“I Finally Feel Like An Equal Citizen”

by Melissa Bailey | November 12, 2008 11:10 AM | | Comments (51)

IMG_0301.jpg(Updated: 12:40 p.m.) New Haven’s Robin and Barbara Levine-Ritterman made history a second time Wednesday during a morning of courtroom procedure, marriage license form-filling, and exuberant, balloon-filled celebration.

The Levine-Rittermans were the first same-sex couple inside New Haven’s Office of Vital Statistics to sign the city’s new, pink marriage license form, around 10 a.m.

License in hand, the Levine-Rittermans plan to hold a marriage ceremony in 2009, possibly in May.

They were greeted Wednesday with cheers, balloons, and flowers on the steps of City Hall.

An hour later, another New Haven couple, Peg Oliveira and Jen Vickery, not only obtained their license, but were formally married outside City Hall amid another round of cheers.

The celebration came immediately after an eight-minute hearing up the street at Superior Court that put the final touches on a Oct 10 State Supreme Court decision granting marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. The Levine-Rittermans were one of eight Connecticut couples who made history by filing that suit and seeking the right to marry.

The decision overturned a lower- court ruling in the case. They filed suit four years ago in the case, called Kerrigan v. Connecticut Department of Public Health.

Wednesday morning, those couples gathered in a fourth-floor courtroom of New Haven Superior Court for a final, victorious hearing. Following instructions from the State Superior Court, Judge Jonathan Silbert signed an order paving the way for municipalities to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

The plaintiffs were represented by the Boston-based legal group GLADD. In brief remarks, Silbert commended the group for “brilliantly” and “fiercely” litigating the case. The judge cautioned the group of expectant couples to withhold their emotion until after court. “This is not in and of itself a ceremony or a celebration,” he said in serious tones.

“Today, Connecticut sends a message of hope and inspiration to lesbian and gay people throughout this country,” declared GLADD attorney Ben Klein.

Attorney General Dick Blumenthal applauded his office for its work defending the case. He pledged to work to enforce and honor the new marriage equality edict: “Like all citizens of Connecticut we respect the rule of law,” he said.

After the judge granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, couples who had fought for four years to see this day got to their feet, embracing and cried. Then, with cameras flashing, they proceeded to City Hall. Some couples held hands. Others carried red roses.

When the Levine-Rittermans got into the city’s Office of Vital Statistics, the marriage forms weren’t ready. They stood in suspense, a horde of cameras watching their every move. Then out they came — hot off the press, stacks of new, pink marriage license application forms. The old forms had two columns, one for “bride” and one for “groom.” The new forms rolled out Wednesday have a more inclusive header in each column: “bride/groom/spouse.”

On the steps outside City Hall, holding a flush bouquet roses, they showed their new marriage license to a cheering crowd.

The Levine-Rittermans, who live in Westville, have been together for 20 years. (Click here to read about their journey.)

In 1992, they held a commitment ceremony that was not recognized by the state. In 2005, the the state legalized civil unions between same-sex couples, a partnership that conveyed many of the rights of marriage. The couple got one, believing it would provide some additional protections for their family, including their 13-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

The arrangement was “separate and unequal,” the couple said. When Barbara had to go to the hospital for breast cancer treatment, a hospital staffer gave her two choices: “single” or “married.” When Barbara replied she was in a civil union, the staffer said “there’s no place for this. I’ll just write ‘single.’”

The eight couples argued — and the state Supreme Court justices agreed, in a 4-3 decision — that civil union was separate but not equal to marriage.

Wednesday, Barbara said she finally felt equal under the law.

“Four years ago I wasn’t sure whether we could really get this,” said Robin. “I am just thrilled, and thank you from the bottom of our heart.”

“For me, what’s so exciting is to finally feel like an equal citizen,” Barbara said, as the two took turns fielding questions from a throng of reporters.

“I don’t think that our gaining our civil rights in any way takes away [anyone else’s] civil rights,” Robin added.

As supporters blew bubbles into the air, Corinne Blackmer passed out flowers to the eight couples and their hard-working attorneys.

IMG_0288.jpg“I can’t stop crying,” said Blackmer. She and her fiancĂ©, Pilar Stewart, are planning a 300-plus person wedding in coming months at their synagogue, Beth El Keser Israel (BEKI) on Harrison Street. The two women, ages 53 and 41, are planning to be married in the synagogue under Connecticut law.

Blackmer hails from California, where activists who are struggling to rescue gay marriage after an election day setback.

“Thank God I live in Connecticut!” she said.

Tale Of 2 States

Connecticut’s citizens affirmed the march to same-sex marriage on the same day that California voters took a step back.

California voters elected last week to repeal gay marriage rights. Connecticut voters beat back Ballot Question #1, which called for convening a constitutional convention. While Connecticut’s ballot question was not exclusively about gay marriage, the question’s most visible proponents and opponents mobilized around that issue. They saw a convention as a first step towards overturning the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision: Click here for a back story.

In a surprise upset, the ballot question failed by a margin of 59 to 41 percent, keeping gay marriage rights safe, at least in Connecticut.

Ballinger was one of over 300 people from the gay rights group Love Makes a Family who hit the ground on Election Day to urge a no vote on Question 1. Ballinger is the group’s religious coordinator.

In New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood last Tuesday, he stood during peak hours at the Wilbur Cross High School, when voters lined up for the chance to make history in the presidential election. Poised with stacks of palm cards, he greeted each voter who showed up at the polls.

In making his pitch, Ballinger said he didn’t frame the question as a gay marriage issue, at first.

“I talked about it as unnecessary and risky,” he said. “It would risk some of the current protections that are in the constitution.” If asked to elaborate, he explained how anti-gay marriage advocates wanted to amend the constitution to take gays and lesbians’ newfound rights away.

At Cross High and Celentano School, Ballinger talked to close to 400 voters, he said. Many people didn’t know what the question was about, he said.

The results were overwhelming: 1,276 voters in Ward 10 filled in the “no” oval for Question 1. Only 320 voted “yes.”

Across town in the heart of the city’s black community, New Haven State Rep. Toni Walker convinced a gay marriage opponent to vote no — and even put a lawn sign. Click on the play arrow to watch her make her pitch.

Love Makes A Family was the most visible of 50 groups, including pro-choice advocates and labor unions, that joined a coalition to Vote No. Ballinger worked with the state’s religious community, handing out literature and holding training sessions for people of faith.

His most visible opponents were religious people, too: Funding for the Vote Yes TV ads came from the Knights of Columbus and the Connecticut Catholic Conference. While the marriage issue wasn’t mentioned in the ads, both groups oppose same-sex marriage, and got involved with the ballot question after the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling.

Unlike the referendums across the nation, Connecticut’s ballot question wasn’t a direct referendum on gay marriage. Polling showed that support for a convention was fueled in part by voter alienation — not just a desire to ban gay marriage.

Regardless of what other factors might be in play, “it was certainly a victory for marriage equality,” Ballinger said. “It reflected the statewide support we’ve seen for marriage equality,” he added. A majority of people in the state oppose a ban on gay marriage, according to a Courant poll.

Ballinger himself is getting ready to exert his new rights. He’s been engaged to a man since May, and plans to marry him next May.

“We’re very, very excited,” he said. “We’re looking forward to seeing the results of years of work” that Love Makes a Family has done, he said. “We’ll be able to see in a tangible way, that marriage equality does finally exist in Connecticut.”

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Posted by: Knights | November 11, 2008 10:30 PM

While Question #1 was not approved, I think that eventually people will come to their senses about gay "marriage" as they did in California.

With a public information campaign, we should be able to help people see defining marriage as between a man and a woman, to be in the best interests of all.

Never forget that the General Assembly in 2005 and the governor brought about a civil union law that protects the rights of same sex couples. The Connecticut Supreme Court split decision of 4 justices, usurped the will of the people of Connecticut.

As the extremists take hold of this gay agenda, with lawsuits, undermining religious liberty, and mandating schools to teach gay marriage, the citizens of Connecticut will have another look at this matter.

As California has proven, this is far from over in the State of Connecticut.

Posted by: Javen | November 12, 2008 8:15 AM

I don't know how you define "all", Knights, but I know that as a gay man, defining marriage as between a man and a woman isn't in MY best interest. Maybe your "public information campaign" could change my mind, but I really, really doubt it. Especially after your public misinformation campaign in California, I don't believe much of anything that comes from the Knights of Columbus.

Posted by: robn | November 12, 2008 8:27 AM


California's law was passed becuase out of state Mormnons and Catholics dumped a lot of money into misinformation campaigns (like false TV ads saying that churches would be forced to perform marriages for gays). Prop * won't hold up in the courts becuase it revised, not amended the CA Constitution...only the latter is allowed through ballot initiatives.

BTW...Why do you give a damn anyway if your church will never be forced to marry gay couples?

Posted by: cedarhillresident [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 12, 2008 8:34 AM

Hmmm I just don't think the people of CT are that narrow minded. I worked the polls tues. Gay and straight people worked together to protect this. And community's in New Haven that vote yes where majorly mis-informed. I know many couples that will now have the same right as me. And I for one will fight to protect that with them. Congrate's to all who marry today!!

Posted by: Ned | November 12, 2008 8:40 AM

Fortunately the same lies that religious fanatics and liars, such as yourself, told in California, regarding Gay people, will not go unchallenged in Connecticut. What part of separation of church and state don't you understand? Why should anyone have to bow down to your Pope, Rabbi, Imam, Guru or Nutcase? Why should minority religions be forced to conform to laws thrust upon them by a tyrannical majority of Jesus freaks? Why should Atheists be forced to live under laws based upon superstitions?

You're probably a closet case, otherwise you wouldn't make a fool of yourself publicly obsessing about Gay sex, Gay romance and Gay nuptials. Do you lay in bed at night thinking about the two guys next door in their wedded bliss? What does your wife think about your peculiar obsession with Gay men?

How about a marriage amendment restoring "traditional" marriage to the time when wives were the property of their husbands?

Maybe you'd be happy with a traditional Islamic marriage?

If two men or two women getting married has any effect whatsoever (other than causing sexual anxiety in sexually insecure/immature adults, such as are found in most churches) on anyone other than the two parties involved, I have yet to see it.

Posted by: student | November 12, 2008 8:56 AM

Yes, in CT, this is far from over. Marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman. Adam and Eve, not Adam and STEVE!!!

This disgusts me that our societies minds and way of thinking is warped. America is in a sad place.

Posted by: Mr. Stephen Peter Ross [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 12, 2008 9:25 AM

"While Question #1 was not approved, I think that eventually people will come to their senses about gay "marriage" as they did in California."

Knights, it's remarkable to me how limp your arguments are. The trend of equanimity for all people will continue despite what happened in California. This is bigger than ballot initiatives, placards, Obamas, or religion; this is what happens when people do come to their senses -- when a society progresses.

If you want to work toward the "best interests of all," drop the Christ for a second and remember that first, you're a human.

Posted by: Mr. Stephen Peter Ross [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 12, 2008 9:39 AM

Curses, I meant equality, not equanimity. Drat!

Posted by: ASL | November 12, 2008 9:54 AM


If only our religious institutions could work as forcefully to fight poverty as they do to fight the culture wars. We might make some real progress in this country! Instead you're on a mission to make yourselves utterly irrelevant at a time when most people don't have the time or the inclination to worry about the fact that two people who love each other might marry each other and raise a family together (God forbid!). In California, 60% of people under the age of 30 rejected Proposition 8. You're fighting a losing (and bigoted and hateful) battle, thank God.

Posted by: @student | November 12, 2008 10:17 AM

@ student -"Marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman. Adam and Eve, not Adam and STEVE!!!" - if the story in the bible to be taken literally, is that mean it's okay to marry your own sister or brother?

ewwww..... lol

Posted by: David Streever | November 12, 2008 10:19 AM

Cedar Hills worked the Ward 10 Polls, and I worked the Ward 9 polls. Between myself & the other person working our table, which had a large sign saying "Vote No On Question 1", we spoke to well over a hundred people, and most of them had no idea what Question 1 was.

This was only so close because so many people were not informed.

if you REALLY thought the people of CT were against gay marriage, you would have run REAL ads that said, "We have to stop gay marriage! Vote Yes on Question 1!"

Your choice to obfuscate the issue ("We need to restore democracy!") with your ads makes it clear that you do know how CT would vote on a "ban gay marriage" act: we'd vote no. Especially if you try to make us spend 10 million dollars to do so. I think it's shocking & disgusting that some of the good people of Connecticut think we need to shoulder a 10 million dollar burden so that their perverted & unhealthy obsession with gay marriage can be public.

At a time when the City needs a tent city on the green to ensure beds for the homeless, I think the Knights of Columbus could be doing a lot more for their community, & I question your commitment to your christian values.

Posted by: Knights | November 12, 2008 11:02 AM

There was a balance that was achieved by the State of Connecticut in 2005. Civil Unions are protected under the law.

You know there have been some great liberals who came to power only to show quickly their own brand of tyranny.

Is it such a better world and country as we continue to drive faith from the public square? The break down of the family, the lack of chasity and fidelity, are these not the fruit of those who would throw religion and faith out the window? Where is our moral compass?

It is a clever strategy to bait people of faith into polarized debates so that the extreme left can paint all of us as crazy and unreasonable.

Civil Unions protects couples with a same sex attraction. Four people of the Connecticut Supreme Court chose to ignore that. Marriage, between a man and a woman, serves the largest interests of society and the common good.

(I know that I am a minority opinion here, but do not think that is indicative of all in the state. Polls are one thing. The questions asked can very easily skew results. As Ive said before, this issue is far from over in Connecticut.)

Posted by: William Kurtz | November 12, 2008 11:09 AM

Yes, what Stephen P. Ross said.

I think he's exactly right in that history has shown a clear trend towards expanded freedoms, rights, and definitions. It wasn't that all that long ago that women and racial minorities weren't included in the definition of 'men' (as in 'all men are created equal'), so I'm not sure the 'tradition' argument holds much water.

With respect to the religious views of Knights, Student, and the other anonymous posters, this same trend is coming to the word 'marriage' as well.

I would actually like one of the people opposed to same-sex marriage to explain precisely how allowing gay people to marry damages, weakens, cheapens, erodes, or others degrades the institution of marriage, give that there is no call to force the clergy of any faith to perform gay marriages.

Why doesn't the government get out of the marriage business altogether? Let's have civil unions for any two consenting adults who want them, since in essence that's what the secular part of marriage is anyway--a legal contract. Churches can marry or not marry whomever they want. This would satisfy the need for church-state separation, the concerns of people of faith, and the demand for equality.

Posted by: Drop the Hammer | November 12, 2008 11:29 AM

I've been married for 5 years, trust me, it's a same sex marriage!
Ba dum dum!

That's a Robin Williams joke.

Congrats Ladies, Welcome to the club. It's about time!

Posted by: Cheri | November 12, 2008 11:38 AM


Move. Really. Live somwhere else.

Posted by: student | November 12, 2008 11:53 AM


know your Bible before you try and quote untruth's. So for that cause, i will not go back and forth with you on this issue. First of all, the Bible is not made up of STORIES like you put it. The bible is to be taken literally and things that were talked about in the Bible have taken place already. Before you try and make a rebuttal, please watch what you say, because there is one who sits High and looks low(at you) and the comments that everyone is saying and he is the real Judge! Be careful

Posted by: Ned | November 12, 2008 12:31 PM

"It is a clever strategy to bait people of faith into polarized debates so that the extreme left can paint all of us as crazy and unreasonable." "People of faith", apparently a euphemism for crazy and unreasonable - have been involved in polarized debates about the differences in their superstitions since the first hucksters, i.e. priests, first convinced people that God needs money and the church is his bank...

Posted by: cookie | November 12, 2008 12:54 PM

would you give up on the "adam and eve not adam and steve" reference. lame.

Posted by: robn | November 12, 2008 12:57 PM


If you want to take the Bible literally thats OK with me....just keep in mind that if you've ever masturbated, you'll need to immediately cut off your hand if you haven't done so already. (Matthew 5:30)

Posted by: jawbone | November 12, 2008 12:58 PM

Peg Oliveira is a great person AND one hell of a yoga teacher. Its hard for me to imagine whats going on in the minds of those that would keep a person like Peg from marrying the person whom she presumably loves.
Score one for Connecticut, my fine and righteous fellow citizens!

Posted by: David Streever | November 12, 2008 1:18 PM


why be so misleading?

Traditional marriages are what have broken marriage. It's heterosexuals who have been filing for divorce, cheating, and violating the tenets of their faith & their commitment.|

At least give homosexuals the same chance that heterosexuals have had.

Besides, Marriage is SO gay. Why get all crazy?

Posted by: Donna | November 12, 2008 1:35 PM

The break down of the family, the lack of chasity and fidelity, are these not the fruit of those who would throw religion and faith out the window?

Knights, if it is religion that safeguards those things, will you please explain to us why divorce rates are significantly higher in the Bible Belt than here in the apparently godless Northeast?


Posted by: Intheshorts | November 12, 2008 3:07 PM

Question 1 failed because it was framed as anti-gay marriage by those afraid of an election on the issue, and it seems, afraid of an election on many issues. It was not about being anti-gay but rather, about direct democracy to function as a check and balance on a political system run amok. Was the intention of the Knights to use this new found voice to change the gay marriage outcome? Sure, but that wasn't why many of us supported it. It's a shame it got positoned that way, and a greater shame CA added fuel to the fire.

Posted by: nfjanette [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 12, 2008 3:17 PM

"You're fighting a losing (and bigoted and hateful) battle, thank God."

From what I've read so far, the hateful comments are coming from the left wing - as is so often the case in the comments of NHI. I'm not a supporter of "KNIGHT", nor did I support gay marriage (supported civil unions for all, supported marriage as a religious decision within each group) and in no case did I find it necessary to denigrate those who held different views. Let's tone it down a bit, people.

Posted by: Daniel Casey | November 12, 2008 4:22 PM

Congrats to all the couple who finally were allowed to make legal the reality of their love for each other!

As someone who just recently got married myself, I wish all them all the best and all the joy they deserve.

Also, as a hetero who has never had to think twice about the legal aspect of getting married to the person I love, I will continue to stand alongside those in the GLBT community to defend their civil rights and make it a reality for all.

Posted by: Red Roses | November 12, 2008 6:40 PM


I am not vested in this, but I fail to see how "this issue is far from over in Connecticut." There will be no constitutional convention in this state for at least another 20 years. There are no ballot initiatives in Connecticut. The democrats have a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature. Connecticut has been trending progressive for some time now and the reverse is not foreseeable. What's left? Even a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, however unlikely that seems, would not affect the ability of the individual states to provide greater rights or otherwise define marriage differently (for everything but federal tax purposes). Knights, I think its time for you to come to terms with this.

Posted by: joshua | November 12, 2008 7:02 PM

some day the whole nation will come around and support equal rights for everyone. until then, we'll just have to be proud to be in connecticut.


Posted by: cedarhillresident [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 12, 2008 7:51 PM

I am posting a link to this video that totally sums things up. David Streever shared it and after watching it I felt everyone needs to watch it from both sides of this issue! (if you haven't seen it already)

Posted by: WOW | November 12, 2008 9:14 PM

wake up people, when you vaccumm your floors you stick the male end of the cord into the female outlet into the wall. thats how it works, anything else your just real good friends ROOMATES.

Posted by: Corinne Blackmer | November 12, 2008 9:22 PM


Might I share with you "etlikhe verter oyf mame loshn"--a few words in the Mother Tongue (Yiddish)?
Aren't you the charming fellows who used to run around medieval Europe spreading Christian "civilization?"
See what a scare quotation can do?
Have you considered giving your busy tongues a well-deserved "civilized" vacation?
A long pause for study and reflection?
Are you familiar with another charming biblical fellow named Lamech?
Have you considered how you might resemble him, or are such considerations outside your "system" of biblical interpretation.
There is a Yiddish saying: "You should grow like an onion, with your head in the ground."
But let me conclude with the words of Judge Judy:
Even YOU don't believe the lies you are telling."

Posted by: David Streever | November 13, 2008 12:07 AM

are you kidding?

someone came in accusing homosexuals of ruining his family & his value system


I don't think that anyone broke into his home & told him what he can and can't do

meanwhile he's advocating for a system of inequality & opression

Again, are you kidding?

Posted by: Bruce | November 13, 2008 9:05 AM

"Marriage, between a man and a woman, serves the largest interests of society and the common good."

Knights, this is really the heart of the issue. How does it serve the common good? Why would preventing two people who love each other from getting married serve anybody? It just doesn't make sense. People who aren't comfortable with homosexuality (for religious reasons or otherwise) are trying to impose their own values on someone else. This is inherently wrong. Gay marriage doesn't affect you so why get involved?

Posted by: nfjanette [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 13, 2008 9:55 AM

David Streeter,

I am not kidding: please tone down the hate. There is far too much of it from people who I suspect consider themselves "liberal". As for "KNIGHT", I can see exactly what he wrote, and that's not what you've paraphrased. If you wish to argue, perhaps you might stick to what your opponent actually states. It's easy enough to use quotations in this forum. For, example, "KNIGHT" stated:

Is it such a better world and country as we continue to drive faith from the public square? The break down of the family, the lack of chasity and fidelity, are these not the fruit of those who would throw religion and faith out the window? Where is our moral compass?

You can then offer your response with the proper - and correct - original text.

Again, I don't agree with all of "KNIGHT"s opinions, I'm making the call for rational, respectful discourse and debate.

Posted by: Ned | November 13, 2008 10:36 AM

nfjanette, really you are kidding? If it were Muslims using the democratic process to vote in Sharia law, would you be toning it down or ironing your burka?
If it weren't for hate, religion would be nowhere.

David you forgot to mention that, according to the religious right, "the Gays" were also responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Wow, certainly are busy, threatening children, undermining society, destroying marriage, messing up your hair... Soon they'll be breaking into homes and stealing wedding rings and marriage licenses.
Well god is always pissed about something or other - never happy - maybe because his lovers always want money!

Posted by: William Kurtz | November 13, 2008 10:52 AM


Can I suggest that you look into the research of Marc Hauser, who is a professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard. He has done some experiments which suggest that, rather than deriving a moral compass from religion, we derive religion from a moral compass. In other words, the commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill" doesn't prevent us from killing, but instead our instinctual reluctance to take life leads to constructions like law and commandments. And of course, even those prohibitions are endlessly debated and rarely considered to be absolute.

Regardless--what do we do as a society when moral compasses differ? What happens when your compass points towards restricting the freedoms of others, and mine points towards expanding them? I understand your point about the civil unions, as I've said before, I don't entirely disagree: when civil government stops sanctioning marriages of any kind, civil unions will truly be the ideal solution. In the meantime, however, governments do recognize and in some ways endorse marriages, so it's important to make that freedom available to all.

As of yet, no one here has answered the question of exactly how a same-sex marriage weakens, erodes, cheapens or otherwise harms a solid heterosexual marriage.

Oh, and for a thoughtful (if amusing) look at what happens when one tries to read the Bible literally, Student, check out The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs.

Posted by: Mr. Stephen Peter Ross [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 13, 2008 11:37 AM


I disagree with your call for diplomacy because this is rational discourse. One needn't close read line by line Knight's arguments in order to effectively challenge his position; tacit bigotry is still bigotry, and calling him on it isn't hateful or gratuitous, but merely accurate. To even describe it as "tacit" is generous. [See quotation marks around the word 'marriage' in his posts.]

I don't think this is the time to tone down anything. I don't think it's wrong for passions to be inflamed about this issue -- on either side. I can only speak for myself, but I see supporting gay marriage as one way to better this country (and world); some legacy, some gift from our generation to the next. It's god-damn important. The couples who fought for this simple, small legal right may not be canonized by the Catholic Church any time soon, but millions of US citizens, looking beyond dogma and superstition, see them as courageous, loving human beings who blew a hole through the wall of prejudice. All this just to throw the same party that straights like Steve Ross can.

Knight has a very different idea of what the most humanitarian course is. We both can't be right because this isn't mathematics or empirical science: it's a question or morality at a time where both sides see it as being tested. If it takes perceived obstinacy or subversion or radicalism to achieve it, then so be it.

Posted by: Mr. Stephen Peter Ross [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 13, 2008 11:55 AM

I'd like to further Bill Kurtz's reading list to include Consilience by Edward O. Wilson, itself having much to say on the topic of an 'epigenetic ethics' (as well as human altruism and cultural color identification and other splendid things evolutionary). His brand of sociobiology isn't for eveyone, but he's a lucid writer and endeavors to obviate the tired battles between religion and science, and nature vs. nurture.

Posted by: David Streever | November 13, 2008 12:42 PM

I apologize, it's "Streever".

While Knights may not be saying that, his organization, "Knights of Columbus", certainly is. Have you been ignoring their advertising or their attempt to force all of us to spend 10 million dollars on a convention to ban gay marriage?

I'd encourage you to re-read my words: I may be inaccurate in assuming that the anonymous poster "Knights" is a member of the Knights of Columbus, but even if this is a misunderstanding on my part, I think it's fair to equate an anonymous individual who goes by "Knights" and opposes gay marriage with the "Knights". I don't think it's in any way hateful or overbearing.

I am indignant that a group which supposedly involved in charity work would so clearly damage their mission by forcing an overburdened state to spend 10 million dollars on their personal bigoted mission of denying equal rights to others.

Posted by: Knights | November 13, 2008 2:05 PM

One of my points is that people of the same sex attraction had the law on their side with civil unions. Their legal rights and justice demands that they have protection under the law. No argument here.

Marriage has been always between a man and a woman. Redefining marriage is the point that I (and many others) are not infavor.

Attacks against people of faith, the Catholic Church, and the Knights of Columbus, reveal a rabid reaction to any semblance of a moral norm that would challenge people's subjective ethics.

This polarized debate illustrates both a strategy of the left and a trap of the right, that only serves to marginalize faith from public life in the United States.

Attacking the Knights for voicing its opinion because they should be a charitable organization is ridiculous. (By the way, since when has charity been reduce to give everyone whatever they want when the want it? That is just silly.) Love sometimes demands sacrifices and challenge.

As I said, this matter is far from over.

As the left, with their many many special interests that filled people with fear around Question #1, continue to push their agenda, the absurdity of this will illicite a response from the citizens.

Far from over indeed.

Posted by: jonrodregues | November 13, 2008 3:37 PM

just because you are legal doesn't make you equal. you'll never be like those of us who are true married couples.

Posted by: nfjanette [TypeKey Profile Page] | November 13, 2008 4:58 PM

William Kurtz wrote:

Can I suggest that you look into the research of Marc Hauser, who is a professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard. He has done some experiments which suggest that, rather than deriving a moral compass from religion, we derive religion from a moral compass. In other words, the commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill" doesn't prevent us from killing, but instead our instinctual reluctance to take life leads to constructions like law and commandments. And of course, even those prohibitions are endlessly debated and rarely considered to be absolute.

It should be noted that the commandment as rendered in the original Hebrew is: "lo tirtsach", which is more properly translated as "do not murder". That's a big difference from "do not kill", which might use the Hebrew word "harog" instead, which perhaps undermines some arguments based upon the mistaken translation.

Of course, the entire set of statements called the "Ten Commandments" is actually better translated as the "ten statements" or "ten sayings". In rabbinic tradition, there are 14-15 actual "commandments" read from that text.

Posted by: Corinne Blackmer | November 13, 2008 5:15 PM

Dear Knights,

As I am sitting here attempting to process what is happening, let me share a few home truths, in the hopes (possibly to be once again disappointed) that someone will respond directly.
I am a lesbian, and I am also Jewish, and I attempt, to the best of my capacity, sincerely, to be a good Jew.
Knights, I am hearing you say that marriage has always been between a man and a woman; that marriage is a religious institution; and that, on these accounts, gays and lesbians should be offered a civil union, but not marriage under our civil laws.
There is, in my view, some merit to this argument, but not, I fear, the merit that you would like to ascribe to it.
One of the essential foundations of our democracy has always been the separation of church and state. Indeed, as many thoughtful persons have noted, the separation between church and state is designed not only to protect religious minorities--as well as those who do not profess any particular faith--but also the integrity and the very character of religion itself. It is an article that I had thought to be beyond question that coercion and faith cannot and do not mix.
Therefore, Knight, it seems to me to be beyond question that the state should, in the first place, discontinue the practice of getting involved in marriage itself. Rather, the state should uniformly issue civil unions to both gay and straight couples. At present, the state understands "marriage" as a contract involving issues of property, inheritance, children (if present, and whether biological or adopted), taxation, court testimony, visitation, health insurance, and household income.
Therefore, a consistent position would be to have the state issue civil unions to consenting adults, and leave marriage in the hands of the specific guidelines of various religions.
My religion, which happens to be Conservative Judaism, has much more comprehensive laws (aka, halackhah) surrounding marriage that our civil courts do, and, the present controversy over gay and lesbian marriage could have the wholesome outcome of augmenting the sacred character of marriage itself by leaving it entirely to the determination of various religious bodies.
You happen to be Catholic, and it appears evident that Catholic doctrine prohibits performance of marriage as between two parties of the same sex. I happen to be Conservative Jewish, and we have our own views, too.
In order to avoid further burdening the public by these unhandsome debates, which are sure to founder on several counts, I propose the above solution. This will enable me to peacefully follow the dictates of my faith, while still maintaining the democratic foundations of the separation of church and state.
Thank you for your consideration. I have also visited the website of the Knights of Columbus, and want you to know that I lend my support to your initiatives to create more and happier marriages, and to encourage men to uphold the laws of marriage as you (and, actually, I) see them. I, too, believe in monogamy, fidelity, courtesy, respect, and lifelong care of children, spouses, and in-laws. If you should wish to discover why I am not the enemy of any of the essential principles in which you believe, I can only suggest that you meet me and my family.

Posted by: David Streever | November 13, 2008 6:29 PM


I'm questioning the sincerity of your mission when I view deliberately misleading ads.

The K of C is supporting Question 1 because they wish to ban gay marriage. Why then does your advertising make no mention of this?

Why do you think it's an appropriate step--now--when the state is in the hole to require us to spend 10 million dollars to ban marriage for some individuals?

Do you think this is a good use of our money considering that we don't have beds for the homeless to sleep in?

Is it truly unfair of me to ask you if misleading, deception, & pursuing a known course of action which will result in 10 million dollars of tax payer money being used to support YOUR religion's definition of marriage is out of keeping with your professed faith & traditions?

I belive it is out of touch, & grossly so, & am calling attention to that. I don't believe for one instance I'm being hateful, unfair, or unkind: I think I'm asking a fair question & you're confusing the issue by accusing me of bullying you.

No bullying. This is an honest question. Do you not belive it contradicts the tenents of your faith & stated motives to deceive the people of CT into voting for something that will cost them a previously undisclosed 10 million dollars so that you and yours may overwhelm the legislator with a shadow movement designed to deny equality to individuals?

Posted by: Angelo | November 13, 2008 6:40 PM

I'm sorry, but I find it hard to read/listen to the sanctity of marriage argument and finger pointing from the Catholics, who've covered up sexual abuse of minors, own more property than anyone, and don't pay taxes. The people (taxpayers) have voted

Posted by: Corinne Blackmer | November 13, 2008 11:13 PM

Dear David Streever, Angelo and (once again) Knights,

I have learned a good deal from your comments, and have been pondering the issues raised by this debate.
In reviewing the Proposition 8 campaign in California, one can learn a good deal.
In pouring over 40 million dollars into a drive to exclude gays and lesbians from marriage, and that often resorted to deeply troubling distortions and false witness to do so, neither the Mormon nor the Catholic churches protected their better angels, long term interests, or moral reputation with the public.
On the other hand, the other side, in resorting to abstract appeals to "civil rights" left virtually unchallenged--and untouched--deep feelings about the sanctity of marriage as an institution about the "procreative union of one man and one woman." Personally, I found this failure to delve into and embrace what might be called the moral, and even spiritual, considerations here quite depressing. What is needed is a movement devoted to profound changes of hearts and minds, such as was seen in the abolitionist and civil rights movements.
Without such an approach, I am afraid that portions of the electorate will continue to feel as if gays and lesbians are attempting some kind of aggressive parody or traducing of traditional values and social compacts. But the Mormon and Catholic churches, not to mention various fundamentalist denominations, are in even greater jeopardy, particularly with an electorate that has been delivered into a deep recession by years and years of untrammeled greed, bullying, manipulation, and deregulation.
It is so easy for all of us to descend into fear and self-righteousness. It is harder but, so much better, for us to rise to a collective vision of our common good.

Posted by: Knights | November 13, 2008 11:33 PM

Dear Corrinne,

Thank you for taking the time to write your response. Your solution deserves consideration, as I believe that is reflects a compromise that is the best about what we all must do to live together, respecting one another. Removing marriage from the legal lexicon, and replacing it with civil unions seems to me to be a quite reasonable solution.

Separation of church and state, as you so well state, is about safe guarding the minority from religious oppression as well as a guarantee of the integrity of religion itself. I would further add, that separation of church and state is not prohibiting people of faith from contributing to the public square.

I sincerely appreciate your view point, your desire to be a good Jew, and to be authentic to who you are. I try to do the same, living out my Catholic faith and trying to be authentic to who I am. The art of living together in a pluralistic society requires thoughtful engagement. Thank you.

David S, your rips continue to amaze me. Your sophistry lacks sophistication. The deception has been committed by the special interests that have brought this about. You and the special interests sow this fear of $10 million dollars for a constitutional convention. What about all the time and money to arrive at the point of civil unions? Just thrown out the window by a split decision of the CT Supreme Court in an act of blatant judicial activism. Oh, and what about all the time spent on civil unions that could have been spent on other pressing matters facing the state?

David the charitable mission of the Knights of Columbus remains intact. For over 125 years, the Knights carry on Fr. McGivney's vision. When the establishment refused to give a hoot for the immigrant poor Catholic families, it was the Knights who stepped up to the plate.

Posted by: DAFeder | November 14, 2008 12:13 AM

You know what strengthens my marriage? Seeing people who are willing to fight so hard to win the right to do what I was able to do without lifting more than a finger. Bravo, Robin and Barbara.

And while we're at it, mazal tov to religious denominations who now have the right to marry people according to their own customs. Religious freedom at last.


ps/ was it mere chance that ceremony was held so close to the Amistad memorial? 'Cause slavery is all over the Bible too, kids.

Posted by: william Kurtz | November 14, 2008 10:02 AM


I confess that my example was a simplification of Professor Hauser's work, but in fairness, I'm not writing a doctoral thesis on it. Here's a review of his book, Moral Minds: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/may/12/society1

It's even a little critical. You can find Hauser's response to this review here: http://blog.prospectblogs.com/2007/05/30/writer-reply-1-moral-minds-by-marc-hauser/

There's also an extensive discussion of him in Richard Dawkin's book, The God Delusion, although I'm guessing some of the principals in this debate are going to be unwilling to read that one.

A quick Google search will bring up a lot of information.

I'm not familiar with Hebrew, but your observation about the translation highlights another problem with those who would use Bible verses to create secular public policy; unless one is a speaker of ancient Hebrew or Aramaic and using original texts, the quality of the translation always has to be considered. Even if your faith tells you the Bible is the literal word of God, well, God wasn't speaking in modern English 2,000 years ago.

Posted by: Ned | November 16, 2008 9:34 AM

Who cares what the bible supposedly says? Christians and Catholics have been killing one another (and as many innocent bystanders as possible) for centuries over that trashy work of fiction and they still aren't even close to agreement as to it's "meaning".

Fortunately, the U.S. government is based on the Constitution and those lovely first ten amendments - the Bill of Rights - not some dumb old book about an allegedly dead hippie (is he coming? was he here and left?, when's he coming back? he 'loves' you, but he wants you to suffer - join and S&M club for crissake - and give it a rest!) - boring.

Posted by: DAFeder | November 16, 2008 5:54 PM

Ned, I suspect we agree on gay marriage, but I think you're off-base on the Bible. God is one of mankind's most interesting inventions.


Posted by: Corinne Blackmer | November 17, 2008 12:10 AM

Dear David, D. Streever, Janette, David, Ned, Stephen, William, Cheri, Donna, and Knights,

Good evening! I've been away, first, observing Shabbat--an observance that some parties to this discussion find an indication of my submission to the "G-d Delusion," others a redeeming act in my otherwise morally abject existence as a lesbian, still others as, perhaps, a screen against moral turpitude, and yet others as an integrated aspect of my being.
I thank the last parties in particular. Shabbat Shalom! Today, I made food (kosher) for the upcoming week and, following the suggestions given, read excerpts from the works of Wilson, Marc Hauser, and Dawkins. I loved the work "Living Biblically" so much I am considering assigning it. Over the past week, I've also read several Conservative Rabbinical responsae on the issue of "homosexuality" (I really dislike this word), investigated the charitable work of the Knights of Columbus, and pored over my Torah to see if I could make sense of distinctions between "kill" and "murder."
The immediate outcome of these studies was to strengthen my regard and good wishes for Barbara and Robin. Mazel Tov! May you continue to be blessed with shalom ba-bayit, and praise and thanks for all you've done to show your love for one another, your daughter, your community, and all of us.
Janette: I am not entirely sure what you're attempting to make of the distinction between "kill" and "murder," but Torah seems to shift among several different words. If you have some serious concern, perhaps you should consult a rabbi. I could suggest my rabbi because, to tell the truth, his goodness, modesty, intelligence, and learning would contribute a moral compass you could trust to anything the human mind and heart is apt to make of Torah. I would also suggest that you consult the works of Martin Buber, and steep yourself in the humane spirit of Isaac Bashevis Singer, who actually wrote about Jewish lesbians in the Yiddishkeit.
Stay away from what I have learned about the Mormons--or some Mormons. My wife-to-be, Pilar, used to live in Utah, and she was told--repeatedly--that lesbians and gays were guilty of the crime of murder. People who schlepp such tsuris, such schlock, deserve everything that is coming to them.
They should be locked in a room with Dawkins, Hauser, and Wilson--and if these davens of scientific determinism don't cure them of their G-d Delusions, they should be submitted to psychoanalysis interminable with Uncle Siggie (Freud), who suffered from such farmlicht dreck in Vienna.
These men are smart, and I appreciate how they've assembled the weapons required to hock the tchynik (rattle the tea cups) of the religious authoritarians. But, personally, I will take a pass, not only because I am not interested in having my sexual orientation "explained" by analogy to the animal kingdom, but also because I am not so certain, at last, that religion is the root of the problem. I always have my eye on the money, and I don't know that these scientific determinism mavens will be less selfish and uncharitable than their current opponents. I also object to being reduced to a political football.
Knights: Greetings, and thanks for the kind words, and credit for my attempt to be authentic. You, too, Knights. But it wasn't exactly inspiring to see you descend back into the sloganeering, sound bytes, distortions, and word fights with David S. I understand the spot in which you find yourself, for many reasons, and I want to let you know that the Knights of Columbus's charity work, not to mention the Catholic Church's support for civil rights, the disabled, immigrants, and the poor is redemptive and earns you regard that is hard to gainsay. Are the scientific determinists rushing to relieve genocide in Darfur, or hunger and starvation throughout our world? Do they repudiate consumerism and materialism? Not so much. But I don't think you should squander your reputation in dubious debates, and this is one reason, among others, that I think you should modify your platform and support civil unions for all. It will be good for your concerns, and keep you safe from doing business with disreputable parties. You must be aware of the large number of churches who are assailing President elect Obama as the "redistributor in chief." The "Christians" who proclaim this stuff are basically social Darwinists in sheep's clothing, and the Mormon Church is enough to put anyone on schpilkes.

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