Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The hidden national nastiness of gay marriage bans

By Diane Silver

When we fought the Kansas ban on same sex marriage in 2005, I was struck by how vigorously our opponents claimed that the ban would never hurt a soul.

Over and over again, they assured voters that voting "yes" on the constitutional amendment would only ban something that was already illegal. In the end, Kansas voters gave in and approved the ban.

It has now been just over a year since voters passed that amendment in Kansas. In other states, similar constitutional amendments have also been approved.

Meanwhile, with every passing day there is new evidence that everything the religious right said about these amendments was a lie. People are being hurt. Both gays and straights are losing health insurance and other employment benefits. Some are even losing the right to prosecute abusers for beating them up, and that's just the start.

At issue are the strictest of the marriage bans, such as those passed in Kansas, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. Denying marriage equality to millions of citizens is bad enough, but the strictest bans also use vague language to deny anything that might look remotely like marriage. At the very least, these horrendous amendments outlaw civil unions.

However, officials in many states are going much further than that. Here are just a few of the problems law-abiding citizens are encountering because of these so-called "harmless" bans.

*The city of Kalamazoo, Mich., has just taken away health benefits from the partners of its lesbian and gay employees. Domestic partner benefits may soon also be taken away from the domestic partners of lesbian and gay state workers, and employees at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. All of this has happened because of the Michigan constitutional amendment banning gay marriage .

*The attorney general of Kentucky this week issued an opinion saying that the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville will be violating that state's constitutional ban if they provide health insurance benefits to domestic partners. Those benefits were planned to go in effect on July 1.

*In Ohio, a straight woman was unable to pursue charges against an abusive boyfriend because of the marriage ban.

* The governor of Ohio says the marriage ban will make it hard for the state to outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

What I have never understood is how it helps this nation to keep LGBT citizens from getting jobs and having health insurance. What does the religious right think it gets by hurting lesbian and gay families and their children?

I don't know if those questions can be answered. Perhaps, like many voters in Kansas, people just aren't thinking. Perhaps they don't understand the consequences of their votes, or perhaps, as John Aravosis says over at AMERICAblog: "The religious right pretty much wants us dead."

I know some like Fred Phelps do believe that all gays should be put to death. On the other hand, I know that many other honest Americans don't. I think it's time for folks to wake up and understand what their votes are doing. It's time to stop believing the lies of the religious right.

Pam at the House Blend has some interesting comments and questions for the Democratic presidential candidates on this topic.

PHOTO: Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon -- together for more than 50 years -- on Feb. 12, 2004, when they were married in city hall in San Francisco. Six months later their marriage and those of many other same sex couples were legally voided.


H4736 said...

Happy to find a fellow e-blogger. And better yet, a defender of marriage equality.

Thanks for shedding light on these secretive marriage bans, that take so much more than we're told.

CEW said...

What does the religious right get? They get to be "right." They get to gloat and be self righteous. They get to tell us they love gay people, but hate gay behavior. They get to be tools of power brokers in elections.

You are right, things in Michigan are tough at the moment.

Good luck in your neck of the woods.

Diane Silver said...

Thanks so much for your comments.

cew, the other thing the religious right gets is they get to hold us down. For some odd reason, they seem to think that if we're oppressed, they will have better lives. It is a sad way to approach the world.

By the way, I grew up in Michigan and only left in my 30s to take a job in Kansas. I miss it and the Great Lakes a ton. It is sad to see that social conservatives have such power in my old home state. What happened?

CEW said...

I'm not from Michigan originally,but I do know that the Catholic Church had a huge role in promoting and paying for the marriage amendment to the state constitution.

I think liberals couldn't imagine the thing passing and so didn't work particularly hard to oppose it.

Diane Silver said...

cew, that's VERY interesting. The Catholic Church, through the national Knights of Columbus, was the major funder of the anti-marriage amendment in Kansas. I'm not certain two states makes a pattern, but that surprises me.

Thanks for the comments.