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Anonymous Flowers

From Wired News, a round-up of news on grassroots efforts to send flowers to gay and lesbian couples wedding in San Francisco:

As just about everyone knows by now, same-sex couples have been streaming into San Francisco by the hundreds from all across the United States to get married. To talk to anyone who's been there is to hear stories of unprecedented joy, astonishment and wonder at being at the center of a movement that could change the politics of sexual orientation forever.

And now, thanks to the Internet, there's also been beauty, in the form of hundreds of bouquets of flowers that have been delivered to couples waiting in line for their marriage licenses. And these flowers have been ordered and paid for by total strangers, people from all over the world wanting to share in the good feeling happening in San Francisco and wanting to show that they believe marriage is a civil right that should be available to any two people, not just to a man and a woman.

Would someone explain to me again the justification for a Constitutional amendment that would preemptively take away the right of same-sex couples to wed? An amendment that would for the first time remove rights from a class of citizens, rather than granting them rights?

These are adults choosing whom they wish to love, and to whom they wish to commit their lives. It's true that a majority of Americans are against gay marraige. As John Stuart Mill wrote, though:

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.


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Actually, I agree that any couple should be allowed to "marry". Unfortunately, that's not what the recent events in San Francisco are about. The state's electorate voted down (by a slim margin) Proposition 22 (please check me on this -- my link has disappeared) to honor same-sex marriage contracts. In a cynical move to guarantee his next election, the mayor of San Francisco pandered to the local sentiment, defied the state law, and exploited those couples who now carry invalid marriage licenses. They will all now spend years in court suing for damages with a state and city which are in about the same financial condition as Argentina. Lawyers and florists get rich. Partners married under the illegal licenses get no legally binding contract. Mayor gets his next term.

I feel sorry for the poor couples. Their happy rush to participate in the protest will probably end in legal misery.

Don't be so quick to think this is going to end badly for the couples being married. The mayor's position is that the section of the California Constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage is at odds with the section of the same Constitution providing equal protection. This will lead to a court test, and who can say who will win?

In any case, calling the couples who have married "exploited" seems patronizing to me. From what I have read, they understand full well the precariousness of their situation. They understand that the state government may take away what they have been given, and if not, that the federal government may do so. But for their own reasons, they have decided to take a chance. Perhaps some couples are making a symbolic gesture. Perhaps some are hoping for legal victories. Perhaps some are hoping for grandfather clauses. Perhaps some simply want to fulfill longstanding dreams, no matter how briefly.

If I were deeply in love with a woman, and we had shared a long-term committed relationship, but for some reason had been prevented from wedding -- say, we were a mixed-race couple prior to the 1950s-60s -- and we suddenly had the opportunity to wed, even with no guarantee that our marriage would hold up, I might wish to do so, if only for a month, a week, or a day, to be able to say, "This is my wife -- the woman I love." In that context, the lines outside San Francisco's City Hall make perfect sense to me.

The Constitution does not grant rights. It places limits the power of the government. We have rights because we exist as sentient beings not because some group has decided to give then to us. Rights are never granted, they are only taken away.

In response to Freedom. Source: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff0100.htm

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." --Declaration of Independence as originally written by Thomas Jefferson, 1776. ME 1:29, Papers 1:315

end quote ( I'm too dumb right now to figure out how to do italics on Frank's Blog -- later critics may extend that condition to other periods of my lifetime -- their priviledge :) ).

Jeffersons words can be critiqued on several grounds, but I believe that the premise is true -- that people establish governments in the sincere hope of securing rights, not granting them. Jefferson reserves THAT power to the creator.

It seems to me that attempting to alter the law, the good mayor chose to use a form of non-violent protest that may cause harm to the participants. Even with their wholehearted and educated consent, I'm not sure he should have taken that particular avenue.

Perhaps, Frank, my outlook IS too gloomy. Probably the weather. The difference between a pessimist and a realist is that the pessimist knows it will all go wrong, a realist can only go by past performance.

Another personal opinion in multiple parts: "Marriage" is a spiritual union with social and legal consequences. A government can only regulate the consequences, and not the spiritual union. All marriages should have the rights and priviledges of civil unions. Traditionally and historically, not all civil unions are marriages. The state has no ability to regulate marriage. Spiritual bodies can arrange marriage ceremonies. Any social group can celebrate a civil union. States should only grant licenses and rights as they apply to civil unions for ANY couple, and the word marriage should be struck from public regulation. It does not take an amendment to go this route, but I doubt that the parties concerned will agree with me on all points.

And it ain't about sex.

On the other hand the DOMA charges that (wish here for more italics):

"7. Definition of 'marriage' and 'spouse'

"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.".

(end wannabe italics and quote).

Since state courts find it possible to challenge similar definitions in state law, perhaps a constitutional amendment would prevent a U.S. constitutional challenge of the DOMA (passed by congressional majority and signed by WJ Clinton) by another minority. Since the Supreme Court must refer to the constitution for any decision, and the DOMA definition is not even hinted at in the constitution as such, an amendment may be the only way for Congress to preserve its will.

Was the 1996 effort by the executive branch and congress a wasted effort?

I have no idea if you agree or disagree with me.

Both! I was hoping to stimulate more precision. I'll be more clear.

"The Constitution does not grant rights. " Correct. I note that Jefferson wrote that the Creator grants rights.

"It places limits the power of the government. " ...and enables the protection of rights by defining the terms by which the US has secured them by creating a government.

"We have rights because we exist as sentient beings not because some group has decided to give then to us. " Can't tell here, either -- We are able to exercise our rights because we attempt to help each other prevent others from taking them away through the institution of government. We aren't able to exercise our rights when governments grow to oppressive or when the method by which the government provides protection is poorly defined.

I will avoid getting into a discussion about sentience vs the creator, except to say that the former is almost as hard to prove as the existence of the latter within the environs of Washington, D.C.

"Rights are never granted, they are only taken away." Nope. Can't ever be taken away -- they're inalienable. It's right there on the label. We can be deprived of our ability to exercise our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by many means -- as when we are legally prevented from exercising our own right when that exercise impinges on the rights of another. Privileges, however, can be taken away.

Your comments were pertinent in that our moderator seems to feel that marriage is a right, with which I can't argue -- only his definition of marriage.

I think marriage is a spiritual state that is ungovernable. The government can, however regulate the civil means by which a couple can relate to everyone else, and how they can establish and dissolve the civil relationionship.

I also think that the quoted (Bill Clinton) DOMA's definition in par 7 must be incorrect, since it defines terms that for me are spiritual and not legal. A constitutional amendment to strengthen that (Bill Clinton)law must also be wrong, and will be unlikely to be ratified. It is however, the natural next step for congress to follow if it is to bow to public pressure and the desire to maintain its power relative to the other branches of government.

Parenthetical comments added for reasons of balance.

I do not think that the demonstration in SF is the proper route for changing of the law, but is instead political grandstanding before a focused electorate. It is however also the right of free citizens to oppose the law through protest, no matter how ill-considered. Protestors always run the risk of punishment under the law that they protest, and these are willing to risk it. Muted applause.

I think that Frank misses the point that to win, the mayor's legal case will have to (by the standard) show harm has been caused by presumed future exercise of one part of the state constitution to those he licensed to marry against that same state law as established by the will of the electorate -- the mayor has knowingly therefore enabled the potential for harm to the participants with only very limited potential for harm to himself. To me, this violates his responsibility to the people he represents.

I do not believe that I need anyone's permission to state that I love someone and/or that I am legally linked with someone. I also don't think that this is what the protest is about.

I'm also under no illusion that I am in agreement with the majority. Luckily, we are not always granted privileges (or prevented from exercising our rights) through media polls.

Where do we still differ?


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