pageok
pageok
pageok
Those radical gay-loving Republicans:

This morning's New York Times has the fascinating results of a poll of the views of Republican National Convention delegates on a variety of issues. The poll reveals that 49% of the GOP delegates support either gay marriage (6%) or civil unions (43%). Only 46% of the delegates believe there should be no legal recognition whatsoever of same-sex couples. (The main article, which does not discuss this particular result from the poll, is available here.)

Several things are noteworthy about this. First, support for civil unions, an idea that just ten years ago would have been thought radical by most people — and certainly by Republicans — is quickly becoming the default position across the political spectrum, not just on the left.

Second, party convention delegates are ideologically more extreme versions of party voters. But in this case, Republican delegates are actually more willing by a margin of 10% to support legal recognition of gay unions (49%) than are Republican voters overall (39% — 11% for gay marriage and 28% for civil unions). This may be partly due to the fact that the convention is dominated this year by McCain delegates, who are likely more moderate and libertarian on many social issues than delegates at past conventions. But it's not as if these delegates are social-issues squishes. Fully 81% of them believe abortion should not be permitted at all (43%) or should be more stricly regulated (38%). Even as they are softening their views on gay families they are maintaining their strongly conservative stands on other issues.

Third, unlike their views on some other issues (like abortion and approval of President Bush), Republican delegates are closer to the middle of the American electorate on same-sex relationships than were Democratic delegates, 90% of whom supported marriage (55%) or civil unions (35%). Among all voters, 58% now support either gay marriage (34%) or civil unions (24%), a difference of just 9% from what the GOP delegates believe.

It's still the case, of course, that Democratic voters and delegates are far more likely than Republican voters and delegates to support legal recognition of gay families. The latest draft of the official platform of the national GOP contains no position — either for or against — civil unions, which is noteworthy all by itself and may signal that party leaders understand the changed dynamic on this issue even among Republicans. The platform does reiterate the party's opposition to same-sex marriage and support for a federal marriage amendment (which McCain himself opposes). But I consider this poll of party activists quite surprising, and for a supporter of same-sex marriage, quite encouraging.

jvarisco (mail) (www):
It would be nice to see that broken down by candidate. Ron Paul probably makes up the 6% for gay marriage. But I would be curious how many Hucakebee/Romney people support civil unions (probably a lot less than 50%).
9.1.2008 1:13pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
30 Because our children's future is best preserved within the traditional understanding of marriage, we
31 call for a constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage as a union of a man and a woman, so
32 that judges cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it.

That sounds like anti-civil union to me.

DC: I don't read this language as anti-civil union. First, I read it as opposition to *marriage* for "other arrangements," e.g., same-sex couples or polygamous unions. Second, it addresses only what *judges* may do, not what legislatures should have the power to do.
9.1.2008 1:29pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Yes, because in this area people seem to think that if the same thing has two different names, it becomes two different things. And that's true on both sides of the debate.
9.1.2008 2:07pm
Burt Likko (mail) (www):
The biggest trendline here is political. Ten years ago the idea of gay marriage was considered so radical as to be the equivalent of anarchism. But if even a plurality of Republican National Convention delegates support some kind of civil union, then what will the political landscape look like ten years from now? Even if by some miracle a Democratic-controlled Congress were to report out a Federal "Marriage Protection" Amendment, actual support for the idea seems to be eroding almost before out eyes.
9.1.2008 2:11pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
DC, it says a Constitutional Amendment, which means it would take the power out of the legislature's hands.

Duffy is right, I am a bit confused because everyone thinks a civil union is what they want it to be.

My understanding was Civil Unions would be equivalent to marriage, just not called marriage because some people are really hung up about that and hell its only a word it is the rights that matter.

I could be reading it wrong, but that was my take on it.

DC: The difference in language -- civil unions v. marriage -- actually matters a lot to people on both sides of the issue. Also, a constitutional amendment does not necessarily take an issue out of state legislatures' hands. It could be directed only at constraining judges. The old FMA was ambiguous on the question whether state legislatures could recognize civil unions. Supporters even disagreed among themselves about this interpretation. But there is no amendment currently on the table, and this language from the draft party platform is explicitly directed only at judges.
9.1.2008 2:15pm
FlimFlamSam:
Most conservatives, including me, don't have any problem at all with homosexual couples having private contractual rights to arrange their lives in a way analagous to marriage. I strongly suspect that's what most people believe they are saying yes to on the "civil union" question.

DC: It's certainly possible that respondents were confused about the meaning of civil unions, and likely that at least a few were. But I doubt that accounts for the results of this poll, for a couple of reasons. First "civil union" sounds like a legal status recognized in "civil" law, not a bunch of contracts. Civil unions have been part of the national conversation for about eight years now, and with greater frequency in the last four. The phrase is not a new one. Second, whatever the degree of confusion average citizens may have about what "civil union" means, delegates to a convention are unusually attentive and knowledgeable political observers. They are party activists. Civil unions are now routinely discussed as an alternative form of recognition by the state giving gay couples the rights and benefits of marriage, not a matter of private contract. So I think it's very unlikely they see civil unions as only agreements between parties.
9.1.2008 2:25pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
The delegates' views on the effectiveness of abstinence-only education may also be evolving today....
9.1.2008 2:29pm
Walker (mail):
Ron Paul probably makes up the 6% for gay marriage.

You must be kidding. Actual libertarians would be likely to support gay marriage, but I think actual Ron Paul delegates are more Buchananite than libertarian.
9.1.2008 2:38pm
CleanSanchez:
Just Dropping By,

Yeah, because kids these days just don't have any idea what condoms and birth control are. I know I didn't when I was younger, I thought a condom was a funny shaped balloon. I'm sure that if Bristol Palin had taken a course on condoms, she'd NEVER have gotten pregnant.
9.1.2008 2:53pm
AKD:

I'm sure that if Bristol Palin had taken a course on condoms, she'd NEVER have gotten pregnant.


I hope smears against the not-yet-adult children of candidates are not tolerated here, or will we be seeing "retard" jokes next?

DC: Aside from questions of taste, discussion of Sarah Palin's family life is very far off the topic of this post. There are plenty of places on the net today to talk about that stuff. This is not one of them. Please keep on topic.
9.1.2008 3:41pm
Michael B (mail):
What this suggests in any very specific sense is difficult to say, but there are minimal and maximum bounds that are more definitively and more probably suggested. On the minimal side of things it means the "hate" charge - so often spit out by Left and Left/Dem advocates/militants against nearly anyone who fails to kowtow to their agenda - is patently false, and often enough is mendaciously motivated.

Groundlessly accusing an opposing party of "hate" is the political equivalent of the "have you quit beating your wife?" query. It additionally serves to obfuscate the hatred or contempt exhibited by the accusatory Left and Left/Dem militants/advocates. Iow, it reflects a politically motivated, anything-goes venality.
9.1.2008 3:50pm
Ron Mexico (mail):
Since I'm an "actual libertarian" I thought I'd chime in with my view on the issue. I do not support gay marriage. On the other hand, I also do not support heterosexual marriage. Marriage is a socio-religious concept in which the government should have no involvement. To be more clear, you might say that I do not support the control of marriage by the government. The concept of civil union was invented to encompass the economic status conferred by marriage without the idealogical mandate from the government to recognize these individuals as married. I think this concept should be extended both to heterosexuals and homosexuals. The "debate" about how marriage should be defined properly belongs to the citizens and their private convictions. By interfering, the government actually tramples the rights of *both sides*. They trample the right of conservative Christians to define marriage in the historical way, which happens to comport with their convictions. This applies not only to gay marriage, but also (among the very conservative) to acknowledgment of marriages between persons who have previously divorced (and whose prior spouses are still living). The government has already forced them to betray their convictions on this issue. On the other hand, the government prevents the more liberal from extending the definition of marriage to encompass a group they see as equals, and whose rights they are convicted to uphold. Both parties are right insofar as they do not want the government to impose an unacceptable definition of marriage on them, and both parties are wrong insofar as they want to impose their definition on others through the government. Marriage belongs to the Church, or to whatever surrogate institution others might want to impart it to.
9.1.2008 3:52pm
loki13 (mail):
Wow.

I can't wait for the next Palin thread here. Should be interesting. Conservatives defending underage pregancies, liberals attacking. None of which is relevant.

All that matter is this- wtf was McCain thinking about this choice without vetting? If this what we're getting after three days (weekend!) of public press scrutiny (flip flopping on the bridge, lying about who's taking care of the kids, dui, unplanned pregnancy for her, possibly unknown pregnancy for her daughter) goodness knows what's going to happen in the next few weeks. You're supposed to be advancing new ideas, not forced into defense over your VP pick. And she hasn't even had her first major unscripted event yet!

A rash decision. Could still pay off.
9.1.2008 3:56pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Agreed with Loki13 re Palin, but to get back to the point of this thread, it just is more evidence of what everyone pretty much knows. Time is on the side of the pro-same-sex marriage folks.
9.1.2008 4:00pm
loki13 (mail):
DC_

Apologies, posted before I saw your note. On your specific post, I think the finding is interesting. I think it is further evidence of the gaining acceptance of the idea of gay relationships in society as a whole, even in a subset of the population (the Republican party) that is nominally opposed to formally recognizing them.
9.1.2008 4:04pm
Splunge.:
Carpenter, I think your observation is actually a negative one, insofar as "gay marriage" is concerned.

What you've observed is that what seems to be the topic of the day and the solution of the day can change rapidly, within a few years, even within soi disant bastions of conservatism (in its original meaning of "averse to social change").

A useful observation. However, what goes up like a rocket comes down like a stick, yes? What in history gives you any hope that a change this rapid is going to stick? Typically, rapid movements in one direction are followed by just as rapid movements in the other. You could well be writing in 2018 about how amazing it is that even among liberal Democratic primary voters, support for a "defense of marriage" constitutional amendment is at astonishingly high levels, given the opposition to it a mere ten years ago.

Since we're talking about altering the general meaning of a bedrock social institution, the fact that opinions can swing so wildly would seem to argue for considerable caution, a bit of a go-slow, one step at a time approach. As they say, marry in haste, repent at leisure. Be careful not only about the persons but also the ideas you wed.

I'm not against your side, BTW. As far as I personally am concerned, go and be married. But...you must think long and hard about how what you seek will change the very institution you seek -- and that is not just up to you. Other people, millions of them, are involved, and how they act and react matters more than what you few do. It would suck to win a Pyrrhic victory, would it not? To achieve the right to marry at the very moment when marrying loses every quality and meaning which, at this moment, makes you desire it? Be careful.
9.1.2008 4:08pm
byomtov (mail):
Ron Mexico,

Very interesting, but given the fact that government is not about to get out of the marriage business, do you think marriage ought to be restricted to heterosexual couples only?

We all have opinions as to how we think the world should be ordered. But when it comes to concrete questions about specific matters it's necessary to deal with how things are.
9.1.2008 4:14pm
Ron Mexico (mail):
byomtov,

I don't see how the government's presence in the marriage business is any further out of reach than their use of this or that definition of marriage. All parties are advocating a change in the law, which is just as easy for the goose as for the gander.

However, since I'm in the minority with my opinion, your question seems tenable from a practical standpoint. Approaching the lesser included issue first, I'm certainly in favor of civil unions. No economic benefit should devolve upon one set and not upon another when the only difference is ideological. That violates a basic tenet of justice and the principle of equality under the law that is present in spirit in our Constitution.

As for gay marriage, I have already argued that both bestowing it and withholding it transgress some rights. Since sovereign principle will not dispose a question when it is violated in both alternatives, the only resort can be to the Utilitarian principle. It is better in terms of utility that a majority should infringe a right of a minority than vice-versa. That puts me opposed to gay marriage, because the majority, as I understand it, opposes gay marriage. If the trend, as this entry indicates, is toward acceptance, then my opinion might change with it.
9.1.2008 4:40pm
Dan M.:
I personally don't care what gay people do. I also agree with Ron that the government shouldn't be in the marriage racket. I think the "any 2 people who love each other" works just as well for 2 siblings, or for 3 people, or for whatever. Hell, why can't two heterosexual best friends set up a financial 'marriage'?

I think the problem that a lot of people have (including myself, back when I cared) is that the churches themselves are getting soft on this issue within their congregations. I know a lot of people who rebelled against the United Methodist Conference over this issue, and I totally agree with them.
9.1.2008 4:43pm
Aleks:
rE: What in history gives you any hope that a change this rapid is going to stick?

Is there any example in the history of the US of people's attitudes reversing course in regards to social changes? We didn't decide to go back to slavery, or to take votes away from women, or to re-impose Jim Crow, or make birth control illegal.
9.1.2008 4:49pm
Michael B (mail):
"We didn't decide to go back to slavery, or to take votes away from women, or to re-impose Jim Crow, or make birth control illegal." Aleks

Votes taken away from women - or from men (the difference, in European countries and in the U.S. is measured by decades, not centuries) - is not going to happen, but is not a commensurate measure relative to the marriage/homosexuality issue, which is a yet more foundational, civilization-based issue. Similarly for slavery. In neither case do they make commensurate analogies in any very illuminating sense.

Re, birth control. Birth control has never been illegal and has always been practiced, from time immemorial, so you're presumably referring to applied science/technology and the technology/ethical nexus and divide - a different topic and again not directly comparable to the marriage/homosexuality issue or the homosexuality issue in general, both of which relate to a range of anthropological issues rather than applied science/technology issues as they relate to child bearing, choice, abortion, policy issues in general and the character/ethical issues that need to be openly and soberly faced-up to when deciding to have - and to raise - children.

Or more succinctly and more generally put, what can be considered genuinely progressive vs. what is more dubiously placed under the "progressive" rubric is an aspect - in fact is a critical aspect - of the set of issues/discussions that need to be addressed as a whole.
9.1.2008 5:15pm
one of many:
I don't see much of a major shifting of ground here. Among Republicans (as opposed to the general public) for the last 15 years, in every survey I've seen, support for civil unions was in the high 30% to low 40% range while support for homosexual marriage was in the 10% range, so I'm not sure how 10 years ago the idea would have been considered more radical (by Republicans at least) than now. I forget exactly whether or not Vermont passed it's civil union law while I lived there or soon afterward, but I know by the time it was actually passed that the idea had debated long enough to not be considered that radical, unusual but not radical.
9.1.2008 6:04pm
Bart (mail):

Several things are noteworthy about this. First, support for civil unions, an idea that just ten years ago would have been thought radical by most people — and certainly by Republicans — is quickly becoming the default position across the political spectrum, not just on the left.

1. Minority positions are not default positions.

2. Folks have varying ideas of what subsidies and legal recognitions apply to "civil unions."
9.1.2008 6:15pm
Waldensian (mail):

Marriage is a socio-religious concept in which the government should have no involvement.

I agree completely. But if we ARE to have government involvement in marriage, I am against "special rights" -- i.e., I see no reason that homosexuals should receive special protection from the glorious institution of marriage.
9.1.2008 6:49pm
Helen2 (mail):
Michael B:

If birth control has never been illegal, then what was Griswold about?
9.1.2008 7:26pm
Polanski (mail):
hi

I'm glad to be here. everyone is so smart--it's intimidating!
9.1.2008 7:53pm
Eli Rabett (www):
That a scant majority of delegates to the convention don't oppose gay marriage is meaningless as long as the GOP's election chances depend on the Republican Party at Prayer.
9.1.2008 7:56pm
MarkField (mail):

Is there any example in the history of the US of people's attitudes reversing course in regards to social changes? We didn't decide to go back to slavery, or to take votes away from women, or to re-impose Jim Crow, or make birth control illegal.


Yes, there are such examples. The most obvious is Jim Crow, in which rights the freed slaves enjoyed under Reconstruction were taken away. There are some other examples as well, but they're much less well known and not nearly as significant.
9.1.2008 8:07pm
one of many:
Thanks for reminding me M. Field, I'd forgotten entirely about the rise of the Jim Crow era. Not certain if is it so much a reversal of attitude as an ascendance to power of the Wilson group and the disolution of the first Roosevelt group without an attitude change though. It is hard to be certain what true opinion on the issue was at the time since social conventions dictated certain public stances in certain parts of the US regardless of private opinion on so controversial an issue, perhaps a fertile area for a researcher to compare private correspondence with public statements. Policywise however it was definite reversal.
9.1.2008 8:23pm
byomtov (mail):
Ron Mexico,

While it's true that a majority oppose gay marriage, I don't think it follows that legalizing gay marriage would damage anyone's rights.

How would your freedoms be restricted if gay marriage were legal?
9.1.2008 8:40pm
Waldo (mail):

Is there any example in the history of the US of people's attitudes reversing course in regards to social changes?

Well, yes. Prohibition comes to mind. Seemed like a good idea at the time; opponents were stigmatized, but once the unintended social consequences became clear, people changed their minds.
9.1.2008 8:45pm
John Herbison (mail):
That (more) Republican delegates are coming around on the issue of gay marriage/civil unions reminds me of an anecdote once noted by William Safire (NYT column, 10/15/90):

Upon hearing that the transcendentalist Margaret Fuller had said "I accept the Universe," the historian Thomas Carlyle delivered this withering put-down: "By God, she'd better!"


This is intuitive and without benefit of research, but please allow me a few generalized observations. There has long been a disconnect between tolerance of gays by younger people and by older people. As the population ages, the demographic trend toward greater tolerance is inevitable. (Were we talking about my Democratic colleagues, I would have used the word acceptance; mere tolerance is more applicable to the Republicans.) That is likely why Republicans have been trying to write prohibitions on this issue into constitutions, which are more difficult to amend.

Given Republican delegate selection rules, I suspect that the RNC delegates are unrepresentative of Republicans nationally. During or just after the primaries, Governor Huckabee observed that, if the Republicans had followed proportional representation delegate selection procedures as the Democrats did, he would likely have been the Republican nominee. I suspect that he is right. Senator McCain won winner-take-all primaries in several states. If we assume that Republican social conservatives are more likely Huckabee/Romney/Thompson supporters than McCain supporters, the delegates chosen in winner-take-all states that McCain won are disproportionately "liberal", in a relative sense, on social issues.

The Comstockery faction of the Republican Party nevertheless holds enough sway to wreak havoc on the larger party—witness the threats of open revolt if McCain had selected a "pro-choice" running mate.

I surmise that someday even the Republican Party will realize that the sexual revolution is over. Sex won.
9.1.2008 8:52pm
Sam H (mail):
"Most conservatives, including me, don't have any problem at all with homosexual couples having private contractual rights to arrange their lives in a way analagous to marriage. I strongly suspect that's what most people believe they are saying yes to on the "civil union" question. "

You are missing the entire point. What homosexuals want is approval of their lifestyle. Civil Unions don't do that, marriage does, or at least they think it will.
9.1.2008 9:09pm
FlimFlamSam:
Sam H,

Oh, I'm not missing the point. I agree with you entirely.

But I think a lot of people who say yes to "civil unions" do so out of a respect for the freedom of private individuals to arrange their affairs how they please.
9.1.2008 9:35pm
loki13 (mail):
Sam H,

So what you're saying, in essence, is this. Gay people don't really want any of the rights associated with marriage, like the ability to inherit from their spouse or even visit them in the hospital (let alone make medical decisions for them)... instead, they're looking at all us straight people with big, wet eyes asking, "Do you love us? Do you really, really love us?"

And this whole SSM brouhaha will disappear if we just attend more Broadway musicals and learn to dress a little better? Maybe a lifetime Grammy for Bette Middler and the Indigo Girls? Hmmm..... not sure I'm buying that one.
9.1.2008 9:38pm
stevie314159 (mail):
Must be all the Giuliani delegates being oversampled in that poll!
9.1.2008 9:54pm
Michael B (mail):
Helen2,

It wasn't birth control per se that was addressed in Griswold, it was birth control pills, or perhaps it was contraceptives in general, i.e. applied science/technology as it relates to birth control. At least I believe that's a reasonable way to put it. I indicated "[b]irth control [as such] has never been illegal and has always been practiced, from time immemorial, so you're presumably referring to applied science/technology and the technology/ethical nexus and divide [to put it in broader terms]".

(As to Griswold's explication of privacy as conceived for purposes of judicial review, it's inadequately rendered. There are perfectly valid demarcations between public and private, but the leveraging of "penumbrae" and "emanations" in the manner reflected in the majority opinion, along with other aspects of the opinion, serves to deny and elide some perfectly reasonable areas, from a public policy perspective, where public vs. private needs to be conceived as a very dense grey area at times, not a bright line with clear, either/or demarcations. That's an aside, addressing a much larger set of issues.)
9.1.2008 9:56pm
Ron Mexico (mail):
byomtov,

First, let's leave my freedoms out of it. I have not expressed my own opinion on whether gay marriages are legitimate, and for cause. I surely would so express myself if I desired to participate in the "gay marriage debate," but I do not. It's strongly irrelevant to the point I'm trying to make.

The freedom that is infringed when a minority (or anyone, for that matter) imposes unwanted recognition of gay marriages on the rest of the public is the freedom of each person to exercise his own judgment of what is correct, moral, felicitous, religiously sanctioned and so forth in the socio-religious sphere. It is for the government to dictate affairs within the domain of its proper influence, but that influence does not extend to intimate matters of conscience. It would be hard to construct anything like a legal claim out of this, but not all rights are rights at law, and not all freedoms are respected by our government as it stands. Just to make sure we're clear, I would have the same objections to official refusal to grant gay marriages, which is the predominant regime at present. It's simply not a matter properly before the government on its mandate to secure the safety of the public in their persons and their properties. The only "rights" that are duly and properly relinquished to the government are those over which it must maintain control to fulfill its purpose (e.g. the "right" to kill anyone one doesn't like). All other rights, including the right to make one's own categorical normative declarations (e.g. "These are married.") are implicitly reserved by the public. This is generally the Libertarian position on such matters.


(If you're just reading the last few comments, you might be confused by this reply. If you want to understand, read the whole exchange.)
9.1.2008 9:57pm
Frater Plotter:
Votes taken away from women - or from men (the difference, in European countries and in the U.S. is measured by decades, not centuries) - is not going to happen, but is not a commensurate measure relative to the marriage/homosexuality issue, which is a yet more foundational, civilization-based issue.

See, this is one of those places where same-sex marriage advocates and opponents disagree.

To the advocates, same-sex marriage is merely a continuation of a positive tendency of our civilization: the tendency to grant rights and equality to more and more of the population. To identify groups that have been previously mistreated and marginalized, and to choose to stop mistreating and marginalizing them. To take up new causes and to seek justice for them.

To the opponents, there seems to be some challenge particular to same-sex marriage that (they claim) isn't true of interracial marriage, or of sexual equality in voting rights, or of the extension of political rights to non-landowners, other past liberal causes which have now become part of the mainstream.
9.1.2008 10:36pm
NI:
It's always seemed to me that religious disapproval of gay marriage should be analogous to religious disapproval of divorce: There are churches (still) that don't recognize divorce and remarriage; as far as they are concerned, people on a second or third marriage are living in sin. And they are free to think that. They can excommunicate divorcees to their hearts content, and members of those congregations are free to consider such people sinners. And anyone who thinks that legal recognition of second and third marriages means that such churches will give approval to the lifestyles of such people is delusional; those people are still shunned by those congregations.

But the law does recognize second and third marriages, which is as it should be.

So how, in principle, would gay marriage be different?
9.1.2008 10:43pm
Michael B (mail):
Votes taken away from women - or from men (the difference, in European countries and in the U.S. is measured by decades, not centuries) - is not going to happen, but is not a commensurate measure relative to the marriage/homosexuality issue, which is a yet more foundational, civilization-based issue.
"See, this is one of those places where same-sex marriage advocates and opponents disagree." Frater Plotter
Yes, obviously enough there is disagreement, but you go on to mischaracterize the underlying set of arguments, the basis for the disagreement, as if it's a disagreement between those who are genuinely thoughtful and who genuinely care vs. those, largely out of a religiously based and narrow bigotry, who are somehow against cogent and coherent arguments and are against more genuinely conceived progress in the social arena.

For example, my own basis for disagreement is perhaps (if I had to point to a single argument) best represented in this somewhat extensive essay (though in fact, it's a truncated version of a yet lengthier essay). So, feel free to argue yea or nay, but you don't have a genuinely sound basis for believing or asserting that your opposition is narrow, unthinking, anti-progressive, etc., etc., based merely upon received opinion, religiously based dogmas, prejudice and bigotry, etc.
9.1.2008 11:21pm
Randy R. (mail):
" I think the "any 2 people who love each other" works just as well for 2 siblings, or for 3 people, or for whatever. Hell, why can't two heterosexual best friends set up a financial 'marriage'? "

Actually, it has always been the case that any two people can get married, even just to set up a financial marriage. Sham marriages have a long history that dates back to at least ancient roman times. So what exactly is your point? That churches should check to make sure that two people actually do love each other? That has never been the history in our country at least -- all you need is two people to agree to get married, and you are issued a license to do so.

Michael B: IF society were to approve of SSM, then decide that they don't want it by somehow revoking the right, it would create quite a mess, financially, legally, and so on. Are the children of such a marriage now no longer legally the children of both parents? It would create such a mess that most people would say that it's better to keep status quo.

And what, pray tell, would be the trigger to revoke such marriage rights? So far, in every country that has approved of SSM, there has been no counter surge. In fact, support for SSM has only increased, not decreased. Note that recently in Massachusetts, the legislature voted to extend marriage rights even to non-citizens of Mass. They would have hardly been able to do that if Mass were suddenly getting the seven year itch.

I'm not afraid. I'm fully confident that when normal people (which thankfully is the majority of Americans) see that gays getting married doesn't threaten anything, harms nothing, changes nothing, then they will realize that all the hullabaloo was just overblown rhetoric.
9.1.2008 11:58pm
Frater Plotter:
Michael B -- I think you missed my point. My point was that there is indeed a "foundational, civilization-based issue" at stake for SSM supporters. That issue is that one of the distinguishing features of our civilization -- pretty much uniquely and against all others -- is that we make an effort to extend our rights and freedoms to all humankind, as far as they will accept them.

That we try to do better than the previous generation -- to be more fair, to be less bigoted. We don't burn witches any more. We don't flog Quakers any more. We don't keep slaves; we don't massacre Native Americans. We don't lynch black boys for flirting with white girls. We don't tell women they can't have a job, or the vote -- or that they have to spread their legs for their husbands on demand or suffer the consequences.

Is this all a coincidence? No. Western civilization is persistently self-critical, always on the lookout for biases and hypocrisies and failures to live up to our own standards. If there is a single "foundational, civilizational issue" to us, it's that we think we can do a little bit better, be a little more just, than we have been before.

That's the trend that equality for gay people is part of. It's not a decay of our civilization -- it's not decadence or corruption. It's the very strength and lifeblood of our civilization, Western culture (and American culture in particular) doing what we do best.
9.2.2008 12:16am
Eli Rabett (www):
Michael B, it was condoms, you could not sell them in Connecticut.
9.2.2008 12:27am
Roy Lofquist (mail):
Dear Sirs,

I don't have much to add except to quote Russell Kirk:

"It is old custom that enables people to live together peaceably; the destroyers of custom demolish more than they know or desire. It is through convention—a word much abused in our time—that we contrive to avoid perpetual disputes about rights and duties: law at base is a body of conventions. Continuity is the means of linking generation to generation; it matters as much for society as it does for the individual; without it, life is meaningless."

Regards,
Roy
9.2.2008 12:35am
Michael B (mail):
Thank you, Eli.

Frater Plotter, I'll respond at some length.

Respectfully, I did not miss your point in the least. I framed your point within a yet broader and more meaningful context, which is the point (of mine) that you apparently missed. Iow, I provided a rational and cogent context for the argument I'm presenting, which itself serves to counter your implied suggestion that it's some type of narrow, perhaps religiously inspired prejudice and anti-progressive attitude that motivates most people. It's not, which is not to say there are not forms of irrationality at play as well in some quarters.

For example, you noted that "there seems to be some challenge particular to same-sex marriage that (they claim) isn't true of interracial marriage, or of sexual equality in voting rights, or of the extension of political rights to non-landowners, other past liberal causes which have now become part of the mainstream."

My counter-argument, within the link provided, is sufficient in and of itself to note that it isn't some empty "claim" (or narrow dogma or prejudice), it's rationally and congently conceived. Further, the causes you mention there, as with slavery itself, to hi-light a particularly salient and historic example, wasn't simply a "liberal cause" (in today's vernacular) they were causes that were variously advanced by a wide assortment of social groups, from "conservatives" to "liberals". The end of slavery, as is widely known, was advanced by highly conservative (again, using today's vernacular) religious types, exemplified in the recent film covering notable aspects of the life of the religiously motivated reformer William Wiberforce. (The name of the film is "Amazing Grace".)

In sum, you entirely miss the point I was making, and you additionally arrogate far too much with your reference to "liberal causes." I admit my point, since the link provided is an essay of modest length, requires some patience and therein some indulgence, but it is a point which frames the "progressive" rubric in a rational and coherent manner across a much larger anthropological landscape - rather than a manner born out of some form of bigoted, anti-progressive, knee-jerk, reactionary attitude.

Again, my summary statement from an earlier comment:

"Or more succinctly and more generally put, what can be considered genuinely progressive vs. what is more dubiously placed under the "progressive" rubric is an aspect - in fact is a critical aspect - of the set of issues/discussions that need to be addressed as a whole."

You cannot strip "progressivism" of ethical/moral content in some type of sterile, analytical, abstracted manner. You can argue about what the moral criteria and content should be or needs to be, but you cannot strip it of that content. Reality and ideality are not the same thing; the real world and the world of ideas are not the same thing. If you could, then after single sex marriage you could argue for bigamy, multiple spouses, bestiality and virtually anything else under the rubric of some type of purported "progressivism" and "liberal causes".
9.2.2008 1:09am
iambatman:
I am sure that many of the elites of the GOP are supportive of gay rights, Professor Carpenter, as they are in many cases worldly and well-educated. But their base is not. The people who won Iowa for Mike Huckabee and vocally love the idea of Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Oval Office do not. Political elites need numbers behind them, and there are a lot of fundamentalists out there. The GOP as a party will not have much interest in gay rights until one of two things happen. 1) The religious fundamentalists decide to stop taking select passages of the Bible literally or 2) opposition to gay rights becomes a deal breaker to many, many more voters than it is currently.
9.2.2008 2:08am
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
What we need is a distinction between Civil Unions and marriages such that they are not legally equivalent. If they are "all the rights of marriage", they are not supported by anyone on either side, and not even constitutional.

Civil Unions should be defined as being exactly like marriage BUT lacking the single essential right of marriage, the right of the marriage to conceive children together, using the couple's own genes.

People should only have the right to conceive with someone of the other sex. All marriages should have the right to conceive using their own gametes.
9.2.2008 2:44am
John Herbison (mail):
"Civil Unions should be defined as being exactly like marriage BUT lacking the single essential right of marriage, the right of the marriage to conceive children together, using the couple's own genes.

"People should only have the right to conceive with someone of the other sex. All marriages should have the right to conceive using their own gametes."


Huh?? Conception of children is not an incident of marriage. Conception of children is a (sometime) consequence of heterosexual coupling, whether the participants are married or not, and if so, whether they are married to each other or not.

As for people only having the right to conceive with someone of the other sex--that, Mr. Howard, is a matter of biology and not a matter of law, at least in species that reproduce sexually.
9.2.2008 4:21am
IB Bill (mail) (www):
Civil unions are a conundrum. While I am against SSM on the grounds that there is no such thing, civil unions require a different argument. There clearly is such a thing as a civil union, and whether I was for or against it would depend on the definition.

If (and this is a big if) it were reserved entirely for homosexual couples, I'd be more likely to support it. That is, if the essential elements of the definition clearly stated that this is for monogamous homosexuals and it's only for a couple, then that would be one thing.

If on the other hand civil unions were somehow ambiguous enough not to be limited to homosexuals and only to couples, then it would open the door to all sorts of unintentional consequences.
9.2.2008 11:20am
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
Actually, people are working on ways to accomplish same-sex conception, using stem cell derived gametes, Mr. Herbison. It requires engineering the genetic imprinting so that it expresses the right genes, since male and female genes have complementary imprinting. Children are being taught that they might be able to have children with someone of their same sex already, even though the procedure might never be possible, and is wildly unethical and shouldn't be allowed.

The main purpose of the Egg and Sperm Civil Union Compromise is to stop genetic engineering with a federal law that prohibits creating children any way other than joining a man and a woman's unmodified gametes. A side-effect of that law would be to quash the dream of same-sex conception along with the eugenic genetic engineering. But in order to get that enacted, and to compensate for taking away that possibility, Congress should also federally recognize state Civil Unions that are defined as being exactly like marriage but lacking the right to conceive children.

Because if we enact an Egg and Sperm law that prohibits GE and Same-sex conception, but continue to allow same-sex marriages, then marriage will no longer protect the couple's right to use their own genes to conceive children. Marriage must continue to protect that right, it is a right of marriage that same-sex couples should not have.
9.2.2008 12:26pm
Cannon Asesrb (mail):

loki13 (mail):
Sam H,

So what you're saying, in essence, is this. Gay people don't really want any of the rights associated with marriage, like the ability to inherit from their spouse or even visit them in the hospital (let alone make medical decisions for them)... instead, they're looking at all us straight people with big, wet eyes asking, "Do you love us? Do you really, really love us?"


No loki, what Sam H is saying is that things such as medical decisions can already be determined by contract, power of attorney, living will, advanced health care directive, or whatever you want to call it. Being a lay person, I am sure there are a bunch of specific documents which can be generated to cover every aspect of the "marriage contract", but I leave those to the lawyers. Even inheritance via a will. No, legal protection isn't what SSM proponents are about. (Actually, perhaps the concept that you can't be compelled to testify against your spouse would need to be looked at.)

They *DO* what their lifestyle choice validated. They want to force the evil church to be required to married them or lose the ability to marry anyone. (Now whether or not churches should be in the marriage business which results in legally binding contracts as opposed to social events should be considered.)
9.2.2008 12:47pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
They generally don't want the right to attempt same-sex conception, or at least they never say they do. But when asked about same-sex conception, and asked if they agree that it is a right that same-sex couples shouldn't have, they often get stubborn and insist that they should indeed have the right to conceive with someone of the same sex, even if they decide not to use it until it is safe enough. But they want to be the ones to decide when that is, and they want research to continue, even though it diverts resources from real medicine.
9.2.2008 1:22pm
Some Law Talker (mail):
Wait, so does this mean that when 60% of Californians voted against gay marriage and the legislature followed up by legislating against gay marriage, it was actually Democrats doing so?

Weird. I thought it was all those mean old Rethuglicans who were trying to force gays back into the closet.

Not that it matters, though, since the gay rights movement has now thrown its weight behind judicial efforts to force gay marriage over the objections of a supermajority of voters. I'm sure that won't backfire.
9.2.2008 2:25pm
one of many:
Actually, perhaps the concept that you can't be compelled to testify against your spouse would need to be looked at.)
Depends on jurisdiction (which to an extent also applies to spousal privilege) but if you were deeply contractually intertwined with another person such that it is generally indistinguishable from marriage I would advise you to assert a privilege not to be compelled to testify against your own interest. Spousal privilege is just a common law shortcut that people who are deeply involved (married) have an assertable interest in their partner's status.
9.2.2008 2:44pm
John Howard (eggandsperm.org) (mail) (www):
Isn't spousal privilege a result of the coverture principle, the idea that spouses become one legal entity for many purposes? Obviously, not for all purposes, but for purposes of Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, and marital privacy that would mean that conversations between spouses are actually private inner thoughts of one marriage. Conversations between unmarried people are never private, but married people are one person.
9.2.2008 3:08pm
Smallholder (mail) (www):
Some Law Talker,

I think anti-gay marriage activists should be very careful about basing their arguments on the will of the majority. Forget the basic Republican idea of "majority rule with respect of minority rights." The big problem for the anti-gay marriage camp is that public opinion is shifting, just as majority support for segregation shifted. If your only argument is respect for the majority, you are going to lose - the younger generation is much more tolerant.
9.2.2008 4:48pm
Christian K:
@Smallholder: Yes, SSM opponents should be careful about using the "majority rules" argument, the most recent poll shows a majority support of SSM.

@Michael B: Thanks for the link. It's a great essay on the thought behind the Jewish need to separate themselves from other religions 2000 - 3000 years ago and how that lead to Christian sexual thought. You go somewhat far afield when you discuss the current ramification, and your logic at a times is baffling. (Gay = the enemy of women ?!?) But what I really fail to see is how that could be relevant for any non-orthodox Jew. I was unaware that Jewish faith was meant to be practiced by non-Jews? Isn't the point of most of kosher/Jewish law to separate Jews from Gentiles? Shouldn't your answer then be "Hey it's not for me, I am a Jew, But your guys go ahead and have fun..."

These arguments just drives me nuts. If we already have a legal framework for handling the creation of a household, the mingling of assets, the protection of children, the unfortunate possible dissolution of mingled assets, survivor benefits and obligations, why the heck do we need to make up some new rules just because the people involved are the same gender?!? We know gay people aren't going away. We know they will own property, live and die. To deny that they need a place in our society, whether or not you "approve", is to stick your head in the sand.
9.2.2008 5:25pm
Aleks:
I should have been more specific when I asked if Americans have ever gone back on any social change. I meant a publicly supported social change. The Reconstruction era civil rights laws were opposed-- violently opposed-- by a majority of Southerners, and not supported by most people in the North either. As for Prohibition, it was railroaded through in the aftermath of WWI (when liquor production was all but shut down for the war effort) and it never had majority support either, as witness the sheer number of lawbreakers it generated-- rather like the 55 mph speed limit to name a similar good-intentioned but unpopular reform in more recent memory.
9.2.2008 8:50pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Michael B:
You're looking down the wrong end of the telescope. Frater Potter's argument is the broader, Prager's (and thus yours) the narrower.

Indeed, as I said the last time you mentioned Dennis Prager's article in passing, the bad argumentation, bad logic, bad history and bad anthropology in it haven't improved any better since the three previous times you brought it up for extended discussion. It's still total bullhockey. And Frater Plotter only begins to scratch the surface of the problems with the essay that were pretty thoroughly discussed the first two times you mentioned it--everything from faulty logic to bad assumptions to counterfactual history to bad sociology. (But, hey, that's like pointing out that all those new digital effects in the remastered Star Trek episodes don't improve William Shatner's acting.)

What that means, essentially, is that, contra your assertion, Prager's main purpose for gussying up his reactionary fairy tale with pseudoscience, alternative history and bald unsupported assertions that use the rhetorical devices of logic without the substance, is to help bigoted, anti-progressive, knee-jerk reactionaries feel better about themselves.
9.3.2008 1:40am