published Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Cook: With this vote, I thee wed

Mark West, head of the Chattanooga Tea Party, is right.

Tonight's vote on domestic partner benefits should be rerouted to a public referendum. If, that is, West's group -- Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency -- can gather enough signatures needed to detour the vote from the nine-member City Council to the citizens of Chattanooga.

A petition drive could lead to the empowerment and re-activation of thousands more voters on both sides. It would redirect and reestablish democratic power down toward the ground, like a water witch, into the hands of We The People, which is marvelous and necessary.

Yes, I'm for the domestic partner benefits legislation. But that doesn't mean I shouldn't support and hold the door open for a petition just because I oppose the issue it promotes.

Nor is this to say the council is incompetent; but rather, when given a choice between decision-making power resting with representatives or with actual people, the latter is most frequently healthier than the former.

Plus, the math is wrong. Hundreds of people have been attending council meetings because of this. Hundreds. Yet last week's first reading passed by a 5-4 vote. One man's vote should not determine the fate of thousands, especially if those thousands are itching to determine their own.

In America, we're meant to roar, not be given three minutes at the Council microphone and nothing more.

"Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence," wrote Thoreau.

Yes, let's vote on this. Let's also vote on the budget. Vote on crime policy, nonprofit funding and everything else under the sun. One of the best things about this issue is the outpouring of response; even though it's been mean-spirited at times (not all protesters, but plenty enough), it still has turned the council chambers into a hot ticket, a packed house, ground zero of civic debate.

That's just what should happen in a democracy.

And also what should happen in a marriage.

Both need engagement to stay alive.

The domestic partner benefit plan is about all the things its proponents say it is: equality, workplace fairness, attracting the best and brightest to city work.

But it's also about same sex marriage, or rather, what happens when it's not legalized. This benefits plan is what is created when all avenues towards marriage are closed. Like that old saying: when a door closes, a window opens. If the state won't hand over the keys to the castle door of marriage, then other windows will be pried open.

"How do you define marriage?" a reader named Edmond emailed.

Like a Swiss Army knife, it can both cut and fix things. Marriage is the best hardest and hardest best thing I've ever done in my life.

Like so many have said before, marriage is a foundation of society, and yes, it is being torn apart. Good marriages are an ecology. Like a cultural rain forest, marriage puts so much good stuff into the air and provides shelter and life to so many things.

That's why I wish gay and lesbian Americans could marry. Instead of starving the definition of marriage, let's expand it. We ought to beg for same sex marriage; please, come join us and share in the beauty and trials of marriage; help us in the heterosexual world glean more ways to celebrate, understand and fix it.

Not long ago, my wife and I celebrated 13 years of marriage. Best years ever. Feels more like 13 minutes than 13 years, right babe?

"Oh yes. Thirteen minutes," she said. "Underwater."

A joker, that woman. Keep this quiet, but she's right: Marriage is not easy. But neither is medical school or boot camp. Marriage is hard because it's demanding and it's demanding because it can also be life-saving.

Just like democracy.

Our political relationship has reached the point of irreconcilability. We are becoming irredeemable to one another. Defeat is our main goal, understanding our last. We forget to respect. I'm as guilty as anyone.

"What do we do?" Edmond asked.

He was talking about the future of marriage. He could have also been talking about the state of our democracy. With both, the answer lies in engagement.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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fairmon said...

There is nothing in the constitution or city charter designating the government as a promoter of marriage. Pay city employees well enough with a set dollar amount to select their personal defined benefits while allowing them to purchase at the group rates the coverage for dependents. Discriminating against all that prefer being single is the root cause of the current issue. Considering extending benefits to heterosexual cohabiting couples is extreme and ridiculous.

There is no validity to the statement or claim that extended benefits are necessary to attract and retain the requisite skills for any city or county government job. The mayor and council seem to forget their commitment and responsibility to be good stewards of taxpayers money, to fulfill their fiduciary obligation. There is something wrong when the justification is that the cost will only add 1% to an already bloated budget. 1% here, 1/2 of 1% there and only 2% for another feel good project is why we had a 19% increase in the cost to live in the city last year and why there is a major unfunded future liability issue never discussed and publicized.

November 19, 2013 at 8:10 p.m.
ORRMEANSLIGHT said...

These benefits just passed are unlawful, rogue, and seemingly that which scofflaws would pass. This political action follows the example given by the Obama administration (disregarding established laws and utilizing tyranny to force conditions which have not been legislated). These benefits are illegal in every sense of the word.

TENNESSEE STATUTE (LAW) RE: LEGAL MARRIAGE:

"(b) The legal union in matrimony of only one (1) man and one (1) woman shall be the only recognized marriage in this state. (c) Any policy, law or judicial interpretation that purports to define marriage as anything other than the historical institution and legal contract between one (1) man and one (1) woman is contrary to the public policy of Tennessee"; Tenn. Code Ann. ' 36 3 113

Too many Liberal Democrats are Scofflaws and utilizes sleazy deception and other evil tactics to push their immoral lifestyles onto society. It may be we now see Chattanooga City Government following this example of the Obama administration.

Ken ORR

November 19, 2013 at 11:22 p.m.
fairmon said...

Politicians find it too easy to spend OPM (other peoples money) to win favor and buy votes. The word fairness was thrown around a lot during the discussions but fairness to those doing the funding was never appropriately recognized or emphasized.

November 20, 2013 at 12:29 a.m.
storioni said...

I don't want the writers of the previous letters or any other know-nothing cohorts of Mark West voting on any aspect of my life. Not everything in this world is open to plebiscite. Imagine how long it would have taken to rid the south of Jim Crow laws had they been put to a vote. Would we really have been willing to wait another 40 years for the majority of southern racists to have some sort of moral epiphany? It's obvious that there are many who have not yet experienced that blinding moment.

No. This will be decided by the courts, state by state, as all the same-sex marriage bans approved by vote are declared unconstitutional. The tide will not be turned.

November 20, 2013 at 8:41 a.m.
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