Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Remorse Is Great and All, But a Little Ineffectual at This Point

Marian McClure is having a crisis of conscience. My e-mail to her this morning, and her response, below:

Dear Rep. McClure,

You're certainly being deluged with e-mails at the moment, but I hope you find the time to read this one. I do not live in your district (I'm in Tucson 28) but I feel compelled to register my extreme disappointment with your decision to vote for a redundant, intentionally punitive and discriminatory constitutional amendment, one that you freely acknowledge is unneccesary, solely on the basis of your personal religious beliefs.

I do not discount the tension between those beliefs and the reality of operating within a pluralistic, nominally secular society, but being a legislator requires you to consider the needs of all of your constituents and make decisions that do not cause unneccesary harm to even the least-regarded among them. Those decisions have to be made on the basis of good law, not on the teachings of one particular congregation within one particular sect of one particular religion. To do otherwise, as you did with your vote on SCR1042, is to compel all Arizonans to abide by the rules of your personal religion, whether they share it or not.

As for how you could possibly face your pastor and fellow congregants on Sunday, here are a few suggestions. You might start by asking how many of them have had their marriages destroyed by the committed gay couples living around them every day. How many have decided to get a divorce because gay couples are allowed to marry in Massachusetts. How many have decided to have affairs since their vows don't mean anything if a couple of women can make the same vows in Canada. Then you might ask how many feel their Judeo-Christian God-ordained marriages are diminished because non-Abrahamic religions conduct weddings. Or because atheists can get married too. Or because the straight couple in the pew behind them might have five previous marriages racked up between them.

The answer, if they are honest, will be "none." Marriage is not a zero-sum game where the status of an existing relationship is determined by that of the other relationships, where adding additional relationships to the pool damages all the others. And the state sanctioning of all committed couples under the umbrella of marriage does not force anyone to "accept" homosexuality any more than the current sanctioning of all straight adult couples forces you and your brethren to "accept" atheism, or paganism, or sexual practices that make you uncomfortable. Many, many marriages in Arizona do not conform to the traditional Christian model of man+woman+Jesus+lifetime. Same-sex couples are singled out for discrimination on religious grounds simply because they are the most visible examples of nonconformity. Specifically barring gay couples from marrying because they do not conform to God's ordained plan is an immoral stance when every nonconforming straight couple is given a pass simply because they are straight, simply because their public appearance meshes with your own.

You are free to believe as you wish and follow the tenets of your faith in your personal life. Enshrining your religious beliefs in civil law, however, encroaches on the ability of other people to live their lives as they see fit. I would not seek legislation that regulates the teachings and practices of your church (provided they do not harm unconsenting people). I do not wish to force your church to conduct same-sex weddings or to force straight people into same-sex unions. I firmly support your pastor's right to rail against gay people every Sunday from the pulpit if he wishes. I will, however, never support an attempt to change the constitution of the state of Arizona to reflect religious objections to full civil rights for all Arizonans.

I do not wish to diminish any spiritual struggle this issue has raised for you. I simply implore you to consider the issue as a legislator for all of your constituents and all the people of Arizona, and to think about the real reasons behind your religious objection to same-sex marriage and whether they truly pass logical and ethical muster.


Dear [Boltgirl],

I have had a few emails. I must admit I feel a great sadness in my heart. I did not and do not believe this measure belonged in the Legislature. I have always worked very hard to do everything you state in your email. In one fell swoop, I forgot everything.

Such crises hurt, particularly when they're incurred by very public fuckups. I'm sorry for that, really, I am. Her brain cramp at voting time didn't make or break the amendment, although it helped the 8-vote margin by which it passed, but her failure to stand up and fight against a ballot measure she admits the Legislature had no business considering has the potential to come back and bite a hell of a lot of gay Arizonans in the ass. I'm sorry you're sad, Marian. But I have a great sadness in my heart today too. You get to go on and live your life as you please. The amendment you voted for will impact the rest of my life so long as I stay in Arizona, and every one of these goddamned things that passes makes it easier for other states to write discrimination into their own constitutions.

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