Saturday, October 06, 2007
A new reader has popped up on CPW. Sushi Boy has an interesting blog where, among other things, he hosts a weekly "Friday Field Trip" where participants are encouraged to post photos of their surroundings or other places they have gone (or might like to go...I haven't memorized all the rules yet.) I would like to participate at some point but as I told Sushi, I'm not very good at keeping up with any kind of regularly scheduled blogging activity. So there may be a field trip from me at some point.
Sushi is also a Mormon, as we found out when he stumbled upon a post over at Some Guy's Blog wherein Some Guy denounced the Mormon (and Jehovah's Witness and . . .) practice of making unsolicited door to door visits to discuss their religious beliefs. Understandably, Sushi was offended and said so. This led to an extended bitch-slap session consisting of several strongly worded comments. I joined the fray by taking Sushi and his church to task on the church's multi-million dollar lobbying efforts to keep gay Americans from marrying.
After a little back & forth, I agreed to knock it off with the cheap Mormon jokes and Sushi agreed to have a civil discussion on the issues that make me so angry.
Rather than clogging up Some Guy's comments on what is becoming an ancient post, I figured I'd move the next round of discussion over here.
Sushi has not yet had a chance to respond to my last comment at Some Guy's blog, except for mentioning that he wanted to talk about a 2006 court case from Utah. I told Sushi privately that I wasn't intending for this to become a whole legal analysis, since for me the discussion revolves around one thing:
In my opinion, churches should enforce their religious beliefs on their own members, and should not bring those into the political arena - at least not with the same fervor that the Mormons have with respect to marriage. In my opinion, if Mormons don't believe in same-sex marriage, Mormons should simply not marry people of the same sex. It doesn't need to go further than that. Jews don't eat pork, so their rabbis remind them in temple not to eat pork. There is no multi-million dollar lobbying effort to remove subsidies from pig farmers simply because the Jews say pork is forbidden.
(As background for our new readers, the LDS church has spent millions of dollars lobbying state and federal governments to continue to deny marriage rights to gay Americans. I have a big problem with this.)
My arguments center around the fact that working so hard to deny gays the right to marry is, in reality, working to deny them a whole host of life-or-death rights and benefits. While expressing an opinion about what you see as the role of men and women in society is one thing, I feel that working so hard to deny these important rights is simply mean-spirited and inhumane - making it quite another thing altogether.
Anyway, while we're waiting for Sushi's responses to my last comments, I wanted to look at this court case he mentioned so I could try to see where he might be going.
I am assuming he brought up Utah Third District Court Case 050916879 as a way to say "when we attack your right to marriage, we're not attacking your right to health insurance. Look at this great court case where the judge is still allowing same-sex health benefits in Utah."
I read up on this case, and the following is my response.
A brief summary of the court case for our readers:
A Utah state judge ruled in 2006 that a municipal law offering health benefits to unmarried dependents (including same-sex partners) of city employees does not violate Utah’s other laws that specifically deny any marriage-related rights to same-sex couples.
While it is heartening that a handful of state courts and legislatures are trying to show some compassion, measures like these fall short of resolving the injustices shown to tax paying, law abiding gay Americans.
For one, we’ve already learned from the 1950s and 1960s civil rights movement that separate can never be equal. The rights associated with marriage in this country are so far reaching that it is impossible to provide those rights at a state and federal level unless you allow same-sex civil marriage - which again, in my opinion, should have absolutely no effect on religious marriage.
Even if this court case in Utah does allow health benefits to unmarried partners of city employees, it is just that: for city employees. How many people are we talking about here? A few hundred? A few thousand?
The US is currently comprised of over 300 million Americans. We’re talking a drop in the bucket here.
Also, what hoops do people who want to take advantage of such benefits have to jump through to attain them? A friend of mine who worked at a large bank with domestic partner benefits was required to hand in a notarized affidavit swearing that she and her insured partner really were “domestic partners” who met a whole host of criteria (including having had to live together a certain amount of time.)
That is not equality. A married person need only list the spouse’s name on the benefits form. No living together requirement. No notarized affidavit. No need to consult a lawyer to make sure you’re not getting screwed. Again, while it is a noble step to provide some benefits out of the goodness of our hearts, it is not equality.
And health insurance is just one issue amidst a whole quagmire of problems. Here are a few things to chew on.
Taxes. Gay employees who do receive health benefits for their partners have to pay taxes on those benefits, unlike married spouses. I insure Poor George under my job. The amount of additional “taxable income” appropriated (and therefore taxed) to me is over $400 a month. Which means I’m being paid roughly $200 a month less for doing the same job as my married co-workers who insure their spouses. Is this equality?
Hospital visitation. Married couples have the right to visit each other in the hospital and to make medical decisions for incapacitated spouses. Gay couples have no rights and can be denied entry altogether. Is this equality?
Social Security. Married spouses receive SS payments upon the death of the spouse. Gay partners receive nothing - despite the fact that they paid the exact same payroll taxes over the years as the married couple. Is this equality?
Immigration. Bi-national married couples are almost automatically guaranteed entry and/or citizenship for the married alien partner. Gay bi-national couples have no rights at all and must separate or move to another country if they want to live together. Is this equality?
Estate taxes. A married person automatically inherits all the property of the deceased spouse without paying estate taxes. A gay partner must pay estate taxes on everything he or she inherits. Is this equality?
Retirement savings. A married person can roll a deceased spouse’s 401k into his or her own retirement account, while a gay person inheriting a partner’s 401k will have to forfeit up to 70% of it in taxes and penalties. Is this equality?
Family leave. Married workers are legally entitled to unpaid leave from their jobs to care for an ill spouse. Gay partners get no family leave for their partners. Is this equality?
Nursing homes. Married couples are legally entitled to live together in nursing homes. Elderly gay people have no right to spend their last days on earth living together. Is this equality?
Home protection. There are laws protecting married spouses from having to sell their homes to pay high nursing home costs. Gay couples have no protection and can be forced out of their homes when a partner is ill. Is this equality?
Pensions. Most pension plans pay survivor benefits only to a legally married spouse. Gay partners are excluded from pension benefits. Is this equality?
And the list goes on.
I'm sorry, but I simply resent any church working so hard to do this to me and Poor George. Or anyone else.
Feedback is welcome. Remember, we’re keeping it civil here, so no underwear jokes, please.