jasonbwatson

March 8, 2018

Lesbian Weddings and Assault Rifles

“We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view.”

“We don’t want to be a part of this.”

“We deeply believe….”

No doubt you have heard about Melissa and Aaron Klein, the couple that owned a cake shop in Gresham, Oregon, refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, and was fined $135,000 for their refusal. According to a December 28, 2017 article by Whitney Woodworth in the Statesman Journal, “When Aaron Klein found out the cake was for two brides, he told Bowman-Cryer he and his wife did not make cakes for same-sex weddings because of their religious beliefs.” After the lesbian brides-to-be filed a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries claiming that they were denied public accommodation by the Kleins due to their sexual orientation, an investigation by that bureau determined that the Klein’s refusal to make the cake for them “constituted unlawful discrimination.” As a result, the Kleins were ordered to pay a $135,000 in damages. The Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously upheld that decision.

The lesbian couple, which is now married, “said the case was not simply about a wedding cake, their marriage or their wedding. It is about whether it is OK for a business to refuse to serve people because of the owner’s religious beliefs,” Woodworth reported.

The Kleins have since closed their cake shop. Melissa Klein said, “I was happy to serve this couple in the past for another event and would be happy to serve them again, but I couldn’t participate in the ceremony that goes against what I believe.” She said the government violated her freedom of religion and, in essence, told her what to believe. According to Woodworth, the Kleins attorney, Adam Gustafson said, “The Kleins did not discriminate based on sexual orientation; rather, they chose not to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony because they believe marriage should only exist between a man and a woman.”

According to Carson Whitehead, the Oregon Department of Justice attorney who represented the Bureau of Labor and Industry, “the case turns on two simple facts: The Kleins refused to provide the exact same service for a same-sex couple that they would with a heterosexual couple, and the denial of services was based on sexual orientation.”

Woodworth ended her article this way:

In a statement issued Thursday, the Bowman-Cryers [the lesbian couple] said now all Oregonians can go into any store and expect to be treated like any other person.

“It does not matter how you were born or who you love,” they said. “With this ruling, the Court of Appeals has upheld the long-standing idea that discrimination has no place in America.”

I hope you noted in the above how many times the word “believe” appeared. And I hope you also noted that the beliefs of the Kleins were not considered a legitimate reason for them to decline making a wedding cake for the lesbian couple. Lastly, I hope you noted that the lesbian couple proclaimed that now anyone in Oregon could go into any store and expect to be treated like any other person because discrimination has no place in America (emphasis mine).

But I would like to point out that the three quotes I led this post with were not made by the Kleins and had nothing to do with homosexual marriage.

Instead, I would like to direct your attention to another story that has been in the news of late: the decision of Dick’s Sporting Goods and Wal Mart to no longer sell firearms to anyone under the age of 21. Why? According to the statement released by Dick’s on Twitter, “We deeply believe that this country’s most precious gift is our children.” And, because children are the future and must be protected, Dick’s also stated, “We believe it is time to do something about it.”

Did you notice that word “believe” again?

Dick’s CEO, Edward Stack, said, “We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation.” And one other thing he said? “We don’t want to be a part of this any longer.” (See this article in the New York Times to read more of Stack’s thoughts and comments).

Here, then, is the real issue: if a small business owner in Oregon cannot refuse to make a wedding cake for a lesbian wedding because of the owner’s beliefs, then a huge business cannot refuse to sell guns to 18, 19 and 20 year olds just because the companies’ executives “believe” that it is time for them to restrict guns getting into the hands of those individuals. If a baker who believes that homosexual marriage is wrong cannot “take a stand and step up and tell people” their view, then neither can Dick’s or Wal Mart. If Aaron and Melissa Klein cannot say “we don’t want to be a part of this” and run their business accordingly, then neither can Edward Stack.

Jeff Jacoby wrote an excellent piece in the Boston Globe entitled, “The same-sex wedding cake case isn’t about same-sex marriage.” His article is not about Aaron and Melissa Klein but about Jack Phillips, a cake baker in Oregon who also refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and whose case was heard by the Supreme Court this past December. You can read Jacoby’s article in its entirety if you would like, but here is his conclusion: “One needn’t share Phillips’s opinion of gay marriage to support his right to unmolested freedom of expression.”

No cake baker should be required to make a cake to celebrate a marriage that he or she believes is wrong. No company should be required to sell guns to anyone under 21 if that is what the company leadership believes is right. A wedding cake can be purchased elsewhere by a homosexual couple, just like a rifle can be purchased elsewhere by an 18-year-old. At least, that’s how it should be. How the Dick’s and Wal Mart lawsuit turns out (oh yes, they’ve already been sued) and how the Jack Phillips case ends are still to be determined. What is not still unknown, though, is this simple truth: if we, as a nation, allow some companies to choose not to comply with some laws based on their beliefs we cannot disallow the same privilege to other companies. If we do, we will soon find that we have contradicted ourselves into an absolute disaster.

July 27, 2016

Identifying reality

In the July 9, 2016 issue of WORLD Katie Gualtney had an article entitled “Showdown in Cowtown.” The topic of the article is transgender student guidelines created in Fort Worth, TX. Those guidelines apparently clarify, or add to, a previously-existing anti-discrimination statement the school district issued in 2011 by adding that students can use the restroom or locker room of their choice “based on their own, self-perceived gender identity without ‘medical or mental health diagnosis.'” That means, of course, that there is absolutely no barrier to any student claiming to identify with one gender or another, regardless of his or her biology, and for whatever reason. If a guy wants to go in the girls locker room, all he has to do is say he identifies as a girl that day. If no diagnosis is required and actions are dictated solely by self-perceived gender identity then said identity can change on a whim without limit, I assume.

Gualtney also writes that the Fort Worth school district also supports “self-designated-gender participation in athletics.” There again, this would mean, I assume, that a student could identify as a girl to play on the volleyball team and then as a guy to play basketball before identifying as a girl again for track season. Actually, if it is all self-designated anyway, what’s to stop a student from claiming to be bi-gendered and playing on both the girls and guys basketball teams? After all, we have bisexuals now, why not bi-gendered individuals? And if someone is bi-gendered it would surely be wrong for us to make them pick one gender or the other, would it not?

It gets worse, though, believe it or not. Gualtney reports that teachers “must use the pronoun and name preferred by the student, regardless of the student’s legal name or parents’ permission, and they are not to tell parents about their children’s gender confusion.” Any student, just to be a jerk and irritate a teacher, could therefore insist on being called a different name or referred to by a different pronoun–and the teacher could do nothing about it. Not even talk to the student’s parent. Surely, therefore, this could not be a behavior deserving of a consequence or reprimand of any kind from the school because how could a school discipline a student for something that has already been defined as being purely up to the “self-perceived” and “self-designated” gender of the student? Schools have to have permission to give out headache medicine but apparently there is no need to talk over serious matters like gender identity with the parent. After all, we should let everyone make up their own minds in this area, free from the cumbersome interference of their parents. (Yes, that’s sarcasm again–lest anyone pull that quote out and use it completely out of context).

If you have read this space much you likely know that I have a like/dislike relationship with the writings of WORLD columnist Janie B. Cheaney. In more than fifteen years of reading WORLD, Cheaney has authored some of the more ridiculous things I have ever read as well as some of the more thought-provoking. Her column in the July 23, 2016 issue is one of the latter. It is also one of the first mainstream journalism articles I have come across to articulate the point I have been making here for a while–that when we throw open the door for self-perception and self-designation, we throw open a door we really cannot then close. We cannot, after all, decide to allow individuals to decide for themselves whether or not marriage is only between a man and a woman, or whether or not they are a man or a woman, and then tell them that cannot decide whether or not marriage is limited to two people or whether or not they are red, yellow, black or white.

Chaney references a video made by the Family Policy Institute of Washington–which I have not seen–in which an interviewer questions students at the University of Washington about transgender issues. “None of the young adults who appear on the video have a problem with Backholm [the interviewer] hypothetically identifying as a woman, but they squirm a bit when he suggests he might be Chinese, or 7 years old (‘What if I wanted to enroll in first grade?’), or 6 feet 5 inches tall.” They squirm because we know, inherently, that an adult is not seven years old and that a white guy is not a Chinese woman. Or do we? After all, we used to know, too, that marriage was between a man and a woman and we knew who was a male or female within seconds of their birth (if not before).

If we can no longer take for granted what used to be obvious and uncontested then we can no longer put any weight or merit on those characteristics. That means there can be no real limit on when students have to start school or be finished with school, there can be no age limit on when someone must come off their parent’s insurance, there can be no quotas for interviewing, hiring or admitting individuals of certain racial or ethnic identities… I rather liked high school. Maybe I’ll go back and do it again, claiming to only be 16.

On vacation recently my family spent a day at a water park. I do not remember what prompted this thought in my mind but it occurred to me at some point–probably because we were in California and my wife and I were far more attentive to the issue of using public bathrooms and changing rooms than we ever had been before–that a biological woman could walk around the park topless and no one could do anything about it if, when questioned, she said she was a man. “That’s ridiculous,” you say. “It would be obvious she was a woman in that scenario.” Really? Based on what? There is nothing obvious about self-perception or self-identity. There is no standard, no metric, no objective basis on which to make a decision, develop a rule or make an evaluation.

That is why some congressmen recently sponsored legislation to the effect of making all men and women register with Selective Service upon turning 18. Partially, anyway. Their point was that if women will be allowed to participate fully in the Armed Forces, as Ash Carter has decided, and if homosexual and transgender individuals are allowed to participate fully in the Armed Forces, then why should men be required to serve if drafted but not women? The point was you cannot pursue something–total equality within the Armed Forces for women, homosexual and transgender individuals–without there being consequences to that pursuit. They were aiming specifically at the full combat participation of women, but the principle is the same in every area. When we eliminate standards and objective realities we have to eliminate all of the results that stemmed from those standards and objective realities that previously existed.

By the way, the absurdity of both the amount of attention being given to transgender issues and the accommodations being foisted upon the rest of us to allow these individuals to do and claim to be whatever they want is made only more absurd when we truly consider the number of people we are talking about. By their own estimate, according to Gualtney’s article, the Fort Worth school district has 0.0001% of their 86,000 students identifying as transgender. A June 30, 2016 issue in the New York Times reported that the transgender population in the United States was actually double what previous reports had indicated–actually 0.6% of the population instead of 0.3%.

Despite these still-miniscule numbers, the Times went on to state that this apparent doubling of numbers “is likely to raise questions about the sufficiency of services to support a population that may be larger than many policy makers assumed.” Really? Even if the number doubled, just over one-half of one percent of the nation now identifies as transgender. And we are worried about the sufficiency of services to support them? Maybe we should improve the support services to our veterans first–I think there somewhere between thirty and forty times more of them than there are individuals identifying as transgender. Maybe we should worry about unemployment, those living below the poverty level, those who cannot read or those struggling with other disabilities should be addressed first–the numbers for all of those groups is much higher than the number of identifying transgender people. There are no doubt many, many categories of people we could come up with in greater numbers than the 0.6% of the U.S. population identifying as transgender. In the study cited by the Times article the states with the highest percentage of identifying as transgender still had only 0.78% and 0.76% and 0.75%–Hawaii, California and Georgia respectively. Interesting, isn’t it, how “the 1%”–the wealthiest of Americans–are often targeted as needing to be taxed more, to sacrifice more of their income for the greater good, to have more of their money taken away to pay for the services the government provides for everyone else. Yet, “the less-than-1%” need additional support services and ridiculous accommodations and allowances that interfere with common sense living for the rest of us? There are more Americans with Autism and celiac disease then there are identifying transgender people. There are about sixty times more Americans with diabetes than there are with transgender identities. Need I go on?

The Times article also states, “Noting that younger adults ages 18 to 24 were more likely than older ones to say they were transgender, researchers said that the new estimates reflected in part a growing awareness of transgender identity.” I agree, but not in the way “the researches” intended. I agree only because people are now aware that there is this thing that they can claim that no one can do anything about or say is or is not so, so of course more people are claiming it. Almost any time there is some dramatic change–like transgender identity or gay marriage–there will be more young people identifying, agreeing or supporting than there will be older people.

Ultimately, there is only one solution for this stupidity and it is the recognition that there is an objective standard and an absolute truth. Cheaney notes that “[t]his is a level of confusion that…goes down to the very rejection of being. Identity, as it’s understood today is not being. Identity begins with choice, even if that choice seems unavoidable. Being begins with birth. … The agonizing confusion some people experience about gender and sexuality is not the problem. It’s a symptom. The solution is not crafting an identity, but centering ourselves in our Creator.” And I say Amen to that.

By the way, before I go, let me draw your attention to something that happened just over a year ago. A woman named Rachel Dolezal was all over the news because she had been serving as the head of the Spokane NAACP and claiming to be black. She resigned amidst the charges that she had lied about her race. Despite the fact that she was born to two white parents, she had been labeled at various times a transracial, biracial and black. What did she say amidst all the hubbub on June 16, 2015? “I identify as black.”

Hmmm….

February 26, 2014

It doesn’t make any sense

You may not have noticed, but we are in the midst of an age in which laws are being selectively enforced and upheld. President Barack Obama famously announced early in his administration that his Justice Department would no longer enforce the Defense of Marriage Act or even defend it in court. Republicans in Congress took on the task of defending the law but last summer the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional. When they did so, however, they also left the matter of defining marriage to the states. With increasing frequency, however, states that have attempted to do just that have had those laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman struck down as unconstitutional.

Today Texas became the most recent victim of activist judges overstepping their authority and completely reinterpreting the Constitution. Judge Orlando L. Garcia of United States District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled that the amendment to the Texas constitution passed by voters in 2005 and defining marriage as between a man and a woman violated the United States Constitution. Why? Because, he said, it demeans the dignity of homosexuals “for no legitimate reason.”

Part of Garcia’s ruling reads like this: “Without a rational relation to a legitimate governmental purpose, state-imposed inequality can find no refuge in our United States Constitution.” According to a article published today by the New York Times, however, the state of Texas had reasons for defining marriage as between a man and a woman. “The [state’s] lawyers denied that Texas’ laws were rooted in prejudice, linking the bills instead to the state’s interest in protecting traditional marriage to promote procreation and child-rearing by a mother and a father in ‘stable and enduring family units,'” the article said. Apparently Judge Garcia does not consider those to be “legitimate governmental purposes.”

The Times also reported that the two gay and lesbian couples who sued the state insisted that the state’s ban “perpetuated discrimination and put a financial, legal and emotional burden on homosexual couples.” Texas Representative Warren Chisum responded to that assertion by saying, “I’ve never made any statement that this bill did not discriminate. This bill does discriminate. It allows only for a man and a woman to be married in this state and be recognized in marriage in this state.”

Chisum is right on the mark. The problem is, discrimination is not automatically wrong. Almost every piece of legislation discriminates. “To discriminate” is simply another way of saying “to distinguish.” There are laws all across the country discriminating against people driving 90 miles per hour on the interstate or even 45 miles per hour in a school zone; laws discriminating against people who want to take merchandise from the store without paying for it; laws discriminating against people from buying alcohol before turning 21 or voting before turning 18; and, for now anyway, laws discriminating against people who want to be in government-sanctioned relationships made up of one man and two women or one person and one animal or one adult and one child. In other words, laws discriminate all the time; if they did not discriminate there would be no reason to have laws at all.

I have not read the case’s briefs so I do not know exactly how the homosexual couples who sued claimed to have experienced legal, financial or emotional burdens as a result of the Texas law, but I cannot imagine their reasoning would hold up under much legitimate scrutiny. Fortunately Judge Garcia was wise enough to stay his ruling pending the appeal that will no doubt be coming forthwith. Hopefully the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, where the appeal will be heard, will actually read the Constitution and realize that it does not protect or entitle homosexual marriage.

The other laws you have no doubt been hearing about lately are those state laws that are allowing the recreational use of marijuana. Interestingly, the New York Times also has an article on that subject today. Rick Lyman’s article begins like this: “A little over a year after Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, more than half the states, including some in the conservative South, are considering decriminalizing the drug or legalizing it for medical or recreational use.”

What few people seem to be commenting on (though the Times did mention it) is that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Article 6, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, often called the Supremacy Clause, reads, “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.” There are many court decisions over the years that uphold the principle of the supremacy of federal law.

Why do I bring marijuana into the marriage discussion? Simply because both are examples of states making their own laws and in one instance they are permitted to violate the federal law without consequence and in another they are being told that the Constitution prohibits them from making their own laws even though it does not and even though nothing in the Constitution protects the right of homosexual marriage. Indeed given the absence of any federal definition of marriage the states clearly have the right to define it according to Amendment 10 of the Constitution.

In other words, states are permitted–even encouraged, I might say–to pass their own laws allowing what the federal law explicitly prohibits because the behavior being permitted is considered to be in line with a progressive or liberal change that those in power support. When states pass laws upholding or enforcing more traditional or conservative behaviors (like marriage) they are told they cannot do so. Here’s the bottom line: federal law prohibits the use of marijuana but states are allowed to permit it and federal law permits the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman but states are prohibited from thus defining it. We have a very real problem on our hands; laws no matter mean anything beyond what those in power want them to mean.

President Obama has, by way, provided additional evidence for his own impeachment in his handling of the state marijuana laws. Despite the clear federal prohibition of the use of marijuana the New York Times reports that the “Obama administration has said it will not interfere with the rollout of legal marijuana in the states, as long as it is kept out of the hands of minors.”

Interesting, is it not, that Judge Garcia denied that the people of Texas have a right to define marriage as between a man and a woman even though they said it was in part an effort to protect children, yet President Obama has invited states to ignore federal law so long as they protect children when they legalize marijuana.

Don’t try to make any sense of it…it simply doesn’t make any sense.

February 7, 2012

We’re Slipping

A few weeks ago I posted an entry called “A Very Slippery Slope” about the dangers of expanding the definition of marriage to mean more than a relationship between one man and one woman. Unfortunately, the intervening few weeks have provided additional evidence that we are already slipping.

Newt Gingrich is running for president. Not surprisingly, that means that all of his dirty laundry is being aired publicly…which includes an examination of his past marital infidelity. According to the second Mrs. Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House asked her to go along with the idea of an open marriage so that Mr. and Mrs. Gingrich could remain married and Newt could continue his affair with his staffer. When the second Mrs. Gingrich said no, she says, a divorce resulted, and that staffer is now the third Mrs. Gingrich.

In and of itself this would likely have been an unfortunate and, depending on your point of view, disqualifying part of the GOP presidential race. However, the New York Times decided to make it more than that, and it is the Times that we must thank for revealing just how far we are already slipping.

The Times has an opinion section (as most newspapers do) and in the opinion section there is a recurring feature called Room for Debate. On January 20 the powers that be at the paper decided to devote this space to exploring the topic of open marriage. Referencing Marianne Gingrich’s assertion that Newt wanted an open marriage, the paper asked this question: “…[I]f her account is true, was he onto something? If more people considered such openness an option, would marriage become a stronger institution — less susceptible to cheating and divorce, and more attractive than unmarried cohabitation?”

I will set aside (for the moment) what seems to me the incredible idiocy of the very phrasing and background of this question–the presumption that marriages would be stronger if they were open–and look first at the responses the paper provided.

Dan Savage, editor of a Seattle newsweekly and author of a book on marriage, ended his thoughts on the topic by saying that an open marriage is “a better solution for those who are incapable of monogamous behavior, and a less socially harmful one, than an endless cycle of marriage, betrayal, divorce and remarriage.” Please note what Savage is saying: that there are people who are incapable of monogamy. Sound familiar? As I mentioned in the earlier post, if we start buying into the idea that people are not able to control themselves and therefore must engage in certain behavior, where do we draw the line? in fact, how do we draw a line? Who would get to be the arbiter of what behaviors can and cannot be controlled?

Okay, moving on… Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers are visiting professors of economics at Princeton University. They suggest that marriage vows should be negotiated and tailored like an employment contract. “This individual contracting lets you define the relationship that works best for both you and your boss. We should take the same approach to our romantic relationships.” And, they go on, this does not have to apply only to sexual fidelity; why not negotiate housework, location of residence, number of children, retirement age, etc.? “Marriage can be strengthened by shifting to individualized marital contracts that emphasize those things essential to making each relationship work.” This is, of course, exactly what those who want to redefine marriage are already arguing. Make marriage unique and specific to the individuals involved. If it works for you for it to be between one man and one woman then fine, but let someone else define it as between two men or two women if they so please. But again, how can we stop there? If it’s all about what works for me, how can you ever say no?

Ralph Richard Banks, a law professor at Stanford and author of a book on African-American marriages correctly points out that most individuals who claim to want the freedom that an open marriage allows are not nearly as excited about allowing their spouse the same freedom. But he ends his response with this: “The paradox of marital satisfaction is that people would almost certainly be happier if they expected less. The surest road to discord, sexual and otherwise, is to expect your partner to complete you, to make you whole. If couples relaxed or relinquished some of their emotional expectations, marriages could better accommodate extramarital dalliances. But then, there would also be less need for them.” On the contrary, isn’t the need for completion the exact reason why God created Eve in the first place? But, Banks seems to say, if we didn’t expect our spouse to complete us we probably wouldn’t get so worked up when he or she did step out on us. All I can think to say to this line of reasoning is…”Whatever.”

W. Bradford Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, could certainly be expected to defend marriage, though, right? Well, just barely. Wilcox asserts that open marriages do a disservice to women and are particularly dangerous for the well-being of children. He expounds on this by saying that more men than women engage in infidelity, so women are the ones most often hurt, and then cites a survey showing that children who live with “one parent and an unrelated romantic partner” are ten times more likely to be “sexually, physically or emotionally abused.” While no doubt true, I think Wilcox missed the point, because I am not sure anyone would advocate open marriages that include children being rotated among caregivers. (I probably should not go that far; let me clarify and say that no one I have come across is advocating such an arrangement).

Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins says that open marriages are not a trend we should move toward because of the danger of jealousy. However, it is perfectly fine, he suggests, to have any number of sexual relationships, so long as each one is monogamous for its duration. He calls this “serial monogamy.”

Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, not surprisingly, support the idea of an open marriage. And I say not surprisingly because they are the authors of a “practical guide to polyamory.” They suggest that successful open marriages are all about effective communication: “People who are generally open-minded about sex and who are aware of polyamory as an option will have an easier time than those who believe that the desire for an open relationship must mean that their spouse no longer loves them.”

Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, authors of a book on sexual history, are perhaps the most blatantly in support of open marriage. Their response includes these statements:
“…[T]he configuration of the relationship (same-sex, open, swinging, poly, asexual, etc.) shouldn’t concern us, on personal or policy grounds. Conventional relationships are no happier or more durable than the alternatives. … For all the oft-repeated claims to the contrary, civilization doesn’t depend upon the sanctity of any particular form of marriage, but upon honoring the dignity intrinsic to any mutually respectful, mutually beneficial relationship.” Again, the basic idea is, whatever works for the individuals involved should be fine.

Bottom line…we’re already slipping.

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