Monday, December 22, 2008

Same-sex-marrying socialists strike back


I love our letter writers. Really, I do. They're informed, loyal, passionate and thoroughly infuriating.

With them in mind, from the person who gets a first look at our readers' thoughts, the following is a seasonal-appropriate wish list. I don't expect it to change many minds, but I figure the long-running issues on our letters pages deserve an occasional response.

-- To start with, other than the election, the most popular topic the past few months has been the national economy and the assorted federal bailouts. People are wondering, with good reason, where all this money is going, and where we got it. We just had $700 billion laying around?

All letters are welcome. But there are code words hidden in some thatare signals to stop paying close attention -- "Chris Dodd" and "BarneyFrank." According to one school of thinking, these two, more than anyone else in America, are to blame for our current troubles.

If you want to castigate their decision-making, fine. If you want to say they and they alone are to blame for the recession, that's crazy. They didn't even take over their congressional committees until early last year, and our problems started long before then.

-- Along those lines, this notion of taking sides in a two-party grudge match is a constant theme, but has little to do with how people think. For instance, while the majority of the country has turned decisively against the current administration, many whose anti-Bush attitude predates the rest of the nation feel a special animus toward Senate Democrats.

It comes down to one word -- Iraq. There's a reason many Democrats never got excited about John Kerry, and the 2002 war vote was the No. 1 factor behind Barack Obama beating the supposedly unstoppable Hillary Clinton. What do Obama, Howard Dean, Al Gore and Ned Lamont have that other members of their party lack? The answer -- a near-bottomless supply of good will from fellow Democrats, dating backto their early, vocal opposition to the disaster that is Iraq.

So anyone who writes in assuming any Democrat or Republican supports that party no matter the situation, maybe reconsider that notion.

-- On a different topic, if you're writing a letter responding to a statement about the separation of church and state, don't quote Scripture. No one is taking your Bible away from you. Some people, though, don't want your interpretation of the Bible to determine the law of the land.

-- In terms of the debate over same-sex marriage, there might be something more offensive than writers equating homosexuality with pedophilia, but I can't think of what. We get it -- some of you are uncomfortable with what other people do in their bedrooms. Guess what -- no one wants to know what you do behind closed doors, either. And again, some people don't think you should get the final say on such matters.

There's also the matter of consent. Children, by law, can't give it. That makes a difference, yes?

-- This is a big one -- socialism. Really? Did I miss Obama's plan to nationalize the oil industry?
The notion that the tens of billions of dollars we spend killing people in Iraq could be better spent on schools and hospitals in this country is not radical. Huge majorities in this country support a robust social safety net, so that people who experience a run of misfortune don't lose everything. All other industrialized nations on the planet have some form of universal health care. None of this is controversial.

Maybe those correspondents who fret about our economic choices are happy with the fact that while this is the richest country in the world, there are 41 nations with lower infant mortality rates. At the same time, most workers in "socialist" Western Europe get four to five weeks vacation to start with. What are we supposed to be scared of again?

-- Finally, about the penchant for using the word "liberal" as an epithet -- despite what your radio tells you, it's not an insult.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or by

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Changing law just delays the inevitable

"The people have spoken," read a recent letter to the editor. "It's too bad we in Connecticut never had that same opportunity to protect our families."

The writer was talking about California's Election Day passage of Proposition 8, which changed the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. Connecticut is now one of two states where same-sex couples can legally marry.

What the writer leaves unsaid is what we're supposed to be protecting our families from. Being gay? People either are or they aren't, and I can't imagine anyone thinks passing a law is going to change that.

What adds to the confusion is the odd mixture of church and state when it comes to marriage in this country. It's a legal term that defines a partnership with shared rights and responsibilities. But it's also a religious rite performed in a church by a member of the clergy.

What does the first have to do with the second? If same-sex marriages are anathema to certain religions, there's an easy solution -- don't perform them. But why stop the state from authorizing them?

This is an issue where the key opinion divider isn't gender, class or, despite the results of California's vote, race. It's age. Older people, in general, don't like it. Younger people, for the most part, can't for the life of them understand what the fuss is about.

A poll earlier this year showed 68 percent of Californians ages 18 to 29 favor the idea of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, with 25 percent opposed. Among those over 65, it was 36 percent approval and 55 percent against.

On the surface, this seems like it should fall into the libertarian don't-bother-me-I-won't-bother-you category. No one has ever been able to articulate what harm would be caused by allowing two willing participants to gain the rights and responsibilities that go with being married.

We've had our answers for the past four years. Since Massachusetts became the first state to declare such unions legal, the country has been anything but rapt with attention at the fallout, because there hasn't been any fallout. The world kept turning. The same is true of Connecticut.

The arguments against legalization fall flat. It's true such unions cannot biologically produce children. So what -- that's true for all sorts of heterosexual marriages, as well. Do we mandate fertility tests for marriage licenses? Are we going to prohibit all weddings of senior citizens?

There's the argument about the past several thousand years of human history, which have frowned upon, to say the least, such unions. As if we're supposed to use ancient Egypt as our guide-post in such matters. History also shows centuries of tolerance for slavery and the subjugation of women -- are we supposed to revert to the good old days on those, too?

It often comes down to religion. But that's not how we make laws here -- it's right there in the First Amendment. Of course, another recent survey showed only one-fourth of respondents mentioned freedom of religion when asked what rights the First Amendment guaranteed, so maybe some people need a refresher.

If it's just a question of personal discomfort, that seems an awfully thin reed on which to deny millions of people some basic rights. If no one is harmed, society carries on as usual and the world isn't consumed in a fiery apocalypse, it's hard to see what the holdup is.

If nothing else, the numbers show attitudes are changing. Young people today will be old people someday, and tomorrow's young people won't object, either. If it doesn't happen now, acceptance of gay marriage is inevitable in a generation or two. Why we have to fight about it from now until then utterly escapes me.

Hugh S. Bailey is assistant editorial page editor at the Connecticut Post. He can be reached at 203-330-6233 or via e-mail at