Two links I recently received, prompt this article to spring forward from the back burner. Reiko linked me to an article on Washington State proposed Initiative I-957
, to require married couples to have children timely or else get divorced, and Chris referred me to a Stranger article on the hypocrisy of Mary Cheney
wanting her privacy when she has always supported public political attacks on homosexuals.
In the first year of law school criminal law class we learned about the five year old Wolfenden Report
from Britain, addressing the issue of criminalizing prostitution and homosexual conduct. The essence of the report as I have remembered it through the years was that consensual sexual conduct should not be criminal. Legal consent should require sufficient age, mental capacity and free will, and once those conditions are all met, then private sexual activity should not be a concern of the criminal law.
Moralizers and politicians, sincerely or otherwise, continue to advocate legal interference in private sexual matters, especially those of homosexuals. Gay coupling, the hot button issue here in the US, has two aspects, which the politicians have fairly accurately labeled a gay marriage and civil union. Only a few are for gay marriage, more are for civil union, granting gays the rights that come to married couples without allowing them to get married.
All marriages have civil law aspects, bringing legal rights and responsibilities. Religious marriage ceremonies may bring in doctrinal aspects of that particular religion, and are properly left to the individuals and their church. But the civil law rights and responsibilities that attach to a marriage could by law also attach to any other relationship between two people that the people choose to designate as significant and the law chooses to recognize. This could be a gay couple, a man and woman who are unmarried, two siblings, parent and adult child, long time friends or whatever. Allowing and encouraging everybody to have somebody significant in their life is healthy and worthwhile. But our society has two problems with this idea, one sexual and the other economic.
The sexual problem society has with coupling outside marriage is a concern with what the sexual activity would be. Within the recommendations of Wolfenden, that activity should be a private matter. The argument that marriage is for procreation is irrelevant to unmarried couples. Many babies have been born outside marriage. Society is very experienced in dealing with issues of parental rights and responsibilities, regardless of the marital status of the parents. If society allowed civil union rights, then maybe marriage could be returned to the religious realm where it belongs.
Society also, more quietly, resists civil unions on economic grounds. Unmarried couple lose out on many economic rights that married couples have. Society does not mind saving that money. But a thorough economic analysis would probably show that allowing civil union economic rights would not be costly to society, when all aspects are considered. For example, if two gay men live together into retirement years, one being a long term worker and the other having been a stay at home person, when the retired worker dies society does not have to pay the stay at home companion the social security of the decedent, whereas if the stay at home was a wife they would have to pay her. But, if the unmarried gay worker has no such companion and requires long term nursing home care, society could be stuck with the bill, whereas a male companion with civil union rights might continue to care for the partner at home and save society the cost.
It is most interesting to hear how politicians answer when asked if they think people are born gay or become gay later in life. George W. Bush answers that he is still studying the issue and then he quickly changes the subject with his interrogator. Bush’s perpetual campaign pitch makes it clear that he really doesn’t care about the answer to that question, he is just hapy there are gay people he can bash to get homophobic votes. Recently on Meet the Press Tim Russert asked professed Baptist John Edwards that question
, pointing out the Baptists believe gays are made, not born. When Edwards tried to get away with an “I just don’t know for sure” answer, Russert pressed him and got Edwards to say he believes they are more likely born that way. The fact that our candidates for President either are so uninformed on the scientific facts of human sexuality or think they have to pretend they are still in the process of informing themselves is a sad commentary.
Now for the meaning of the title to this article. The satire of I-957 is similar to something I have had in mind for a few years. HUMP is an acronym for an organization I think should be started, “Humans United for the Missionary Position”, which could sponsor an initiative making it illegal for couples, including married heterosexuals, to have sex in any other position. HUMP could show a clip from the movie “Quest for Fire
”, where a caveman first suggests to a cave woman that they have sex face to face rather than with him behind, and she is somewhat shocked, but they both decide the new position is an improvement in their relationship. Unfortunately, religious HUMPers would probably oppose using the clip, since the couple in the movie were unmarried.