Tag: Same Sex Marriage

Court Season

The Supreme Court is set to issue a number of landmark ruling this month (saving them for the end of the session, as usual). You can read Doug Mataconis or Evan Bernick for good conservative takes. I’ll do quick hits with how I think the Court will rule and how I think the should rule. And, of course, as each ruling comes down, I’ll put up a post.

The thing about the Roberts Court is that they are very conservative. Not in the political sense, but in the temperamental one. They prefer not to make broad sweeping decisions that upend masses of law and precedent. They tend to defer to legislatures. They like to rule narrowly and specifically. Roberts works very hard to build consensus (see last year’s slew of 9-0 decisions). They have been slow to defend civil liberties except for the First Amendment. So while I expect some landmark decisions, I don’t expect any that will radically reshape the law.

I do expect, however, to hear the losing side of several cases scream that the Court has exercised unprecedented power, set fire to the Constitution and brought plagues of locusts. Whichever side they oppose will be acting in a purely partisan fashion while their side are zealous defenders of the faith. You can decide if that hysteria is warranted.


The Avalanche Has Already Started; It Is Too Late for the Pebbles to Vote

The dam has broken. No matter what our opinions might be of it, gay marriage is becoming a fact of life. On the heels of recent decisions by either judges or legislatures in Hawaii, Oklahoma, Nevada, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Arkansas, Idaho and Oregon, a judge in Pennsylvania today struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. That’s the fourth court victory for gay marriage advocates just this month. And this one, complete with a long and forceful opinion, was issued by a Bush 43 appointee whose appointment to the federal bench was approved by none other than Rick Santorum. (Judge Jones also wrote a long and stirring opinion against teaching creationism in public schools in Kitzmiller v. Dover). That makes 19 states where gay marriage is either legal or has won a recent court victory.

There is simply no putting this genie back in the bottle. Some of those overturns may be reversed by higher courts. Some may be turned over to referendums again. But even those are unlikely to pass. As I said when the Republican Party was pushing a wave of anti-gay-marriage amendments in 2004, their urgency was because they could see that they were losing support. It was then or never. The tide stopped in 2012 when Minnesota turned back an amendment in a tough battle. Now it has turned and is roaring back out to sea. California’s Prop 8 would not pass now. Some of the redder states would be able to keep it illegal, but even there, support is crumbling. Within ten years, gays will be probably be able to marry almost everywhere in this country. Maybe even less. This issue is basically dead (although, as I argued with the Brendan Eich case, I would prefer that people not gloat about it).

There is one question that sill lingers in mind however: whether this issue will haunt the Republican Party down the road. I’ve spoken of this before:

Back in the 1970′s, the GOP stepped back from their previous support for civil rights to support the so-called “Southern Strategy”: an effort to woo segregationists from the Democrats. The idea was not to embrace segregation, per se, but to jump on racially sensitive issues like welfare to build a power base in the South.

While it managed to get a few politicians to defect (Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond), it never really helped their electoral prospects. In Presidential races, they won the whole country in 1972, lost the South in 1976 and 1980, won the whole country in 1984 and 1988, split the South in 1992 and 1996. It was only in the mid-90′s that the South turned and, by that point, no one gave a crap about segregation issues. The turn was over economic issues. And by 2008, Barack Obama was able to dominate the South in the primaries and compete in the general election, winning three states.

Just to clarify this point: the Republicans took the South because the South was always conservative. The only reason the South hadn’t voted Republican up until the 90’s was because of the Democratic Party’s century-long history of racist politics. Growing up in Atlanta, I knew people whose family had never voted Republican. When George Allen was elected to the Virginia legislature, he was one of only a handful of Republicans. When the South went red in 1994, Republicans were winning elections in Southern states for the first time since the Civil War. The South was always conservative. They were going to go Republican eventually. It was only Johnson’s management of the Wallace faction that kept it blue for so long.

However, the Southern Strategy did have one palpable effect: both on its own and through liberal harping about it, the Southern Strategy alienated black voters to the point where the GOP is lucky to poll in single digits. This is despite a fair amount of conservatism among blacks, who are heavily pro-life and pro-school choice. P.J. O’Rourke said that Clinton’s popularity among blacks was because he allowed them to vote for a Republican without throwing up.

In the 40’s and 50’s, Republicans routinely drew support among black voters in the 20-30% range. If that trend had continued, more than a few elections would have gone differently.

I’m afraid the GOP is going down the same path again with their stance on gay issues. The country is shifting rapidly on these issues, especially among young voters — much more rapidly than it did on racial issues. Huge majorities oppose DADT, including a majority of conservatives. Gay marriage is closing in on majority support and large majorities favor at least civil unions. And barring gay adoption or gay sex simply isn’t on the radar for any but the most ardent cultural conservatives. Yet the entire GOP field supports DADT and DOMA, most favor the Marriage Amendment and Santorum favors just about every anti-gay measure you can think of.

Some of this support is in name only — the FMA, for example, has zero change of happening. But their vocal support for these policies is going to come back to bite them and probably not too far in the future. As more gays come out of the closet, as more people have gay friends and relatives, as more gays get married and have kids and as the world fails to end despite this, people are going to remember where the GOP was on this. People with gay kids are going to remember that the Rick Santorum wanted to deny their in-laws and take away their grandkids. People whose lives were saved by gay soldiers will realize they would have died had DADT been in place.

We are going to pay for this crap. And we are going to pay and pay and pay (literally, given the spending habits of the Democrats).

My fears have only strengthened in the three years since I wrote those words. While a number of Republicans have broken ranks — showing much more political courage than any Democrats, incidentally — I still fear that gay marriage will go down in history as a faint echo of the Southern Strategy debacle. A faint echo because the Republican opposition was at least partially built on principle. It was clear in 2004 that many Republicans were uncomfortable with their gay marriage position (you may remember a leaked phone call where Bush talked about how much he disliked taking the position) and that this was, at least in part, a cold political calculus from Karl Rove who thought opposing gay marriage would win a tough election. But most of the opposition was a principled opposition to changing one of the pillars of our civilization.

(The echo should be even fainter because Democrats opposed gay marriage until it became politically safe not to. But Democrats are never held to any standard, let alone the ones that Republicans are held to. Republicans still get beat up over their short-lived Southern Strategy; Democrats are absolved from their century-long embrace of Jim Crow.)

Still, I think the analogy holds. It will not be forgotten that Republicans were the face of the opposition to gay marriage and that the remaining opposition is from Republicans. Will this hurt them enough to matter in an election? There are a lot fewer gays than there are blacks and they are not as unified electorally. But considering how close some elections have been, it’s entirely possible that this will hurt us down the road, especially as the young people who support gay marriage today become the political force of tomorrow.

Eich Out

A few days ago, OKCupid’s website tried to persuade people to stop using Firefox. Contrary to reports, the site did not “block” Firefox. If you browsed there, you got a message saying they did not want people to use Firefox because Firefox’s CEO — Brendan Eich — had given $1000 to the Proposition 8 campaign. But you could still click through. Today, he resigned under intense pressure.

You guys know that I support gay marriage and opposed Proposition 8. But this action makes me deeply uncomfortable.

It’s odd. In isolation, none of the elements in this particularly bother me. Mozilla is a private company and can fire their CEO for whatever reason they want. I seem to have to repeat this every time someone is fired for a dumb remark, editorial or tweet, but Eich’s first amendment rights have not been violated. If Mozilla wanted to stay away from the controversy, that’s their right and, one might argue, their duty. OKCupid can refuse to do business with a company they don’t like and can call out people who advocate views they disagree with.

But the combination of events here is bothersome. The more I think about it, the more I dislike hounding out political opponents like this and dislike a company caving in so fast. Eich was not spearheading the Prop 8 campaign. He wasn’t a politician opposing gay marriage and supporting DOMA (as the President did until relatively recently). He’s just someone who doesn’t think gays should be allowed to marry and gave some of his own money to the cause. There are probably millions in the country who have given money, time and effort to advance views I disagree with or even find repugnant. I don’t think they should be publicly shunned for it.

It’s not like Eich was advocating rounding up gays or sending them to pray-away-the-gay camps. He was supporting a cause that the majority of the people, the entirety of the Republican Party, the vast majority of the Democratic Party and the future President of the United States agreed with. He wasn’t even remotely outside the mainstream. He’s still not outside of it as opposition to gay marriage is still the majority view in parts of the country and a very strong minority in the rest.


Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.


The trends on same-sex marriage are quite obvious to everyone. In the polls, at the ballot box, and in the Courts, the argument for marriage equality is winning the day and it is only a matter of time at this point before same-sex marriage is recognized in every state in the nation. Given that, one does have to wonder just how much of a victory dance those of us on the winning side need to do. Is it really necessary to make everyone who disagreed with us pay the price for that disagreement?

I understand that the Prop 8 fight was demoralizing and hurtful to many gay people and their supporters. I understand that they might want to hold responsible those who pushed it forward. Fine. But going after a man who gave $1000 to the cause seems an odd place to start holding people responsible.

Look, in an open society, people can be held responsible for their political views. I get that. But where does this end? Tens of millions of people opposed and oppose gay marriage. Thousands, perhaps millions, donated time and money to support laws and amendments against it. Are they all to be called out like this? Are we to check all the CEO’s to make sure they are ideologically pure?

I’ve never liked boycotts even when the company involved is doing something I don’t like. But now we’re supposed to boycott companies because of the political beliefs of their employees? I seem to keep saying this but must we politicize everything? Must we dig through every company and make sure they didn’t give a donation to Slay the Whales or something? Must we, like Mother Jones laughably did, pore through a company’s 401k options to see if there are companies there we don’t like or that disagree with their views? (I’ll pause a moment for you to stomach the hypocrisy of Mother Jones — recently called out for paying their interns sub-minimum wage — complaining about someone else’s labor practices).

Screw this. No one should live their life in fear that their political views will fall out of favor and they’ll be hounded out of public life. And no one should spend their life checking every app to make sure it wasn’t written by Obamacare supporters. If you want to do some good in the political world, concentrate on what is going on right now. Concentrate on those who hold power right now. Gay marriage is still illegal in most of the country. I think gay rights activists would be far better off focusing their energy on that than on shaming those who have already been defeated.

Portman v. Clinton

Last week, Senator Rob Portman announced that he now supports gay marriage. He said the impetus for this was when his son came out to him. According to him, it opened his eyes on the issue and he now believes that gays should have full marital rights. Portman has been criticized a bit from the Right but also from the Left. One of Sullivan’s readers claims that his switch shows a lack of empathy because he didn’t sympathize with gay people until he knew one. Sullivan (and I) disagree. These are difficult moral and legal issues. People’s feelings about them are complex. Sometimes something like your son coming out can make you re-examine your beliefs.

Today, Hillary Clinton came out in favor of gay marriage. And, by contrast, the Left are praising her conversion. Dan Savage:

And Hillary backed marriage equality today because it’s the right thing to do for all kids, not just for her kid.


Hillary, like Obama, has always supported gay marriage or at least supported it for a very long time. Her announcement today was not because she did some soul searching. It was not because she wanted to take a bold political stance. It happened because she put her finger to the wind, realized things had changed and “came out” to what she has believed for a long time. Do you think it’s just a coincidence that this announcement came on the same day a new poll showed majority support for gay marriage?

That’s better than what Rob Portman did? Let’s think about this. For many years, Hillary has thrown her political allies, her personal friends and her supporters under the bus in order to run for office because she knew that supporting gay marriage was a political liability. She believed in gay marriage. She could have led the push. But instead, like her President, she cowered behind the polls (Bill Clinton has also tacked to the Left on this, penning an op-ed in opposition to the DOMA law he signed).

That’s “the right thing to do for all kids”? The cold political calculus that the Democrats engaged in for years is superior to Rob Portman expressing his honest opinion on the matter and the honest reasons why his opinion changed? Look, I know the politicians sometimes have to take views they oppose for political reasons. But let’s not pretend it’s anything but cynical.

Keep something in mind while you weigh this: coming out in favor of gay marriage is much more politically risky for Portman than it is for Clinton or Obama. In fact, it isn’t risky for Obama and Clinton at all: it’s required if they want to maintain support in the Democratic Party, where support for gay marriage is now a whopping 72%. Republican support for gay marriage is 34%. Portman is hurting himself by changing his opinion. Clinton isn’t. Portman is, in fact, showing the kind of political courage that Clinton and Obama never could. He could no longer look his kid in the eye and oppose gay marriage. For years, Clinton and Obama looked everyone’s kid in the eye and opposed gay marriage.

Alex touched on this in his post and it’s a point constantly worth repeating: Obama (and Clinton) are held to a much lower standard than everyone else. Rob Portman has taken on a big political risk because a family member made him rethink his position on a touchy issue. Obama and Clinton have stopped throwing their own supporters under the bus because they can now safely say what they thought all the time. Which of these is political courage and which of these is political cowardice? It’s pretty clear to me. But then I’m not afflicted with Obama Worship Syndrome.

Or the early stages of Clinton Worship Syndrome.

The Times They Are A-Changin’


The momentum continues to build for same sex marriage in Illinois.

On Wednesday, Pat Brady, chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, said he was putting his “full support” behind marriage equality legislation pending in Springfield.

“More and more Americans understand that if two people want to make a lifelong commitment to each other, government should not stand in their way,” Brady said. “Giving gay and lesbian couples the freedom to get married honors the best conservative principles. It strengthens families and reinforces a key Republican value – that the law should treat all citizens equally.”

“Importantly, the pending legislation would protect the freedom of religion,” Brady added. “No church or religious organization would ever be required to perform a union with which it disagrees.”

I’m actually not surprised. Gay marriage won in four elections this year and the tide has clearly turned, especially with young voters. Moreover, the tide is turning among conservatives, who see this as a way to better integrate gays into the broader society. The GOP is slowly moving toward a much more defensible position: allowing gay marriage while protecting the right of churches to define marriage as they see fit. There is a wedge here: the Obama Administration attacked the ministerial exemption last year and was soundly thrashed by a unanimous Supreme Court. With the ministerial exemption now resting on extremely solid constitutional footing, the GOP can pivot on marriage and allow it for those who want it.

This is yet another hopeful sign that the fever is breaking in the GOP and they are moving not necessarily toward moderation, per se, but toward a more practical and sensible approach to governing. If they can find a straddle that respects both sides of the culture wars — as this one seems to — it will allow them to make inroads in Democratic constituencies and defuse some of more contentious issues in politics.

But more important than that is that it’s a step toward getting government out of our private lives, for good or ill. For that lone, this is a good thing.

SCOTUS Bites on Prop 8

Batten down the hatches:

The Supreme Court will take up California’s ban on same-sex marriage, a case that could give the justices the chance to rule on whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals.

The justices said Friday they will review a federal appeals court ruling that struck down the state’s gay marriage ban, though on narrow grounds. The San Francisco-based appeals court said the state could not take away the same-sex marriage right that had been granted by California’s Supreme Court.

The court also will decide whether Congress can deprive legally married gay couples of federal benefits otherwise available to married people. A provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act limits a range of health and pension benefits, as well as favorable tax treatment, to heterosexual couples.

The cases probably will be argued in March, with decisions expected by late June.

Plenty of comment to come, I’m sure. I expect the Court will decide a little more narrowly than anyone wants. If they uphold the ban, it will be a “leave it to the states” type decision, not a striking down of gay marriage. If they strike Prop 8 down, it will probably be on a narrower basis than proclaiming that gays have the absolute right to marry. Given the composition of the Court, I expect a carefully-worded decision on the former with subsequent caterwauling. But, even as a gay marriage supporter, I would be fine with that decision. I think it would be a big mistake to impose marriage equality through judicial fiat. Let the people of California own up to their mistake and unpass Prop 8 when the time comes.

Obama On Marriage

Barack Obama today said he supports allowing gays to marry. While this is an important win for gay rights, I’m not terrifically impressed nor do I think it will have an impact on the election. Several media outlets are alleging that his “evolution” was more of a response to gay donors and bundlers threatening to withhold contributions (and good for them for holding his feet to the fire). But, more importantly, we all knew this is what Obama really thought. His pretense at opposing gay marriage didn’t fool anyone. All it did was make his supporters miserable and harm attempts to implement marriage equality on the state level.

It does show a measure of political courage to say this. And it’s important to do so after yesterday’s shameful vote in North Carolina. However, that courage pales in comparison to the political courage of the handful of Republicans who have supported gay marriage. A Democrat who supports gay marriage faces few consequences. A Republican who does so faces primary challenges, accusations of RINOism, pillorying by NOM and other Religious right bastions and, sometimes, big losses in campaign support.

So good on Obama. But not, you know, that good on him.

3 of 9 on 8

Well, this should get interesting:

A federal appeals court in California has upheld a lower court’s ruling that Proposition 8, the state’s ban on gay marriage, is unconstitutional.

In a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit announced its long-awaited ruling on Tuesday.

Proposition 8 was a 2008 ballot measure, approved by voters, that amended the state constitution to ban same-sex couples in California from getting married.

Walker’s initial ruling was disputed because he is gay. This one has two Democrat-appointed justices, so it will be disputed too. The next step will be a hearing by the entire court. But if the Courts continue to buy the argument that being allowed to marry is a right, I can’t see them upholding the ability of California’s to vote away a minority’s rights.

While I support allowing gays to marry, I would prefer the route taken be through the legislatures or ballots, not the courts. I realize that’s cold comfort to gays who want to get married. But if the Courts overturn a popularly-passed amendment, the screams about gay marriage being forced on us by judicial activism will never fade. Over-turning this by another ballot initiative will make the entire issue moot, even if it means that the right to marry is not shouted from the steps of the Supreme Court.

Still, grab some popcorn. It’s going to get fun.

Maddow Under Fire

Hmm. Not so fun when it happens to you, is it?

Following the announcement on Friday of same sex marriage legalization in New York, Rachel Maddow made a comment on her MSNBC show — a comment which invited a backlash Maddow could not have expected.

“Obama is against what just happened” she said, to express that the president had not supported marriage equality; something Maddow has pointed out numerous times. The MSNBC host is correct in so far as Obama has not lobbied in support of same sex marriage — his so-called “evolving” position on the issue has culminated in his calling New York’s vote “a good thing.” But Maddow’s comment invited a backlash on Twitter from Obama fans, and some of the criticism was heated.

Those of us who have criticized Obama know exactly what was thrown at her. She was accused of lying, accused of being a hater, accused of being racist — all because she happened to say something that was true, which is that Barack Obama has stated, multiple times, his opposition to gay marriage.

Leftie critics of Obama are surprised when his happens, even though they frequently engage in such invective themselves. Think Maddow will ponder this the next time she nods as some dim-bulb guest says the Obamacare opposition is fueled by racism?

Are those crickets I hear?