In part 1, I stated why I am voting for the Defense of Marriage amendment in November. Now, I’ll specifically take on various conservative/libertarian arguments against this, mainly culled from Charlie’s Isthmus column.
- It’s unnecessary – As I stated previously, it is very necessary (at least if one is not in favor of government sanction of gay marriage), not only to pass something like this but to make it part of the Wisconsin Constitution, especially in Wisconsin. There already exists in the Wisconsin Constitution legitimate legal grounds for a court to overturn any statute that does not extend the full benefits of marriage to gay couples; a clause that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- The “infamous” second sentence (“A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.”) will not only allow Wisconsin to ignore other states’ “gay marriages” that do not explicitly use the word “marriage”, but force Wisconsin to invalidate items such as “domestic partner” benefits for both public and private employees and for both gay and straight employees – To extend this sentence from invalidating a broadly-encompassing government sanction of gay marriage to invalidating a single benefit that has been extended to non-married couples would take an overreach essentially equal to that taken by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in forcing gay marriage there. As my non-lawyer mind reads that sentence, it would take a single legal status attempting to confer most of the legal privileges of marriage to unmarried individuals to trigger this. Morever, something such as “domestic partner” benefits, even one offered by government, is not a legal privilege restricted to marriage.
- This represents an absolute freeze on social and legal policy, which can never be changed – Again, wrong. The only “freezes” are that a gang of 4 lawgivers-in-black cannot cram their wishes down 5 million Wisconsinites’ throats, and that 50 Assemblymen and 17 Senators in the Legislature cannot unilaterally do the same. An “evolutionary” change instead will require those 50 Assemblymen and 17 Senators to vote for it in 2 separate biannual sessions, then a majority of the public that cares vote for it; just like this amendment.
- This limits the power of individuals, not government – Like a broken record; again, wrong. I don’t see any prohibition of two or more consenting individuals to do what they please; instead, I see a prohibition against government granting a special sanction to certain actions taken y those consenting individuals.
- But, but, but government needs to recognize stable relationships regardless of who enters it – No, it does not, even if other governments recognize “common-law marriages” (more-properly called long-term shack-ups). The main reason why government does recognize marriage is that society has recognized marriage as providing the best general situation for the raising of the next generation. Of course, it does so in what can be called a ham-handed fashion. Morever, with the advent of “no-fault” divorce, government has started to not recognize marriage as a stable, lifelong relationship.
- But, but, but gays only want “in” on marriage, not to destroy it – What legal privilege automatically granted to married couples, other than the special tax rate given to married couples, can gay couples not get? Tax deductions for children are marriage-neutral, and various legal contracts, including wills and life insurance, can easily be written to replicate the publicly-recognized situations enjoyed by married couples, right on down to the joint-property mandate unique to Wisconsin. That special tax rate is hardly special for a couple where both people work full-time, which I suspect describes nearly all gay couples; they would end up paying a higher tax than if they weren’t recognized as a “married” couple.
Since the governmental reasons for gays to merely want “in” on marriage through government recognition have been severely damaged, and society as a whole does not (at least not yet) accept that gays should enjoy the full privileges and benefits of marriage, what reasons other than its destruction in its present governmental form and a further damage to its religious form remains for the push for government recognition of gay marriage? The only one I can think of is to attempt to force companies that do not offer “domestic partner” benefits to offer benefits to both members of a gay couple. However, there is a “slight” flaw in this attempt; health coverage is not a right, and neither is spousal coverage. I strongly suspect that a large number of companies that do not offer “domestic partner” coverage will drop spousal coverage (if not health coverage entirely) rather than have the expanded definition of “spouse” imposed on them. The companies that don’t will quickly find themselves in court, sued by heterosexual unmarried couples wanting theirs. They’ll likely win, and everyone can start kissing health insurance for their significant other goodbye.