Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A note to my conservative family - please read

Hey folks...I know you don't like it when I talk politics. I know you're not big fans of our President. I know you tend to support the Republicans that Utah has sent to congress. But this isn't me trying to pick a fight, it's just a comment on a very eye-opening event that happened this past week.  So even if it's just this once, please hear me out.

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed a bill sending $26.1 billion in assistance to the states. The bill passed the Senate last week, and once the House passed it, it was a matter of hours before the President signed it into law. This funding is specifically for two things: to extend additional Medicaid assistance to states and to help states create and retain teachers’ jobs. According to one estimate, in the state of Utah alone this assistance is keeping 1,800 teachers employed.

You might ask, in this economy how can the country afford to pay for it?  What did Congress do to make this "budget neutral" as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office certified that it was? This bill is paid for in part by closing a tax loophole that benefited multinational companies. In other words, we're saving the jobs of our teachers by not paying companies to ship jobs to other countries. Sounds responsible, right? Sounds like a win/win situation, right?

It is. And every one of our Republican congressmen from Utah voted against it. The congressional Republicans called this a "bailout" of "special interest groups" by "raising taxes." I suppose this is technically true. But you know which "special interest groups" are being "bailed out?" Your mother (a school teacher.)  Your children. Your grandparents. Anyone with a child in school, anyone who teaches, anyone who relies on government medicaid subsidies for their health care.

Utah Congressional Scorecard:
Sen Orrin Hatch (R) - voted no
Sen Robert Bennett (R) - voted no
Rep Rob Bishop (R) - voted no
Rep Jason Chaffetz (R) - voted no
Rep Jim Matheson (D) - voted yes

The Republican position on this legislation is completely indefensible. There is no responsible moral reason to vote against retaining teacher's jobs by fairly taxing companies who choose to stimulate foreign economies over our own. None whatsoever. The only reason for voting no is a political one - Republicans don't want Democrats to "score a victory" in an election year. Our representatives in congress are playing a despicable political game with our teachers' jobs and your children's education. Period.

I'm disgusted and you should be too.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A little population data

Accurate gay population statistics are difficult to come by.  In his 1948 study, Alfred Kinsey estimated that around 10% of the male population is gay.  Other more recent studies have put the number between 2 and 5%. In 2006, The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy estimated that there were about 8.8 million gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals in the United States.

Gary J. Gates, a Senior Research Fellow at The Williams Institute said, "That's the single question that I'm asked the most. The answer is unfortunately not simple. I'll respond with a question. What do you mean when you use the word 'gay'? If you mean people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual in a survey, then the answer is that it's likely not one in ten, but closer to one in twenty. A recent government survey found that 4 percent of adults aged 18-45 identified as 'homosexual' or 'bisexual.' A similar proportion of voters identify as GLB. If you define gay as having same-sex attractions or behaviors, you do get higher proportions that are a bit closer to the one in ten figure."  (link)

According to the LDS Church's website, there are currently 6,058,907 church members in the United States.  The most recent (2009) estimates from the US Census Bureau put the population of the United States at 307,006,550.  That means in the United States, Mormons account for a little under 2% of the population.  1.97%, to be exact-ish.

It's probably reasonable to use the Williams Institute's 2006 estimates.  So assuming that every one of the 6,058,907 LDS Church members is active in the church, the gays in 2006 outnumber the Mormons today by about 2,741,903.  Or in other terms, if you take the church population today and add 45%, you have the number of gays in the US in 2006.  For every 15 Momos there are 22 Homos...and that's not even considering the potential overlap!  If the 4% statistic holds true, there are nearly 250,000 gay Mormons.

I'm not sure what point I'm trying to make with this information, but with all the recent bitching about the court overturning the "will of the majority" it might be nice for our LDS brothers and sisters to remember that they're a much smaller minority than the gays. 

More thoughts on religious freedom and Prop 8

Okay, these may not be more thoughts...if you follow my blog with any regularity, they're probably just regurgitated thoughts you've already read.

Yesterday, Judge Vaughn Walker declared California's Proposition 8 unconstitutional - meaning that according to his ruling, the 2008 California State constitutional amendment defining marriage as "between one man and one woman" is a violation of the US Constitution.  Of course, this sets up an appeal that'll likely make its way to the US Supreme Court.

Upon reflection I have to wonder what all the fuss is about.  I know why the gays and their fair-minded supporters are all riled up, I mean what's all the fuss from the opponents of same-sex marriage?  Don't they realize that only somewhere between 2 and 5% of the population actually identifies as gay.  Kinsey said as much as 10%, but more recent studies put the number of actual honest-to-goodness homos at 2 to 5%.  Assuming that even half of them decide to get married, that's only 1 to 2.5% of the population that will get married.  It's a teeny, tiny percentage of the marriages that would be performed in the US that people would object to.  Completely statistically insignificant...unless you're gay.  As for disapproval, I'm guessing there's more disapproval from all the over-protective mothers who don't want their dear (straight) child marrying "that awful man/woman who is all wrong for you."  Maybe the "protect marriage" people should band together with the over-protective mothers of the nation to deal with the "all wrong for you" marriage issue.  I'm guessing the numbers suggest it's a much bigger problem.

The big argument against same-sex marriage is a fractured religious one.  If you get on the anti-equality websites, you'll see a litany of reasons, most laughably debunked in Judge Walker's ruling...which is an excellent read.  The "scientific" arguments are easily refuted.  Once all the dust clears, the only argument that remains is "Gay marriage is wrong because God says so."  And that's an argument that doesn't hold up in a country that values freedom of religion.  Just because you believe god says something that doesn't give you the right to impose that on other religious people who believe god disagrees.  Look at religion's track record of imposing dogma on other people.  Many of the bloodiest events in mankind's history have been in the name of religion.  But I digress.

Back to the subject at hand, the way I see it, in this country marriage is as much a civil (state) institution as it is a religious one.  If marriage is a state-sanctioned civil institution, then the government has no business discriminating against any pair of committed consenting adults.  If marriage is a religious institution (the whole reason the LDS Church claims it has authority to get involved) then state sanction of one religious practice over another is a violation of the principle of separation of church and state.  Yeah, some people argue that "separation of church and state" isn't in the constitution and that religion shouldn't be forbidden from getting involved in politics...that the principle of that separation is that the government shouldn't interfere with religious practice.  But that's a totally separate issue.  The problem here isn't one of governmental involvement in religion, it's one of religious influence on the state.  Once you start codifying your religious principles, your religion starts to become the "state" religion.  A country that favors one religious expression at the expense of another is a country where freedom of religion doesn't exist.  I value my freedom of speech and religious expression so much that I must allow you that same freedom.  Likewise, the minute you start curtailing my religious expression, yours is in jeopardy.  And if organization should be concerned about the potential ramifications of the establishment of state religion, it's the LDS Church.

Here's a thought: Joseph Smith advocated the teaching of "correct principles" and then allowing people to "govern themselves."  The LDS Church, in its 11th Article of Faith "Claim[s] the privilege of worshiping...according to the dictates of [its] own conscience," but then extends that privilege to people of other faiths (or lack thereof): "let them worship how, where, or what they may."  Tobacco is legal yet the LDS Church calls it a sin.  Alcohol, gambling, sabbath breaking, extramarital sex...all of these are legal and the LDS Church calls them a sin.  How do parents and church leaders deal with legal sin?  They teach.  Teach their version of "correct principles."  As long as this country is one that values religious liberty and is free of established state religion, the LDS Church can teach that booze and cigarettes and Sunday shopping are sins, while the people who subscribe to faiths that believe differently can smoke all the way from the church to the restaurant where their church group is having mimosas with their post-service Sunday brunch.  No law is required here.  And the LDS Church doesn't have to change their doctrine to facilitate legal expression of the dictates of another person's own conscience.

The same should be true of same-sex marriage.  Just like the LDS Church isn't required to perform "traditional" marriages in its temples for people the church deems "unworthy," as long as religious liberty exists in this country the LDS Church will never be curtailed from this form of worship "according to the dictates of [its] own conscience."  LDS Bishops, like Catholic Priests and clergy of all faiths, are currently able refuse to marry couples they're uncomfortable marrying.  How will this change when consenting adults, regardless of their sexual orientation, are free to marry according to the dictates of their own conscience?  It won't change at all.

So here's the scoop: Unless you're gay, gay marriage is no big friggin' deal!  In other words, to 95% or more of the population it shouldn't be a big deal.  You don't like smoking so you don't smoke. Don't like gay marriage?  Don't get gay married.  Teach your children to be homophobes and pray with all your hearts out that none of them turn out to be gay.  (Suicide is rampant among gay teens from intolerant homes and one in three homeless teens is gay.)  So worship how you will, teach your children how you want, marry as you please...but allow everyone that same privilege.  The big friggin' deal here isn't your definition of's your religious freedom.  There are a lot of well-meaning Christians out there who are pretty intolerant of Mormons, and the minute we set a precedent for codifying one religious practice in favor of another, guess who they're coming for next.