Marriage Equality, Beyond the Lying

From upper left: Rick Warren, Dick Cheney, Chief Justice Ronald George, and Mary Ann Glendon.

From upper left: Rick Warren, Dick Cheney, Chief Justice Ronald George, and Mary Ann Glendon.

My first essay for the L.A. Progressive was about Proposition 8 and the lies that self proclaimed Christian activists were telling in order to promote their bigotry. It seems almost ridiculous to catalog the number of violations of the Commandment against bearing false witness that these “Christians” embraced in order to sell their ballot measure.

Today, only a little after the California Supreme Court’s decision on the marriage equality cases was announced, I received an email from another Family Law attorney. He proudly stated that he had received his “advanced theological degree” before he decided to go to law school. And then he proceeded to criticize me for referring to Proposition 8 as religious bigotry. This attorney is proud of his Christianity and proud of his support of Proposition 8. Then he went on to tell me that the campaign to keep marriage equality out of California has decided to claim that Proposition 8 was never about religious belief, and that the corporate churches were not its main proponents.

His email reminded me of Rick Warren, the for-profit televangelist who raked in millions preaching anti gay hatred last year, and then spoke at the Presidential inauguration. After his inaugural appearance, Warren went on national TV to denounce anyone who claimed that he had spread anti gay bigotry. He claimed that he had never spoken against gay marriage or in favor of Proposition 8. Warren simply lied.

His self importance was so delusional that he forgot that not everyone hung on each word he uttered, never remembering what he had committed to videotape only days or weeks before. When video of him preaching hate immediately surfaced, he had no shame. He just used the episode to beg for more funds to “defend” himself against those who would tell the truth. And he put a couple more million in his pocket.

It is not only Rick Warren and the emailing attorney who lie about their religion to promote their political goals. Less than three weeks ago, Harvard professor Mary Ann Glendon refused an award from Notre Dame because it meant sharing a stage with President Obama. Professor Glendon claimed that she had to be loyal to the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion rights and that her faith and duty to the church made her stay away.

But professor Glendon had been a zealous advocate for, and partisan of the Bush / Cheney oil wars. She was blunt in rejecting the Catholic Church’s condemnation of our invasion of sovereign nations. She took the position that the Pope and the church were wrong when they condemned torture and the indefinite imprisonment of people against whom no evidence existed. And she was a loyal supporter of Bush’s belief that the death penalty is always good, even against the mentally ill and the innocent, despite the Catholic Church’s clear condemnation.

Because she is a private citizen rather than a public servant, we will never know how many millions Glendon made investing in war profiteering corporations while she rejected church teaching on the death penalty, torture, foreign invasions, and other issues. What we do know is that her refusal to share a stage with Obama was modeled by Cheney’s refusal to stand in the new president’s presence on inauguration day. And that her willingness to lie about her position and her reasons is part of the model given to us by Rick Warren and my email correspondent.

This penchant for lying, with apparent enthusiasm, gives us some guidance about how to proceed in any campaign to advance marriage equality. First, we must understand that these for-profit religionists lie because they know that they will not make as much money and will not be as successful at the polls if they tell the truth. They know and understand that the truth is on the side of marriage equality.

Reread that please. The truth is on the side of marriage equality. NOT, the truth is on our side. The us-versus-them mentality is their argument. If we adopt it, we weaken our own characters.

This is like no fault divorce. Many people opposed it. But others said it would be better for husbands and wives than the old system of private eyes, sneaking around and poking cameras through bedroom windows. And it did help husbands and wives. But children were even greater beneficiaries, as the level and character of the warfare between their parents changed.

A generation after the old fault system of divorce was eradicated, children and young adults today are so free of the damage done by fault-based divorce that they can’t even imagine the bad old days. Similarly, many young women today speak in ways that show they have no idea what life was like before the women’s liberation movement. They are better off not knowing.

So it is, and will be, with marriage equality. The lies and fear mongering of the people who profit from such things will not long withstand the truth. Sure, they will have their transitory triumphs, as with Colin Powell’s lies to the United Nation and Rick Warren’s lies about preaching bigotry. But the truth will out. We know now that there were no WMDs to justify the no-bid contracts and the colonial wars. We know now that Jesus never condemned either gay marriage or abortion, no matter how many billions televangelists have made lying about either issue. And we know that children being born in California today will grow up reading about the religious effort to preserve bigotry, and they will not understand what the books are talking about. They will be better off not know the sting of that discrimination.

Do we help this process by lying about the opponents of marriage equality or about judges who apply the law as they honestly see it? It is said, and I believe it without having hard evidence, that at least one of Chief Justice Ronald George’s sons is gay. Yet today, he wrote the opinion that will prevent that son from marrying the man he loves. Do you believe he did that out of spite for his son? Out of lack of caring? Out of devotion to some extremist, pro-discrimination ideology?

I don’t. I do believe that lies catch up with people. I believe the lies of the Bush – Cheney administration are part of the cause of their party’s recent disintegration. I believe Cheney’s current campaign of repeating lies that have been so clearly discredited is one of the most effective devices today against any serious conservative discussion getting traction.

I also believe that we do not want to lay the ground for such a legacy in the progressive community, or the gay rights community, or any other community attempting to address and correct social problems. It will be wrong morally, and damaging practically, to promote marriage equality by lying about its opponents.

That is not to say that it is wrong to question the logic of bigots’ arguments. If a black minister stands in front of the TV cameras denying the genetic science of sexual preference, it is proper to ask him if his religion also aligns him with the 19th and 20th century southern preachers who denied the biological science of negro equality with caucasians.


It is important that we not let the forces of for-profit bigotry and lying set the tone or the terms of the debate. Shorn of the trappings of office, Cheney seems a pathetic billionaire, terrified that he will be indicted before his pacemaker quits. Sitting on her Harvard chair, professor Glendon looks pathetic protesting that her views can’t survive the scrutiny of an honest academic debate or even the sunny glare of a graduation podium.

The inevitability of marriage equality will be achieved sooner if we focus on pointing out how pathetic the fear mongers are and how hollow their lies, than if we join them in lying as we attempt to advance our cause.

Tom Hall


  1. Bob says

    Good grief. You are all over the map throwing grenades at the Prop 8 supporters, while conveniently not looking at all to the bad behavior of those who were against Prop 8.

    This is a social experiment, and a poorly-thought-out-one at that. Society needs gay marriage the way a fish needs a bicycle.

    Civil unions are fine, but redefining marriage simply because it’s possible? Why not redefine a triangle as a four-sided figure? Because it might not make sense? Bingo! Marrying two people of the same gender? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Just because you can plug newer words into a sentence or a definition you think that it’s something that make sense. Sadly, it’s disconnected from reality.

    Sadly, it seems that you are just as much about hate as those to whom you ascribe it: if I disagree with you, then I’m anti-gay and a hater and who knows what else? Did you become God over the weekend? I hadn’t heard.

  2. MyLeftMind says


    Do you really not understand why “many gay activists reject strong gay unions laws and insist on only a right of gay marriage?” Well, gee, maybe it’s because civil unions don’t confer ANY federal marriage benefits. That means if I register in a civil union in a state like New Jersey or Oregon, I have a substandard domestic contract. If I receive health insurance for my family, I have to pay federal taxes on the cost of the insurance. Married couples get it free.

    If I add my partner to the deed of our home, she (therefore, we) have to pay federal taxes on the equity in our house. If I was straight and married to a man, and we put his name on the deed, the IRS wouldn’t make us pay a dime in taxes. If I die, we have the same problem – my partner has to pay taxes on the estate I leave her. My retirement package is worth about half a million dollars if live a long time. But if I die, I can only give my partner and our children a lump sum as beneficiaries, which they have to pay taxes on, again. That means my kids, who happen to be heterosexual, will only receive about $40-50,000 instead of the $500,000 they’d get if I were married to a man.

    BTW, marital benefits are designed to protect people who have taken legal responsibility for their partners and children. I have taken that legal responsibility. I have to pay for health care for my kids even if they’re not my birth children. I can be sued if they run someone over when they start driving. I can be sued for child support and alimony if my partner and I break up. Yet you don’t think I should have the rights that go along with those responsibilities?

    Marshall says, “If the term marriage is used outside of it’s [sic] original religious intent, then government is diluting a religious act.” Well then I guess atheists shouldn’t be allowed to get married either. And divorce should still be illegal because after all, the Bible clearly states that your marriage is supposed to last your whole life. What about miscegenation, marriage between different races? The Bible was actually quoted by the Virginia judge to justify his ruling against Mildred and Richard Loving that upheld Virginia’s anti-miscegeny laws. Clearly marriage has not always been the “one man, one woman” image that today’s religious bigots profess to uphold. For most of history, marriage was very different from today’s marital arrangements. The Bible even endorses killing those who have sex outside of marriage. Should we go back to the more “traditional” religious marriage that disallowed divorce, allowed bigamy and prevented mixed race unions?

    To those who don’t support gay marriage and think LGBT couples should settle for unequal rights and partial benefits from civil unions, I say your religious bigotry should have NOTHING to do with civil marriage in this great country. Separation of church and state means churches should have absolutely no say in my civil rights. If you don’t like gay marriage, then start calling your marriage a “religious marriage.” Because marriage in this country is a much larger institution than just some theoretically God-ordained union between religious people.

    I’ve been a working taxpayer for over forty years. I’ve served in the U.S. military. I’ve been a parent for fifteen years. I’ve earned the right to marital benefits, and I won’t EVER stop fighting for equal rights for my family and my kids.

  3. Tom says


    Thank you for helping the readers see that hypocricy and lying are still part of the conservative positioning on marriage equality.

    While you say that the Bible makes “marriage” a union between one man and one woman, any of our readers who actually read the Bible can see that most of the Biblical patriarchs actually had multiple wives, and that monogamous marriage was the minority position.

    While you say that gay rights activits have opposed civil union laws around the nation, the record, both in the press and in the fund raising appeals of churches and other hate mongering businesses, show that it has been systematic campaigns by Republican forces which have driven the opposition to civil union laws.

    You say that you consider “marriage” a religious issue, not a political one. The logical thing would be to return to the system the Puritans had in place in the colonies – CIVIL marriages, not supervised by the church, OR get the state out of the marriage business altogether and leave it to the churches. Either system would preserve separation of church and state.

    But that would cost all the religious people their marriage tax deductions. So I don’t expect to see you or other right wing zealots jumping to lobby for the policies you pretend to espouse.

    Of course, you and I both know that you are fabricating the concept of “the original religious intent” for the word marriage. But you do that to fabricate evidence that you are “not anti-gay”. Of course you are anti-gay. When you need to lie about the Bible, lie about the history of civil union laws, and lie about who your friends are, you are showing everyone that there is deeper, hidden (embarrasing?) reason for your positions that you do not support marriage equality.


  4. Marshall says

    One wonders why many gay activists reject strong gay unions laws and insist on only a right of gay marriage? Many who are against gay marriages would support gay unions that offered the same legal benefits as long as it did not use the word marriage. In the mind of Christians, marriage, as stated in the Bible, is a religious union made between a man and a woman before God and the church. It is no wonder that believers in the Bible perceive gay marriage laws as the state violating the theories of separation of church and state. States have the right to afford gay unions to non-heterosexual couples but not to give homosexuals the right to commandeer the religious term marriage.

    I am far from anti gay, A gay organist played the music at my wedding. I have had dinner at a gay club. I have a child who has a same sex partner and while they are of the same sex, they are not of the same ethnicity, which causes additional problems in the current social order. Both of them feel as I do, that marriage is a “religious term”. This couple and their parents agree that strong civil unions, a secular joining outside the church is needed to provide equal rights. Civil unions should have the same legal privileges as marriages but not the same name. I also contacted a gay cousin for an opinion and got the same answers.

    My family supports marriage as a religious term that declares that one man and one woman are joined as one before God and the church membership. If the term marriage is used outside of it’s original religious intent, then government is diluting a religious act.

    All of my family members feel that some gays want the term “marriage” so much that they do not pursue the much more attainable solution of social unions performed under state law and outside of the church. Such a union could quickly be available in all states where as “gay marriage” is going to take a lot longer in many places.

    My family has other minority groups such as Quakers. An observation of both of these minorities is neither group would survive as a population of a country. A country composed of only gays could not repopulate itself and a country composed of only Quakers could not defend itself. My family agrees that a country could not survive composed of either of these two groups but as minorities they are fine. Quakers have equal rights, they do not serve in the military. So if the gays really want equal civil rights, I am willing to vote for that, but not marriage.
    Who is going to press the case for legal civil unions, we need them?

  5. Teresa Willis says

    Brilliant, Tom. I’m sure a meaty comment adding to the discussion is preferred here, but I have nothing but kudos. I very much appreciate your perspective. I actually find comfort in it. You have a calm, confident view of the bigger picture that I feel is a benefit to all your readers, even if they don’t agree. Thanks very much.

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