March 13, 2006

Conservative skepticism about the Wisconsin gay marriage amendment.

Conservative radio commentator Charlie Sykes is skeptical about the gay marriage amendment:
[M]arriage will be redefined either through evolutionary or revolutionary means. Society will either gradually change its attitiudes in response to the sorts of relationships that develop in its midst, or the change will be rammed down its throat by court order or government dictat.

Does the amendment – which seeks to avoid a judicial mandate – itself veer too far in the opposite direction, by freezing both social and legal policy and removing it from the give and take of legislative compromise and social evolution?...

Exactly how does allowing gays to enter into legal, monogamous relationships undermine the institution of marriage? Isn’t in society’s interest to foster and recognize such stable relationships? And why would that be something that conservatives would oppose?...

Gays who wish to marry don’t want to tear down marriage. They want in on it.
Sykes cautions advocates on both sides of the question not to be so extreme, lest they alienate voters. [ADDED: I've also written many times -- like here -- that I think gay marriage advocates ought to be more patient with people who don't agree with them.] I've already said that I think the amendment as written is alienating to centrists. Wouldn't it be nice if the political debate on the amendment, instead of stirring up hostility, brought us into civil, rational conversations with each other?

Sykes collects the responses of other Wisconsin bloggers here.

55 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I wish Louisiana could import some "conservative" radio commentators like y'all have up in Wisconsin. Between the north state fundie Talibaptists and the Catholic faithful in South La., there's not much by way of reasonable debate going on here.

Ann Althouse said...

Maybe Wisconsin can set a good example for how to talk decently about a difficult issue.

Note that Sykes will be at the Wisconsin blog summit on Saturday. And the program lists him as "Milwaukee WTMJ-AM morning radio host and leading conservative voice." I'm not making up the "conservative" part here.

elliot said...

I'm still not sure how Charlie missed my post on this subject from March 4th which was actually triggered by one of Ann's posts here.

(It was probably too early, as the rest of the reaction didn't start until Charlie posted on the 9th.)

Steven said...

Exactly how does allowing gays to enter into legal, monogamous relationships undermine the institution of marriage?

To answer that questions, don't you need a position on the purpose of marriage? Unless you know what marriage is for, how can you possibly decide whether a change undermines it?

Isn’t in society’s interest to foster and recognize such stable relationships?

Is it? How is it in society's interest? What makes monogamy special, relative to promiscuity or polygamy?

Religious conservatives have actual answers to these questions, though the answers they give (rooted in religion) are not be acceptable to a secular society. Secular society used to have answers for this, back before the laws were changed to eliminate the concept of bastardry, establish no-fault divorce, and end annulments for infertility. But those answers would similarly be unacceptable today.

Gay-marrigae advocates? Monogamy is nice enough to be supported by law-backed marriagea, though they're not sure why, and certainly it isn't nice enough for adultery laws to be enforced, 'open' marriages to be voided, singles to be legally pressured to abandon promiscuity in favor of monogamy, or divorce to be made more difficult.

(Of course, anybody advocating the status quo has just as lousy justifications. Marriage last had a coherent purpose in America forty years ago. But reactionaries can defend the status quo on the grounds that at least it is closer to the old coherent position than the advocated change.)

sasha barron said...
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Simon said...

To be fair, isn't this the same Charlie Sykes who dragged your favorite and mine Judge Diane Sykes through infidelity and divorce? If so, it should hardly be a surprise that he isn't keen to start preaching about the sanctity of marriage - he'd look ridiculous if he did.

I should add that I am strongly in favor of repairing the sanctity of marriage, and I do mean "repairing" not "preserving" - personally, I see infidelity, quickie divorce and a basic lack of seriousness about the "'til death do us part" clause as being far greater threats to the sanctify of marriage than is two people in love, regardless of their gender.

Simon said...

Incidentally, to add to what Steven said - I didn't even mention annulment. As far as I'm concerned, annulment is a statement that the marriage was invalid because of some pre-existing factor, which means that no annulment should ever be granted, excepting as a consequence of circumstances which predate the marriage. Nothing that takes place AFTER the marriage is grounds for an annulment. Annulment shouldn't be treated as some kind of super-divorce; it has, and should maintain, specific meaning.

Alan said...

I don't have a problem with gays getting married. Frankly, I don't get what the big deal is...are we to believe once people sees gay marriages, heteros will all of the sudden think it's hip to be gay and change sides? I thought gayness was genetic.

Many say it will harm marriage. An example of an act of government that was harmful to marriage was the Great Society. It created a class of welfare queens by paying them to have babies out of wedlock...taking the man out of the mix. Gay marriage isn't taking the man or women out of the mix; they were never there to begin with.

Fundies love quoting the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...." How is it gays are not allowed to partake in their own pursuit of happiness? Is it the job of Government to be our spiritual adviser?

I happen to be one of those conservatives who actually believes in individual liberty. I don't see how anyone can believe in the concept of individual liberty and then turn around and say someone else doesn't have the right to exercise their individual liberty simply because the other doesn't model their own ideals.

downtownlad said...

I don't see why I should be patient with those who want to enact amendments that make me a second class citizen.

I'm 37 and not getting any younger. You are never going to change someone's mind on this subject. Yes, we have reason on our side in this argument, but what do you do when you're dealing with unreasonable people? It's ok for them to compare my love for my boyfriend to beastiality, but it's not ok for me to call them a bigot in response?

The only thing to do is to wait until the older generation dies out. Which is why I read the obituaries with a smile every morning . . .

It will be interesting to see how Wisconsin votes though. I'd give it a 10% chance that the amendment actually fails. But that's more hope than we've had in any other state thus far.

sasha barron said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark said...

Capsule summary of my objections to gay marriage:

(1) Not long after gays are given the right to marry, the traditions of marriage inextricably woven together with the idea of a man and woman being married will begin to be seen as "backward" and bigoted - terms like "bride" and "groom" or anything that suggests marriage is about men and women. For instance, I read that in England where there is some form of gay marriage allowed, there have already been complaints from gays about a portrait of a bride and groom that had been hanging in a traditional old wedding chapel for many generations. The gays wanted it taken down because it suggested that marriage was for men and women, and it made gays feel excluded. Just as feminists worked to get rid of words like "chairman" because they were sexist, activist gays will seek to eliminate all social vestiges related to marriage that have any overtones of the man/woman relationship. Not all gays will feel that way - but not all women had a problem with "chairman".

(2) I have a problem with changing an extremely ancient and fundamental cultural lynchpin because a certain small segment of the population has a genetic defect that sadly makes them sexually attracted to the wrong gender. I'm sorry for gays that their wiring is messed up, so that their normal sexual drives are directed in an unnatural way - male homosexuals, for example, having the urge to penetrate (please forgive the vulgarity but I think it is important to my point) but the object of their lust having no appropriate orifice, they settle on another orifice not meant for that purpose. I think it is sad and I feel bad for them. And I wish them to have happiness and find someone to love and make the best of it. But I do not see why we all need to pretend that two men can get "married" like a man and a woman can. It strikes me as a kind of sickness to pretend that they are the same thing...they are not. A man and a woman is something on an entirely different plane than two men or two women who have a genetic condition that has messed up their sexuality.

I think that arguments that gays should be able to pass on inheritances to loved ones, or health care, as easily as straight married people have some merit, but these issues do require gay marriage. Establish some other kind of legal union status. But not "marriage". I will never consider two people of the same gender "married".

Mark said...

Sorry, I meant "these issues do not require gay marriage".

Palladian said...

"Yes, we have reason on our side in this argument, but what do you do when you're dealing with unreasonable people?...

The only thing to do is to wait until the older generation dies out. Which is why I read the obituaries with a smile every morning."

Reading the obituaries with a smile is not really a model of reasonable behavior. In fact, I can just as easily imagine an vulgar anti-gay person making the same statement at the height of the AIDS crisis in America. Neither is it within reason to expect those who disagree with you to be particularly willing to give you quarter when you immediately paint their views as "unreasonable". If anyone has been unreasonable in the various threads devoted to the discussion of gay marriage, both here and at Volokh.com, it's you. You come in making the basest emotionalist declarations then laughably claim that you have reason on your side. You call those who disagree with you bigots, or compare them all to Santorum or Fred Phelps. You become increasingly irrational and start huring insults when you perceive that the discussions aren't going your way.

Advice from a fellow gay man and supporter of gay unions: stop being such a drama queen. You said that you're 37, well then start to act like an adult. You do us (those on your "side" of the argument) a great disfavor with your current strategies.

Mark said...

downtownlad,

An amendment defining marriage as strictly between men and women does not make homosexuals second class citizens. They are equally free to marry someone of the opposite sex, just as straight people are. They may not choose to do that, but they have not been denied a right. You do not have a right to "marry someone you love", and neither do straight people. There are all sorts of people that we love that we are not allowed to marry. You have a right to marry a non-related person of the age of consent and the opposite gender, just like anyone else. If you don't care to do so - because of a genetic defect or for whatever other reason - that is your choice but you have not been denied something open to other people. There is no denial of civil rights here.

downtownlad said...

Actually Paladian - it was Althouse who said we had reason on our side. If you actually bothered to read the post she had linked to . . .

Drama queen? And you're accusing me of throwing out insults?

You bore me Palladian. If you don't want to fight for your rights, that's fine. But please don't take credit for them when we finally get them.

Dan Savage said it best. If you're not a gay activist, you're a gay doormat.

downtownlad said...

Mark,

I've taken your advice and placed an ad on a Christian dating site.
I plan on stringing an unsuspecting young girl along for a long time. Perhaps I'll marry her. I'll tell her I'm gay after I get married.
You don't happen to have a daughter or sister who are single do you? I'd really like to meet them. Serious. I'd really like their number.

This is what you're advocating, isn't it? Or are you now going to say that it would be WRONG of me to actually marry someone of the opposite sex. Sorry - you can't have it both ways.

downtownlad said...

Funny. It's ok for people to make the slander that gay people are defective, but it's wrong for me to call such a statement bigoted?

Why is that?

Perhaps the wise Palladian can squre that circle? Oh that's right. Palladian doesn't think that gay people have the right to defend themselves, lest they actually make a straight person uncomfortable.

Palladian said...

Mark has "a problem with changing an extremely ancient and fundamental cultural lynchpin because a certain small segment of the population has a genetic defect that sadly makes them sexually attracted to the wrong gender. I'm sorry for gays that their wiring is messed up, so that their normal sexual drives are directed in an unnatural way - male homosexuals, for example, having the urge to penetrate (please forgive the vulgarity but I think it is important to my point) but the object of their lust having no appropriate orifice, they settle on another orifice not meant for that purpose. I think it is sad and I feel bad for them."

First of all, please keep your pity to yourself. We don't want it or need it. Second, do you have the urge to "penetrate"? Do you penetrate women in other than the "appropriate" orifice, such as would happen in oral sex or heterosexual anal sex? I hear these are quite common and popular activities among "correctly wired" people such as yourself. Is it somehow appropriate to penetrate the "inappropriate orifices" when they're located in the correct gender? If not, what do we do to wipe out this scourge of inappropriateness that is jeopardizing the "correctly wired" people of the West?

"A man and a woman is something on an entirely different plane than two men or two women who have a genetic condition that has messed up their sexuality."

Genetic condition? I'd be interested in a citation of the scientific literature that identifies this "genetic condition", as I'm not familiar with it.

Assuming that scientific evidence is forthcoming and confirms what you are saying, that my desire to "penetrate" guys is the result of some "genetic condition", then why are you in favor of discriminating against the "disabled". Do others who suffer from genetic conditions that "mess up their wiring" and cause them to be different than "correctly wired" people deserve to be discriminated against because of their genetic conditions? And since most "genetic conditions" can't be cured per se, do you advocate aborting fetuses that test positive for the "incorrect orifice penetrating" genetic problem?

Interestingly, you seem to define homosexuality (and by extension, heterosexuality) as a purely mechanical set of conditions, although you do, tellingly, later use the term "loved ones" in reference to gay couples. How do you resolve your earlier definition of homosexuality as "messed up wiring" and incorrect orifice penetration with this later admission of the possibility of two homosexuals loving one another?

"I will never consider two people of the same gender "married"."

Well, fine. You don't have to. But we're not talking about you, we're talking about the state.

Palladian said...

"Dan Savage said it best. If you're not a gay activist, you're a gay doormat."

I don't take advice from people who think it's amusing or interesting political discourse lick doorknobs, keyboards, and coffee cups in a public place.

"Palladian doesn't think that gay people have the right to defend themselves, lest they actually make a straight person uncomfortable."

Don't put words in my mouth.

You don't know me very well. I specialize in making all people uncomfortable, gay and straight alike.

downtownlad said...

Palladian,

You have your approach - I have mine. When people start passing bigoted anti-gay Constitutional Amendments, comparing homosexuality to bestiality, etc. - I have zero qualms cutting to the chase and calling those arguments bigoted.

Had we been having this argument in 1966, I'd have zero qualms calling those who wanted to ban inter-racial marriage "racists".

Palladian would probably accuse me of throwing around insults by using the "racist" term.

But it would still be the truth.

Sorry for being blunt. That's just my nature. Must be part of my genetic makeup.

downtownlad said...

Great article though Palladian. I admire Dan Savage even more now. He rocks!

MadisonMan said...

An amendment defining marriage as strictly between men and women does not make homosexuals second class citizens. They are equally free to marry someone of the opposite sex, just as straight people are.

Oh, honestly, as my Mother would say. You seek to defend the sanctity of marriage by advocating the betrothal of two people who can't completely commit to one another?

downtownlad said...

Madisonman,

Actually it's not a bad idea. I am becoming more and more attached to it.

Every gay person should marry the daughter of someone on the religious right. They can't get divorced after all - that's forbidden. And we can stop them from reproducing.

Brilliant!

Mark said...

Responding to downtownlad:

"Do others who suffer from genetic conditions that "mess up their wiring" and cause them to be different than "correctly wired" people deserve to be discriminated against because of their genetic conditions?"

Yes, if they insist that society pretend that they are something they are not. For instance, someone with no genetic talent for running is never going to be an Olympic sprinter. That's unfortunate, but that's life. If they insist that it isn't right they be denied the thrill of an Olympic gold medal simply because they were born with no talent for running, and that the Olympics should stop "discriminating" against people who are genetically poor runners, and insist that everyone who desires so be able to enter Olympic races and be given gold medals, then they are wrong. Their inability to win Olympic sprinting medals because their genes are poor for sprinting does not mean they have been denied a right.

There is a whole range of genetic conditions beyond people's control that disqualifies them from attaining certain things in life simply by the nature of their abnormality. People afflicted with genetic conditions that ruin their looks are not going to be beauty queens. People born with the homosexuality genetic defect are not going to be interested in getting married, because that involves the opposite sex. Society should be kind to people like this and not thoughtlessly prevent them from doing the best they can to live a good life. But it is wrong to twist our culture to pretend some things are what they are not, just so some people's feelings aren't hurt. By all means, give homosexuals legal ways to live with each other and care for each other. But "marriage"? No.

It's funny because I don't think a few years ago that homosexuals were insisting on being able to call themselves "married". They just wanted civil unions. Now they want to be called "married" because anything else seems less. See how strong the desire of those who are naturally excluded from something by their genetics is to destroy that thing? Is there any doubt that once "marriage" was granted to homosexuals, that they would move on to eradicate any other cultural vestiges related to marriage that made them feel left out? (Such as getting rid of traditional portraits of brides and grooms.) Think of allll the traditions in our society related to marriage, to brides and grooms, weddings, all of those things -- and all of the ways that the man/woman aspect is interlinked to those traditions - and then kiss them goodbye if gay marriage is allowed. It will be considered "bigoted" for example for a "Brides" magazine to have a woman on the cover in a wedding gown.


"...do you advocate aborting fetuses that test positive for the "incorrect orifice penetrating" genetic problem?"

I don't advocate abortion. I think it is probably a wrong in the eyes of our creator, though I can't know for sure. If there is a way, some day, to repair the genetic error that causes homosexuality while the child is developing in the womb, I think that would be a good thing. Otherwise I would say that gay people are born with an extra challenge in life, like other people with genetic defects. It is to their greater glory if they can overcome that.

How do you resolve your earlier definition of homosexuality as "messed up wiring" and incorrect orifice penetration with this later admission of the possibility of two homosexuals loving one another?

I have no doubt that homosexuals can and do love one another. More power to them. The ability to love is independent of sexual wiring of course. I see no conflict between the two truths that (a) homosexuals are genetically messed up so that they are erroneously attracted to the wrong sex, and (b) homosexuals can love other people. I love my father. It has nothing to do with sexuality. I'm quite sure that homosexuals feel deep love for other homosexuals. My argument against marriage for them is not they don't actually love one another. You think that love is the be-all and end-all requirement of marriage. It is not. If it were, it would be required by the law.

I note finally that you ignored my first argument, that legitimizing gay marriage would lead to the illegitimization of any reference to marriage as a man/woman activity, as in the example of the gays insisting that a painting of a bride and groom be removed from a chapel in England.

Palladian said...

"Responding to downtownlad"

that was my comment. I'm the semi-rational one.

You seem to be awfully knotted up by that portrait of a correct-orifice-penetrating couple incident. It doesn't do your argument any good to blow up a single media story (and probable publicity stunt) into an object lesson on why gay marriage is wrong.

You also seem to have little faith in the actual strength of your ancient institution. In the long history of marriage, the role of the state in sanctioning and licensing marriage is very recent. If marriage has the cosmic significance that you imply it does, why does the state's recognition of marriage have anything to do with its strength and meaning? Why are you giving this supernatural power to a secular government body?

And you did not answer my questions: do you (forgive my vulgarity!) penetrate the "inappropriate orifices" of women? And can you provide acceptable citations of the scientific literature to support your "genetic messed up wiring" theory?

MadisonMan said...

I note finally that you ignored my first argument, that legitimizing gay marriage would lead to the illegitimization of any reference to marriage as a man/woman activity, as in the example of the gays insisting that a painting of a bride and groom be removed from a chapel in England.

I find it hard to believe that US Government control will extend to Churches. And what's to stop the church from saying: You don't like it? Get married someplace else! Catholic churches do it all the time to people who aren't Catholics -- how is your scenario any different? You have raised a non-issue to move the spotlight from the fundamental inequality that is maintained for no good reason in the state of Wisconsin.

Please do not confuse ignoring a ridiculous argument with that argument's iron cladness.

Mark said...

I've taken your advice and placed an ad on a Christian dating site. I plan on stringing an unsuspecting young girl along for a long time. Perhaps I'll marry her. I'll tell her I'm gay after I get married. You don't happen to have a daughter or sister who are single do you? I'd really like to meet them. Serious. I'd really like their number.

I note first how very filled with bile you are.

Beyond that, you seem to be arguing that since I don't feel that love is enough to justify homosexual marriage, I am saying that love doesn't matter in marriage.

Your argument is logically flawed.

I am saying that love is not enough by itself. Marriage is bigger and more important to society than that. Love is good, yes. And you should not lie to straight women and lure them into marriage just to prove a point to a straight guy who made a comment on a blog. But love is not enough in itself - the applicants must both be human beings, of legal age, not closely related, and of the opposite sex. These requirements have been tradition as long as human society has existed. Now you wish to discard one of them - perhaps the fundamental one, next to the human requirement - as unimportant because you feel excluded due to a genetic deformity. I don't buy it.

Mark said...

do you (forgive my vulgarity!) penetrate the "inappropriate orifices" of women? And can you provide acceptable citations of the scientific literature to support your "genetic messed up wiring" theory?

(1) What *I* do is irrelevant to a discussion of what is right. What is right is independent of my actions.

(2) Because heterosexual couples do some of the same things that homosexual couples do is irrelevant to my point that homosexuals are reduced to desiring to do ONLY those things because their wiring is messed up. Homosexuals desire to do only "unnatural" acts. The one obviously natural and normal sexual act - heterosexual intercourse - the act that is the basis of all normal sexuality and reproduction, and which is obviously the fundamental point of having evolved sexual drives at all - is the thing that homosexuals do not wish to do. So the fact that heterosexuals engage in some "unnatural acts" does not negate the fact that all homosexuals want to do are "unnatural" acts.

Therefore it is irrelevant whether heterosexuals do some of the same things. My point is not that homosexuals should not do those things. My point is that homosexuals are genetically abnormal (no fault of their own) and that we should not change longstanding traditions to pretend that a genetic abnormality is not a genetic abnormality.

I haven't researched the genetic basis of homosexuality. I have taken it as a given, which is not a big stretch since most homosexuals themselves claim that it's simply a part of them, and not a choice. If someone demonstrated that in fact homosexuality is not genetic but instead a lifestle choice or the result of bad environment, I think that weakens the argument for homosexual marriage even more since my perception has been that the main argument homosexuals make is that they shouldn't be penalized for something beyond their control.

Mark said...

You have raised a non-issue to move the spotlight from the fundamental inequality that is maintained for no good reason in the state of Wisconsin.

There is no fundamental inequality. All people of legal age who wish to marry another human of the opposite gender who is not closely related to them may do so.

There is no legal right to marry whomever you love. You may not marry non-humans you love. You may not marry underage persons you love. You may not marry your close genetic relations who you love. You may not marry people of the same gender who you love.

If you claim that not being able to marry someone of the same gender is a denial of a fundamental right, then people who are excluded for the other reasons can make exactly the same argument.

Palladian said...

What you do is relevant, because you came in here and made a blanket statement about what (male) homosexuals do.

"Because heterosexual couples do some of the same things that homosexual couples do is irrelevant to my point that homosexuals are reduced to desiring to do ONLY those things because their wiring is messed up."

How do bisexuals fit into this equation? I have a friend who has dated women and enjoyed intimacy with them but decided that he was more fulfilled with a male partner. Are bisexuals only partially badly wired?

"Homosexuals desire to do only "unnatural" acts. The one obviously natural and normal sexual act - heterosexual intercourse - the act that is the basis of all normal sexuality and reproduction, and which is obviously the fundamental point of having evolved sexual drives at all - is the thing that homosexuals do not wish to do. So the fact that heterosexuals engage in some "unnatural acts" does not negate the fact that all homosexuals want to do are "unnatural" acts."

How did you decide what is a "natural" act and an "unnatural" act? We do a lot of things that are "unnatural" such as drive cars, wear clothes in temperate climates, pay taxes, write on blogs. Are we violating the natural order by living in civilizations? Why is something as common and ancient as homosexuality and homosexual sex unnatural? Either everything is unnatural or nothing is. And though I usually avoid pedantically pointing out logical fallacies, appeals to Nature aren't good argumentative tactics.

"I haven't researched the genetic basis of homosexuality."

So you just pulled your "scientific" suppositions out of your ass. Or maybe not, since you wouldn't dare do anything naughty with the wrong orifice.

MadisonMan said...

There is no fundamental inequality.

Really? Why is it that two loving people in a committed relationship don't automatically inherit each other's property and pensions? Why can they be compelled to testify against each other in court? Why can they be denied hospital visitation rights? It's because they aren't married. And why can't they get married? Because the state won't let them.

Elizabeth said...

We should be thanking Mark, not vilifying him. He's done a great job of showing moderates exactly what the anti-gay right is about. I hope they listen.

Michael Farris said...

"Dan Savage said it best. If you're not a gay activist, you're a gay doormat."

Perhaps, but Dan Savage:
a) is smart,
b) is funny,
c) has a sense of proportion,
d) will admit to mistakes,
e) also makes points about choosing one's battles and not whining about it

None of these seem to apply to you . At present, you read like a far right troll trying to alienate the middle of the road.

(Savage also didn't lick any doorknobs; that was a revenge fantasy against a politician who'd been slandering his family.)

Mark said...

He's done a great job of showing moderates exactly what the anti-gay right is about.

I'm not "anti-gay". I'm anti-changing-marriage's-definition. There is a big difference.

Why is it that two loving people in a committed relationship don't automatically inherit each other's property and pensions?

Fine, let's write a law that makes it possible for people to bestow these things on a person of their choice. It's not necessary to change marriage to do that.

So you just pulled your "scientific" suppositions out of your ass.

Isn't it generally homosexuals who claim that their homosexuality is an innate part of them that isn't chosen?

And isn't it a little silly to expect someone posting in a casual discussion on a blog to have a rigorous scientific body of evidence to cite for something like this? Is that really the standard that you hold yourself to? Do you post citations of scientific journal articles in your postings very often? Or ever?

Go right ahead and argue then that homosexuality is not genetic, but instead is a product of environment and/or choice. See how far that gets you in your advocacy for gay marriage.

Michael Farris said...

Now I'd like to believe that this amendment is doomed, but I'm not so sure.

The unpleasant fact is that lots of people don't weigh the facts and come to a reasoned opinion. Lots of people vote their identity. That means they vote for the candidate or issue that comes closer to their imagined or aspired for self-image. This is one reason that both gay issues and minority candidates do better in polls than at the ballot box.

I don't know what percentage of people are like that but there are enough of them to sink any anti-gay amendment as they will treat it as a safe, neat way to reassert their own hard-won precious heterosexual identity.

Which brings us to the issue of what can/should happen in civil society when majority apathy or hostility is damaging to a small minority.

It's easy for the unaffected (like Ann) to tell the minority to be patient and measured in their response to damages. But that message rankles when it's your life being adversely affected. It also seems to assume that minority concerns can only be addressed at the sufferance of the majority, an idea which is very dangerous to the very notion of civil society.

Elizabeth said...


I'm not "anti-gay". I'm anti-changing-marriage's-definition. There is a big difference.


You're the gift that keeps on giving, Mark. You feel sorry for the poor, miswired homosexuals who want to do dirty things with their penises. They're free to marry, like anyone else, to someone they can't love or be intimate with. It's not their fault they're sick.

But no, you're not anti-gay. You're just concerned about tradition. Please, keep it coming.

Conservatives who like to brag about your big tent, are you listening? Moderates who don't give anything other than "security" much thought, how's this sounding to you?

MadisonMan said...

Fine, let's write a law that makes it possible for people to bestow these things on a person of their choice.

So you think that would make things fair? Too bad such a law would likely violate the proposed amendment.

Ann Althouse said...

Michael Farris: "It's easy for the unaffected (like Ann) to tell the minority to be patient and measured in their response to damages."

It's presumptuous of you to assume I'm unaffected. You know very little about my private life or my family.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: "You're the gift that keeps on giving, Mark."

I'm thinking that whichever side can keep its haters away from the microphone will win. I want the amendment to fail, so I'd like to see the Downtownlad types to bellyache in private, while the Mark types go around alienating ordinary people who really don't even want to think about other people's orifices.

Michael Farris said...

"It's presumptuous of you to assume I'm unaffected."

I made an assumption based on the small amount of evidence I had. Feel free to mentally edit that out. Or delete that bit or the entire post if you feel strongly about it. Take whatever corrective measures you deem appropriate.

Too Many Jims said...

"I'm thinking that whichever side can keep its haters away from the microphone will win. I want the amendment to fail, so I'd like to see the Downtownlad types to bellyache in private, while the Mark types go around alienating ordinary people."

I hope your thinking is right but if it is it just demonstrates (once again?) that Wisconsin residents are superior to Ohio residents. When the debate was going on this state's "gay marriage ammendment", which has similarly alienating language to those of us in the middle, the most outspoken opponents of the amendment were the AARP and the business community. The AARP opposed it based on the grounds that there are a number of its members that enter into relationships which are not marriage but have some aspects that look "substantially similar to that of marriage" (often times for reasons completely unrelated to sex or sexual orientation). The business community was opposed because they were concerned about (1) being able to attract not just gays but also other employees who might view the amendment as an indicative of close mindedness or backwardness in other areas and (2) the amendment interfering with private businesses' human resources programs. Netither of these groups falls into the "bellyaching" of downtownlad, but the amendment passed here by a wide margin.

Simon said...

Michael Farris said:
"Now I'd like to believe that this amendment is doomed, but I'm not so sure."

I have no idea why you'd have even the faintest thought that "this amendment is doomed" - sure "I hope this amendment is doomed" would make sense, but what you wrote sounds like "this amendment is sure to fail, but I have my doubts." Of all the states that have banned gay marriage since the Massachusetts Supreme Court declared George W. Bush the winner of the 2004 election, I'm not aware of any state where the proposal has made it onto a ballot and subsequently failed. I'd be willing to bet that if America voted, tommorow, gay marriage would be illegal from coast-to-coast, and that includes Massachusetts.

Public opinion is overwhelmingly against it. Now, I'm not saying that public opinion makes something right or wrong; large numbers of the public opposed the ports deal and large numbers of the public want to pull out of Iraq, so that's just two easy examples where the public disagrees with me. This isn't an appeal to populism; I would be the last person on Earth to do that. However, the situation being what it is, it seems to me that the only hope that people who support gay marriage is to keep it off the ballot paper, or you're going to lose at every turn.

When MASC handed down that Court ruling, I said to people I knew who were active in this whole thinig that they should play it down, because if they didn't curtail the impact of it, they were going to shoot themselves in the foot; it would be like giving the election to the GOP. If you try to force an issue down the throats of the American people and they overwhelmingly disagree, if they have a party saying "we'll put a stop to this" what do YOU think people are going to do? Of course, my associates told me to fuck myself; they weren't interested in what someone who wasn't gay had to say about it. Which I think says a lot: they want your support, but they want it blind and dumb. They just want you to be part of an anonymous mass, don't speak up, don't say anything, just do what the leaders tell you. Needless to say, I told them to do what they wanted, and that they're on their own. They did what they said they would, and America did to them exactly what I said it would.

Michael Farris said...

"I have no idea why you'd have even the faintest thought that "this amendment is doomed" - sure "I hope this amendment is doomed" would make sense, but what you wrote sounds like "this amendment is sure to fail, but I have my doubts."

I was trying to share in Ms. Althouse's optimism that the good people of Wisconsin would send this amendment packing. That they're not so easily pandered to.

By all means though, I think you're right and it will ultimately pass with a fair amount of unintended consequences (as in Ohio).

I disagree with you heartily that most of the people that vote for misguided amendments like this do so on principle. Some do (as wrong as I think those principles are), but a lot are just doing so for the reason I mentioned: It's an easy (no cost for them) way to assert their heterosexual identity.

Again, I think it brings up issues of what issues concerning minorities can be left to an electoral majority that's partly hostile and very apathetic to their legitimate interests.
Had activist judges not struck down miscegenation laws, I'm sure lots of those would be in place (I think miscegenation amendments would pass handily in states like Alabama and Mississippi among both whites and blacks).

Similarly with sodomy laws. I can easily imagine some southern state revving those up and mandating conversion therapy for those convicted. Activist judges have prevented that for the time being, but who knows what the future will bring.

I will agree that same-sex marriage activists tend to overplay their hand somewhat. The best strategy I think is to create as many private equivalents and benefits for same-sex marriage as possible and reluctantly let the state take it over (which they would eventually).

peter hoh said...

Remember when Vermont was cutting edge with civil unions? And when liberals could be for civil unions but against "changing the definition of marriage"?

Well, the goalposts got moved in a hurry.

I'm inclined to agree with Simon that the push for more has played into the hands of those who benefit from exploiting the backlash.

Here in Minnesota, the push for a marriage amendment could be seen as a ploy to make life uncomfortable for Democrats who represent rural areas. We'll see how it plays out, but I am certain that all the states that add this amendment will have to repeal it within a generation.

I have suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that advocates for same-sex marriage should argue that they just want gay people to have the same rights that are currently given to adulterers.

Currently, every state will allow affair partners to divorce their respective spouses and marry. And the affair partners can use the power of the state to enforce the dissolution of their marriages without regard to the wishes of their respective spouses.

Seems to me that any attempt to "preserve marriage" might attempt to tackle this issue, but no.

Doris said...

I live in Wisconsin and am very much opposed to this amendment. So maybe I'm biased, but I think Fair Wisconsin's blog against the ban is a model of the kind of civil, rational, and personal dialogue we should be having about this ban.

Simon said...

"At some level, at some point in time, such amendments as crafted, and this includes the DOMA though I know I'm in the minority on this one, will be examined by a court and found to be unconstitutional in denying the 'rights' of some."

Well, I agree that DOMA should be challenged in court, and should fail therein, but not for the same reasons. While there is no federal right to marriage, nor is there any federal power to regulate it (Art.IV §1 notwithstanding); therefore, the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 100 Stat. 2419, in my view, is ultra vires and thus facially unconstitutional.

downtownlad said...

It's absolutely absurd to think that you are going to change people's minds on this issue. It doesn't work that way and never will.

People are either anti-gay or they aren't.

Polls are moving towards gay marriage in this country by about 1% a year. The current polls have the anti-gay marriage people up by 20% or so - 55% - 35%. But in reality, it's more like 60% - 30%, as people lie to pollsters to pretend they are not as bigoted as they really are. And actual votes on this gay marriage issue support the 30% spread. In bigoted Southern states, the spread is 60%.

So in about 15 years, this country will reach a maturation point where half the people support gay marriage. Why? Because a lot of old people who oppose gay marriage will die. And a lot of young people who support it will become voters.

Am I generalizing? Of course. My 70 year-old aunt in Texas is an avid supporter of gay-marriage. My 33 year-old bigot brother in New Jersey opposes it. But by and large this is a generational thing.

Unfortunately, in those states that are now passing amendments, the issue will not be resolved in 15 years - even if the people come to support gay marriage. Because you will need 3/4's of each house to create a new amendment. So you will end up with these bigoted amendments being around for another 70-80 years.

Exactly like Alabama STILL has laws against interracial marriage, that they can't remove from the books, if I recall correctly.

And 80 years hence - Americans will widely view these amendments as ones endorsed by anti-gay bigots.

And they would be right.

So pardon me if I offend anyone right now by stating the truth. The truth that those who enshrine bigotry in a Constitution are, well, um, bigots. And I don't think I need to pretend that these bigots are not bigots. Why should I do that? Yes - they have a right to be anti-gay bigots. And I have a right to point it out to them. Seems fair to me.

I'm offended by these laws and I'm going to let people know that. Tough luck if you disagree. Anyone who reads a blog has already made up their mind on this issue, and no rational argument will make them change their mind. Let's not pretend otherwise.

In the meantime - shaming them is a hell of a lot more effective if you ask me.

downtownlad said...

In 1958 - only 4% of white Americans approved of inter-racial marriage.

It is outlandish to say that the other 96% of white Americans were racist? Is it insulting to have pointed that out to them?

I don't think so. But at the time - I'm sure anyone who did point out that would have been savagely attacked. I can just imagine the arguments - "It's not racists for me to oppose inter-racial marriage when the good Bible says it's an abomination . . . ."

http://www.slate.com/id/30352

esk said...

downtownlad – People are either anti-gay or they aren’t

That’s not true. You have the anti-gay, the gays and/or supporters of gays, and the indifferent.

I understand what you’re saying, but, it’s important to reach the people that are indifferent on the issue. The people that are indifferent won’t check the box – after all, it’s not their issue. The anti-gay crowd will be out in numbers just to support the amendment. The gay supporters will be out to defeat it. But, as you well know we don’t have the numbers. So, the people we need to reach are the ones that are ambivalent to it. And, the way to reach people is by telling our story. Why we should be allowed to express our love, commitment & have the same security marriage entails.

I think the 'indifferents' would understand it better than just hearing, 'anti-gay vs. gay"

Ann Althouse said...

All this talk of the "anti-gay crowd" misses the fact that lots of people who aren't especially pro-gay have a live-and-let-live attitude. When they see the antis being antagonistic, their reaction might be: why don't you leave those poor people alone or stop making me think about sexual things I wasn't already thinking about. I really think the pro-gay side should make itself friendly to the many voters who inhabit that political place. Acting pissed off at them for not caring more is self-defeating.

Simon said...

It's absolutely absurd to think that you are going to change people's minds on this issue. It doesn't work that way and never will. People are either anti-gay or they aren't.

Well, if you're right - and let's all hope you aren't - then you're rather in trouble, aren't you? If your figures hold up, it may well be possible that all this militating for gay marriage is going to have the effect of getting constitutional amendments aganist it passed throughout the country, and no majority capable of overturning it will arise for decades. Presumably, when this realization sets in, they will turn to the courts and start militating for these amendments to be declared unconstitutional, and there you lose even sympathetic voices like me. As a voter, I'd vote against one of these amendments, but as a Justice, I'd almost certainly have to uphold it.

Not to put too fine a point on it, either you're wrong, of you've made a serious strategic error that's now going to set you back for a couple of decades. Personally, I hope it's the former.

Ann Althouse said...

Mary: "Blame the losers just for trying?"

No, I will blame the losers for running a poor campaign though. Right now, I'm saying what I think would be a good campaign. If the opponents of the amendment are heavy-handed, shaming, and nasty to those who don't agree with them, they will deserve blame if the amendment passes. Absolutely!

Simon said...

Mary:
"(I think Simon tipped his hand though with this phraseology, "it may well be possible that all this MILITATING for gay marriage..." and "they will turn to the courts and start MILITATING for these amendments.") It's reached the warfare level for you?"

Respectfully, I think you're reading an opprobrium into my word choice that isn't there. They are militating for gay marriage; they are actively trying to advance an agenda, in just the same way that pro-life forces are militating for the overturning of Roe, and pro-choice forces are militating against the same result. Despite its etymology, in common usage, the word "militate" doesn't neccessarily connote violent action, but rather "to have weight or effect" (Merriam-Webster), "[t]o have force or influence; bring about an effect or a change" (dictionary.com), "[t]o give force or effect toward; to influence." (Wiktionary), or in the negative, to militate against, "to make something less likely to happen or succeed" (Cambridge). Being an activist for a cause is, by definition, militating for that cause. Inded, I'd go so far as to say that in practical usage, "militate" is the verb form of the "activism."

peter hoh said...

I know a minister who has, in the last 4 years, shifted from being opposed to same-sex marriage to being sympathetic to it.

esk wrote: So, the people we need to reach are the ones that are ambivalent to it. And, the way to reach people is by telling our story. Why we should be allowed to express our love, commitment & have the same security marriage entails.

I agree that those opposed to this amendment must reach the people who are ambivalent, and that telling personal stories is an effective means to that end.

I'm not sure that you have to convince the ambivalent that same-sex marriage is necessary or right. I think that you just need to persuade them that this amendment goes too far -- that it is mean-spirited and discriminatory, and that it will have negative consequences for some of the real people who are telling their stories.

Dean said...

You have to dig through alot of links before you find my piece in the Milwaukee paper Dec. 29 of last year.

My major objection to the amendment is the lack of equal treatment, something that in America, I feel, trumps my religious beliefs.