The Southern Poverty Law Center and Gay Marriage

11.29.2010, 2:58 PM

In a bizarre move, the Southern Poverty Law Center has put the National Organization for Marriage on its list of “18 Anti-Gay Groups” of which it says some will, next year, be listed by the same organization as “hate groups.”

Why bizarre? Because even the SPLC’s own summary of NOM (scroll down) doesn’t contain any examples of anti-gay statements or activities by NOM leaders (lacking any other material, instead they finger a guy who drove the NOM bus). In fact the SPLC even says that the group “emphasiz[es]” its “respect for homosexuals” and that NOM on its website says ”Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose… [but] they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”

For the Southern Poverty Law Center, is anti-gay marriage the same thing as anti-gay? (Apparently the answer is yes.) Does opposing gay marriage qualify you for possible “hate group” status by this historic and noble civil rights organization? (The answer appears to be a troubling “maybe.”)


53 Responses to “The Southern Poverty Law Center and Gay Marriage”

  1. Elizabeth, NOM isn’t one of the groups that will be listed as a hate group; the ones that will be included on the hate group list are marked with a *. NOM isn’t marked with a *.

  2. Elizabeth Marquardt says:

    I got their explanation there at the top. But I think that careful parsing of what an asterik will or will not mean in the future is…weird. Let’s face it, the asterik is hanging over the heads of everybody on that list. They haven’t finished doing their “research” yet, after all.

    (I will not dwell here on how strange it is for a long-established group to release a statement saying that they’re going to say something additional, next year, with only little hints like asteriks used for now…)

  3. Jeffrey says:

    For the Southern Poverty Law Center, is anti-gay marriage the same thing as anti-gay? (Apparently the answer is yes.)

    Well, NOM is a little bit more than just being “anti-gay marriage.” It is run by people who have long been foot-soldiers in various anti-gay rights efforts.

  4. It seems to me that you’re in effect criticizing the SPLC for something they might hypothetically do in the future. At this point, I’d argue that the fair answer to your final question — based not on what you speculate they’ll do, but what they’ve actually done — is “no.”

    Their “hate group” standard is pretty clearly laid out in the article — repeated falsehoods and/or repeated name-calling. The groups they mark with an asterisk seem consistent with that definition (at least, on a quick skim). NOM doesn’t meet that definition, and it’s not marked with an asterisk. They talked about what one NOM employee claiming to represent NOM said, but also made it clear that NOM has disassociated itself from that employee. I don’t think there are reasonable grounds to claim that NOM is being called a hate group.

    That said, I think the article is very sloppy — there’s a caption in the wrong place, there’s missing punctuation. I wonder if it was written in a rush, or by an intern, or something?

  5. Peter Hoh says:

    I think SPLC should be challenged to clarify their rationale behind this listing.

    However, it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that NOM is just opposed to same-sex marriage. They are (if I remember correctly) actively working to reverse state recognition of civil unions.

  6. Phil says:

    For the Southern Poverty Law Center, is anti-gay marriage the same thing as anti-gay? (Apparently the answer is yes.)

    There’s a difference between “being” anti-gay marriage and taking actions against gay marriage (and/or gay people).

    There’s a dramatic difference between expressing an opinion about what you believe is the best course of action for other peoples’ lives, and actively attempting to use the force of law to compel other people to live their lives according to your views.

    Would you say that a person (Person A) is hateful if their honest religious belief was that couples would be stronger, and society would be better off, if everyone chose to marry within their own race–even if that person took no actions to prevent interracial marriages?

    Contrast such a person with an individual who spent money, went door to door, and lobbied for laws that would make it illegal for interracial couples to obtain marriage licenses (Person B).

    And then contrast those two individuals with a person who not only lobbied and spent money and lobbied to prevent interracial marriages, but they knowingly told vicious lies while doing so? (Person C).

    NOM is to gay couples as Person B is to interracial couples.

    If you want to say that Person B is not a racist because their actions are limited to marriage, then perhaps it’s fair to say that NOM is not anti-gay for the same reason. But I don’t find that very compelling.

  7. kisarita says:

    Comparing gay marriage to interracial marriage is an insult to those who fought for racial equality.

    Interracial marriage is included in the definition of marriage, gay marriage is not.

    To treat them as equal issues is to diminish the very history of racism in this country.

  8. Tim says:

    All the justifying aside; whether you label a group with different interests/intentions/belief an “anti-whatever” group or a “hate” group…. you’re still indulging in rhetoric.
    What a convenient label…. someone attempts to make a valid point against same sex marriages and there goes a quick retort preceded with “anti” or “hate”.

    There’s a dramatic difference between expressing an opinion about what you believe is the best course of action for other peoples’ lives, and actively attempting to use the force of law to compel other people to live their lives according to your views.

    And you don’t feel that using rhetorical ploys to stigmatize the opposition isn’t an attempt to force or compel others to to live their lives according to your views? Say I want to live my life as one who is actively critical of not only same sex marriages but of the homosexual lifestyle in general…. regardless of how noble my intentions are and my level of care and concern for homosexuals I’d be labeled with “hate” preceding some other descriptive factor. Whether by force of law or force of public shunning the effect is the same – force/compel; others to live their lives according to your views.

  9. Tim says:

    Well, NOM is a little bit more than just being “anti-gay marriage.” It is run by people who have long been foot-soldiers in various anti-gay rights efforts.

    What are these other gay rights that the folk at NOM have been ‘anti’?

    Also, doesn’t enacted law concern itself with the common good? So when we refer to rights we typically are structuring that in a legalistic sense…. since I doubt that most homosexuals argue their unique rights from a Natural Law position. When we say “gay rights” it seems to me that bedroom behavior is forcing itself upon notions of enacted law…. with enacted law being concerned about the common good of all. Part of the reason why things like over eating are not addressed by enacted law because it doesn’t directly impact the common good.

  10. Comparing gay marriage to interracial marriage is an insult to those who fought for racial equality.

    Mildred Loving would disagree.

  11. Jeffrey says:

    Interracial marriage is included in the definition of marriage, gay marriage is not.

    What definition of marriage?

  12. Jeffrey says:

    What are these other gay rights that the folk at NOM have been ‘anti’?

    employment discrimination, adoption, civil unions, the end of sodomy laws.

  13. Tim says:

    Barry, would you not agree that marriage is a pre-law institution that is recognized by the law in the States?
    The legal system doesn’t create marriage it recognizes this pre-law, natural institution as important and worthy of legal rights.
    With the concept of marriage there is nothing per se in that understanding that would lead one to the arbitrary conclusion that interracial males and females couldn’t marry.
    Those advancing that racist agenda were imposing an arbitrary restriction on this natural, highly social institution.
    To assume that there is any profound relationship between same sex marriages and inter racial marriages is very misguided.

  14. Tim says:

    employment discrimination, adoption, civil unions, the end of sodomy laws.

    How does employment discrimination work? How do you advance this agenda? Going to employers and saying “ask if so and so is gay and if they say they are don’t hire them”?

    Being concerned about the well being of children raised by homosexual couples seems like a very noble concern.

    But I’ll be blunt, I don’t see any problem with being against these trends in society – leaving aside employment discrimination (assuming they did this, I still don’t get how it’s implemented and if successfully implemented I don’t get how you finger NOM for attempting this..not to say it didn’t happen, but I’d need to see proof).

  15. Tim says:

    From Barry’s link:

    I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

    Defining marriage as the institution for those who really, really love each other is naive. If that is the sole (or main) determining factor for what is needed for people to marry then reductio ad absurdum should be highlighted. In principle, there is no non arbitrary reason to state that polyamorous relationships can’t fall under the purview of legally recognized marriages. No non arbitrary reason as to why fishing buddies, straight college roommates, a lady and her collection of cats can’t marry. Unless we’re going to create ad hoc distinctions stating “the love in marriage MUST be bilateral…. no unilateral manifestations of love will be recognized”. One reason why this couldn’t be stated (the bi as opposed to unilateral ‘love requirement’) is that we already have a precendent with current, heterosexual marriages. There is no requirement, no test, no probing to see if the male and female truly do love each other. They could directly state “we don’t ‘love’ each other, but we want to get married…. maybe love will develop, maybe it won’t”.
    So the longterm effect is that this natural, social institution was contorted so far beyond recognition and any actual meaning/content that it becomes a meaningless distinction.

  16. Peter Hoh says:

    Tim, we’ve allowed straight couples to redefine marriage to suit their whims. What used to be a lifelong union has become a temporary union, thanks to the widespread acceptance of divorce and remarriage.

  17. kisarita says:

    I agree that gay marriage advocates are not the only parties interested in redefinign marriage. There are plenty of other social movements that are part of the team, and even preceded them. That doesn’t mean they are right.

  18. Tim says:

    Tim, we’ve allowed straight couples to redefine marriage to suit their whims. What used to be a lifelong union has become a temporary union, thanks to the widespread acceptance of divorce and remarriage.

    Even if I grant your statement at its face value:
    How does one bad redefining correct another bad redefining.

    But let’s put this into its proper context, Peter.
    Do you think it was by effort of the more traditional/conservative minded folks who wanted to allow quick and easy divorce? Or do you think that might have been a liberal/progressive agenda? Maybe an agenda thinly veiled with a faux concern for the children who are forced to live with two parents who no longer love each other?

    I’ll answer that – the same worldview that lead to the advancement of this new proposed redefinition (which would allow for same sex marriage) is the one that advanced the other redefining which no longer viewed a marriage as a life long commitment.
    For support to this claim – the Catholic Church does not recognize these divorces. And most other Christian denominations heavily push reconcilement over divorce.

  19. Peter Hoh says:

    Tim, as much as you’d like to blame divorce on the liberals, it’s been fully embraced by conservatives. You know who signed the nation’s first no-fault law, don’t you?

  20. Phil says:

    kisarita wrote:

    Comparing gay marriage to interracial marriage is an insult to those who fought for racial equality.

    First of all, I didn’t gay marriage to interracial marriage. I compared people who sincerely believe interracial marriage is bad for society to people who sincerely believe same-sex marriage is bad for society. I suspect the reason you find it insulting is because you are among the latter group, and you think that the former group is wrong.

    But the rightness or wrongness wasn’t the point of my comparison. The point was that they believe they are right, and you believe you are right. I am comparing the two groups on the basis of the fact that they hold a belief about other people’s marriages. The purpose was to illustrate that there are different ways that a person can choose to act on a belief about other people’s marriages.

    If you feel insulted because you think making that comparison somehow implies that you are a racist, then don’t. I’m not saying you’re a racist.

    If you feel insulted because you think I compared interracial couples to same-sex couples, and that same-sex couples are bad, then deal with it. You have basically said, “You have compared someone to you, and that’s an insult, because you are bad.” I’m supposed to humor that offensive stance?

    Tim writes:

    you’re still indulging in rhetoric.

    I think you are misusing the term rhetoric (“the art of using language effectively to please or persuade.”) Perhaps you meant “propaganda” or something pejorative?

    But what was your point? That there is no such thing as “anti-” anything? that there is no such thing as a “hate group?” If so, then say so. Because it sounds like what you’re saying is, “It is rude to call a group anti-gay, even if it it is an accurate description, because being anti-gay is a good thing.” And, sure, think that if you want, but if it is possible for such a thing as an anti-gay group to exist, then it is possible for someone to discuss whether a group meets a reasonable definition of anti-gay. If it is possible for a hate group to exist, then reasonable people can discuss whether something meets the definition of a hate group.

    And you don’t feel that using rhetorical ploys to stigmatize the opposition

    The phrase “rhetorical ploy” is, itself, a rhetorical ploy, and it is used in this sentence to stigmatize your opposition. Funny, that.

    Say I want to live my life as one who is actively critical of not only same sex marriages but of the homosexual lifestyle in general….

    It really makes a difference what you mean by “actively.” If all you are doing is engaging in rhetoric to persuade people not to enter into same-sex marriages or to live a homosexual lifestyle, then you’re acting like Person A in my example. If you are engaging in rhetoric to convince others to use force to prevent gay people from marrying or from living their lives as they see fit, then you are acting more like Person B. And if you are knowingly spreading lies while doing so, then you are acting more like Person C.

    (To clarify: using the force of law is using force. If a cop says to a woman, “Have sex with me or I will arrest you,” that meets my definition of rape, whether he has a gun or not. Similarly, “making something illegal” means using force to prevent that thing from happening. Voting to make something illegal is using force.)

    I’d be labeled with “hate” preceding some other descriptive factor.

    You’re using the passive voice, future tense here. Who would do the labeling, in your scenario? Not the Southern Poverty Law Center, because they only use the term hate group for groups that meet their stated definition.

    Whether by force of law or force of public shunning the effect is the same – force/compel; others to live their lives according to your views.

    Here’s where you’re absolutely wrong. The right to be free from oppression is not a position that is to be valued equally with to the right to oppress.

    There is a world of difference between stating your beliefs and trying to force other people to follow your beliefs–even if you hold a belief about what other people should/shouldn’t do.

    You’re basically saying that there is no difference between using language to try to persuade someone to live their life the way you want them to and using force to make them do it. That’s like saying there’s no difference between telling a person you want to have sex with them and sexually assaulting them.

    Telling a person that you believe they should not make a certain choice is not the same thing as trying to remove the choice from them. The National Organization for Marriage does more than tell gay people they shouldn’t make the choice to get married: they openly and repeatedly attempt to remove the choice from them.

  21. Tom says:

    Peter Hoh: “Tim, we’ve allowed straight couples to redefine marriage to suit their whims.”

    No we haven’t. We’ve allowed some people to redefine marriage. It just so happens that they are straight because of the way marriage has worked until now. You might as well say “We’ve allowed adults to redefine marriage”.

  22. La Lubu says:

    I agree that gay marriage advocates are not the only parties interested in redefinign marriage.

    Exactly. Women were very interested in redefining marriage—and we have. We are no longer marital property; no longer under the weight of coverture laws. When women gained legal standing as free persons, that paved the way for same-sex marriage. If women can enter marriage as a free person, and not have to abide by strict gender roles (that are by and large not workable in modern society)—what could possibly be the reason for not allowing same-sex marriage?

  23. Tom says:

    La Lubu: If women can enter marriage as a free person, and not have to abide by strict gender roles what could possibly be the reason for not allowing same-sex marriage?

    Sorry, I don’t follow. Could you expand your argument?

  24. La Lubu says:

    Well, (I really have to get to work…) I’ve noticed over the years that the same people who are opposed to same-sex marriage are also opposed to the changes in society that feminism brought. There seems to be a lot of opposition to the fact that male headship has dissolved, and with it the dissolution (or redefinition) of gender roles.

    In a same sex marriage, there would be no “gender roles”, and no “male headship”.

    My thought is that the changes in marriage brought about by feminism proves that traditional male headship and gender roles have been proven unnecessary—that men and women can enter into egalitarian marriage and have that marriage be both healthy and successful—moreso than families with male headship and gender roles. So, it stands to reason that since egalitarian marriage is successful with straight couples, it can also be successful with gay and lesbian couples.

    I don’t subscribe to the view that marriage is all about the children, as so many couples choose to not have children (or to enter into second marriages and not have children within that marriage). Almost all couples who do choose to have children consciously limit the number of children they have. So….that definition of marriage (which was itself a rewrite of previous definitions of marriage; the nuclear family being a radically different concept of “family” than what previously existed) has already changed. That boat left the dock a long time ago.

    (I find it curious that people who want a return to the older definition of marriage as centering around a heterosexual nuclear family do not also pine for the days of when marriage was a consolidation of extended families, with extensive obligations to one’s new extended family as well. Not to mention the return of women to the status of property, with physical exams to ensure virginity, child betrothal, dowries, etc., etc. Appeals to a more modern form of “tradition”….without having to go all the way into actual tradition.)

  25. Tom says:

    Well I’ve noticed over the years that the same people who are opposed to same-sex marriage are also opposed to the changes in society that feminism brought

    Undoubtedly many are, but I personally don’t think it’s worth listening to them as they are much more likely to have motivations that I find somewhat distasteful.

    On the other hand, there are a number of same-sex marriage “opponents” who have rather more subtle and nuanced arguments which I do think have more validity. In my personal opinion it’s worth listening to these ones. Granted they are somewhat hard to find amongst the clamour, but this website is one place you can hear them.

  26. Maggie Gallagher says:

    Elizabeth thanks for this post. People who are claiming that those involved in NOM have been “foot soldiers” in general opposition to gay rights–employment discrimination, adoptiom and sodomy laws.

    Please name names and list sources. Or just say its your general impression you don’t really know.

    Maggie

  27. Peter Hoh says:

    I’m the one who wrote that NOM is actively opposing civil unions. On November 23, several sites reported that NOM issued an action alert urging supporters to write to Illinois legislators to encourage them to vote against SB 1716.

    However, it appears that this action alert has disappeared from the NOM website, if it ever was on NOM’s site.

  28. Phil says:

    Maggie,

    I thought it was well-known that Orson Scott Card has written in defense of anti-sodomy laws, and he is on NOM’s Board of Directors.

    He wrote that America needs anti-sodomy laws “to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.”
    http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/orson-scott-card-gay-marriage-could-spark-a-coup-detat_b7502

    And he was welcomed to the National Organization for Marriage Board of Directors:
    http://www.nationformarriage.org/site/c.omL2KeN0LzH/b.5075687/apps/s/content.asp?ct=6938473

    Additionally, the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reported that NOM released an “Action Alert” to stop same-sex civil unions in Illinois:
    http://sdgln.com/causes/2010/11/23/anti-gay-nom-expands-target-opposes-civil-unions

    And a Southern Illinois Catholic blogger reports receiving the Action Alert, and reproduces it on his blog along with Brian Brown’s signature:
    http://soilcatholics.blogspot.com/2010/11/illinois-civil-unions-action-alert.html

    While it’s possible that someone perpetrated a hoax and simply got dozens and dozens of different bloggers to believe that NOM wrote an Action Alert about Civil Unions, you’ll note that the SDGLN article (along with many other web sites) link to a specific URL within NOM’s web site that includes the text “Stop_SameSex_Unions_in_Illinois”.

    NOM appears to have taken that action alert down.

  29. Phil says:

    Maggie,

    Additionally, the Wikipedia page for “Maggie Gallagher” reports that you oppose legal recognition of same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships, and that you have written that domestic partner benefits “erode the status” of heterosexual marriage.

    Now, Wikipedia can sometimes contain information that isn’t accurate, but I figure–what sense does it make to search newspaper archives about you when I’m participating in a discussion with you right now.

    Is Wikipedia right, Maggie? Did you write in 2002 that domestic partner benefits erode the status of heterosexual marriage?

    If Wikipedia’s characterization of you is wrong, and you’re actually a supporter of same-sex civil unions, feel free to correct the record right here and now.

  30. kisarita says:

    La Lubu,
    I’ve been a feminist for most of my life and I oppose gay marriage.

    Equal rights within marriage for women did not redefine marriage, although it did change the structure of marriage.

    Marriage is a basic social and economic unit of society, serves as the site of physical and social reproduction, and as such is structured along reproductive lines. That hasn’t changed, and holds true worldwide.

    Since marriage is a basic unit of a society, Women are equal in marriage when they are equal outside of marriage in that society.

    In societies where women are unequal in general in society they are also unequal in marriage.

  31. La Lubu says:

    Equal rights within marriage for women did not redefine marriage

    I disagree. It very much redefined marriage. It removed male headship from the equation—which didn’t just change the structure of marriage and family life, it changed our definition of what marriage is. Women can choose what the structure of family life is going to look like (if or how many children, full-time work outside the home—even in professional or nontraditional (meaning: mostly male) fields, separate bank accounts, keeping our names*, etc.). That changed the nature of how we look at marriage; what we think of marriage.

    For one thing, greater freedom for women necessarily means more divorce. Women have the legal right to divorce, but more importantly—the means to divorce—we can live on our own. It’s no secret among people strongly opposed to divorce that equality for women is to blame (along with reliable birth control. it’s hard to leave with eight or more children, but relatively easy with one or two).

    Marriage morphed into its current incarnation: two people who want to build a life together, and desire to take on the legal obligations toward one another as well as the legal benefits. It’s straight women who created that definition, by opting-out of the previous mode of early marriage, lots of child-bearing, and not working outside the home (or, for working-class and poor women like my elders, working at dead-end, low-wage jobs and juggling childcare, eldercare and homemaking around that. you could say, the “original Superwomen”).

    Since you identify as a feminist, kisarita….why are you opposed to same-sex marriage? I ask because all the arguments I’ve heard against it are strongly anti-feminist.

    Also, for what it’s worth: I attended an interfaith council on LGBT issues recently (I represented my UU congregation as the minister already had a previous appointment); my state (Illinois) has 648 laws that benefit married people that (for now) same-sex couples (no matter how long they have been together) do not get the benefit of (or, responsibility of as the case may be—same-sex partners currently don’t have to disclose potential conflicts of interest that their spouse might have).

    Think about that, and especially think about it in the light of “personal responsibility”. Why are “we” denying same-sex couples the right to take on the responsibility of marriage—becoming legal kin to one another?

    *about the “keeping our names”—it’s traditional among my people for the woman to keep her father’s name upon marriage. But I understand this is a serious bone of contention among straight couples getting married who don’t have that tradition.

  32. Chairm says:

    Barry, do you really imagine that Mildred Loving is the authority on whether or not the racialist analogy is apt?

    State the criteria by which you would identify an ‘interracial’ marriage. Then state the criteria by which you would identify a ‘same-sex’ marriage.

    There is one human race and its nature is two-sexed. The marriage idea does not organize society by identity group politics. The SSM idea owes its existence and its promotion to the blatant assertion of the supeirority of gay idenitity politics. The SSM idea and its campaign are the racialist analogues, not the defenders of the marriage idea such as NOM.

  33. Chairm says:

    La Luba said:

    “That changed the nature of how we look at marriage; what we think of marriage.”

    If you want to credit (or to blame) your version of feminism for the supposed plausibility of the SSM idea, so be it.

    Despite variations in the secondary features of marriage, there are primary features which have been universal across the historical and anthropological records. These form the core of the social institution. That core is the societal response to things that are given; these are not social constructs. Marriage is a construct in response these givens.

    How are we look at marriage?

    Well, first we need to identify marriage, as marriage, and then consider societal regard for that.

    Given your view of feminism, can you justify societal preference for the social institution of marriage? Perhaps you reject societal preference for marriage?

    Please explain how SSM is distinguishable from nonmarriage — before you’d have society pin the label and accord the special status on it. If you think that SSM and marriage are identical, and so societal should regard them as identical, state the features which make SSM/Marriage different from nonmarriage; state the features that make SSM and Marriage identical. Again, we are looking at marriage before the label is attached to it; before speical status is attached to it; before the law can reflect societal regard for it.

    You brought this up in your comments under a blogpost in which the work of NOM has been likened to the work of racists and hate-groups. I’d be interested in reading your explanation of the relevance of your view of feminism on this central topic of the original blogpost.

  34. Chairm says:

    Who defines gay and who defines anti-gay? If you would list an agenda that is pro-gay, is it an automatic that opposition to that agenda is anti-gay?

    If yes, then, I think that would demonstrate the way that identity politics places the group above the individual. Afterall, is there really no differences within the ‘gay community’ when it comes to that agenda?

    Keep in mind that according to the largest post-election survey, about half of the margin of victory for Proposition 8 was delivered by self-identified gay voters.

  35. Phil says:

    Chairm,
    Where are you finding exit poll data about the sexual orientation of Prop 8 voters?

    In retrospect, it seems egregious that none of the major pollsters seem to have asked about sexual orientation re: that election.

    http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/polls/#CAI01p1

  36. kisarita says:

    You asked why I oppose same sex marriage.
    The reason is because it is part of a larger movement to weaken kin relationship. (By minimizing the importance of kin, yes we weaken it.)
    I could elaborate on why I think kin is so important, but don’t want to stray too far off topic unless someone requests.

  37. La Lubu says:

    Please explain how SSM is distinguishable from nonmarriage…

    Nonmarriage is a responsibility-free relationship, whether the partners are same-sex or opposite-sex..

    Marriage, whether to a same-sex or opposite-sex partner, is a responsibility-full relationship. It entails serious obligations to one another, to any children in the relationship, to one another’s parents and other in-laws. It’s a committment. A committment enforceable by law.

    Isn’t that obvious? How could one possibly equate SSM with “nonmarriage”? They’re at opposite ends of the spectrum!

    Which brings me to kisarita’s comment: The reason is because it is part of a larger movement to weaken kin relationship.

    That just blows my mind, because marriage is the ability to create a kin relationship—that’s what heterosexual partners aer doing when they marry. They are creating a kin relationship to one another, and between their respective families of origin, even if they choose to not have children (or, conversely, if they cannot have biological children). Why on earth would it weaken kin relationship by expanding the ability to create kin relationship to more people? I see SSM marriage as strengthening kin relationship.

    Can you expand on your thoughts on kin? I want to know where you’re coming from.

    Given your view of feminism, can you justify societal preference for the social institution of marriage? Perhaps you reject societal preference for marriage?

    Marriage evolved (y’know…like humans evolved!) from being an informal institution to a formal one as civilization developed. It makes sense within our current societal structure to both keep marriage as a means for non-related people to become kin to one another, and to expand that institution to include people with same-sex partners.

  38. Chairm says:

    La Luba, no it is not obvious as you illustrated in your remarks. Before you pin the label and the special status on it, what makes marriage different from nonmarriage such that the label and the special status are apt?

    You leapt past the question as asked.

    I think you underestimate the vast range of relationship types that exist in the nonmarriage category. Commitment? Responsiblity? That is not exclusive to one-sexed relationships within that category.

    Maybe you would infuse gayness into the notion of a partner and thus differentiate the sexualized one-sexed arrangement that you have in mind. The question would then arise: what is it about that sexualization that merits special status and a licensing scheme, within your view of feminism?

    * * *

    La Luba, I asked for confirmation that you support societal preference for marriage (i.e. marital status is a special status); you may have obliquely responded by referring to creating kinship but could you be more explicit on this point?

    I also asked for justification of societal preference. You simply said that the kinship thing makes sense today but you did not justify that very limited view of the social institution vis-a-vis its special status in civilization.

    In my view, the merger of SSM with marriage would be regressive as it would not promote the core meaning of the social institution.

    As for kinship, some related people may marry but some may not. What justifies relatedness as the basis for drawing lines of eligilibity, within your view of feminism?

    * * *

    Phil, back in November 2008 that CNN website included a tally by self-identified gay voters.

    http://opine-editorials.blogspot.com/2008/11/glb-and-nonreligious-voters-help-pass.html

  39. La Lubu says:

    Chairm, you are being noxiously cagey. I’m well aware of the variety of human relationships, but as the topic on this thread was marriage, I made the fair assumption that by “nonmarriage” you were referring to unmarried, romantic, emotionally-committed but not legally-committed partners—the type of human relationship that can reasonably be compared to a marital relationship. I then compared what constitutes the difference between two types of romantic, emotionally-committed relationships—the marital kind and the nonmarital kind. The married kind has legal and moral obligations to one another that the nonmarried kind does not. Capisce?

    My feminism is wholly concerned with on-the-ground reality. I like to call it “shop floor feminism” to honor the labor-union origins of feminism from the working class perspective. I’m not of the academy, and am uninterested in theory that does not contribute to, clarify, acknowledge or reflect the lives and realities of everyday working people. So, the question, “why should anyone be married?” or “why should marriage exist?” does not concern me. The immediate fact is that marriage does exist. It has benefits as well as drawbacks, and free, consenting adults should be legally able to choose for themselves whether or not to participate in that institution regardless of many factors—including sexual orientation.

    I am the wrong person to ask for justification as to whether marriage should exist at all. Perhaps in a different world, where no concrete benefits nor obligations were assigned to marriage, where “marriage” was literally just a word, or just a religious concept that had no bearing in everyday life, no civil accordance…..there would be nothing to argue about. People would still fall in love, pair-bond, raise children, attend family reunions, celebrate family milestones and special days with one another, care for one another in sickness and in health—just without “being married” (as the term exists now).

    That isn’t the world we currently live in. Denial of same-sex marriage is a human rights issue. It’s an arbitrary form of discrimination against LGBT people. There is no consistent, distinguishing characteristic that separates the lives of heterosexual married partners from the lives of homosexual partners in a committed relationship who are prohibited from marrying one another. Seriously, their everyday lives are the same. They have the same jobs, live in the same neighborhoods, shop at the same grocery stores, their children attend the same schools, they worry about and pay their bills every month at the kitchen table…..to deny them the right to marry their partners is a travesty of justice.

    In my view, the merger of SSM with marriage would be regressive as it would not promote the core meaning of the social institution.

    What is that “core meaning”? Because the fact of the matter is that we do not all agree on the core meaning of marriage.

    Look, I’ll be frank—I am (again) the wrong person to make appeals to tradition when it comes to marriage. It was a very short time ago that I gained human rights. “Traditionally”, I was property—like the chickens and goats. My value as a bride would be determined by the dowry I would contribute to the marriage (I come from a people who not only practiced arranged marriage, but where the bride produced the dowry for the husband—which left many poor women unable to marry, because they couldn’t find a husband willing to accept the measly dowry).

    I view the (re)extension of human rights to women (after years of oppresssion by patriarchal religion) as a great advancement in the evolution of humanity. Your opinion may differ. Perhaps you pine for the days of women’s oppression. No matter. But why you would expect me to join in that delusion is beyond me.

    What justifies relatedness as the basis for drawing lines of eligibility, within your view of feminism?

    You gotta be kidding me. You’re seriously implying that feminism should preclude any opposition to incest?! I can’t be reading that right—-the way you phrased it, it sounds like you are asking me why people who are related by blood shouldn’t be allowed to marry each other.

  40. kisarita says:

    La Luba, how do you define marriage?

  41. kisarita says:

    “It’s an arbitrary form of discrimination against LGBT people. There is no consistent, distinguishing characteristic that separates the lives of heterosexual married partners from the lives of homosexual partners in a committed relationship ”

    there sure is; it’s called procreation.
    I don’t see how one can define marriage without the concept of procreation.

    Sure not everyone reproduces. That doesn’t change
    Some women have ovaries that don’t develop eggs. Does that mean that egg development is not the function of the ovary?
    Some men have testes that don’t produce sperm, does that mean that sperm production is not a function of testes?

  42. Phil says:

    Chairm,

    Thanks. I figured out where we were both wrong; the CNN data was spread out over 5 pages, and wasn’t searchable. The actual link to the data about sexual orientation of voters is at the following link:
    http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/results/polls/#val=CAI01p3

    You’re making inferences from the data that CNN wasn’t willing to make. It’s not clear why that is, but CNN listed “N/A” for their breakdown of the GLB vote–perhaps because they only polled 112 GLB people, so further demographic breakdown was unreliable.

    Nevertheless, it’s very likely that some portion of gays and lesbians voted for Proposition 8. But your point seems to be that if gays aren’t monolithic in their opinions about gay rights, then being anti-gay marriage is not anti-gay.

    That’s ludicrous. By that logic, unless a minority has complete consensus about a political issue, then there is no such thing as being anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-black, anti-Indian, etc. By comparison, consider a hypothetical ballot initiative that bans everyone in the state from going to Jewish temples. Sure, you could claim that it applies equally to everyone in the state–Christians, atheists, Wiccans, and Jews would all be prevented from going to Jewish temples. But even if a portion of Jews voted for the proposition, it would still be fair to call it anti-Semitic.

    Not all policy positions break down like that, because not all policy positions specifically remove rights from people within a state.

  43. Phil says:

    Some women have ovaries that don’t develop eggs. Does that mean that egg development is not the function of the ovary?

    There are so many problems with this line of thinking, but it boils down to creating arbitrary exceptions based on your own privileged background.

    Group Y: Some people are born with ovaries that are incapable of producing eggs, and have a predilection toward being attracted to men.

    Group Z: Some people are born with testicles that are incapable of producing eggs, and have a predilection toward being attracted to men. .

    Your position, Kisarita, toward Group Y is: “Even though your body cannot fulfill what I view as the most important function of marriage with a male partner, it would be an egregious abuse of state power to prevent you from marrying a man; your birth is not your destiny.”

    And your position toward group Z, Kisarita, is: “Because your body cannot fulfill what I view as the most important function of marriage with a male partner, it is not an egregious abuse of state power to prevent you from marrying a man; your birth is your destiny.”

  44. Brian says:

    On 11/30 Maggie Gallagher challenged, as follows: “People who are claiming that those involved in NOM have been “foot soldiers” in general opposition to gay rights–employment discrimination, adoptiom and sodomy laws. Please name names and list sources. Or just say its your general impression you don’t really know.”

    A number of people responded with specific examples and yet there is silence from Ms. Gallagher.

  45. kisarita says:

    Phil;
    They can do whatever they want with any consenting man or woman of their choice, without violating any law or facing any consequences from the state.
    What they are missing is state recognition. There’s a big difference.

    This reminds me of a very disingenous campaign that came out, the “don’t break up our friends” “don’t break up our dad’s” etc campaign; as if the state was actually planning to break up the couples instead of simply un-registering the marriage.

  46. kisarita says:

    Why accord a unique status to a sexual relationship at all; if not for its reproductive function?

    Why should I not be able to enter into a (non-sexual of course) relationship with my brother or parent, for example, that would accord us all the benefits and responsibilities of marriage?

    If it is about love, commitment and support, why should my family relationships be treated differently than a non-related but sexually involved couple, whether gay or straight?

    The only reason to accord a unique status to a sexual relationship is because of the procreative aspect. And yeah that’s a generalization because law and social institutions must generalize. But being a generalization doesn’t make it invalid.

  47. La Lubu says:

    kisarita, my definition of marriage is thus: two people who want to build a life together, become kin to one another, and desire to take on the legal obligations toward one another as well as the legal benefits.

    I don’t see how one can define marriage without the concept of procreation.

    And yet….there are infertile couples who are married. There are many heterosexual couples who have no desire for children, and do not have them. There are older heterosexual couples who still get married, despite the postmenopausal woman’s inability to produce children. There are younger heterosexual couples who get re-married, but do not have children with their second partner. What all of those couples have in common: they can choose to be married, and no one is arguing for the abolition of legal marriage to these people. Why not?

    Why accord a unique status to a sexual relationship at all; if not for its reproductive function?

    Because it isn’t just a sexual relationship. You are equating a committed, same-sex relationship with that of a one-night stand, or “friends with benefits”. That’s ludicrous. Same-sex partners don’t want or need State recognition for the fact that (except for the unlikely event that both are asexual) they enjoy sex with one another. How many times do I have to type the word “committment” or “committed”? Heterosexual people can have their committment recognized, with all the benefits and obligations that entails. They can also choose to just cohabit, with mere verbal committments to one another but no legal obligations or benefits—even if they still choose to have children.

    I’m going to be blunt: it’s hypocritical to say that because a heterosexual couple superficially resembles the “type” of couple that has children (regardless of whether they can have them, do have them, or even desire to have them) that they should be allowed to enter the institution of marriage—and at the same time, tell a lesbian couple who actually does have children (usually from previous heterosexual relationships) that they cannot. That their committed relationship can’t possibly be all that committed based on their genitalia.

    If it is about love, commitment and support, why should my family relationships be treated differently than a non-related but sexually involved couple, whether gay or straight?

    Most people are not asexual. Someone on this blog made a catty comment about fishing buddies who could “get married”. Well, if those fishing buddies are asexual, and for whatever reason wanted to take on the obligations of kinship to one another, I certainly wouldn’t stand in their way. However, I don’t think there’s going to be a run of fishing buddies at the courthouse. Being married to one person precludes the possibility of being married to another in this society. It would also make dating quite difficult, I would imagine (“who’s he?” “oh, that’s just my fishing buddy.” “what’s he doing here?” “oh, we’re married—but only for legal reasons…..hey! don’t go! really! we’re not married like that!”).

    Yeah. Anyway, people have a tendency to pair-bond. We always have, we always will. We fall in love. And many of us develop a deeper committment to those we are in love with—a bond beyond the mere sex we’re having with one another. Heterosexual couples can formalize that committment by getting married—and gain the (over-a-thousand, federally) legal benefits and obligations we assign to marriage. They can do that regardless of their ability or intent to have children. LGBT couples cannot.

    That is an injustice.

    On the positive side, a law granting Civil Unions just passed the Illinois House and Senate, and is merely awaiting the Governor’s signature. Yay, Illinois! I’m proud of my state, and ashamed of my local representatives who voted against the law (citing their religious beliefs and their upbringing that homosexuality is wrong as guiding them to their “no” votes). Bah! Fortunately, their line of thinking is on the way out the door.

  48. Peter Hoh says:

    Brian, in Ms. Gallagher’s defense, critics have offered no specifics about NOM’s activities other than one possible action alert re. the Illinois civil unions bill — an action alert that has since been pulled from NOM’s website.

    That one board member once wrote X does not count as proof that NOM is working against X. That Ms. Gallagher wrote Y does not count as proof that NOM has taken a stand against Y.

    I disagree with NOM, and I disagree with the arguments they employ in their advocacy, but I will concede that so far as I can tell, NOM’s activities have been focused on the issue of same-sex marriage.

  49. Jeffrey says:

    That one board member once wrote X does not count as proof that NOM is working against X. That Ms. Gallagher wrote Y does not count as proof that NOM has taken a stand against Y.

    Except that NOM is largely an organization comprised of a small group of people, and their family members. There is a small board of directors and small staff. So Robert George’s academic work opposing repeal of sodomy laws does matter since he is one of the three original board members. Maggie’s speeches do matter since she essentially created NOM a a spin-off of her other non-profits and is the main spokesperson.

  50. Peter, I don’t see why it’s a point in NOM’s defense that NOM pulled the action alert from their site. Unless NOM has publicly repudiated their public opposition to the civil union bill, and apologized for the action alert, it’s reasonable to hold NOM responsible for what they’ve said and done. Just because they quietly removed the evidence from their site doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

    That one board member once wrote X does not count as proof that NOM is working against X.

    No, but NOM’s decision to invite someone onto their board whose extreme homophobic views, including favoring putting people in jail for being gay, are well-known, says a lot about what NOM does and doesn’t consider morally beyond the pale. Inviting Card to join their board was a freely-chosen action on NOM’s part, and it’s not unreasonable to think that decision tells us something about NOM.

  51. Peter Hoh says:

    Jeffrey and Barry, I don’t like guilt by association, even when that association is close.

    However, when I go back to the text, I see that Ms. Gallagher didn’t ask for proof that NOM was engaged in X and Y.

    Ms. Gallagher wrote: People who are claiming that those involved in NOM have been “foot soldiers” in general opposition to gay rights–employment discrimination, adoption and sodomy laws.

    Please name names and list sources. Or just say its your general impression you don’t really know.

    Yes, evidence has been offered that “those involved in NOM” have opposed civil unions and defended sodomy laws. Names were named and sources were listed.

    I withdraw my objection.

    It seems rather interesting that NOM would release an action alert about the Illinois bill and then scrub it from their website. I’m just not sure what to make of it.

  52. Phil says:

    Kisarita wrote:

    They can do whatever they want with any consenting man or woman of their choice, without violating any law or facing any consequences from the state.

    It’s not clear what statement you’re responding to, but you’re very wrong.

    We’re talking about civil marriage here–marriage law, not church law. There are things that legally married couples can do that no other couples can. So it’s ludicrous to say that a gay couple can do whatever they want without facing consequences from the state.

    Same-sex couples in committed relationships can’t file their taxes jointly. They can’t refuse to testify against their spouse in a court of law. They can’t marry their foreign-citizen spouse and live with them in the United States until they grow old, the way heterosexual married couples can.

    If they try to do any of these things, they will suffer consequences, from fines, to jail time, to the deportation of a partner. By opposing legal, optional same-sex marriage, you are advocating these consequences. So it is downright deplorable that you would claim “they can do whatever they want” without facing consequences from the state.

    They can’t do the things that only married people can do, kisarita, as you damn well know.

  53. fannie says:

    “Yes, evidence has been offered that ‘those involved in NOM’ have opposed civil unions and defended sodomy laws. Names were named and sources were listed….

    It seems rather interesting that NOM would release an action alert about the Illinois bill and then scrub it from their website. I’m just not sure what to make of it.”

    Perhaps Ms. Gallagher will re-enter this conversation and make the appropriate concessions and clarifications.