Genii Weblog

In Iowa of all places

Fri 3 Apr 2009, 01:15 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
I don't particularly intend to get into a political debate here, so skip this if you are likely to be offended, but I was very pleased to see that the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the ban on same-sex marriage in that state, making it the first state in the Midwestern U.S. to allow same-sex marriages.  I would be even happier if the people of Iowa (and Ohio and so on) would pass this sort of right into law rather than leaving it to the courts.  As a strong believer in individual rights that don't stomp on the rights of others, I am pleased to live in an age where same-sex marriage is at last being recognized, and gradually becoming more accepted.  For the same of same-sex couples I know (and ones I don't), I hope the momentum continues and accelerates.

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What has been said:

808.1. patrick picard
(04/03/2009 06:58 PM)

I really don't know why this topic is so hot in political campaigns (even here in Canada). For all I care, let people do what they want.

Politicians should focus on more important issues such as education, protection, economy growth, etc etc

808.2. David Vasta
(04/03/2009 07:19 PM)

Still trying to make up my mind on this one, but I think there should be an option other than marriage for Domestic Corporation or Partnerships.

It would give them the rights they want and not have to play havoc with the current laws and religious people.

LIBERTY is apart of our country. We should allow LIBERTY and not get in the way of the pursuit of happiness, what we call Marriage does not matter as long as it have legal grounds to stand up in court. A Church Wedding is not a legal contract, but a Domestic Corporation or Partnership would stand up.

I think along the line some state will get it right, to date I think they have tried to make things equal and equal is not what is going to work. It's like trying to put cars and boats on the same road, at some point we have to divide the two and give cars a hard surface and boats a liquid surface so they can both move forward. Granted both vehicles want to go to the same place using the same path which is what is needed.

808.3. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/03/2009 09:12 PM)

@Patrick - I agree completely.

@David - The problem is really that marriage should have always had a civil component separate from the religious component, but that is water under the bridge. Trying to now say that a man and a woman can have a "marriage", but a man and a man or a woman and a woman can only have a "domestic partnership" or anything of the kind is just repeating the mistakes of the pre-civil rights days when "separate but equal" was seen as a valid solution. It wasn't then and isn't now. Religious marriage has long been available to same-sex couples, at least through the Unitarian Church, and any religion can handle religious marriage any way it wants, but civil marriage should not be discriminatory, even in naming. Separate but equal is a farce that should not be repeated.

808.4. Rodney Scott
(04/04/2009 12:19 AM)

My understanding is it's a tax issue. I don't think gays would be happy to call what they have "marriage" but still have to file as unmarried. But the tax laws were intended to assist parents in supporting children, and the vast majority of gay couples don't have any. Now is a bad time to expand tax loopholes to include more people, many of them financially secure as it is. I would be all for making the ability to file jointly more dependent upon being parents than being married. In that situation, whatever causes two adults to cohabit (and whatever they wish to call it) would not affect their taxes, but having dependent children would.

808.5. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/04/2009 02:19 AM)

@Rodney - While I understand your point, I was under the impression that filing jointly had more to do with encouraging pooled family incomes, even without children, whereas dependent exemptions and childcare credits and such had more to do with supporting children. Nonetheless, I don't think the issue is largely a tax issue, although that is one of those issues that might need to be ironed out. Given that I know multiple gay couples with children and multiple straight couples without children, it is a bit hard to believe that the tax issue is much more than an excuse.

808.6. Rodney Scott
(04/04/2009 03:52 AM)

Ben, Im afraid my gay supervisor and his boyfriend dont have children, and my previous supervisor and her girlfriend didnt, and the gay third of my company doesnt, either. There is more monetary incentive than you realize. My neighbors come into your living room each night and play on your sympathies to get you to vote how they want. For instance, there was once a movie about a con artist in Nebraska which drummed up an absurd amount of sympathy for a con artist. In the movie, the con artist was a misunderstood transsexual. Unfortunately for them, Ive read the case file. The movie was fiction, as is a lot of what the media portrays. I know youve traveled internationally, and maybe things are different in other countries, but here its all about how the rich can get richer, and this is kind of a secret handshake. Changing the tax laws would at least assure people that its not about getting tax breaks for being gay.

808.7. Jason
(04/04/2009 12:18 PM)

All of this talk about "liberty"... Where does liberty stop? Is it absolute? Where does it overlap into cultural taboos, and the eventual integration of taboos into mainstream thought? Should someone have the freedom to marry a dog if they so choose? What about the freedom to have consenting sex with a teenager? 100 years ago, two men marrying and living as a legal couple would have been unthinkable. What will be considered legal and acceptable 100 years from now? When freedom supercedes morality, then the answer is ANYTHING.

808.8. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/04/2009 02:07 PM)

@Jason - The trouble is, morality is not such an easy concept to define. 150 years ago, it would have been perfectly acceptable in much of the United States to own a family such as the Obamas, sell each of the children off individually if you liked, rape Michelle and beat Barack, all legally. Now, he is President and they are safe from such abuse.

Asking whether someone should have the freedom to marry a dog is simply trying to take an extreme case to scare people. After all, 100 years ago it was not legal for a white person to marry a black person in many states, and the same argument was used. Would you argue that whites should not marry blacks? Marriage is an established legal union between two adult people, and extending that to include two adult people of different races or the same sex does not bring in different species or ages or quantities, no matter how much moralists try to stretch the argument. Of the people, by the people and for the people doesn't exclude based on race or sexual preference, but neither does it extend to non-people.

808.9. Rodney Scott
(04/04/2009 10:39 PM)

Gays aren't quite the victims you're making them. You should read the book "After The Ball", an intro to what some call "the gay agenda". Yes, I'm aware that there was a similar book supposedly written by Jews as a gameplan to take over the (world? country? I'm not real familiar with the facts) during the Holocaust, but I think this book is legit because it's not real damning of gays, except in it's predictive power. Published in 1989, the authors are either psychic or determined. For instance, they recommend the media portray "hysterical backwoods preachers, drooling with hate to a degree that looks both comical and deranged" p. 189. Who could have guessed that one of the most infamous of these during the 90s and today, Reverend Fred Phelps, would have moved to such behavior after spending his early career as a civil rights attorney making great strides for African Americans? In the 80s, he won awards from the NAACP for his anti-discrimination suits. "Phelps also sued then-President Ronald Reagan... alleging (Reagan's ambassador appointment) had violated separation of church and state" (Wikipedia on Phelps). People point out that today his behavior does more harm than good "for his own cause", but he (oddly) doesn't seem to care. He, as many people have aptly pointed out, "just wants the publicity".

808.10. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/05/2009 04:58 AM)

@Rodney - Gays aren't victims, they are simply people. They don't have any monolithic agenda, anymore than straights do. I am thinking of one ultra-conservative gay man I know, and another ultra-liberal lesbian couple, and they probably wouldn't agree with each other about almost anything. I don't recognize anything like the "hysterical backwoods preachers, drooling with hate to a degree that looks both comical and deranged" you mention - most people I know or have heard about who are anti-gay are generally good, decent people who are simply misguided (in my opinion) about the "dangers of homosexuality". It is not that there isn't any "gay agenda", there are probably plenty, just as there are all kinds of other agendas by all kinds of different people. I am a straight man who has been married twenty five years to a lovely woman, and part of my "agenda" is to revise the laws in this country to allow same-sex marriage. I believed in that twenty-five years ago, and had arguments about it with people then. I have fewer and fewer of those arguments as more and more places allow same-sex marriage and more and more people see that it doesn't hurt them or destroy their way of living or corrupt their children. Since I know I share this agenda with various gay friends (although not the ultra-conservative gam man I mentioned), perhaps people should worry about the "gay-straight agenda". We want to live together in peace and harmony - horrors!

808.11. Rodney Scott
(04/05/2009 07:37 AM)

Well, maybe the tax laws should be revised to allow any two adults who, for any reason, wish to combine their incomes and file jointly, so long as that income truly is combined and available to both. Wake up, Ben, there is no such thing as an "ultra conservative gay man"! That is an invention. Read the aforementioned book. While I don't believe that there is an all-encompassing "gay agenda", I do believe that there is a "media agenda" to withhold information in order to obtain specific votes from people who haven't been given all of the facts. It's not just gays. Have you ever seen John Quinones in action? Watch closely.

808.12. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/05/2009 06:18 PM)

@Rodney - What do you mean there is no such thing as an "ultra conservative gay man"? I know the guy, and shudder as he espouses the stuff he does. The fact that he is attracted to men doesn't make him a liberal, or anything else. He may not be thrilled by the anti-gay stance of the Republican Party, but he is far more enthusiastic about their agenda than that of the Democratic Party.

Don't assume you know somebody because (you think) you know his sexual preferences, race or any other irrelevant detail.

808.13. Dave Gallagher
(04/05/2009 08:17 PM)

@Rodney - I read a book (an anthology) that includes a story in which the protagonist has an agenda. He became famous for, among other things, telling people to "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." That got me to thinking. While living that way may not have worked out too well for him in the end, I believe that it's a good ideal for which to strive. Thus, I'll let my neighbor marry any consenting adults whom they see fit to marry, and I supported my children to adulthood without my fellow citizens' forced financial assistance.

@Jason - If you use this way of thinking as the basis for your morality, your questions evaporate.

808.14. Rodney Scott
(04/05/2009 10:32 PM)

@ Ben - the book discusses the "Gay Republicans of Blandsville, Ohio" precisely so you can find out what they're about. I shuddered too. Most people also shudder at the beliefs Phelps espouses. That's the point!

You compare the sufferings of gay people to that of African Americans, but the whole purpose of this agenda is to create minority protections for white men which can be claimed on a whim.

@Dave - I read that book too, and I felt so sorry for Socrates. Unlike you, I also learned the moral of the story.

808.15. David Gallagher
(04/05/2009 11:55 PM)

@Rodney - You're teasing! The moral I learned is that it's best to be kind, as might does not make right. What did you learn?

If I'm reading you right, your objection is to providing a tax advantage to same-sex couples who cohabitate. As one who objects with to state intervention in matters of the heart, I agree completely. If the tax code were relationship-neutral, then perhaps many more would accept gay marriage.

808.16. Rodney Scott
(04/06/2009 04:18 AM)

@Dave - "Might does not make right" is an odd moral to take away from a story where the guy in the right winds up dead. What I learned does not relate much to this topic, but I do believe in defending those being sucker-punched, and in this case it's midwestern liberals, my favorite political group. Unlike midwestern conservatives or liberals on the coast, the group seems to consist more of people voting for unselfish reasons, but they ARE being duped. As a very obnoxious professor once told me, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink". I've explained that you'll find the facts in print, not through the media.

This is about money and power, and even the famous cases - Matthew Shephard, Teena Brandon, etc. are actually more about money than anyone's sexual preference. If I conned somebody out of their money and they retaliated, would they get the death penalty? Gays fight for marriage rights while our national debt is practically quadrupling. It has increased over 500 billion each year since 2003 (Bush years) while our kids were coming home in body bags, and gays want to know why they can't get married. Cause they've got enough money as it is, so they should pay their damn taxes! But I'd agree with making the tax code relationship neutral.

@Ben - I can assure you that I am under no delusions about my zero gaydar. From the first time I accidentally walked into a gay bar and some guy asked "why did you come here if you're not gay?" and I retorted, "well, you're here!", my discoveries of who's gay have been embarrassingly slow. But it's possible that my problem with them relates to probably knowing more of them.

808.17. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/06/2009 12:31 PM)

@Rodney - It's possible your problem with "them" is that you think of them as "them".

808.18. Rodney Scott
(04/06/2009 06:12 PM)

I can't identify with a group that is so deceitful to get what they don't deserve. I am trying not to write a full book here, the same reason I waited so long to respond to the Palin post, but with this issue I don't have to. One has already been written. Quoting from the same page "we intend to make homohatred so discreditable that even Intransigents will eventually be silenced in public... the best way [is to show] images of ranting homohaters whose associated traits and attitudes appall and anger Middle America" and it takes us right into the suggestion that they invent a rabid preacher. Their to-do checklist includes "give defenders a just cause". You really think it's going to end with gay marriage? I never would have guessed back when this book was published, 1989, that I would be expected to spend the years after feeling sorry for a group because of the way they decided to have sex. I can't waste my sympathy like that, not when there are so many people with real problems in the world.

Gay marriage has it's good points - encouraging monogamy, and might even open up more safe homes for children who need to be removed from unsafe ones. It's bad point is that it opens doors to abuse as gays whine about what protections they need because they were once deprived the privilege to marry, and insist there is no good reason, when there IS a good reason why. Well, that and this just ain't the time to be granting tax breaks to a generally wealthy group. Ask me later... when we've paid off the national debt.

808.19. Matt
(04/06/2009 06:38 PM)

A fascinating discussion! If I may, I'd like to offer a few comments from the perspective of a gay man who's fortunate enough to be living in Massachusetts, is married, and also happens to be a CPA.

Re taxes: Allowing gays to file jointly on federal income taxes is not likely to have a negative impact on revenue--in fact it would likely benefit the government. The "marriage penalty" is a long discussed absurdity of the tax code that thankfully has been lessening in recent years. But there are many common scenarios that will lead to a couple filing jointly (or even worse, married filing separately) to pay more in federal income tax than if they filed separately. Ironically, as I write this I'm in the middle of a return for a straight unmarried couple with a child that are getting thousands of dollars more in their refund because I'm able to file them as single.

But this is obviously about more than taxes. And I agree whole heartedly with the earlier comment that taxes are merely one of a long list of excuses.

I know you've heard the elevator pitch a thousand times, but it really is about knowing that *when* (not if) one of us gets sick, and we end up in the hospital, it's the person that we've entrusted our life to that will be making medical decisions for us. Unless I carry an sheaf of expensive paperwork with us, I have no chance of that being true when we travel out of state to visit my partner's family--and even with the paperwork, there's no guarantee it'll be honored.

It's about knowing that if either of us should lose our jobs, we could go on the other's insurance plan. And if either of us should die, the house would automatically pass to the other... and literally a thousand other practical and legal reasons.

But above all, it's about knowing that whatever other people may think about us, in the eyes of the law, we will be treated as any other couple that has cared enough about each other to entwine their lives through marriage.

808.20. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/06/2009 07:10 PM)

@Matt - Well spoken. Thanks for chiming in.

@Rodney - Stop believing everything you read. It being in a book does not make it true.

808.21. Rodney Scott
(04/06/2009 10:49 PM)

@Ben - I agree that it wasn't back when the book was written.

@Matt - I'm going to take Ben's advice and not believe everything I read, meaning I'll look into your claims. So far, it looks like the penalty affects mostly those making over $250,000 (so I guess this might affect most gays) and the majority of married couples enjoy a bonus, not a penalty. But that is only an initial browse.

I'm wondering if you have read this book, and what is your take on it? Do you suppose Phelps's seeming change of heart is the result of his attempts to protect African Americans from encroachment by gays over minority privileges, a publicity stunt in the interest of gays, a souring against civil rights altogether over the loss of his license to practice law, or something else?

808.22. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2009 12:46 AM)

@Rodney - Where in the world do you get the idea that most gay people are rich? It doesn't make any sense at all. Besides the obvious fact that about 10% of the population is homosexual, and there is no way close to 10% make 250,000 a year, it just doesn' make any sense. Gay people are born, just like straight people, into regular families. Homosexuality does not confer any special intelligence or skill, so where would all the money come from. Gay people are not exactly favored in work situations, many fight discrimination their whole lives. Maybe your precious book (which sounds like a typical homophobic rant to me) claims this, but how does it even make sense?

808.23. Matt
(04/07/2009 01:37 AM)

@Rodney - re "the book" no, I haven't read it but did just pay a penny for it on Amazon so looking forward to giving it a quick read.

re. Phelps--no idea what turned him into the whack job he has unquestionably become. Even more mystifying is how he's able to get people to follow him.

re. Taxes--Please do look into my claims!! As a tax practitioner for the last 14 years with a significant gay and straight clientele, I can confidently say that gay incomes don't different materially from straight incomes--it's a horrible stereotype that just because people are gay they earn tons of money. True, many of us don't have children so there's definitely some validity to the argument that gays have a bit more disposable income---but within reason.

Think about it: gay waiters make the same amount as straight waiters. Same is true for the accountants, police officers, teachers, realtors, programmers,etc. I haven't seen many postings on that offer 100k signing bonuses if you happen to be gay!

Bottom line, taxes are a horrible basis on which to make this argument because everything is dependent on the details of the individuals' situations. Oh, and PLEASE do a little reading if you think the marriage penalty only impacts the wealthy--in reality it wreaks most of it's havoc on the middle class. Particularly in relationships where one person makes more than the other. In front of me is another folder for a married straight couple--one made 70k the other 24k. They're going to pay MUCH more in taxes this year because they're married.

But even though after getting married in Massachusetts I couldn't put my partner's name on my investment account, title of my house, or even my checking account as under the federal tax code, it would have triggered the gift tax provisions (something straight spouses have no worries of); and even though he knows that if I die before this mess is work out, he won't be entitled to my social security benefits and would need to remain here in Massachusetts instead of moving back to his family in the midwest if he wants to some of my other benefits, we still wouldn't trade our marriage for the world.

I'm originally from Vermont and am saddened to just read that the governor has vetoed the same sex marriage bill passed overwhelmingly by the Vermont legislature---but at the same time, incredibly excited and hopeful at what advancements we're seeing around this issue in all parts of the country. There has certainly never been a better time to be gay in America.

808.24. Rodney Scott
(04/07/2009 01:54 AM)

** Content deleted as inappropriate***

808.25. Rodney Scott
(04/07/2009 02:00 AM)

Matt and I posted at about the same time, but my above comment was meant in response to Ben. I'll respond to Matt later.

808.26. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2009 02:13 AM)

@Rodney - This is getting tedious. News flash: the media sensationalizes stories. Not just stories about lesbians. No just stories about small towns. All kinds of stories. Think "tot mom". Think "octomom". Neither oneis lesbian, as far as I can tell, and yet somehow the media still manage to sensationalize.

I do not feel comfortable continuing to allow this blog to be a forum for hatred and bigotry, so please refrain from the hysterical rants or I'll have to delete your posts. I don't mind your disagreeing with me, but pleae do so in a brief, constuctive way without trying to prove unprovable opinions by quoting lengthy rants from others. I don't want visitors to this blog to feel uncomfortable with the atomosphere here, whether or not the agree with the specific opinions.

808.27. Matt
(04/07/2009 03:09 AM)

@Rodney -- You're certainly correct in that there have been some warped portrayals in media/movies; some so severe that settlements have been paid. But that's hardly something that's limited to gay/trans films.

Re taxes, I must agree with (and apologize to) Ben--this is getting tedious. The moneycentral article makes the point that only 51% of the included couples paid less in taxes after they married--not a percentage that makes a compelling argument. In addition, she admits and explains part of the penalty--there's a lot left out. . She also doesn't seem to take into account the ability for one single person to itemize and the other to take a standard deduction. It's a powerful tool that when available can produce substantial savings for the couple!

...but alas, I digress and think we've strayed far from the point of the lead posting. I think the points on this subject have been adequately made. I'll save my tax advice for the financial blogs and leave Rodney to have a chat with his accountant.

808.28. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2009 03:16 AM)

@Matt - Thanks again for stopping by.

808.29. Ben Langhinrichs
(04/07/2009 05:16 AM)

@Rodney - I think you should learn the difference between facts and interpretations. It is possible to twist a few facts in almost any direction. The problem is, it doesn't matter how intelligent or accomplished these two men are, or whether they are gay, or whether they published this book exactly as you say. They simply do not speak for all gay people, nor do they have some super secret magic plan to which all gay people subscribe, secretly of course. They have opinions, perhaps a manifesto. They may claim to back it up with facts. You have not focused on facts at all, but on interpretations. You have said things such as "I can't identify with a group that is so deceitful to get what they don't deserve", as if all gay people form some sort of secret group that aims to subvert America. They don't. You have no facts to back up those sorts of claims, just rants and hatred and suspicion and exaggeration. So, yes, I will continue to delete any content you post which strays over the line, regardless of whether you think you are posting "facts" or not. Your past posts have earned you a more restrictive filter than most posters get here, but only due to your own actions. Those are not facts you post, they are thinly disguised fear ad loathing, and we could use a lot less of that in this world, but certainly on this blog.

808.30. Rodney Scott
(04/07/2009 07:05 PM)

@Ben - I think I got overzealous in trying to "win the debate", and it just dawned on me how inconsiderate I was being to you and others. Hard as it may be to tell from my posts, I traveled a lot this weekend, getting little sleep. My initial interest in the reading was sparked by a bad personal experience, and the emotions of that were replaying in my head, cause I wanted to have this debate back then. But it's also true that I've met mostly trustworthy gay people in my life, including a gay supervisor whom I like and know is not part of some conspiracy, so I will finally put this post to rest. I am sorry for making a headache of your weekend.