Name-Calling and Public Policy

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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99 Responses

  1. North says:

    It’s like commandments in the courthouse only on a much larger and more pervasive scale. Removal of certain privileges would put the government more purely into a neutral stance with regards to faith. But for the faithful of that belief system the ending of that privilege feels like persecution because they have so internalized that privilege.Report

    • Boegiboe in reply to North says:

      @North, I don’t quite understand this comment. There are faithful who believe same-sex marriage should be allowed. MCC, United Church of Christ, and some members of the Episcopal Church all officially endorse same-sex marriage as holy matrimony. And that’s just Christian denominations: I personally know of at least one Catholic church where the congregation is wholly supportive of same-sex marriage, and is just waiting for the world to catch up.

      This isn’t about religious tolerance, as anti-SSM folks are wont to claim. This is about suppressing certain religious trend in favor of others. It is squarely in the bounds of what the secular government is supposed to stay out of.

      No, this is part of a larger movement of people attempting to place their own religious organizations in a preferred status vis a vis government. They are, perhaps, currently, in the majority.

      And maybe, now, I have talked myself into understanding your comments, though I think the use of the word “faithful” was misplaced. By “faithful” you meant those religious persuasions who were accustomed to having de facto control of their local governments by virtue of including overwhelming local majorities in their memberships. Mormons in Utah. Baptists in the Deep South. Lutherans in the Northern Mid-West. Conservative Catholics in any of a number of localized enclaves (including one from which several of the League hail, I believe). A bunch of other places: America is a patchwork of intensely religious environments held together by those who are willing or forced to be tolerant of religious differences.

      So, it seems to me the goal of putting any particular collection of religions in control of the government is fated to failure, either by failing to gain control, or by ruining the Great American Experiment by ending the religious tolerance that started it. Sometimes, I think this country is getting too old, because no one can remember how much worse it was to be burned at the stake than to be forced to walk past a mosque, or to be called a bigot.Report

      • North in reply to Boegiboe says:

        @Boegiboe, Maybe I was unclear Boegiboe. Let me try and expand with an example; the courthouse wall.
        Writing “In God we Trust” on said wall is a endorsement of theism.
        Writing “In Reason we Trust” or “In Man we Trust” or “In no God we Trust” would be a government endorsement of atheism.
        Leaving the wall blank would be a stance of neutrality; silent, neither atheist nor theist.
        But to a Theist removing the words “In God we Trust” from the wall doesn’t feel like neutrality. It feels like an atheist attack. The perception is relative.

        Now on the subject of marriage, if gay marriage supporters were demanding that government dictate to religions what marriage was allowed to constitute in their own churches then that would be a gross violation of their religious freedoms. But contrary to Maggie’s specious claims no such claims are being advanced. SSM supporters simple wish access to the secular package of support that’s offered to heterosexual couples regardless of affiliation with any given faith.Report

        • Boegiboe in reply to North says:

          @North, hmm, well, on this point, they’re probably right in the end. Government doesn’t need to force the issue in the churches; the churches’ own children will force the issue when they’re old enough to either walk away or take control of their churches and change the rules.

          Maybe what folks are afraid of is being old, unable to control their churches, and having gay marriage accepted in those churches. They’re afraid of, as Jason said, being thought of as bigots by their grandchildren, when they’re just trying to keep God from smiting them a la Sodom & Gomorrah.Report

          • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Boegiboe says:

            How does that excuse them? Does the fact that the discrimination, disparaging comments and exclusion comes from a place of fear and concern change what the acts are?

            If someone doesn’t want to allow black doctors because they think black people are not as smart as white people and would therefore not save as many lives are they not a bigot? It seems that they would be correctly considered one.Report

          • North in reply to Boegiboe says:

            @Boegiboe, Yes in a way Boegiboe, but in the meantime a lot of non-religious people are done harm, sometimes minor, sometimes major by these tendrils of religion that remain entangled in the apparatus of the state.Report

            • Rufus F. in reply to North says:

              @North, In my opinion, there are three things called “marriage” that are tied together:
              1. A religious or non-religious group performing a ceremony,
              2. A cultural thing- the community welcoming a new couple,
              3. The state issuing a license.

              I totally agree that the state has no right to interfere with 1 or 2. If people are saying that the state has no right to tell their church that they have to perform a SSM, I’d absolutely agree with them.

              And, actually, I think the government should get out of the business of 3 altogether. But, if that’s not going to happen- and I think it’s not- my second choice would be for them to be as neutral as possible in issuing the license. Given that the state is not a religious institution, I find this distinction they make roughly as sensible as deciding that gays cannot be issued fishing licenses.Report

            • North in reply to North says:

              @North, We’re in general agreement then Rufus, though I’d like to one up your doubt about getting government out of the marriage business to a there is no way in hell that they’d ever even consider it assertion.Report

  2. RTod says:

    It’s like that has become the only call to arms that the electorate will flock to: the message that you, regardless of your status and condition, are a victim.

    Are you an African-American who has been beaten by white cops? Well, you’ve been a victim for going on five decades now. (Or at least two, in certain Southern states.) But wait – what if you’re one of those white cops? Now you’re a victim too! Of the liberal agenda, or the lamestream media, or left-wing politicians wanting to use the race card. Or maybe of illegal immigration.

    Don’t want to have your Muslim neighbors worship in your town that houses 140 churches, but are afraid of being called a bigot? No worries! You’re not a bigot, you’re a victim of their Sheria laws that aim to destroy your way of life.

    And then, of course, the one you note, Jason…

    You’re not someone who thinks of homosexuals as being inferior and deserving of second class status. You’re a victim of their nefarious attempt to destroy your marriage to your third wife before your affair with the babysitter crashes it first.Report

  3. Eric Seymour says:

    I can’t speak for everyone who objects to being labeled a bigot, but I think in many cases there’s a fear that the label will come with legal consequences, not merely social ones. That there will be some sort of government sanction on those who hold beliefs that are designated as “bigoted.”

    Additionally, I think some conservatives are implicitly pointing to the inconsistency of a group (social liberals and particularly gay rights advocates) which has historically pled for “tolerance” now trying to label as “bigots” anyone who disagrees with their cause.

    Finally, I think there’s just a general complaint that it’s unfair that simply wanting to uphold a definition of marriage which has been the norm in this country for 2 centuries gets a person lumped in with the Ku Klux Klan–even if they have no problem working with gay people or living next door to gay couples, etc.

    I think all of this is goes deeper than merely complaining that one’s feelings are hurt because someone called them a name.Report

    • gregiank in reply to Eric Seymour says:

      @Eric Seymour, I think you are right in pointing out the hypocrisy and silliness of some people preaching tolerance then not being willing able to listen to opinions they don’t like. Accusations of bigotry are serious as they should be. It seems that the “oh you are not tolerant of what i say” defense, while true at times, is also a way of avoiding what is also a fair label. It seems that unless you are caught in KKK robes bigotry doesn’t exist. In another couple current threads some people are calling for one religion to be treated as second class citizens and applying broad negative generalizations against all Muslims. But i am sure they would get their panties in a bunch if called a bigot. It would be best if people didn’t throw around serious claims about people, but we can never move forward until we can at least talk about what is bigotry and that it still exists.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “legal consequence”, that sounds more like hyperbole or conspiracy theory stuff.Report

      • Eric Seymour in reply to gregiank says:

        I think the essence of bigotry is when someone holds a group of people to be worth less than “normal” human beings. The vast majority of same-sex marriage opponents do not view homosexuals as worth less than any other human beings.

        As for legal consequences, I was thinking of cases like Rev. Stephen Boissoin being brought up before a human rights commission in Canada, or in the US the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, or Elane Photography–a private religious group and a privately-owned photography studio, respectively–both of which were successfully sued for choosing not to cater to same-sex weddings.Report

        • greginak in reply to Eric Seymour says:

          @Eric Seymour, I think the counter argument would be that while you do not see gays as less then normal, depriving them of a basic “right” and significant legal advantages that go with being married makes them less then equal.

          I’m familiar with some of the cases in that article. Yeah i can see where some of them raise concerns. although i would add that there are other issues being dragged in , mostly what are public accommodations and can groups that are quasi-governmental/receive special status from the gov. not serve all people equally. My guess is that in some of those instances i would agree with where i think you are coming from and would disagree in others.Report

          • Eric Seymour in reply to greginak says:

            “depriving them of a basic “right” and significant legal advantages that go with being married makes them less then equal”

            Of course, whether marriage is a “basic right” is exactly the debate that is going on. So you’re begging the question here.Report

        • North in reply to Eric Seymour says:

          @Eric Seymour, In the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting case Seymore they were receiving specific government subsidies for their pavillion that were predicated on their making it available to all. I will scorn and mock any person on the pro-ssm side who thinks that the SSM case should be extended into actual religious activities (note, civil marriage in the US is not necessarily religious), but I have nothing but contempt for religions who feel they should be able to line up at the public trough and still discriminate based on their private religious beliefs. He who pays the piper calls the tune. If religions don’t want to adhere to public policy then they should get their hands out of the public purse.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Eric Seymour says:

      @Eric Seymour,

      The problems in the cases you cite have nothing to do with same-sex marriage. In the Boissoin case, we’re dealing with a foreign hate speech law of a type that the First Amendment makes very unlikely here. In the photography case, it’s an antidiscrimination law. And in the Ocean Grove case, it’s tax exemption for an entity demanding extensive public services. Truthfully it looks a lot more like a company town than a church:

      So let me get this straight. The Methodist leaders in Ocean Grove say they are a private religious entity that has every right to prohibit civil unions from taking place in the community’s pavilion, but at the same time they want to make sure they get as much PUBLIC money as possible to keep taxes down and keep the community resources in tact–using tax dollars from citizens outside of Ocean Grove. Talk about wanting it both ways. The Camp Meeting Association doesn’t have a leg to stand on in their suit against the state saying that their first amendment rights are being violated because civil unions go against the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline.

      They own the large majority of the town’s land, they take significant state funds, they block the workings of state law. They pay no taxes, and the town/church’s “public” works are substantially supported by outsiders. Good deal if you can get it.

      Given that these cases have been repeatedly debunked, and given that they’re all your side has been able to come up with for the last several years, will you drop your opposition to same-sex civil marriage? Or will you continue to cite the same handful of tired, debunked cases as the rest of the religious right?Report

      • North in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

        @Jason Kuznicki, Watch out Jason, Catholic adoption services in Boston will be up next.Report

      • @Jason Kuznicki,
        I wasn’t offering these cases as arguments against SSM. I was offering them to illustrate my point that SSM opponents are rational to fear repercussions of being opposed to the gay rights movement. This was one of several points in response to your implication that SSM opponents are merely whining when they object to being called bigots.Report

        • Imaginary Lawyer in reply to Eric Seymour says:

          @Eric Seymour, you have an interesting definition of “rational”. In support of those fears, you offer cases that have nothing to do with the State punishing bigotry or forbidding churches from following anti-gay religious doctrine. How, precisely, is this fear rational?

          Here’s something that IS rational, albeit in an ugly way: In my state, legislation was recently introduced that would make it absolutely clear that no religious group must marry someone in violation of its religious tenets. Anti-gay forces oppose this law. This might seem irrational on first glance – but isn’t that what they want, for their churches not to have to marry same-sex couples? – but it is rational, because one of their talking points is “gays are going to make your church marry them”, and this law takes that away. They don’t really want to protect their faith, they want to eliminate same-sex marriage.Report

          • @Imaginary Lawyer,
            I’ll concede the Ocean Grove case, since no group has a right to government subsidies. But in the Boissoin case, the Canadian government sought to directly punish a citizen for speaking against homosexuality (the monetary repercussions were overturned on appeal, but the time and resources spent defending against the charges are irrecoverable). I cannot fault Americans for not trusting SCOTUS to defend the First Amendment against hate speech laws.

            And in the Elane Photography case, a private business owner was forced to pay money to a lesbian couple for doing nothing more than politely declining to photograph their wedding.

            How are these not examples of the State punishing private citizens for refusing to endorse gay rights?

            I would like to know more details about the law in your state, and exactly which “anti-gay forces” oppose the law.Report

            • Imaginary Lawyer in reply to Eric Seymour says:

              @Eric Seymour, did you really just say that you do not trust the current Supreme Court to stop government prosecution of people who say “I don’t approve of gays” because Canada did something different? As for Elane Photography, the business was treated exactly the same as one that declined to photograph an interracial wedding, or a Jewish wedding. If you oppose all anti-discrimination laws that’s one thing, but why oppose them only when they protect same-sex couples?

              Below are links to SB 906 and prominent groups that oppose the bill. (Interestingly, one of those groups pretty much admits that the law is superfluous, but nonetheless opposes it because it’s some kind of homosexual trick.)

              Current text of SB 906

              Save California Campaign for Children and Families

              Traditional Values CoalitionReport

    • @Eric Seymour, “Additionally, I think some conservatives are implicitly pointing to the inconsistency of a group (social liberals and particularly gay rights advocates) which has historically pled for “tolerance” now trying to label as “bigots” anyone who disagrees with their cause.

      Finally, I think there’s just a general complaint that it’s unfair that simply wanting to uphold a definition of marriage which has been the norm in this country for 2 centuries gets a person lumped in with the Ku Klux Klan–even if they have no problem working with gay people or living next door to gay couples, etc.”


      I could not agree more.Report

      • North in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

        @Mike at The Big Stick, I’m happy to concede that it’s overwrought for ssm supporters to call opponents bigots. I would also assert that it is similarly overwrought for ssm opponents to suggest that passage of ssm would or advocacy for ssm does cause some sort of persecution of ssm opponents. Nor does pointing out the intemperate behavior of some groups of ssm supporters invalidate their arguments (it’s a glass house there anyhow, no one can match the venomous rhetoric of the more rabid ssm opponents).

        I’d also note that ssm opponents are obliged to raise material objections to ssm that aren’t based on religious dogma so as to demonstrate that their opposition is based on rational concern rather than religious based animus. So far, for instance at the Prop 8 trial, they have not been able to do so. This is probably why they’ve been loosing ground so quickly in the debate.Report

        • @North, I agree on your last point. Evidence has to be presented that adequately demonstrates the risk. “Because it’s icky,” or “Because God says it’s wrong,” isn’t a convincing or legal argument.

          Where I take exception a bit though is based on the factual findings. Yes, studies were presented during the case which paint gay marriages in a positive light and I’m not disputing the findings completely. I DO think there is some nuance that was missed. First, while lesbian partnerships seem to be incredibly stable, gay men aren’t doing quite so well. The monogamy rates are appalling. I’m open to the idea that legal marriages would increase the monogamy rates for gay men, but I think we need more time to pass before we know that. That’s where I would have ideally liked to have seen maybe 10 years of data regarding legal gay marriage in places like Vermont. Does it increase the monogamy rate for gay men? Children adopted by legally wed gay couples: are they doing better than children adopted by gay couples in non-legal partnerships?

          If we use the ‘states as laboratories’ model, then you have to allow the states time to ‘experiment’ with this very revolutionary (I’ll refrain from saying ‘radical’) change in the institution of marriage.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

            @Mike at The Big Stick, for the last *FOREVER*, gay men have been forced into the underground. Now society has achieved enough enlightenment to say “Well, I agree with Leviticus 20:13, but not the killing part” and parts of society are *SURPRISED* that monogamy isn’t doing so well among homosexuals?

            As overwrought as Brokeback Mountain was, it wasn’t inaccurate as much as merely set a little too far in the future.

            Until recently, people killed gay dudes.

            Are you *REALLY* surprised that they didn’t evolve to create long-term stable relationships in this society?Report

            • @Jaybird, So why then have lesbians formed more stable partnerships? There seems to be a disconnect.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Mike at The Big Stick, because two chicks living together doesn’t inspire agita. People could always say “that poor spinster” and if two of them moved in together, you could say “well, they’re sharing costs and it’s a man’s world”.

              Lesbians aren’t a threat in the way that homosexuals are.

              What do I justify that on?

              The fact that societies all over the world have killed gay dudes… while chicks only get killed for being lesbians if they have property worth confiscating.Report

            • @Jaybird, So gay guys prefer to sleep around because the previous generations were persecuted?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Mike at The Big Stick, see it as a survival technique.

              I’ll compare to how folks drank under alcohol prohibition.

              Prior to prohibition, there were folks who drank beer or wine in moderation and were not part of the problem.

              What happened after prohibition got instituted?

              Beer and wine went away. Whisky, gin, vodka, rum. More proverbial bang for the buck. Get to the speakeasy, get ripped, get home.

              These are folks who, previously, just wanted a beer.

              That was no longer an option… so they had to choose between abstaining or getting ripped.

              This is a similar situation. The choice was between abstaining or engaging in sex with another human being in a furtive manner.

              There was no option to be two guys who loved each other in a healthy relationship. Why? Because those guys got killed.

              Watching folks just like you get killed can focus a dude… and reinforce the idea that you have two options: Abstaining or getting it furtively.

              After centuries of “getting it furtively” (think that senator guy), are you *REALLY* surprised that the culture hasn’t bounced back to become a reflection of the Methodists?Report

            • @Jaybird, So if I agree this begs the question: Can policy effect social change? Will legal marriage make gay men more monogamous? And regardless of the answer, is it the government’s role to bring this about?Report

            • North in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Mike, My two cents to your questions:
              Yes, but not typically in a way planners can predict.
              Yes, because frankly it’d be hard to make em less monogamous.
              If it is a good idea for heterosexuals then it probably is a good idea for homosexuals, and vice versa. (Libertarian answer: Hell no!)Report

            • @North, This actually addresses another point that I think needs to be answered. If one re-definition is not going to lead to another and so on, we have to strengthen the case for monogamy. It’s also seems prudent in light of gays advocating so strongly for monogamous marriage for themselves. So…do we re-affirm it as the government’s preference, regardless of the gender of the participants? If yes (seems like a likely choice) then how can we encourage it with policy? It seems to me that this is where some of Ross Douthat’s ideas on a family-friendly tax code would come in and (self-serving statement here) conservatives could show how smart fiscal policy furthers our social goals.Report

            • North in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Mike, There’s an arguement to be made there Mike. Certainly in terms of “official” monogamy.
              On the other hand, imagine a blackened smoldering crisp little overcooked rodent. That strikes me as what a politician would look like if they did things that actually enforced practical monogamy on the population (hetero or homo) at large.Report

            • Eric Seymour in reply to Jaybird says:

              Don’t want to get off on a tangent here, but what evidence do you have that during Prohibition the only options for alcohol use were abstinence or binge drinking? The same doesn’t seem to be the case with, for instance, marijuana today. I am told that there are lots of people who keep a small stash of weed and smoke a joint occasionally. Similarly, my understanding has been that it was possible to keep a bottle of bathtub gin or moonshine hidden away in one’s house, and take the occasional shot or perhaps a mixed drink. (Not to mention the myriad “cure-all” patent medicines whose only active ingredient was alcohol.) In fact, it seems likely to me that the people who went to speakeasies were the ones who really did want to go and get drunk and party.Report

            • @Jaybird, Not to add to Eric’s tangent but yes, beer was still drank by a lot of people during Prohibition.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Eric Seymour, sure, but let’s say that you’re a bootlegger.

              You can either move whisky, gin, rum, vodka and make X% profit or move beer and wine for a more distinguished group of clients and make Y% profit (where Y is less than X).

              Which are you most likely to be moving?

              Now let’s say that you’re a drinker. You don’t know whether your dealer is going to have product next week or the week after. You know that he didn’t have product last week, for example. He’s got product this week.

              Does this make you more/less likely to binge or is there no difference? What happened at the time?

              In any case, it seems odd to me that society in general had an undercurrent where gay dudes got killed and now, only a generation or two afterwards, people are expressing surprise that monogamy rates are more in line with that of people used to having to hide their sexuality rather than in line with that of people for whom sexuality is a trivial character trait.

              I’m beginning to wonder if we oughtn’t start teaching evolution in schools…Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Mike, So if I agree this begs the question: Can policy effect social change? Will legal marriage make gay men more monogamous? And regardless of the answer, is it the government’s role to bring this about?

              Actually, it invites or demands the question.

              Of course policy can affect social change. It will also have a great many unintended consequences.

              I suspect that legal marriage will, in fact, make gay men more monogamous. If nothing else, it’ll cut down on the whole laughably cliched outings that infect the “family values” camp.

              Of *COURSE* it’s not the government’s role to do that.

              But this time it’s your ox that’s being gored. You’re noticing.Report

            • Eric Seymour in reply to Jaybird says:

              I think your Prohibition / Anti-Gay Society analogy is fatally flawed.

              I’m sympathetic to hypotheses about the effects of being forced into the closet on gay men’s sexual behavior. There may be something there regarding the relative lack of positive role models. But I think the entire monogamy ranking of: lesbians > hetero women > hetero men > gay men, is driven by the simple fact that men have a stronger sex drive than women, and so are more willing to take on additional sex partners. Lesbians and hetero men are both more monogamous than their same-gender counterparts because their partners (women) are “harder to get” than the partners of hetero women and gay men (i.e. men).Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Eric Seymour, pity we don’t have much of a control…

              If only society hadn’t had that period of thousands of years where they killed gay dudes.

              Anyhoo, the argument that “gay dudes aren’t as monogamous as dudes shackled to a chick therefore something about marriage” is one that I’m afraid I’m going to have to wave away.

              There was a very long time where homosexual guys risked being dead whenever they risked being honest. This will result in pathological behavior.

              Saying “oh, I’d totally allow them to join up if it wasn’t for all that pathogical behavior!” is disingenuous at best.

              Give a healthy environment for homosexuality and we’ll find out that homosexual teenagers are just as screwed up within acceptable parameters as heterosexual ones.

              Then they can get married into a starter marriage with someone in college, have screaming fights, say “you’re not who I thought you were”, then get into a rebound marriage, have that one end poorly, and then finally be ready for a “real” marriage.

              You know. Like social conservatives do.Report

          • North in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

            @Mike at The Big Stick, I can understand that impulse Mike, but it’s not a plausible proposition to go to people (and their children!!) who are suffering genuine hardship due to the current system and say “Look roll that boulder up the hill for ten more years and then we’ll think about it.” It’s especially implausible when the groups saying this are the ones who used to be (and in some areas still are) rabid foes of homosexuals. There’s a trust gap there. Also, frankly, conservatives had their chance from 2000-2006. If right wingers had put some sort of positive compromise offer on the table other than “would you kindly vanish or turn straight?” during their total control of the Federal government maybe they’d have stemmed the tide or provided an outlet. They went for whole-hog refusal and now their entire position is being overrun.

            SSM proponents have laid out, in detail, long laundry lists of reasons why SSM is a good idea. Against that rational opponents have so far been able to muster implausibly supported assertions of harm and vague conservative appeals to slow change. That’s weak tea.Report

            • @North, You may be right but it seems, based on the legal analysis above, that SSM isn’t going to become the law of the land overnight. It still sounds like it will have to go through state legislatures with the same rationale arguments being presented over and over. That means by the time there is a serious effort to legalize gay marriage here in Dixie there will probably be 10+ years of legal marriage in other states to cite in the lobbying effort. So… in the end the laboratory model is going to be what prevails I think.Report

            • North in reply to North says:

              @North, Oh yes, I agree with you there. But at least then to my gay friends I can say “Get out. Take your money, your creativity and your energy to a state that will let you marry.” To dixie and the like where there’s not a chance of it coming out any time soon I don’t have anything to say. But CA had everything in place to institute SSM and then a clever and dishonest campaign by SSM opponents and a horribly botched campaign by supporters stopped everything in its tracks. I told my CA buddies that a repeal was the better bet politically but have you ever tried to tell a Californian to wait for anything?Report

            • @North, I think it would certainly be interesting to see what the migratory patterns are like for gay couples once the country hits 40/60 or something close on the ratio of SSM to no-SSM states. And what kind of economic impact would it have?Report

            • North in reply to North says:

              @North, Well there’ve been a lot of studies of the US’s most dynamic and prosperous cities and it’s found a strong correlation between permissive social attitudes/strong gay communities and dynamic prosperous cities. But correlation is not necessarily causation. Much as I would like to think otherwise I can’t honestly say I believe that gays are a big enough fraction of the populace that their migration would do much harm to their former home states. Now if you include gays and their friends and family… maybe.Report

            • @North, “…it’s found a strong correlation between permissive social attitudes/strong gay communities and dynamic prosperous cities.”

              SF would be the exception to that rule. Very little racial diversity, high income inequality, extremely low birth rate, etc. There’s a money there for sure but it’s not evenly distributed. I don’t mean this to come across in a sterotyped way but generally speaking gays aren’t working in manufacturing or other blue collar professions.Report

            • North in reply to North says:

              @North, I honestly don’t know what proportion does/doesn’t work in those professions Mike. Probably more than you may expect. If I can find the article I’ll link it for you.Report

            • @North, C’mon man – you know it’s all flower shops, hair sallons and interior decorating.Report

            • North in reply to North says:

              @North, and fashion designers Mike. Don’t you ever watch Project Runway?Report

          • Imaginary Lawyer in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

            @Mike at The Big Stick, monogamy rates for heterosexual married men are appalling; what’s your point?Report

          • Imaginary Lawyer in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

            @Mike at The Big Stick, Mike, sorry for replying here but the nested comments thing is weird. Every survey I’ve ever seen of adultery within marriage shows that between a quarter and a half of married men admit to at least one instance of adultery. And yes, that is a very carefully phrased conclusion, because it doesn’t tell us a thing about how many aren’t admitting it, how many are serial adulterers, and so on. It also doesn’t tell us the rate of cheating among nonmarried heterosexual men in monogamous relationships. Meanwhile, legal sanctions for adultery have disappeared pretty much everywhere in the US.

            I don’t understand the argument for saying that heterosexual men get a pass, but that no same-sex couples should get rights to marry until a small subset of those who have already married submit to special proof that they aren’t screwing around.Report

    • Imaginary Lawyer in reply to Eric Seymour says:

      @Eric Seymour, the current definition of marriage has not been the norm in this country for two centuries. That’s a self-serving rewrite of history, unless we’re now conveniently forgetting how conservatives once screamed that equal rights for women would destroy the American family and go against decades of tradition in marriage.Report

      • @Imaginary Lawyer,
        I was referring to the basic definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Details such as whether marriages are self-directed or arranged by relatives, whether the wife works outside the home, etc., have changed many times over the course of history, but this basic detail has remained remarkably consistent.

        Outside of the US, you can point to polygamy, but I would argue that a polygamous family consists of one man in multiple man/woman marriages, not a marriage consisting of one man and multiple women. (In fact, I’m not aware of any polygamous society where a man marries more than one woman at the same time.) Any other definitions of marriage have been exceedingly rare.Report

        • Imaginary Lawyer in reply to Eric Seymour says:

          @Eric Seymour, that is a “basic” definition of marriage that is both reductionist and inaccurate. The detail that the woman is subordinate to her husband, for example, has remained remarkably consistent over the millennia and across cultures, yet it’s no longer politically savvy to argue that doing away with coverture is “against tradition” or “will destroy the family”.
          Certainly it can be argued that polygamy still ‘counts’, but such an argument is specious.Report

          • @Imaginary Lawyer,
            A woman’s status relative to her husband is a matter of degree, and has varied a great deal throughout history and across cultures. The 1950’s America stereotype of a subservient wife is not an accurate description of the role of all wives throughout history. I doubt that it is even particularly accurate for American wives in the 1950’s. How ironic that you’d counter my allegedly “reductionist” argument with an overly simplistic argument of your own.

            As for polygamy, you can argue that it amounts to a plural marriage, but you can’t deny that it’s still heterosexual. The wives are not married to each other, but only to the husband.Report

            • Imaginary Lawyer in reply to Eric Seymour says:

              @Eric Seymour, a woman’s status relative to her husband is a matter of degree and has varied, but has (until very recently) always been subordinate. Who said anything about the 1950s? Coverture predates The Feminine Mystique by a long time.

              You also ignore the fact that the ‘traditional’ definition of marriage meant that its purpose was procreation. We’ve severed that purpose from marriage. What, then, is the excuse for insisting that certain parts of a traditional definition (but not others!) are immutable?Report

    • historystudent in reply to Eric Seymour says:

      @Eric Seymour, Well said. Thank you.Report

  4. @ North

    I don’t know. The US already supports monogamy with its tax code.Report

    • North in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

      @Mike at The Big Stick, I assumed you meant something more than what already exists Mike. Actually you should consider writing the whole concept out in long form either on your blog or maybe as a guest post. It sounds interesting, I’d read it (no promises on agreeing with it though).Report

      • @North, Well I think the existence of a mariage-friendly tax code makes government endorsement of monogamy apparent. Yes, I would advocate strongly for a most robust set of incentives to marry. As for a post I would just be ripping off paragraphs from Grand New Party.Report

        • North in reply to Mike at The Big Stick says:

          @Mike at The Big Stick, I don’t deny that government favors stable long term monogamous relationships. From a policy perspective it’s almost a no-brainer. Monogamous pairs support each other, they’re stable and provide measurable economic, health and mental benefits all of which causes monogamous pairs to draw upon government safety nets less. That alone would be a concrete reason for government to favor it without even touching on the issue of childrearing.Report

  5. I don’t know if by calling people who disagree with you “bigots” you’re hurting their feelings. I’m sure you’re hurting your case. There are lots of blogs where you can go for name-calling and justifications of name-calling. I hope this isn’t one of them.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

      @Matthew Schmitz,

      I remain uninterested in name-calling, as I said above.
      I find the whole approach a really sad distraction from public policy, and I doubt any good policies can be made either by (a) calling names or (b) saying that the other side is calling names, when very often it isn’t.

      It’s for this reason that I have generally shied away from the word “bigot,” even when writing about, say, Fred Phelps.

      Would I dare call him a bigot? No, because then someone would say I was mean, and then use it as an excuse to deny my civil rights. I’d prefer to deny you the excuse. So you can have it your way, and Phelps becomes a reasonable, well-considered advocate for your side.Report

      • @Jason Kuznicki,

        Okay. I’ll admit to being confused. Do you endorse or oppose calling people bigots? Does this post have a point?Report

        • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

          @Matthew Schmitz,

          I didn’t call anyone a bigot, and I don’t endorse doing so. (Count with me — this is the third time I’ve said so!)

          To my mind, there are no meaningful distinctions among those who oppose same-sex marriage. We will just posit that all are equally reasonable, and we’ll move on.Report

          • @Jason Kuznicki,

            Feel free to do so, but you’ll have trouble getting the public policy right if you’re unwilling or unable to make distinctions between all kinds of different positions, even ones that produce the same conclusion.Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matthew Schmitz says:

              @Matthew Schmitz,

              Are you asking me to call someone a bigot? Perish the thought!Report

            • @Matthew Schmitz,

              I don’t mind if you do, so long as you use the term accurately. But why would I ask you another question when you responded to my two actual questions with sarcasm in one case and silence in the other?Report

            • @Matthew Schmitz, Gents!

              Ahem. If I may translate: calling someone or – probably more often – something “bigoted” may or may not be appropriate. Taking on the role of victim because someone has called you or your position “bigoted” is, however, not an argument at all.

              In sum, this:

              And especially these four sentences: “But that’s not the way the marketplace of ideas works. It’s tough. Wear a cup. Cowboy up. ”

              A group fighting what it believes to be unconstitutional discrimination against it shockingly believes that those who support said unconstitutional discrimination believe in said unconstitutional discrimination. Some will even think that support of unconstitutional discrimination is quite literally the definition of bigotry. Oh well. That’s life.

              Responding by whining about how unfair it is to be accused of bigotry is, frankly, embarassing and ignores the fact that the very issue is whether prohibitions on SSM are unconstitutional discrimination.Report

            • @Mark Thompson,

              If the argument is over Proposition A, and the A supporters call the A opponents a loaded term like “bigot,” “racist,” or “communist,” it would be, as you say, pathetic for the A opponents to completely shift their rhetoric from arguing against A to complaining about the term the A supporters used against them.

              However, if the A supporters lacked the proper justification for using the loaded term, it would be completely proper for the A opponents to call them out for it.Report

            • @Eric Seymour, The trouble with this is that:
              1. The number of people slinging around the bigot accusation willy-nilly are comparatively few, so it is changing the subject to make those accusations the grounds for debate.
              2. There is no such thing as proper justification for use of a term, particularly one such as “bigot” which is particularly susceptible to a wide range of definitions; there is, moreover, no such thing as the “tyranny of speech.”
              3. As has been noted, use of the “bigot” line of attack is not terribly persuasive (particularly in an instance where the majority are on the side of the allegedly bigoted policy), and in fact is probably counterproductive. Claiming victimhood on the basis of the term’s use is therefore quite pathetic – it has done absolutely no damage to anyone.
              4. I can’t emphasize this enough: free speech is messy and rough and tumble. In a critical and passionate debate, people will say things that are harsh, outrageous, and/or hyperbolic. That doesn’t mean the debate is over. That doesn’t mean that the issue to be debated has changed. If we’re going to stop to debate the merits of every single outrageous or hyperbolic statement and every ad hominem made in the debate, then we will not be able to have much of a debate at all. It’s just that, in this case, stopping the debate as frequently as possible to argue over such trivialities clearly favors one side, which coincidentally is the side whining about the appropriateness of every last ad hominem and bit of hyperbole launched against it.Report

            • @Mark Thompson,
              I’m not advocating “stopping the debate” any time someone makes an improper argument. The debate on SSM has been going on continuously for decades. It’s impossible to stop the debate. But I do think that, in order to foster a more civil public discourse, we ought to agree to marginalize those who refuse to be civil.

              Your comments about free speech being messy, while true, sound like an endorsement of a style of public discourse where no holds are barred, and the ends justify the means.

              I have no delusions that it is possible to get everyone to “play nice” at all times when debating controversial issues. But I want to do what I can to make public discourse more rather than less civil.Report

            • @Eric Seymour, I don’t think you’re consciously arguing to stop the debate, but the point is that the effect of complaining about every instance of hyperbole and incivility (and demanding a discussion as to whether such instance was appropriate) is to effectively derail the debate.

              I’d go on to add that calling attention to the claims of bigotry has the effect of marginalizing those voices that are not making such claims, thereby just feeding the cycle of incivility.

              If one’s goal is to increase civility of discourse, I’ve found that the general best way to do so is simply to ignore incivil discourse, the old “Don’t feed the trolls mantra.”

              Whether civility in discourse is always appropriate is another question of course since it can often be difficult to express the full weight of certain emotion civilly.Report

          • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

            @Matthew Schmitz,

            I don’t know why you would ask me another question, but you certainly did!

            To your first question (“Do you endorse or oppose calling people bigots?”), I replied “I don’t endorse calling people bigots.”

            I don’t find it helpful to speak in this way. I find it counterproductive. I do not endorse or recommend it. I recognize, though, that I’m probably powerless to force everyone, everywhere to bite their tongues when the thought “Fred Phelps is a bigot” springs to mind. I can’t really do much to help that one. That’s the point of the ultimate paragraph.

            Your second question (“Does this post have a point?”) seemed not really in need of an answer. I thought I’d explained it in the penultimate paragraph. I do hope this clears things up.Report

            • @Jason Kuznicki,

              Thanks for dialing back the sarcasm. Since I can’t resist asking you questions even when I doubt the value of the exchange, I’ll ask one more:

              Do you honestly believe there’s no difference between Phelps and, say, Eve Tushnet? Your claim that all SSM skeptics are the same is a cute rhetorical move, but if you’re actually interested in engaging the issues (as you say you are) it’s extremely unhelpful.Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

              @Matthew Schmitz,

              Do you honestly believe there’s no difference between Phelps and, say, Eve Tushnet?

              I do think that there is a difference, very obviously, but that difference has been put under erasure. Were I to utter the word bigot, I infer that I’d be in a heap of trouble.

              What’s truly galling to me, and I say this with no sarcasm whatsoever, is that yes, some pro-SSM people do call some opponents bigots. And, once in a while, it’s richly deserved, even if it’s not my style of advocacy.

              But the number of times that people get called bigots merely for being unwilling to take the plunge on same-sex marriage is very small, and the caliber of the people making said accusations of bigotry speaks clearly enough. If we aren’t ready for same-sex marriage until every single pro-SSM person has the meekness of Christ and the tact of Emily Post, then we will wait an eternity.

              Which, you know, is exactly what one side wants.Report

          • @Jason Kuznicki,
            “To my mind, there are no meaningful distinctions among those who oppose same-sex marriage. We will just posit that all are equally reasonable, and we’ll move on.”

            I know you’re better than to seriously make such a ridiculous statement and really mean it, Jason. But I can’t tell whether you’re being merely peevish (as was the tone of this post to begin with), or sarcastic and/or humorous.

            I’ll say this: your statement above is logically equivalent to claiming that all SSM opponents are bigots. We know that some (e.g. Fred Phelps) indisputedly are bigoted, and you’ve claimed they are all “equally reasonable” (note: you did not say “fully reasonable”), therefore all must be bigoted.

            Avoiding the use of loaded terms like “bigot” is a laudable goal, but the real alternative is to make a good faith effort to distinguish between those who argue in good faith with no ill will toward any groups or individuals, versus those who are truly hateful toward some groups or individuals.Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Eric Seymour says:

              @Eric Seymour,

              I was being sarcastic. What I meant to achieve by lumping the entire anti-SSM side together was to point out that yes, there really are meaningful distinctions.

              It’s just that I’m told that if I use the terrible word “bigot,” I am smearing even the reasonable opposition. Some are, and some — I think the large majority — aren’t.Report

            • @Jason Kuznicki,
              I hate to belabor the point, but who is it that is telling you that the term “bigot” can never be used? What I am seeing are complaints that it is being overused (much like the term “racist” or, on the right, the terms “socialist” and “communist”).Report

            • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Eric Seymour says:

              @Eric Seymour,

              Well, that’s just the thing. Even when a text doesn’t call anyone at all a bigot (like Judge Walker’s decision in Perry, which doesn’t use the term), along comes Nelson Lund to claim that Perry calls Barack Obama a bigot, along with 7 million Californians and a solid majority of the entire U.S. electorate.

              Walker did no such thing, however. He simply found that at trial, no rational basis could be found for their opinion. There is plenty of room to maneuver between bigotry and an occasional irrational opinion. Otherwise, God help us all.

              So even when supporters of SSM don’t call anyone bigots, we still get told that we’ve called everyone bigots.Report

            • @Jason Kuznicki,
              Ah, I see now. I did skim the Lund column, but I initially chose to respond to what I believed was your general point, rather than that column specifically.

              I agree with you that Lund is wrong for introducing the “b-word” in this instance. He was clearly exaggerating the content of the judge’s opinion.

              I disagree strongly with that opinion. There is clearly a rational basis for Prop 8; even if the judge disagrees with that basis, it doesn’t mean that the only actual basis is bias against gays. But calling someone biased is a far cry from calling them bigoted.Report

            • North in reply to Eric Seymour says:

              @Eric Seymour, Eric, just for our edification, what were the rational arguements against SSM and do you have any opinions why they were not presented in the prop 8 trial?Report

  6. Dave says:


    I don’t understand how name calling would necessarily hurt my case given that my case is a legal argument.

    For the record, I have no interest in name-calling either.Report

  7. Jaybird says:

    Okay. Here’s my question that I’ve never had answered to my satisfaction. I’d love to read a response from a pro-marriage person.

    How is two dudes getting married your business?

    I mean, I think about Canada. I understand that dudes can marry each other there.

    I don’t care. I mean, honestly. I just don’t friggin’ care. I think about Canada and say “well, it’s none of my goddamn business”.

    Now I imagine a state that isn’t Colorado. I imagine two dudes getting married there.

    Yep, still not caring.

    Now I imagine marriage in a state that is Colorado. Two dudes getting married in Denver.

    Still don’t care.

    Now I’m trying to imagine the two dudes moving into my neighborhood. Maybe in the little house a ways down the block.

    Still don’t care.

    NEXT DOOR!!!

    Still don’t care.

    Seriously, I cannot understand how in the hell this is any of my business whatsoever. I am trying to stretch my brain and it’s just not getting me from here to there.

    Why is two dudes getting married any of your business, let alone something that you find worth generating two goddamns about?Report

  8. Dave says:

    I disagree strongly with that opinion. There is clearly a rational basis for Prop 8; even if the judge disagrees with that basis, it doesn’t mean that the only actual basis is bias against gays. But calling someone biased is a far cry from calling them bigoted.

    The actual basis wasn’t just bias against gays but an attempt to uphold traditional morality. Both motivations are highly suspect under both due process and equal protection jurisprudence.

    Furthermore, even if you can successfully argue for a rational basis, on equal protection grounds, laws that do target classes of individuals on the basis of that class, such as Prop 8, are subject to heightened scrutiny, something same sex marriage bans can’t survive, at least they didn’t in some of the state SSM cases.Report

    • historystudent in reply to Dave says:

      “The actual basis wasn’t just bias against gays but an attempt to uphold traditional morality. Both motivations are highly suspect under both due process and equal protection jurisprudence. ”

      Really? Highly suspect? This characterization is a another attempt to pretend that the U.S. Constitution’s due process and equal protection provisions have conveniently morphed into a weapon against the norms of life. It is just a nonsensical argument. The Constitution is not the plaything of a group that wants to change marriage into something that it is not. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will be better able to identify constitutional overreach when delivering its majority opinion than was Judge Walker.Report

  9. historystudent says:

    Jason, the fact is that biology couldn’t care less about my feelings or yours. Biology set two sexes of human beings on earth and fixed it so ONLY those two sexes could form a union that would create another new human being. That may not fit in to your or others’ cozy ideas about equality between same-sex and opposite sex unions, but that is just the way it is. Marriage is generally understood in our country as a union between the opposite sexes. It is a unique bond that cannot be replicated by another kind of relationship. While it is true that not all heterosexual married couples have children, it nevertheless remains true that ONLY heterosexual couples can, together, NATURALLY procreate. That makes their union different. I’m not saying that homosexual couples cannot have loving, steady relationships. I know they can and do. But that still does not change what marriage is and who should and who should not be allowed to enter into it. Biology is the deciding factor, not bigotry.Report

    • Jason Kuznicki in reply to historystudent says:


      The fact is that biology also created anthrax and the Black Death.

      I am NOT saying that heterosexuality is an evil, which is probably what you are going to falsely conclude. I am saying, however, that we are more than mere biology. We both can and should incorporate this understanding into our culture.

      Nor is it “generally understood” anymore that marriage is exclusively heterosexual. Recent polls show Americans are about evenly divided on the issue, with about half of us willing to include same-sex unions.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to historystudent says:


      Um then why do we let old people get married? They can’t have children.

      Your non-arguments were totally addressed in the decision.

      The big question what do you expect gay people to do with their lives? Turn straight, go back into the closet? Seriously what do you offer them?Report