Rhode Island’s House of Representatives just voted for it by a massive margin of 51 – 19. The Senate is iffier, apparently, but that’s a huge margin of victory in the lower House.
Archives For: Marriage Equality
A reader writes:
This morning I was reading the Indiana University student newspaper (my wife is an alum, so I check it out from time to time), and I came across a stirring example of how the cause of same-sex marriage continues to progress among the younger generations. Here is a letter to the editor, written by an undergraduate who identifies as straight, Catholic, and a Republican – and he's written a concise and very persuasive defense of marriage rights for all. Reading it gave me hope.
Marriages already take place in casinos, court houses and without religious officials, and 50 percent of them end in divorce. If we don’t even bother to hold Christians to standards of a traditional marriage (“’til death do us part”), then how can gays be held to standards of traditional Christian marriage?
An anti-gay amendment is being discussed by the state legislature, while public opinion seems to be racing ahead of the politicians' assumptions.
Simone Eastman explores the harder parts of marriage equality:
We are one of the only married queer couples most of our friends know, and they've unwittingly turned us into their Poster Couple…. Getting married has created a huge amount of pressure for us to be a SUCCESSFUL HAPPY LOVING LESBIAN COUPLE who you can point to as a great reason to support gay marriage. Sometimes we aren't happy or loving. Sometimes, like almost all couples, we annoy the fucking shit out of each other. And sometimes we have serious disagreements or conflicts in our relationship. But it becomes impossible to talk about them or admit that my genetic inability to hang up my towel after a shower makes my wife want to strangle me. How could we? We know that people think we're "perfect together," which is its own kind of pressure, but even more than that, our relationship has all these other meanings for other people. We're your friends who Got Married In California, Isn't That Great? What would it mean if we were your friends who got divorced in California, too? What would happen then?
(Photo: Gay couples kiss during their ceremonial wedding as they try to raise awareness of the issue of homosexual marriage, in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei province, on March 8, 2011. By STR/AFP/Getty Images.)
John Corvino joins the monogamy debate:
While monogamy may be hard, it’s not so hard that a monogamous couple (straight or gay) can’t look at a non-monogamous couple (straight or gay) and conclude, “Nope, that’s not right for us.” After all, people read the Bible without deciding to acquire concubines. More generally (and realistically), people encounter neighbors with different cultural mores while still preferring—and sometimes having good reason to prefer—their own.
Robert Farley is dead on:
I read a lot of Savage in the 1997-2003 period, and it really, really seemed like much of his project was about convincing people that drag queens could be good Republicans, too. What I mean by this is that much of his writing and activism seems motivated by the idea of creating a standard nuclear family, with relatively standard ways of transmitting family mores, and simply substituting out some of the “traditional” members. Savage seemed enraged not by the notion of a “traditional” nuclear family, with pre-set roles and expectations, but by the idea that he should be excluded from this traditional vision. There’s some merit to that, of course, but it also reflects a certain comfort with a conservative vision of politics and family life.
Of course. That's why Dan was an early supporter of marriage equality and was a huge moral support in my own efforts to move the debate forward. What he really sees as the root of marital and relationship collapse is deception. It is lying to your spouse rather than dealing with reality. I've been around his family; it is as traditional as it is refreshing.
(Photo: Terry and DJ chilling on our deck in Provincetown a couple summers ago.)
David Kaufman says black "voters who don't support marriage equality still appear willing to elect politicians who do":
"The truth is, we just don't see blacks voting against a candidate based on [his or her] support of gay marriage," says Patrick Egan, assistant professor of politics and public policy at New York University. "We actually don't see this becoming an important issue for voters of any race."
Poor Karl Rove. Outfoxed by history in 2011. But, hey, he got Bush re-elected in 2004.
(Hat tip: Alvin McEwen)
It may be that high water-mark of the GOP tide has been reached in Wisconsin:
In Ohio, Republican lawmakers agreed to modify a bill that would have banned collective bargaining, allowing state workers to negotiate on wages. Michigan's GOP governor offered to negotiate with public employees rather than create political gridlock. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) called on GOP lawmakers to abandon their "right to work" bill that would have made it a misdemeanor for an employer to require workers to become or remain members of a labor union.
Increasingly, it seems to me, Scott Walker's political gamesmanship is discrediting the vital cause of tackling deficits and debt in the states. It's a classic case of over-reach.
And the same can be said of marriage equality in Maryland, where extreme rhetoric in the debate turned some previously anti-gay marriage legislators around. The NYT reports on the muted response of the GOP's potential presidential candidates to the Obama administration's decision not to defend Section 3 of DOMA in the courts. I don't for a minute believe that the Christianist base will be satisfied if the House decides to let sleeping gays lie, but the feeling is different now, don't you think?
The genius of the Holder decision is that it forces the GOP to decide very quickly whether to double-down on this issue.Continue Reading...
In many ways, the debate over same-sex marriage began fifteen years ago in Hawaii, when the state’s Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Voters responded by becoming the first state to outlaw same-sex marriage, and the case also set off a nationwide debate that resulted in passage of the Defense of Marriage Act. So in many ways, with yesterday’s decision by the Obama Administration to not appeal the DOMA cases and this development in Hawaii, the gay marriage debate has come full circle. This time, though, its moving in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, Maryland is on the cusp of getting marriage equality.
Both sides on the marriage equality front are hyper-ventilating about the Obama administration's decision not to defend in court the third section of DOMA as constitutional with respect to already married same-sex couples in various states and DC. Here are two representative emails. From the Christianist right, a fundraising email from NOM:
This is it. The whole ball game. If we back down here, it will be all over.
From gay blogger, Rex Wockner:
DOMA can't withstand heightened scrutiny, Prop 8 can't withstand heightened scrutiny, and pretty much any governmental anti-gay thing ever simply cannot withstand heightened scrutiny. Huge.
But there are some obvious points against this analysis, it seems to me. The first two sections of DOMA remain. So no state will be forced to recognize civil marriages from another (something that was the case and would be the case without DOMA, given legal precedents). Indeed, DOMA will remain in full and enforced by the DOJ until or unless the Supeme Court rules it as unconstitutional or the Congress repeals it in whole or in part.
What's left is the federal government's recognition of heterosexual civil marriages in one state but not of homosexual civil marriages in the same state – and it's here that attorney general Holder says that, given legal precedents already set, making such a distinction, as DOMA's Section 3 demands, violates equal protection rights under the Fifth Amendment. In the view of the Justice Department, laws discriminating in that way against gays as a class require "heightened scrutiny" in the Courts and when this is applied, it is clear that irrational discrimination is unconstitutional, and the Justice Department will no longer make that argument.
The reason Holder gives is that two new cases require the federal government to take "an affirmative position on the level of scrutiny that should be applied to DOMA Section 3 in a circuit without binding precedent on the issue." If forced to make such a judgment, which it hasn't had to make before, the Obama DOJ refuses. And so it withdraws from the defense of that provision of the law in the courts. Generally, the Obama administration has been punctilious in defending DOMA and even DADT in the courts, as well as other legislation on the books. But, Holder argues,
"this is the rare case where the proper course is to forgo the defense of this statute. Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute 'in cases in which it is manifest that the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional,' as is the case here. Seth P. Waxman, Defending Congress, 79 N.C. L.Rev. 1073, 1083 (2001). "
Who can defend the statute? The Congress:
Our attorneys will also notify the courts of our interest in providing Congress a full and fair opportunity to participate in the litigation in those cases.
And so Obama has basically tossed the ball on this to the Speaker of the House, John Boehner. It's interesting that Boehner's immediate response is not to grandstand on the core issue but to change the subject to the timing:
"While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the President will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation."
But these cases are pending and the DOJ had to make a decision one way or the other. So will Boehner. This used to be a no-brainer. But as the polls show greater acceptance of gays and marriage equality, as the old arguments against it begin actually to repel previously anti-same-sex marriage legislators, as in Maryland, the Speaker is being offered to forge a defense of such discrimination in the courts. He seems queasy about that. And he should be.
DOMA is still on the books, and it has not been declared unconstitutional. It does mean however that the Justice Department won’t defend section 3 of the statute which bars federal recognition of marriage of same-sex couples when that portion of the law is challenged in court. And so one possibility is that we may have a national patchwork of DOMA enforcement — it is kaput where Federal judges or their Appeals Courts have ruled against it, while it remains on the books where the courts have upheld the law or haven’t ruled.
That would make, for example, the IRS’s administering the tax code a logistical nightmare, with some gay couples filing as married couples in some jurisdictions while others are barred from doing so elsewhere. Immigration can become a similar quagmire for transnational couples. Without, ultimately, either an appeal somewhere to the Supreme Court or repeal of DOMA itself, it’s going to be very intresting — and probably frustrating — for a very long time.
There are many questions to ponder, including: who will now defend DOMA and will they have standing to do so? The DOJ suggests that members of Congress may be able to defend the federal law, but that is far from clear under the Court’s standing precedents, like Raines v. Byrd, written by Chief Justice Rehnquist.
Both of Holder's statements carefully state that they will cease to defend Section 3, without commenting on the constitutionality of the rest of the law. Section 2 still allows the states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. But that doesn't mean that the administration necessarily believes Section 2 is constitutional.
Under these conditions, it becomes much more likely that DOMA will be struck down by at least one federal Court of Appeals– possibly the Second Circuit, where the latest cases are being brought–and therefore even more likely that DOMA will be struck down when it finally gets to the Supreme Court. All of my previous predictions as to how constitutional challenges to DOMA will go forward must be revised.
(Photo: Aleyna Stroud (L) and Mandy Harris kiss after requesting and being rejected for a marriage license at the County Clerk's Office in Los Angeles on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2011. By Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
National Catholic Reporter's Maureen Fielder reads a recent WaPo editorial:
[It] urged Maryland to live up to its moniker, “The Free State,” by approving marriage equality. I found some of The Post’s revelations especially interesting. It seems that the homophobic speech and false arguments touted by some opponents are turning skeptics into supporters. According to The Post, “several formerly undecided lawmakers have listened to the arguments of opponents – and recoiled at the vitriol they heard. State Sen. James Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat who previously backed same-sex civil unions but not marriage, changed his mind after taking in what he called the "appalling" views of opponents at a Senate hearing. 'Witness after witness demonized homosexuals, vilified the gay community and described gays and lesbians as pedophiles,' he said in a statement …”
A heads up from a reader:
My state, Maryland, is poised to take a big step forward this week by legalizing same sex marriage. The State Senate appears to have the 24 votes to advance the bill and the House of Delegates is more than ready to pass it. The Governor will sign the bill without pause.
I am proud of my state. Our General Assembly meets only 90 days a year and passes only 1/3 of the introduced bills (by law, the only bill that must pass is the state budget).
by Zoe Pollock
Mark Ketterson is allowed to bury his husband, a Marine, in a standard military funeral:
“They were always polite, but there was this moment of hesitation,” Ketterson recalled. “They said they’re going to need something in writing from a blood relative. They asked, ‘Are you listed on the death certificate?’ ‘Do you have a marriage license?’ ”
He was and they did, the couple having been married in Des Moines when gay marriage became legal in Iowa two years ago.
Ketterson sent a copy of the marriage license. That changed everything. “I was respected,” he said. “From that moment on, I was next of kin. They were amazing.”
by Zoe Pollock
This study was intended to look at risk factors for contracting HIV. The researchers, therefore, selected heterosexual couples they deemed to be at risk. They chose subjects based on interviews of the female members of each couple. In order to be eligible for the study, the women had to be between the ages of 18 and 25 and indicate that either: they had engaged in risky behavior in the last year, such as intravenous drug use or sex with another man; they suspected their partner of engaging in such risky behavior; or they expected that either they or their partner would have sex with someone else in the next year while they were still together. In other words, the researchers selected for people who were unlikely to maintain a monogamous relationship. Everyone needs to stop treating this like a representative population. Science reporting should be more responsible than this.
You can read Dr. Pisaster's full response here.
by Zoe Pollock
Some 40 percent of the 434 couples surveyed, whose partners were ages 18-25, had differing views on whether their relationships were exclusive or not. And among those couples where both partners agreed to be monogamous? In 30 percent of the relationships, at least one partner cheated. The gays have already found two solutions for this: by eliminating the word "monogamy" from their vernacular all together, or calling bullshit on the concept.
Primary electorates are invariably smaller and more ideologically extreme (for both parties) than are parties as a whole. Moreover, nominations are won by winning support of party elites — activists, campaign professionals, party-aligned interest groups, party politicians. Opinions tend to flow down from those most active to the somewhat larger primary electorates. And as far as I can see, there are no changes either within the groups and leaders that make up the GOP, or in the opinions of those groups and leaders. So within the Republican nomination fight, opposition to same-sex marriage is still going to be a must-adopt position.
While he gives up some ground, Poulos largely defends "traditional marriage":
Like Christmas, marriage is an institutionalized tradition. And like Christmas, marriage flourishes today in a variety of forms imbued with a range of meanings. But marriage is the more important test case for contemporary traditions because the practice of marriage which we recognize as “traditional marriage” is itself the product of an immensely complicated adjudication of traditions, moralities, and aspects of human personhood. Among them we can count the following: a natural capacity for monogamy; a cultural appreciation for the noble morality of “good matches” made over generations; a separate cultural appreciation for the moral dignity of love, and the democratic character of freely made romantic matches; and a Christian (and post-Christian) appreciation for the power of a spiritual union to transcend, fulfill, discipline, educate, and redeem all our natural capacities and our cultural particularities.
I agree with much of this, although "a natural capacity for monogamy" seems a bit of a stretch for homo sapiens. But the central question James addresses is whether an institution like civil marriage can both retain its connection to its inegalitarian, undemocratic, exclusive past and also be democratized so that everyone can participate (such as women on equal footing, couples of different races, gays).
As Poulos notes, Tocqueville believed this balancing act between tradition and modernity was possible (partly through Christianity). Nietzsche didn't. I'm with Tockers, as we used to call him at Oxford (yep, freshmen history majors were once required to read all of the Ancien Regime in the original, elegant French.) But I don't believe the radical differences between marital experiences today in the West – gay, lesbian and countless variations of straight – can be fully culturally reconciled in modernity.
But they can be lived with – and we do.Continue Reading...
To my mind, there are two widely believed myths about the Tea Party. The first is that they care about debt. I don't believe this, because a movement that actually cared about debt would have run a campaign specifically designed to propose ways to reduce it. They produced no such plan. Immediately after the election, moreover, they did a deal borrowing a huge amount more and adding $700 billion to the debt by refusing to let the Bush tax cuts sunset – the condition for the cuts' original passage, remember? The Tea Party is not an anti-debt movement; they are an anti-tax movement, that came about during a period in which taxes were lowered, while debt soared.
The second myth is that they are somehow unlike the Christianist right, and more tolerant and easy-going on social issues.Continue Reading...
Kos/PPP introduce one:
We're going to be asking this question every four weeks, so over the next several years, we should have some fascinating trendlines to look at.
A reader writes:
This post is an example of a sort of self-gratifying internal epistemic closure that you maintain with respect to an aspect of your childhood that you cannot move beyond. There are still large segments of the Roman Catholic population in this country who venerate the Pope, obey the Bishop and agree completely with Bill Donohue about LGBT people and their concerns.
Eugene Volokh blesses Jon Rauch's "chill, gays" article – which is a little odd, as Jason Kuznicki points out. Volokh says he's for marriage equality but adds so many qualification and arguments from the far right, he sounds like Jeff Goldberg on Israeli West Bank settlements. Take Volokh's slippery slope argument from a year ago:
[P]eople who worry about slippery slopes generally — and who worry about slippery slopes in the field of sexual orientation and the law — can't be lightly dismissed. And it is reasonable for them to worry: If we have gotten this far partly through slippery slope effects, will we slip further, and to what? In particular, would this increase the likelihood of further broadening of antidiscrimination laws? Would it increase the likelihood that groups (such as the Boy Scouts) that discriminate based on sexual orientation will be excluded from tax exemptions, just as groups that discriminate based on race are often excluded from tax exemptions? Would it increase the likelihood that such groups will be excluded from generally available benefits?
Would it increase the likelihood of broader restrictions on anti-homosexuality speech — in government-run organizations, or in private organizations coerced by government pressure — by analogy to the broad support in many areas for restrictions on sexist speech? Would it increase the likelihood of restrictions on people's choosing roommates based partly on sexual orientation, or advertising such preferences in "roommates wanted" ads? Would it increase the likelihood of punishment of wedding photographers who refuse to photograph same-sex weddings (even if they have religious objections to participating this way in such ceremonies, and even if they feel that requiring them to photographing same-sex weddings compels them to create artistic works that they do not wish to create)? Would it increase the likelihood that legislatures will repeal religious institutions' partial exemptions from some bans on sexual orientation discrimination in employment?
But the slope stops slipping at some point. And when we slip too far we remain capable of walking back up the hill. A reader adds:
Whenever I hear the "churches will have to marry them" argument, I think of my straight cousin and his equally straight wife, both baptized and confirmed in the Catholic church. When they wanted to get married, they went to the church, the priest said the church wouldn't marry them because they hadn't been to mass or confession in years. Period. So they had to get married in a protestant church. If they couldn't force the church to marry them, how on earth could a same-sex couple force them to do so?
This all relates to an old Ross Douthat post the Dish meant to respond to. A couple months ago, Douthat wrote a long second response to my criticism of his column . There are many points to disagree with. Here's his conclusion:
The benefits of gay marriage, to the couples involved and to their families, are front-loaded and obvious, whereas any harm to the overall culture of marriage and childrearing in America will be diffuse and difficult to measure. I suspect that the formal shift away from any legal association between marriage and fertility will eventually lead to further declines in the marriage rate and a further rise in the out-of-wedlock birth rate (though not necessarily the divorce rate, because if few enough people are getting married to begin with, the resulting unions will presumably be somewhat more stable). But these shifts will probably happen anyway, to some extent, because of what straights have already made of marriage. Or maybe the institution’s long decline is already basically complete, and the formal recognition of gay unions may just ratify a new reality, rather than pushing us further toward a post-marital society. Either way, there won’t come a moment when the conservative argument, with all its talk about institutional definitions and marginal effects and the mysteries of culture, will be able to claim vindication against those who read it (as I know many of my readers do) as a last-ditch defense of bigotry.
But this is what conservatism is, in the end: The belief that there’s more to a flourishing society than just the claims of autonomous individuals, the conviction that existing prohibitions and taboos may have a purpose that escapes the liberal mind, the sense that cultural ideals can be as important to human affairs as constitutional rights. Marriage is the kind of institution that the conservative mind is supposed to treasure and defend: Complicated and mysterious; legal and cultural; political and pre-political; ancient and modern; half-evolved and half-created. And given its steady decline across the last few decades, it would be a poor conservatism that did not worry at the blithe confidence with which we’re about to redefine it.
Like Volokh, Ross is engaging in a slippery slope argument, but Ross offers no concrete harms at the bottom of the hill. His argument is brilliant in its own way; you can't disprove invisible, immeasurable harms. It is a first principles argument that appeals to the genuinely conservative notion of preservation. But conservatism is not immune to change, it is not intent on cryogenically freezing the moral compromises of today and preserving them eternally. And conservatism must weigh unknowable potential pitfalls less heavily than known harms; what sort of perverse moral arithmetic would count the very tangible and painful consequences of denying marriage less than the immeasurable harms Ross fears?
Conservatism must have a vision for the future of marriage rather than a nostalgia for a time when marriage was primarily an economic institution. If heterosexual marriage is now about love and not necessarily about procreation (this is simply a social fact, as every recent court decision has been forced to acknowledge), and the love gays feel towards their spouses is equal to the love straights feel towards theirs, how can one logically deny marriage equality?
If love is created equal, then the institution that celebrates love ought to be open to all.