Issues of the day

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From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

A court in San Francisco just struck down the ban on gay marriages in California on constitutional grounds. In certain circles this is considered a major catastrophe, and there was a storm of protest. Some people perceive that gay marriage threatens the entire institution of marriage and therefore puts the entire Republic in imminent danger.

I must admit I’m at a total loss to understand why people get so upset about the prospect of gay marriage. We live in a time when one half of the heterosexual marriages in California end in divorce. I don’t get a sense that many of these people who espouse these so called “family values” and oppose gay marriage have any better divorce rate than the rest of us, or any less alcoholism or drug abuse or problems with their children than the rest of the population.

I don’t see that there is any right way to live, nor have I seen anyone who has come up with the correct formula. If two people, gay or straight, want to be together, and join their lives together, it seems to me that the state is better off supporting that union than opposing it. Perhaps it’s because I suspect that being gay is not something one chooses; people are probably born that way. So why deny them full rights?

I think the judge is right that banning gay marriage is really no different than legally sanctioned segregation, which was the condition of the races in America for more than 100 years. The United States Supreme Court threw out the doctrine of separate but equal in Brown v. Board of Education because it said separate is really never equal, no matter what lip service is paid. Twenty or 30 years from now, if that long, we’ll look back at this battle over gay marriage, much as we now look back at the Jim Crow laws earlier in the century and wonder what we were fighting about. Think of the old water fountains in the segregated South marked White and Colored. The contemporary equivalent would be water fountains marked Gay and Straight. They would be as antiquated as the old Jim Crow signs, a vestige of an earlier, less tolerant time.

Homeowners insurance that isn’t

One of the things you discover when you have weeks of rain and the hills begin to slide is that none of it is covered by your homeowner’s policy. In the recent rain we had a retaining wall collapse beneath our house and part of it is still sitting in the middle of Rambla Vista. The people from Allstate, our insurance company, responded quickly. They came out to the house, took pictures, measured everything, were deeply sympathetic, and then with great sadness explained to us that of course none of this was covered by the policy.

We, I might add, have the top-of-the-line Allstate Insurance super deluxe everything policy that’s structurally designed to cover any risk that might occur except the ones likely to happen. I mean, after all, how many times have we seen mudslides and hillsides slough after major rains in Southern California? Is there something terribly unpredictable about that in Southern California? Of course not.

We’re a regular staple on the 6:00 news, so how is it that insurance companies can sell policies in California but exclude that risk? After all, they’re certainly capable of evaluating the risk and setting a premium. Certainly, we will have to pay more, but that’s OK. The idea is to spread the risk out among us all.

If you can buy hurricane insurance in the Southeast United States and flood insurance to cover you if the Mississippi overruns its banks, or tornado coverage in the Midwest, why is it that slides in Southern California are excluded? The bigger question is why are they allowed to get away with it? Now, before you start sending me e-mails about getting a good lawyer, I know plenty of them. But I figure when I bought an insurance policy, what I was looking for was coverage, not an opportunity to sue my insurance company. So I’ve decided to take this up as a cause. I’m going to take this to our insurance commissioner, to the attorney general’s office and finally to the Legislative committees on insurance.

California is about 13 percent of this nation and an enormously large and affluent market. Anything we mandate is going to become universal in this country. I’ll keep you posted.