“Can we get beyond the marriage culture wars?”

03.03.2013, 6:14 PM

Cartoon by Frank Cotham; hat-tip to Jonathan Haidt and his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Religion and Politics.   He’s as obsessed as I am about epistemology! 

I’ll be interviewing  Jonathan this Tuesday at 6 p.m. EST — the conversation will be streamed live at www.centerforpublicconversation.org.   Should be very interesting; hope you can join the conversation. 


33 Responses to ““Can we get beyond the marriage culture wars?””

  1. Diane M says:

    Great cartoon!

  2. David Hart says:

    Probably not. Many. if not most, of those opposed to marriage equality don’t acknowledge that there is even such a thing as a gay person. Rather, we are people who experience, and suffer from, “same-sex attraction.” They abbreviate it “SSA” as if it were in the DSM.

    There are the gay kids who come home from school bloody every day. There are also young people who are severely damaged by reparative “therapy” and then feigning heterosexuality so that they can get a few days of piece from their parents by being dishonest. Then there are the suicides. What would it take to prevent a child from losing all hope?

    So yes, we can get beyond the marriage culture wars but first they have to stop hurting our kids. Make it stop! We don’t need contrition. Just make it stop! Reciprocal good faith is required to have a constructive conversation.

  3. JayJay says:

    I agree with what David Hart says above.

    I also came across a youtube video that explains very well the culture wars about same-sex marriage. Here is the url:


  4. JayJay says:

    I am not sure if this is the right place to post this. I was going to discuss these findings in the blog about the ASA response to the Regnerus study, where David Blankenhorn called for more studies of same-sex parenting.

    A study conducted at Cambridge University found that children adopted by same-sex couples are just as likely to thrive as those adopted by heterosexual couples.

    Researchers explored the experiences of adoptive families, looking at important aspects of family relationships, parental wellbeing, and child adjustment.

    It compared 41 adoptive families headed by gay fathers, 40 headed by lesbian mothers, and 49 headed by heterosexual parents.

    Professor Susan Golombok, director of the Centre for Family Research and co-author of the report said: “Overall we found markedly more similarities than differences in experiences between family types. The differences that did emerge relate to levels of depressive symptoms in parents, which are especially low for gay fathers, and the contrasting pathways to adoption which was second choice for many of the heterosexual and some lesbian parents–but first choice for all but one of the gay parents.”

    The research showed gay fathers were significantly less likely to report having depressive symptoms than lesbian mothers and heterosexual couples, most probably reflecting the lower levels of depression shown by men than women generally.

    However, it should be noted that the level of depression reported by lesbian mothers and heterosexual parents was below, or in line with, the national picture for mental health.

    Most parents across the family types had received positive experiences of the adoption process with many speaking warmly of the support they received.

    A number of same-sex couples, however, reported that agencies lacked experience in working with gay and lesbian parents and that this showed itself in awkwardness.

    One gay parent described having the phone put down on him when he said that his partner was a man.

    The research showed gay fathers appeared to have more interaction with their children and the children of gay fathers had particularly busy social lives.

    Read about the report here.

  5. Kevin says:

    Can we get beyond the marriage culture wars?

    Of course, if only because one side is going to win, and then the war is over. I think that side is the side that supports legal same-sex marriage. Here are the facts I see:

    1. Public support for legal recognition of same-sex couples has grown to the point of being the majority position.
    2. No rational reasons have been offered to support the notion that same-sex marriage must be prohibited, or more specifically, no reasons have been offered that withstand logical scrutiny.
    3. It may be this year or in the next few years but soon enough, there will be a “critical mass” of states offering same-sex marriages. When observers note that the sky hasn’t fallen on any of these states, protestations against same-sex marriage will be taken even less seriously.
    4. The vanguard that fans the flames against legal same-sex marriage is starting to defect to the other side, or remove itself from the field of battle. The funds to pay the remaining vanguard are likely to dry up. The vanguard has always been limited to preaching to the (shrinking) choir, rather than converting the enemy or even the agnostic. Without a vanguard fanning the flames of outrage, the troops will forget why they’re fighting such a trivial yet divisive war.
    5. Opponents of legal same-sex marriage have no reliable categories of allies anymore, judging by all the various groups that have submitted amici briefs in support of throwing out DOMA: not the business community, not GOP/conservative politicians, not religious groups. The Westboro Baptist Church is not a very powerful ally, it seems to me.

    It’s harder and harder to even find online articles discussing the issue. I think that’s an indication of something. Opposition to same-sex marriage issue was always destined to be the “disco dancing” of politics: highly popular for a while, but not aging well, and likely to be mocked in retrospect.

  6. David Hart says:

    @zztstenglish. Your comment was uncivil. In polite society, we call people by what they want to be called. Gay and lesbian citizens do not refer to themselves as “homosexuals” except in contrast to heterosexuals in a clinical or academic setting.

    @Kevin. It is true that liturgical Protestants have moved towards marriage equality. For Catholics (and I am not), unlike other religions, marriage is a holy sacrament. I don’t see any changes from the Church.

    The bottom line (as of this morning):

    16% of US citizens live in an equal marriage state.
    0% of US citizens have had their traditional marriage affected by marriage equality.

    Therefore, we can reasonably conclude, as Olson and Boies conclude, that opposition to marriage equality stems from anti-gay animus.

    With respect to comparing gay rights to the civil rights era, equal protection under the law is what it is. Furthermore,

  7. Kevin says:

    “For Catholics (and I am not), unlike other religions, marriage is a holy sacrament. I don’t see any changes from the Church.”

    Neither do I, support strong support from catholic practitioners. My point was, the anti-gays can’t claim general support from religious groups, nor can they claim religious persecution. Claiming that the catholic church is against it is a far weaker (and possibly counterproductive) claim than saying “religions oppose this thing.” Similarly, you won’t hear the Mormon church singled out either for its opposition.

    Singling out specific religious traditions would only beg the question: “are you saying the some religions DO support same-sex marriage? Of is it just the Catholics opposed?”

    Of course, marriage remains a holy sacrement, if that’s what you believe, regardless of the legal status of marriage, or who is allowed to participate. Religious beliefs do not depend on permission from the government.

  8. ki sarita says:

    love the cartoon

  9. Teresa says:

    David, if we’re unavailable for the live conversation, is there a way to view it later?

  10. Hi Teresa! Within a day or two we hope to have the video up. Thanks for asking :-)

  11. Matthew Kaal says:

    And Podcasts!

  12. zztstenglish says:

    @DHart – Sorry, I disagree because the word homosexual is not a bad word nor is it uncivil.

    “0% of US citizens have had their traditional marriage affected by marriage equality.”

    Oh, I don’t know about that. If same-sex marriage is legalized, then they’ll be awarded marriage benefits which comes from my taxes. Hence, it does effect me. In fact, someone argued taxes will go up as a result.


    A quote: (“Income taxes will be increased”) and (“Social security taxes will be increased (or benefits decreased)”)

  13. JayJay says:

    zzstenglish, numerous courts have rejected the argument that DOMA can be justified by any effect on the fisc. That is an argument that was laughed out of court.

    You seem to have no problem in forcing gay people (uh, homosexuals, in your diction, which certainly indicates a lack of respect) to pay excessive taxes for benefits from which they are excluded.

    I suspect that in fact one of the reasons DOMA will be struck down is the gross unfairness of forcing Edith Windsor to pay $368,000 in taxes that she would not owe if her spouse had been male instead of female.

  14. fannie says:


    Actually, many lesbian, gay, and bisexual people prefer the term “gay,” as “homosexual” was coined in a context of pathology, a context that is certainly outdated since “homsexuality” was removed from the DSM in 1973.

    Maybe you’re simply not aware of this history. Of course, I’m also open to the possibility that that’s precisely why you insist on saying “homosexual.” I’ve been around this debate long enough to know that some opponents of equality are pretty resentful of homosexuality no longer being officially recognized as a mental illness.

  15. Phil says:

    Of course, if only because one side is going to win, and then the war is over. I think that side is the side that supports legal same-sex marriage.

    I have to take issue with this statement, Kevin.

    When same-sex marriage is a legal option throughout the land, that will not representing one side “winning.” Legal same-sex marriage is a truce. It is the neutral, middle ground in this debate. When same-sex marriage wins, no one loses. They may feel that they have, but that is their own issue.

  16. JayJay says:

    I agree with Phil that the “war” will not be over when we win the legal battle for same-sex marriage. A kind of truce is likely to emerge, but homophobes and some religious people will continue to agitate against equal rights. However, time is on our side. Young people are overwhelming in favor of equal rights and as the older demographic die off, most people will take it for granted that gay people deserve equal rights under the law.

  17. Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: When same-sex marriage wins, no one loses. They may feel that they have, but that is their own issue.

    What an odd statement. Of course the conservative side ‘loses’ when same-sex ‘marriage’ becomes legal. The conservatives want marriage to be restricted to straight people only, so when gays are allowed to marry, their side loses. I don’t really see what you mean here. There *is* no ‘neutral middle ground’.

    You can argue that conservatives deserve to lose, or that their interests are less important than the interests of gay people, or that gay marriage is the solution most consonant with American law and society, or even that gay marriage is inevitable so we should stop fighting it (which is true), but it’s rather adding insult to injury to tell cultural conservatives they haven’t lost anything, or that they should be happy that gay couples have the right to marry now.

    Re: It is true that liturgical Protestants have moved towards marriage equality.

    If you mean that most Protestant churches are going to stop fighting marriage equality in the political sphere, that’s probably true. As they should. If you mean that protestant churches are going to embrace gay marriage and allow their members to have gay marriages, that’s not quite what I think will happen. It’s more likely that any church which tries to do so is going to split into a ‘liberal’ wing which allows gay marriages and a ‘traditionalist’ wing that doesn’t. We are starting to see these kinds of splits in churches like the Episcopalians and Lutherans, and I think a lot of people would choose to leave any church that allowed gay people to marry.

  18. JayJay says:

    Hector_St_Clare, I suspect that what Phil means is that “losing” will make absolutely no material difference to the people who have invested so much time and money in opposing ssm (and bashing gay people in the process). They will discover that the sky will not fall, that their own marriages are as vital or as shaky as they were before their gay and lesbian neighbors were allowed to marry, and that they can continue to believe whatever they want to believe.

    One thing that surprised me was the enormous amount of support gay people received in the amici briefs filed in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases. Elites in this country, including many religious organizations and hundreds of corporations, have stood up for equal rights.

  19. David Hart says:


    You have not identified who you are quoting. As for the person who says that nobody loses, what the author probably means is that recognizing same sex marriage has no effect on tradition marriages.

    The second quote about liturgical Protestants is mine. You are correct that “support” from that segment ranges from indifference to solemnizing same-sex marriage. The important this is that nobody in the gay community wishes for churches to do more than they choose to do.

  20. Phil says:

    The conservatives want marriage to be restricted to straight people only, so when gays are allowed to marry, their side loses. I don’t really see what you mean here. There *is* no ‘neutral middle ground’.

    What you are espousing is a propagandist viewpoint. The conservatives you describe are extremists, but the viewpoint they choose does not affect where legal SSM fits on a spectrum.

    Imagine there are two neighbors. Neighbor A wants to kidnap and enslave Neighbor B, while Neighbor B wants to kidnap and enslave Neighbor A. A reasonable truce would be: nobody kidnaps or enslaves anybody.

    Now imagine that Neighbor A wants to enslave Neighbor B, but all that Neighbor B wants is to live in freedom. A reasonable truce would be: nobody enslaves anybody. The fact that Neighbor A holds an extremist position does not change the most reasonable truce solution.

    In the “culture wars,” SSM opponents are extremists. They advocate a permanent, lifetime ban on marriage for all same-sex couples. Advocates of SSM are not extremists. They want free citizens to be able to choose, for themselves, the option of legal same-sex marriage such that gay and straight couples could live side by side, equally.

    SSM advocates are not seeking a permanent, lifetime ban on mixed-sex marriages. And mainstream SSM advocates are not seeking the elimination of all legal marriages. Both of those would be extremist positions.

    But gay and straight couples being treated equally? That’s a middle ground. That’s a truce. No one actually loses anything tangible. If you perceive it as a loss, it’s because you’re starting from an extremist, oppressive position.

    But the right to oppress and the right to not be oppressed are not equal sides of an issue. That is the “balance fallacy.” The right to enslave someone, the right to assault someone, and the right to ban someone from marriage–those are oppressive positions. They are not comparable to the rights to be free from bondage, to be free from assault, and to be free to marry.

  21. David Hart says:

    Maybe it’s just me but the fact that two football players invested in legal fees to file an amicus brief in opposition to Proposition 8 put a smile on my face today.

  22. zztstenglish says:

    @JayJay writes “They will discover that the sky will not fall…”

    And the sky didn’t fall where same-sex marriage was banned either…

  23. zztstenglish says:

    @Hector – I’m befuddled by this term ‘truce.’ I’m not 100% sure what you mean. I know in Australia their ‘truce’ was to start their own gay nation where they took over an island and are now seeking United Nations statehood.


  24. admin says:

    Come join us over at the http://www.CenterforPublicConversation.org. David is live with Jonathan Haidt right now until 7 p.m. eastern time.

  25. Kevin says:

    @ Phil

    “When same-sex marriage is a legal option throughout the land, that will not representing one side “winning.” Legal same-sex marriage is a truce.”

    I see what you’re saying, but in the context of the “culture wars,” when same-sex marriage is legal in enough states, the “war” will be over. Depending on how SCOTUS rules in the Prop 8 case, it may be all but impossible to revoke marriage rights from gay and lesbian citizens once they’ve gotten them. Other than occasional skirmishes, the war will be declared won. Unless there’s a real belief that banned same-sex marriage can (again) prevail, no one will provide funds to fight the war, and without money, there are no generals and the troops can’t fight effectively.

    What’s interesting to me at this point is to try to gauge if we’re at the tipping point yet, or if it will be SCOTUS decisions that tip; what is the generalized sense of the “point of no return”? And who will be the last (wo)man standing, to fight same-sex marriage, when nearly everyone else has laid down arms?

    Which states will be the last ones to legalize same-sex marriage? How many big states have to legalize it before the issue fizzles out, basically telling the remaining marriage discrimination states that “you guys don’t really matter, with regard to maintaining a potential bulwark against legal same-sex marriage”?

    What’s interesting to me now, since I’m one of those people who thinks same-sex marriage will be legal virtually nationwide within five or ten years, is how the various anti-gay marriage players exit the discussion, presumably in a way to preserve their reputations and potential viability in a future where same-sex marriage was a bloody fight.

  26. Matt N says:

    zztstenglish: “@JayJay writes ‘They will discover that the sky will not fall…’

    And the sky didn’t fall where same-sex marriage was banned either…

    “It rains on the just and the unjust alike,” said the man with a roof over his head and a warm stove.

  27. JayJay says:

    Kevin, some years ago Nate Silver had a column about when individual states will have majorities in favor of ssm. As I recall, Mississippi was the last one, with a projection that there will not be a majority of Mississippians in favor of ssm until 2022. Now that the President has endorsed ssm and many others have evolved on the issue, the timeline has probably changed a little, but there is no doubt that states like Mississippi, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, etc. will be deadenders.

    I hope that the Supreme Court will issue a sweeping and unambiguous ruling that will make ssm a fundamental constitutional right nationwide. Otherwise, it will take time before justice will be achieved everywhere in this country that promises liberty and justice for all.

    If the Supreme Court ruling is ambiguous or makes ssm a “state rights” issue, then the struggle continues and is likely to be increasingly ugly, with the country divided into “free states” and “slave states.” It will also lead to ever increased strains within the Republican Party, which will almost certainly take the side of the Southern states, which is their only reliable base. Doing so, will further marginalize the Party as ssm will have very large majorities in more and more states, while the Republican Party will be more and more associated with the South and the religious right.

  28. Diane M says:

    I’m somewhat pessimistic about same sex marriage across the country and it looks like Nate Silver confirms that.

    I expect the Supreme Court to declare DOMA unconstitutional because I don’t see how it can be constitutional. I am less hopeful about anything else.

    What I think will be the next constitutional issue is how to handle marriages that are formed legally in one state but not recognized in another.

  29. Diane M says:

    So I would like to suggest that it’s not that the discussion about same sex marriage is over. It’s that it makes sense to have ceasefires to talk about other issues related to marriage.

  30. JayJay says:

    Diane, it doesn’t make sense for me to have “ceasefires” to talk about other issues related to marriage. For me, and I suspect other gay people, same-sex marriage is the most important question on the national agenda and will remain so for us until it is resolved with victory. This country cannot claim to be a free country as long as it allows gays and lesbians to be denied equal rights under the law. The denial of equal rights in this country extends far beyond marriage, but marriage is one of the most obvious ways in which gay people suffer discrimination.

    I am not willing to “move on” to other (presumably more important?) issues.

  31. zztstenglish says:

    @JayJay – “You seem to have no problem in forcing gay people…to pay excessive taxes for benefits from which they are excluded.”

    Windsor should pay her taxes. By the way, that’s lost revenue to the public purse. An amount the government will have to make up for in another way either through tax hikes or cuts. So, thanks for supporting my original point.

    Furthermore, I don’t see why the Feds should be awarding her benefits considering she got her marriage license in Canada. If she wants benefits, then go ask the Canadian government…

  32. David Hart says:


    Your tax argument is irrelevant to whether or not gay people can get married. However, having insisted on the issue; With national marriage equality, the expectation is that 2.5% to 3% of all marriages will be same-sex marriages. Many of those couples will not file joint returns. For most, it will make little difference in how much they have paid in taxes.

    I don’t think that I should be paying for BLAG to defend DOMA.

    With a diminishing differential in the tax code you should worry more about some of the schemes that artificially manufacture capital gains out of ordinary income. My personal favorite is the Bush cherry that treats 60% of the income of commodities speculators as a capital gain even though the holding period is likely measured in seconds.

  33. zztstenglish says:

    @DHart – What are you talking about?? That’s what US v Windsor is all about. Not to mention there’s a reason as to why the government subsidizes marriages to begin with.