The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘gay marriage’

BAKED IN THE CAKE

Under the heading of Fire Prevention and Safety, Clark County, NV has an ordinance which requires a business owner to post the following sign above their entrance:

“THIS DOOR TO REMAIN UNLOCKED DURING BUSINESS HOURS”

Obviously, the business is not required merely to post the sign but to comply with its meaning.  That seems somewhat laughable since, if you own a business, locking out the public from access would tend to discourage people from entering your premises and buying your product.  And I have never had an experience where I walked into a business and a guard locked the door behind me refusing to allow me to leave until I had purchased something.  Nonetheless, I’m sure that the rule, if not thought through completely, was enacted with the best of intentions.

Of course, we have many laws on the books which were enacted with the best of intentions but whose unintended consequences were so problematic that they had to be amended or repealed entirely.  The Constitutional amendment beginning Prohibition is one example which comes to mind.

Oregon has a law which prohibits a business from discriminating against a wide array of protected “classes,” one of which is homosexuals.  An administrative law judge found bakers Melissa and Aaron Klein guilty of violating that law and infringing on the rights of two lesbian women who wanted to place an order with them to bake a wedding cake to celebrate their nuptials.  The Kleins declined to do so because they have religious beliefs that they believe would be compromised by participating in a gay wedding.  The two women brought suit and were awarded $135,000 under their claim of having experienced 88 different forms of “mental-rape” as a result of the Kleins’ refusal to provide their cake.

As might be expected, the ALJ’s decision was trumpeted both by the left and the members of the BGLQT community (I’ve re-ordered LGBTQ alphabetically so that there is no implication that one subcomponent is more important than any other) as a triumph for fairness, and on the right was predictably denounced as an attack on Christian faith.  In the final analysis, I suspect that both sides on this issue may prove to be wrong.  What may be at risk in decisions like this is the ability, for whatever reason, for people to hold an opinion and to act on it which is in contradiction to that held by the vocal minority.  What is in jeopardy is not freedom of thought or freedom of speech but freedom itself, at its most essential level.

I respect the Kleins standing on their principles.  Personally, as a Christian, I do not feel that their providing a cake for a gay wedding would have been a tacit endorsement of gay marriage.   But in any “anything goes” world it is unusual to find people who still try to conduct their lives based on principle.

Every business owner has to balance morality with profitability.  The left portrays business people as being greedy,  only mindful of profits at the expense of their employees who are generally categorized by them as being overworked and underpaid.  The fact that the Kleins would decline to bake a wedding cake for this lesbian wedding undermines that theory.  If business owners are strictly and solely motivated by profit then turning down a profitable order makes absolutely no sense.  It is for that reason that we should give weight to their stated belief that in their view, participating in the ceremony by baking a wedding cake was something that they could not do in conscience.

But there is another reason the Kleins, their views on homosexuality being openly known, might have made a wise business decision, one not based on their religious faith.

Let’s take the case of a family restaurant owned by a Mormon family.  One evening, a man staggers through the door.  His breath reeks of alcohol and he clings to the hostess station near the door to try to stabilize himself.  By anyone’s standards he is obviously drunk.

The owner of the restaurant comes over to him but before he can say anything, the drunken patron starts yelling that he wants coffee and he wants to eat.

The owner explains that he is a Mormon and based on his religious beliefs does not serve coffee in his establishment.  The man again shouts out that he wants coffee and food.  By now, the families in the restaurant have stopped eating and everyone is watching this encounter near the front door.

The owner politely suggests that the patron does not appear to be sober and out of concern for him offers to call him a taxi so that he can get home safely.  But instead of following this kindly advice, he sees an empty seat at a table where a husband and wife and three children are eating and he staggers over to the table and flops into the vacant chair, reiterating his demand for coffee and food.  In frustration, the owner calls the police who arrive swiftly and arrest the patron for being drunk and disorderly and remove him from the restaurant in handcuffs.

Now if most people were empaneled on a jury and these facts were presented in evidence as the state’s case why this man should be punished for his disruptive behavior, I suspect they would vote to convict.  The fact that Mormons don’t consume alcohol or coffee would have played no factor in the evidentiary presentation.

But let’s replay that same scenario with only one change.  The drunk patron comes into the restaurant and he is wearing a T-shirt that has a Rainbow Flag on it and above and below are written the words GAY PRIDE.

Several weeks go by and suddenly a man shows up at the restaurant with a summons which he delivers to the owner.  The patron who was removed from the restaurant has filed suit because he claims that he was refused service for the sole reason that he was a gay male.

In some respect, filing a law suit to “bring about social change” is the ultimate and easily accessed methodology for those whose lives are otherwise too mundane to warrant their very own “reality TV show”.  And the potential to score a big payday while having to pay nothing out of pocket for your contingency case – well, that’s just icing on the cake.

It costs just as much to defend yourself if you’re innocent or guilty.  Filing a law suit is, in the view of many, the path to riches more than it is a path to justice.  Given the current mania of juries awarding ridiculous punitive damages, perhaps hoping they will set a precedent if one day they should be the plaintiff in a similar case, it’s hard to know how a jury would decide the case.

Returning to the Kleins who were and are candid on their view of homosexuality, I would think that one of the things that should concern them in the future is, that even if they were to modify their view that providing a wedding cake for a gay wedding is an endorsement of gay marriage, they should take caution.  Returning to my premise that people sue other people whether or not there is a basis in fact, let’s consider the following scenario.

Another gay couple asks the Kleins to bake them a cake for their nuptials.  The Kleins have decided to be guided by the synoptic Gospel advice to “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”.  So they agree to prepare the cake the couple selects.

On the appointed day they deliver a beautiful cake.  The ceremony ends and the guests retire to the banquet.  But the couple is dissatisfied with the cake they ordered.  So they file suit, claiming that the cake didn’t meet their expectations and that the Kleins purposely sabotaged their happy day because despite recanting on their views, they found a way to ruin the happy couple’s celebration by preparing a cake that was not up to standards.

Is this an unlikely scenario – a right wing conspiracy theory?  Well, possibly so.  Or perhaps, given today’s PC climate and verdicts that emanate from jury nullification, maybe it’s the kind of case whose outcome is already baked in the cake.

MARS, ANYONE?

It was the best ten cents I ever invested in anything.  That was the price I paid to become a member of the Science Fiction Book Club based in Long Island.  For my little silver coin (and a three cent stamp) I embarked on the wonderful possibilities of intergalactic travel and exploring the vast cosmos.  In exchange for my investment I received five hard bound, large books and began my travels through the universe from the comfort of my home sofa.  And that got me interested in frequently visiting New York’s Hayden Planetarium which became my home away from home.  Somehow the vastness of the universe and the possibilities contained in it that we can barely imagine put our petty differences in perspective and reveal them for the insignificant things they are.

I thought about this as the kerfuffle erupted recently as both Indiana and Arkansas passed laws to re-emphasize the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.  Naturally, the left took a break from pushing for a higher minimum wage to jump on these two bills and castigate them as being horrifically anti-gay, despite the fact that the governors of both states clearly stated that was not the intent of either law.  That, of course, is a matter of speculation.  So what does all that have to do with space or at least a leap into it as plans are being made to invade the Red Planet?

As you may know, a Dutch company called Mars One intends to launch a ship to our nearest neighbor in the solar system, prospectively in 2022 and is currently recruiting applicants who would like to join the crew of explorers.  They received thousands of applications for what is billed as a one way trip.  The plan is to establish a permanent colony on Mars.  Needless to say, the colony will have to be self-sustaining.

Now Holland is a very liberal place.  In fact, they were the first country in the world to recognize gay marriage in 2001.  Although the Mars project is being funded and developed by a private company and not the Dutch government, it is reasonable to assume that those in charge probably share the same social views as many of their countrymen.  So that suggests one simple question.

Will those who are screening for applicants for this momentous mission consider including gay and lesbian women in the crew, knowing that they will be unlikely to contribute to the nascent colony’s ongoing genetic survival?  I hope that I’m here on Earth long enough to get an answer to that question.

FORBIDDEN LOVE

It was a Friday evening after a rough week and I had gotten home a bit late.  Tristan, my Irish Setter and Josh, my Belgian Shepherd/Newfoundland mix were waiting attentively at the door.  They really wanted to go for their walk.  So I dropped the mail on a table by the entryway, put on their collars and we hurried across the street to the park where the boys quickly relieved themselves.

When we returned to the condo I put their dinners together and sat down with an adult beverage for myself, kicking my shoes off and resting my tired feet on the coffee table in the living room.  I was just starting to get comfortable when the phone rang.

I debated for a moment whether I wanted to bother answering it or let Jeeves the Butler, the voice on my answering machine, pick it up.  But I was feeling a little more relaxed and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to unwind on the couch as Tristan had finished his dinner and wanted me to play with him.  So I told him to stay on the couch and went into the library to grab the call, setting my scotch on a coaster on my desk.

The caller was a friend named Marty.  I could tell he was upset and the reason for that soon became clear.  His lover of three years, Ted had dumped him and told him he had to move out of Ted’s apartment.

I’m not quite sure why, but for virtually my entire life, people have always asked for my advice or looked to me to provide a shoulder to cry on when they needed one.  I guess that’s a sort of compliment.  But sometimes I feel like the proverbial pile to which flies are drawn.

Because I try to be a compassionate person, I normally acquiesce to their request to provide counsel.  Usually, this leaves the person making the request feel good – and me feeling rather drained.

Anyway, Marty and I talked for a few minutes but I was really tired and the scotch was beginning to kick in.  So rather than go through the blow by blow, I invited Marty to dinner the following evening.  I had planned on making a roast and there would be more than enough for both of us and the two puppies who always expected to get some of whatever it was I was eating.

So the following night, Marty came to the apartment for dinner and he told me the whole story.

The two of them had met about four years earlier at a party which a mutual friend had hosted.  At the time Marty was 24 and working in a salon as a stylist (or in the parlance of the gay community was a “hair burner”).  Ted was 41 and worked in a corporate law department as an attorney.  About three months later they began dating and nine months after that, Ted asked Marty to move in with him.

Ted had an apartment in the Halsted Street area of Chicago’s near north side which was alternately known as the “Gay Ghetto” or “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”  I  was always incredulous that people who lived in this neighborhood could ever develop lasting relationships.  In a five block span there were at least 12 gay bars, each of which had a special night to attract revelers.  And the bars usually overflowed onto the street.  So many men – so much temptation.

And that is what ultimately did their relationship in.  Ted had gone out one night for a “walk”, met someone coming out of one of the bars; their eyes met and before you knew it the two of them were passionately in love and having sex in this new person’s apartment.

As Marty told me this story I tried not to show that I felt that was all rather sordid and shallow.  But that was a story not unlike many others that could be told in and of the gay community.  I learned that when I was first introduced to the phrase, “Your future ex-husband.”

Whether straight or gay, we’ve probably all had a relationship that ended – or hoped for one that never began.  So in that regard I could understand what Marty must have been experiencing.  But I realized how relationships were even more difficult within the gay community than in the straight world when Marty said, “You know, if I could choose to be, I would choose to be straight.”

I knew Marty better than I knew Ted.  And he always impressed me with his boyish good looks, but more than that with his romantic soul.  On several occasions he told me that he couldn’t be happier because he had met the man of his dreams and was deeply in love with him.  He looked forward to living out the rest of his life with the love of his life.  It just happened that the two of them were gay.  And because they were gay, there was no legal commitment into which they could enter.

I decided to stay up late tonight and write this piece (it’s nearly midnight) because I just read an article that gay marriage is going to become the law in the UK within a matter of days – although it won’t be implemented for a year.  And, of course, we all are familiar with the same issue being heavily debated in the U. S.

I have to admit that I can see both points of view on this issue and can’t say that I have really come down firmly on either side.  If I were on my high school debating team and the subject of gay marriage were the topic, I think I could advance arguments equally effectively either for the “Pro” or the “Con”.

As I think back thirty years to my conversation with Marty that Saturday night, I wonder, if gay people had the right to get married back in the ’80’s  and Marty and Ted had tied the knot, might that have provided some stability of which they were deprived and might that have resulted in their relationship continuing, even today?

On the other hand, I look at the failure rate of marriages among the straight community and wonder if having a contract “until death do us part” has any relevance in today’s world.

And let us not forget that there are any number of our Hollywood types who simply move in together, have some kids and years later decide to make it “official”.  Or not – as they deem fit.  No one seems to raise much of a stink over that.

Perhaps the solution, whether for the straight or gay community, is to enter into a “time limit” contract – for say, three or five years, renewable on expiration.  It’s only a thought – but it might save thousands in the fees for attorneys who specialize in divorce.

After dinner, I told Marty that I had an extra bedroom and he would be welcome to use it until he situated himself.  He thanked me for my offer – but Hyde Park was too far removed from his familiar stomping grounds and, to my knowledge, there was never a gay bar in the community.  So I think he felt that if he moved in he would be hampered in his search for the next love of his life.  He declined my offer and took an apartment with one of the female stylists from the salon.

He was involved in two more semi-long term relationships by the time I left Chicago.  I never did run into Ted again after the two of them broke up.

I believe that each of us has a need for love – both to give and receive it.  It’s hard enough to do that as a straight person.  And my heart goes out to our gay population who the straight world tells, even if they find that special someone, that relationship is forbidden.

MEDIATION

I have debated whether to write this post for almost a week.  But something caught my eye this morning which decided me to move forward with it.

First a bit of history.  Two of my readers who are both thoughtful and comment frequently on my posts got into a “discussion” on one of their blogs.  The exchange became a bit heated, although both participants tried to lay out their differing positions without resorting to acrimony.

One of those readers has a faith-based view of his relationship with life – the other approaches life from an atheistic position.  The specific topic which caused the conversation was the issue of “gay marriage.”

Now while they chose to differ in their views on this specific issue, what I find remarkable is that I suspect these two gentlemen probably do agree on the social and political issues with which we find ourselves confronted today about eighty percent of the time.  How they arrive at similar conclusions is less important to me than I believe that it is to them.  So allow me to offer them the following example to support my position that it is not so significant how we arrive at our destination as it is that we do arrive there.

Consider the case of two car drivers.  Both are aware that there are speed limits which we are supposed to observe.  The first driver believes in following the letter of the law and regulates the speed at which he operates his vehicle to be certain he always is within the limit – because that is the law.  The second driver, less concerned with the law than safety, also chooses to drive within the limit because he believes that doing so will minimize the chance of an accident in which he, his passengers and other motorists will be involved.  Does it matter which rationale brought both these drivers to the same conclusion?  Of course not.

Religion and science have long been contenders in the battle to explain universal and epistemological truth.  They have butted heads often, but a reading of both their histories suggest that they both share a common weakness.  That is that while they declaim that what they say is so is so – what they say has and will continue to change over time.  That is evident in our religions’ accepting a heliocentric based solar system to replace the geocentric one we saw in the Middle Ages; and that is evident in something as fundamental as the expansion of the periodic table of elements which has occurred in the last fifty years.

There is another commonality between the positions of both the religious man and the atheist.  That is that both positions are based on faith – as it is neither possible to prove the existence of God nor to disprove it.  We should have given up trying long ago and just accept that “it is what it is – whatever it is.”

But let’s return to the item that caught my eye this morning and to discuss the issue which precipitated the conversation between my two readers.  That was an announcement yesterday by NASCAR driver, Denny Hamlin that he and his girl friend are expecting their first baby.

“Hamlin says marriage is not in the immediate plans.  There’s no reason to rush into it.”

Based on the number of unwed pregnancies; the number of illegitimate children who are being brought into the world and for whom we are asked for financial support; the explosion in the number of children born into single parent homes which put them at a great disadvantage in the challenge to become productive members of society, do we not have far greater challenges because of the behavior of our heterosexual brethren than to spend our time on the issue of gay marriage?

We know that the estimated ten percent of us who are gay or lesbian did not cause this problem.  But they will be asked to pay for the results brought about by it.  Is that fair or equitable?  My atheistic reader and I would both say no (not to put words in his mouth).  I happen to believe my religious friend might agree with that as well.

Frankly, I’m tired of the “Support Chuck-Fil-A” and stage a “Kiss in at Chuck-Fil-A” mentality.  Both sides do nothing but further fractionalize us and rather than bring a positive message serve more as media circuses than means to an honest discussion and resolution.  And if America needs anything right now it is honesty, starting with our elected officials and with every thoughtful citizen participating.

If I have offended either or both of my readers to whom I address this post I apologize.  That was not my intent.  I believe that if we focus on the things that divide us rather than those in which we are united, we are dooming ourselves to a dismal future.  I know that is not what any of us wishes.   And I know that both of you have a message and a perspective which we need to hear and consider.  Please keep talking – not only to the world but to each other.

Here endeth the Mediation.

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