Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

This is Not Triangulation

Barack Obama came out swinging against Proposition 8 (the ballot initiative to amend the CA constitution and ban gay marriage). John McCain is supporting the initiative - or at least he publicly praised it last week. Some are accusing Barack Obama of trying to have it both ways, since he still says he believes marriage should be only between a man and a woman. His opposition, however, is because he views the constitutional ban is "divisive and discriminatory." That is certainly a correct observation: whatever you think about gay marriage as a matter of principle, this move to amend the CA constitution smells very unpleasant. Not only will it un-marry people out of spite, but it also is just nasty in its tone. Fair enough.

I suppose we should all be a little tolerant of a politician who has been opposed to gay marriage but is evolving his position on the issue. I changed my view on this four years ago; I should not like to be called hypocritical for the evolution. We are all hoping millions of Californians do have changed their views from 2000 when the last anti-gay-marriage initiative was passed.

Of course, the difference between hypocrisy and pandering on the one hand, and changing your mind on the other, is a matter of honesty. I am not sure Obama has been honest about this. But the honesty gap is not related to Prop 8 - it's that Obama won't say publicly that he is, and has been for quite some time, pro-gay-marriage, because it's a political disaster for him, particularly with hardcore working class white voters (i.e., the much touted HRC "base" in rural Ohio, Penn, Ky, WV, etc.) where he needs the most help. I get it.

I am just sorry that Obama won't have the guts to say, when McCain talks about the need to "defend marriage", something like, "Well, John, I'm still on my first wife. What have you done to honor marriage lately?" McCain was cheating on his first wife (Carol) with his second wife (Cindy) before he dumped Carol and married Cindy six weeks after the divorce was final.

I have no problem with divorce, but I think adultery and a somewhat careless attitude toward marriage held by some people who have been married three times or more (e.g., Giuliani), or by Britney Spears with her hours-long marriages, is much more destructive to the institution of marriage than the desire of other committed monogamous couples to join in.


Dr. Strangelove said...

I am very happy that Obama has decided to oppose these three ballot measures. Furthermore, I see no inconsistency in Obama's position at all. (Unlike LTG, I do not believe Obama secretly is pro-gay marriage. Not yet anyway.) Obama's position is not complicated: while he does not support gay marriage now, he does not want to shut the door on gay marriage forever. He certainly thinks it would be unnecessarily cruel to un-marry folks who just got married. And besides, Obama knows these nasty little initiatives really are not about marriage at all: it's all just gay-bashing. I mean, just look who is pushing them.

Dr. Strangelove said...

This article indicates that Obama's stand may be less costly than McCain's stand.

Bob said...

I completely agree with LTG's sentiment (also apropos of Dr. S's first post) that some of the GOP's proponents of "defending marriage" are uniquely unqualified, and only get away with the rhetoric because everybody knows they _really_ mean "suppressing the gays".

What surprises me is the notion that Obama should be doing the attacks on McCain's marriage record. If one accepts that he's constrained by political niceties in not coming out in favor of gay marriage, in not veering leftward of his party's Senatorial caving on surveillance, and in distancing himself from Wesley Clark's remark, surely we can agree that attacking his opponent's personal life directly should also be left to other attack dogs?

We need more attack dogs. Or our attack dogs need to demand more airtime. But I heartily agree that _someone_ should be out there pointing out the hypocrisy of McCain, or Giuliani, or Gingrich, claiming to "defend marriage".

Dr. Strangelove said...

Obama might mention offhand that infidelity is a bigger threat to marriage than love. Let others draw the connections as they will.

Raised By Republicans said...

Of course the initiatives are stategem by a floundering GOP to somehow get their base of "Bigots for Jesus" to turn out in droves. Their hope is that Republican voters will be more excited about this issue than about their candidate but will vote for McCain as an after thought once they show up to vote.

I'm still waiting for a politician to suggest that whether men and women can get married in a spiritual context to other men or other women is a matter for their respective churches but that the lisences and civil attributes of the relationship will be denied to no couple regardless of composition.

That way if the conservative churches want to exclude people who do not believe as they do, they can. But these churches cannot force other sects to also exclude.

Dr. Strangelove said...

You could always hope the semi-conservatives will show up, vote for the gay marriage ban, and then vote for Obama out of guilt :-)

USWest said...

RBR makes me think of something that came up in a conversation between me and my boyfriend. He is uncomfortable with the idea of gay marriage. I, as LTG and RBR said, pointed out that marriage is really a question of a legal arrangement and that his real discomfort was with homosexuality itself, not due to any real marriage issue. His unspoken fear, I told him, is that by allowing marriage. gay people would be able to snuggle, kiss and hold hands in public, which they can do now.

He then attempted to appeal to my Catholic roots, this terribly anti-religious boyfriend of mine by saying, "Marriage is a sacrament." My response was, "Oh, pah-saw! The sacrament takes place in the bedroom when you make love." (I used the more crass term for that act for effect.) He about died laughing. I pointed out that American Indians sealed their marriage pact by publically announcing that they would go into the tent and screw. End of story. That sealed the deal.

Orthodox Jews insist on holding up a bloody sheet. All anyone cares about with marriage is the sex part. All the decorating of cars, playing pranks on the new couple is all about the sex part. Non-consummation is grounds in the Catholic Church and even in civil law for annulling a marriage. So by that definition, the marriage of homosexuals has already happened and the paperwork is merely the public acknowledgement, celebration, and legal protection of what is already fact- that two people are making a serious commitment to each other. So what's the big deal I asked him? Most of them are already married by that definition.

He will vote yes on the initiative in CA, to halt gay marriage. I will vote no to maintain gay marriage. We will cancel each other out. But he still laughs at my response to his "sacrament argument".

The Law Talking Guy said...

Perhaps you can ask your friend why he feels the need to legislate his discomfort. I remember holding debates in class in 2000 when the Knight Initiative was on the ballot. My role, as moderator, was to ask the tough questions. I asked the pro-gay-marriage people how they could justify a continued ban on polygamy or marriage between siblings. I asked the anti-gay-marriage people if they really had anything to say against gay marriage other than that it is "icky." I came to the conclusion that the "ick factor", as I called it, was the predominant basis for opposition. And you overcome that by exposure. Have a gay married friend send your boyfriend a pic of his or her wedding, and ask why this should be taken away from them.

USWest said...

And what response did you get about polygamy? I understand the biological and health factors underpinning the prohibition on intermarriage in families. But polygamy? It doesn't comport with my values, but in the Arab world, it is sometimes a way of taking care of widows who need financial support.

The Law Talking Guy said...

There were no good responses about polygamy. One can make distinctions, but they are not really "principled" beyond the principle that polygamy is wrong.

The biological and health factors make procreation a bad idea, but procreation is not marriage. What if two adult sisters wanted to marry each other?

The point, I think, is that we can't divorce the idea of marriage entirely from values (no pun intended). As a society, we value couple relationships based on exclusive love and long-term commitment. We are willing to extend that beyond couples who can procreate or even beyond couples of the opposite sex.

Interestingly, many people today would add that they object to polygamy in that it makes the partners unequal, but that's an odd objection to make to marriage since - for most of human history - marriage was always an unequal relationship.

Fortunately, I (and most voters) are willing to draw the line at polygamy just 'cause.

History Buff said...

I know this doesn't have anything to do with this thread, but it's the most recent so I thought y'all would see it.

At this website for the proposed science debate are the 14 questions that scientists, engineers, educators etc have come up with.

They are great questions because they hit all aspects of science from innovation, education, climate change and research to stem cells, space, national security, pandemics and water and ocean health.

As far as I know the candidates haven't said that they will participate in this debate yet. I think it's very important. You can sign the petition for the debate at the website above.

Pombat said...

Too many opinions I need to express and things I need to agree with!

Yes, this is just gay-bashing and nothing to do with valuing marriage. No, the Bible cannot be used to prove that homosexuality is wrong, in fact I'm pretty sure there's something in there about all people being loved by God & should all love each other and so on, but I'm not that familiar with the book after all. Yes, someone should start pointing out how much McCain et al 'value marriage'. Loudly.

As far as people who are uncomfortable with homosexuals go - I've tended to find that it stems from an insecurity in their own sexuality/selves. Those straight men that I know who have no problems with the 'ick' factor are amongst the most self-confident people I know, in terms of being comfortable with who they are, actually in touch with their own emotions and feelings rather than living the macho 'men are *men*' lie, and with nothing to prove to the rest of the world. This means that they don't find gay men at all threatening, and see them just as other men, whose attraction preferences just happen to be a bit more different to theirs, although in just the same way as the straight mate who goes for women they may not personally find attractive.

I tend to call people on it when they're expressing homophobic opinions - one of the girls where I'm working was complaining about a lesbian who met up with her girlfriend on the tram, gave her a big bunch of flowers, and consequently got a lot of kisses. Apparently this was disgusting, and whilst she is 'fine with them', she 'doesn't need to see what they do'. I demanded to know if she has a problem with straight couples' public displays of affection (not really), whether she therefore thought that she should never kiss anyone on a tram for fear of inflicting 'what she does' on 'them', then told her that she was being a bigot, and that what she should have seen was the sweet sight of a clearly in love couple enjoying being with one another. And brave enough to do so publicly, despite the fact that there are idiots who might hurt them for it.

LTG - you're spot on with the photo & exposure comments - people tend to change their minds on things very quickly when they see how much it would affect someone they care about, makes it a personal thing, rather than detached.

Question - I heard that one interesting side effect if the vote does result in banning gay marriage is that it could result in banning all marriage in California, due to the ruling that homosexuals cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality - is this true / had you heard this / if true is it being publicised in terms of 'this is a vote against marriage' ?...

And onto polygamy. There's been a bit of controversy about this down here lately, with some supposedly prominent Muslims calling for changes to the law to allow polygamy in Australia, and most of the rest of the Islamic community going "huh, what? No, we don't want that - it's just those crazies over there!". My main issue with the people calling for polygamy to be legal is that they're all men wanting multiple wives - if any of them were proposing true poly-marriages, i.e. campaigning also for polyandry so that women could have multiple husbands if they so chose, I would be less cynical of their motivations. The way it looks to me now though, is that these men wish to be able to have new wives all throughout their lives rather than committing to one person, but without any of the emotional and financial fuss of divorce, and with the luxury of not having to lift a finger around the house.

And whilst LTG is right to say that marriage has been an unequal relationship for most of history, in the last century in particular societies such as ours have become much more equal in many ways, and I believe marriage has followed this very welcome trend. Thus, people today are perfectly right to object to polygamous marriage on the basis of inequality, as that kind of inequality has no place in the balanced societies in which we live (or are striving to live in).

History Buff said...

When it comes to the "ick" factor and gays I think you also have to look at a generational component. Younger people don't have a problem with gays, I think because they have been exposed to them more. Many of my son's and daughters gay friends are out to their peers but not to their parents.

In my day, people hid homosexuality, no one knew who they were and thus they became scary--the boogy man. Also you hear about polls done where they ask people if they know gay people and they say yes and that they are very nice, but then you ask them if they support gay rights they say no, a lot of times because they don't extrapolate, they just think gays are bad.

I really think that once people older than say 45 are out of public office, no one will think anything about gay rights being a bad thing, in fact they will probably wonder what all the fuss was about.

Dr. Strangelove said...

"Thus, people today are perfectly right to object to polygamous marriage on the basis of inequality, as that kind of inequality has no place in the balanced societies in which we live (or are striving to live in)."

In my opinion, polygamous/polyandrous relationships are inherently unequal on a deep level. Back in the day, feminists objected to marriage because it placed the woman in a subservient role, but with the maturation of the women's equality movement, a marriage is considered a pairing of two adults who retain their individual sovereignty.

In a poly-relationship, one is bound to a situation where one can be overruled on the most fundamental matters of the heart by 2-to-1 or more. Even where a single person is not dominant, the very nature of "democracy" works against one, relegating one to a minority. And what is marvelous for decision-making in democracy is a disaster for intimate relationships. A bond in which one surrenders one's most personal, individual sovereignty to a collective should not be countenanced by the laws of a free state.

The Law Talking Guy said...

"[B]ut with the maturation of the women's equality movement, a marriage is considered a pairing of two adults who retain their individual sovereignty"

Not if you're a Southern Baptist. Many Americans, particularly in the South, still believe that marriage ought to be about a woman submitting to her husband. Same goes for the Orthodox Jews, fundamentalist Muslims, etc. For such people, the argument that marriage is inherently equal goes nowhere.

Why also should we tolerate such unequal marriages but not the inequality of polygamy? Obviously, I'm not keen on either.

The point is, of course, that we can't regulate intimate relationships like this. But we can decide as a society that we will not create new institutions founded on the principle of inequality, such as polygamous marriage.