January 4, 2013

This Same-Sex Marriage Bill is Not Marriage Equality

Patrick Laverty

First a disclaimer. I've been asking questions about this and trying to get information from various sources, but I think the questions coming from me, a known conservative, leads the receiver to believe I'm being sarcastic with my questions. I'm not. I'm being truly honest, as is what I'll state below.

The same-sex marriage bill was brought up by State Rep. Art Handy yesterday. (Read the text here) This is the bill that we've been hearing about for some time that will come to a vote early in this legislative session. This is the bill that is being touted by Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI). This is the bill that they say is about human rights and fairness. However, I believe this bill does not go far enough.

Maybe I'm in disagreement with many on the right who want to keep marriage as defined as between one consenting adult man and one consenting adult woman, as I'm fine with the idea of any two consenting adults being able to marry, or engage in some legal, binding contract that affords them the same rights and responsibilities as the other people who can currently marry in Rhode Island.

However, that's not what this bill does. This bill does offer exceptions, and I don't see that as the stated goal of equality and basic human rights. Why not simply change it so that any two consenting adults can marry each other? That's it. No more qualifiers or exceptions on it at all. What am I talking about? Here:

15.1.2 No person shall marry his or her sibling, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, stepparent, grandparents’ spouse, spouse’s child, spouse’s grandchild, sibling’s child, or parent’s sibling.
and here
15-1-5. Bigamous marriages void ... A person is prohibited from marrying if such person is: (1) A party to another marriage; or (2) A party to a relationship that provides substantially the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as a marriage whether entered into in this state or another state or jurisdiction, and such marriage or relationship has not been finally dissolved, unless the parties to the intended marriage will be the same as the parties to such other marriage or relationship.
My question on both of those is "why not?" Why are we not allowing any of those things to happen? Keep in mind, my definition is any two consenting adults. So the mentally incompent, children and anything non-human is out. The real key here is being able to give consent. So spare me the questions about marrying the family dog or a ham sandwich.

But why can't two brothers enter into the contractual relationship that gives them the same rights and responsibilities as a married couple? If it's incest that repulses you, when did repulsion become a reason for deciding the law? If some are repulsed by the gay lifestyle, should that be enough to not allow them to marry? If the argument is that we don't want incestuous relationships creating children, then the question is whether creating children is the purpose of marriage.

As for bigamy, why not? If all the parties involved are consenting and all current spouses consent, why not? If my wife wants an additional husband, and he and I are willing to agree to that as well, why should the state say that we can't do that?

If the whole goal here is to allow two people the same basic rights as a man and a woman are currently afforded in Rhode Island, why is it only gay or lesbian couples that are being added? That's not a human rights, that's picking and choosing certain groups of adults. It's really no different than what we currently have where the law has chosen who has particular rights and who doesn't. This law simply increases the number of people who will be included, but it sure isn't marriage equality.

If we're going to pass a same-sex marriage bill for the purposes of marriage equality, let's do it and do it right and include everyone.

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There is no question that a lot of women would be better off as Bill Gates's fourth wife than the only wife of a drunk, gambling addict, abuser, or somebody who can't provide for the family. Why are we legally prohibiting them from securing a better life for themselves and their children if everyone consents? The Bible celebrates polygamy, if religion is the issue.

Posted by: Dan at January 4, 2013 10:35 AM

"Why not simply change it so that any two consenting adults can marry each other?"

Um, is it because then the bill would have zero chance of passing, remembering that the goal here is to help actual people not to make some type of futile libertarian stand on a hilltop?

Posted by: Russ at January 4, 2013 11:01 AM

To help "actual people"? What are you saying about people who simply want to marry someone and our law doesn't allow them to?

That's fine if this is simply about allowing gay and lesbian people to marry each other but that's not how it's being portrayed. It's being portrayed as an equality and human rights issue. Your comments and this bill make that sound a bit disingenuous.

Posted by: Patrick at January 4, 2013 12:20 PM

"What are you saying about people who simply want to marry someone and our law doesn't allow them to?"

Sorry, I don't know any would be polygamists or others wanting to marry their step-parents. Perhaps you do. On the other hand I do know many same sex couples, many of them in committed relationships with children. Ensuring equal rights for them is enough of a human rights issue for me.

I might think differently if this weren't simply a call to free the unicorns so to speak.

Posted by: Russ at January 4, 2013 12:44 PM

I agree in principle, but not in the method of execution.

Instead of permitting additional configurations of gender to marry, why not pull 'marriage' itself out of the realm of public legislation and ONLY allow the state to recognize Civil Unions between consenting adults?

Personally, I'd like to see it done so that when two (or more) people 'get married' (a thing that's done by your priest, your friend, or a judge), you 'incorporate' with the state as a new joint-entity that can be sued, pool resources, and share benefits.

Posted by: mangeek at January 4, 2013 12:55 PM

About LGBT Human Rights

Posted by: Russ at January 4, 2013 12:57 PM

Russ perfectly demonstrates the progressive mentality: rather than deal with issues in a philosophically principled way, everything boils down to a utilitarian, ends-justifying-the-means political calculation based on how to advance progressive causes. So Gordon Fox - as dirty a politician as one can find - receives the RIFuture endorsement because he promises marriage equality for gays. Whatever eggs are broken as a result of this alliance of convenience are justified as part of the crusade.

I agree with Mangeek: get government out of marriage and leave the state to civil unions as a contractual matter, available to all. Perhaps not the most likely outcome, but a philosophically principled proposition.

Posted by: Dan at January 4, 2013 1:16 PM

"rather than deal with issues in a philosophically principled way..."

Oh, brother. I thought the Amnesty link explained fairly well why sexual orientation is a human rights issue. I may have been mistaken in thinking some here would see the difference between that and those claiming marrying one's step-mother is a human right.

Posted by: Russ at January 4, 2013 1:30 PM

Is RI the first state to get into the game of SSM? I don't think so. I think we will be the 9th or 10th.
When the state was debating the prostitution law a few years ago I would hear people on the radio say "49 other states have it, just pick one and copy it and move on, don't waste time"
Sounds like RI should just look at all the other states that have the law, find the best one, copy it, pass it and move on.

Posted by: Jim Jebow at January 4, 2013 1:30 PM

Jim - The states are laboratories. If the laws were all uniform, we wouldn't need state laws, there would only be Federal law. It's good for states to tinker and try new things. As in other areas, some experiments (Rhode Island, California) will be failures and some will be successes (New Hampshire, Virginia).

Russ - I don't need some organization to explain to me what a human right is or what qualifies. My point is that progressives see EVERYTHING as political calculations rather than philosophical issues. This is why progressives tolerate corporate welfare through the EDC, reprehensible union behaviors that negatively impact education, and corrupt politicians who sign on to progressive causes.

Posted by: Dan at January 4, 2013 1:45 PM

"My point is that progressives see EVERYTHING as political calculations rather than philosophical issues."

Well, except that I actually did respond philosphically as well as practically. Not to mention that the post itself takes offense to progessives presenting this as a philosphical issue of respecting human rights. Hardly seems supportive of your "all progressives think such and such" viewout.

However I don't disagree that many progressives view lawmaking and politics generally as "the art of the possible." It's by no means uniformly held as you suggest, unless you by definition exclude many on the left from what you define as progressive.

Posted by: Russ at January 4, 2013 2:41 PM

I think that the bedrock issue here is whether law is the product of it's culture, or if it is the means for changing a culture. I think that is the first question that must first be decided. Consider Roe v. Wade. It has been 40 years since that decision. Culturally it has not become an "accepted right", what it has become is a litmus test. However there has not been revolution, politicians have learned from this.

So, where are we headed, legislation, not plebiscite.

(Phil, I hope you will note that there are no "racist" overtones here.)

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 4, 2013 3:07 PM

WF, I'm not sure I follow your example. A better example is the repeal by many states of anti-miscegenation laws after WWII. As for the chicken and the egg question, does it have to be one or the other? I'd say it's a combination of both.

Posted by: Russ at January 4, 2013 3:35 PM

Russ – the issue is not about ones sexual orientation being a human right issue. Homosexuals have human rights in this country. This is about marriage equality under the law and Patrick is absolutely correct in saying that the arguments for gay marriage are the same as they are for incest, polygamy or any arrangement between two consenting adults.

I happen to believe there are legitimate arguments to modify the existing definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. But still, it should be acknowledged that it is a dramatic change in the definition of marriage. It should also be acknowledged that arguments against same-sex marriage do not equate to being anti-human rights based on sexual orientation. But I agree with Dan that the issue has become much more political than philosophical

So please explain the difference in the context of marriage equality between same-sex marriage and marrying one’s step-mother.

Posted by: msteven at January 4, 2013 4:10 PM

The conservatives who are firmly against gay marriage want to control every aspect of our lives, not just marriage. In November 2009, Don Carcieri vetoed H 5294 which, would allow domestic partners to oversee a same-sex partner's funeral arrangements. The bill was motivated by an event when Carcieri's medical examiners office refused to release the body of a man to his 17 year same-sex partner In his veto message, Carcieri wrote "This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage".

The bill had absolutely NOTHING to do with marriage, Carcieri's foolish comment aside

Posted by: Sammy in Arizona at January 4, 2013 4:54 PM

"As for the chicken and the egg question, does it have to be one or the other?"

Russ, I think Americans are more accepting of the "vote". That is done by "us", legislation is done by "those people". The perception of legislators has fallen very low. Witness the invented crisis of the "Fiscal Cliff". Only the media seems to be fooled.

I don't like the miscegenation example, there is no doubt that you are "born black". Where it fails is that there is no evidence that gayness is not a choice.

My point was not so much who may marry, it was about how cultural change should be brought about.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 4, 2013 5:10 PM

Sammy - I guess that the liberals against gun ownership or for increased taxes and regulation also want to control every aspect of our lives too?

The miscegenation analogy does not work. In that case, there was a specific exclusion to the definition of marriage based on race. In the case of gay marriage, it requires a change in the definition. Actually, miscegenation is more analogous to incest or polygamy.

Posted by: msteven at January 4, 2013 9:34 PM

Am I mistaken? I have always understood that incestuous relationships have been forbidden since ancient times because of the high rate of birth defects.

To permit SSM because "People who love each other should be permitted to marry" and at the same time to forbid a polygamous marriage seems to contort reason. Incidentally, as a nation we support/finance polygamy. In those areas heavily populated by fundamentalist Mormons where polygamy is still practiced, we regard all successive wives as "unwed mothers". This enables them to collect welfare payments, which they do. I regard Mormons as industrious, but I had wondered how all of those kids were supported by one father. I understand this has resulted in a upsurge in "fundamentalist Mormonism". In those areas where it flourishes, polygamy is illegal, but ignored.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 4, 2013 10:11 PM

Liberals and progressives really suck because on the one hand they don't want society to keep them from having same sex marriage or abortions but on the other hand feel they have the right to determine what kind of firearms I can own(and don't bother with inane "rocket launcher"remarks)or what kind of SUV I can drive. Or how much I can be shaken down with extortionate taxes.I'm so sick of the same sex marriage debate-get it over with one way or another.If they held a vote on it,I wouldn't be bothered.I really don't think a commie piece of garbage like Seth Yurdin has any business deciding if I'm responsible enough to own the type of handgun I've used for 43 years.He can drop dead and go to hell.And gay people can do what they want-just don't expect sympathy when you get AIDS because you had a few hundred sexual encounters in a public toilet.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 4, 2013 11:28 PM

Warrington, I don't think we can worry about procreation in this discussion. That's not what the purpose of "marriage" is in this context. If we're concerned about the concept of procreation, how it turns out and even whether it turns out at all, then there shouldn't even be a discussion on same-sex marriage. But that's not the point here. The point of the bill is for contractual equality of rights.

Posted by: Patrick at January 5, 2013 12:44 AM

However it is defined, marriage is not a human right. This would be another grotesque and completely invalid attempt to expand the concept of human rights.

Patrick, you're such a trouble maker. Why must you spoil the moment with logic and reason???

On a more pragmatic/political level, what will be interesting will be how the Senate committee votes on this matter. Remember that the Senate President has said that she will not stand in the way on this bill - i.e., she will not impose her will and act like a dictator, as she did so egregiously, selfishly and erroneously with e-verify. So she is allowing (mighty big of her) the committee to vote their conscience in this matter. Just because she has not given marching orders, however, does not mean that the bill will pass the committee.

Posted by: Monique at January 5, 2013 6:41 AM

Monique, you mean that committee that TPW still has to add two members to? Noooooo, she won't stand in the way, she'll let her committee appointees do that for her. Keep in mind the committee is chaired by McCaffrey, who is opposed to SSM.

Posted by: Patrick at January 5, 2013 10:51 AM

gay people can do what they want-just don't expect sympathy when you get AIDS because you had a few hundred sexual encounters in a public toilet.
Posted by joe bernstein at January 4, 2013 11:28 PM


Every militant homo I've known has been a pure statist more than willing to impose their morality (guns, seatbelts, polygamy, religious hate, abortion, free speech, school indoctrination, even vegetarianism) on others.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at January 5, 2013 2:18 PM

Great to see the advance level of thinking on this right wing site. Joe and Tommy for gov and Lt gov.

Posted by: Smarter than Joe at January 5, 2013 9:32 PM

"Warrington, I don't think we can worry about procreation in this discussion."

I think you missed the point of my post, which I did not think touched on procreation (I do approve of procreation). I thought my point was that not only do we ignore the illegality of polygamous marriages, we subsidize them by declaring the plural wives "unwed mothers" making them eligible for government largesse.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 6, 2013 4:58 PM

@smarter-if the lifestyle was not as profligate as my rather graphic description the disease wouldn't have spread like it did-the only other group in the country where it spread like that (aside from hemophiliacs)was among IV drug users who also lived a lifestyle with no regard for basic hygienic precautions.It 's the truth,right wing or not.There was also resistance to testing-imagine if it had been TB-no one would question isolating carriers-my grandfather had it as a younger man and got sent to a sanitarium until he was no longer contagious-gays politicized a disease and the virus wasn't interested in that.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 6, 2013 9:23 PM


I have always wondered why they eliminated the "blood test" before marriage. Was it a decline in the incidence of syphilis or just a recognition that no one was waiting for marriage. It seemed to disappear without mention.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 7, 2013 10:58 AM

Good question.I know we had to take it in 1970 when we got married.I only ever knew one person who had syphilis and he got it in Italy.BTW my observation about gays was solely directed at gay men-I'm unaware of that behavior being common among lesbians.They didn't get AIDS either.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 7, 2013 1:36 PM

Joe: "I only ever knew one person who had syphilis and he got it in Italy"

Yes, it was a gift from Native Americans. The first known European occurrence was in Italy, shortly after Columbus' return from Hispaniola. The "politically correct" are struggling mightily to disprove this.

I first heard of AIDS when I was dating a pathologist back in the 80's. Since then "Patient Zero" has been identified. Your analysis of the spread seems to be correct.

Your mention of politicization is correct. I remember the great applause when a "star" kissed another "star" with AIDS on TV. I also recall a made for TV movie about the "spread of AIDS". It featured two middle class housewives who got it from their tennis instructor.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at January 7, 2013 5:00 PM
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