To my future mother in law on the occasion of my impending wedding

We chose a theme today. You don’t keep in touch too often, but even if you had you might have missed the significance of that one so no harm done so far. This week, we crossed a significant hurdle in the progress of my divorce. My ex-husband and I had some tax debts that would have been more than complicated to resolve on account of his status as a non-resident alien. This year’s filing resolved that debt with my refund and gave me a little extra money to boot. We are now no longer impeded by the debt or the lack of funds that once stood in the way of serious wedding planning. So, we chose a theme.

We also chose a venue. We wrote a guest list. We’re making a budget. We’re working on a timeline. So if your hesitance to display enthusiasm was at all related to my legal marital status, I hope this clears up any reservations you may have had on Lauren’s behalf. I can assure you that the length of our engagement has had everything to do with raw numbers and nothing to do with any sort of indecision or unwillingness on either of our parts.

If your reaction to Lauren’s phone call today was fully a result of the above, you can disregard the rest of this correspondence and stop reading now, but you’ll forgive me if I don’t believe for a minute that you have – or at least, not honestly. Since forming a relationship with Lauren, my second-hand encounters with you have been littered with painful aggressions wrapped in cowardly excuses, casual blame shifting, and disingenuous denials. You have actively shielded your family and friends from the reality of Lauren’s gender and sexual orientation. You have continually expressed humiliation and unwillingness to prioritize your familial bond with Lauren above the meaningless, shallow social capital you’ve amassed in your little suburb.

If only you could see your words from an outside perspective – from the vantage point of somebody who just watched her partner disintegrate into tears as her mother offered to “skype in” to a wedding. What would you think of yourself, do you suppose? Are you the sort of person who is perfectly content to discard your family’s well-being for the sake of your reputation? Oh, who am I kidding. Of course you are. “Don’t tell grandpa.” That’s your favorite phrase, right? Or is it “I’m glad you live far away.” Well, I’m glad you live far away, too.

But perhaps I’m being too harsh. Perhaps you simply don’t possess the wherewithal, courage, or natural instincts with which most of us are endowed. Maybe you’re simply not capable of caring for people other than yourself. In which case, I’m sure you’ll understand that your presence is not welcome at our wedding. While your presence would certainly save on electricity bills, we’d much prefer an air conditioner for keeping our venue frosty.

-Heather

Not fair? NOT FAIR?

Thomas Peters, cultural director of the National Organization for Marriage and self-styled “American Papist”, recently whined a bit about the latest victories for marriage equality:

And that’s all we’re looking for is an even fight, and every place where it’s been an even fight, where we’ve had as many resources, as much chance to get our message out, people have protected marriage every time. I don’t think we could say that any of these four fights were a fair one.

Well, let’s talk a little bit about what’s fair. Does it sound fair for a nation full of devout, conservative Christians to use their homophobic faith as grounds to strip secular, civil equal rights from a 3% minority? Does it seem fair for that anti-gay movement to do this, repeatedly and successfully over the course of decades, while almost no one else is willing to fight back for this minority’s rights? Does that track record look like one of a movement that was lacking in resources, or opportunities to get their message out? Is this a movement that’s been deprived of a fair shot at achieving their political goals? Please.

And do you really think it’s at all likely that NOM would find this an acceptable and plausible excuse by the proponents of equality for the last 32 times we lost at the ballot box? That the fight was not “fair”, true as that may be? No. They would not accept that at all. They’ve spent the past decade telling us that the people’s vote is the final word on our rights. It didn’t matter how unfair the fight was. It didn’t matter how just our cause was. Without that popular support, we lost. Period. This was something they harped on endlessly – that we could never get the public on the side of marriage equality, and we just had to accept our losses and get over it.

Yet they would now claim that the formerly all-important people’s vote no longer matters. Now, they aren’t quite so willing to uphold referenda as the last word on gay rights. Where we were supposed to take our hits, getting over it is just about the last thing on their minds. Coincidentally, their stance just happened to change when they lost four times in one night. Why? The difference is that while we knew we would have to get the public on our side for this to happen, they seem to have become comfortable with the assumption that they’re simply entitled to public support for their legal homophobia. And when that ceased to be reflected in the popular vote, they suddenly cry that the game they’ve been playing without complaint for years must now be rigged – because, as they see it, they’re never supposed to lose.

But who on earth could look at results that now stand at 32 to 4, and seriously argue that this fight was unfair to the ones who had their way 32 times? Only the blindly self-righteous egotists of the religious right.

A civil rights slaughter, stopped in its tracks

Fluttershy: "Yay."It’s over. Finally.

Now that the first sitting president to endorse marriage equality has been re-elected, after a campaign that was unbearably tense and exhausting, we can relax and stop spending all day worrying about how every little development will affect his chances of victory. It’s done. We did it.

And that’s not all. In Florida, we managed to defeat Amendments 1 (which would have prevented any penalties against individuals or businesses that refuse to comply with a health care mandate), 6 (which would have barred public funds from being used for abortion services) and 8 (which would have repealed the ban on giving public funding to religions). We also retained three Supreme Court justices who had come under attack by the Republican Party and Americans for Prosperity for being too “liberal”.

Elsewhere, Tammy Baldwin became the nation’s first openly gay senator. Elizabeth Warren defeated Scott Brown, following his ridiculous claims that he could determine her Native American heritage or lack thereof by sight. Todd Akin, who said that women’s bodies would somehow prevent pregnancy in the case of “legitimate rape”, lost to Claire McCaskill – after alleging that her campaign was “trying to make me look like some kind of a weirdo or something” and “thinks you should vote based on what people say” (nah, really?). Richard Mourdock, who considered pregnancy from rape a “gift from God”, was also defeated. And Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins survived efforts by anti-gay groups to oust him following his ruling in favor of same-sex marriage in 2009. This is especially notable because three of the other justices had previously been removed by a similar campaign.

But the other really big story of the night? Marriage equality measures in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

State-level gay marriage bans have a long, ugly, depressing history. Until now, the result was completely predictable whenever it was put to a popular vote: we lost. 30 to 0. Then 31 to 0. Then 32 to 0. It had become a crushing regularity for us, and our opponents knew it. This became their talking point: “every time same-sex marriage is on the ballot, the people vote against it.” And it hurt because of how true it was. It wasn’t entirely unexpected when North Carolina and Maine were the most recent states to vote against equality. But when California passed Proposition 8, that really stunned us. If even the people of California wouldn’t vote in favor of gay marriage, then who would?

Quite honestly, it was looking pretty hopeless. State marriage measures had become something many of us dreaded, because we just knew in the back of our heads that we were almost certainly going to lose, no matter how hard we fought. There was always the quiet dread as we watched the poll numbers, initially in our favor, plummet in the days before the vote when anti-gay groups packed the airwaves with ads claiming we were going to teach children how to be gay. And then there was nothing to do but wait for the inevitable blow to land. I stopped getting my hopes up, and so did many others. It was too painful to be that emotionally invested.

We knew that public opinion was trending upward for us, and that the day had to come when this would be reflected in the popular vote, and we would be the victorious ones at the polls. As I said in 2009 after Maine voted to repeal marriage equality:

The margins are narrowing, and the support for gay marriage is still growing. There was a time when it was unthinkable that 47% of any state would stand up for gay marriage. We’ve come this far.

I knew that day would come, but I didn’t quite believe it – I couldn’t let myself. I’m still not sure I believe it.

But yesterday was that day.

In Maine, LGBT rights groups succeeded in placing a same-sex marriage referendum on the ballot. This time, we were the ones on the offense, taking the initiative to seize our equal rights. And in a state which only 3 years earlier had voted against our equality 53-47, we won – 53% to 47%. Marriage equality is the law of the land in Maine by the people’s vote.

In Maryland, a statute legalizing gay marriage was put on hold after anti-gay groups petitioned to put it to a referendum. And last night, we won, 52-48. Marriage equality is now law in Maryland, by popular vote.

In Minnesota, a constitutional ban on gay marriage was proposed, in addition to the statutory ban already in place. The failure of this amendment wouldn’t mean allowing same-sex marriage – its proponents simply wanted to make it even more difficult to repeal the ban, in what was nothing more than a bitter and spiteful thumbing of their nose to future citizens who would overturn their bigotry. And while same-sex marriage is still not legal in Minnesota, voters rejected this amendment 51% to 48%. Enacting marriage equality will now be that much easier.

And in Washington, a marriage equality law was likewise delayed as our opponents worked to force it onto the ballot. While the final results won’t be in for some time due to mail-in ballots that still need to be counted, it’s currently looking good for equality, and CNN has called it for same-sex marriage.

I really was not expecting this. I figured that, if we won any of these, it would have been in Washington. That alone would have been phenomenal – our first victory at the ballot box. But I had no idea we would win all of them. I didn’t think it was possible. And while I steeled myself for defeat, I completely neglected to prepare for victory. I just don’t know what to think, and the reality of it is still soaking in.

For the first time – ever – they’re the ones who are left reeling the day after. They’re the ones who will have to struggle to explain how they lost. They’re the ones who were rejected by the people. And we’re the ones who can rejoice. Their winning streak is over, and so is our losing streak. Their talking point is dead – marriage equality doesn’t lose at the ballot box every time. They can’t take state-level victories for granted anymore, and we can’t take our defeat for granted either. They told us the only poll that matters is the one on election day. Well, here it is.

Make no mistake, the opponents of LGBT rights gave this their all. They said marriage equality was a step on the road to communism. They said “the future of the family” is at stake and “our religious liberty is in jeopardy”. They said “this issue will destroy and undermine the church”, and marriage would “disintegrate”. AND THEY LOST.

The Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, and NOM donated millions of dollars to the campaigns against equality. A reverend described homosexuality as “worthy of death” at an official Maryland Marriage Alliance event. A Catholic archbishop went so far as to tell the mother of a gay son that her “eternal salvation” depends on believing homosexuality is a sin. AND THEY LOST.

A former Maine bishop said that Catholics “cannot justify a vote for a candidate or referendum question that opposes the teachings of the Church”. A Maine representative used his own gay brother’s death as an opportunity to claim that “we have no right to redefine marriage”. Minnesota students posted dozens of pictures of themselves citing the exclusively religious reasons for why they voted against our equality. AND THEY LOST.

Their ads featured a man who considers homosexuality a disease,  compared families with gay parents to gangs, claimed schools are teaching children “how to sodomize”, and said “the heart of transgenderism is a lie”. AND THEY LOST. They compared gay rights activists to Hitler. AND THEY LOST. They called homosexuality “highly promiscuous”, “centered around anonymous sexual encounters”, “largely predatory”, and that “many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse”. And they lost.

They lost. Homophobia lost. Racism lost. Sexism lost. Ignorance lost. Bigotry lost.

We won. And so did our country.

Your search queries, answered!

One of the fun features of the blog software is that I can see what people were searching for that led them to the site – not who they are, only what was typed into Google that pointed someone here. While it can be pretty amusing to see what people have searched for (“insults for gay men”? Let’s not), it’s also evident that many of them have serious questions about all sorts of subjects, and these are often worth delving into. So, I’ve decided to take a look at a few of these search terms and give them a more personal approach. For a few lucky searchers, I’ll be playing Cha-Cha. Or Siri. Or whatever people are using now. Shall we?

“gay people and straight people arguing video”

To start with, here’s an 11-part series of a debate between former National Organization for Marriage president Maggie Gallagher, and philosophy professor John Corvino, at Oregon State University. Also, see this debate between NOM president Brian Brown and advice columnist Dan Savage. Or, for a little less civility and enlightened discussion, refer to my coverage of a Westboro Baptist Church protest and counter-protest.

“why dont people blame rapists”

Some part of this is the just-world hypothesis, people’s desire to believe that life operates in a fair manner, with positive and negative consequences being distributed only to those who “deserve it”. This does not actually reflect reality, but people often like to think that if they just act in a certain way, they can avoid anything bad happening to them. When something happens which contradicts this notion, such as rape, their idea of a fair world becomes unsettled. It undermines the idea that they’ll be protected from harm as long as they do all the “right” things. But their need for a feeling of perceived safety in the world remains, so, to reinforce their beliefs that have come under attack, they imagine that someone who’s been unfairly victimized has actually been fairly victimized – they must have done something to deserve it.

This phenomenon is complemented by widespread attitudes, across almost all cultures, that men are to some degree helpless to control their desires to have sex with women, and women are therefore responsible for provoking their own rapes if they fail to adhere to some nebulous standard of behavior and attire. Of course, women have been raped everywhere and under all conceivable conditions, regardless of dress, sobriety, occupation or location, and this reveals the underlying constant: that women’s bodies are simply always seen as sexual objects, capable of annihilating men’s ability to resist raping them. For this reason, criticism of women’s conduct as somehow causing men to commit rape essentially amounts to telling them “don’t exist in the world as a woman”. People don’t blame rapists because they think rapists are somehow less responsible, or not responsible at all, for their acts of rape.

“who is it you have chosen over jesus?”

Personally? My family. My acquaintances. My audience. Myself. Pretty much anything, because almost everything has more practical relevance to my day-to-day life in reality than an ancient myth that some people happen to believe is the most important thing ever. And that’s probably why most people who choose other things over Jesus do so. Jesus is not that important – at least not to the majority of the world.

“zinnia jones hair”

I use Garnier Fructis shampoo and conditioner, followed by Tresemme heat protectant spray and a ceramic flat iron. For color, I use L’Oreal natural black #1 creme.

“should teachers be allowed to tell class they are gay”

Let’s do a little thought exercise. How many times did you hear one of your teachers mention her husband in passing? Most likely a fair few times. Was this ever a problem? No. Yet your teachers were effectively telling their classes that they were straight. What need is there for them to share such personal information? Well, it’s just not a big deal, and nobody takes issue with it. Why should it be a problem? It would be absurd to ask whether these teachers should be “allowed” to let their students ever find out that they have a partner of the opposite sex, because it simply makes no sense to expect them to amputate that entire portion of their lives the moment they walk into the classroom. There’s no reason to treat gay teachers any differently in this regard.

Well, that’s it for this round of search queries. See you next time, and keep on searching!

Lisa Graas, mind your own business

I have a suggestion for religious homophobes: Stop acting like the rest of us are stupid.

Jeremy Hooper recently posted a video of a panel at a “town hall meeting” of the Maryland Marriage Alliance, the campaign working to ban gay marriage once again in Maryland. In the clip, panelist Reverend Robert Anderson claims that “those who practice such things are deserving of death”. Just to drive the point home, he further adds that “if we don’t vote against it, then we are approving these things that are worthy of death”.

Then Catholic blogger Lisa Graas decided that this was something she needed to defend. In a reply to Jeremy Hooper, she insisted that Anderson’s statement “refers to the death of the soul. In other words, going to hell. He is saying that God will send sinners to hell.”

Here’s why everything about this excuse is crap. When a member of a politically powerful religious majority declares that a historically disempowered minority is “deserving of death”, and goes beyond mere disapproval in the religious realm to insist that these beliefs also justify unequal treatment of that minority under secular civil law, that is a threat. It is a threat because they are using their religion as a reason to impose inequality on us in the legal sphere, and because they believe their religion designates us as “worthy of death”. There’s no way around where this line of reasoning leads, and that is why it is an obviously threatening act.

Choosing to defend this means that, just like them, you’ve elected to value religious beliefs over human life and well-being. The consequences of this should be unacceptable not only to minorities, but to everyone, because there’s no telling which religion will one day rise to prominence, and what morals that faith might decide it’s entitled to force upon the entire population via the state. Why would anyone want to be potentially subject to that?

Not only is siding with those who make such threats an act of foolishness and inhumanity, but Graas’ explanation is intellectually dishonest garbage. Pretending that those who say gay people are “deserving of death” only mean it in a spiritual, theological, metaphysical sense, rather than a literal and physical one, is plainly unconvincing. People know what “deserving of death” means. It means deserving of death. The real phenomenon of death is something that everyone understands, and if a religion instead decides to use it to refer to what they believe is part of a supposed afterlife that isn’t supported by even the thinnest of evidence, their use of the term in a general setting without clarification is extraordinarily careless.

And this was a general setting – the panel was part of a campaign working to bring about a change in the civil, secular law via a measure that will be put to a referendum. Citizens of all faiths, belief systems and philosophies will be voting on it. It was not a sermon directed solely at those who choose to affiliate themselves with Reverend Anderson’s church and its beliefs. It was delivered to a general audience of voters. To say that a certain minority in the state which is about to vote on their equality is deserving of death, without specifying that you actually mean something much different from the most prevalent understanding of “death”, is both irresponsible and a failure of communication – if that was even what he meant to say.

Historical religious attitudes about sexual “sin” and the death penalty make it impossible to conclude that we should only interpret Anderson’s remarks in the most charitable, metaphorical light. The Bible itself does indeed state that a man who “has sexual relations with a man” is “to be put to death”. Regarding this as merely a metaphor for something-or-other would require reading adjacent passages – such as those saying “kill both the woman and the animal”, “the members of the community are to stone him”, and so on – as also being metaphorical rather than literal. This would make no sense.

It is obvious that the Bible contains passages which clearly refer to homosexual activity, and prescribe the death penalty in plain language. And even the common apologetic defense that this is no longer the case due to Jesus or something must implicitly acknowledge that this was once the case, and that there was indeed a time when religious disapproval of homosexuality had very real consequences beyond simply telling someone that “God will send sinners to hell”. There is an extensive history of religiously-based laws against homosexuality which prescribed punishments up to and including death, and this still occurs today.

Expecting listeners to ignore both the common meaning of “death”, and the historical record of religion being cited to justify killing gay people, is simply untenable. It means asking people to deny the violent and dangerous implications that are right in front of their own eyes. We’re not the ones who should be obligated to interpret a political campaign calling for our death as just a figure of speech. Anderson is the one who should have exercised better judgment instead of speaking so recklessly.

Finally, if he was indeed only claiming that gay people are going to hell, then the proposal to ban gay marriage is both ineffective and irrelevant. First, banning gay marriage never stopped anyone from being gay. And second, saving “souls” is not the government’s business. Our civil law does not exist to force people to do whatever some religion believes will keep them out of hell. Why is Anderson’s church free to believe what they do even if some other faith claims they’re going to suffer eternally for it? Because whatever someone’s religion says about the afterlife, this is only their own concern, and it’s never grounds for telling the entire population what they can and can’t do.

The only reason they’re able to practice their own faith without interference is because of this fundamental principle of individual religious freedom, and disregarding that freedom jeopardizes everyone’s rights. If the government ever told them they needed to stop being who they are for the sake of their own “salvation”, they would be outraged at the total lack of respect for their freedom of conscience and self-determination. And you know what? So am I! We don’t need a nanny state in the name of a nanny god. If your god really exists and wants to send me to hell after I die, then that will be between me and your god. But right now, we all live on earth, where there are things like basic human rights and secular governments that do not endorse religions.

Lisa Graas and her pathetic excuses reveal the worst aspects of every campaign to ban gay marriage: they can’t even be honest with the people whose rights they’re trying to take away, they don’t know the difference between the law and a Bible, and they just can’t seem to mind their own business.

Why “religious freedom” arguments about gay marriage fail

This November, Minnesota will vote on an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the state constitution. Reverend Mark Kuether of the Congregational United Church of Christ recently wrote an opinion piece for the Detroit Lakes Tribune, arguing that religious freedom requires legal recognition of gay marriage. Kuether says:

This amendment would tell clergy who they can and cannot marry in their congregations. Some churches and religious organizations want to recognize the relationships of committed gay and lesbian couples. Some don’t. It should be their choice. However, this amendment does the opposite. It tells religious leaders they are not allowed to marry same-sex couples. Many faiths want to decide for themselves. This amendment represents a one-size fits all government mandate on our state’s churches.

It’s easy to see why this argument is appealing: it takes the usual religious objections to legal gay marriage, and turns them on their head. Instead of claiming that legalizing same-sex marriage would curtail religious freedom, it argues that a ban on same-sex marriage is the real infringement on religious freedom. And it also points out that “religion” is not a monolithic body that’s uniformly opposed to gay marriage, as many religious opponents of gay marriage often like to pretend.

But the religious freedom argument for marriage equality is just as flawed as the religious freedom argument against marriage equality, and for precisely the same reasons. Those who argue against gay marriage on the grounds of religious freedom make the mistake of conflating civil marriage law with religious marital practices. Out of willful or genuine ignorance, they claim that the legalization of same-sex marriage would mean all churches and other religious institutions are now required to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. This is simply contrary to fact, which is plain to see in every state where same-sex marriage is legal and intolerant religions are still free to conduct only the weddings they want.

Just as with opposite-sex marriage, same-sex marriages under civil law are the kind you get at the city hall or another government office. Its legal aspects are a purely secular matter, and that legal recognition does not oblige any religion to celebrate these marriages. The recognition of opposite-sex marriages in civil law has never meant that a Catholic church is required to let just anyone get married in a cathedral, and same-sex marriage is no different. The people who make this argument don’t seem to understand that you can’t just go to any church, synagogue, mosque or temple, and demand to get married there. In other countries with official state churches whose doctrines are decided by legislators, those churches may be required to solemnize same-sex marriages, but in the United States, the government is entirely unable to tell a religion which marriages and relationships it can and cannot celebrate.

For that reason, the claim that a ban on gay marriage “tells religious leaders they are not allowed to marry same-sex couples” is likewise false. Various religious bodies, including the United Church of Christ, already choose to recognize same-sex marriages and perform same-sex wedding ceremonies as part of their faith. And if they only wanted gay, queer, and otherwise extraordinary couples to get married at their churches, they would be fully within their rights, too. Because civil marriage and religious marriage are completely separate practices, a civil ban on same-sex marriage does not prevent them from doing this.

Conversely, a certain religion’s marital practices are not and should not be used to define the civil marriage laws which apply to everyone. The Catholic church may choose to recognize as valid only those marriages which abide by their specific religious requirements, but that doesn’t mean these are the only marriages that are recognized under civil law. No religion gets to dictate our nation’s civil, secular laws, and they can’t demand that everyone be forced to live under a particular religious doctrine that they may not even believe in. Even if no religion in history approved of same-sex marriages or wanted to perform them, this would be no argument against recognizing same-sex marriages under civil law. And just as we wouldn’t let an anti-gay church define what marriage is for everyone, we also shouldn’t let a pro-gay church define what marriage is for everyone.

Respect for religious freedom does not demand that our civil law must ban all the marriages a religion bans, and allow all the marriages a religion allows. The scope of religious freedom does not extend that far. There are certain faiths that approve of many different kinds of marriages which are not recognized under civil law. Does this mean the state is required to recognize child marriages or multiple marriages just because someone’s religion does? No, just as a racist church that disapproves of interracial marriage cannot impose this rule upon the populace at large. But all of these groups already have the freedom to practice their religious marriages in accordance with their beliefs. And just as the legalization of same-sex marriage does not burden that freedom, neither does banning same-sex marriage.

The claim that legal gay marriage limits religious freedom is a complete non-starter. But so is the idea that its absence poses a similar restriction. There are already plenty of excellent points in favor of same-sex marriage, and no good ones against it so far. We don’t need to rely on arguments that proceed from the same faulty premises, so why pretend religious freedom has anything to do with it?

Which is more respectful of religious freedom?

A. Allowing military chaplains the option to perform, or refuse to perform, same-sex wedding ceremonies or any other wedding ceremonies on military bases.

B. Banning all military chaplains from performing any same-sex wedding ceremonies on bases, regardless of their beliefs or whether they may actually want to perform such ceremonies.

If you answered B, congratulations! You’re Senator Jim Inhofe:

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe hasn’t given up his resistance to the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the military or same-sex marriage.

On Tuesday, Inhofe and fellow Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi introduced a measure that would ban same-sex marriages on military bases and protect military chaplains from “pressure” to perform such ceremonies.

The two senators described the Military Religious Freedom Act as an effort to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, on the Defense Department in the wake of the December 2010 repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which ended the official ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military. …

A Defense Department directive issued last year says: “A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation.”

For all of their concern about non-existent “pressure” to perform same-sex weddings, the authors of this “religious freedom” measure certainly don’t seem to mind when homophobic lawmakers legally pressure LGBT-accepting chaplains to stop doing the ceremonies they themselves wish to perform. What about their religious freedom? Or do anti-gay politicians only subscribe to the “you are free to do as we tell you” theory of freedom?

We must protect the sanctity of civil unions!

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a notary has approved a civil union between one man and two women, to the outrage of religious groups:

Public Notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues has said the man and two women should be entitled to family rights.

She says there is nothing in law to prevent such an arrangement. …

But lawyer Regina Beatriz Tavares da Silva told the BBC it was “absurd and totally illegal”, and “something completely unacceptable which goes against Brazilian values and morals”.

Ms da Silva, who is president of the Commission for the Rights of the Family within the Institute of Lawyers, says the union will not be allowed to remain in place.

Some religious groups have also voiced criticism of the move.

It’s amusing to see people rushing to the defense of a certain narrow interpretation of civil unions, much like how they’ve tried to “defend” marriage from LGBT people who want to get married. The key difference, which makes such efforts even more absurd, is that civil unions are a completely new legal invention intended to keep gay people out of the institution of marriage. There is no tradition or history behind them, so there’s no traditional or historical concept of “civil unions” for people to defend. They’ve only been available in Brazil for 8 years. Is that really long enough for Brazilians to have developed lasting, concrete and coherent “values and morals” pertaining to civil unions, values and morals which must be protected and upheld? I highly doubt it. Civil unions do not come with the same esteem and universal recognition as marriage, precisely because of their recent creation in what was purely an act of discrimination.

Really, if you’re going to create a new legal category to segregate families which don’t consist of one (legally recognized) man and one (legally recognized) woman, how can you be surprised when that category includes families that don’t consist of one man and one woman? If you didn’t want these commitments to be recognized as marriages, then why insist they must maintain some degree of resemblance to your ideal of marriage? By all means, keep pretending that secular, legal marriage is the exclusive property of your religion and must be protected by ensuring that it exactly matches your particular faith’s concept of marriage. Such a claim can be handily dispatched on its own. But if that’s the line of argument you choose to pursue, you don’t get to pretend that your religion also owns the new “marriage-lite” that was created to divert the unworthy from your precious institution.

“Domestic partnerships” aren’t enough

Nevada’s domestic partnership law provides for rights and responsibilities that are similar, but not identical, to marriage. Among these are hospital visitation rights and the ability to make healthcare decisions for one’s spouse if they’re unable. But that wasn’t good enough for Spring Valley Hospital. When Terri-Ann Simonelli asked if she would be able to make decisions on behalf of her partner Brittany Leon, who was experiencing complications with her pregnancy, if she were incapacitated, they were told a domestic partnership wasn’t enough:

But that’s not what happened, they said. An admissions officer told them the hospital policy required gay partners to secure power of attorney before making any medical decisions for each other.

They protested, even offering to go home and return with their domestic partnership document. But they said the admissions officer told them that didn’t matter – Simonelli would need a power of attorney.

Leon later lost the pregnancy. The hospital still isn’t budging:

A woman who identified herself as public relations representative at Spring Valley Hospital told a Review-Journal reporter in a phone interview that the hospital policy requires gay couples have power of attorney in order to make medical decisions for each other.

When asked if she was aware of Nevada’s domestic partnership law, she accused the reporter of bias and hung up the telephone.

This is why civil unions, domestic partnerships, reciprocal beneficiaries and all other recently-invented “marriage alternatives” for same-sex couples are simply inadequate. Most people are completely unfamiliar with what these new legal devices actually mean in a practical sense, whereas the properties and implications of a marriage are firmly established and widely recognized. They know what a marriage is, but they don’t know what a “domestic partnership” is. As long as certain classes of people are barred from marriage and instead offered these weak substitutes, their relationships will never be seen as equal. No one can honestly believe that the rest of the world will treat these loving commitments as they would treat marriages – even the government couldn’t bring itself to treat them as marriages.

And that proves what, exactly?

On their official blog, the National Organization for Marriage promotes an interview with Dawn Stefanowicz, who’s made a living from talking about how terrible it was to grow up with a gay father in the ’60s and ’70s. Based on her single data point, Stefanowicz has frequently testified against the legalization of same-sex marriage. You might be wondering: how does that even follow? Well, I don’t know either.

NOM’s secret documents show that they allocated $120,000 toward “Children of same-sex couples and their concerns – outreach coordinator to identify children of gay parents willing to speak on camera”, so it isn’t surprising that they would take an interest in Stefanowicz and her story. As long as imaginary threats to children remain a politically effective talking point against gay marriage, NOM will predictably reach for anything that could conceivably back this up – even if it’s just a single, decades-old example.

NOM’s reference to Stefanowicz’s case as though it means anything is just another manifestation of the raw homophobia undergirding their cause. Even if we grant for the sake of argument that Stefanowicz’s childhood was as completely terrible as she claims, all this shows is that it is possible for same-sex couples to be bad parents – something which was never in dispute. But how can this be extended into a case against same-sex parenting in general?

There are plenty of instances of heterosexual couples mistreating their children, and you don’t have to go back decades to find such examples. NOM could use this exact same line of argument to campaign against heterosexual parents as a whole. But they don’t. The difference isn’t one of how same-sex parents treat their children as compared to opposite-sex parents, it’s one of NOM choosing to apply this logic to gay people but not straight people. What do we call that? Prejudice.