Archive for August 3rd, 2006

The other day I wrote a post about marriage, explaining that the only way a court could legitimately ban gay marriage was to show that the institution of marriage relies on the “conjunction of a man and a woman.” Otherwise, how can the courts justify banning gays from marrying?

I feel I adequately demonstrated that marriage was not reliant on a man and a woman, but on “personal commitment to another human being” and a “celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family.” That is, love.

In the comments to that post, a well-meaning Steven Lohrenz said that the institution itself is less important than the real relationship of the couple:

The most important part is the loving relationship that underpins the marriage, not marriage itself. Which seems to me makes the whole argument (from both sides) as seeming trivial.

Actually, marriage bestows a couple with a number of financial and cultural advantages. Matters of inheritance, hospital visitation rights, medical decisions, taxation, and insurance, to name a few, are much easier to arrange as a married couple than simply as a “loving” couple. These are the issues around which the legal cases revolve, the clear and tangible benefits of marriage. It’s easy to track these losses.

There’s also a second, more ephemeral advantage to marriage, and that’s the issue of respectability. And this is the issue that motivates gay-rights advocates and rankles anti-gay activists. Both sides realize that allowing gays to marry confers an official, state-sanctioned approval on homosexuality. Gays – after lifetimes of being hated and marginalized – crave normalcy. Social conservatives shudder and believe that tacit approval of gays will open the floodgates for an amoral and completely secularized society.

Unfortunately for these social conservatives, though, the Constitution doesn’t dictate how we use our personal liberty, only that we enjoy it.

Since I wrote that original post, I found a couple of interesting columns on the same subject. First is Ellen Goodman’s latest piece (not currently available on the Internet), “’Logical next step is banning marriage after menopause.” In it, she notes the same oddness about the Washington and New York court cases that I do:

If marriage is for procreation, shouldn’t they refuse to wed anyone past menopause? Shouldn’t they withhold a license, let alone blessings and benefits, from anyone who is infertile? As for those who choose to be childless? Nothing borrowed or blue for them. Indeed the state could offer young couples licenses with sunset clauses. After five years they have to put up (kids) or split up.

“If anything,” writes Goodman, “these two decisions are proof that the courts and the country are running out of reasons for treating straight and gay citizens differently.” Indeed.

Goodman also notes that the judges ignored the body of evidence that indicates gays make good parents, indicating that their decisions were made from anxiety, not reason, as a result of the “furor over the [Massachusetts] decision [that] produced a backlash that has scared a lot of judges straight.”

The second piece was written by Seattle-based openly-gay sex columnist Dan Savage in this past Sunday’s New York Times, “Same Sex Marriage Wins by Losing.” In it, Savage brings up an interesting point: where do the Washington and New York decisions leave the children of same-sex couples? They have been denied married parents by courts that feel heterosexual marriage should be protected largely for the benefit of children. (Savage and his partner have an 8-year-old son.)

A perverse cruelty characterizes both decisions. The courts ruled, essentially, that making my child’s life less secure somehow makes the life of a child with straight parents more secure. Both courts found that making heterosexual couples stable requires keeping homosexual couples vulnerable. And the courts seemed to agree that heterosexuals can hardly be bothered to have children at all — or once they’ve had them, can hardly be bothered to care for them — unless marriage rights are reserved exclusively for heterosexuals. And the religious right accuses gays and lesbians of seeking “special rights.”

And this point, combined with the courts’ illogical opinions concerning marriage, make the legalization of same-sex marriage almost certain:

If heterosexual instability and the link between heterosexual sex and human reproduction are the best arguments opponents of same-sex marriage can muster, I can’t help but feel that our side must be winning. Insulting heterosexuals and discriminating against children with same-sex parents may score the other side a few runs, but these strategies won’t win the game.

Agreed. While some consider the New York opinion the “Gettysburg” of gay marriage, I wonder which side lost?

One last note about gay marriage. In Justice Marshall’s poetic description of marriage found in the Massachusetts case that legalized gay marriage in the state was reference to “Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965),” which my wife pointed out was the Supreme Court decision that allowed married couples to use contraceptives. I guess I wasn’t being too paranoid about the New York and Washington cases hinting at a rollback for all couples’ right to privacy and self-determination.

Here’s Justice Douglas’ opinion from that decision:

We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights – older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.I said it before, I’ll say it again, our Constitution protects not only your liberties, but also the liberties of those you don’t like.

Wa-a-a-ay back in the dim recesses of time…that is, in early June…I wrote a speculative post about Tester and the blogs. It was a stab at defining the role that blogs played in Tester’s primary win.

Like many posts at “4&20 blackbirds,” the most interesting tidbit appeared in the comments. Margie:

For me personally, I became aware of Jon Tester because of Kos. I learned more about him through Matt Singer’s LeftIntheWest. I sent a few dollars. Then Jon called me dialing for $. I offered to host a fund raiser, my husband met him and became convinced. He spent the last few weeks contacting every friend he had in the state, as did I.Without DailyKos – I may not have become aware of Jon Tester last August, no contribution, maybe no call from Jon.

But for the netroots to be effective, we must become the grassroots. When net awareness of a good candidate turns into a local ground game of talking to neighbors. That’s when we make the difference.

That got me thinking – how did other people “find” Jon Tester? How did he take the state by storm?

So…I’d like to hand over this topic to you dear readers and Tester supporters. How did you learn about and end up liking Jon Tester? What role, if any, did the blogs play in your support of Tester?

Lay it on me!


Burns considering a wage cut for Montanans.

Wulfgar! astutely notes that Burns should understand how command and control of wildfires works – he funds it!

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Lamont leading Lieberman 54-41. Holy smokes! It’s a rout!

Here’s a note to the Lieberman campaign: endorsements like this don’t help your chances in a Connecticut Democratic primary. And neither do associations like these…or volunteers like these.

Neither does a last-minute reverse on your least popular stance, which you had always called a matter of principle.

The NYTimes on the death of Phillip Baucus.

Remember those leader-like deliberations Cheney struggled with over 9/11’s United flight 93? Never happened.

Kevin Drum has an interesting post up about new- and old-school Democrats. I’m a tweener, age-wise, but definitely a new Dem in ideology.

Is the Nevada Senate race in play? Sweet!

Bob Herbert thinks it’s time to start doing something about global warming.

Hilary Clinton to be Senate Majority Leader? If so, that means no Presidential bid in ’08…

Again, the administration is trying to wiggle around the topic of torture.

Bush gives himself permission to grant himself more power.

Are you sick of the latest Burns firefighter scandal? Too bad! Apparently Montana residents aren’t! I scoured the mailbags recently and found…well…an overwhelming number of letters irate with the Senator for his recent degrading comments to a group of Virginia hot shots, and I thought I’d post them.

There are quite a few, so buckle up!

Mike Giovando of Flagstaff, Arizona, writes:

As a veteran firefighter who served for 22 years, I can tell you that Burns knows nothing about firefighting and is out of touch in today’s world. Hopefully, the voters in Montana will see this at election time.

Erstwhile GOP voter Brenda Warning (cool name!) of Missoula is changing her vote:

The idea of attacking a firefighter and/or his crew with complaints about firefighting methods, procedures or the location of command centers is about as low as – no, lower than – consorting with crooks.Firefighters put their lives on the line and indeed some have died – and a word of appreciation would certainly be in order – and then deal with problems where complaints or concerns belong – at the decision-making level. Duh!

My opinion is that Burns is a classless jackass and an arrogant showoff. I generally tend to vote Republican, but I will gladly make an exception in Burns’ case.

Maybe if Burns did some real work himself instead of cutting ribbons and hanging out with sleazeballs he’d have a different outlook and maybe he’d even learn some manners.

I linked to Will Cowdrey of Missoula before, but his comments are worth airing again:

These folks, our working guests, came all the way from Virginia, leaving their families and risking their lives to help us fight fire in Montana. Instead of thanking them, the senator chose to beat up on a group of tired and weary firefighters, in order to curry a few votes from ranchers near Billings.[snip]

Sen. Burns is out of touch in many ways, and has become an embarrassment to Montana, time after time.

Emily Tangmo of Missoula:

I have just returned from Boise, Idaho, and I attended a memorial for my brother and other firefighters who have lost their lives fighting fires. We had two days of orientation on how the Forest Service is organized in fighting forest fires, and let me tell you, Sen. Conrad Burns, if Congress was that well organized, we would not have had the mess in New Orleans.

Joel Vignere of Lakeside:

To publicly, or even privately, berate those firefighters like that is completely inexcusable. He owes those people a public apology on bended knee. It is apparent that the senator has little or no understanding of how fires are managed or fought. He very obviously has never experienced the back-breaking, dirty, sweaty, labor of fighting a fire himself.

Jim Fairchild of Missoula:

With all his other recent embarrassments, perhaps the strain has become too much. Certainly he understands, in the cool breeze of calm reflection, that the firefighters he castigated are low-echelon, soon-to-be-forgotten cogs in a big machine – much like himself.Likewise, certainly the good senator understands that firefighters put in endless hours of thankless, back-breaking labor each day – perhaps even as back-breaking as toting and sorting huge sacks of lobbyist cash.

At this time of grueling difficulties that would test the mettle of the best and brightest among us, I humbly offer the wise senator these sagacious thoughts – liberally (though not in a partisan sense) paraphrased – coined by a great thinker at least on a par with the soon-to-be Missouri-bound senator:

“It is often best to let others suspect one is a dolt, rather than to open one’s mouth and confirm their suspicions.”

Daniel Lafrombois of Billings:

I am ashamed by Burns’ representation of Montana.

Amanda Hodges of Charlo:

I find it embarrassing to be represented at our highest level of government by Burns. It is difficult to support a person who speaks in such a manner to volunteers who have come to this state to assist the people living here.When Montana again has an emergency that requires volunteers such as the Augusta Hotshots, I hope they don’t say, “No, we can’t come. Call Sen. Burns.”

Retired firefighter and Helena resident Harry Dalton:

As far as the firefighters are concerned, I serious doubt, Conrad, we will ever see you in harms way in 100-degree temperatures putting your life on the line to save lives and property. Hey, that could be a great political photo opportunity with you in firefighting gear fighting a forest fire, polaski in hand, saving lives and property.

Peter Lawrenson if Missoula:

Burns is an embarrassment to the hardworking people of Montana. It is time for Burns to go home – not back home to Montana, but all the way to his original home in Missouri.

Sally Slocum of Missoula:

I am just hoping and praying that, come November, instead of this (insert your own word; this is a family newspaper) Burns, we will have a fine man like Jon Tester to represent us in the U.S. Senate.

Annabelle Richards of Helena was working the Lewis and Clark County Democratic booth at this weekend’s Fair, when Connie came to visit:

As he approached, I stood up, put out my hand and greeted him with the courtesy and respect owed his office. His only response was to point to a poster on our booth that said “We Support the Firefighters,” and say, “Where do you people dig up that crap?”Before I could respond, he turned and walked away. A woman standing nearby said, “It’s good someone supports them!” I heard later she was a volunteer firefighter.

It is such a shame that Sen. Burns didn’t use the opportunity to say it was good that we support the firefighters, as he says he does, instead of inferring we dug up dirt about him.

Respectfully, Senator, we didn’t create this fiasco. You did!

Bonnie Speare of Billings compared Burns’ achievements and salary with those of the hot shots he criticized, then came to this conclusion:

Shame on the senator. Voters, do the math and answer Burns’ statement of what has to change. What has to change is who we have representing us in the Senate.

Jim Hart of Helena:

Fire Burns. Show him the way home to Missouri.

Jim Norris of Billings realizes the real irony of this story:

Conrad Burns, the man who brags about having corral “dust” on his boots and about knowing what Montana values are, has embarrassed us all by confronting and criticizing the men and women, the troops on the ground, of the Augusta Hot Shots firefighters from Virginia…Shame on Burns! May he choke on the aftertaste of having his own boot in his mouth!That’s what got me about Burns’ remarks: they show a distinct ignorance about a Montana institution. Doesn’t he know about hot shots? Doesn’t he understand what they do? From his remarks, I’d say no. This guy has been in Washington too long.

Or, as Leo Barsanti of Billings so eloquently states:

Burns delights in fostering his image as the down-home, good-old-boy politician, but in reality his tenure in Washington has been inadequate, second-rate and often an embarrassment to Montana. The time has come for Burns to ride his hillbilly cowboy act into the sunset.

Get that man a blog!

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