11.20.08

Anti-marriage-equality piece reflects values

Posted in Gay rights, Married life, Politics at 11:26 am by ducky

I found an anti-marriage-equality piece (via Andrew Sullivan) that was very interesting to me because of how it reflected its values.

I saw a striking example of what Jonathan Haight has found about differences in morality between liberals and conservatives. Haight found that conservatives are more likely to value “moral purity”, which basically says “if it feels icky to me, then it must be morally wrong”.

In his essay, Rod Dreher quotes University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter:

“The momentum is toward experience and emotions and feelings. People are saying, ‘I feel, therefore I am.’ This is how more and more people are deciding what is real and right and true.”

Dreher complains that liberals don’t value that:

You can see this in the remarkable unwillingness of many gay-marriage defenders to grant their opponents any moral standing. To disagree with them is to reveal yourself to be a “bigot” (I heard a married, straight young Republican in Texas use that word to describe those who voted for Prop 8; he was far from the only one). Bigots are by definition people whose prejudices are irrational. Bigots are moral cretins who can’t be talked to, only coerced. One is under no obligation to compromise with a bigot, only to smash him.

I think he’s absolutely right.  Liberals cannot understand the value that “if it feels icky, it must be wrong” (especially if “it” doesn’t feel icky to the liberals).  Furthermore, there is no arguing with such a “moral purity” value.  Joe Liberal cannot reason their way to making Joe Conservative feel less icky; Joe Liberal sees it as non-rational irrational because it is not rational by definition.  It is emotional.

Dreher also laments the loss of the “meaning of marriage”:

Though no consensus on gay marriage now exists, the trend lines are not in traditionalists’ favor, in large part because our culture has lost its understanding of what marriage is for. That is, marriage no longer has a settled meaning beyond a nominalist one: it is a contract formalizing the positive emotions two people (for now) have for one another, and binding them in a legal and social framework.

I, a liberal, read that, and go, “yes, that is exactly what civil marriage is”.  (I even have an old blog posting titled “Civil marriage is a contract“!)

Dreher doesn’t explain what the “meaning of marraige” is, but Andrew Sullivan (who perhaps is more familiar with Dreher’s corpus) says:

Rod longs, as many do, for a return to the days when civil marriage brought with it a whole bundle of collectively-shared, unchallenged, teleological, and largely Judeo-Christian, attributes. Civil marriage once reflected a great deal of cultural and religious assumptions: that women’s role was in the household, deferring to men; that marriage was about procreation, which could not be contracepted; that marriage was always and everywhere for life; that marriage was a central way of celebrating the primacy of male heterosexuality, in which women were deferent, non-heterosexuals rendered invisible and unmentionable, and thus the vexing questions of sexual identity and orientation banished to the catch-all category of sin and otherness, rather than universal human nature.

This is exactly what I was getting at in this post and in the first paragraph of this postMarriage equality is not a threat to traditional marriage.  It is a threat to traditional gender roles.

10.30.08

Californians: please vote NO on Prop 8

Posted in Gay rights, Married life, Politics at 9:37 am by ducky

Californians:

Please vote NO on Proposition 8 on Tuesday.  It is a bad law that would hurt people.  People I care about.

The backers of Prop 8 like to say that they are trying to “protect traditional marriage”.  That’s a dogwhistle.  What the Prop 8 supporters are really saying is that marriage equality is a threat to traditional gender roles, as I discussed before.

My heterosexual marriage is stronger because of exposure to a particular loving, committed gay couple, Rich and Chris.  They were my housemates and landlords for four years total.  I first lived with them  immediately after they bought their house together — which for gay couples at the time was the event that was about as close to marriage as you could get.  They had some rocky spots, would have arguments and stomp around the house mad for a few days, but they would work through it.  They would negotiate in good faith and strive for win-win resolutions.  They grew to understandings, made adjustments, and released preconceived notions. This was not always smooth, especially in the first year, but they ended up with a truly harmonious relationship, in a house full of laughter and love.

Their good example not only gave me courage to get married, it showed me how to get through my own transition.  When my husband and I fought, I remembered both their example of “fighting fair” and that there was a huge eventual reward for working through the arguments.

It was grossly unfair that this couple, my role models, were unable to get married when we did, despite being together for 11 years already.  It was a wondrous thing when they finally were able to get married this summer.  It would be a grotesque miscarriage of justice if their marriage were rent asunder by Proposition 8.

If you can, please give money to the campaign — NOW.  Our opponents have raised a huge amount of money, it’s been a scramble to try to match them, and the last possible media buy is happening tomorrow (31 October 2008) at noon.

And please please please remember to go to the polls and remember to vote NO.  Leave the law the way it is, leave equality in place, leave Rich and Chris’ marriage intact.

10.22.08

I'm against UBC joining the NCAA

Posted in Canadian life, Married life, University life at 3:31 pm by ducky

UBC is considering joining the NCAA’s Division II.

As someone who has attended as many US universities as Sarah Palin, let me say that I feel that joining the NCAA Division II would be dangerous. I can’t say that it would be unequivocally a bad idea, but it is likely to be a bad idea. (If it were Division I, I would have no reservations in saying that it would be a bad idea.)

At Division I universities, “revenue sports” — i.e. ones that people hope can bring in more money directly or indirectly (football, basketball, and sometimes baseball) — corrupt in many obvious and non-obvious ways. It might be that Division II doesn’t have revenue sports, so maybe it wouldn’t have the same problems that revenue sports bring.

While revenue sports do not always result in all of these things, these things tend to happen:

  • Weakening of admissions standards. While academic standards for athletes have gotten slightly stricter, they are still pretty weak. While there are many athletes who are fine scholars, there are also numerous cases where admissions and grading standards have been bent into pretzels to accommodate star athletes in revenue sports.
    • I saw this hurt minority students, especially those of African descent. People I respected admitted that when they saw a black face on campus, they assumed that it was an athlete, and hence less academically qualified. (Note that these were not people who harboured animosity towards blacks. They were upset at their own reaction.)
  • Bad behaviour excused. Universities tend to have their own police department. (UBC has sort of a hybrid.) Those departments get pressured to not press charges against star athletes. There is a history of really frightful behaviour on the part of athletes in revenue sports being overlooked.
  • Abuse of the athletes. Star athletes in revenue sports get surrounded by sycophants and encouraged to engage in extremely hazardous behaviours either explicitly or implicitly — playing while hurt, taking performance-enhancing drugs, etc. Almost none of them will get pro careers. The fraction is so close to zero that it is stupid… and they get completely ignored the minute their college career is over. (Go see Hoop Dreams to understand the mechanism.)
  • Overbuilding. Bear with me. When a revenue sport does really well, alumni donations go up. In particular, really rich alumni start to give big hunks of money to construct buildings. (I grew up in the hometown of the University of Illinois. For about fifteen years, the team was crummy, and there were essentially no buildings built on campus. In my fourth year, the football team did extremely well. In the next ten years, the building square footage doubled.) Nobody ever gives huge chunks of money to the maintenance fund, so what happens is that the maintenance and salary gets stretched. Tuition tends to go up as well.
  • Tribalism. Revenue sports can create a highly competitive “us-against-them” mentality that is bad news for anyone who ends up on the “them” side. This is very un-Canadian.
    • Ten years after I graduated, I was put on a work project with a University of Michigan alum (the University of Illinios’ main athletic rival at the time). Much to my surprise and dismay, I had a very strong, visceral, irrational dislike of him because he was from Michigan. (I got over it; he was totally wonderful to work with.)
    • Murray Sperber, a Canadian-born professor at the University of Indiana, received death threats because he dared to voice the opinion that the basketball coach’s was so bad that he should be fired.
    • My fourth year at the University of Illinois, the backup quarterback threw three interceptions in an important game. A friend who lived near him said that for weeks, cars would drive slowly past his house. This seems threatening and uncalled for to me.
  • Expensive tickets. If a team is consistently successful, the tickets become desirable, so the price goes up. Students cannot compete with alumni: they just don’t have as much money. The university might set aside a block of cheap tickets for the students, but at least at the University of Illinois, they were crummy seats.

One argument people make in favor of joining Division II is that it might help keep the top Canadian athletes from going to the US. I say let them go. The percentage of athletes at a university is very small; the number of “top athletes” will be even smaller. I do not thinkk it is appropriate to change the culture of a university on the hopes of attracting five people per year? Five people who are good at something other than the university’s core mission? I would much rather that UBC work on attracting the top scholars instead of the top athletes.

I believe that revenue sports are a dangerous, corrupting, un-Canadian institution.

05.18.08

Advice for same-sex couples getting married in California

Posted in Gay rights, Married life at 3:35 pm by ducky

To my gay and lesbian friends, I am absolutely thrilled that you are going to be able to get married starting on June 16th!

I wrote some wedding advice for (straight) couples a few years back, and I’d like to give some specific advice to gay and lesbian couples who want to get married in the next few months.

  • Read Lorem Ipsum and/or the EQCA FAQ about the topic. Those are good, but there are a few things they leave out and a few points that I think are incorrect.
  • Consider carefully if you want to get married. I’m a big fan of marriage, but you need to be sure it is right for you. In addition to getting to throw a big party, you become (among other things) responsible for your spouse’s maintenance and their debts.
  • Get married between June 16 and November 4, 2008. There is going to be an initiative in November that will shut down same-sex marriages if it passes, but I hear from reputable sources that even if it passes, your June 16-November 4 marriage will be valid. I am not a lawyer, but I believe it is hard to pass retroactive laws, and the way that the amendment is worded doesn’t do the right magic to make it retroactive. Of course, Our Opposition could always file suit saying that it was retroactive, and they would lose, but that would be a big pain so let’s just defeat the amendment, okay?
  • Ask your wedding guests to give money to the anti-amendment campaign in lieu of gifts. (Or to NCLR, or to Lambda, or to the ACLU.) Remind people that there is a real risk that the next generation won’t be able to celebrate their love and comittment in the same way if the amendment passes.
  • Give money yourself to the campaign, NCLR, Lambda, or the ACLU.
  • Book your venue early. I expect that there will be an enormous demand for venues from June 16-Nov 4! (If you are straight, consider waiting until November 8 to avoid the crowds!)
  • Make plans for your officiant early. Clergy and Commissioners of Marriage might be heavily booked.
    • You can have a friend officiate via the Deputy-Commissioner-of-Marriage-for-a-Day program. Different counties have different rules, fees, and lead times for that program. (Some counties do not participate.) The EQCA FAQ says that there is a 60 day lead time, but I question whether that is true for all counties (or even for San Francisco — the San Francisco site says “You should come no sooner than 60 days from the date of the ceremony” which I interpret to mean as “Your deputization is only valid for sixty days”). When my uncle-in-law got deputized by the County of Santa Clara, he didn’t have to appear in person, he didn’t have to do a training class, but he did have to swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Check with the county that will issue the deputization. NOTE: it is not clear if yYou can get your marriage license in one county and the deputization in another. The wedding does not have to be in the same county that issued the Deputization or marriage license.
    • Note that you do not have to be married or straight to become a Deputy Commissioner of Marriage, so you can officiate at your friends’ weddings. Bonus!
    • You and your friends can get ordinated as clergy very quickly over the Internet. It took me less than fifteen minutes through the Universal Life Church. I am not a lawyer, but it sure looked rock-solid legal to me. However, weddings also are about social validation, and using quickie-clergy does sound kind of shady to some people. (Note: I didn’t feel so bad once I looked at what roles were traditionally allowed to officiate, and figuring out what they all had in common. I decided that the common feature was that they had proved that they were able to fill in paperwork correctly, and responsible enough to mail it in.) I would thus encourage you to do Deputy-for-a-Day instead of Internet ordination.
  • You might consider getting married at a County Building and/or doing a joint wedding with some good friends who also will (finally) be getting married. While you are free to do that, as a married person, I would recommend against that unless you’ve already done the big ceremony and party thing. There are (at least) two important functions of weddings above and beyond informing the state that they now have to recognize your relationship:
    • You make it clear to the people who are important to you that this person is special and that they have to treat your spouse as special.
    • The families and friends get to meet each other. While that might not be so important if you’ve been together for a zillion years already, it might be. I was really surprised at how much getting married connected our two families together. (Bad news: you now have to go visit your in-laws at Christmas. You can’t just send your spouse any more.)
  • If you get married at a county building (e.g. with one of their marriage commissioners), then (I think) you can get a marriage certificate right away. Otherwise, you have to ask for it. While my husband and I didn’t get asked for one until we moved to Canada (with different last names), it might be more important for you than for a straight couple.
  • There are lots of traditions associated with weddings. Some don’t really make sense in a same-sex wedding; some don’t even make sense in today’s hetero weddings. Remember, however, that it’s those strange traditions that make no logical sense that bind you most to your community. Why do you do X at a Foo wedding? Because you are Fooian. Doing X tells your guests (and your spouse) that you value being (or being married to) a Fooian, and that you honour the Fooian traditions.
  • There is a huge enormous wedding industry that is designed to extract dollars from your wallets. Remember that it is your wedding and you don’t “have” to do anything. If you don’t want flowers, party favors for the guests, a videographer, or a professional photographer, you don’t have to.
    • Everybody has a camera nowadays, and the cameras take good pictures. We asked our guests to take pictures and send them to us, and it worked extraordinarily well. Hubby and I also sat for a professional photographer in our wedding clothes the day before, and we were really happy with that as well.
    • We didn’t have a gorgeous six-tier wedding cake, and you know what? We were still married at the end of the day. Also, the (flat) carrot cake and the cupcakes tasted wonderful.
    • Unsolicited recommendation: at our wedding ten years ago, Continental Catering in Menlo Park did a fantastic job. A bit on the spendy side, but well worth it. (It was so good that most people didn’t notice that it was all vegetarian.) That was ten years ago, but hopefully their quality would still be good.

Note that there are lots of references to county buildings, county this, county that, but you remember people getting married at San Francisco City Hall. Marriage stuff is administered through counties in California. San Francisco is the only jurisdiction that is both a city and a county. (I think that means it is the only jurisdiction where a mayor could have decided to issue marriage licenses. Thank you, Gavin Newsom!)

05.15.08

California Supreme Court: words matter

Posted in Gay rights, Married life at 2:04 pm by ducky

Today, something that I worked on for five years came to a successful completion today. No, not my thesis: the California Supreme Court ruled that marriage discrimination against same-sex couples was unconstitutional.

In 30 days (when the law takes effect), California will join the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Spain, and Massachusetts in allowing same-sex couples to get married civilly.

I skimmed the court decision, and it all came down to words. They were very clear that California’s domestic partnership granted essentially all the same rights and responsibilities as California civil marriage. They were deciding

whether our state Constitution prohibits the state from establishing a statutory scheme in which both opposite-sex and same-sex couples are granted the right to enter into an officially recognized family relationship that affords all of the significant legal rights and obligations traditionally associated under state law with the institution of marriage, but under which the union of an opposite-sex couple is officially designated a “marriage” whereas the union of a same-sex couple is officially designated a “domestic partnership.

In other words, does the word matter? And if it does, is it okay to grant the word “marriage” to one group and not to another?

They determined that this was a question of the equal-protection-under-the-law clause, and as such, subjected it to a legal examination called “strict scrutiny”:

in order to demonstrate the constitutional validity of a challenged statutory classification the state must establish (1) that the state interest intended to be served by the differential treatment not only is a constitutionally legitimate interest, but is a compelling state interest, and (2) that the differential treatment not only is reasonably related to but is necessary to serve that compelling state interest.

They decided that the state didn’t have a compelling interest in perpetuating the differing language.

They also pretty comprehensively showed that the different language matters. One example they mentioned is that it is common to be asked “Are you single or married?” To respond truthfully, “I’m in a domestic partnership”, requires disclosing one’s sexual orientation in a situation where they might not want to.

Accordingly, we conclude that to the extent the current California statutory provisions limit marriage to opposite-sex couples, these statutes are unconstitutional.

WoohoooOOOO!!

I was sure that this would happen in my lifetime, but thought it would take longer.

03.22.08

Snowboarding

Posted in Canadian life, Married life, Random thoughts at 9:26 am by ducky

My beloved husband has been wanting to try snowboarding for a while. When I realized late on Thursday that Good Friday was a statutory holiday, we made very quick plans to go to Grouse Mountain, a local ski area. Jim and I talked by phone briefly, and later in the day, when I was in the midst of something, got a message from him, asking me to to confirm that I wanted him to go ahead and buy tickets etc. Sure, sure, go ahead.

Um. I didn’t read the email carefully. He asked if he should buy snowboard rental and lessons for both of us. And I said yes. Oooooops.

I took one snowboarding lesson seventeen years ago that was a total disaster. I was up at Tahoe for a M-F trip, and took the lesson on Monday. I was so sore that I couldn’t ski on Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or Thursday. Friday, I gave up and came home.

I was thus quite nervous about another lesson, especially since I am seventeen years older now. However, the instructor was better, and I am seventeen years wiser. I didn’t try to push it, and took frequent rest breaks. The snow was also nice and soft yesterday — there had been about 11 cm of new snow in the past 24 hours, and so I fell into nice fluffy stuff and not onto ice. (A ski patrol guy we sat next to at lunch told us that he was not allowed to ever say that the snow conditions were “icy”. He was required to say that the snow was “hard”.)

Looking at the lesson from a distance, you wouldn’t think it would be so strenuous. After all, I would simply slide down a little hill, sit down, rest, take off my board, stand up, walk up the hill, sit down, rest, put on my board, stand up, repeat. So it would be sort of like walking up a hill carrying a relatively light board, sitting down and resting every five minutes.  Not so hard, right?

Wellllll…

  • While you are sliding down, you have to have your knees bent and springy. This takes some exertion.
  • There are two ways to go down: facing down the hill and facing up the hill. In both cases, you have to lean into the uphill edge. I found going down while facing up the hill enormously physically strenuous for my feet. I found pulling my toes up (to dig in my heels) much easier than pushing them down. I could pull up my toes by pulling up my whole foot. It didn’t seem to be adequate to push my foot (e.g. the balls of my feet) down with my calf; it seemed I also needed to push with my toes e.g. tense the muscles in my arch. I happen to have a very very narrow foot with a very high arch, so it felt like I didn’t have a lot of muscle mass in my arch to point my toes down. It was actually painful to go down the hill pushing with my toes. I suspect that I was doing something wrong.
  • Standing up on the board from a sitting position when facing down the mountain, is really difficult, and takes quite an exertion of strength. Your feet and board are way in front of your center of gravity. You have to get your center of gravity above the board — while still keeping pressure on the uphill edge of the board. What I learned to do was to grab the downhill edge with my right hand and pulling while pushing myself up with my left hand. Jim’s physical geometry and flexibility are such that he was not able to grab the downhill edge of the board like I could.
  • While standing up, if you let the pressure off of the back edge of the board, the board will start to slide. Having the board slide while you are shifting weight is a really easy way to cause you to immediately re-enter a sitting position. Thus, the number of standing-ups  probably averaged four or five per trip down.

Note: It is much easier to stand up if you are facing uphill with your board downhill from you because you can get your center of gravity several feet off the ground just by kneeling. However, then you are facing up the mountain, which is difficult. Once I learn how to do turns reliably (shifting from looking uphill to looking downhill), my life will be much better.

Jim wants to do three or four more snowboarding lessons. Ulp. I guess the exercise will be good for me.

04.15.07

Longevity and marriage

Posted in Married life at 9:18 pm by ducky

I came across this article about longevity and marriage.  I’ve seen reports of studies that have shown that being married is good for your health — that married people live longer.

The reports apparently found that single people were five times more likely to die between 1989 and 1997 than married people.  However, the article says (basically) that this increase is (almost?) completely due to the rates of never-married men between the ages of 15 and 44 having a 10x chance of dying from infectious diseases in that time period (between 1989 and 1997).  Gosh, do you suppose that AIDS might have had something to do with never-married young men?

So while I like being married, I guess I’m going to have to stop telling my husband that he should stay with me for his health.  🙁

02.15.07

Family mission statement

Posted in Family, Married life at 11:34 am by ducky

Before nephew Yeshe came to live with us for year, my husband and I talked a bit about getting his buy-in on how the family should run. Being Silicon Valley corporate geeks, we wrote a mission statement for our family:

Family is a happy place where everyone works together to help each other achieve their goals.

Yeshe came and went, but the mission statement lives on. I really like it, and am really glad we sat down and wrote it out.

10.27.06

Six-word story

Posted in Art, Married life at 10:02 pm by ducky

Six-word stories? Here is mine:

I met Lennart’s loser friend. Wow!

(It is a highly personal story.)

10.08.06

physical fitness

Posted in Married life at 7:43 pm by ducky

Hmmm, I never remembered to post this. Pretend that it was dated in March of this year.

Given that my beloved husband’s favorite father died of a heart attach at 58, I would feel more comfortable if he lost a bit of weight. Thus when we were deciding where to live at UBC, I lobbied for a dorm near the nude beach. I thought that nublie naked beauties luring him up and down the 367 stairs three times per day might improve his longevity and hence my chances for companionship into a ripe old age.

Unfortunately, the prospect of nublie naked beauties didn’t appeal enough to him to influence his decision, so we went to the farther dorm. While I like the dorm we chose, I was a bit disappointed that he wouldn’t be going up and down 367 steps three times per day.

Well, my husband did take up jogging. He runs about three times a week, frequently with a subset of the 25 year-old women at our dorm.

Earlier this week, when it was a bit below freezing, nobody else showed up at 7:30 to run with him, so he decided to take a slightly different run.

When he returned, he announced that a morning at 7:30 AM, in March, when the temperature was below freezing, was not actually the best time to go up and down the 367 steps in order to catch a glimpse of beautiful naked college students.

Imagine.

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