BARA Gay Marriage Page

With the emergence of the topic of gay marriage onto the national scene, we feel it's important to offer some discussion of the issue on the BARA website. We will be posting interesting opinion pieces on the subject on this page. In particular we would like to publish your stories. If you have a story to tell about how the lack of formal status for your relationship effects you and your family, please share it with us. Stories can be posted anonymously if you prefer.

We begin this series with a locally written opinion piece titled "The Rhetoric and the Reality".

Next, we have a February 2009 New York Times Op Ed piece called A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage that outlines a compromise position that could give us what we need. If you agree, contact your Congressman!

One of our regular correspondents recently sent me a wonderful parody of Dr. Seuss, titled "How the Grinch Stole Marriage", written by Mary Ann Horton, Lisa and Bill Koontz. Rather then steal the piece for our page, I'll link to it on Mary Ann Horton's website. It makes an important point, and I'm sure you will love it!

Beth Quinn wrote "For the Self-Righteous: Vow to Quit Meddling"

Finally, there is a story from PFLAG discussing how a "Congressional Subcommittee Stacked the Deck To Promote a Homophobic Agenda" in a January 23 2004 Hearing.

Ithaca 50 still hope to be married in N.Y.

From the March 2, 2009 Binghamton Press &B Sun-Bulletin

Gannett News Service

Members of one of Ithaca's most well-known gay rights groups, the Ithaca 50, have been pursuing other forms of protest since losing their case against the City of Ithaca to have the right to be licensed to marry in 2006.

Jason Hungerford, one of the 25 couples that sued the city in 2004 after being refused marriage licenses, said he was not aware of current efforts in Albany and Washington to legalize same-sex marriage in the state and to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996.

"For the Defense of Marriage Act, I know that Obama had campaigned on repealing the act, but I hadn't heard there had been any action taken," he said.

Hungerford said the Ithaca 50 has loosely kept in touch since they lost their appeal in New York's highest court, which determined that the New York state constitution does not require the legalization of same-sex marriages in July 2006.

While the couples in the group firmly espoused a belief that it would soon be legal for them to marry in New York state and hoped to hold out long enough to be married in their home state, Hungerford said some have since considered other options to achieve their goal of marriage.

Due to an executive order by Gov. Paterson in May 2008, same-sex marriages formalized in other states are recognized in New York, though they may not be formed here.

"Some people had considered going to California, when it was legal there briefly," Hungerford said. "Some have gone to Canada. But the majority of the couples I have kept in touch with continue to wait for it to be legal in New York."

Hungerford and his partner, Jason Seymour, continue to wait.

"I strongly believe it will soon be legal in New York (for same-sex couples) to marry," he said. "The ones who are still working on (legalizing same-sex marriage in New York) remain focused on getting married in New York state."

He said many members of the groups have remained active in efforts to bring the issue to the forefront of the public's and legislators' agendas.

Members of the Ithaca 50 spoke at a demonstration on The Commons November 15, 2008 after California voters approved Proposition 8, making gay marriage illegal in that state. Hungerford and other members spoke at that rally.

April 28, several members of Ithaca's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community will travel to Albany for Empire State Pride Agenda's LGBT Equality and Justice Day, in which advocates for same-sex marriage will lobby their representatives for support.

"We try to stay on top of things and do we what can to bring attention to the issue," Hungerford said.

The Rhetoric and the Reality

Can anyone explain to me how same-sex marriage can pose any threat to this country or to heterosexual couples, married or not? I am serious in asking this question. Opponents of gay marriage continue to say that gay marriage threatens the institution of holy matrimony and that advocates are against traditional marriage. Where do they get these perverse ideas from? This is simply untrue.

This issue is not about holy matrimony. That is the province of institutions of religion, not the civil government. Churches are free to do whatever they want with regard to the rite of holy matrimony. What we are talking about here is civil marriage.

And rather than being against traditional marriage, same-sex marriage advocates are for the expansion of the opportunity for marriage for all citizens. This is an equality issue.

There are over a million same sex families in America who are raising their own children (from previous marriages or by adoption.) Why should these same-sex families be denied the protection and advantages of marriage? This is a family value issue.

But there is a real threat to America. The threat is twofold: The shamefully high divorce rate that puts children at risk in the turmoil of broken homes and a proposed amendment which, for the first time ever, would write discrimination into the Constitution of the United States of America.

Let's call a spade a spade. The undercurrent of the opposition to gay marriage is a deep-seated prejudice against homosexuals. These people do not want equal rights for homosexuals. They support discrimination based on sexual orientation.

I suspect that these people are cut from the same cloth as those who objected to Harry Truman's integration of the military in 1945, and the nondiscrimination legislation of 1964. Prejudice is deep-seated in America.

When ideas of individual liberty cross the restrictions imposed by religious dogma there are many who would impose their religious codes as restraints on the rights of others in spite of what the First Amendment says.

Contrary to the high hopes of Jefferson and Adams, America has become a second class society compared to much of the enlightened world, content to be passive in the face of the needs of defacto underclasses of minority citizens and their children.

And now we have reached a point where our leaders have joined the religious bigots and are advocating official departure from the concept of equality and are willing to change our Constitution to perpetuate discrimination against some of our citizens, creating an official class of lesser people. This is a sad day for America.

James H Pursell


February 22, 2009

A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage


IN politics, as in marriage, moments come along when sensitive compromise can avert a major conflict down the road. The two of us believe that the issue of same-sex marriage has reached such a point now.

We take very different positions on gay marriage. We have had heated debates on the subject. Nonetheless, we agree that the time is ripe for a deal that could give each side what it most needs in the short run, while moving the debate onto a healthier, calmer track in the years ahead.

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

For those not immersed in the issue, our proposal may seem puzzling. For those deeply immersed, it may seem suspect. So allow us a few words by way of explanation.

Whatever our disagreements on the merits of gay marriage, we agree on two facts. First, most gay and lesbian Americans feel they need and deserve the perquisites and protections that accompany legal marriage. Second, many Americans of faith and many religious organizations have strong objections to same-sex unions. Neither of those realities is likely to change any time soon.

Further sharpening the conflict is the potential interaction of same-sex marriage with antidiscrimination laws. The First Amendment may make it unlikely that a church, say, would ever be coerced by law into performing same-sex wedding rites in its sanctuary. But religious organizations are also involved in many activities outside the sanctuary. What if a church auxiliary or charity is told it must grant spousal benefits to a secretary who marries her same-sex partner or else face legal penalties for discrimination based on sexual orientation or marital status? What if a faith-based nonprofit is told it will lose its tax-exempt status if it refuses to allow a same-sex wedding on its property?

Cases of this sort are already arising in the courts, and religious organizations that oppose same-sex marriage are alarmed. Which brings us to what we think is another important fact: Our national conversation on this issue will be significantly less contentious if religious groups can be confident that they will not be forced to support or facilitate gay marriage.

Gay couples have concerns of their own. Most, of course, want the right to marry, and nothing less. But federal recognition of same-sex marriage — leave aside what you think about the merits — is not likely in the near future. The federal Defense of Marriage Act forbids it. Barack Obama and most other Democratic presidential candidates opposed gay marriage. And most Americans continue to oppose it.

At the same time, federal law links many important perquisites to marital status, including Social Security survivor benefits, tax-free inheritance, spousal immigration rights and protections against mutual incrimination. All of these benefits are currently denied to same-sex couples, even those living in states that permit same-sex marriage or civil unions. But these same benefits could be conferred by federally recognized civil unions.

Yes, most gays are opposed to the idea that religious organizations could openly treat same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples differently, without fear of being penalized by the government. But we believe that gays can live with such exemptions without much difficulty. Why? Because most state laws that protect gays from discrimination already include some religious exemptions, and those provisions are for the most part uncontroversial, even among gays.

And while most Americans who favor keeping marriage as it has customarily been would prefer no legal recognition of same-sex unions at either the federal or the state level, we believe that they can live with federal civil unions — provided that no religious groups are forced to accept them as marriages. Many of these people may come to see civil unions as a compassionate compromise. For example, a PBS poll last fall found that 58 percent of white evangelicals under age 30 favor some form of legal same-sex union.

Linking federal civil unions to guarantees of religious freedom seems a natural way to give the two sides something they would greatly value while heading off a long-term, take-no-prisoners conflict. That should appeal to cooler heads on both sides, and it also ought to appeal to President Obama, who opposes same-sex marriage but has endorsed federal civil unions. A successful template already exists: laws that protect religious conscience in matters pertaining to abortion. These statutes allow Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide abortions, for example. If religious exemptions can be made to work for as vexed a moral issue as abortion, same-sex marriage should be manageable, once reasonable people of good will put their heads together.

In all sharp moral disagreements, maximalism is the constant temptation. People dig in, positions harden and we tend to convince ourselves that our opponents are not only wrong-headed but also malicious and acting in bad faith. In such conflicts, it can seem not only difficult, but also wrong, to compromise on a core belief.

But clinging to extremes can also be quite dangerous. In the case of gay marriage, a scorched-earth debate, pitting what some regard as nonnegotiable religious freedom against what others regard as a nonnegotiable human right, would do great harm to our civil society. When a reasonable accommodation on a tough issue seems possible, both sides should have the courage to explore it.

David Blankenhorn is president of the Institute for American Values and the author of “The Future of Marriage.” Jonathan Rauch is a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America.”

For the Self-Righteous: Vow to Quit Meddling

By Beth Quinn

Times Herald-Record

February 23, 2004

I was going to leave the gay marriage issue alone just to save myself some grief. But then I thought, what fun would that be? Somebody's got to irritate the self-righteous folks who tell the rest of us how to live, and it might as well be me. You know who you are, so get your writing implements ready because you'll want to damn me to hell by the time we're done here.

For me, there is one central question in the whole gay marriage controversy:

What do you care?

What difference does it make in your own life if two gays or lesbians get married? It simply mystifies me that you feel threatened by this. What possible harm could it do in your personal, little life whether the two guys living at the end of your block say "I do"?

I keep hearing the same pat answer from your prophets of doom - that allowing homosexuals to marry will "destroy the institution of marriage."

Well I gotta' tell you, a lot of gays and lesbians have been getting married in San Francisco lately, and so far my own institution of marriage is doing just fine. I checked. When I heard they were lining up for licenses, I asked my husband if he felt our marriage was going downhill on account of it.

He just ignored the question and wanted to know what kind of perennials I thought we should put in this spring. I took that as a good sign. Perennials are an investment in the future, so I figure he's sticking around despite what those homosexuals are doing.

So, self-righteous folks, I guess I'm wondering what's wrong with your own marriages that you feel so threatened by another couple's happiness. Are you unable to sustain a good sexual relationship knowing that two gay guys are sleeping together in wedded bliss? Are you unable to have an intimate conversation with your spouse because you're distracted by the notion of two women going off on a honeymoon? Because if your marriage is that unstable, you should stop worrying about what others are doing and tend to your own problems before your divorce contributes to the decline of the institution of marriage.

I've given this a lot of thought, and I've completely failed to come up with ways that gay marriage will have an impact on your life. It won't raise your taxes. It won't cause the kid who shovels your driveway to quit. It won't make your laundry dingy. It won't alter the weather. It won't cause your dog to start passing gas. It won't affect your relationship with God. It won't cause you to develop a tumor on your head.

Those of you who would talk about grand concepts like society and institutions and pillars and guideposts and moral fibers and whatnot, I say this is just your excuse for meddling. And history has shown us that nothing good ever comes of meddling in other people's affairs. Every time Christians showed up to mess with heathens, for example, we just ended up with a lot of unhappy heathens with syphilis and smallpox.

Those of you who would point out that the dictionary definition of the word "marriage" involves a man and a woman, let me point out that the dictionary is a living, breathing document that changes as word usage changes. If you doubt it, look up the word "dot" in a current edition.

We the people get to decide what's in the dictionary. The dictionary doesn't get to dictate our societal conventions. Your hair isn't going to catch on fire if the definition of marriage is eventually changed to read, "two consenting adults" instead of "man and woman."

As for the Bible, which is always the last refuge for those of you who want to impose your will on us savages, we're not all reading out of the same book.

More fundamentally, the Bible is not a legal document. If it were, those who fail to love one another would be rounded up and thrown in jail. The prison budget would go through the roof what with all the new cells we'd be needing for the neighbor haters.

I have only this advice to offer those of you who oppose gay marriage: Don't marry a homosexual. If you're a man and you don't want to marry another man, for crying out loud, stick to your guns! That would be a terrible idea. You'd be miserable! Same for women. Marry someone of the opposite sex if that's your personal preference.

After all, no one's got the right to meddle in your private affairs.

Congressional Subcommittee Stacks Deck To Promote Homophobic agenda in January 23 Hearing

January 21, 2004, Washington , D.C. – Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), our nation's largest grassroots family organization, demands that the House of Representatives drop testimony from proponents of “reparative therapy” for gay and lesbian citizens.

The House Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources has scheduled a hearing on faith-based initiatives on Friday, January 23. Republican representatives have stacked their witness list with affiliates of Focus on the Family (FOF), a fundamentalist Christian organization that promotes intense therapy and religious piety as a means of “changing” the sexuality of gays and lesbians.

“It is unconscionable that our federal elected officials would even consider using the hard-earned tax dollars of millions of parents to fund the denigration of their children ,” said David Tseng, Executive Director of PFLAG.

Focus on the Family confirmed that five of their representatives will testify at the faith-based funding hearing. One witness, Mike Haley, will devote his presentation to advancing Love Won Out, FOF's organization dedicated to reforming homosexuals. The Love Won Out website states, “Focus on the Family is promoting the truth that homosexuality is preventable and treatable... We want people to know that individuals don't have to be gay.”

“Nonsense,” says PFLAG's Deputy Field and Policy Director, Roy Gilbert-Higginson, PhD., a former clinical psychiatric social worker. “There is nothing reparative about this destructive and psychologically harmful practice, which is based on outdated and disproved pseudo-science and fundamentalist religious prejudice.”

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