Three Observations About Obergefell

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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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104 Responses

  1. Avatar Francis says:

    As to Point 1, you are absolutely correct. The major political parties loathe their extremists. Ok, loathe is too strong. Let’s go with “wish they would stay fishing quiet” instead. There are, after all, elections to be won and all the important votes are in the middle (because those are the ones that may be lost if the party moves towards its outside wing.)

    This conventional wisdom is likely wrong, because it discounts the people who don’t vote when their party won’t take strong positions. But if one reads the Washington Post on any given day, the CW is clearly expressed.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Francis says:

      You need to win elections do get things done. Taking a strong position is useless if you are constantly out of power.Report

    • Avatar veronica d in reply to Francis says:

      I mean, this is the problem of MLK’s “white moderates” (full disclosure: I’m a white moderate). And yeah, I feel it on trans issues. For me, it is my life. For other people, it is a curious intellectual puzzle or a political football or something they wish would go away.

      That’s some hard shit to play. Does it surprise anyone that I can be touchy on the subject?

      Like, as a crass analogy, imagine kids at school are being unthinkably horrible to your kid. But when you go to complain, the school administrators want to “debate and discuss” the “complex issues” of {unthinkably horrible thing}. And when you take it to the school board they bring in experts to explain why your kid is indeed a valid target of {unthinkable horror}.

      At what point do you just fucking pop?

      Anyway, blah blah blah. Fucking moderates.

      “Wow, {unthinkable horror} is sure an interesting intellectual puzzle. Let’s table this discussion until next week. Anyone for pizza?”Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to veronica d says:

        Children lack enough power to be unthinkably horrible — though other children aren’t always aware of that fact.

        If there’s one thing to realize, it’s “things can nearly always get worse.”Report

    • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Francis says:

      The thing is, a swing vote is worth about twice as much as a fringe vote.Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I think Roberts wasn’t wrong. You mention states’ failure to comply with Loving v. Virginia, but that seems to support Roberts’s reasoning in his dissent–that a judicial solution makes failure to comply an act of martyrdom in the face of tyranny, rather than obstinance in the face of popular sentiment.

    I do, however, agree with you that a legislative solution wasn’t something that would have happened any time soon. And it’s worth keeping in mind that the last time the Supreme Court decided in favor of Southern states’ legislative process, it was the Dred Scott decision, and it was one of the big drivers behind the Civil War. Not saying that it would have happened this time, but it’s also not like everyone was happier when the Court said “states’ rights, nuthin’ we can do”.

    So, really, this is more of a “this is why we can’t have nice things” situation. There’s a new tool in the box, and all we can do is hope that people in the future won’t turn it into something completely opposite of the intent (a la the RFRA), but if people hadn’t made the tool necessary then we wouldn’t have it now.

    I like your freakonomics-style thoughts on how Karl Rove is greatly responsible for the advancement of official recognition of gay rights.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I am going to disagree with point 1 in part. The Democratic Party like the Republican Party is a coalition of different factions and interests fused together in one party because of the Constitution. Naturally, fighting for all factions at the same time is not easy. This point lets Republicans too easily off the hook for their cynical actions while presenting the Democratic Party as being nothing more than a dishonest organization with no ideals but power. This has been a standard trope in political commentary for decades and I’m tired of it. The Democratic Party has fought hard battles and we deserve some credit.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

      @leeesq can you point to an event that refutes the proposition that “the Democratic party [is] nothing more than a dishonest organization with no ideals but power”? Have Democrats, or at least a large segment of them, taken a stand on an issue or done something with their money and political clout that has put them at serious risk of losing rather than aggregating that clout based upon principle or idealism? Because I can’t think of any such example — maybe nominating Humphrey and in so doing letting the bigoted southern Democrats to either get in line with civil rights or get purged out. They surely knew that meant their party didn’t have a snowball’s chance in the firey cauldrons of hell against Nixon. But that’s going back nearly fifty years. Pretty much any major thing the Democrats have done since then seems to me to have been calculated to obtain electoral advantage.

      Indeed, doesn’t the idea that “[t]he Democratic Party like the Republican Party is a coalition of different factions and interests fused together in one party” lend credence to the proposition that, as a whole, “the Democratic party [is] nothing more than a dishonest organization with no ideals but power?” As always, BSDI — no reason to think that the Republicans are any better than this. Because that’s what a large national party is.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

        How about all the times we get accused of lacking patriotism when we try to maintain some level of realism about alleged treats like during the entire Cold War and War on Terror?Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

          Nope. That’s calculated to obtain electoral advantage.

          Well, I’ll clarify: the Republicans’ condemnation of Democrats for being soft on commies or soft on terrorists isn’t; that’s Republicans doing what they think is in their advantage. Democrats may or may not react to that accusation in a fashion politically productive to themselves (and often as not fail to reap any benefit from that reaction).

          But when Democrats say “We have better things to do with our money and effort than go fight a war in Iraq,” that’s intended to appeal to a certain class of voter. When Democrats said “Containment is working just fine, we don’t need to build SDI to keep the Soviets under control,” that was intended to appeal to a certain class of voter.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Burt Likko says:

        @burt-likko I don’t really disagree with what you are saying but this can also be framed differently and just as correctly. Doing things for electoral advantage can also be called doing what people wanted you to. It was the reason they elected you; do the things you promised us. That is supposed to part of democracy. So chastising a party for doing what their voters elected them to do can be true and not terribly informative at the same time.Report

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to greginak says:

          Right. I don’t want the Democrats to have so many principles that the conservatives get to run the country again.

          I mean, it is a dance between ideals and practicality. How did you think it would work, like a Jimmy Stewart movie?Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to greginak says:

          Yeah, I can see that.

          What I’m looking for is something like “We know that more people prefer policy X, but our principles and ideals tell us that policy Y is the right thing to do, so we’re advocating Y.”

          I can’t think of a time in my life that either party did something like that. (I can think of lots of times Republicans thought more people preferred X so they went with X and Democrats thought more people preferred Y so they went with Y.)

          You know, one of those “Profiles in Courage” thingies, except by a political party rather than just a single person.Report

          • Avatar Griff in reply to Burt Likko says:

            How quickly we forget Obamacare. By the time it passed it was pretty clear that it didn’t have majority support, and that lots of Democrats would probably lose their seats in part over that issue (which they did).

            I am no great fan of the Democratic party (I voted for third-party candidates for both president and governor in the two most recent election cycles), but passing the ACA was legitimately an example of principles triumphing over the easy political answer.Report

          • I can’t think of a time in my life that either party did something like that. (I can think of lots of times Republicans thought more people preferred X so they went with X and Democrats thought more people preferred Y so they went with Y.) [bold added]

            I sympathize with your point, @burt-likko , but I think it depends on what the definitions of “party” and “did” are.

            Truman adopted some progressive for the time civil rights stances in 1948, even though it meant losing the Dixiecrats. But he won, and maybe that “give him hell” attitude was part of the strategy all along and hence for political purposes.

            Humphrey drew pretty close in the polls by late October when he stopped playing the “I support LBJ all the way in Vietnam.” But perhaps that in itself was a feint more for political advantage than to take up the unpopular position.

            Wilke in 1940 endorsed the peacetime draft in 1940, probably out of principle, even though he knew it was unpopular. That decision probably helped prevent him winning in 1940 (although FDR was still popular anyway, so maybe it was a longshot).

            Were these examples of “the party” “doing” something, or of one person, albeit the standard bearer, taking a stand?Report

          • @burt-likko
            Maybe I’m misunderstanding your question, but it seems like this – “We know that more people prefer policy X, but our principles and ideals tell us that policy Y is the right thing to do, so we’re advocating Y.” – happens pretty frequently. Gun control comes to mind, did Democrats really have to do a post Newtown gun control push? Also, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and LBJ’s (maybe apocryphal). “We have lost the South for a generation.” Various individual Democrats’ opposition to the death penalty serves as another example. Advocacy around climate change also comes to mind, I mean, isn’t it far easier to wish away the problem and say, “no adjustment necessary? Big coal, we embrace thee.” Instead Democrats have been pressing for multilateral international agreements, the most difficult, labyrinthine thing you can try for in international politics. And someone upthread already mentioned Obamacare’s fraught road to passage.

            What also comes to mind, the institution of the Whip in the legislature. What is far easier for an individual legislator is to do what sells in your district – party be damned. A Whip is there to cajole and pressure, push and prod, a legislator into towing a given line, which can often be the party’s Y, right thing to do. There’s obviously a much more complicated balancing act going on, where sometimes a given number of votes is accumulated and everyone for whom Y, right thing to do, is a tough vote gets released to vote in the direction of X, popular thing in the district, instead. But tough votes can, and do, cost people their seats in Congress – every time that happens – the career ending single tough vote – it is a Y winning against an X from the point of view of the ousted Senator of Representative. (Also, not to say that politicians like taking tough votes, I think a bunch of Republicans hate, hate, hate Ted Cruz for forcing a bunch of tough votes onto them.)Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to greginak says:

          @greginak “Doing things for electoral advantage can also be called doing what people wanted you to. It was the reason they elected you; do the things you promised us. ”

          The problem with this is that it’s something of a circular dodge.

          If it’s something people in your party are for, you generally nominate someone who doesn’t run on a platform of being against it — and when you are elected, you generally don’t work against that thing you’re for.

          Being totally for SSM all along in the secret of your head when you’re passing, signing, supporting and running on DOMA isn’t actually any different from being against SSM.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Tod Kelly says:

            @tod-kelly Their are hierarchies of things people care about. The more people who are passionate the more it becomes important for a party. Gay rights were very important for a small part of the D’s and of lesser importance for lots of other D’s. People in a party are lucky if they can get one or two of the things they feels strongly about to also be things that are important to the party AND things the party can get something done about.

            As North noted the D’s were, umm, far less then aggressive fireballs on gay rights. But they were friendly as opposed to outright demonizing and could block the bile the R’s try to pass. That isn’t peanuts, far from it. Gays were at least heard and had some hope with the D’s. With the R’s, not so much.Report

      • Avatar nevermoor in reply to Burt Likko says:

        The Affordable Care Act.Report

      • Have Democrats, or at least a large segment of them, taken a stand on an issue or done something with their money and political clout that has put them at serious risk of losing rather than aggregating that clout based upon principle or idealism?

        A lot of the Carter presidency.

        Returning the Panama Canal to the country whom it rightfully belonged to, against a torrent of public protest. Throwing all his efforts into trying to make peace in the Middle East. Refraining from going to war with Iran after they took American hostages. Pioneering the importance of alternative energy years before it started gaining major political ground (including installing solar panels on the White House, which Reagan later removed). Reducing or withholding support to tyrannical dictators in Latin America.

        He was rewarded for being a principled, ethical man, by a crushing defeat to a man who was in every way his moral inferior. It pretty clearly taught the Democrats that ethics and principles were for losers, and they’ve been acting on that lesson ever since.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I am significantly older than your children but I think people born from the Carter administration until now are probably among the first generation (if not the first generation) to grow up with positive descriptions of homosexuality in the United States.

    The Real World’s second season had an openly lesbian woman come in during the later half of the show. The producers went on to focus on her friendship with a conservative aspiring country and western star from Tennessee. The third season had an openly gay HIV-educator and the show featured his friendship with a conservative woman from Arizona. The producers also showed Pedro and his lover cooking dinner in a quiet domestic scene and having a commitment ceremony.

    There was a quiet revolution in these scenes and I wonder how it much it influenced people in my age category. Let’s say people who saw those episodes between the ages of 10-15.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    Ehh.. I mildly agree, my Tod, but I feel like you’re being hard on the poor ol’ much maligned donkeys. Yeah the party hasn’t been willing to go to the mat for homosexuals and Lord(lady?) knows it’s enraging but you could historically rely on the Dems to block, try to block or procedurally snarl up hostile to gay action by the GOP and frankly that ain’t nothing.Report

  6. Avatar Will Truman says:

    #1 is half-wrong, at least. It is true that the Democratic Party deserves almost no credit here. Not because they didn’t pursue it (or defend it) when it was impossible, but because they refused to even when it became clear that it was possible. The Republicans and Rove deserve no credit, though, not even by setting a negative example.

    So who gets credit? Activists,of course, and Hollywood.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

      So basically like almost every single political issue in America.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        Hollywood does a good job of expanding the Overton Window. When a normal, Square Person from Squaresville, Flyover meets a gay guy, instead of it being some weird and alien thing, Square Person can say “Oh, this guy is like Will from Will and Grace” and the Square Person can then have a box to put the other person in.

        The downside to that is that Square Person is still immediately putting the other guy in a box.

        But it’s still better than “STRANGE! ALIEN! PANIC!!!”Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

          Will Truman, I might add.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

          I made this argument on an old thread about esoteric conservatism. Will & Grace is to LGBT rights as the old Sydney Poitier movies were to civil rights for African-Americans. They did prep work and enabled people to get exposure to LGBT people or African-Americans as regular, everyday people rather than radical threats to bourgeois morality, for LGBT people, or menaces, for African-Americans. A lot of people hate the idea of prep work for social change but the best and most enduring social change comes with it.Report

    • @will-truman and @tod-kelly
      Ok, I’m really mystified by point #1. It is though Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan magically arrived on the Supreme Court absent Democratic presidential appointment. The disposition on constitutional interpretation and analysis is more favorable to granting the rights claim made by same-sex couples. Justices Scalia and Thomas would have us ceaselessly peering into the 18th century understandings of rights and relationships. And Chief Justice Roberts, gives us dime-store anthropology on how marriage has existed as man-woman for millennia.

      Being totally for SSM all along in the secret of your head when you’re passing, signing, supporting and running on DOMA isn’t actually any different from being against SSM.

      And in our SCOTUS often has the final say system of lawmaking, it is possible for a President Clinton to sign DOMA and simultaneously appoint Justices Breyer and Ginsburg who contribute to DOMA’s undoing. Certainly not covering Clinton in glory, nor would I call it the perfect design for a political system, no. But we don’t have a weak judicial review parliamentary democracy. (It is pretty strange, but presidents sign things they think are unconstitutional and issue signing statements against the bits they think are beyond the proper bounds – witness the Jerusalem, Israel passport case, or the utter disagreement over presidential war powers.)Report

  7. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I can tell you with considerable specificity what changed my mind about SSM. It was reading EJ Graff’s book when it came out in 1999.

    I could also cite other watershed events – like the housemate in grad school who came out. Other things are less clear – I’m not at all sure when I realized that my cousin who brought her “friend” to Thanksgiving/Christmas dinners was a lesbian. But it was some time in the 80’s. I remember learning that Tchaikovsky was gay (no great loss, other than 1812 Overture) and that Benjamin Britten was gay (Crap! I don’t want to ignore him!). I remember learning that a founder of my field, Alan Turing, was gay. Double crap.

    I suppose that many people try to forget the times when they had attitudes that were a problem. I hold on to them, because I want to use them to connect with (and, haha, ultimately persuade) people who don’t share my views. People can change. I did.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      @doctor-jay I love everything in this comment, and second it’s final paragraph.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I was hoping you would like it. Thanks.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “I love everything in this comment…”

        I don’t. The 1812 Overture is flashy and bombastic: not nearly Tchaikovsky’s best work. Its virtue is that it is easy to understand. This makes it a good entry drug. If a friend with no classical background asked me to take him to a classical concert, I would absolutely pick one with the 1812 Overture. Throw in Ravel’s Bolero and Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and you got yourself a full program. But would I go to this concert on my own? How much are you paying me? I would rather stay home and take another shot at understanding the Beethoven late string quartets. That is a project for the long haul.Report

    • Avatar nevermoor in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      I think this is dead on. Obviously, growing up where I did, Harvey Milk is a quick and easy reference that supports these points.

      He advocated for people to come out, for exactly the goals you identified with. He also sought ways to change the narrative of what homosexuality stands for. In what was then a blue-collar white city, for example, he got a LOT of traction by joining with unions in their boycotts of Coors beer.

      The more being gay is “oh, like my cousin/friend/political ally” and less “dangerous other who does icky things behind closed doors” the more people come around.Report

  8. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    The experience in Canada supports your point #2 – SSM was upheld in the courts province by province from 2003 to 2005. The federal government declined to challenge those decisions, but passed legislation making SSM legal nation-wide only when it had already been legalized by the courts in 8 of the 10 provinces.

    It was in the decade after legalization, as conservatives got the chance to observe that society was not yet going to hell in a handbasket, that support for SSM went from around 40% to over 60%.

    I remember arguing about this with my parents (who are by no means conservative on the whole, but who around the early 2000’s opposed SSM). They weren’t persuaded by me, at the time – they were persuaded by observation, after it was made law, that things have turned out fine.

    (Pretty much the same way people are persuaded that bike lanes are a good idea – opposition rises to a fever pitch before budget approval, then the things are built, traffic fails to grind to a shuddering halt, businesses fail to collapse under the loss of a handful of on-street parking spots, and everyone forgets they were ever worried about them)Report

    • I suspect that it marijuana is legalized, it will be due to a similar trajectory in public opinion: as an incresing number of places allow it and it doesn’t result in disaster, people will become more amenable. (And also, any further states that legalize it can learn from the wrinkles in Colorado’s process and enable things to go smoother.) It’s one area where the US state-by-state model has resulted in them being more progressive than Canada (the only way we get legalization is if we do it nationally, with the result that BC is behind the rest of the Pacific Northwest).Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to KatherineMW says:

        As I understand it, the US states that have legalized pot don’t really have the authority to do so any more than a Canadian province would – it’s illegal under a federal act in the US as well as Canada.

        The US feds could technically hire massive numbers of DEA agents and build more federal court houses and prisons to thwart the will of the individual states’ voters, but it would be a public relations disaster so they’re not.

        By the same token, just as Vancouver is issuing permits to and regulating marijuana dispensaries despite their being illegal under federal law, so could a province pass a similar law to Colorado etc.’s – the feds would technically be in their rights to use the RCMP to carry out all pot arrests in a province, try them all in federal courts, and hold those convicted in federal penitentiaries, but there’s a good chance that in a staring contest between, say, BC and Ottawa, Ottawa would be first to blink just like Washington did.Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to dragonfrog says:

          This is kind of a sidebar, but if you’d asked me twenty years ago whether the US would get gay marriage or legal weed first, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say “weed, obviously”. I mean, if surveys are correct (and obviously users of illegal drugs have incentives to lie on them) there are at least as many regular potsmokers in America as there are gay people (and if you count occasional or one-time smokers, then they absolutely dwarf the gay population). Conservative nation or no, I would have thought legal weed would have been by far the easier sell, policy- and public opinion-wise.

          I am very happy for my gay friends that they can get married now; but the idea that where I live, people still go to jail and lose their jobs etc. over weed is just bonkers. It feels really anachronistic and frankly, barbaric.Report

        • One difference is that BC doesn’t have a provincial police force – outside of the main cities, the RCMP are the cops. The other difference is that there really are differences in the criminal law when you move from one US state to another. The same is not true for Canada – the criminal law of Canada is encompassed by the federal Criminal Code. Provinces don’t make criminal law.

          Vancouver hasn’t legalized pot; it’s just made enforcement a low priority.Report

  9. Speaking for myself only, #1 applies to me. When I decided I was pro-gay rights and pro-ssm, the degree to which I was open at all about it was directly proportional to whether the people in my surroundings were also. At times when it really mattered, or when I stood to suffer for my views, I for the most part simply kept them hidden.Report

  10. Avatar trizzlor says:

    When you are tempted, as you have been and surely will be again, to begin dividing up the country into Good Human Beings and Bad Human Beings over this particular issue — to insist that those who have not achieved your level of advancement should lose their jobs, be forced into bankruptcy, be allotted no dignity — you might take the time to remember that you really were just the worst possible allies and advocates for decades.

    I think the sentiment here is coming from a good place of understanding, but the way this argument is made is mostly a cop-out. What implication does the fact that Democrats were not good allies have for either policy or politics? If there’s a specific anti-discrimination policy which would cause people to lose their jobs or money that you are against, then you should articulate that and let’s argue the merits. If there’s a specific activist that you think is politicking on gay rights in a way that makes him/her a hypocrite, then call them out and let’s work to get them to change their tone. But as it stands the “you” in this piece is doing all the heavy lifting and I get the feeling that it’s more about yelling at some faceless oppressor than fixing actual oppression.Report

  11. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    @trizzlor & @creon-critic

    I hope you guys don’t mind, but since I think you are making the same point (albeit coming from slightly different directions) I’m going to respond to each of you here.

    “What implication does the fact that Democrats were not good allies have for either policy or politics?”

    None, some, or lots I suppose? Whichever, I don’t see how that’s applicable to the OP.

    I think if you go back and reread my scold, you will see that it is directed at the primal impulse to “Other” and punish people who are on the wrong side of this issue in 2015 by people who have been on the right side for — what is it now? A whole three to five years now?

    Which brings my to this…

    ” It is though Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan magically arrived on the Supreme Court absent Democratic presidential appointment.”

    Yes. Very true.

    And ironically enough, I think you will find than none of those four people you mentioned are out trying to Other and punish non-public figures who disagree with them. That, as best as I can tell, is largely being done by — again — people who have been on the “right side of history” only for about a half decade to a decade, and only because their hand was forced.

    “And in our SCOTUS often has the final say system of lawmaking, it is possible for a President Clinton to sign DOMA and simultaneously appoint Justices Breyer and Ginsburg who contribute to DOMA’s undoing.”

    See my two responses above, as well as this question:

    Does that means that we owe the GOP a debt for being so very forward thinking on abortion, what with their foresight in putting up O’Conner and Kennedy? Or is that just something that happened despite their best efforts?Report

    • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I think if you go back and reread my scold, you will see that it is directed at the primal impulse to “Other” and punish people who are on the wrong side of this issue in 2015 by people who have been on the right side for — what is it now? A whole three to five years now?

      This is where some examples would help. Who are the prominent political movers & shakers that were anti-SSM 3-5 years ago but are now indulging their impulse to punish the anti-SSM movement? I don’t see Obama or the Democratic leadership doing it; I don’t see the SCOTUS justices doing it; indeed it seems like both go out of their way to coddle the anti-SSM holdovers and assure them that they are moral and decent people. So who are we talking about here? And how much should we worry about them while there are actual laws and popular politicians that continue to engage in anti-SSM othering that’s unprecedented?Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to trizzlor says:

        “Who are the prominent political movers & shakers that were anti-SSM 3-5 years ago but are now indulging their impulse to punish the anti-SSM movement? ”

        Tod isn’t calling people “anti”, he’s calling them apathetic. He’s saying that the Democrats did nothing about same-sex marriage other than make vaguely positive noises, so that homosexuals would keep on hitting that “D” button in the voting booth.

        There’s a world of difference between “fighting for” and “not being against”. Hell, that’s exactly what we hear all the time in discussions of race–“I don’t consider race when I make decisions” is considered straight-up racist these days.Report

        • Avatar trizzlor in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Like I said, if there are people who were bad allies and are now arguing for a scorched earth policy, let’s call them out on it. But what this post does is the equivalent of writing an editorial on the conviction of Michael Slager and saying we shouldn’t start dividing the police into Good Cops and Bad Cops because Democrats have argued for getting tough on crime too. After a squeaker SCOTUS decision where the majority took great pains to coddle the anti- side, I just see the argument that “we” should stop othering the poor anti-SSMers – without any specific instances of such behavior – as concern trolling.Report

      • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to trizzlor says:

        @tod-kelly ,
        As Trizzlor said. Your argument is a very odd one, given that the recent converts don’t seem to be actually engaging in the sort of two-minute hate you’re talking about.

        Most of the bigot-hate I’ve seen has been coming from people my age and younger. Sure they’ve only been pro-SSM for a decade or less, but that means they’ve been pro-SSM for most of their adult lives.Report

    • @tod-kelly
      Compare the rock star status of Ginsburg to the status of O’Connor and Kennedy. This is of course among the relatively small set who have opinions about various SCOTUS justices, their careers, opinions, and dissents. The star of the Supreme Court for Republicans, the ideological touchstone, is Justice Scalia. Candidates for president from the GOP promise to appoint justices in Scalia’s mold. O’Connor and Kennedy are not the go-to justices for that status. And though Kennedy doesn’t have the same status as never-again Justice Souter, I’d say both he and O’Connor aren’t revered.

      If anything, O’Connor and Kennedy’s various rulings counter to Scalia-esque strict construction / original intent are considered betrayals of the GOP cause, e.g. Planned Parenthood v. Casey on abortion, Grutter v. Bollinger on affirmative action. Among Republicans, Kennedy and O’Conner are not remembered fondly for these rulings. This may stem from Souter, but I’d say that both O’Conner and Kennedy are considered missteps and a conscious strategy against appointing non-sure things to the bench has emerged. That is, from here on out choosing people with more solid careers with a certain party/ideological pedigree. Not to say that this will be successful, but that’s what I gather anyway.Report

  12. There have been many (actual) #Slatepitches (like, in Slate) that have been 100% on point over the years.

    But, I’m sorry, when “Mainstream liberals and the Democratic Party were indeed far, far more progressive than conservatives and the GOP on this issue,” then “Point #1: The Gay & Lesbian Community Have One of the Major Political Parties to Thank for This Victory, and It Ain’t the Democrats” is indeed a #Slatepitch. Even/especially if Point #1 is absolutely correct. That is what a #Slatepitch is.Report

    • Avatar Lurker in reply to Michael Drew says:

      It is a victory won by progressives and -yes- hippies and even more the LGBT community. The Democratic party is somewhat under the sway (hopefully it will become more so over time) of hippies and progressives and has nominated liberal, somewhat-less-bigotted, more progressive judges.

      In short it is a victory won by the left against the right.

      Some people don’t want to say the right is pretty bad and the left is pretty good. I suspect there is some kind of psychological factor in feeling something like “all partisans are bad and I am good because I see how I am above partisanship” at play here, because it is obvious that left leaning partisans have worked against right leaning partisans to move history in a better path to respect the rights of LGBT people.

      The legislative battles on marriage equality really did break down largely along party lines. Most Democrats (the centrists and right leaning Democrats sometimes defected, boo! centrism and rightism!) voted for legalizing SSM. Most R’s voted against legalizing SSM.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Lurker says:

        When the left would rather let people die in agony — or go blind, rather than help them with something new, the left’s being bad.

        Both sides really do act like idiots sometimes.Report

        • Avatar KatherineMW in reply to Kim says:

          I’m guessing you’re talking about genetic modification (and specifically golden rice, with the reference to blindness)?

          I agree with you, although there are anti-GMO types on both the left and right (ditto for anti-vaxxers). It’s one thing to dislike Monsanto’s corporate practices; it’s another thing to treat a scientific process with great potential for improving people’s lives as a bogeyman.Report

  13. Avatar zic says:

    It’s easy to look back at DOMA and DADT as policies of shame; they are shameful. But it’s important to recall that they were policies adopted to prevent worse shaming and harm. DOMA was the compromise to prevent a constitutional amendment defining marriage; DADT a policy to allow people to serve their country by ending asking, “Are you gay?” when the enlisted.

    At the local level, it was the Maine Democratic Legislature that first passed a law allowing SSM here. Christian groups gathered the signatures to put it before the voters, and in an off-year election, the voters repealed the Democratic legislature’s law. SSM activist (I helped,) again gathered signatures to put SSM on the ballot again; this time, with a lot of outreach effort, and the voters made it the law of the state. So I think there’s a mixed record for the Dems, and one that DOMA and DADT only illuminates if you look at the fine print.

    So I don’t agree that Democrats wanted the issue to go away, and weren’t bringing it to the fore; the record is much more complicated than that; and told in a lab of 50 different states, not federally. And yes, the LBGT community does have one major party that’s got their backs, the other a knife out for their hearts, but the victory is their own, they earned it through decades of activism to be included as fully human. I hope they keep accruing those victories, too, for there remains much injustice.

    On point #2, I think the whole decision was decided wrong, that it’s a 1st Amendment issue: the Freedom of Association. I don’t expect we’ll get there soon, and I’m guessing that when we do, it may well be plural marriages that take that step.

    On #3, I’m glad some of us held hope. I know the night that Maine voters threw out the legislatures SSM law, my brother wept. At this point, he and his husband had been together for 23 years, and he told me that night, “We’ll never be able to marry, to have what you and [my sweetie] have.” Yesterday was his birthday, we’re only a few years removed from that horrible, cruel day, and the notion of his marriage seems so normal that, as we gathered to celebrate, it wasn’t even a topic of conversation. I’m guessing that this time next year, it won’t be a topic for political points, either, because it will cost too much in social capital to continue maintaining this bigotry as a tool in the culture wars.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to zic says:

      @zic “DOMA was the compromise to prevent a constitutional amendment defining marriage; ”

      That’s not even close to being correct.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        As I recall the the policy discussion at the time, this was about inheritance and end-of-life decisions from the AIDS epidemic (remember, I lost my baby brother to AIDS.) When men started asking for better rights of family, for civil unions, for instance, or having their legally adopted contracts honored by hospitals and courts, Conservatives freaked. They were calling for a constitutional amendment; but with DOMA, they had a veto-proof majority, and it at least allowed states to experiment with SSM; I’d want to know the history of how states rights got in there before I’d completely say the liberals bailed.

        ETA: The pont here is that DOMA, at the time, in the political debates, was the lesser of evils, being easier to change; a constitutional amendment would have been extremely difficult to revoke, and wouldn’t have fostered the experiments in states that led to the current happy result.

        I don’t mean to defend DOMA, but to point out that big change is made in baby steps; and sometimes, the best political outcome is simply keeping the discussion going.Report

      • Avatar nevermoor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly

        Ok, let’s litigate DOMA. Clinton stands accused of signing a law passed by a veto-proof majority (with complete GOP support and a Democratic split). Democrats tried to pass a law that we still need, ENDA, concurrently but failed by one vote in the Senate (with near-complete GOP objection and Democratic support). The entire Clinton administration was on record being opposed to the law at the time (and, of course, later). For example, Clinton called it divisive, his press secretary called it gay baiting, and Clinton refused to hold a signing ceremony.

        Clinton now says exactly what @zic is writing, though it seems like a self-serving justification and it is hard to believe that constitutional amendment ever had a plausible chance of success.

        So, Democrats went on record having mixed feelings about DOMA and strong feelings in support of ENDA even in 1996. Republicans went on record loving DOMA and hating ENDA. Clinton could have vetoed DOMA, but the veto would have been overridden and he would have been screwed on reelection (i.e. it would have been BOTH self-destructive and futile). Clearly the Democrats are the enemies of the gay community!Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to nevermoor says:

          “Clinton stands accused of signing a law passed by a veto-proof majority…”

          He still signed it, didn’t he?

          He can go to his grave complaining about the art of the possible and the need to build coalitions and how this was the best compromise anyone could expect and the importance of maintaining Presidental authority, but, y’know, he still signed it.Report

          • Avatar North in reply to DensityDuck says:

            As opposed to refusing to sign it- electorally mauling his party (which was at the time the only body advocated for any kind of gay dignity and obstructing the GOP’s legislative vitriol from being passed into law) and it being passed into law anyhow? Somehow the gay interest groups, myself included, found it in our collective hearts to forgive him.Report

            • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to North says:

              @nevermoor

              “Clinton stands accused of signing a law passed by a veto-proof majority”

              @north

              “As opposed to refusing to sign it- electorally mauling his party (which was at the time the only body advocated for any kind of gay dignity and obstructing the GOP’s legislative vitriol from being passed into law) and it being passed into law anyhow? Somehow the gay interest groups, myself included, found it in our collective hearts to forgive him.”

              That’s all well and good, and Agnostic God knows, North, it is your place and not mine to choose whom to forgive. But let’s be honest about what happened.

              Clinton didn’t just sign DOMA, he came out and publicly endorsed it’s underlying principles even if he didn’t endorse the bill itself. In fact, as a kind of gay Sister Soulja moment he went to the Advocate — months before the bill was even voted on — and told them,”I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or reconsidered.” He reiterated this position again later after he was out of office, as did his wife (the next Dem presidential candidate) up until 2013.

              Additionally, let’s also not pretend Clinton’s signing rested on a veto-proof GOP majority. 70% of the 46 Senate Democrats voted for DOMA. Senate Democrats got up on the floor right along with Republican’s and said things like, “when God used the word ‘multiply’… he was talking about procreation, multiplying, population the Earth” as reasons why DOMA’s passage was necessary.

              Lastly, feel free to vote for Hilary if you like (I am sure that I will, simply based on who’s thrown their hat in the GOP ring), but that doesn’t mean you have to buy into the narrative that DOMA was a “compromise” — because that’s just fantasy world stuff. This constitutional amendment threat I hear people talking about wasn’t on the table then. It wasn’t even talked about until after Bush was in office. (In fact, it’s widely considered have been Rove’s idea.)

              DOMA wasn’t less-bad option to a restrictive law; DOMA *was* the restrictive law. It’s measures and wording were lifted entirely from the GOP’s barbaric House Report 644, an “objective” report that “found” homosexuality inferior and immoral. Among the “objective” judiciary testimony that HR-644’s recommendations were based on was testimony from GOPer Steve Largent, who among other things “reported” that “unfortunately, the practice of homosexuality is not healthy and is actually destructive.” Or the “findings” from GOPer Coburn, that “homosexuality is immoral, that it is based on perversion, that it is based on lust.”

              DOMA was (and remains) the only piece of legislation ever passed in this country that used the Full Faith & Credit clause to restrict individual and state liberty rather than grant more, and it did so only because Baehr v. Miike.

              It wasn’t the alternative to the nuclear option at the time. It WAS the nuclear option.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Maybe we can all agree to at least not thank Bill Clinton for the SSM victory.

                No thanks, Bill!Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                It was the 90’s my Tod, I was- granted- in my political infancy creeping up on 21 as the millennium ended so a lot of this is second hand and I’m thus missing the emotions that the issue was vested in.

                I will allow that Clinton was craven on the subject, there’s no denying it just as no one who was actually paying close attention to what Clinton did thought he was particularly anti gay. His fans an detractors call him Slick Willie for many reasons but one was that he was a wily political operator first of all. Likewise Obama was opposed to gay marriage until, mirable deus, he suddenly wasn’t. Politics, feugh, the only thing worse than it is the alternatives to politics.

                Look, viewed in isolation DOMA doesn’t reflect on Bill very well at all but a larger scope moderates it a little. He did come into office and immediately attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military. It blew up in Clinton’s face and ultimately resulted in the desperate attempt at compromise that was DADT but nothing compelled Bill Clinton to try and grasp that nettle so early in his term. Moderates and political realists respect Clinton’s ability to triangulate and his ability to bring his party into a position where they could be the adults in the room. It sucked but this was one of the ways he did so, his party had been shellacked in the midterms and he was in full trimming form.

                The man was not a foe; as political friends go (and political friends are opportunistic fair weather things indeed) Clinton was a friend to gays when they didn’t have that many. The Democratic Party was a political home (as awkward and uncomfortable as political homes can be) to gays when they had no other just as the Republicans were a remorseless blight.

                What do gays owe the Democratic Party; I would submit not a terrible lot. The party has benefitted from our advocacy, our creativity and our contributions for the entire time we’ve been part of it which had an infact far disproportionate to our numerical votes. For being our opportunistic political home the Dems get to prance around with the “pro-gay” cape on in front of the low info voters for a cycle or two. They get to receive a warm open minded ear from gays and our suddenly numerous allies. And they get to be the beneficiaries, by default, of the GOP’s intransigence as long as the GOP clings to it. That’s about all.

                Sooner or later the GOP will figure out that they need to give up this wing of the culture war. I don’t know when but it seems inevitable. Then after they make genuine attempts at outreach they’ll undoubtedly foster a gay contingent and the Dems will cease to be the default “gay party”.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to North says:

                @north I pretty much agree with everything you say here.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to North says:

                My recollection matches @north ’s. I pretty much assumed that Clinton was basically pro-gay. Likewise, I assumed he would probably support gay marriage if it were politically feasible. At the time it was not.

                A president does not have the luxury that we have here, to bluntly say what we think. Every word they say serves many simultaneous functions. One is to communicate their feelings. Others are to communicate to their political allies, to their political enemies, to the broad public, on and on. Each statement made by the president is pulled apart in countless ways.

                When the president says “X,” it has an effect on the world beyond “this one random guy thinks X.”

                I want the president to choose his X’s with wisdom. He should take the long view.

                Regarding Clinton — he did okay on this topic. He was not a “great star,” but he was on the right side and doing his best.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to veronica d says:

                I could not agree more.Report

              • Avatar nevermoor in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                let’s also not pretend Clinton’s signing rested on a veto-proof GOP majority.

                I’m not. It passed 85/14 with all 53 Republicans and 32 Democrats. The Nays came from both Senators from CA, HI, IL, MA and single senators from NE, NY, OR, RI, VA, and WI. You’ll note that Hawaii, Massachusetts, and California were early leaders on this stuff, and that their political representatives were doing what they could at the national level.

                DOMA was (and remains) the only piece of legislation ever passed in this country that used the Full Faith & Credit clause to restrict individual and state liberty

                Two reactions: (1) good thing it’s dead then!; (2) why do those narrowing clauses matter? It’s certainly not the first piece of legislation to restrict liberty, or to formalize discrimination.

                Clinton didn’t just sign DOMA, he came out and publicly endorsed it’s underlying principles

                Yep. It’s certainly true that Clinton (like nearly everyone at the time) did not advocate for gay marriage. I notice that you’re not responding to the point that he did, at the same time, advocate for rights that LGBT folks still don’t have. And not just him, but 49 senators (largely, but not entirely, Democrats)! That seems pretty unusual for a party unwilling to “fight[] the good fight for the rights of gays and lesbians” doesn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to nevermoor says:

                I believe that you and I are also more in agreement than it first appeared.Report

          • Avatar nevermoor in reply to DensityDuck says:

            If it wasn’t veto proof, I’d be open to the idea that he shouldn’t have signed it.

            I think it’s particularly weak sauce when conservatives criticize liberals for not self-immolating on issues that would have gone the conservatives’ way no matter what. “No fair, we won and you didn’t self destruct. Umm… You’re a hypocrite!”Report

  14. Avatar switters says:

    I too have the instinct to call BS on the democrats who not long ago were opposed to SSM. But I need to, and I think you should too, temper that. Anytime our country has expanded rights, whether it be emancipating slaves, women’s suffrage, the civil rights act, repealing prohibition, legalizing marijuana, there was always a prior period when not enough people were for it to make it happen, and a time before that when not enough people were for it for it to even be a part of the conversation.

    Like all prior expansions, there were certainly democrats who stood opposed to SSM. But there was also one party who was ready to change. Who, while perhaps not immediately embracing with open arms, at least refused to sling insults and participate in the intense othering you see from the right. Who signaled a willingness to start moving the needle. Who took baby steps here and there to make change happen or at least keep it happening, or at least not prohibit it from happening. And it was the D’s.

    So while I get the point about not overreacting to those whose change may only lag our own by a couple of years, I strongly disagree with concluding the democrats should get no credit for being LGBT allies, because they were opposed to it.

    Almost everyone is opposed to these things, until they’re not. The people who then come around first get more credit.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to switters says:

      “The people who then come around first get more credit.”
      deservedly so. The book is Profiles in Courage, after all.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to switters says:

      “Almost everyone is opposed to these things, until they’re not. The people who then come around first get more credit.”

      Nice. So you get to have your cake and eat it too–the Democrats shouldn’t be censured for treating same-sex marriage as a non-issue until very recently and they should be congratulated for jumping on the boat first, unlike those stinky dumb Republicans.Report

      • Avatar nevermoor in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Holy re-writing of history Batman!

        Democrats tried to pass ENDA in 1996. Republicans stopped them. This somehow symbolizes that Democrats ignored gay rights until very recently?

        Also, if democrats are so anti-gay, why are all the activists and political leaders of the movement democrats?Report

      • Avatar switters in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Yes – the group that was willing to examine their prejudices, to analyse the arguments, and that ultimately was persuaded to support the grant of previously un-granted rights, gets more credit for the realization of those rights than the group that stood, and still stands, lockstep in opposition. I’m surprised this is a controversial point.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to switters says:

          Unless that group was the Republicans, in which case they’re obviously insincere jerks who are just doing it to score cheap political points (see: every attempt at outreach to nonwhite nonstraight nonmen). And if they’re actually sincere, well, what took you so long, you big jerk?Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

            I’ll believe any republican who actually gets boots on the ground in the inner city. (Start a Business, it’s not that hard — get some credibility).

            Places like that need so much help it’s churlish to ask “what took you so long”. There’s plenty of work, so just get moving.Report

          • Avatar nevermoor in reply to DensityDuck says:

            What do you mean by “attempt at outreach”. There might well be something to your point, but the examples that come to my mind might be straw-men.

            I’m not sure what relevance the latter point has since that’s either (1) what the OP is saying about democrats; or (2) not applicable if you’re the group that gets there second.Report

          • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to DensityDuck says:

            I’m no going to say that gay people are very friendly to Republicans. If anything, quite the opposite.

            That said, though, every GOP/Conservative attempt at gay outreach I’m familiar with failed because it got burned by anti-gay conservatives, not because of anything having to do with gay liberals.

            The Log Cabin Republicans march in gay pride parades, but they’re banned from conservative political conferences. That says something.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to switters says:

      Almost everyone is opposed to these things, until they’re not. The people who then come around first get more credit.

      Ahh, so it’s a “who gets the credit?” game, one Tod is quite happy to play. I think at this point it’s important to remember that Democrats defended slavery a few score years ago, but according to the logic employed in the OP they deserve the credit for ending the practice.

      The Gay & Lesbian Community American Slaves Have One of the Major Political Parties to Thank for This Victory, and It Ain’t the Democrats RepublicansReport

  15. Karl Rove will regain his reputation as a political genius after he marries his boyfriend.Report

  16. Avatar NoPublic says:

    What a shocker. Tod thinks the Demon-rats aren’t the bestest.Report

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