Same-Sex Marriage in New York


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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225 Responses

  1. Avatar anodynic says:

    Same-sex marriage has always been illegal in most (all?) of those states, and yet opinion still shifted towards acceptance over time. Elevating the ban to the level of the state constitution could have some effect over and above the effect it had as legislation, but will that outweigh the effects of increasing acceptance of LGBT people and the sky not falling in states where same-sex marriages are legal?

    I don’t live in the US, but I’d expected that most citizens don’t have nuanced views particularly sensitive to the difference between state-level legislation and state constitutions. Could you gives some examples of where codifying into a state constitution has reversed opinions on a legislatively contentious issue?Report

  2. In light of claims made in recent days around these parts, I thought this piece about the backstory to this victory was appropriate.

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      Yeah, decades of work by liberals and Democrats had nothing to do with gay marriage in NY, just like it wasn’t liberal Democrats who pushed forward the major Civil Rights legislation.Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        Perhaps, but it wasn’t the Southern librul Democrats. As I recall they mostly abandonded the legislation.Report

      • I think you have misunderstood the point.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

          Mark, if that’s true, it wouldn’t be the first time.
          Re: the ‘point’, my recollection is that the southern dems refused to support the CR’s Act (because of voter retaliation) and it was passed by Northern librul dems and GOP votes. Isn’t this the bill that was abandoned by Algore’s dad, Bubba’s mentor, Sen. Fulbright, WVA Grand Keegel, Sen. Byrd and a gaggle of other commie-dems.
          Perhaps my memories fuzzy?Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      Hehe. Maybe the reason that we should be arguing in favor of anonymous campaign donations is that it’s sometimes embarassing to learn who agrees with you.Report

  3. Avatar RTod says:

    Jason – you may be right. However, I have noticed a whole lot of silence coming from the usual mouthpieces of the right about New York. That the vote in Albany hasn’t been used as massive call to arms on every other con. vs. lib. issue may represent growing acceptance and an acknowledgment of the inevitable.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      One of the big causes of blowback in the past has been that this was decided by judges. That became a part of their rallying cry. Well, this time it was done the right way. They can complain that the legislature didn’t follow the will of the people, but (a) that’s what elections are for and (b) there’s actually not much indication that it’s true. This is a case where it’s hard to cry foul, even if you don’t like the results.Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        I disagree. I’ve never seen blowback from the right when judges gave them something they liked. And there should be a gazillion examples, because the right has held the majority on SCOTUS for decades now.Report

        • Avatar RTod says:

          “I’ve never seen blowback from the right when judges gave them something they liked.”

          Well, sure. That would be when the left would start crying foul.Report

          • Avatar Barry says:

            The point is that the right is quite comfortable with ‘unelected’ judges making right-wing decisions, no matter how activist their decisions are. It’s similar to how the right is now screaming about ‘uncertainty’ under the Obama administration. Under Bush II, they didn’t, no matter how sweeping the actions.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          Very few people are going to condemn a ruling they like. However, having your policy preference negated by a judge is a lot more aggravating than having it negated by a legislative body. The nature of the criticisms change (“The legislature passed a law they shouldn’t have” vs. “The court had NO RIGHT to intervene…”). This is true whether you’re on the right or left, talking about Roe or Citizens United. And true whether the objections are valid or not.Report

          • Avatar Barry says:

            Will, nobody has cited any proof of this. It’s a claim, pure and simple.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              The amount of complaining I have seen about activist judges with regard to the New York legislature’s actions has been minimal. Even if complaints about activist judges are entirely invalid (as I said in my original comment) or disingenuous, they’re deprived of using it. This has, in my opinion, lead to the muted criticism to which RTod refers.

              I’m not sure what about the above seems so objectionable to you.Report

      • Avatar tom van dyke says:

        WT is correct here, albeit loath to credit “them” for being principled. “They” do not cry foul because there is no foul: how our system is designed to work was respected.

        And in all the time I’ve “known” him, Mr. Kuznicki has been consistently principled on this point, which has brought him much grief from those who believe their view of the issue is self-evident truth, and are willing to use any means necessary or possible—hook, crook or raw political technique—to implement their desired ends.

        As for his “pessimism,” his case is well-founded, as we see in the abortion debate, where the graph of attitudes and law is not all on the upswing. Whether or not he turns out to be correct [and he hopes he is not] is a separate discussion and is indeed unknowable at this time.

        That he gets grief for making a perfectly valid argument is unfortunate and unprincipled, but I’m sure he’s used to that sort of noise by now.Report

  4. Avatar RTod says:

    The fact that the Senate was not a Dem majority should also help with that.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      It was a “technically bipartisan” vote instead of a “bipartisan” one, though.

      I reckon both sides will make hay from the distinction, though. (Folks at The Corner are already calling for the heads of the two Republicans.)Report

  5. Fiddle dee dee to your pessimism, Jason. Who knows where the trend will go? Popular opinion seems to be on the pro-equality side, and sooner or later it will hit critical mass in the various states and the statutory or constitutional bans will eventually be lifted. It will probably take a very long time and lots of effort, but I have little doubt that it will happen one of these days.

    But why must we start poring over the entrails just now to see how things will go? Why must this be viewed from the perspective of how it will affect something else? What say we just view it as an event unto itself, just for a little while? Why not appreciate that the number of people in same-sex relationships who can enjoy full legal equality (at least as far as their state is concerned) has just doubled? Why not be happy for them, and for this, for now? Just because we can’t sit back and let the process take care of itself doesn’t mean we can’t take a few days to dance.Report

  6. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    The trend is clearly a move toward greater social acceptance, and it looks as though opponents of same-sex marriage will lose this “culture war.” Whether or not they’ll then be able to form an effective prohibition movement will probably depend largely on whether their present speculations come true. Same-sex marriage opponents have been increasingly vocal about the negative and even dire consequences this change will have for the institutions of marriage and the family and for society itself. If same-sex marriage proves to have few or none of these consequences, they’ll have a hard time convincing anyone that this change was a bad thing.Report

  7. Avatar Lyle says:

    Of course my solution is simple the state issues no marriage licenses only civil union documents. Since much of the concern is with the word marriage, have the state completely drop out of that business. A civil union will be granted to any two adults of proper age etc.
    Marriage then becomes a completely private affair between folks and their religion whatever that may be. The civil union would include child support requirements and the like, since even same sex couples can have children thru various means.Report

    • Avatar mark boggs says:

      But then instead of gays destroying my marriage, they’ll be destroying my civil union. They already destroyed my love of musicals, Barbara Streisand, and sex with men. Can we have nothing sacred?Report

  8. I think another reason for pessimism might be the choice of some states to adopt “civil unions.” These do not necessarily provide the full complement of marriage rights, and if I’m not mistaken, their portability to other states is at least questionable. At the same time, someone who advocates for SSM in a civil union state will likely face the “well, you have civil unions already, why do you want even more?”

    On the other hand, I think Mr. Saunders is also right. And for this weekend at least, the glass is half full.Report

  9. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    It is true that:

    Law is a powerful shaper of public opinion, and most state constitutions now ban same-sex marriage. … people form their opinions according to the laws they live under.

    But at the same time, it’s also the case that the laws are subject to change themselves.

    That is why Perry v. Brown is so critical because the outcome of that case could double, again, the number of people who live in jurisdictions with full marriage equality and it has the potential to override all of the state constitutions and laws which cause Jason’s pessimism. Contra my blog partner, I have relatively few compunctions about the use of the courts and the judicial process in shaping the laws and determining peoples’ rights. To be sure, the democratic process is the optimum means for introducing SSM, but does not make it the only acceptable means and when the citizens democratically fail to address their own failure to live up to the occasionally unpopular real-world permutations of the ideals of the law, the courts exist precisely to protect the rights of the unpopular minorities.

    Racial desegregation was judicially imposed on states which rejected democratic appeals to desegregate and move their social policies into the twentieth century; there was certainly a lot of friction along the way and the process remains incomplete — but it’s also a process that has gained broad social acceptance even in the places where it was formerly the object of bitter reistance. Is the analogy from Brown v. Board to Perry v. Brown perfect? Of course not, no analogy is, but I still think that in terms of the ability of the law to craft cultural changes, it’s more than reasonably close to the mark.

    Progress has not always been fast or frictionless, but so far in our history, anyone who has bet against the long-term expansion of civil liberties in the United States has lost. The long-term prospects for SSM are good; there is cause for optimism and New York is an important milepost on that road.

    Be of good cheer. We will win this race.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “Racial desegregation was judicially imposed on states which rejected democratic appeals to desegregate…”

      And, forty years on, we’re told that those states are still hotbeds of ingrained racism, a racism so deeply dyed in the wool that the only possible solution is to wait for everyone born before 1945 to die.

      Yeah, that judicial solution sure did work out well, right?Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        If Brown v. Board had never happened, what would those states be like today? Would they have voluntarily desegregated, would conditions there be better or worse than they are now?

        Obviously, any answer to that question will necessarily be speculative. I submit, though, it is reasonable to speculate that left to their own devices, those states which had Jim Crow as their prevailing laws would have continued to have had it and indeed would have resisted efforts to change their laws simply for the sake of resistance. The rallying cry to resistance against “Federal tyrrany” was “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!That was the result of the democratic process.

        Imperfect though the judicial solution was, I submit that we can reasonably conjecture that it was better than no judicial solution. Nor can we reasonably assume that even if the democratic process were to have resulted in “voluntary” desegregation, that would have proven any more effective at addressing the problem you raise. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the result of the democratic process, and it didn’t change anyone’s hearts or minds either.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “If Brown v. Board had never happened, what would those states be like today?”

          Who knows?

          But apparently Brown v. Board didn’t actually fix anything.

          Unless you’re claiming that the South isn’t a festering pool of bigotry.

          (And note that I’m not advancing an opinion on that question; I’m asking what yours is.)Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            The South is not a festering pool of bigotry. Some individuals are festering bigots. The proportion of bigots to non-bigots in the population of the southeastern United States is somewhat, although not really all that much, higher than in other parts of the country. The higher proportion in the south is a relic of the more intense history of race relations there.

            The vast — vast — majority of southerners I met and interacted with, including during my two-year sojourn living in Tennessee, are not bigots. My remarks in the previous paragraph are relative to talking about relatively small numbers of people in both former Confederate states and in other states. Most — nearly all — people all over the country have abandoned overt bigotry and make an effort to overcome subtle prejudices within themselves when they perceive them.

            A very substantial reason that they behave this way is that in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and lots of litigation about race discrimination in emloyment and accomodations since then, people believe (incorrectly) that bigotry is against the law, and they prefer to obey (what they think is) the law rather than defy it.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Now that I’ve answered your non sequitur question, let’s keep the focus where it was. Brown v. Board did fix things. It fixed racial segregation in schools. It fixed them imperfectly and impermanently and it fixed them in a non-immediate fashion. Unanticipated problems arose from the way the ruling was implemented.

            But it fixed the problem it was asked to address and it was a net benefit to the nation as a whole, in a big way.

            More than that, it was a forceful statement by a respected national institution that segregation was unacceptable and contrary to law. This spilled over from the subject matter of the injunctions into other aspects of the culture. That cultural shift took place over the whole country, not just the South.

            To dwell on the problems that arose from Brown and the flaws in the execution of the ruling is very much an example of allowing the perfect to become an enemy of the good.

            I conceded above that whether this would have happened without Brown is speculative, but I offered linked evidence to support the proposition that the reasonable speculation is that things would indeed have been very different and much more like the Bad Old Days had Brown not happened. To dismiss that with a rhetorical shrug like “who knows?” is a facile dismissal of the primary thrust of what I’m arguing here, which is that Brown made things better and therefore by analogy that judicial solutions to the legally inequitable treatment of homosexuals in our own day can and should be part of our effort to dispense with prejudice against that unpopular minority and thus bring us closer to realizing our national cultural ideal of equality for all.

            Disagree with me if you like, but please offer some kind of evidence to explain why you do so.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              This whole line of thought is very much at odds with your later comment about the tautological reasoning behind “the law is the law because it’s the law”.

              “It fixed racial segregation in schools. It fixed them imperfectly and impermanently and it fixed them in a non-immediate fashion.”

              …so it didn’t actually fix the problems at all. It was associated with the fix, in the temporal sense of “Brown v. BoE happened before these things did”.Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        Yes, it f*cking well did. It secured a better life for a bunch of people, even though it was fought tooth and nail by a bunch of scum. Do you not understand partial victories?Report

        • Avatar Barry says:

          (1) I was replying to Density Duck.
          (2) I apologize for the harsh language.
          (3) I stand by the sentiment behind the language.Report

      • Avatar RTod says:

        DD, I’ve reread this comment now half a dozen times and I’m still not sure what point you’re trying make. Are you saying that blacks would have been better off if the courts would have let segregation continue? Or that it was just fine the way it was and we should go back? Or that the fact that a some people look now down their nose at people in the South is a price far too steep for the equality of blacks and other monorities?

        Whichever meaning, do you really believe this?Report

        • Avatar Barry says:

          It’s a tired and evil claim, that Doing Nothing would somehow have led to better results, with no loss of speed. And again, it’s not a position held by those who were clearly in favor of change.Report

          • Avatar RTod says:

            That seems wrong somehow – or maybe I just hope that it is. I wasn’t sure if it was a “the other team says X, so I have to say Y without fully thinking through what I’m saying” thing.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “It’s a tired and evil claim, that Doing Nothing would somehow have led to better results, with no loss of speed.”

            So a shitty half-assed solution right now is better than a good solution that takes longer?

            Patience is a virtue. An adult virtue.Report

            • Avatar Burt Likko says:

              Density Duck in 1775: “Colonel Washington, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Franklin, you gentlement simply don’t understand what’s happening in London. The adult thing to do is to wait for Parliament to come around to your point of view about taxing the American colonies. After all, Lord North is a good man, a fair man with a robust sense of justice. His Majesty loves his colonists with the same benevolence he loves all his subjects. So just continue to cooperate, pay your taxes, and go along to get along. You’ll have representation in Parliament, local legislatures, and due process of law for accused criminals all in good time.”Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                You’re right, if black people didn’t like the laws of the society they lived in then they should have moved elsewhere and formed their own community.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “Are you saying that blacks would have been better off if the courts would have let segregation continue? ”

          If you insist on putting it in that language, then yes. I think that it would have been better for the elected legislators (and society in general) to have dealt with racism in their own time, rather than having it rammed down their throats. The fact that babies must be born to grow into adults doesn’t mean that we should induce labor at 72 weeks, even if the mother is fed up with being pregnant.

          Do you think that we’d see such widespread social acceptance of homosexuality if a judge back in 1968 had said “homosexual marriage is legal everywhere because fuck you bigots”?Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            Nah, I’m pretty sure it’s a better world that black students didn’t have to wait until the mid-80’s to have access to equitable access to public institutions in much of the South.

            The South had 100 years to get over getting it’s ass kicked and actually give civil rights. That’s more than enough _patience_, as you said it.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              “I’m pretty sure it’s a better world that black students didn’t have to wait until the mid-80?s to have access to equitable access to public institutions in much of the South.”

              But–I keep coming back to this–according to a great many people THEY DON’T HAVE EQUITABLE ACCESS TO THOSE INSTITUTIONS EVEN NOW.

              Do you have anything to say other than snarking about the Civil War? Any response to the idea that maybe, just maybe, unilaterial authoritarian decisions don’t do much to change social attitudes, and that when it comes to society the ends are seldom what was expected from the means?

              And for fuck’s sake, HTML isn’t that hard, and neither is “it’s/its”.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                <i.Any response to the idea that maybe, just maybe, unilaterial authoritarian decisions don’t do much to change social attitudes

                Which is why interracial marriage is as taboo today as it was before Loving vs. Virginia.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Booker T. and W.E.B.

                Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois

                By Dudley Randall

                “It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
                “It shows a mighty lot of cheek
                To study chemistry and Greek
                When Mister Charlie needs a hand
                To hoe the cotton on his land,
                And when Miss Ann looks for a cook,
                Why stick your nose inside a book?”

                “I don’t agree,” said W.E.B.
                “If I should have the drive to seek
                Knowledge of chemistry or Greek,
                I’ll do it. Charles and Miss can look
                Another place for hand or cook,
                Some men rejoice in skill of hand,
                And some in cultivating land,
                But there are others who maintain
                The right to cultivate the brain.”

                “It seems to me,” said Booker T.,
                “That all you folks have missed the boat
                Who shout about the right to vote,
                And spend vain days and sleepless nights
                In uproar over civil rights.
                Just keep your mouths shut, do not grouse,
                But work, and save, and buy a house.”

                “I don’t agree,” said W.E.B.
                “For what can property avail
                If dignity and justice fail?
                Unless you help to make the laws,
                They’ll steal your house with trumped-up clause.
                A rope’s as tight, a fire as hot,
                No matter how much cash you’ve got.
                Speak soft, and try your little plan,
                But as for me, I’ll be a man.”

                “It seems to me,” said Booker T.–

                “I don’t agree,”
                Said W.E.B.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                > neither is “it’s/its”.

                it’s = it is or it has
                its = belongs to it

                it’s a better world = it is a better worldReport

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                It’s a waste of breath since nitpicking grammar is a stupid sideshow, but I think he was referring to “it’s ass kicked.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Knock Knock
                Who’s There?
                To Who?
                To *WHOM*.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Ah, missed that.

                See, I’m not awake yet, either.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Haha… I love grammar nazi fails. Nice work, DensityD.

                Anyway, it’s true that they don’t have equal access to the best public schools, but they have access to some public schools that aren’t just afterthought schools for second-class citizens. And your argument is that they should have waited for even that, because some white people weren’t ready for it (this, coincidentally, was an argument against abolishing slavery as well). I like it when people put that in public; better to know there are people like you than to have to wonder and suspect.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “I love grammar nazi fails.”

                What fail? Read the comment I’m replying to.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                yeah, I failed on calling the fail. I didn’t see the second it’s, only the first. I think the second part of my comment was more important, though.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                What, the ad hom? I gave it exactly as much response as it was worth.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Apparently you’re not aware of what “ad hominem” is. Did I mischaracterize your position? You would deny objectively better conditions, and significantly better at that, to black people if white people aren’t ready for it. That, in essence, is your position, is it not? It would have been better to wait for white people to be ready enough to make it politically feasible for legislatures to vote for desegregation, for example, than to do it through the courts. If I’ve mischaracterized your position, feel free to point out where. Even if I have, however, “ad hominem” is not appropriate in this context.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “You would deny objectively better conditions, and significantly better at that, to black people if white people aren’t ready for it.”

                My assertion is that made by Andrew Jackson, that it’s one thing for a judge to make a decision but another thing entirely for them to enforce it. It doesn’t matter how eloquently the opinions were written in Brown vs. Board of Education if it still took armed guards to let a black girl walk into a school.

                So, yes, you’ve mischaracterized my position. You’re assuming that a realistic take on societal attitudes vs. judicial decisions is evidence of racism.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                I’m not sure that anyone is calling you a racist, DD. I think some of us just think that your belief that blacks would have been better off without a civil rights movement (or at least a civil rights movement that made no attempt to litigate to have constitutional rights upheld) is… well, hard to grasp.

                I can’t speak for others, but it might help me to understand better if you described what you think would have happened with blacks’ civil rights without the movement, or without litigation where local governments were refusing to grant what was already federal law (and in some cases, creating federal law). How do you think it might have gone?

                I doubt you’ll get a lot of agreement with your ‘what-if’ scenario, but I think you’ll find we’ll at least know where you’re coming from.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                My general view is that overriding public opinion with the hopes of changing it can be a dangerous proposition. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, especially in the face of an egregious wrong. The country had lost the benefit of the doubt when it came to race relations. Egregious wrongs were occurring. Sometimes you can’t wait for society to correct itself. We already waited way too long.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Does this argument/analogy hold true for anything besides race, which was under great and continuous dispute since before the Founding?

                It seems to me a universal principle has been asserted on these grounds based on a sui generis issue.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, you have to admit, when people use arguments against Proposition Q that sound a lot like the arguments given against Proposition P, and if we *KNOW* that the arguments given against Proposition P were bad, aren’t we allowed to jump to conclusions about the arguments against Proposition Q?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Which argument? That changing the law changes minds? I think so. Smokers used to be irate about any sort of smoking ban, but have gotten used to a lot of the ones on the books. This wasn’t done by the judiciary, but it’s a case of people getting used to laws, once passed.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Yea, but which way are the laws going. We look at NY and think, “People will be totally cool with SSM soon.” Then you look at the other 40-something states and think, “We’ll never change those minds.”

                Personally, it’s frustrating that so much of this conversation revolves around majority opinion, as if we’ve all forgotten about the possibility of the tyranny of the majority. The issue of SSM is a simple one, both ethically and legally (based on our country’s law of the land): it should be absolutely legal.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                A lot of the laws were put on the books in direct blowback to the judiciary. I really believe that it’s taken the country this long to get to the (over-)reaction. And when heads cooled down, views started shifting. The polls are moving into our favor and will continue to do so. We’re going to win this in more than ten states, I believe. The more states it becomes present in, the bigger a role the judiciary has (inherently so). I worry about the role being a complete disregard for public opinion, in part because that leads to blowback and resentment. In the case of gay rights, I think that’s *particularly* important because the end-game for gay rights isn’t the right to be married, it’s acceptance into society. While there are cases that the cultural follows the legal, I am less sure that’s the case with gay rights.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Okay, this might sound insensitive, but since I moved to another country to get married and I’ve never had a lot of money, how hard is it really to move to another state? It seems like if your state wants to pass an amendment saying they’ll never recognize it even if you do get married, U-Haul is pretty cheap and much of upstate New York is dirt cheap.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Rufus, in the longer run, too hard. To be married, then not married, then married, if you move around a lot, can be problematic. Despite my skepticism of judicial imposition, I do think it likely the courts are going to have to step in at some point and say “you have to recognize marriages from out of state, whether you allow it in your own or not. Unless you have a history of making it a habit of not recognizing other kids of marriages.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Moving to another place to enjoy freedoms is an expectation held solely for Libertarians. (See, for example, Somalia.)

                When this expectation is held for Progressives, it is likely racism, homophobia, sexism, or some other form of bigotry because human rights are universal.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                WT, an interesting defense of paternalism, majoritarianism and/or even tyranny.

                Sovietism prevailed for some 70 years; I cannot disagree that people can get used to anything. Until something pops.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Yes. Human rights are universal.

                On the other hand, a low corporate tax rate and a lack of a welfare state isn’t a human right. Thus, why I have no problems saying libertarians can all move somewhere together and create their perfect Galtian state while any gay American should be able to walk into any court and get married to their partner.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                On the other hand, a low corporate tax rate and a lack of a welfare state isn’t a human right. Thus, why I have no problems saying libertarians can all move somewhere together and create their perfect Galtian state while any gay American should be able to walk into any court and get married to their partner.

                I will never be able to parody this.

                I feel like a painter weeping as he tries to recreate a flower garden on a crude canvas using crude oils.

                Not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Tom, which is why I say it can be a “dangerous proposition” to override popular sentiment, and urge caution on doing this through the judiciary.

                But every instance of public opinion being overrided is not a path to tyranny. The majority wants a balanced budget, tax increases only on the rich, and cuts only to foreign aid and ethereal “government waste”. So we put the decisions in the hands of the legislators, who are accountable to the people but not beholden to them from vote to vote. And the judiciary, which answers questions that we’ve decided to put outside the realm of “majority rule.”Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Trying to clarify, WT. Something happened to US society in between Plessy and Brown. That that Supreme Court decision is routinely credited with leading us out of the race wilderness seems a bit facile, and undue generalizations drawn from it.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Yea. America was ready for Brown. Which is why the kids needed arm guards to get to school.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Sorry, you don’t get it, BSK, and I’m not in the mood.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                Bravo, TVD. Good talkin’ to ya.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                My point is that judicial activity is part of the process. The civil rights movement did not begin with Brown and it did not end with Brown. But Brown was nevertheless a very significant part of what was going on, and it’s safe to speculate that without Brown, it would have been less effective.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Oh, and by the way, people do get used to society. In the case of interracial marriages, the same portion of the population go more used to interracial relationships year by year.

                For example, more 55 year olds approved of interracial relationships in 1985 than 45 year olds approved of interracial relationships in 1975 than 35 year olds approved of interracial relationships in 1965.

                So yes, society does get used to change.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                If that’s a response to me, Jesse, I asked for issues other than race. In the case of progress on race, a historical analysis finds it difficult to answer whether the law led or followed society.

                So I asked for other examples before we universalize. That law reflects its underlying society is no controversy; indeed Montesquieu recommended that it works best that way. My challenge is to when it’s the other way around, see above.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Are we going to argue that women’s suffrage is of questionable wisdom, because the dittoheads still say “feminazi”?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Not me, Mr. Schilling, but you’re getting warmer. [Women’s suffrage was explicitly not required by the 14th Amendment in its Section 2, which few folks are aware even exists.] Thanks for playing, and nice touch with the dittohead thing.Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                “But–I keep coming back to this–according to a great many people THEY DON’T HAVE EQUITABLE ACCESS TO THOSE INSTITUTIONS EVEN NOW. ”

                First, CAPITALS just make a bad argument look badder.

                Second, I will not accept that you have repeatedly failed to understand the difference between better and worse. You must simply be dishonest. As for snarking about the Civil War, get over it. You obviously have a problem with the way that it worked out.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                I don’t really grasp DD’s full point and I realize I may risk siding with someone who has disagreeable views, but…

                I think I sort of get what he’s getting at. Many people argue, “Well, we already settled this with Brown v BOE. Job done. Nice work everyone.” Which is dead wrong. Brown v BOE was an important step toward providing equitable educational opportunities. But that goal has not been achieved. And it may never be achieved. Hindsight may lead us to believe that a different route might have been more successful or faster, but we’ll never know.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                That does not mean that Brown was wrongly decided; it does not mean that Brown should not have been decided; it does not mean that Brown was not an important watershed in civil rights history worthy of praise and study; it does not mean that the precedents, both legal and cultural, set by Brown are of no utility in looking at civil rights issues today.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                As for snarking about the Civil War, get over it. You obviously have a problem with the way that it worked out.
                hrmmm, I’ve been at this site a while and I think you might be making some incorrect assumptions about ol’ DD here.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:


                But it’s OK to misspell words?Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                I make my share of typos and misspellings too. Let’s read for substance and comprehension, please.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                Burt, I was responding to his castigating someone else for their use of it’s / its. Trust me, I’m more than happy to give a wide berth when it comes to grammar, right up to the point that they go bludgeoning someone else for it while managing to mangle their own.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            Do you think that we’d see such widespread social acceptance of homosexuality if a judge back in 1968 had said “homosexual marriage is legal everywhere because fuck you bigots”?

            If the judge had used that exact wording in his opinion, obvioiusly not. But that isn’t the wording that was used in Brown v. Board and it isn’t a fair reading of the wording that was used. I submit that only an actual bigot would attempt to warp the opinion in Brown into “fuck you bigots.” (Not saying that this is DD’s opinion, BTW.)

            If in 1968 we had seen judicial leadership on homosexuality and same sex marriage, at minimum in the form of recognizing that the men who brought the case had a serious issue to discuss, I think the national dialogue about homosexuals would have moved forward towards greater acceptance faster.

            Judicial leadership on issues of racial and gender equality propelled the national acceptance of those ideas. The fact that there are still bigots and sexists in the world does not in any substantial way discount the profound cultural shift we have enjoyed as a result of, among other things, judicial leadership in those areas.

            Judicial leadership as to homosexuals could have done the same thing in 1968, and it has done the same thing since in 1996. Judicial activity is an integral, albeit not exclusive, part of the cultural dialectic.Report

  10. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    There is clearly not one, but several, trends afoot on this issue in the country at this time, owing to the political diversity that stems from being a continental democracy. Taken as a whole the fight in our nation over this issue isn’t over in either direction, by a long shot.Report

  11. Avatar Crm says:

    Anyone who thinks that the Law is a shapER of public opinion has obviously not done much thinking into the relationship of the Law and society.

    The Law is an expression of a societies values (or lack thereof). Any affect on pubic “thinking” is a reverb of pre-existing values / opinions.

    Current anti-SSM legal strictures are expressions of power made by and for a privileged minority in their last gasps and desperate grasps for power. They are among the last expressions of uncivil bigotry by morally, emotionally, and intellectually bankrupt former elites.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Respectfully, I suggest you reconsider this notion, CRM. A lot of people have a tendency will point to something and say, “Well, that’s wrong.” When you ask them why, they’ll say, “Because it’s against the law.” There isn’t any deeper thought than that going on. “The law must not be changed, because the law must be obeyed.” (E.g., some but not all opponents of marijuana legalization and/or immigration reform.) Yes, it’s a tautology. But it’s one that is very powerful and one that is seemingly invisible to those caught in it. Yes, it’s not a thoughtful way of approaching the relationship of ethics, law, and culture. But lots of people are not particualrly thoughtful to begin with.

      But to some extent, there is a point to that way of thinking even if it is not often articulated. If individuals could with impunity substitute their own moral judgments for the collective decisions of society as a whole, we would be well down the road to anarchy. Caution about changing laws too quickly in response to dynamic cultural change is a primary fact of something called “conservatism” and there are a lot of conservatives out there if you use that definition.

      As to your point that the laws will eventually change to conform to social norms, yes that can and does happen. But you need some powerful cultural change before that happens, enough to overcome the inertia of the status quo and enough to assure conservatives that the law is reacting to a real shift in the way society has constituted itself rather than something more evanescent. While that discussion is being had, conformity to the social norms enacted into the law will be a default position for most people, most of the time, because for most people, “law” = “good” and “good” = “law”; therefore, “bad” = “illegal.”

      That’s the dynamic which causes our friend Jason to be pessimistic. I’m optimistic because I think that conservatives of the non-religious variety are finally taking note that other nations and states that have enacted SSM have not seen any massive social upheavals or other negative effects, and that there really aren’t any good arguments against SSM. They’re coming around. They’re just moving slowly because they are, well, conservative.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        Burt understands what I’m getting at. Another example would be the old South just following the Civil War — during Reconstruction and even afterward, there was a much higher level of racial integration than in the early twentieth century. No, attitudes about blacks weren’t anywhere near where they should have been. But segregated train cars, water fountains, and the like were not yet in place. It took laws to do that, and the laws made the very rigid segregation seem natural.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Yeah, the post-war South is a bad example. The only reason such laws didn’t exist then was because the American army was down here to ensure that they didn’t. Those laws didn’t shape public opinion, they were shaped by it as soon as the public was free to enact them. And it’s unlikely that, without decades of no such laws, public opinion would have been all that different in the South.

          It’s true that, for subsequent generations, when the South’s apartheid state had been chugging along for decades, thought it was just the natural state of things. But this is as much because few if any challenged the laws as it was because the laws existed. Once visible protests began, the laws were doomed, and ultimately, so were the opinions that shaped them and were shaped by them. As long as LGBTs and those who support equal rights continue to publicly point out the injustice of discriminatory laws, it will be difficult for them to shape public opinion against LGBT equality. It will instead be up to churches and parents to do that.Report

          • Avatar Barry says:

            I second this; people looking at Jim Crow as a purely state-derived system really should read up on the history of the USA.Report

          • In some places, Jim Crow laws actually took a little longer than right after federal soldiers left the south. There were some (perhaps feeble) attempts in the 1880s and 1890s among black and white farmers to unite politically, and these attempts at unity were one element in prompting members of the elite to support Jim Crow laws as a wedge between the two groups.

            I don’t think it was reducible to this Elites vs. poor calculus, but such attempts at black and white alliances slowed some of the move toward Jim Crow.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              It took a while because black people could still vote. Once the southern states had effectively disenfranchised most if not all black voters, there was no stopping their creation of an apartheid state. In a sense, the laws didn’t need to influence public opinion: those who agreed with them enacted and maintained the laws, and at the same time made sure that those who didn’t agree with them couldn’t do anything about it.Report

              • True enough. All I meant to say was that such things took time. (In most states, blacks did not make up a majority, so there had to be, and for a time were, some alliances.) Also, one thing I should’ve said, but did not, is that there were non-black constituencies whom Jim Crow indirectly disadvantaged (although certainly not as much as it disadvantaged black people). My point is only that things can get really complicated, and while what happened seems inevitable in retrospect, it wa’nt necessarily so in prospect.Report

  12. Avatar Smedley the uncertain says:

    Jason is again throwing handgrenades in the pond simply to see what kind of fish rise to the top. His assertions are offered without support or evidence so can hardly be taken seriously. Those of us in NY without a dog in the fight are generally OK with the outcome. BTW, my 33 year hetero marriage is a civil union; as the marrying JP said, “by the powers vested in me by the State of Arizona I now pronounce you man and wife.” Been accepted in half a dozen states in the south. Civil unions are portable across states.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      What you are is “married” by way of a civil ceremony. Arizona law does not provide for civil unions at all and to my knowledge never has done so. The use of the phrase “man and wife” in your ceremony is indicative of the fact that it was a marriage ceremony and not a civil union ceremony. I’m pretty sure you also got a piece of paper with the phrase “Marriage License” on it.

      What’s more, civil unions are not portable across states. Here’s a handy guide for you. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin, at minimum, will not recognize any kind of a same-sex legal institution, whether it is called a “civil union,” “domestic partnership,” or “marriage.” (Wisconsin is actually a weird case, which ought not to surprise anyone.) These states all adopted amendments to their state constitutions to that effect. Several other states, like Arizona, lack a legal institution like a “civil union” or a “domestic partnership” and therefore are unlikely to recognize such a creation of another state’s law with no analogue in their own.

      There are two ways to take a claim that you don’t have a dog in the fight in your own state. The first is to insist that you do have a dog in the fight because equality for one kind of person means equality for all of them. Everyone has a dog in the fight because fundamental rights affect all of us one way or the other. The second way to take it is to say that no, of course you don’t have a dog in the fight if you don’t intend to marry someone of the same sex — which makes you wonder why it is that all these people who don’t want to marry someone of the same sex themselves would care so deeply and passionately that other people do.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      If you think I’m “not OK” with the outcome, you have seriously misunderstood me. I wish more states were doing what New York just did. But they haven’t, and when the next generation of anti-gay politicians (and ordinary folk) need an argument against same-sex marriage, they can just say, “well, it’s the law.” For most places in the country, anyway.Report

      • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

        Jason the next generation of ordinary folks doesn’t want an argument against gay marriage.

        Further none of those state amendments will matter once the supreme court gets done. People who try the it Is against the law approach will be laughed out of the room.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Unless, of course, the Supreme Court finds that Marriage is one of the things covered by The States or The People rather than The Federal Government and, in a narrow decision, says that gay people who are married according to their states can pay higher taxes but, otherwise, recognition of marriage is not something that the Federal Government should do outside of taxation (and other, minor, things like recognition for benefits or whathaveyou).

          Assuming something like that happens, do you see it as more likely that people will point out that “Hey, The Supreme Court Is The Highest Court In The Land!!!!!! They’re The Closest Thing We Have To Infallible!” or “This is worse than Dred Scott!!! This is as bad as Bush v. Gore!!!!”?Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            No matter what the result is before SCOTUS, a large and vocal population will react negatively to it. What’s important is that SCOTUS make the right call, makes its decision in a principled and intellectually honest matter, addressing the serious issues raised by both sides (yes, I’m rooting for SSM and I happen to think the Federal equal protection claim in the pending case trumps everything else, but the point that the people of a state do possess the inherent power to amend their state’s constitution and that can indeed be a check on the judiciary is a substantial one that deserve sober engagement).Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        I don’t accept this, Jason. As has been pointed out, legal system which had been chugging along for a very long time can still change (see: Civil Rights, Feminism).

        Now, the right has established fortresses which will have to be actively destroyed, and which destruction will take decades, as they intended, but so what?Report

      • Avatar Barry says:

        Jason, when somebody takes a right-wing ‘walking slowly backwards’ position and argument, using unproven right-wing arguments, perhaps it’s understandable that others get confused.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

          You have mistaken description for advocacy. I am describing a scenario that I think might play out over the next generation. I dread that scenario. (Hint: This is why I said I was a pessimist, and not an optimist!)

          I think there is a significant chance of things playing out this way because that’s precisely how things have played out in other areas of public policy. Drug policy, immigration, even the tax exemption for employer-provided health insurance — it’s how the law is, and that in itself settles how the law should be.

          I for one think that that’s idiotic. But if even mentioning it gets me tarred as a supporter of this mental process — then how on earth am I supposed to expose it for questioning?Report

          • Avatar Barry says:

            Jason Kuznicki June 29, 2011 at 9:14 am

            “I for one think that that’s idiotic. But if even mentioning it gets me tarred as a supporter of this mental process — then how on earth am I supposed to expose it for questioning?”

            Because it’s an argument which I’ve seen raised only by people advocating right-wing positions, and only for things which they’ve lost. And you didn’t give even sketchy for why this scenario would happen.Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

              Is Jason a closet rightwinger?Report

            • Avatar RTod says:

              I’ll give one from my home that’s even kind of related. A few years ago in Portland some city council members made a plan to pass a city law that would allow SSM. In this case they even did it in the 11th hour of session with absolute stealth so that there would be no time for any opposition. And it passed.

              But the furor of the way they operated caused an enormous backlash that not only quickly forced the overturning of themlaw, but led to a successful ballot initiative to ban SSM in the whole state.

              Are these the same circumstances that Albany saw? Of course not. But living through that clusterfish and seeing it take the goal of equality back so many steps was heart wrenching, and it forces me to see Jason’s point.Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                ‘…and it forces me to see Jason’s point.’

                This assumes that the backlash would not have happened given any other method of passing/implementation. And from what I’ve seen of the right, I doubt that.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                In this case, there was backlash from the middle and left as well. Which is what I suspect what Jason might fear.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                For the second straight comment… Exactly!

                There are people that will complain regardless. The question is how much ammunition we give them on questions of legitimacy. Which matters because that’s the ammunition they will use to win over people that we need to be winning over.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                My point is not about backlash, either.

                It’s about the sheer fact that even if same-sex marriage becomes much more popular in the next few years (a development I would cheer to the heavens, mind you!), it is unlikely that we will see much more legislative action in its favor anytime soon.

                That’s because anti-SSM provisions are now found in most state constitutions, and these are usually very hard to amend.

                Time will pass. The generation that is excited about SSM will get older and mellower. A new one will grow up without hearing much about the issue either way — because there just won’t be that many fights left to fight.

                Then, when someone suggests SSM thirty or forty years from now (and trust me, it’ll still be an issue) — this next generation will say “Huh? What? That’s not what the law says.”

                And the power of law to settle issues will really start to kick in.

                That’s the scenario I worry about.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                Ouch, that IS pessimistic. I think you will be proven wrong, but I certainly can’t fault you for that opinion, based on history.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                I think the issue will stay at the forefront. This isn’t a sodomy law that was left on the books but never enforced and, when it suddenly was, an outcry came up. Are gays in all the states where it is illegal just going to sit idly by while they are denied the equal rights and protections under the law? If marriage was purely symbolic, I could see this happening; eventually people would just say, “I’m not going to get all bent out of shape over a word.” (Wouldn’t it be nice if the crazy conservatives reached this point???) But every time a same sex partner is denied hospital visitation rights or custodial rights or health insurance, the fight will live on. It might be in a small way, but it will live on.

                Unless, of course, all/most guys move out of these states and into the states that do allow marriage, which isn’t really an ideal solution but certainly could happen (a friend of mine moved from MD to MA for this very reason).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                That’s because anti-SSM provisions are now found in most state constitutions, and these are usually very hard to amend.

                In California, at least, it was passed by a 50% +1 popular vote, and could be undone the same way.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                Was that an amendment to the Constitution? Or just a law? Is there a difference?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                An amendment, but the logistics are the same: 50% + 1. (And yes, that is idiotic.)Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                Jason, this is just more BS. Another, and more historically relevant scenario, is that more and more people live, marry and grow up under laws allowing gay marriage in several states. They, and their friends, and their relatives, find that the very status of their marriages and familes vary depending on the laws.

                Laws passed in the most part by right-wing fundie sh*thheads, the same sort which voted 40% in favor of keeping that ban on interracial marriage in Alabama. Even in those sects, young people are more in favor of gay marriage, and more used to knowing openly gay people.

                The result will take a long time to achieve, because of those barriers erected in the last few years, but I see the pattern as being more taken down than put up.Report

              • Avatar Barry says:

                Jason, I’m going to be a bit harsh here:

                If you can come up with arguments which (a) don’t ignore historical patters (i.e., Civil Rights, Feminism) and (b) don’t sound like a bitter right-winger denouncing a loss and claiming unfairness, then I’ll accept that you’re not a bitter right-winger denouncing a loss and claiming unfairness.

                I’m honestly confused by your attitude.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Jason may support same-sex marriage. He may be gay. He may be in a gay marriage. But until proven otherwise, he is “bitter right-winger denouncing a loss and claiming unfairness.” Because he is… pessimistic. Because he disagrees with Barry on the political prognosis of gay marriage.

                That’s a questionable standard of proof.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                Yes – but it in the defense of those hammering on Jason for fighting against marriage equality, he only points out how much he wants it just about every time he posts on the subject. I mean, it’s not like we can all be mind readers.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Barry, that’s a bit over the top don’tcha think?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Clap louder.

                You are giving aid and comfort to our enemies.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                But the bottom line is, whose side are you on? Are you on the bigots’ side or are you on the side of the aspirations of the enlightened American people and the international coalition that has been created to support them? For most of us on the League, the answer to that question is very easy.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Jason, I think that’s immensely over pessimistic. For one thing you seem to be ignoring the current trajectory of opinion on this subject. I just don’t see New York by itself suddenly making the gay populace and their allies “mellow out” on the subject. Also we forget at our peril that the most passionate anti-gay sentiment is based on the votes and dollars of voters who are considerably older than the supporters. Even if pro-gay sentiment mellows that will be nothing compared to the manner in which anti-gay sentiment simple ceases to exist as the elderly anti-gay voters shuffle off this mortal coil. Those votes and especially that financial support just isn’t there in the younger generations as far as I can see.
                As BSK noted this isn’t some academic issue of unenforced law but rather is a reality that grates on gay people frequently and often. They’re not going to just mellow out and stop caring if, say, they’re at risk of being barred from their partners bedside or are going to see some religious cousin marshal some lawyers, invalidate wills and run off with half their assets when their partner dies. Also, the march of amendments will continue to be pushed now while there is a hope of success for them. As they’re being brought up in increasingly liberal places the chances of a highly visible defeat grows (Minnesota has slightly less than even odds of just that).
                I just don’t see this period of indifference and silence you’re worried about happening. With the internet and new media things whirl round faster and faster now; not slower and slower.Report

            • Avatar Barry says:

              ‘…even sketchy support for why…’Report

  13. Avatar North says:

    Jason, this strikes me as a remarkably pessimistic position to take considering how swiftly and badly the ground has crumbled out from beneath SSM opponents. How long ago was it that they were howling in outrage at the idea of judicially mandated civil unions in Vermont? Now they’re wrestling around with full on marriage enacted in over a third of the country and done via legislative action rather than judicial imposition.
    Also when one considers the titanically lopsided opinions of the young on both sides of the left/right divide (in favor of SSM) I don’t see it being against the law being very persuasive. If anything the mad scramble to chisel Anti-SSM dictates on the constitutions of the various states has always struck me as frantic rearguard action rather than definitive victories for anti-ssm forces.

    All my Pollyannaish sentiment aside, though, I fear that there’ll be a few more amendments before things finally turn. Minnesota is a pretty purple state; the polls have the voters 55% opposed to the anti SSM amendment being launched here and MN has a very large moderate gay population which is gearing up to fight it but I still think it’s plausible (on my darker nights I even say likely) that the amendment will pass here. But it could plausibly fail as well.Report

  14. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Is there any merit to comparing SSM to the repeal of the various miscegenation laws on the state books? It took a SCOTUS case, Loving v. Virginia to finally settle all that, and I suspect it will take another SCOTUS case to evict all this state-based bigotry from the law books.Report

    • Avatar Boegiboe says:

      I agree that miscegenation laws seem to offer the best analogy available, and I agree with your prediction as well that the Court will make the final decision. That such a decision in favor of same-sex marriage would probably have to depend both on arguments about fairness to same-sex couples and recognition of the general state of public opinion a la Lawrence v Texas, I see winning such a populous state as New York into the pro-SSM map without the courts being involved as a potential watershed moment. A SCOTUS decision in favor of SSM would be much easier in a U.S. where a large percentage of citizens live in jurisdictions where SSM is legally recognized.Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke says:

      You could ask black folk what they think of the analogy, but I don’t think you’d want to.

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Wa’al, you know, Tom, there were two waves of Irish immigration to the USA. The first wave became the Boston Brahmins. They looked down on the Bog Irish who came over in the second wave.

        Yes, that’s America for you. It’s sorta like frat hazing. The worst hazers are the ones who most recently endured hazing themselves. Now that blacks and latinos have achieved some small measure of equality, (with the help of many other people of good will) they stand ready and willing to deny that equality to the next crop of deserving folks, with the help of thousands of bigots who recently used to oppress them.Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke says:

          Whatever, Blaise. Discussions where the term “bigot” is in play aren’t of much value. In fact, they are not discussions atall.

          Welcome back.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            It’s a perfectly adequate word. Perhaps you have a better word for this sort of prejudice?Report

            • Avatar tom van dyke says:

              One cannot answer a begged question, Blaise. Rock on.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                It is manifestly true this country had miscegenation laws. It is equally true those laws were repealed as violations of the 14th Amendment under Loving, all of which has been pointed out before.

                Beg this. When the SSM equivalent of Loving comes before SCOTUS and is decided in like measure on the basis of Loving and the 14th Amendment, a great many folks who were just so sure SSM was a bad idea will be served a generous portion of corbeau en croute. Confronted, they will vigorously deny they eeeever opposed SSM, as they now deny they ever against blacks or latinos gettin’ married back in the days of Pace v. Alabama. Oh no, not us, why, we were never bigots. They will loudly cry down anyone who says it was bigotry, as you now cry me down, as if I can’t call a spade a spade and a bigot a bigot. Whatever, Tom. Anyone in the year of our Lord 2011 who opposes same sex marriage is a bigot.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                Blaise, if you want to call 60-70% of African Americans bigots, say it to them, not me.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                That number is severely exaggerated, but I know it makes you feel good.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                If ever there was a time I’d want to make a “that’s what she said” comment, this might be it.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                What is your figure, Mr. Schilling? A gentleman offers counterfactuals, not mere aspersions.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                I think part of the problem with the use of the term “bigot” (or racist or homophobe or sexist, etc, etc, etc,) is the presumption that it defines the person. And, I will be the first to stand up and say I am guilty of using the term poorly. For that, I apologize. I do think there is a difference between saying, “You, sir, are a bigot,” and, “Hey buddy, that thing you said was bigoted.” One is judging the actor and the other the action, with the latter being far more preferred. Now, through a series of bigoted actions, we can probably eventually conclude that someone is bigoted in a certain area or maybe even a full blown bigot. But, it should take a fairly decent sample size. The problem is, we too often conflate the statements in both directions (assuming a bigoted statement makes someone a bigot -AND- assuming that having bigotry identified is the same as being called a bigot) and we end up talking past each other.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                The best figure I’ve seen for Prop 8. is 58% of African-Americans voting yes. That’s greater than the 52% statewide, but not by much.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                And the presumption is that there is something about their “blackness” that made them vote that way. Maybe yes, maybe no. But I’m sure we could parse the data and make certain areas of the state, certain religious groups, certain genders, certain ages, etc, etc, etc, well above that 58%. There may be a correlation, but it is hard to know what, if any, causation there is. My hunch is we should be looking at religion more than race, acknowledging that there is some obvious overlap between the two.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                I posted one that had Prop 8 at 70%. A recent Pew had it 59% against,nationwide vs. 35% for. My lower ballpark figure was within the margin of error, whereas you resorted to ad homming me yet again. Can you give me a reason why I should put up with any more of your nonsense, Mr. Schilling? Because I’m just not feeling the good faith here.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                For instance, 71% of Colusa county voted in favor of Prop 8. 73% of Glen county. 75% of Kern. 73% of King and Madera. 71% of Lassen.


              • Avatar BSK says:


                That 70% was based on exit polls, notoriously inaccurate. It would not have been hard for you to find he real data:

                You are poisoning the well.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                My point holds at 59%, BSK. And pls don’t lecture me about poisoning the well.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                What is your point? That blacks are bigoted against gays? Because 58% of blacks in California voted YES on Prop 8? You are being so disingenuous as to lose all credibility.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                You’re not reading me carefully enough, BSK. 59% is the national figure according to a recent Pew poll.

                What is your point? That blacks are bigoted against gays? Because 58% of blacks in California voted YES on Prop 8?

                Not atall, since I don’t equate opposition to SSM to bigotry. However, Blaise did, and I was illustrating what that translates to in the real world.

                You are being so disingenuous as to lose all credibility.

                There’s really no principled response to stuff like this except to return fire, BSK. I don’t want to. This is hairy enough without getting personal.

                And I will not be goaded into returning fire.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                You linked to an article that used exit polls. Perhaps the PEW poll exists and you haven’t linked it or you linked it and I didn’t see it, but it is generally best to offer the cites in the comment itself when getting specific with numbers.

                And you are being disingenuous… your way of attacking what you see as flaws in someone’s logic is to apply that logic sloppily? Well played. Keep insisting that 100% of a group of people are bigots against homosexuals because 58% of those people said they oppose SSM in a non-binding poll with no causative link between the identifying link between those people and the opinion stated.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                BSK, you’re either unwilling or unable to state my point fairly. Either way, this is a waste of time.


              • Avatar BSK says:

                Because you refuse to state your point. It is not my job to state your point. I engage the arguments put forth. If your argument is so vague as to be misconstrued in the way I have presented it, the onus is on you to offer an accurate correction. This is what you love to do… you insinuate and insinuate and insinuate and then when you get called on the logical conclusion you insist that you never actually said that.

                So, again, I ask… what is your point?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke says:

                If opposition to SSM is bigotry, then the majority of African Americans are bigots.

                Further, it seems a corollary that most African Americans do not accept the analogy between SSM and interracial marriage.

                Those are my points. Indeed, if Loving v. Virginia applies, then so does the 14th Amendment, and all the rest of the talk about whether SSM is good or bad for society is moot, since rights are unalienable and not subject to utilitarian [or aesthetic or even moral] concerns.

                However, SSM opponents [and even some of its supporters] reject the analogy, including, one might infer, a strong majority of black people.

                Loving is often trotted out as probative, the trumping argument. And indeed, if Anthony Kennedy agrees, it will be.

                But in the meantime, efforts like the one in New York are the avenue for instituting SSM, and any argument or assortment of arguments may prove effective enough to get the votes: moral, legal, sentimental, “rights talk,” utilitarian, justice-as-fairness. We’ve heard ’em all. Even if the 14th doesn’t demand instituting SSM—and I don’t think it does, a separate argument—it certainly doesn’t forbid it, and the states are free to do what they will on such issues.

                Calling people bigots doesn’t help, as many here have observed. [One could weave a rhetorical web making President Obama one.]

                My own reservation in this thorny discussion is to the facile equating of race and sexuality, which the majority of African Americans don’t appreciate, and of course the bigot business, which I imagine they wouldn’t either. [And yes, I think African Americans have some standing in the matter of the aptness of the analogy.]

                But these two arguments are the ones I hear most often and most loudly, although I consider them the weakest, as do many of the unconvinced.

                So there you have it.

                I’m confident most readers got all this from the moment I brought up the point, but if you honestly didn’t, BSK, as long as my interlocutor is doing his best to read me charitably rather than jump down my throat, well, that’s what gentlemanly discussions are for.


              • Avatar BSK says:


                I do not think that voting against SSM inherently constitutes the holding of a bigoted idea. And I do not think that the holding of a bigoted idea makes someone a bigot to the core.

                I do not know what is the heart, soul, and mind of every person who has voted against same sex marriage. When I speak of the bigotry of the opposition, I speak more to the people who organized hatred and fear of a group, based on demonstrably false premises, who are unwilling to consider alternative perspectives. If there are members of the black community who fit this description, I would certainly call their perspective bigoted. I have had many conversations with people whose opposition to same sex marriage was not predicated upon a hatred, fear, or opposition to homosexuality but a misunderstanding of the law (either existing or proposed) or a faulty slippery slope argument. These people are misinformed, but not bigots. For instance, I recently had a conversation with a man who opposed SSM because he believed that the proposed laws would have required churches to marry gay folks and allow married gay folks to become priests. This was patently untrue and, upon hearing that, his position softened.

                So, long story short, I cannot know what is at someone’s core regarding homosexuality based on a single poll answer. I need to know more. And, if in the process of finding out more, they expose their beliefs as bigoted, I have no problem in pointing that out to them.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                The issue of whether all SSM opponents are bigots deserves full discussion. I’m largely with Blaise on this in that I think most of the anti-SSM votes are the result of either misinformation or of thoughtlessness rather than invidious prejudice. People are not evil when they say, “Hey, my church should be able to do what it wants” or “I want to control how my kids learn about sexuality.”

                It’s understandable that people might not grasp the difference between a public accomodation and a private religious institution when civil rights laws are enforced in courts; the distinction can be subtle and the legal lines are both blurry and subject to reasonable, non-bigoted criticism (although I personally believe that they are, on balance, drawn appropriately). So while the fear of churches being sued for not dispensing SSM ceremonies is, in fact, a phantom, it is a phantom that looks enough like a real issue that people could be reasonably confused by it.

                That does not excuse the leaders of the SSM movement, who exploit these misunderstandings and confusion, whose activism demands that they think through the moral and policy implications of what they advocate, and who deliberately spread misinformation and lies about SSM to a credulous public. Maggie Gallagher and her National Organization for Marriage are particularly bad offenders in this regard.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                Were you referring to me or Blaise? Regardless, I really like what you wrote here, particularly about the leadership of the anti-SSM movement who are clearly and deliberately lying to their followers about the supposed “gay agenda” and all the slippery slopes and blah blah blah.Report

            • Avatar RTod says:

              Whether or not you can think of a better word, I think, depends largely on your goal. Are you trying to alienate those that disagree, or perhaps look superior to that that already agree? Then no, there probably is not a better word than bigot.

              Are you trying to convince those that might disagree that yours is a better argument; and do you hope to get them to see things differently?

              Well, then probably there are many different words…Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                But RTod, it gets exceedingly frustrating playing nice with the bigots, trying to pretend like their bigoted views aren’t bigoted views, and asking them to reconsider their hatred/fear/ignorance/whatever-else-may-be-motivating-their-bigotry.

                We’ve offered facts, legal arguments, human stories, all of which should suffice any open minded person to see the wrongness of legally prohibited same sex couples from enjoying the legal and social benefits of marriage in a secular democracy. Again, the question of SSM is an easy one. It shouldn’t take this much convincing. Unless you’re a bigot. In which case, you likely will never be convinced. (I’m not speaking to YOU… the proverbial you.)Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                BSK, I get where you’re coming from. But think of it this way – when I graduated from high school in the 80s, 95% of society were bigots as you describe them now. (SSM? Hell, mixed race marriages were approved of by only a small minority.) And now by all accounts over 50% of the country believes SSM should be legal.

                I would argue that that huge shift has *not* come from confrontation that makes those that disagree the enemy. Rather, I would argue it’s because as more and more gays have come out and lived among people openly, it is hard to see than as a threat – indeed, as anything other than human beings. This trend will continue as the cycle grows larger.

                However, using the word “bigot” doesn’t help get us there. In fact, with some of those that need to continue to “see the light” it is forcing them to take a step backwards.

                Or, to put it another way, how much credence do *you* give most arguments by a person that also says “Liberals are trying to destroy America because they love terrorists…”?

                Just a thought you might consider…Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                How did Inspector Clouseau put it?

                Clouseau: But that man is crazy!

                Psych Ward Attendant: We don’t use that word here.

                Clouseau: Then what word do you use?

                Psych Ward Attendant: Now, now….

                Clouseau: Then he is now-now!Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Seconded. Telling someone that isn’t in favor of gay marriage that they are a bigot is, in their minds, not actually telling them that they are a bigot so much as telling them that’s your opinion of them. And then they’re supposed to hear you out and come around to your point of view? Because they’re anxious to win over the approval of some stranger on the Internet that thinks that they’re a bigot?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                C’mon. Give me a word to use. I’ve repeatedly asked for one, and it’s not forthcoming. As for suckups who are trying to missionary out here, trying to convince anyone — well, gosh. I just don’t know what to say except Hey, where are de white women at?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Find a way to make your points without suggesting that those that disagree with you are bad people?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                When you encounter folks who categorize a matter of taste as a matter of morality, you are far more likely to change the minds of folks on the fence if you treat the miscategorization of a matter of taste as if it were a matter of morality (and attendant rules/regulations) is itself a matter of morality.

                It’s not about changing the minds of those who disagree.

                It’s about changing the minds of those who don’t know if they disagree. (Odds are, they’re more easily swayed.)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Gosh, is prejudice against gay people bad? Is denying them the right to marry based on sound legal principles? I wouldn’t know. Maybe someone needs to say, “Hey, this has been seen before in history, back when the law said other classes of persons couldn’t marry.”

                After all, nobody’s really bad. Ask ’em, they’ll tell you so. We mustn’t tell them this sort of thing is prejudice, no no. It’s… well…. it’s something, but we can’t actually say it’s bad. After all, even the worst bigot wasn’t completely prejudiced.

                Dude, I have seen all this before, in my own family. If people don’t like being called bigots, they have the option to quit behaving like bigots. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh: this country’s got a long track record of refusing to speak up in the face of bigotry.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                You’re quite frequently dealing with people that *think* they disagree, even if only because they haven’t thought the issue out yet. Or haven’t thought of it the way you do.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

                Almost everybody’s bigoted.

                Prolly the world would be a better place if we started focusing on working on that, yanno… rather than getting bent out of shape when someone accuses us of it.

                On the flip side, people perhaps also ought to stop conflating “You are acting in a manner that is bigoted” with “You are a bigot”. The first being a specific accusation of bias, the second being a general accusation that you’re an un-redeemable asshole.

                “I think gay is squicky and ought not to happen in my society” is a statement of bigotry against a class of citizen.

                “I’m a bigot”, on the other hand, would imply that you don’t like anybody who’s not like you.

                I have relatives who are bigoted against (some particular class of people). I also who have relatives who are bigots and hate (everybody who is not of their class).

                They are not the same. Treating them as the same isn’t even particularly useful.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                BP, I’m not encouraging anyone to start “sucking up.” I’m suggesting treating people with dignity, even when they disagree. You want a word for those that believe gays should not be allowed to be married? OK, what’s wrong with “wrong?”

                JB, it must be my age or my IQ or my level of sleep recently, but that was just too convoluted for me to follow. Got that you were taking a know at me, but damned it I can make out how. I tend to appreciate the way your mind works, though, so I ask for some dumbing down…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                To be perfectly honest, I have found that most folks (even the ones opposed to gay marriage on Levitical grounds!) are willing to make *HUGE* concessions on the subject of Gay Marriage.

                It’s not that they’re opposed to hospital visitation.

                It’s not that they’re opposed to government recognition of Last Will and Testaments.

                It’s not that they believe that the government should have the power to jail people for living in the same house and sharing a bed.

                They just don’t like the idea of such a relationship being called “marriage”. “It’s not marriage!”, they tell me.

                The folks who argue that Lawrence v. Texas was decided incorrectly are the folks who deserve to be compared with the folks who see Loving v. Virginia as judicial activism.

                The folks who agree that, sure, two guys can live together and it’s nobody’s business but don’t like the idea of it being called marriage are in a different category. “Convertible”, I guess.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Who’s asking anyone to change his mind? Is there any rational justification for denying civil marriage to same sex couples? For all this whinging and wringing of hands and pained expressions about how we can’t use the word Bigot, the fact remains: no such justification exists.

                Napoleon gave us both civil marriage and civil divorce, saying adultery can happen on any couch. Insofar as religious persons can disport themselves in any old crazy manner they like inside their churches and the law allows, they can deny marriage to anyone they like.

                What they cannot do is deny civil marriage to persons of legal age who seek the benefits afforded to married persons, as the miscegenation laws did. The parallel is very exact, and I do not give a rat’s ass about converting anyone to my opinion.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Blaise, personally, I would like more people to favor allowing gays to marry. First, because it will be easier to allow gays to marry. Second, because I would like homosexuality to be viewed as a valid lifestyle unworthy of contempt. Antagonizing others may make me feel more self-righteous, but it doesn’t further the conversation. It just makes me feel more self-righteous.

                Jay, I don’t really care about people that think Lawrence v Texas was a bad result. We’ve won that battle. No need to make nice and those aren’t the people that we need to win over on SSM. We do need the “convertible” people, and I don’t think that calling them bigots is a good way to get them to listen to us.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                “Who’s asking anyone to change his mind?… I do not give a rat’s ass about converting anyone to my opinion.”

                Which gets back to my original question. If you just want to feel superior, then great. Bigot is the second most prefect word. (Second, of course, to fuckingbigot)

                If you want to achieve making SSM a fundamental right in this country, though, you’re going to have to eventually change some opinions.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Bigot is actually a French term used of the Normans who would use the oath “Bi God”. Its first meaning was sanctimonious and eventually drifted into an implication of religious hypocrisy. If anything, my usage is far less pejorative and far closer to its initial meaning.

                Mr. Popper, not he of the penguins, the other guy, Karl by name, gives us a marvelous test involving falsification. Ask not for whom the modus tollens, it tollens for the bigot.

                A bigot maintains an unreasonable opinion of the Hated Other. We may say a person is a bigot if he would deny the benefit of rights to others he himself enjoys. In this case, I would reduce this benefit of rights to the single term, the benefits of marriage.

                It is reasonable to assert we ought to enjoy equal rights under the law.

                Via modus tollens, we cannot say a person who denies his fellow citizen a right in law he enjoys is a reasonable man. Nor can we say someone who believes everyone should enjoy equal justice under law a bigot.

                So, really, just quit haranguing me about the word bigot. You don’t have a replacement word for it.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Blaise, it isn’t the specific word that’s the problem. It’s argument-by-label. When most accurate, it’s generally ineffective. When less accurate, it’s counterproductive. Replace it with another word, the same problem occurs.

                Of course, I make assumptions here. Such as, the person saying the word cares more about the issue than the self-gratification of calling people names.

                That’s what always bugged me about Alan Shore. Always most interested in Telling It Like It Is when his job is to win cases. So he goes before the Supreme Court and makes an incendiary argument, alienating his audience and (in anywhere other than David E Kelley fiction) sacrificing his client to the death chamber in the process.

                But boy, he Told It Like It Is. Nobody that really mattered was listening, and nothing he said really mattered (except to the extent that he sold his client down the river). But that wasn’t important. To Alan, the MORAL AUTHORITY OF ALAN SHORE was what mattered. Screw the client. Nothing but a casting extra.

                (I’d better stop, before I become him.)Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Actually, if you wanna’ be blunt, advocates of gay marriage don’t have to change the mind of another single person. All they have to do is wait for a member of the conservative majority to kick the bucket while a Democrat in office.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Alan Shore? You’re trying to bring in a fictional character into this debate? I had to google it up.

                Back when my old writing professor Dr. Fromer was beating me up for fun and profit, he once told me to stop missionarying and start using nouns. It was a hard habit to break, for my father was a magnificent preacher. How should I put this in terms those on the fence might understand? Where should I start? With the science?

                It’s rather like trying to debate a Creationist: I can’t tell him the Book of Genesis isn’t a science textbook. Tell you a war story. I once went to the trouble of showing how Genesis 1 might resemble what we now know about cosmology and creation: light came first, light was separated from darkness via the boson/hadron distinction, live began in the sea, moves to the land, man is finally created. Only one problem, the stars are created on the fourth day. You can’t cram cosmology into Moses’ Bed of Procrustes in Genesis 1.

                Now let’s suppose I commence explaining how homosexuals are not really all that different from regular people, in fact, science now shows definitively sexual orientation isn’t a matter of choice and after all, they are citizens of this country and they do show every sign of being capable of human love and affection. I fear this sort of condescending pap and nauseating preachiness would summon the mighty Dr. Fromer from the dead, red pencil in hand, to re-excoriate me in his florid and ciceronian tones, urging me to desist from preaching.

                No, I think I’ll avoid that nightmare and just stick with my first analogy, that of miscegenation and the bigots who enacted those laws.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                In some of the diversity work I’ve done, they talk about the middle 60%. 20% of the people will always “get it”. 20% of the people will never get it. 60% of the people are in the middle and this is where you make your hay. When encountering someone, I assume they are part of the 60%, hope they are part of the “already get it” 20%, and fear they are part of the “never get it” 20%. It generally does not take long to figure out where they lie and I proceed accordingly. When I meet someone in the “never get it” 20%, I have no problem calling them a bigot. Because that is what they are. And no amount of reason or logic is going to change that. And I’m not going to peddle to their bigotry.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                It’s broadly my experience that actual bigots are unphased at the accusations. To someone that thinks that homosexuality is an abomination, saying that they are bigots against homosexuals is like accusing someone of being a bigot against murderers. Why should they take offense? Most likely they just mock. And, in any event, their words speak for themselves.

                Go a step down, to those that hold pretty bigoted views, I think you make a better demonstration by goading them into expressing their more bigoted views. Show rather than tell. If you’re in a conversation where others are present, that is. By simply giving them the tag, you run the risk of alienating some of the convertibles. Get the “pretty bigoted” person to say what’s on his mind, he is the one that is more likely to alienate.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Jesse, you don’t think that there might be a difference in climate if such a ruling were reached with popular support than without it? Can we get gay marriage through the courts? Maybe so! But gay marriage is a part of a larger struggle: the acceptance of homosexuality as a valid lifestyle. I’d rather aim for the goodwill of the public than the satisfaction of saying mean things about people that do not yet agree with me.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                It’d be nice, but the truth of the matter, the vast majority of people under-40 “accept” the homosexual lifestyle. In a perfect world, that goodwill would extend all the way up.

                But if that doesn’t happen shortly, it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever if a large chunk of those over 40 simply had to deal with it until they shuffle off this mortal coil just like those over 40 had to deal with black people getting service ahead of them at the post office.

                After all, the truth of the matter is those that would truly be upset by “activist judges” installing gay marriage nationwide are going to be upset no matter how gay marriage passes. Look at the response from NOM-types to New York voting for marriage. Now, they want a referendum. If a referendum passed, I’m sure they’d complain about “special interests” and want a new referendum with a 2/3 majority needed for passage.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Jesse, see my comments elsewhere. Yes, there will be people upset no matter how it comes about. The question is whether or not their complaints will resonate. Their complaints about New York aren’t resonating. Their complaints about a Supreme Court would much more likely do so, if we’re telling people uncomfortable with gay marriage “Haha, take THAT you bigots!!! Oh, and won’t you please support our petition to protect gays from being fired on the basis of their sexuality?”Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Jesse, you don’t think that there might be a difference in climate if such a ruling were reached with popular support than without it?”

                And here we return to my argument regarding Brown vs. BoE.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          I miss ~Blaise already. Dude, that’s a piss poor explanation. Black people and Hispanics don’t oppose (some) gay rights in large numbers because they want to haze gay people, or anything like it. It’s largely a matter of religion and the social conservatism it’s created among two populations that are relatively more religious than white people. What’s more, black people tended to be socially conservative in the same ways before the civil rights movement, and for the same reason.

          I think, by the way, that the SSM-interracial marriage analogy is, on the surface, pretty poor, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that anti-gay bigotry ain’t racism. Gay people can be openly gay and go to just about any school (though they might not fit in too well at Olivet or Trevecca), they can eat at just about any restaurant they want, they can sit anywhere on the bus (behind the yellow line, at least), use any water fountain, swim in any public pool, and they can vote. However, since the arguments used against gay marriage are often quite similar to the arguments used against interracial marriage, the analogy is forced upon us in some ways. In particular, if the arguments were bad then, then we have good reason to think they’re bad now in this new context. That may not always turn out to be the case, but it’s a pretty safe starting assumption, particularly given how irrational those arguments were the first time they were used.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            College Church of Wheaton, where I was married, requires the couple present the civil marriage paperwork before the ceremony begins. We’d forgotten it back at my parents’ house. So my Mom goes roaring back in a snowstorm to get the paperwork. There’s a smudge on the marriage certificate where the snow fell on my signature.

            Conflating religious marriage and civil marriage is where this bullshit begins, and you know it. Let’s have none of this tendentious talk of what Social Conservatives believe: were it up to them, we should never have progressed as a society, certainly not as far as the 14th Amendment. Even now we hear the Dog Whistle of State’s Rights. I am old enough to have heard that Dog Whistle before, back when Civil Rights was front and center.

            Loving put an end to the miscegenation laws, as Brown v. Board put an end to segregated schools. Now butter would not melt in the mouths of these soi-disant Social Conservatives, oh no, we were never against integration. Yes they goddamn well were against it. They migrated by the thousands to the GOP and there they remain, just as bitter and upset by the march of progress as they ever were, and don’t dare to call them bigots, oh no, that gets them upset. And still they scream about States’ Rights and Activist Courts.

            Bigotry knows no color lines: a black or hispanic person can be just as bigoted as anyone else. I would argue bigotry proceeds from ignorance, but that might lead to the conclusion these Social Conservatives who oppose SSM are ignorant, so I will refrain from that conclusion, lest I further annoy folks. And after all, it’s not about the facts, or equality, or the 14th Amendment, it’s about someone’s religious principles. This nation might yet be turned into a theocracy but it is not one yet, and I see no good reason to mollycoddle these goddamn Social Conservatives and their bestial ignorance.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Blaise, that was wonderful. Were you replying to something I said?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Wherein lies the gist this Piss Poor Explanation of which you speak? Is it the part with the Irish, or with the comparison to Loving? Or is it the hazing bit? It is passing strange to watch the black culture which benefited from civil rights legislation now stand up, (if Tom is to be believed) en masse to oppose civil rights for LGBT types. That leads me to the hazing conclusion.

                Via another of my pawky anecdotes, I tried to draw a distinction between civil and religious marriage, a point obviously and completely lost on you, Chris. Must I dial the Fleisch-Kinkaid-ometer down to Obvious Enough for a Woodland Chipmunk before you can connect the dots?

                And let’s address your little tautology wherein racism isn’t to be compared to homophobia because it isn’t racism. When we substitute Black for Gay throughout your flabby paragraph which follows, we see the results of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in action. What we do not see at present time are the results of Loving, which is why I pared my original argument down to that case, not the entire corpus of civil rights legislation. The various states in their infinite wisdom have passed laws against SSM, very much in congruence with the anti-miscegenation laws of yore. Those who wish to continue in this vein are invoking the arguments raised in Loving.

                Now do pay attention. I write these little screeds in a split window, with the original comment pasted below, so I can address the topic. Do keep in mind that mere contradiction does not constitute rebuttal. Helps things along tremendously.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                The piss poor part, as I said, was the hazing part. Religiosity is high among African Americans, and more specifically, evangelical Christianity is high among them, so they tend to be socially conservative. That’s not a good justification, but it’s the cause. It has nothing to do with hazing.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The evangelicals are largely a white phenomenon. AME and COGIC tend more to a traditional black service, with a Pentecostal bent and very little evangelization. Stick to what you know. The black church ain’t it.Report

              • Avatar RTod says:

                This sounded wrong to me, so I looked it up and I think Chris is right. Actually, according to these statistics by the Pew Forum, the two largest “traditionally black churches” are Baptist and Pentecostal – both of which are evangelical in doctrine. They account for almost 80% of blacks who go to “traditionally black churches.”


              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s half right. COGIC is the Pentecostal and AME is Methodist. They’re the two largest denominations. There’s baptism in both denominations, which makes them theologically baptist but by no means are they of the Southern Baptist dispensation. You’re talking to the son of a Southern Baptist ordained minister who narrowly escaped the profession.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The Pew survey makes no distinction between the various Black Baptist conventions. Here is a general overview of what’s become of the Black Baptists. There are really four branches.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Way to cover, Blaise, but I’m right. Like I said, I miss ~Blaise. There were actual discussions.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Let’s say you are. It doesn’t make the black culture any less culpable in its refusal to admit the Down Low phenomenon of homosexuality within its own culture. STDs are absolutely rampant in every culture which won’t confront the realities of sexuality.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Blaise, I’m not excusing them. I think the intolerance of religion is inexcusable, on political, philosophical, and even theological grounds.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Chris, part of the problem is that opposition to Interracial Marriage was founded upon, among other things, interpretations of religion and social conservativism.

            So when someone starts talking about how they oppose gay marriage because they have access to God’s Thoughts, I tend to think of the judge who said: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”Report

            • Avatar Boegiboe says:

              Right. Reading the cases involved here points up the legal analogy quite nicely.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Jay, that’s partially what I was getting at in that second paragraph: the analogy wouldn’t be that apt if it weren’t for the fact that those who oppose gay marriage sound an awful lot like those who opposed interracial marriage.Report

        • Avatar Barry says:

          Chris Rock (?) had a joke where the first english word learned by all (non-black) immigrants was ‘n*gger’.Report

      • Avatar RTod says:

        Yeah, I bet that will go over as well as asking the older Irish on the East Coast how they feel having their social history of acceptance compared to blacks’.

        Not that their reaction will make it any less true.Report

        • Avatar Barry says:

          ‘How the Irish Became White’ by Noel Ignatiev

          ‘Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs’ by David R. RoedigerReport

          • Avatar Barry says:

            To clarify my last two comments – I’m sure that many black people would be offended, but then again it’s almost required for the grand-children of all non-black immigrant groups to look down upon the next group, saying that ‘this is different’. Ever since Ben Franklin was doubting the ability of German immigrants to assimilate.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Black culture, even before the Civil War, was horribly stratified. Not all blacks were slaves. Many were slave owners themselves

              The French culture had its own way of sorting out the black hierarchy, mulattoes, quadroons, octoroons and the like.

              Why should we sugar-coat the problem? We are all a bit unreasonable in our opinions of other groups of people. Here’s mine. I’ve harbored my own secret hatred of the American black convention of Muslim names. Don’t they know their own history well enough to understand Islam was the religion of the people who enslaved and sold their ancestors? It was Christians such as Wilberforce and John Newton, a slaver himself, who decried slavery on principle and worked to abolish it in Great Britain. It was the Quakers who first took a moral stand against slavery here in America. But of course, we never get any credit for such things. Christianity is the religion of the White Man: never mind that Jesus was a Jew and some of the first Christian churches were built in Alexandria, technically in Africa, now under assault by Salafists.

              But I just shut up about all that, knowing it’s bigoted. If black people want to give their children Islamic names, let ’em and don’t bother with the historical sermon. It’ll just make them feel bad. Our great sin as White People was the destruction of black families and the systematic under-education of generation after generation of those slaves and their descendants. I’m not going to beat myself up over the sins of bygone generations.

              But if what Tom says is true, and I have every reason to believe he’s right, a substantial fraction of American blacks have some serious problems on the enlightenment front when it comes to LGBT issues. How can Ja Rule get away with saying MTV promotes homosexuality and thereby f*cks up America? And you can’t say shit about it, can’t call him a bigot. Oh no. Coz he’s black and that might offend him. Ja Rule has made millions on his misogynistic and gay-bashing bullshit.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                I have no problem calling out bigotry when I see it, whether the perpetrator be black, white, brown, yellow, or purple. The issue is when aspects of the identity of the person become immediately conflated with their viewpoints. So, people will look at the Prop8 votes and say, “Clearly there is something insidiously racist about black culture,” without doing the most basic research to determine where the correlation is and where the causation is. That’d be like looking at the splits along handedness and concluding that their is something inherently bigoted about left-handed folks if they voted disproportionately for Prop8.

                As someone upthread pointed out, the far more likely “culprit” is religion*, which is a causal relationship I’m comfortable pointing out because many people make direct reference to their faith when opposing SSM. I do think that there are issues within the black male community with homophobia and misogyny that go beyond religion which are fairly complex (though by no means excusable in any way).

                * Please note that I am not arguing that religion, in general, or Christianity specifically (the faith I’ve seen most often used to defend anti-gay sentiments) are inherently bigoted. I do think there are elements of it which can be interpreted as such, but also a whole lot in the faith that should lead people to embrace and defend any man, woman, and child regardless of their orientation. Unfortunately, some people misinterpret the text or pick and choose what to follow, opting for much more of the former than the latter and end up promoting bigotry. But, no, I will not say that Christianity or Christians are inherently anti-gay just like I won’t say that black culture or black folks are inherently anti-gay. But there are issues with the pervasiveness of anti-gay sentiment within both communities, largely because of the huge influence of the former on the latter.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Religion, as I’ve said elsewhere, is the flower that grows on the bush of Culture. It’s easy to blame religion for this sort of repression, and that’s the general justification from many quarters.

                But is it just religion? Martin Luther King once said America is never more segregated than it is on Sunday morning. Isn’t this true of every self-segregating entity in every society? We can’t blame religion for the fact that Walmart won’t promote women. We can’t blame religion for our shameful treatment of gays in the military to date. The military is still hemming and hawing and won’t get serious about implementing reforms. Gay bashing is still going on in the military. Religion is a symptom of culture but so is the public square and the parade ground, too. Black culture does have a problem with gays and that’s a fact. It’s pointless to observe these are individual acts of cruelty and idiocy, not while the cultural icons and the purveyors of music and the engines of culture continue to serve up homophobic and misogynistic trash for public consumption. If this stuff didn’t sell, they wouldn’t be making it.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:


                I fully acknowledged that the issues with homosexuality within the black community go well beyond religion (just like the issues with homosexuality within the white community go well beyond religion, and on down the road). Religion is a huge part of it; masculinity is another. The sense of masculinity within the black community, in general, is one of absoluteness. How is masculinity best asserted? By degrading all that is non masculine, starting with woman and gays. As such, it is much harder for a young black man to come out. So, members of the black community have far less experience with out gay men, so lack the exposure that many here have pointed to as key to the change in thought over the past 20-30 years.

                There is a lot of chicken and egg here.

                My issue is primarily the scapegoating that goes on. If 58% of whites (which I’m sure was the percentage in the very near past) opposed SSM, no one would say, “White culture is homophobic,” or “What’s wrong with them white people?” or “It must be all that country music.” It would either be accepted as likely the right attitude to have OR indicative of societal problems in general… but not white societal problems. But with the white community moving ever so slightly past 50% and the black community still on the wrong side of that number, suddenly there are all these calls for blacks being the reason that Prop 8 didn’t pass or the inherent homophobia of the black man. I’m just not comfortable with that approach. Yes, there are issues with homophobia in the black community, some of which stems from religion and some of which is completely independent of religion. No doubt. But let’s stop the race baiting and the overgeneralizing and the continued scape goating of a community.

                When people point towards Prop 8 and say, “It was the blacks!” or “It was the blacks and Latinos!”, it is such simplistic reasoning as to be mindblowing, especially when they ignore the weekly church goers (70%), elderly (67%), Republicans (81%), conservatives (82%), and those who had no gay friends or relatives (60%), all of whom voted for Prop 8 in much, much greater numbers.

                So why are we signaling out the black community? I understand TVD’s point… which was to say, “You’ll call this group bigoted for a view but not this group for holding the same view.” I won’t indulge in such buffoonery because it is more “Gotcha!” than legitimate analysis. Yes, there is an issue in the black community with homophobia that need be addressed. But there is a far, far larger issue within all of the groups listed above, which are far more politically, economically, and socially powerful groups. If we really want to move the needle on SSM reform, practically, that is where we start. We, or rather they (the members of the community itself), need to address the issues within the black community relating to this issue, starting with religion and the notions of manhood.Report

              • Avatar BSK says:

                To make a very, very long point short… blaming the black community for SSM not being more accepted is like blaming NASA for the budget not being balanced. Is NASA part of the problem? Yea. But would eliminating the problems in NASA fix things? Hellllllllllllllll no.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Well, I’m glad to see you aren’t blaming Just Religion. Religion has its part to play in all this, and I’m deeply uncomfortable trying to square the circle with my own sentiments and the moral proscriptions of my faith. In for a penny, in for a pound: I wonder at turns if I’m reducing it to some pathetic buffet table where I pick and choose what I like, rejecting the rest.

                Black culture, white culture, as you say, it’s a chicken and egg proposition. This is an era of self-service identity: see previous paragraph. When I was teaching my son to play chess, I never took it easy on him. But when I’d made a good move, I’d turn the board around and let him play the superior position until I’d gained momentum, reversing the board again. He always got to win. It’s marvelous training, especially for an endgame. Now he can beat me routinely, and has offered to reverse the board. It’s terribly galling.

                White culture has its own problems, God wot. Reversing the board on prejudice of any sort gives us all Robert Burns’ gift, to see ourselves as others see us. Yet consider what America must have been like at the end of slavery, how confused and angry everyone must have been. We see this quandary in the writings of Lincoln on slavery: nobody knew what to do because there was no precedent for this sort of thing. On the reverse side, we see Frederick Douglass writing and he was much clearer. Merely ending a bad system is not enough: we must have a better replacement. Slavery gave way to Jim Crow, not much of an improvement by my lights.

                We’re all in the same boat with LGBT issues: without presuming to speak for the members of that community, I suspect there’s reverse prejudice at work among them, too. I’d be resentful of being classified and pigeonholed in those terms: isn’t it better by far if we just quit acting as if there’s any distinction at all? The deeper question arises: why does it matter if someone’s gay? If the word Normative is to mean anything, it ought to imply Everyone Ought To. We have done ourselves no favours as an American society by clinging to the ancient divisions established by the bigots. The Brazilians laugh at Americans sorting people out on the basis of black and white, for they come in every skin tone imaginable: no less bigoted, they sort people out on another axis, by wealth and status. But when Michael Jackson started lightening his skin, I am told there was a sense of outrage in Brazil over MJ’s messing around with the lightening cream, as if he was rejecting his ur-African identity.

                Blame is the argument of the weak. It is the stick with which losers beat winners. We’re evolving as a species and we’re hard-pressed to adapt out of our ancient hatreds. It’s rather like the problem of the post-Colonial world: okay, they’re no longer colonies, but they’re still stuck within the Procrustean border defined by the colonists…. Now what?Report

              • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

                Bp, dude, excellent analysis except you’ve failed, again, to weave in LBJ’s Great Society and its pernicious effects upon the Black community. Re: the Black community’s alledged failure to be properly and progressively informed on the homosexual issue, you completely fail to understand that that community, versed as it is in Biblical knowledge and by-and-large a religious people, understand the theological problems oft associated with the lifestyle. I thought you knew that?Report