Love, love is a verb/love is a doing word.

When right-wing Christians talk about gay rights these days, they'll often try hard to couch it in terms of "respectful dialogue." They get very upset when people call them "hateful" or "bigoted." They argue that "just because you disagree with someone, whether it is on the subject of homosexual 'marriage' or any other, doesn't automatically make you a hater."

This reminds me of a quote my wife often repeats: "Love is not a feeling. Love is an action." It was said in those words by psychiatrist M. Scott Peck in 1978, but you can argue that it also has Biblical roots ( 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13). The idea is that the emotion is all well and good, but it's not sufficient or necessary; with real love, you take care of others, nurture their growth, do things to help them. You can tell that someone loves through the consequences of their actions for other people, no matter what they may say or feel.

I would argue that hate works the same way. Hate is also not a feeling. Hate is also an action. Anger is a feeling, sure. So is the desire for vengeance. So is fear-- of the unknown, of difference, of change. Those are feelings. But hatred is action which results in harm to others.

So when I look at the above-mentioned quote; sure, disagreeing with someone isn't hate. You can disagree with someone perfectly easily. Hate is when you take actions that harm people with whom you disagree, no matter how you feel about those actions-- whether you feel calm, or justified, or even compassionate. Hate is when you vote for someone who makes sure that someone cannot be comforted in illness by the person they love the most. Hate is when you donate money to make sure that children won't have legal protection if one of their parents dies. Hate is when you stand at someone else's parade with signs written to dim their happiness and pride in the thing they're celebrating. All of those are things that do harm, from great to small.

Some right-wing Christians would argue that these actions are done out of love because they're trying to save GLBTQ people from Hell. They would argue that hurting people a little on Earth is justified if it will save them from greater hurt after death-- spare the rod, and all that. That argument... seems very counter to the idea of free will. It suggests that people can't find their own salvation from sin unless that sin is made incredibly difficult to do-- unless the consequences of that sin are financial burdens, physical danger (from untreated illness, from bullying, from murder), social isolation, depression, shame, and guilt. The approach there seems to be "we will save your souls whether you want us to or not." I can see that as a practical means to an end if you think that forced, grudging obedience to God's laws is enough for salvation-- but every Christian I've ever talked to talks about salvation as a conscious, willing process-- a surrender, maybe, but to God, not to humans who beat you into it.

So no, I wouldn't say that increasing the danger to GLBTQ people, increasing our inconvenience and discomfort and financial expense (it cost me $300 at tax time this year to be married to a woman instead of a man. Well-- that's how much extra I paid. I'm not even sure how much more I would have saved in benefits in a heterosexual marriage) can be an act of love. It does us actual harm, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. And the fact that this harm is not new-- that this is harm which has been done for decades, so that it's status quo-- doesn't make us not hurt.

Hate is not a feeling. Hate is an action. It's the action of voting, contributing money, protesting, and speaking in ways that influence others to make my life harder because of who I love. People's feelings don't directly affect me, but their actions do.

That's what we're talking about when we say people opposing same-sex marriage are "hateful."


Some Encouraging Statistics

The Millennial Generation and the Future of Gay and Lesbian Rights

This repeats and summarizes what we've seen elsewhere-- people are more and becoming more accepting of queer rights, and more and more supportive of marriage. That's both agewise-- young people are way more supportive (62% of people under 30 support same-sex marriage)-- and as individuals (19% of everyone surveyed reported they shifted their views over the past five years to be more supportive).

The thing that surprised me was the really small number who think that queer people coming out of the closet is bad for society-- 18%. Only. I'm impressed. When I first came out, both my grandmothers told me they thought that it was a problem that queer people were so public, because it made people "think they were gay," or come out who wouldn't otherwise. I don't know what's changed, there. Maybe the "born this way" argument has made headway? Maybe the sheer number of happy, committed queer couples and parents in the news has made it clear that coming out doesn't doom you to a lonely, childless life-- so people "deciding" to be gay wouldn't be so bad? Whatever it is, I'm in favor.


Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passed in New Jersey!

I mean, muted celebration, because Gov. Christie has said he's going to veto it. But even so... every vote that passes is another vote that passes. And this is one that failed by a much larger margin two years ago.

And these graphs just keep going up. All these graphs. Even the 83-year old Black Republican Christian man is, statistically, just a little bit more okay with everyone being married than he used to be.


*I'm pretty sure there's at least one.

The Question of Chesterton's Fence

Just ran across an interesting quote-- G.K. Chesterton, 1929, from The Thing: Why I Am a Catholic, chap. 4

"In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion."

So... what do you guys think? There's a fence across same-sex marriage, and I absolutely think it should be taken down. But I've had tremendous difficulty really understanding why the fence is there, because so many of people's arguments come down to "God said so" or "ew, buttsex." What's the best argument you've ever heard against same-sex marriage (or have you never heard a good argument?)? And why do you disagree with it (assuming you do)?


Happy Valentine's Day from Washington State!

Where Gov. Gregoire signed the bill to legalize same-sex marriage yesterday!

Marriages won't begin to be performed until June 7th. If opponents can get enough signatures to support a referendum before then, the question will go to a popular vote in November. It'll be interesting to see what happens then-- recent polls show that a majority of Washington state residents would vote to keep same-sex marriage. The Prop 8 case could also have an impact on it-- if the Supreme Court takes it and supports the 9th Circuit decision, they'd set a precedent that says a right once granted to citizens of a state can't be taken away by a popular vote. That would give Washingtonians a good shot at getting the law reinstated even if the voters did take it down.

All of that, though, is in the future. Today, same-sex marriage is legal in the District of Columbia and seven states! YAY!


Marriage bill passes the Senate in New Jersey!

Details here!

It'll go to the Assembly on Thursday, where it's expected to pass. Mind you, Gov. Christie's said he plans to veto it and send the question to the voters. On the other hand, a recent poll showed that a majority of New Jersey voters favor same-sex marriage. So it might be that New Jersey would be the first state to actually vote in marriage, rather than it being approved through the legislative or judicial branches. We'll see in November, I suppose. some ways, all this back-and-forthing-- it's legal! it's not! it's on hold for months!-- can be anticlimactic and discouraging. But on the other hand, when I came out in 1997, being legally married seemed like some distant pipe-dream. "Maybe someday," I thought. "Maybe our grandchildren can dance at our wedding." The political process seems slow now, but it's moving so much faster than I thought possible just fifteen years ago.

Not that it couldn't go a little faster still. Grin.


Dan Savage on the Prop 8 Case

With the help of margaritas and passion, Dan Savage wrote a really damn inspiring blog entry: It's Not Over Until We Say It's Over

"The fight for marriage equality wasn't over in California when they passed Prop 8. The fight for marriage equality wasn't over in Washington state when our Supreme Court handed down an appalling bigoted decision upholding our state's ban on same-sex marriage. It wasn't over in New York state after that state's highest court handed down a similarly bigoted decision. The fight to allow gay people to serve openly in the military wasn't over when DADT passed. The fight against sodomy laws wasn't over when the United States Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that gay people did not have a constitutional right to privacy and could be arrested in their bedrooms for engaging in private, consensual, adult sexual conduct. We kept fighting, we kept suing, we kept organizing, we kept counting votes, we kept raising money, we screaming and yelling and protesting because...

It isn't over until we say it's over and it's not over until we win."

Cory Booker on Voting on Marriage

If you haven't seen it already, Newark Mayor Cory Booker does an excellent (and apparently spontaneous) speech on the question of putting same-sex marriage to a vote in New Jersey:

"But dear God, we should not be putting civil rights issues to a popular vote subject to the sentiments of the day. No minority should have their rights subject to the passions and sentiments of the majority. This is a fundamental bedrock of what our nation stands for. And I get very concerned that... we've created a second class citizenship in our state... I read the 14th amendment clearly. It talks about "equal protection under the laws." And that was never something that should go up to a popular vote, whether blacks, women or other minorities should be equal first class citizens. Thank God Jackie Robinson, there wasn't a popular vote whether he should... be a professional baseball player. And so, to me this is INFURIATING.. that we are still in the 21st century and we haven't created equality under the law. And so I will be fundamentally in the fiber of my being supportive of equal citizenship for all people in this country because I know at the end of the day I would not be here, my family would not be able to put food on the table for me, if it wasn't for that ideal in America.”

People who call for a vote and the "will of the people" on same-sex marriage are missing the fact that America is not a direct democracy. And for good reason-- the country is big enough, the laws complex enough, that it is a full-time job for hundreds of people to actually understand the laws and how to apply them. It's not the same as ancient Athens (population: ~250,000, voting population of free male land-owners: ~30,000*), which was small enough that the voters actually had a shot at all being able to understand every aspect of what was voted on.

We don't have that. We have laws based on a Constitution which is 224 years old, old enough that most of the people who live under its laws no longer have the context to know exactly what all of it means.** I don't think a direct democracy would work as well as what we have, which is a system where we hire people to understand and change the laws for us. I elect a Senator or a President the same way I choose a mechanic for my car-- as carefully as possible, because a lot of them are dishonest, and I depend on my car every day. I try to keep informed about how my car works, so I can tell whether the mechanic is lying to me. But I don't insist on fixing my own brakes, because I know I don't have the knowledge, and that I could cause a lot of damage to a lot of people if I tried to pretend that what I know is enough to make those decisions.

And yeah, this means that sometimes court decisions come down that aren't exactly what I want, and it's not a perfect system. But it is America, and how America was always designed to be. The Founding Fathers knew that the will of the people was important-- that's why we elect two of the three branches of government. But if they didn't also know that the will of the people should not always be predominant, then what do we have a Judicial Branch for in the first place?


**My wife once took a course on eighteenth-century intellectual history. The first day, they read the Declaration of Independence. Three months later, they read it again, now that they'd read enough of the philosophy of the time to understand what it was actually saying, and realized that the first time, they'd had no idea what it meant. I don't know all the details, but the phrase "we hold these truths to be self-evident" wasn't just a rhetorical introduction-- it was a radical departure from how governing bodies had talked about themselves in the past.

On Bigotry

I've been spending a lot of time* lately reading news articles on same-sex marriage, and their comments sections. One thing I've noticed is how very upset opponents of same-sex marriage get at being called "bigots." "We're not bigots for trying to hold the line on our religious beliefs," they say. Or "The definition of bigotry is not ‘fear and intolerance.’ It’s making a judgment without knowing the facts."

Now, this is not true-- according to the OED, the definition of bigotry is: "intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself." Merriam-Webster agrees, defining "bigot" as "a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance." Even goes with "stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own."

Those definitions don't specifically mention fear, but they're very clear about the intolerance. They don't say bigotry is ignorant; they say it's stubborn and refuses to change its mind.

Similarly, opponents of same-sex marriage will sometimes say that they aren't practicing discrimination. "Upholding Traditional Marriage is Not 'Discrimination,'"they say, because "when gay activists and their supporters cry 'discrimination' they conveniently avoid the question of whether homosexual relationships merit being granted equality with marriage." The basic argument there is that all laws make choices which discriminate between two things (no murders is inherently better than murders), so doing that about gay marriage doesn't count as discrimination against gay people.

This particular piece of double-think comes directly from three beliefs about bigotry and discrimination. The first is that they are bad. The second is that they are historical, not current. And the third is that they are always based on nothing.

This is where I wish to hell more people read more intellectual history, and had at least a primer on race theory. Sure, I'm glad that people agree that being hateful is a bad thing. But do they honestly believe that this is a new concept? The idea "you should be nice to people different from you" isn't new, nor did the modern use of the word "bigot" spring into existence in 1965. George Washington, slave-owner, praised the United States Government as one which "gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance." (Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790)) Voltaire wrote the Treatise on Tolerance in 1763, decrying prejudice against Protestants and others.** I'm sure if I looked harder I could find plenty of older sources; suffice it to say that it's not like everyone used to be unquestioningly bigoted Back in the Bad Old Days. Nor is bigotry over-- there are plenty of people who hold negative views of people of different races, and like to explain that they're not racist-- they just call it like they see it/think affirmative action is unfair/have a sense of humor, what?

But the most important thing is that opponents of same-sex marriage can't imagine that historical bigots had reasons for their beliefs. Ta-Nehisi Coates explains this really well with the concept of "a muscular empathy." "It's easy," he says, "to say you would have acted better than a slave master if you had lived in the antebellum South... But it's much more interesting to assume that you wouldn't have, and then ask 'Why?'" You have to realize that most people believed the things we now think are wrong, not because they were all stupid and hateful, but because these things were, at the time, self-evident. Historical bigots knew that what we now call racism was proper, the way things should be. Because it was obviously right and natural, because the Bible said so, because Black men with White women made them feel uncomfortable and icky-- they didn't think they were "making a judgment without knowing the facts." They had the facts. They were quite sure of it. The facts they had are different from our facts, but that doesn't mean they didn't have them. They had scientific papers, they had the words of religious leaders they trusted-- they had thought this through. There were reasoned debates about slavery, about denying women the right to vote-- and the people we would now see on the wrong side of history often had excellent logic and rhetoric to back them up. They were not unthinking. They simply had beliefs we now see as wrong.

The difficulty that same-sex marriage opponents have is that they cannot bring themselves to question what they believe. Which is fair. Most of us, even the most liberal, have a deep level where we simply believe what we believe because we believe it's true. We can play all the questioning games we like, but: I believe that you shouldn't torture kittens. I just believe that. It just seems innately true to me, and understanding that some people have reasons to torture kittens takes a huge leap of empathy. Even if I get to where I truly understand the theoretical framework wherein torturing kittens is a fine use of an afternoon, I will still have a little voice, deep inside me, saying, "but that's wrong!"

But the thing is: believing something deeply, having all sorts of evidence to back it up, doesn't make it not bigotry. Treating one group of people differently from another is discrimination.*** Refusing to accept other ways of life is bigotry. That's just how it is. Having reasons and even, perhaps, the will of God behind you doesn't make you not a bigot. It may mean that you're right. But you cannot both hold that view and claim not to be a bigot. That just makes you a bigot in the 16th century meaning: "sanctimonious person, religious hypocrite."


*Some might argue a terrifyingly obsessively lot.

**"It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God?"

***And, yes, the argument, "Gays aren't discriminated against! They have just as much right to marry someone of the opposite sex as straight people do!" is very cute. It even holds some water if you believe that "the union of husband and wife" is innately the definition of marriage, and it's as impossible for a wife and wife to "marry" as it would be to "drive" without a vehicle, or make an "omelette" without eggs. But as the Iowa Supreme Court pointed out, this argument says "gay people can have this right if and only if they give up the thing that distinguishes them as a group." It's like saying "Jews have a perfect right to freely practice their religion, if by 'practice a religion' you understand it to mean 'go to a church and worship Jesus Christ.'" Queer people can only practice this civil right if we stop acting like queers. That's discrimination, no matter how you look at it.

Marylanders for Marriage Clergy Ad

Check out this ad-- religious leaders from several different denominations talking about the importance of marriage equality. Good job, Marylanders for Marriage!

It always drives me nuts when people frame marriage equality as a "government vs religion" argument, because that ignores how very many religions practice same-sex marriage. Episcopalians, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Christ, the Metropolitan Community Church, neo-Pagans, some Buddhists, some Quakers, and a number of other religions all hold the union of two men or two women to be a sacred rite. Outlawing same-sex marriage is practicing religious discrimination-- it's discrimination against all those religions.