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Opposition to gay marriage down:

The Pew Reasearch Center says that opposition to gay marriage among Americans is now down to 51% from 63% in February 2004, during the backlash over the Massachusetts marriage decision. More importantly, strong opposition to gay marriage is down from 42% in 2004 to 28% now.

I don't put a lot of stock in these polls on gay marriage, for reasons I detailed in a column in October 2003. The results depend very much on the way the question is asked, including the choices offered to the respondent. Polls also rarely measure intensity, which seems higher on the side of those who oppose gay marriage, if the results in state constitutional amendments are any guide. Pre-election polls in the state constitutional ballot fights have systematically undercounted opposition to gay marriage among those who actually bother to vote.

The drop in opposition since early 2004 may also reflect nothing more than the fact that Americans are concentrating on other things right now (like Iraq and Medicare), and that opposition to gay marriage will return to its post-Goodridge ceiling if another significant court decision draws unfavorable attention to the issue.

But as a supporter of gay marriage, I'd rather have public opinion appearing to move in my direction than against it. In the past year we've seen two significant legislative victories for the recognition and protection of gay families, one in Connecticut (civil unions) and one in California, whose legislature became the first representative body in the country to approve full-fledged marriage for gay couples. Very soon, we are likely to have legislative majorities for gay marriage in a handful of states, backed by the public itself in those states.

Tom Anger (mail) (www):
If support for the First Amendment were to drop to 49%, would that mean it should be repealed?
3.23.2006 12:33am
trock:
If support for the First Amendment were to drop to 49%, would that mean it should be repealed?

No, but if the support dropped to the level needed to amend the Constitution (both in raw numbers and in number of states) it'd be a possibiity.
3.23.2006 12:40am
Humble Law Student:
I have a strong faith in the ability of the left to screw up and/or overreach. That number should come right back up soon enough.
3.23.2006 12:48am
Nobody Special:
If you can fairly call the California legislature representative, given the way districting is in this state...
3.23.2006 12:52am
Javier (mail):
THIS poll confirms what other polls have been saying. The latest Gallup poll on gay marriage last year found that a record 40% of Americans supported gay marriage. Polling in Massachusetts this month found that 56% of residents there now support gay marriage, another record high. The latest Field Poll of Californians shows support for gay rights in general is at record highs on a host of issues, and gay marriage opposition is only at 53% now there. All these polls noticed that amongst young adults, there is strong and growing majority support for gay marriage. And amongst well-educated Americans, support for gay marriage is equally robust. And just last November, Maine voters strongly supported a gay rights law by a comfortable margin. It seems the rightwing is running out of gas on the gay rights issue as demography catches overtakes their bigotry. I guess this means they will move on to bashing Arabs and immigrants now.
3.23.2006 1:06am
Dustin (mail):
This is terrific news. I know that's not a very helpful comment.

Limited government conservatives lose so much power when their party takes all these 'values' issues on. Worse, the message about the importance of limited government (in law, taxes, etc) is lost. When Tom Delay confidently assured us that government's belts were as tight as could be, and we really didn't know if he was joking, it said a lot. The only way to get a single party back is to take away that lower hanging political fruit: bigotry.

And that's not to say Republicans are more bigoted than Democrats. But their message will be less bigoted if the tempting 'gay-threat' issue isn't as popular.
3.23.2006 1:15am
Javier (mail):
Massachusetts was wary of same-sex marriage; 53 percent to 35 percent opposed, according to a February 2004 Boston Globe poll. That May, Massachusetts began marrying gay couples. Within less than a year, attitudes there changed 180 degrees — 56 percent to 37 percent in favor, the Globe found in March 2005.

The new California Field Poll shows that since 1997, the percentage of state residents that believe same-sex relationships are always wrong has dropped a full 13 percentage points (from 45% in '97 to 32% now). In terms of gay nuptials, 51% of Californians now say the oppose same-sex marriage and 43% indicate they approve, much better than 1997's 56% thumbs down/ 38% thumbs up.

The clearest-cut issue was whether gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly in the military. Sixty-seven percent of Californians support that proposition, 22 percent oppose it and 11 percent have no opinion.

Field surveyed 1,000 California adults between Feb. 12 and Feb. 26; the poll has a margin of error of three percentage points.


Just last week, a Bay State poll found that 58% of Massachusetts residents favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, with 32% opposed and 9% undecided.


And another poll of Massachusetts residents taken by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, was taken of 503 randomly selected likely voters March 3 to 9. It In found that 54 percent of voters surveyed said they would be more likely to vote for a gubernatorial candidate who supported allowing gays and lesbians to adopt children, a divisive issue that has roiled the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston's social services agency, Catholic Charities.

Democrats, women, and voters with no religious preference were more likely to say they would prefer a candidate who supported adoptions by gays, while Republicans, those with a high school education, older voters, and blacks were more likely to say they would support a candidate who opposed them. Among Catholics, who made up about half the respondents in the poll, 46 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported such adoptions, compared with 26 percent who said they would probably choose a candidate who was against them.


Oh, and still in the St. Patrick's Day mood, fifty one per cent of respondents to the Irish Examiner/Red C survey said they were in favour of giving legal status to gay couples, while exactly half also said they would be happy to allow gay people to adopt children.

As usual, acceptance of homosexuality was found to be strongest in the younger age groups and among people with higher income brackets.
3.23.2006 1:31am
Javier (mail):
And the overwhelming Republican New Hampshire legislature seems to be keenly aware that public sentiment is shifting. The New Hampshire House voted overwhelmingly yesterday to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

The late afternoon vote was 207-125 against an amendment, which would have added a definition of marriage as a union of one woman and one man to the state's Bill of Rights.
3.23.2006 1:49am
Kovarsky (mail):
Don't worry, reporting from texas:

75% approval for proposition 2, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

most surprisingly, even higher levels among all and within each major minority group.

hook 'em horns.
3.23.2006 4:08am
adamsmo (mail):
"75% approval for proposition 2, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

most surprisingly, even higher levels among all and within each major minority group.

hook 'em horns"

scary. my parents have been tempting me to move to Texas...I was already scared of it's extreme Republican-ness. Having no rights also adds a little to that...
3.23.2006 5:41am
Dustin R. Ridgeway (mail):
It's going to take a lot longer in the more reactionary states , but on the basic question of same-sex marriage, it's not a matter of if but when. The wingers know that time is not on their side.
3.23.2006 6:38am
Cornellian (mail):
It's going to take a lot longer in the more reactionary states , but on the basic question of same-sex marriage, it's not a matter of if but when. The wingers know that time is not on their side.

Hence the strategy of passing constitutional amendments in this case, but appointing different judges in the case of abortion. The argument that constitutional amendments are necessary to prevent "activist judges" from imposing same-sex marriage is transparently bogus. If they were really concerned about that they'd propose an amendment providing that only the legislature had the power to create SSM notwithstanding anything else in the state constituton. What they're really concerned about is the trend in public opinion which they can see as well as we can. They can see that eventually public opinion will reach the point that a state legislature will enact SSM (as California nearly did but for the Governor's veto), civilization will not collapse into chaos in that state despite the existence of SSM and they'll have to switch to the backup plan of complaining about "activist legislatures" and "activist electorates." Doesn't quite have the same ring does it?

I read an article by Charles Krauthammer recently who said that he was ambivalent about SSM. He didn't want it imposed by a court, but if a legislature proposed it - well he had gay friends and he could see the problems that lack of SSM caused for them and he wasn't willing to "go to the barricades" to stop that legislature from enacting SSM. If that's what the respectable voices of conservatism are saying (as opposed to wingnuts like Dobson and Sheldon) then it's only a matter of time.
3.23.2006 7:25am
Oh my word (mail):
Demographics cuts both ways. It is not clear how that effect will shake out. As has been discussed frequently, more conservative/religious families are out-birthing non-traditional families and liberals by a wide margin. It is an open question whether the 60s-era values will simply fade on the vine for lack of being passed down to another generation that much.

Also, people tend to get more conservative as they age, so I suspect that is a significant explanation for the difference between the young and the old here.
3.23.2006 8:46am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Cornellian: I'm not going to bother checking every state, but in Wisconsin it only requires a majority of both houses of the state legislature to amend the constitution. Any future legislative majority can overturn anything that is done this November.

The ONLY practical effect of the amendment (besides drawing more conservative voters of course... because we DO care about this issue more, contrary to Mr. Carpenter's poll) is to prevent the state supreme court from deciding that our state constitution requires more than the federal one a la Goodridge.
3.23.2006 8:56am
Leland:
As long as homosexual activist continue to insult large populations while not understanding the argument against "gay marriage" but the support for "civil unions", they'll never get their way.
3.23.2006 8:58am
Some Guy (mail):
Heh.

Public opinion is moving in "your" direction! Quick, bring more lawsuits to force the issue!

Make 'em like it.
3.23.2006 9:13am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Leland,

As long as many people continue to believe that the problem here is a failure of gays to respect the rest of society, as opposed to vice versa, I think there's a lot of progress yet to be made.
3.23.2006 9:54am
KenB (mail):
people tend to get more conservative as they age,

Perhaps, but at least in regard to social issues, I suspect that's generally not because their views actually change but because society as a whole is moving to the left while they stay put. I doubt that young people today who approve of SSM will change their minds 50 years from now; but on future hot-button social issues, they will tend to hold on to their "mainstream" views for today which will have become "conservative" by then.
3.23.2006 9:58am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
What a scary thought!
3.23.2006 10:04am
Houston Lawyer:
One of the reasons SSM advocates chose Massachusetts as a judicial battleground state is the difficulty in that state of amending the state constitution. They had a prior victory in Hawaii, which was rejected by the people of Hawaii in a constitutional amendment before it could become law.

The same legislators who voted for SSM in California could have done so under the Democratic governor, knowing he would sign it. They declined to do so and appear to have passed the bill merely to make Arnold veto it.

On the national level, the Democrats prefer not to talk about this issue. They still manage to win elections in several fairly conservative states, so they don't want to own this issue.
3.23.2006 10:05am
Medis:
I agree with Marcus1, but it seems to me that public opinion on gay people's general relationship to society can shift quickly. Which makes sense, because most real gay people are nothing like the bogeymen some have portrayed them as. So, it seems to take just a little experience with real gay people to persuade most of the public that gay people are not a threat to institutions like marriage or society at large.
3.23.2006 10:10am
Alejandro (mail):
The notion that people become more conservative as they get older has been twisted. While people tend to get more conservative in practice as they get older, social scientists have noted that people's basic philosophy and core beliefs remain amazingly frozen from the time they are in their mid 20's. For instance, Baby Boomers who grew up in civil and women's rights eras today remain the most supportive of abortion rights, even moreso than their children. Femininism is strongest with the Boomer generation. Boomers didn't grow up with many openly gay friends and gay rights weren't much of an issue when they were growing up, so Boomers today are not as supportive of gay rights as Generations X and Y. The sheer numbers of openly bisexual gay people today has made a profound impact on people's view of homosexuality, and their presence will not change over the decades. Unlike previous generations that had no or few intimate associations with gays and bisexuals, Generation X and Y is growing up in a time where the average age for gays coming out has plunged to 15 and 16. Young adults have gay friends and family members that they care about so the old myths have largely evaporated for them because of their familiarity with gays and bisexuals.
As for liberal birthrates, obviously a whole lot of conservatives are having kids that end up being pro-gay today, even in places like Alabama and Utah. The presence of a large number of openly gay and bisexual people in modern societies has made it very difficult to frame the anti-gay agenda with old myths. Polls of youth find that even the children of extremely conservative parents tend to be much more gay-friendly their parents. In fact, the annual UCLA poll of college freshmen found that even the majority of students at Catholic universities support gay marriage, and sizeable percentages of evangelical students support gay unions. I know that on my college campuses there is even open support for gay unions amongst the big evangelical groups, which would have been unheard of just 15 years ago. And the media and popular culture have essentially countered conservative parents' influence over their children on this issue very successfully. Even conservative churches are grappling with parishoners who say their teachings on homosexuality are antiquated and erroneous. While nothing is guaranteed in the future, it will be very difficult to retreat from the progress made on gay issues.
3.23.2006 10:14am
Medis:
Houston Lawyer,

I agree that for political reasons, the Democratic Party does not want to make gay rights a national issue. But it may be worth noting that most of these issues shouldn't be national issues anyway, insofar as "family law" (including marital law and parental law) is traditionally a matter for states and local governments to deal with.
3.23.2006 10:15am
Hovsep Joseph (mail) (www):
Houston, I don't think it makes much sense that California legislators would pass the same sex marriage bill just so it could be vetoed. First, the governor was not at all sure to veto it considering his portrayal of himself as gay-friendly. Second, its still a very controversial issue even in blue California and I don't think Democrats necessarily would stand to win many votes on the issue. Believe it or not, there are people who feel strongly that the marriage laws are unfair to gay couples and are willing to take an unpopular stand on principle even if it costs them politically.
3.23.2006 10:19am
Soldats (mail):
I wonder whether in a few years, Volokh will debate why there aren't more Gay Republicans?
3.23.2006 10:25am
M.E.Butler (mail):
How opposition to calling unions between two men (or two women) "marriage" is bigotry is beyond me.

One may as well say that refusing to call the old East Germany the Democratic Republic of Germany was bigotry.

"Marriage" doesn't need a modifier to define the sexes of the parties to it. Whether you put "polygamous" or "polygynous" or "interracial" or "Morganitic" in front of it, the word still means a union of a man and a woman.

Stretch it to include two men, or two women, and you may as well toss the word out.
3.23.2006 10:29am
Alejandro (mail):
Massachusetts is a social and political scientists' dream. Before gay marriage was legalized, a modest majority of residents were against legalization of gay marriage. But just a year after gay marriage was legalized, poll after poll showed that a majority support gay marriage. Not only that, but in elections subsequent to gay marriage's legalization, MA voters have increased the pro-gay majority and the legislature's once-majority for banning gay marriage has now evaporated thanks to the electorate's votes for pro-gay marriage candidates. The same Democratic party that just three years ago was largely against gay marraige is now almost universally in support of gay marriage. They read the most recent election results and shifted to reflect the swift change in public opinion. So what has happened in such a short period of time? Did people's opposition to gay marriage just suddenly dry up once they saw their neighbors and friends actually getting married? Did the boogeyman in the closet disappear when gay marriage became reality? Have conservatives left the state in droves, leaving a pro-gay majority to claim victory?
3.23.2006 10:47am
Jeff the Baptist (mail) (www):
Perhaps, but at least in regard to social issues, I suspect that's generally not because their views actually change but because society as a whole is moving to the left while they stay put.

In a word, no. Having kids can cause pretty solid shifts in political affiliation and ideology. It has to do with both economics (reduced buying power because of children's expenses) and just raising children realigning people's priorities. This is also why there is a pronounced dip in religious attendence in the ages between when people go to college and when they have kids themselves. Suddenly church gets important again.

As for SSM itself, I'm conservative on all fronts and I could support it or not depending on the legislation in question. Civil Unions or SSM separate from heterosexual marriage? Sure, ok. Expanding the definition of marriage to include both hetero and homo? Not too fond of it. By judicial interpretation instead of representative legislation? Very opposed to it.
3.23.2006 10:54am
Medis:
M.E.Butler,

The "proper" definitions of terms are derived from usage, and I suspect that in the long run, our society's use of the terms "marriage", "married", "marry", and so on, will depend on our views about same-sex romantic couples. In other words, if we end up viewing same-sex romantic couples as capable of forming a union based on their love for each other in the same sense that opposite-sex romantic couples form such unions, then I strongly suspect that we will end up using the term "marriage" for such unions when the same-sex romantic couple in question seeks legal and social recognition of their union through the formal act of "marrying" each other.

Of course, "married" same-sex romantic couples in that sense would still be distinct from other same-sex romantic couples who had not gone through the process of "marrying" each other. In other words, just as there is now a difference between those opposite-sex romantic couples who have "married" each other and those who have not (which can occur even when those opposite-sex romantic couples are having sex, cohabitating, and/or raising children together), there would be a difference between "married" and "unmarried" same-sex romantic couples.

In that sense, "marriage" and its related terms would still have a straightforward and familiar meaning as applied to same-sex romantic couples. Therefore, contrary to your suggestion, such a modification in usage would not result in extinguishing the term entirely.

So, while I personally would not suggest that all opponents of "same-sex marriage" are "bigots", I do indeed think that in the long run, our society's way of dealing with these issues will not turn on semantic arguments. Rather, I think our resolution of these issues will turn on our substantive views about the nature of the relationships within same-sex romantic couples, and our society's use of terms like "marriage" will follow our substantive resolutions of these issues.
3.23.2006 11:17am
Cornellian (mail):
The ONLY practical effect of the amendment (besides drawing more conservative voters of course... because we DO care about this issue more, contrary to Mr. Carpenter's poll) is to prevent the state supreme court from deciding that our state constitution requires more than the federal one a la Goodridge.

If that's really the case then why not an amendment to say that, notwithstanding anything else in the Constitution, only the legislature may create SSM? Why an amendment to make it impossible (or more difficult) for the legislature to enact SSM? I repeat my assertion, these campaigns for state constitutional amendments are not motivated by concerns about judges, that's just the cover. They're actually motivated by concerns about legislatures. Politicians can see what happened in Massachusetts and California. No incumbent lost office in either state by supporting SSM. That emboldens politicians in favor of it to vote their preference, hence constitutional amendments become necessary to stop them from doing so.
3.23.2006 11:31am
Cornellian (mail):
How opposition to calling unions between two men (or two women) "marriage" is bigotry is beyond me.

It isn't. Not automatically. That depends on the reasons put forth for that position. However the most publically visible opponents of same sex marriage typically couch their arguments in a stream of Falwell style anti-gay invective that is, in fact bigotry and I don't see a lot of people who oppose SSM for other reasons speaking up to distance themselves from such people. In fact their public statements are mild compared to what they say in front of crowds of partisans.
3.23.2006 11:34am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
They passed the amendment that they wanted to pass and that they believe will be accepted by the people of the state. Yes, they could have worded the amendment differently, but that doesn't change the fact that any future majority can repeal the amendment. NOTHING in Wisconsin's proposed amendment restricts legislative ability to enact "gay marriage" if they choose in the future.

I think your claim that state constitutional amendments have nothing to do with preventing state supreme courts from issuing more Goodridges is rather absurd. If you believe the legislature's (and people's) concern over the possibility of judicially imposed gay marriage is "transparently bogus," please back it up with something besides conjecture. Nothing in this amendment restricts future (simple) majorities from changing the law. NOTHING.
3.23.2006 12:36pm
Leland:
Marcus and Medis... I can agree with you that homosexuals as a group are no threat to society. However, when a subset takes it upon themselves to flagrantly violate law simply because they don't like the law, then that set is a threat and does the cause of the greater population no service. I think Cornellian offers my same argument from a different angle when he discusses some of the arguments provided by opponents of same sex marriage.

I'm not very religious, but I do believe that marriage is more an institute of religion than government. I think ignoring that concept is a mistake. I consider the approach of defining marriage as simply a contract between two individuals of any gender akin to ignoring the protections of the 1st Amendment that Congress make no law establishing a religion. My view is government (to definitely include the President), and gay rights advocates, should stay away from defining what religion calls marriage and worry about how it accepts that marriage in civil law.

In short, if a homosexual couple wants to go to their local JP and get "married", then I have no opposition to it. What I would find unacceptable is the Catholic Church being required by federal officials to conduct or accept a marriage of a homosexual couple.
3.23.2006 3:43pm
Hovsep Joseph (mail) (www):
Leland, no one is suggesting that the government should require religious groups to change their definition of marriage. I really don't understand how same sex civil marriage would violate the establishment clause. If anything, the current reliance on religious authority to define civil marriage is Constitutionally problematic.

What subset of the gay population is flagrantly violating the law. Are you referring to gay people engaging in sodomy where that was illegal? Are you referring to gay people unsuccessfully trying to get married where that is illegal?
3.23.2006 3:56pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I think you misunderstand the debate, Leland. I don't think anyone is advocating that.

Marriage is more than a religious institution... it's a social institution. Government promotes marriage because marriage is good for society. Think about what would happen to the institution if it was treated as merely a religious service and (I'm trying to take your argument to the next step here...) placed outside the bounds of civil society. (We have a "wall of separation" right?) Marriage would cease to exist as any meaningful part of our social structure. Worst possible outcome.
3.23.2006 3:56pm
Oh my word (mail):
All good points. I would like to see a link about the idea that most Catholic college students are pro gay-marriage. I doubt that. If not, I doubt that this is a strongly held view that will not revert to the Catholic teaching as they age. When I was in college, I had a lot of dumb liberal beliefs that I do not now hold, and I'm sure most people can say the same thing.

People's social views often do change once they have kids. It's not just society shifting left, it's them shifting right, too. I have seen it in people I know--in fact, most of my friends have shifted right as we have grown older, to say nothing of my parents' generation.

Point being, it's all very much in flux. People get more conservative as they age, but mass media tends to liberalize society. Birth rates strongly favor conservatives, but kids branch out a little from their parents every generation. Political discourse has on the whole shifted strongly right over the last few decades, but it has also shifted more libertarian and mind-your-own-business. Who knows where it will all end up.

I agree that gay activists were very shrewd in picking Massachussetts for the litigation--a liberal Court and a difficult-to-amend Constitution.
3.23.2006 4:15pm
Oh my word (mail):
Also, most people who oppose gay marriage are not bigots. Santorum, for ex., as much as you may dislike him, is not a bigot. He may be right or he may be wrong, but he does so for deeply held and carefully considered reasons. My guess is that most that are not in favor of extending the definition of marriage are more carefully thought-out than they are commonly accused of being.
3.23.2006 4:19pm
Brett Bellmore (mail):

If that's really the case then why not an amendment to say that, notwithstanding anything else in the Constitution, only the legislature may create SSM? Why an amendment to make it impossible (or more difficult) for the legislature to enact SSM?


In principle that's quite easy to explain. Remember that the proponents of these amendments don't believe that the relevant constitutions mandate "gay" marriage. If they thought the judges were honest, they wouldn't see any need for an amendment.

In the face of an amendment which clearly allowed the state legislature to mandate gay marriage, such a judge would simple misconstrue some statute, rather than the constitution. So in order to block the judges entirely, the legislature, too, must be explicitly prohibited from enacting such a mandate.

At least, that's how I'd rationalize it. Only a rationalization, in my opinion, since the people leading these movements don't want the legislature acting, either, even if that wouldn't be nearly as offensive as judicial imposition to their supporters.
3.23.2006 4:43pm
BobN (mail):

One of the reasons SSM advocates chose Massachusetts as a judicial battleground state is the difficulty in that state of amending the state constitution. They had a prior victory in Hawaii, which was rejected by the people of Hawaii in a constitutional amendment before it could become law.


There were or are "battles" going on in almost ten states. The idea that this is a well coordinated effort is silly. Gay Central didn't choose Hawaii and Alaska. Nor did HQ choose Massachusetts.


The same legislators who voted for SSM in California could have done so under the Democratic governor, knowing he would sign it. They declined to do so and appear to have passed the bill merely to make Arnold veto it.


People's minds change over time. Some of those who voted for same-sex marriage this time around were not ready to do so a couple years ago. As for Ahnuld, his previous comments led many to believe he would sign the legislation. Turns out, he's a flip-flopper. Knock me over with a feather!
3.23.2006 4:46pm
BobN (mail):

Also, most people who oppose gay marriage are not bigots. Santorum, for ex., as much as you may dislike him, is not a bigot. He may be right or he may be wrong, but he does so for deeply held and carefully considered reasons. My guess is that most that are not in favor of extending the definition of marriage are more carefully thought-out than they are commonly accused of being.


Rick Santorum's "carefully thought out" position on my 26-year partnership is that it is morally equivalent to beastiality and ought to be criminalized.

He considers things deeply... sure, but he only considers one side of the argument. He is, by definition, biased.
3.23.2006 4:52pm
Hovsep Joseph (mail) (www):
BobN, You're right that anyone can bring a claim challenging the constitutionality SSM bans and no gay group has any authority to stop them, but a handful of groups (Lambda Legal, ACLU, NGLTF) have definitely engaged in strategizing as to what state courts would be more receptive to hearing these cases. You say there are cases going on in ten states, but those are carefully picked states like NY, NJ, and CT and not WY or TX. That's not an accident. There has also been an (unsuccessful I think) effort by these groups to discourage plaintiffs from bringing cases to federal court because any ruling on same sex marriage by the current Supreme Court would likely do more harm than good at this point.
3.23.2006 5:07pm
Cornellian (mail):
BobN, You're right that anyone can bring a claim challenging the constitutionality SSM bans and no gay group has any authority to stop them, but a handful of groups (Lambda Legal, ACLU, NGLTF) have definitely engaged in strategizing as to what state courts would be more receptive to hearing these cases.

Virtually every advocacy group representing every position on the spectrum of any issue engages in that sort of strategizing. I'd be surprised if they didn't. Heck, every mundane piece of commercial litigation starts with a lawyer thinking about which court would be the best choice in which to file the lawsuit. That's life in a federal system.
3.23.2006 5:19pm
Leland:
Hovsep,

Your second question is the one I mention. When the mayor of San Francisco decides it is within his power to define marriage, then there is a problem. Specifically that problems stems from his acute knowledge that the laws at federal and state levels mandate that governments accept the binding agreement of marriage across interstate boundaries. Thus San Francisco mayor was purposely conducting an end-run around laws in other states that oppose same sex unions. Call it unfair or whatever, but my point is that his actions hurt the overall effort of gay couples to have their relationships accepted by the whole of US society. Had the mayor simply continued to petition his state government through means to include even proclamations, then I think he would have done far more good for the cause of SSM.


Daniel,

My point is exactly that marriage should be merely a religious service (there is no wall of seperation, only the protection of government establishing religion). This merely religious service is nothing of the sort for those who are true believers of their various religions. For instance, I find the Church of Scientology a joke, but those who have "marriages" through that church take it as seriously as I take my marriage. I'm sure many homosexual take their relationships the same as mine. However, I would actually prefer that government consider my relationship as a civil matter. Indeed, in many respects, government does. After all, I can get married by a priest, but it means nothing to the government without a signed and filed marriage certificate on record with the state. The only thing the state does is allow the priest the right of certification authority. If you take the term "marriage" off the certificate, then what you have is a binding agreement between two individuals witnessed by an authority representing the state (and usually) two other witnesses. I'm all for that concept.
3.23.2006 5:22pm
Cornellian (mail):
Also, most people who oppose gay marriage are not bigots. Santorum, for ex., as much as you may dislike him, is not a bigot. He may be right or he may be wrong, but he does so for deeply held and carefully considered reasons.

Santorum doesn't have a "carefully considered" position on anything, he just echoes Vatican talking points.
3.23.2006 5:23pm
Cornellian (mail):
Specifically that problems stems from his acute knowledge that the laws at federal and state levels mandate that governments accept the binding agreement of marriage across interstate boundaries.

What laws would those be? Not that I've ever researched the issue, but so far as I know, no state is required to recognize a marriage created in another state. Just because first cousins can marry in state A doesn't meant state B must then recognize that marriage if state B doesn't allow marriage between first cousins. Of course states do recognize out of state marriages in the vast majority of situations, but that is by choice, not obligation.
3.23.2006 5:27pm
Cornellian (mail):
People's social views often do change once they have kids. It's not just society shifting left, it's them shifting right, too. I have seen it in people I know--in fact, most of my friends have shifted right as we have grown older, to say nothing of my parents' generation.

Do they change on every issue or just certain issues? I can see becoming parents changing one's view of taxes, for example. You now think a child tax credit is a boon to society, rather than your pre-parent view that it's a greedy attempt to get the government to subsidise your decision to have children at the expense of those who don't. But would becoming a parent make you more conservative on every issue? That's not obvious. I've known my own parents for over 20 years and their views don't seem to have changed much if at all over that time span, so far as I can tell.
3.23.2006 5:32pm
Cornellian (mail):
If you can fairly call the California legislature representative, given the way districting is in this state...

It's that way in virtually every state and people should be demonstrating in the streets to end a rigged system that lets politicians maintain Soviet rates of incumbent re-election.
3.23.2006 5:34pm
Oh my word (mail):
Saying that Santorum merely echoes the Vatican is ignorance, plain and simple. He is a carefully considered man, and thinking he is a mere parrot for the Vatican undermines your credibility. You can do better.

BobN, just because he has a viewpoint (like you do) does not mean he is biased in the sense that he has not thought things through from other angles, and it certainly does not mean bigoted.

Sooner or later, yall will have to recognize that the anti-gay marriage viewpoint is not pure ignorance and knee-jerk discrimination. It may or may not be correct, but it is a serious viewpoint.
3.23.2006 5:34pm
Cornellian (mail):
I think your claim that state constitutional amendments have nothing to do with preventing state supreme courts from issuing more Goodridges is rather absurd. If you believe the legislature's (and people's) concern over the possibility of judicially imposed gay marriage is "transparently bogus," please back it up with something besides conjecture. Nothing in this amendment restricts future (simple) majorities from changing the law. NOTHING.

My argument is simply this:

1) We claim that we are concerned that a state court will "impose" same sex marriage on the state

2) Therefore we need a constitutional amendment to prevent scenario #1

3) This constitutional amendment, which we have drafted will

A) Prevent the state courts from "imposing" same sex marriage and

B) Prevent the legislature from enacting same sex marriage or at least make it much more difficult for them to do so.

What is the explanation for the disconnect between #1 and #3(B)? Why don't groups opposing SSM state that their objective is to prevent both courts and legislatures from permitting SSM, since (leaving Michigan aside for the moment) those state amendments have invariably included both 3(A) and 3(B). If #1 was their real concern, then why has no state campaign for a constitutional amendment ever proposed a 3(A) only amendment? Back during the last round of posturing over a federal anti-SSM amendment, Orrin Hatch, to give him some credit, suggested something along those lines, since he had some genuine concern to preserve state authority over marriage, but was quickly shot down by the religious right and had to back off.

Now Michigan might be an anomaly because of an odd constitution. You have stated that the legislature is free to enact things by simple majority in both chambers even if the constitution says otherwise (or maybe it's a simple majority vote to amend the constitution). That strikes me as an odd constitution. Since the point of a constitution is to restrain the government, it's hard to see the point of a constitution that can be changed as easily as enacting ordinary legislation. How is that a restraint? Nevertheless Michigan's odd constitution doesn't change the general pattern. Every campaign for a state constitutional amendment to ban SSM has combined a campaign which talks only about #1 along with an amendment which includes both 3(A) and 3(B). In other words, it's bait and switch.
3.23.2006 5:48pm
Cornellian (mail):
Saying that Santorum merely echoes the Vatican is ignorance, plain and simple. He is a carefully considered man, and thinking he is a mere parrot for the Vatican undermines your credibility.

On what major issue has Santorum taken a position at clear variance with the stated position of the Vatican?
3.23.2006 5:54pm
Randy R. (mail):
When the mayor of San Fransisco said that he would allow gay marriages, people lined up on the street from all over to get married. I know for a fact that there were a many people who were opposed to gay marriage, but changed their mind after they saw that people would endure cold rain and hard streets to stay in line. When reporters came around to interview these people, it was the first time many saw real actual people say that they have been in a committed relationship for many many years, and that they love their partner deeply, and merely want the same as straight people do.

These images were powerful, and they still reverberate. Many gay people, Barney Frank included, opposed Mayor Gavin's action, but I think in the long run it should how serious we are about this. And Americans respect people who will fight for their rights.
3.23.2006 5:57pm
Oh my word (mail):
I'll answer your question if you answer mine.

My answer is that I do not know enough about Santorum's views to express, though I suspect that he favors less state intervention in the economy and in terms of providing welfare benefits to the poor than does the Vatican (though the Vatican tends to couch its views on this subject in broader terms than specifically supporting particular bills). I believe he also voted for the Iraq war, which the Vatican opposed.

My question is what specific basis do you have for thinking that Santorum is a knee-jerk lemming for the Vatican? Your accusation is damning, and I would expect you to back it up as such.

As a matter of strategy, I would recommend you take Dale's strategy, which is to engage rationally with critics rather than assail them as lemmings. To do the latter merely invites things like constitutional amendments, which are rational responses to the prospect that supreme courts will decide that voters are too stupid and/or irrational to do what is in society's best interest.
3.23.2006 6:06pm
Malcolm (mail):
While people may become more conservative in their behavior as they get older, studies have found that people's political and religious philosophies remain pretty much the same once they are about 30 years old. IN evangelical Christian circles, they teach parishoners that 80% of people who become born-again Christians have done so by the time they graduate college or reach the mid 20s. People tend to hold on to the position they hold on social issues from the time they were young adults. People may become more conservative in their personal actions, but still hold pretty much the same beliefs. A lot of people who were hippies in the 60's still have those same type core beliefs although they may have gotten a corporate job or cut their hair now.
Young adults aren't gonna drop their support for gay marriage as they get older in large part because this issue has become so much about people relating to the gay people in their lives. Young people know and will always know more gay and bisexual friends and family than any other previous generation in history. You are just not gonna talk about gay relationships in a demeaning way if your brother, best friend, or cousin is gay. This is having a profound impact on how young America thinks about this issue. For much of young America, this is not some faceless wedge issue, it is one that impacts their lives both directly and indirectly.
3.23.2006 6:13pm
Cornellian (mail):
As a matter of strategy, I would recommend you take Dale's strategy, which is to engage rationally with critics rather than assail them as lemmings. To do the latter merely invites things like constitutional amendments, which are rational responses to the prospect that supreme courts will decide that voters are too stupid and/or irrational to do what is in society's best interest.

I always try to deal with the argument rather than the person presenting it. In fact that's one of the fun parts about a comment enabled blog like VC and I like a lot of my posts do that. I have a low opinion of Sen. Santorum for a wide range of reasons, not just his position on SSM and gay people in general, but if he wants to post an argument here or if someone else wants to copy an argument he has made and post it here I'd be happy to address it.

A constitutional amendment is a rational response to a supreme court decision beyond some level of social acceptability. It's hard to see how it's a rational response to the possibility that a supreme court might, someday make such a decision.
3.23.2006 6:15pm
Volvodriver (mail):
In my opinion, the states ought to get out of the business of conferring a sacramant. That should be left for the churches. Let everyone's hetero- and homo-sexual be "civil unions." That's all it is anyway, if you are married by the JP at Town Hall. This gets everyone the same tax/insurance/inheritance benefits.

If a church doesn't want to confer the sacrament of marriage on gays, then it need not. This isn't any different than it is now for certain opposite-sex couples: I'm Catholic, and if I were to divorce my wife, and seek to get re-married, the Church would refuse my request, and would refuse to recognize my otherwise legal second marriage (barring an annulment).

The real problem here is that somehow state and local governments got into the marriage business, where they have no business.
3.23.2006 6:20pm
BobN (mail):
Hovsep:

BobN, You're right that anyone can bring a claim challenging the constitutionality SSM bans and no gay group has any authority to stop them, but a handful of groups (Lambda Legal, ACLU, NGLTF) have definitely engaged in strategizing as to what state courts would be more receptive to hearing these cases. You say there are cases going on in ten states, but those are carefully picked states like NY, NJ, and CT and not WY or TX. That's not an accident. There has also been an (unsuccessful I think) effort by these groups to discourage plaintiffs from bringing cases to federal court because any ruling on same sex marriage by the current Supreme Court would likely do more harm than good at this point.


My point was that the national organizations did not pick the first places where challenges were filed. Why would they have picked Alaska??? Of course, they try to strategize now, but they didn't pick the first cases as you asserted. Same-sex marriage wasn't even on the radar of the national groups when the first cases were filed. In fact, they opposed bringing up the subject as too much, too soon.

You are right that they now do actively discourage further state challenges, especially those in the hopeless states. I think they've only managed to convince one couple to withdraw a case.
3.23.2006 6:27pm
Oh my word (mail):
Cornellian: I know you have a low opinion of Santorum; that's clear. But I have seen no evidence that Santorum is somehow less thoughtful than other folks that are against gay marriage. Unless you think that all people against gay marriage are lemmings, you either have to accept that Santorum may have a reasonably considered opposing viewpoint or come up with a reason why he's an unusual fool.

I don't know whether constitutional amendments as prophylactics are wise policy, but they are certainly rational responses, given that the judiciary in this country has been leapfrogging legislatures on one issue after another for several decades now.

Interesting point about people not changing their views after about age 30. I am 29, and I suspect that is true--though in my case, I could certainly see myself supporting SSM sometime in the future, though I do not currently. But then again, I'm a major flip flopper on all sorts of issues, so count me out of the norm. It will be interesting.

BTW, I think a lot of pro-lifers are thinking that abortion will get outlawed once again if they just wait long enough--that pro-choicers abort themselves out of existence, and religious folk tend to be a lot more fertile than non-religious folk. It will be interesting to watch all of these things play out.
3.23.2006 6:28pm
BobN (mail):

This isn't any different than it is now for certain opposite-sex couples:


Acutally, it's quite different. In your case, you'd be MARRIED to your second wife.
3.23.2006 6:30pm
BobN (mail):
Oh my word:

BobN, just because he has a viewpoint (like you do) does not mean he is biased in the sense that he has not thought things through from other angles, and it certainly does not mean bigoted.


I repeat myself. He has "thought things through" and comes to the conclusion that my 26-year relationship is equivalent to beastiality. THAT is proof of bias. My partner is a human being.

You can tell Santorum is a bigot because he refuses to illuminate us as to how he comes to his conclusions about beastiality and about re-criminalizing same-sex sex. I guess his ideas are so "deep" that he can't articulate them.
3.23.2006 6:35pm
Hovsep Joseph (mail) (www):
BobN, I freely admit that there is not a headquarters for gay rights litigation that plans everything out (though I'm not involved with those groups, so I don't speak with any authority on the matter). Some cases are brought independently of the gay rights groups, including one that I'm involved with now in upstate New York. I just wanted to make clear that the fact that cases are being litigated in places like Massachusetts is not accidental--there is an active strategy to litigate here and not there.
3.23.2006 6:50pm
Oh my word (mail):
BobN, you are certainly incorrect about whether Santorum has discussed the moral implications of homosexuality and his views on the matter. Santorum gave about a two hour speech on the Senate floor during the gay marriage amendment debate. Unless you listened to the whole thing or have otherwise delved extensively into his thinking on these matters (and until you provide some linkage as to what Santorum actually said regarding the moral equivalency of beastiality and sodomy or homosexuality or whatever he said), your assertions have little weight. I didn't listen to the whole thing or even near it, but I can remember being struck by the carefulness of his thought. And I don't particularly like the guy myself and wish economic conservatives ran the party instead of religious conservatives (so it's not like I'm some secret admirer).

At any rate, the pedestrian point that your partner is homo sapiens shows that he is not a non-human animal, as are we all. Beyond that, your statement says little about the extensive religious, philosophical, and social implications of the gay marriage debate. Species distinctions are not the point for a guy like Santorum or most of the others. I'm not going to argue Santorum's viewpoint for him, as I don't know enough to do so by any means. But I suspect neither do you.
3.23.2006 7:07pm
Hovsep Joseph (mail) (www):
Oh my word,

Here is a reference to Santorum's comments on same sex marriage, homosexuality and beastiality, or "man-on-dog sex" as Santorum so thoughtfully refered to it:

"I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who's homosexual. If that's their orientation, then I accept that and I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it's not the person, it's the person's actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions...
In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality..."
Then the AP reporter intervenes: "I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out." http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,84862,00.html


Gotta love how the phrase "man on dog" seems to float off his tongue so easily.
3.23.2006 8:29pm
Oh my word (mail):
Plainly, he is not saying homosexuality is equivalent to man on dog sex. Just as I expected.

I am sure someone will try to spin it as such, but they will be incorrect in their logical analysis, for obvious reasons.
3.23.2006 8:46pm
Proud to be a liberal :
The public opinion polls have shown that people who know people who are gay are more likely to support gay marriage and civil unions. Thus, even conservatives may support gay marriage and/or civil unions if they have children or other relatives or friends who are gay. One possiblity is that all the discussion about gay marriage has brought more gay people out of the closet.

Also, the photos of brides and grooms from Massachusetts have been more sweet than threatening.

And my own parents, who are in their 70s, and who once opposed gay marriage, now seem to think it is fine.

Personally, I find distasteful the idea that one can turn homosexuals into straight people --which is definitely a big point for Dobson &others of his ilk. I would much rather that someone who is gay married another gay person -- than that he tried to be straight and married a woman -- possibly with the result of making both of them miserable.

I remember gay people talking about marriage in the 80s &many thought it was very bourgeouis. I would think that the idea of marriage -- a permanent, life long, caring, monogomous relationship, would be considered a very conservative choice.
3.23.2006 8:52pm
Oh my word (mail):
Dale persuasively argued that here last fall.

I think much of the concern is the message that state-endorsed gay marriage sends to confused teens (and there are many who sort of veer back and forth between straight and bisexual and maybe over to gay/lesbian--especially in college, and I have seen people drift in and out), as well as men (and sometimes women, too) who are looking for an easy way out of a marriage (decide you've always been gay) or otherwise want a little new sexual intimacy that an aging wife does not provide as well for some reason--another not-uncommon circumstance of homosexual conduct.

The last one that concerns me is prison homosexuality, which is generally homosexuality that comes from the circumstances and which often becomes a terrible power structure in the end. I used to minister to inmates and saw it first-hand. When I was ministering to them, I used to tell them that homosexuality was not wrong and I did not consider it a sin. I wonder whether I should have told them to avoid it, both for health reasons and because of the psychological toll that homosexual culture took on especially the "receivers." It is genuinely troubling to me, moreso as I have become less liberal with age. Those guys would definitely respond to a religious argument that homosexuality was immoral, but if you told them "oh you can do it as long as you truly love the other man," they would have laughed me out of the building!

At any rate, those are the sorts of reasons why society often balks at having the government put its imprimatur on gay marriage. Who knows what is right and what is wrong--but I do think that few one either side do a good job of addressing the other.
3.23.2006 10:46pm
Randy R. (mail):
Oh My Word:
Your last post leaves me totally confused. Do you really think that married people need the excuse of homosexuality to get divorced? Our laws are actaully quite lenient -- a couple can get a no-fault divorce as long as both sides want it, and usually can still get it if even one side wants it. You don't need to prove anything at all. Your post comes very close to saying that gays cause more divorces, and there simply is no evidence of that.

As for teens who drift in and out of heterosexuality: Well, yeah, of course! Do you really think that every person in the world is either totally straight or totally gay? It isn't true -- most people are somewhere in between. What's wrong with exploring that and figuring it out? Believe me, there are quite a few so-called straight men out there who want to have sex with other men, but are married and feel trapped. It's better to figure out who you really are before you get married, rather than have regrets later.

The fact is, we really know very little about human sexuality. We have no idea why some people are gay, some are striaght, and some are a little bit of both. And we haven't figured out a healthy way for those in betweens to deal with their two sides in a safe way -- safe for themselves, and for others.

As for the prison sex, you seem to have forgotten one cardinal rule: Men are pigs. We want and need sex. For most men, it's just hardwired into our brains. We will get sex one way or another, and to try to repress it only causes more problems. Again, there is no easy answer, but to simply waive it away by saying it's immoral, or it's okay only if you love the guy, completely misses the point.
3.24.2006 12:33am
Cornellian (mail):
"I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual."

Given this quote from Sen. Santorum, one can't help but wonder what heterosexual acts he wants banned. Don't for a moment think that he'll pack up and go home once he's dealt with the "problem" of gay people.
3.24.2006 1:18am
Javier (mail):
The rightwing is even admitting that they are trying to outrun demography and time:

...Caleb H. Price of Focus on the Family Action says the battle is far from won.

"As younger kids come of age and start to participate in the political process, they're much more liberal in their views on the issue of homosexuality."
3.24.2006 2:43am
Medis:
I have little interest in declaring anyone a "bigot". But it should be noted that throughout history, some people have justified treating other people as not fully human with very sophisticated arguments based on complicated world views (eg, this has been true of people advocating slavery, people advocating genocide, people advocating holy wars, and so on).

In that sense, just because someone has complex, carefully constructed, and "serious" arguments to offer in favor of treating other people in a certain way does not mean that they are immune to the charge that their views violate basic principles of human equality. And that is because such violations can occur at the level of their basic premises and intuitions, and very sophisticated and logically-ordered structures of belief can then be built on top of such foundations.

Again, however, I do not note this in order to condemn anyone for their views on gay marriage. Indeed, as I suggested above, I think there is a hopeful side to these observations, in that it may be possible to quickly change a lot of people's views on "gay rights" by changing their foundational intuitions about gay people. And it appears that many, and perhaps most, people with strong negative intuitions about gay people tend to lose those intuitions when they become familiar with real gay people.
3.24.2006 6:59am
Oh my word (mail):
Randy,

I'm not saying that saying you're now gay is needed to secure a divorce. It's sometimes an excuse to leave a marriage (easier for some to say than to tell the spouse she's old and ugly now, or he's tired of her nagging, or anything else), and if the woman catches the guy getting a little gay action on the side at the sauna or whatnot, it's a lot easier now to claim "I was always gay, it's not my fault" or any number of other such lines, of which there are many.

I'm not trying to paint all guys who get out of marriages and into gay relationships as doing so only in the above scenarios, but those scenarios are hardly uncommon.

Regarding prison sex, it's not correct to say that men cannot help ourselves. Many men in prison can and do respond to the argument that homosexuality is unhealthy and should be regarded as immoral. One can frame the point in all sorts of rhetoric, whether health or morality or religious language or whatnot, but it's not true that they can't respond to it--I've seen them straighten themselves out personally with jail ministers I worked along side of.
3.24.2006 11:58am
BobN (mail):
Thank you, Hovsep, for looking up that quote, but that's not what I was referring to. Santorum regularly brings up beastiality, pedophilia, etc. when the subject of homosexuality comes up. His "deep thoughts" are consistently negative. The man-on-dog one was just more colorful than the usual bile he spews.

On My Word, all I can do is recommend that you DO listen or read the Congressional Record and examine the full content of Santorum's speech.
3.24.2006 9:46pm