Saturday, October 18, 2003
We are in the midst of a great, reckless social experiment: America is testing its Gays and Lesbians, to see if a statistically significant segment of the population can live, form families and raise children without the protections and stability of civil marriage. Alas, the experiment is failing, and deserves to meet a swift end. So, as a coda to "Marriage Protection Week," I'd like to present my best case for same-sex marriage.
I'll start with a few basic points on homosexuality, accepted by all but a few cranks on the Far Right.
1. Whether sexuality is genetic or environmental, most of us do not experience it as a choice. (Yet even if some of us do, it doesn't necessarily follow that the state should endeavor to change it.)
2. Regardless of the social pressures we place upon individuals, a homo- or bisexual orientation is highly unlikely to become a heterosexual one, and vice versa.
3. Any alleged benefits of placing homosexual men and women in heterosexual relationships are vastly outweighed by the resultant instability, psychological stress and lack of emotional satisfaction within these relationships.
Bottom line: Governments have tried to alter individuals' sexuality through social engineering, and they have failed every time. Civil recognition of same-sex marriages won't make anyone "turn Gay," just as the lack of recognition hasn't made anyone "turn Straight." Gays, it seems, will always be with us, whether allowed to marry or not.
My next major point concerns the institution of marriage itself.
1. As far as the US government is concerned, marriage is a civil institution, not a religious sacrament. Only theocracies refuse to distinguish between civil institutions and religious ceremonies.
2. Same-sex couples in the US are able to receive the religious sacrament of marriage through Christian denominations such as Metropolitan Community Church, through Reform Jewish congregations, and through non-sectarian spiritual groups such as Unitarians and Quakers.
3. Even though same-sex couples can receive the religious rite of marriage anywhere in the US, they cannot receive a civil marriage ceremony.
Bottom line: The argument that legal marriage is a religious sacrament is demonstrably false. In the strictest terms of social policy, marriage binds two persons in a mutual, contractual obligation. Religion, or its absence, is not a factor in the eyes of the secular state.
The next point concerns what many social conservatives would call family values.
1. Most persons in committed, long-term same-sex relationships love and care for each other, just as persons in committed, long-term opposite-sex relationships do.
2. Many same-sex couples in the US have children. Sometimes the children are biological; sometimes they are delivered through a surrogate; sometimes they are adopted. But a same-sex couple is not necessarily childless.
3. Many married, heterosexual couples choose not to have children, or are too old to consider child-rearing.
4. A heterosexual couple can legally marry, whether or not they intend to have children, while a same-sex couple cannot, regardless of how many children they may already have.
Bottom line: The argument that marriage must remain exclusively heterosexual because only heterosexual couples are able to sire and raise children, ignores the everyday reality of Gay and Lesbian households with children. Also, the argument that Gay and Lesbian couples are inherently more unstable than their heterosexual counterparts, ignores the everyday reality of committed, loving same-sex couples.
Most Americans, even those on the Far Right, will acknowledge that Gay people exist. Gay people have formed loving same-sex relationships. Many committed same-sex couples do exactly what heterosexually married couples do -- they care for each other, form stable households, raise biological and/or adopted children. But unlike heterosexual couples, same-sex couples manage to do these things without the basic legal recognitions and protections of civil marriage.
The case for same-sex marriage boils down to equal protection under the law. Keeping Gays and Lesbians out of civil marriage makes same-sex households less secure and more expensive to maintain. Committed partners and their children pay the price, literally and figuratively.
1. When a married couple holds property jointly, it is taxed only once. When two single persons do this, the property can be taxed twice. Joint tax filing is a financial benefit available only to legally married couples -- and thus offered solely to heterosexuals. (Same-sex couples also pay extra taxes on joint health insurance and income.) Even though Gays and Lesbians in committed relationships have some rights that married heterosexual couples possess, they can pay up to twice as much as married heterosexuals would for those rights.
2. If one person in a same-sex couple is a biological parent (as is the case with many Lesbian couples), the other partner has no legal standing when it comes to child care. Should the biological parent die, the child would be turned over to a foster home; should the couple split up, the other partner would have no legal right to visitation or custody, and no responsibility for child support. The absence of civil marriage makes life more difficult for Gay parents, and more uncertain for their children.
3. Married couples have automatic hospital privileges, inheritance rights, immigration privileges, and legal recognition of their family unit. Same-sex couples have no such guarantees. Often they find themselves at the mercy of hospital personnel, government bureaucrats, unscrupulous lawyers, and unsympathetic relatives. It's not uncommon for a Gay man to find himself barred from his deceased partner's funeral.
Bottom line: Denying civil marriage to committed Gay and Lesbian couples hurts them and hurts their children, while offering no benefit whatsoever to married heterosexual couples. To paraphrase Jefferson, the current situation picks Gays' pockets and twists their arms.
Coda: Some people have suggested that instead of giving same-sex couples full and equal access to marriage, we could create a separate category for them -- a sort of "Marriage Lite," or "I Can't Believe It's Not Marriage!" But such legislation would involve a great deal of time, trouble and expense. It could even prove counterproductive if commitment-phobic heterosexuals were to decide that ambiguous, low-risk "civil unions" are preferable to marriage proper. In contrast, recognizing same-sex marriage would involve only a sentence or two of new legislation, would eliminate ambiguities in the legal code (not the least of which would be the marital status of transgendered persons), and would maintain the overall integrity of marriage as a civil institution.
There, in a nutshell, is my case for same-sex marriage. Instead of a twenty-page essay, I've given you a brief outline, but the points are all there. Culture blogging resumes tomorrow.
In the meantime, if you're an American citizen, send an e-mail to your Senators urging them to oppose the new "Federal Marriage Amendment."
A loyal reader, inspired by some of my recent posts, has written in with a request:
No, I'm not asking you to enter into a same-sex marriage with me, but I'd enjoy seeing you tackle some of Eve Tushnet's recent arguments against gay marriage, which are at least not the same ones we hear from the out-and-out homophobes. I realize many bloggers don't take requests, but on the off chance you do, you have one now.
First, the reason most bloggers don't take requests is that most bloggers don't get requests. Since this is the last day of Marriage Protection Week, I'll take up the gauntlet. After today, I mean to put this topic aside and resume the culture blogging.
Tushnet, a bisexual Catholic who has embraced celibacy and wants others to do the same, is a part-timer at the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. It's no surprise that her own opinions closely echo those of her boss, the rather infamous soi-disant social conservative Maggie Gallagher. How conservative Gallagher really is, you may judge for yourself.
Gallagher's position has long been that because gender roles are immutably fixed, the idea of a loving same-sex relationship equal to heterosexual coupledom is irrational nonsense. Never mind that nearly every psychological study not conducted by discredited sociologist Paul Cameron indicates that children raised in same-sex households grow up every bit as well-adjusted as children from intact heterosexual families. Never mind that all the facts we have strongly indicate that the jobs of parenthood are best fulfilled by two loving people, and it doesn't really matter what gender those people are. What's important, in Gallagher's words, is that under marriage, adults "have a basic obligation to control their desires so that children can have mothers and fathers."
She doesn't say children should have loving mothers and fathers, which is important. According to Gallagher, marriage isn't about something as trivial as "merely individual expressive conduct" or "the sexual desires of adults." She doesn't consider that people get married because they, you know, love each other, or that people have children because they want them.
No, Gallagher's justification for marriage is the nearly irreconcilable social divide between men and women. In her view, men really are from Mars, and women from Venus. But when Mars and Venus have hot, malodorous sex together, they beget children, necessary for the continuance of society, who need an intact household with securely married (though not necessarily loving) heterosexual parents.
Well, the only way to bring an unsympathetic Mars and Venus into an harmonious alignment over an extended period of time, is through heavy-handed social engineering. Thus, the social "purpose" of marriage is to codify that "children need mothers and fathers, that societies need babies, and that adults have an obligation to shape their sexual behavior so as to give their children stable families in which to grow up."
Gallagher's "stay-together-for-the-kids" approach to heterosexual coupledom is so unappealing that you'd wonder why anyone would ever want to marry someone of the opposite sex. Indeed, that's her point: Heterosexual marriage, like all social engineering, is designed to make you do something you wouldn't consent to otherwise.
If Gallagher is right, and men and women have a profound gender divide that only extensive social engineering can bridge (for the greater good of the children, of course), then from an individual perspective, homosexual relationships must be superior -- more stable, satisfying, and fulfilling -- than heterosexual ones. On this point I might well agree, though I suspect my heterosexual readers would beg to differ.
But there's nothing in Gallagher's writing to counter it. We could use her premises (as many on the Far Right already have) to conclude that men better satisfy the emotional and sexual needs of men, while women better satisfy the needs of women. Limiting marriage to heterosexuals just levels the playing field, so to speak.
It follows that, if homosexuals were allowed to obtain benefits previously restricted to heterosexuals, same-sex unions would predominate among humankind. After all, in homosexual relationships there's no need to bridge that frightening gender gap. But same-sex relationships don't produce biological children -- so under such a system, the human race would quickly go extinct. And that, according to Gallagher, is the only reason we have civil marriage: to keep people in unstable, unnatural, unloving heterosexual relationships so they can procreate and parent responsibly.
Finally, for Gays and Lesbians who want to experience marital bliss, Gallagher has a novel suggestion: Marry each other! Since love has nothing to do with marriage per se, there's nothing to stop Gay men and Lesbian women from creating households with plenty of biological children. Gallagher even adds, charitably, that "some of these unions succeed." To read about three such unions and their consequences, click here.
Friday, October 17, 2003
David Frum wrote an article for yesterday's Opinion Journal, saying that same-sex marriage would make the institution of marriage "less serious." As with most of his previous columns on the subject, Frum is grasping at straws.
Frum claims that in every country where same-sex marriage has been recognized, "the push for same-sex marriage has had the same result. Rather than get into a fight with religious organizations for whom the term "marriage" refers to one of their own sacraments, governments try to mollify everybody by creating a new legal category very similar to marriage, but not exactly the same."
He's wrong to say this is true of every country -- it's clearly not true for Canada. I'll get to that in a minute. But first, let me say that I'm against civil unions, too: They destabilize the institution of marriage by creating unnecessary legal complications. By and large, the only people I know who actually want a civil union are committed same-sex couples who've concluded that half a loaf is better than none. Though I respect and understand their position, I'd rather see them married outright.
Frum's argument falls apart when he talks about his own homeland, Canada. He focuses exclusively on "common-law marriage," which, like most governmental intrusions into your personal life, gets strange in a hurry: Basically, if you cohabit with someone for a certain length of time, the law will consider you "married," whether you've had a marriage ceremony or not. For example, if you share an apartment with your best friend for three years in Canada, you're technically married under the law. In the US, common-law marriage is recognized in fifteen states and the District of Columbia.
The British invented common-law marriage during the Middle Ages, so that rural couples could legally marry even though priests and clerks never visited their isolated villages. Nowadays, this doctrine gives civil courts carte blanche to intrude into your life and redistribute your property without prior contract or consent. So I'll agree with Frum that common-law marriage belongs to the dustbin of history: It may have been a good idea in the fourteenth century, but it's not relevant anymore.
Of course, saying that civil unions and common-law marriages are problematic legal fictions doesn't invalidate the idea of same-sex marriage. Frum knows -- or should know -- that Canada is the only country where a marriage is a marriage is a marriage, be it same- or opposite-sex. (Currently, same-sex marriages are recognized only in Ontario and British Columbia, but other provinces may soon follow suit.) The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto can now perform its Christian, same-sex marriage ceremonies with the power-vested-in-it-by-the-Province-of-Ontario, that other Christian churches have done with heterosexual couples for hundreds of years.
So Frum's claim that Canada's recognition of same-sex marriage created a new marital category on the order of "civil unions" is purely and simply untrue. Canada didn't create separate civil unions for Gay people. Instead, it recognized same-sex marriages on precisely the terms heterosexual couples have come to take for granted.
Same-sex marriage isn't a question about Gays. It isn't even a question about marriage. It's a matter of equal status under the law for Gay and Lesbian citizens.
Gee, we can't have that.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Americans, it's time to start worrying. Wesley Clark has given the first of his New American Patriotism (or "NAP") speeches, and for once the man looks more frightening than comical.
The Generalissimo's solution to America's domestic ills, be they real or imagined, is a Civilian Reserve. According to Clark, "This bold plan would not create a big, new government bureaucracy." Rather, it will store volunteers' skills and abilities into a vast computer database, so that these people can be contacted at any time, then deployed wherever they are deemed necessary. Of course we'll need government employees to manage the database, and employees to contact the volunteers, and managers to supervise those volunteers, and bureaucrats to manage the managers, and more bureaucrats to oversee funding, not to mention personnel for supplies, transportation, health.
In short, this won't be a big new government bureaucracy. It'll be a huge new government bureaucracy.
But what will all these volunteers do, you ask? Well, Clark isn't exactly specific on that point. He says that some will put out forest fires. Some will deal with natural disasters. Some will assist first responders in case of a terrorist attack. Presumably a few will even teach little Timmy how to write a letter to Clark's campaign staff.
Opportunities for service won't stop at our borders, either. The General tells us that his volunteers "could also aid overseas in response to our ambassador's calls for assistance in helping nations deal with environmental disasters, political and legal development, and economic growth." Translation: If an ambassador calls for help, you'll have to respond. It's sort of like the Peace Corps, only without the annoying "peace" part -- or, for that matter, the whole "choice" thing.
This service won't be just for a week or two, and you won't get to quit whenever you friggin' feel like it, maggot. US Civilian Reservists could be forced to "give up to six months of their lives" just so some African village can have a shiny new bridge over a dry riverbed. Now six months of volunteer work is a little more than your average bake sale, and Clark has promised that their jobs will be difficult and demanding, requiring considerable personal sacrifice for the common good. But for these hapless serfs, not all will be lost. They'll get "health care, a stipend, and the same rights accorded all our national guardsmen and women -- the right to return to their jobs when their service is done."
Best of all, just like the National Guard, these happy civilian volunteers would be coordinated under Clark himself. However, unlike the Guard, they probably won't have weapons or combat training to defend themselves in case of foreign attack. For terrorist groups, this Civilian Reserve will make a large, lumbering, irresistible target -- a literal horde of innocents abroad who can neither go home nor fight back. Gee whillikers, where do I sign up?
Lest you wonder why the nation should consent to a large civilian militia under presidential control, Clark has assured us all that he would never be an unduly harsh master. He says that "the call to serve would, in almost all cases, be voluntary."
Almost all cases?
That's right, gentle reader. Clark says that under the new Civilian Reserve system, "the president would have the authority to issue a mandatory call-up" in an emergency. This means that President-General Clark could make private citizens serve their country -- or, for that matter, some other country -- whether they want to or not.
But don't panic. Clark adds that emergencies "would be exceedingly rare." Besides, if he calls your name, it's only for six months -- unless he decides to place you on another tour of duty.
Read Clark's speech, or try to, here.
A few more quotes for the "Wit and Wisdom" file ...
Whoops: I was telling a war story, and I didn't anticipate a real casualty.
Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk: Just arriving in New York, I saw people with flags and banners, celebrating, flooding the streets with a sense of excitement and anticipation. I commented on this to a local representative, and he said, "Wes, they're Yankees fans."
As the transient, promiscuous, and unfaithful relationships that are characteristic of homosexuals become part of society's image of marriage, fewer marriages will be permanent, exclusive, and faithful -- even among heterosexuals. [Andrew] Sullivan is optimistic that legal unions would change homosexuals for the better; it seems far more probable that homosexuals would change marriage for the worse. Peter Sprigg, senior director, Center for Marriage and Family Studies.
In honor of "Marriage Protection Week," My Stupid Dog presents three tales of one-man, one-woman matrimony. I have deliberately concealed or changed all identifying details, but the stories themselves are true.
Moral Tale #1: For years Mark had known of his sexual feelings toward men, but as a good Catholic, he strove to overcome them. He was a handsome young fellow, with good professional prospects, but had decided to live in a small town where Gays were invisible, so that homosexual temptations would be kept to a minimum. When Mark met a Catholic woman for whom he had warm feelings, he decided to marry her.
It was a storybook wedding, everything the families could have hoped for. The bride and groom made a lovely couple, and looked very happy together. But in private, there was one problem: Despite his love for her (and her love for him), he was still sexually and emotionally attracted to men. He had to fantasize about men to fulfill his husbandly duty, while she submitted to his fumbling advances as best she could.
Within a few months, she was caught having an affair. The other man was ugly and hairy, with missing teeth and an unmistakable stench. He was not the sort of man Mark would have chosen at all. Of course, Mark would have remained faithful to the bitter end. But with his wife's infidelity, he had sufficient moral and legal grounds to divorce her. And that, gentle reader, is precisely what he did.
Three months later, Mark came out as Gay; a year later, he moved out of his small town. He is living in the Los Angeles area.
Moral Tale #2: Lyle had been out for years as a Gay man, when Jill mentioned that she could "convert" him to heterosexuality. Lyle had been in several homosexual relationships -- some good, some abusive -- but something about Jill intrigued him. After several months of nearly constant companionship, Jill did manage to awaken a real, sexual desire within him. She insisted on no sex until marriage, which Lyle considered not an unreasonable demand. He started planning the nuptials right away.
Most people at the wedding knew of Lyle's homosexual past. The pastor, a fresh-scrubbed firebrand just out of seminary, gave a short homily in which he stated that a "Christian marriage" was between "one man, one woman," yet never mentioned the names of the bride or the groom. That mortification aside, Lyle's family felt their prayers had been answered. Lyle was cured.
Jill alone thought otherwise. She believed Lyle would love and support her, without desiring her sexually. He was, after all, a Gay man. Yet Lyle wanted Jill very much, and in precisely the manner she most feared. So her stance of "no sex before marriage" turned to "no sex after marriage." Several long weeks passed, and still their marriage was unconsummated.
Lyle resolved to bear his cross patiently. He would break down Jill's resistance to sex, just as she had broken down his resistance to women. In the meantime, Jill's financial extravagance placed the young couple several thousand dollars in debt. After a few months, they divorced.
Lyle is still single, but thankfully out of debt; he believes that Jill may be Lesbian, but hasn't heard from her in years. What's more, Lyle has come out again -- this time as Bisexual, leaning Gay.
Moral Tale #3: Paul was a military man. He had married, and fathered two children. But none of that could change his feelings toward men. Finally, he decided that the charade of heterosexual marriage was no longer fair to himself, his wife or his family. Surely it was possible to remain on good terms with them, while allowing them (and himself) the emotional fulfillment they so richly deserved. After all, such things had been managed before.
His wife saw the matter differently. She promptly divorced him, and made it known that if he ever attempted to see her or his children, she would report him to the military as a homosexual. For her silence, he paid heavy alimony and child support, and allowed her to keep most of their possessions.
Paul is now in a long-term relationship with another man, and they are reasonably happy. He has not seen his children since the divorce, and he is still in the US military.
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
In case you didn't know it, President Bush has officially declared October 12-18 "Marriage Protection Week." Bush's proclamation touches the anti-Gay platform as quickly and tepidly as possible before going on to the basket of goodies: Tax breaks, legal privileges, and a federal "healthy marriage initiative." But that doesn't matter. This week, conservatives get to bash same-sex marriage with the official White House seal of approval.
Let's see what some of them have said, shall we?
Arnold Schwarzenegger gives the classic Hollywood position: I think Gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman. (Source: "Sean Hannity" radio program, 27 August 2003)
Paul Cameron, founder of the Family Research Institute, explains why heterosexual marriage must be protected: Marital sex tends toward the boring end. Generally, it doesn’t deliver the kind of sheer sexual pleasure that homosexual sex does ... The evidence is that men do a better job on men, and women on women if all you are looking for is an orgasm. (Rolling Stone, 18 March 1999)
According to Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, personal freedom is a slippery slope with lots of lube: If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. (CNN, 22 April 2003)
US Conference of Catholic Bishops president Wilton D. Gregory reminds us that sometimes traditional marriage comes with a (bride) price: We believe the government has an obligation to protect marriage as an institution [and that U.S. Catholic leaders will cooperate with] others who are similarly concerned with preserving the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious understanding of marriage in society. (AP wire, 29 August 2003)
Rebecca Hagelin, vice president of communications at the Heritage Foundation, says that when it comes to same-sex marriage, a fruit is a fruit: Grape juice and wine are both made from grapes. But you can't make grape juice and call it wine. Why? Because it's not wine. (World Net Daily, 14 October 2003)
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins adds that a vegetable is a vegetable and a plastic toy is a plastic toy: The courts are treating marriage as if it were a Mr. Potato Head where individual preferences govern its makeup. (FoxNews, 10 October 2003)
Randy Thomas, communications director for Exodus International (the world's largest "ex-Gay" program), gives us the facts of life: It is possible to live without an orgasm. You won't find a death certificate anywhere that says, "Died of lack of orgasm." (Miami Herald, 11 October 2003)
Finally, George W. Bush forgets that his predecessor already signed a law against same-sex marriage: I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and I think we ought to codify that one way or another. And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that. (CNN, 31 July 2003)
By the way, the first day of Marriage Protection Week also marked the fifth anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death. Gee, that couldn't have been on purpose, could it?
My Stupid Dog: Protecting Marriage from its Defenders since April 2003!
In honor of Marriage Protection Week, My Stupid Dog offers a few old posts for your delectation:
Santo Santorum: Rick Santorum wants the government to get busy -- in your bedroom!
Mistah Kurtz, he dumb: Stanley Kurtz at National Review gets the libertarian position on marriage all wrong.
Mistah Kurtz, he dumb (part II): Canada recognizes same-sex marriage, and the folks at National Review aren't bitter ... much.
Dumb Frum: Have you noticed a pattern yet, gentle reader? This one's about child custody.
So Why Isn't Jonah Goldberg Screwing His Sister?: Admit it -- you wonder why these so-called "defenders of marriage" never put their theories into practice.
Monday, October 13, 2003
Wesley Clark's campaign website is just full of fascinating tidbits. Take, for example, this excerpt from a recent press release:
Providing specifics on the direction that he would he would lead the nation as president, Clark outlined his job creation plan. The plan would direct, over two years, $100 billion to effectively stimulate the economy, creating jobs and making America safer. It also includes $40 billion over two years to meet urgent homeland security needs, like training first responders and securing America's ports. An additional $40 billion would go into a State and Local Tax Rebate Fund to help keep college tuition affordable and lessen the need for property tax increases. An additional $20 billion over two years would provide incentives for firms to hire more workers and small businesses to expand investment. [Boldface added -- ed.]
I don't know about you, but these "specifics" sound pretty vague to me. Let's break them down, shall we?
1. The avowed purpose of the program is "to effectively stimulate the economy" through increased federal spending. But the program will occur over two years, so all the dollar amounts need to be reduced by at least half to get an annual figure. For "$100 billion," then, read "$50 billion."
2. The program has three components, all of which will share this $50 billion pie. Homeland security gets 40% of the money, state governments will get another 40% (presumably for education, but you never know what they'll really do with it), and the private sector gets 20% to, you know, create jobs and stuff.
Where will the $100 billion come from? Fear not, gentle reader: Clark has an answer for everything.
The plan would not increase the deficit, and instead would stimulate the economy by redirecting the Bush tax cuts from families with annual incomes of over $200,000.
So if you have an annual income over $200,000, you are officially in the general's crosshairs. It doesn't matter what you did with your money before: You will cover the new homeland security measures, you will provide federal tax money to fill state government coffers, you will pay to create new jobs in the private sector. It's your money and we promise we'll spend it well.
So far, so good -- except for one minor problem. If you make $200,000 a year, you already create jobs in the private sector. You have maids, nannies and gardeners at home, various employees and underlings at your place of business, and you pay these people's salaries out of your own pocket. But when the government takes more of your income for taxes, you won't have money to spend on employees. You'll have to lay off a gardener, fire the nanny, or let a few old hirelings go, so that the federal government can help you create new jobs in the private sector.
As anyone acquainted with its inner workings can tell you, government makes a lousy Robin Hood. Instead of robbing the rich and giving to the poor, it robs everyone and keeps everything. Clark's job protection program will "redirect" Americans' hard-earned money into business entitlements, port-authority bureaucracies, and state-run Ponzi schemes. Plus, it'll cost more jobs than it could possibly create.
Nice specifics, General Clark. Care to tell us more?
(Update: I've added a few quotes from the Phoenix debate to the latest "Wit and Wisdom" post.)
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