Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Yes on 8 - Equality for All

At one time, I was ambivalent towards California's Proposition 8 to restore marriage to its original form of 1 man, one woman. However, after seeing all the hatred exposed in the "No on 8" campaign, I've come to favor it strongly.

The issue arises from a recent CA Supreme Court Opinion. The opinion is quite long and muddled. On one side, it argues that standards should not be maintained, simply because they have always been that way. On the other hand, it justifies extending the name 'marriage' to same sex couples because marriage has always been understood that way. It then uses as an argument that homosexuals would be discriminated against if asked in social settings if they were asked if they were single or married. Baxter's concurring and dissenting opinion is on the point when it points out that the court acted beyond its power. It used legislative action to coerce a previously non-existent right, overriding a public initiative. Constitutionally, the only way that this should occur is by sending the initiative to the voters.

Ironically, proposition 8 is essentially doing it. However, the extra-constitutional activity has been further tainted by the decision to title it as "elimination of right of same-sex couples to marry." Instead, the court should have ruled that it did not have the authority to grant a new right, and leave it up to the legislature to grant a new right. The budget analysis is also somewhat misleading, saying that the state would gain more money on additional gay weddings. However, this bump would only be short-lived, and would be offset by a decrease in commitment ceremonies. They failed to mention that there will be additional costs in properly distinguishing from same-sex married couples and opposite-sex married couples (Federal would still treat them differently) Instead of going through the proper channels, the state government engaged in a biased campaign.

The no on 8 campaign, however, goes even further in the negativity. It equates proper constitutional process with "hate" and portrays a vast elimination of rights. That is, unfortunately, a distance from the truth. The court, for all its verbiage, said essentially that "marriage has a good connotation, and we'll let everyone use it." Ironically, in the rush to implement this system, the terms "husband" and "wife" were removed from marriage documents. (Quite an irony that a ruling intended to make more widely available a "commonly accepted word" as a side effect removed two commonly accepted words.) If "marriage" is so important for the same sex couples, wouldn't "husband" and "wife" also be important?

There is also the issue of the basic idea of "equality for all". A perfectly equal society would be quite dull. There are advantages to differences. Perhaps they are considering instead "equality of opportunity". Why does society decide that having all rights associated with marriage without the word marriage is insufficient for gay couples? And at the same time, why does it decide that it is ok to prevent pedestrians or cyclists from using all roadways merely because of their lack of vehicle?
Homosexuality is obviously a genetic dead end. It either represents some mutation or it is acquired from the environment. If it is a mutation, then people must have been able to 'overcome' it to propagate. If it is environmentally driven, then it can be viewed as a choice. There is nothing preventing a homosexual from being married to someone of the opposite sex. On the other hand, there are strong mechanisms in place to prevent people from driving. There are many classes of people that could never drive. These people are strongly discriminated against by prohibitions against walking or biking on freeways. Making this situation worse is the statutory exception for people who's cars have stopped working. People with a car are thus permitted to walk in an area where people without one cannot travel. However, an even closer category of people would be based on "vehicle orientation". Some are attracted to bikes. Others are attracted to walking. They may be able to engage reluctantly in motor vehicle activity, just as homosexuals could engage in heterosexual relationships. However, law still currently victimizes pedestrians and cyclists. If "Equality for All" was truly about equality, it would help support true equality of transport.

In addition, there remains the issue of extending marriage to some classes while denying it to others. Society has drawn an arbitrary line in the sand, condoning some sexual activity, while condemning other activity. Cross to one side of the line, and anyone attacking you is considered a "hate criminal". On the other side, however, you are one of the worst criminals. Different societies have drawn the line in different places. (Ancient Greeks, for instance, had no problem with pedophile homosexuality.) Heterosexual behavior in some form must be accepted in order for a society to propagate. A family relationship is also important for the upbringing of children. Beyond that, it is primarily "entertainment". Historically, western society advocated only heterosexual behavior within a marriage. Gradually the marriage requirement was reduced to the point today where heterosexual behavior is condoned among unmarried people, and even occasionally permitted by married people outside of marriages. With 'free' heterosexual activity permitted, permitting homosexual activity was the next logical route for society. However, in spite of this, the principle of "consent" is still key. If two people consent, anything is ok. If one fails to consent, then a serious crime has likely occurred. However, consent is artificially age-limited, and the paper trail is non-existent. If a person is deemed a few years too young, a consenting act could be a serious sex crime, regardless of the maturity of the individual. And if one person thought the other was consenting, when in fact they were not, it would also be a crime.
Marriage helps to relieve a lot of this ambiguity. Extending domestic partnership would also be part of the solution. There could be basic and advanced. Pick the commitment needed, and register before any sexual activity. Without registration, a crime would occur. With it, there would not be one.
As for marriage, it is interesting that it is odd that the court saw to extend it to same-sex couples put not to polygamous or other types of multiple-partner relationships. From the logic in the court argument, marriage is a right that all should be able to engage in. Limiting somebody's right just because the proposed partner is already in a marriage would appear to also fall in the argument. There can just as easily be loving, caring relationships with multiple parties as their can be with two people, regardless of sexual activity. In addition, the ruling uses "sexual orientation" as a basis for granting same-sex marriage. This appears to add to discrimination. Why should two homosexual men get extra rights that two heterosexuals do not receive? If two brothers are in a loving, caring relationship, they are currently precluded from the benefits of marriage that two non-related gay men would be entitled. This is far from equality. Also, it is with great irony that the court has actually restricted rights of groups in the name of "preserving rights" of others. (For instance, rulings that doctors must provide elective services even if it violates their religious beliefs) In essence, the courts say that people of certain religions are prohibited from practicing certain professions.

By the traditional definition, marriage is a man and woman united in a relationship to form a family and procreate. All men and women have an equal opportunity to participate in the institution. Beyond that, things are just a little... uh... murky.

Monday, October 20, 2008

First BCS standings

The First BCS standings are out today. Its interesting to see that the computers all rank the 'non-BCS' schools (with the exemption of BYU) higher than the human polls do. This seems to be quite different than past years, where the non-BCS were often supported by the human polls. It is likely a mixture of the strength of non-conference schedules by non-BCS teams compared to the cupcake scheduling of BCS teams (hello SEC and Big12), as well as the relative strength of various conferences. (USC did schedule some real opponents - but the Pac10 is just not that great this year.)

If the season ended today, the BCS would probably be something like this:
Championship: (1)Texas[Big12]-(2)Alabama[sec]
Rose: (3)Penn State[big10]-(5)USC[pac10]
Fiesta: (4)Oklahoma [Big12 at large]-(16)USF[BigEast]
Orange: (18)Georgia Tech[acc]-(9)Ohio State[big10 at large]
Sugar: (7)Georgia[SEC at large]-(11)Utah[mountain west - nonBCS]

Probably the only real question is whether Georgia or Florida gets the sec at large spot. With 3 sec teams in the top 12, it could be a question of who draws the most fans. For the Big 12, there are 4 teams, but Oklahoma is the top rated and easily has the most pull. The final spot would be between Ohio State and Boise State. An OU-BSU rematch would be interesting, but I'd expect a 'traditional' power like OSU to win out in the BCS minds.

However, things could get interesting next week. If Penn State thumps Ohio State, they will take a nose dive in the rankings. If LSU loses to Georgia and Oklahoma State loses to Texas, we would likely end up with a top 12 like:

1 Texas
2 Alabama
3 Penn State
4 Oklahoma
6 Georgia
7 Texas Tech
8 Florida
9 Utah
10 Boise State
11 TCU
12 Oklahoma State

Championship: (1)Texas[Big12]-(2)Alabama[sec]
Rose: (3)Penn State[big10]-(5)USC[pac10]
Fiesta: (4)Oklahoma [Big12 at large]-(16)USF[BigEast]
Orange: (18)Georgia Tech[acc]-(9)Boise State[WAC at large]
Sugar: (7)Georgia[SEC at large]-(11)Utah[mountain west - nonBCS]

Boise State and TCU would be the only options for the final at large spot. So one would have to go in. Now of course, the wild way would be for the SEC to continue to beat each other, the Big12 to post round-robin victories, and the Big East and ACC to creep up in the polls.

1 Texas
2 Oklahoma
3 Penn State
5 Texas Tech
6 Alabama
7 Utah
8 Boise State
9 Georgia Tech
10 Pitt
11 Ball State
12 Tulsa

With this, the Big 12 would have two teams in the championship, one Big12 would be left out, and the at large spots would be filled by selecting from 3 of 4 non-BCS teams - leading to an imminent reorganization of the BCS.

(Though an even better scenario would involve a whole lot more pummeling:)
1. Utah
2. Boise State
3. Tulsa
4. Ball State
5. Texas
6. Alabama
7. USC
8. Pittsburg
9. Georgia Tech
10. TCU
11. BYU
12. Penn State

This would probably be our best bet for a playoff. A BCS championship game with two 'non-BCS' schools, plus two additional at-large spots filled with non-BCS schools. The powers that be would soon realize that the playoff may be the only way to really keep the money in their pockets.