Tuesday, 2 April 2013

It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To: How Alan and Suzanne Osmond Miss the Point on Marriage Equality

posted 4/2/2013 by CrazyPoliticos

Imagine if you will, that someone threw a huge gala and celebration with entertainment and speakers, including the Governor, and no one came. I know, right? But this is “almost” what happened to Suzanne and Alan Osmond, who hosted the Celebration of Marriage Rally at the Utah State Capitol last Tuesday evening (March 26, 2013). Governor Gary R. Herbert spoke, the Osmond grandchildren performed and there were even party favors. To wit: a Certificate of Marriage which stated: "Marriage is the union of a man and woman whose marital privileges are based upon their commitment to protect and nurture the children that may be created as a part of their union,” which could then be signed by attendees.  (One wonders if these "privileges" extend to heterosexual couples who are infertile.)

Like I said it almost happened that no one came. Okay, so imagine another scenario. You throw a big celebration and while only a few of the invited guests attend a ton of party crashers attend instead. Now you have a clearer picture of what really occurred at the Osmond event. This is what it looked like:

The original attendees seated near the stage were completely surrounded by the counter-demonstrating LGBT community members and their friends. It looked like Custer at Little Big Horn all over again without all the gore and violence and scalping. Note that most of the LGBT counter demonstrators wore red to show solidarity. And I have to tell you, as I milled through the crowd Tuesday evening one thought kept coming to mind, and that was “unless Moses himself comes to part the Red Sea, this is not going to be a banner evening for the conservative family values crowd.”  

In fact, the counter-demonstrators, holding silent vigil, outnumbered the crowd attending the rally 4 to 1!  

What happened in the Utah State Capitol Rotunda Tuesday evening is a reflection of the revolution that is occurring all over the country at this moment with respect to same sex unions. This tide is so significant that even GOP strategist Karl Rove admitted during a round table discussion on ABC's “This Week” that the next presidential election may include a Republican candidate who supports gay marriage.

And earlier this week, during oral arguments in a potentially landmark DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) case (United States v. Windsor), Chief Justice Roberts referred to this “sea change” on the subject of same sex unions:

"I suppose the sea change has a lot to do with the political force and effectiveness of people representing, supporting your side of the case?"

Justice Roberts went on to ask the attorney representing Edith Windsor, Roberta Kaplan, "You don't doubt that the lobby supporting the enactment of same sex-marriage laws in different states is politically powerful, do you?"

Chief Justice Roberts then observed:  “As far as I can tell, political figures are falling over themselves to endorse your side of the case.”

It is worth noting that Roberts was implying that if LGBT advocates or any group gathers enough support to make it to the Supreme Court and argue effectively for the Court's protection against discrimination, then it no long requires such protection. It's Catch 22 all over again. Joseph Heller would be proud. Moreover, Roberts failed to acknowledge that only three out of the 277 Republican members of Congress have signed on to marriage equality. Justice Robert's premise, then, is that once you're that powerful people will no longer be able to discriminate against you.

To hear the attendees of the Celebration of Marriage Event at the Utah Capitol Rotunda tell it, their feelings towards the LGBT community are completely benign and full of love and they are only trying to preserve the sanctity of traditional marriage. To them, it's all about every child having the inalienable right to both a mother and a father. Still others who support DOMA argue that giving LGBT marriages the same legal recognition that traditional marriages have will make it illegal for them to practice their religious beliefs.

But nothing could be further from the truth. This is not merely a symbolic argument as DOMA's defenders would have you believe. Rather, DOMA's statutory scheme is aimed at real bread-and-butter issues that affect the financial well-being of every same sex couple in the United States. Section 3 of DOMA defines Marriage:

"In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

So what Windsor is really about at its core is whether same sex couples should receive the same Federal benefits as heterosexual couples. Currently, and in a very big way, they do not.

As the Human Rights Campaign, (a group that works for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality) said in an extremely informative article entitled: An Overview of Federal Rights and Protections Granted to Married Couples” :

There are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided on the basis of marital status in Federal law. [1]Because the Defense of Marriage Act defines "marriage" as only a legal union between one man and one woman, same-sex couples - even if legally married in their state - will not be considered spouses for purposes of federal law.

The HRC article goes on to set forth several categories of Federal law where same sex couples are discriminated against. For example the article points out that “a lesbian couple who contributes an equal amount to Social Security over their lifetime as a married couple would receive drastically unequal benefits...” HRC explains this statement in the following scenarios:

           Family #1: Married husband and wife, both are biological parents of the child
    • Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits

      Family #2: Same-sex couple, deceased worker was the biological parent or adoptive of the child

    • Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits

      Family #3: Same-sex couple, deceased worker was not the biological parent nor able to adopt child through second-parent adoption

    • Not Eligible for Surviving Child Benefits
    • Not Eligible for Surviving Parent Benefits
 This article by the HRC then goes on to explain how same sex couples are discriminated against and adversely affected under the US Tax Code with respect to their Head of Household Status, the Child Tax Credit, Tax on Gain from the Sale of Taxpayer's Principal Residence, Estate Taxes and Taxation of Retirement Savings.

The HRC article also explains in some detail how same sex couples are treated unfairly and unequally when it comes to Family Medical Leave, Immigration Law, Employee Benefits for Federal Workers, and Continued Health Coverage under COBRA.

And if that's not unfair enough, same sex couples are discriminated against in the military with respect to benefits although this is beginning to change. A recent CNN blog covers this topic in some detail. This blog points out that same-sex partners who sign a military “Declaration of Domestic Partnership” form “will be eligible for several benefits, including military identification cards as dependents.” CNN goes on to note “They will also be able to receive many survivor benefits, including life insurance payments.”

These are the issues that were not discussed during the Osmond's Celebration of Families Rally at the Utah State Capitol Rotunda last Tuesday evening. No, to hear the Osmonds and other invited guests tell it, it's all about preserving the sanctity of their marriages and not about the practical concerns discussed above. 

 There was a pernicious intellectual dishonesty wrapped in sugar and spice and everything nice and a sticky syrupy speech given by a 13-year-old girl expressing her inalienable right to have both a mommy and a daddy. Amanda Summerhays' insensitive expression of an inalienable right to an ideal set of heterosexual parents is based on a Shire-esque view of the world that would irritate even Gandalf. It is startlingly unsympathetic in a world where moms and dads are sent off to war and don't return, or are deadbeat parents or are alcoholic parents or are parents who surrender their children  for adoption because they are handicapped or deformed, or are parents who reject their children due to their sexual preference and end up driving them onto the streets. Dr. Jenet Erickson, an Assistant Professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University re-emphasized the Traditional Family thesis that same sex unions are bad for children with the following:

"Sadly, our current debate about redefining marriage is not focused on the needs of children.  Instead the debate is framed in terms of adult rights and freedom to marry. But in the end it is children who will be most affected by how we tamper with marriage  When we genuinely focus on the needs of children we will see through the false idea that mothers and fathers are replaceable.  Children need more than two parents, even two loving parents.  For all the love in in the world cannot turn a mother into a father or a father into a mother." 

Erickson's statement and thesis, like young Amanda's, is a blanket denial of a reality in which some children and their non-traditional parents are treated differently under Federal Law.   It completely fails to recognize that half of all traditional marriages fail or that there are some 13.7 million single parent households in the United States. Most importantly, Erickson fails to explain how denying same sex couples with children the benefits of traditional marriage in anyway helps the children of those couples or protects the marriages of heterosexuals.  If only we could fiat a perfect world, how nice that would be. 

Underneath the pinafore and lace and smiling shining faces of children whose parents are willing to exploit them by encouraging them to speak on issues above their maturity and experience there lies a pernicious deception and dishonesty: that they, because they are born to traditional families, deserve more than others do. 

 Nothing could be further from the truth.

Gerald Long.
April 2, 2013.


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