When it comes to free speech, the anti-gay-marriage movement is much, much worse

10.17.2012, 5:03 AM
Photo of Angela McCaskill in a pretty blue dress

Angela McCaskill

A quick summery of the “Gallaudet/McCaskill” story:

Angela McCaskill, the Chief Diversity Officer at Gallaudet University (a university for Deaf students), signed a petition asking for Maryland’s marriage equality law to be put to a repeal vote. Months later, a fellow faculty member noticed McCaskill’s name on a list of petition signers. According to Planet DeafQueer:

LGBT students, faculty and staff we spoke to said they felt shock, disappointment, anger and betrayal upon learning of the signed petition. Some are calling for Dr. McCaskill’s resignation. Others are waiting for an official response from Dr. McCaskill and wondering if it will be possible for her to regain their trust.

Shortly after this, Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz put McCaskill on a paid leave of absence. Virtually everyone, including leading advocates for marriage equality, disagreed with this decision. (Although a few Deaf commentators I’ve read seem to agree with the suspension.)

Initially, McCaskill explained that she signed the petition after hearing a sermon at Church against gay marriage. She later altered her story, saying that she is neutral on the SSM question, and only signed the petition so that voters could decide. As publicity mounted, President Hurwitz issued a statement of surrender, “to indicate forcefully” that he wants McCaskill to “return to the community from her leave of absence.”

McCaskill, however, doesn’t seem interested in accepting a surrender, at least not unless she is given money. In a press conference hours after Hurwitz’s statement, McCaskill made it clear that she considers herself the victim of persecution, outed Martina Bienvenu as the faculty member who noticed that McCaskill had signed the petition, and also made it clear that Bienvenu is a lesbian. (Bienvenu’s sexual orientation is no secret, but McCaskill going out of her way to mention McCaskill’s female partner during a press conference seems gratuitous). McCaskill’s attorney announced that McCaskill wants “compensation” from the university for her pain and suffering.

Okay, that wasn’t as quick as I’d hoped. Some thoughts:

1) My initial reaction to this story was that I might agree with the suspension. In general, I’m strongly against any employee being penalized for their speech, but I do make an exception for cases in which something an employee says will reduce their ability to perform their job duties effectively. I’m not sure what a “Chief Diversity Officer” does, but it certainly sounds like a job that may require the trust and confidence of Gallaudet’s LGBT community, and she certainly seems to have lost that (judging from comments I’ve seen left by Gallaudet students).

Having given it more thought, I think I was wrong. This isn’t really about same-sex marriage; it’s about worker’s rights.

Transferring McCaskill to another position may eventually be the right thing to do, if over the coming months her notoriety for signing an anti-queer petition impairs her ability to do her job. But McCaskill should have the chance to try. Penalizing an employee for not doing her job well is, generally speaking, reasonable; doing so pre-emptively, as Gallaudet did in this case, is wrong.

Frankly, I don’t believe that McCaskill supports lgbt rights, and it’s unfair that Gallaudet’s lgbt students may be stuck with an opponent where they should have an advocate. But not every injustice can or should be remedied by resorting to a law or an administrative action. In this particular case, worker’s rights — the need of workers to be able to participate in political advocacy without fear of losing their jobs — is the most central issue. And – as we’ll see below — the right to not be penalized by employers is an especially crucial right for lgbt people.

2) Gay rights opponents are jubilant about this case, claiming that this shows that pro-SSM folks are against free speech (ignoring the many pro-SSM folks who have objected to McCaskill’s suspension). In comments at Family Scholars Blog, Maggie Gallagher listed seven other examples of people’s jobs being endangered over their opposition to gay marriage – although several of her examples were dubious, as JHW pointed out.

I responded to Maggie in that thread, and a couple of people emailed me asking me to repeat what I wrote as a post. So here it is again:

Maggie, why not ask instead: how many jobs are you not allowed to hold if you’re glbt, gay and married, or just publicly or privately support gay people?

Is it okay for a university to fire a librarian because he refused to sign a statement opposing homosexuality? (Maggie, is there any university which has circulated a statement supporting SSM to all employees, who have had to sign it to remain employed?)

Or how about the time the Kentucky Farm Bureau fired a man because he publicly supported SSM?

Some headlines:

* GOP Rep. Lankford Explains Why It Should Be Legal To Fire Someone For Being Gay: ‘It’s A Choice Issue’
* Mom Whose Gay Son Came Out Claims Christian School Fired Her
* Teacher fired for views on same-sex marriage. These “views” came up only in a private survey given by the school to the teachers, not because she said anything in public.
* Eagle Scout Fired for Being Gay
* Water Polo Coach Claims He Was Fired for Being Gay (The school claims they fired him because of a Halloween photo on Facebook in which he was standing next to drag queens, as if that’s somehow better.)
* Parents Say AZ Principal Fired For Being Gay
* Gay Teacher Fired from St. Louis Catholic School on His Wedding Day
* NC Catholic Church Fires Gay Music Director For Marrying His Partner

What other jobs have people been fired from for being lgbt, or for being suspected of being lgbt? Correctional officer, camera operator, lawyer – that lawyer, by the way, may not even be gay, but he was accused of being gay on a blog, and apparently that’s enough to get fired – auditor, college soccer coach, college Dean, legislative editor at a state assembly, Alzheimer’s caregiver, cop, lawyer (again), lab assistant, and (of course) teacher.

Believe me, I could go on and on. And on and on.

And this situation, bad as it is, represents a huge improvement from just 20 years ago. At least now there’s a large mass of lgbt people who don’t need to remain closeted just to keep a job. Of course, the change in social mores that now allows lgbt people to be somewhat more secure than they used to be was resisted passionately by the religious right.

I think there should be a lot less of this sort of thing going on. Except in a few particular positions where it genuinely interferes with their ability to perform their job, no one should ever lose a job for being anti-SSM, pro-SSM, anti-gay, pro-lgbt, straight, or lgbt. Or, for that matter, for being liberal or conservative. The core problem, I think, is that people in the US have a strong tendency to demonize those they politically disagree with.

But Maggie, if you really think that this is some sort of unique “gay bullies” problem, rather than something engaged in by many people, including people on your side of the debate, then you need to take that plank out of your own eye.

The truth is, although this problem exists on both sides of the debate, the censorship is much, much, much greater coming from the anti-gay side. Look at some of the examples above. It’s unimaginable that any school would demand that all employees sign a statement of support for same-sex-marriage or be fired; but when the opposite happens, hardly anyone bothered to report it. No Democratic politician, no matter how pro-gay, is standing up at a press conference and defending the right of employers to fire anti-SSM employees (nor would any).

And to the best of my knowledge, no anti-SSM leader has ever stood up to defend the free speech rights of any of the people I listed. In contrast, pro-SSM organizations have repeatedly stood up for the free speech rights of people like McCaskill and groups like Chick-Fil-A.

I don’t deny that there are flaws on both sides. But this is not a “both sides are equally bad” situation. Overwhelmingly, the anti-SSM side is more opposed to free speech, and less likely to stand up for free speech of opponents.

3) Interestingly, if the petition McCaskill had signed had been a Washington, D.C. petition (DC is where Gallaudet is located), then Gallaudet’s action would have been illegal. “The only reason Gallaudet isn’t facing criminal charges is because marriage petition has to do with a Maryland law, not a DC one.”

DC isn’t alone – I’m told that about half of the states have laws protecting the rights of workers to politically dissent without reprisal from their bosses. I’d like to see that protection extended to the other half of the states.

4) An unfortunate thing about the debate over Gallaudet and McCaskill is that the most important voices — those of Deaf students at Gallaudet and the Deaf Community in general — aren’t being quoted. Part of the problem is that many monoglots like me can’t understand what’s being said (my fault, not theirs, obviously). To counteract this problem a little bit, I’m going to be following this story on Planet DeafQueer, which seems to be the only news source that ever reports what Gallaudet students say, and I’d recommend other folks do the same.


31 Responses to “When it comes to free speech, the anti-gay-marriage movement is much, much worse”

  1. Phil says:

    In general, I am in support of broad “lifestyle discrimination” protections for all workers. A cop should not be fired for wearing an earring, a firefighter should not be fired for posing nude, and a TSA agent should not be fired for being Wiccan.

    However, I’m not sure that a blanket “workers rights” protection for a person who signs a petition is a good idea. If we accept that certain types of high-profile jobs have both quotidian duties as well as symbolic functions, then isn’t it reasonable to evaluate whether a person has damaged the symbolism of their job?

    This is not to say that Angela McCaskill deserves to be fired. But I want to point out that the following arguments are bad arguments: 1) “She signed a petition, which is simply a citizen participating in the legal process” and 2) “What she did was perfectly legal!”

    Petitions-by definition–are not laws. And though a petition may eventually lead to a ballot initiative that becomes a law that is ruled unconstitutional, in most states, the text of petitions are not subject to any kind of checks and balances other than, ultimately, voter opinion. That means that a petition can be anything. A group could distribute a petition to reinstate Japanese internment camps. A petition could propose a law mandating the torture and castration of an ethnic minority. You could circulate a petition for a law mandating forced abortions for the children of deaf parents. Etc.

    These are, of course, extreme examples, and I’m sure we all hope that no such petitions would ever see the light of day. But is it really reasonable to argue that an employer should have no choice but to retain an employee in a position as a public official/administrator no matter what?

    Second, although McCaskill had an unquestioned legal right to sign the petition that she signed, the fact that her actions were legal is only a relevant argument if we accept that employers can never reasonably use examples of legal off-the-clock public behavior as evidence of poor judgment in an employee. Again, while I’m generally supportive of discrimination protections for employees, is it really accurate to imply that there are no jobs for which a person could render themselves unfit by, say, going on TV and screaming racial epithets at the camera? Mightn’t there be some jobs where it’s reasonable to say, “S/he should have known better”? Every one of us has a legal right to plagiarize public domain sources–plagiarism is not the same thing as copyright infringement–but isn’t it reasonable to say that there are certain jobs where engaging publicly in plagiarism, legally, still calls your judgment into question?

  2. Alana S. says:

    wish i had time to write more, but all in all, i find this post to be very persuasive.
    Well done Barry.

  3. maggie gallagher says:

    Here’s my view: HRC can fire secretaries who don’t support their mission (i.e. sign petitions in favor of gay marriage); religious institutions can do this also (but mostly don’t by the way at least not the Catholic ones). Public universities, law firms, chicken franchises, sports networks, theaters, or hair salons should not fire someone for signing a petition either for or against gay marriage.

    Religious employers are a tiny fraction of all employers and people who go work for an evangelical college or charity know what they are doing. On the other hand, if the secular norm is its dangerous to be publicly opposed to gay marriage–its far more pervasive and dangerous to democratic norms of free speech.

  4. Diane M. says:

    @Phil – The right to petition the government is part of the Bill of Rights. I think as Americans we have to protect that. Just as free speech includes saying horrible things, the right to petition could mean signing something that is morally repulsive.

    I agree with Barry Deutsch that this is fundamentally about workers’ rights. You shouldn’t have to worry that signing a petition could mean you will lose your job.

  5. maggie gallagher says:

    Its particularly not unreasonable to ask a teacher at a Catholic school who teaches religion class to support church’s teachings on religion.

  6. fannie says:

    Maggie,

    I appreciate that you say you’re opposed to some companies firing people for their political advocacy for or against SSM.

    At the same time, I think a large part of Barry’s point is that NOM presents examples like Dr. McKaskill’s as though they are unique to the pro-SSM side- and as though it is the pro-SSM side, and only the pro-SSM side, who engages in this sort of “bullying”/anti-liberty/anti-freedom behavior.

    I get that NOM is an advocacy group and that it may not be in the group’s interest to present a more…. well-rounded, fair, and accurate portrayal of all circumstances. But, I think the kind of one-sided narrative that NOM perpetuates in these situations really degrades the national discourse and, quite frankly, further demonizes LGBT people and our allies in a really harmful and unfair way.

    You further suggest that this instance is proof of a new “secular norm” where “its [sic] dangerous to be publicly opposed to gay marriage.” I think that interpretation is a bit off. Multiple LGBT rights organizations opposed Dr. McKaskill being placed on leave, multiple LGBT rights bloggers and writers opposed it, and she was ultimately re-instated (and is now possibly going to receive monetary compensation).

    I can appreciate that the experience might have been difficult for her, but…. really, that’s your big threat to freedom?? Someone being placed on paid leave and then ultimately re-instated? Like Barry, I don’t think she should be fired for her political activity, but I do think it was somewhat reasonable, given her job position as a Diversity Officer, to question whether her opposition to the rights of LGBT is relevant to that job description.

    I also take issue with your unsupported claim that religious institutions “mostly don’t” fire people who disagree with their missions. But, that’s probably a whole other blog post and topic.

  7. Maggie writes:

    Religious employers are a tiny fraction of all employers and people who go work for an evangelical college or charity know what they are doing. On the other hand, if the secular norm is its dangerous to be publicly opposed to gay marriage–its far more pervasive and dangerous to democratic norms of free speech.

    Isn’t this trying to have it both ways? As far as I can tell, it happens more often that people are fired for being queer or supportive of queer rights, than it happens that people are fired for being anti-SSM. How, then, can the former be dismissed as “tiny,” while the latter is “dangerous to… free speech”? That makes no sense.

    Its particularly not unreasonable to ask a teacher at a Catholic school who teaches religion class to support church’s teachings on religion.

    First of all, it’s not dissenters on “religion,” generally, who are being punished. LGBT people and their allies (and mothers!) are being singled out. Catholic institutions aren’t firing people for dissenting from the Church line on welfare or health care, for instance.

    If a teacher at a Catholic school is teaching her class things that go against Church teachings, of course it makes sense to let her go. Even if she’s fine in the classroom, but becomes publicly known for disagreeing with Church teachings, there’s an argument for letting her go.

    But an employer seeking to root out otherwise unknown dissidents to fire, through the use of loyalty statements or private questionnaires, is repulsive to anyone who loves freedom. Everyone, even an employee of a Catholic school, should be able to dissent in their private thoughts without penalty.

    That’s not just a matter of freedom of speech – it’s literally a matter of freedom of thought.

    (And of course, the vast majority of my examples weren’t religious teachers. What sense does it make to fire an organist for getting married?)

    (Also, what Fannie said. :-) )

  8. Bregalad says:

    From the Geek Feminism Wiki:

    “Beginning a round of Oppression Olympics is generally seen as Derailment or even as a Silencing tactic, as it attempts to prevent or deflect discussion of one kind of oppression by denying its legitimacy or existence, downplaying its importance, or simply switching the focus to another.”

    Barry, basically you’re downplaying the importance of the McCaskill episode. If you want to play one of those “who has been more oppressed” games, I’m sure Maggie and others will grant you the win.

    That’s right. We lose. You win. Gays have been the most oppresed group in history…

    …except for poor ugly unfunny people.

    ::sigh::

    Okay, now that you’ve been given the win, can we go back to discussing the McCaskill issue on it’s own merits, or must you constantly switch focus? You’ve pulled this stunt over and over on this blog and it’s getting tiresome.

  9. Phil, those are good questions. I’m not sure that I have good answers for you, alas, but I’ll be thinking about it.

    The trouble is, there are good arguments on both sides. I want people to be free to take political stands, including unpopular political stands, without fear of being penalized by their employer. (Frankly, most people’s freedoms are in a lot more day-to-day danger from their employer than from their government, which is one reason libertarianism makes no sense to me).

    On the other hand, if the the law firm of Goldman, Schwartz and Cohen finds out that their secretary spends her weekends at Nazi rallies, I don’t think it makes sense to expect them to keep on working with her.

    In the case of Goldman, Schwartz and Cohen, you can say that the breakdown of trust between the secretary and the rest of the firm makes it impossible for her to do her job effectively. That seems like a reasonable bright line to me.

    I’d also say that any law against firing people for their political opinions, shouldn’t apply to small employers. If a mom-and-pop store wants to fire one of their three employees because of his opinions on gun control, well, that’s stupid, but mom-and-pop operations should have the right to be stupid.

    Again, while I’m generally supportive of discrimination protections for employees, is it really accurate to imply that there are no jobs for which a person could render themselves unfit by, say, going on TV and screaming racial epithets at the camera? Mightn’t there be some jobs where it’s reasonable to say, “S/he should have known better”?

    There are certainly jobs for which a person could render themselves unfit; jobs that involve public perception, for instance. If Scott Brown had fired those campaign workers who made racist “Indian” war whoops and chopping motions on camera at his opponent’s campaign rally, for instance, I think that would have been entirely reasonable; part of the job of a campaign worker is to represent the campaign well in public.

    But as far as “s/he should have known better” goes, it depends on what exactly s/he did. But if we’re talking about political speech, which is the speech which most requires protection for a free society to function, then I think the presumption should be that a person can state political opinions without fear of losing their livelihood, and it should take a very strong exceptional circumstance to overcome that presumption.

  10. Phil says:

    @Phil – The right to petition the government is part of the Bill of Rights.

    The right to freedom of speech is also part of the Bill of Rights. By your logic, every public school teacher who also works as a porn star should be protected from reprisals at work.

    Do you agree with that logic? Maggie, would you agree with that logic? I could certainly be persuaded, as long as the logic is consistent. But I’ll have difficulty accepting that you actually consistently support the logic that you’re claiming to support unless you state, unequivocally, “Yes, porn stars should face no repercussions, whether they’re teachers or administrators or clerks.”

    Can either of you think of any example where the legal, Constitutionally-protected behavior of an employee at a nonreligious institution would be a justifiable reason for the employer to evaluate that person’s employment status based on their judgment?

    Rights that protect speech and petitioning are only rights if they apply to all of us, regardless of the viewpoint being expressed. If the right to petition the government is so sacrosanct that an employer can never evaluate it, then what you’re saying is that a public school teacher could sign a petition to incarcerate Catholics, and that should have no bearing on whether a school deems that person fit to teach.

    Do you agree with that, Maggie and Diane M? That the content of a petition, no matter how horrible, is never ever a valid reason for an employer to officially question the judgment of an employee?

    If that’s what you’re saying, then a white Diversity Officer could advocate on their own time for the re-implementation of segregation, or even slavery, and face no repercussions at work. Do you honestly agree that that should be the case, or are you just taking a side in this argument that is convenient to your current political position?

  11. Matthew Kaal says:

    Barry -

    I think that if a religious organization/school/institution sets out clear expectations for employees about its standards, and asks them to affirm them by signing a statement of faith – that ought to be a institution’s prerogative and can be a contractual condition of employment. I think healthy work environments will allow employees, or perspective employees to lay out any objections they might have without immediately disqualifying them – and ought to appreciate thoughtful push back if disagreements arise, and should never fire or discipline someone without first getting all the facts and seeking to clarify the situation – but at some point religious institutions have to be free to enforce their own doctrine within their own house and I’m wary to suggest limitations on them when no one is compelled to work for such institutions, and certainly no one is forced to believe their doctrines against one’s will.

    Bregalad,

    While I tend to agree with you that a litany of comparisons obscures the individual issues of each particular situation and they don’t do much to bring opposing sides together – I don’t think it is right to knock Barry for pointing out a disparity in the number of people who have faced real social censure for standing up in support of the LGBT community.

    We are humans on all sides of this issue, and every human I know is imperfect – so it is unsurprising that folks on both sides fail to be charitable and gracious to those they disagree with – I think the pro-Traditional Marriage movement ought to recognize that in the McCaskill episode, many of those they disagree with have gone out of their way to speak up for McCaskill’s right to express herself, and that this has been very charitable. Pro-traditional marriage folks don’t lose anything by acknowledging that their opposition is being civil.

  12. As a retired CEO I can tell you that something else is at work here. It is the basic fabric of society; “Nothing is ever my fault.” Moreover, we are a litigious society. People are anxious to turn things into legal pay-days.

    The university did precisely what I have written in numerous manuals as both a consultant and a CEO (about 200 employees):

    When conditions exist that are deemed severe in nature with an employee who is not part of a bargaining unit, that employee is placed on paid administrative leave with a promise to resolve the issue within 72 hours.

    In this case, a legitimate and honest question existed. One thing I do know for certain though is that none of this has anything to do with whether or not Maryland should recognize same-sex marriage.

  13. Roger says:

    Maggie says, “Religious employers are a tiny fraction of all employers and people who go work for an evangelical college or charity know what they are doing.”

    Actually, religions fudge on this all the time, wanting to claim not only the actual churches but all sorts of, sometimes tangentially related, businesses and industries owned by the Church as somehow being insulated from any regulation by the state.

    In addition, many of the “charities” that they claim as part of their religious mission are actually supported by taxpayers. Taxpayers should not have to subsidize bigotry.

  14. Matthew Kaal:

    Your comment about what amounts to good faith is insightful. The same thing existed after the shooting at FRC. It, too, went unrecognized.

    The reason for this is very simple. Those who oppose equal marriage do so solely for religious reasons. In order to persuade voters to support their position, they have been manufacturing disingenuous secular arguments. They will seize on anything that might, possibly, replace their religious objection. Just today, I wrote about the effort to claim that opposing equal marriage is good for the state’s economy. This episode is unrelated to the decision facing Maryland voters about their gay and lesbian neighbors.

  15. fannie says:

    Bregalad,

    I think your “Oppression Olympics” “stunt” interpretation of Barry’s thesis here is rather uncharitable and inaccurate.

    His point doesn’t seem to be that bad things happen to gay people, therefore what happened to Dr. McKaskill doesn’t matter. In fact, he’s rendered a pretty nuanced argument that ultimately comes down to him concluding that she probably shouldn’t have been placed on leave and shouldn’t be fired.

    In pointing out instances of LGBT people and allies being fired, his point, rather, seems to be that it’s unfair and inaccurate that groups like NOM present instances of anti-SSM folks being fired as though it’s solely something that happens only to anti-SSM folks. And, in the original comment thread here, he listed these very specific examples of pro-SSM and LGBT people being fired in direct response to someone who seemed to somewhat skeptically ask for such specific examples.

    Barry’s point, in his own words, was not to play “Oppression Olympics,” but to suggest:

    “But Maggie, if you really think that this [firing people due to their politics] is some sort of unique ‘gay bullies’ problem, rather than something engaged in by many people, including people on your side of the debate, then you need to take that plank out of your own eye.”

    Because, oftentimes, getting people to admit that “their own side” does the various odious things that they so readily accuse the other side of doing can be like pulling teeth.

    Sure, we probably could argue all day about which side is worse with respect to this specific issue of employment, but like I said to Maggie it definitely degrades the discourse and further polarizes this “culture war” to portray this behavior as though only one side engages in it. And yeah, I do know that pro-SSM groups could make more concessions on this matter.

    I just get really frustrated by those on all sides who claim the mantle of moral righteousness yet who never seem to be the change they purportedly want to see in the world, or to hold those on “their” side accountable for misbehavior.

  16. Alana S. says:

    David- I oppose SSM for purely secular reasons.
    I am not nor have ever been religious. There are sound secular reasons its just that pro-ssm side chooses not to listen to them or hear them out.
    That is, except for John Corvino. I think he understands, he just chooses to downplay the impact of Maggie’s projections.

  17. fannie says:

    Alana:

    “There are sound secular reasons its just that pro-ssm side chooses not to listen to them or hear them out.”

    Again, another uncharitable, inaccurate characterization here.

    Many people, including myself, acknowledge that some people have secular reasons for opposing SSM. We just don’t agree that they’re sound. There’s a difference between disagreeing with you and “choosing not to listen.” The latter implies bad faith on our part, the former implies good faith disagreement.

    So, while some people on the pro-SSM side might choose not to listen, it’s unfair and inaccurate to generalize the entire side of doing so.

    Seriously folks, qualifiers are almost always a good thing to include in one’s argument. Especially about contentious topics.

  18. Karen says:

    I agree with Alana, it does seem as if that side (the secular defense of marriage) is not being heard but then again, I agree with Fannie that I can’t say this as a fact, it’s more of an observation generalization. Here on this blog however and in the news, media, blogosphere, I don’t see it being heard or respected. Maybe I’m wrong.

  19. annajcook says:

    I’m not really sure whether acknowledging that some peoples’ opposition to ssm is based in non-theological philosophical positions would change the argument in any substantive way? Surely, just like folks with religious objections to marriage equality would be entitled to free speech rights as individuals but also, due to the diversity of our society and the protection of others’ freedom of religion and/or speech rights, not be able to compel a whole community of people to agree with them via a statement of belief, etc.

    I agree with Fannie and Barry and others that a worker should not, generally speaking, be fired for views they express and activities they engage in off the job when they are speaking/acting for themselves and not their employer.

    Whether in this case McCaskill has lost the respect of some of the people whom she serves by expressing her views — and whether this will make her job harder — is a distinct problem. Like anyone else, she’s entitled to freedom of expression and also has the right not to be fired for her beliefs and personal speech. But she cannot be legally or institutionally protected from loss of peoples’ good opinion if they happen to disagree with her, and if her job depends on the positive feeling of the campus community that may adversely effect her ability to serve that community. Absolutely she deserves a chance to prove that speculation wrong, but it is fair to say she’s made her own job that much harder by holding the position she does on same-sex marriage. None of us have the right to be protected from other peoples’ disagreement with what we believe and/or their right to act on that disagreement by opposing you with their own speech and actions (as individuals).

  20. Karen says:

    “But she cannot be legally or institutionally protected from loss of peoples’ good opinion if they happen to disagree with her…” That should go both ways but given the current social climate, it’s much easier to be socially ostracised by holding an opinion that does not support that climate – holding an opinion to the contrary. My son is experiencing this first hand at his highschool. I told him to just walk away and be silent – for his best interests. The proverbial flag waving is very one sided.

  21. fannie says:

    Karen,

    I do think, in general, the general public is less aware of the secular arguments against SSM. But, I also think many proponents of SSM focus on the religious arguments because (a) many people actually do put forth religious arguments for opposing SSM, (b) religious arguments seem to be more common, and (b) many groups and individuals opposed to SSM argue that SSM should not be allowed because it poses a threat to religious freedom.

    I do remember a few (?) months back initiating and having multiple conversations here at FSB that addressed the specific secular argument that marriage exists to channel procreation into a union where the resulting offspring would be raised by the biological mother and father. I also remember David B., when he opposed SSM, noting that he had discussed the secular arguments with pro-SSM folks many times.

    I have spent a lot of time listening to and understanding the “secular case against SSM”- and I know that many others have as well, so I wouldn’t agree that that view isn’t heard here.

    I’m also not sure what you mean by secular arguments not being “respected.”

    Courts have tended not to find them rational (to be general), and personally, I don’t think all arguments, just because they’re arguments, deserve to be respected.

    We should certainly try to understand the arguments that our opponents are making, but whether an argument deserves to be respected, to me, depends entirely on its merits. And, in my opinion, I just don’t find secular arguments for not recognizing legal same-sex marriage to be all that rationally-related to their stated end goals.

  22. annajcook says:

    Karen, I agree with you that ” it’s much easier to be socially ostracised by holding an opinion that does not support that climate” in the sense that holding a minority opinion/position does indeed make someone more vulnerable to being marginalized socially. In my hometown in West Michigan, for example, where the vast majority of the population were conservative Republicans politically and conservative Protestant Christians theologically, I experienced a great deal of marginalization due to being a leftist, feminist, queer ally (at that point I identified as straight), holding theologically liberal views, etc. Thankfully I never faced direct institutional discrimination for my beliefs or my identities, but I certainly knew people who were not as lucky and faced harassment for being queer or vocal queer allies.

    So yes, one thing that any society can and should do is work to be aware that the tyranny of the majority is always a possibility and mitigate that social dynamic by protecting the rights of the minority.

  23. Karen says:

    “but whether an argument deserves to be respected, to me, depends entirely on its merits” I too have been listening, can’t help but listen since most of the discussions here promote your view. I really do understand what it is that you are saying but I simply have not been convinced that that is the right way to go. I think that bias on both of our parts have a lot to do with that. My bias is about protecting the bio/genetic/natural/mother/father/child/family and the overall societal good this idea represents. I personally think that trumps adult’s ‘love rights’ – adult ‘repro-tech rights’ falls into that same catagory. I know you don’t agree with me. Agree to disagree?

  24. Peter Hoh says:

    There are sound secular reasons its just that pro-ssm side chooses not to listen to them or hear them out.

    I regard this statement as a slap in the face.

    I, and others, have spent a good deal of time in this very forum listening to and engaging with the reasons that Alana and others have put forth regarding their secular reasons for being opposed to same-sex marriage.

  25. Karen says:

    anna – where we are from that’s completely turned on it’s head. In fact, the so called tyranny is on your side. We are the minority and we need protections too.

  26. annajcook says:

    Karen, you will notice that I wasn’t disagreeing with you. My argument was position-neutral: In any given society, some views will be marginal and others mainstream. Those who hold marginal views, in America, have Constitutional certain protections not to be discriminated against for holding those views. On top of that, it is — in my view — morally incumbent upon the majority to be aware of their majority-privilege and not use their position to bully those who do not have strength in numbers.

    On a national-historical scale, I disagree with you that anti-same-sex marriage views are “minority” views subjected to the “tyranny” of the marriage equality majority. National polling shows roughly equal numbers in terms of opinion on the subject, with the balance actually still in your favor most of the time. And a generation ago, the notion that two people of the same sex might have the legal right to marry was literally laughed out of the courtroom when gay and lesbian couples sought to formalize their relationships under civil marriage law. So your position is, in that larger sense, still the majority de facto narrative of “marriage” and its meaning.

    This obviously is a generalization and may not represent your day-to-day experience in the specific geopolitical location where you live, but I encourage you to look a little more broadly; you will likely see how much company you have in your particular beliefs.

  27. Bregalad, Matthew and especially Fannie have said everything I would have said in response to your comment, but said it better than I would have. :-)

    Matthew:

    Barry -

    I think that if a religious organization/school/institution sets out clear expectations for employees about its standards, and asks them to affirm them by signing a statement of faith – that ought to be a institution’s prerogative and can be a contractual condition of employment.

    Why only religious organizations? I’m very dubious about suggestions that we should have special rights for religious groups and people. They should be treated with neutrality by the government, not given preferential treatment.

    I’m wary to suggest limitations on them when no one is compelled to work for such institutions, and certainly no one is forced to believe their doctrines against one’s will.

    I think this line of thought underestimates how hard it can be to find a decent-paying job, and how much rational fear people have of unemployment, both generally speaking, and especially during the current unemployment crisis.

    In practice, people ARE compelled to work, and if they’re uncertain of their ability to find another job paying a living wage, then the choice to just quit isn’t really a fair choice.

    I don’t see any reason for any employer – religious or otherwise – to pry into the private thoughts of employees. And given the enormously unequal economic and power relationships between an employer and an employee, I don’t see any way for such a questioning to be truly fair.

  28. Karen says:

    My son is profoundly influenced by my search for my father HIS grandfather – he sees how this all connects but yet he, like me, can’t wave that flag. We simply have to be silent and walk away…in pride and knowing. Those who agree with us generally do the same. We don’t slap a bumper sticker on our car, or organize special public days in behalf of what we believe…not only because we don’t have the support of a broad advocacy but also because truth doesn’t need such things. It’s a humble but righteous cause. We stay silent and walk away.

  29. Bregalad says:

    Matthew:

    I don’t think it is right to knock Barry for pointing out a disparity in the number of people who have faced real social censure for standing up in support of the LGBT community.

    I wouldn’t knock him if he didn’t do it so often. Barry’s stock answers are “You guys are worse” or “We have it worse” when he writes about oppression directed at anti-SSM folks.

    Fannie:

    In pointing out instances of LGBT people and allies being fired, his point, rather, seems to be that it’s unfair and inaccurate that groups like NOM present instances of anti-SSM folks being fired as though it’s solely something that happens only to anti-SSM folks.

    So it would be fair and accurate if NOM presented instances of anti-SSM folks being oppressed if they always qualified it by saying that other groups are oppressed too (or more)?

    I’m sure NOM and other advocacy groups will get right on that.

    Frankly, I doubt the NOM folks think oppression only happens to anti-SSM people. You’re just assuming something about them without a shread of proof. Hey, I have an idea! Why don’t you just ask Maggie what she thinks? That’d be the civil thing to do before you claim that her organization thinks a certain way.

  30. fannie says:

    Karen,

    “I too have been listening, can’t help but listen since most of the discussions here promote your view.”

    Well, technically, you choose to read this blog, so it’s not accurate to suggest that you are somehow being forced to read opinions that promote my view. It also seems to me that while pro-SSM commenters currently outnumber anti-SSM commenters, there nonetheless remains a significant contingent of anti-SSM commenters and bloggers that contribute to pretty good conversations all-around.

    Because you repeatedly bring up the proportion of pro-SSM commenters here, it suggests that our point of view distresses you- both because of the content and because you suggest that things are out of balance here.

    If you can direct me to another internet forum where a more balanced yet-still-relatively-civil conversations occur between both pro-SSM and anti-SSM commenters, I’m happy to read it. I don’t know of any others. (But, I’m not interested in being directed to one-sided sites on either side of the SSM issue, I already read many of those on my own).

    I also disagree with you that our rights and “biases” are fundamentally at odds. In fact, I don’t think you do understand what my biases are, and am not receptive to other people telling me what they think my own biases are.

    Have you ever even asked me what my position on reproductive rights is? I know I haven’t really blogged about here, so how could you possible even know?

    Just because I’m a lesbian and in support of SSM, you seem to assume that we are inherent “enemies” who must be in conflict. And, I find it pretty sad that you have been led to think that. I think the way that same-sex couples are disproportionately demonized for using reproductive technology plays a large role in that worldview.

    Relatedly, you say that you have a bias “about protecting the bio/genetic/natural/mother/father/child/family and the overall societal good this idea represents,” but how can you possibly know that I don’t have that bias as well?

    Maybe, just maybe, I don’t see a rational connection between how opposing SSM does any of this alleged protecting. Currently, same-sex marriage is not legal in the vast majority of states, and the reproductive technologies and practices that you disagree with are still being used by many people.

    I think it can be possible to think of ways to protect genetic bonds while also supporting same-sex marriage.

    So yeah, Karen, I hear you. I just don’t agree that your position is all that logical or clear.

  31. [...] Let’s not kid ourselves about which side does this more. A significant number of anti-gay Christian employers routinely fire people for being lgbt, or for [...]