The Governor’s odd remarks in support of civil union legislation

Senate Bill 30, a bill which would recognize civil unions as a legal relationship in the state of Delaware has been introduced, and the usual suspects have been heard from both in support and against the legislation.

The issue of civil unions aside, I found it odd that Governor Markell would, in his remarks supporting the bill, reference the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi last fall.  If you recall, Tyler’s sexual encounter with another male student was posted on the internet.  The anguish of this apparently compelled him to kill himself.  A tragic story and a waste of a young life.

The Governor’s remarks on SB30 began as follows:

A few months ago, there was a candlelight vigil attended by hundreds of Delawareans who had come to mourn the loss of a young life.

It was a moment for heartbreak – to hear the story of so much potential wasted, so much thrown away, so much anguish focused so fully on one person that suicide seemed to him the easier choice than having to live with hatred directed at him because of his sexual orientation.

More heartbreaking even, is how that scenario happens again and again, across the country. But that night, so many Delawareans stepped up and shared their own stories – stories of hope, stories of promise, stories of how far our neighbors and our state have come.

Was the Tyler Clementi incident anything about civil unions ? Was it even about one’s sexual orientation ? I imagine that a student involved in a heterosexual encounter would be equally mortified. The Clementi case may have been about online bullying, and it may make a statement on how cruel and vicious our online community has become, but it had nothing to do with civil unions. It was sexual experimentation in a college dorm room (!) which has nothing to do with whether or not a same-sex couple has legal rights in Delaware.

If civil union legislation was in effect in New Jersey, would the Tyler Clementi case never have happened ? No. That is like saying womens’ rights legislation stopped rapes or that civil rights legislation stopped lynchings. Totally off point.

I think that Governor Markell fell into the trap that many in politics and the news media do: taking a sensational event and using it to justify an action. Even if the “event” is extremely rare and more than likely only loosely related to the issue at hand, one needs the “hook” that will make people gasp in horror and then say, “Oh yes then, well this must be the right thing to do because of this horrible thing that happened.” But it is totally illogical. It just doesn’t follow.

It is designed for maximum impact, not relevance.

Senate Bill 30 should be judged by the merits of the legislation itself as well as your personal beliefs. With both of these you can form your opinion.

Leave Tyler Clementi out of it. It does a disservice to his memory for him to be used in this way.

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2 Comments

Filed under Civil Unions

2 responses to “The Governor’s odd remarks in support of civil union legislation

  1. I had the same reaction at the time when the Clementi case was cited as an example of anti-gay bias. Maybe I missed it, but I don’t remember there being any proof that the posting of the video was driven by bias, College students can do plenty of stupid things without bias being behind it. I can easily imagine that whoever posted it did it trying to be funny, not knowing how hard Clementi would take it. It always struck me as a prank gone bad, rather than an attempt to shame or humiliate him. (Again I might have missed something, though.)

  2. I had pretty much the same perception of the Clementi incident that you did, Paul. Just a dumb college prank. So horribly cruel, though. If the person who did it had any idea it would turn out the way it did ….. horrible.

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