Oh, to Be Free and Gay in America

New Hampshire is on the verge of voting (again) on the question of same-sex marriage. The desire is to replace “gay marriage” with “civil unions for homosexuals”.

I am not gay although I was raised in a time and place where being called such was a common insult, and I was often called such due to my attitudes and beliefs on things. The mockery and insult were performed by some one or some group pointing at me and accusing me of certain and specific sexual practices.

Even then, it caused me more curiosity than self-questioning or anxiety.

I remember responding to one person with “My sexuality is a great concern to you. Why? Are you unsure of yours? Or do you find me attractive and fear that’s not reciprocated?”

The statement about my sexuality came from a junior high gym teacher, was made in front of the entire gym class (about 20 boys total) and my precocious response (I was always an avid reader and had an excellent vocabulary in my youth. A junior high English teacher wanted to know if my parents knew I was reading Huxley’s Brave New World) landed me in detention and earned calls to my parents.

This gym teacher had a penchant for inviting certain of my classmates into the storage room where weights were kept and demonstrating to them how much weight he could lift.

Unrecognized sexuality and sexual preferences have caused more harm in human history than can be imagined, me thinks.

I also remember a gradeschool classmate telling me privately and in confidence (and doing it so maturely, even mimicking his mother’s pursing lips and shaking head when explaining things to me) that another boy, when playing house, would volunteer to play the mommy. I said, “So?”

The looks I got after that…

So curiosity about people’s concerns for other people’s sexuality have fascinated me from a young age.

And I have to admit that what’s going on currently in NH, the USA as a whole and the world at large regarding Person A’s concern for Person B’s sexuality amazes me.

Electoral Concerns – What Would Jesus Do?

A recent article, How Christians reconcile their personal political views and the teachings of their faith: Projection as a means of dissonance reduction, published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, is worth mentioning because this Presidential election cycle — at least among Republicans — is going to deal with morality whether it wants to or not. Rick Santorum is an avowed Christian with views against abortion and same-sex marriage, Mitt Romney is for or against this or that depending on the phase of the moon (I’m being glib. Probably because I was such an avid reader in my youth), Newt Gingrich has had multiple affairs and marriages, claims his multiple affairs make him a more realistic candidate and is the darling of (some in) the Christian establishment. Only Ron Paul has been committed to the same issues in the same way and with the same partner for most of his life.

I mean, gosh! What’s wrong with him?

And did I mention that I’m not sure what morality has to do with sexual preference? The best definition of morality I’ve ever encountered is closely tied to the best definition of ethics I’ve ever encountered; Morality is how you think I should act, ethics are how I think I should act. My thinking comes from recognizing that morality stems from judgement based systems — when Person A says Person B is moral, something like “He’s of strong moral character”, what is really being communicated is “I approve of that person’s lifestyle” and I’ve never understood how or why my opinion of someone else should matter to them or anybody else, or why their opinion of me should matter to me or be important enough to them for them to show an interest.

However, ethics?

Ethics, for me, come down to my willingness to openly share with others both known and unknown to me what I’ve done, what I do and what I plan to do. Ethics is, in its purest form, about information economics and has nothing to do with judgements because information is information is information. Economics is about the flow of information in any of its many forms (money is only one form information can take).

Thus, just as morality and politics don’t seem a relevant combination to me, ethics and politics will never be a relevant combination to politicians.

The National Academy of Sciences study mentioned above indicated that both Conservatives and Liberals believe Jesus had distinct and activist political views. So the belief that he said “Render unto Ceaser what is Ceaser’s” should be ignored, I guess. Liberals believe Jesus shares their political views only more actively so. Conservatives, also, believe Jesus shares their political views only more actively so. And Hitler’s defense forces believed Gott mit uns only more actively so.

(Blame my highly literate youth for that. Fascism is fascism is fascism and when you put some diety’s face on it you’ve got that whole separation of church and state thing going.

But I digress)

A fascinating read on the subject of same-sex (and otherwise) marriage is the journal Science‘s Marriage Decision Highlights Same-Sex Studies about the defeat of California’s Proposition 8. One of the things that came out of all that is that there’s no scientific evidence that heterosexual unions are any better or worse than homosexual unions. Couples are couples are couples and children are children are children of couples of couples of couples so why bluster about whose hand is being held by whom and where and when?

I suppose it’s a question of picking our battles wisely. We may not have breathable air or drinkable water in fifty years but by golly, anybody around at that point in time will be heterosexual and proud of it as they gag on industrial pollutants and dehydrate because drinkable water costs $700US/gallon.

Coalition Building

Much of battle picking has to do with recognizing what’s winnable. But often picking battles has to do with what’s coalitionable, as in building coalitions, as in “I’ll vote this way on this and later you’ll vote that way on that, agreed?”, hence is about compromise.

I get that and sometimes believe I understand it. But truth often suffers when compromise occurs. Politics and it’s sibling, Law, will always seek the expeditious solution, not necessarily the correct, valid, honest or truthful one, merely the one that allows things to keep on moving as they had before.

And this is where politics and economics (money, not information) will sometimes overlap, coalitions may occur and truth suffers because of it.

I do not believe that politicians, New Hampshire based or otherwise, really truly honest to god care about who sleeps with who.

Unless it’s about who sleeps with them. Coalition-wise, I mean.

Sorry, I just can’t go there

The Good, the Bad and the UglyThe heart of the same-sex marriage concern is not about sexual partnerings, me thinks. I’ve known homosexuals, bisexuals, confused sexuals and celibate sexuals. Across the spectrum, there were nice people and not so nice people. But I’ve found that to be true of Afrikaans, Attorneys, Brits, Catholics, Chinese, Chefs, Irish, Israelis, Italians (I self-identify as “Italian”), Jews, Moslems, Musicians, Physicists, … Pick your demarcation and you’ll find the good, the bad and the ugly in amongst them.

So let’s leave personalities out of this discussion. What’s left? Religious belief and doctrines? If people knew how much those have changed through the years…

What’s left?

There’s always that “Follow the Money” thing. If we declare same-sex partners as married couples we’ll have to offer them benefits. Insure them, no less! Put this in the same bucket as children born in-vitro not qualifying for benefits (and the law has been changed regarding this. There’s hope, me thinks). Sometimes the function of litigation is to make out-of-date and otherwise bad laws obvious so we, the people, can change those laws.

So while I do not recognize myself as gay and don’t self-identify as such, I do understand the requirement for all to be equal under the law and that at times we, the people, must change them.

About twenty years ago a good friend and mentor shared with me that he would be moving to Hawaii. He wanted me to know before he told anybody else.

I was perplexed. “How come you’re moving?”

“The laws are different there. I can take care of my partner there. He’s got AIDS.”

One, I didn’t know he was gay. Two, it didn’t matter to me. My friend was moving away. I never met his partner and that wasn’t important. I gave him a hug and asked that he let me know if he needed help moving. To a place where there was no shame, no guilt, no judgement…

Still further back in time I was invited to take part in discussions on how to make gay life easier for students in the New York higher education system. This was so far back in time I’m not sure we even used the word “gay”. My group met with representatives from the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities.

My one take-away from those discussions was that some people in the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities were incredibly comfortable with their sexuality (I’m tempted to write “personhood”. It seems more valid, more truthful a word to me) than others were.

Kind of like the “straight” world. There are people who are comfortable with their personhood and others not so much so.

More recently I met a woman whose son wasn’t interested in dating. Anybody. She was so concerned about his sexual orientation she first started fixing him up with female classmates then second made suggestions regarding who, in his class, he could probably sleep with.

Ah, mothers…the things they’ll do for their sons…

What I’ve observed over the years is that people who are comfortable in their own lives rarely feel a need to judge, legislate or even talk about the lives of others.

And if we’re talking about legislation let’s remember that the government cannot give anything to anyone that they have not first taken away from someone else. So if we give the right of marriage to gay couples what are we taking away and from whom?

One early reader of this post paraphrased Ralph Nader’s “We’ll have solar energy as soon as the electric companies can figure out how to put a meter on the sun” with “We’ll have real equality when the government can figure out how to make money on homosexuality.”

Ouch!

The Question That Needs to be Asked

So I’m genuinely curious. I truly want to know.

What is so important about same-sex marriage that it’s not already accepted as law, no questions asked, no mandates required, no laws enforced, no appeals overruled, no legislation either needed or defeated?

I want logic, readers.

Just so we’re clear on “logic”, no appeals to some divinity, no appeals to public opinion, no appeals to historical precedent, no appeals to science (or else be prepared for counter arguments on either side), no …

Simple question: Why can’t same-sex couples be allowed equal protection under the law?

Any simple answers?

What Do Republicans Want?

That question has perplexed many a campaign analyst this election cycle. Despite what various candidates are claiming, there is no clear popular front runner for the Republican Presidential nomination. Distinct and indisputable victories in primaries and caucuses — something beyond low single digits — are few.

So why can’t the Republicans find someone who excites them?

Is it because they’re becoming Democrats?

The Democrats’ Perennial Problem

Democrats have repeatedly demonstrated an amazing ability; nobody can fractionate themselves as well or as quickly as the Democrats. Consider democratic presidential successes in the last sixty years and we have Kennedy and Clinton. Carter’s election was a response to Nixon and Obama to Bush II. An argument can be made that Clinton was a response to Reagan-Bush I and Johnson’s election was a combination of excellent negative campaigning towards Goldwater plus the free rides generated by Camelot and its demise.

But unifying behind a single cause? That’s not the Democratic way and the best example was the complete floundering Democrats performed when they dominated both the House and Senate following Obama’s election.

The Uniquely Republican Skill

Perhaps starting with Nixon and definitely starting with Reagan, the Republicans have demonstrated an amazing ability to find and capitalize on the nation’s unconscious sweet spot, the single idea or cause that universally brings blood to boil, emotions to rise, passions to flare and above all else, people to vote.

But where is that skill now?

The Democratic Theft

Clinton first stole that skill with “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” (and extra points to readers who know who Clinton stole that phrase from). Bush II — or more accurately Karl Rove — stole it back then Obama once again stole the ball with the Promise of Change. Both Clinton and Obama used wonderfully unifying factors in the common unconscious to rouse the vote.

So What Do Republicans Want?

Obviously none of the current presidential candidates. A previous study demonstrated that no one’s standing out as a real Republican front runner except as an excuse to scratch some box.

The real question is whether or not there’s any single unifying idea or cause the Republicans can rally around.

Or whether any single candidate or ticket can enunciate it.