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Is there Enough Libertarian and Conservative Support for Gay Rights for it to Matter?

One major argument against my proposal for a compromise between gay rights advocates and those conservatives and libertarians who are not implacably antigay is that the latter group is too small to matter. After all, everyone knows that conservatives are categorically against anything that seems pro-gay, while libertarians are too small a group to count. Right? Sometimes, however, what we all think we know turns out to be wrong. Conservatives are not monolothic on gay rights issues and libertarians are not as negligible a factor in American politics as they may seem.

A recent Pew survey show that there is considerable conservative support for at least some items on the gay rights agenda. 36% of self-described "conservative Republicans" support allowing gays to serve openly in the military, 30% of Republicans (and 20% of conservative Republicans) support gay adoption rights, and only 41% of Republicans say they "strongly oppose" gay marriage rights. A 2005 survey shows that 41% of Republicans and 31% of self-described "conservatives" support gay civil unions. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the same survey showed that 19% of Republicans and 14% of conservatives actually support gay marriage.

By contrast with conservatives, no one doubts that most libertarians (probably a large majority) strongly support much of the gay rights agenda. However, it is often asserted that there are too few libertarians for this to make a difference. However, as David Boaz points out, various studies have shown that people with a broadly libertarian outlook (favoring strict limits on government power on both "economic" and "social" issues) constitute as much as 20 percent of the population. Only a small proportion of these people are closely familiar with libertarian ideology, but the same can be said of most of those who describe themselves in surveys as "liberal" or "conservative." They too are not sophisticated ideologues, as I have pointed out in my own work on political ignorance. And even if we discount libertarian voters, there are numerous influential libertarian intellectuals, academics, and policy wonks. Many of these people have influence that goes far beyond their fellow libertarians.

There is no denying the fact that most conservatives oppose gay equality and that libertarians hardly dominate American politics. However, it is also the case that there is more than enough conservative and libertarian support for key aspects of the gay rights agenda to make cooperation between some right-wingers and gay rights advocates worthwhile. As I argued in my previous post, gays will need substantial conservative and libertarian support in order to prevail quickly on the issues they care about the most. Conservatives and libertarians will need to negotiate with gays in order to limit the possible harmful slippery slope effects of some pro-gay policies. There is at least a modest-size pot of gold at the end of this particular rainbow coalition. Hopefully, we can go out and get it!

logicnazi (mail) (www):
The problem here is that pure percent support isn't a very useful predictor of political power in situations like this. In a representative democracy how much your group cares about an issue matters as much or more than how large your group is.

I suspect that the vast majority of libertarian and republican supporters of gay marriage are unlikely to decide what canidate to support on these grounds. After all since few republican elected officials support gay rights if they cared enough about the issue they would probably identify as democratic.

So I think the problem is this. Republican elected officials know they can get the libertarian crowd on board by talking about gun laws, the welfare state and similar talking points even if they oppose gay marriage. On the other hand if they support gay marriage they immediatly lose the support of the large conservative christian contingent. Thus in both primaries and actual elections it seems always to be in a republican canidates favor to oppose gay marriage unless he comes from a state/region which is already quite pro gay marriage.

Referendums and initiatives offer an avenue to harness this republican support but it is unlikely to create the gratitude and psychological effects you seek since you don't see who voted for what. Unfortunatly it is the elected leaders which present the public face of the party and the figures you cite don't make it in their interest to support gay rights.
6.18.2006 1:13am
PatHMV (mail) (www):

There is no denying the fact that most conservatives oppose gay equality.

I think that depends on exactly what you mean by "opposing gay equality". Most all conservatives, I think, oppose laws substantially similar to racial civil rights laws which would prohibit private employers, landlords, restrauteurs, and others from discriminating against employers, customers, and tenants based on sexual orientation. But that is harldy the same as opposing equality.

Given that we are, generally, free as private citizens to hire, fire, and sell to whomever we want, and equally free not to, providing a cause of action for discrimination is in fact giving special rights to some on the basis of their "protected class" status. I can fire a white heterosexual guy without even having a good reason other than not liking him. In the real world, I cannot do the same to non-heterosexual non-white males unless I want to invite a lawsuit. To fire the protected class person, I need to have better reasons, more justifiable reasons, than to fire the non-protected class person.

For race and gender, the evils of historical discrimination were so great, so poisonous to our society, that they justify the drastic action of limiting our freedoms (and I fully support them). I'm not sure the case has been made for the need to protect homosexual people with the same drastic remedy.

But opposing legislation of that remedy is hardly the same as being in favor of discrimination against homosexuals. I don't think most conservatives would be in favor of anti-homosexual discrimination in most circumstances.

I agree with your larger point that there is ample room for compromise in this area. On gay marriage, for example, there's a large segment which is opposed to the name, but not the substance. Call it civil unions, and they'll be ok. Or focus on legislative remedies of each particular wrong, health care decision-making, retirement splitting, etc. Consensus is achievable when you focus on specifics in this area.
6.18.2006 1:31am
Randy R. (mail):
Pat: Sorry if you find this offensive, but your arguments are very bizarre. I really don't understand them.

If you are an employer, you are indeed free to fire any person you employ. You may NOT, however fire a person simply because you don't like the fact that he or she is black, a jew, pregnant, over 50, or disabled, to name a few categories. If you fire a straight white male, you don't have to give a reason to fire him. You just can. Same with the blacks, the jews, the pregnant, the over 50 and so on. The only difference is that you CANNOT fire them solely because they belong to the protected class.

And every employer who is not a total nitwit knows this. Therefore, what most employers do is that they fire people who are incompetant, and have the documents to prove it. If an employee is consistently coming in late, you can fire him or her, regardless of whether that person is a member of the protected class.

Why do we have all these laws and protected classes? Have the disabled been so disadvantaged in the past? the pregnant women? the over 50? No. It's because in America, we think people should be hired and fired based on their capabilities, not what they do in their private lives, or have no control over.

To add sexual orientation to this mix of protected class merely reinforces this notion. Beleive it or not, there are still many people fired from their jobs just because the employer found out he is gay. People are evicted from their apartments because the landlord finds out the tenant is a lesbian. Why? Pure bigotry, nothing more. We all deserve better treatment.

If you agree with civil rights protection in employment and housing based on sex, race, religion, pregnancy status, age, and disability, then surely adding sexual orientation will not be such a burden.
6.18.2006 1:58am
Jacob (mail):
PatHMV:

I don't think most conservatives would be in favor of anti-homosexual discrimination in most circumstances.

Isn't this what Ilya's surveys just told us, though? 58% of conservative Republicans oppose gays in the military. 77% (!) percent of conservative Republicans still oppose gay adoption. 51% of Americans oppose gay marriage, and I'm going to go out on a limb and guess most of them are conservative republicans, too. Most conservatives favor anti-homsexual discrimination in these three circumstances; of what circumstances were you thinking?
6.18.2006 2:01am
Randy R. (mail):
Back to the main argument: I agree that we need conservative support to pass lasting legislation in the US. We gays need to work better with Republicans to support our agenda, and there are indeed many republicans who do.

Virtually no politician in America gets penalized at election time for voting in favor of gay rights -- that's a fact. We need to hammer home that it is okay to vote for gay rights. And time is on our side -- the number of people who support gay rights increases every year, ditto for support for gay marriage. The demographics are on our side, too: The younger people are, the more likely they support gay rights and marriage. Within a few years, the majority of Americans will support us, and we will have our legislation . And the conservatives who oppose us will look like the dinosaurs who opposed civil rights in the 60s, with the concomitant lasting damage to their party.
6.18.2006 2:02am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Virtually no politician in America gets penalized at election time for voting in favor of gay rights -- that's a fact.
Perhaps because the ones that do represent the small number of wildly liberal districts where this isn't a problem?


The younger people are, the more likely they support gay rights and marriage. Within a few years, the majority of Americans will support us, and we will have our legislation .

You ignore that young people who supported gay rights in the 1980s (like I did) are now dinosaurs who are much less supportive. Young people hold to all sorts of ideas that sound great, but are based on propagandizing in the schools--and those ideas start to collapse when you start spending significant amounts of time working with gay people.
6.18.2006 2:06am
Jared K.:
Clayton E. Cramer-
I am young and have spent significant amounts of time working with gay people. I'm not sure if it's all the propagandizing in the schools talking, but I'm a little curious what you mean by that last part. Did some gay couple do something particularly bad to you or your family to help the collapse of ideas, or is this simply a factor of age?
6.18.2006 2:33am
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
Jacob, according to the May 31 Gallup poll 19% of Republicans support marriage equality.

Randy R. as to the speculation of loss of support with age, that may be changing also. Same poll showed the majority of everyone under 40 support marriage equality and the majority of women under 50 do already.
6.18.2006 3:58am
Ship Erect (mail) (www):
What gay propagandizing was going on in your school in the '80s to make you almost indoctrinated, Clayton? Lucky you: I was only taught in rural schools below the Mason-Dixon line, where I could be safely ensconced from such propaganda. Today, with much sadness, I fully support gay rights.
6.18.2006 3:59am
David Friedman (mail) (www):
My problem with your proposal is that it seems to require the functional equivalent of a binding contract, where the "parties" are ideological groups. I don't see how you are going to get that.

Consider an earlier case. My impression of the civil rights movement is that its supporters were offering the equivalent of a contract in favor of a color blind society--no discrimination in either direction. But once there was sufficient support, that morphed into affirmative action.

So, assuming conservatives and libertarians support a subset of gay rights on the understanding that other supporters won't try to go beyond that, how could you enforce that understanding?
6.18.2006 4:49am
raj (mail):
From the post

By contrast with conservatives, no one doubts that most libertarians (probably a large majority) strongly support much of the gay rights agenda.

That may be true, but it appears that more than a few "small-l" libertarians vote Republican, not "big-l" Liberatarian, and have made peace with the social conservative tail that wags the national Republican party dog.

Why? Because the "small-l" libertarians want their tax-rate cuts and gun-ownership rights, which social conservatives largely say they want, too--irrespect of the fact that the social conservatives also want government spending, which means that, from a fiscal standpoint, Republicans are nothing more than "borrow and spend liberals."

Regarding the Libertarian party candidates, I have observed their campaigning here in Massachusetts. They start out with a "small government is beautiful" mantra and quickly end up sounding like "Annie Get Your Gun" as they abandon the small government mantra and pick up on the gun-ownership-rights mantra.

Regardless of how much "small-l" libertarians say they support equal rights for gay people, it is likely that they will continue voting for a party--the Republicans--that largely ignores if not actually works to deny equal rights for gay people.
6.18.2006 8:08am
raj (mail):
Clayton E. Cramer 6.18.2006 1:06am

>>>Virtually no politician in America gets penalized at election time for voting in favor of gay rights -- that's a fact.

Perhaps because the ones that do represent the small number of wildly liberal districts where this isn't a problem?


That wasn't the case here in Massachusetts. In the 2004 elections to the state legislature, none of the incumbent state legislators--even from conservative districts--who voted in opposition to the proposed anti-gay-marriage amendment lost, and at least one incumbent from a conservative district who voted in favor of the amendment did lose--ironically to a gay man.

One incumbent state senator, Marian Walsh from a conservative RCC (Roman Catholic) district in the Quincy area south of Boston, was specifically targeted by the RCC for her vote against the proposed amendment, and her Republican opponent ran on that issue. She won in a landslide.
6.18.2006 8:17am
Ilya Somin:
My problem with your proposal is that it seems to require the functional equivalent of a binding contract, where the "parties" are ideological groups. I don't see how you are going to get that.
Consider an earlier case. My impression of the civil rights movement is that its supporters were offering the equivalent of a contract in favor of a color blind society--no discrimination in either direction. But once there was sufficient support, that morphed into affirmative action.


So, assuming conservatives and libertarians support a subset of gay rights on the understanding that other supporters won't try to go beyond that, how could you enforce that understanding?




A good question. But it flies in the face of the fact that political compromises are made and enforced all the time. There are a large number of mechanisms for doing so, such as 1) threats to defect from a political coalition of its premises are not honored, 2) institutionalizing the terms of the compromise in ways that make it difficult to reverse (e.g. - by constitutional amendment), and 3) various "hand-tying" arrangements under which politicians or parties can limit their own future discretionary power.



Are these methods perfect? Obviously not. But at least in this case, the alternative of continuing the status quo is probably worse.



One last small point: It was not the "civil rights movement" but the Nixon Administration which first introduced affirmative action policies on a large scale - in part precisely because Nixon hoped it would break up his opponents' political coalition. At the time, a number of black leaders opposed Nixon's affirmative action policies in part precisely because they feared (correctly) that it would help precipitate a breakup of the Democratic political coalition.



If gay rights advocates and some conservatives and libertarians could cut a successful deal today, it is highly unlikely that a social conservative politician would be able to repeat Nixon's success and scuttle it by introducing, e.g., pro-gay affirmative action.
6.18.2006 8:34am
Medis:
logicnazi,

I think this upcoming election will be a big one for that Republican strategy. If things like proposing the FMA do not help drive socially-conservative voters to the polls to vote for Republicans, and if Republicans as a result end up a clear minority party (whether or not they hold onto the Senate and House), they might have to change strategies.

Clayton,

The surveys show that acceptance of gay people (in various forms) has been going up in every age bracket. That means even if people do get more conservative on gay issues over time (and I have seen no empirical evidence to that effect), any such trend has been overwhelmed by the overall trend of greater acceptance for gay people.
6.18.2006 9:46am
Medis:
Clayton,

A quick followup. The AEI overview has some information which can be used to test the thesis that people become more conservative on gay issues over time (although this is very back-of-the-envelope). Included is a cohort study of changes from 1973 to 2002 on the proposition "Homosexual relations are always wrong". Roughly speaking, we can compare the 18-29 bracket in 1973 with the 45-59 bracket in 2002, and the 30-44 bracket in 1973 with the 60 and over bracket in 2002.

In 1973, 56% in the 18-29 bracket agreed with this proposition, and it was 74% in the 30-44 bracket. By 2002, it was 55% in the 45-59 bracket and 68% in the 60+ bracket. So, there is little evidence here of people getting more conservative on gay issues as they age. In fact, if anything, they might get a little more liberal, but either way the effect seems small.
6.18.2006 10:15am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Who was the candidate who outed his opponents daughter as a lesbo in a nationally televised debate during the 2004 campaign? The evil Republican? No, the Evil democrat.
6.18.2006 10:22am
Shangui (mail):
Did some gay couple do something particularly bad to you or your family to help the collapse of ideas, or is this simply a factor of age?

Jared,

You are going to regret this question if Clayton goes on to tell us once again of his experience in SF back in the day. He apparently liked gays at the time, but then discovered a substantial portion of them liked to screw in public, eat fecal matter, and were probably into little boys. I've spend plenty of time around gay men and women on both coasts and never experienced these things, but then again Clayton once accused me in a comment threat on this site of "arguing like a homosexual" so perhaps I'm a tainted source.

And Frank Drackmann, how can you "out" someone who is so out that she was the gay and lesbian public liason for Coors? I believe it was Republican Alan Keyes who called Cheney's daughter an "evil hedonist" because she was a lesbian and eventually kicked his own lesbian daughter out of the house because she decided to become active in gay rights events.
6.18.2006 10:45am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Well I guess I'm not as up to speed on Lesbians who work for major beer companies as you are, although I'd like to be. I think Senator poodles remarks could be considered an outing as some 40 million people heard them, as opposed to maybe 40 who heard whatever Keyes said.
6.18.2006 10:54am
Humble Law Student:
Professor Somin,

You argument for a political compromise is extremely unpersuasive. Political compromises do happen, but on a small scale or over particular legislative items. The struggle over "gay rights" has gone on for many years if not a decade at least and will only drag on for many more to come. It seems very naive to think that the plethora of various political and activist groups could come together and agree to something that both sides would adhere to throughout numerous election cycles, changes of national opinion, rise and falls of political power, etc.

Completely unworkable. Its easy to say that as a way to placate individuals like myself to get support, but as a workable matter of creating and enforcing such an agreement it is impossible.
6.18.2006 11:13am
Humble Law Student:
Continued. I should address the constitutional amendment. While this could actually be enforced, and possibly work if somehow made, you would never get both sides to agree to a constitutional amendment that both sides had to substantially compromise on (an amendment would required substantial compromise from the various sides because of the vast gap between their positions - therefore neither side would be likely to compromise because of the degree of compromise that would be required).

It would never pass. You give way too much credit to partisans on both sides to think they would ever be able to agree to such an amendment.
6.18.2006 11:18am
Humble Law Student:
Randy R.

I have to agree with Clayton Cramer. You argument is rather suspect. I guarantee you if a politician ran on a rather pro-gay platform in my home district (NW Florida) or in any of the many other conservative districts around the country, they would lose in a landslide.

The only point you can plausibly make is that those politicians ran in districts in which the population already substantially supported gay rights - which tells us nothing.
6.18.2006 11:22am
Humble Law Student:
Jacob,

I think the point was that most Americans aren't in favor of bans on sodomy - things of that nature.
6.18.2006 11:25am
Humble Law Student:
Randy R.

Pat's argument makes complete sense. Anyone who has experience working in lower level government or business can likely attest. Because of the protections afforded to certain "classes" it becomes almost impossible to fire them outside of well-documented, indisputable incompetence (and the like). The reason is that they easily can bring a lawsuit against you claiming discrimination. This happens quite often (or at least often enough) and makes it extremely difficult/costly to fire such individuals.

Warning "Non-PC" Statement Ahead:

Ask any manager in some goverment office who has to oversee large numbers of minorities. The individuals can be completely competent, but there always are a few bad apples. This protections afforded make it very difficult to fire and/or discipline such individuals because of the charge of "racist" that is attached to anyone attempting to discipline/fire. Because it is made difficult to discipline/fire those few individuals, it resultingly drags down the overall standards of the office. The whole thing for that and maybe other reasons because an morass, impossible to navigate.

Maybe others have a different understanding or friends/family who've had different experiences. But I suspect, most managers in their more honest moments (because if they ever made such an opinion public - they would be fired immediately) will privately attest to the accuracy of my statements.
6.18.2006 11:33am
Humble Law Student:
Edit: The whole thing, for that reason and possible others, becomes a morass impossible to navigate.
6.18.2006 11:35am
Public_Defender (mail):
Legally, libertarians have a power disproportionate to their numbers on this issue because they are swing voters--supporting gay marriage or unions, but opposing laws that more greatly restrict the private sector.

But culturally, libertarians don't have as much to offer. Either anti-gay words and behavior are socially equivalent to racist or anti-Semitic comments, or they are not. If anti-gay words and behavior are treated socially the same as anti-black or anti-Jewish words and behavior, anti-gay people will find it much harder to get and keep jobs and fit into neighborhoods.

For example, in my neighborhood, someone who express anti-gay opinions would not fit in. It is a social value that gays people (like the couple that moved in across the street) should be accepted.

Libertarianism is a legal doctrine, so it won't help the anti-gay people deal with the increasing isolation they are facing in many circles. If even 40% of the population falls on the gay-rights side of the discussion, that 40% will be the majority in numerous situations (like neighborhoods and hiring committees).

People who express anti-gay opinions will find it increasingly harder to navigate the pro-gay-rights parts of society. Part of the reason anti-gay people fight so hard is that they don't want to end up with the social standing of the racists and anti-Semites.
6.18.2006 11:56am
mistermark:
Logicnazi got this right at the beginning. The fact that substantial amounts of conservatives and libertarians support gay rights in the abstract doesn't really matter unless they care enough about the issue to make it a real dealbreaker when it comes to voting (or fundraising) behavior. Lots of people have low-level support or opposition for a whole host of issues, but their views only matter from a political standpoint if they care enough to reward or punish their elected officials based on such views and organize to do so. I haven't seen too much evidence of gay-tolerant conservatives and libertarians using their political influence on the issue to make them relevant in the broader scheme of things, though that hopefully will change. Until then, however, there isn't a whole lot of need for gay activists or social liberals to spend their time and energy working on creating the sort of compromises Professor Somin is suggesting, except perhaps in a few unique places (city councils in the Silicon Valley area, perhaps?).

Also, with all due respect to Professor Somin, while there may be numerous "libertarian intellectuals, academics, and policy wonks", they don't seem to be driving much of the discourse in the mainstream political world (as opposed to the blogosphere), so I'm not sure if they actually are influential, for the reasons I mention above.
6.18.2006 12:21pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):

--and those ideas start to collapse when you start spending significant amounts of time working with gay people.


Clayton you really have to give this a rest and stop projecting onto the general population your subjective personal experiences with gays.

If anything, the data show that more personal contact with gay people makes straights friendlier and towards gays and more likely to support gay rights.
6.18.2006 12:50pm
DK35 (mail):
While, as an analysis of today's political reality, I can't find fault with anything that Logicnazi and Mistermark write above, I do still credit Professor Somin for his post.

Finally on this blog there is a productive, forward looking post trying to discuss how progress can be attained in bringing about equal rights for gay Americans. It is a breath of fresh air, at least on this blog, anyway. While Dale Carpenter and (sometimes) Eugene Volokh have tried to tackle the issue, their posts are usually concerned with trying to convince those who oppose treating gay people as citizens who deserve full rights. These may be noble attempts, but considering that most people who continue to oppose equal rights for gays are motivated either by religion or a strong "ick" reaction to gay sex, I don't think that words will change these people's minds. I think for those people, we just have to give them time (and more interaction with their gay family members/neighbors/co-workers, etc.).

However, what Prof. Somin assumes (and I think he is correct) is that we probably already have sufficient majorities in this country who are sympathetic with treating gay Americans with dignity and respect, and the real question to concern ourselves with is how to mobilize that symphathy into votes.
6.18.2006 1:00pm
Ken Arromdee:
If you fire a straight white male, you don't have to give a reason to fire him. You just can. Same with the blacks, the jews, the pregnant, the over 50 and so on. The only difference is that you CANNOT fire them solely because they belong to the protected class.

Just because you aren't actually firing the minority for a discriminatory reason doesn't mean the minority can't file a discrimination lawsuit anyway. Even if you're innocent, defending yourself against such a lawsuit is costly, may require convincing a judge who's difficult to convince, and sometimes fails. This means that, in practice, firing a minority is harder than firing a non-minority regardless of why you're firing him.

It's only true that firing a minority and non-minority are equally easy in a world where lawsuits always determine the truth with no cost to anyone.
6.18.2006 1:35pm
Humble Law Student:
Ken,

Good explanation.
6.18.2006 1:52pm
DanielH (mail):
White men bring most of the age discrimination lawsuits in this country, and also bring a significant number of disability lawsuits. White men also bring a disproportionate number of whistleblower and challenges to non-compete agreements.

Let's not pretend it is "easier" to fire a white man than it is to fire a minority. The groups just use different tools.
6.18.2006 2:14pm
Humble Law Student:
DanielH,

Your argument seems meaningless. My "most" do you actually mean the vast majority? More likely, white's bring suits proportional (or at close to) to their representation in the population. In which case, your argument doesn't have any weight.
6.18.2006 2:24pm
Cornellian (mail):
If you fire a straight white male, you don't have to give a reason to fire him. You just can. Same with the blacks, the jews, the pregnant, the over 50 and so on. The only difference is that you CANNOT fire them solely because they belong to the protected class.


You don't have to give a reason for firing the non-white person either. That person is, of course, free to allege he was terminated because of his race, but then so is the white guy you fired without giving a reason. The fact that it might seem intuitively implausible that a white guy would be fired because of his race in most situations simply illustrates why such legislation is considered to be necessary.

I wonder whether there's really much benefit to categorizing people into "libertarian", "conservative" etc. then trying to extract information about that person's position on various issues based on that categorization. I think most people do not start by saying they consider themselves conservative (for example), then go on to ask what position that means they should have on an issue. Rather they do the reverse. They adopt a position on an issue based on what seems right to them and based on a collection of positions they decide that probably means they're conservative (or libertarian or whatever). Moral philosophers, law professors and a few others aside, most people do not worry about looking for contradictions between their positions on different issues, or spend much time trying to reconcile those positions. Thus a person might consider himself conservative based on his position on gun control, government spending, foreign policy and immigration, but still support civil unions (for example). He's not going to worry about whether there's some argument that suggests these positions are not all fully consistent or stop considering himself a conservative if he can't reconcile them.

I sometimes wonder why supporters of gay rights spend so much time talking about same sex marriage, which doesn't have majority support (though it's moving in that direction) and relatively little time campaigning for protection from discrimination in employment, and other things which have vastly greater public support. They might achieve more if they took things one step at a time rather than trying to get too far ahead of public opinion.

Personally I have no problem with government recognition of same sex marriages and, contra Clayton Cramer, I wasn't brainwashed into that position by leftist public school teachers - I don't recall homosexuality ever being mentioned at all by any teacher when I was in school. However, I do think working on other things which have more public support and which would be immediately beneficial would be more productive.
6.18.2006 2:34pm
Randy R. (mail):
Regarding discrimination suits:

The fact is the the burden is on the plaintiff in all these cases. And it is nearly impossible to prove that an employer fired a person solely because of his age, race, creed, and so on. They are mostly losing cases. So sorry, Ken, but an employer doesn't really have to convince a judge of anything: it's the plaintiff who must do the convincing, and with the law against the plaintiff (as recent court decisions have made plain), the cases are easier than ever for employers to win.

And any smart employer can easily create the paperwork to do so. Just document the worker's incompetence or behavior problems, give them ample opportunity to shape up, and if they don't, you can fire them. Case closed. It's the stupid ones who just fire a person out of the blue that get the most trouble.
6.18.2006 3:16pm
Randy R. (mail):
Drackmann: The lesbian daughter of Dick Cheney -- her name is Mary -- organized a group of gay republicans shortly after Bush won in 2000. She got major conservatives domos such as Alan Simpson on the Board, Gerald Ford and Mary Matalin. Additionally, she appeared with her partner Heather at many photo ops in Bush's first term.

Prior to that, she was the gay liaison to Coors Beer. Recently, she published a book and went on a big speaking tour to promote, and she openly talks about being gay and coming out to her parents many years ago.

Mary was about as out as a lesbian as one could be. Just because YOU didn't know she was gay doesn't mean that she was closeted. When Kerry stated that she was gay, it was in response to a question about how a president should treat gay people, and he said that they should be as loved as the Cheney's love their daughter.

But only in conservativeland could a statement that one should love one's gay lesbian be interpreted as 'evil.'
6.18.2006 3:23pm
Bruce Wilder (www):
I remember, in 1996, talking to Virginia Postrel about the Supreme Court's decision in Romer v. Evans, which struck down Colorado's anti-gay-rights Amendment 2. In my mind, Virginia Postrel is an epitome of conservative liberatarian sentiment. In 1996, at least, this personally tolerant lady could not get her brain around the rationale for the Supreme Court's decision. At the heart of Ms. Postrel's difficulty, it seemed to me, was that she really likes private authoritarianism. That is a common attitude among conservative libertarians.

As libertarians, they oppose government action, but, as conservatives, they want to protect private action. That makes for a pretty weak, civil rights soup, since civil rights groups generally want the government to curb private action that is hostile to certain group identities.

Gay civil rights group have, as their most powerful ally, the slippery slope that goes with the momentum of cultural change. Libertarians are going to provide a measure of support for cultural change, regardless of any political "deals". The only thing an alliance could change is to speed up the operation of the slippery slope we are already on, or, perhaps, inhibit the reactionary Right in its attempts to erect obstacles. But, the reactionary Right, just by continuing the controversy and renewing the discussion of gay civil rights issues, is greasing the slippery slope, by eroding the very cultural taboos that the reactionary Right seeks to maintain with continuous debate and discussion.
6.18.2006 3:24pm
Rush (mail):
Randy R: You really seem to know alot about Lesbians, so can you tell me... Is Heather hot?
6.18.2006 3:45pm
Chukuang:
Randy R: You really seem to know alot about Lesbians, so can you tell me... Is Heather hot?

Interesting that the two comments on this thread noting that M. Cheney was already out as a lesbian have both resulted in joking innuendos about lesbian sex. Mature.
6.18.2006 4:00pm
DanielH (mail):
Cornellian,

I think the reality is that employment discrimination--for instance--has been won in the states where it's most likely to win. If less hostile people took over Congress, for instance, the gay right movement may be reinvirgorated to fight for ENDA in Congress. But with Republicans controlling every portion of federal government, it's a non-starter.

Thus the efforts have moved to the states and the courts. Given the full-throttle attacks from conservatives on marriage, adoption, foster care, etc., that's where the energy is spent.

I sometimes questions the motives and motions of the gay rights movement, but they are largely controlled by the political winds.
6.18.2006 4:09pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
I don't have any general difficulties with gays/lesbians or with gay marriage, from an intellectual and political point of view. I do have some personal hangups about gay sex - due to some childhood experiences with a local bully (gay) and an attempted seduction by a high school teacher - it just doesn't turn me on.

I think that what bothers many people, including myself, are several things - peripheral, but ultimately important, and somewhat interrelated:

1) The idea of "Gay Rights" as a superset of human rights.
2) The general in-your-face vulgarity of much of the GLBT movement.
3) Their attempts to "normalize" a behavior or orientation shared by at most 4% of the population, particularly in our schools.
4) Sex-education in those schools that encourages gay sex without really emphasizing the potential lethality of AIDS as well as other STDs. Condoms are said to fail up to 25% of the time in anal intercourse; encouragement of such activity by a teacher strikes me as criminally negligent, and in any event how often do teenagers ignore "safe" sex? (Condom distribution in public schools apparently increases the teen pregnancy rate. Go figure.)
5) The very real potential for serious attacks (which many seem to engage in in a pure spirit of nihilism) on our First Amendment freedoms.

As if the preceding list was not enough, the religious or moral objections that many individuals (and institutions) have to homosexuality, which, even if they are tolerant (and most people are), becomes an additional factor at the polls.

I think that the current emphasis on gay marriage is because the issue surfaced in the courts and the legislatures, and thus in the media, while the other issues that I list above tend to be either low key - do you really know what your public schools are teaching the kids? - or deliberately ignored by the media - for example, Gay Pride parades, which seem to bring out the worst of the exhibitionists. If the media - which seems to be generally pro-gay - were to shed some light on these other areas, the debate on these issues would also become more mainstream.

Many conservatives (and most libertarians) are tolerant of gays and the gay rights/gay marriage issues. If they could be persuaded that the issues I raise above - particularly the First Amendment concerns - could be mitigated, they might become more supportive, politically. I don't see this happening in the current cultural, political and legal climate, and it may be, that in a nation governed by laws instead of men, that it cannot happen. The current legal definitions of marriage as between a man and a woman and the proscribing of homosexual activity are/were based more on cultural norms than on good law. When the culture shifts (or is perceived to shift due to the actions of the media), the definitions that support the current law will also shift, as has happened here in Massachusetts.
6.18.2006 4:13pm
ReaderY:
I'll raise a standard hypothetical. What if a percentage of people (2%? 10%? 25%?) turned out to be much happier and more productive if they worked rather than slept with other people of the same sex, so that laws prohibiting them from doing so significantly impeded their ability to be fully productive or fully happy members of society?

In other words, what happens if the majority's moral belief that "in America, we think people should be hired and fired based on their capabilities, not what they do in their private lives, or have no control over" should turn out to conflict with the needs and, arguably, rights of an identifiable minority, to the point where it results in that minority having a substantial functional inequality of opportunity?

Is the statement that "in America, we think people should be hired and fired based on their capabilities, not what they do in their private lives, or have no control over" any different from the statement that "in America, we think marriage should be between a man and a woman?" One may obviously agree or disagree with either, but are they different KINDS of statements? Let's define a "moral statement" as a statement of the form "In America, we think people should be xxxx." If statements of this form are improper statements for government to be making and an improper basis for laws, period (as Lawrence v. Texas seems to suggest), why should they be allowable in some cases but not others? Is it OK to legislate morality as long as it's my morality and not yours? Is it OK as long as the statement comes from a court and not a legislature?

Why should a court's morality be better, or more credible, than a legislatures's? And why should we assume our morality wil come cost-free, and only the other guy's morality will have social costs? If the Civil Rights laws turned out to have social costs that burdened some minority, would they be unconstitutional as well? (My personal view is that there is rarely if ever a free lunch).
6.18.2006 4:24pm
Rush (mail):
Has anyone heard if the Senator Coleman from Minnesota is a turd burglar? I heard a rumor that Garrison Keeler 'outed' him a few years ago in a magazine article, but I can't find documentation of this anywhere. I'm sure its probably been commen knowledge since 2000 among the intelligentsia.
6.18.2006 4:37pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):

Why should a court's morality be better, or more credible, than a legislatures's? And why should we assume our morality wil come cost-free, and only the other guy's morality will have social costs?


A government shouldn't be dealing in 'morality' at any time - it deals in law. If something is universally considered 'immoral' like murder, we make it a crime. If citizens are law abiding then they should all have the same rights as other law abiding citizens. The courts and government have no business letting non-legal factors making their decisions.

And I don't understand your lead in question - if some people were happier working, then our core American morality of personal autonomy would let THEM do so if they so choose. And if others were the other way we'd let them do what they wanted. That is the purpose of America, to give individuals the right to make their own choices. And that's the difference between your two statements - one you setting limits on what one person can make another do, and on the other you are setting limits on what the individual can do themselves. 'Personal freedom' is the coin of the American realm. Marriage is a natural right that all citizens have, and some citizens marry people of the same gender. Having the government define marriage to be something other than how it really exists just makes the government more invalid, it won't really change the fact that gay people marry all the time.
6.18.2006 5:14pm
Medis:
Humble Law Student,

You say: "I guarantee you if a politician ran on a rather pro-gay platform in my home district (NW Florida) or in any of the many other conservative districts around the country, they would lose in a landslide."

But the thing is, you can vote against things like the FMA, or a state constitutional amendment to similar effect, without subsequently "running on a pro-gay platform".

And the bottomline fact is that gay issues are usually way down at the bottom of the list among issues voters consider important. So, it is not simply a matter of whether the electorate agrees with your stand on these issues or not--it is also a matter of whether they care enough about this one issue to overwhelm your stand on all the other, more important, issues.
6.18.2006 5:59pm
Rush (mail):
You don't have to be from Northwest Florida to be anti-gay. John Kerry refused to support an ammendment in Massachussetts legalizing gay marriage. That Evil conservative Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage act in 1996. In contrast to his position on the Iraq war, Kerry was against the Defense of Marriage act before he was for it.
6.18.2006 6:17pm
Shangui (mail):
Has anyone heard if the Senator Coleman from Minnesota is a turd burglar?

Dear Prof. Volokh et al., comments like the above by "Rush" certainly seem to count as, if not profanity, certainly personally insulting to gay men. Given that you have scolded people in the past for using "fundies" to refer to fundamentalist Christians, I would think "turd burglar" is not an acceptable way to refer to gay men on this site.
6.18.2006 6:40pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Rush: Shangui is right; I've never heard of "turd burglar" before now, but I'm aiming for a more polite, civilized, and adult tone than that.

I'm also aiming for a substantive discussion; the "Is Heather hot?" comment strikes me as not terribly helpful for that. You are of course free to post whatever you like on your own site, or sites that allow such comments. But on our site, please try to keep things civil and thoughtful.
6.18.2006 7:04pm
The Voice of Reason (mail):
I had never heard of that term either, but I am glad that the post was not stricken, because it is surprisingly on point. Norm Coleman will likely be running against Al Franken in a few years. Coleman has distinguished himself as a very stalwart conservative (tough on the oil-for-food scandal, etc.). For one of the more hardline conservative Senators from a traditionalist state to be an out gay man certainly says something (I don't know what, exactly) about libertarian and conservative support for gay rights. What would be interesting to see is whether Al Franken would take advantage of this rumor (or, perhaps, fact) in his challenge to Senator Coleman, in an attempt to portray him as weak or not as hardline as he appears (i.e., undermine his masculinity by suggesting masculinity is incompatible with homosexuality). (1. Franken is so outspoken he could probably get away with it; 2. Franken is going to need to tarnish Coleman in order to win.) Are conservative bona fides thrown into question if the conservative is a proven conservative but is later outed? Are foreign policy and fiscal matters (i.e. good governance and national security) more important to self-identified conservative voters than the sexuality of their representative? I have no answers, but that is an interesting story.
6.18.2006 7:54pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
What ever the details, bringing up the sexual preference of your opponents daughter is pretty sleazy, something you would expect from a Richard Nixon, not an enlightened liberal democrat from Mass.
6.18.2006 7:58pm
The Voice of Reason (mail):
Sleazy, sure. But bringing up "hypocrisy" of the candidate himself is different than attacking his daughter. And Al Franken could probably get away with it, in part, by making such a distinction. And by "get away with it," I mean it would harm Coleman more than it would harm Franken. The question is if such claims, if verified, would cause Coleman to lose support amongst conservatives and libertarians. I don't know the answer, but describing the sleaziness of the tactic won't provide the answer.
6.18.2006 8:05pm
Ilya Somin:
I lack the time to carefully police comments for offensive statements. And I try not to ever delete a comment merely because I think it is offensive. In most cases, commenters who say offensive or stupid things get their comeuppance from other commenters. That has certainly happened in the case of the, er, misguided individual who called homosexuals "turd burglars!"

However, I do want to say that the mere fact that I don't rebuke a commenter or delete his post doesn't indicate that I approve of everything he says or or even believe it to be within the bounds of acceptable discourse. In some cases, it just means that I either 1) didn't have the time to read all comments carefully, or 2) believe that other people have already pointed out the comment's flaws.
6.18.2006 8:08pm
Shangui (mail):
Just for the record, I neither wanted Rush's comment deleted nor do I want him "banned" from the site. But if terms like "Papist" for Catholic are going to bring a reprimand, then Rush's comments certainly should as well. The point is that the name calling brings down the whole level of the discussion, which seems to be both Rush and Drackmann's goal. Don't they have a comment section on Maxim or other such sites for you to make cracks about how hot lesbians or denegrate gay men?
6.18.2006 9:48pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Garrison Kiellor writing about Norm Coleman in "Salon" 7 Nov 2002..."St.Paul is a small town, and anybody who hangs around the St.Paul grill knows about Norms habits.Everyone knows that his family situation is, shall we say, very interesting, but nobody bothered to ask about it, least of all the religious people in the republican party" Thats just a nice way to insinuate that the Senators an ass bandit, not that theres anything wrong with that.
6.18.2006 10:06pm
Shangui (mail):
Frank,

"Ass bandit" is a real improvement. Thanks for the civil discussion. This is part of the reason people trying to run an intelligent blog are often hesitant to allow comments. Would you think it civil if people started referring to all heterosexual women as a "cock suckers" on this site? As in, "No one's sayin' it, but I'm pretty sure the smile on W's face is because Laura Bush is a cock sucker." Or that it would be acceptable to use crude racist terms for Blacks and Jews on this site? Obviously not. Now I realize you think comments like "ass bandit" are pretty funny, Beavis, but why don't you save them for private chats with your friends?
6.18.2006 10:48pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
What hypocrisy, its ok for Kerry, Edwards,Kiellor, to bring up someones sexuality, but then you act all offended by the slang terms for what theyre referring to.
6.18.2006 10:53pm
Humble Law Student:
Frank,

Please refrain from derogatory slang terms. I disagree whole heartedly with most of the posters on this thread. And while the discussion may get heated at times, I'm not going to (and shouldnt) resort to such juvenile language.

You're embarressing yourself, have some dignity and stop please.
6.18.2006 11:00pm
Elais:
Frank,

How is it insinuated that he is an 'ass bandit'? Maybe polygamy is insinuated.

You got ass on the brain or something?
6.18.2006 11:00pm
Humble Law Student:
Medis,

Of course you are correct. But that wasn't what i was arguing. There is a large difference between someone who disagrees with the FMA on federalist grounds for example but otherwise is against SSM, vs. someone who disagrees with the FMA because they support SSM.

I guess it depends on how we define "pro-gay."
6.18.2006 11:02pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
And I'm especially offended by the term "Cock Sucker"...i believe the accepted phrase is "Cum Guzzler".)
6.18.2006 11:02pm
mistermark:
You're embarressing yourself, have some dignity and stop please.

Humble Law Student, I suspect Drackmann/Rush (since both screennames are listing the same email address, I'll assume for the sake of this comment that we're talking about only one person) lost any semblance of dignity in his life long ago. What you see here, alas, is the best this sad creature can come up with. Best to avert your eyes, move along, and perhaps say a silent prayer for him.
6.18.2006 11:31pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Sorry to piss so many conspirators off,just trying to show the hypocrisy of Kerry,Edwards,Kiellor, who profess to support the gay/lesbian movement so much while cruelly exploiting people for their sexuality. I really didn't know Cheneys daughter was a lesbian, just like I don't know if she's lefthanded or has a lisp, and if I did know, I wouldn't try to embarass her parents by bringing it up on national TV. I was born with my fascination for lesbians though, in fact, I'm a lesbian trapped in a mans body. That Madonna/Britney kiss?? thats my ticket for 2008.
6.19.2006 12:15am
Randy R. (mail):
Brooks: Thanks for being honest in your opinions, as well as respectful. May I take a moment to address some of your concerns?

1) The idea of "Gay Rights" as a superset of human rights.

I don't know exactly what you refer to, but every single piece of legislation that I have seen proposed by gay rights organizations asks for nothing that straight people don't already have. We want to be judged at work and in or living spaces on our conduct, not our sexual orientation, just like you. We never ask for quotas or other preferential treatment. If you know of any 'gay right' that we ask for that is not also a right that you already have, please let us know.

2) The general in-your-face vulgarity of much of the GLBT movement.

Again, examples? Sure, there are people that are angry, and sure there are people that are unpleasant to look at or hear. But the main voices of the GLBT are people such as Andrew Sullivan, who is often booked on tv to talk about gay rights (most recently on Larry King), Joe Solomese, President of the Human Rights Campaign (all previous prez were women). There is Barney Frank, a congressman from Mass. There are always fringe groups -- let's not even talk about the angry 'in your face' style of some so-called religious people who are anti-gay.

3) Their attempts to "normalize" a behavior or orientation shared by at most 4% of the population, particularly in our schools.

On these, I plead guilty as charged! You bet we want it normalized! For me, nothing is more normal than being gay. Never has any gay rights organization or spokesperson said that if you are striaght you should be gay. Rather, what we want is for students to know that if they are gay, it's okay. If you are not gay, and your schoolmates are, you have no right to bully them (and vice versa -- I'm sorry that you were bullied by a gay person, but that's also how gay students feel when bullied by straight people. It aint' pretty, and it should stop.) The sad fact is that gay students attempt suicide (and succed) at much higher rates that straight people. If you are a parent, and you have a gay child, I would hope that you would pray that your gay child gets through school safely and never feels he or she is such crap that they are worthless. This is what we want to counter.

4) Sex-education in those schools that encourages gay sex without really emphasizing the potential lethality of AIDS as well as other STDs. Condoms are said to fail up to 25% of the time in anal intercourse; encouragement of such activity by a teacher strikes me as criminally negligent, and in any event how often do teenagers ignore "safe" sex? (Condom distribution in public schools apparently increases the teen pregnancy rate. Go figure.)

Actually, the absinence only programs have been shown to increase sex among teenagers, and unsafe sex at that. All sex ed should encourage abstinence, but if you have sex, then the sex should be safe, which means condom use. If used properly, condoms are close to 100% effective in preventing STDs. The issue is "if used properly!" Students -- everyone, in fact -- should be taught how to use them properly, and everyone should be taught of the dangers of all STDs. And don't forget, AIDS is increasing in all groups, including the straight ones, so it isn't an issue of gay sex vs. straight sex when it comes to AIDS. We are all at risk for all STDs.

5) The very real potential for serious attacks (which many seem to engage in in a pure spirit of nihilism) on our First Amendment freedoms.

Again, some examples? Most people who complain about First Amendment freedoms use as examples of someone who, in a college or high school, used vulgarities against gay people. Recently, a high school student had a t-shirt that said "Homosexuality is shameful." Now, I agree, if that student where to wear his t-shirt to the mall, or in the neighborhood, he has that right, and it shouldn't be infringed upon. But in a school or classroom? Schools have the right to provide safe environments for all students. Just as a student cannot wear a t-shirt that says "Warm up the ovens" or "Time for a lynching" or some other such offensives statements I have heard or seen in the past, no student should make gratuitous attacks against another student. I hope you agree.
6.19.2006 12:18am
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
Randy R. Correct on all counts. If one wants to see a certain group in a bad light, its incredibly easy to do so.

(oh and as far as 'gay sex' I really thought there was only one sexual practice that was sexual orientation specific and it isn't one gays perform)
6.19.2006 12:36am
Randy R. (mail):
True Bob! (and thanks!)

One thing that bugs me about this whole 'teaching about gay sex' thing is that it assumes there are different ways we gays have sex from straight people.

Schools should teach the safe way to perform sexual acts, period. Gay people usually engage in two forms of sex : oral and anal. Surprise, surprise, but straight people perform those acts too! There is nothing stopping a striaght man from perfoming anal sex upon his girlfriend or wife. And believe me, they do. Therefore, schools should be aware of this fact and teach the correct method that is most safe while still giving pleasure, and that includes a good education on condom use, especially for anal sex.

So go ahead -- teach all forms of sex, and don't even bother mentioning gay people. We are smart enough to catch on anyway!
6.19.2006 12:56am
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Randy R.

I won't try to answer all your points, but:

The local bully (he was in his late teens/early 20's) wanted fellatio from a nine year old boy. He didn't get it, but it wasn't a pleasant experience... This was 1949 in a small town in Maine; today, he'd probably get sent up for child molestation or attempted rape.

As has been pointed out time and again, the secret to safe sax isn't so much condoms and such, it's limiting oneself to known safe partners - which generally means one. My gay cousin and his partner are still alive because they stay faithful to each other.

While I'm sure that some will object to my saying this, men - particularly young men - tend to be promiscuous. One of the social/cultural functions of marriage is taming horny young men - and I won't exclude gay marriage here) The promiscuous gay culture with multiple partners spread AIDS and other STD's widely among gays. From a few things I have read, some gays today are letting their desire for "great sex" get the better of their common sense and we are seeing a resurgence of AIDS. Read Randy Shilts' book for details on the early years.

As for First Amendment concerns, read the recent article by Maggie Gallagher in The Weekly Standard, where she surveys the views of a number of experts from all sides of the gay marriage issue on this issue. Interesting.
6.19.2006 1:45am
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
The promiscuous gay culture with multiple partners spread AIDS and other STD's widely among gays.

Bit of a pejorative statement, isn't it? From the data I can find only a small minority of gay people have AIDS or STD problems. Do we really judge an entire group by the qualities of minority? US Justice statistics show that 7% of all white males will do some sort of jail time - do we treat white males as part of the 'criminal straight lifestyle'?

recent article by Maggie Gallagher in The Weekly Standard
You mean about the Catholic Charities? She was trying to make a case that business owned by churches don't have to follow state laws. Sorry, its bad enough that churches get a pass on taxes but all their ancillary businesses too? First Amendment doesn't mean that anything someone does in the name of religion gets a pass. Similar to that California case where the secular business owned by a church wanted to weasel out of paying for birth control in their health plan. You hire employees that aren't your religion you can't force them to play by your religion's particular rules it has for its followers.

In the end her attempts to tie it all into 'gay marriage' was pretty weak - the Boston Charities problems were due to anti discrimination laws that had been in effect for 10 years. But then Maggie is pretty agenda driven.

I do find it odd that the same people complaining about this accept special civil rights protections themselves. (1st only protects from government establishment of religion, not private citizen discrimination as civil rights statutes do)
6.19.2006 4:14am
The Divagator (mail) (www):

Bit of a pejorative statement, isn't it? From the data I can find only a small minority of gay people have AIDS or STD problems. Do we really judge an entire group by the qualities of minority? US Justice statistics show that 7% of all white males will do some sort of jail time - do we treat white males as part of the 'criminal straight lifestyle'?


CDC estimates that somewhere between 1.0 and 1.2 million in US have AIDS. CDC also reports that 441,380 fit into the "male-to-male sexual activity" exposure category, or around 40% of all cases. If we take a liberal estimate of the number of gay or bi men in the US, say 15 million, that's 3%, indeed pretty small.

But to me, the important number here is not the number of infected gay men, it's the public health burden that unprotected gay male sex creates, one that has been responded to beneficently by the American people, who spend more money collectively on AIDS research than other fatal diseases that affect far more people.

While the promiscuity data from studies such as Bell and Weinberg can be explained away (as most all survey statistics can), the very real public health burden cannot. And it's not just HIV/AIDS. There are other STDs; there are the higher incidences of rectal cancers and syndromes affecting the urinary tract and bowels; there are other things like hepatitis.

When you combine the public health data with the etiology of the AIDS epidemic in the US, where it first struck and whom, I think the tongue-in-cheek remark above regarding a "pejorative statement" is a little disingenuous.

Further, gay male literature, particularly the poems of Rafael Campo, demonstrate how problematic "safe sex" is as a concept (heterosexuals, incidentally, would agree--look at the number of unplanned, unwanted pregnancies). Campo's poems help explain the recent spike in unprotected sex among gay men, at least, if you can trust surveys, which I find astounding given the public-health crisis.

Finally, the analogy at the end is just droll.
6.19.2006 9:27am
Public_Defender (mail):
What is the libertarian contribution to the social debate? As I understand it, libertarians think private discrimination is just fine. So if an employer wants to exclude people who think homosexuality is a sin or who just oppose gay marriage, that's OK with libertarians. Am I correct on this?

If I am, anti-gay people will still have significant problems because in many circles, being anti-gay is socially as bad as being anti-Semitic. If you were hiring someone for a math teaching job at a private school, and you had two candidates:


Candidate One is objectively a better mathematician and classroom teacher, but in his private time, he writes and distributes anti-Semitic tracts.

Candidate Two is not quite as good of a mathematician or teacher, but he's still good. You have no idea what his views are.


Which would you hire? Almost everyone would pick Candidate Two. So if hiring committees and HR departments believe that being anti-gay is morally the same as being anti-Semitic, anti-gay people will have a significant amount of trouble in many parts of the marketplace.

Is that kosher with libertarians?
6.19.2006 10:29am
Ken Arromdee (mail):
But to me, the important number here is not the number of infected gay men, it's the public health burden that unprotected gay male sex creates

This is not an argument against gays, it's an argument against publically funded health care.

(See also "cigarette smoking costs us millions of dollars in health care" and "obesity costs us millions of dollars in health care".)
6.19.2006 10:40am
The Divagator (mail) (www):

This is not an argument against gays, it's an argument against publically funded health care.


I don't know. That seems like a dodge. Analogies are dangerous things. By analogy, are you suggesting we vigorously deter male-to-male sexual relations as we do cigarette smoking or overeating/poor diets? Are you suggesting that we place limits on the liberties of gays as we have with smokers?

Obviously, I'm being facetious and having a bit of fun at your expense for which I apologize, but I do think that the public health aspect of male gay sex is often overlooked and, to a certain extent, downplayed by the activists. And "safe sex" depends upon people acting rationally in pursuit of their own self-preservation and self-interest, which has been demonstrated in various social sciences to be a sadly mistaken concept.

Libertarians would do well to recast their reservations in public health terms. That would be an interesting conversation.
6.19.2006 10:58am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
No. It's because in America, we think people should be hired and fired based on their capabilities, not what they do in their private lives, or have no control over.

I'm glad that commies always know what's best in running a business. That's why I don't hire people I contract with them for services and fail to renew contracts of service people I don't like.

People who don't run a business are always the greatest experts at running other people's businesses.

Personally, I don't hire commies.
6.19.2006 1:27pm
Randy R. (mail):
Brooks: As has been pointed out time and time again, the only truly way to safe sex is abstinence. We must agree on that. However, what about the people who are not abstinent? Well, then we must push on to find ways to have safe sex. Having sex only with known safe partners, usually one, is an excellent way to have safe sex. We must agree on that. However, what about the people who do not get tested? Or lie about their tests? Does everyone check for the 'clean certificate' before they have sex?

Not on your life. So for those who do not check with certitude on the whether their partner is totally without STDs, then what? Condoms, that's what.

Additionally, what if a person WANTS to have sex with a person with AIDS? i'm not talking bug chasers -- but what about the fact that you can actually fall in love with a person with an STD? And are people with STD banned from having sex forever? Not likely.

Every single safe sex program I've seen stresses that you should always ASSUME that the person you are having sex with has AIDS or some other STD. Then take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from infection. Done properly, you have virtually a 100% chance of keeping those bugs away.

So I agree that one way to have safe sex is to have it only with one person your entire life, and make sure that person is always free of STDs. But even that is highly impracticable. The highest rate of increase of AIDS is among wives who are faithful to their husbands, but its the husbands out having sex with prostitutes or other people who have AIDS, and they transmit it to the wives. So even though the wives practice exactly what you prescribe, it fails them.

Constant condom use is the only sure way to prevent STDs.
6.19.2006 2:24pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
If we take a liberal estimate of the number of gay or bi men in the US, say 15 million, that's 3%, indeed pretty small.

But to me, the important number here is not the number of infected gay men, it's the public health burden that unprotected gay male sex creates,


OK and in as non-confrontational a way as possible I am going to point out you've just changed your stated 'reason'. You talk about the 'promiscuous gay lifestyle', I demonstrate and you admit that is a small minority, and now you change to a different tact again trying to justify treating a whole varied group by the qualities of a few of its members.

In my years and years and years of discussing this particular subject that is, to me, the hallmark of someone who has the answer they want and will just keep sifting through data until they find justification for it. (called that 'Archie Bunker thinking' as a kid)

I am wrong in this observation? If so, in what way? What data would make you deal with the promiscuous gays as a very qualitatively different group than the ones who aren't?
6.19.2006 2:36pm
EricK:
Bob,
Are you going to say that gay's are not very promiscuous?
6.19.2006 3:27pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
EricK, would say that no more than I would say white males are very criminal, evangelicals are very incestuous, or any other statement that would identify a large group by the qualities of a minority as a negative stereotype.

GSS data shows median number of lifetime sex partners for heterosexual men 5, for homosexual men 6 (worst analysis shows 10). Yes 20-25% of all men are randy bastards, and yes the gay men that are have MUCH more success at finding willing sex partners, but to typify the entire group by the qualities of a minority? Only a bigot with an agenda would do that.
6.19.2006 3:59pm
JGR (mail):
I clicked on Ilya's link to the poll itself, and I thought it was an odd poll in one important respect. While it tabulated support for gay marriage, gay adoption, and gays in the military, it didn't have what most would consider the two main questions - what percentage of Americans simply oppose or support homosexuality (philosophically or morally) and what percentage support laws against homosexuality itself.

A number of writers for National Review Online are fond of quoting a poll that 60% of Americans support sodomy laws. They don't usually quote this poll to support sodomy laws, but to ironically point out that most of them (NR writers) are to the left of most Americans (because they don't support sodomy laws) and hence to puncture the myth that they are rabid ultra-rightists. The statistics in this new poll would suggest to me that this old 60% poll is out of date. Does anyone - Ilya or anyone else - have any new hard data on what percentage of Americans support sodomy laws?
6.19.2006 4:28pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
JGR Gallup Poll peformed May 8-11, 2006

89% Gays should have equal job opportunities
56% homosexual relations should be legal (no reverse question asked)
54% homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle
39% gay marriage should be legally valid

Homosexual relations are morally acceptable
total 44%
woman ages 18-49 55%
all 18-39 y/o 54%
liberal 74%
conservative 28%
6.19.2006 4:58pm
JGR (mail):
Thanks for the poll results. Assuming that "homosexual relations should be legal" can be intuitively translated into "does not support sodomy laws", that would suggest the 60% figure is off by 14 percentage points, the appropriate percentage of those who support sodomy laws being 44%. ( I think we can assume that although sodomy laws technically applied to both sexes, it is for 99% of the participants a question about homosexuality).
6.19.2006 5:24pm
EricK:
A study by A.P. Bell and M.S. Weinberg showed that 73 percent of gay men had over 100 partners.
6.19.2006 5:25pm
JGR (mail):
oops, off by 16 percentage points. Sorry
6.19.2006 5:25pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
A study by A.P. Bell and M.S. Weinberg showed that 73 percent of gay men had over 100 partners.

Read the introduction of the book this stat comes from, find out where they polled people, and what the authors said the data was NOT presented as a representation of.

(you will find that this sampling was massively weighted to find that 20-25%, not gay men in general and the authors tell you that and not to draw any sort of conclusion about gay men in general from it)
6.19.2006 5:28pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Bob, I think if you'll review the thread you'll discover that I didn't make the initial point, so saying "you talk about the promiscuous gay sex lifestyle" is putting words in my mouth. Brooks' initial point raised promiscuity, to which you retorted with the "pejorative" comment, which I found overmuch for the reasons I laid out.

One must assume that Brooks' initial comment about promiscuity was meant to raise public health concerns regarding gay male sex. I don't think he raised promiscuity as an issue because of its own inherent depravity, tho he might have...that's for him to state if he so desires. My point was that, if public health concerns are the reason to cite promiscuity in the first place, one needn't get at the issue from such a remove. Gay male sex was and continues to be the root cause of a major public health crisis as at least 40% of all US AIDS cases were transmitted via gay male sex. The etiology and prevalence of AIDS in the US does not depend upon gay-male promiscuity. The numbers stand on their own merits such to warrant deep concern.

For what's it's worth, I think gay male promiscuity is probably roughly in line with that of heterosexual men. This seems confirmed by my own anecdotal evidence; my gay male friends tend to exhibit the same patterns in the same proportion as their hetero counterparts. That is to say, some are extremely promiscuous, others are not. Some find monogamy impossible, others don't.

But in the singular case of AIDS, promiscuity is rather beside the point. It represents a public health crisis that has been fueled by gay male sex. And of course, there are other health conditions, such as kinds I noted, that have far higher incidences within the gay male population, though obviously, none as severe as AIDS in terms of the demands this disease places upon public health funding and attention.

I then went on to suggest that "safe sex" as a concept is pretty flawed for the same reasons any concept is that's rooted in rational models of human behavior.

In sum, I was hoping that the board's libertarians would reevaluate their arguments in light of the public health question and looked forward to reading such.

I'll admit to the switch, but not the bait...you should have read more closely before weighing in.
6.19.2006 6:04pm
Medis:
The AEI roundup has a bunch more polls on legality.
6.19.2006 6:08pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
I apologize, I did lose track of who was replying.

But you still talk of "gay male sex" when really only promiscuous sex is the cause of any STD problem. If and I would present the argument that it is attempts of suppression that actually fuel promiscuity. Personal example, though I don't need to take off both shoes to count my life-time sexual partners the one timers are mostly during my army years. As I explained to my sister, I could either get a boy friend and settle down, waiting for the Army to find out, or have a one night stand with a guy who thinks my name is John. In a repressive environment, 2 is 'safer' in regards to the most immediate concerns.

Repression breeds promiscuity just as acceptance fosters conformity. Seattle is a prime example, the gay ghetto isn't one anymore, the largest gay bar complex in town is selling its lot for condos, and in a study of young gay men Seattle had the lowest HIV prevalence of any place looked at. Why? Because people are coupled up and living everywhere without worry or having to hide. They're joining block watches, not going to gay baths. Monogamy has become the rule rather than the exception.

Are there still promiscuous guys? Yeah and realistically there will always be - with all men there are some to whom sex is like dessert and others its like oxygen. Epidemiologically you want to keep the promiscuous as self-contained as possible and here they are. Yes there was a syphilis outbreak that was tracked back to a very popular chat service. Our public health department was predicting an increase in HIV - didn't happen? Why? Even the promiscuous are getting smart and sero-sorting themselves - the HIV+ guys are hooking up with HIV+ guys deliberately. With computer profiles its easy to do. Even promiscuity can be handled in smarter, safer ways when easy communication is allowed.

So my slant on the libertarian position would be:

Acknowledge that you could no more ban sex than you can eating or breathing, any attempt would just cause the problem to hide itself not actually control it.

Acknowledge that some group members actually can and want to be monogamous and find ways to make monogamous relationships as attractive as possible to them. (do I hear wedding bells?)

Acknowledge some men will not be monogamous and allow them to easily find their peers so that the problem is localized and less likely to reach out to the casual, curious or just situationally available. Also makes them easier to monitor and communicate with for health and behavior modification attempts.

DON'T think or refer to these two very different groups with very different qualities as one monolithic group - they aren't. That would make attempts to suppress the entire group as if they were all promiscuous. It would just reactively lead those not so inclined to be so themselves.
6.19.2006 6:38pm
Corkie the Dog:
Randy R.,

In employment discrimination cases, it is NOT the case that the burden is always on the plaintiff. Once the plaintiff makes the prima facie case (which is easy), the burden shifts to the employer to prove that the employee was terminated for a "BFOQ" -- bona fide occupational question (which is hard.)

It is also not the case that employment discrimation cases "usually fail" -- the last time I checked, 70% were successful in my county of residence.

Juries simply don't believe "employment at will" -- losing your job is traumatic, and juries are likely to empathise with the employee. It is quite understandable that employers are skittish about firing anyone in a protected class.

Sincerely,
Corkie the Dog
6.19.2006 7:30pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Bob, apology accepted. Many thanks for your considerate response.
6.19.2006 7:45pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Let's take another look at those CDC figures on HIV/AIDS:

CDC estimates that somewhere between 1.0 and 1.2 million in US have AIDS. CDC also reports that 441,380 fit into the "male-to-male sexual activity" exposure category, or around 40% of all cases. If we take a liberal estimate of the number of gay or bi men in the US, say 15 million, that's 3%, indeed pretty small.

There are a number of problems with this statement. First off, let's take it all at face value: 441,380 gay/bi male AIDS cases out of 15 million gay/bi men is indeed a rate of about 3% of the target population. But then, look at the other numbers: there were say, 758,620 cases of AIDS out of a residual non-gay/bi-male population of perhaps 275 million, which is about 0.28% or less than 1/10 the rate in the gay/bi male community.

But 15 million gay/bi males is basically Kinsey's long-since-discredited "10% of the population is homosexual" number. A much more accurate number is somewhere between 2 and 4 percent, depending on which study you look at, but these studies all have much better methodology and accuracy than Kinsey's did (This is not the place to get into a critique of Kinsey and his colleagues).

Taking the 4% figure, that's about 5.8 million gay/bi males in the USA (population 290 million) and thus the rate of AIDS in that population is 7.6%, which is 27 times greater than in the non-gay/bi male population. So much for the "Heterosexual AIDS Epidemic."

But the gay population has got a serious problem. As Randy R. points out, abstinance works, as (we can argue the efficiency) does condom use and sticking with one partner. The problem of that partner having AIDS or other STD is certainly real, but the main socio/cultural/public health point is, that if people don't act promiscuously at any point in their "sexual career," (sounds like porn movie actors, doesn't it?), they will presumably have a limited number of partners during that career and thus their chances of contracting AIDS or other STD are minimized, since presumably their partners are also being monogamous and non-promiscuous.

As for the many partners that a rather large percentage of promiscuous gay men have/had; while we can argue the numbers up and down, the fact is that this rather large subset of the gay male population has carried promiscuity to astonishing heights, far greater than promiscuous heterosexual men. One has only to read Randy Shilts' book "And The Band Played On" to get some idea of just how many partners some gay men had back before the onset of AIDS and to realize that such a level of promiscuity would be difficult to impossible in most heterosexual relationships.

I will certainly grant, that the situation has improved since then, but those who didn't die of AIDS from the early days still long for the "great sex" of the old days, and new generations of gay men are running into the same natural urges and are giving in to them instead of exercizing self-control. I have also read that some gay men are depressed and suicidal and so they engage in promiscuous, unprotected sex with a somewhat nihilistic attitude.

Further, gay male literature, particularly the poems of Rafael Campo, demonstrate how problematic "safe sex" is as a concept (heterosexuals, incidentally, would agree--look at the number of unplanned, unwanted pregnancies). Campo's poems help explain the recent spike in unprotected sex among gay men, at least, if you can trust surveys, which I find astounding given the public-health crisis.


My familiarity with the gay male literature is at some remove, and limited; I am not at all familiar with Rafael Campo's poetry; but this agrees with what I have read in the past several years.

The whole business is very sad. It seems to me that the promiscuous element of the gay/bi male community is (and was) acting in a very selfish manner, and the fact that their (many) partners are also acting out of the same self-indulgence does not make it any less sad, particularly when many of them could make the effort to find and hold a monogamous partner.

I'd have to say, that my objection to promiscuity of any sort is that it is selfish and exploitive of other people in a number of ways; if this then defines it as "depraved," so be it. I would not necessarily define promiscuity as "sinful" or "evil," but behavior to be avoided as anti-social. I would certainly say, that it is "wrong," pace Bob and his understandable one-night stands in the Army. The point is, that he didn't go up and down the rows in the barracks doing everyone - that's the dangerous "bathhouse culture" that started it all. Read Shilts.
6.19.2006 8:34pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
The point is, that he didn't go up and down the rows in the barracks doing everyone - that's the dangerous "bathhouse culture" that started it all. Read Shilts.

I have, and that 'culture' involves a minority of gay men. The ones that do do it do it quite a bit, but the ones that don't don't at all. I mean, you could go to a bathhouse have sex with one person every friday night and end up with 100 partners in a 2 year period. Some men do that, most don't.

But pointing fingers won't change that some people will do this in the face of anything, laws, disease, whatever. The libertarian viewpoint would be to deal with the reality of the situation, particularly when the amount of change society can actually impose is limited.

I still think my solution works: differentiate between those that will be monogamous given the chance and those that won't. Give each group as many pathways to healthier living as their likely behavior patterns allow. Passively encourage monogamy by allowing those so inclined to socially network with other monogamous people over some other grouping criteria that actually mixes very different social behaviors, sexual orientation for example. Actively encourage monogamy by offering a civil contract with tangible benefits (and responsibilities) for married couples regardless of the gender combination.

Met an owner of several of the most popular midwest gay bars about a year ago. He said that in 10 years there will be few gay bars left because the generation coming up doesn't segregate themselves that way. They all go out together regardless of sexual orientation. They all expect sex to involve more than just a lay by and large. Again, acceptance breeds conformity because there are so many of 'them' and so few gays. You don't maintain tribal behavior patterns out of the ghetto, we are just too much of a herd animal.
6.19.2006 9:07pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
It is quite understandable that employers are skittish about firing anyone in a protected class.

Statements like this confuse me - aren't we all in each of the 'protected' class, e.g. religion, marital status, sexual orientation, etc? One of the last successful sexual orientation complaints in Seattle was decided for a heterosexual woman. Isn't every firing someone actually someone in a 'protected' class if they can spin the firing that way?
6.19.2006 10:11pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):

Actively encourage monogamy by offering a civil contract with tangible benefits (and responsibilities) for married couples regardless of the gender combination.


Bob, I find this unconvincing. The idea that polyamorous gay men will reform based on the existence of civil unions or marriage has no more basis than that of heterosexual married men. Boys will be boys, regardless of the marital arrangements. Oh, of course, there is a sizeable number that embrace their vows, but linking one (marriage) to the other (monogamy) is flawed.

Further, if "acceptance breeds conformity" (funny choice of verb!), which I'm not sure I accept (but will do so for the sake of discussion), then the socially prudent thing to do for the libertarian is to let the current state play itself, which by your own account, is already ameliorating those features of gay culture that others find harmful to a well-ordered society. Why revolutionize family law when the purported beneficial effects are already in play without resorting to such a radical change? In terms of the argument's logic, on this point you seem to have adopted a self-defeating strategy.
6.19.2006 10:19pm
Randy R. (mail):
The problem is that we keep trying to peg all or most gay men into a box. Virtually everything said here is true to an extent -- to what is extent is the real issue. Whether 90% of gay men are 'promiscuous', however you define it, or just 10%, well, does it really matter?

I have met a documentary filmmaker of the film, "Gay Sex in the 70s." He told me that being gay in teh 70s was such a relief, because for the first time, they had real gay liberation. And so he and lots of other gay men would cruise the Chelsea piers looking for totally anonymous sex. This went on for years.

So a certain percentage of gay men were sluts in the 70s. Some percentage is today. What of it? We must still define a public health policy that covers all, and discourages this sort of activity, yet still allows for those who insist upon it, while making it safe. Tall order. One size fits all won't cut it. Generatlizations won't do.

I don't have the answer, but at least we are talking about it here. Thanks to everyone.
6.19.2006 10:57pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
Oh, of course, there is a sizeable number that embrace their vows, but linking one (marriage) to the other (monogamy) is flawed.

Well in that case there is no need for heterosexual marriage either if it has no linking effect either, correct? I actually think you are wrong and can only say what you did by including an implicit 'absolute' before the work linking. I guarantee you, community property and the like could have very sobering effect on allowing a spouse to engage in activities that could possibly lead to a split up. And that's just one negative, there are many positives. In the Netherlands they are licensing same gender marriage contracts in proportion to gays in the population. In Massachusetts they were licensing at over 6x their prevalence in the first year, in Canada 4 times. Gay people WANT to to license the contract and it will have the same attraction/inhibition of dissolution effect it has for their marriages as it has for heterosexuals.

Why revolutionize family law when the purported beneficial effects are already in play without resorting to such a radical change? In terms of the argument's logic, on this point you seem to have adopted a self-defeating strategy.

Biased view point - we are talking about a minimal change, adding maybe 1 or 2% more citizens licensing the civil contract otherwise identical in every way other than the gender of the cosigner. Men are already allowed to license, yes? Ditto with women? Exactly where is the radical change other than inside some people's heads?

And the libertarian point of view would be either license it to citizens or don't but if you do don't exclude some married citizens from any access. Unequal treatment is very un-libertarian.
6.19.2006 10:59pm
Randy R. (mail):
""Once the plaintiff makes the prima facie case (which is easy), the burden shifts to the employer to prove that the employee was terminated for a "BFOQ" -- bona fide occupational question (which is hard.)"

No it isn't. Most companies don't know how to fire someone properly. if an employee if often late for work, you document it, document that you talked to the employee about it, document that they ignored it and continued their bad behavior. Sure, it takes longer to fire someone in, and you have to create tons of paperwork, but that's why companies have an HR department.

Listen, I was a union steward for the US Department of Labor, and we had a tough contract that made it very hard to fire employees. Yet, the department had no problem firing people, since they knew they just had to dot their i's and cross their t's, and in virtually every case, the arbitrator ruled for them.

Sure, some jurisdictions are easier than others, but the 4th Circuit is notorious for being against employment claims. They make it virtually impossible to win an employment discrimination claim. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Office is a joke -- it will take years for your claim to be heard, and it's almost always denied.
6.19.2006 11:04pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):

Well in that case there is no need for heterosexual marriage either if it has no linking effect either, correct?


Although I would heartily disagree, there are many heterosexuals who agree with you, for a variety of reasons, hence the large number of hetero coinhabitants out of wedlock. And the stigma for such a living arrangement has disappeared almost completely from the culture.

There is a 'linking effect,' obviously, in marriage; that's not quite what I said. In the ecclesiastical sense, there is a sacramental linkage; in the civil sense, there is a legal/contractual linkage, but neither of these in reality seems to deter polyamory. And I suppose I'm not so much concerned with the guy who cheats once or twice in his 25-year marriage; I'm more referring to the serial sport-f***ers who view their sex life as separate and distinct from marriage. But in the gay context, even the two or three flings can have serious public health implications that don't obtain for straights.

What's strange, for me at least, is that we live in a cultural moment in which traditional marriage has been challenged by 'alternative' concepts--open marriages, live-in third parties, swinging, and of course unwed cohabitation. In short, the culture has become very permissive in its practice of such arrangements, yet whereas gay marriage is concerned, I'm supposed to consider it from the utmost 'square' position, as if it is a manifestation of a 1950s TV show, only swapping out June Cleaver for John. This vision of gay marriage just isn't consonant with the state of marriage as expressed in current cultural trends. I suppose what I'm asking is, Why shouldn't I consider gay marriage from a more jaded (or "biased", as you have it) perspective, particularly given the pop-culture images straights have of male homosexuality, such as the flamboyant displays associated with Pride Day celebrations and such? Those folks aren't John Cleavers. Before you launch into a protestation, know that I'm not suggesting that you, Bob, are cut from the same cloth. I trust that you are conscientious in understanding the duties implicit in human sexuality, but there is a high level of distrust that I have for the gay lobby, and yes, you should take my rambling prose with a pillar of salt. Caveat lector.
6.20.2006 12:07am
Randy R. (mail):
So basically, what you are saying is that traditional marriage is challenged by alternative concepts. These concepts were devised by straight people who choose not to go the traditional marriage route. What has this to do with gay people trying to get married?

Are you saying that gay people want to get married, just so then they can challenge it by alternative concepts? If so, that makes no sense. Right now, gays are FORCED into alternative concepts, often against our will, precisely because we are denied marriage. What we want IS the traditional marriage. Whatever problems there are in marriage today, it is certainly not the fault of us gays. Let us be a part of the solution instead of assuming we are part of the problem.

Those folks in Pride Day celebrations may or not may not be Cleavers. How would you know? You think striaght heteros who are happily married never engage in leather or other sexual fetishes? Have you ever actually attended a Pride Day parade? I have, many times. And the vast majority of participants in Pride wear regular t-shirts and shorts, and carry banners that say Microsoft Gay Employee Association, or are members of Dignity USA, the gay catholics. Many of these people I personally know, and I can tell you most are indeed John Cleavers.

You are making an assumption if you participate in a Pride Day parade, you must not believe in monogamy. What, parade people all carry signs that state their views on marriage and monogamy?

I take grave exception to your comment that the straight guy who cheats on his wife once or twice is not as big a threat as the gay guy who cheats on his partner. The highest rate of increase in AIDS is black men who cheat on their wives "just a few times" and infect their unknowing and monogamous wives. It's a serious problem in the black community.
6.20.2006 12:50am
Medis:
The Divagator,

I just want to note again that in general, people seem to have been getting more "conservative" (or more "restrictive" if you prefer) when it comes to marital norms since the 1970s. In other words, the "moment" you are talking about seemed to pass, and the movement is now in the opposite direction.

And in that sense, I do think the trends toward gay marriages/unions are part of a general trend toward favoring a more "traditional" view on the benefits of monogamy and marriage. But to see that, one simply has to get past the idea that gay=libertine.
6.20.2006 12:55am
Randy R. (mail):
By the way, according to a recent article I read, there is a leather shop in San FRansisco, owned by a gay couple. They will custom make any leather apparatus you want for sexual purposes. About 80% of their cliental is straight hetero couples.

If there were such a thing as a Straight Pride parade, you would find people there who are not the Cleaver type. That's not to say that you, Divagator, like leather fetishes, because we all know that nice monogamous people don't engage in that, right?

You know, come to think of it, I have a high level of distrust of the heterosexual lobby. They always like to tell me how I'm the basis of all their problems, and i'm working so hard to destroy the very fabric of American life. So please take what I say with a grain of salt, too.
6.20.2006 12:55am
Medis:
Randy R.,

To be fair, though, some stereotypes about gay people do have a grain of truth. For example, I own a house in a gentrifying neighborhood with a lot of Victorian and American Craftsman homes. An increasing number of gay couples have been moving into my neighborhood and doing a wonderful job renovating, and partially as a result my neighborhood has become one of the hottest property markets in my city.

So if they ever get around to having a Gay Pride parade in my neighborhood, I plan to hang a sign on my house saying "Thanks for the Home Equity!"
6.20.2006 1:16am
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
but there is a high level of distrust that I have for the gay lobby, and yes, you should take my rambling prose with a pillar of salt.

Well I guess I am just more PNW (Pacific Northwest). The Gay Pride parade here is the second largest in the city, only the SeaFair parade draws a bigger crowd. And the papers last year declared it 'family friendly', but this is Seattle - the Fremont Solstice parade last weekend had its flotilla of bicyclists wearing nothing but body paint and its consider family friendly too. :)

Still I guess I don't understand the concern - its not like the guys with a 'boyfriend de juer' are going to be getting married. No matter what people say there are few financial incentives to getting married. Single gay men and women are mostly personally employed, and here most of the major businesses already give benefit support to domestic partners. The major benefit of marriage is it allows the married couple to be viewed as one in many critical legal areas, very important for people with children and commingled assets. It really just isn't that abusable of a contract to excessively worry about increasing access to 2% more citizens.
Oh well.
6.20.2006 2:25am
raj (mail):
JGR 6.19.2006 3:28pm

it (the poll) didn't have what most would consider the two main questions - what percentage of Americans simply oppose or support homosexuality (philosophically or morally)...

This comment has got to be a joke. Homosexuality exists. Who cares what percentage of Americans support or oppose what exists? The question is about as dumb as asking what percentage of Americans oppose or support the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.
6.20.2006 6:16am
JosephSlater (mail):
Corkie and Randy R.:

Respectfully, neither of you are quite right about the respective burdens of the parties in a typical individual employment discrimination case, although Randy is much closer on the bottom line: employment discrimination cases are VERY difficult to win. The win rate at lower and appellate courts for plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases is pretty much the lowest rate for any type of civil suit.

In more detail ... yes, in an individual disparate impact case ("the employer fired me because I'm black ... or white, or a man or a woman"), the prima facie case is relatively easy to establish. But, Corkie, the next step for the employer isn't to argue BFOQ (that defense is indeed hard to make, but it's rare and not at all necessary). All the employer needs to do after plaintiff shows a prima facie case is articulate a "legitimate non-discriminatory reason" for its action -- which can be anything that's not discrimination, from "he was a bad employee" to "I didn't like him, personally" to "he roots for a different baseball team than me," and etc.

Then the burden switches back to the plaintiff to show that the defendant's proferred reason was "pretext" (a lie, essentially).

But then, even if plaintiff has shown a prima facie case AND has shown that defendant's proferred reason was a lie, defendant can STILL win the case, even on summary judgement. See St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks.

Again, bottom line, employment discrimination cases are extremely hard for plaintiffs to win.
6.20.2006 11:54am
Corkie the Dog:
JosephSlater, RandyR,

"bottom line, employment discrimination cases are extremely hard for plaintiffs to win."

Thank you for your thoughtful posts, but I'm still not sure we see eye-to-eye. Not only do I not believe that the burden is solely on the plaintiff (the employer shoulders the burden for part of the process), but also I'm not convinced that discrimination cases are always hard to win. Perhaps we are looking at different types of discrimination cases. See the following link for charts of likelihood of winning an employment discrimination case:

discrimination

The author's conclusion: "They find that while plaintiffs in some types of cases have a good chance of winning, plaintiffs in other types of cases virtually never win. "

FWIW, I agree that companies with a strong enough HR group (usually large companies), documenting a pattern of fireable offenses is straightforward. However, I think you perhaps overstimate the number of companies that are actually in a position to do so.

Sincerely,
Corkie the Dog
6.20.2006 2:33pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Corkie:

You link to a cite that gives comparative figures for certain types of sex discrimination suits. Here are some more recent and more thorough stats showing that Title VII plaintiffs lose quite frequently at every stage of the process, from pre-trial to trial to appeal.

Plaintiffs must initially file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and only about fifteen percent of the claims filed with the EEOC result in some relief being provided to plaintiffs, a rate generally lower than that for other administrative claims.

Plaintiffs lose employment discrimination cases both at the trial level and on appeal at a greater rate than plaintiffs in almost literally every other type of civil case. At the pretrial stage, 98% of employment discrimination cases were decided for defendants (compare that to a success rate of 66% for defendants in insurance cases).

In cases tried before judges, employment discrimination plaintiffs succeeded in 18.7 percent of the cases; in contrast, plaintiffs in insurance cases won 43.6% of the time; and plaintiffs in personal injury cases won 41.8% of the time. Employment discrimination defendants that lose at the trial level do startlingly better on appeal (winning reversal over 43% of the time) than employment discrimination plaintiffs that lose at the trial level (winning reversal on 5.85% of the time, a lower rate than any other category of cases except prisoner habeas corpus cases).

This figures are culled from Kevin Clermont, Theodore Eisenberg, and Stewart Schwab, How Employment-Discrimination Plaintiffs Fare in the Federal Courts of Appeals, 7 Employee Rts &Employment Pol'y J. 547 (2003); Michael Selmi, Why Are Employment Discrimination Cases So Hard to Win? 61 La. L. Rev. 555 (2001); and Michael Zimmer, The New Discrimination Law: Price Waterhouse is Dead, Whither McDonnell Douglas?, 53 Emory L.J. 1887, 1943 (2004)
6.20.2006 3:08pm
JGR (mail):
raj wrote:

"This comment has got to be a joke. Homosexuality exists. Who cares what percentage of Americans support or oppose what exists? The question is about as dumb as asking what percentage of Americans oppose or support the sun rising in the east and setting in the west."

Does this statement make any sense to anyone? He seems to be opposed to public opinion polls on the grounds that the polls don't meaningfully change whatever is being measured. I suppose most sociologists would assert that knowledge is useful for its own sake ("the proper study of man is man"). Of course, there are numerous utilitarian aspects of polls also, which is why politicians use them regularly. I'm not going to take the time to list every way that knowledge interacts with policy by studying correlations - I think the average reader of this thread would think I was insulting their intelligence.

Of course, there is a respectable body of thought that social science and what Jacques Barzun has called "stat-life" has on the whole had a deleterius effect on the American populace. I am myself sympathetic to that view, but writers who attempt to hold that view as a philosophy usually wind up violating their own principles because when everyone is using social science statistics, it places you at a disadvantage when the statistics support your own theory.
6.21.2006 12:53pm