Monday, September 18, 2006

What is Marriage Anyway?

The Introduction to the Arguments

From Callie Wise, blogger and webmaster of

Last week I went to a forum at the Nashville Jewish Community Center on “What is Marriage Anyway?” It was brought together by Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, and Tennessee Equality Project. The issue was to discuss the role of marriage in contemporary society and to hear various points of view on the topic of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. The upcoming vote on Nov. 7th on a constitutional amendment barring gay couples from marrying is what has made this discussion so necessary. Most of the people in attendance were supportive of marriage equality for gay couples; however, that wasn’t the intention of the groups involved. In fact, they purposefully invited local spokespeople of the Family Research Council, the two members of congress co-sponsoring the state amendment, and even a representative from Bill Frist’s office, since he co-sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment, but all of these people declined to participate. While much of it felt like a preaching to the choir, there were some interesting points of view and a great discussion of the complexities and problems with a constitutional amendment. I thought I would share some of those with you. If nothing else, perhaps having a variety of arguments will help us discuss this issue better.

First of all, what is the amendment? What does it say?

Vote No on 1, the Tennessee grassroots organization fighting this amendment, has it posted on their website:

The historical institution and legal contract solemnizing the relationship of one man and one woman shall be the only legally recognized marital contract in this state. Any policy or law or judicial interpretation, purporting to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one man and one woman, is contrary to the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable in Tennessee. If another state or foreign jurisdiction issues a license for persons to marry and if such marriage is prohibited in this state by the provisions of this section, then the marriage shall be void and unenforceable in this state.

Panel Speakers included:
Rabbi Alexis Berk, The Temple Ohabai Sholom
Shelley Klein, Director of Advocacy for Hadassah National
Gene Floyd, Member of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
Chris Sanders, Tennessee Equality Project President
Abby Rubenfeld, Attorney and Former Legal Director of Lambda Legal Defense
Julian Kanter, A Father's Story

It is my hope that the three arguments I have broken this down into (Personal/Family, Civil Rights, and Religious) will help our community and our allies in formulating a sound discussion of this issue. Use what you need of this, add your own twist if you want. Even once all the amendments have been passed or not, remember that the fight goes on. New challenges will be thrown our way. New angles of fear and hatred will be tossed at us. We need to know where we stand and what we need to say. I hope this helps.


RedStateExile said...

Thanks for posting this John! Everyday I see more and more yard signs urging people to Vote No on this amendment, and the Vote No crew is working diligently canvassing neighborhoods (have even set up offices outside of the city) to talk to people about the problems I outlined on my blog with this amendment.

They're doing a fabulous grassroots campaign. Even if this passes, there will be many more opportunities ahead. As we know, the fundamentalist right won't stop with marriage. They are already working in other states to try and stop companies from offering DP benefits once these amendments pass.

The Vote No crew hopes to look at the statistics, no matter the outcome, and take the fact that within our major cities in TN citizens are against discrimination. Hopefully from there we can get nondiscrimination polices passed or even dp registries.

The fight will continue no matter what.

Stuffed Animal said...

I fail to understand how Right Wingers can justify putting so much energy, time and money into anti-Gay ballot initiatives at this time. Aren't they supposed to be super-patriots? We're at war, we're worried about terrorist attack, and our borders aren't secure. Yet they act as if two men or two women legalizing a commitment to one another is the greatest threat our nation has ever known! How does banning same-gender unions protect our country? Who's gonna care about anybody's marriage if Osama bin Laden toasts our buns for us?

John said...

At least one prominent Republican gets it:

"America's divorce rate is now over 50 percent, and marriage is under attack from a number of quarters: finances, promiscuity, alcohol and drugs, the pressures of work, cultural acceptance of divorce, et cetera," ... "But it is incomprehensible that one of these threats is when someone else, whom we have never seen, in a place where we may have never been, has done something we don't like."

Senator John Danforth

Jerry Maneker said...

Such bills and measures are not about "marriage," or "traditional family values," or "morality," or anything other than the studied attempt to take over this country and make it into a theocracy, run by right wing political zealots! They concentrate on sexual matters, not only because of their own psycholocical issues, but because it's something that the average person can get his or her brain around, and be mobilized to vote in a Pavlovian way at a given sound byte.

One can make the case that we needed to go to war in Iraq (although I certainly don't believe it for one minute) because the Government knows things the average person doesn't know. But, when it comes to "sex," everyone thinks he or she knows all there is to know about it, and certain sexual practices are viewed as "sinful," because that's what so many clergy have told us since St. Augustine, that reactionary politicians and right wing "religious" people who claim the designation, "Christian" have found that they can mutually benefit each other's careers and aspirations.

If bills and measures such as these aren't strenuously fought against, and if Christians remain silent in the false belief that being "loving" means not confronting these and other measures and perversions of Christianity, we are culpable in the devolution of democracy in this country, and the further warping, and perhaps destruction, of Christianity itself in this country.

John Hosty said...

I am honored by your presence on my blog Dr. Maneker. For people's information Dr. Rev. Jerry Maneker is a professor emeritus at California State and has his Phd. in sociology.

Are you reminded of the "Know nothing" party by all this?

RedStateExile said...

Dr. Maneker, thank you for your comments! I'm honored to have you visit here.

Two instances have occurred between yesterday and today that should make us stop and think about our political and social situation as gay Americans.

Yesterday, my partner was speaking with her very conservative coworker. Ironically, the coworker is divorced Catholic woman who has several "boyfriends", one of which is a married man; however, she doesn't think my partner and I should have the right to marry.

My partner asked her directly, "Do you know what this amendment is about?" She said that she thought it was to allow gay marriage. My partner corrected her saying that if it passes all it does is say that gay and lesbian couples can't be a part of the social and legal institution of marriage. It has nothing to do with "approving" marriage. Either way, we won't be able to marry. The woman was surprised and was misled into believing that if the amendment failed to pass then we'd be able to marry.

Today, one of our local blogs (Tennessee Guerilla Women) posted a link to what I wrote. The blogmistress said that she was talking to a young woman about the amendment but the woman had no idea that the Vote No on 1 yard signs and stickers were about this issue. She really had no idea of what was going on, but wanted to vote against the amendment and also show her support.

My point in all of this is that we must talk to people and educate them about what is going on. Many people don't know what is going on or are misinformed about the details, impact, and implications of these amendments.

John said...


I hate to say it, but I don't think that there are enough people who are smart enough to vote on any intiatiave petition.

Call me arrogant if you want, but fully half the people I know can't figure out what a petition means.

John Hosty said...

Callie, thank you on behalf of all of us here at Live,Love&Learn for joining our team. Your insight from behind enemy lines as one of us, the hunted, is important information we need to pass on to our supporters. It is also awesome testimony against the lies our opponents try to disseminate. If you do anything on your blog you want to share, now you have the ability to come here and post it in seconds.

On a side note; we needed you to ballance things. The majority of editors here were, go figure!

Jerry Maneker said...

Callie and John: Just as I told Stuffed Animal, you're free to comment on my blog anytime you wish to as well. You do wonderful work! Best wishes, Jerry.

RedStateExile said...

Happy to be here, John H.

Dr. Maneker, I will definitely visit your blog. Thank you for the invitation.

John, you may be right but we just have to have more than they do.

The irony about our amendment here is that a lot of people think it's a simply majority vote. However, the secret that hasn't been talked about much is that we only have to get 50 + 1% of the voters who vote in the gubernatorial election to defeat the amendment. So if 100,000 Tennesseans vote in the governor's race (no matter who they vote for), we'd only have to get 50,001 to vote our way to defeat it. Same for the other side.

I know some people and I've been one myself where if I didn't understand an amendment or something else being voted on (or if it didn't appear to pertain to me) then I would skip it.

The more people who vote in the governor's election and either vote our way or don't vote at all on the amendment will work to our advantage.

John Hosty said...

my advice to you Callie is to have you and your friends go to local colleges is Tennessee and open up voter registration tables. People ages 18 to 24 are 70% likely to vote gay, so it is like shooting fish in a barrel. Keep us informed on what happens if you would.

RedStateExile said...

I think that's already being done. We're fortunate that we have a good group of teenagers and college students who have started volunteering. In fact, they came up with the idea of making signs and going out on street corners to encourage support.

There's a story about it here (pg.7):