Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two Challenges for NOM

The National Organization Against for Marriage, an activist group founded by religious leaders to oppose gay marriage, has been busy revealing their own hypocrisy lately, as usual. However, like all hypocrites, they have the opportunity to reach intellectual consistency, and so I will present two challenges to NOM.

1. I challenge NOM to condemn those who want myself and my fellow queers killed, beaten, or imprisoned.

Brian Brown and other leaders of NOM often express disdain for gay rights rhetoric about "hate." When we protest their rallies, or their favorite Californian Proposition, and use this word, they insist that we are smearing them. You see, they harbor no hatred towards homosexuals and other members of the queer alphabet soup (LGBTQQTAI...), not at all. Rather, they strongly disagree with us on a political issue. They believe that marriage, specifically heterosexual marriage, is a sacred institution, and thus it must be granted special recognition by the state which gay marriages must not receive. Now, ignoring that this position is wrong on many levels, it does not in itself imply hatred towards homosexuals.

However, regardless of whether NOM's leaders hate us, many of their allies in the religious right unambiguously hate us, to the point of wishing violence upon us. For instance, the following is a sign wishing death upon gay couples which a supporter brought to a NOM rally in Indianapolis. Freedom to Marry has a petition requesting that NOM repudiate such rhetoric.

Such violent fantasies and rhetoric are commonplace in the world of the religious right. For instance, this post at the libertarian blog Classically Liberal begins by describing a police raid on a gay bar in Fort Worth, Texas. In that raid, officers engaged in needless, superfluous violence against patrons, and in response, "The Fort Worth city council decided that the time had arrived to have a police liaison officer who works with the gay community to prevent these sorts of abusive actions." However, some Christians didn't like the idea of police making an effort to avoid bigoted beatings and privacy violations.

One minister, Richard Clough, claimed that the the media and gays conspired and "distorted the facts of what happened the night of the Rainbow Lounge to promote the homosexual agenda." Ah, those clever gays. See how they get police to come in, beat them up, and then use that to promote their devious agenda. That is a really bizarre theory but one befitting the man's theology. Consider that he believes Jesus was god, that he planned to come to earth and die, and that he got some nasty people (Jews and/or Romans depending on who you believe) to torture and kill him, so that he could forgive the sins of the world. Similar in a way as both theories contend the victim had an ulterior motive and manipulated the attack to their own ends. I just never figured out why a god, who is all powerful, didn't have the power to forgive sins without all that torture and killing going on.

One news account says the fundamentalists claimed the city "didn't take their Christian beliefs into account."

Wrap your mind around that for a minute? The police aggressively and unnecessarily raid a gay bar and start hurting people in the process. To help prevent such future incidents a police officer is assigned as a liaison to the gay and lesbian community. And this somehow violates the "Christian beliefs" of these bat-shit crazed fundamentalists. What beliefs were ignored here?

Are they saying that their belief is that gay people should be beaten by police officers? Are they saying that basic civil rights of gay people should be ignored simply because they are gay? What are they saying?

What Christian doctrine is at stake here? When it comes to Christian doctrine I think of things like the virgin birth, atonement, resurrection, the trinity, etc. Apparently there is a Christian doctrine that applies to police pushing around gay people. And since these fundamentalists are complaining about measures to stop such activities I have to assume that the doctrine they think exists is one requiring violence against gay people.

About 100 of these people turned out to protest measures to end violence against gay people.

Such hateful attitudes must be condemned by the National Organization for Marriage if I am to take them seriously when they say they don't hate us. Likewise, the Texas Republican Party's desire to reinstate sodomy laws, in effect incarcerating queers for consensual sex, must be condemned. When a preacher like Rick Warren compares us with pedophiles, such statements should be condemned.

And until the National Organization for Marriage comes out against such violent, bigoted, anti-freedom rhetoric, I will not be able to take them seriously when they say hatred is not among their motivations.

2. I challenge NOM to support the total privatization of marriage.

In a recent op-ed for SFGate.com, Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage refers to gay marriage as "a government takeover of an institution the government did not make, cannot in justice redefine, and ought to respect and protect as essential to the common good."

Now, if government did not make marriage, why in the name of Jesus (In his name I pray, peace be upon him, Amen, etc., etc.), does government need to be involved in the marriage business at all? If government takeover of marriage is so dastardly, why should government have any role in marriage other than enforcing contracts made between private individuals in a free market? If government "cannot in good justice redefine" marriage, how is it just for a ballot initiative to exist with the explicit purpose of defining marriage? How is it just for state and federal governments to grant thousands of benefits to legally married couples, rather than leaving marriage benefits at the discretion of churches, employers, and other non-governmental entities?

Furthermore, Gallagher writes "The majority of Americans are not bigots or haters for supporting the commonsense view that marriage is the union of husband and wife." If this is both a majority view and a common sense view, why does it need the endorsement of the state to remain a social norm? Why can't conservatives like Gallagher let that free market they claim to love so much apply to marriage? As Glenn Greenwald writes in his piece Marriage and the Role of the State, a response to Ross Douthat:

the mere fact that the State does not use the mandates of law to enforce Principle X does not preclude Principle X from being advocated or even prevailing. Conversely, the fact that the State recognizes the right of an individual to choose to engage in Act Y does not mean Act Y will be accepted as equal. There are all sorts of things secular law permits which society nonetheless condemns. Engaging in racist speech is a fundamental right but widely scorned. The State is constitutionally required to maintain full neutrality with regard to the relative merits of the various religious sects (and with regard to the question of religion v. non-religion), but certain religions are nonetheless widely respected while others -- along with atheism -- are stigmatized and marginalized. Numerous behaviors which secular law permits -- excessive drinking, adultery, cigarette smoking, inter-faith and inter-racial marriages, homosexual sex -- are viewed negatively by large portions of the population.

Greenwald compellingly continues:

But if the arguments for the objective superiority of heterosexual monogamy are as apparent and compelling as Douthat seems to think, they ought not need the secular thumb pressing on the scale in favor of their view. Individuals on their own will come to see the rightness of Douthat's views on such matters -- or will be persuaded by the religious institutions and societal mores which teach the same thing -- and, attracted by its "distinctive and remarkable" virtues, will opt for a life of heterosexual monogamy. Why does Douthat need the State -- secular law -- to help him in this cause?

If Maggie Gallagher and her colleagues at the National Organization for Marriage genuinely believe in freedom of religion and oppose government takeovers of marriage, they should support its total separation from the state. In such a climate, churches like the LDS Church and the Catholic Church could exclusively recognize heterosexual marriages and churches like the Quakers and Episcopelians could recognize both gay and straight marriages. Partnership benefits could be offered at the discretion of individual employers and insurers, rather than mandated by the state.

If the National Organization for Marriage believes in the intrinsic superiority of heterosexual marriage, they should have enough faith to let it thrive in a free market rather than demand special protections from the state. And no, Brian Brown, telling me "marriage isn't a salad bar" will not be sufficient to revoke this challenge.