Monday, December 23, 2013

Op-Ed: Gay Marriage Ruling Opens Door to Legal Confusion

My Op-Ed, as recently published in the Standard Examiner:

The recent overturning of Utah's Constitutional Amendment 3 was a shock in its timing and delivery. The large media frenzy which broadcast gay marriage ceremonies live into Utahn's living rooms appeared hasty and one-sided.  In this context, it is time to take a step back and examine the larger picture.  We need to take a thoughtful moment to question and ask ourselves to what end we are headed.

First let me say that I am not a hater.  Nor, am I a bigot.  I have wonderful gay and straight friends and neighbors.  Unfortunately, the casual use of these derisive labels has poisoned healthy debate on this important subject.  By silencing and thus marginalizing those with a contrary view point from those supporting the same-sex marriage cause, public discourse has become highly polarized. Perhaps it is that civil minded people are fatigued by having to defend themselves against slanderous and untrue accusations.  Or, that these civil minded citizens are reluctant to rebuff strong and passionate rhetoric with equal vigor; not because of acquiescence, but rather out of disbelief and confusion that divisive tones can so quickly and needlessly escalate.

I have a deep sense of sympathy for my friends and neighbors in the LGBT community who struggle to validate their same-gender proclivities while yearning for acceptance in a judgmental world.  Certainly, it must be a difficult and challenging life experience.  Nevertheless, it seems the validation and acceptance that is sought is being pursued in ways that run contrary to the interests of society at large.

Society has an existential interest in children and the relationships that produce them.  It may be hard to believe but Utah right now is teetering just above replacement in its fertility rate.  The rest of the U.S. is below replacement which means that unless we have in-migration, our nation's population is set to decline.  This decline means that there will not be enough young people to care for the old.  There will not be enough young workers to pension their grandparents.  Many of our economic problems are symptomatic of this inverted age pyramid.  If society bears no children, society has no future.  Thus, insisting that the State endorse marriage between two people of the same gender runs contrary to the need for society to perpetuate itself through reproduction through the traditional family setting.

It may be argued that these same-gender unions are not hurting anyone and that it simply recognizes a contractual agreement between two consenting adults.  Indeed, on an individual level this appears to be the case.  However, on a broader level, when the laws are changed and the guiding arm of state statute offers its citizens legal alternatives to traditional family creation; and, these alternatives are taught impartially in our schools to the rising generation; we can only expect that the effect would be to inhibit our future capacity to reproduce, with all the consequences that implies.

Another major problem linked to same-sex marriage laws relates to its ripple effects within the law.  For thousands of years, marriage has been clearly defined through tradition as union between man and woman.  If this traditional definition is no longer valid, then what other possible combinations are available?  Is there a limit to the number of people that can exist in a marriage?  What about polygamy?  Recently, a judge struck down provisions of Utah's anti-polygamy laws and cited the overturn of anti-sodomy laws in Texas as his precedent.  We cannot assume that changing laws to include members of the LGBT community will not have an effect on other aspects of the law.

Yet, another complication of sanctioning same-gender marriages is that it equates homosexual relations with those of heterosexual ones and asserts rights based on that supposed equality. This in turn has the potential to upend conventional protections given to individuals. The law provides protection for various classes of people including race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, citizenship, family status, disability, or veteran status.  Each of these protected classes, with the notable exception of religion, is an easily identifiable trait.  Men and women are defined at birth biologically.  The law offers special protections based on these biological definitions.  However, it is uncertain whether same gender attraction is a physical condition that is imbued at birth, or nurtured through life experience.  Perhaps it is part of both.  Nevertheless, the certainty of this characteristic in the individual is made known through personal choice.  A person must take action and engage in a physical relationship with someone of the same gender in order to assert the claim of being gay.  Otherwise, any claim could be suspect.  This then begs the question, does someone's choice to engage in a same-gender relationship afford them new rights like the right to marry?  What other rights can be argued based on these personal choices?  What other sexual choices can individuals make to afford them new rights?  Do these rights disappear when their choices change?  As you can see, this is a frontier of foggy uncharted legal territory with far reaching implications for society.

Historically, we live in a country where rights beget freedom and freedom begets choices.  Reversing this paradigm so that choices create rights threatens to open the door to legal confusion.  In this process, the traditional values and norms that have served society for millennia could be left in the lurch.  May we all take a step back, speak in soft tones, and honestly listen to both sides of this debate.  Our posterity will thank us for it.    

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Through the Veil: The Funeral of Brad Jay Galvez

My wife and I had the opportunity to attend the funeral for my friend and former legislative colleague Brad Jay Galvez today.  The solemn services were held at the Wilson 2nd Ward building of the LDS Church in West Haven, Utah.  Several hundred friends and family were in attendance.    

Brad's son Joshua read the obituary which was then followed by his children sharing memories of their father.  It was very touching.  Representative Ryan Wilcox, County Commissioner Kerry GIbson, and family shared a special musical number.  Brad's sister-in-law spoke as well as Representative Ken Ivory.  The final speaker was Elder Lynn L. Summerhays from the fifth Quorum of the Seventy who had presided over the meeting.

I have to say of all the funerals that I have ever attended,  this was one of the most inspirational and edifying I have ever seen.  The spirit in the room was in accord with Brad's lifetime of service, faith, and devotion to his family.

Brad was serving as the Bishop for his ward at the time of his passing.  He had been diagnosed in the last half of 2012 with untreatable kidney cancer and given three months to live by his doctors.  Undeterred, he pursued a holistic health regiment that included strict dietary protocols and natural treatments for his condition.  Miraculously, he lived over a year after his diagnosis and was able to spend that extra time with his wife and children.  During that time, Brad was continually upbeat and eager to serve others.

There were many poignant quotes from the meeting.  Here are just a couple:

"I never saw a stronger man than the frail and feeble Brad Galvez." - Ken Ivory

"The Galvez family has the faith to be healed, they also have the faith not to be healed." - Elder Summerhays

Elder Summerhays' remarks touched the heart. He mentioned that Brad's early passing opened doors of opportunity as Brad would continue to do the Lord's work beyond the veil.  He also alluded to the rights of a father and husband Brad still has as a patriarch who is sealed to his family by covenant.  He also talked about faith as the Galvez family prayed for a miracle to save Brad but ultimately accepted the Lord's will that now was Brad's time to depart.  Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane acquiesced to his Father's will yet knowing the anguish of the Atonement would be nearly unbearable. (Luke 22:42)  Likewise, the Lord has a plan for each of us and the Galvez family has shown they have embraced that plan, despite its untimely unpleasantness.

It was a privilege to serve with Brad in the Legislature and an honor to call him a friend.  I am grateful for the experience of attending his funeral.  It was a moving and inspiring memorial to Brad's life and a faith building personal experience to be there.  

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Brad's wife Lisa and his four children Joshua, Justin, Jenilyn, and Jordana during this time of mourning.  I know that the Comforter will abide with them during this season of transition.    

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Living and Dying By Federal Funds: A Realtor's Post Mortem Analysis

I don't usually commingle the topics of my living as a real estate broker with my politics on this blog.  But, unfortunately, we live in an age where the economy seems increasingly dependent on government.

Weber County has a very high percentage (10%) of employees depending on the Federal Government for their incomes.  The IRS has a dominant presence as a major employer as well as Hill Air Force Base.

It is also important to note that real estate sales are a vital statistic of the health of an economy.  When people make less money, they spend less money, and thus, buy fewer homes.

So, here is how the Federal Government shutdown affected home sales (my livelihood) in Weber County:

As you can see, a 23% drop in November homes sales from the same month last year says a lot.  This is the first YoY decrease in sales since May 2011 when we were in the throws of a real estate depression. Fortunately, this should be an anomaly and not a trend.

But, if there are further political earthquakes and budget gridlock at the Federal level, we can expect more palpitations in the local economy, including the real estate market.  

This is an excellent illustration of the seductive lure and yet lurking peril of depending on government jobs to support a local economy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Keys to the Republic: The Wisdom of Machiavelli

I recently finished reading the illuminating book Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius by Niccolo Machiavelli.  Unlike The Prince, this book is a fascinating treatise on the successes and failures of ancient republics and governments while also comparing them to contemporary republics of Machiavelli's time, especially those of renaissance era Florence and Venice.  The book is dripping in wisdom from the ages.  I strongly encourage anyone interested in politics and policymaking to acquire a copy.

Here are some of the best quotes.  I have loosely categorized them for your benefit.


"Let no man, therefore, lose heart from thinking that he cannot do what others have done before him; are born, and live, and die, always in accordance with the same rules."

"He who would reform the institutions of a free state, must retain at least the semblance of the old ways."

"Remaining undecided, he will be crushed while he still wavers and doubts."

"For nothing, I think, is of worse example in a republic, than to make a law and not keep it; and most of all, when he who breaks it is he who made it."

"Of all the many princes existing. or who have existed, few indeed are or have been either wise or good."

"Men, moreover, in proportion as they see you averse to usurp authority over them, grow the readier to surrender themselves into your hands; and fear you less on the score of their freedom, when they find you acting toward them with consideration and kindness."

"Excellence is praised and admired even by its enemies."

"More glory is to be won in being beaten by force, than in a defeat from any other cause."

"A great man is constantly the same through all vicissitudes of fortune; so that although she change, now exalting, now depressing, he remains unchanged, and retains always a mind so unmoved, and in such complete accordance with his nature as declares to all that over him fortune has no dominion." - Marcus Furius Camillus

"Very different is the behavior of those weak minded mortals who, puffed up and intoxicated with their success, ascribe all their felicity to virtues which they never knew."

"For as a captain cannot be present everywhere while a battle is being fought, unless he have taken all measures before hand to render his men of the same temper as himself, and have made sure that they perfectly understand his orders and arrangements, he will inevitably be destroyed."

"The criterion of character afforded by a man's manners and conversation is a safer guide than the presumption of inherited excellence, but is far inferior to that afforded by his actions."

"It is men who give lustre to titles and not titles to men."

Corruption of the State

"For the corruption I speak of is wholly incompatible with the free government, because it results from an inequality which pervades the state and can only be removed by employing unusual and very violent remedies, such as few are willing or know how to employ."

"But where corruption is universal, no laws or institutions will ever have force to restrain it.  Because as good customs stand in need of good laws for their support, so laws, that they may be respected, stand in need of good customs.  Moreover, the laws and institutions established in a republic at its beginning, when men are good, are no longer suitable when they have become bad."

"But when the people grew depraved, this [the tribune] became a very mischievous institution; for then it was only the powerful who proposed laws, and these not in the interest of public freedom but of their own authority, and because, through fear, none durst speak against the laws they proposed, the people were either deceived or forced into voting their own destruction."

"The vices of our age are the more odious in that they are practiced by those who sit on the judgement seat, govern the state, and demand public reverence."

Freedom Gained and Freedom Ruined

"There is no difficulty, therefore, in determining whence that ancient greatness and this modern decay have arisen, since they can be traced to the free life formerly prevailing and to the servitude which prevails now.  For all countries and provinces which enjoy complete freedom, make, as I have said, most rapid progress.  Because from marriage being less restricted in these countries, and more sought after, we find there a greater population; every man being disposed to beget as many children as he thinks he can rear, when he has no anxiety lest they should be deprived of their patrimony, and knows not only that they are born to freedom and not to slavery, but that they may rise by their merit to be the first men of their country, in such states, accordingly, we see wealth multiply, both that which comes from agriculture and that which comes from manufactures. For all love to gather riches and to add to their possessions when enjoyment of them is not likely to be disturbed."

"The multitude...formed themselves into a government and at first, while the recollection of past tyranny was still fresh, observed the laws they themselves made, and postponing personal advantage to the common welfare, administered affairs both publicly and privately with the utmost diligence and zeal.  But this government passing, afterwards, to their descendants who, never having been taught in the school of adversity, knew nothing of the vicissitudes of fortune, these not choosing to rest content with mere civil equality, but abandoning themselves to avarice, ambition, and lust, converted, without respect to civil rights what had been a government of the best into a government of the few; and so very soon met with the same fate as the tyrant."  

"A lost freedom is avenged with more ferocity than a threatened freedom is defended."

"Those states consequently stand surest and endure longest which, either by the operation of their institutions can renew themselves, or come to be renewed by accident apart from any design.  Nothing, however, can be clearer than that unless thus renewed these bodies do not last.  Now the way to renew them is, as I have said, to bring them back to their beginnings, since all beginnings of sects, commonwealths, or kingdoms must needs have in them a certain excellence, by virtue of which they gain their first reputation and make their first growth.  But because in progress of time this excellence becomes corrupted, unless something be done to restore it to what it was at first, these bodies necessarily decay; for as the physicians tell us in speaking of the human body: "something or other is daily added which sooner or later will require treatment."

"Nothing is so necessary in any society, as to restore to it that reputation which it had at first, and to see that it is provided either with wholesome laws, or with good men whose actions may effect the same ends, without need to resort to external force."

"For it is no less arduous and dangerous to attempt to free a people disposed to live in servitude, than to enslave a people who desire to live free."

The Decline of Religion Presages the Decline of a State

"And as the observance of the ordinances of religion is the cause of the greatness of a state, so their neglect is the occasion of its decline; since a kingdom without the fear of God must either fall to pieces, or must be maintained by the fear of some prince who supplies that influence not supplied by religion."

"Princes and commonwealths that would save themselves from growing corrupted, should before all things keep uncorrupted the rites and ceremonies of religion, and always hold them in reverence; since we can have no surer sign of decay of a province than to see divine worship held therein in contempt."

"Wherever there is fear, the want of faith will be the same."

Balance of Power

"In every republic there are two conflicting factions, that of the people and that of the nobles, it is in this conflict that all laws favorable to freedom have their origin."

"The cruelties of a people are turned against him who it fears will encroach upon the common rights, but the cruelties of the prince against those who he fears may assert those rights."

"For a monarchy readily becomes a tyranny, an aristocracy an oligarchy, while a democracy tends to degenerate into anarchy.  So that if the founder of a state should establish any one of these three forms of government, he establishes it for a short time only, since no precaution he may take can prevent it from sliding into its contrary by reason of the close resemblance which, in this case, the virtue bears to the vice."

The People

"For though they be ignorant, the people are not therefore, as Cicero says, incapable of being taught the truth, but are readily convinced when it is told them by one in whose honesty they can trust."

"For though the multitude be unfit to set a state in order, since they cannot, by reason of the divisions which prevail among them, agree wherein the true well-being of the state lies, yet when they have once been taught the truth, they will never consent to abandon it."

"But when a people is led to commit this error of lending its support to some one man, in order that he may attack those whom it holds in hatred, if he only be prudent, he will inevitably become the tyrant of that city."

"A people deceived by a false show of advantage will often labor for its own destruction; and unless convinced by someone whom it trusts, that the course on which it is bent is pernicious, and that some other is to be preferred, will bring infinite danger and injury up on a state."

"So blinded are men in favor of what seems a spirited course."

"Nothing tends so much to restrain an excited multitude as the reverence felt for some grave person, clothed in authority, who stands forward to oppose them."

"For often a people will be open-mouthed in condemning the decrees of their prince, but afterwards when they have to look punishment in the face, putting no trust in one another, they hasten to comply."

"On the one hand there is nothing more terrible than an uncontrolled and headless mob, on the other, there is nothing feebler."

"But as for prudence and stability of purpose, I affirm that a people is more prudent, more stable, and of better judgement than a prince, nor is it without reason that the voice of the people has been likened to the voice of God; for we see that wide spread beliefs fulfill themselves, and bring about marvelous results so as to have the appearance of presaging by some occult quality either weal or woe."

"How greatly men are governed in what they do by necessity."

Miscellaneous Wisdom

"For men, if they would judge justly, should esteem those who are, and not those whose means enable them to be generous; and in like manner those who know how to govern kingdoms, rather than those who possess the government without such knowledge."

"Whence it happens that by far the greater number of those who read history, take pleasure in following the variety of incidents with it presents, without a thought to imitate them."

"Calumny is most rife in that state wherein impeachment is least practiced and the laws least favor it."

"For men used to live in one way are loath to leave it for another, especially when they are not brought face to face with the evil against which they should guard, and only have it indicated to them by conjecture."

"For the causes of division in a commonwealth are, for the most part, ease and tranquility, while the causes of union are fear and war."

"The past should have our reverence, the present our obedience, and that we should wish for good princes, but put up with any."