Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And we come back, yet again, to gay marriage....

The difference between Libertarian candidates around the country, and candidates from the Demopublican Party, is that when you write something about Libertarians they usually respond. Maybe we're just lonely.

Jeff Ober in NC State House District 95 took the time not only to respond, but to place his responses on his website.

About abortion and stem cell research, questions that I raised yesterday, Jeff gives solid Libertarian answers. Different answers than I would give, but soundly reasoned answers.

With respect to gay marriage, this Christian Libertarian offers an answer, however, that I think is incorrect--if only because Jeff apparently hasn't done enough research to understand why this answer is simply factually incorrect:

I have discussed this issue with many people over the years and have heard many viewpoints and positions. Primarily my objection to state-approved gay marriages is that they do not have any effect on, well, much of anything. I do not believe that being married gives anyone any rights, so being opposed to gay marriage has nothing to do with gay rights. I think that rights (the few we have left) apply to all people. If you want someone to have power of attorney, you just draw up a legal document – nowhere on the document does it have the sexual orientation of the people involved. If you want your property to go to someone upon your death, write up a will. In fact, there is only one legal item that I believe is different for people who have an approved state marriage – federal tax deductions. Every single other legal issue surrounding unmarried people can be addressed with legal documents, should someone desire them.

For that reason, I do not believe that preventing the state to marry two people of the same sex puts any undue hardships or prevents people from having any rights. If two people want to call themselves married, how can the state stop them? If you find a priest that agrees to marry you, the state isn't going to stop them.


Sorry, Jeff, but the bolded part of your answer is simply incorrect. All the ways in which it is incorrect are too numerous to mention, but let me take a shot at a few of them.

In Delaware, State employees have half of their health insurance paid by the State as an employment benefit. If both spouses are State employees, the State pays 50% for each, or 100% for the couple. In other words, the State of Delaware gives free health insurance to married couples, a State benefit worth literally thousands of dollars per year, that gay couples can never qualify for. Even better: State-share couples in which both partners finish at least 25 years with the State receive free health insurance for the remainder of their lives. No gay couple can qualify for this benefit.

Let's look further. In Delaware, as in other States without specific laws requiring hospitals to follow written instructions in naming your primary health care decider should you become ill, courts have repeatedly sided with the families of gay men and women against their partners, and have allowed their families the legal power to cut off gay partners from even visiting each other in the hospital. Yeah, take care of that with a will.

Several States--I believe it is down to four now--prohibit gay couples from adopting, even though they will allow single parents or unmarried parents to do so.

Two gay partners live together--have been married in their own eyes for perhaps decades. One gets terminal cancer and cannot work. The other is not allowed to claim that partner's medical expenses as a deduction while performing as a caregiver and breadwinner. This is, of course, not true for traditional married couples.

Try parental rights and guardianship. Divorced gay parents operate at a significant legal disadvantage. If their former spouse remarries, that step-parent, even if he or she never adopts, acquires certain de facto and de jure guardianship rights that a gay partner cannot ever qualify for.

In fact, conservatives in Delaware have repeatedly introduced a Constitutional amendment that would not only (a) define marriage as only between a man and women, but also (b) make any form of civil union for gays explicitly illegal; and (c) steadfastly ignore the full faith and credit part of the Constitution in nullifying such marriages or civil unions as might have been legally entered unto in other states.

There are plenty of additional benefits provided to heterosexual married couples that are explicitly denied to gay couples; a good starting place to examine this issue is here.

Jeff, there are only three possible positions a State can take on the issue of marriage.

1. Marriage can be considered a purely religious, cultural, or contractual institution, and the State plays absolutely no role in it, providing no advantages or disadvantages whatsoever. This is the general Libertarian ideal.

2. The State can sanction civil unions [that it may call marriage] and establish certain privileges [tax breaks, health insurance, etc.] to all people engaged in such a civil union, without looking up dresses or unzipping pants to determine who should be allowed to marry. Libertarians would prefer to keep the State out of the civil union/marriage racket all together, but since it is historically in that position, then it is obligated not to discriminate.

3. The State can provide discriminatory sanction to one particular form of civil union, basing that discrimination of certain religious and cultural values held by a majority of its citizens, and deny equal protection [or advantage] under the law to a minority of American citizens. This is the situation in the US today.

To be honest, I suspect that both Libertarians and Christians (and Christian Libertarians) should prefer either situation #1 or situation #2 as being more consistent with their religious and political values.

I suggest, in all honesty, that you're jumping through a lot of intellectual hoops to avoid coming to grips with the fact that viscerally you cannot find it within yourself to separate your personal aversion to gay partnerships from your legislative position. Because that's what it amounts to.

So I hope you'll take the time to do a little more checking on the blatant legal and financial disadvantages that the State confers on gay couples, and get back to me on whether or not you still support your initial position that gay marriage is no big deal because marriage in the US doesn't actually convey any rights or privileges.

7 comments:

Waldo said...

In New Jersey, where the legislature tied civil unions as marriage lite, big corporations and insurers still denied same-sex couples the rights the legislature intended because they weren't "married."

Among same-sex couples who reach retirement age, the surviving spouse experiences an average 25% reduction in income on the death of a partner because same-sex couples do not have survivorship rights to their better earning partner's benefits.

Why do I not have a tax law degree when Microsoft was willing to pay for it for me as the "spouse" of a gay employee? Because under federal law our relationship did not exist, which meant my use of that benefit was a gift for which he was taxable.

Because we were barred from filing joint tax returns, every year we had to decide who got the mortgage deduction. As the lesser earning of or partnership, I never got it.

You can draft all the docs you want to leave your estate to your partner, but if you live in a state like Virginia, which bans even private arrangements between same-sex couples, you are screwed.

You can set up powers of attorney and still be denied visitation rights in hospital because it's not marriage and the hospital is the entity that gets to decide what docs to honor.

And people in my family say being gay is a choice I made. Pretty fucking fun, eh?

Jeff Ober said...

I'm glad that at least my first two answers were acceptable. I had a feeling that the third answer wasn't going to be liked.

Let me start by saying that my preferred position is that the state shouldn't be involved with marriages -- but I think that's an ideal, and not a practical reality today.

As for all your points that list rights that are denied gay couples -- in all cases, those denials are simply incorrect and wrong. Instead of making MORE rules (gay marriages) and making things more complex, I would make LESS rules and laws and promote MORE freedom.

For example: you mention the state pays for insurance of married couples. The best solution that would INCREASE freedom and help everyone: get rid of state-sponsored health benefits entirely. Seriously. The state should not be in the business of providing health benefits. Give people the freedom to pick and choose their own benefits. And certainly a MAJOR problem with many states, North Carolina included, is the whole "free health care for life." No one should get that from the state.

As for hospitals -- that should be left up to the hospital. Seriously. The state should not be involved at all. Instead of the state passing MORE laws to tell hospitals what to do, how about we let each hospital set their own rules for who they want to visit and talk to whom, and then let people have the freedom to go to whichever hospital they like. Freedom is a good thing.

Adoption -- let charities do it. It worked for hundreds of years, why should the state be screwing that up too?

Taxes and medical expense deductions? Get rid of them. Instead of ADDING complexity to the tax code, I want it simpler -- with LESS deductions for everyone.

I can understand your statement regarding my personal aversion to gay marriage. And I'll openly admit that in my personal life, I think that it's wrong. But at no time do I think government should pass any law that makes it wrong or punishes people for it -- so I DO NOT SUPPORT any such laws that are in existence today, and I would work to repeal them. At the same time, keep in mind -- if you leave government as it is today (with the advantages and disadvantages) and then have the state approve of gay marriages, you ARE using government to force others to approve of gay marriages against their will. That's one of the bigger reasons I oppose it.

So you can see, I am with you primarily on the position that the state really shouldn't be providing benefits or disadvantages to marriage. However, you actually seem to be supporting the position that the state SHOULD provide those benefits, and since they should, the state should provide them to any two people. I prefer the opposite direction, working to remove the benefits and making people and institutions to be MORE free, giving people and companies the freedom to make choices for themselves -- even when others may not like those choices.

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

Brian Shields said...

Jeff, I agree in theory, but again, those are ideals, and not reality.

The reality is that no governor wanting to be reelected to any office is ever going to cut medical benefits for the largest employer in Delaware, the State of Delaware.

The reality of many of those situations will be that you, as a lone Libertarian, will have to compromise with a 99% majority of legislators who do not subscribe to your strict ideals. Compromise will be your reality, and many of your ideal law repeals will have to be compromised to new law restrictions in order to get the votes. That is if you can get them at all.

How does a state allowing gay marriage force people to accept it? How?? Some people still don't accept interracial marriage and that has been legal for decades. Don't tell me it is comparing apples and oranges because it is the same concept. Self righteous people demanding government not allow the happiness of two people because in their eyes they see it as immoral.

Jeff Ober said...

I do appreciate the time people have taken to inform me on this issue. And indeed, there are aspects of marriage that I did not realize people were getting "benefits" for. But I primarily oppose those benefits.

The reason I see state-sanctioned gay marriage as worse than fixing the benefits problem is that if the state outlines laws that say I MUST give health care to my employees and their spouses, if I, personally, disagree with same-sex marriage, then I should be able to not use my cash to support it. If the state says I MUST provide for anyone they declare is married, that's violating my rights.

And yes, I realize that the best solution would be to stop the state from telling people what to do -- but that's at least a few years of Libertarians governments away... :)

Arthur Torrey said...

As a comment from a state that DOES have gay marriage, there are still benefits that are denied to gay couples, and which are DIRECTLY related to government "services"

I had a couple of friends that recently married legally here in Mass. Like many married couples they wanted to change their names to reflect their new status... In a hetero marriage, getting your government ID documents such as drivers licenses, passports, etc. updated with a new name is no big deal. You show the guy behind the counter your marriage documents, and they issue you new drivers licenses, etc. No charge (or maybe a nominal one) and congratulations...

But DOMA doesn't allow this on the federal level, and combined with REALID, it means you can't do it on the state level either. The state won't update the names on their drivers licenses because it wouldn't match their existing Social inSecurity cards. The Ponzi Admin people won't change the names on the SSN records because DOMA says their marriage doesn't exist.

In order to do what a hetero couple does for free, my friends will have to go to court and request a legal name change ($350 each for non-contested) then PAY for new drivers licenses and passports - IOW, it will cost them well over $1,000 and a great deal of legal hassles to do the same thing that a hetero couple can do for free, with minimal troubles.

This is something that needs to be considered, and isn't a topic I've seen addressed very often, but it would be something that might well remain a problem even with the ideal Libertarian solution of getting the gov't out of the marriage business in more obvious ways....

ART

Spillersman said...

Option 1 sounds good but for the state to totally ignore the unique union of two people regardless of whether you call it "marriage", "domestic partner", or "civil union" is not entirely practical. However, the state can opt to recognize private unions and grant them legal status with all the rights and responsibilities. The state does not need to be an active player in the marriage/civil union via licensing and/or performing the ceremony via a JP. I would support allowing for common law, marriage, marriage/domestic partnership by written contract, and marriage by ceremony. Any two adults may enter a binding legal union and may choose whether they want to call it a marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership, but regardless of the lable they give it, the rights would be the same. The power to enter into a union should be the two individuals involved within the context of their community, ie church, family, friends, etc not the state deciding how can and can nt marry. Any marriage recognized in any other state should also be recognized by the state as well.

Anonymous said...

Abortion is part of the decay inflicted by the gods in the latter half of the 20th century as we approach the Apocalypse::::
- Free sex
- Explosion in gay sex
- Abortion
- Legalized greed/immorality
- The internet. Whereas TV was a phenominally destructive new temptation on the landscape it doesn't hold a candle to the internet. Some people will waste their whole lives. And its timing was deliberate.

"It's too late to pray." Sign of Woodbridge Church Kansas. And it may be true for some. Examine pimps who prostitute 10 year old girls in the ghetto.
Of course, if you want even a shred of a chance to save yourself the Buffalo Bills did experience the Fourth Reich and realized a comeback of Biblical proportions.
I am failing. But it is because of the god's defense tactics. Fuck absolute power. I hate losing.

Budget problems. Cut the military. Bring them home and end the wars. Let these countries experience self-determination and decide their own future. Didn't we learn this lesson in Vietnam???
Unfortunnately, the gods use the United States as one of their tools, using the spread of democracy to level the playing field and prepare the planet for a global event.

So many people don't care about global warming. They don't care about the Federal deficit/debt (outside of partisanship) and they don't care earning $400k for an $80,000/year job will eventually bankrupt the country. They have awarded themselves $400k pay and retirement packages, loading up their friends on the payroll during the boom 90s through the real estate bust while all services which the program were intended to fund now get cut to pay for it.
These people are often common public university labor. Not Ivy League, not private university.
This labor isn't good enough to command the salaries they are earning. And they understood this when they applied to the public university they settled on.
You can't expect a top-tier salary with a second-rate education.
They think they are going sometime during/at the end of this life, and disregard the poor souls who are left behind.
These are the people who will be here in the United States when bankruptcy is declared and society deteriorates into chaos. And they will deserve the anarchy which ensues.

Continuing the push for privatization, reinforced and supported recently with enormous public sector salaries and retirement packages.
Once achieved the gods will utilize the corruptive predisposition of the private sector economy, as seen with the sub-prime/bailout fiasco, to initiate economic catastrophy and initiate the bankruptcy proceedings of the United States.
Whether the cure for cancer/diseases or the permanant resolution of economic misery, before the gods remove these motivations to pray we will experience an inordinate deluge of each element, with economic misery being perhaps the dissallusion of the united States with bankruptcy.

The gods used the Italians to ruin life in the 20th century.
The gods used the Italians to ruin life in A.D. with The Church.
The Church controlled Western Civilization. As the largest land owner in Europe they controlled the monarchies. They were responsbile for slavery, revenge for African invasion and rape of Italy. They created religious discontent, ultimately leading to the disfavored dumping ground known as the United States.