Saturday, December 29, 2007

On Marriage and Civilization

Earlier this month, I received an e-mail from someone with some text from Congressman Walberg's campaign website, and some thoughts that I could potentially turn into a post. I started working with it, but found that one item in particular was taking up a lot of space, and deserved a post of its own. Now, I'm finally getting around to writing this post.

On Congressman Walberg's campaign website, he writes:

The differences between my agenda for change and the status quo in Congress couldn’t be clearer:

  • I am working to restrain government spending and cut waste to balance the budget. The current leadership in Washington continues to overspend and pile more debt on our children and grandchildren.
  • I am fighting to make the 2001 and 2003 tax relief permanent. The current budget will raise taxes on the American people by $400 billion, which amounts to $3,000 per person. That’s unacceptable.
  • I oppose giving social security benefits to illegal immigrants. The current leadership has supported giveaways to illegal immigrants time and again.
  • I support expanding the use of alternative energy and exploring for energy in Alaska and the Inter-Continental Shelf. It is time to eliminate America’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
  • I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Many in Washington support redefining this institution that has served as the foundation of civilization.
  • I will support giving our intelligence agencies the tools to keep Americans safe. The current House leadership wants to gut intelligence services and take away these vital tools.
  • I support the right to life and oppose using taxpayer dollars to subsidize abortion.
  • I believe our government should be colorblind and provide for all Americans equally. And I’m committed to protecting and restoring the beauty of our Great Lakes.
I believe my vision of freedom and returning to our common-sense values will lead to hope and opportunity for all Americans and a better brighter future for our children.
There's a lot to work with in there and a lot of contradictions. But tonight, I want to focus on just one item:
I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Many in Washington support redefining this institution that has served as the foundation of civilization.
Let's talk about marriage and civilization.

Before going any further, I'll say right now that I know that my position on same-sex marriage is not popular in this state or this country. Michigan adopted an amendment to the state constitution that banned same-sex marriage in 2004 by a 59 to 41 percent margin. Only two counties-- Ingham and Washtenaw-- had a majority of voters oppose the amendment. I opposed that amendment, and I support allowing same-sex couples to have the same rights that I enjoy.

But that's not important right now. I believe what I believe, and Congressman Walberg clearly states: "I believe marriage is between one man and one woman." That's a perfectly legitimate position to take, and if he had left it at that, I would have left it alone.

Instead, he said:
I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. Many in Washington support redefining this institution that has served as the foundation of civilization.
It's that second sentence that's a problem. Walberg gets his facts wrong on both counts.

"Many in Washington support redefining this institution..."

Do some people in Washington support redefining marriage-- or, rather, opening it up to same-sex couples? Yes. A few politicians here and there do. But Walberg's claim in the full text above was that these were the differences between his agenda and the "status quo in Congress." To me, that implies that he thinks a majority of Congress is trying to redefine marriage.

Is anyone in Congress trying to redefine marriage right now? Here are the bills that have been introduced in the 110th Congress that relate to defining marriage, with relevant text:

HR 107 (January 4, 2007)
"To define marriage for all legal purposes in the District of Columbia to consist of the union of one man and one woman."
Pretty straightforward.

HR 300 - We the People Act (January 5, 2007)

    The Supreme Court of the United States and each Federal court--

      (1) shall not adjudicate--

        (A) any claim involving the laws, regulations, or policies of any State or unit of local government relating to the free exercise or establishment of religion;

        (B) any claim based upon the right of privacy, including any such claim related to any issue of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction; or

        (C) any claim based upon equal protection of the laws to the extent such claim is based upon the right to marry without regard to sex or sexual orientation; and

      (2) shall not rely on any judicial decision involving any issue referred to in paragraph (1).

In other words, you can't claim the right to marry based on the Fourteenth Amendment ("equal protection of the laws"). This is a Ron Paul bill, which seeks to right any number of supposed wrongs that Paul sees.

HR 724 - Marriage Protection Act of 2007 (January 30, 2007)
"To amend title 28, United States Code, to limit Federal court jurisdiction over questions under the Defense of Marriage Act.


"No court created by Act of Congress shall have any jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court shall have no appellate jurisdiction, to hear or decide any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, section 1738C of this section."
In other words, this bill says that the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, cannot be challenged in any court.

H. J. Res. 22 - Constitutional Amendment (February 6, 2007)

    `Section 1. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of a legal union of one man and one woman.

    `Section 2. No court of the United States or of any State shall have jurisdiction to determine whether this Constitution or the constitution of any State requires that the legal incidents of marriage be conferred upon any union other than a legal union between one man and one woman.

    `Section 3. No State shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State concerning a union between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage, or as having the legal incidents of marriage, under the laws of such other State.'.

A constitutional amendment, because this is obviously an issue worth amending the founding document of our nation over.

Did any of those look like those liberals wanting to redefine marriage? To me, it looks like the only folks interested in defining marriage in Washington are folks like Tim Walberg.

Now, about that other part...

"... redefining this institution that has served as the foundation of civilization."

So, marriage is the foundation of civilization? Here I was, thinking the wheel and fire had something to do with it.

Seriously, though, here's what the American Anthropological Association had to say:
The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association strongly opposes a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.
The experts say that Tim Walberg is wrong. What does make a civilization? Wikipedia says:

Social scientists such as V. Gordon Childe have named a number of traits that distinguish a civilization from other kinds of society.[9] Civilizations have been distinguished by their means of subsistence, types of livelihood, settlement patterns, forms of government, social stratification, economic systems, literacy, and other cultural traits.

All human civilizations have depended on agriculture for subsistence. Growing food on farms results in a surplus of food, particularly when people use intensive agricultural techniques such as irrigation and crop rotation. Grain surpluses have been especially important because they can be stored for a long time. A surplus of food permits some people to do things besides produce food for a living: early civilizations included artisans, priests and priestesses, and other people with specialized careers. A surplus of food results in a division of labour and a more diverse range of human activity, a defining trait of civilizations.

Civilizations have distinctly different settlement patterns from other societies. The word civilization is sometimes defined as "a word that simply means 'living in cities'".[10] Non-farmers gather in cities to work and to trade.

Marriage, however, didn't seem to make it in there.

I disagree with Congressman Walberg on same-sex marriage, but I realize that a lot of people disagree with me. But to suggest that Walberg is part of a struggling minority defending traditional marriage or to suggest that marriage is the foundation of civilization is both stupid and wrong.

And besides, is there anyone right now that thinks same-sex marriage is going to be an important issue in 2008? Is this what Walberg is going to try to run on?

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Honestly. An extensive quote from Wikipedia? Just to show that marriage isn't part of the definition of "civilization"? Not only is this a weak way to make your point, but it makes me cringe to see a serious citation of Wikipedia in any context. Maybe I'm an academic-minded elitist, but this is seriously wrong. Especially given your usual high level of research skills.

If you really feel this is a point worth making, why not cite something more scholarly? A Google Scholar search on marriage and civilization turns up 126,000 results, many of which look quite applicable to your thesis.

Or, if you must start your research on Wikipedia, do what you did in your quote from the AAA and follow the citations in the wiki article itself to find the original material. For all you know, *I* wrote that wikipedia article!

Heh. Yeah, I was wondering if anyone would call me on that. I admit, by the end of the post, I got a little tired and a little lazy.

Tomorrow, I might post an extension based on more than just Wikipedia.
I'm not sure a law prohibiting the supreme court to rule on questions of equal protection would pass muster. While limiting the power of the courts is a congressional right, the court is also jealous of its power and sometimes sees these attempts as circumventing its own article III powers. Sometimes not though.

As a matter of principal, laws like the marriage act and the gag law are reminiscent of much that is now deemed evil in our history, such as the slavery gag rule and the Jim Crow laws. Come on, America. We can't laugh at Ahmadinejad for saying that there is no homosexuality in Iran when we are afraid of it ourselves.
Over at Michigan Liberal, we have the following.

Two Michigan respresentatives on DCCC targeted list

Tim Walberg and Joe Knollenberg have both made the DCCC's list of targeted Congressional districts for this year's election. The criteria for landing on the list is as follows:

* The demographics of the district benefit the Democratic candidate.

* The Democratic presidential nominee won the district in 2004.

* The Democratic presidential nominee performed reasonably well in the district in 2004, and the 2008 Democratic House candidate is particularly strong.

* The Republican incumbent running for re-election in the district is damaged -- either ethically or in some other manner.

The shifting demographics of Knollenberg's district have left him more vulnerable, while Tim Walberg is outright insane. State Sen. Mark Schauer, Michigan Liberal's Public Servant of the year for 2007, is challenging Walberg, while Knollenberg has attracted a field of challengers including Nancy Skinner, who challenged him last year, and Gary Peters.
I sat through a town meeting with Tim lecturing me on me a most important part of the Constitution was the 10th Amendment, which says The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. Since some states have chosen to recognize same-sex marraige, now Tim is in favor of amending the constitution? Since over 50% of all heterosexual marraiges end in divorce, is it really possible that gays can do worse? How important is the "institution of marraige" these days?
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