Bookworm, Chai is wrong — homosexual equality and religious liberty can co-exist

by CynthiaYockey on January 19, 2010

I am not a registered commenter at Bookworm’s place, so I will have my say here. Regarding homosexual equality and religious liberty, she quotes lesbian attorney Chai Feldblum saying that the demands of the two are not reconcilable and that homosexual equality should win over religious liberty.

Long-time gentle readers know I don’t think very much of Chai Feldblum.

Feldblum is wrong. Homosexual equality and religious liberty can co-exist. However, the fact that a coalition of religions have appropriated the apparatus of the state to impose and enforce their religions’ definition of marriage AND to impose second-class citizenship on homosexuals is not in alignment with the Constitution and American ideals.

A few religions have been very enterprising and resourceful in sticking their hands deeply into the public purse, as well, by targeting the sick and vulnerable as part of their evangelical activities. This is why Catholic adoption agencies that receive government funding have been very vocal about their need to have government money while denying their services to gay and lesbian couples who wish to adopt because gays and lesbians are not among their target demographics for evangelism. If they were not accepting government money, they would be entirely free to refuse anyone for any reason. If they wish to do that, then they should stop taking government money. The market will step forward to fill the niches they will leave.

I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the Constitutional rule of separation of church and state means that religion will continue to be allowed to treat lesbians and gays any way they want, within the law. That means their leaders can refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

However, there’s really very little need to worry. One of the first things set up at the beginning of the gay rights movement, as it was called in the 1970’s — I came out in 1972 — was the founding of the Metropolitan Community Church by Rev. Troy Perry, an evangelical Christian. We do not need to take over anyone else’s religion. We have our own. If we need a new one, we’ll create it. We are all kinds of resourceful and self-reliant. It’s really a marvel to behold.

The result of second-class citizenship for lesbians and gays ranges from greater expenses, the constant jeopardy of not being allowed to manage a same-sex spouse’s medical care, and being shut out of socializing institutions of society, such as marriage, to great psychological and emotional damage due to a crime of being rather than of doing.

Equality for homosexuals does not conflict with religious liberty at all. However, it will be a litmus test to show where various religions have gotten their religious teachings adopted as law in order to impose them on everyone. It also will reveal where and how various religions have found out how to get government money by providing services that also allow them to evangelize, even if it is only done in subtle ways. All these religious enterprises have to do to have the freedom to refuse any service to homosexuals is to stop taking government money. Since the government should not be paying for religious activities, getting the religions out of its wallet is overdue. The market will fill in any gaps.

The religious justification for refusing equality to homosexuals generally has to do with the inability of same-sex couples to make babies. First, so what? This is an insufficient objection. Also, it is capriciously applied, since heterosexuals do not have to prove fertility to get married and their marriages are not annulled automatically if they fail to produce children. Second, 20 percent of same-sex couples do have children, usually from a previous marriage of one or both partners, so they need the rights and privileges of equality not only for themselves but also for their families.

The aspirations of homosexuals for access to the tools of equality — such as marriage, adoption and service in the military — are noble ones. Legal recognition of homosexual equality at the local, state and federal levels will make our society stronger and more moral. It will not restrict religious liberty.

(Note: I’ve covered this topic before and provided supporting links — but it’s 4:19 am and I’m not adding links right now because I need to go to bed.)

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  • Liz

    YES. I’ve never understood the religious people who want the liberty to discriminate against LGBTs (fine, there’s no obligation to not be an idiot) but don’t want LGBTs to have the right to not subsidise it. They’d throw a hissy fit if someone wanted to withhold their tax money from their organisations.

    I can definitely sympathise. I live in Ireland, where the Catholic church runs almost all of the schools, with government funding. It has thrown hissy fits at being forced to introduce co educational schools, then sex ed, then at having to speak in a neutral manner about homosexuality, then having to let immigrant children (all black, BTW) in. If religious organisations are so vital, people would fund them through choice.

    • Liz,

      Thank you. I didn’t realize how much money various enterprising religions have been able to get from the government — local, state and federal — until I read recently that the adoption company run by the Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., received $20 million annually. I will have to check that figure and find a citation, along with the population of Washington, D.C., but that’s the moment I realized that equality for homosexuals would turn religious enterprises that receive government money into public accommodations (that’s a legal term) that would have to serve people they have targeted for exclusion. These enterprises are a form of evangelism intended to gain converts by making friends — there’s actually a body of literature on how to evangelize that advocates this technique.

      In addition, the money these enterprising religions take in is fungible — it can be used for other purposes. So equality for gays brings this enormous flow of money from government to religions to light. THAT’S why they are fighting homosexual equality so hard. I respect their right to have an ideology that excludes homosexuals, as long as it’s entirely on their own dime. We’ll found our own religions and build our own churches and synagogues — in fact, as I noted, that was one of the first orders of business after the Stonewall riots in 1969 that started the homosexual equality movement. But insisting that they get to be paid as if they were public accommodations while using this money to advance their religion and apply its tenets to everyone who needs the service they are providing — no, THAT has got to stop. It is a violation of the separation of church and state.

      Cynthia

  • SDN

    And I’m fine with that…. as long as those organizations who BELIEVE there is no God don’t get funded either. Getting government out of the charity business would be wonderful, because then I could direct the tax savings (we would cut taxes, right) to the charities I like.

  • Valerie

    The resolution to the “marriage” problem is simple, and politically acceptable to most people: have the states register “domestic partnerships” and let the churches perform marriages as they have done all along. This would change nothing at all in states like California that already have domestic partnerships, AND, it would actually clarify the difference between what the state legitimately does (record transactions) and what the church legitimately does (perform the marriage ceremonies).

    Given the overwhelming willingness of religious people to allow gay couples the same rights as straight ones, along with the reluctance to call it “marriage,” such a move has a high probability of being accepted easily by society at large.

    • Valerie,

      Here are the reasons that having separate-but-equal domestic partnerships for same-sex couples is not a workable compromise:

      1. Marriage is primarily defined by the laws of each state, but there are also laws defining marriage and providing rights and privileges for married couples at the federal level. In reviewing the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the General Accounting Office (now the General Accountability Office) determined that there are 1,138 federal rights and privileges associated with marriage at the federal level alone. For example, a same-sex spouse of a State Department employee transferred to an overseas post would not be considered a spouse and accorded the privileges that would be given automatically to a spouse in a heterosexual marriage, which is federally recognized, such as a moving allowance and quarters that accommodate a couple.

      In other words, without federal recognition, there is no way for a domestic partnership to be accepted outside the state that allows it. Same-sex couples would still have to travel with all the powers-of-attorney they now must create, but other states are not required to recognize the powers-of-attorney, either. Believe me, if you do not have those papers with you all the time and one member of a same-sex couple has to go to the emergency room, the other one will be barred even from being with them unless the sick or injured partner is well enough to speak to demand their partner’s presence. In contrast, married heterosexual couples, even those with different last names, get accepted on their word that they are married and are able to stay together in the ER and make decisions for one another.

      2. Even within a state, it will be impossible to keep heterosexual marriage and domestic partnerships “separate but equal” because there always will be some legislator who wants to make his or her bones by thwarting enactment of laws and regulations that would keep domestic partnerships equal to heterosexual marriage. Given this aspect of human nature, it is just not possible logistically that separately defined domestic partnerships and marriage ever will stay equal.

      3. Consider that if religions want to keep the word “marriage,” then marriage should have only the rights granted by that religion. To obtain civil rights associated with marriage, then couples also would have to obtain a civil union. So there would have to be separate ceremonies for religious and civil marriage. Likewise, there would have to be separate procedures for religious and civil divorce. If your religion doesn’t grant divorces but you obtain a civil divorce, there will be confusion.

      4. France has tried a domestic partnership-type marriage, which is open both to heterosexual and same-sex couples. The result is that only a minority of people married in France now marry traditionally — the majority choose the marriage-lite of domestic partnership, although straight couples are allowed to upgrade. So it is probably not possible to do anything MORE destructive to traditional marriage than to establish the option of domestic partnerships, since heterosexual couples will demand to be allowed that option. Similarly, it is probable that permitting same-sex couples to have a traditional marriage, performed either by a civil authority or religious leader of a church that permits same-sex marriages, will strengthen marriage as an institution and promote stability in society thanks to extending the socializing influence of marriage to an additional eight percent of the population.

      Cynthia

  • anita

    Most adoptions in this country are some form of open adoption – where the birth mom (and dad if he’s involved) know and have chosen the couple who will adopt their child. How open the adoption is is generally up to what the birth parent(s) want.

    Agencies screen potential adoptive parents and work with birth moms to make sure that they truly want to make an adoption plan for their child. They also present a representative group of couples who wish to parent an adoptive child. Thus, if a birth mom wants her child to have a certain religion or type of upbringing, the agency looks to find couples who “match”. The whole point of this is to let the birth parent(s) have input into the decision, and ultimately choose (from a group of screened candidates) who will parent their child. This helps so much in making a very difficult decision. The child also knows that their birth parent(s) chose who became their parents. They also maintain the level of contact which best suits the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parents (although once the adoption goes through, the adoptive couple are the PARENTS of this child and can do as they please).

    This is so much better than having the state determine who parents a child. To me, the choice should be with the birth parent(s). If they would consider a gay or lesbian couple to parent their child, then so be it.

    If an agency does not wish to handle gay and lesbian couples, then so be it, the state shouldn’t be forcing them. There are other agencies who will take these folks.

    The state has no right to determine whether or not a gay or lesbian couple can adopt, nor should they be able to force an agency, or social worker/lawyer working privately, to handle gay and lesbian couples.

    As long as a couple meet the background check requirements of the agencies (like FBI checks, etc), agencies (or private social workers/lawyers) working with birth parent preferences should determine what type of people parent an adoptive child.

    In the case of hard-to-place children , I would think that a gay or lesbian “forever family” is preferable to the foster situation, however nice and loving a foster family is. If those type of children have birth parents with a preference though, you’d have to defer to that, unless they’ve been declared incompetent, or have had their parental rights severed in some way.

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