What Happens When Marriage Isn't Protected in the State Constitution?

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Maggie Gallagher is on the front lines of the battle for marriage and religious liberty, witnessing first hand the impact of judicially recognized same-sex marriage in Massachusetts (due to the failure of the state to enact a Marriage Protection Amendment similar to the one before Virginians this November). Yesterday she covered this story of a firefighter who lost his job for signing a petition opposing same-sex marriage. Today Gallagher discusses the persecution of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts due to its firm support of traditional marriage (first reported here in the Boston Globe):

The question in Boston is not whether gays are going to be allowed legally to adopt. It is whether religious people who morally object to gay adoption will be allowed to help children find homes. This is not about gay adoption—it is about our fundamental commitment to religious liberty in this country.

It is a crime to run an adoption agency in Massachusetts without a license from the state. To get a license you have to agree to place children with same-sex couples. For the first time in America, Christians are being told by their government that they are not good citizens, not worthy enough to be permitted to help abandoned babies find good homes.

At least twenty other states have similar anti-discrimination laws on orientation. What makes Massachusetts unique, though, is same-sex “marriage.” In other states, marriage could provide a “safe harbor” for Christian and other religious organizations. Faith-based organizations could run adoption agencies that specialize in placing children in married homes. But, of course, in Massachusetts, that would also require Christian or other religious organizations to place children in same-sex homes.

And it is not just adoption licenses. What we are witnessing is the unfolding of the logic that gay “marriage” is a civil right. People who believe marriage is the union of husband and wife must (if courts rule this way) be treated like racists by their own government. The potential punishment the state could impose on faith groups is enormous: yanking radio broadcasting licenses, professional licenses (marriage counselors, social workers, psychologists), and the state accreditation of Christian (or other religious) schools and universities. And yes, the tax-exempt status of organizations of faithful Christians and other people of good will are at risk. [Emphasis mine]

Virginia needs to support the Marriage Amendment this fall to ensure that some activist judge is not permitted to radically redefine marriage in the Commonwealth and thus unleash countless attacks on people of faith and even secular citizens who simply believe marriage is, as it has been understood for millennium, between one man and one woman. Gallagher gives us this excellent summary of what is at stake in the marriage debate, directly applicable to Virginia:

What is at stake in the marriage debate? Among other things, it is now clear: the capacity of Christian and other religious organizations to pass on a faithful vision of marriage to our own children, through religious institutions. Religious liberty is at risk. How can we fail to act?

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25 Comments

Terry M said:

I'm glad to see you finally understand this is more about protecting legal and civil rights for gay Americans, than about protecting opposite sex marriage. You are right that others in our country believe in fairness in our laws. We actually believe that the government should not recognize or protect those organizations that promote discrimination. Your dire warnings about what else will happen are a bit too dramatic.

You will always have the freedon to practice whatever religion you want to in this country, regardless of how restrictive it is, but you do not have the right to use a state license to discriminate against other people in a state regulated process like adoption. It should be about what is best for the child. Many of the children that gay couples want to adopt are special needs kids or the offspring of one of the gay partners in question. So you would rather keep a child from being adopted by their own family or kept in an orphanage, because no one wants them except the gay couple, just to enforce your religious prejudice?? How sad.

And just explain to me why the Bible passages about gays are so much more important and threatening than all those other condemnations found in the same chapters..?? Do you really follow EVERY rule in Leviticus as passionately as you spread anti-gay half-truths and scare messages??

Sophrosyne said:

Terry,

Thank you for coming to our site and for posting. Without delving too much into your rhetoric (i.e. simply throwing out words such as “civil rights” “anti-gay” etc…) I do want to address some of what you said.

1) You calmly reassure those of us who believe in marriage (as it has been defined for millennium) that we will “always have the freedom to practice whatever religion you want to in this country.” Ummm… did you read anything about what is happening in Massachusetts? The Catholic Church (and its members) ALREADY are losing the freedom to fully practice their religion! Right now, practicing Catholics who believe in marriage cannot practice the charity their faith calls them to practice because, thanks to the legal advent of same-sex “marriage,” such activity is outlawed. This is not a theoretical discussion, it is reality.

In assuring us that what is already happening won’t happen, you also toss out the usual argument that conservatives such as myself would rather keep children in an orphanage than find them a home. I find this particularly absurd because in this case it is you who are arguing that Catholic Charities should not be able to engage in the adoption business in a manner consistent with the Church’s religious values. If you read the article linked in my post you would see that “of ninety-one children adopted from the state Department of Social Services through private agencies last year, twenty-eight were helped by Catholic Charities, and many of these were the hard-to-place children: older children, sibling groups, and handicapped kids.” Just read the quotes from Marylou Sudders of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children or Paula Wisnewski of Boston’s Home for Little Wanderers. Anyone with a true interest in finding children permanent homes is appalled at the fact that Catholic Charities have been run out of the adoption business simply because of their religious faith.

Looking to place children in a home with a mother and a father is NOT discrimination and less children will have homes as a result of same-sex marriage advocates efforts to radically redefine marriage by judicial decree under the false banner of a “civil right” (obviously this has nothing to do with civil rights since the fight is over what IS marriage, now WHO can marry… anyone can marry unlike the dark days when interracial marriage was banned).

2) I am glad that, despite your assurances to the contrary, you make your agenda quite clear. In saying “We actually believe that the government should not recognize or protect those organizations that promote discrimination” you are admitting that all those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman should stripped of their recognition (presumably tax exempt status for churches?) and denied any protection of their religious (and civil) liberties. Obviously this issue isn’t the “No Fault Freedom” issue some would like to believe, with no impact outside of “permitting loving same-sex couples to gain the legal and social benefits of marriage.”

3) As to your Biblical reference to Liviticus. I never mentioned or quoted any Scripture. Sure, some Old Testament chapters (as well as New Testament chapters) influence various churches’ views on the issue but there is much more to it than that. The bottom line is, as many peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated, that children should NEVER be willfully denied a mother or a father. Gender differences are real, despite what some would like to believe, and study after study demonstrates that children are healthiest when raised with a mom and a dad.

Anyways, thank you for commenting on NOVA Townhall. I look forward to continuing this dialogue as we head into the November elections. The case for the Marriage Amendment is crystal clear and I believe, given sufficient information and facts (such as what is happening in Massachusetts right now), Virginians will resoundingly support the Marriage Amendment on Election Day. I just hope the dialogue leading up to the vote can be respectful and free of the religious bigotry so often seen when discussing the protection of marriage. Just because someone believes a child deserves a mom and a dad, and that marriage is a union of one man and one woman does not make them a bigot.

Terry M said:

Sophie,

I was sure I tried to stay away from using bigot. Not something I would call a religious person without merit. Some of my best friends are Christians, not that there is anything wrong with that.

I'd like to continue the dialogue even if you want to avoid the biblical part of the pro-amendment argument. Maybe you can help me with that offline. I can understand why some Christians don't want to get into that too deeply in public..pull out a few bricks and the whole building comes tumbling down.

The point here is that like any good political activist you are trying to find as many and any weapon you can to beat the anti-amendment side at the polls. The more you can tie legal recognition of gay relationships to the destruction of the family or religious liberty or some threat to children, your side wins. Distract the confused public with scare tactics cause you know your argument won't stand up in court.

Which is why you want to change the rules in the first place..to put off defeat as long as possible. This amendment will most likely pass and delay justice for a number of years, but we will win in the end. Real truth usually does.

I do have to admire the ability of your side to erect so many hurdles in our way and to do so in the guise of "persecuted victim". How 90% plus of the public who claim to believe in God and most of them, Jesus, can also be a persecuted minority is really spectacular. Getting the Virginia AG to force pro-amendment language into the official election explanation document that goes INSIDE the polls in the Fall really showcased your power over the Assembly and hard-ball play. Beautiful political spin worthy of Karl Rove! No wonder the House was so quick to reverse course and include the entire amendment text on the ballot...you had this Ace in the sleeve the whole time.

Just a shame that we can't all find some common ground for you and us to direct all this passion. Agree to disagree, and focus on things we do agree on. Like finding homes for kids. Helping the sick, the elderly, the poor, saving the environment. And protecting all of America's freedoms. Espcially the important one that guarentees freedom OF and FROM Religion. But everyone's heaven is somebody's hell, right? ;-)

Sophrosyne said:

Terry,

"Distract the confused public with scare tactics"

Funny, that is how I view the same-sex marriage advocates' argument that the Marriage Amendment will shatter all contract rights & dissolve all domestic abuse legislation across the Commonwealth (often incorrectly citing Ohio's pending litigation as an example... Ohio's domestic abuse law includes a fairly unique marriage reference that we don't have in Virginia). I believe the factual examples I provided are far from a scare tactic, they are real threats to Virginians if we do not protect and define Marriage in the Constitution. Same-sex “marriage” advocates are the ones engaging in a war of distortions and scare tactics because they know that is the only way they will succeed.

Also, as to your comment "How 90% plus of the public who claim to believe in God and most of them, Jesus, can also be a persecuted minority is really spectacular." Where did I say anything about Christians being a minority? Of course Christians and those who believe in marriage as it has been defined for millennium aren’t the minority, they are the majority… thus the need for same-sex activists to go around democracy and shop for activist judges to advance their agenda. However, you don’t have to be in the minority to be persecuted or penalized… and that is exactly what is happening to Catholic Charities in Massachusetts because they refuse to abandon their faith and embrace the radical redefinition of marriage.

Anyways, I really do appreciate your willingness to engage in this dialogue in a civil manner and I look forward to continuing it. I hope to address some more issues within your comments very soon.

NavyHelo said:

"For every complex and difficult problem, there is a simple solution, which is usually wrong"

Interesting discussion.

The posts here point to the desirability of Americans respectfully and carefully considering both sides of issues like this, hopefully minus the rancor and name-calling!

Look -

Take whatever position you want on same sex marriage, civil unions, or whatever....

But this post suggests that there will be some sort of negative consequence if gays marry. It cites some supposed intimidation...

I need more evidence. I want to see the moral fabric of society crumble before I believe you...

TerryM said:

Sophie,

The anti-amendment side has to focus on the possible legal impacts because of the over reach by the amendment authors. Believe me, it is a challenge to have to convince people to vote no in order to support marriage equality for gays. Something the other side has played well politically...you only have to say vote Yes for marriage to push your agenda.

No one really knows what the full impact will be of the second paragraph in the text. The AG only recently gave his opinion, but that is not necessarily how it will be interpreted by a judge (activist judge label cuts both ways, doesn't it) and certainly not binding as law. The real threat to us is the potential under this law that a distant family member could try to intervene during a medical emergency or death of one of the gay partners. We have seen this in the past with couples who did not have any legal contracts to "prove" the relationship. Even if we do get the legal paperwork done, banks, hospitals, businesses, etc. can choose to honor or ignore power of attorney or wills if there is a challenge by a "family" member. That is a gay couple's worst nightmare.

The problem with this amendment is that it appears to put all those legal protections that we try to set up to protect us at risk. Which begs the question, why? Why the need to go beyond defining marriage as man-women union? We wouldn't even be talking about this if civil union status for gay couples had been accepted in Mass., like Vermont, instead of marriage. This is not about a wedding ceremony, it is about legal protections of property and life.

If your side had stopped after the first sentence, there would be no debate, there would be no contest. We already had that in Virginia law. But what your side can't stand is the idea of any kind of recognition of gay couples, of any acceptance that gay couples might be as committed and as responsible and as connected as any family unit. Shame really, because beyond the obvious, we (gay and straight) all are really more alike than we are different.

Please explain why you support an amendment that goes so far beyond defining (and therefore protecting I guess) marriage between a man and woman? Would a parallel civil union status for gay couples be so hard to accept? Or is this really about trying to beat the system by changing the rules to bypass the courts who might be inclined to try a seperate but equal path of civil unions. Can't we just agree to follow parallel paths? Why is it all or nothing for your side?

Sophrosyne said:

VC-

I believe I have presented some pretty hard evidence, but we will continue rationally examining the issue on our blog and I promise you that you will see more and more. Anyways thanks for visiting and posting.

Terry,

I strongly disagree with your statement that “No one really knows what the full impact will be of the second paragraph in the text.” Sure, some activist judge could dramatically misapply the law, but that is true with ANY legislation and it shouldn’t create a realistic of sufficient threat to oppose the Marriage Amendment. There is NO basis in fact to believe that this amendment will void all Powers of Attorney among non-married individuals! That would be ridiculous and would consequently violate the U.S. Constitution and quickly be corrected by a sane judge on the federal level. If this is your greatest fear then I think you can relax.

You say that “If your side had stopped after the first sentence, there would be no debate, there would be no contest. We already had that in Virginia law.”… well we already have the second section in Virginia law as well (see our post on the story of the child custody dispute between two women, one in VA and one in VT). This amendment changes NO law, only elevates existing law to further protect marriage from activist judges with a political agenda. It is a fact that if Massachusetts had had this amendment in their constitution then what happened would not have happened.

You then ask why I do not believe in same-sex “marriage” under some other name (civil unions, etc). I’d love to get into that question in detail but work beckons… here is a part of an article written by Patricia Philips that best summarizes by view on this issue:

“While working to amend the state constitution to define marriage, it is necessary to understand what those advocating for same-sex unions are hoping to achieve. John Corvino, a widely published author and lecturer on the ethics of homosexuality, explains the rational behind the push for civil unions in an article titled “Civil discourse on civil unions” (Between the Lines, January 19, 2005):

(1) Properly crafted civil-unions legislation could grant ALL of the legal incidents of marriage (albeit under a different name).

(2) The difference between such unions and marriage, since it is not a difference in legal incidents, appears to be a difference in level of social endorsement carried by the “m-word.”

(3) Our best strategy (in most states) for securing the tremendously important legal incidents is to fight for them under the name “civil unions.”

(4) Our best strategy for securing the social endorsement (i.e., marriage under the name “marriage”) is first to secure the legal incidents. Then people will look at our civil unions, realize that they are virtually indistinguishable from marriages, start calling them marriages, and gradually forget why they objected to doing so before. That's what happened in Scandinavia, and it's happening elsewhere in Europe.

(5) Attempts to force the social endorsement too quickly (by demanding the name “marriage” above and beyond the legal incidents), may backfire, resulting in state constitutional bans not only on gay marriage but also on civil unions. The upshot would be to delay BOTH the legal incidents and the social endorsement.”

I think Corvino’s points make it very easy to understand why same-sex “marriage” advocates accuse us of being “all or nothing” on this issue (which, to be fair, we are… as we should be when defending marriage). Creating same-sex “marriage” under another name would make it easier to willfully deny a child a mother or a father (which I believe is wrong) and it would serve as part of the agenda clearly explained above. Terry, I hope that helps shed some light on my position.

Brandon B said:

You say an activist judge could not possibly misinterpret the law and if he did it would violate the equal protections clause? So why do we even have it in there? It seems as though this section of the law is just waiting to backfire on the people who wrote this legislation.

Don't think it's affecting anyone just yet? I've heard Blockbuster is not allowing joint accounts of same-sex people now. This includes roommates. First it starts with Blockbuster, then something more serious, then it intrudes into your life. Then you have a problem with it. Cut off the problem at its head before it gets too unweildy.

Personally, I think many of your concerns are gay adoption issues, not gay marriage issues as what you cited the the originial article.

Sophrosyne said:

The marriage and adoption issue are one in the same. If the definition of marriage changes (as it did in MA... via judicial decree) then adoption changes and it becomes ILLEGAL to offer adoption services that are consistent with the view of marriage as one man and one woman. But you are right that my primary concern is that children not be willfully denied a mother or a father.

The Blockbuster decsion (and I've only recently heard it, I'll try to find more info) is apparently unrelated to this issue. People were abusing joint accounts so they cracked down and restricted it to married folks. It has (as far as I've heard) no relation to the pending VA Marriage Amendment or other Marriage Protection Amendments.

Paula P said:

"The marriage and adoption issue are one in the same" that's where we diverge and are no longer talking about the same thing.

Marriage is THE state sanctioned status providing virtually unchallengeable security and respect to committed couples.

Marriage is the only access couples have to social security survivor benefits, inheritance tax parity, (in Virginia) second parent adoption to protect children, family and medical leave to care for a sick or dying spouse, immigration assistance, and, yes, requiring businesses to treat all families equally when they choose to instate a policy to address a business problem (although this is just one more reason for me to not patronize Blockbuster).

When you have been stopped at immigration entering your own country and been separated from your partner of 10 years because you're not married and therefore not considered family, you have a different perspective on the definition of marriage.

When you are denied participation in a teacher conference because you are not recognized as the second parent, you have a different perspective.

When you receive your annual report from the Social Security administration that shows the amount of money your spouse would receive should you die and you realize your family would not benefit from that safety net being accumlated from required contributions you continue to pay, you have a different perspective.

As long as marriage is the only recognized legal status to protect ourselves, we're going to fight for it.

Terry M said:

Ahh Sophie,

That's right, I forget you take marriage a step further and demand that not only it be man-woman, but that it produce a child. Hey, I'm all for that format as one of the options if it works for you. But I have to think that in a free society we can also support the notion of a childless union between man and woman as well as a union of same-sex partners without causing the end of the world.

Better be careful though Sophie cause your marriage definition is getting real close to the historical view of marriage as a contract between husband and father-in-law with the wife as property to be bargined for if not bought and sold.

You know I keep asking you good, honest questions and you don't seem to want to answer them. Why is that? I'm speaking to you from the heart and you send me quotes of what others have said. Why can't straight and gay married couples co-exisit without destroying either one?? Why should I have to risk my legal rights with my partner because you have fears about Catholic adoptions? There has got to be a fair way for both sides through this swamp.

Thanks for posting my thoughts Sophie. You are much easier to discuss this with than Mr. Young. Of course in the blog world you might be him in disguise!! ;-)

No Relation said:

If I may join in, I'd like to offer another point of view.

On social issues, I consider myself a libertarian (note the lower case "l"). While I don't understand all of the legal technicalities of the amendment issue, I am opposed to government recognition of same-sex marriage because it FORCES private parties to accept it, as is the case with adoption agencies in Massachusetts. This is not an issue of whether or not gays can marry. They can already do this in whatever private organization will allow it. This is an issue of forcing others to accept that marriage.

Tolerance and acceptance are two different things. If you're gay, get married. I don't agree with it, but I can tolerate it. Don't force me to accept it.

Brandon B said:

So then I ask you No Relation, does your policy apply to all marriage then?

If there were no marriage rights, then we would just marry and be on with it. The problem lies with the various legal hurdles we have to jump over to get where we need to go and that unfair and unnecessary.

No Relation said:

Brandon,

My answer to your question is yes. Marriage is a religious institution and should be kept in churches, not in the government.

That being said, state recognition of gay marriage will only make this problem worse, because as I said before, it will force private parties to accept it. Do you really think it's right that the Massachusetts courts have taken away the adoption license from a Catholic charity? This is a private religious organization!

This isn't about who can get married. It's about FORCING people to accept it.

Brandon B said:

No Relation,

The law of the government isn't based around who gets offended, it's based around who is not getting the equal rights they deserve. For example, people felt offended by interracial marriage but the courts determined that this idea was unfair to interracial courts. The same exact thing is happening in this situation. People feel uncomfortable about the situation, fall back, and quote the Bible to back up their beliefs. History repeats itself in a scary way.

If parents are capable parents, no one has the right to tell them they are unfit for adoption. It's about time we start treating people like the individuals we are and not hiding behind some book. We're all in this together so why don't we start acting like it?

Plus, if people are afraid of a one sex influence, they must remember that the parents aren't the only people raising a kid. It takes an entire family to do it properly, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.

No Relation said:

Let's see...freedom of religion is protected by the US Constitution. I'm looking again and I can't seem to find freedom of adoption in there. Let me know where it is.

Brandon B said:

Freedom from religion implies freedom from religion, yes?

Brandon B said:

Errr....freedom of religion implies freedom FROM religion, yes?

Proofreading always gets me.

No Relation said:

Be very careful when determining what is implied in the Constitution. The First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law... regarding an establishment of religion." The 14th Amendment makes the First applicable to state legistlatures.

Even if you can spin that to imply "Freedom FROM religion," the Catholic adoption agencies in Massachusetts were in no way forced upon anyone. They provided a service, and if you disagreed with their way of providing it, you could exercise your freedom of choice and go to another agency.

No Relation said:

"Legislatures," I meant to say. (proofreading's got me, too)

And let me get the First Amendment right: "Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therof;..."

I'm ashamed to say I had to look that up.

Brandon B said:

But then if you get into the problem of state-sanctioned discrimination. If this was allowed, what is stopping discrimination based on the order of race? Why is sexual orientation so different? It's not. People are just not comfortable with the idea and thus find irrational reasons to support their discimination.

While I do agree in this situation that people could go elsewhere, it also scares me to think of where this could go in the bad direction. I'm partially torn on this situation.

No Relation said:

Well, religious freedom is protected in the Constitution. As far as freedom from discrimination goes...I can't find that one in there.

Which on do you think should be given priority when the two conflict?

Missy said:

Brandon,

You ask why sexual orientation is so different from race.

Here's why -

the religious right believes firmly that sexual orientation is a choice. Gay people choose to be gay.

However, black people do not choose to be black. They just ARE.

Therein lies the difference, in their minds.

No Relation said:

Missy-

I don't believe any of us on this site have used that argument.

The fact is, the origin of homosexuality has not been proven either way.

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