Thursday, May 10, 2012

President’s support for gay marriage is great, but the battle isn’t over yet

By Marc Jampole

Civil rights activists and those who believe in the separation of church and state have reason to rejoice at President Obama’s decision to come out of the closet and support gay marriage.

But that one deed does not give gays the right to marry.  It will still require a great deal of effort at the state level both to fight legislation and ballot initiatives banning gay marriage and to support legislation and initiatives enabling two people of the same sex to join in legal wedlock.

Notice that I write “legal wedlock” and not “holy wedlock,” because not all marriages are sanctioned by a religion.

As far as the state is concerned, marriage is a legal contract between two people granting each party to the marriage a set of rights and responsibilities.

Now virtually all religions consider marriage a sacrament—a religious act—to one degree or another.  Religions will prescribe restrictions and rights on both parties in addition to those mandated by the state.  No one has to follow those additional commands, only those who profess the religion.

As a convenience, most states allow religious officials to perform state marriages at the same time they are giving the religious nuptials. But that does not mean that the additional mandates of a religious marriage carry any weight in a court of law.

At the end of the day, the issue of gay marriage has always come down to the concept of the separation of church and state. If the state enforces religious proscriptions against two people of the same sex getting married, it is endorsing the religion or religions that have that belief.  I have no problem with priests, Orthodox rabbis or any other religious official refusing to perform a gay marriage ceremony, nor do I have a problem with any religion excluding anyone for behavior the religion considers immoral or unethical.  But a secular state like the 50 state and one federal governments of the United States shouldn’t.

Obama risked nothing by his move and probably gained votes.  Polls suggest that those who are vehemently against gay marriage weren’t going to vote for Obama anyway, while many of those in favor of gay marriage now have a big reason to go to the polls and vote for the President.

It is Romney who is risking a lot by remaining adamantly opposed to both gay marriage and civil unions. The latest polls show that more people now approve of gay marriage than are against it, with the attitudes of the youngest generations most supportive of the right of two people of the same sex to wed.

One does have to admire Romney for his consistency, though. Other than a vehement opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy, Mitt’s opposition to gay marriage has been the one issue through the years about which he has not flip-flopped around like a lapdog wanting the approval of whatever hand was extending the treats.

Romney is consistent in his argument as well, opposing both civil unions and gay marriage.  To make a distinction between the two involves a patronizing word game that makes one think of corporate board rooms with wrap-around picture windows in which executives in thousand-dollar suits are trying to figure out a better way to say “layoffs,” “recall,” “spill” or “multiple deaths.” 

Those who propose civil unions but not marriages for gays insult the intelligence of both the general public and the many people who want to pledge their troth to someone of the same sex. Civil unions waddle and quack like the duck of marriage, so why create a special word?

Romney, who is so ready to employ pseudo concepts such as “business confidence” and “job creators,” reveals clear-headed thinking when it comes to marriage and civil unions.  They are the same thing, so let’s get on with the fight!

A fight, I might add, that I believe Mitt Romney will lose, both in the short and long terms.  In the short term, Mitt is giving young people and a minority representing somewhere between 5% and 15% of voters a reason to register and then vote for President Obama.  And in the long term, gay marriage will prevail in the United States, although it may yet take another 10 years or more.

Fighting Bob Fest North Coming Up May 19

“We are the 99%” will be the theme for the 2012 FightingBobFest North as it returns to the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls on Saturday, May 19, 2012 for a full day of speakers, music and entertainment, along with artisan-style food and beverage.  The public is welcome to attend this important organizing event! The event gates will open at 8:30 am. 

“FightingBobFest North” follows a longstanding festival tradition held in Baraboo and Madison, WI that brings today’s best progressive speakers to the Midwest to inspire local people to speak and act on critical problems that endanger important democratic principles. Dave Zweifel, Editor Emeritus of the Cap Times says that Bobfest is “a perfect place to remember Fighting Bob [LaFollette], who specialized in speaking at fairgrounds and parks around the state, urging the people to take their democracy back from the special interests.” Ed Garvey, the founder of the original Fighting Bob Fest, adds, “During this momentous time in Wisconsin politics, the need for conversations and clarity about how money influences elections, campaigns, and government in our state is greater than ever.”

In 2011, this festival tradition took a trip up north, attracting over 700 people to the gathering. This year’s event promises to be even larger, drawing on the enthusiasm for fighting back that Wisconsinites demonstrated to all Americans. The theme for FightingBobFest North 2012 is “We are the 99%” which will spotlight the growing awareness and understanding of how wealth and power increasingly divides the American people. 

FightingBobFest North hosts speakers and breakout sessions on topics of democracy in Wisconsin and the Midwest, environmental policy, corporate free speech, sexual politics, and more. Ed Garvey, labor activist, and John Nichols, MSNBC commentator, journalist, and author of Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, From Madison to Wall Street, will both speak on the relevance of Wisconsin politics to 21st century social movements. Journalist and speaker Ruth Connif, Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Foundation, and activist Tony Schultz will also speak about how the 99% movement affects Wisconsin. Kristen Dexter, Kathleen Vinehout, Bob Kincaid, Nino Amato have also joined the speaker lineup. In addition, Breakout Sessions will be given by Molly Swank of Planned Parenthood and Gerry Lausted of Save The Hills. Updates on speakers and breakouts sessions will be posted at and on the Facebook group page.

FightingBobFest North also brings informational booths from the region’s best progressive organizations and businesses. A large number of booths will fill the Fine Arts Building at the Fairgrounds, allowing attendees to network, learn, and purchase products from a variety of motivated, forward-leaning groups.

Local beer from Valkyrie Brewery, freshly prepared Jamaican, Indian, and American food, and gourmet coffees will be available for purchase.  The Beer Garden at the Fairgrounds will provide convenient, accessible seating and feature musical entertainment by Hey Joe.

FightingBobFest North is open and accessible to anyone who wishes to attend. A tax-deductible donation of $20 is suggested but all donations are welcome.  
Those traveling to Chippewa Falls for a weekend of fun will find Irvine Park, Leinenkugel Brewery, the Old Abe Bike Trail, and historic downtown in close proximity. Camping is available on the fairgrounds proper. Campsite reservations, maps, travel, and accommodation information can be found at the Fairgrounds website.

Attendees can find videos from FightingBobFest North 2011 as well as updates on speakers, performers, vendor and booth opportunities and driving directions can online at and on the Facebook group Fighting Bobfest North. 

FightingBobfest North
Saturday, May 19, 2012
8:30 am- 5:00 pm
Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds
Chippewa Falls, WI 54729
Contact: Jim Dunning, (715) 839-0039