Saturday, February 20, 2010

Same-Sex Marriage in DC

The DC city government is in the last stages of finalizing a law allowing same-sex marriage in the district and that has brought the city into conflict with local Catholic groups. On Wednesday, the Washington archdiocese "ended its 80-year-old foster-care program in the District rather than license same-sex couples."

Apparently Catholic Charities -- which receives $20 million in funding from the city to run programs serving homeless families and victims of domestic violence -- is looking to find a way to re-structure their benefits and hiring to comply with the DC law but not officially "recognize" the marriages. But foster care was an insurmountable disagreement.

I have a lot of respect for the work the Catholic church does in the world and not being Catholic, it is really none of my business what they decide to do. But I simply do not understand how gay marriage is the issue that trumps all the others. How does that make any sense? Even if you truly believe that same-sex marriage is wrong, what is moral calculation at work here? Is it really better for these kids to be wards of the state than to live in a loving home with two foster parents of the same gender?

To be clear, the DC law does not force the church to recognize or perform same-sex marriages (how could it?) - it just asks contractors who receive tax dollars to comply with the city's non-discrimination laws.

Anyway, Andrew Sullivan (who is both devoutly Catholic and openly gay) uncorks a bit of righteous irritation at the double standards here:
A simple parallel: does the Washington diocese's charities employ any people who have been civilly divorced and are now re-married under DC law? If so, how are these individuals less offensive to the teachings of the Church on the institution of marriage than a member of a gay couple provided civil marriage licenses?

Catholic doctrine is very clear: a remarried person is not remarried in the eyes of the Church, and for the Church to employ such a person would be to recognize a civil marriage that violates one of its core principles. There are infinitely more of these individuals than there are gay Catholics or gay non-Catholics who might want to help the homeless or serve the poor or provide foster care for an abandoned child. Catholic Charities might - Heaven forfend - have to provide spousal benefits to a member of a heterosexual couple violating Church doctrine about matrimony in exactly the same way. And almost certainly, they already do all the time.
Good question. Also interesting are the words of this anonymous employee of Catholic Charities who writes in with the view from inside the organization.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Goodreads and Iran

My sister Jessica blogs about how the book-social-networking site she works for -- Goodreads -- was apparently blocked by the Iranian government last week.
Last Friday, February 5, 2010, we were saddened to see Goodreads traffic in Iran plummet, which can only mean that Goodreads has joined the ranks of sites blocked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime. One Iranian Goodreads member wrote to us and confirmed the news: "your site is recently been filtered by our horrible govrnmt. pls help us! spread it...books make no harm."
It is a sad reminder that living in a repressive society is, well, repressive and horrible - more so than many of us in the U.S. probably even realize. Until the cutoff, goodreads had attracted a sizable online community of Iranians - now hopefully they can find their way to proxy servers and back out onto the internet. And just maybe pressure from within and without will lead (peacefully) to a more representative government for the Iranian people.

Anyway, the story has been picked up by the Guardian, the New Yorker and a few other places so far.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hurling in the Snow

So this was going on in Farragut Square at lunch yesterday.

This being, apparently, an impromptu game of hurling - a traditional Irish version of field hockey - arranged by a couple of Irish theater and arts groups. A pretty amusing diversion for the lunch hour, plus I feel that my awareness of Irish culture has been suitably raised. Nice work, performance artists!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Snowpocalypse II

For the second time this year, DC got clobbered with double-digit snowfalls, again basically shutting down the city. This storm apparently set records across the area and was 4th on the all-time snowfall list at National Airport. It was pretty exciting for a California boy.

The fun thing about these storms is the sense of shared catastrophe. People are just friendlier both before and after the big snow, more likely to say hi on the street, more likely to strike up a conversation, more helpful. Plus, you've got your giant flashmob snowball fights and funny websites, too. I think it's a gentle reminder that we're not that far removed from the state of nature and that we do actually rely on other people.

When the storm passed yesterday there was an hour of blue skies before the sunset and our street was bathed in a beautiful evening glow - even caught a glimpse of a cardinal.

Apart from shoveling the walk and doing the dishes, I passed part of the time by watching Werner Herzog's infamous 1982 film Fitzcarraldo--the story of a would-be rubber baron trying to move a steamship over a mountain as part of a scheme to build an opera house in the middle of the amazon. (It makes a little more sense in context.)

The scenes of madman Klaus Kinski steaming deep into the rainforest blasting Caruso out of his gramophone were an impressive contrast to the quiet, white blanket coming down outside the windows. Anyway, it's a good movie, a fascinating addition to the genre of crazy white people who go to the jungle and do crazy things -- and the crazy filmmakers who risk life and limb to make crazy movies about them (see also, Apocalypse Now).

Friday, February 05, 2010

Tall Towers

The other day Quinn managed to build a tower of blocks taller than herself. The version caught on video is only slightly less impressive.

Quinn has also reached the age where she doesn't want us to take pictures (or video) of her - she would rather play with the camera and take pictures of us. That means we have a lot of recent shots of her reaching toward the camera. Laura Jean thinks it's time to get her a sturdy and cheap digital camera for her to play with and see what she comes up with.