Category Archives: Family

Cruel Activism: The Gay Rights Attack On Cynthia and Robert Gifford

The-Gifford-Barn-in-Schaghticoke-NY

It is said that close cases make bad law, and they often make bad ethics too. Legally, the culpability of Cynthia and Robert Gifford is not at all certain. Ethically, however, as right as they may be on the law, the conduct of their persecutors, same-sex couple Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, has been unnecessary, without compassion, vindictive and cruel.

The Giffords are active Christians who own Liberty Ridge Farm, located in Schaghticoke in upstate New York. They supplement the farm’s revenue with attractions designed for kids and families, including a pumpkin patch, a corn stalk maze and a rustic barn for parties and weddings. That rustic barn has three stories. The Giffords reside on the top floor, with the bottom floor designed for events, and the second floor consisting of rooms for activities relating to their preparation and management.

When Cynthia Gifford received a phone call from Melissa McCarthy inquiring about having her wedding at the farm, Cynthia invited her to visit and assess the venue.In the follow-up phone call, McCarthy revealed for the first time that the affair would be a same-sex wedding. Cynthia explained that the family’s faith held that marriages can only be a union of a man and a woman, so they did not make their farm available for ceremonies. She said, however, that the couple was welcome to hold the wedding reception there.

Apparently expecting this response, Jennifer and Melissa surreptitiously recorded the phone call. Armed with the recording, they contacted the New York Civil Liberties Union who immediately filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Giffords on their behalf.

The Giffords argue that this was not a matter of discrimination, but religious practice. They had hosted events for gay clients before, and employed gays. “The Giffords’ objection was to hosting and participating in the wedding ceremony itself and not to providing service in general to lesbians,” their lawyer said.

They lost. Bronx administrative Law Judge Migdalia Pares rejected Giffords’ claim that the farm, which is also their home, is not a place of public accommodation and is therefore not subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of New York’s Human Rights Law. She ruled that Liberty Ridge qualifies as a public accommodation because it regularly collects fees for space, facilities, services and meals, so it cannot be considered “distinctly private.”  The fact that the Giffords reside at Gifford Barn does not render it private. The Giffords were ordered to pay $13,000 in fines and restitution.

The Giffords are appealing.

The Giffords, according to the judge, “unlawfully discriminated against complainants solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.” Another way of looking at it is that Jennifer and Melissa, now married, discriminated against the Giffords solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Why couldn’t they agree to respect the Giffords’ religious beliefs, and use the property for the wedding reception only, having the actual ceremony elsewhere? Would that really be such a hardship, or a compromise in principles? Indeed, if the nation and committed progressives really aspire to tolerance, diversity and mutual compassion and understanding, why wouldn’t that be the ethical, desirable, reasonable compromise?

I know the response to that question, of course. This was a matter of principle. This would send a message. Crushing the Giffords was necessary to show that all opposition to same sex marriage would eventually be crushed under the advance of history. Never mind that these were not anti-gay bigots, and that they have as much right to practice their faith as a lesbian couple has a right to wed. This is a zero sum game, apparently. Besides the law—probably–supports McCarthy and Erwin.

I think the actions of Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin violate the Second Niggardly Principle, which is a rule of kindness, compromise and common sense. It holds…

“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”

The couple’s legitimate objectives in this case were to get married and celebrate the marriage in an attractive venue. I don’t think setting out to punish a couple for belonging to a religion that doesn’t accept same sex marriage is a legitimate objective, nor is turning their lives upside down, nor forcing them into the maw of litigation to bend them to their will. Does the gay rights movement really feel that all those who have not yet accepted the justice and inevitability of same-sex marriage must be exposed and made to suffer? It seems that this is McCarthy and  Erwin believe, and what this case will come to stand for.

If so, I think the story of the Giffords will do more harm than good, hardening opposition, confirming suspicion, undermining trust and ultimately making acceptance for gay couples harder, however it turns out in the courts. Just because you have the law on your side doesn’t mean you have to use it when doing so involves unnecessary harm to others. Gays want compassion, kindness, tolerance and fairness. It would help if they showed a willingness to give as well as receive.

______________________
Pointer: Steven Mark Pilling

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Filed under Business & Commercial, Charity, Citizenship, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society

Ethics Observations Regarding The “Little Thing” Letter

Mail call!

Mail call!

Let me begin by stating that I doubt that the now viral “Little Thing” letter is genuine. It may well be bait put on the web (it was first published on Reddit) to trap the worst unethical hypocrites of the pro-abortion movement. If so, it worked, for some pro-choice advocates have received it with deafening, nauseating, self-indicting applause. If, on the other hand, the letter is genuine, it is a chilling confirmation of the ethical gymnastics some abortion apologists put themselves through to rationalize what in their hearts they know to be wrong.

If abortion is ethically tolerable, it cannot involve the willful and unnecessary killing of a human life. Only then is “pro choice” a fair description of the legal and the ethical issues involved: the choice of a woman to end a her pregnancy without ending what she believes to be the life of an innocent child. There are many complex and logically dubious aspects to this. The magic moment, still moving, individually variable and often determined legislatively or judicially with the precision of a coin flip, when “undifferentiated cells” suddenly become a human life worthy of society’s respect and protection, is sometimes defined by the mother’s belief. If she believes she is with child, someone else killing that child may be charged with some form of murder. If she decides that it is no more human than a wart or a tumor, she is given leave by the law to kill it without regret or consequences. This means that it is in the interests of a woman who wishes an active sex life and wants to control the timing of motherhood to fit her life plan to tend toward the wart point of view.There is no integrity to defining a key factor in a life and death decision after we have already decided how we want that decision to come out. It is like the Bush administration, having decided that waterboarding is useful, creating legal arguments asserting that an act that had always been regarded as torture wasn’t torture after all. To  many women on the pro-abortion side, unwanted or inconvenient babies are as much enemies as terrorists were to Dick Cheney. Thus life is defined in such a way as to make their war winnable.

This self-delusion, legal fiction, essential myth or convenient belief—pick your favorite—has obviously been very successful, and many women appear to accept it without thinking very deeply about it. If the option of an abortion makes one’s life infinitely more manageable, why begin questioning the ethics of the procedure, especially since about half the public, most of the media, prestigious organizations, the law, a political party and political correctness tenets tell you not to, that the issues are settled? Nonetheless, some women do question it, and do reach the conclusion that it is not a wart or tumor or enemy within them, but rather an innocent, growing, human life.

If and when a woman reaches that conclusion, as inconvenient as it may, then to go ahead with an abortion is unethical, and is, in fact, the ethical equivalent of murder. It is not the legal equivalent of murder, but when a mother believes that she is, through abortion, taking the life of an unborn child that she regards as an individual, I don’t see how it can be termed anything else.

And that is clearly the state of mind of the anonymous author of this letter, if it is genuine: Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Character, Childhood and children, Family, Gender and Sex, Love, Rights, U.S. Society

So A Female Democrat Running To Be Governor Can Use A Former Domestic Abuser As A Spokeperson, But Feminists Would Revolt If A Pro Football Player Who Did The Same To His Spouse Was Allowed To Take The Field? Got it. Wait…No, I Really Don’t.

Go ahead, it's OK...he's a man, he probably deserves it.

Go ahead, it’s OK…he’s a man, he probably deserves it.

I realize that it seems like I am picking on women who are running for high office as Democrats: this is the third one within a week. It’s a coincidence, except that I have a growing suspicion that Democrats cynically sought out some female candidates for their gender and to hew to a theme rather than because they were especially well-qualified or even ready for prime time.

The current issue involves the Wisconsin governor’s race, where Mary Burke is opposing controversial, public union-battling GOP incumbent Scott Walker. Burke is running a 15-second pro-abortion ad (Walker is anti-abortion)  starring Erin Forrest,  the Jefferson County Democratic Party chairwoman. In 2013, Forrest — who then called Erin Sievert, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of domestic abuse, the first for battery and the second for disorderly conduct. In the criminal complaint, her husband said that she punched him in the eye and the groin, bit him on the shoulder, and ripped out one of his earrings. Prosecutors offered Forrest a deferred prosecution agreement in which she pleaded guilty to the charges in exchange for having them dropped later if she avoided further legal trouble and met other requirements. She did, and the prosecutors had the domestic violence charges dismissed as agreed.

Still, she agreed, by pleading guilty, that the charges were valid and described her conduct. This is far more than several of the NFL players currently losing millions of dollars and being pilloried in the media as violent lovers and vicious parents have done. Hmmm…..for which job is spousal violence more disqualifying? Throttling large athletes in armor who are paid to be clobbered and being a celebrated hero to sports fans, or being a women’s rights advocate, a role model for young women, and a representative of a candidate for Governor of Wisconsin? Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Romance and Relationships, Sports

A Judicial Jumbo!

Jumbo

To remind not-so-regular visitors here: a Jumbo is a special Ethics Alarms award for conduct that emulates the gag from the Broadway musical and film “Jumbo,” in which Jimmy Durante, as a circus clown trying to steal an elephant, is caught red-handed by a sheriff, and asked, “Where are you going with that elephant?” “Elephant?  What elephant?,” Jimmy replied.

Carl Knochelmann Jr is candidate for Kenton County Family Court Judge court judge in Kentucky. He also owes $2,886.54 in unpaid child support to the mother of his teenage son. He has been delinquent before: at various times a court has ordered him to pay overdue child support, including $9,632 in 2003. The current $2,886 amount dates back to 2008.

His opponent, seven-year incumbent Kenton County Family Court Judge Chris Mehling, said the back child support shows Knochelmann is unfit for a judgeship responsible for enforcing child support payments, among other things.

Ya think? Although I would imagine that he will wrap up the deadbeat dad vote. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Family, Jumbo, Law & Law Enforcement

Ethics Hero: Judge Edward J. McCarthy

What this issue need is sunlight...

What this issue needs is sunlight…

As a parent of a former Russian orphan, I have been disturbed by the deterioration of the international adoption environment there and elsewhere. We have a son who was healthy from the start, and our adoption process, while chaotic (we were rushing against a deadline, as the Russian government was in the process of blocking all American adoptions), was handled openly and legally. Now my wife and I read about true horror stories involving abused children, cruel parents, and unscrupulous agencies and brokers here and in Russia. Except for the very worst cases, most of these never crack though the relative trivia on cable news.

In New York, a court has been ordered by a New York Judge, Edward J. McCarthy, to open proceedings about one such horror story. Adoption proceedings are always closed to the public and press, put the judge has ruled that these proceeding must be open, because… Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Childhood and children, Ethics Heroes, Family, Law & Law Enforcement

What’s The Ethical Response To Giving Birth To A Mixed-Race Child You Didn’t Bargain For? If Only Abe Lincoln Was The Lawyer…

What does Abe have to do with a sperm bank mix-up in 2014? Read on...

What does Abe have to do with a sperm bank mix-up in 2014? Read on…

I can certainly sympathize with the plight of Jennifer Cramblett, the birthing half of a loving, and white, same-sex couple who sought the assistance of a sperm bank to conceive a child, and who ended up giving birth to a mixed-race baby girl because of the kind of clerical error that sets up movie comedies starring Adam Sandler or Cedric the Entertainer. This is like what happened to Chevy Chase in “Vacation,” when he ordered one car and had a different one arrive at the dealer’s months later. Well, the car was a lot worse, because it was ugly, but it drove fine. Well, let me think about that: lots of babies, even babies sired the usual way by attractive parents without alien sperm, are ugly. This baby wasn’t ugly: Cramblett says she’s beautiful. Has all ten fingers and toes. No apparent deformities.

Hmmm.

Maybe this situation is more like the cherry red Nova that got delivered as my first car, when I had ordered something else. I got a discount for going ahead and taking the Nova, and never regretted it: best, most reliable car I ever had, and I had it in the days when I was still having fun in cars.

Come to think of it, what’s Cramblett so upset about? She has a healthy, lovely child and a stable family. OK, that sperm bank owes her a refund, and maybe some “I’m sorry you got the wrong color” money. But would I not only sue the sperm bank for the lifetime of pain it had supposedly subjected me to by causing me to have a mixed race child, but also use the law suit to garner media fame? Of course not. There is no way to simultaneously claim that having a mixed-race daughter is a hardship worthy of substantial damages, and to argue that the race of her daughter doesn’t matter, because she is unconditionally loved.

The couple’s lawsuit against the sperm bank screams “Hey! This could be a jackpot for us!”  The couple’s lawsuit explains that Jennifer Cramblett was raised to accept stereotypical beliefs about blacks. It says she is culturally unprepared to raise a mixed-race child. It argues that their community is, in effect, bigoted, and that—get this—it’s hard to get their daughter’s curly hair cut. In other words, it’s just hell having a mixed-race daughter, but they love her very much and would never trade her for anything in the world.* Got that? Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Family, Gender and Sex, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Advice Column Ethics: The Case Of The Anxious Godmother

"look, I'll take your 8 kids if anything happens to you, but I really think you should stop juggling chainsaws..."

“Look, I’ll take your 8 kids if anything happens to you, but I really think you should stop juggling chainsaws…”

The best of all advice columnists, Carolyn Hax, found herself confronted with a tough question this weekend, and uncharacteristically flailed at an answer.

I’m going to try to help her out.

The question came from husband who was trying to decide how to deal with the anxiety of his wife, godmother to two teenagers being raised alone by her brother. The brother, it seems, has decided to take up race car driving as a new hobby, and sister, the wife of Hax’s correspondent, is terrified that this risky pursuit might eventually place the teens in her care. “The kids have been raised in a way that neither of us agrees with, and if they were to come under our care, it would be very difficult for everyone involved,” he writes. What should he do?

Maybe Hax’s reply helps the potential adoptive parent, but I sure found it stuttering, overly equivocal and confusing. It’s not surprising: the issues are difficult, full of ethical conflicts.

Here is my analysis:

1. If one agrees to be the designated guardian of a child or children, one is ethically obligated to be ready to accept the duties of the job. “I’ll take care of your kids happily as long as it’s not your fault that you can’t” just isn’t good enough. Too many people, perhaps most, accept this crucial responsibility as an honor rather than as a very serious commitment, and first and foremost, it is a commitment to the children. If a godmother (or, in a non-religious setting, a guardian) is terrified of the reality of fulfilling the duties of the job, she should give them up, so they can be accepted by someone who is not so reluctant. It shouldn’t matter if the parent is an amateur snake handler or a couch potato.

2. It is reckless, selfish and irresponsible for the sole parent of children to not take this fact into consideration regarding his lifestyle and other choices. Two children depend on him: he is duty bound to do what he can to stay alive, healthy, and capable of supporting them. Taking on unquestionably risky hobby like race car driving, or storm chasing, or being a volunteer human subject for the ebola vaccine, is irrational and wrong. It is right for the potential successor guadians to make this point to him, for the children, for a family intervention, for his friends, for anyone. And they should. He is not free to act as if he has complete autonomy, not with two children who depend on him.

3. If his thinking is “it’s OK to risk my life, because I have two foster parents on the hook,” that is similarly unethical, and he needs to be told that, too. But he should be told it by  guardians/godparents who are still committed to being loving parents should the worst occur, not by a couple that accepted the responsibility assuming they would never actually have to deliver.

The bottom line:

  • The inquirer and his wife should withdraw as guardians.
  • The father should grow up.
  • The next guardian couple should be informed of the father’s irresponsible proclivities, and make his promise to take reasonable efforts to remains capable of raising the children as a condition of their accepting the role.

And, of course, if the worst happens and the father ends up a victim of Dead Man’s Curve without having found a suitable guardian, the sister and her husband may be obligated to raise the orphaned teens anyway.

Because that’s what families are for.

Is that what Carolyn says? I’m not sure. If it is, it wasn’t clear enough.

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Health and Medicine, Journalism & Media, Love