Stay Out of the Culture War (a cure for the post-election blues)

By Barb Dudley of Portland, Oregon. She describes herself as a "Former President of National Lawyers Guild, former Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, and former Director of Strategic Campaigns for AFL-CIO; now in Oregon, teaching at PSU's Hatfield School of Government and Partner in Bethel Heights Vineyard (which my family has owned since 1978). Also member of League of Women Voters, Portland's Worker's Rights Board, and the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment."

Yes, the image on November 3 of a triumphalist, smirking President Bush was a dismal one for all of us blue voters. But the most heartbreaking image of the week came not from the White House but from Falluja. There we saw young men bowing their heads in prayer, praying to their god to bring them victory over evil, to give them courage in facing death, to vanquish their enemies - young men on both sides of the barricades, praying to the same god as they waited for the opportunity to kill one another. An image so medieval, so tragic that those of us on this side of the world could only watch with tears in our eyes and curse the leaders of these young men, and women, who so shamelessly lead them into meaningless futile battle and betray their faith.

We, the blue voters, and the rest of the world that had no opportunity to vote in this election, were dealt a serious blow this past week. And yes, there is a reasonable chance that the Florida and/or Ohio voting machines, and all those voting machines without paper trails, were rigged, but we probably will not be able to prove it. We were out-foxed. But it does no good to sit around and complain. We owe it to our children and the children of the world to get out of bed and start thinking about what comes next.

More of the same will not work. Of that we can all be very clear. We cannot simply wait around for another John Kerry or Hillary Clinton to wrest control from the Republicans. John Kerry was not going to dismantle the national security state, was not going to bring our troops home, was not going to significantly change the free trade regime that is destroying our economy along with that of the developing world. We worked hard to elect John Kerry because we owed it to the rest of the world, and to ourselves, to slow down the destructive trajectory of our country. But we knew it wasn't going to make the difference. We always knew we were going to have a long road ahead of us. That road has just gotten steeper, not longer.

We need a plan. Anger, determination, taking to the streets, is not a plan. It's not a bad idea, just not a plan. So what is to be done?

First, we are not going to win by trying to out-moralize the evangelicals. We shouldn't try to be like them, and we shouldn't try to reconcile with them. We should stand firm on one of the most basic principles upon which this country was founded: the separation of church and state. We should separate personal morality from public morality; separate religious virtue from civic virtue. We must not surrender this principle.

The pundits and pollsters are saying we lost this election (and regardless of the true tally of the voting machines in Ohio, we apparently did lose the popular vote by a significant margin) because of Karl Rove's cynical but clever handling of the gay marriage issue. But we mustn't forget that it was we who handed him that issue. The gay rights movement was insisting on equal rights, a fair demand in a civil society. Because straight people could get married by the state, why not gays? The opposition immediately starting citing the Bible: a sure clue that we were in the realm of religious virtue not civic virtue. We should have acknowledged then and there that marriage is a religious sacrament not a civic act; civil union is - perhaps - of interest to the state. We should have insisted that no one get married by the state: not gays and not heterosexual couples either.

We should simply refuse to debate the Bible in the political realm. Period. We should talk about civic virtues, and we should make our list now, and use it as relentlessly as the right wing uses guns, god and gays.

So what are civic virtues?

#1. Public education. If we learned anything in this election season it is that we have failed to teach civics, to build a common understanding of the distinction between the Constitution and the Bible, between state and church. We cannot survive as a nation, certainly not as a democracy, unless we have a base line of agreement about the fundamentals. Jesus was not one of our country's founding fathers. Democracy is premised on tolerance and civic education of the electorate. Adequately funded public education which teaches our children - all our children - the humanities, history, the arts, geography, and foreign languages, would go a long way toward making the US a responsible world power once again.

#2. Protection of public health. This is not simply a question of eliminating windfall profits for pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and HMOs. It was embarrassing to hear Democrats call for the re-importation of drugs from Canada as the solution to our health crisis. Health is about controlling the emission of toxics into our air, water and soil, about getting junk food out of our schools, and restructuring our farm subsidies to encourage sustainable agriculture and the production of nutritional food, about giving all our citizens access to quality preventive health care.

#3. Building a Sustainable Economy. There are many subparts to this, including getting over our oil addiction. We should have been celebrating high gas prices during the campaign and insisting that we avoid them not by going to war against oil producing nations but by weaning our own economy off of oil. We should invest in an energy efficient infrastructure and renewable energy technologies. We should also raise the minimum wage, protect the right of workers to join unions, reward good employers and lock up the corporate gangsters.

#4. Building respect for taxes. The most significant aspect of the Reagan-Bush revolution has been the dismantling of the federal tax system, making it impossible to carry out any of the civic programs listed above. Paying taxes ought to be seen as a civic virtue on a par with voting. But given who is in control of the federal budget, few of us would voluntarily send more money in their direction. So we need to attack the tax issue from the state level, just as the anti-tax folks did some thirty years ago. Blue state by blue state we need to raise taxes, yes, raise taxes, to pay for public education, health care, infrastructure projects and other programs that we can agree are worth paying for. We will prove that we are right, state by state.

How do we win with these issues?

First, we should be preparing for 2006, not 2008. I don't give much of a damn who the next Democratic candidate for president will be. We need to start electing representatives in State Legislatures, governors, county commissioners, school board members, who will stand behind our platform and not compromise. We need a litmus test, damn it. And we need to be able to make it stick.

We should build a party-like structure out of all the Move-On and ACT volunteers, SEIU Heroes, Deaniacs, progressive Democrats, Greens, and Independent Blue voters. We don't need to build a real party just yet, since in most states third parties have been relegated to the - spoiler'role. But we could take some lessons from the Working Families Party in New York. Choose your issues - but limit them - don't throw in the whole left wing kitchen sink. Stick to your issues and seriously support those candidates who support your issues, support them with money, and with volunteers on the ground. Push your agenda in the legislature, play political hardball, and make your votes count.

We should use the electronic miracle that Move-On and the Dean campaign developed so effectively, and reach consensus on a platform consisting of a few simple Civic Issues. We should not get drawn into the culture war trap that Karl Rove has set for us. We should stick to issues of public morality and civic virtue, and come up with a simple platform - something like support for public education, infrastructure for a sustainable economy, and universal preventive health care.

We should pool our money - again through the wonderful electronic networks that so many of us are now part of - find, train, and support candidates who will stand by our issues, regardless of party.

We need to pick ourselves up, dust off our bruised civic egos, and get moving. We have a lot of work to do.

  • JS (unverified)


    I'm not ready to concede the "moral issues" issue to the wingers. We just need to frame "moral issues" in a different way. It's not about gay marriage and abortion, it's about protecting the environment for our children, fighting for social justice, and electing leaders who are honest with the American people.

    As reported in the Washington Post: "Liberal Christian leaders argued yesterday that the moral values held by most Americans are much broader than the handful of issues emphasized by religious conservatives in the 2004 presidential campaign.

    "Battling the notion that "values voters" swept President Bush to victory because of opposition to gay marriage and abortion, three liberal groups released a post-election poll in which 33 percent of voters said the nation's most urgent moral problem was "greed and materialism" and 31 percent said it was "poverty and economic justice." Sixteen percent cited abortion, and 12 percent named same-sex marriage."

    And yes, we cannot wait until 2008. We need to start now. The energy already exists, but we must create a compelling, focused message. And I think it has to resonate from within the grassroots. The work we do now will help ensure we have the candidate we deserve in 2008.


  • (Show?)

    On the voting system - respectfully:

    "Outfoxed," my ass.

    Journalists and concerned citizens were attempting to bring this up in public discourse since Palast in 1998, when the voter purge lists showed up in Katherine Harris' office with thousands of black people on them, and like, all of three Hispanics. Bush went on to win Florida by 530 votes, and the Presidency 5-4. You know that.

    Even now, with two presidential elections stolen, there are people who scoff at the notion that roving gangs of vote suppressors, rigged machines, biased media reports, and cheaters in certain elections offices cannot combine to turn even a national election.

    We're the most technologically-advanced country in the history of this planet; so much so, in fact, that people take it for granted.

    So, we should be able to implement a system that will fairly count and audit everyone's votes.

    We should be able to police our streets to the extent that vote suppressors are prevented from preying on African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, the elderly and the poor, no matter how we vote.

    We should be smart and vigilant enough to spot the problems with a voting machine industry dominated by partisans, that makes machines hackable by any 13-year-old who attended the last 2600 meeting.

    We should be able to accurately gauge, produce and distribute enough voting machines to the appropriate places so that despite voter challenges, our families and working people can each cast a vote without destroying their schedules, and their livelihoods, to cast it.

    Many people KNEW that from way back, and tried to inform their public representatives. Unfortunately, it worked so well last time, that in the face of very little opposition, we've got a whole new bunch of dirty tricks and schemes to talk about this time.

    So if you got outfoxed, Ms. Dudley, that's on you and everybody else that said, 'Pshaw.'

    The rest of us are still searching, and still fighting.

    Get that straightened out, first; then we can discuss the Culture War.

  • Jarrett (unverified)
    1. Forget about the "culture war." It's not winnable as long as we call it that, and like the "war on terror," it's a clumsy label of a whole bunch of interrelated issues that are better handled individually.

    2. Work locally. If everyone that put energy into Kerry got involved in local politics on their issues of choice, we'd start to develop the next great generation of leaders. AND we'd get stuff done.

    3. On environmental issues, focus on (a) defending public lands from desecration, (b) recommitting to Oregon's land use system, and (c) transportation initiatives that contribute to the livability and attractiveness of Oregon's densest (and bluest) communities. I do believe that when people move into cities, their minds open up as the diversity of humanity becomes part of their daily experience. So this is a political initiative as well as an environmental one.

    (4) If you want to work on civil rights, figure out how to call them "liberties," and to invoke the values of the libertarian right. We win when fighting for liberty, break even when fighting for equality, and will lose when demanding rights that sound new or different than what the Bill of Rights offers. And I say this as a gay guy.

    For example, even when working on urban issues such as public transit - my own specialty - I try to frame the values of urban development as creating liberty for urban residents; literally, more things that you, as a free citizen, have the option of doing without being a customer of the petrodictators.

    Think liberty. That wins.

    Love, Jarrett

  • Marshall Runkel (unverified)

    Barbara Dudley for President! or school board or Governor or soil and water conservation district or wherever she is willing to serve.

    Thanks very much for the insightful piece, it helped. And I do need helping these days.


  • pat hayes (unverified)

    Hi Folks...

    Barbara's post is right on target. I have been dismayed at the number of folks posting who suggest that we need to [again] move towards the center and increasing accomodation with our adversaries.

    Barbara...I'm in south oregon and have an interest in rural organizing. Please contact me if you have an interest in pursuing your thoughts in a more concrete format.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment

  • The prof (unverified)

    For objective, non-partisan analysis of the likelihood of voting fraud, please see:

    I've resisted posting in response to these claims because I figured they were just post-election frustration, but these conspiracy theories seem to have a life of their own.

    There is no evidence that this election was rigged or stolen. There are many things to do, but complaining about a stolen election is not one of them.

  • (Show?)

    Barbara, thanks for the thoughts. I agree with you down the line, and also with Pat--it's time to begin the next step through organization (we're doing all right if we've pulled ourselves up from that crushing defeat and just 8 days later are ready to keep fighting).

    On the issue of values, I do think we can wrest that back from fundamentalist Christians--and must, if we're going to build a ruling consensus. I like to think of Woody Guthrie as the moral model we should strive for--righteous, secular, and progressive. It's likely that the GOP will immediately begin to overplay its hand, and this will be an opportunity to provide a moral alternative.

    (After the election, Paul Weyrich, a GOP operative, said: "God gave this President and this President’s Party one more chance…God heard the fervent prayers of millions of values voters to keep His hand on America one more time despite our national sins of denying the right to life, despite ignoring the Biblical injunction against acts which are 'an abomination unto the Lord' and despite the blatant attempt to remove God from the public square.")

  • Adam (unverified)

    I think too many Democrats think moral values = conservative religious values = gays and abortion.

    This is just the way Republicans have defined these issues over the past 30 years with their southern strategy. In reality, there are plenty of moral issues, as well as religioius issues, besides these two issues Republicans have exploited for their own gain.

    We don't need to "move to the center" on gays and abortion. We do need to find a way to talk about other issues as moral issues.

    Republicans have made inroads into the conservative heartland by expoiting the gay and abortion issues. Democrats could make inroads also if they focused in on a couple issues and presented them in moral terms to middle class and rural voters. Health care is a great example. Isn't it morally wrong that so many people are without health care? Isn't it morally wrong for Republicans to cut taxes for the very wealthy corporate executives?

    Environmental issues reasonate with voters best when presented as a moral issue. It's wrong to dump pollution into our rivers and air. It's wrong to clearcut our forests and strip mine the land. God placed all plants and animals here for a reason, and it's wrong to drive some of His creatures to extinction because of our greed and mismanagment of the land. The Endangered Species Act is our modern day Noah's Ark.

    If you cringe at the above references to God, it's probably because you are exactly the kind of urban liberal that is out of touch with regular church going rural americans. But this is the kind of language Democrats need to adopt and embrace if we want to win back some of these voters.

    By talking about our issues in moral terms, we don't have to compromise our positions or philosophy, or move to the right at all. Just use different language and terms to appeal to more conservative voters.

  • (Show?)

    <<< The gay rights movement was insisting on equal rights, a fair demand in a civil society. Because straight people could get married by the state, why not gays? .... We should have acknowledged then and there that marriage is a religious sacrament not a civic act; civil union is - perhaps - of interest to the state. We should have insisted that no one get married by the state: not gays and not heterosexual couples either. <<<

    You had me for a while, Barbara, and then you lost me. "We should have acknowledged then and there that marriage is a religious sacrament not a civic act... We should have insisted that no one get married by the state." Really? So you want to trash my marriage too, not just gay marriage in general? Refuse me the right to get married in a secular institution, as my wife and I did? Force us to the alter with priest, rabbi, shaman...who?

    Rather than deal with a simple civil rights issue --hey, gay people have,or should have, the same rights as everyone...let's re-define marriage! That'll win over the masses for sure!

    C'mon...all this hand-wringing over gay-marriage is just so much bullshit. Kerry oppossed gay marriage in some lame effort to distance himself from the too-radical notion that equal rights are for everyone. And now we're going to blame "gay-marriage" for his inability to present a coherent set of values. Maybe THAT'S our problem. What DO we stand for?

    I am appalled at the amount of gay-marriage bashing going on. And I am embarassed at the "progressive" democrats with their "too soon, too loud, too radical" whining...

    Sure...invite your Republican buddies over for beers, and let them know that you "have morals too." But somewhere along that conversation you're gonna have to come to grips with pointing out what should be obvious: "it's not nice to discriminate against people." AND, while your at it, take the radical stand of saying you're not going to do it, and you're no going to support other people doing it either.

    Frank Dufay

  • (Show?)

    If you cringe at the above references to God, it's probably because you are exactly the kind of urban liberal that is out of touch with regular church going rural americans.

    Adam, is that some kind of representation of how to present your argument to the religious right? Please tell me I'm missing some context for that statement, or that you forgot to add it.

    Seriously - I just vomited in my mouth after I read that statement. I hope I never think like that, and I promise I'll never utter such an un-American, exclusionary statement.

    Here's my problem with it. Whether or not I may have done a whole childhood of Vacation Bible School, regular church service, and had Calvinist grandparents who were evangelically interested in my walk with God to the point that I spent summers at the Bible Camp they founded (all true), if I cringed at "above references to God," somehow I'm "out of touch." (I didn't, and they're fairly astute, especially the Endangered Species Act / Noah's Ark parable, but day-um!)

    I'm apparently already ir-"regular" because like the overwhelming majority of Americans, I live in a city, and also like the overwhelming majority of Americans, because I stopped going to church. That ain't how it works, and I'm not of the Devil for being liberal or urban, even if I thought the parables were stupid. (I don't.)

    I'm not willing to deprecate myself for having stopped going to church just to convince the devout, much as I may respect some of them. Faith is faith, and facts are facts.

    Even some of the Christians say, "proof denies faith." And many of them, if they heard the ugly stereotype that followed, would be insulted by such simplicity, however self-deprecating.

  • JS (unverified)


    I haven't read anything here that leads me to believe that Barbara or anyone else want to trash "your marriage." But I think some, myself included, don't think the government should be pronouncing people "married," period. Marriage is, primarily, a "religious sacrament," as Barbara contends. The government should give out civil contracts if it wants to promote stable families.

    It might be helpful if you could explain what your objection is to state-sponsored civil unions for everyone. Why should the government take on a roll that could and should otherwise fall to religion? You spent your entire post lamenting how everyone is "blaming" gay-marriage for something (you never say what, but I assume you mean the Kerry loss).

    Removing "marriage" from the perview of government discriminates against no one.

  • (Show?)

    I'd also like to see everyone's marriage, in the eyes of our government, recognized as a civil union by government, and broadened to allow any two people to unite in such a manner.

    But before that can happen, there's Judge Tanzer's 100 Things, and they have to be taken care of, one by one, or all at once with an Amendment that includes sexual orientation as a protected group.

  • JS (unverified)

    Shifting gears slightly, here's a good section from Frank Rich's latest column, courtesy of Kos:

    "Values," Mr. Frank writes, "always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won." Under this perennial "trick," as he calls it, Republican politicians promise to stop abortion and force the culture industry "to clean up its act" - until the votes are counted. Then they return to their higher priorities, like cutting capital gains and estate taxes. Mr. Murdoch and his fellow cultural barons - from Sumner Redstone, the Bush-endorsing C.E.O. of Viacom, to Richard Parsons, the Republican C.E.O. of Time Warner, to Jeffrey Immelt, the Bush-contributing C.E.O. of G.E. (NBC Universal) - are about to be rewarded not just with more tax breaks but also with deregulatory goodies increasing their power to market salacious entertainment. It's they, not Susan Sarandon and Bruce Springsteen, who actually set the cultural agenda Gary Bauer and company say they despise.

    But it's not only the G.O.P.'s fealty to its financial backers that is predictive of how little cultural bang the "values" voters will get for their Bush-Cheney votes. At 78 percent, the nonvalues voters have far more votes than they do, and both parties will cater to that overwhelming majority's blue tastes first and last. Their mandate is clear: The same poll that clocked "moral values" partisans at 22 percent of the electorate found that nearly three times as many Americans approve of some form of legal status for gay couples, whether civil unions (35 percent) or marriage (27 percent). Do the math and you'll find that the poll also shows that for all the G.O.P.'s efforts to court Jews, the total number of Jewish Republican voters in 2004, while up from 2000, was still some 200,000 less than the number of gay Republican voters.

    When Robert Novak writes after the election that "the anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, socially conservative agenda is ascendant, and the G.O.P. will not abandon it anytime soon," you have to wonder what drug he is on. The abandonment began at the convention. Sam Brownback, the Kansas senator who champions the religious right, was locked away in an off-camera rally across town from Madison Square Garden. Prime time was bestowed upon the three biggest stars in post-Bush Republican politics: Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger. All are supporters of gay rights and opponents of the same-sex marriage constitutional amendment. Only Mr. McCain calls himself pro-life, and he's never made abortion a cause. None of the three support the Bush administration position on stem-cell research. When the No. 1 "moral values" movie star, Mel Gibson, condemned the Schwarzenegger-endorsed California ballot initiative expanding and financing stem-cell research, the governor and voters crushed him like a girlie-man. The measure carried by 59 percent, which is consistent with national polling on the issue.

    If the Republican party's next round of leaders are all cool with blue culture, why should Democrats run after the red?

  • (Show?)

    JS writes <<< "I haven't read anything here that leads me to believe that Barbara or anyone else want to trash "your marriage." But I think some, myself included, don't think the government should be pronouncing people "married," period...<<<

    Excuse me? My wife and I who CHOSE to get married by the government...shouldn't have that right? We should HAVE to turn to the religious authorities? What if we're not religious? You're telling me "marriage is, primarily, a religious sacrament"? Says who? More people then ever are getting married outside of religion...and you would force them back into the churches?

    Marriage is a secular institution, and the legal rights that come with being married have nothing to do with religion. You CAN'T, in fact, get "married" --no matter what the church, synagogue, or mosque-- WITHOUT a license granted by the State. Turning marriage --a legal status-- from the secular to the religious, is a major step backward in the separation of church and state.

    The irony in all this is that by re-defining marriage as a strictly religious institution,you've simply expanded discrimination against gays to discrimination against the non-religious.

    I'm proud to be married. And I did it without religion. You're telling me I shouldn't have been able to do that? Sorry...I'm not interested in being in a civil union, whatever the heck THAT is. I'll continue to demand my full marriage I will insist on those rights being extended to my gay brothers and sisters.

    Frank Dufay

  • (Show?)

    Whatever we call it, the bond that grants all of those rights that are currently in the government's power to grant to married couples, should be extended to everyone who wishes to form such a bond.

    I couldn't give a damn whose church sanctions it - that's on them, and they're not the ones who enforce laws - yet.

  • Anne Dufay (unverified)

    Barbara writes>>We should have insisted that no one get married by the state: not gays and not heterosexual couples either<<<

    And, you don't find that ridiculous? "We should have insisted"???? By what right, by what power would you imagine "we" could/would so "insist"?

    Pursuing such a proposition is a foolish waste of time. It's a distraction from the heart of the issue - which is simple civil rights. Which is what I, a heterosexual woman, have now, and what my gay and lesbian co-workers, friends, neighbors, do not have.

    I can choose to get married, or not. I can choose to celebrate the event in a church, a judge's chamber, or the top of a mountain somewhere. It's my choice.

    My husband and I chose a judge's chamber. As have many thousands of other married couples. As is our right.

    We are joined in a civil union, with all the legal/tax benefits the government bestows upon couples who choose this legal status. This civil union status has a name, it is called marriage. And the issue is that this legal status should be a choice for gays and lesbians, as well as heterosexuals.

    Going haring off on some goofy crusade to “insist” that heterosexuals can’t be married unless a church sanctions it, is, well, can I use “goofy” twice in one sentence?

  • Jeff Alworth (unverified)

    Excuse me? My wife and I who CHOSE to get married by the government...shouldn't have that right?

    You should. It should be called a civil union. That's the only role the government has to play in it.

  • Adam (unverified)


    I'm not sure if you agree with me or disagree with me based on your above comments to my comment. It sounds like in some ways you understood what I was saying, and in other ways you missed my point completely.

    I would try to clarify myself if I could understand the points you were trying to make in your post.

  • JS (unverified)

    Frank and Anne,

    I think we are basically arguing for the same thing—that government should recognize same-sex couples and different-sex couples equally, and both should be entitled to the exact same government benefits—but we’re getting stuck on semantics here. Honestly, I don’t care what you choose to call your relationship with your partner, but the word “marriage” was granted in churches long before it was recognized by governments. Regardless, the underlying concepts (love, commitment, etc.) of “marriage” promotes strong and stable families, which strengthens and stabilizes society, so it makes sense for the government to acknowledge/promote/reward couples willing to commit to each other.

    The problem with the government granting “marriage” rights is that it connotes religious traditions in addition to valuing strong families. So let’s strip the religion out of the government’s promotion of strong families by leaving “marriage” to religion and charging government with granting civil unions/contracts/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Churches can decide if they want to “marry” only men and women or only dogs and cats, but the government will grant them to loving, committed couples regardless of sexual orientation because all families deserve equal protection and recognition.

    As Anne says, “We are joined in a civil union, with all the legal/tax benefits the government bestows upon couples who choose this legal status.” Why not have the government call a civil union a “civil union”? The fact that people seem to get so hung up on the word “marriage” indicates how much influence religion has on this process. Would your relationship be any less significant or meaningful if the government only acknowledged it (and everyone else’s) as a civil union? Don’t get hung up on the word “marriage.”

    Whether we like it or not (and I do not), our Constitution indicates that religions have every right to decide how they will recognize marriage. They can discriminate against anyone they want. But the government cannot. Marriage should be left to religion, and government should grant civil unions.

    This is both a moral and practical solution to the problem of government not treating gay and lesbian couples the same as it treats heterosexual couples.

  • (Show?)

    It breaks down like this, Adam:

    ESA does remind me of Noah's Ark, now that you mention it. Not a bad way to describe it, and the others aren't bad, either.

    But the crack about "you're just the kind of 'out-of-touch' urban liberal who isn't regular like rural Americans if you think the Bible imagery is a bit much" (i.e., it makes you cringe), is a complete pile of dogshit. I hated that part of it.


  • Anne Dufay (unverified)


    You say, "I think we are basically arguing for the same thing—...snip...—but we’re getting stuck on semantics here."

    I agree. But I submit it is you who are hung up on the semantics of the world "marriage". I could care less what the church once claimed rights too, good grief, at one point they regulated the mix of cloth fibers in one's shirt -- does that mean we should put them in charge of granting textile licenses?

    so it makes sense for the government to acknowledge/promote/reward couples willing to commit to each other.<<<

    It does. And, we do. (As long as you're not a same-sex couple.) We need to correct that omission.

    The problem with the government granting “marriage” rights is that it connotes religious traditions<<<

    So does birth, so does death, so, so help me, does puberty... So what? Our history is replete with traditions we are (I hope) not going to return to.

    So let’s strip the religion out of the government’s promotion of strong families by leaving “marriage” to religion and charging government with granting civil unions/contracts/whatever-you-want-to-call-it.<<<

    Again, we already have the system in place that does that. I see no practical reason to abandon it and set up an exact duplicate with another name. Nor do I consider this a real-life choice. It's a straw-man -- set before folks to give them the notion that there is an honorable way out of standing up for the civil rights of gays. This nation is not going to be willing to fundamentally alter the laws and structure and processes of marriage to suit a few folks who are uncomfortable with the name.

    Many of us like the name -- it has intense meaning -- to some of us a meaning more about poetry than semantics. It connects us to the generations before us and after us.

    No one, I submit, will ever write a song called "the civil union song." Unless it's a satire...(Huh, there's a thought -- what do you bet George Carlin's working on the piece right now? God, I hope he doesn't mention Oregon, we're already been in Dunesberry...)

    I mean, try saying it out loud "I'm going to be civil-unioned today." Good grief.

    You're tilting at windmills. There are more important things to be doing right now.

  • (Show?)

    My wife writes<<<< It's a straw-man -- set before folks to give them the notion that there is an honorable way out of standing up for the civil rights of gays. <<<

    Exactly. The issue in front of us isn't "marriage" and how we define it. The issue isn't what priests, shamans, and rabbis THINK marriage is or should be. The issue is about going into a county courthouse and not being discriminated against. Let's keep it simple.

    The way to end that discrimination isn't "seperate but equal" definitions of marriage. The way to end discrimination is to stop caving in to bigots because we think we need their votes. When we stopped discriminating against mixed-race marriages, a solid majority of Americans was opposed. Too bad.

    Trading away my right to be married outside the Church is unacceptable to me as, I suspect, it would be unacceptable to most Americans. Redefining "marriage" rather than demanding equality of opportunity for EVERYONE to get married is NOT taking the high ground. And, pathetically, it still won't get you the Mormon vote.

    Frank Dufay

  • JS (unverified)

    Frank and Anne,

    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I understand where you're coming from, and I think your position will when out in the long run, but in the meantime the gay and lesbian community loses out. We need to figure out how to secure equal rights for all couples and all families as soon as possible. Unfortunately, if you're not willing to give me--someone who wants the same things as you--an inch, there's no chance you'll successfully persuade the majority of Americans out there who don't think that same-sex couples should have "marriage" rights. But that's your choice...

  • JS (unverified)

    uh...that's "your position will WIN out..."

  • Anne Dufay (unverified)

    JS - I understand what you are trying to do. But I don't think you have penciled out the political realities you're up against. First - for your solution to be made real, it would have to come from the feds, and it would have to supersede all contravening state laws. If, as you say, these civil unions were to have all the same rights and scope as marriage does.

    That would be a near impossible task. Not even for the much more widely supported goal of dealing with the health-care crises could Hilary pull of such a coup. As a nation we are very suspicious of sweeping federal changes - JS, meet the ERA. Give us Federal money for bridge repair in my county, sure, tell me the fed's are going to re-write the rules of marriage? I don't think so.

    That's why both gay rights activists, and gay rights opponents, are working so hard at the state level. That's where change is more likely to occur. But, at the state level civil unions do not offer what you envision. They have none of the federal tax and legal protections, and they disappear in a poof of smoke the minute you cross the state border. They are indubitably a "separate but NOT equal" panacea. They are a "half a loaf is better than none." They are a "why you wanta come in my swimming pool, we gave you your own, littler, pool, over there."

    So, I will continue to say - marriage is a civil right. Gays are being discriminated against in denying them this right. And I will continue to support them in their fight against this discrimination. Obviously they aren't going to win today, but I'll tell you, they'll win a lot quicker at the state level then they would at the federal level (again, remember the ERA...)

    I support the decision to pursue gay marriage rights by Oregon gay rights activists. They are the ones doing the heavy lifting in this particular civil rights struggle. They are the one's most affected, and the ones doing most of the work, so in my opinion, it's their call. I just shoot off my mouth and give money, when I can. And, don't think a struggle for civil unions would be some kind of a slam-dunk. The anti-gay marriage folks see civil unions as just a step on a slippery slope to gay marriage. They'll fight it just as hard, and they'll frame your vote in terms of supporting gay marriage.

    And, they're right, for with civil unions we still would have a discriminatory, separate-but-not-equal, system.

    And it would still be wrong.

  • Adam (unverified)


    Thanks for the clarification.

    That is how Bush and the Republicans have been able to win over rural America and a lot of working class people, by talking about God and praying. These folks perceive urban liberals as being condesending and arrogant when they make fun of them for praying and believing in God. So I think it will be very hard to win these folks back and gain their trust while continuting to harbor a comtempt for religion and prayer.

    That's basically what I was trying to say and I stand by my original comment as well.


  • Anne Dufay (unverified)

    Marriage should be left to religion ... (snip)...moral and practical solution...<<<

    Have you asked your local neighborhood church whether they have the financial/staff wherewithal to take on the administration, archiving and judicial tasks of marriage and divorce? (Ah yes, divorce... Like soup and sandwich, they do go together...)

    Have you asked all the church-going folks whether they'd be willing to increase their church donations to pay for this new function, and the expanded facility and staff it would require?

    Then there's good 'ol Ray down in Texas, a one-man-one-woman (at a time) guy. He gets to thinking, well it's fine to have Jim Bob, the local pastor, known for his fiery sermons and strong opinions, say a few words at Ray's wedding(s). But, 'ol Ray isn't so comfortable with the notion of Jim Bob sitting in judgement at his next divorce proceeding. ('ol Ray and Henry the Eighth...) Course, he could skip the divorce and just get civil-unioned next time, but the little fillies in his town, they all want "the real thing" plus they want to take the husband's last name, so, what with that, and the taxes and all, you gotta get civil-unioned too...

    Practical? Now everyone who wants to be married has to do two things, get married, AND get civil-unioned (same with divorce)-- side-by-side systems, both time-consuming and pocket-picking, to do what one system, at less cost, does now... (Huh, who do you think 'ol Ray would blame for "making" him get "civil-unioned"?)

    On reflection (five minutes worth) 'ol Ray decides ain't no reason to fix the current system, it ain't broke...

    And we haven't even gotten to the objections of the romantic-secularists like myself...

    Practical? Take your pencil and poke anywhere, the thing's full of holes, and rife with unintended consequences.

  • JS (unverified)


    For all the bashing you've done of the idea I proposed, you've yet to offer a single alternative other than the status quo. Perhaps communicating electronically like this doesn't accurately capture tone, but you seem rather mean spirited about this whole thing.

    As I inquired before: how are you going to convince the vast majority of Americans to embrace same-sex marriage, if you only tear down the ideas of those with similar goals and fail to propose a solution of your own?

  • (Show?)

    JS writes <<< For all the bashing you've done of the idea I proposed, you've yet to offer a single alternative other than the status quo...<<<

    Arguing for not slamming the courthouse door on people seeking gay marriage licenses is hardly arguing for "the status quo."

    <<< As I inquired before: how are you going to convince the vast majority of Americans to embrace same-sex marriage...<<<

    That's the difference, J.S. We're not out to convince anybody of anything. We're just arguing the laws granting people the right to get married should be equally applied to all citizens. Equality before the law is NOT a new concept. The "solution" is our Constitution. You just need to have the courage to believe in it, and fight for it.

    What's "mean-spirited" and silly is thinking you're going to convince the millions of Americans married outside the church...that they shouldn't be.

    Frank Dufay

  • JS (unverified)

    "You just need to have the courage to believe in it, and fight for it."

    Yeah, well unfortunately your vague plan of "believing" and "fighting" didn't seem to stop M36...or similar ballot measures in nearly a dozen other states.

    So what do we do next?

  • (Show?)


    I don't know why adhering to the Constitution represents, to you, a "vague plan." In the courts, in our local governments, at the ballot box, in our homes...continue to fight for --and demand-- equality for all Americans. Fight for what's right...don't redefine what's right. Civil marriage is the reality,let's work to make sure it's available to all. Not an easy proposition...but not that complicated either.

    Frank Dufay

  • JS (unverified)

    It's easy to say you'll "fight" for equality. But what does that mean? Those are just words. What are you going to DO? HOW are you going to "fight"?

    How is your strategy different than the one that apparently failed leading up to Nov. 2?

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