Monday, July 25, 2011

Homosexuality, Equality and Secular Humanism

This weekend New York passed the Marriage Equality Act which allows gender neutral marriages for same sex/opposite sex couples as well as protects religious organizations from penalty for refusing to sanctify or recognize a marriage that contradicts their religious beliefs.

This is yet another landmark in the ongoing homosexual civil rights issue. The New York Times published several touching stories about middle aged, life long partners finally being able to have their relationship validated by the state. For the first time hundreds of American families in New York are being treated equally.

Well, not completely equally.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex marriages are not recognized by the federal government. What does this mean? This means that gay and lesbian spouses are being explicitly denied the roughly 1,049 federal protection laws that all heterosexual spouses enjoy. In addition DOMA says that no state is obligated to recognize a same-sex marriage. This means that whatever state rights exist to protect a same-sex marriage (this varies by state) become completely obsolete as soon as you leave the state.

1. Federal Rights.

Of the 1,049 federal laws that homosexuals are being denied the highest of these are in the categories of Federal Civilian and Military Service Benefits (275), Taxation (179), Social Security (82) and Employment Benefits (67).

There are all kinds of horrific stories that bear out the consequences of being denied these rights. Imagine that your lover of 30 years is hit by a car on a late night stroll. Without marital status you may be legally prohibited from riding in the ambulance, visiting in the hospital, making decisions for your partner's medical treatment, and even honoring their funeral wishes. Why? Because you are technically a legal stranger.

You are not entitled to exemption on Inheritance or Death taxes. You are not entitled to employee benefits such as medical leave to care for a spouse or bereavement. You are not given a break on property tax in the event of your partner's death which, in most cases, means that you lose your home because you can no longer afford it.

You are not entitled to social security or VA pensions should your partner die. These are rights that even divorced heterosexual couples have, folks.

If you are the non-biological parent of a same-sex partnership and your partner dies you have no federal rights that validate or protect your relationship with your child.

Until very recently if you were a homosexual serving in the military you couldn't even list your partner as an emergency contact for fear of being discharged, let alone the VA benefits offered to every other heterosexual couple. One tragic story involves a lesbian Air Force Captain. A few weeks before deployment her partner of 14 years was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. When she told her superiors why she could not be deployed she was immediately discharged. Even when her partner died and she brought a death certificate to the appeals for her unfair discharge she was still accused of using the event to get out of her military obligations.

Every right I have listed (maybe 15 out of the 1,049) are unequivocally given to heterosexual marriages. This is clearly not equality.

2. State Rights.

There are about 300 state rights that come with marriage. Even the most progressive states like California and New York do not offer these rights fully to civil unions. For an example of how important this is consider that if you study the California Code with regard to marriage, you'll get 4,000 hits where spousal status makes a difference.

The important thing to know about State rights is that, because of DOMA, state rights do not apply when you leave the state. This means that the couples who married this weekend in NYC are not necessarily protected by the laws of marriage in ANY OTHER STATE.

Bill and Brad have been together for 24 years. They finally got married this weekend in New York City and are taking a cross country road trip for their honeymoon. In Utah they are hit by a drunk driver and Bill is taken to the hospital in a devastating coma. Brad, 
who has no federal or state rights in Utah as a legal spouse, is treated as a legal stranger and has no authority to decide on Bill's medical treatment. And so on, and so forth.

Folks, this is not equality. This isn't even CLOSE to equality. This is not an appeal for the homosexual community to have "special rights." It is an appeal for "equal rights."

Secular Humanism and the Fight for Equality

It is a fact that the loudest resistance to homosexual equality is the religious right. They continue to use the same dishonest tactics by drawing debunked correlations between the homosexual community and the degeneration of the family. In my essay on Homosexuality and False Victimization I said this:

"Although the American Psychological Association makes it clear that the longstanding consensus of the behavioral and social sciences and the health and mental professions is that homosexuality is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation, some people still seem to think that it is a mental disorder. Although homosexuality can be observed in nature (lions, pigeons, giraffes, bison, elephants, gulls, bonobos, dragonflies, sheep, dolphin, just to name a few) some people still consider it a dysfunctional CHOICE. Although study after study continues to show that there is an equal level of commitment and relationship satisfaction amongst both gay and straight couples, some people still think that homosexuals are incapable of having healthy and lasting relationships. Although studies show that children raised by same-sex couples are just as mentally healthy as other children, some people still think that homosexuals are not fit parents. Although studies show no correlation between homosexuality and child molestation, some people still consider homosexuals a threat and a danger to children."

I'm not ignoring the many religious folks who are open and accepting of gay rights and marriage equality. There are many fine religious folks out there who I stand arm in arm with on this issue. However, the advancement of the LGBT movement is largely due to increasing secular values.

I recently read an article about Willow Creek Community Church, a huge, trend-setting congregation in Chicago, cutting ties with anti-gay ministries. Churches and mainstream evangelicals are beginning to disassociate with the anti-gay bigotry of Christianity's (not so distant) past.

Why are they doing this? Well, it certainly isn't because they think any differently about homosexuals. Church officials at Willow Creek described the move as a shift in approach rather than a change in belief.

So, they still consider the homosexuals a project. A target with which to inculcate their straightness. The truth is that they want to be culturally relevant. Cultural relevance, these days, is dictated by secular humanism. This is the same thing that happened during the abolition of slavery and the advent of inter-racial marriage. Just like the religious fundamentalists today, the religious right back then believed that God was on their side. A Virginia judge had this to say during the interracial marriage breakthroughs:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

Are we seeing a pattern of religious based bigotry here folks? Who are the secular humanists fighting against same-sex marriage? They do not exist.

The war is over. For every enemy of gay rights there will be someone like me ready to fight them with logic, reason, science, rational thought and human compassion. We are growing and we will dismantle their hatred with our wit, our evidence, our free commitment to the values and dignity of human life. We have no rule book. We have our consciences. We have no gods or cosmic authorities telling us who, what, and how to love. We have our hearts and the pervasive drive to fight the suffering of the world.

Which side will you stand on? Will you be apologizing to the world like those who defended slavery and made interracial marriage illegal? Or will you stand with those of us who fight for the inherent dignity of all human beings? 

It's pretty simple. Get on the right side of history.

In Reason,

Clint Wells

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