Gallagher on Power and Politics this weekend

Luke Margolis, Art Gallagher and Jay Lassiter on the News12 set

Luke Margolis, Art Gallagher and Jay Lassiter on the News12 set

Your favorite blogger appears on News12’s Power and Politics with Luke Margolis this weekend opposite the indefatigable Democratic activist Jay Lassiter.

Our topic was Congressman Chris Smith’s commitment to human rights and his controversial comments regarding LGBT rights vs human rights last month.

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Posted: February 13th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Art Gallagher, Chris Christie, Gay Marriage, Gender Equality, Human Rights, Human Trafficking, Humanity, marriage, Marriage Equality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gallagher on Power and Politics this weekend

People In Love May Be Having Better Sex

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Posted: August 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: marriage, Monmouth County, News, sex | Tags: , , | Comments Off on People In Love May Be Having Better Sex

My fellow Republicans: Abortion takes an innocent life – same sex marriage does not

By Alan Steinberg

I am a pro-life person and opposed to abortion, except in order to save the life of the mother. Many times, my beliefs on social and moral issues are based on Orthodox Judaism, my religion, Orthodox Judaism is somewhat complex on the abortion issue, although far more pro-life than pro-choice. My pro-life views, however, are based upon my own study of the science of the issue. I believe that a fetus is life, and since I venerate life, I oppose abortion, except to save the life of the mother.

By the way, there have been over the years a multitude of statements, including from that great Torah sage, Gloria Allred, claiming that on the abortion issue, Judaism is pro-choice. While my political and moral beliefs on abortion are not based upon the Torah and the tenets of Orthodox Judaism, they are not inconsistent with them either. If somebody wants to read a short, concise summary of Orthodox Judaism and the abortion issue, I recommend the following page from the Aish HaTorah website:

http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/48954946.html

My views on the same sex marriage issue are another matter.

Orthodox Judaism is vehemently anti-homosexuality. Yet I read something recently on the Chabad Lubavitch website which really hit home with me: “Torah law expressly forbids the specific act of male homosexuality. And we do know this: Torah law forbids bigotry; homophobia is prohibited.”

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Posted: February 18th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Abortion, Alan Steinberg, Gay Marriage, marriage, Marriage Equality, Same Sex Marriage | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Why do you need a license to get married?

During the ongoing debate about same sex marriage, in New Jersey and throughout the country, there have been those who have called for government to get out of the marriage business all together.

In New Jersey it is a crime to solemnize a marriage without a license.  Anyone who presides over a marriage ceremony for a couple who does not have a license is subject to a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.

Government did not always control marriage, according to Stephanie Coontz, an author who teaches history and and family studies and Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA.

In a November, 2007 OpEd piece published in the New York Times, Taking Marriage Private, Coontz said that for most of Western history, the government was not involved in marriage.  Rather than an ‘institution,” marriage was a private contract between families.  If parents approved on a marriage, it was valid.  Church or State had nothing to do with it.

For 16 centuries the Catholic Church deemed a couple to be married if they said they were.  Not until 1215 did the Church deem that a marriage ceremony had to take place in a church in order for a union to be “licit.”  Yet couples married illicitly had the same rights and obligations as those who went to the chapel.

Government didn’t get involved until the 16th century in Europe.  Coontz says the European laws were, in part, to protect parental control of marriages.

The American colonies required that marriages be registered, but in the mid-19th century state supreme courts ruled that public cohabitation was evidence of a valid marriage.  (Who knew that people cohabited publicly back then?)

In the late 19th century the United States began to nullify common-law marriages and control who could be married.

Marriage, and the laws governing it continued to evolve during the 20th century.  Interracial marriages were prohibited for whites, then they were allowed again.

As the entitlement culture emerged, marriage licenses became a determining factor in the distribution of benefits, inheritance, and health care.   Coontz said this made sense in the 1950’s because almost all adults were married.

But that is no longer the case.  When Coontz wrote her OpEd piece in 2007, she said that half of all adults ages 25-29 were unmarried and 40% of American children were born to unmarried parents.  Last week, The New York Times reported that as of 2009, 53% of births to American women under 30 were out of wedlock.

As out of wedlock births have become more common the stigma of “illegitimacy” has faded.  That’s one reason sited as a cause of the surge in births outside of marriage.  Another major reason sited by the mothers The Times interviewed is the government “safety net.”

The Times reporters Jason DeParle and Sabrina Tavernise spoke to dozens of people in Lorain, Ohio, a blue-collar town west of Cleveland where the decline of the married two-parent family has been especially steep, with 63 percent of births to women under 30 occurring outside of marriage. The young parents of Lorain saidtheir reliance on the government safety net encouraged them to stay single and that they didn’t trust their youthful peers to be reliable partners. Many said they would like to be married — just not right now, and not to each other.

It seems pretty clear that government regulating marriage hasn’t worked.  It also seems pretty clear that government entitlement programs have taken a massive toll on both the institution of marriage and the institution of family.

Posted: February 21st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Gay Marriage, Gender Equality, marriage, Same Sex Marriage | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments »

Have Civil Unions Worked?

Perhaps Not. Perhaps So. 

That is not the question the Assembly should be considering when deciding the fate of the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act

The heart of the argument for same sex marriage advocates is that civil unions have not worked in establishing the rights and benefits that married couples enjoy to same sex committed couples, as the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered.

The anecdotal evidence that the gay community has provided to “prove” that civil unions don’t work has been compelling enough to cause some state legislators to change their position on same sex marriage since the issue was voted on in the Senate in 2006.   Senator Shirley Turner voted YES for the marriage equality bill yesterday.  She told Politickernj,

“I was wrestling with this,” said Turner, who was the 24th”aye” vote. “I felt we could accomplish it with civil unions but from what I have been hearing from gays and lesbians, they have been telling me it was not working. They were not being treated as equals, and I don’t want anyone being treated unequally.”

Assemblyman Peter Barnes, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is a Catholic who was previously opposed to same sex marriage.  On February 2 he voted with his committee, 5-2, to move the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act to the full Assembly. 

Barnes said it was the job of legislators to “tackle the difficult issues, whether we agree or disagree,” and his Catholic faith had put him at odds with this issue.  Barnes told Politickernj,

“As a Catholic, as  I really struggled with this over the past (few) years,” he said. “Tradition has not always been good, and it has not always been fair. Tradition can’t control our vote.”

“I will absolutely be voting for this out of committee today, and I am absolutely leaning in favor of voting for this on the floor,” Barnes said. “The civil union is not working…I don’t think reasonable minds can even disagree on that.”

“The civil union is not working….I don’t think reasonable minds can even disagree on that.”

A reasoning mind, which is very different from a reasonable would want more than heart wrenching stories and anecdotes from advocates before concluding that “the civil union is not working.”

One could easily make a reasonable argument that the civil union has worked.  There were 5,790 civil unions registered from 2007 through 2011 and less than 20 civil rights complaints.  If judged only by those statistics, a reasonable mind would conclude that civil unions have worked extraordinarily well. 

But that is a reasonable conclusion, not a reasoning conclusion.

Patrick Murray, the Monmouth University pollster, blogged:

The New Jersey Supreme Court declared that the state must provide and protect identical legal rights for civilly joined same sex couples as it does for married heterosexual couples. Same sex marriage advocates argue this hasn’t happened in practice under the state’s civil union law.  They have provided witnesses who give compelling stories of instances when their rights were denied.  Opponents have argued these are isolated instances that can be corrected with improvements to existing law.

The researcher in me says there is a pretty easy way to determine this.  Take a random sample of same sex civil union couples and a matched sample of heterosexual couples married at the same time and survey them.  If the former group has had significantly more problems with health insurance, parental rights, having next of kin rights honored, etc. – then the argument that civil unions don’t meet the Court’s mandate would be strong.  If not, perhaps the incidents are isolated and modifications to the current bill are all that is needed.  This is something that should be examined honestly by our three governmental branches.

Murray’s methodology would bring far more reasoning to the debate than there has been to date.   Such a study would be examined honestly by our three governmental branches, if they were serious about the issue and not playing politics.  If Murray or another pollster could construct a poll that tested the veracity of the respondents while collecting the data, such a study would be very useful.

Yet, such a study would not resolve the issue. 

If the study concluded that civil unions are working, gay marriage advocates would emphasize other arguments, “separate but equal” perhaps, in their fight to have their relationships called marriages.

If the study concluded that civil unions are not working, the reasonable approach, the approach that gay marriage advocates are pushing and reasonable minds are falling for, would be to call the relationships marriages. 

A reasoning approach, assuming the objective is equal rights and benefits, would be to study why civil unions haven’t worked.  Assuming that the relationships will not continue to suffer the inequities conveyed in the anecdotal stories the legislative committees have relied upon as evidence that civil unions are not working is not reasonable or reasoning.  Changing the name of the relationships from civil unions to marriages will not be a panacea.

Civil unions were a completely new distinction in 2007.  Employers, hospitals and others who have “caused” the inequities or inconveniences that same sex couples have suffered did not know what civil unions were.  The forms that triage nurses used to admit patients into hospitals and the human resource personnel used to process employees did not have a box to check that said “civil union.”   There was one heart wrenching story of a New York doctor saying “What the heck is that?” to a partner of a trauma patient explaining his relationship as next of kin.  The doctor didn’t buy or understand that the partner was next of kin to his patient and the patient’s sister had to travel from Delaware to authorize “emergency” treatment.  There will likely be other doctors who say “What the heck?” when a partner says “I’m his husband” when arguing that he is authorized to approve treatment. 

Same sex couples argue that they shouldn’t have to carry official paperwork that explains and proves their relationship anymore than married couples should have to.  All it will take is one multi-million dollar suit involving a partner who lies about martial status to authorize treatment that goes wrong before hospitals require all couples, gay or straight, to produce there relationship certificates before treating incapacitated patients.

“Why haven’t civil unions worked?” if they haven’t, is both a reasonable and reasoning question that should be asked if the objective of the Legislature is to ensure that same sex couples have equal rights.   

There has been no effective method to ensure that civil unions work. 

Garden State Equality, the gay advocacy group leading the way to same sex marriage has not wanted civil unions to work.  They encourage their members to report discrimination to on their website.  They don’t encourage civil rights complaints to the authorities.   That explains why there is so much anecdotal evidence that civil unions don’t work and so few complaints.

Steve Goldstein, CEO of Garden State Equality, was Vice Chairman of the Civil Union Review Commission that concluded in 2008, one year after the civil union law became effective, that civil unions don’t work.  Goldstein’s participation on the commission was clearly a conflict, especially in light of his work to ensure that civil unions not work by using stories of discrimination to advance his same sex marriage agenda and by encouraging his members to report discrimination to Garden State Equality rather than the Division of Civil Rights.

The question for legislators in the Assembly considering the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act should not be “Have civil unions worked?”   Despite the reasonable evidence that they have worked—so few complaints with the Civil Right Division—there will be much work to do to ensure the civil rights of same sex couples even if their relationships are called marriages.

The question before members of the Assembly should be “What is marriage?”

Posted: February 14th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: marriage, Marriage Equality and Religious Exemptions Act | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Why the push for same sex marriage now?

In a widely published OpEd piece, Rob Eichmann, the GOP State Committeeman from Gloucester County, questioned why the the State Legislature’s Democratic leadership has made gay marriage their top priority of the year.

Assembly Minority Conference Leader Dave Rible says the Democrats putting the issue on the front burner is a “slap in the face to the guy on the unemployment line.”

Both men have a point. 

Garden State Equality, the gay rights organization behind the push for same sex marriage, boasts of 86,000 members on its website.   That makes them, they say, the largest civil rights organization in the state.

That 86,000 number is questionable. 

Steve Goldstein, Chair and CEO of the GSE, told MMM that they consider any person who takes two affirmative actions for equality to be a member.  How they track that, he wouldn’t say.   I’m pretty sure they consider me a member.  Goldstein was aware that I signed up for their email list this week.  I told him that I noticed that shortly after I signed up that the the number changed from 85,000 to 86,000.  “I promise you, Art, we’re not counting you as 1,000 members.”

Goldstein finally acknowledged, sort of, that the membership claim is based upon a combination of their email list of 70,000 plus the 17,200 facebook friends they have, less a fudge factor to eliminate overlaps. Given that there is a facebook plug in on the GSE page, the fudge factor should probably be more than 1,200.

Even if GSE’s membership numbers were accurate, they would be representing less that 1% of New Jersey’s population.

The number of same sex couples who have committed to each other in the form of civil unions is a more reliable indicator of just how big this “civil rights” problem is.

According to Daniel Emmer, spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, 5,790 couples have been joined in civil unions since 2007 when the legislation designating the unions become effective.  That’s 11,580 people, statewide, that this issue impacts directly, if we generously assume that none of those unions have been dissolved by divorce.  Do they call it divorce?

One might conclude that Goldstein’s political skills are remarkable.  He has managed to make his small, be it 11,580 or 86,000 people, constituency’s concern the top priority of our state government during a time when our economy is anemic, municipal governments are making significant changes to balance their budgets and our urban schools are not educating their students.  Unemployment and foreclosures are not our top priority. Another generation of minority students are not getting educated, and Steve Goldstein has managed to make same sex marriage the most important issue of the State Legislature.

Or has he?

Goldstein has been played by the Democrats before.  Jon Corzine, while he was governor got Goldstein to agree to back off the same sex marriage issue during the 2008 presidential election cycle and the 2009 gubernatiorial election cycle.  Corzine made passionate speeches before gay audiences about how important their rights were.  He was blowing smoke.

Are the Democratic leaders of the legislature playing Goldstein again?   I think they are.   

The Democrats and their special interest donors want nothing to do with Governor Christie’s agenda for this year.  They want to raise taxes, not lower them.  They don’t want to reform education.  They don’t want to reform the civil service system so that municipalities can lower their costs and taxes.

The Democrats don’t want Christie to be an effective spokesman for Mitt Romney, especially if Romney wins the GOP presidential nomination.

That’s what this is about for the Democratic leadership. Avoiding Christie’s agenda and changing the public conversation.  It’s not about civil rights and benefits for Goldstein’s small constituency.

Whether or not it’s really about civil rights for Goldstein and GSE is another question which will be the subject of a future post.

Posted: January 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Marriage Equality | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 78 Comments »

Political Conservatism and Religious Conservatism

By Art Gallagher

A couple of weeks back, in between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, presidential contender Rick Santorum was subject to claims that he wanted to outlaw birth control.

During an interview with FoxNews’s Brett Baier, Santorum explained that as a Catholic he believed that birth control is wrong, but that he would not support his religious belief regarding birth control becoming law.  With regard to birth control, Santorum is able to be both a political conservative and a religious conservative.  The position is politically conservative, consistent with the U.S. Constitution, religious freedom and personal liberty.  His choice to strictly follow the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church regarding sex and procreation is religiously conservative.

Political conservatism and religious conservatism are not the same thing. 

Actually, neither of them are “things.”  They are abstractions.  Philosophical constructs. Values.  They are not things.

Political conservatism and religious conservatism are not the same distinction.  Santorum demonstrated in his interview with Baier that, in the matter of birth control, he is both politically conservative and religiously conservative.

In a follow up Baier asked about marriage.  Regarding marriage, Santorum’s religious conservatism trumps his political conservatism, it seems to me.  The former Pennsylvania senator is able to think, to distinguish, between his political conservatism and religious conservatism, with regard to birth control, but homosexuality is too much of a sin for Santorum to distinguish between his religious convictions and the law of the land.

Why that is doesn’t really make sense to me. 

The Catholic Church teaches that practicing birth control is a mortal sin.  If a faithful heterosexual married couple bumps uglies with a barrier, physical or surgical, or with the use of a chemical, that prevents conception, they are going to hell if they die before they get to confession.  If they bump the uglies in the wrong holes, like homosexuals do, and die before confessing, off to Lucifer they go for eternity.   That’s OK with the politically conservative Santorum and many, many others.

If a faithful same sex couple bumps uglies in the wrong holes and die before going to confession, they are also going to hell, according to Catholic teaching.  But while their queer souls are here on earth, in the United States of America, Santorum and many other religious conservatives want them to have different political rights and responsibilities than the heterosexual couple.

I don’t get how that is politically conservative.   Why is same sex marriage different than birth control in the minds of Santorum and so many “conservatives?”

Can someone explain that to me?

Posted: January 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: 2012 Presidential Politics, Marriage Equality, Same Sex Marriage | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 57 Comments »