dick, sotomayor and gay marriage

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Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

dick, sotomayor and gay marriage

just a couple days ago, i blogged about obama’s supreme court nomination of judge sonia sotomayor. if you read that or have paid even an ounce of attention over the last several days, you’ll know that there’s been quite a bit of controversy and strong reaction over comments she made 8 years ago about her the judicial benefit of her experience as a self-described “newyorkrican.”

in essence, what has conservatives, primarily, up in arms is her assertion that her experience as a hispanic woman who grew up in the projects of the bronx would lend a certain judicial advantage over an white male who doesn’t have the same breadth of multicultural experience. as i discussed in my blog post, i believe sotomayor’s comments point to a cultural and theological reality that says our experience cannot be extracted from our perspective, thus altering the way we handle and filter the facts of life (no, not the t.v. show with tooty…).
well, lo and behold if our favorite face-shooter, dick cheney, didn’t go and add to the story today. 🙂 in case you missed it, in response to a question at the national press club, cheney said that he is in favor of gay marriage on a state-by-state basis, though he does oppose a federal mandate. here’s the video:

a coupe things stand out about his stance. first, of course, is the departure in ideology from most of his conservative/republican counterparts. here lately, specifically, cheney has been very outspoken as a critic of obama and the left wing, so it’s somewhat surprising that, in the midst of his media blitz, he’s taken such a forthright position such as this. what doesn’t make this completely surprising, though, as the video indicates, is that his daughter is gay. he clearly states this as a part of his explanation and support.

while sotomayor has been lambasted for saying that her personal experiences now shape her views and positions, cheney has done the very same thing. don’t get me wrong, though. much like i’m not critical of sotomayor’s statements, i’m not critical of cheney either.
more to the point, whether cheney would have been talking about gay marriage or abortion or what kind of ice cream he prefers, the point remains that our experiences serve as a filter through which we see the world, see others and see the issues.
what stands out in the case of issues related to homosexuality, though, is that cheney furthers the point having to do with when we are in relationship with gay people, our opinion is much more full and fair. don’t get me wrong, i’m absolutely not saying that you will come to the same conclusion as cheney just because you have a gay child or family member or friend. rather, i’m simply stating that when people have very hard line views about homosexuality and/or gay marriage and don’t even know a gay person—or worse, have never even met a gay person—i’m instantly suspicious of their under-informed stance. again, i’m not necessarily saying people—on either “side” of the issue—are wrong, but i am saying that their view is probably incomplete.
i’ve have two primary examples in my life of being changed by relationships and personal experiences. first, i have a very close family member who is gay, so my relationship with him helps me to see the real life human side of the issue. further, it helps me to see the person as just a family member who i love and not as a “gay person.” (before i get myself in trouble…i should probably move on….) 🙂
the other experience was a great small group that i led while living in paducah. our neighbor—who is gay—and i became friends over a matter of several months after we moved in. to make a long story short, after he expressed interest in getting back into church but had major reservations, we decided to read a theology-related book together (the book was blue like jazz) and meet once a week to discuss the book. after meeting for several weeks, it just sorta naturally transitioned into a small group that turned out, at its height, to be me and 6 gay guys talking theology and life every sunday night. we had quite the strange crew—a gay stripper, a professional wrestler, a nude model and a guy who was high on quaaludes and/or xanax every week when he showed up, among others. in our utter bizarreness, we had some incredible conversations. no one ever cast judgment on another, but rather, we had rich dialogue that helped each other see another perspective and experience mutual spiritual growth. (maybe i should blog about this whole experience in more detail some time.)
both these experiences/relationships have had a deep impact on the way i see the “homosexuality issue” (which is really a terrible way to put it). these experiences don’t change the “facts” of the bible, but they certainly do shape my theology and help me to engage scripture in a very different way than someone who maybe has never had similar experiences.
so, dick cheney, of all people, has shed light on an important social, political and theological issue. like sotomayor, cheney has once again pointed out that our experiences deeply impact our worldviews and decision-making processes.

2 Comments

  1. j wright says:

    re sotomayor:
    the whole controversy surrounding a offhanded comment she made _years_ ago, is little more than arguing semnatics…badly.
    She was paraphrasing a quote from another judge that a wise female judge would reach the same legal conclusion as a wise male judge, and rightly they should. But, while one's experience can colour your opinion and may lead you to reach a another conclusion. That does not, in itself, make that other conclusion better, only different. If our laws are to be applied equally, without repect to gender, colour, creed, et al, ad infinitum…then those legal opinions should only ever differ slightly, and not often.

    As far as gay marriage, I don't think it should be specifically addressed at the state or federal level. Since it is a strictly religious issue, language regarding the gender of married shouldn't be addressed at all. Whether to perform gay weddings, or recognize those unions should be strictly a church-by-church decision. Outside the church, our gov't is mandated to provide equal protection under the law to all citizens.

  2. j wright says:

    re sotomayor: after posting that i realized I didn't quite say what I meant with repect to the differing legal opinions. Nearly, every case brought before a panel of judges has a 'dissenting opinion' where the outnumbered judges can say their piece. So, yes, legal opinions can, and will, differ.
    Would her's differ from even those? If her experience leads her to 'better' decisions than those of the current Supreme Court judges, will she have to give her own dissenting opinion on every case they hear? For someone to say their opinion is 'better' than that of a member of another race simply because of differing experiences…it's not something that would be stood for if the roles were reversed.

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