Taking in the Other Side
Maybe it’s a creeping infection of journalistic curiosity, spurred on by the purchase of an inexpensive camcorder and a new addiction to YouTubing, but I decided to come to the panel discussion hosted by the RI Young Democrats and some college student lawyer groups on The Future of Same-Sex Marriage in Rhode Island. I’ll say this for the Left: if this venue is any indication, they opt for much more comfortable seating. (Although, the downside is that, after a day spent climbing up and down ladders custom-milling exterior trim to patch rot, the comfort may not be conducive to my continued lucidity.)
Within moments of my arriving, Kim Ahern came over to introduce herself and to forewarn me that it wasn’t the intention of this event to present both sides. I assured her that such was not my expectation.
I see that Brian Hull from RI Future is also videotaping. I wonder if my doing the same will make him feel any pressure to cover right-leaning events, too.
Roger Williams University Law Professor Courtney Cahill is currently reviewing the legal history of the issue, tracing through Hawaii in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Massachusetts Supreme Court Goodridge ruling.
Cahill spoke against the argument that marriage is inextricably linked with procreation, offering the usual claims about fertility and such. That goes right to the basic, frustrating difficulty that emerges with the defense of traditional marriage: The link with procreation is so implicit that the laws built on top of it essentially did little more than adjust the application of the principle, but folks treat those adjustments of evidence against the essential nature of child birth and parenting.
Curiously, one of Cahill’s points was that, if marriage were about procreation, then the law would permit couples to sue for divorce after a period of proven infertility. What’s odd is that one doesn’t need such an excuse to sue for divorce. A law allowing such a thing would be redundant. As I’ve written many, many times before, advocates for same-sex marriage would likely find waning opposition if they promoted, in concert, stronger divorce laws.
Representative Frank Ferri (D., Warwick) just took the table with Representative Art Handy (D., Cranston) to bring the audience up to speed on relevant legislation in Rhode Island.
Ferri began by saying that his experience with his Canada-granted marriage has been that, as neighbors and others have gotten to know the couple, opposition to same-sex marriage has faded with familiarity. That’s certainly understandable, given a common difficulty among people to partition their thinking such that liking somebody who wants a certain change in the law becomes the main reason to support it. Understandable, but not conducive to civic or social health.
I was going to note that Elizabeth Dennigan is here and speculate about her relationship to the progressives, but then Frank Ferri noted all of the lawmakers in the room, and there are allmost a dozen.
RI Democrat Chairman Bill Lynch began by saying: “I think I’m here because I’ve sort of become the punching bag for Governor Carcieri on this issue.” He specifies that he’s here in personal capacity.
Lynch noted that, if he had been hit by a car on the way over here, “a chain of events” would have helped her wife through it, but his sister’s same-sex spouse would not have the same benefits. Personally, I agree that people should be able to set up such legal entanglements with whomever they like, but I fail to see why it should be a prerequisite that they’re sexually intimate (or in a relationship that mirrored such).
The ACLU’s Stephen Brown thinks “the writing is on the wall, no matter what anybody on the other side might say.”
Rev. Eugene Dyszlewski expressed happiness to be sitting on the “far left of the table.”
First question: Why was this state in the vanguard to offer homosexuals protections for various matters, but slow on this particular one.
The general answer has been the Catholics in the state. Lynch read a letter chiding him about effectively calling Roman Catholic “sectarian extremists.” He didn’t really address the charge; he just says he sometimes likes to “have fun at the governor’s expense” and in no way intends to disrespect others’ rights to believe what the like. Bull.
Second question, directed first to the reverend, had to do with religions’ standing on the issue. His response was, essentially, that the Roman Catholics shouldn’t try to impose their beliefs on the state. That’s a distraction.
Frank Ferri says minds are changing, and he expects SSM in RI within the next two years.
Ferri: Catholic preachers have been telling parishioners that gays “are evil, that we’re going to hell.” You know, I’ve been Catholic for a number of years, now, and I’ve never, ever heard that sermon. Indeed, I’ve periodically be disheartened to hear insinuations in the other direction.
Lynch noted that President Bill Clinton has, within the past couple of weeks, saying that he’s chanaged his mind and believes that the nation should institute same-sex marriage state by state.
Lynch: Vitriol about the governor’s speaking at the Massachusetts Family Institute as an “insult” to Rhode Islanders. Somehow he doesn’t see the parallel to his ability to come here and declare that he’s speaking on his own behalf, not the party’s. He’s repeating, again and again, that people should vote out Catholic Democrats and those who agree with them. As I’ve said before, no Roman Catholic Rhode Islander can support the party of Bill Lynch.
The Democratic list is now at 30%, with about 60% unaffiliated.
Art Handy thinks the real obstacle to SSM legislation has been the inevitability of a gubernatorial veto that the legislature couldn’t overturn. That may (or may not) have a bearing on the Democrat primary.
It would be nigh upon a statement of fact that I’m the attendee most opposed to same-sex marriage, but I wonder if there’s even anybody in the room with reservations.
Audience question about the slippery slope argument to poligamy et al. Handy is stating, pretty much, that all arguments against same-sex marriage are all red herrings.
Stephen Brown is likening opposition to same-sex marriage to racism prior to Loving v. Virginia, which erased bans on interracial marriage. Interestingly, Maggie Gallagher frequently points out that, following the legalization of SSM, those who believe in traditional marriage will be treated as racists are now treated. Not quite a red herring, huh?
A woman who says she works in a very Catholic law office in which the common wisdom is that the state is just too Catholic for same-sex marriage to pass. She then cited the recent Taubman Center poll finding support for same sex marriage, which reminds me that I have yet to hear back about demographic factors in the survey.
Stephen Brown just derided the absurdity of the RI Supreme Court ruling against same-sex divorce, even as the law allows the nullification of marriages (e.g., in cases of bigamy and incest) entered into elsewhere. Do these folks not understand or just ignore the obvious point that there is a difference between holding a marriage to be illegal and holding a relationship not to be a marriage in the first place.
If I may echo, with tongue in cheek, a statement to which I’ve objected in other events that I’ve covered: Surprisingly, the evening went off without any violence… or even violent rhetoric. (Of course, I haven’t made it to my car, yet.)
I missed her name, but I do want to compliment the moderator, who kept an admirably tight ship.