Monday, February 27, 2006

Gay Marriage in N.J.

Imagine, if you would, that the following described your rights as a U.S. citizen within a monogamous, loving relationship: you had no adoption rights in most states, no hospital visitation rights, no access to willed assets from the deceased, and your relationship had no legitimation under the law. What I’ve just described to you is the plight of same-sex couples throughout the state and the country, yet New Jersey is about to take a huge, life-affirming step towards rectifying this lack of basic human rights afforded to most of the population.

In February, New Jersey’s Supreme Court heard arguments for and against legalizing gay marriage, -- the ultimate, cultural boogeyman for so many Republican leaders -- and this summer will make a ruling on whether the state should legalize the institution of marriage for all persons. Many legal scholars are of the opinion that New Jersey will become the second state to protect the rights of same-sex couples and grant them the legal status afforded to heterosexual couples. Nothing would make me prouder than for our courts to grant this basic human right, especially with so many red states moving backwards by making same-sex marriage illegal. New Jersey is a progressive state with citizens who recognize that human rights and tolerance to all are not only foundational ideals built into our Constitution and Bill of Rights, but also ideals that should guide every human culture; this is perhaps why, when so much of the country is moving towards intolerant laws towards homosexuals, New Jerseyans favor gay marriage by a 56% to 39% ratio, according to a recent Zogby poll. Though some social conservatives make the claim that gay marriage threatens "traditional" Western marriages, I see nothing but fearmongering in such a wayward claim; we know that Massachusetts has not been "threatened" in any way because of their groundbreaking law that provides equal rights for gays and lesbians. Not a single institution, civic or ecclesiastical, will be threatened in our state if we legalize gay marriage.
Our state has the opportunity to lead the rest of the nation in affirming the rights of all of our citizens, straight or gay, and I encourage local civic leaders, clergy, and politicians to join me in supporting the legalization of gay marriage in our state

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Separation of Church and State

Having just reread Jefferson's "Query XVII" from Notes on the State of Virginia and Franklin’s Autobiography, I am more than ever convinced that our founding fathers had no intention of having religion be an institution assisted financially and promoted by the state. Jefferson writes that reason and free inquiry will lead one to Christianity (one wonders about that), not the coercion of government towards one religion; further, he argues against the persecution of Quakers under the law and that "the rights of conscience" (e.g., private/religious) should never be submitted to under some government statute. Franklin, who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, also clearly is in favor of religious liberalism and the separation of the state and church, criticizes a Presbyterian preacher for coercing his audience into being good Presbyterians, not good citizens; further, he laments the division of citizens brought about by religion, stating that some religions "serv’d principally to divide us and make us unfriendly with one another." Considering these statements, as well as the establishment clause of the first amendment, one is left with a clear sense that Jefferson and Franklin’s philosophy was founded upon the freedom of one’s private religion outside of the domain of the public.

Conservatives, however, sometimes create a faux history of America, arguing that religion is never mentioned as excluded in the Constitution, and, therefore, government funds should be used for supporting religion. This goes against both the intent of Jefferson and Franklin and against traditional interpretations of the first amendment, of course. The Bush administration has seen fit to favor faith-based initiatives, thus providing money to religious organizations and charities. This is problematic on many levels, especially because it breaks down the barrier that was intended between the public institution of the state and the private one of religion. All too often, the only religion favored in these initiatives is, of course, Christianity, thus violating the first amendment. I worry over the chipping away of these laws that guarantee the rights of all citizens, including those who want freedom from religion.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Gonzalez, NSA Wiretapping

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, whom conservatives worry is too "moderate" for their liking and protested against being nominated for a Supreme Court vacancy, showed his unwavering loyalty to the Bush administration with his evasive answers to questions yesterday. Instead of actually answering questions posed by Democrats and rights-concerned Republicans (yes, there are a few), Gonzalez was ambiguous in his replies. Gonzalez stated that "'If you're talking with al Qaeda, we want to know what you're saying,'" thereby providing an obfuscation where one didn't exist before: we know that some of these wiretaps were directed towards peace activists and those with no ties to al Qaeda. This is a dishonest AG defending a dishonest president with dishonest tactics. And this is what is particularly disturbing about this power-mad administration: they do not think that they are answerable to the people and, at times, think that they are above the law. He refused to answer whether personal correspondence could be monitored, and again argued that the Iraq resolution provided the basic law for these wiretaps; as Republican Sen. Specter has pointed out, the legal justification for these wiretaps is spotty at best. From my understanding, the special FISA court could grant wiretapping authorizations very quickly and even do so after an illegal wiretap had occurred; surely, if transparency was this administration's goal, then they would have followed the rule of the law. At issue is, on one level, is basic civil rights and whether they have been violated in this instance, whether the persons spied upon were suspected of sympathizing with al Qaeda or Quaker peace activists. In either instance, the rule of law must apply, and this administration has broken it.

Two good analyses of the NSA wiretapping scandal:


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Re: "Red-State Democrats Want Off the Howard Dean Bus"

First, John McIntyre and the other folks at RealClearPolitics.com have done a service to political junkies by providing a website that collects election news and polling numbers. The major problem that I have with McIntyre and his ilk, however, is that only conservative opinions are included for the most part, and the articles posted skew nearly 3-1 in favor of conservative writers over progressive or moderate ones. This is his prerogative, however, even though his version of right-wing politics is at the fringe of American political thinking; most Americans are moderates and not nearly as far to the right as McIntyre et al.

Today's article by McIntyre is titled "Red State Democrats Want Off the Howard Dean Bus," yet it really isn't about Dr. Dean and instead focuses on Alito's volatile confirmation and the rebirth of neoconservatism that it supposedly entails. He is right, however, when he says that Dems can't win running on the Alito issue; what he fails to note, however, is that neither will the Republicans, and the Alito confirmation was less about substance and loss of civil rights (what it should have been) and more about posturing, evasion, and false drama (a "devoted" wife's tears!). I can tell you that any political observer besides McIntyre would be arguing that more Republicans want off the George W. Bush bus than vice versa for Dean and the Democrats; in N.J., for example, don't expect Mr. Bush to make an appearance to conservative-cum-moderate Tom Kean, nor will he most likely make any appearance in the northeast for any candidates.

Further, as we watch the end of neoconservatism as a movement, one comes to a different conclusion about real, palpable Republican weaknesses than McIntyre suggests. McIntyre suggests that Republicans merely need to "hav[e] the courage or the fortitude to act like conservatives" when we know that this gameplan will result in a netloss for Republicans in both the House and Senate. For Republicans merely to stop the bleeding -- and bleeding there will be in '06, according to most political pundits, including Larry Sabato -- they will need to distance themselves from the corrupt members at the head of the party, the inept leadership of the Bush administration, and the failures of post-war Iraq. This is a hard thing to accomplish, however, for a party that has acted as a lapdog for the first four years of Bush, and the 2006 elections couldn't come any faster for this optimistic Democrat.