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June 25, 2011

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Wow. Having been born and raised there I never thought I’d see them in the vanguard on something like this. Very cool though.

I think that many people would be surprised at just how conservative much of the state really is (I have always found that many people equate NY with NYC. But Upstate is more like Appalachia than Greenwich Village…). So I do think this reflects a substantial shift in peoples’ attitude on the topic.

I guess a Republican in the State Legislature is a different creature than one in the national spotlight…

New York is too big, too rich, and too important for marriages made there not to be accepted elsewhere in the country.

That was what I thought about California.

Still, it's a different situation. Constitutional amendments in New York aren't as ridiculously easy to pass by ballot initiative, and popular opinion nationwide has moved significantly even since 2008.

Uncrossing fingers, for now.

In Georgia, OTP means "Outside the Perimeter". This is the area on the other side of I 285, which goes in an almost circle around Atlanta. It will be a while before our OTP embraces the one in your sign.
Of course, we said the same thing about civil rights for African Americans. The segregation in Georgia today is economic, not racial.

For all those who dispair, sometimes loudly, of America: it takes time, frequently (in the eyes of partisans) more than it should. But Americans will move forward to do the right thing.

This vote won't end the matter, of course. But there can no longer be any doubt that gay marriages will end up as interracial marriages have: legally recongized and not a big deal. (And yes, it is only within my lifetime that interracial marriages ceased to be illegal -- even here in California. Good thing for me and my wife!)

Doc: It's been amazing to see such a massive shift in my lifetime...

It’s hard to overstate this. I didn’t really know there were such people as gay people til I started discovering (in college) that I was one myself. Twenty or so years ago, when I wrote a public “coming out” piece in the newspaper, my friends were worried about how much at risk I was putting myself and my household. The shift in my lifetime, and especially in the last decade or two, is staggering.

On the pessimistic side, I still don’t take it for granted that there won’t be a major reversal. If times get bad enough, who knows what could happen.

Doc again:...it seems to me that most of the work was done by just plain people relating to each other as human beings, saying "this is who I am."

Agreed again. It took a lot of courage on the part of many people for this to happen. For myself, I feel that whatever I had that other people called courage (and I did very little compared to some people), I experienced it more is simply stubbornness. It’s my world too, and I’m going to claim it. It’s about as simple as that. And note the “too.” People who want to keep gay people in hiding, as second-class citizens, are saying in effect, “It’s my world and not yours.” We’re saying, “It’s not yours and not mine, it’s ours. Deal with it.”

Because it’s slow at Obsidian Wings these days, and because no one is forced to read anything, here’s fair warning that I’m going to add, in separate comments two longish passages from speeches by Maine state legislators on the occasion of the House vote on marriage in Maine, May 5, 2009. I’m putting these here to honor legislators who make the effect of “just plain people relating to each other as human beings” very public, sometimes to their cost. I especially honor the ones -- like Grisanti (I believe it was) in New York last night -- who have the courage to change their minds so publicly and in the face of so much dissension and pressure.

Maine House of Representatives, May 5, 2009, Representative Pat Flood (from my own district, a moderate Republican, well-liked, term-limited out next time):

I have been quiet and non-committal and some would say conspicuously invisible on this topic leading to this vote. I do want to say that was purposeful, so that I wouldn't get distracted and de-railed from the essential budget work at hand during these past four months...but naturally as this day drew closer, it became necessary to think this issue through quite deeply.

And honestly that was difficult at times because most of my closest friends and coworkers at this Great House were vocally expressing opinions different than my own, and I admire these people. And now that the day is at hand, I can say that I would much rather work on ten $569 million budget shortfalls.... nights and weekends....than to have to make a decision on one gay marriage bill. I am however lifted up by the decent, respectful, and patient way the gay and lesbian community has approached this issue and the similar way that thoughtful legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, and citizens throughout our state have voiced their disagreements.

I haven't slept very well for the last two weeks dreading the inevitable disapproval of my caucus co-workers, and many of my friends, and my neighbors. But a few days ago when I was selfishly feeling a little too sorry for myself for having to make this decision, and selfishly feeling a little too concerned about how my friends here and at home would feel about my decision, I finally came to the realization that it is not about my problems, and it's not about me, and it's not about my traditions, or my values, or the many respectful and decent differences of opinion that will be voiced in today's debate. It's about gay people who would like the freedom to get married; and the fact that they, like it or not, have to receive the permission of others...legislators...and our governor...before they can do that.

I am hopeful that we in this House today grant this permission. The more we can do to celebrate our differences the stronger this State and this Country will become.

And the more we can do to assure equal freedoms for all our minority groups, and especially the freedoms to encourage and express love and commitment; the better. I would not wish to withhold this expression or this celebration from anyone. I could not bear that. But rather, I would be proud to be a part of granting it.

When I got married 38 years ago, the only person I needed permission from was my girlfriend Marjorie, and that was difficult enough. I wish it could be that way for everyone.
It is awkward being a legislator at times, especially days like this. But like all of you in this great chamber, I asked for this duty, and I knew full-well there would be days like this. We all sought the honor of representing the People, and perhaps we feel that honor the greatest on the miserable days like this. I know that there won't be many pleasant phone messages on the machine when I get home late tonight. But as I said, it's not about me. It's about gay people seeking the right to marry, and my job is to represent them like I would represent all others, the very same way I would want that they represent me.

I appreciate the privilege of speaking before you, regardless of your good beliefs. Thank you Madam Speaker and thank you Ladies and Gentlemen of the House.

The complete transcript is here.

Same day, May 5, 2009, Maine House, Representative Larry Sirois, who was not re-elected the following year (not my district, I don't know if he even ran again). This is my favorite speech from that day, one of my all-time commentaries on the subject. How much better off would we all be if more people acted upon the idea that "I have enough sins of my own to worry about without worrying about anyone else's"?

I have thought long and hard about this bill, prayed a lot about it, and I have come up with a conclusion. As most of you here, we wear many hats. One of the hats I wear is as a deacon of Turner Village Church. It is a small congregation, Baptist. I may add that I was a Catholic for a long time too, so I think I got all of the bases covered. But seriously, I, along with my church, don't agree with the gay and lesbian lifestyle. We also believe that God intended marriage to be for one man and one woman. That being said, we also believe in the Great Commitment of God. First, love God with your whole being. Second, to love your neighbor as yourself. Now I am no Bible scholar, but I don't remember seeing anything in the Bible about any conditions on who your neighbor is. There is nothing there about which sex, which religion, or what sexual orientation you have, we are just to love our neighbor and that is everyone that we have contact with. Also, I am sure many of you know this, Jesus was among the Pharisees, and they were going to stone a woman for adultery; it's good that we don't do that anymore. But he said, he who has not sinned throw the first stone, and we know what happened: they all walked away. Well I know I have enough sins to worry about for myself and I don't have to judge others and I don't think any of us do.

We also wear a hat in here as a legislator. I am very proud to be a part of this body for the last three years. In fact, if I could have a prop right now, I'd have my legislative ball cap on, but I can't. But I firmly believe that everybody in this House is here to promote justice, equality and fairness for the Maine citizen. I also believe, contrary to what some people say about us, that we are here to make Maine a better state, not only for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren. I feel this bill does that. This bill, the way I look at it, is to give some rights that have not been there for some people in this state. It's to give the same rights for same sex couples as heterosexual couples. I really think that is the right thing to do. If this bill said that I was going to have to believe a different way than I do about marriage, about gays, I wouldn't accept this bill. But it does not. It is purely the legality of giving other citizens in Maine the same rights that some of us have, and, for that reason, I am supporting this bill. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

it seems to me that most of the work was done by just plain people relating to each other as human beings, saying "this is who I am."

This and the widespread, ongoing discussions on the subject, but more the former than the latter. Daily, ordinary contact with gay people who were and are entirely ordinary in every way except how they were wired is the grease that keeps this wheel turning. More minds are changed everyday. Counter arguments sound more hollow and mean spirited with every day.

A good day.

Call me when we win a referendum.

I don't think "when we win a referendum" is necessarily an accurate indicator of cultural victory, because in the cases where same-sex marriage would win in a referendum, the referendum usually doesn't happen. SSM usually gets established by either legislative or judicial means with the understanding that it's already constitutional, not by a constitutional amendment that (in many states) requires a popular referendum.

If someone tried an anti-SSM amendment in Massachusetts right now, and the amendment actually got to the ballot stage, it would lose. But it wouldn't get to the ballot stage--it didn't the previous two times, when there was less public support for gay marriage than there is now.

If same-sex marriage does win a referendum, it will probably happen first in California, if Prop. 8 has to be repealed with another citizen initiative amendment.

Call me when we win a referendum.

Do you recommend hiding in the closet til we do?

Meanwhile, "cultural victory" or not, a lot of people who couldn't get married before can get married now, and are pretty happy about it.

Should interracial couples have ignored Loving and waited to get married til a referendum majority approved of them? Hmmm. I wonder how many states there are where interracial marriage still wouldn't win a referendum.

I don't see why I should have to ask permission. (Yeah, I know there are other versions. I just like to hear it in Irish.)

Call me when we win a referendum.

We wouldn't win referenda on most of the Bill of Rights today. Which is why we have one in the first place.

If you believe the polls on this, Phil is correct. Sadly.

In fact, the Second Amendment would probably even lose among NRA members, because they don't realize that the first clause is part of the amendment they are so fond of.

That was what I thought about California.

Still, it's a different situation. Constitutional amendments in New York aren't as ridiculously easy to pass by ballot initiative, and popular opinion nationwide has moved significantly even since 2008.

It's true that referendums are much easier in California than in New York, and that this fact makes it more likely that New York's law will remain on the books. But I think that you're missing a key distinction: California enacted gay marriage because members of the California Supreme Court decreed that it was the right thing to do. New York enacted gay marriage because activists took the time to convince legislators that gay marriage was the right thing to do: listening to their concerns, taking them seriously, and addressing those that could be addressed without giving in on the important points. It is the fact that New York's House and Senate passed this law makes it much more difficult for the inevitable conservative backlash to occur (or succeed).

Lasting change occurs when the people are convinced, individual by individual, of what is right. You cannot leave Republicans and moderates out of the effort if the good guys are going to win.

Anyway, a great day for New York and the Country. And a great plethora of Republican arguments from New York's Republican legislators to export to a moderate Republican near you.

Lasting change occurs when the people are convinced, individual by individual, of what is right. You cannot leave Republicans and moderates out of the effort if the good guys are going to win.

In many contexts, this is not true at all; lasting change often comes about only when the older generation dies. There's a long history of this in the sciences.

More to the point, actual political scientists who have studied this question are convinced that court decisions on gay marriage do not create any more backlash than legislative action. Scott Lemiux explains in more detail. Despite the research and the many obvious counterexamples, this myth refuses to die.

The fact that it was the legislature and not the courts that opened the way for same-sex marriage in Maine didn't prevent the backlash from closing it again.

Lasting change occurs when the people are convinced, individual by individual, of what is right.

I agree with this, but disagree that public action has to wait until "the people" are convinced. Public action -- legislation, court decisions, regulatory protocols, civil disobedience, what have you -- is very often the instrument of convincing "the people".

Sometimes folks need a shove.

You cannot leave Republicans and moderates out of the effort if the good guys are going to win.

Republicans and moderates are, and have always been, welcome to join in the effort, in this case and in many others.

In many contexts, this is not true at all; lasting change often comes about only when the older generation dies. There's a long history of this in the sciences.

This is helpful information for some other case, but in this case, it seems that people can be convinced. There's direct evidence of it from the conversions of various NY Senators, as well as statistical data showing opinions moving among nearly all age groups.

The fact that it was the legislature and not the courts that opened the way for same-sex marriage in Maine didn't prevent the backlash from closing it again.

That's true. If it's easy to overturn a law via popular support, the legislative route is less powerful -- IOW, I'm not arguing that McIrvin is wrong, only that his statement is very incomplete.

However, I respectfully submit that Maine is also a somewhat unique case: There is a definite tension between the more liberal, seasonal, largely non-ME-voting population along the coast and the more conservative permanent population. The former has economic effects that give them influence in the legislature that would not impact a public referendum. (But you'd know more of the nuances about this than me, and I'd welcome correction.)

I agree with this, but disagree that public action has to wait until "the people" are convinced. Public action -- legislation, court decisions, regulatory protocols, civil disobedience, what have you -- is very often the instrument of convincing "the people".

Sometimes -- but at least as often, if not more often, it backfires. (The exception that proves this rule is the Civil Rights Movement in my view. We can get into my argument on that tangent in greater detail, but only if it's something you'd like to discuss.)

von, your claim that political backlashes are more likely to follow judicial rather than legislative victories would be much more persuasive if you could point to some political science research justifying your claim. I did so for my claim. Janie raised a salient counterexample. I think that you need to start showing some evidence: can you point to studies showing significantly lower public polling for gay marriage/civil unions in areas that have legalized it by legislative rather than judicial means (after controlling for the obvious factors)?

There's direct evidence of it from the conversions of various NY Senators, as well as statistical data showing opinions moving among nearly all age groups.

Senators are a very special group of people; they're not representative of the population at large. As such, you cannot point to facts about them and infer that the population in general will behave the same way. Moreover, only a very small number of NY Republican Senators actually voted for gay marriage: 12% I believe.

As far as I know, there has been no significant improvement in support for gay marriage among the oldest cohorts. Do you have data showing otherwise? If so, please present it.

Turb, this is why conversations with you are so boring:. You make a statement, I respond to that statement, you go off on at least two tangents without really addressing what you argued in the first place. To repeat, you wrote the following in response to my argument that people change:

In many contexts, this is not true at all; lasting change often comes about only when the older generation dies. There's a long history of this in the sciences.

I responded:

This is helpful information for some other case, but in this case, it seems that people can be convinced. There's direct evidence of it from the conversions of various NY Senators, as well as statistical data showing opinions moving among nearly all age groups.

As for evidence: Andrew Sullivan has collected a number of good examples of people changing their mind (e.g., Mark Grisanti, at http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/06/the-speech-that-said-it-all.html). As for whether this example has relevance outside the (purportedly) rarified heights of Senators and House Members, here are the stats: http://features.pewforum.org/gay-marriage-attitudes/index.php. Click to page 2 to see the shifts within age groups; millenials lead the pack, but every group has experienced an increase in support since 2001.)

California enacted gay marriage because members of the California Supreme Court decreed that it was the right thing to do.

Not quite. California first enacted gay marriage through the legislature, but it was vetoed by the governor, who said he wanted it to be decided through the courts, first.

von: There is a definite tension between the more liberal, seasonal, largely non-ME-voting population along the coast and the more conservative permanent population. The former has economic effects that give them influence in the legislature that would not impact a public referendum. (But you'd know more of the nuances about this than me, and I'd welcome correction.)

In twenty-five years of living in Maine, with lots of friends working for the state and/or in the government, I've never heard anyone mention the influence of non-voting seasonal residents on the legislature.

I'm not saying it's not there, I'm just saying that it's not a big enough topic for someone who does pay a certain amount of attention to ever have heard of.

On the other hand, I'm not a political junkie so who knows what nuances I've missed. To get an outside opinion, I've consulted (via email) a friend who was in the legislature for 8 years (term-limited out), who was born here, whose family has been here for eons, etc. Not to mention, she's a Republican.

I'll let you know what she says.

I thought that von might be referring to an influx of non Mainers who would be retiring. I don't know about the details, but you've got a sizable number of folks spending time there during the summer, making the coastal communities more cosmopolitan. I think you have a similar phenomenon in college towns, where the influx of students, while not affecting the legislature directly, serve to make college towns more liberal, which then has an impact on the legislature.

A bit of googling turns up this paper about population trends in Maine. If it is simply a question of getting the older cohort out cause they can't be convinced otherwise, Maine looks to be in for a bad time.

Von suggested that there's less likely to be backlash against legislative decisions than court decisions. Turbulence said there's no evidence of that and gave a cite. I cited Maine as a counter-example. Von said, in effect, that Maine doesn't count as a counter-example because Maine is special in that visitors influence the legislature in a liberal direction.

It’s a mystery to me why the visitors don’t influence their local neighbors -- among whom they live, buy stuff, play, go to concerts, etc. -- in the same way. It’s also a mystery to me why visitors should be assumed to have more influence than residents on legislators; Maine legislative districts are so small that candidates knock on pretty much every door in their districts, and know their constituents pretty well.

lj cited college students as possibly having a similar effect as von’s summer people.

Many college students from other states actually vote in Maine, so their effect is not particularly indirect. If they vote, they vote on ballot issues as well as for legislators, obviously. (So much so that the newly Republican-dominated legislature has just made it harder to vote -- no more same-day registration, which Maine has had for 38 years.)

Gobs of out of state money came into Maine on both sides for the marriage referendum. Unless I have missed something, the National Organization for Marriage is still fighting in court to keep its donor list secret.

I could go on about this, but it seems to me that if a little state like Maine is so complicated, then how much more so a big state like California, or New York? Tyro has already pointed out a wrinkle that makes the California situation less straightforward.

Suggesting a pattern (less backlash against legislative decisions than against court decisions), then dismissing an obvious exception to the pattern becaues it's "special," seems a bit too glib; you can probably do it for any state, and then where does the pattern go? A pattern with nothing but exceptions isn't much of a pattern.

I don't have time to read the whole Muskie Center report lj cited, but I skimmed it a bit. If retirees are coming into Maine, then their potential liberal-ness compared to the long-term Maine population (isn't that what von was talking about?) may somewhat counterbalance their age, at least as far as voting goes. Also, besides retirees moving into Maine, young people have been moving out for generations. That surely skews the population distribution even further.

But, I'm sorry I jumped into this; I'm jumping back out now.

Von, I don't think California fits into any pigeonhole. As stated above, the legislature already passed same-sex marriage there; Schwarzenegger vetoed it with a strange argument explicitly sending the matter to the courts (I think it was an attempt to please his homophobic constituents without actually being anti-gay). When the courts finally intervened, they were overridden by ballot initiative. And, yes, the pro-SSM campaign was terribly organized; the anti campaign also had massive funding from the LDS church, which they'd failed to disclose in violation of election law.

I think that if the federal judicial effort to overturn Prop. 8 fails, which it well might, they'll take a crack at overturning it by referendum and this time the vote will be for marriage equality.

But I also think it's ridiculous to reject any procedurally legal approach as illegitimate in a civil rights fight. The other side doesn't respect such niceties. In the long run you need to get the masses on your side, but it doesn't mean you have to wait until then, particularly when it's difficult to get people to even identify as gay without a supportive legal environment.

FWIW, there are already noises from certain quarters on the right (sorry, no links handy) that the legislative victory here in NY was illegitimate, and that the issue can only be settled by referendum.

I remain convinced that "judicial activism" was nothing more than a convenient peg on which the homophobes could hang their hat, and that their concerns about democratic process are pure smoke and mirrors.

When a referendum succeeds, we'll hear "we're a republic, not a democracy" and complaints about mob rule. There's an argument for every occasion.

Note also, the mother of all examples is a counterexample. Same-sex marriage easily has majority support in Massachusetts today, but it didn't in 2004, when the Goodridge decision came down. Support was probably highest in the nation, but it was still significantly below 50%.

And there was definitely a backlash, but it was far more muted than almost everybody suspected. No riots, no major unrest; the cops came out when people started lining up to get marriage licenses, and all they found was a peaceful celebration. The effort to overturn the decision by constitutional amendment began immediately, and failed in the legislature. A little while later there was a second effort based on a citizen initiative with a more shrewdly worded amendment, and that failed as well, even though the process used only required getting a 25% vote twice.

If we'd had California-style citizen initiatives that could get on the ballot without any legislative vote, we'd probably have had an equivalent of Prop. 8 on the ballot in 2004 and Goodridge would have been overturned. In other words, the operative difference was constitutional. Are the people of Massachusetts still resentful of the fact that same-sex marriage was enacted over their disapproval? If so, you can't see it in the polls. Public opinion followed.

...Now, an additional argument would probably be: sure, the backlash in Massachusetts wasn't huge, but there was a national backlash in 2004 that contributed to Bush's reelection.

And there was. I don't think it was decisive in the presidential election--I think the long shadow of 9/11 was still a bigger deal at that point--but you can see the backlash in opinion polls nationwide and in the rash of anti-gay-rights ballot questions that were passed then in many states.

What I don't believe is that that backlash had anything to do with Goodridge being a court case instead of a legislative action. In most of the states that passed anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendments and such, there was no imminent danger of gay marriage becoming legal by any means. I seriously doubt the people who were mobilized to come out to fight the gay menace were at all interested in procedural details of Massachusetts state politics.

JanieM, I didn't mean to run you off. I thought your last paragraph was the point that von was making. On one level, every state is different and it's good to try and understand the specific conditions of each state as a way to move forward.

Of course, as you point out, when out of state forces put a big thumb on the scale, it skews things and that is another reason to try and understand the specific conditions. I wish we could come up with a perfect one size fits all template that could be applied to 'solve' the problem of recognizing gay marriage, but I don't think it exists.

I only brought up the report because if it is simply a question of age, then Maine is the 'oldest' state in the union, so what does that mean for the future?

Matt McIrvin:

'the anti campaign also had massive funding from the LDS church, which they'd failed to disclose in violation of election law.'

Is there a cite for this? I see where there was a fine for failure to report LDS Church staff spending official work time ($37,000 worth) assisting the anti-SSM effort leading up to the referendum, but not anything I could judge 'massive'.

'When a referendum succeeds, we'll hear "we're a republic, not a democracy"'

The United States are a republic. Does the federal constitution make any provision for referenda? Where a state's constitution allows ballot referenda, are you saying that some will invoke the above quotation?

I think I'd give a rule of thumb on these kinds of issues. On one hand, you can have something previously illegal, legalized in a few places, followed by judicial actions and eventually a Supreme Court decision forcing it thru for the rest of the country. On the other hand, you can have legalization proceed locally until it covers a majority of the country, and then a Supreme Court decision forcing the last few places into line.

The second moves move quickly, but is prone to generate a "culture wars" type backlash and poison politics for years (cf Roe v Wade . . . or the Civil War, for that matter). The first gets the job done wthout a lot of political impact, but takes longer (cf Loving).

Whether opinion nationwide has moved far enough for a court decision on gay marriage (e.g. from the California case) to not have a polarizing effect is not clear. Not least because public opinion has been moving far faster on this subject than I would have expected. Just on years elapsed, I would expect a backlash, but under the circumstances it doesn't seem unreasonable to hope we'll avoid one.

I typically avoid these discussions, finding them odddly heated between people who violently agree on the desired outcome.

But I find myself nodding in agreement with almost everyone.

Massive, long term cultural change clearly requires us old folks to die, Turb has the stats and well, common sense agrees with that.

Medium term cultural acceptance is better achieved by doing the work, convincing people thus legislators that the right thing to do is create fairness in the laws.

Short term equality can be achieved in the law by fiat of the courts and if it doesn't create cultural change, and may even have a short term negative impact on that, it drives discussion, raises consciousness of an issue of unfairness and allows the work of changing minds to be done in more open forums than before.

There really isn't a downside to any of these mechanisms except that old people have to die at some point which is inevitable yet sad.

lj, you didn't drive me out. When I find myself debating the debate, it's time to go do something else. That's not a judgment on people who enjoy the meta-debate, just a statement of personal preference and sanity maintenance.

As for Maine's aging population, believe me, there are people worried about it constantly. But that's definitely a "whole nother" thread.

Well, fair enough. The improperly reported amount the church actually had to pay fines over was $37,000 (which is why the fine was so small, $5538); the total amount they spent seems to be $190,000 (they'd claimed it was $2000); the donations they managed to get from individual Mormons in the course of that campaign came to tens of millions. Those donations were themselves legally aboveboard, but the accusation, at least, is that the church was trying to conceal the extent to which the Prop. 8 campaign was a church project.

...about republic vs. democracy, I'm saying the arguments on procedural grounds shift according to the situation; I'm predicting that we will hear this objection the moment marriage equality wins a referendum.

Personally, I am wary of civil-rights issues being decided by direct plebiscite, and I think the California citizen-initiative process is an amazing constitutional disaster; but if my side can win those I'm going to take the win as a win.

Personally, I am wary of civil-rights issues being decided by direct plebiscite,...

Me, too. Conceptually, at least, and perhaps practically, that sort of thing makes rights not-so-inalienable. See Posted by: Phil | June 26, 2011 at 09:25 AM.

The exception that proves this rule is the Civil Rights Movement

Which one? For which group of people? In which century?

Emancipation. Women's right to vote. The legal right for labor to organize.

Which of those things came about because of millions of thoughtful, polite conversations over coffee?

Sometimes people need a shove.

It's wonderful that so many people who want to marry will now be able to marry in New York. I'll be glad when everyone has the right to marry. I hope that when that happens, we can finally start discussing why so many benefits are available only to those who choose to marry.

Katherine M. Franke, a professor of law and the director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School, presented an interesting perspective in the NYT last Friday.

A minor point, but I'm confused:

I read at least twice that "Turb has the stats" that support the points that he's making. I'm struggline to see what those stats are. Turb has cited a Lemieux article that is (effectively) an editorial arguing against what Lemieux concedes is the conventional wisdom. I am definitely not saying that the convention reason is always right, or even right here. But how does an editorial that even the author admits goes against the grain constitute a "stat"?

When I think of a "stat", I think of something like the Pew survey, which I cited and which I think pretty clearly rejects the view that people can't change their views on gay marriage. They can and have.

As for whether a court opinion is more likely than not to provoke a backlash, you might want to consider that Lemieux's counter-CW argument is neither a fact nor universally accepted. See here, for example:

http://www.gaylawreport.com/supreme-court-marriage-support/

Or see here, which suggests that whether a court decision generates a backlash depends in part on whether the right already has popular support:

http://www.pollingreport.com/penp0908.htm

This conclusion is fairly interesting, in that it suggests that by going through the legislature, New York has made it easier for gay rights activists to go through the Courts in other states.

Oops, I thought I posted this earlier but must have neglected the stupid captcha.

I posted this shortly after the vote concluded: Marriage Equality

Sadly, the celebration was marred by the intrusion of some garden-variety trolls and general asshattery, but it was at least a small crack in the wall of my recent creative block.

Also:

Phil: We wouldn't win referenda on most of the Bill of Rights today. Which is why we have one in the first place.

This is one of the more insightful blog comments I've read in a while.

Mea culpa von, good point. Although, even without the stats, I will just change my first sentence to "Massive long term cultural change requires us old folks to die,IMO common sense agrees with that".

If Turb and Scott have overwhelming rebuttal stats or not, my experience is that the changes in my lifetime are broader, more ingrained and less tenuous as generations advance.

I typically avoid these discussions, finding them oddly heated between people who violently agree on the desired outcome.

I think one reason for that is that complaints about process often conceal concern trolling. However, von has related some of the legal work he has been involved in with regards to gay rights, so I'm confident that this is not the case here.

Sometimes people need a shove.
I don't disagree with you, Russell, but it seems that a defining trait of liberalism is calibrating that shove so as to cause the least damage. This is why people can get so fed up with liberals.

As far as generational change, it seems to me that it operates in a fashion where older people get ridiculed as the younger cohort's mores and opinions come to the fore. This allows Grandpa's views on women or race or whatever to be conveniently assigned to the crazy old codger category while the rest of the world gets up with the program. Yet in almost all developed countries, the demographic structure is becoming like an inverted pyramid. Will ridicule really suffice when the population is mostly crazy old codgers?

it seems that a defining trait of liberalism is calibrating that shove so as to cause the least damage.

I think things basically play out the way they need to play out.

When enough people are made sufficiently miserable by the status quo, then the status quo shifts. It can take generations, but it shifts.

If liberals want to get in front of that, great. More power to them. But I'm not sure liberalism per se is what drives the bus.

Conservatives, by definition, do not get in front of that. On the contrary.

I actually do think the arc of history bends toward justice. It can take a hell of a lot of time, and the goal itself can be a moving target, but the motivation is less liberalism or progressivism or what-have-you, and more a ground level reality of things being wrong, or not.

My two cents.

Which is why I think it quite often comes down to a shove. It's great when people can find a way to listen to and understand each other, but folks can wait an awfully long time for that to happen.

Sometimes they get impatient.

I read at least twice that "Turb has the stats" that support the points that he's making. I'm struggline to see what those stats are.

Ah, I see your problem now. You have made a claim. The onus is therefore on you to supply arguments and data justifying it. Providing statistics about your claim isn't really my job; it is your job.

Turb has cited a Lemieux article that is (effectively) an editorial arguing against what Lemieux concedes is the conventional wisdom.

Conventional wisdom among American media pundits, but this is a very stupid group of people. In fact, American media pundits have a long history of completely ignoring well established results in political science. So yes, amongst this group of people that actively cultivates ignorance, your claim is widely believed. I thought it would be rude to point that out, but since you seem so eager to advertise it....

And it is certainly not conventional wisdom amongst political scientists. Unlike yourself, Lemiux is a political scientist who has researched this question. His analysis is that the data does not support your claims. If you can point to the work of a political scientist showing that the data does support your claims, that would be...helpful.

I am definitely not saying that the convention reason is always right, or even right here. But how does an editorial that even the author admits goes against the grain constitute a "stat"?

Goes against the grain of willfully ignorant people.

When I think of a "stat", I think of something like the Pew survey, which I cited and which I think pretty clearly rejects the view that people can't change their views on SSM. They can and have.

You are now confounding claims. There are multiple claims at issue:

(1) Whether it is possible for human beings to change their minds on an issue. This question is only of interest to you; no one else has raised it.

(2) Whether the oldest cohort has significantly changed its opinion of the legalization of SSM. Your Pew data doesn't address this question because every year it samples a changing group of people. So it is not relevant.

(3) Whether SSM legalization achieved via legislative means is significantly less likely to produce a political backlash than SSM legalization achieved via the courts. The Pew data doesn't tell us a damn thing about this question.

As for whether a court opinion is more likely than not to provoke a backlash, you might want to consider that Lemieux's counter-CW argument is neither a fact nor universally accepted. See here, for example:

I'm sorry, but the poster claims the opposite. They write: "ultimately, while a Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage could decrease public support, I don’t think it will." Did you bother to read this blog post at all?


Or see here, which suggests that whether a court decision generates a backlash depends in part on whether the right already has popular support:

von, did you read this cite? I ask because the abstract says:

Our own research, as spelled out in our book Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy (Oxford 2008), suggests that the public is growing increasingly more amenable to same-sex marriage and that judicial decisions are unlikely to reverse that trend.

And the conclusion mentions:
But the data presented here provide no support for the common speculation that state court rulings in favor of same-sex couples generate a public opinion backlash.

Beyond that, the cite doesn't address the issue at hand: it only examines the effect of judicial legalization of SSM. But that's not a question anyone is asking; the issue at hand is whether this effect is much greater than that of legislative action. And your cite here doesn't touch that issue. At all.

Are you just cherry picking results from a google search without even reading them?

von: Sometimes -- but at least as often, if not more often, it backfires. (The exception that proves this rule is the Civil Rights Movement in my view...

I'm also curious as to which civil rights you feel were expanded without some form of "public action" as the primary instrument of their expansion.

Whether or not court decisions create a backlash doesn't really matter in terms of strategy. Cases should be taken to court where a party perceives that there is an injustice, and the party wants to seek justice. The court decides the case based on its legal merits. Although the legislative process can also be used to correct injustices, legislative victories require 1) a critical mass of voters, and/or 2) a critical mass of politicians willing to support a cause (and sometimes take a political risk).

If I, as an individual, believed I had a case to make before a court, and that winning would redress my individual grievance, I wouldn't hesitate to make that case. If I were an activist representing people who could make that case, I still wouldn't hesitate.

It's fine with me when politicians strategize with an eye to the next election (presumably advancing policies that have a reasonable chance of success, rather than risking a political seat on policies that don't). But activists or individuals who are aggrieved don't bear the burden of those constraints. What's the point of a suffering person waiting around imagining what strategies might or might incur a backlash? Best to pursue every angle.

Yet in almost all developed countries, the demographic structure is becoming like an inverted pyramid. Will ridicule really suffice when the population is mostly crazy old codgers?

I think it depends on how strongly a group's influence correlates to the percentage of the population it constitutes, which depends on a number of things.

How old are the old codgers? Too old to hold office in significant numbers? Too old to protest or disrupt civil order? Are they still significantly involved in mass media? Are they still running a significant number of major corporations?
Is the issue at hand one that is subject to popular vote (assuming the old codgers aren't too old to get out and vote in large numbers)?

It's possible that, even if they metaphorically constitute a really big tree, they are falling deep in woods where no one will hear them.

"Yet in almost all developed countries, the demographic structure is becoming like an inverted pyramid. Will ridicule really suffice when the population is mostly crazy old codgers?"

Crazy old codgers like Jesse Jackson? Like the Stonewall Rioters? Like Catharine Mackinnon? Like Barney Frank? Like... ?

I suggest you consider political generations, as well as age cohorts; and consider factors other than age/"aging"

(Pew Report:

"College graduates age 65 and older are more than three times as likely to favor gay marriage than are seniors with less education (33% to 9%). Among those age 50-64, college grads are twice as likely to favor gay marriage as their less educated counterparts (43% to 21%). By comparison, education makes relatively little difference among those under age 30, where support for gay marriage runs highest. Since younger generations are more likely to have college degrees than older, this education gap contributes to the overall size of the generation gap on gay marriage."

Just as an interjection, the so-called blogfather continues his long slide into complete sociopathy.

Jesse Jackson is an interesting example, because he's someone who I think has pulled back from supporting same sex marriage in the past and made the comment that 'gay marriage rights are not civil rights'. Some googling suggests that he has softened that stance, but it would be interesting to try and understand precisely what led to that change.

Certainly, in the past, rights were obtained because people had to not be given just a shove, but often a short, sharp kick to the goolies. One would hope that, just as we have slowly come to understand any number of things about our world, we, as a society, might figure out ways to move opinion so that we don't simply have to depend on the older generation dying off.

Well, Phil, Error Irksomely at Redrum and his shotgun-toting, Census worker-murdering and badly-dressed wife, along with various murderous vermin commenters infesting the joint, are down with psychopath Josh Trevino's killing of their fellow Americans on the flotilla.

Our Godfathers Trevino and his callow minion punk Moe Lane could themselves kill Americans participating in the flotilla before these folks leave the States, but the cowards, as usual, only talk the cheap murderous, vermin talk and let others, in this case the IDF, walk the walk.

They tweet the word "kill" and "shoot". That's all the filthy twit Gollums can muster.

Their heros are the murderous Founding Clowns John Wayne Gacy, Michelle Bachmann, and Rush Limbaugh.

A drop in the bloody bucket of what's coming as their preferred budget final "solutions" run a bloody scythe across America and its poor, sick, and jobless.

Murder stalks the land, declares its intention for all to see and hear, and no one lifts a finger as the John Birch Tea Party Beast puts in place its plan to murder millions of Americans in coming years.

The President needs to default on the 14 trillion-dollar debt now and pay for it by turning away all Republican Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid parasites in Republican districts from hospitals and doctor's offices across the country at gunpoint and machete-point, among other deadly measures.

Declare martial law and get those FEMA camps fully operational for the hordes of Republican murderers, including 47 Senators and 240-some Representatives and their snakes in the media for whom final preventative deadly justice and vengeance is coming.

Finish the Civil War Lincoln neglected to finish but the Founding Clown Father of today's Republican Party, John Wilkes Boothe, continues to this day.

And now, for some light summer reading.

Interestingly, the highest median age state in America is not Florida — known for its senior citizens — but Maine, where 42.7 years is the median. Back in 1990, Florida was the oldest state....

Lifted from Andrew Sullivan, who lifted it from Yglesias.

I mention it not to restart/rejoin the discussion about backlash, but to speculated that the numbers would look a little different if they were adjusted for the amount of time "snowbirds" from Maine (and undoubtedly other states, including Ohio, where I grew up) spend in Florida every winter.

It surprised me when I moved to Maine how many families had camps "up the country." There's no assumption that you have to be wealthy to have a camp (in Maine parlance, this is something more rustic, less polished, than let's say a cottage, which is the word we would have used in Ohio). There's also no assumption that you have to be wealthy to go to Florida for the winter. People living in poverty don't do/have either of those things, of course, but far more people than I would have predicted, do.

Point being: It wouldn't be surprising if, in counting present in and living part-year in any given state month by month, Maine isn't the oldest in the winter.

Just a little work-avoidance on a Thursday morning.

"Jesse Jackson is an interesting example,"

Thank you. I wasn't entirely happy about including him, even though I didn't list him primarily because of his support (or not) for gay marriage. (I'm not surprised to learn he'd back off on that.) He was simply an example of a radical older person from a generation that contained, relatively speaking, many radicals, and can be seen as a political generation with radical potential. Julian Bond would have been a better choice, though, as he combines a history of civil rights activism and public support for SSM.

But you may be right, that older generation, in the US, anyway, may not move on this issue short of a sharp kick. I'd have liked your legislators to do what Tony Blair did (!) and go full-steam ahead for gay rights' legislation. They're stopped, I'd say, not by
the fact of an ageing population, but by the part religion plays in US politics. Still, it would be good to see them try.



Hmm, previous comment seems to have disappeared.

ptl. you're a UKian? I'd be interested in your take about what has moved LGBT rights forward in the UK. Domestic politics, examples for the EU, something else? I know it's not a simple question, but any observations would be interesting.

liberal japonicus, I think the answer lies in a mix of a very secular social/political culture and the political system. The EU/ECHR weren't relevant to the 1967 partial legalization of homosexual acts (by Labour, implementing a Report the Tories shelved), or the repealing of Clause/Section 28 by Labour. (The backlash against Clause 28 included the founding of Stonewall UK, and a fairly large-scale coming out by gay actors.)

In 1967, public opinion was against reform. But gradually, it changed.

Laws against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity do result from an EC directive. But only the ending of our version of DADT -- opposed by Blair's Opus Dei Communities' Minister, who has now left political life -- needed an ECHR ruling. (The British High Court and Court of Appeal opposed the policy but could not overturn it.) Gay marriage may need one, if it can get one; there's a case before the Court now. A majority of the population supports it. A House of Lords amendment to the Equalities Act 2010 allows churches to conduct civil partnership ceremonies and incorporate religious terminology. But I assume church opposition to gay marriage still exists, and our lack of a French-style compulsory civil marriage, church service an optional add-on, probably hampers change.

(I wrote an earlier rather more informative reply, but the site wouldn't accept it. It must have contained a stray code.)

. However, von has related some of the legal work he has been involved in with regards to gay rights, so I'm confident that this is not the case here.

I appreciate that, LJ. For what it's worth, the case is discussed here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/news/pr/il_19981203_hiv-insurance-caps-violate-ada.html. I was a summer associate at the time that I helped out -- and my help was, candidly, equal to my abilities at the time (not so many) -- so I can claim only participation credit. Though that wasn't my only proud moment in this particular area.

I'm also curious as to which civil rights you feel were expanded without some form of "public action" as the primary instrument of their expansion.

Anarch, "public action" is dufferent from "court action." No civil right is advanced without public action. My point is that court action is not always the most efficient means to advance the ball.

Anyhoo, sorry it took so long to chime back in.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


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