Were you aware that the world population began to grow in the mid-1800s, that the rate of growth began to fall in the mid-1900s, and that the population is expected to return to zero growth levels in the late 21 st century? The falling trend is led by Japan and Western Europe. American population growth is static, thanks in part to the higher number of children in families of immigrants.
Wait, wait. Iâ€™m not finished. The original increase stemmed mostly from advances in medicine that increased life expectancy enormously. The beginning of the decline in growth rates after World War II was spurred by a number of factors. In the U.S., the urbanization of the citizenry, the rise in living standards, and later, the education of women and their entry into the workforce. World population growth will zero out when these phenomena start to hit the developing countries.
I write this all off the top of my head because it was the favorite topic of my late father, an economic historian, who brought up the subject relentlessly. So imagine my disgust to encounter an article by same-sex marriage arch foe Maggie Gallagher, who attempts to link the decline in population growth to the improvement in civil rights for same-sex couples.
Please! What an imbecile! No, she doesnâ€™t make a direct causal connection, but itâ€™s the type of sloppy claptrap that gets echoed, like the statistics of Paul Cameron, in legislative speeches, law briefs, and editorials. Cameron, you may recall, is the one who determined through â€śscientific researchâ€ť that gay men live on average around 45 years, and lesbians not much longer.
Norway or the Highway
Also pontificating this week is our old friend Stanley Kurtz, who continues to insist, based on an analysis of marriage patterns in Norway and Holland, that same-sex marriage leads to an overall decline in marriage and a rise in out-of-wedlock births. Setting aside the fact that Norway has not legalized same-sex marriage and that European marriage rates are declining in general, Kurtz is far more professional than Gallagher, and some of his points are interesting.
For example, I agree that setting up parallel marriage institutions that are available to heterosexuals will indeed lower marriage rates. But then, why not just stick with legalizing same-sex marriage and leave the civil unions to Scandinavia?
Look, the world is complex. Social change is not linear. In the U.S., we no longer marry in our teens or early 20s, but in our mid to late 20s. Nearly two thirds of high school seniors enter college, and over half our university students are women. The average age for a woman having her first child increased from around 21 in 1970 to around 25 in 2000. And interestingly, as the New York Times reported last year, divorce rates for college educated women are now much lower than they are for their less-educated counterparts.
Instead of dealing in complexity, however, our debate over marriage is conducted by mushy minded fear mongers who use people like Kurtz and Gallagher to inject a little steel into their family friendly flufferies. Now, God help us, they can get up on the floor of the Wisconsin Assembly, to pick a spot at random, and rail if they like about how â€śaccording to experts,â€ť same-sex marriage has cut population growth in Paris and destroyed marriage as we know it in Oslo.
Yes, you guessed right. The Wisconsin assembly delivered the final vote on an anti-gay amendment on Tuesday, sending that little treat to voters in November. To date, we have seven states in play this year, starting with Alabama in June. Earlier this week, a judge in Tennessee dismissed an ACLU challenge to the Volunteer State amendment, so barring a reversal by the state high court, that amendment remains alive and well.
Everything on my list is so serious. The Czechs are up to something. I think gay activists there are hoping the parliament will override the Presidentâ€™s veto of the civil union bill that passed the other day. I never mentioned it to you, because I assumed you already read about it in that daily international news digest you peruse every morning over Turkish coffee and unfiltered Gauloise cigarettes.
For the same reason, I think I may have skipped over the fight in the Australian Parliament where Liberal backbenchers are trying to push a civil union bill to counter the Howard administrationâ€™s opposition to same-sex marriage. Thatâ€™s right. The â€śbackbenchersâ€ť are up to their mischief again. I see them throwing spitballs and passing notes while the majority debates coastal environmental issues or trade subsidies.
Oh, and Franceâ€™s top court ruled in favor of de facto rights for the partners of the biological parents. The Cour de Cassation said French law â€śis not opposed to a mother, as sole holder of parental authority, delegating all or part of her duties to the woman with whom she lives in a stable and continuous union.â€ť Ditto the dad.
By the way, I just took the AOL test to see if I knew more about the First Amendment, the Simpsons, or American Idol. I scored four out of five on the First Amendment, three out of five on the Simpsons, and four out of five on American Idol. Meanwhile, I aced part of the test they give to NFL draft entrants, going ten for ten in just a few minutes. It was in the newspaper, along with the disturbing information that our Longhorn hero, Vince Young, scored six out of 49.
Hmmm. Vince might want to reconsider opting out of his senior year. He also might want to avoid Professional Football Star Week on Jeopardy.
Speaking of athletes, can you believe that hotdogging snowboard girl who blew a gold medal by â€śhaving some funâ€ť and falling on her face a few yards short of the finish line? Then she said something like, well, itâ€™s just a medal. I forget. Itâ€™s like Bode Miller telling the newscasters that he was really pleased with his pathetic Olympic effort, and that heâ€™s more focussed on the life he wants to lead than on â€świnning.â€ť
Yeah, well. The Olympics isnâ€™t about â€świnning.â€ť Itâ€™s about performing to your top capability against the best competition in the world. If you want to have fun, party, or live a stress free life, donâ€™t go to the Olympics. Why not become a freelance reporter for the gay press, for example? Anyway, these spoiled jokers irritated me. At least the reason Sasha Cohen never wins gold is because sheâ€™s a perfectionist, yet another character failing that does not come into play in my line of work.
Thereâ€™s Something About Catholic Bishops
Speaking of my line of work, I just got an e-mail from the Human Rights Campaign about a developing story, namely, the effort by Catholic Bishops in Massachusetts to exempt the quasi-public Catholic Charities from state anti-discrimination law and bar gay and lesbian households from adopting children under their auspices. According to the HRC press release, seven members of the Catholic Charities Massachusetts Board have resigned in protest over the Bishopsâ€™ politicking.
To be honest, Iâ€™m confused by the difference between the Catholic Charities â€śMassachusettsâ€ť Board and the Catholic Charities â€śBostonâ€ť Board. I know the Boston group is a 42-member panel that has already voted unanimously in favor of gay adoptions, and I also know that three members of that board resigned the other day. Whatever. We need only retain the key facts that a) there are several courageous men and women of conviction on the (various) boards of Catholic Charities, and b) the bishops are scum.
Thereâ€™s some other news out of Massachusetts but I will only burden you lightly. A historic church that serves as the burial ground for John Adams, his wife and his son, is trying to put up a gigantic banner proclaiming â€śPeople of Faith for Marriage Equality.â€ť Some historical commission has told them itâ€™s too big and tacky, and they plan to appeal.
Also, the attorney generalâ€™s office has opened criminal charges into the possibility that anti-gay petitioners forged signatures during the campaign to qualify a marriage amendment for an eventual 2008 vote. It seems likely that there were indeed forged signatures, but unfortunately, the black hats gathered so many names-by hook, by crook, or by the bookâ€”that the petitions are valid. The amendment to put a halt to same-sex marriage in the Bay State must win 25 percent support in two consecutive legislatures, and subsequently must win a public vote. On verra.
Death Be Not Ridiculous
Let me just tell you what I have left for the last 500 words of this column. The Virginia Attorney General has opined that the governor does not have the right to ban sexual orientation discrimination in the state workplace by executive order. Since when? Who died and made you God, Mr. Robert McDonnell? Oh, excuse me, â€śGeneralâ€ť McDonnell. Both the outgoing governor Mark Warner, and the current governor, Tim Kaine, have instituted such orders, and Kaineâ€™s office says the order will remain in effect despite the AGâ€™s (non-binding) announcement.
Meanwhile, a college student in Singapore fell out a third floor dorm window and killed himself while jumping up and down on his bed playing the air guitar. I kid you not. Say goodbye and God speed to Li Xiao Meng, 16, who according to court records â€śfell out of the window to his death when he was hyped up with exhilaration, jumping up and down on the bed placed against an open window while mimicking a rock guitarist.â€ť Thereâ€™s a lesson there somewhere, but we have no time. Must. Move. On.
The ACLU is aiming to nail a school in Cleveland, Georgia that has claimed to prohibit all non-curricular student clubs in order to avoid recognizing a Gay Straight Alliance. As the civil libertarians point out in their federal lawsuit, however, the school has continued to allow the â€śShooting Clubâ€ť and at least one other completely extra-curricular club to meet on campus, hence violating the federal law that prohibits schools from picking and choosing which non-academic clubs can use their facilities. Who knows? Maybe shooting is on the Georgia school system curriculum. We all know that proper shooting etiquette is a must for those who aspire to high office.
We Tire of News
And thereâ€™s more. A couple of candidates for bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California are gay. Keep that in mind as we approach the May 6 election. Thereâ€™s a lot of news out of Utah, which will keep until next week, and I could say the same for Colorado. Plus, thereâ€™s a news report about how California domestic partners will have to file separately when they pay their federal taxes.
This information is not exactly surprising considering that the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, or any other tie between same-sex couples for tax purposes or anything else. Was the San Jose Mercury News unaware that we, the gay and lesbian couples of America, are the forgotten stepchildren of the federal government, legal outcasts who stand outside in the snow and ice and gaze through the window into the warm marital hearths of our heterosexual brothers and sisters as they labor over their joint taxes? Guess so.
Contact Ann Rostow at email@example.com