Prejudice Isn’t The Issue Here


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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243 Responses

  1. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    No retreat. No surrender.Report

  2. Avatar Murali says:

    I wonder if Americans require just a bit too much in the ash and sack cloth department from their politicians. So, here is the thing that seems weird. Politicians’ behaviour in this regard is readily understandable from an East Asian perspective. They are afraid of losing “face”. Perhaps I have never been in a position where my interests have been specifically targetted to be abridged. But it seems to me that when someone who was previously against me switches over to my side for whatever reason, even though a thorough apology would be really nice, I would not expect it, nor even demand that he do it.

    The odd thing seems to be that even though the politicians are acting in ways that make sense if we thought they cared about face, articles like this seem to be completely unaware of the concept of face and treat politicians’ failure to publicly flog themselves as a failure of common decency.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      Yes, definitely.
      The apology would have been much more meaningful had he severed a finger to demonstrate his anguish in having held his previous position.
      Perhaps smearing dung on his face should suffice for those ill-inclined to accept such an apology.

      But what is being demanded is no less barbaric; and particularly so upon its premise.
      If it is so that personhood consists of intangibles as well as material aspects, then this man should be permitted to retain some degree of dignity.

      But then, of course, the answer to, “Is it appropriate that we should rob our public officials of any manner of dignity?” is, “As fully as possible. After all, that’s the American Way.”

      Really, I don’t see hate crime legislation as anything other than, “. . . and this knee-jerk shall be set in stone.” Nothing less, and nothing else.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        FTR, I am not the one demanding that he abase himself in sackcloth and ashes. It’s the Human Rights Commission who insists upon rhetorical seppuku. I’m offering two points to the debate that I don’t think are being articulated well elsewhere.

        First, I’m speculation speculating about and soliciting the opinion of gay-identifying commenters, whether or not the apology he did make is sufficient to be at least minimally satisfactory to them. So indirectly, I’m indicating that I generally agree with Murali and Will in that we ought to have some room in our political culture for someone like Hagel to change a previously ill-considered position, and go on to thereafter serve the public with honor and command respect. Inherently, that’s a balancing act. So — is this episode an example of what that looks like? I think it might be and tepid as his apology is, maybe that’s all we the people should require of him. It seems to satisfy President Obama.

        Second, I’m pointing out that the apology that was given includes what looks like revisionism to me. Revisionism bugs me a lot because “offering an alternative interpretation of a set of agreed facts” too easily transforms into another sort of behavior known colloquially as “lying,” by way of a third sort of behavior known, among other things, as “self-rationalization.” While I stop short of accusing Hagel of dishonesty, what he did say dances (IMO) perilously close to it.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          With less snark . . .

          I see that it is within the human nature for persons to be mistaken on occasion, and sometimes terribly so.
          I also recognize that, on many occasions, lack of adequate information (for whatever reason) is at the root of it; that those situations where adequate information is lacking are more easily corrected that a great many others (which is really why I was so forgiving toward Akin).
          Experience has taught me that, in situations where there are a number of aggrieved persons, any manner of apology whatsoever will be found insufficient by at least one of them.

          In this matter in particular, the fact that the statements are over 10 yrs old carries a lot of weight with me.
          The fact that Hagel has the trust and confidence of Obama carries a lot of weight with me.

          It sort of goes without saying that any gay-identifying Leaguers would present a more thoughtful and erudite cross-section than that of the general public.
          To that end, such opinions should be held of interest.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            Now that that’s out there, I’m trying to clarify this in my mind; the difference between “lack of adequate information” and an “intelligence failure.”

            With Akin, I felt comfortable saying, “Somebody really needs to explain this to him,” whereas with the run-up to the Iraq war, I can only say, “WTF?!?!?”

            There is some substantive difference between the two, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Maybe those terms a politicized. A lack of intelligence is used as a justification for why actions we undertake go wildly wrong, whereas an intelligence failure is a justification for actions which are allowed to be perpetrated by others against us. At the end of the day, we’re just talking about whether facts on the ground justify a certain set of actions. {{And that is heavily politicized as well.}}Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Something similar to what I was thinking; that it had something to do with a time-frame, whether in compounding issues or continuity.Report

  3. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I think Hagel’s virtues as a realist speak a lot louder than his vices as dabbling in social conservative rhetoric from time to time when he was a serving member of congress.Report

  4. Avatar Bill says:

    From the gay perspective, this apology feels like no apology at all.

    The intention behind the apology is clear and is meant to serve Chuck Hagel alone.

    Perhaps he is sorry, perhaps he isn’t. That isn’t the issue for me.

    But that he chose this time to apologize rings insincere and self-serving.

    It is telling that James C. Hormel has spoken to the media about this since the story broke, and he states that Chuck Hagel has not apologized to him at all, but only has released a statement to the media. No phone call. Nothing.

    To me, that speaks for itself.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      True, that does make it seem like a shallow apology indeed.

      But from a fellow gay perspective I feel that this is, in its own way, appropriate. Perhaps in his heart of hearts Hagel never had a problem with gays. Possibly in his heart of hearts he still has a problem with them now. Either are possible. From a political and societal view, however, it behooves liberals in general and gays in particular to accept what Hagel is offering.

      Maybe he’s only aping tolerance and acceptance. Fine, we don’t need to (nor should we) be plumbing the mans soul. He’ll be Secretary of Defense and it’s highly unlikely that he would or could stonewall progress for gay rights in that area. We need to signal to opponents and enemies of homosexuality that we don’t want their souls on this matter, just their behavior. If they think we’re going to harry them to the ends of the earth on this they’ll have incentive to fight to the bitter end and that will do real harm to real gay people right now. If they instead acquiesce to gay rights only in actions and not in their hearts then their deceitful hearts will do gays no material harm.

      And if we foster an environment where culture warriors can lay down their arms and be forgiven so long as they don’t spout their anti-gay remarks all over the place. Well that’ll impede the ability of the forces of hatred to transmit those antediluvian ideals to the next generation.Report

      • Avatar ktward says:

        He’ll be Secretary of Defense and it’s highly unlikely that he would or could stonewall progress for gay rights in that area.

        You took those words right out of my mouth, North. But then you added a lot more words to it which so … elegantly drove home the broader point. Nicely done, dude. Nicely done.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Why thanks my dear lady.Report

          • Avatar ktward says:

            One of these days, I’m going to copy/paste and print the many times you’ve so very kindly called me “dear lady”, frame it, and present it to my adorable yet thankless ungrateful kids. And they will rend their garments and gnash their teeth for all the times they ever made fun of me or said a mean thing to me or about me.

            That’s how I imagine it going down, anyway.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              Man it’d do my ego good if my words could have that power on the next generation.

              But I was an irreconcilable brat to my own sainted mother so I certainly hope they would.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        I would second everything North says here – except the view that he couldn’t much get in the way of unbuilding DADT. He’ll be the official responsible for implementing it in the years when the country and the world will be watching to see how it unfolds – with critics watching most closely for trip-ups. In this regard, Chuck Hagel could be a particularly effective SecDef during this period, but he has to be enthusiastically committed to that aspect of the job. He should be questioned closely as to that commitment in light of these past attitudes and the record Burt describes. My fear (and no blame for this falls on Hagel) is that the politics will not tend to push in that direction.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          …Though on second thought, not being gay myself, I shouldn’t presume to say he’s right on the rest vis-a-vis differing views that may be held in the community. My main point here was everything that came after “except.”Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Fair enuff, but I would expect that Obama would keep a relatively close eye on this issue as would gay advocates. Any overt stonewalling by Hagel would lead to a horsehead being deposited on his bed or Obama asking for his resignation. Covertly, I dunno how much can be done to subtly block the unraveling of DADT. Obama took a long time to put the knife in it but the upside of his deliberative pace was that it was a devastatingly thorough destruction of the policy. Every facet of the services pretty much bought into it before it was KO’d.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “But from a fellow gay perspective…”

        So there IS a gay agenda! Ha! I knew it!

        Seriously speaking, you make some great points, and your nuanced approach to the scenario is laudable. However, I think Michael D. brings up a good point with regards to Hagel’s ability to stonewall progress, namely in how he supports gays in the military now that they are free to serve openly.Report

        • Avatar ktward says:

          “Now that they are free to serve openly” is the money part. Achieving just that single thing was the hardest, toughest slog. Now that that genie is out of the bottle, and given the wholly supportive trend of public opinion/legislation and the unqualified support of Obama, there will be no putting that genie back in the bottle. Genie’s out and proud! (Couldn’t resist. Sincere apologies.)

          Under the heading of Scenarios That We Can Imagine where Hagel messes things up as SecDef, this gets a So Highly Unlikely It’s Not Worth Wasting Time Over rating.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            I’d beg to differ, KTWard.

            There is still a high likelihood that gay soldiers endure harassment, are denied promotions, and face other forms of discrimination. How the military responds, starting and/or ending with SecDef will matter hugely.

            Saying, “Hey, they can serve openly… what could go wrong?” would be akin to saying, “Hey, we desegregated the schools… what else do we need to do?”

            No doubt that repealing DADT was a huge and well-earned victory. But there is still a long and winding road that the SecDef will play a pivotal role in determining just how long and just how winding.Report

            • Avatar ktward says:

              I’m not actually suggesting that nothing can go wrong in the military. That would indeed be silly of me.

              Unlike 14 years ago, our LGBT soldiers now have A) the same legal protections granted any soldier, B) high-level political advocacy, and C) broad public support. If something goes wrong, it will be dealt with the same as anything else that goes wrong in the military. (And stuff does go wrong. No question. Military women have ever had to deal with harassment, discrimination, even rape. Judicial negligence in the military is another topic altogether.)

              Specifically regarding our LGBT soldiers, Hagel cannot change the law. But more to the point, there’s no substantive evidence to suggest that Hagel wants to change it nor has any intention to surreptitiously undermine it. Now, there might very well exist some sound reason why Hagel would not make a good SecDef. But to my mind, a 14yo statement and an inadequate apology isn’t it.

              I’d say we’re making a mountain out of a molehill, except that I don’t even see a molehill. All I see is a wart on Hagel’s tuckus: ugly, sure, but ultimately inconsequential.Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                I regret leaving ya’ll with that imagery. Eww.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                That was pretty nasty.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “Unlike 14 years ago, our LGBT soldiers now have A) the same legal protections granted any soldier, B) high-level political advocacy, and C) broad public support. If something goes wrong, it will be dealt with the same as anything else that goes wrong in the military.”

                The same can be said of kids of color in our schools. Yet they still go underserved, if not outright discriminated against.

                Let’s see what happens when a highly decorated gay soldier goes unprompted, speaks outs about it, and gets told he’s asking for “special treatment”.Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                You’re absolutely right, Kazzy, in that kids of color in our schools are still, painfully, underserved and discriminated against. That is such an important conversation. It genuinely pains me that, after all these years, our society and our education system still demands those conversations.

                But you’re equating our military with our education system. They’re entirely two different beasts. That seems obvious to me, and I’m not sure why it’s not obvious to you.

                Re Hagel and his presumed nom to SecDef: you surely don’t have to take my thoughts seriously. I’m a straight chick. But don’t you at least have to give the Doc’s and North’s thoughts some due?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                I don’t deny that the military and our schools are very different. My only point is that an overarching policy does not guarantee the ends it seeks. Desegregating schools didn’t guarantee equality; ending DADT won’t either.

                I’ll confess to not having read all of North or Russ’s comments. If you read mine down at the bottom, you’ll see that I don’t wholly oppose Hagel as SecDef, but I do have specific questions I’d like to see answered. More broadly, I’d want some assurance that he would protect and advocate as fervently on behalf of his gay soldiers as he would on behalf of his straight soldiers. I cannot automatically give him the benefit of the doubt that he would because of his prior comments; but I’m fully open to giving him the opportunity to offer that assurance.Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                I’d want some assurance that he would protect and advocate as fervently on behalf of his gay soldiers as he would on behalf of his straight soldiers.

                The question here is not whether or not Hagel is an advocate. The law is what the law is. We don’t actually need Hagel to be, or have been, an actual advocate. If we need an advocate, the Commander In Chief is an advocate. Consequently, everyone under him is an advocate.

                The question, the argument, is whether or not Hagel might attempt to thwart or otherwise undermine the law as SecDef. And the basis of that argument is an admittedly abhorrent yet 14yo statement and an evidently crappy apology for said statement.

                From every conceivable direction, this argument has been thoroughly engaged on this thread. I’ve read every single comment, and I remain convinced that it’s a non-starter. I’d call it altogether lame. But no one, including you my dear Kazzy, has to take my word for it. Just read the damn thread.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                To clarify, I don’t think Hagel need have been an advocate for gay soldiers or gay rights or anything gay related. When I said that, I meant that I hoped he would be capable of treating LGBTQ servicemembers as the equals of their straight counterparts.

                “The question, the argument, is whether or not Hagel might attempt to thwart or otherwise undermine the law as SecDef. And the basis of that argument is an admittedly abhorrent yet 14yo statement and an evidently crappy apology for said statement.”

                All I am asking for is a slightly more thorough questioning of his actual stance. Something to the effect of, “This is what you said 14 years ago. This is what you said today. Can you flesh out a bit your stance on the role of LGBTQ servicemembers and what steps you’d take to ensure they can fully contributed to our armed services and our country?”

                I respect that many folks may find the apology sufficient. I don’t. I wouldn’t ask necessarily for greater penance, just a follow up question or two. I don’t need or want him to grovel. I just want him, and all candidates for SecDef, to state their position on LGBTQ service members.

                And I will now go read the thread… 🙂Report

              • Avatar ktward says:


                The last few days have been hectic and I haven’t had a moment to spare to go online, and today I have maybe five minutes to spare. But I wanted to come back here and apologize to you.

                I get … snippy sometimes, particularly when I’m not only up way past my bedtime but I’m firmly occupying over-tired territory. In the land of well-rested sanity, rather than a testy “Read the damn thread” I would instead say something like, “Really dude, I think you should read the thread.”

                There exists no universe in which you are deserving of a testy me. Sorry about that.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Zero need to apologize. Seriously. All is well. 🙂Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                Ever the Gent. 🙂 God Bless Us, Every One.Report

  5. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    Is it common for presidents to appoint cabinet members from the opposing party?Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      Not common but it happens. O appointed Huntsman to be ambassador to China. I think there is one other appointed R in high position the O admin. D’s have nominated R’s to be SECDEF a handful of times. So its not unusual.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Robert Gates, Obama’s first SecDef, was a Republican holdover from the Bush Administration. Norman Mineta, Bush’s original Secretary of Transportation, is a Democrat. Henry Cabot Lodge, the Republican VP nominee in 1960, served as an ambassador in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      Like everyone said, it’s common for a few cabinet appointments to be across party lines.

      But it’s *uncommon* the way the Democrats pick Republicans for SecDef, one of the Big 4.

      I just can’t believe a socially conservative Republican is the best the Administration thinks it can do for this nomination. Is the Democratic defense & foreign policy bench that shallow? What about Flournoy or Carter or Danzig or any of the other sub-Cabinet head or think thank folks in this list?

      If the Democrats want to be taken seriously of defense issues politically, they need to be in the arena; it’s not enough just to kill Bin Laden.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I dunno Kolohe, I think that the Dems have a good bench but by selecting candidates regardless of political affiliation that broadcasts competence and seriousness on the issue of defense pretty strongly. Certainly they’ve gained that perception in the eyes of the electorate. The utter destruction of the traditional advantage on foreign policy/defence for the GOP is an aspect of the election that was much bemoaned on the right but can probably be credited to the Dems comportment in this area (which is not to say it was without a steep price, ugh, torture, civil rights etc).Report

        • Avatar Kolohe says:

          Well, my own non-interventionist preferences are stillborn in political discourse these days, and the neocons are profoundly stupid when they’re not entirely evil, so I don’t have a problem with (and in some ways support) the centrist muscular internationalism that the Gates-H Clinton-Hagel axis represents (and you can probably through Kerry in there too).

          But if I were I partisan Democrat, I’d be pissed that, once again, Obama fails to realize that politics is a team sport – it’s not just all about him.

          But I’m not a partisan Democrat.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Chuck Hagel endorsed Obama. He gave Dick Cheney a rhetorical beating from which Cheney never recovered. If only for standing up to Dick Cheney and the neocons, he ought to be SecDef.Report

          • Avatar ktward says:

            But if I were I partisan Democrat, I’d be pissed that, once again, Obama fails to realize that politics is a team sport – it’s not just all about him.

            I think you’re confusing partisan Dems with the Far Left. But if you’re a non-interventionist (which, in polite discourse, seems to me simply a whitewashing of isolationism), I do understand how it might be easy to make that mistake.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              Yup. Non-interventionists are a minority even among Democrats. Again, I’m to the left of just about everyone here and IRL, probably 80-90% of American’s on foreign policy, but I was fully supportive of Kosovo, Libya, the first years of Afghanistan, and to be perfectly honest, if Bush had made the humanitarian argument on Iraq and not been run by neocons like Cheney and Rumsfeld, I could’ve been talked into toppling Saddam with smart people.

              I’m a liberal humanitarian interventionist, least of which, is because if we’re going to spend a couple of hundred billion dollars on the DOD, let’s make sure some of that money is used for good.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              If I were a partisan Democrat, and a smart one, I’d want not only immediate satisfaction, but long term growth and development of my institutional power. And I get that by getting the leadership in my network in the arena when it’s our turn, so that key leader in turn can further build the network and mentor & groom the next generation of leadership (which can then plant roots in both government and non-government organizations).

              The Right has been doing this network building since the Reagan administration (in all aspects of government, not just the DoD), which is why they’re still punching above their weight

              I’m not going to get that development and growth potential with the other side’s leadership in the top spot, even if that person agrees with my point of view – because he’s not part of the network. Plus, it implies a glass ceiling for Dem Defense policy wonks. (which becomes a more suitable metaphor as one of the other trial balloons being floated about is for a woman to take the DoD helm)

              Hagel is fully qualified and capable for the job. But there’s gotta to be plenty of other life long Democrats (or at least non-life long Republicans) that are equally qualified and capable, and have similar enough views on defense and foreign policy as Hagel and especially the President himself.

              (Hagel probably wouldn’t be able to get past the Senate with these anti-gay remarks were a Republican to nominate him)Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Oh, I think continually nominating Republican’s for Defense Secretary is dumb if you’re a Democratic President. I’m with you on that.Report

              • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

                I wish he had nominated Hagel first, then Rice, and made the nomination of one contingent on the other…

                Oh, well, it was not to be.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe says:

              “(which, in polite discourse, seems to me simply a whitewashing of isolationism)”

              You can call it a cranberry pine-nut turkey salad for all I care. It’s a set of policy preferences that would have resulted in thousands of fewer Americans dead, tens or hundreds of thousands fewer non-Americans dead, and a trillion dollars less up in smoke – just in the last decade alone. It wouldn’t have mattered if the Bush administration lied about the WMDs, because Sadam’s WMDs wouldn’t have been any of our daggone business. We would have deposed the Taliban, and been gone in a year, warning the new government to behave or they’d get the same thing. We wouldn’t have to be involved in one, and perhaps soon two or more Arab civil wars choosing the lesser of two evils.

              but ya knowReport

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              non-interventionist (which, in polite discourse, seems to me simply a whitewashing of isolationism)

              All isolationists are non-interventionists, but not all non-interventionists are isolationists. For example, a non-interventionist may support free trade.Report

  6. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    About one opposition party appointee every term, I’d say. Hagel is pretty high profile but it’s hardly unprecedented.Report

    • Avatar scott the mediocre says:

      Yep, it’s been more the norm than not since WW2 though as noted SecDef is relatively high in the rankings and it seems that Democratic Presidents do it rather a lot more than Republican Presidents do.

      GWB had Norman Mineta as SecTrans for a little over five years. Clinton had Cohen for SecDef for four. Carter had Schlesinger for SecEng. Nixon had Connally (Dem at the time) at Treasury for two years. JFK/LBJ had McNamara for SecDef and Dillon at Treasury. Ike’s first SecLabor was a Dem, as was Robert B. Anderson who was SecNavy for a little over a year and at Treasury for basically all of Ike’s second term.

      FDR’s SecWar (Stimson) and SecNavy (Knox) were Republicans from before Pearl Harbor through 1945 and 1944 respectively.

      Before that cross party Cabinet appointments were rarer but hardly unknown.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    It’s a crappy public apology in the grand tradition of crappy public apologies.

    * He tries to plead guilty to a lesser crime. What he said in ’98 was far worse than insensitive.
    * He claims to have merely misspoken, when what he said was clear and strong enough that he either meant it or was willing to demonize gays for partisan reasons.
    * He apologizes to a specific group, as if his comments hadn’t been generally offensive.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird says:

    This is awesome. Obama is nominating someone to a position and Republicans are screaming that this nomination is too insensitive to homosexuals and demanding someone more appropriate.

    I’m thinking that the Democrats mis-played the school shooting. They should have had Obama say something to the effect of “in light of this awful tragedy, we need to keep in mind that the discussion over the 2nd Amendment is settled” and we could get the right-wingers to scream about how we need to ban guns in the wake of the murder of children.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      I’m thinking about the nature of the game. Seems like everyone in this game is a referee, wandering around blowing their whistles and giving everyone else Yellow and Red Cards, loudly yelling about how nobody else abides by their rules.

      If this nation looked at its problems with healthy dispassion, we’d look at gun violence as an epidemiologist would look at an outbreak of typhus or hantavirus, asking questions about cause and effect, transmission vectors, you know, applying a scientific approach to a serious problem. That’s more than we can expect from anyone these days. I’m put in mind of all the gibbering Demon Rum hoo-hah surrounding Prohibition. See also Drug War, DOMA, PATRIOT Act, etc. Reasoned Debate in Congress is a contradiction in terms.

      So Chuck Hagel said something stupid lo those many years ago. We’ve got the same jackasses who backed DOMA now opposing his nomination. Perhaps we can send in troops of academic poststructuralists, since it doesn’t matter what anyone says, reasoned or unreasoned. What matters is what we think people are saying. Apologies are irrelevant, accepted by the likes of Andrew Sullivan — oh we can ignore that business. Military experience and a long career of honourable service to the nation? Likewise disposable: the GOP is entitled to oppose anyone, never mind the words on the page or the surrounding reality, if they think Hagel is a dope, that means he is.Report

  9. Avatar DRS says:

    I think it comes down to one question: did Chuck Hagel spend the intervening 14 years between his 1997 comment and today going after gays and making their lives as difficult as he could, like some other members of the Republican caucus did?

    Answer: no. He said what he thought at the time and got on with other things. Times changed and he has adjusted his thinking accordingly. Life goes on.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Personally, I think this is roughly correct; Hagel toed the party line and said what the party demanded of him, but didn’t make whipping boys out of the issues, so that makes the idea that he either was never particularly sincere about opposing gay rights in the first place or that he has since had a change of heart credible and as I keep on preaching to the choir here, it’s incumbent upon the rest of us to give the man some space to offer an apology, at least up to a point.

      But please indulge me in playing devil’s advocate for just a moment: To say “He said what he thought at the time and got on with other things” doesn’t really convey the whole picture. When a U.S. Senator casts a vote on an issue, that’s something different and more consequential than a private citizen who expresses an opinion, because that vote helps create law. We should give the Senator’s votes greater weight than we would an expression of a personal opinion accordingly.Report

      • Avatar DRS says:

        It’s your country and all that, but isn’t that fall-into-line stuff more common in the House than in the Senate? I thought that senators are the big dogs on the hill and are harder to control.

        Hagel’s comments in 1997 strike me as the kind of thing that a man of his generation and experience would say. He gave an honest comment because he believed it but didn’t build his professional career around it.

        If he’d ever chased anyone with scissors and forcibly cut their hair, then I might think he owed a bigger explanation. But until then, I’ll give him a pass.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          The US Senate can become just as partisan and fall-in-line as the House. Hagel wrote an interesting book, outlining his positions, one of the few books of its type worth a read, America: Our Next Chapter.

          Chuck Hagel is one of the last of the Mohicans. There was a day when the GOP owned the foreign policy debate and Hagel’s fingerprints were all over it during his tenure. I have my own reservations about Hagel’s opinions: he’s one of those people who wave their hands in dismissive disgust, saying America can’t possibly understand the Middle East-y things. We can and we must.

          In defence of Hagel, A: ONC is not one of those vanity press apologia. Yet Hagel did vote for the Iraq War, the very “fall-into-line” mentality you’re talking about.

          Hagel’s made the right enemies. That’s always my guide to a politician. AIPAC is livid: Over at Weak Kneed Standard, the usual catamites, shriekers and unnamed GOP sources are calling him an antisemite, proof positive Obama has made a wise choice. As Hagel stood up to Cheney and the neocons, it’s time someone stood up to the rabid pro-Israel crowd. Israel is our ally but we should speak some truth to them about the nature of the relationship: we cannot constantly support Israel’s every bad decision.

          If Hagel represents an older tradition, he’s from a time when Republicans had more honest men in their ranks. He’s not without his faults, as the unfortunate remarks about gays reveal. But if he represents a return to an era when Republicans exhibited more spinal calcium and were willing to speak truth to power, that might not be an entirely bad thing. Hagel will preside over a vast retrenching of the DOD and painful decisions must be made. I’d rather have someone who ate some C rations and endured the life of a infantryman, someone with some credibility in charge of that process, someone willing to speak truth to power and entrenched interests.Report

  10. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I wonder if American society had a ritual structure for atonement if it would make any of this easier.Report

  11. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I’d say the answer is: most definitely! Except for one thing: conservative politicians more than any other group in the UShas actively eliminated the concept of atonement and forgiveness as a cultural commodity.Report

  12. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    More than anything, it seems me that Hagel for SecDef would be a signal that Obama does intend to continue the (admittedly gradual) drawdown of military preeminence in America’s foreign policy conduct and perhaps use Hagel as a fig leaf to continue pushing for cuts to DoD spending. Bob Gates was partly used as cover to continue the Iraq drawdown, while Panetta is more of a congressional hand for budget trimming. Hagel would be a combination of both, with also the signalling of telling the Neocons to fuck off.

    That to me, is a winner.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      I agree that those seems to be Hagel’s and Obama’s policy preferences, but if Hagel is already on the outs with the members of the foreign policy Right and/or the Republican base*, I don’t see how Hagel gives Obama that much political cover.

      *and for that matter ‘the base’ may like defense spending (as do others), but they’re not all that big on a continued huge troop presence in Afghanistan. Even Romney during the campaign realized that anything other than being in favor of a drawdown (whether on a formal schedule or not) was a political loser across the board.Report

  13. I apologize that I have not taken the time to read all of the comments yet. (It’s the holiday season, and so we’re all a little pressed for time.) If I repeat any points that have already been made, I beg your indulgence.

    Over at my own wee sub-blog, I’ve railed against forced apologies time and again. Since I am gay and thus more attuned to gay rights issues, those forced apologies that pertain to said issues are the subject of most of my objections. I almost never find them convincing, and find the public demand for them pointless and silly.

    Do I find frmr Sen Hagel’s apology convincing? Not really. Do I think his original statement was a reflection of political expediency rather than a reflection of his personal views at the time? Yup. Do I give a shit what he thought then? No. Am I mollified? No, but I don’t care enough to be angry, either.

    Then-Senator Hagel’s views at the time of the statement are 100% totally irrelevant now. DADT is toast. President Obama would be his boss, and the views of the POTUS are eminently satisfactory to me. Potential-Sec Hagel’s opinions about gays would be utterly irrelevant, so his quondam opinions are even more so. Do I forgive him? Meh. I don’t care enough about him to forgive him, and I doubt he cares about me. At this particular moment, it’s moot. His opinions about gays have no bearing on policy.

    Or let me put it this way. I see “Blazing Saddles” and I see a few scenes where Mel Brooks sure seems to be making fun of gays. He seems to be laughing at us, rather than with us. But by the time he won his boatload of Tony Awards for “The Producers,” everyone had decided he was laughing with us. And I didn’t care. The culture had changed, and him along with it. What did litigating the past win us?

    And so it is with frmr Sen Hagel. It is politically necessary for him to be not-anti-gay, and that’s what he will be. Beyond that, all I care about now is that he would be competent. Which I think he will be.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

      I think this is exactly right. In 1998 I don’t think it was even politically possible for a Republican from a rural state to express a socially laizzez-faire towards homosexuality. Thankfully, the culture has shifted enough since then that this is no longer the case.

      Hagel has always struck me As an eminently decent man, and there are not that many of those in Washington. The people that are trying to torpedoe his nomination suggest to me that he’s deserving of my support.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      +1 Doc. My feelings on Hagel also. His personal beliefs don’t really have anything to do with this; his competency to enact the policies of our president have everything to do with it. And like many people who were, in the not too distant past, opposed to DADT, the sheer lack of problems from its repeal show the silliness of their opposition.

      A very Merry Christmas to you, your husband and your children. I imagine your home filled with cheer and light; and it gives me great joy. We’ve snow, further north. It looks the season. We’re off to the National Forest to cut a tree today; a few days graced by the heady smell of balsam and the cheer of lights. I may not be Christian, but some traditions are worth holding to.Report

      • Thanks, zic! To you and yours, as well.

        No snow to speak of down in my parts, other than a day’s worth after the storm a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I just got home from a beautiful, sunny run.

        And our kiddos are likely to be the only ones in their Sunday school class who also know the Hebrew blessing for lighting Hanukkah candles.Report

  14. Avatar Tel says:

    The best thing you can hope for in an elected representative is that he does accurately represent the people who elected him. It is entirely likely that the Republican base (and the US as a whole) has become more tolerant of gays in the past decade — and that’s a very good thing.

    That said, tolerance is a two-way street and no one can force other to people like them. Militant gay groups have found it convenient to use gay marriage as a wedge issue to bash Christians over the head, and that’s a dangerous and self defeating thing for any minority group to do. Attitudes take time to change, and marriage is more a part of the church than it is a part of government.

    I think the idea of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has some obvious advantages. We are heading toward a “one size fits all” mentality where people cannot be allowed to politely disagree on lifestyle issues. Privacy saves lives, “none of your business” should be an acceptable answer to lifestyle questions.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Attitudes take time to change, and marriage is more a part of the church than it is a part of government.

      Yet a gay couple can have a religious marriage ceremony with no difficulty (including church weddings in several prominent denominations), and the sticking point is whether the government recognizes it. This puzzles me.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        I agree on the workplace issue of DADT. There’s not a single rating or A school that I can think of that should be teaching recruits to engage in sexual activity of one type or another.
        It’s not a part of the job.
        That said, the bad part sets in when service members are subjected to scrutiny on off-duty hours. On a practical level, DADT leaves them open to extortion by third parties.

        Certainly; and gay couples may also partake in cannibalism and cast curses and such.
        It doesn’t make the practice widespread.
        On a larger scale, SSM is simply not a “clearly defined right.” Even were it so at the state level, this has no effect at the federal level.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          If you regard marriage as a contract, then everybody has a right to one or nobody does, depending upon whether or not you think people have a right to make contracts.

          The state may have the power to limit some sorts of contracts (say, “you kill me and eat me”), but it sort of has to justify a compelling interest to infringe the right of the citizens to engage in that contract (again, presupposing you agree that people have a right to make contracts).

          Thus, the burden is on the state to show its compelling interest to ban SSM, not the other way around.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            And DOMA says that a couple residing in, say, Maine and married by the laws of their home state are not considered married by the federal government. Why aren’t all of the states’ rights advocates up in arms about that?Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              It’s sort of buried in the case that I linked to, but the citation is from the jury instructions for section 1983 claims (violation of civil rights under color of state law) from the Ninth (Calif.). From the comments on qualified immunity:

              . . . the fact that the defendant’s conduct violated a clearly established state-law right did not defeat qualified immunity regarding the violation of federal law.

              (emphasis in original)

              Compare to Justice Steven’s dissent in part to Safford Unified School Dist. No. 1 v. Redding 129 S. Ct. 2633, 2644 (2009):
              [T]he clarity of a well-established right should not depend on whether jurists have misread our precedents.

              It’s not so much that I agree or disagree; it’s just the way our system is set up.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                That quite a technical distinction (whether a violation of state law can be used as evidence of violation of a particular provision of federal law) to expand to “The Federal government is justified in refusing to recognize state action in areas that have always been the province of the states.” At any rate, my question isn’t a purely legal one. Why does that provision of DOMA not offend the people who claim to take federalism as a guiding principle?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I can’t answer to that.
                Personally, I see it as a violation of the domestic relations exception (which I believe to be foolish and wrong-headed anyway, but that’s beside the point . . . ).Report

          • Avatar Tel says:

            Sure, people should be able to make any agreement with each other. That applies to polygamy and marrying your cousin, and other such arrangements. As far as I’m concerned those are no business of the State either, nor do I have a personal problem with people doing that.

            However, now that the State is involved, now they have the power to insist everyone recognises these agreements as a matter of law. And that’s when the fight started.

            The “one size fits all” mentality will always lead to a culture war, unless you allow religious groups to “opt out” and do their own thing in their own way.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            Something like that, yes; but an unlawful contract is void from the outset.

            That said, going through a lot of these civil rights decisions, I have to wonder why it is that “the family unit” is not identifies as a party having substantial enforceable rights.
            That is, if it is so that a family unit is created by a marriage (i.e. a charter), the same as a limited partnership can be created by charter, then it stands to reason the the family unit thus created maintains substantial and enforceable rights.
            But all I see as far as the family unit goes is assertion of the rights of individuals.
            I don’t get it.Report

        • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

          Even when SSM has been adopted by a state, it’s still not necessarily equal. A friend in Maryland found that same-sex couples are treated differently in regards to health insurance than opposite-sex couples are.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      There is so much off kilter here.

      That said, tolerance is a two-way street and no one can force other to people like them. has pretty much nothing to do with advocating for gay rights. But using the political systems to advocate for equal treatment under the law? My brother doesn’t really care if you like him. But he cares a great deal if he does not have the right to marry his partner of 25 years. (Wedding in March, YEAH!!!)

      Militant gay groups have found it convenient to use gay marriage as a wedge issue to bash Christians over the head This delightfully illustrates the fad the religious right currently has for faux victimology. It holds an illogical premise; SSM advocates are SSM advocates because it’s a good tool to ‘bash Christians over the head,’ that people who advocate gay rights are only trying punish Christians. This completely fails to the real reason why people advocate for SSM and gay rights, no matter if they’re gay or straight: because they believe it’s the moral thing to do.

      Attitudes take time to change, and marriage is more a part of the church than it is a part of government. You can get married in a church, but without a license from the state, that marriage has no recognizable legal standing. Marriage often happens without any involvement of the church at all; in homes, courthouses, and business places, conducted by Justices of the Peace and judges. Marriage is about inheritance, property ownership, taxation; it’s a legal contract. The ‘blessed by God’ is icing on the cake, not the cake. Certainly the church has claim to a stamp on marriage, but it’s not the church’s exclusive domain, never was, and never will be. And people who do not believe in God do get married. I did, 35 years ago.

      Attitudes do change. On the rights of gays, they have changed. It’s really sad that marriage equality and equal rights for a small percentage of the population discomforts some. But, thankfully, that attitude is changing. It’s wonderful and joyful and gives me great hope in humans that for a an increasing majority, equal rights comforts.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “Militant gay groups have found it convenient to use gay marriage as a wedge issue to bash Christians over the head…”

        Some of the strongest advocates for SSM I’ve met were Christians themselves, who were seeking a way to rectify their faith and convictions with their sexual orientation and romantic pursuits. They didn’t want to bash the Church; they wanted to find a way to be fully present within it.Report

        • Avatar Tel says:

          … seeking a way to rectify their faith and convictions with their sexual orientation and romantic pursuits.

          They think government can pass a law that makes them see their own faith and convictions differently?

          Seems like a very strange approach to faith.Report

      • Avatar Tel says:

        Marriage is about inheritance, property ownership, taxation

        On inheritance, people should write a will, and the will should be carried out.

        On property ownership, of two or more people want to share their property amongst themselves, that’s their business.

        Taxation should be on an individual basis as far as I’m concerned. I’m aware that the State might not quite get as much power and revenue out of a simplified tax system as what it can out of a highly complex tax system, but we all need to compromise.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          For several thousand dollars, you can have whatever will (or, as long as you’re seeing a lawyer, an inter vivos trust) and can restructure your property to establish joint ownership with whoever you want. You take your chances with whether banks, hospitals, paramedics, and your chosen partner’s family will go along with your wishes in the event of an emergency.

          Or, if you happen to want to do these things with a person of the opposite sex with whom you are not consanguineous, and as an added bonus enjoy instant, unquestioned, and universal social acceptance for that relationship, then you can get married — for a cost of generally less than a hundred dollars.

          That’s fair, right?Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            And now, lets talk about the kids. Parental rights.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              How much time each parent gets with the children is often the biggest nastiest part of a divorce.
              Part of the struggle with divorce is that the reasons for the split are not foreseen or dealt with in the marriage contract ie: substance abuse and/or domestic violence. The courts end up having to figure out how to settle the parents dispute based on the original contract, the best interests of the children and if other things like restraining orders and crimes are involved.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Damn I wish we could get past calling marriage a “contract.” Contracts are the terms that govern a commercial transaction in which valuable consideration is exchanged and are legally enforceable by way of providing remedies to a non-breaching party — remedies that take the form of monetary relief or injunctions prohibiting particular kinds of conduct. Marriage isn’t even remotely like that.

                It’s a special relationship. Maybe it was contractual once upon a time when sons and daughters (particularly daughters) were married off to seal important political and commercial transactions. But contemporary law has propelled the relationship well beyond the realm of contract.

                You need a label to attach to this special relationship? Fortunately, one exists. The word is “marriage.”Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                In the case of same-sex couples, and I’d wonder how this effects re-married parents, parental rights are extremely complicated. Talk about the show-me-your-papers rituals evoked, even the right to authorize medical care requires a show of papers.

                While ‘contract’ might not be the right word to describe marriage, there is a set of social rules laid out by a legal marriage, including the rights of a parent, that same-sex couples are often excluded from. Which leads to my point; the ‘contract’ involved isn’t just between the two people being married, but between those two people and the rest of society. This is, I think, at the heart of the push for SSM; recognition of family, and the right to participate in the social contract between the family and the society.Report

              • Avatar Rod Engelsman says:

                Someone, somewhere else in this thread, called marriage a “charter.” Again, not exactly right, technically, but a lot closer to the mark than a contract.

                As zic points out, a marriage is as much, or more, about the relationship of the two people involved vis-a-vis the rest of society than it is so much between those two people themselves. It waves a legal magic wand over two unrelated people and transforms their relationship into the most intimate one recognized by society, next-of-kin.

                I get frustrated with the glibertarian cries to just get the State out of it altogether. That’s like having the State get out of the business of recording and recognizing property titles and business charters. If you really got the State out of the business of marriage altogether, then you would obviate most of the rationale for marriage in the first place.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      “Militant gay groups have found it convenient to use gay marriage as a wedge issue to bash Christians over the head, and that’s a dangerous and self defeating thing for any minority group to do.”

      FWIW, I know a lot of gays and lesbians, and none of them – not one – supports gay marriage because they think doing so makes Christians look bad. In fact, most of the gays and lesbians I know are Christians.Report

      • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

        For the record, militant Christian groups have found it convenient to use gay marriage as a wedge issue to beat homosexuals over the head.Report

        • Avatar Rtod says:

          Yeah, I confess I considered going with that.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Word. Gay marriage, more than anything else (during the short span I’ve been alive, anyway), has done the most to make Christians look downright unchristian. Or, more precisely, has given them the most opportunity to look Christian and, instead, they’ve chosen to look like a bunch of Pharisees and Sadducees.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            look like a bunch of Pharisees and Sadducees

            Perfectly well-meaning people who’ve been slandered through the ages by pressure groups with an agenda? I think not..Report

        • Avatar Tel says:

          Can you explain how you figure that?

          Whose life is better as a result? Obviously not religious bed and breakfast owners. But is mine? No of course it isn’t. I’d rather sleep in a ditch than spend a night in the home of people who dislike me. All the case has done is to harden the identities of both Christians and gay people and forced onto both of us an armour which I, for one, would prefer not to be encumbered with. I detest the legislation that was used against the Bulls: but now, in the backs of the minds of the majority of my fellow citizens, is the germ of an idea that all gay people are hell-bent on transforming every public and private sphere into our image. Quite what the impact of the law will be on those bouncers who stand outside the night club on Marine Parade in Brighton, and ask potential entrants: Do you know this is a gay venue? will be, I’m not sure. Presumably it will have to stop, and young gay Brightonians will just have to put up with sharing their space with people who hate them. We had a system of unwritten rules, and they worked. Now we have case law that forces people to take sides and stop using their common sense. I cannot call this ‘progress’.


          • Avatar ktward says:

            Your link is to a two years old rightwing UK blog piece regarding UK law. Not relevant to this thread.

            However, it does answer a few questions.Report

            • Avatar Tel says:

              You think there’s no political linkage between the US, UK, Australia, NZ and other Western Democratic nations?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                It actually goes back to Lord Coke and the Star Chamber.
                That’s the point of commonality between the laws of the English-speaking world.

                The high points:
                Magna Carta. Rights extend to others than the king.
                Tyler’s Rebellion. Commoners pissed that rights didn’t extend to them.
                Lord Coke. Those rights really do extend to the commoners.

                Colonization led to a few substantial differences; such as whether conspiracy requires an overt act, and whether procedural due process rights are applicable.Report

              • Avatar Tel says:

                I’m not calling you wrong, but just to shift the focus onto more modern matters.

                A bunch of issues all came to the forefront in multiple nations at the same time, and SSM was one of those. Seems like some sort of coordination, almost like people can talk to one another over long distances.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I was just identifying the common source of laws. It’s changed a lot since then. And of course, new things have come up, like the telegraph.

                But yes, such issues seem to have come up in several different places.
                The US traces its colonization back to commercial ventures and religious misfits; so it’s not inappropriate that we would have a different take on things.
                As a means of comparison, Canada, which expressly forbade rights to Catholics and Jews for the early part of their history, has SSM.
                Australia, I’m not so sure about; though I can tell you that they no longer view themselves as a penal colony.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                As a means of comparison, Canada, which expressly forbade rights to Catholics and Jews for the early part of their history, has SSM.

                Yes, we have SSM (and the sun still comes up same as usual everyday). Yes, we have had some crappy anti-semitic incidents and an undercurrent of bad attitudes for much of our history.

                But Catholics? Over half the country was Catholic until after WWII and depending how you count well into the late 1960’s – Protestants have this tendency to splinter into sects, you see, and thus it’s easy to outnumber them if you stick together in a large clump. We had a Catholic prime minister in the 1890’s and there have always been powerful cabinet ministers who were Catholic right from the founding in 1867. Heck, even the British overlords consulted Catholic leaders in the 1760’s after the takeover from the French.

                So I’m not sure where the Catholics didn’t get rights thing comes from. There were property qualifications for voting for many years, but that was across the board, not religion-specific.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Follow-up: not sure about the Jews actually not having rights. It was ridiculously hard to get into the country if you were Jewish and there were all kinds of social difficulties, like not getting hired if you were Jewish. But if they passed the property qualifications they could vote and there were no restrictions on worship.Report

              • Avatar Zach says:

                “So I’m not sure where the Catholics didn’t get rights thing comes from. There were property qualifications for voting for many years, but that was across the board, not religion-specific.”

                You obviously haven’t heard of the Acadians then.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Of course I’ve “heard” of the Acadians. You’re referring to the Great Expulsion of 1755-1763, I assume? When the French residents of the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island were forcibly gathered up, their homes burned and property destroyed, and placed on ships to France and France-owned Louisianna? Okay. Well, let’s look at the context.

                It was the Seven Years War. The Acadians had long refused to sign loyalty oaths to the British Crown, largely because swearing loyalty to the man who was head of the church in Britain conflicted with Catholic loyalty to the Pope. (The British had taken over Acadia in 1710, so there had been plenty of time for the paperwork had anyone been so inclined.) So there was a wartime situation, British troops spread out across a wide territory and fighting both French and Indian warriors. Suddenly the prospect of a disloyal group in the background getting up to whatever was not so appealing. So they were rounded up and expelled.

                For 1760, that was actually pretty enlightened behaviour. The British didn’t hesitate to break heads in other colonies during the same time period or even later. And in 1760 the concept of “rights” was a pretty flimsy one. As I said above, the British overlords were doing quite well to consult with Catholic local leaders in the newly conquered New France at the same time.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      “Attitudes take time to change, and marriage is more a part of the church than it is a part of government.”

      I’m not sure if this is the case, but if it is it’s worth noting that that are large, non-fringe churches (e.g.: Episcopal) that wish to marry same sex couples in states whose gevernments will not allow them to do so.Report

      • Avatar Tel says:

        And the correct answer is that the State keeps out of people’s personal lives. If those people want to accept certain practices within their community that’s their business… and of other people in other churches don’t agree with that particular lifestyle they have that right to not agree.

        Like I said, tolerance is a two way street.Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          Yes, tolerance is a two way street. But you’re still suggesting that somehow, by asking for equality under the rule of law — equality to serve your nation, equality to wed the partner of your choice — people are forcing something on the religious. I believe the current cultural cliche is ‘shoving down our throats.’

          But the shoving goes the opposite direction; they religious forcing something on others.

          The rights of inheritance; the rights of making medical decision, the rights of family are defined by the state, not the church. Churches may perform weddings, but those weddings are not binding under the rule of law without the licence from the state.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            I’ve said this many times before, and this looks like a good place to repeat myself.
            If probate law is the driving issue behind it, there is a procedure in place for the reform of probate law.
            To separate gays from all cohabiting couples in this impetus for the reform of probate law unnecessarily alienates a very large natural constituency.Report

            • Avatar zic says:

              Can you say this in plain English for us with impaired functions this evening?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Similarly situated parties.
                Gays aren’t the only ones confronting those issues. There are quite a number of cohabiting couples in America, and those concerns apply equally among them. Those are real things that really need addressed, and I find it unnecessarily divisive to single out gays as requiring greater manner of protection in issues reserved to the probate courts (i.e. wills, guardianships, etc.).
                Everybody deserves to have those protections.Report

              • Avatar Tel says:

                Including polygamists right?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:


              • Avatar Tel says:

                Well we agree then.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                I know several women who would like to have two or three husbands.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

                Polygamy isn’t and shouldn’t be thought of as analogous to (unigamous?) heterosexual marriage, but gay marriage should.

                Here is why. It is very easy under the current law to extend the rights and benefits of straight married couples to gay married couple:, but it would be absurdly difficult with polygamous marriage. Here’s an example of what I mean. Suppose 2 men and 3 women are married. One of the men and one of the women who have children together die in a car crash. The remaining marital partners split up shortly thereafter in an acrimonious dispute. Who gets custody? I know. “best interests of the child” bit that is still a confusing situation. What happens to the estate?

                Moreover, suppose one man marries 20 Russian brides. Do they all get green cards and immigration advantages for their families? What do we do about larger communal marriages that are making too much and too good a use of marital tax breaks.

                In the long run, I am in favor of the government offering a legal contract called “polygamous marriage” (Part of the contract will require a stronger proof of consent than we have in unigamous marriage, just because of the stronger possibility that polygamy could be used as a form, of social control and abuse of women.) But that polygamous marriage contract will have to be, obviously, very different -and much more complicated- than current 2 party marriages in terms of spousal rights, immigration, inheritance, etc., such that each party in the polygamous party will have smaller benefits and weaker legal claims on children, estate property, etc. in virtue of the marriage contract.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                So essentially, cohabiting would be a marriage. What about roommate situations? I don’t know if I want the kid my college-age offspring shares an apartment with having the right of medical decision, inheritance, etc. Nor a girlfriend/boyfriend that same child might choose to try cohabiting with short term.

                I do, on the one hand, agree with you for un-married long-term relationships; but the argument becomes discriminatory because heterosexual couples are allowed to wed, gays are not in most states, and their unions are not recognized by the federal government.

                That said, the other important point would be the ease of separation should we decide the union does not work. Divorce, like marriage, is a legal procedure; cohabiting/separation are social (until 7 yrs. where I believe some common-law marriage rules kick in, I suspect that varies by state.)

                Thank you for restating.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                The rule for common law marriages in New Mexico (when I was growing up there) was one year of cohabitation or the opening of a joint account, whether a checking account, credit card, etc.

                But really, the notion that “essentially, cohabiting would be a marriage” is an over-simplification.
                I understand your concerns, and I hold them to be valid.

                In the greater context, it would seem as if there is something very healthy for the institution of marriage in having such discussions, that we might further define it and reassert its value.

                (and I’m quite happy to restate whenever needed. You’re quite welcome)Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                States Rights.

                One issue with marriage is that it is legally defined by each state; there are 50 sets of rules plus DC & territories.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                But I’m not really so sure why that is necessarily the case.
                I know that the laws fall into two broad categories; the common property states and the non-common property states, and that this is derived from the source of common law (whether the English or Spanish, or the French) of the forum state.

                But take the case of marriage at sea.
                I’m not sure of controlling law in such matters.
                Licensing, blood tests, waiting requirements, the length of time the license is valid until the marriage, etc. What might be controlling law in such matters?
                And, perhaps more importantly, is this the proper arrangement of things? Does it coincide well with our other bodies of law?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                As I understand it, (and I don’t even play a lawyer on TV commercials,) the law in place where the marriage ceremony is performed governs the formation of the marriage; wait times, blood tests, etc. would vary by state. But the laws governing maintaining or dissolving the marriage are the laws where the couple lives. The same hold true of foreign marriages; laws governing the contract were the countries where the marriage was formed; law of state of resident governs maintenance and dissolution.

                And I’d guess this is part of the difficulty that led to dissolution of common-law marriage rights; states that didn’t have common-law marriage were troubled granting marriage rights to couples they deemed not married; they wanted a licence and an official record in the town where the marriage was performed as part of verifying the legal contract.

                I don’t know about marriage at sea; except that ship captains have the power to marry.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Cohabiting couples divide into two groups:

                * Those of opposite sexes can gain a certain amount of legal protection by marrying.
                * Those of opposite sexes cannot (in some states, and even in the others do not have federal protection)..

                “Singling out gays” is a weird way to describes making their situations equal.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Prospective future decisions do not alter the current state of matters at issue.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                And non-sequiturs don’t make it less weird.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I like common law marriage. just saying, we have Real Ideas from Way Back When on how to address some of these things…Report

        • Avatar Rtod says:

          ??? Am I wrong, or did you just move the goalposts to a completely different stadium?

          I’m not seeing how people wanting to marry is “intolerant” in any way that makes the definition of that word meaningful.

          If I may, I think it’s possible that you’re assuming an agenda on the vast majority of the gay and lesbian community that simply is not there.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            There are things which naturally follow.
            I believe it was last year when the State of Illinois halted payments for adoption services through the Catholic church due to the churches refusal to adopt to gay couples.

            I support the church’s position in this; not because of any amount of agreement or disagreement, but out of respect of their rights. They have a right to say what goes on in their church.
            In this particular matter, I believe the need of orphans waiting for adoption is far greater than the percentage of gay couples looking to adopt in the State of Illinois.
            So long as gay couples are able to adopt through other service providers, I don’t see the real issue here.Report

            • Avatar ktward says:

              Yes, the Catholic Church absolutely has the right to say what goes on in their own church. And operate on its own dime, rather than the taxpayers’. Meanwhile, those tax dollars can go to adoption services that do not discriminate.Report

              • Avatar Tel says:

                I happen to believe the State should avoid being in the business of charity as well (other than a very minimal safety net). That’s perhaps an argument for another page.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Depends on what we mean by “charity”, I think. On one extreme end, does providing an attorney to defend you in the event you can’t afford one constitute charity?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Even that’s being whittled away at.
                Recently, some commission from the State of Missouri issued recommendations regarding complaints of inadequate representation from the public defenders office.
                The solution? Stop providing services to persons where a plea offer does not involve jail time, but probation (which quite often results in jail time later) and fines.
                Of course, the St. Louis County prosecutor gave public statements that he thought this was a wonderful idea.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well that’s depressing. Do you have a link to that story Will?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I heard about it on the radio, but with a bit of Google-Fu I came up with this:
                From the St. Louis Post-DispatchReport

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Just read thru the link Will, and the argument seems muddled. He seems to be arguing that the public defender office isn’t justified in asking for more money (because the State is already strapped for cash) even tho his solution requires the state to pony up more money!

                And he undermines his own argument that the private sector could to the job more effectively than the Defenders office when he concedes that In fact, courts have found that public defenders provide ineffective assistance to their clients less often than paid criminal defense attorneys.

                So the only metric he’s considering is efficiency – how many cases an attorney can handle at one time – which tilts in the private sector’s favor. And he even provides the answer for why that is: because private sector attorneys provide “ineffective assistance to their clients” relative to PDs.

                But, it’s a lobbying piece, really. Propaganda. So I shouldn’t be too critical I suppose.Report

              • Avatar Tel says:

                Wherever you draw the line, someone will have a go at getting a bit more than that. So I’m not going to try and draw the line here.

                I will point out that by not allowing a line to ever be drawn, the US government has run itself well and truly bankrupt… and that’s bad for everyone. Bad for the gays, bad for the children, bad for the religious right, the whole lot. Hopefully that gets fixed, and we all get a chance to think it over a second time.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Wherever you draw the line, someone will have a go at getting a bit more than that.

                Sure. But someone also have at restricting things a little bit more than that? It’s human nature, no>

                I will point out that by not allowing a line to ever be drawn, the US government has run itself well and truly bankrupt… and that’s bad for everyone. Bad for the gays, bad for the children, bad for the religious right, the whole lot.

                We might have to disagree about that – I dunno for sure – but a principled limit on what constitutes “governmental charity” will almost definitionally hurt some people. But the point I want to make here isn’t so much that their hurt, but rather, what acceptable definition of “governmental charity” would justify hurting them?

                Like I said earlier, on one end of the spectrum is the governmental provision of defense against criminal charges. That doesn’t strike me as a form of charity since it’s entailed by provisions in the Constitution.

                On another side is the provision of subsidies incentivizing adoption. It seems to me that the provision of those subsides might constitute a form of charity – on a very narrow meaning of the term, one that I think isn’t standard and I’m unable to get clear on. But even if it does constitute charity, it seems to me it’s entirely within the purview of government to set conditions on the receipt of it. Eg., it cannot be used to discriminate against people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Stillwater, on one end of the spectrum is the governmental provision of defense against criminal charges. this spurs another thought: the right to not testify against your spouse.Report

              • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

                Wow, there’s a shock.

                [rolls eyes]Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                “Access” is about availability.
                Perhaps in areas where no other organization is available to provide those services, this might be appropriate.
                But if the Church is adopting 7000 children a year, and gays are not substantially impaired in their ability to adopt, why should those 7000 children be denied permanent homes?Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                We’re getting into the weeds so I’ll just leave it at this:

                Not without a fight, of course, but Catholic Social Services in IL severed ties with the Diocese so that they could comply with IL law. Which tells us that they received considerably more funding from taxpayers than they did from the CC.

                Anyhoo, CSS still provides services. Along with a good number of other providers, many of them Christian, who also comply with IL law. Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                On many occasions, the weeds are where the field of battle lies.Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                Sure. But in IL, which is the example you used and that I was specifically responding to, there is no more battle left to fight. It’s done.

                I tried to google up a good outline of this specific issue. After a quick skim, this NYT piece seemed the most explanatory. It concludes: “The child welfare system that Catholic Charities helped build [in IL] is now strong enough to survive their departure.”

                But they didn’t depart. As I mentioned earlier, they simply separated themselves from the Diocese so they could continue to receive state funds.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Nothing is over until after the appellate process is completed.Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                I don’t believe they are appealing. I could be wrong about that, but that’s my last recollection.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I haven’t heard of them appealing the matter either, but the statement was without regard to the immediate case at hand.
                General principles are not confined to one specific set of facts.

                But I think we’re talking past each other at this point.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                And operate on its own dime, rather than the taxpayers’.

                Excellent point, ktward. The Church is entitled (legally!) to do whatever they want on this issue, except insofar as it wants to receive government funding. If they do, then government gets to stipulate the conditions. But for some reason, the Church and its defenders want to have their cake and eat it too.

                It makes no sense to me except as nonsense.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                It makes no sense to me except as nonsense.

                Then let’s try looking at it from a perspective other than of funding.

                Does the Catholic church, in providing adoption services, perform a governmental function, or is the function church-related in some way?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Ahh. You’re using pragmatics to extend the limits of the law. I’m using the law as a constraint on pragmatics.


              • Avatar ktward says:

                It confounds me to no end, too. Plus, we’re not talking federal funding here. We’re talking state funding.

                Catholic Charities/orgs still reap a ton of federal funds.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Ok, then if a county accepts private donations for the renovation of a courthouse, then is renovation of the courthouse a governmental function or a charitable function?

                This is precisely the same manner in which issues of absolute or qualified immunities are determined.Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                The government hands out contracts all the time. On the local, state, and federal levels. It is entirely reasonable that anyone applying for that contract be held to the laws and conditions of that contract. In this case, contract conditions vary from state to state because laws vary from state to state.

                Catholic Charities, in IL, were not in compliance with IL law. So they lost the contract. Simple as that. In the end, they complied with the law, kept the contract.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              I think you’re thinking of MA, not IL.
              That said, the church, as you note, was getting a taxpayer subsidy for their activity. I don’t see anything wrong with rerouting that subsidy to non-discriminating adoption agencies and letting the church continue their own activities minus the subsidy. Of course the church didn’t profer that as an option; they said “give us the money with no restrictions or we’ll discontinue the service”.Report

          • Avatar Tel says:

            If any group of people want to make an agreement amongst themselves and they are determined to honour that agreement, then great for them. No need for government to get involved, no need for their neighbours to care, or even know about that agreement.

            If people want to live a certain lifestyle, amongst themselves, then that’s none of my business, none of your business, certainly none of the State’s business.

            However, if those people want to use the power of the State to make everyone accept their decisions, and force everyone to approve of their lifestyle, that’s a completely different issue.

            For what it’s worth I don’t support the Federal DOMA, because government should not be attempting to construct a global definition for what should rightfully be a church issue. But I repeat myself, apparently out of necessity.Report

            • Avatar Rtod says:

              I am not aware of anyone pushing for the government to make it mandatory for individuals to approve of same sexReport

              • Avatar mark boggs says:

                Yeah, but when the government gives out business licenses to strip clubs and adult bookstores, I necessarily approve of them. Ergo…I spend an inordinate amount of time there. Just like gay marriage.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Legal marriages are contracts. Why should the gov be saying certain people can form a contract and others can’t form a contract. If i form a contract that doesn’t imply you agree or disagree with it. If i need to go to the court to arbitrate how to deal with that contract being broken or materially changed that has nothing to do with whether you like it or not.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Legal marriages are contracts.

                I keep hearing this, but I haven’t actually seen any authoritative citation.

                I assert that legal marriages are actually a charter.

                Prove me wrong.

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Well i’ll hit the Google machine for an appropriate authority after i go shopping, but until then i’ll offer this unauthoritative thought. A contract is a legally binding agreement between two people ( or more than two but lets leave that alone for now) that describes rights and such. The stuff we agree to when most of us got married is actually pretty vague and non-quantifiable like loving, honouring and obeying. The basic marriage contract doesn’t even say you won’t screw around without permission.

                The actual solid legal parts of a marriage are stuff like child custody and decision making, inheritance, money/estates and legal decisions. Those are all things that are arbitrated by the courts if there is a disagreement and are described in the law regarding marriage. By marrying we are agreeing to abide by the set of laws regarding how to settle the above disputes and how things work while you are married. That sounds like a contract to me.

                Charter??? Hmm, I’m not seeing that. Getting married isn’t some grant by the gov to be an official corporation or being given special rights to do anything.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                I see.
                However, to my understanding, any contract must contain auditing provisions to be enforceable.
                Is marriage then an unenforceable contract?
                Or, as a contract, is it simply void from the outset?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                auditing provisions= my mother in law ( insert uproarious laughter)

                But anyway, auditing doesn’t really apply much with just two people unless they make a pile of money. I would think with two high income people with significant property, stock, etc then they can and do use CPA’s just like a business. Marriage contracts come into play with taxes, so that may count regarding auditing and really hit the ran when people divorce.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I sincerely doubt any contract lawyer would tell you that one!
                Oral contracts are considered binding (if substantially harder to enforce without witnesses…), “I’ll do this, and you’ll do that”, and one can sue for damages. Proving proof of breech of contract does not require auditing provisions (it does require evidence, however…).Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                If I were pleading breach of contract with an oral contract, I would go with quantum meruit or unjust enrichment (both, if available), and probably constructive fraud as well.

                That a contract with no auditing provisions is unenforceable is one of the standards of contract law; although auditing provisions is not a necessary element of a contract.

                I would like to avoid that whole line of thought before we get into quasi-contracts.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                In my experience, it isn’t hard to get both parties to agree that there was an oral contract. Generally people agree that some sort of deal was made.

                It is difficult to get them to agree on what the terms of that contract were, as each will tend to recollect the terms that favor their own side. Which is a problem because it’s also difficult to get them to agree on what the facts are (the other party always breached the contract first).Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                How often do you see contracts with unenforceable clauses? I mean, ones which are actively counter to the law on the subject?
                I mention this, because I’ve seen it happen several times, particularly with “standard” contracts.
                A contract that would say my homeowner’s policy is liable for any injuries on my property, when in actuality any injury done while a contractor’s employees are working, actually ought to be covered by their own insurance…Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                How often do you see contracts with unenforceable clauses? I mean, ones which are actively counter to the law on the subject?

                I see such terms in roughly 95% of the contracts I come across that have been written by other lawyers.


              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Marriage is a covenant. A charter, as I understand it, grants rights to a legal entity. That much I do know from corporation formation.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Exactly what I was getting at.
                And somewhat derived the comments upthread with zic discussing common law marriage– that the family is a cohesive unit which engages in commerce apart from the individuals which make up that unit.
                It stands to reason that the family as an entity, separate and apart from the individuals which make up that family, should then hold substantial and enforceable rights.

                And I hate to say it, but it also brings up the Commerce Clause.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                *blink* Okay. This is a good point. I’d say a marriage is still a contract, but it does, in the signing of, create a legal entity. After all, speech between a husband and wife is protected speech.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Again, I’m being a pedantic, persnickety lawyer here, so forgive me for that. The protection given to marital speech is also a function of the law of evidence. Thus, again we see the involvement of the state — marriage affects what kind of testimony is admissible in court. The rules of evidence are not something that I’d expect most people are thinking about when they choose get married. “We’ll have a nice house with a picket fence and 2.3 dogs and you can prohibit me from testifying against you in court except as set forth in Family Code section 245.8(b)*!” I mean, sure some people (criminals) probably think about that. But not most.

                * (Legal citation created fictitiously for comic effect. Your state’s laws may vary. Please consult a lawyer admitted to practice in your jurisdiction concerning the scope of marital privileges applicable where you live.)Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Legal Definition of Marriage:

                A contract made in due form of law, by which a free man and a free woman reciprocally engage to live with each other during their joint lives, in the union which ought io exist between husband and wife. By the terms freeman and freewoman in this definition are meant, not only that they are free and not slaves, but also that they are clear of all bars to a lawful marriage.

                To make a valid marriage, the parties must be willing to contract, able to contract, and have actually contracted.They must be willing to contract.


              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Thank you for that.
                However, this is a discussion of law without citations to controlling law.Report

              • Avatar zic says:


                The legal status, condition, or relationship that results from a contract by which one man and one woman, who have the capacity to enter into such an agreement, mutually promise to live together in the relationship of Husband and Wife in law for life, or until the legal termination of the relationship.

                Marriage is a legally sanctioned contract between a man and a woman. Entering into a marriage contract changes the legal status of both parties, giving husband and wife new rights and obligations. Public policy is strongly in favor of marriage based on the belief that it preserves the family unit. Traditionally, marriage has been viewed as vital to the preservation of morals and civilization.

                The traditional principle upon which the institution of marriage is founded is that a husband has the obligation to support a wife, and that a wife has the duty to serve. In the past, this has meant that the husband has the duty to provide a safe house, to pay for necessities such as food and clothing, and to live in the house. A wife’s obligation has traditionally entailed maintaining a home, living in the home, having sexual relations with her husband, and rearing the couple’s children. Changes in society have modified these marital roles to a considerable degree as married women have joined the workforce in large numbers, and more married men have become more involved in child rearing.

                Individuals who seek to alter marital rights and duties are permitted to do so only within legally prescribed limits. Antenuptial agreements are entered into before marriage, in contemplation of the marriage relationship. Typically these agreements involve property rights and the terms that will be in force if a couple’s marriage ends in Divorce. Separation agreements are entered into during the marriage prior to the commencement of an action for a separation or divorce. These agreements are concerned with Child Support, visitation, and temporary maintenance of a spouse. The laws governing these agreements are generally concerned with protecting every marriage for social reasons, whether the parties desire it or not. Experts suggest that couples should try to resolve their own difficulties because that is more efficient and effective than placing their issues before the courts.

                In the United States, marriage is regulated by the states. At one time, most states recognized Common-Law Marriage, which is entered into by agreement of the parties to be husband and wife. In such an arrangement, no marriage license is required nor is a wedding ceremony necessary. The parties are legally married when

                they agree to marry and subsequently live together, publicly holding themselves out as husband and wife. The public policy behind the recognition of common-law marriage is to protect the parties’ expectations, if they are living as husband and wife in every way except that they never participated in a formal ceremony. By upholding a common-law marriage as valid, children are legitimized, surviving spouses are entitled to receive Social Security benefits, and families are entitled to inherit property in the absence of a will. These public policy reasons have declined in significance. Most states have abolished common-law marriage, in large part because of the legal complications that arose concerning property and inheritance.

                The U.S. Supreme Court has held that states are permitted to reasonably regulate marriage by prescribing who can marry and the manner in which marriage can be dissolved. States may grant an Annulment or divorce on terms that they conclude are proper, because no one has the constitutional right to remain married. There is a right to marry, however, that cannot be casually denied. States are proscribed from absolutely prohibiting marriage in the absence of a valid reason. The U.S. Supreme Court, for example, struck down laws in southern states that prohibited racially mixed marriages. These antimiscegenation statutes were held to be unconstitutional in the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1817, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1010, because they violated Equal Protection of the laws.


              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Thank you.
                The Loving citation is controlling law, but this is a Fourteenth Amendment issue; equal protection.

                This is controlling law; R.S.Mo. § 451.010:

                Marriage is considered in law as a civil contract, to which the consent of the parties capable in law of contracting is essential.

                Still, I have my reservations.
                First, this states that marriage is to be adjudicated under the laws of contracts, and not much else.
                Secondly, it offers no guarantee that “marriage as a contract” is a proper categorization for purposes other than adjudication under contract law.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                A marriage ketubah is a contract.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Sure is, and at once a work of art adorning many homes and a stark visual reminder of a historic legacy of marriage as a chattel transaction between men.Report

            • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

              Do you approve of Fiats? Because the state licenses them, as well.

              It seems to me that taking the position that no one should have to pay taxes that contribute to government activities of which they disapprove is a little too absolutist and doctrinaire to survive in the real world.

              Otherwise, you can draw bright red lines that would bring society to a standstill: Don’t approve of contraceptives? Well, FDA approval of oral contraceptives, or FTC specification of condom standards puts government in the position of “approving” contraception. How about Quakers and the Pentagon? 7th Day Adventists and liquor age restrictions and taxes?

              So, I find myself completely unpersuaded by arguments that go down this path.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Bu the way, how did people buy Fiats before 1971?Report

              • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark says:

                Hopefully with an extended warranty…Report

              • Avatar Tel says:

                If your position is that the State collects tax by force from everyone, and then trickles this money back to some people, selectively, based on lifestyle choice… then in effect the State is using public money to pay people to follow a certain lifestyle.

                I believe that the State serves a purpose of mutual defense of the realm, defining property rights where necessary (and only where necessary) and protecting people from violence. The purpose of the State is not to buy lifestyle choices, and certainly not to attempt to force people to approve of each others choices.Report

              • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark says:

                So you’re asserting that the state should get out of the marriage business altogether? I don’t agree, but it’s a defensible position.

                But from reading your posts on this thread, it appears that this minimalist government is okay licensing heterosexual marriage, but to do the same with homosexual marriage is an imposition of values.

                Do I have this right?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          If you want to practice whatever the hell you want in your own church, then that’s none of my business.

          I find it deeply offensive when you practice that crap in public. I’d appreciate it if you weren’t like that where children might see and get the wrong idea. The last thing our culture needs is children who don’t believe in limits to their jurisdiction.Report

          • Avatar Tel says:

            In Kuwait you can get arrested for drinking a glass of water in public. You probably don’t personally agree with that, but they justify it exactly the same way — need to make sure everyone sees that religious standards are being maintained.

            I believe that groups of people should be able to gather together and live the lifestyle that they choose between themselves, and let’s be honest with ourselves, every city on earth has some sort of public decency laws, many of them completely arbitrary. The same people who are horrified that a Muslim woman must by law cover her face in public, are also horrified by a woman running around their town with her tits out, or a guy running around with his balls hanging out.

            The only answer is that public decency standards are variable, and so long as everyone knows the deal, they will make the effort to associate with people they can get along with.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I suppose I can’t ask for more self-reflection than you’ve offered here.

              If you’re happy with your contemporaries, knock yourself out. I’d just ask that you do what you do behind closed doors with your drapes shut.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Because, seriously, when I find myself saying something like “the best analogy to what I’m doing is how Saudi Arabia treats women”, I usually follow that up with saying something like “HOLY SHIT I NEED TO CHANGE” rather than something like “people are people the world over”.Report

              • Avatar Tel says:

                In my experience (far from universal) most modern-lifestyle Muslims in Western nations are pretty tolerant of difference in public. The women may cover their faces, but they don’t freak out if other people behave differently. In the Middle East that’s not the case, and if you have any good ideas for the Christians in Syria, Libya and Egypt then I’m interested to hear them, but basically all I can think of is that the Christians get together, circle the wagons and stand willing to defend their position. It ain’t a great answer, but that’s what this sort of stuff usually comes down to. I would seriously like to hear other people’s suggestions on that one.

                The Christians in Western nations used to be very tolerant, but gradually are becoming less so. Each time they turn the cheek it gets slapped again. We will see where this goes. I’m an Atheist myself. I understand that my position is a minority position, and I don’t go around demanding other people agree with that.

                I would class the socialists as least tolerant of all, but also least honest (even with themselves), so they will make strategic alliances but cannot be trusted in the long term. The only end-game is uniformity and obedience for those guys.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So two dudes getting married is similar to a dude drawing a picture of another dude and calling this drawing of another dude a drawing of Mohammed?Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                That’s a cultural distinction that has nothing to do with Islam.
                I certainly don’t recall any American muslims callings for death to the infidel, etc.
                Which is to say, they acted more like Americans than Middle Easterners on that one.Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                The Christians in Western nations used to be very tolerant, but gradually are becoming less so. Each time they turn the cheek it gets slapped again.

                Indeed. Everyone knows that Christians are the real victims among western nations.

                Funny, you don’t sound like any atheist I’ve ever known. And I know a lot of atheists. Maybe it’s a UK thing?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                He’s right insofar as it seems that Muslims have figured out a way to insulate themselves from the horrors of other cultures blaspheming by going nutso when it happens… I mean, if I were to talk about how there was going to be a movie coming out depicting Mohammed as an unsavory character, there would be at least one person on this board who would explain that the people who were making that movie SHOULDN’T BE MAKING THAT MOVIE. They might go so far as to say “blood will be on their hands!”

                Now, imagine, if you will someone making a movie depicting Jesus as being unsavory.

                We might get some Christians holding up some signs somewhere… if Christians start noticing that a riot or two might result in people showing Christianity more outward displays of respect, maybe we’ll start seeing a riot or two.

                Not in the US, of course. We’re too civilized for that. France could probably get away with a few, though. Hell, they’re the country that contains folks who care enough about blasphemy to go to the trouble of damaging one of Serrano’s prints of Tinkle Messiah.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “…there would be at least one person on this board who would explain that the people who were making that movie SHOULDN’T BE MAKING THAT MOVIE…”

                Is it possible for someone to explain that WITHOUT falling into all the other traps you’ve laid out?Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                Seriously. JB needs to take a shot. Or a nap.Report

              • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

                He’s a glibertarian. That makes him a worshiper of Ayn Rand, not an atheist.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                It’s helpful, when thinking about Muslim outrage, to remember poverty, piety and illiteracy have strong trending coefficients. It wasn’t so long ago, in the West, when the State punished people for blasphemy.

                Blasphemy as a concept is still with us. The UN’s very big on respecting religions but as recently as 2008, is still writing documents which can be construed as conflating the definitions of blasphemy and hate speech.

                We tend to forget just how strong the First Amendment is within our culture. No other nation has anything like it in law. We are a bit hypocritical and tend to put on airs about our putative supremacy but we all have our own hot buttons and rhetorical no-go zones.

                Islamic cultures are at least a century behind the West in terms of the rights of the individual and civil rights. Some places such as Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, are as much as 500 years behind. Less an a century ago, the Scopes Monkey Trial was held right here in the USA. To our shame as a nation and a culture, as we’ve regressed, the same forces have re-emerged. But let’s not delude ourselves as Liberals: we’ve crystallised intellectually: our only virtue seems to be tolerance. But it’s an odd, transgressive sort of tolerance: religion is now the one aspect of Western society which may be mocked with impunity. Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Is it possible for someone to explain that WITHOUT falling into all the other traps you’ve laid out?

                That people who are inclined to make a movie criticizing Mohammed shouldn’t make it?

                I dunno. Does it strike you as likely that they’d use similar reasoning for why someone else shouldn’t make a movie criticizing Jesus?

                Because, from here, it seems to me that in the unlikely event of someone criticizing both that the reasons they’d use to criticize both would have, at least, more reasons in one column than in the other… and the fact that these hypothetical reasons diverge (insofar as one column has more) is why I think that the two movies are interesting.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              So, if your community doesn’t approve of, say, Presbyterians, it’s fine to pass laws that no Presbyterians can buy property or open businesses. And no one is any worse off, because why would they go where they’re not wanted? And, of course, the community-approved schools would teach the kids why Presbyterians suck, to ensure that none of them are ever tempted by the demon spawn of the anti-Christ John Knox.

              That’s certainly my idea of what makes America great.Report

              • Avatar Tel says:

                And what would your strategy be in this situation? Send around a SWAT team as ambassadors to Presbyterian pride? A few drone bombers perhaps… just until they come to their senses of course.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I’d begin by shaming people who would act that way, rather than making excuses for them.Report

              • Avatar Tel says:

                You don’t need any help from government on that one then.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Other than to invalidate any laws they pass to enforce their prejudices.Report

              • Avatar Tel says:

                If you are talking about Defence of Marriage Act, I agree, it should be invalid. Not because of prejudice, but because the Feds have enough real work to do without buying into social issues that are none of their business.

                However, as I pointed out above, in the UK, government has already got into the business of forcing Christians to accept gays, and that’s the general trend you can expect in the US. It is a recipe for strife and nothing else, doubly so during times of economic hardship.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Let us know when you think the economy is sound enough to start treating people decently.Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      This is not a quote. This is however how your intolerant, inhumane words sound:

      The best thing you can hope for in an elected representative is that he does accurately represent the people who elected him. It is entirely likely that the Republican base (and the US as a whole) has become more tolerant of straights in the past decade — and that’s a very good thing.

      That said, tolerance is a two-way street and no one can force other to people like them. Militant straight groups have found it convenient to use gay marriage as a wedge issue to bash anyone else over the head, and that’s a dangerous and self defeating thing for any majority group to do. Attitudes take time to change, and marriage is more a part of the government than it is a part of religion.

      I think the idea of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has some obvious advantages. We are heading toward a “one size fits all” mentality where people cannot be allowed to politely disagree on lifestyle issues. Privacy saves lives, “none of your business” should be an acceptable answer to lifestyle questions. At least as long as nobody gay ever refers to their spouse in public, or brings them to a company christmas party, or holds their hand or kisses them in public, or tries to sign them up for spousal insurance benefits or medical rights or parental rights.

      Insert similar wording if needed to reference Loving v. Virginia, and then grow up and stop being a pathetically bigoted excuse for a human being.Report

      • Avatar Tel says:

        I don’t tell people when to get offended, you obviously can figure out how to get offended all by yourself, based on your own opinions, other people get offended based on their opinions.

        If you work for an intolerant boss, the best thing you can do for everyone’s sake is stop working for that guy and work for someone else. The power of government won’t make anyone any less tolerant, quite the opposite actually.Report

  15. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Let’s look at what he actually said…

    My questions would be these:
    1.) Do you think living an openly gay life fails to demonstrate American standards, values, and lifestyles?
    2a.) If yes, what specific aspects of an openly gay life do you feel best exemplify American standards and values? Give your top 3.
    2b.) If no, how would you define American standards and values? In what ways do openly gay individuals fail to demonstrate them? What values and standards do openly gay individuals demonstrate?
    3.) As the Secretary of Defense, you will be called upon to lead a military that includes openly gay members. Your statement 14 years ago indicated a perception or belief on your behalf of openly gay individuals being un- or somehow less American. How will you ensure that gay servicemembers are treated as the equals of their straight counterparts, both in terms of the view of their “Americaness” and with regards to other spects of their professional and personal lives?

    Assuming his answer to #1 is “yes”, his amswers to #2a and #3 would indicate the sincerity of his apology and his ability to perform the duties of the position, respectively.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      To posit another perspective*, let’s suppose that roughly 1/6 of the electorate was not even old enough to vote at the time the remarks were made.

      Then we may proceed with the dead horse sighting ahead.
      Everyone pick up a stick, and let’s surround that thing!**

      My questions would be these:
      1.) Do you believe that questioning a former Senator about 14 year old remarks demonstrates American standards, values, and lifestyles?
      2a.) If yes, what specific aspects of questioning a former Senator about 14 year old remarks do you feel best exemplify American standards and values? Give your top 3.
      2b.) If no, how would you define American standards and values? In what ways does questioning a former Senator about 14 year old remarks fail to demonstrate them? What values and standards does questioning a former Senator about 14 year old remarks demonstrate?
      3.) As a commenter on a blog, you will be called upon to beat a dead horse on occasion, including questioning a former Senator about 14 year old remarks. Your comment from a while back indicated a perception or belief on your behalf of questioning a former Senator about 14 year old remarks being un- or somehow less American. How will you ensure that former Senators are treated as the equals of blog commenters, both in terms of the view of their “Americaness” and with regards to other spects of their professional and personal lives?

      * Not really. But pretending that I did.
      ** I didn’t even really want to reply to this comment, but it’s the holiday season and I need some manner of outlet for my snark. Too bad I don’t live in a much larger town, or I could go to the mall and hang out by the Santa, making astute but unwanted remarks.
      It’s the price I pay for creative genius.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Do you believe that questioning a former Senator about 14 year old remarks demonstrates American standards, values, and lifestyles?.

        Very much so.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Not sure I see your point. If you think we shouldn’t thoroughly evaluate candidates for highly powerful positions, you’re wrong.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          Your right there.
          From where I sit, it’s where you divvy up the job-related functions from non-job-related functions that it gets messed up.
          More properly, the issue, so far as it is job-related, has to do with policy-making when acting in a discretionary function, and of whether Hagel has a history of non-compliance with established regulations.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            The military faces unprecedented policy changes with the repeal of DADT. I’m not saying Hagel can’t fulfill them; but I’d want to ask.Report

            • Avatar Will H. says:

              Those changes have already taken place.
              The repeal of the policy did not suddenly place more gays in uniform. They were there to begin with; and more likely than not, there were a great many people who knew about it and covered for them.
              Unit cohesion is far greater than any differences among persons. That’s fact.
              I strongly suspect that those instances where the policy was enforced were initiated outside of the immediate unit, or as some manner of jockeying for position within the unit (which generally makes for hard feelings anyway, but it’s a fact of life).Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                Those changes have already taken place.
                The repeal of [DADT] did not suddenly place more gays in uniform. They were there to begin with; and more likely than not, there were a great many people who knew about it and covered for them.

                Well put. Now that DADT is gone, cover is no longer a necessity. A condition of their service. Although, I wouldn’t doubt that there are still some gay folks in the military who’ve yet to come out. But now they can do it whenever they’re personally ready.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I don’t think it is that simple.

                If I may, I’m going to use a subideal but not entirely flawed analogy…

                I am a teacher. I work in a school. I’ve worked in several schools. Schools have long been integrated. We’ve long since accepted that students of color should be treated as equal to their white classmates.

                In the various schools I’ve worked at, I’ve witnessed a number of situations in which students of color seemed to be treated unequal to their white classmates. There was no explicit demonstration of overt racism. But there was reason to suspect that race played a role in the treatment of a student of color. In working with my superiors, I saw a range of reactions. Those who seemed more aware of the unique position of students of colors, who seemed more truly and wholly accepting of students of color as equal members of the community, were better positioned to adjudicate such situations.

                My point is this:
                Hagel’s comments, made 14 years ago, indicated a particular perspective on gay men and women. These comments would lead me to believe that he might not view them as wholly deserving of the same treatment and respect as their straight counterparts, and certainly not in such a way that he would work actively to defend them. As such, when positioned to do just that, to ensure that those under him, gay, straight, or otherwise, are treated equally and equitably with no regard to their sexual orientation, I’d want to know how he felt about gays vis a vis how he felt about straights. I’d want to know if he would defend the rights of a gay soldier as vigorously as he’d defend the rights of a straight soldier. I’d want to know if he would hear the complaints of a decorated gay soldier repeatedly denied promotion with an understanding of how that soldier’s sexual orientation would uniquely interact with his path to promotion. I think the questions I outlined would give a sense of that.

                I think Hagel’s perception of the Americaness of LGBTQs and thus LGBTQ service members would get to the hard of his fitness for the position. I would not disqualify him for his remarks. But I would feel them fair game for questioning.

                If there was a part of Hagel that would respond to the complaints of a gay service member with a knee jerk, “Well, they just want special treatment because they’re gay and damned if I’m going to offer it to them,” then I would personally see him as unfit for the position as SecDef.Report

              • Avatar ktward says:

                Kazzy, I genuinely appreciate the place you’re coming from and the thoughtfulness of your engagement with me. But the basis of your argument against Hagel -comparing military policy to our education system- is flawed. Enforcement of military policy is, in terms of judicial process and consequence, an entirely different beast from civilian policy. It just is. No doubt someone else can do a better job than I in explaining that.

                Meanwhile, I’ll just reiterate what I wrote upthread. (At least I think it’s upthread. Gah. I have no idea. I hate menopause.) Don’t pay me any mind, I’m a straight gal. But surely you lend weight to North’s and the Doc’s take?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                I have some familiarity with the military, as my wife served for 4 years in the Navy. I fully appreciate how it differs from the education world specifically and the civilian world more generally.

                Again, I’m not objecting to Hagel; I am simply offering up questions I would have. SecDef is charged with many things, among them the appropriate treatment of our service men and women. If the SecDef is not of the proper mindset or world view to ensure that LGTBQ servicemembers are treated the same as their straight counterparts, that is something that ought to be considered when determining the appropriateness of fit. If his response to a decorated, gay servicemember being repeatedly passed over for promotions is to first thing of him as someone who does not represent American values or whatever, then I don’t know that he is fit to serve in that role. Which is why I’d want to ask him the questions I offered. There is a lot of room there for him to give a satisfactory answer, at which point I would consider that portion of the issue settled and would then evaluate his actions once in the role to make sure they measure up to his words.

                Frankly, I would want any SecDef candidate asked about how he/she will handle the repeal of DADT, as I think it will create some unprecedented situations that the SecDef may have to involve him/herself in. I think because of Hagle’s remarks, there might be a few more pointed questions. But I don’t think they or a thus far tepid apology should eliminate him from consideration.

                I’ll see if I can find North’s or Russ’s take above. I hit the hay after my comments last night and am just jumping on this morning.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                The military promotion system is sufficiently bureaucratic and impersonal (by both law and custom), that it unlikely that a person being gay (or black or a woman, etc) would be passed over just on the fact on who they are.

                Now, there’s a potential (esp for women) that you can be singled out because of who you are and fail to get the choice billets that put you on the track for promotion. (this is why the woman combat exclusion rule is problematic, as is the current half-measures when it comes to submarines). Though, in general, detailers/placement officers don’t have time to play games like that, and have enough trouble filling the s***ty but promotion potential assignments to begin with.

                Plus, the promotion process for the first 10-15 years or so is *extremely* mechanistic (i.e. based on test scores or simply just being in the rank long enough)

                All the above is not to discount any ‘retail’ adversity people may face for not being scare quotes ‘normal’ (like women definitely still do).

                The type of culture change to ensure people are treated as professionals does start at the top, but it’s not a sufficient condition to just make sure the SecDef is on board. And frankly, at this point I’m not sure if it’s even a necessary condition, as long as the senior uniformed leadership (both officer and enlisted), have instilled what proper conduct and decorum consists of nowadays.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Promotion is only one area where LGBTQ service members might face discrimination. Others will be harder to detect and root out, but no less real. Having a SecDef who does or is perceived to think of LGBTQ folks as somehow less American could have a hugely detrimental effect on the acceptance of and support available to them within the military. There are a number of service members who already think that; they may feel emboldened if they think the SecDef is in their corner.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Will – theses were obviously meant for Kazzy, so I hope you don’t mind if I jump in and respond since I think these are all really good questions. Consider this a response to all of them:

        I believe that you absolutely can/should ask a Senator about comments they made X number of years ago; I think it’s then up to each person to decide how important the question and the answer is to them. For example, I thought asking Bush II about his past youthful indiscretions were entirely appropriate, but I had no problem with a President that had been immature when he was 20 years old some 40 years ago. Likewise, I don’t really have a problem with what Hagel said in the 90s – it was a pretty mainstream view then, after all; I was far less comfortable with Ron Paul’s newsletters, despite they were even farther back in time.

        (Also: ” Too bad I don’t live in a much larger town, or I could go to the mall and hang out by the Santa, making astute but unwanted remarks” made me laugh out loud.)Report