Thursday, May 17, 2012

Domestic violence needs to be stopped

From a distance it can be difficult to understand what the current status is of a bill working its way through congress.  It can also be difficult to have a good understanding of the provisions of a bill and its impact on the issue.  Compromise, research, lobbying, the Constitution and many other things can all play a part in the final outcome.  What you can do is define the overriding issue and ask that the legislation address the issue in a clear way that is fair to all parties.

The Violence against Women Act is up for renewal, as it is every two years.  The Senate expanded the definition of those that could qualify for assistance to adjust to the change in domestic living arrangements in American society.  The House version doesn’t adjust and maintains the status quo.    

The Senate’s expansion in coverage recognizes that there are more same sex domestic partners in America.  It has been discovered that they are beginning to experience the same kind of problems that duel sex families face.  One of the members in the family can be an abuser and make life a living hell for the other.  The abused in same sex relationships can be just as trapped as others.  The Senate bill would allow the abused, no matter the legal relationship as long as they are domestic partners, to receive support to get out of the relationship while receiving protection from the abuser.  The House bill, as written at this moment, would not recognize the domestic arrangement.  The victim in same sex relationships would not be afforded assistance or protection.
There is a lot of pressure on the House Republicans, the party that is responsible for the wording of the current house bill, to change their opinion and broaden the definition of domestic relationships.  Let’s hope they recognize the importance of an inclusive bill before it gets to the house floor for a vote.

Think for a moment, if two people are being assaulted on the street, the cops that come to stop the violence don’t first ask the gender preference of the victims to know which one to help.  The cops stop the assault on both, arrest the abusers and protect the victims from further violence.  But, in domestic violence, the cops ask the gender preference, they then only help the straight victim while allowing the assault to continue on the gay victim.  Why is it different if it is a domestic relationship when both are of the same sex?  This is a relatively possible outcome of the law.  The victim from the duel sex marriage receives financial support to get out of the household, has protection provide by law enforcement and the local community has help in prosecuting the abuser.  None of that help is available to the same sex victim.  The current House bill would only help one kind of person, apparently the kind the House Republicans like, and not the other kind of person, apparently the kind the House Republicans don’t like.
People are people and deserve the community’s help regardless of their living arrangements.  House Republicans need to change their position on the current legislation and provide support to all domestic partners, not just those that are married.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gay marriage and dire predictions

Barack Obama has become the first President of the United States that supports gay marriage.  In an interview broadcast on the Today show, President Obama said he personally supports same sex marriage.  It ends a long weekend of speculation after Vice-President Biden said he was comfortable with it.  It also ends a long period of time when the President said he was conflicted about the issue.

There are now statements claiming that America is falling off a cliff and moving quickly down the road of moral degradation.  Similar claims were made when Abraham Lincoln ended slavery.  When Woodrow Wilson came out in support of giving the right to vote to women, more dire prediction where made.  In 1968 when the Supreme Court struck down keeping the races from marriage, it was said to be the end of civilization as we knew it.  But, the world didn’t end and debate soon dried up because of the terrible logic of those supporting the status quo. 

Now the national debate can happen again.  People will have to make choices about perhaps one the nation’s last codified discrimination policies.  There are two arguments over the last couple of days that have come to front and center on the issue. 
First, it is a moral issue.  Many religions think of marriage as only between a man and a woman.  The push to get amendments written into states’ constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman is based on moralists trying to use a community’s laws to up hold their own moral code.  This is not the purpose of law or community.  The purpose of any community is shared responsibility and to build a safe environment.  Communities should address issues that prevent activity that endangers the safety of an individual.  If the community has no compelling reason other than morality to prevent an activity, then it should not be prevented.  Marriage equity doesn’t harm anyone, so it should not be prevented. 

The other is a more fundamental reason for the fear and loathing about same sex marriage, children.  While not often talked about because of its stealth nature, it is now beginning to rise to the surface.  After Obama’s statement, religious leaders on TV talk shows mentioned the issue to grab the fear of people that are undecided about the issue.  Moralists are concerned that by allowing same sex marriage, the couple will adopt children and advance the “gay cause” by increasing the amount of gay people.  They believe that by a gay couple living the lifestyle it will teach others how to be gay.  Besides the fact that there is no evidence that being gay is a choice, children will not be harmed.  They will find themselves in a situation just like their friends that have duel sex marriage.  That as long as the children know they are loved, they are safe and they are expected to succeed, they will be just fine. 
On a final point, how can the community prevent something that is legal (and doesn’t harm anyone as mentioned above)?  If it were illegal to participate in a same sex relationship, it might be argued that same sex marriage should be illegal.  A ruling by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v Texas judged that laws prohibiting sex between consenting same sex couples is in violation of the Fourteenth amendment.  So, it is not illegal activity.

The President did the right thing to come out in support of gay marriage.  Like all the other times that we have broken with tradition, when we move pass this storm, we will find that no great harm will come to past. 
Our country is enjoying a little bit more freedom today.  Let’s allow it to grow.