9 Ways to Halt the Right Wing Culture Wars and Bring Sanity to Sexual Policy
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However, the question that haunts these popular initiatives is simple: Are they Constitutional? Since America was first settled by English colonists nearly four centuries ago, there has been a persistent battle between civil and religious authorities over who had the power to legitimize a marriage agreement. Is marriage a legal contract between consenting adults involving property relations or a sacred relation involving a holy union mediated by god? In practice, civil society has won the battle and determines formal marital agreements. However, religious organizations persist in laying claim to a role in sanctifying these relations. This confusion must finally be put to rest.
Gay marriage is legal in two states, Connecticut and Massachusetts. A peculiarly historic irony informs the gay-marriage issue as Obama assumes the presidency. When Obama’s parents married in 1960, twenty-two states had laws prohibiting interracial marriage. These states ranged from traditional hard-core racist strongholds like Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to otherwise moderate Delaware and Maryland. The Supreme Court’s now-celebrated Loving decision of 1967 voided "racial hygiene" laws, finding that state “anti-miscegenation” law violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. A similar Court decision could well apply to marriage among gay men and women and, thus, finally bring full bourgeois rights to a discriminated minority.
Proposal #5: End “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell”
President-elect Obama earlier this year announced his intention to end the "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" [DADT] policy banning gay people from military service. "There's increasing recognition within the armed forces that this is a counterproductive strategy,” he said, “ya know, we're spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need. That doesn't make us more safe". [NY Daily News, April 11, 2008]
Congress should pass and the new president should sign the Military Readiness Enhancement Act [MREA]. MREA ends the discriminatory and unworkable policies inherent to DADT. It was introduced in the 109th Congress by Rep. Martin Meehan (D-MA) and has 122 bipartisan co-sponsors.
In a 2006 report, the Boston Globe found that since 1994 a total of 9,682 soldiers have been discharged on sexual ground. It reports that “the number of soldiers facing discharge under the [DADT] policy has dropped steadily --- from 1,273 in 2001 to 906 in 2002 and 787 in 2003 … .” Time magazine argues that “because the military is fighting two wars, commanders discharge only about 600 bisexuals, gays and lesbians each year, down from about 1,200 a year in the late '90s.” [Boston Globe, March 19, 2006; Time, July 23, 2008]
The new president and Congress could join an increasing number of former military leaders calling for DADT’s repeal. General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former supporter of DADT, is one of its fiercest critics, arguing that it is simply an unworkable policy. "When that day [of ending DADT] comes, gay men and lesbians will no longer have to conceal who they are, and the military will no longer need to sacrifice those whose service it cannot afford to lose."
His assessment is shared by former defense secretary William Cohen. He argues that "we’re hearing from within the military what we’re hearing from within society,that we’re becoming a much more open, tolerant society for diverse opinions and orientation." It’s time to deposit DADT in the dustbin of history.
Proposal #6: Adopt Enlightened Obscenity Standards
The ’08 presidential campaign was remarkable for the absence of any discussion by the two leading candidates of obscenity, pornography, or decency. Bob Peters, president of the conservative advocacy group, Morality in Media, solicited replies from both candidates as to their respective positions on enforcing pornography laws. He reports that neither candidate replied to his inquiry. The candidates’ shared silence on the issue of media pornography speaks volumes as to the relative acceptance of “indecent” materials among consenting adult Americans. [OneNewsNow, August 15,2008]