30 June 2005

Spain and Canada legalize Gay 'Marriage'

In what almost seems like a coordinated attack, both Spain and Canada have given the final legal push in overhauling their respective countries’ marriage laws. Canada’s House of Commons approved Bill C-38 on June 28, a decision that is still subject to approval by the Canadian Senate. And though the Senate is widely expected to confirm the bill, making gay marriage in Canada a virtual certainty, Spain by-passed the Canadians in a surprisingly easy vote a day later. Since Spain’s parliamentary vote is not subject to further political scrutiny, gay marriage became a reality as soon as the official vote was recorded. The Spanish law comes into effect on the day the parliamentary bulletin is published, by the beginning of next week.

These are troubling developments. We must be clear about the fact that gay people should not have the right to marry. The very word “marriage” means “life-long, monogamous union of one man and one woman.” No two men or two women can enter into such a union since they are lacking some of the prerequisites. The state has legitimate reasons to support the institution of marriage with special financial and social privileges, since only such relationships can produce and protect the foundation of society: the traditional family.

Such statements are not mere homophobia, though gay rights activists do not tire of accusing conservatives of it. In their eyes, gay people can only be loved if they are supported in all that they do. That is a ridiculous notion. The secular state should not have any laws that disadvantages private citizens—be they gay or straight—in what I would call “neutral situations.” These neutral situations include legal and financial affairs related to private property and medical next-of-kin rights. Even coercive legislation—such as the anti-sodomy laws struck down by the Supreme Court last year —has no legitimate basis in law or any Christian doctrine of the state.

Legislating morality can only go so far and should always be written in terms of general rights and common sense. The current attacks on traditional morality does not come from individual sexual or non-sexual practices by gay people, but rather from infiltrations and intimidation by organized groups of gays of public institutes, such as public schools, political parties and the court system. In this way, what in Christian terms are private sins and aberrances become public dangers. It is, therefore, on that level that politicians should engage the threat, by legislating common sense morality to protect those who are vulnerable, e.g. by keeping gay rights activism out of schools and setting general decency standards. After all, gay groups charge that they are unfairly singled out for discrimination, an allegation that would be bolstered by special anti-gay laws, such as anti-sodomy laws.

In the same way, the state does not have a duty to codify special rights for gays in non-neutral situations. Christians should have the right under secular law and do have the duty under God’s Law to tell gays that we disapprove of their lifestyle and that we believe it is harmful to them and those around them, without showing disrespect to individual gays. Since gay people, as a result of their confusion over their own sexual identity, cannot pattern healthy sexual identities to children, it should be clear that they should not be allowed to adopt children.

But that is exactly the kind of right now awarded in Spain and Canada. The Netherlands restricted adoption rights for gay couples from abroad, fearing that international adoption agencies would blacklist the country and so deprive also heterosexual couples of adoption from abroad. However, Spain has no such restrictions. It will be interesting to see whether gay rights activists in the Netherlands will now also push for lifting of the restrictions there.

One final note on the Spanish and Canadian votes is that both countries approved gay ‘marriage’ with rather large opposition. The Canadians voted 158 against 133, while the Spanish vote was 187 to 147. Both votes indicate that conservatives in both countries—including a strong Roman Catholic opposition in Spain—have enough clout to remain hopeful, unlike the Netherlands, where opposition to gay ‘marriage’ is minimal. Let us take lessons from these examples.

13 June 2005

Rounding Up Marijuana Users

The recent Supreme Court decision on the use of medical marijuana was hailed as a great triumph in the war against drugs. Many conservatives have warned about the slippery slope of allowing marijuana in because we will end up with a Ralph Nader program that simply leaves drug use to the individual pothead. The Supreme Court sharply asserted the federal government’s power to prohibit illegal drugs, essentially overruling laws in 11 states that have allowed the medical use of marijuana.

I agree with the New York Times editorial (8 June) that one can only approach this ruling with mixed emotions but I do so for almost completely opposite reasons.

As a born Dutchman and conservative Christian I will be the last to advocate letting marijuana slip by. I have lived in a society where innocent children can walk down the street breathing in the fumes of marijuana smoke that wafts out of coffeeshops and downtown appartments. I have also seen up close what smoking marijuana does to the brain and the body—it’s not pretty. Marijuana is a dangerous and addictive drug and should always remain a controlled substance.

The claims by the opponents of medical marijuana are, however, completely ludicrous. They assert that state laws that allow the use of marijuana as a medication is the same as turning a blind eye to illegal drug dealers and would inevitably lead to the corruption of children and other innocents in society. This is complete nonsense. Also, the idea that there is no scientific evidence for the benefit of marijuana as a medical drug is wrong. The most one can claim is that the jury is still out on the possibility of positive effects of marijuana. British scientists are researching the idea that certain active ingredients in hemp plants could be extracted and prescribed in pill form.

The problem in this debate is that emotions ran so high that reason went out the window. No government should allow marijuana to be scrapped from the list of controlled substances and no-one should smoke marijuana—especially not mixed with regular tobacco, as is the custom among many drug addicts. But under the supervision of a doctor, marijuana may well have positive effects in addition to the negative effects. I believe that there may well be a class of citizens who, as a result of some grave illness, may need the freedom to weigh these positive and negative effects and request marijuana.

Of course, the Supreme Court decision was not about the question whether medical marijuana should be allowed. Instead, it was a dry legal argument about whether Congress had constitutional authority to trump state governments. The case was even restricted to a few specific arguments brought forward by two California plaintiffs. Thus, the decision speaks more about the court’s view of states’ rights and federal authority than about its view of drug laws.

This explains the response of liberal media like the New York Times which hailed the decision as a triumph for strong federal control, but deplored it at the same time because they see the danger of conservative judges abusing that federal control to “turn back the clock” and strip Americans of hard-won civil rights. At the same time, conservative responses are equally deplorable because they unfairly use the decision to claim that it is an important victory in the war against drugs. It is not. It adds no protection against illegal drugs and only disadvantages a number of people who are so ill that cannabis represents the same kind of relief that morphine does for others. Christians should have compassion for them and at least have the decency to give them the benefit of the doubt. Not an inch needs to be sacrificed in the war on drugs to accomplish that.

Bad show, I say.

02 June 2005

The Legacy of “Deep Throat”

Although Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein vowed not to divulge the identity of their inside source in what would become the Watergate scandal until that person had died, the man in question has gone public himself. What is particularly unseemly about the situation is that the man, former FBI deputy director Mark Felt, is in his nineties and has failing health and, apparently, diminished mental capacities. As a result, society’s discussion of his original motives in the Watergate scandal, is taking place while the man in question is not fully able to defend himself, though unfortunately still around to hear other people’s confused accounts.

This week Charles Colson, a former Nixon advisor who pleaded guilty in a case related to the Watergate scandal, issued a statement that there is no justification for any government official to leak classified information. Colson implied that the standards he himself failed to adhere to, for which he has done penance, applied equally to Mr Felt. In other words, if Mr Colson had to admit he broke the law, so should Mr Felt. On the whole, Christian and conservative commentators tend to be negative of Mr Felt’s actions. Many think that instead of the hero many in the liberal media have made him out to be, Mr Felt is nothing but a traitor and a criminal.

I do not agree with this assessment. Naturally, it is true to maintain that laws are there to be upheld and there is no arguing that Mr Felt broke the law when he talked to reporters about matters he was not allowed to share with the media. But at the same time we cannot dismiss the comments by Mr Woodward and Mr Bernstein that, at the time, corruption within the various government agencies was running amok. Mr Colson sternly reproved Mark Felt for not taking the evidence of the president’s wrongdoings to his boss or even to the president himself. Other commentators have suggested that the proper course of action would have led him to a grand jury where charges could have been filed against those involved in Watergate.

But in effect, these routes were not available. Mr Felt’s critics fail to appreciate the fact that he chose to inform the media because he considered the proper channels unsafe and unworkable. The whole reason for Mr Felt’s comparatively minor nudging of Woodward and Bernstein in the right direction was that the Nixon administration was corrupt.

We do not need to beatify Mr Felt. He himself was involved in certain improper FBI actions and was even convicted of authorizing unlawful searches—a crime for which president Reagan pardoned him. It is simplistic to hammer on moral absolutes in a case where there were only shades of evil. Mr Felt realized that the greater evil was the administration’s attempts to keep the matter under wraps. This secrecy was doing harm to the country. In my view, it would have done more harm than any actions by Mr Felt.