Friday, July 29, 2005

400 families losing health care benefits is pro-family how?

On Wednesday the Phoenix-based Arizona Republic ran this article that shows that over 400 families will lose benefits they currently have if the "Protect Marriage" amendment passes in 2006.

An Arizona Republic analysis shows that 439, or less than 1 percent, of the roughly 142,273 state and local government employees have unmarried partners who receive health insurance or other benefits in Arizona. Most of them work in Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Tucson and in Pima County.

Although a relatively small percentage of Arizonans would lose medical insurance immediately if the measure was approved, the effects would be much broader in the future, opponents of the initiative said.

It might be a small percentage, but 439 families is 439 families. That's a lot of adults and children who will lose health care benefits. And this is supposed to be pro-family?

Of course, Len Munsil of the Center for Arizona Policy sent out a response to his supporters, once again conveniently missing a link to the article so people can check for themselves what the article actually says. He titled his response "Media Misrepresentation," but as usual, he's the one doing the misrepresenting and twisting of facts.

Opponents of PMAA continue to ignore its emphasis on preserving the definition of marriage, and this article adopted that line of argument completely.

The article adopted that line of argument completely because the definition of marriage doesn't need preserving. There already is a law on the books defining marriage in Arizona as between one man and one woman and that law has held up to legal challenge. A constitutional amendment is overkill. And let's be real, if the emphasis were really on "preserving the definition of marriage," then that's all the amendment would do, but instead there is all the other language that would take away domestic partnership rights and benefits. CAP continually glosses over this point in an effort to convince the public that this is only about marriage. It isn't. It's about taking away civil rights that already exist.

An on-line poll made it sound as if passage of PMAA would cause gay and lesbian employees themselves to lose their health benefits, which is of course ridiculously untrue, then asked people to vote on that!

Uh, Len, a link here would be nice in case, you know, we want to check for ourselves what the heck you're talking about? I don't know what "online poll" he means, but as someone who is very involved with Arizona Together, I have seen nothing in our arguments that says GLBT employees would lose their own benefits. The emphasis has always been on their families. Again I ask, how is over 400 families losing benefits pro-family?

One piece of factual information did make it into the article – the number of domestic partners who receive taxpayer- funded benefits for their same-sex relationship with a government employee is much lower than the “thousands” the other side has been talking about.

Again, a misrepresentation of what Arizona Together has been saying. This amendment would impact thousands, though not necessarily through health benefits. And the future impact is much more far-reaching than the 400 families who currently get domestic partner benefits. The Republic article quotes Steve May from Arizona Together and the Arizona Human Rights Fund:

"Thousands of families would be impacted in the future because governments would no longer be allowed to offer the benefits," said Steve May, co-chairman of the Arizona Human Rights Fund, a gay and lesbian advocacy group.

May and other opponents say the measure would prevent state, cities, towns and counties from offering domestic-partner benefits in the future. It eventually would mean that thousands of unmarried couples working for the government would have no chance of ever having the benefits, he said.

Also, notice Munsil's use of the term "taxpayer-funded benefits." This is designed, of course, to make people feel like money is being taken from their own pockets to support the "gay lifestyle." I wonder, when the children of these families lose health insurance and have to go on ACCHS, are the taxpayers not going to be funding this? Let's be clear: this amendment will not save taxpayers any money.

The last sentence in Munsil's response is my favorite:

According to the Republic, it is only 439 unmarried “partners” of state employees out of 142,000-plus state employees who would be affected by the amendment’s effort to re-establish state marriage policy.

Only 439 unmarried partners? And none of these families have children, right? Riiiiight. Personally, I think that's a lot of people who would lose benefits if the amendment were in effect TODAY, and as I already noted, this doesn't take into account the other thousands of families that will be locked out of future benefits and other rights that have nothing to do with health care benefits, like hospital visitation or the family tuition reduction that the University of Arizona recently adopted.

As much as Len Munsil and CAP would like to convince people this amendment is only about "preserving the definition of marriage," it just doesn't hold up to careful scrutiny (and by "careful" I mean "actually taking two seconds to read the text of the proposed amendment.") As the Republic rightly points out, a whole lot of families will lose if this amendment passes. That's about as anti-family as you get.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Even Wilder about the 'Cats

I'm an unabashed U of A Wildcats fan, but today I'm even prouder of my Alma Mater: they just extended tuition breaks to same-sex domestic partners of university employees. Children of the employee's domestic partner will also get the tuition break. This is the same benefit spouses, children, and stepchildren of university employees already receive and is a huge step towards fair treatment for same-sex families.

While the new policy won't cover health-care benefits, like those offered by Pima Community College, Pima County and the city of Tucson, it's a step in the right direction, say UA employees who have been pushing for domestic-partner benefits.

The U of A cannot institute health-care benefits without approval from the legislature, which isn't likely, not with its current ultra-conservative majority. So they did what they could do and I'm pleased.

There's an extra benefit beyond fairness to GLBT employees and their partners and children, too.

"The exclusion of same-sex domestic partners from this program is detrimental to the university's ability to attract and retain the most qualified employees without regard to their household arrangements, and is inequitable to employees who cannot marry their domestic partners," according to the university announcement.

"Implementing this program will bring UA more in line with its peer institutions and local market competitors. By offering tuition reduction, the UA will be more capable of competing with employers that offer either health-care coverage, tuition reduction or some combination of both to employees' domestic partners. As it stands, the UA is in the distinct minority," [University of Arizona President Peter] Likins wrote.

Interesting. What's good for families is also good for the university. Shocking!

The problem is, this will likely be illegal if the "marriage protection" amendment passes in 2006. The U of A is a "political subdivision" of the state of Arizona and will not be allowed to "recognize" any "legal status for unmarried persons...that is similar to that of marriage." So if the amendment passes, we're back to being in the "distinct minority" of universities who cannot "attract and retain the most qualified employees." Yet another reason the amendment is a bad idea.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Promoting monogamy

Another fabulous editorial in the Arizona Daily Star today, in response to a recent study done in Pima County that found a rise in HIV infection rates and, a researcher claims, a correlating rise in risky behavior among gay men.

Without getting into the veracity of the study, I think we can all agree that risky behavior is a bad thing. Promiscuous behavior, especially without protection, is something we should be fighting to prevent. This is another reason I don't totally understand the "conservative" stance against same-sex marriage. Quoting from the Star editorial:

One of the new study's findings was that men who were interviewed feared old age and being alone. Creating a stable, legal way for homosexual people to form solid, long-term families can help, then, in the fight against risky behavior. Promoting monogamy and waiting for sex until marriage is part of the prevention message aimed at straight people. That message should apply to gay people, as well.

Amen! If I, as a conservative, think that monogamy is a good thing and that permanent, committed relationships are a good thing, wouldn't I want to encourage that for others? Even for those who disapprove of same-sex relationships, isn't same-sex monogamy at least better than same-sex promiscuity?

I think a lot of it is simply a matter of being uncomfortable with the reality that a lot of gay people are just like a lot of straight people. They want to find their soul-mate, settle down, have 2.5 kids and a mortgage. This is somehow more threatening than the stereotype of anonymous trysts in the men's room and the idea that LGBT people have hundreds of sexual partners a year. I'm sure this is true for some (well, maybe not hundreds, but multiple partners anyway). It's true for some straight people, too.

One of my favorite images from the San Francisco weddings last year was a photo of a man waiting to get his marriage license with his partner beside him and a baby in a carrier strapped to his chest. This is what I'm fighting for, the right of this couple to be who they are, to have the kind of life I can take for granted. It's proof that the stereotypes just don't hold water, and that sexual orientation and promiscuity are not linked. There are monogamous gay people and there are monogamous straight people. There are promiscuous gay people and promiscuous straight people.

As a conservative, one who believes strongly in the institution of marriage and the concept of vowing fidelity to one person for life, I want that option available to my GLBT brothers and sisters as well. I challenge anyone who seriously believes in the sanctity of marriage to open their hearts and minds to allow that option for everyone, rather than placing obstacles in the way that make commitment, difficult even in the most supportive of circumstances, even harder.

Let's encourage monogamy and safe-sex practices by, to paraphrase the editorial, creating a stable and legal foundation for same-sex couples and their families.

Friday, July 15, 2005

True Lies

An interesting bit from Len Munsil, the president of CAP, about how those of us opposed to the "Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment" are using "false arguments" against the amendment. I couldn't disagree more. Every single one of these arguments he addresses is not only true, but likely to happen.

Looking at them one by one:

Remember first that the amendment simply reserves the special status of marriage in our laws to people who are actually married.

This makes it sound like the amendment is very basic, but it is not. The wording is vague and far-reaching and the "special status of marriage in our laws" numbers many, many things. The implications are HUGE and not simple at all.

It does not prevent people from agreeing to allow each other hospital visitation, inheritance rights, medical decisionmaking, or other benefits.

Hospital visitation and medical decision making in many cases are reserved for "next of kin" and while same-sex couples can write up legal contracts (costing hundreds or thousands of dollars) to give each other power of attorney or ensure visitation, these can be challenged by the legal "next of kin," who are often parents who are against the union. In places like Tucson where a Domestic Partnership registry exists, this extends legal protection to things like hospital visitation so that it cannot be so easily challenged. Inheritance rights similarly can be challenged by "next of kin." Also, lets look at the wording of part of the amendment:


Every single one of the expensive contracts same-sex couples draw up to protect themselves and their families could easily be challenged in court as a "legal status for unmarried persons...similar to that of marriage."

As for "other benefits," the list is long and varied as to what "other benefits" marriage provides that people cannot get if domestic partnerships are not recognized. They run the gamut from things like not being able to pay the family rate at city parks and rec to not being able to get bereavement or family medical leave when a partner has died or is ill and needs care. Health insurance for domestic partners of government employees like Pima County or school districts is also huge. For example, Tucson Unified School District currently offers health care benefits for domestic partners. This will absolutely be illegal if the amendment passes. How can it possibly be a lie to say that this amendment won't take away "other benefits" from people?

It does not prevent people from providing for each other in their last will and testament.

No, but it gives huge legal backing for family members who want to challenge wills. Again, the amendment is very vaguely worded. This could also easily fall under the nebulous "legal status for unmarried persons...similar to that of marriage."

It does not prevent the government from enforcing domestic violence laws against domestic partners who become violent.

This is Happening. Now. In Ohio. Are we supposed to take Munsil's word that this won't happen here when it is happening elsewhere because of a very similar amendment?

It does not prevent private businesses from providing benefits to whoever (sic) the business wants to provide with benefits.

No, but it could potentially scare private businesses into not providing domestic partnership benefits.

As the debate continues, remember that much of the rhetoric you will hear from opponents is pure politics, scare tactics and fiction.

Unlike the rhetoric from CAP which is never pure politics, scare tactics, or pure fiction.

It's easy for Len Munsil to say the opposition is lying, but he doesn't back up a single one of his statements. Not one. He says definitively the amendment "does not do" these things. Some of these things the amendment definitely WILL do, like take away "other benefits" and provide a good basis for legal challenge to domestic violence laws applying to non-married partners ala Ohio, so who's the real liar? Others it MAY do and not only is it impossible for Munsil to guarantee it won't but he doesn't even bother to back up why he thinks it won't.

Don't believe the CAP rhetoric. This amendment will hurt people in Arizona if it passes.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Circling the wagaons

Can anyone explain to me why Karl Rove still has a job? Oh yeah, he's bestest buddies with the president and politicians like to circle the wagons instead of dealing with bad behavior--or, you know, criminal behavior--in their ranks.

The White House refused on Monday to repeat earlier assertions that any administration official who leaked classified information would be fired, days after Karl Rove, one of President Bush's top aides, was fingered as the source of a news leak that exposed a CIA undercover officer in 2003....

Recent news reports have identified Rove as the source of at least one leak to the news media in July 2003 that exposed undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. Such a disclosure could be a felony. A special prosecutor is mounting an investigation into her exposure that appears to be reaching a head after more than 18 months.

You can almost feel the undertow from the furious backpedaling. And remember, this is the same party that went after Clinton for Whitewater and lying under oath about Monica Lewinsky. Now, I agree that a president lying under oath is a huge problem that deserves investigation, even if the lie was about something so incredibly stupid. But the hypocrisy of my party is just stunning here, that they would go after Clinton with such self-righteousness while continuing to deny and protect their own from far worse crimes.

I'm no Clinton fan, but if I had to choose between a president who lied about marital infidelity and a president who protects someone who lies about WAR, I'm gonna have to go with the former.

Monday, July 11, 2005

On the Supreme Court

There's really almost no point in blogging when I can just quote Leonard Pitts, Jr.

O'Connor was named to the court by conservative icon Ronald Reagan. She herself is usually described as a moderate conservative, a term that has grown oxymoronic over the years.

But even putting that aside, I question the word "moderate," implying as it does a lack of passion or conviction. I prefer to regard O'Connor as a conservative with an independent mind.

And I'd argue that we could use a few more independent minds of whatever ideology.

From Pitts's word processor to President Bush's brain, please.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Thinking of London

I just don't know what to say about the horrible terrorist attacks in London, so I'll just point you to my friend Sarah Garrecht Gassen's excellent editorial in the Arizona Daily Star.

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and survivors in London.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

'Cause all gay people are exactly the same

My favorite Arizona lobbying group, the Center for Arizona Policy is at it again. I am constantly amazed at the new ways they come up with to twist the truth. To be fair, with this story, they're merely repeating someone else's sweeping generalizations, but still.

If courts and policymakers are truly interested in learning what is in the best interests of children when it comes to issues like adoptions for same-sex partners, they should consider the testimony of Dawn Stefanowicz. Dawn grew up in a homosexual household during the 1960s and 1970s, and though she loved her father, who died of AIDS in 1991, she is speaking out about the awful consequences of raising a child in a home dominated by homosexuality.

Basically, same-sex parenting is bad for all children because of one woman's experience.

Okay, let me get this straight (no pun intended.) She was raised in a "homosexual household" in the 60s and 70s. You know, the 60s. When the only people who led wild, promiscuous lifestyles were gay people. She writes:

From a young age, I was exposed to explicit sexual speech, self-indulgent lifestyles, varied GLBT subcultures and gay vacation spots. Sex looked gratuitous to me as a child. I was exposed to all-inclusive manifestations of sexuality including bathhouse sex, cross-dressing, sodomy, pornography, gay nudity, lesbianism, bisexuality, minor recruitment, voyeurism and exhibitionism. Sado-masochism was alluded to and aspects demonstrated. Alcohol and drugs were often contributing factors to lower inhibitions in my father's relationships.

So not only are these things unique to "homosexual households" in the 60s and 70s--because certainly no straight couples use drugs and alcohol, molest their children, or expose them to inappropriate things--but all same-sex couples raise their children this way. There's no such thing as same-sex couples who believe in appropriate boundaries for children.

Oy. I can't even type that with a straight face. I feel for Ms. Stefanowicz. It sounds like she had a horrific childhood, one I wouldn't wish on anyone. But to say it was caused by the fact that her father was gay and further to universalize this kind of abhorrent behavior to all same-sex couples is ludicrous. Her father was a bad father. Her father was also gay. There is no cause/effect relationship here. To infer one is no different than concluding that because someone was once raped by a black man, all black men are rapists.

There's a word for that. It's called PREJUDICE.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Go United Church of Christ!

In their General Synod meeting in Atlanta, the United Church of Christ just passed a resolution endorsing "equal marriage rights for all." This makes them the first mainline Christian denomination to allow same-sex marriage at the denomination level.

The vote affirms equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender and says that the government should not interfere with same-sex couples who want to marry. It calls on denomination officers to press local, state and national legislators to support equal marriage rights.

In local news, the Grand Canyon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted a resolution that publicly welcomes gays and lesbians.

Last month's resolution says all people of all sexual orientations and gender identities "are welcome within the membership of the synod, and that, as members, are welcome to full participation in the organizational and sacramental life of this church."

According to a news release from Lutherans Concerned/North America, the Grand Canyon Synod's action will encourage its congregations and specialized ministries to embody the resolution and to reaffirm a call for everyone to respect the rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation.

While still not allowing same-sex marriage and ordination for clergy in same-sex relationships, this is a step in the right direction.

As with the civil side of the issue, where I am torn between joy at Canada's and Spain's decisions to further equal rights for GLBT people and disappointment with my own country's lagging behind, I feel both joy and disappointment at this. Joy that there are places my GLBT brothers and sisters in Christ can be fully included. Disappointment that my denomination (at the national level, anyway) is not such a place.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Romans 14

I've always liked the book of Romans. Paul can be extreme sometimes, but he can be very moderate and even inclusive, too. He was the chief opponent, after all, of requiring Gentile converts to Christianity to be held to the Old Covenant, particularly the Jewish rite of circumcision. Romans, along with Galatians and 1st Corinthians, are good examples of this. In 1st Corinthians, he writes about the Body of Christ and how we must all be different for the Body to work. In Galatians, he writes that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. In Romans 14, Paul writes about differences between believers. I'll quote the The Message Remix paraphrase by Eugene H. Peterson because it is really very well-put. (I highly recommend this version for daily Bible reading, whether you've never read the Bible before in your life or you've got half of it memorized. It is easy to unerstan an really offers a fresh perspective.)

Romans 14:1
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with--even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

Paul uses different eating practices as an example. Since many Christians were converts from idol worship, there was a controversy over whether eating meat sacrificed to idols was a sin. Paul argued no... and yes. For the Christian who had never worshipped idols and saw nothing worshipful in eating meat dedicated to them, it was not. For the convert for whom eating sacrificed meat was worshipful, it was.

Romans 14:2-4
For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume all Christians should be vegetarians and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

In Romans 14:22-23, Paul goes on to write:
Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe--some days imposing your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them--then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.

I love these passages. They really are Paul at his best. The message is one all Christians need to take to heart, conservatives and progressives alike. There are a lot of issues on which people of faith can disagree, but we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to celebrate our differences.

I really like how my church puts it in our values statement. One of our values is "We value laughter, disagreement, and understanding." In our information brochure, it's fleshed out more. We value these things by:

Understanding it is possible for two people in good conscience and sound judgment to view the same situation in totally different ways....

Accepting the mysteries inherent in faith and nature of God. We do not have all the answers, nor do we aspire to. We tend not to believe anyone else who claims to either, other than God....

Putting judgment aside and trusting in God's wisdom as the ultimate change agent in people's lives.

Refusing to be a single issue or politically driven community, while accepting that our faith calls us to be compassionate and involved citizens.

To put this in the frame of my pet issue: if you're gay, you're welcome to the table. If you think same-sex relationships are sinful, you're welcome to the table. We all come from different places and God is a God of questions more than answers. He acts through people in ways we don't understand.

Even people who disagree with me.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Spain, too!

As Niobium pointed out in a comment to my last post, Spain has also just legalized same-sex marriage. This makes it one of four nations (counting Canada, assuming it passes the Senate) who will have equal rights for same-sex couples. The U.S. is fifth on the list as gay marriage is legal in one part of this country: Massachusetts.

Baby steps. We'll get there eventually.