U.S. opinion on gay marriage and homosexuality

03.19.2013, 10:12 AM

I can’t recall any issue on which U.S. opinion has changed this quickly

Most amazing number: 81 percent of U.S. 20-somethings now favor gay marriage. 

About one-third of conservatives favor gay marriage, up from 13 percent nine years ago.

Among evangelicals, 31 percent.  Among Catholics, 59 percent.  Among non-evangelical white Protestants, 70 percent. 

And for those who argue that this issue is about marriage, not homosexual conduct, here’s a piece of what seems to me to be disconfirming evidence.  These changed numbers on support for gay marriage track very closely with changes over the same time period in views of homosexuality.  The proportion of Americans who believe that homosexuality is “just the way they are” has risen dramatically, and is now at 62 percent, while the proportion who believe that homosexuality is “something that people choose” has declined sharply,  and now stands at just 24 percent. 

 I know that correlation does not prove causation.  And I know that just because people believe something does not make it so.  Still, in my view, these numbers do support the proposition that what’s mainly on people’s minds as they think about gay marriage is the gay, not the marriage; and that, as our societal views on homosexual conduct go, so go our societal views on gay marriage.


50 Responses to “U.S. opinion on gay marriage and homosexuality”

  1. Philip Cohen says:

    Those numbers for support are very high, perhaps because they ask the question as “legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married.” Using the phrase “illegal” as the contrast is harsh (and not really how marriage rights denial works anyway). The General Social Survey, which asks agree/disagree, “Homosexual couples should have the right to marry one another” without the threatening use of “illegal,” gets lower levels of support: 50% in 2012 (http://iranianredneck.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/support-for-same-sex-marriage-in-2012-social-change-is-slow/)

  2. David Blankenhorn says:

    Good point on legal/illegal wording in the question.

  3. David Hart says:

    We have opposition unable to make a coherent argument why they are opposed.. My theory is that approval would be lower if NOM did not exist.

  4. John D says:

    A though on Philip Cohen’s comment:

    The word “homosexual” seems to have its own effect on polling. I remember reading about a survey when DADT repeal was being considered. There was a difference of 9 percentage points between “allow gays and lesbians to serve” and “allow homosexuals to serve.”

    People were happy for gays and lesbians to serve, as long as those homosexuals were still kept out of the military.

  5. Mont D. Law says:

    I think you’re looking at a several of things. Once a society starts to preach tolerance, whether it practices it or not, the young learn. Like Katherine Hepburn said in Guess Whose Coming for Dinner? We taught her black people were equal in all things and we never mentioned she shouldn’t marry one.

    A drastic change in parenting styles and expectations that led to more and more people accepting their children for who they are and the concomenant disapproval of people who don’t. Lots of parents still disown their gay and lesbian children but there is less social support for them doing so and much more condemnation.

    The complete failure of religious authority. For example if you are a Catholic you are likely already flouting the Church on a number of issues, what’s one more.

    All of these changes have made it easier for gays and lesbians to come out.

    I knew marriage equality was going to win when I read a comment somewhere from a guy with a kid in junior high. Every time his school bus passed a referendum lawn sign against recognising marriage equality all the kids would open the window and boo.

  6. Terbreugghen says:

    My immediate (and admittedly a bit uncharitable) thought is that it is not surprising that youth are in favor as they are most susceptible to cultural pressure and least likely to possess a long term vision or a degree of wisdom tempered by experience. It is part of the human condition at that stage to be favorable to the novel without sufficient regard to outcome. I wouldn’t put a great deal of stock in those numbers. Nor would I assert a shift in public perception as a valid argument given Milgram’s research on authority and herd mentality.

  7. ki sarita says:

    I appreciate David’s insight.
    My prediction is that as society ceases to differentiate between hetero and homo sexual behavior we will see a lot more homo sexual behavior. (Consistent with my belief that most of us are born potentially bisexual).
    To the extent that it would compete seriously with reproductive sex? I don’t know, since there are already so many other things competing with reproductive sex, how significant the difference would be.

  8. David Hart says:

    Terbreugghen:

    The actual number is less relevant than the trend. You are also suggesting that, with wisdom and life experience, people would not be so tolerant of marriage equality. You seem to be hinting at an unfavorable outcome.

    Why not simply make an argument for opposing marriage equality? No need to dance around the edges.

  9. Mont D. Law says:

    (My prediction is that as society ceases to differentiate between hetero and homo sexual behavior we will see a lot more homo sexual behavior.)

    I find this confusing. Marriage is not about sexual behaviour for anybody is it. What sexual behaviour can married people practice that unmarried people can’t? What is your definition of homosexual (love the space BTW) behaviour?

  10. Mont D. Law says:

    (Nor would I assert a shift in public perception as a valid argument given Milgram’s research on authority and herd mentality.)

    It’s not an argument it’s a fact. The trend is towards the acceptance of marriage equality. Whatever the court decides that trend is unlikely to change and will be reflected in voting behaviour going forward. Unless you want to restructure your entire democracy I don’t see how your point is relevant.

  11. David Hart says:

    The simple fact is that, as more state recognize gay marriage and NOM’s list of horribles fails to materialize, people start to question their beliefs. IMO, critical mass was achieved with New York.

    Maine is the perfect example of a change in the electorate over a three year span. Even the survey conducted by an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention shows that 68% of respondents felt that nationwide marriage equality is inevitable.

    Once inevitability sets in, people become less resistant.

  12. Manny says:

    We have opposition unable to make a coherent argument why they are opposed..

    People can have different reasons to be opposed, there doesn’t need to be a coherent argument. There can be a coalition of religious believers, public policy experts and economists, children’s rights activists, reproduction rights activists, and people who aren’t anything more than couch potato voters, who may often disagree with each other about why, but agree that marriage should be between a man and a woman. There is no requirement in a democracy that a majority all agree about why they support a policy, law or candidate.

    My theory is that approval would be lower if NOM did not exist.

    Interesting theory.

  13. Myca says:

    I think that this is a success story, not just for human rights and equality, but for rationality and human ethical evolution.

    See, I think that ethics are essentially a human creation. God isn’t real, so he’s not their source, but there does seem to be an inherent sense of ‘right and wrong’ or ‘fair and unfair’ within humans. All of the classic philosophical ethical dilemmas from “The Inquiring Murderer” to “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” appeal to this inherent sense. No philosophy or religion is immune to the objection, “but that leads to unfair/wrong/immoral results.”

    The problem is that our inherent moral sense is easily confused with our tribal allegiances and prejudices. When we first encounter a new idea and have an instinctive reaction … well, sometimes that’s our moral intuition saying, “nope, this is bad,” and sometimes it’s our xenophobia saying, “OUTSIDERS!”

    Thus, in matters where there seems to be a question (or in matters where the moral intuition of different people seems to be sharply divided) it falls to sweet reason to adjudicate.

    What we’ve been doing over the past 10-15 years in America is having a massive public debate, in which reason is brought to bear on the issue of same sex marriage. Our moral intuitions differ. Our philosophies differ. Rawls would say our comprehensive doctrines differ. Reason is all we have left.

    And, as it turns out, when you apply reason to this, over a period of decades, more and more people become convinced. They separate their moral intuition from their tribalist prejudices. Reason wins!

    It doesn’t always work. It rarely works this quickly. But when it happens, it’s a beautiful thing. We humans can fight our way through the haze, and fog, and millennia of angry monkey brains flooding us with chemicals of hostility and exclusion, and eventually see through to the clear light of truth.

    How lovely. How beautiful for us.

    —Myca

  14. Phil says:

    People can have different reasons to be opposed, there doesn’t need to be a coherent argument.

    Manny, I did not interpret David Hart’s comment to mean that he was criticizing the lack of coherence among the coalition of individuals who oppose SSM. Rather, he was saying that no one in the opposition has been able to make a logical, reasonable argument to oppose SSM (regardless of the reason for the opposition.)

    I think that he’s right; out of the several million people who still oppose SSM, not a single one has been able to articulate a logical, reasonable argument to treat same-sex couples (a subset of human couples who cannot biologically conceive children together) from the much larger category of all couples who cannot biologically conceive children together.

    I disregard arguments against same-sex marriage that are actually arguments against assisted-reproduction technology or adoption, and I disregard arguments that rely on supernatural beliefs that I do not share. When these are crossed off the list, there isn’t a coherent argument left.

    Nor would I assert a shift in public perception as a valid argument

    Terbreugghen, you seem to be saying that a shift in public perception is not a valid argument that public perception is shifting. That seems self-contradicting.

    No one in this discussion is saying that a shift in public perception is a valid argument that in favor of legal SSM. Rather, some of us are saying that valid arguments (and coherent, logical, reasonable arguments) in favor of legal SSM are the likely reason that public perception is shifting.

    I think one big factor for the quick shift in public opinion is the gaping hole in the major anti-SSM group’s rhetoric: they don’t address gay and lesbian people as part of their audience. Instead, they speak of gay and lesbian people’s relationships as a problem for the rest of us.

    For example, Maggie Gallagher, former president of one of the largest anti-SSM lobbying groups, has written for years about marriage and about what straight people ought to do with their lives, about what she believes is best for straight people. But when asked about what she believes is best for gay people, she has ignored the question and pointedly refused to answer.

    So, on the one hand, you have famous and outspoken anti-SSM groups like the Westboro Baptist Church who talk very openly about what they believe is best for gay people: they should stop being gay, or stop pursuing gay relationships, or else they will go to hell.

    On the other hand, you have the mainstream anti-SSM groups unleashing gallons of ink and pixels about marriage and about straight people, but intentionally avoiding the subject of how gay people should live their lives.

    Can you blame young and open-minded people who conclude that the major mainstream anti-SSM groups really just don’t care about gay people’s lives? If they did, why do they constantly other-ize gay people without presenting their view of what would be good for them?

  15. Phil says:

    I wish that I could edit a comment after posting. :) I apologize for my typos. The following are the corrected sentences for my above post:

    “not a single one has been able to articulate a logical, reasonable argument to treat same-sex couples (a subset of human couples who cannot biologically conceive children together) [differently] from the much larger category of all couples who cannot biologically conceive children together.”

    “No one in this discussion is saying that a shift in public perception is a valid argument [] in favor of legal SSM.”

    “one big factor for the quick shift in public opinion is the gaping hole in the major anti-SSM [groups'] rhetoric:”

  16. Myca says:

    I think one big factor for the quick shift in public opinion is the gaping hole in the major anti-SSM group’s rhetoric: they don’t address gay and lesbian people as part of their audience. Instead, they speak of gay and lesbian people’s relationships as a problem for the rest of us.

    Bingo. Yes. This.

    Remember Barry’s post a while back in which he asked what cultural traditionalists had to offer to LGBT folks? Remember how no cultural traditionalists actually answered?

    Elsewhere, Teresa commented that:

    At the end of the day, you see me as taking something from you … I see my position as giving something to you.

    Both annajcook and I asked her what that something was that she was ‘giving.’ There was no response.

    I don’t want to pick on Teresa (or anyone!). I do believe that when people say that they don’t have anti-gay animus, they don’t. But guys: This is a problem. It can’t be hand-waived away.

    When you paint a picture of your ideal world as one without gay people, you must address that the actual world contains gay people,
    and if your plan for handling that is, “mumble mumble mumble,” or to theorize that they ought ot be treated as perpetual second-class citizens, that’s simply not good enough. People aren’t convinced.

    In fact, as David Blankenhorn points out, they are increasingly unconvinced.

    —Myca

  17. fannie says:

    Myca,

    I too am struck by the way some anti-SSM groups and people talk about us rather than with us, and how their ideal world has nothing to offer us – and in fact seems to have no place for us to exist at all.

    I’m struck by the silence encountered when that question is explicitly asked. It’s kind of like some opponents of SSM and LGBT rights haven’t really considered the question before.

    Relatedly, I’ve also picked up on some mumbling and grumbling resentment about how this blog is supposedly “dominated” by pro-SSM voices lately – and how the mainstream is also supposedly “dominated” by pro-SSM and pro-LGBT representations.

    But, shouldn’t conversations about LGBT rights be dominated by, or at least involve, actual LGBT people?

    I think that as gay people are increasingly involved in conversations about ourselves, rather than merely talked about, perceptions will continue to change and acceptance will increase. Maybe that’s what’s behind some of this resentment.

  18. David Hart says:

    Myca, Fannie:

    Many of those people don’t actually believe that gay people exist. For them, homosexuality is a bahavior in contrast to sexual orientation. We are people who “experience same-sex attraction.” In closer circles that changes to “people who suffer with same-sex attraction.”

    Of course, the only reason that people suffer is the judgment of others – usually for religious reasons.

  19. David Hart says:

    Phil:

    The hole just got wider and deeper with today’s reply brief in Perry. Seems to me they are saying that responsible procreation extends to infertile couples because usually only one is infertile and the potential for conception keeps that person monogamous. … and that’s the most cogent part of the argument.

    The Court plans to make transcripts available by 1:00 PM on the day of the argument. Seriously – even Scalia has to be offended by the intellectual dishonesty of responsible procreation.

  20. Kevin says:

    “Nor would I assert a shift in public perception as a valid argument given Milgram’s research on authority and herd mentality.”

    Ah, “if they disagree with me, they must be stupid” argument. Seems similar to Robbie George’s proteges insisting that the conversation about same-sex marriage is really only now beginning, because the public is only now being educated about what marriage really is!

    Of course, whatever you perceive marriage to be, it still doesn’t answer the question of why gay and lesbian couples must be legally excluded. Whatever “purpose” marriage is for, it’s hard to see how that purpose is compromised when same-sex couples marry. Just like the government’s purpose for licensing driving isn’t compromised when devout bus riders pass the driver’s test and get a license.

    Marriage has never been defined in terms of excluding a minority or subsegment of the population. Impermissible pairs, such as those too closely related, or consisting of one or both too young, consist of a circumstance, both of which can change, and are therefore not personal characteristics, as sexual orientation is. You can lose interest in the person who was closely related, or that person can pass away; you can grow to an age where you become eligible to marry. So current restrictions are based on temporary circumstances: age, relatedness and current marital status.

    Sexual orientation doesn’t change, and therefore banning same-sex marriage becomes a lifetime sentence for a gay or lesbian person. Not fair at all!

  21. Diane M says:

    @Myca – I think that God is real and leads us to new and fuller understandings of right and wrong. I believe that this is a process of prayer/meditation/centering down, using reason, and checking our leadings with others.

    I realize I can’t prove that God exists, but I think your “inherent moral sense” can not be proven either. It certainly does not always get everyone to the same conclusion. :-) The interesting thing to me is that you think that ultimately, there is a right conclusion we should be all be led to, if only we can get past our prejudices. That is just as much an unproveable assumption as a belief in God.

  22. Diane M says:

    @David Hart – I don’t like this kind of comment.

    “Of course, the only reason that people suffer is the judgment of others – usually for religious reasons.”

    I think this is ultimately a prejudiced way to look at things. Perhaps you didn’t mean it that way, but right now there is a lot of bias out there against religion and religious people.

    It’s also not really accurate. People in general have suffered from the judgement of others for many reasons that aren’t religious. Things like the Cultural Revolution, nationalism, social Darwinism and “scientific” racism, and on and on. Even in the context of sexuality you have “science” labeling LBGT people as deviant or mentally ill.

    Judging people seems to be a common human failing.

  23. Diane M says:

    It really is a remarkable change in a relatively short period of time.

    How about another simple theory – Americans changed their mind because the campaign for same sex marriage was well done?

    And maybe because about 10 years ago was when LBGT advocacy groups decided that marriage was important to them? That might be because of a certain amount of progress, it might have something to do with DOMA, or it might have to do with the first generation to come out of the closet aging and realizing that marriage has many benefits. Then again, it might have to do with more and more LBGT couples having children they were raising together and wanting legal protections.

    So maybe for marriage nuts, this could mean that a well-done campaign could make a change in how people think about marriage and children?

  24. Myca says:

    The interesting thing to me is that you think that ultimately, there is a right conclusion we should be all be led to, if only we can get past our prejudices. That is just as much an unproveable assumption as a belief in God.

    I’m sure we’re getting a bit afield now, but I think you’re misunderstanding me. I don’t think that there is a ‘right conclusion’ external to our moral sense, and though I am an atheist, there’s also nothing in the inherent moral sense theory that requires atheism.

    I mean, look, where do you think the theory that unbaptized babies go to limbo came from? A plain reading of early Catholic theology would say that they go to hell. Original sin. Unbaptized. Bob’s your uncle. The only problem is that that’s amazingly unfair. Inasmuch as it involves the eternal torture of babies, I’m comfortable calling it immoral.

    But what basis do we have for calling it unfair or immoral? Only our inherent sense.

    —Myca

  25. Greg Popcak says:

    Do a poll asking, “Do you favor eliminating ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ from birth certificates in favor of ‘Parent 1′ and ‘Parent 2′” and then talk to me about changing public opinion.

    Regardless, even if the poll’s language wasn’t horrible and asking entirely the wrong question I still don’t think your point is relevant. Just because people, in general, are still completely ignorant on this issue doesn’t change what the issue is “about.”

    I’m not at all surprised that attitudes would change because most people are completely uneducated on the nature of marriage. Respondents FEELINGS are changing about homosexuality and gay marriage NOT their minds.

    Their minds need to be informed–which is why the “new conversation” is akin to declaring the patient dead before you’ve really begun treating hom. Just because you spent 10 years in a lab developing a cure for the problem doesn’t mean anyone else outside a rarified circle of people knows a blessed thing about it.

  26. Diane M says:

    @Greg Popcak – I don’t favor removing the terms “mother” and “father” from a birth certificate, but I support same sex marriage.

    I don’t think the two things are contradictory. You can easily develop a special birth certificate form that allows you to list two mothers – although I would want an original form that showed the biological parents somewhere for the child to see when they grew up.

    I don’t think it’s a question of lack of education. I see a different answer to the question of how same sex marriage would affect marriage in general. I think you can keep raising children as one of the core values of marriage-the-institution, and allow same sex couples to marry.

    I actually think the barriers to having straight people see marriage as being about children have nothing to do with same sex marriage. One issue is that nobody gets married in order to have children. We do it because we love a particular person we’ve found. We don’t want to think of them as an instrument for making and rearing children. Marriage for individuals is different from what society cares about and it should be or we’d all be hopelessly uncaring and unlikely to stay together.

    Another issue is that people don’t like to believe that children are better off with both parents. We’ve developed a culture that tends to think doing what makes the parents happy is what makes everyone happy. Sometimes it is, but not always.

    And then, there’s the economy. Jobs matter.

    @Myca – I’m sure some people would argue that their inherent sense of morality shows that homosexuality is unnatural and that marriage is about men and women, not same sex couples. You seem to think that if we all follow our inherent sense of morality we will ultimately get to the same solution.

    The way you describe the process above is not neutral. It is not subjective – people use the moral intuition to get to reason and truth. Perhaps you did not mean it this way, but this really sounds like you think there is one right, true conclusion everyone should reach. And you are assuming you know what justice and truth are.

    “when you apply reason to this, over a period of decades, more and more people become convinced. They separate their moral intuition from their tribalist prejudices. Reason wins!

    It doesn’t always work. It rarely works this quickly. But when it happens, it’s a beautiful thing. We humans can fight our way through the haze, and fog, and millennia of angry monkey brains flooding us with chemicals of hostility and exclusion, and eventually see through to the clear light of truth.

    How lovely. How beautiful for us.”

    So, how do you know that the eternal torture of babies is immoral? What makes you sure that your inherent sense of justice is right? Why is it superior to a belief in God?

    “The only problem is that that’s amazingly unfair. Inasmuch as it involves the eternal torture of babies, I’m comfortable calling it immoral.

    But what basis do we have for calling it unfair or immoral? Only our inherent sense.”

  27. David Hart says:

    Greg Popcak:

    You talk about ignorance and getting informed yet you have not made an argument in opposition to marriage equality. Moreover you seem to suggest that people do not understand some aspect of homosexuality yet you are vague.

    Make you argument. Give it your best shot. You might start by explaining what effect gay marriage has on traditional marriage. Do you subscribe to the “responsible procreation” theory?

  28. Manny says:

    One issue is that nobody gets married in order to have children. We do it because we love a particular person we’ve found. We don’t want to think of them as an instrument for making and rearing children.

    Diane, people still marry in order to have children, are you kidding? Sometimes people say, let’s just have children without getting married, but usually they get married first. And sometimes people marry without discussing any plans for children, but it is still understood that they might have children down the road, and crucially, that they will have each other’s children, together. No one thinks “I’ll marry this person, but maybe have children with some other person” when we say “I do” we are saying I do to having children with that person’s genes and merging the family tree. That doesn’t mean they marry someone to be an instrument to have children, but they sure shouldn’t be looking for someone else to be an instrument to having children. The point is to love the person who will be the other parent of your children. The parents of the bride and groom look across the aisle and see the family that will be the future grandparents of their grandchildren.

  29. annajcook says:

    The point is to love the person who will be the other parent of your children.

    Manny, I would appreciate it if you made fewer assumptions about how everyone else in the world understands marriage and its meanings. You yourself have a very specific understanding of what marriage commitments mean, but it is specific to you and others who may share your views.

    Not everyone, even here on this blog, sees parenting as the defining characteristic of marriage, and not everyone assumes that “I do” means “we are saying I do to having children with that person’s genes and merging the family tree.”

    You can argue for your position being the better or best position to others, but you can’t argue it is THE position upon which everyone agrees, legally, socially, religiously, or otherwise.

  30. fannie says:

    Greg,

    “I’m not at all surprised that attitudes would change because most people are completely uneducated on the nature of marriage.”

    Now now, Greg, are”most people” uneducated about what marriage is, or do they simply disagree with you?

    In any event, I can’t imagine that calling people stupid is going to help win more people over to the anti-SSM side of things. But, by all means, continue.

  31. [...] Nick Arnold — No Comments ↓ Over at Family Scholars, David Blankenhorn posted a graph of the shift in public opinion on gay marriage (in response to the question “legal or [...]

  32. Sky says:

    Greg

    Sorry your words are being distorted to make you look like a jerk. It really has become about feelings in the public square instead of disucssions about ideas.

  33. Diane M says:

    Manny, people consider children when they are looking at their marriage partner. What I mean is that we don’t see it as the primary reason to be with the person. We in our society generally believe that you should choose your partner because you love them.

    The couple who marries because they are going to have a baby was already together because they were in love. And while a couple talks about future babies, you still choose the person for other reasons. A difference about babies may break you up, but it’s not the first thing you talk about. (I dated my husband for a year without talking about it, although we were young and not generally thinking about marriage.)

    I think if you want to convince people to marry, you have to start with talking about love.

    @Anna Cook – I think it’s fair to say that straight people never expect to marry someone and then have a baby with someone else. Because of divorce and step-parenting, people sometimes expect to help raise a child that is not theirs, although they know about this going in. There are probably a few people who plan to adopt for reasons of conscience, but mostly people are planning to make any babies together, however it works out in the end.

    A same sex couple that wants to raise children in the future has to plan to adopt or do what I think of as half-adoption. Usually, however, the plan is to raise the children together, not have a baby and raise it with someone you aren’t committed to yourself.

    I would not want to see marriage changed so that we expect to raise our children with someone other than our husband or wife. I know it is not always possible to raise our children with the person we love most because of divorce or even death. However, I think that really is what we should be aiming for in our definition of marriage: the person you will love and stay with and have/raise children with and share money/property with.

  34. Myca says:

    So, how do you know that the eternal torture of babies is immoral? What makes you sure that your inherent sense of justice is right? Why is it superior to a belief in God?

    Diane, the reason I brought up the “unbaptized babies/limbo” issue specifically is to demonstrate that there is no conflict between religious faith and an understanding of the inherent moral sense. Religious people needed to reconcile god’s goodness with the unfairness of eternally torturing unbaptized infants, not me. They had a sense that that damnation was unfair that came from … somewhere. It didn’t come from scripture. It didn’t come from traditional theology. It came from their inherent sense that it was unfair to punish someone for something that had no control over.

    Call it conscience or ‘god’s voice’ or whatever you like, if it helps. There is a fair amount of research that both humans and other primates instinctively have a sense of what’s fair. Maybe it was put there by a creator. This does not require an atheistic framework to understand.

    I’m sure some people would argue that their inherent sense of morality shows that homosexuality is unnatural and that marriage is about men and women, not same sex couples. You seem to think that if we all follow our inherent sense of morality we will ultimately get to the same solution.

    No. Your understanding is incomplete. I’m not arguing that everyone, individually will come to the same conclusion, but that society, if it uses reason to investigate its inherent moral sense of things, will eventually come to a consensus.

    Consensus does not require unanimity. There are still people who believe that slavery is A-OK. They are morally bankrupt and lie outside society’s consensus. See also: forced religious conversion, racial segregation, forced marriage, child abuse, etc.

    —Myca

  35. Diane M says:

    Myca, I don’t think my understanding is incomplete. I think the way you worded it originally suggests that you think there is a right, beautiful answer and that people have come to it by using reason.

    If you believe that this is just a question of people having come to a new consensus, there is no particular reason to celebrate. (Most people think this is also not a very convincing argument to agree with a position.)

    “the reason I brought up the “unbaptized babies/limbo” issue specifically is to demonstrate that there is no conflict between religious faith and an understanding of the inherent moral sense. Religious people needed to reconcile god’s goodness with the unfairness of eternally torturing unbaptized infants, not me.”

    There are so many ways I disagree with you here.

    1. There is no particular reason to think that there would be a conflict between faith and an inherent moral sense. An inherent moral sense makes even more sense logically if you believe in a God who created you.

    2. Religious people didn’t need to reconcile Catholic doctrine with anything, only Catholics did. I get frustrated with the conflation of all religious people into one group.

    3. It is also possible to believe that a particular piece of Catholic doctrine was or is wrong, even if you are a Catholic. That is presumably why the doctrine has since changed.

    4. Religious groups have many ways to change particular doctrines. One is to pray and listen to God. Another might be to analyze texts and teachings from the past. Is it because they have an inherent moral sense that something was wrong? Well, actually, I think so – but this is because I believe in God.

    So I’m left saying, yes, to be fair, I do believe that we got rid of slavery in America by listening to God.

    And to turn your words around, you can call God’s voice an inherent moral sense if it helps you to do so. (Although I would prefer that you just speak less patronizingly. Religious people most certainly do understand biology without needing atheism.)

    But I do think you see a need to reconcile eternal damnation with God. You don’t think eternal damnation could be good. Why not? What makes you convinced that that would be unfair? Where do your values come from?

    I am not arguing that you need to believe in God to have values. I am suggesting that you have a set of beliefs about truth and goodness that is not relative and is based on a kind of faith.

    The thing about primates is this – there is evidence that humans are not the only animals with empathy. That makes sense to me, it would be more surprising if our feelings had nothing in common with the feelings of animals.

    There is also evidence that primates are as you said, inclined to be selfish and exclude others from groups.

    So what makes the empathy part superior to our brains being “clouded” by the group-loyalty part as you suggest above?

    Why are people who believe in slavery, etc. morally bankrupt? If they live somewhere where the consensus favors slavery, are they not morally bankrupt? And if they are moral citizens of their society, are they in any sense wrong to believe in a system that oppresses people?

    We’re getting pretty far from the question of same sex marriage and changes in opinion, though.

    To try to tie it back – I don’t think you have to attack religion or talk about an inherent moral sense that goes against religion in order to support same sex marriage.

    In fact, I think that religious groups can come to support same sex marriage by using religious ways to discern truth. Some are already doing it.

    And I strongly believe that insulting or patronizing religion is not a good way to change the minds of religious people.

  36. Manny says:

    Diane, of course people decide to marry someone because they love them and want to be with them, it’s terrible when people marry someone just to have children, when they don’t love them or want to stay with them. The children are always secondary, they are a by-product of marriage that often happens. No one should be having children on purpose, it’s unethical to intentionally create people as if they were material possessions that are desired.

  37. Myca says:

    I think the way you worded it originally suggests that you think there is a right, beautiful answer and that people have come to it by using reason.

    Oh, in this case there certainly is. Legal same sex marriage is the correct, moral, just, fair position, and we should be proud of ourselves for moving towards it, just as we are proud of ourselves for not forcing women to marry their rapists any longer.

    If you believe that this is just a question of people having come to a new consensus, there is no particular reason to celebrate.

    I believe that this is a case of people finally examining the issue and coming to a consensus. There was no public debate before. Religious prejudice merely held sway.

    I believe that the consensus we’ve come to is more legitimate and beautiful because it’s based on vigorous public discussion mediated by reason. That will always be more beautiful than prejudice.

    1. There is no particular reason to think that there would be a conflict between faith and an inherent moral sense.

    Yes, I agree. As I’ve said. More than once. Seriously.

    2. Religious people didn’t need to reconcile Catholic doctrine with anything, only Catholics did. I get frustrated with the conflation of all religious people into one group.

    Ah, let me rephrase: The people who tried to reconcile doctrinaire theology with their inherent moral sense were religious people. They were theists. They believed in God.

    … and they had an inherent moral sense that told them that something was unfair, outside any scriptural or theological reference to its unfairness.

    There is also evidence that primates are as you said, inclined to be selfish and exclude others from groups.

    So what makes the empathy part superior to our brains being “clouded” by the group-loyalty part as you suggest above?

    There are a variety of answers – the most important answer is: nothing.

    Sometimes there are good reasons to exclude. Sometimes group-loyalty is right. Sometimes empathy (though I would distinguish between empathy and our inherent moral sense) is mistaken – see the outpouring of sympathy for the Stubenville rapists, which has lead many down a victim-blaming path.

    That’s why we have to mediate via reason when it seems like there may be a conflict. We need to say to ourselves, “Hey, this seems like it might be unjust. Is there a good reason we need to do it anyway?”

    To try to tie it back – I don’t think you have to attack religion or talk about an inherent moral sense that goes against religion in order to support same sex marriage.

    I agree, which is why, despite your continued misreadings and false claims, I haven’t.

    I’m an atheist. I believe that God is not real. I also believe morality is derived from an inherent moral sense. Belief in that inherent moral sense is not solely the domain of atheism, though, as I’ve demonstrated with examples. I’d say that all people have it, and have it instinctively from childhood.

    I mean, look, I don’t want to come off as patronizing, but you are claiming that I have said things which I explicitly did not say. Attacking religion? Hogwash. Assuming that you simply don’t understand and need it explained more clearly is the charitable reading.

    —Myca

  38. David Hart says:

    One of the things that strikes me is the fact that, regardless of marriage equality, gay people are going to form unions and some of them are going to have children. There is a moral argument that society should insist that gays marry.

  39. Myca says:

    Anyway (especially since Diane and I have been off on this interesting tangent), I did want to try and refocus on the question that’s been asked over and over, and still not answered by anyone on that side of the fence:

    What do cultural traditionalists have to offer LGBT folks?

    —Myca

  40. Manny says:

    Myca: “What do cultural traditionalists have to offer LGBT folks?”

    Myca, I answered several times: we offer Civil Unions that don’t approve of making babies but would be just like marriage in all other ways.

    David Hart: “One of the things that strikes me is the fact that, regardless of marriage equality, gay people are going to form unions and some of them are going to have children. There is a moral argument that society should insist that gays marry.”

    But marriage would approve of creating children, it would say that they have a right to create children, equal to a married man and a woman’s right to create children. The fact is, that is false, they do not have a right to create children at all, and a married man and woman have every right to create children. Furthermore, a married man and woman are the only thing that has a right to create children. Not a right to 3PR, that is adultery, but a right to create children nevertheless.

    But as for existing children being raised by same-sex couples, and future children that are created anyway in spite of 3PR being unapproved and perhaps someday illegal, we can let them enter Civil Unions that give the same security and benefits.

  41. Elizabeth says:

    Who is talking about “requiring” GLBT to be in committed relationships? That will not fly.

    Cultural traditionalists offer GLBT people friendship,legal equality, and civil unions. I agree with Maggie Gallagher that marriage is by definition a social construct that intends to secure for every child a mother & father committed to the child & to one another. The wreckage of hetero failure at this is all around us. That is the real elephant in the room.

  42. Matthew Kaal says:

    Myca,

    I promised Barry on his original post that I would try to flesh out an answer to that question, but have been swamped by work. I’m still swamped, but here is the sketchiest of sketches for the time being.

    I can’t speak for all cultural traditionalists, but the Christians I identify with would offer these things in the context of our faith community:

    1. A relationship with a good God, who we believe is real and personal. Not everyone is going to believe in God, or that He is anything other than a useful construct, but anyone can attest that belief is a socially and psychologically powerful experience which brings with in many emotions, including hope, strength, and transcendence, and which has transformed billions of lives. For those who actually believe in their religious experience, they are given a teleos and logos (end and purpose) which helps order their lives in a way that is both good and perceived as good by them. This is one thing that Christian traditionalist offer freely to LGBT individuals, our faith.

    [Important note: the next few points are social good which are often imperfectly executed in reality, but which I've personally experienced within faith communities, so they are happening, and which I believe all Christian communities have a responsibility to work towards achieving]

    2. A community where non-biological kinship bonds are possible across a spectrum of relationships. Religious communities unite diverse people into a common unit and create intimacy and solidarity which leads to extremely close bonds of friendship and love. Christians call each other brother and sister because, when Christian teaching is followed, this is the character of Christian fellowship. This is and can be the case for LGBT members in the Christian body. This holds (or should) even for openly gay members of the community.

    Ideally these bonds of friendship and love encompass intimate honesty, affection, and tenderness (parts of the human experience that most LGBT people, even chaste Christian LGBT individuals, deeply desire) – these are characteristics that contemporary notions of friendship sometimes fail to live up to, and the Church needs to model this type of friendship and encourage it. I think younger generations of Christian men (in my generation I witness this) are less uptight about having close male friends who fall on different parts of the sexual attraction spectrum, about addressing common male issues from the perspective of same-sex attraction, and being willing to be close physically and emotionally with gay friends; this encourages me to no end.

    3. Traditionalists Christians must offer (and do) a community where celibate and chaste living is possible and non-stigmatizing for those who choose it. This is an area where most Christian churches need to grow, because too often our focus has been on marriage as the ideal, at the expense of single people (gay or straight). Practically this means that churches must provide fellowship for single people, be sensitive to those who are lonely (because single people invariably get lonely, be they 25, 40, or 75 years old), an extended family who support each other (in sickness and health, happiness and sorrow), and ideally, who sacrifice for each other (through generosity and selfless service).

    To submit to a teaching that precludes having a family of one’s own is a real sacrifice that millions of LGBT religious individuals (as well as single straight individuals) willing enter into, but in an ideal Christian community they find that they have brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, through the relationships they have with fellow Christians. My father and mother model this by being children to the elderly single people, widows, and widowers in their church who need someone to help with yard work, or to drive them to a doctor, or who simply never get taken out to lunch. My brother goes bass fishing with an elderly widower at his church every month, and shares a deep friendship with a man 60 years his senior. Here, in New York, I have never spent a significant religious holiday alone, because on the years where I can’t fly to be with my family, I have always been able to celebrate with fellow Christians by opening my home, or being invited to someone else’s apartment. That kinship is real and meaningful, and is a part of every healthy Christian church and community.

    4. LGBT individuals are full, participating members. Gay people should not be viewed by the Christian community as invalids. They are the same as everyone else, held to the same standards, and as such – asked to give as much as they receive and to be under God’s grace in the same way. Christian traditionalist must offer opportunities to serve and participate. Firstly, this means that LGBT Christians must be (and are) able to be confirmed and partake in the mass, and the communion of the Eucharist, that is central to Christian life. They must also be able to use their gifts to serve the community. St. Paul exhorts single people to use their singleness to serve others – as teachers, missionaries, friends, the third set of hands a new set of parents might need while trying to install a car seat. The younger man willing to mow the lawn of an elder fellow believer. Too often Churches fail to meet this standard in ways that alienate LGBT members – this has to change (but I see encouraging signs in the churches I know that it is). In many of the churches I know, often this exclusion is twofold. Firstly, there is an undeniable stereotype about gay people that persists in traditionalist communities (but which thankfully diminishing) that all people who identify as LGBT reject Christian sexual ethics. Secondly, LGBT members in these communities are rarely visible. As more people emerge and are discovered to be regular folks, I think we will see more gay traditionalist Christians filling roles within their community.

    This is not a complete answer, but a start, hope that is helpful.

  43. Terbreugghen says:

    @Phil:
    Thanks for addressing my point about the youth view seriously.

    In response to the claim that Maggie Gallagher hasn’t spoken about what gay people should or should not do, can you imagine what the reaction would be if she had? it would be similar to the reaction white folks get when telling minority folks what THEY should do, or the reaction that men get when they register an opinion about abortion.

    I support Maggie’s decision to avoid the subject. I think her arguments apply to all people qua people, not as members of sexual orientation identity groups.

    And I remain convinced that in order to craft good public policy on a social institution, we should be pretty clear about the foundational purpose of that instiution. Why does it exist in the first place? Why do diverse cultures almost all have a social institution regulating heterosexual pair-bonding?

    Seems to me the best argument is to recognize that the state has an interest in regulating heterosexual pair-bonds, and thus the definition of marriage should remain there.

  44. David Hart says:

    Florida explicitly states that the state’s interest is to promote marriage and responsible parenting – including alimony. I responded to a post by Peter Sprigg here. Therein, I have attempted to define what civil marriage is.

  45. Myca says:

    These are great responses, all. Thank you each for giving them.

    Of course, I think that they’re insufficient in various ways. Not as answers (I think they’re fine answers.), but as visions of the place LGBT folks could reasonably be expected to occupy in the world. But then, I would think that, wouldn’t I? :P

    I’d love to have a thread where we could discuss this. Matthew, when you have a chance, would you like to turn your response into a full-on post?

    —Myca

  46. Elizabeth says:

    P.S. All that’s necessary to win an argument seems to be defining it in terms of “rights” versus haters. The idea that there is such a thing as the common good, and that this necessarily limits all our freedom & all our “rights” gets lost because it is too nuanced.

  47. Victor says:

    Elizabeth,

    I’ve heard many a time that argument. But let’s hear what “hate” actually is for you. It would be wonderful if you could give some specific examples.

    To start of, here’s my example: is Peter Sprigg of FRC, in your opinion, hateful or not, when he calls for criminalization of same-sex sex? I presume he has a religious belief behind that stance, but I don’t know (and to be honest I don’t really care, unless it changes your opinion of whether he is being a hater).

    When he says this, I consider him a hater whether he would say it with a smile or with a sign like Westboro’s. What do you think of Peter Sprigg of FRC?

    (I think Fannie’s post about the Westboro Baptist’s new neighbors is perfect for continuing this conversation. But if you think your own post would be better, of course, you’d be in your right.)

  48. diane m says:

    @Myca – I think your 1:26 comment slides into sounding patronizing with the suggestion that we can call your innate moral sense God “if it helps” and some of the other wording. Perhaps you did not mean that, but I think it is a reasonable reading of your words.

    I think we are not going to agree on this but I do think the process you describe of people realizing the truth based on their good intuition is very faith based.

    @Matthew Kaal – your response is a good one and I think very caring, but in the end I think LGBT people should be able to seek a marriage partner. We should include single people in our communities, but to be told that you can never possibly have a husband or wife seems unfair to me.

  49. Teresa says:

    Matthew said:

    To submit to a teaching that precludes having a family of one’s own is a real sacrifice that millions of LGBT religious individuals (as well as single straight individuals) willing enter into, but in an ideal Christian community they find that they have brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, through the relationships they have with fellow Christians. My father and mother model this by being children to the elderly single people, widows, and widowers in their church who need someone to help with yard work, or to drive them to a doctor, or who simply never get taken out to lunch. My brother goes bass fishing with an elderly widower at his church every month, and shares a deep friendship with a man 60 years his senior. Here, in New York, I have never spent a significant religious holiday alone, because on the years where I can’t fly to be with my family, I have always been able to celebrate with fellow Christians by opening my home, or being invited to someone else’s apartment. That kinship is real and meaningful, and is a part of every healthy Christian church and community.

    Matthew, Anna J., Myca, Fannie, et. al., your point is well-taken as to what do pro-traditional marriage persons have to offer vis-a-vis ssm. This is the discussion that needs to take place. We need to offer something appealing to remaining single and chaste. It does not suffice to simply say … just do it. So, I understand very well the question, what do pro-traditional marriage persons have to offer to single persons (gay or straight).

    Being single has always been an afterthought, neglected state of life. It does not have the social privilege associated with being married: weddings, showers, children and their activities, anniversaries, tax breaks, nor think-tanks dedicated to being single.

    Being single today involves a huge number of persons. And, quite frankly, many married persons are going to end up single and alone. Here’s what a large population of older singles get into, post-marriage … alcoholism, drug addiction (Rx), gambling, STD’s, endless TV watching, being snow birds considering only their comfort.

    Singles are viewed by married persons as having endless time, vast money, and having all the fun. Oh, and btw, we could do the volunteer work … code, do the stuff married folks don’t want to do.

    Matthew, it’s quite nice your family is involved with some single, older persons. This whole issue of being single (gay, straight, widowed) looms large for the baby-boomers: the soon to be single, older persons. Churches seem not to have noticed, we’re here … everywhere. I have no idea what an ideal Christian community even looks like, Matthew.

    I’ve been reflecting what can we do community-wise with our single state. How do those of us who are single; by choice, happenstance, religious views, outliving our married spouses … what can we do to support traditional marriage, what can we bring to the common good, how can we serve our neighbor … how can we do these things in some communal way to sustain our own spiritual and emotional needs. It shouldn’t be seen as something you just fall into, or you have to do … just because. It should be a life of joy with commitment to service.

  50. Teresa says:

    Myca asked:

    I’d love to have a thread where we could discuss this. Matthew, when you have a chance, would you like to turn your response into a full-on post?

    I second Myca’s question, Matthew. Can we discuss the positive goods that single life can be, and how we can achieve those goods: how we can build community as singles, as our family … that we then can support and help others.