these intellectually compromised men being taken seriously as having the right they're claiming here, to waive civil equality for my kid. But their work product is published in today's Times.

So I'm replying with an open letter to Jonathan Raush, whom I once respected:


You apparently think that because you're gay and a conservative philosopher, you can understand both sides of a debate that doesn't exist.

You've imagined up a compromise between real families, like mine, and imaginary people of good will who fear something that can't happen.

These imaginary opponents of marriage equality are so scared of being forced to treat my family as equal to one that their churches endorse, they are willing to let me exchange my child's right to her inheritance for their bad dreams to stop.

What a deal! Where do I sign?

Seriously, Jonathan, you owe me an apology.

I have quite a bit of experience engaging politically with the extremists who wish to limit my rights to conform with their religion. You either know less about them than I do, or you're deeply irresponsible.

First, you failed to lead your editorial with the fact that you get paid to spin ideas by a center-right think tank, as their token homosexual. This itself speaks of bad faith, but I won't speculate further on what personal circumstance might have led you to think that publishing this piece was wise or even ethical.

Your motive to keep your job is obvious, in a time when national organizations fighting for gay rights are desperately gutting their budgets to stay afloat. I'm not opposed to anyone selling his services to a willing customer. However, it's indicative of your influence among gay people that no group organizing for our families was interested in paying you to promote this strange idea of compromise, even back when they had plenty of money.

Regardless, it is evident that you need to be publicly criticized, so that future attempts to give away the store on behalf of our movement will be understood as the empty gesture that they are.

So let us begin with the common ground: I understand that it's tempting to propose compromise with people who are impervious to legal, logical and humanitarian claims for our equality. I too want my friends living in Florida to have basic rights to hospital visitation and Social Security benefits.

But I'm not naive enough to expect the other side, which is imposing the 'nothing' my friends have now, to hold up their end of a compromise enforcing those basic rights throughout this country.

You've failed to understand the extremism of those who claim that marriage is their sticking point with the gay-rights movement. You cite a couple of so-called 'problems' that civil marriage equality creates for religious organizations, but they're cherry-picked to make this silly compromise a solution.

Yes, Jonathan, some religions want the right to waive equal-employment laws for gay couples, just as they already do with gay individuals. But churches have that right, today.

Yet they fight tooth and nail against any protections for our families whatever. (See the NM, HI, NH, ME, or NY state legislatures for more data on this point.)

That tells me your contacts in the religious right, including your co-author, have identified you as a convenient sucker who is so ignorant of what's happening in our fight for equal citizenship that you'll buy anything.

We are fighting for a right that has been recognized as so basic, convicted murderers are entitled to exercise it; our opponents are a tax-exempt movement of anti-American extremists. They will not accept that their dogma is merely one set of beliefs that deserves respect from a pluralistic society.

Listen to them. Read Rick Warren's sermons. Read the Alliance for Marriage's brief on the Iowa marriage case. I'm not alleging a conspiracy; they will happily, openly tell you that they want to live in a Christian nation. I don't. Do you?

I have been fighting these retrograde fantasists for 15 years, and I know them. Some of them are nice enough people, who want every child to be born healthy to two married, church-going parents. That's a fine thing to want, and they're not wrong to want it. But it's not going to happen, regardless of what laws we pass about marriage as they conceive it being special and holy.

And anyone who is asking for the state to single out my family to be mistreated, because their God doesn't recognize my marriage, is engaging in discrimination of the foulest kind. They've identified our families as acceptable to stigmatize, unlike single parents, divorced parents, adoptive families or infertile couples--all of which are equally debased by extreme interpretations of Christianity.

They are political extremists who want this country to waive the 14th Amendment any time it conflicts with one of their beliefs. They will speak any lie, in violation of their own Commandments, to accomplish this goal. (Again, see the state legislatures and court cases where they expound truthfully on their beliefs and falsely about the scientific support for those beliefs.)

That is who we're dealing with, and that's why I don't have to reject your compromise--they will.

Once they get a federal law that indicates Congress's intent to legislate the dissent in Lawrence, we've given up all of our leverage in the federal courts for a generation or more.

By proposing compromise with the extremists, you've conceded that Scalia's opinion in both Bowers and Lawrence was correct--that indeed there is a gay exception to Constitutional protections, because some people find gay sex icky. As long as they deeply believe that God agrees with them, they have a point, according to the logic you've adopted.

Where do our efforts to enforce existing employment protections at the state level go from that point--let alone the movement for ENDA? Housing protections? Where does this slippery slope end?

Because political history indicates that we're close to a win--we can reverse the federal DOMA and within a decade will get our Loving--this compromise would be outdated even if the claims against civil marriage equality were being made in good faith, which they aren't.

Today it's not necessary to cede our fundamental equality in order to win. It is simply necessary to continue with what we're doing and stop giving away ground by suggesting that we haven't already met our opposition in the middle. Every time I pay my Social Security tax, Jonathan, I'm making a real compromise. My family can't currently benefit from that social safety net, yet I'm funding it out of my pocket--that IS the middle ground and it's wrong, unacceptable and unconstitutional.

In closing, Jonathan, the right thing to do is clear: Donate the three pieces of silver that you were paid for this excreble mess to the Freedom to Marry Foundation.

Then sit quietly and let the responsible adults address this issue in the future.


Anonymous said...

Bravo, Phoenix. I am linking to my own lj and posting in Shakesville's blogaround tomorrow.

Sabertooth Screaming Lemur said...

Thank you for this post. I hope you send this letter to the NY Times and anyone else who might publish it.