Politics


Kentucky’s marriage law has been found unconstitutional by a KY juduge, though there is a stay on his decision.

Denmark’s parliament voted overwhelmingly that churches in Denmark must allow same-sex couples to use their facilities for same-sex weddings, and even officiate the weddings. If the priest of the parish is unwilling to officiate the wedding, the bishop must find a priest who is willing to do so.

The government is using its power to force churches to rent out their facilities for purposes they find immoral, and that go against the dictates of their religion.  I would love to see them try to force mosques to do the same!  Hopefully the church in Denmark will rebel.  Considering the fact that less than 1/3 of the priests object, however, I doubt it.

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I can’t keep up with all of the natural marriage laws being ruled unconstitutional these days!  Three states have had their marriage laws overturned in the last two weeks. 

Arkansas

In 2004, Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment that recognized a man and woman as vital to the institution of marriage.  Fast forward 10 years.  On May 9, Judge Chris Piazza of the Pulaski County Circuit Court ruled that this amendment is unconstitutional.  The Alabama state attorney general appealed to the Alabama State Supreme Court to put a stay on the decision, which was granted in a back-handed way only because Piazza’s decision did not invalidate a law prohibiting clerks from issuing marriage-licenses.  But Piazza updated his ruling to try to address the issue, and refused to suspend his decision.  As a result, some counties are continuing to issue marriage-licenses while others are not.

Oregon

On Monday, May 19, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane ruled that Oregon’s natural marriage-only constitutional amendment, passed by 57% of the voters in 2004, is unconstitutional. A request was made to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put a stay on the decision, but the request was denied.

Pennsylvania

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III federal judge declared Pennsylvania’s marriage laws unconstitutional.  The decision was effective immediately, and same-sex couples began applying for marriage licenses the same day.

There are now 19 states, plus the District of Washington, that support same-sex marriage.

In 2004 Michigan added an amendment to their constitution clarifying that marriage is only between a man and a woman. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled the amendment unconstitutional. Michigan’s Attorney General, Bill Schuette, has asked for a stay on the ruling.

This is the sixth state in the last four months to have their marriage laws ruled unconstitutional: Michigan, Texas, Utah, Kentucky, Texas, and Virginia.

In a matter of just two weeks, three states have had their constitutional amendments that recognize a man and woman as being essential to a marital relationship struck down in whole or in part as unconstitutional.  First, Kentucky was told they had to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages as marriages in the state of Kentucky.  Then, Virginia’s constitutional amendment recognizing natural marriage as the only valid form of marriage was struck down.  Now, on February 26, federal Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas’ constitutional amendment that recognizes a man and woman as being essential to a marital relationship is unconstitutional.  Like Virginia, however, the ruling does not go into effect immediately.  Judge Garcia determined not to enforce his ruling until two similar cases are decided by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Judge rules KY must recognize out-of-state SSMs

Seventy-five percent of Kentucky voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2004 that recognized the necessity of opposite-sex partners for a marital relationship.  No other union was recognized as a marriage, which would include same-sex marriages solemnized in other states where same-sex marriage is recognized.

On February 12 United States District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that the state of Kentucky must recognize the relationships of same-sex couples who had their marriage solemnized in a state where same-sex marriage is legal, as marriages. He stopped short, however, of declaring Kentucky’s marriage law unconstitutional. For the time being, Kentucky is “only” being required to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages as legitimate marriage; they are not (yet) required to solemnize same-sex marriages in their own state.

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I don’t know how I missed this news story, but on December 20 U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby declared that Amendment 3 in Utah’s constitution – which defined marriage as between a man and woman, and the voter’s passed in 2004 – is unconstitutional.  Same-sex marriages began immediately.  Utah appealed to the SCOTUS for a stay, which was granted by Justice Sotomayor on January 6.  In the 17 days before the stay, ~1300 same-sex couples were married.

Then, there’s Oklahoma.  Similar story.  On January 14, Judge Terence C. Kern of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma ruled that Oklahoma’s constitutional ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it is based on a moral disapproval of homosexuality and has no rational basis.  In light of what happened in Utah, however, Judge Kern stayed his own ruling.  It is almost certain that Oklahoma will appeal the case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, CO – the same court where Utah’s appeal will be heard.

AZ enacted a law in April 2012 banning abortions at 20 weeks and later (measured from last menstrual period) due to evidence that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks.  This was ruled unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Appellate Court in San Francisco because Roe protects a women’s right to abortion before a fetus is viable, and a fetus is not viable until ~24 weeks.  The SCOTUS refused to hear the case, and thus the ruling stands.

Judge Kleinfeld, from the 9th Circuit court, had said, “Were the [AZ] statute limited to protecting fetuses from unnecessary infliction of excruciating pain before their death, Arizona might regulate abortions at or after 20 weeks by requiring anesthetization of the fetuses about to be killed, much as it requires anesthetization of prisoners prior to killing them when the death penalty is carried out.”

Paying-Lip-ServiceOne of the reasons many conservative Christians tend to vote for Republican politicians is due to the party’s moral conservatism: pro-life, pro-family.  Several people have argued, however, that this is not a worthwhile reason to vote Republican because most Republican politicians only pay lip service to the pro-life position for political purposes, and/or they don’t really do anything to limit or abolish abortion (or can’t really do anything due to Roe).

I’ve always found the psychoanalysis claim to be dubious. It’s very difficult to prove that someone does not truly believe what they say they believe. Pro-life Republicans could make the same claims about pro-choice Democrats: They don’t really believe abortion should be permitted, but pay lip service to the pro-choice position for political purposes.  I think it’s best to avoid the psychoanalysis, and just take people at their word unless we have good reason to doubt their sincerity.

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Earlier this week, Hawaii’s senate passed a same-sex marriage bill.  Yesterday, the House approved a similar bill.  It needs to go back to the senate for reconciliation, and then on to the governor for signature (who will sign it).  This will make Hawaii the 15th state (not including D.C.) to approve same-sex marriage.  Same-sex marriages will begin in Hawaii on December 2, 2013.

11/14/13 update: Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the bill into law on Wednesday, November 13, 2013.

conscience violateIn recent days, I’ve reported on a florist who was sued for not providing flowers for a same-sex wedding, a baker who was sued for not providing a cake for a same-sex wedding, and a wedding photographer who lost a case in New Mexico’s Supreme Court because she would not photograph a same-sex wedding.  Many who support same-sex marriage applaud this phenomena, reasoning that people should not be allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples.  But what about personal liberty?  What about the liberty to follow one’s conscience in these matters?  Why is it ok to require people to violate their conscience, or lose their livelihood?

Can you imagine the outcry if a homosexual printer was forced by the government to either print anti-homosexual propaganda, or get out of the printing industry?  What if a homosexual filmmaker was sued for refusing to direct a film arguing that homosexuality was immoral or harmful, and forced to either direct the film or find a new line of work?  What if a screenplay writer who was also an anti-gun activist was forced to write a script for a movie promoting the use of firearms?  Would this be acceptable?  No!   No one should be forced by the government to lend their services to projects or events they believe to be immoral, and which run contrary to their conscience.  Yet this is exactly what the government is requiring of its citizens when it comes to same-sex marriage, and many same-sex marriage advocates are applauding this.  If you support people being forced by law to violate their conscience, don’t be surprised if one day the government forces you to violate your conscience as well.  It’s ironic that those who argue for more liberty in the case of same-sex marriage are willing to take liberties away from those who disagree.

In 2011 Illinois created civil unions.  Now, just two years later they are on the cusp of creating same-sex marriage.

The IL Senate had approved a bill in February to allow same-sex marriage, and now yesterday, the IL House approved the bill with minor changes.  It’s been sent back to the Senate for reconciliation, and will be signed by the governor.  Illinois will be the 15th state (not including D.C.) to approve same-sex marriage, beginning June 1, 2014.

 

UPDATE: Governor Pat Quinn signed the bill into law on November 20, 2013.

Mary C. JacobsonIn 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the NJ legislature must give same-sex couples all of the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex couples, but did not demand that the state amend its marriage laws.  The legislature responded by creating civil unions that had identical benefits to marriage.

Fast forward seven years, and Judge Mary C. Jacobson of the State Superior Court ruled on September 27, 2013 that this is not enough – the state must call same-sex unions marriage as well starting Monday, October 21, 2013.  Governor Christie vowed to appeal the decision to the NJ Supreme Court, but when that court refused to block the law while Christie challenged it, and made it clear that they would not rule in his favor, he decided to withdraw his appeal, meaning NJ is now the 14th state to offer same-sex marriage.

NM Supreme CourtIn any given debate over same-sex marriage, invariably same-sex marriage advocates will pose the following question: “How will allowing gay people to marry affect you or your marriage?”

If we are being asked how any particular same-sex couple setting up house and having their relationship called a “marriage” will personally affect me, the answer is probably, “Not much.”  But this question is too narrow, and misses the real significance of same-sex marriage because it focuses too much on the individual and not enough on wider social implications.  The real question is how changing marriage law to say there is no difference between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples will affect society as a whole.

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Bill ClintonBill Clinton has written an op-ed in The Washington Post throwing his support behind the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act — a bill he signed into law 17 years ago. His timing is clearly political, given the fact that the Supreme Court will hear arguments for overturning DOMA on March 27. While the justices should not be influenced by his opinions, his actions carry symbolic weight that the Supreme Court justices cannot help but to notice. After all, if the very President who signed the bill into law no longer supports it, that speaks volumes.

I find it interesting that he justifies his signing of the law in 1996 on the grounds that “it was a very different time” then, but also claims that the law is “incompatible with our Constitution.”  Has the Constitution changed?  No.  So how could a law be constitutional 17 years ago but unconstitutional today?  It’s because Clinton subscribes to the “living document” view of the Constitution in which the meaning of the Constitution changes with the culture, though the words remain the same.  I think this philosophy of Constitutional interpretation is flawed.  The Constitution means what its drafters intended it to mean, and what its signers and ratifiers understood it to mean.  The meaning of a document does not change over time.  If the Constitution can mean whatever we want it to mean, and if the Constitution can be interpreted in light of cultural changes, then the Constitution cannot protect any of us because it doesn’t mean anything in particular.  It is just silly putty in the hands of the judiciary.

ASSEMBLYFirst Britain, now France.  France has allowed civil unions that confer many of the benefits of marriage since 1999.  Today, France’s National Assembly – its lower house of parliament – approved a bill (329-229) that would define marriage as contract between two people regardless of their sex, and allow same-sex couples to adopt children.  Now it goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass as well.  If it does, France will become the 12th country to legalize same-sex marriage following:

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Tom Chivers defines secularism as “the belief that the state should be neutral towards the religious beliefs of its citizens.”[1]  As I read his definition it struck me how different it is from other definitions I have read, and how one’s theological bias can affect their definition.  For example, Christians have often defined secularism along the lines of “ordering society as if God did not exist, or His existence is irrelevant.”  Tullian Tchividjian defines secularization as “the process through which God and the supernatural are relegated to the fringe of what’s important in society,” adding that “a secularized society is a society that has determined to make God and the supernatural socially irrelevant even if they remain personally engaging. It restricts the relevance of God to the private sphere only. …God may be important individually but he is rather unimportant socially and culturally. He may be alive and well privately but publicly he is dead.”[2]

So is secularism the idea that government should be religiously neutral, or is secularism little more than social atheism?  Is it just a matter of perspective?


[1]Tom Chivers, “Atheism may be lonely, but it’s honest – and the loneliness can be fixed, http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100149264/atheism-may-be-lonely-but-its-honest-and-the-loneliness-can-be-fixed/; Internet; accessed 30 October 2012.
[2]Tullian Tchividjian, “The Irrelevance of God”; available from http://theologica.blogspot.com/2007/07/irrelevance-of-god.html; Internet; accessed 30 July 2007.

This is crazy.  A mentally handicapped women is pregnant.  While both she and her parents want to give birth the baby and give it up for adoption (6 couples are already waiting to adopt the baby), a judge is considering forcing her to have an abortion and undergo sterilization.  Outrageous!

When it comes to voting, I am persuaded that our goal should be to make an actual difference in the world, not merely to make a statement concerning our political ideals.  So if there are three candidates — A, B, and C – and if elected, candidate A’s stated policies will result in a 50% increase in evil, candidate B’s policies will result in a 30% increase in evil, and candidate C’s policies will result in a 10% increase in evil – and yet candidate C is a 3rd party candidate who will not be able to secure more than 10% of the popular vote – then we ought to vote for candidate B even if candidate C more closely resembles our political ideals.

Why?  Because voting for C will result in more evil.  How?  Since candidate C cannot possibly secure enough votes to win the election, every vote cast for candidate C makes it more unlikely that candidate B will be able to beat candidate A (assuming that the nation’s political makeup is roughly evenly divided, as in our nation), and thus more likely that candidate A will win the election and cause the greatest amount of evil in the world.  In a very real sense, then, a vote for candidate C is an unintentional vote for candidate A, which is a vote for more evil in the world.   If our goal is to act in such a way so as to limit evil to the best of our ability, then we should vote for candidate B.  The time to vote your conscience and make statements concerning your political ideals is in the primaries, not the general election.

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Every election year we hear a lot about “undecided voters.”  After debates, everyone is talking about how the debate might have influenced the undecided voters.  Why are voters undecided?  It seems to me that there are only three reasons someone might be undecided:

  1. They are political novices
  2. They don’t know the positions of the candidates/parties
  3. They haven’t developed a taxonomy of values

Anyone who has a developed taxonomy of values knows which issues are the most important, and anyone who is not a political novice knows where each candidate/party falls on those issues because the two parties are at opposite ends of the spectrum on almost all issues: economic, foreign policy, domestic policy, and moral/social.

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