If Not a Culture War, Then What?

06.26.2012, 3:25 PM

Over at First Things, Greg Forster writes a very important essay, “If It’s Not a Culture ‘War,’ What Does Winning Look Like?”

Please, for your own sake and for the sake of neighborliness, read the whole thing here.

Gallagher talks about the “deinstitutionalization” of marriage; that idea was what hit me like lightning back when I read [her book] The Abolition of Marriage. But there has also been an institutionalization of enmity.

If “winning” means the preferences of our cultural subgroup are enacted as policy, there is no hope for victory in the culture war – for either side. We will not submit because our consciences don’t permit it, neither will they for the same reason, and there is no serious prospect of either side eliminating the other. As long as we aim for a “victory” in terms of dominance for our cultural subgroup, the war will grind on. All we will accomplish is the fragmentation of society, the hollowing out of what used to be a real moral consensus and shared culture across religious divisions, and the ongoing destruction of the relational capital that might provide a basis for “living together.”

Gallagher says, “the challenge of our time—and it is a deep challenge, not an easy one—is to find new ways to combine truth and love.” Truer words were never spoken. If we want to rise to them, we have to rethink what counts as victory in the culture war. Victory means a truce we can all live with. We have to find a way to live together that doesn’t require either side to sacrifice its conscience.

I don’t know what that “victory” of peace would look like, in which people from both ”sides” would feel that their consciences are respected.  

Is such a victory even possible?

If not a “culture war,” what’s this “thing” that we’re in (in which we very sharply disagree with each other, believing that the other’s position ultimately creates a serious injustice toward some group of persons)? We have our reasons for disagreeing, but we often find ourselves exasperated at the other sides’ inability to understand, and see the brilliance of, our reasons. I mean, sometimes it sure feels like we are enemies in combat. But of course, when you get down to it, we’re neighbors and friends and coworkers and, well, people living life together, and mostly (except, of course, for some of those nasty people on the other side!), trying to do what we think is the right thing to do. 

In this essay, Forster is mainly talking to conservative Christians like me, but his challenge applies to anyone with a point of view about same-sex marriage.

If both sides of the same-sex marriage debate were to keep their positions on same-sex marriage but drop the “culture war” stance, what is the stance we assume toward each other? What’s the metaphor?


44 Responses to “If Not a Culture War, Then What?”

  1. Darel says:

    Perhaps Forster is offering us John Rawls + expert knowledge. Everyone gives up talking about “comprehensive doctrines” in the political sphere and adopts cooperation as the signal — and I would say for Rawls at least, the only — substantive end of public life. And then we all follow the dictates of social science which shows us the truth of “marriage, work, church and civic involvement”.

    My guess, at least.

  2. Matt N says:

    If you don’t believe in same-sex marriage, don’t get one? There’s a fundamental asymmetry in terms of proposed policies here.

    Having federal and state governments recognize same-sex marriages would put both groups on even social footing. Just like various social groups that oppose divorce, people would still have the right to free association, deciding if they want to socialize with same-sex couples (or as currently happens – openly non-straight people). Social groups that don’t disapprove of same-sex marriage would be able to have all legal and social rights conferred on their members.

    Is the burden of the anti-SSM camp having to merely share an institution? (Um, didn’t we have a little legal trouble over that issue earlier in US history? Think hard if you don’t know what I mean.) The burden of the pro-SSM camp, under current policies, are unequal rights and legalized discrimination.

  3. Matt N says:

    Or, put another way, recognition of same-sex marriages would give individuals the rights that they want to have. Denying recognition of same-sex marriages would be denying individuals the rights that they want to have on the basis of other individuals’ beliefs.

    Admittedly this is the pro-SSM perspective.

  4. La Lubu says:

    It’s amazing to me that Forster does not understand why his former good friend cut him out of her life. In a nutshell, she could no longer trust him. Without trust, friendship is impossible. (Also: I’m really wary any time I hear the term “lifestyle” invoked; in my experience it is solely reserved to refer to “lives I don’t approve of.”)

    With that said, I strongly disagree that there ever was consensus in the US once it became a heterogeneous nation. (The humanist group at my UU congregation plans on reading Charles Murray’s recent book, so it looks like I’m gonna have to break down and read it! What struck me as immediately wrong from the reviews I’ve read is his assertion that the Protestant Work Ethic was ever adopted by non-Protestants.) I think what trips Forster (and Murray) up is the illusion of consensus that can come when those in a position of power or privilege don’t recognize the gulfs of difference that are experienced by those without power and privilege. When marginalized people gain political strength, they have a greater voice for rejecting and effectively fighting their oppression. But make no mistake—they never conceded to being oppressed.

    What does “victory” look like? It looks like live and let live—recognizing that our differences are not going away, and thus keeping boundaries between our private lives and public lives. In regards to same-sex marriage, this would mean legal SSM for those who desire it in the civil sphere and for those religious groups who agree, while respecting the right of religious groups who disagree to not perform such ceremonies. (No contradiction here; religion falls under the private sphere).

    I also disagree that the end game of everyone in the “culture wars” is to assimilate the opposition. I don’t take that view, in any case. It’s immaterial to me to “convert” anyone in their private beliefs or private behavior. (I’m pagan; we’re big proponents of free will, and we don’t proselytize). What I’m concerned with is public behavior. I suspect folks like Greg Forster feel that it’s an abrogation of religious duty to not convert others (and perhaps that’s why he misses his friend. He feels that she’s literally going to hell with or without the handbasket, and she’s denying him the opportunity to proselytize to her).

    That’s a big difference in worldview—that of “treat me equally in public, and otherwise let me be” and that of “we will assimilate everyone”.

  5. Fitz says:

    The assimilation of the opposition is inter-generational. Thats why the battle for whats taught in schools is so important. The next generation will not ever know a world were Both Mothers & Fathers are considered essential in a childs upbringing.

    Instead they will be taught that all family forms are inherently equall, and anyone who believes that children need Mothers & Fathers is an irrational bigot, un-American, and hates gay people.

    Pressure to conform to this new understanding will be emense, both publicly & privatley.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    Of course it’s a “culture war.” The difference is some people–like David–have decided no longer to be combatants in the war and acknowledge that when the shooting stops, one side is likely to win and that side has a moral argument that he can abide by.

  7. La Lubu says:

    Thats why the battle for whats taught in schools is so important.

    Public schools should both practice and teach equality, since they are paid for by the entire taxpaying public. If it is important to you that your child not be taught equality, private school is still an option for you.

  8. fannie says:

    Fitz,

    I have to ask, how often do you actually engage in dialogue with proponents of SSM?

    Whenever you comment at this forum, instead of engaging with the specific, nuanced people who are metaphorically in front of you in the conversation, you have a tendency to tell us what the arch strategy of “the cultural left” is, how radical it is, how harmful it is, how borderline (if not all out) anti-family/anti-”Father & Mother”/pro-socialist it is, and how most of us supporters of SSM are ignorant pawns in this leftist agenda.

    I note this tactic as being highly relevant to the topic of this post. To some of us, this isn’t a “war” it’s a dialogue, capable of possessing nuance, where civil, reasoned people can have good reasons and arguments for disagreeing.

    To others, it’s indeed a war and, as such, it’s all doom and gloom and paranoidly presenting one’s opponents as so caricatured, so over-the-top, that they are unrecognizable to anyone other than a like-minded echo chamber of people who don’t actually engage with people on “the other side.”

    Very tiresome indeed.

    If my rights were not dependent upon it, I would have a strong hankering to remove myself from the conversation altogether.

  9. JHW says:

    Same-sex marriage is going to happen. It is going to happen nationwide within a few decades, and in the states where a majority of the population lives substantially before that. There are some uncertainties left, however. One: how long will it take? The opposition, obviously, is still with us, and still powerful, today. Two: how will we draw the lines when it comes to the tolerance of dissenters? Same-sex marriage opponents often talk as if there is only one outcome there; even if some concessions are won, they suggest, they will not last long in a post-same-sex marriage world. I think this is probably wrong. Political inertia, and a lack of desire to re-open heated and divisive controversies, will protect the arrangements we reach now.

    It’s pretty straightforward to me, then, how the stakes in the culture war could be lowered, by a little anyway: moderate opponents of same-sex marriage could accommodate themselves to it, on the condition that it have robust religious exemptions. They have some leverage; they can’t stop the ultimate outcome, but they have some power over pacing. On the other hand, the longer they continue fighting, the less leverage they have. Of course, I do not actually think opponents of same-sex marriage are going to do this; it is hard to accept that your deeply-held beliefs and commitments are on the losing end of a major political battle, and they are unlikely to accept it until it is too late for them to benefit from the compromise approach.

    One route that is simply not viable is this all-too-common notion that the solution for conservatives is “to find new ways to combine truth and love.” At this stage in history, gay people are never—never, ever, ever—going to understand opposition to some of the most fundamental and life-enhancing parts of our lives as “love.” Wrapping it in velvet and saying it in the most tactful way imaginable will not change this. There will not be reconciliation between moral conservatives and gay people as long as moral conservatives think a loving, committed same-sex relationship is an evil to be avoided, rather than an important human good to be supported and esteemed (just like a loving, committed different-sex relationship). It is possible, despite this disagreement, for us to live together while respecting each other’s basic rights. But the damages to personal relationships—between friends, within families—will always be there.

  10. fannie says:

    And, because I know how these conversations go, I’ll just pre-empt the “both sides do it too” by fully conceding that some supporters of SSM also caricature-ize their SSM opponents.

    I just always find it ironic, and utterly lacking in self-awareness, when those who howl in protest at being stereotyped as someone who is an “irrational bigot, un-American, and hates gay people” has no qualms about stereotyping SSM supporters as part of a radical “cultural leftist” movement that is intent upon destroying America.

  11. Fitz says:

    Fannie

    Most of those on the same-sex “marriage” side who I engage in arguments with are law proffesors and highly educated & principled activists.

    They too realize that this is a culture war. When I present my views they say things like “you know who your dealing with” & “you get so much flak because your over the target”…

    To put it simply, they know what they believe and they know what their agenda is. They find me sufficently impressive precisley because I know the philisophical maxims that animate their thought. This is why they “break the code of silience” and discuss their beliefs frankly.

  12. fannie says:

    “They find me sufficently impressive precisley because I know the philisophical maxims that animate their thought.”

    If you say so.

    As an attorney myself, I have to say, the way some “law proffessors” might talk about same-sex marriage is not representative of the way most people of the people “on the ground” talk or think about same-sex marriage.

  13. fannie says:

    Also, Fitz-

    Is it your understanding that these “law proffessors” you talk to are, unbeknownst to them, revealing Top Secret aspects of the Leftist Homosexualist Agenda to you?

  14. JeffreyRO5 says:

    I think an honest assessment reveals that anti-same-sex marriage wants this issue crafted as war. It makes it seem like a more important issue for them than it really is. Of course, society declared war on gays and lesbians years ago and now that they’re fighting back, straight people want to portray it like it’s straight people and their institutions that are under attack. Gallagher calls her blog the Culture War Victory Fund for a reason. Escalating the rhetoric helps create a sense of urgency, and potential loss. It’s hard to create those when you lack any rational reason for opposing legalized same-sex marriage.

    It’s a shame conservatives have felt the need to craft this issue as a war. It’s created a divisiveness that wasn’t necessary and there is a lot of collateral damage. Gallagher has been an especially effective weapon in that regard: she’s insulted childless married couples, gotten judges fired, harmed the children of gays and lesbians, hurt the parents, siblings and friends of gay people. Talk about a take-no-prisoners approach!

    And for what? To “protect” marriage from gay people, as if they’re a social disease or something. Yet she supports legal divorce. Go figure.

    Ultimately I don’t know what this “war” is being fought over. It’s not about marriage, because no sane person would object to committed gay couples getting married, while supporting the right of murderers to marry, or the right of Rush Limbaugh to marry four times (or however many times the ultimate tally becomes), or the unfettered right to divorce. I do know that a revolving door of rationales for opposing legal same-sex marriage also makes me suspicious of the motives of the opposition. It reminds me of when President Bush was explaining why the US attacked Iraq: some journalist documented 12 distinct reasons he gave over time: as each previous reason was evaluated by the public as unrealistic or dishonest, he offered another.

  15. If “winning” means the preferences of our cultural subgroup are enacted as policy, there is no hope for victory in the culture war – for either side. We will not submit because our consciences don’t permit it, neither will they for the same reason, and there is no serious prospect of either side eliminating the other. As long as we aim for a “victory” in terms of dominance for our cultural subgroup, the war will grind on. All we will accomplish is the fragmentation of society, the hollowing out of what used to be a real moral consensus and shared culture across religious divisions, and the ongoing destruction of the relational capital that might provide a basis for “living together.”

    There is not a word of this that couldn’t have been said, with equal fervor and sincerity, by an opponent of mixed-race marriages in 1950. (The people who opposed mixed-race marriages were not evil, or insincere, or stupid. They were just mistaken.)

    In fact, when people with no stake in a fight lose that fight, they don’t stick with it forever. They, or their children, move on to new fights.

    The people opposed to SSM have no real stake in this fight. So they will move on.

    What will victory look like? It’ll look like kids looking up from their history books in surprise, half a century from now, and saying “there was a big debate over THAT? Really? That’s so weird.”

    It’ll look like Christians denying that their churches were ever anti-gay at all, just as some present-day Christians now deny that Christianity was ever pro-slavery.

    It’ll look like same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples alike getting married and living their lives and no one giving it a second thought.

  16. Fitz says:

    Fitz-

    Is it your understanding that these “law proffessors” you talk to are, unbeknownst to them, revealing Top Secret aspects of the Leftist Homosexualist Agenda to you?

    No they are not, they are simply being honest about their belief system. Be it the dictates of personal autonomy or sexual liberationist ethos.

    Just because your not familiar with the extent of and philosophical reach of these ideas dosent mean they are not driving this “war”.

    Likewise for the “people on the ground”….I’m sure they believe its all about gay hatred and has nothing to do with Marx dosent mean they are not being used as the latest prolitariate in a war against basic family formation.

  17. Fitz says:

    La Luba (writes)

    “Public schools should both practice and teach equality, since they are paid for by the entire taxpaying public. If it is important to you that your child not be taught equality, private school is still an option for you.”

    Exactly: Here we see the all or nothing mentality of ss “m” proponents who understand that this is infact much like a “war”. Those who pretend that once same-sex “marriage” is imposed nationwide oppositition will dwindle must remember that they have oppened a can of worms.

    Public schools, private schools, proffesional licencing, religious liberty, tax-exempt status, the list is endless…News from Canada and Europe from nations that have embraced same-sex “marriage” attest to how far they will go…

  18. fannie says:

    Fitz says:

    “Just because your [sic] not familiar with the extent of and philosophical reach of these ideas dosent [sic] mean they are not driving this ‘war’.”

    Don’t presume to know what I am and am not familiar with, thanks. From your boastful comments about your intellectual prowess, I fear you have assumed, and assumed quite wrongly, that you have much to teach everyone here about what’s Really Going On In This Matter.

    “Likewise for the ‘people on the ground’….I’m sure they believe its [sic] all about gay hatred and has nothing to do with Marx dosent [sic] mean they are not being used as the latest prolitariate [sic] in a war against basic family formation.”

    Sad to see you’re still trotting out this SSM Advocates Are Useful Idiots In A Leftist Marxist Plot trope you’ve been using for… how many years now?

    Your “arguments” (and I use the term very loosely) are so over the top, so full of accusation, so set on vilifying your ideological opponents, and yet, oddly, quite vague. To La Lubu you reference, but do not specify, some “endless list” of harms wrought by same-sex marriage. (And no, that’s not an invite to link to anti-LGBT propaganda and hate sites as “authoritative sources” on the matter. I’m well familiar with what the sources you and your blogging cohorts find to be “credible” with respect to LGBT issues).

    I don’t say this often and I don’t say this lightly, but your discourse is exemplary of a truly sad state of this “culture war:” Accuse, Vilify, and Scare. Precisely the traits you condemn in SSM advocates.

  19. Spencer says:

    From the article:

    Victory means a truce we can all live with. We have to find a way to live together that doesn’t require either side to sacrifice its conscience.

    In the debate over SSM, this aim is an impossibility: the “middle ground” of civil unions is unacceptable to SSM supporters (and some opponents), leaving only two options — allow gay marriage or don’t. For SSM supporters, what outcome other than universal marriage equality is acceptable without “sacrificing conscience?” For opponents, what outcome other than universal prohibition of SSM is acceptable without “sacrificing conscience?” I’m not aware of any compromises that could generate broad support on either side.

  20. La Lubu says:

    Exactly: Here we see the all or nothing mentality of ss “m” proponents who understand that this is infact much like a “war”. Those who pretend that once same-sex “marriage” is imposed nationwide oppositition will dwindle must remember that they have oppened a can of worms.

    I guess I don’t understand what you mean by “can of worms”. The wormy can is already open, and has been for quite awhile. At least half the social clubs in my city prohibit female membership as a part of their formal charter. Informally, most of them prohibit men who are black, Latino, Asian and/or Jewish. Of course….these clubs have dwindling membership, and can’t seem to figure out why. You might say it’s “the culture war”…but in reality, it’s because the younger generations don’t find those clubs appealing. There’s no “there” there, for them.

    People have always had the ability to arbitrarily discriminate against others in their private lives; they are angry that their ability to do so in public is being reduced—that those they dislike now have the political power to not have to tolerate unequal treatment anymore. Tough! That’s life. Equality in public life has been one of the foundational values of the US—not always lived up to (and that’s an understatement), but always the ideal. Not going to cry a river for those who are disappointed that there’s more of an effort to live up to the ideal.

  21. Phil says:

    Same-sex marriage opponents often talk as if there is only one outcome there; even if some concessions are won, they suggest, they will not last long in a post-same-sex marriage world.

    I think it really matters what it means to be a “same-sex marriage opponent.”

    Insomuch as this is a culture war, it will end with a truce. And the truce is: legal, optional same-sex marriage along with legal, optional, mixed-sex marriage. That is a perfectly reasonable compromise. Once it happens–and I think most reasonable people are aware that it will happen–there won’t be significant negative effects, and if there are effects that could arguably be called negative, they will be far outweighed by the positive effects.

    The fact that some people think that there will be negative effects does not make them right, any more than thinking or believing that the Earth will stop spinning if we lower the speed limit makes you right.

    Now, if you envision yourself as a “same-sex marriage opponent” who will oppose the legality of same-sex marriage after they become legal: yes, you actually will be considered a bigot, socially. But that is not an effect of the legalization of same-sex marriage; you are currently considered a bigot, socially, by a huge swath of our nation. Once same-sex marriage is legal, your efforts to repeal the law, and to rip apart families, will not be viewed favorably by those families, or by their friends and loved ones.

    Do you disagree, David Lapp? The act of opposing legal same-sex marriages, once they are legal throughout the land, is equivalent to trying to rip apart legally married couples, and potentially, to attempting to legally rip apart families. Is it reasonable to characterize such behavior in a negative light?

    I think it is reasonable, obviously. I think that efforts to oppose legal, optional same-sex marriage at present are disgusting, and will continue to be disgusting after SSM is legal. On the one hand, the longer SSM is legal, the more impotent such legal efforts will be. On the other hand, the longer SSM is legal, the more disgusting such efforts will be, because, if successful, they would have the effect of ripping apart existing couples and families.

    Any disagreement there from SSM opponents?

    On the other hand, if a “same sex marriage opponent” is a person who chooses not to enter into, or perform, same sex marriages– I don’t think those people will have it too bad in the years after SSM is legal. They’ll enjoy the same rights that they do now, and the only way someone will know if they disapprove of a specific marriage is if they choose to share their opinion. That is the status quo: if you share your opinion with me that you think my marriage is invalid, I can choose to judge you and shun you socially. Does anyone disagree that this is reasonable?

    The perception of a “culture war” that is put forth by Maggie Gallagher and company is an example of the balance fallacy. Just because there are two positions on an issue does not mean that they are equal. The opposite of a legal ban on SSM is not legal, optional SSM. The opposite of a legal ban on SSM is either A) a legal ban on heterosexual marriage or B) a legal ban on all marriages. The compromise position–the reasonable truce–is legally married mixed-sex couples and same-sex couples living together, side by side.

    That truce is the ideal option, and the beautiful thing about it is that it requires no one to give anything up. When SSM is legal throughout the land, everyone wins.

  22. fannie says:

    Fitz:

    “Here we see the all or nothing mentality of ss ‘m’ proponents” [emphasis added]

    It is an objective reality that some same-sex couples are married and that they are married according to their society, legal system, religion, and/or personal beliefs.

    Fitz demonstrates a true dedication to not conceding this reality by using scare/sneer quotes above, in a freaking abbreviation for same-sex marriage. He also, of course, uses scare/sneer quotes around the term same-sex marriage itself, continually writing “same-sex ‘marriage.’”

    Fitz, are you unable to concede the reality that same-sex marriages exist, and that they exist even if you do not like that they exist or agree that they should exist?

    How might your refusal to recognize this reality contribute to notions that many who oppose same-sex marriage are anti-gay?

  23. Spencer says:

    We have our reasons for disagreeing, but we often find ourselves exasperated at the other sides’ inability to understand, and see the brilliance of, our reasons.

    This resonates: whenever I engage SSM opponents, the singularly most frustrating aspect of debate is understanding the other side’s argument. I’ve tried and I can’t — literally. Specifically, I’ve yet to identify an argument against SSM that, if one granted all of its assumptions and premises, one would be forced to accept the conclusion (blatantly circular arguments technically fulfill this criteria, but they don’t count). If such an argument existed, I could at least say: “We disagree, but I understand why — we disagree about this crucial premise.” I’m thinking of “arguments” built on claims about procreation and childrearing. What exactly are the dots connecting those claims and the conclusion that SSM shouldn’t be legal? I have no idea, and I suspect most don’t either (including SSM opponents).

    So, here’s what I’d like SSM opponents like David Lapp to know: my “inability to understand” the other side is rooted in a problem of clarity. The case against SSM isn’t clear enough, intelligible enough, to be comprehensible — at least to me. Try constructing the argument in a way that, if the premises are true, the conclusion becomes inescapable. If you can’t, then seriously consider the possibility that it just doesn’t make sense (even if you think it does).

  24. Fitz says:

    Fannie

    “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.” Confucius

  25. Matt N says:

    Fitz, if you want to live in a country where only a certain way of speaking is allowed, you might want to move elsewhere. That United States (unlike most other countries) does not have an official institute which decides what words are “acceptable” and what are not (and likewise, when they can be used). I personally view it as a sign of how much freedom is valued here. There isn’t some equivalent of L’Académie Française running around telling people to spell “tomorrow” as “to-morrow”. Less comically, we don’t have policies like those in Turkey, where letters used in the alphabet of the Kurdish minority are not allowed to be used on birth certificates (although I bet there are many characters US birth certificates have trouble with).

  26. Mont D. Law says:

    [This resonates: whenever I engage SSM opponents, the singularly most frustrating aspect of debate is understanding the other side’s argument.]

    That is because they are underpants gnome arguments, each and everyone. They all look like this.

    1 Collect Underpants
    2 ?
    3 Profit

  27. Darel says:

    Phil,

    Your argument seems not too far from that of Israeli Likudniks in the West Bank or ethnic Russians in the Baltics who came to their positions through nothing more than the exercise of state power and then, when anybody complained about their positions, say like good liberals, “Stop being mean, stop dredging up the past, and let bygones be bygones.”

  28. La Lubu says:

    Spencer, I agree with you. I find anti-SSM arguments full of inconsistencies, exceptions to the rule, and even contradictions. And it’s not because SSM opponents aren’t willing to explain themselves; they are replete with appeals to authority and references to obscure works by academics I’ve never heard of, who use examples I can’t relate to. Meanwhile, the pro-SSM argument is elegant in its simplicity: people in opposite sex relationships and people in same sex relationships get to marry. Everybody wins.

  29. Darel, that’s an interesting analogy.

    One crucial difference, however, is that useful land on the West Bank is available in limited quantities and is thus zero-sum; if Noam is living on a plot of land, that means that Jordon can’t live on that same plot of land. This might be especially frustrating to Jordon if he believes his family used to live on that plot of land but fled out of fear of violence.

    Marriage is not a zero-sum game. Just because Patty and Sally get married, doesn’t mean that Charlie and Lucy can’t get married. Nor will anyone force Charlie and Lucy to flee their marriage in order to make way for same-sex marriages.

    Phil’s point was quite right. As a matter of political viability, the chances of banning gay marriage in New York would have been much better five years ago than five years from now. You may not feel any twinge at breaking up existing marriages, but many ordinary people do. The longer established legal SSM is in any state, the less likely the population of that state is to agree to withdraw it.

  30. Spencer says:

    What are SSM opponents’ goals regarding states that have allowed marriage equality? Do they favor reversing the laws in those states? If so, do they favor revoking the marriage licenses of same-sex couples? It’s one thing to oppose marriage equality — it’s quite another to revoke it.

  31. Matt N says:

    Darel:

    Your argument seems not too far from that of Israeli Likudniks in the West Bank or ethnic Russians in the Baltics who came to their positions through nothing more than the exercise of state power and then, when anybody complained about their positions

    Aside from the really good point Barry Deutsch made, there’s some inconsistencies here:

    -SSM advocacy isn’t predicated on dominance, but on equality. It’s the extension of rights to same-sex couples which are already enjoyed by male-female couples. Many advocates view it as the curtailing of a second-class status similar in some ways to the marginalization of some ethnic groups (less extreme than the cases you’ve mentioned, I think). If you’re trying to make the case that SSM curtails male-female couples’ rights and reduces your ability to fully participate in the metaphorical public square, you need to explain how, rather than just insist that it does.

    - SSM advocacy, at least in all of the forms of it that I have witnessed, enthusiastically rejects the use of violence, state or otherwise. There are groups in the United States that literally celebrate the death of people for the heinous crime of being something other than straight (or something other than cisgendered). No, seriously. If you’re disputing this, please explain (with examples) the violence, state-sanctioned or otherwise, that SSM advocates have used or advocated. And until we get some sort of language-use oversight body like L’Académie Française, “violence against language” does not count.

  32. Phil says:

    Your argument seems not too far from that of Israeli Likudniks in the West Bank or ethnic Russians in the Baltics who came to their positions through nothing more than the exercise of state power

    To which argument are you referring, Darel? Could you write it out in words or quote me, so that what you have typed might make sense?

    And let me ask you a question directly, Darel.

    If a couple is legally married under the laws of the state in which they reside, is it wrong to attempt to change the law to rip the couple apart legally?

    This is a polar question, which means that it requires a yes or no answer.

  33. Darel says:

    Phil,

    I am referring precisely to the argument you are making in your 7:15pm posting and which you made in your 11:05pm posting yesterday:

    The act of opposing legal same-sex marriages, once they are legal throughout the land, is equivalent to trying to rip apart legally married couples, and potentially, to attempting to legally rip apart families.

    I reject your assertion that your question of 7:15pm is a “polar” one which demands a yes/no answer. Marriage is not the only form of legal relationship. A state policy of toleration together with freedom of legal association can compensate for the lack of same-sex marriage, although I realize this is wholly insufficient from the pro-SSM side. I note also that your argument is the same one used by the courts in California which essentially amounts to “now that we’ve presented you with a fait accompli, don’t be mean!”.

    Phil, how about I ask you a direct question which is much more serious: if a group of polygamous fundamentalist Mormons are de facto but not de jure married, is it wrong to maintain the law against de facto polygamy and rip the family apart in fact? To maintain the law against de jure polygamy and deny an extant polygamous family protection under the law? The state of Utah, of course, has done the former on multiple occasions, and every US state does the latter every day.

  34. fannie says:

    Sigh.

    I asked Fitz if he could concede the reality that same-sex marriages exist.

    He responded not by directly answer this question, but by citing a quote from Confucious.

    Is that supposed to be impressive? Is that supposed to be an answer?

    Since he was not direct, I can only infer from his quote that Fitz’s answer to my question is “no” - he cannot concede or acknowledge the reality that same-sex marriages are a real thing in the real world.

    So, let me ask Fitz again:

    “How might your refusal to recognize this reality contribute to notions that many who oppose same-sex marriage are anti-gay?”

    I say this more for the benefit of those who are reasonable and willing to engage in actual dialogue, rather than those who are here to condescend to folks and boast about their intellectual prowess: It’s remarkably rude, uncivil, and entitled to presume to have the authority to define some marriages out of existence. When one is attempting to rhetorically eliminate same-sex marriages out of objective reality, one could make a strong argument that that is, in fact, anti-gay.

    This “you’re a bigot” stuff doesn’t come from nowhere, folks.

  35. Fitz says:

    Fannie

    The “your a bigot” stuff is both your starting point & (surprise) your end point.

    The very fact that you think that my use of quotation marks is not my attempt to differentiate what marriage has always been as opposed to how your redefining it – but rather some inability to except that numerous same-sex couples in various states now have relationships refered to as “marriage” under the laws of their state simply shows to me that you have internalized your own feelings of victimhood.

    Get over yourself.. The cultural & religious right have been defending marriage from illigetamacy, divorce, and the whole plethera of attacks from the sexual revolution before same-sex “marriage” came on the scene..

    Get over yourself….Its not all about “teh gays”

  36. JeffreyRO5 says:

    “Marriage is not the only form of legal relationship.”

    No but it is the gold standard and lacking any rational reason to reserve it for straight people, we really ought to make it available to gay people. The more you insist that only straight people should have it, the more you reveal its value.

    “….although I realize this is wholly insufficient from the pro-SSM side.”

    But do you know why it’s insufficient? Because, lacking a rational public purpose, we don’t do “separate but equal” institutions in this country. That is settled legal principle. There’s no reasons gays, or any other minority, should ever accept secondary, marginalized status, so that the majority can feel good about itself or whatever.

    Mormons in the “de facto” polygamous marriage don’t get their de facto marriages “ripped apart” when polygamy continues to be illegal.

    “….my attempt to differentiate what marriage has always been as opposed to how your redefining it”

    You’re forgetting the redefining marriage to exclude gay couples is a very recent phenomenon. It is only recently that society has become aware that marriage might include same-sex couples. It’s not like it was decided hundreds or thousands of years ago to exclude gay couples. The “tradition” argument is really a “status quo” argument, in other words. And of course, we are all aware that the definition and practice of marriage has changed over time. Why stop now?

    “Get over yourself….Its not all about “teh gays””

    You’re right, it’s about the far more numerous straight people who insist that gays and lesbians get the same legal rights as straights. It’s about a nation whose constitution guarantees equal treatment under the law. It’s about the children of gay and lesbian couples who are being forced, against their will and against all sound judgment, to be raised outside of the security of wedlock.

  37. Phil says:

    I reject your assertion that your question of 7:15pm is a “polar” one which demands a yes/no answer.

    Darel, my “assertion” was a factual description of the type of question I was asking. You are mistaking your explanation of an answer with the answer itself. I suspect that your answer is “No, it is not wrong, because Marriage is not the only form of legal relationship.” If that is the case, the “no” is still implicit in your answer.

    I note also that your argument is the same one used by the courts in California

    I think when you say “used” by the courts, what you mean is “recognized as valid” by the courts. “Use” is a strange verb there.

    However, if you believe my argument is the same one made by the courts, then you must be mistaken; I wasn’t making a legal argument. I was describing actions which I interpret to be “wrong” and “disgusting.” Those aren’t legal terms; I was predicting social fallout.

    Phil, how about I ask you a direct question which is much more serious: if a group of polygamous fundamentalist Mormons are de facto but not de jure married, is it wrong to maintain the law against de facto polygamy and rip the family apart in fact?

    If, by “a group of polygamous fundamentalist Mormons who are de facto but not de jure married,” you mean, “a group of legal adults who are choosing to live together in the same household and call each other ‘married’ even though no more than two individuals have sought to legally marry each other,” then yes, it is absolutely wrong to rip that group of adults apart in fact.

    That doesn’t mean that the state has an obligation to recognize multiple-partner marriages. Since no individual in the state has access to such a state-created institution, there is no discrimination issue which would necessitate state recognition of a multiple-partner marriage.

    However, if a group of adults are living together, and if there are no instances of child abuse or coercion, then the state should leave them alone. Do you agree with me, Darel?

    (At the risk of sounding condescending, allow me to point out that you asked me a question and I answered it immediately and directly. That’s because the positions I have are logical and rational.)

  38. fannie says:

    Fitz says:

    “Fannie

    The ‘your a bigot’ stuff is both your starting point & (surprise) your end point.”

    Nope.

    I have been participating in this particular forum as a commenter and, then later a blogger, for more than a year now. Had you also been a participant, rather than someone who comes here pre-judging everyone who supports SSM, you would be aware that I readily concede that many people, David Blankenhorn among them, are not bigots and have not opposed SSM due to bigotry or anti-gay animus.

    Rather than pre-judging people based solely upon their support or opposition to SSM (as is your unfortunately tendency), I determine whether someone is displaying anti-gay animus or bigotry due to their actions and words. It’s an end point, always, and never a starting point for me.

    I interact with the people in front of me, not with the straw caricuatres I create in my own head.

    I invite you to try it sometime Fitz.

    Your nearly-every interaction here has demonstrated an utter inability to treat supporters of SSM as anything other than a monolithic hivemind. You pre-judge all of us SSM supporters based solely upon our pro-SSM position. It is reactionary, uninspired, ignorant, and unfair.

    And as for this tripe:

    “you have internalized your own feelings of victimhood….”

    “Get over yourself.. The cultural & religious right have been defending marriage from illigetamacy, divorce, and the whole plethera of attacks from the sexual revolution before same-sex “marriage” came on the scene..”

    “Get over yourself….Its not all about ‘teh gays’”

    Wow.

    Truly sad that you feel the need to start lashing out in such a nasty, uncivil manner, Fitz. But, given your history, I’m not at all surprised that you, and perhaps others, find your accusations to be substantive, constructive, and/or polite.

    It’s a small thing to concede that anti-gay animus exists and that it is, actually, a real thing in the real world for LGBT people to experience bigotry, animus, violence and victimhood.

    What I have always admired about David Blankenhorn is that he has been able to acknowledge this reality, even when opposing SSM, rather than take the unfortunate stance that you and others take that this bigotry is a figment of the over-active, self-centered gay imagination.

    You’re out of line in this conversation and at this forum.

    But really, keep talking. I insist. Voices like yours will fill the void that more civil, reasoned voices are leaving behind when they join the ranks of those of us who support SSM.

    And every condescending, aggressive, generalizing, stereotyping, black-and-white, simplistic utterance you and your equally-repugnant blogging cohorts spew, will damage not only your own intellectual and moral credibility but the credibility of the anti-SSM movement as a whole.

  39. Fitz says:

    Wave the bloody shirt!

  40. fannie says:

    Way to engage constructively, Fitz. Said no one ever.

  41. Matt N says:

    Darel:

    A state policy of toleration together with freedom of legal association can compensate for the lack of same-sex marriage

    Whoa, stop the presses! Same-sex couples are legally allowed to cohabitate! Clearly we’re all equal now.

    Never mind the fact that my parents couldn’t hold a joint bank account even though they’re married in the eyes of their resident state, because their bank is based in another state with a SSM ban.

    Never mind that if one of my parents didn’t have a permanent residential status in the United States, the lack of federal marriage recognition would require whichever one didn’t have that to leave the country or be deported.

    Never mind that my parents weren’t recognized as married at the time of my birth and that allowed a custody battle to ensue.

    People can’t get away with murdering same sex couples for the crime of cohabitation! Or denying them housing! Or even viewing their sex lives as a crime (for some states we’re at the impressively long time period of 9 years since a defining characteristic of non-straight people was actually illegal).

    This is clearly a grand bargain – so much has been given up by both sides. We’ve given up the right for our relationships to be socially and legally recognized as equal to yours and you’ve given up the power to treat our very existence as a crime. What a deal!

    Thank you so very much for that great toleration you’ve shown us.

    —————————————-

    As Fannie said, this is not civil. This is basically a demand for gratefulness that anti-gay hate crimes are not as common or legalized as they once were. That’s not a great supportive initiative – that’s basic human decency.

  42. marilynn says:

    I have a question for Fitz

    If you were a family court judge in a state that legalized same sex marriage:

    Before you, a divorced woman who shares 50% custody of her child with her ex husband (the genetic father of her child). She is arguing for an increase in the amount of support owed to her child by her ex husband who recently remarried. His spouse is is a surgeon who earns 4 times what her ex makes as a waiter. Her ex does not even claim his tips on his taxes.

    Would you agree with the Ex Wife and take the spouses income into account as a legal step parent when calculating the Ex Husband’s burden of support for their genetic child just as you would had he married a female surgeon who earns 4x what he does?

  43. marilynn says:

    Fitz I forgot to say the Ex Husband’s new spouse is not a female.

  44. marilynn says:

    Oh I forgot to say if you did not side with the Ex Wife, what basis would you say was the reason for denying the child additional support from the legal step parent’s income?

    The child would be denied additional financial support based on the gender of the step parent alone.