Marriage is a Civil Right

18 February, 2009

Not a Religious Right

One of my best friends is gay.  Which means, of course, that he is denied one of the very basic human rights:  the right to marriage (unless, of course, he uproots himself, his career, and his partner and moves to Massachusetts).  A few states use ‘civil unions’ to provide weasel room.  They are afraid of the religious right, even though marriage is an act governed by civil law.

Marriage is, legally, a civil act.  If a couple wishes to marry in a church or other religious building or setting, that is their option. But it is the state legislatures, not the pastors, priests, rabbis and imams, which decide who can legally marry, often overruling religious groups — age and number of wives are two examples.  When (((Wife))) and I married, a justice of the peace performed the ceremony.  The key phrase?  “By the authority vested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I now pronounce you man and wife.”  No god, no church, no religion involved.

So why do I bring this up?  Down in Florida (from the Miami Herald) , a gay woman was denied the chance to be with her partner of 17 years during the last hours of her life because the hospital does not allow non-relatives into the intensive care unit  (Hat tip to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars). 

As her partner of 17 years slipped into a coma, Janice Langbehn pleaded with doctors and anyone who would listen to let her into the woman’s hospital room.

Jackson staffers advised Langbehn that she could not see Pond earlier because the hospital’s visitation policy in cases of emergency was limited to immediate family and spouses — not partners. In Florida, same-sex marriages or partnerships are not recognized. On Friday, two years after her partner’s death, Langbehn and her attorneys were in federal court, claiming emotional distress and negligence in a suit they filed last June.

Eight anguishing hours passed before Langbehn would be allowed into Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. By then, she could only say her final farewell as a priest performed the last rites on 39-year-old Lisa Marie Pond.

The hospital, of course, says that they have no legal obligation to let anyone visit a patient.  So does she have a suit?  Probably:

At Friday’s hearing, Langbehn’s lawyers argued the case should be tried because Langbehn had the proper documentation to make medical decisions on behalf of her partner, and was not consulted about Pond’s condition for hours despite seeking answers every 20 minutes.

”This is not just about same-sex couples,” said attorney Donald Hayden, who is also representing the Langbehn family. “This is about protecting the legal access that a parent has to see a child, or an essential loved ones right to be aware of what is going on with their loved one.”…

Though Langbehn had documents declaring her Pond’s legal guardian and giving her the medical ”power of attorney,” Jackson officials refused to recognize her or the kids as family.

Keep in mind, of course, that opponents of same-sex marriage claim that gays do not need to actually get married;  powers-of-attorney and other documents give them the same legal rights as married couples.  Langbehn had those documents and the hospital refused to recognize them.  I will be curious just how the hospital’s lawyers excuse ignoring all of the documentation.

I am lucky.  I am heterosexual, as is (((Wife))).  Our civil rights are recognized by mainstream society.  Langbehn and Pond?  Victims of a society which insists upon using religious standards to determine civil rights.  This is, pure and simple, bigotry. 

Does bigotry sound a little strong?  Read some of the comments left by readers (with my snark added):

If one is against the gay lifestyle then it is deleted by the gay loving herald. where is freedom of speech. these two decided to live an abnormal (according to who?  Jesus?  Leviticus?  Does the Bible even mention lesbians?)  lifestyle and they should learn to live with it and quit forcing their lifestyle down the the throats of the majority (because the majority is always right — slavery, votes for women, child labor) . if you do not like it move to the netherlands or some other country that loves and supports this type of lifestyle (In other words, if you want to pursue life, liberty and happiness, and your ideas of life, liberty and happiness is different than mine, leave.)

Or this one:

To your people who think that the gay life style is an acceptable life style, and you say, “What would Jesus do?” (Because a fictional super-rabbi is always applicable to a secular democracy) I suggest you read the Holy Bible, God’s word, and see what God did to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their perversions. Dont ask me who I am to judge. I am not judging. (You are interpreting the law, which is what judges do (but a distinction like that is probably way past your abilities))  I am simply quoting what the One who will judge us all has already said on the subject.  (Because in a secular democracy, we should base our laws on bronze age myths.)

I suppose that keeping this woman away from her wife helps to protect the sanctity of marriage.



  1. Marriage? In Utah, we can’t even get the right to not be fired or evicted just for being gay, let alone medical visitation/decision making and inheritance rights. http://www.sltrib.com/Salt%20Lake%20Tribune%20Home%20Page/ci_11730733

    Sometimes, I really hate this country.

  2. People can be married with no involvement or approval of the church. Therefore it is NOT a religious institution. Enough said!!!

    I hate things like this happening. It is horrible to think of, to put yourselves in their place.

  3. “Does the Bible even mention lesbians?”

    Yep – Romans 1:26. And not in a nice way, either. Paul was all-inclusive in his bigotry.

  4. Maybe, but who the hell knows what the author meant that to mean, even if it was “Paul”.

  5. I’ve played for gay unions, it’s pretty much the same as others. I haven’t played for any that were state sanctioned, though.

    It’s always struck me as odd that so many of the people against it because they want to “protect the sanctity of marriage” are generally on a second or third spouse and have been known to go astray when the opprotunity offers.

  6. This whole thing is as juvenile as arguing arena football violates the sanctity of football, threatens traditional football, and therefore shouldn’t be called football but instead be called something like sillyball yet retain all the rights and privileges of the sport of football.

    Unfortunately, unlike my example, the ramifications of this argument are literally grave.

    I have a friend who will gladly accept civil unions for he simply wants the rights he and his partner are denied and doesn’t care what his relationship is called. He also feels that this would be a first step towards eventually getting gay marriage, and he points to how, in fact, this was how it happened in parts of Europe.

    My objection to his argument is I feel as an immigrant, he doesn’t understand the depths of American prejudice and to what lengths some would go to to indulge it. Think of how Arkansas (I think it was AK), in an attempt to indulge their hate, passed a law preventing anyone not “married” from adoption. Separate but equal has already been proven to be a mistake in this country, and that’s when presumably the “equal” part existed, so with more and more bullshit like this, it should be clear that civil unions are ultimately inadequate, and nothing short of full rights to marry are required and must no longer be denied to gay Americans.

  7. Craig: However, your governor (who is not up for reelection) just said he is in favour of civil unions (it still isn’t marriage, but it could be considered a step in the right direction).

    Kate: Agreed. The religious involvement is optional.

    Yunshui: Thanks. But it does not state what, exactly, the unnatural acts are. He could be talking about refusing to cook dinner, or wearing pants, or having short hair.

    Craig: Just because a verse does not appear in the earliest extant copies, and in later copies jumps from place to place, does not prove it was a later insertion. Though it is a pretty good indicator.

    Sarge: Agreed. Considering some married couples I have known, sanctity is not a word I would use.

    Philly: How dare you equate arena football with the holy sanctity of the NFL? (Please note, I am not inserting any snark about either the Phleagles or the Chefs; I am above that. This time.)

    Agreed about the ‘separate but equal.’ The hospital could, just as easily, have ignored a civil union document. If it ain’t marriage, it doesn’t count.

    Another note — Arkansas law states that only married people can adopt, so unless same-sex marriage is allowed, a whole bunch of people who might want to adopt can’t. But remember, adoption is better than abortion (unless the baby might be adopted by gays).

  8. Yes, better for a child to grow up without human love or any positive social bonds and perhaps even suffer physical and emotional abuse rather than have an ideal life raised in a house by two gays.

  9. Yeah. Much better to be raised by Mr. and Mrs. Mullet, who attend a fundamentalist church which believes in serpent handling, who believe that all humans are sinful and must have God beaten into them.

  10. America.

    You must look at the totality in order to appreciate what America has done for all humanity. Would England still exist? Would Cuba still be a Spanish colony subjected to inhuman Catholic tortures? But America is losing itself, and thus, by extension, losing the entirety of humanity.

    Our Constitution includes a paeon to our Almighty. Our President swore to uphold the Constitution so help him, God. Without the liberty of free will gifted us by the Almighty, our Constitution would not have been written.

    Now we, as a nation, have begun to turn away from God, the Everlasting, the Almighty, the Eternal, the Loving. By granting rights to those who willingly engage in perversity, we risk losing our blessed covenant with the Lord. By all that is right, those who practise such pervisities should not even be allowed to live.

    God ordained that marriage is between man and woman, or, in some cultures, women. No culture allows man to marry man, nor woman to marry woman. No society condones such perversity. Or, at least, no society has until now.

    Massachussets allows perverts to marry. California tries, through judicial activism, to force through the same. And now, we face a financial and economic disaster to rival the Great Depression. And it is not just America. We bring down the world with us.

    In the 1920s, America turned away from God. We were punished with depression and war, both of which reawakened American religiousity. Today, we have war and a burgeoning depression. Our only hope for America, nay, for the world, is to embrace God in all His infinite reason and infinite love so that the world may be born again through the cleansing of disaster.

    Better one woman be denied a visit to her partner than America be damned. Better two men are kept out of pervisity than the world be lost.

  11. The US Constitution makes no mention of a god. Try again.

    There have been, and are today cultures which permit same sex marriage. You even pointed to one. Try again

    There is no causal relationship between gays and the economy, although it’s been proven that a key to urban revitalization is in fact attracting gays. It’s been true for several sections of Philadelphia in recent years, including Olde City and Northern Liberties. Try again

    Religiosity was hardly waning in the ’20s and there’s no causal relationship between religiosity and economies anyway. Try again

    The measure of a society is not how it treats the best, but rather how it treats the least; therefore, you in fact damn America by wishing to subjugate the least of us, a minority otherwise too few and thus too weak to adequately defend itself against a hateful majority. That is why our Founders created our Constitution the way it is, to create a more perfect society in which the few are not victimized by the many. Try again

  12. We are one nation, under God. End of discussion.

    And every culture which has permitted said attrocities has been wiped from the earth by the avenging hand of God. We, as a nation, still do not permit perverse marriage under law. We are treading close to that fatal line, though. Perhaps we have already crossed it as we, as mere mortals, are incapable of understanding the infinite wisdom and love of the Almighty.

    True, gays moving to the larger cities may be aiding the economies of those cities. I imagine the fashion industry and the medical industry would both benefit. But such perversities are not marriage. Marriage between men, or women, will cross that line between societal health and societal failure. As to perversity’s link to the economy? Are you willing to chance the cleansing sword of God? I am not, and I know that my soul is pure.

    Religiousity was waning during the 1920s. Drinking and dancing and gambling were all on the rise. Attempts at prohibition realized by the righteous were sundered by a large minority for whom God did not matter. The dancing of the day, the flappers were the gogo dancers of the day, were ungodly. Americans became addicted to gambling on stocks which were, of course, being manipulated by the Catholics and the Jews thus showing that the economy was not in the hands of God-fearing men, but in the hands of non religious manipulators.

    Societies are not measured by how we treat individuals. Individuals do not, in the large scheme of the universe, matter. Nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine out of a thousand are damned, only the few elect are saved. Instead, nations, societies, governments, are measured by how well they follow the ineffable will of God; to turn over the will of God to bring pleasure to one or two or a million people is wrong. It creates war, depression, perversity, plagues like AIDS or the new avian flu, starvation, floods, fires, blizzards and other tribulations.

    You, Mr. PhillyChief, like the writer of this blog, Billy, need to study world history. The details are inconsequential; the big story, the story of God’s plan, is the most consequential thing in the history of the universe.

  13. Why did you keep talking after you said “end of discussion”?

    Again, there’s no mention of any gods in the US Constitution. Look it up

    Unless you can demonstrate the existence of your god, I have to assume he’s a product of your imagination. I think there are pills for that

    Is “large minority” anything like jumbo shrimp or controlled chaos?

    Aren’t Jews and Catholics religious and worship your god? If they brought about the Depression, then religiosity is to blame, so we should get rid of religion instead of create a stimulus plan.

    You REALLY should read the US Constitution if you’re an American. Individuals do indeed matter, even when they’re as nutters as you.

  14. Dearest Reginald,
    If god’s will is “ineffable” (impossible, indescribable, inexpressible, indefinable) how, praytell, do you hope to follow it? How do you know what his whim is this week? The bible? Your pastor? Whatever tells you that your own prejudices and bigotry are god-ordained and so you never have to examine whether you might be wrong?

    It’s a pretty weak argument if you can’t back up your assertions with any sort of proof, and then when challenged, you restate your illogic premise, and then say “end of discussion” as if that would do anything but make us laugh. It always strikes me as strange that your god didn’t give you (or any other theist) more tools and evidence to convince heathens and apostates and perverts like us of the (ineffable) virtue of your words.

    Furthermore, if your god doesn’t care how individuals are treated, whether they have equal rights and are treated with respect and tolerance, but just wants to be told he’s awesome all the time, and have his every whim followed, no matter how ineffable, then your god is a huge, huge asshole, and I don’t understand why anyone one would want to have anything to do with him at all.

    Fortunately, he doesn’t exist. This pervert is reasonably sure of it.

  15. Reginald: Welcome to my blog. Thank you for using sentences, punctuation, and at least coming real close on the spelling.

    Your equation of ‘gay marriage = economic failure’ is an interesting one. It has no basis in reality, but it is interesting.

    And as for history? I have spent my life and career studying history. Your assertions regarding lack of religious observance and the Great Depression are new to me. Perhaps you would care to drop some the names of the historical works you used to develop this guess. I await.

    Philly: Couldn’t have said it better. Both times. I have no idea why the hell these godbots keep infesting my site but at least this one comes close to being coherent.

    Craig: Many godbots consider an unsupported assertion to actually be an argument. They are so used to arguing from authority based upon the Bible that they are unable to come up with any other way of arguing.

  16. Well, how about that? Reginald figured he’d drop by (((Billy the Atheist’s))) blog, do some good, old-fashioned preaching and set us reprobates, apostates and sinners straight. Because, none of us have ever heard the gospel, we’ve never heard that we’re one nation under God, we’ve never heard that Catholics and Jews are the root of much of what is wrong with America, and we’ve never heard that God’s cosmic plan, which is humongous, is the most important thing in the history of the universe. Thanks to Reginald, we’ve now been enlightened. I, for one, am extraordinarily grateful that Reginald stopped here, twice thus far, today.

    Thanks for letting him join the party, (((Billy)))!

  17. Chappie: I don’t think that Reginald is looking for enlightenment.

  18. If “Nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine out of a thousand are damned, only the few elect are saved”, and Reginald is among the “saved” (of course, right?), then I would rather go to hell with the likes of you guys than to heaven with the self-righteous and pompous douchebags like Reginald. His Heaven would be my personal hell.

  19. DB: I’ve heard that one out of a thousand number before, any idea where it comes from? I seem to remember something by Calvin, but haven’t been able to find it.

  20. Oddly enough, it’s Islamic. I prayed to the all-knowing and more responsive Google and got this: Volume 8, Book 76, Number 537 of the Sahih al-Bukari (kind of like the second most holy book after the Quran-I think): scroll down to the right verse.

    The quote certainly isn’t Christian so either Reginald is a closet Muslim, or is just making shit up about his own religion that he heard someone else say first or he simply misinterprets his holy book just like every other radical (in an attempt to justify his own hatred towards gays, of course).

    Maybe he should study history a bit better rather than telling others to study it. He should probably start with the Bible in any case. That’s the knowledge he seems to be lacking. Unless, of course, the verse is in the Bible and Reginald can prove me wrong (to which I would apologize). Otherwise, Reginald goes down in my book as a typical Christian who doesn’t know wtf the Bible actually says and twists it to say what they want it to say.

  21. DB: Thanks. I seem to remember it from a Jehovah’s Witness, but they have their own Bible, so . . .

    Rereading Reginald’s screed, it almost sounds like he was trying to be pompous. Well, maybe he wasn’t trying to be pompous, more like he wanted to sound intellectual. Definately a born-again, judging from the anti-Catholic and anti-semite statements, through.

  22. Reginald: It’s amazing to see the mental gymnastics on display. Your reasoning for the great depression is little more enlightened than natives on some island that think the smoking volcano is their God feeling angry and demanding a virgin sacrifice or the sailors back in the ancient times that the storm tossing about their ship was the wrath of a God.

    You seem to be stuck as a perpetual child. When we are little children we might think that thunder is caused by God bowling (or at least that’s what I thought when I was five) but as we become adults in this day and age, we come to understand that there are actually reasonable explanations for things that occur in this life. You however, are eternally looking for ways to inject your God fantasy into every single thing that already has valid explanations without a God being needed to pull any strings.

    In other words you are making up stories in your own head in order to validate your beliefs and let those little nonsensical things to you, like ‘reality’ and ‘truth’ be damned.

  23. Instead of hating Reginald back, maybe if we loved him, he’d shrivel up and blow away.

  24. Reginald: The mental gymnastics required to internalize cognitive dissonance never ceases to amaze.

    Johnzy: I just wish these trolls would stop. Every time one of them shows up, no one reads (or comments on) the actual post. Instead, they tear the troll a new one. I would love this guy. Specifically, I would love him to leave.

  25. marriage is a civil right, which means that only the civilized may be married in the sight of God. homosexuals are in rebellion against God, therefore they are not civilized and are not eligable for civil rights.

  26. Civil rights have nothing to do with gods or religions. They are secular rights that apply to all humans, simply on the basis of being human, regardless of religious affiliation or belief (or lack thereof).

    This is honestly one of the funniest “reasons” I’ve ever heard for why I shouldn’t get equal rights. The completely nonsensical definition of what “civil- rights” means is just hilarious. Did you notice the previous comments at all?

  27. Anton: So not all people have civil rights? And who gets to decide who does and doesnt? I think that is one of the big reasons we have a Constitution with enumerated rights.

    Craig: it is original, I grant it that.

  28. I find failure to master your own language a sign of being uncivilized, Anton.

  29. Just curious, Reginald: if “God ordained that marriage is between man and woman, or, in some cultures, women.” then that would imply that the concept of marriage has changed. Do we still marry of our daughters at extremely young ages? Do we still allow multiple wives? Would this not imply that the concept of marriage has changed? Would this not mean you are a moron?

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  31. This made me smile and hopefully after your last post it will do the same for you:

    Laugh at your problems; everybody else does. 🙂

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