Thursday, April 29, 2010

Response to PDN Editorial Feb242009 n Support of Same-Sex Legal Unions

In response to the Feb. 24, 2010 editorial entitled "Fight: Guam gay and lesbian community must stand up for equality", I will address two items: 1) the  Government Accountability Office data regarding the "rights and privileges" of marriage, and 2) the PDN's call for the "same rights and privileges" for "every citizen of this country".

The much-referenced GAO data can be found in a letter dated Jan. 31, 1997 and addressed to then Senator Henry Hyde in response to Hyde's inquiry on how the Defense of Marriage Act, which had become law the previous September, would affect the interpretation of federal laws applicable to marriage.

In its response to Hyde, the GAO identified 1049 instances where marital status was a factor in federal law. The GAO derived the number by doing an electronic global search of the federal code using words and parts of words that might possibly be linked to marriage (e.g. spouse, husband, widow, marr., etc.)

The GAO goes on to admit the limitations of the search and states that the 1049 figure only applies to the number of times the key words occurred in the search and that "no conclusions can be drawn" from the number since there was no way to tell from the search whether the occurrence of the search term applied positively or negatively to marital status. The so-called "marriage penalty" was used as an example. Proponents of gay rights may want to find something more credible upon which to base their major argument.

Next, if we are to take the PDN at its word: "Champions of this cause must...ensure that each and every citizen of this country is entitled to the same rights and privileges", then, in the name of equality, the PDN must also attack all forms of discrimination regarding marriage in the Guam code, so that "each and every citizen" will be "entitled to the same rights and privileges".

Title 19, Chapter 3 of the Guam Code, the Contract of Marriage, is nine pages of restrictions, regulations, and requirements regarding who can marry, who can marry who, when you can marry, etc. Here's a sampling:

§3101 requires that parties wishing to contract marriage must be “capable” of “consent” and denies marriage to any one the government deems to be mentally impaired (3202).

§3102 denies marriage to minors without the written permission of a parent or guardian, and in some cases, the Superior Court, and even requires that the couple be capable of "consummating the marriage". (Lacking a definition of the term in the law, one may assume the traditional sense is at least implied.)

§3104 forbids marriage “between parents and children, ancestors and descendants of every degree, and between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood, and between uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews…”

§3105 forbids marriage to those who are currently married.

§3106 forbids or retroactively annuls a marriage if one party does not consent to sexual intercourse, at least initially.

§3202 forbids marriage between first cousins, between an adoptive parent and an adoptive child, between a step-parent and a step-child or between a guardian and a ward without court approval.

The list goes on, but, by the way, in all those 9 pages, there is nothing prohibiting two people of the same sex from marrying. (So why do we need a bill that will give gays and lesbians something less than marriage?)

 This is not pushing an "illogical extreme". This is taking the PDN at its word in its call for the "same rights and privileges"..."for every citizen". Of course, complete deregulation of marriage is a ridiculous proposal. But either we admit that the government can and should control who marries who, and in so doing admit that it has a reason for doing so, or we must let everyone marry whom they wish. To not engage this central dichotomy (i.e. rights only for some) is intellectually dishonest and a limp pretension to equality.

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