Radioactive Traditionalism

Strange things happen when I get out of bed before 9 AM on a Saturday. For example, today I read a blog entry by Ross Don’tDoThat, in which he speaks to Enforcers of Tradition who are concerned about how hard they will lose the battle over same-sex marriage.

I mostly agree with these sentiments, but I do have one flicker of doubt about them. Unless something dramatic changes in the drift of public opinion, the future of religious liberty on these issues is going to depend in part on the magnanimity of gay marriage supporters — the extent to which they are content with political, legal and cultural victories that leave the traditional view of marriage as a minority perspective with some modest purchase in civil society, versus the extent to which they decide to use every possible lever to make traditionalism as radioactive in the America of 2025 as white supremacism or anti-Semitism are today. And I can imagine a scenario in which a more drawn-out and federalist march to “marriage equality in 50 states,” with a large number of (mostly southern) states hewing to the older definition for much longer than the five years that gay marriage advocates currently anticipate, ends up encouraging a more scorched-earth approach to this battle, with less tolerance for the shrinking population of holdouts, and a more punitive, “they’re getting what they deserve” attitude toward traditionalist religious bodies in particular. If religious conservatives are, in effect, negotiating the terms of their surrender, it’s at least possible that those negotiations would go better if they were conducted right now, in the wake of a Roe v. Wade-style Supreme Court ruling, rather than in a future where the bloc of Americans opposed to gay marriage has shrunk from the current 44 percent to 30 percent or 25 percent, and the incentives for liberals to be magnanimous in victory have shrunk apace as well.

Teal Deer translation: Mr. Douthat’s fellow travelers are concerned that the longer the battle over marriage equality rages on,  the more the “family values” contingent will be seen as contemptible bigots on par with white supremacists and Jew-haters. They sense themselves to be at the mercy of liberal magnanimity.

I can see how they would be nervous, as the traditionalist faction has long been extremely non-magnanimous towards sexual minorities and their families.

I’m not exactly sure what they are afraid will happen if we have to fight too long and hard for the right to marriage equality in all fifty states. Pastors will not be dragged out of their pulpits. Traditionalist churches will not be shut down. We’re not going to plant equality signs on the lawns of conservative households and set them on fire in the night. Children of conservative parents will not be bullied at school the way LGBT children are bullied now. We don’t even intend to coerce traditionalist houses of worship to officiate same-sex weddings. Couples want to be married by officiants who don’t hate them. It is not in any couple’s interests to say their vows in front of a pastor who would rather be anywhere else.

No matter what happens at the end of this fight, the consequences for Enforcers of Tradition will not be nearly as dire as the actual, real-life persecution that’s been inflicted on sexual minorities for decades just for being who they are.

With that in mind, if the Enforcers of Tradition want us liberals to be magnanimous in victory, perhaps they could start by showing a bit of magnanimity themselves. If “tradition” is used to mean hate and persecution, then it deserves to become radioactive.

Now is the time for mockery.

The mushroom cloud of insanity from the Enforcers of Tradition has arrived, as we expected. There’s nothing in there that’s interesting or surprising; it’s a lot of frothing about slippery slopes, religious “freedom,” the primacy of procreation and the significance of procedure. I see a lot of fist-beating about the evils of the Supreme Court doing their jobs, including from the Supreme Court judges. Maggie Gallagher is her usual petulant self:

Kennedy’s decision is not law, it is Justice Kennedy’s moral values written into our Constitution, and interfering with our rights as Americans to pass laws that accord with our values on marriage.” Kennedy’s decision is the Roe v. Wade of this generation, not this generation’s Brown v. the Board of Educations,” said Gallagher, “Like Roe, stepped in to disenfranchise millions of voters’ concerns to tilt unfairly the scale of justice controversial moral issue trending in a liberal direction. But like Roe the deep questions involved in marriage will not simply go away: At the heart of the gay marriage argument is an untruth: unions of two men or women are not the same as unions of husband and wife; The law cannot make it so, it can only require us to paint pretty pictures to cover up deep truths embedded in human nature.

Anger is not good for Ms. Gallagher’s grammar.

What is the difference, really, between Brown v. Board and Roe v. Wade? Other than that Maggie likes the Brown decision and disagrees with Roe? Abortion rights, like same-sex marriage is a liberal direction that she opposes, whereas school integration is a liberal idea that doesn’t bother her. If she had been an adult who watched the news in 1954, however, she would have been marching in the streets along with the pissed-off white people who wouldn’t stand for those children to be allowed in their schools. She’s hardly even trying to hide it anymore; the unfairness is that the SCOTUS didn’t give her what she wanted. I might even be charitable enough to suggest that she doesn’t understand what the role of the court system is in government, but she understands as much as she wants to. NOM and all the rest of the anti-equality movement are happy to go through any process that gets them the policies they want. They don’t want the courts to stay out of the law; they want the courts to acquiesce to the demands of their movement.

On a sort-of related note, do you ever notice how the “defenders of traditional marriage” have a lot of overlap with womb-controllers? Look, “family values” folks: If all fertile women were exclusively lesbian, there would be hardly any abortions. One might get the impression that you all don’t really care about “life” or “family” so much as punishing people who enjoy sex more than you do.


Are they marching you to the courthouse at gunpoint for your arranged gay marriage?

Since the Unholy Cabal of Activist Judges have forced us to redefine marriage for the very first time, I have decided to assemble an anthology of people’s experiences with the End of American Society As We Know It. If you’ve been forced into a same-sex partnership, seen your hetero marriage dissolve without warning, had your children run away from you as they discover that children actually don’t need a mom and dad, or experienced a sudden, implacable impulse to marry the family goldfish, I want to see your story. (Right after I marry my boyfriend’s cat. Jack is a sexy beast.) See my authoring blog for details. And if you’re interested in my writing, why not follow that blog, too?

If you don’t want to be called a bigot, then don’t act like Maggie Gallagher.

I read a piece by Maggie Gallagher regarding same-sex marriage (what else?) so you don’t have to. For those not acquainted with the grammar of Reactionary Wingnut, I will translate her word salad into accessible English.

The question, from a reader, is:

I have yet to hear a satisfying explanation for why same-sex couples must be excluded from the institution of marriage, but infertile couples or couples that are legally incapable of having children (e.g. incarceration) should not be excluded.

Right? We haven’t heard a satisfying explanation for why gay couples getting married = doom, while straight infertile/post-menopausal couples getting married are totally hunky dory. We haven’t heard a satisfying explanation because NOM and other Enforcers of Tradition haven’t given one.

So, this is Maggie Gallagher’s reiterated explanation for why same-sex couples are totally different from non-babymaking straight couples. Ready?


I have made this argument repeatedly.  I understand you either disagree with it or can’t hear it.

“I’ve puked up the same talking points so many times! Why do they keep on telling us our positions make no sense?!”


Childless and older couples are part of the natural lifecycle of marriage.  Their presence in the mix doesn’t imply anything about the relationship between marriage and procreation. They’ve always been there.

“They’ve always been there. Childless straight couples must be allowed to marry because they already are. Gay and lesbian couples are accustomed to being excluded, so it won’t hurt them to keep being excluded.”


I went around saying for years “marriage matters because children need a mom and a dad.” Nobody ever said: that’s not true because infertile couples can marry. Never, not once. Sexual union of male and female who are co-parents in itself points to affirms, and regulates an ideal.

“We didn’t have to start talking about the logic of letting childless couples be married until those uppity queers wanted in on the action! Now we have to say things like, if gay couples can get married, then straight parents will start abandoning their kids en masse, and it’s making us look silly.”


Whereas two men, if married, clearly clearly state that either the ideal for a child is not a mom and a dad or that marriage has nothing important or integral to do with that ideal.  When anyone says children need a mom and dad now, the response is a powerful rejection from gay marriage advocates:  that’s a discriminatory idea that has been disproved by science.  The logic of marriage equality has a real cultural force.

“Waaaaa! I don’t wanna hear about your ‘science’ or ‘evidence’ that kids raised by same-sex couples do just fine! You’re hurting my feelings, you big meanie!”


I think that is playing out in the rapid abandonment of the idea that marriage is related to children among the young.  I can’t prove it because cultural logic while a powerful force is hard to translate into social science evidence.

I can provide evidence but not proof.

“I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m just throwing my hands at the keyboard here.”


If we cared seriously about marriage’s role in regulating childbearing, we would not be disrupting this norm on behalf of the maybe one-half of one percent of the population (and that is generous) who wants to enter this institution.  It cannot remain the same institution, as many gay marriage scholars have acknowledged, any more than a boy’s school can admit girls and remain a boy’s school.

“Marriage has always been a boy’s school and must remain a boy’s school, because I say so. Anyway, the gays are just a teensy minority, so who really cares if they’re treated like second-class citizens?”


Marriage equality is going to be used primarily to enforce the new moral norm: no differences between straight and gay can matter.  Or as Think Progress put it recently “At a basic level, it’s logically impossible to say that heterosexuality is better — or should be the norm — compared to homosexuality without simultaneously stating that homosexuality is worse — or abnormal. Either all people are equal in society or they are not; she cannot have her straights-only wedding cake and eat it stigma-free.”

“If the pro-equality people win (as they have won several states already), then I will no longer be able to say straight couples are inherently better than same-sex couples and not be called a bigot. Also, if you step on a crack, you’ll break your mother’s back.”


It is possible to affirm an ideal without stigmatizing the alternatives–to affirm in the positive without pushing the negative.  But gay marriage advocates insist that any affirmation of the ideal represents a denigration of them, no matter how expressed.

“All we’re doing is saying that same-sex parents are no good for kids, and that such couples shouldn’t have access to the legal rights of marriage! Why do they have to treat us like the bad guys?!”


We see it happening all around us while you say you cannot see it at all. Hmm, interesting.  why do you think that’s so?

If I weren’t curious I would be crushed.  So that’s a real question not a snarky comeback.

“If you keep disagreeing with me, I won’t let you sit at my lunch table anymore.”


Really, REALLY Bad Arguments Against Marriage Equality

My attention was drawn to…THIS, today. It kind of makes me feel sorry for the opposition. Maybe, kind of, almost. If I’m inarticulate, it’s because reading this has caused me to lose brain cells.

For Charles Cooper, the lawyer defending Proposition 8, California’s gay-marriage ban, the worst moment of the proceedings probably came when Elena Kagan zeroed in on the most consistent and conspicuous weakness in the anti-gay-marriage case, namely that the unchanging purpose of marriage is procreation. (And in that purpose lies the state’s constitutionally defensible rationale—something above mere animus towards gays and lesbians—for excluding them from the institution.) Cooper had been explaining his side’s concern “that redefining marriage as a genderless institution will sever its abiding connection to its historical traditional procreative purpose” and “refocus” it—away from children and toward “the emotional needs and desires of adults.” Suppose, Justice Kagan asked Cooper, that a state were to pass a law saying it would no longer give marriage licenses to heterosexual couples in which both people were over fifty-five. Would that be constitutional? No, said Cooper. But why not, Kagan persisted, if gay couples could be constitutionally denied marriage rights for the reasons he stated? Cooper mustered a rather weak empiricism: “Even with respect to couples over the age of fifty-five, it’s very rare that both parties to the couple are infertile”; men, he said, “rarely outlive their fertility.” Kagan was skeptical. “I can assure you that if both the woman and the man are over the age of fifty-five there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage,” she said, eliciting the biggest laugh of the morning.

I’m so sorry that I wasn’t sitting next to Justice Kagan. It would have been so, so much fun to ask Mr. Cooper to elaborate.

Dude…are you aware that a post-menopausal heterosexual couple is not HALF-fertile? If the woman can’t get pregnant, then she and her husband, together, are not fertile AT ALL. A heterosexual relationship involving a woman who has outlived her menstrual cycles is not a procreative one. Honestly, young lesbian couples make more babies than 55-year-old straight couples. You see, Mr. Cooper, the role of the uterus in reproduction is absolutely essential and non-fungible. It’s all or nothing, and it’s very costly to the body. Sperm, on the other hand, is not that difficult to acquire!

NOM is perfectly pathetic.

Via Dan Savage, we have this hilariously petulant, oblivious declaration of digging-in-heels by NOM. I knew there had to be a response by the anti-equality side to the fact that marriage equality is now winning on ballot initiatives. You see, when a state Supreme Court rules that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry, that doesn’t count because courts are undemocratic; it needs to be moved to the legislature. If the legislature passes a bill for civil marriage to be extended to same-sex couples, that doesn’t count because the legislature is ignoring the will of the people. It needs to be settled by voter referendum.

So…what happens when three states put same-sex marriage on the ballot, and all three states say YES?

It means NOM is going to move the goalposts back to the “because we said so” position. In Brian Brown’s own words:

Obviously we are very disappointed in losing four tough election battles by narrow margins. We knew long ago that we faced a difficult political landscape with the four marriage battles occurring in four of the deepest-blue states in America. As our opponents built a huge financial advantage, the odds became even steeper. We ran strong campaigns and nearly prevailed in a very difficult environment, significantly out-performing the GOP ticket in every state.

Despite the fact that NOM was able to contribute a record amount to the campaigns (over $5.5 million), we were still heavily outspent, by a margin of at least four-to-one. We were fighting the entirety of the political establishment in most of the states, including sitting governors in three of the states who campaigned heavily for gay marriage. Our opponents and some in the media will attempt to portray the election results as a changing point in how Americans view gay marriage, but that is not the case. Americans remain strongly in favor of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states.

Though we are disappointed over these losses, we remain faithful to our mission and committed to the cause of preserving marriage as God designed it. Marriage is a true and just cause, and we will never abandon the field of battle just because we experienced a setback. There is much work to do, and we begin that process now.

*blogger pours herself a cocktail* Where to begin?

If we’re going to make civil marriage rights a state-by-state deal, then the fight will sometimes land in the “deepest-blue” states with lots of us filthy liberals who seem to think same-sex relationships are worthy of equal recognition under the law, or something. We are not the people that NOM was trying to get to the polls, but we are tax-paying Americans and our votes do count. What happens in Maine, Maryland and Washington is a valid part of what happens in America.

If there’s a thesis to Mr. Brown’s crossed-arms-over-chest stance, it’s this sentence here:

The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states.

He wants his supporters to understand that the breakthrough in ballot results has nothing to do with Americans changing their minds about same-sex marriage and everything to do with the proponents of the Homosexual Lifestyle getting the governors on their side and spending tons of money on ad campaigns.

You do realize, Mr. Brown, that the ballot initiatives won because of the number of individual voters who went to the polls and voted Yes on the initiatives?

When you spend money on campaigns for political issues, you do not buy the votes themselves. You buy the opportunity to send your message to the voters. The money doesn’t pay the voters. The purpose of a campaign is to influence the voters’ opinions and motivate them to show up at the polls. It cannot overwhelm the voters’ opinions or coerce opponents to stay home.

With the state political establishments, the governors can encourage the lawmakers to pass certain legislation, but civil marriage wasn’t allowed to stay with the legislature, was it? The governor is taking a risk with his career by pushing for marriage equality. The voters are not compelled to vote for equality because their governors want it.

Greater political funding can have better influence over elections in two ways: more convincing ads, more coverage. A more expensive ad is not necessarily a more persuasive one, but it helps to have some money to throw at production and talent. There are many ways that political ads can persuade, and they’re not required to be truthful. If you want to get people to vote a certain way by lying to them, you’ll probably get away with it. Your opponent can purchase air time to counter your lies, but they can’t make the viewers un-hear the lies.

Whether your campaign uses fact-based ads with convincing arguments, or lies and paranoia, the voters have to be convinced before they’ll vote your way. Emotional appeals may fall under the category of “convincing arguments,” though they can rely on compassion or prejudice.

The extent that political funding yields the desired result is a function of the extent to which the voters are convinced and motivated by the campaign. It is possible to out-spend your opponent and still lose.

Therefore, if the higher spending of the pro-equality side is responsible for the positive results, it is because those highly-funded campaigns successfully caused many voters to change their minds.

Now, perhaps NOM thinks that if they pour tons of money into more campaigns, they can get more states to entrench unequal marriage in 2014. There may be a few states that haven’t yet weighed in, but if NOM thinks they can get the states already on Team Gay Marriage to change their minds, I suspect they’ll be throwing their money away. Meanwhile, more and more people in the more conservative states will notice that gay marriage has been legal in an expanding portion of the country for years, and the sky isn’t falling.

Just for fun, here are Question 6 results by county.


“Struggle to explain how they lost”?

Zinnia Jones explains just how important it is that marriage equality made gains in state ballot initiatives this year. This is what I’ve been thinking, but she goes into further detail:

State-level gay marriage bans have a long, ugly, depressing history. Until now, the result was completely predictable whenever it was put to a popular vote: we lost. 30 to 0. Then 31 to 0. Then 32 to 0. It had become a crushing regularity for us, and our opponents knew it. This became their talking point: “every time same-sex marriage is on the ballot, the people vote against it.” And it hurt because of how true it was. It wasn’t entirely unexpected when North Carolina and Maine were the most recent states to vote against equality. But when California passed Proposition 8, that really stunned us. If even the people of California wouldn’t vote in favor of gay marriage, then who would?

I remember that talking point’s role in the debates.

It was part warning, part jeer. It was about telling us both that we were wrong, and that it wouldn’t matter if we were right because they’d beat us anyway.

The implication was that the popular vote was the only thing that counted, that marriage equality wasn’t legitimate unless it passed a voter referendum. And since no voter referendum had yet broken in favor of equality, that supposedly meant same-sex marriage was un-American.

The thing is, people can change their minds over time.

So, when the Maryland legislature passed a bill for same-sex marriage, the Enforcers of Tradition started promising to put the matter to a voter referendum this year, thinking that would take care of THAT little slip-up.

Meanwhile, the discussion of civil marriage raged on, the Really Bad Arguments were taken apart, and the polls showed increases in support for equality with each passing year.

So when we had pro-equality legislation, followed by yet another vow to put civil rights up to a popular vote, I looked around my state and I said, “You know what, homophobes? Bring it on! Let’s do this!”

Sure, they put civil marriage rights on the ballot. In the meantime, President Obama went on-record saying gay couples should be able to get married. I suspect that helped.

I thought this would be the year when Maryland would be the first state to uphold marriage equality by a popular vote.

It’s even better that we’re tied with Washington and Maine.

This is the year, not only that SSM was able to win the popular vote at the state level, but that it did so in three states at once, AND another state voted not to let their ban on SSM get any worse. This is the year that there were multiple victories for equality and NO LOSSES.

For the first time – ever – they’re the ones who are left reeling the day after. They’re the ones who will have to struggle to explain how they lost.

I don’t think it should be a struggle to explain at all. They lost because there are no good reasons to deny civil marriage to same-sex couples. The longer we fight over the issue, the more obvious it becomes to more people that the case against is made of paranoia, bad history, superstition and bigotry. They lost because they’re wrong.


Get your ass to the polls, Maryland!

To all my fellow Marylanders who have not yet voted (I’m going after work tonight)—

This is an election that counts.

Not just because of Obama vs. Romney; our state reliably breaks blue, but it breaks blue because of the number of liberal Marylanders who go to the polls and vote for Democrats.

However, the state ballot initiatives do not depend on the electoral college.

This is the year when we vote on marriage equality in our state. Every vote counts.

If Question 6 wins, some people will benefit and no one will be harmed.

If Question 6 is defeated, no one will benefit and some people will be harmed.

“But, but, but, my religious freedom—!”

—will not be affected.

The bill explicitly protects religious groups from providing any service that goes against their beliefs. When same-sex couples want to get married, there are plenty of supportive celebrants who are willing to officiate. The ones who would have to hold their noses through gay weddings will be left the hell alone.

Now, think of how it would feel if your fellow citizens were voting on YOUR right to marry the person you love. (The reaction that comes to mind is: “WTF?!”)

Let’s do this, folks. Let’s answer this question so it doesn’t need to be asked again.


Jamila Bey Caught in the Commission of Journalism

Hemant Mehta shows us this incident in which the Rev. William Owens of the Coalition of African-American Pastors made the mistake of opening up the topic of “Biblical marriage” in front of an audience which included Jamila Bey. The press conference was supposed to be about CAAP’s opposition to marriage equality. Rev. Owens is a consultant to NOM. He acts like he isn’t accustomed to actually answering questions.

Bey: Reverend, What is God’s position on polygamy?

Owens: [Glares] Well, I think you know that. This is not about polygamy. This is about same-sex marriage.

Bey: This is about your — I need you to define for me, please, the Biblical definition of marriage–

Owens: The Biblical definition of marriage is a marriage between a man and a woman. And I’m not going to–

Bey: But Reverend–

Owens: I’m not going to get on another track!

Bey: … Talk to me about Abraham’s marriage.

Owens: Madam. Next question! Next question.

Bey: Reverend, what is God’s position on polygamy?

Owens: Next question!

Bey: Reverend, what is God’s position on polygamy?

Owens: Are you, are you going to stand there and just demand that I answer your question? This is not about polygamy. This is about same-sex marriage… and I will NOT do any different.

Bey: Reverend, you said that you would answer questions about Biblical marriage.

Owens: [To security] Would you have this lady removed?

Look at that again: “Are you going to stand there and just demand that I answer your question?” Why, yes, Rev. Owens! It’s called being a journalist. If you bring up “Biblical marriage,” as if the Bible is a helpful guide to well-adjusted family life, then you should be prepared for someone to ask about polygamy. This is especially important given how much energy the anti-equality side puts into comparing SSM to polygamy, or sounding the alarm that marriage equality will put us on a slippery slope to polygamy, bestiality and state-sanctioned incest. In light of the environment which the pro-patriarchy side has created, one should know better than to bring out the Good Book as a defense of enforced heterosexual monogamy. The Reverend just walked right into it.