20 Years from DP Benefits to Marriage

As the Cato Institute’s David Boaz and I both predicted 20 years ago(!), domestic partner benefits may be left behind in an era when all couples can get married. David’s May 13 blog post at the Cato at Liberty blog takes note of the long road from then to now. He also links to both recent Wall Street Journal coverage on this development (“Firms Tell Gay Couples: Wed or Lose Your Benefits“), and my January blog post (“Domestic Partner Benefits Are (Almost) Passé“).

For the historically minded, two decades ago David addressed the issue here, among other places, and I did so here.

Standing Firm

Thomas Peters (“American Papist”) thinks that the Catholics who support same-sex marriage are just a bunch of phonies, and this makes the Public Religion Research Poll bogus.  I’ll leave the question of who counts as a Catholic to the Catholics, but can’t help pointing out that insulting fellow believers for insufficient dogmatism seldom works out well.  Plus, just as a demographic matter, if (as Peters suggests) the only real Catholics are the ones in the pews every week, the number of American Catholics is wildly inflated by pollsters, social scientists, and the church, itself.

But Peters doesn’t stop at provoking his fellow Catholics.  He goes on to argue that only (only!) 43% of these faux-Catholics support same-sex marriage, and that the higher figure of 74% includes those who support civil unions.  Peters says it’s important to draw a distinction:

In other words, the only way LGBT-funded pollsters can get Catholics (again, lumped in with inactive and less active Catholics) to “support” same-sex marriage is to create a false choice between full same-sex marriage on the one hand, and “no legal protection/recognition” on the other.

As soon as you introduce the reality that there are other ways of accommodating homosexual relationships into civil law without redefining marriage, support for same-sex marriage among Catholics drops off again. And yet we still see the headlines, “Catholics support same-sex marriage.”

How could I disagree with him about this false choice?  I’m all about the compromise.

The problem for Peters, though, is that one of the few people on earth who is undoubtedly a real Catholic thinks that false choice is the only one.  In 2003, Pope John Paul II approved of a document titled, CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING PROPOSALS TO GIVE LEGAL RECOGNITION TO UNIONS BETWEEN HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS.” Bottom line? “The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”  This explicitly includes civil unions which you’d think, by their very definition, might fall outside the jurisdiction of Catholic religious doctrine.  But it’s right there in black and brown and sepia.  These “considerations” were issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and bear the name of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who in recent years has moved up in the organization.

I get a bit hot under the collar when people like Peters invoke civil recognition of same-sex unions, and imply they would support that compromise when, in fact, they won’t (Since Peters claims he’s a Real Catholic, I assume he would follow the teachings of the Vatican on this matter).  That has always been the shell game NOM plays, ceaselessly claiming they want same-sex couples to be happy, just not married, and then remaining blithe about the lack of any legal recognition for same-sex couples; they go blank in the eyes at any mention of support for civil unions.

In this, at least, Indiana’s legislature is being honest.  They are getting ready to go on the record as prohibiting any same-sex couple in their state from having any legal recognition, marital or otherwise.   While state statute already defines marriage as between one man and one woman, this constitutional amendment would make it clear to any uppity judges out there that Indianans won’t tolerate wobbliness.

It’s rarer than it used to be to see such open hostility to same-sex couples.  Even politicians who think their constituents want them to be anti-gay are more careful these days, and couch their rhetoric in fashionable tolerance-manque.  But Indiana and the Vatican remind us what steel-toed intolerance — the kind that ran rampant in this country for most of the last century — looks like.

Cheney and Obama: Nowheresville

There is a long and growing list of people – and specifically Republicans — who are said to be to the left of President Obama on gay marriage.  Our high-profile GOP supporters include Laura Bush, Elizabeth Hasselbeck and, most recently, freshly-out Ken Mehlman.

But the grandest of the Party’s Old Grandees is, of course, Dick Cheney, whose support for same-sex marriage is the most valuable scalp gay marriage supporters have been able to secure.  He’s even been characterized as “more progressive” on this issue than Obama.

Let’s get a grip.  I won’t argue that Obama’s well-documented flips and flops, ducks, weaves, hedges, caveats, little white lies, obfuscations and desperate dives underneath the desk in the Oval Office are any profile in courage.  Despite the fact that I think he will still be one of our finest presidents and may yet show some spine on real equality, what we’ve gotten from him so far is a savvy exhibition of three card monte.  While we know he can demonstrate leadership on issues he finds compelling, on gay equality he is more sheep than shepherd.

But Cheney hasn’t exactly been our Martin Luther King.  The pinnacle of his oratory has been this: “I think freedom means freedom for everyone.”  To my knowledge, he has never yet publicly used the phrase “same-sex marriage,” or even “civil unions.”  Here’s as close to explicit as he has ever gotten:

I do believe that historically the way marriage has been regulated is at the state level. It has always been a state issue and I think that is the way it ought to be handled, on a state-by-state basis. … But I don’t have any problem with that. People ought to get a shot at that.

Now I won’t look this gift horse in the mouth, but it’s not exactly support for equality – it’s a plea for state’s rights.  And that would appear to include the right for states to give same-sex couples nothing.

Perhaps I’m wrong about that, but from Dick Cheney’s extremely rare public utterances, I can’t find any reason to believe he would have as little problem – i.e. “no problem” — with same-sex couples having no rights as he would with them having full equality.

But he can clarify that.  Specifically, he could put his money where is mouth is, and join Mehlman, Ted Olson, and so many other leading national Republicans at the AFER fundraiser (even Mary will be there).  Or he could actually say something clearly:  “I support same-sex marriage” would be nice, but I’d even take something like, “Both of my daughters deserve the same respect and rights under the law, and my party ought to make a commitment to that fundamental principle.”

At that point, I would be willing to put him beside Obama and find Obama wanting.  But for the present, the two are about even in substanceless avoidance; Cheney avoids the issue by saying too little, while Obama avoids the issue by saying too much.