Snickers: only sometimes heteronormative

A number of people are up in arms about this Snickers commercial that ran during the Super Bowl:

If you haven’t read about the controversy, stop and think about it for a moment. Is this ad:

  1. Heteronormative / homo-hostile because it depicts homophobia, or
  2. Homo-positive because it depicts homophobia negatively

My money is actually on b). This ad depicts homophobia, but the protagonists are basically neanderthals: they’re unkempt, pudgy, working in a crappy garage on a crappy car, and evidently idiotic enough to rip out chunks of their own chest hair to demonstrate their heterosexuality. The ad is meant to be funny, and it’s meant to be funny because we’re supposed to laugh at these pathetic people. Laugh at them, not with them. Notice there’s a difference between depicting homophobia and conveying a homophobic message, which is why I’m trying to use the alternate terms of heteronormative, homo-hostile, or homo-positive.

When I saw the ad, I was surprised and happy that during the Super Bowl, homophobes were depicted as knuckle-dragging losers that we should all laugh at. I thought it was quite positive for the gay-rights movement.

Now, in fairness, this ad alone isn’t the whole story. This is the ad that ran during the Super Bowl, but Snickers had a bunch more material on their website with alternate endings featuring violence, and NFL players’ reactions to the ads (think: disgust at the idea of two men kissing).

I don’t approve in the slightest of any of the additional material; the violent endings promote the idea that violence is a rational outlet for homophobia, and showing NFL players grimacing uses national heroes to convey the idea that gay people are contemptible. But other bloggers have said it better than me; head over to AMERICAblog or Towelroad or This Modern World for discussion of the alternate endings and players’ reactions.

But, the Super Bowl ad itself, it seems to me, is thoroughly unobjectionable.

(mostly via)

Update: Jonathan Trenn makes a good point in a comment: to the extent that you identify with the two blue-collar males here, you may well be offended at the depiction of blue-collar men as brutish simpletons.

Washington ballot initiative proposed to restrict marriage to couples who procreate

I’ve been staring at this for a little while now, and I’m not sure what to think. On one hand, I think it might be a brilliant piece of “political street theater”. On the other hand, I think it may be futile.

The Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance (which, confusingly, is opposed to Washington State’s Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which restricts marriage to one man and one woman), is floating a ballot initiative that would restrict marriage in Washington State to only those couples who can, and do, produce children.

Why do such a crazy thing? Well, last July, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled, in Andersen v. King County, that Washington’s Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional. The court found that (among other things):

  • Washingtonians do not enjoy a fundamental freedom to marry any person they want
  • Because no fundamental right is implicated, the “rational basis” standard is applied when reviewing the gay marriage ban
  • Under that standard, the court must not strike down legislation if the legislature could have had any rational basis at all for passing it
  • “Procreation and child-rearing” are legitimate state interests
  • The legislature could have rationally believed that it is beneficial to children to be raised by opposite-sex couples
  • Because of this, the legislature could have rationally chosen to make marriage available only to those couples who could become opposite-sex parents
  • Because of this, the gay marriage ban embodied in the Defense of Marriage Act passes the “rational basis” test and is constitutional.

You can read more in my previous post on the matter. You can read the entire ruling online. Gay rights activists have been up in arms about the ruling, and I was very disappointed by it, as well.

Enter the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance. In order to highlight the absurdity of the Andersen ruling, they are carrying it to its logical conclusion and proposing a ballot initiative that restricts marriage only to opposite-sex couples who actually procreate.

As far as I can tell, the absurdity this highlights in the Andersen case goes something like this:

  • In Andersen, the court ruled that it was rational for the legislature to believe that children are best raised “in families consisting of a father, mother, and their biological children”.
  • Because of this, the court ruled that it was rational for the legislature not to make the institution of marriage available to gay couples, because doing so would not further the state’s interest in encouraging opposite-sex-parented-families.
  • It was raised at trial, but found not to be dispositive, that childless couples are not currently excluded from marriage. The court found that the legislature’s categorizations need not be perfect to be rational.

This all suggests, though, that the institution of marriage could be “tightened up” without ill effect. If the purpose of the marital institution is to provide a stable environment for the raising of children, childless couples need not be allowed access to it, just like gay couples need not be allowed access. In fact, allowing childless couples access to the institution is arbitrary and unfair. In the interests of fairness, childless couples should be excluded!

More from WA-DOMA:

Absurd? Very. But there is a rational basis for this absurdity. By floating the initiatives, we hope to prompt discussion about the many misguided assumptions which make up the Andersen ruling. By getting the initiatives passed, we hope the Supreme Court will strike them down as unconstitional and thus weaken Andersen itself. And at the very least, it should be good fun to see the social conservatives who have long screamed that marriage exists for the sole purpose of procreation be forced to choke on their own rhetoric.

Here is a flavor of the proposition, which is actually fairly lengthy. You can read the whole thing online. Bold are mine:

[...]
NEW SECTION. Sec. 5. A new section is added to chapter 26.04 RCW to read as follows:

(1) All couples married in this state shall have three years from the date of solemnization of the marriage, or eighteen months from the effective date of this act, whichever is later, to have filed with the state registrar of vital statistics or designated deputy registrar at least one certificate of marital procreation as described in section 11 of this act.

(2) Failure to comply with subsection (1) of this section shall result in the marriage being unrecognized as described in section 7 of this act, effective as of the midnight ending the time period described in subsection (1) of this section.

(3) A marriage that has become unrecognized pursuant to subsection (2) of this section shall remain unrecognized until the couple has complied with the requirements of subsection (1) of this section, or until the marriage is annulled in accordance with section 8 of this act, or until the marriage is dissolved for any other reason.

(4) The couple shall be subject to the penalties of section 7 (2) through (4) of this act for any marital benefits received during the time their marriage was unrecognized.

(5) Within fourteen days after the date described in subsection (1) of this section, the state registrar of vital statistics shall verify that at least one certificate of marital procreation has been filed for the married couple. In the absence of any such certificate, the registrar shall proceed in accordance with section 8 of this act.

[...]

NEW SECTION. Sec. 8. A new section is added to chapter 26.09 RCW to read as follows:

(1) When the state registrar of vital statistics determines that a marriage solemnized in this state has failed to produce offspring as described in section 5 of this act, he or she shall file a petition in the superior court of the county wherein the marriage license was filed requesting that the marriage be annulled on the grounds of failure to fulfill the purpose of marriage. This petition shall include the names and last known address of the husband and wife, the date of their marriage, the date of the deadline described in section 5(1) of this act, and a statement declaring that no certificates of marital procreation have been filed as required by law.

Did you get all that? Married couples get three years to make good on what is, after all, the “purpose of marriage”. Since marriage is (evidently) all about raising children, the rule is simple: no children, no marriage. It’s hard to argue with the logic. Like I said up top, though, I’m not sure if this is brilliant or counterproductive. On the one hand, thoughtful voters may understand that this proposition highlights (at least) two important flaws in the Andersen ruling:

  • Marriage is not, or at any rate is no longer, exclusively about child-rearing. As the Supreme Court of Massachusetts put it in Goodridge, “it is the exclusive and permanent commitment of the marriage partners to one another, not the begetting of children, that is the sine qua non of civil marriage“. Voters are likely to react viscerally to this proposition because they feel instinctively that the State should not be telling two loving individuals who wish to commit themselves to each other that they may not, simply because they are unable or unwilling to have children. That’s exactly the point the gay community makes for inclusion in the institution of marriage.
  • Even if you believe that children are best raised by opposite-sex parents, the exclusion of loving individuals who are unable or unwilling to have children from the institution of marriage is, at best, mean-spirited, and at worst, harmful to children raised in “non-traditional” families. Again, even those voters who think children should have a mother and a father are likely to think to themselves “even so, why shouldn’t two people be able to get married if they love each other but don’t want children?” To which, again, the gay community would say: Exactly.

On the other hand, though, I don’t agree with this proposition! I’m not sure who would. I want the institution of marriage expanded, not restricted. Is it responsible to support, or vote for, a proposition purely as a satirical gesture? I’m not sure it is. So, I’m in something of a quandary.

One final note: on the astronomically remote chance that this proposition actually passed, I do think it would be struck down as unconstitutional, but not, perhaps, for the reason that its authors imagine. In the Andersen ruling, the court first decided that the “rational basis” test was appropriate, instead of the more demanding “strict scrutiny” test, because no “fundamental right” was involved. Among other things, “fundamental rights” must be

[O]bjectively, ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition’ . . . and ‘implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,’ such that ‘neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed

Part of the problem of the Andersen ruling, though, is that this standard is hopelessly vague and subject to the “framing problem”. The court found that no “fundamental right” is involved because Washingtonians cannot claim to have ever enjoyed the right to marry someone of the same sex, thus flunking the “deeply rooted” part of the test. Of course, if you believe that the right at issue is the right to marry the person of your choosing, then it’s easy to argue that this right is “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition”. The framing you choose to use entirely determines the result.

So, I’m depressed to say, it seems fairly clear that if this proposition were ever reviewed by a court, it could easily find that in this case, a “fundamental right” is indeed at stake, since it’s unarguably a “deeply rooted” right to be able to choose the opposite-sex person you wish to marry. This would be entirely consistent with the Andersen ruling.

The court would thus complete the bigoted, circular, self-reinforcing reasoning it used in Andersen:

  • The gay community is not entitled to the rights the rest of us enjoy, because they have never had those rights.
  • Nor can they be given the rights the rest of us enjoy… because they haven’t had those rights in the past.
  • The rights we enjoy, however, cannot be taken away, because we have always had them.

Ain’t America grand?

(Via Slog and Seattleist)

Divorce is not caused because 50% of marriages end in gayness

John Steward shellacs a social conservative on the gay marriage issue:

In which Newsweek is out of its frigging mind

Newsweek has gone off the deep end. They’re running a story that appears on MSNBC’s main page as “Pelosi and San Francisco’s Loony Left”, and which runs this graphic immediately under the subheadline of “A City Ripe for Satire” (I’ve split the super-wide graphic into two images):




OK, WTF?

These are shots from a recent skit on Saturday Night Live, and obviously, that’s not the real Pelosi. But, come on — running a headline about the “Loony Left” and then leading with a graphic that features gay men in bondage? Are we really supposed to understand that this is dispassionate “coverage” of Pelosi’s new-found prominence?

From the article:

While the appearance of a prim, wide-eyed Nancy Pelosi look-alike on last week’s SNL didn’t get as much attention as it once might have, a few cultural truths did emerge.

First, the nation’s first female Speaker is relentlessly, maddeningly poised. [...] Pelosi is becoming known to the public as the woman who smiles through it all, as if posing for her family’s Christmas card photo while the kids pinch each other and the dog chases the cat around the tree.

WTF? Maddeningly poised? Maddeningly to whom? The Republicans? Anarchists? Tourette’s sufferers? And what’s with the Christmas card photo analogy?

The latest round of San Francisco-bashing started on Election Day, when San Francisco voters—80 percent of whom re-elected Pelosi—also got a chance to approve Proposition J, a measure calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Not surprisingly, in a city where Bush won only 15 percent in 2004, nearly 60 percent of San Francisco voters thought impeachment was a good idea. [...]events like these cement the city’s image as the place where the loony left is in charge[...]

WTF? Newsweek ran an article less than a month ago which appeared to report that 51% of all Americans think that the Democrats should assign at least some importance to the task of impeaching the President. Who can call San Francisco the “loony left” for agreeing with the rest of the country?

Describing the passage of a measure in San Francisco that kicked the Junior ROTC out of the city high schools for promoting militarism and homophobia:

Had she popped in to this week’s meeting of her hometown school board, with hippie parents and gay activists squaring off against veterans over the ROTC, [Pelosi] may have found herself scarcely more popular than Donald Rumsfeld

WTF? I’m sure many of the opponents were “gay activists”, but were the others really “hippie parents”? Who even describes themselves as hippies anymore? And if the parents didn’t describe themselves that way (and no quotes are offered), why would Newsweek choose that term? And are school board politics in San Francisco properly summarized as boiling down to loudmouth gays and hippies versus our brave soldiers?

If you go read the article, you’ll find that much of it is, supposedly, concerned with pointing out that Pelosi isn’t part of the “loony left”, and that all this stereotyping pains her and is inaccurate.

But the article undermines its own supposed message by openly promulgating the stereotypes it claims to be discussing.

Seattle indeed very gay, study finds

The Seattle Times reports that Seattle is the second-gayest city in the US:

Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, Seattle is second only to San Francisco in the percentage of residents identifying themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, a new study reports.
[...]
The study reports found that 12.9 percent of Seattle residents — roughly 57,900 people — identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual. In San Francisco, 15.4 percent of residents identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Now, if we can only get the freaking gay marriage ban reversed, we’ll be getting somewhere.

Surveying the gay marriage fight thus far

Dale Carpenter has a great summary piece on the Volokh Conspiracy about the legal fight to date over gay marriage. Definitely worth a read.

This closing overview of the progress to date, though, is heartening:

Nevertheless, by the end of next April, New Jersey will join four other states – Massachusetts, Vermont, California, and Connecticut – in giving gay couples access to all of the rights of marriage under state law. All by itself this is a significant development. Of the 300 million people who live in the United States, about 54 million (over 1/6 of the nation’s total population) will live in a state where gay couples have access to the same rights and obligations as married straight couplesOf those 54 million, about 40 million will live in a state where this result was achieved entirely legislatively (California and Connecticut). All of that has happened in just the last six years. The experience we gain and the lessons we learn from protecting gay families under the law in those states will be difficult to ignore in the years to come.

New Jersey Supreme Court upholds gay couples’ rights

State Supreme Courts have generally ruled against state-constitution-based claims by gay couples that their rights are being violated when the state refuses to allow them to marry. I was particularly disappointed when the Washington State Supreme Court, after sitting on the issue for more than a year, issued a flimsily reasoned ruling against gay marriage.

Today, though, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that:

same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals in New Jersey, but that lawmakers must determine whether the state will honor gay marriage or some other form of civil union.

Advocates on both sides of the issue had believed the relatively liberal New Jersey high court had the best chance of approving gay marriages since Massachusetts became the only state to do so in 2003.

But the high court stopped short of fully approving gay marriage in the state, and gave lawmakers 180 days to rewrite marriage laws to either include same-sex couples or create new civil unions.

You can read the entire ruling online. Excerpts:

HELD: Denying committed same-sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate governmental purpose. The Court holds that under the equal protection guarantee of Article I, Paragraph 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, committed samesex couples must be afforded on equal terms the same rights and benefits enjoyed by opposite-sex couples under the civil marriage statutes. The name to be given to the statutory scheme that provides full rights and benefits to samesex couples, whether marriage or some other term, is a matter left to the democratic process.
[...]
At this point, the Court does not consider whether committed same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, but only whether those couples are entitled to the same rights and benefits afforded to married heterosexual couples. Cast in that light, the issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people.
[...]
the State has not articulated any legitimate public need for depriving committed same-sex couples of the host of benefits and privileges that are afforded to married heterosexual couples. There is, on the one hand, no rational basis for giving gays and lesbians full civil rights as individuals while, on the other hand, giving them an incomplete set of rights when they enter into committed samesex relationships.
[...]
The equal protection requirement of Article I, Paragraph 1 leaves the Legislature with two apparent options. The Legislature could simply amend the marriage statutes to include same-sex couples, or it could create a separate statutory structure, such as a civil union.

This is a big step forward. The court here highlights the fact that there is really no defensible public-interest reason to deny same-sex couples the rights that go with the institution of marriage, other than a blind insistence that “this is how it has always been”.

As an aside, MSNBC’s web site is running this story under some fairly inaccurate headlines, I would say:

  • Currently, on the home page, the headline is “N.J. court punts on gay marriage
  • The main headline on the story page is “N.J. court stops short of OK’ing gay marriage
  • The title that gets loaded into your browser window on the story page is “N.J. rules neither for, against gay marriage

Over at Fox News’ web page, the story appears on the main page as “New Jersey High Court Leaves Gay Marriage Rights to Legislature,” and the subheading on the story page is “New Jersey’s Supreme Court has left it to the state Legislature to decide the rules for gay couples who want to marry in the state.”

Let’s be clear: the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that it violates the State Constitution for gay couples to be denied the “financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts”, and directed the legislature to “either amend the marriage statutes or enact an appropriate statutory structure within 180 days of the date of this decision.”

I don’t see how this ruling can honestly be described as “punting”, and I find it misleading to say that it is “neither for, against gay marriage.” To summarize the ruling as “leaving gay marriage rights to the Legislature” seems particularly dishonest, since the ruling does the opposite: it declares that gay couples have exactly the same rights as heterosexual married couples, and instructs the legislature that it must alter current law to recognize those rights. The only thing it leaves up to the legislature is what the institution that formally recognizes and enshrines those rights will be called. The rights themselves are decidedly not left up to the legislature.

CNN, to its credit, runs the accurate headline “Same-sex marriage wins state battle”. This conveys that the ruling did not mandate an institution called “marriage” for gay couples, but correctly points out that this is a major victory for proponents of gay marriage. The first sentence of CNN’s description is similarly accurate: “New Jersey’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples.” That’s exactly right.

Legal differences between same-sex and polygamous marriages

I found this post on the Volokh Conspiracy very interesting.

David Link, an attorney who has worked in the California legislature for eight years and has written for Reason and the L.A. Times, has followed the recent exchange among Professor Robert George, Jon Rauch, Maggie Gallagher, and me over gay marriage and polygamy. He has emailed me his thoughts on some practical differences between recognizing dyadic same-sex marriages and recognizing polygamous/polyamorous marriages.

I had never really thought about the issue in depth before. In fact, I had tended to believe that if the legal establishment accepted same-sex marriage (which I think they should!), then I wasn’t sure there was any remaining sensible argument to be made against polygamous marriages. On the other hand, I’m not sure that a properly progressive society should forbid multi-partner marriages, either.

David Link, however, points out many ways in which these arrangements would be very different, from a legal perspective, than same-sex marriages:

In the dominant form of polygamy, where one man is married to several wives, he is, in some way, “married” to each one of the wives individually.
[...]
But what about the relationships of the wives to one another? Are they similarly “married” to all the other wives in the marriage? Specifically, as a matter of public policy, are they legally married to one another the way a husband and wife are under current marriage law?

Stay with that question. If the answer is “yes,” then if the husband died, would the wives continue to be married to each other? Why or why not?
[...]
And every question like these leads to others. Assume the husband is alive, but relationships with him sour. Could some or all of the wives divorce the husband, but continue to be married to one another? Could they divorce one another? Again, why or why not? And if the answer is “yes,” how would that work? Who files what papers, naming whom? Would the various partners choose up sides in the ensuing divorce proceedings, and how would a court deal with that?
[...]
Another question related to divorce: Could an individual wife file for divorce of only herself, or would a divorce petition dissolve the entire marriage? What about if it’s the husband who wants a divorce? Should the rule for him be different than the rule for the women – i.e. could his successful petition for divorce dissolve the entire marriage, while a wife’s successful petition only removed her from the marriage? Or consider the situation where one woman is married to several husbands – or where several women are married to several husbands. Again, who would be able to divorce whom, and why? How would such actions affect other spouses?

David raises lots more questions: what about children? Who gets custody? Who is responsible for child support? On and on.

Conclusion?

The fact that we do not know the answers to these questions – and thousands of others – is at the core of why polygamy is dramatically different, as a matter of public policy, from same-sex marriage.

If anyone wants to argue in favor of polygamy – and for the present such advocates still remain either imaginary or well out of the political mainstream – they will have a lot more questions to answer than advocates for same-sex marriage do.

Whatever you may think about whether it would be a Good or Bad thing for the law to accomodate multiple-partner marriages, these seem like sound reasons why such a marriage would be very different, at least legally, from either hetero or gay, two-person marriages.

I suppose this means that those uncomfortable with multi-partner marriages can duck the issue for a while by insisting that these questions be answered to their satisfaction. Will we face a push for legitimizing polygamy in our lifetimes? If we do, what would be the proper response? Is it unjustifiable to legalize same-sex marriage but not polygamy? I’m still not sure of the answers to any of these questions.

Washington State’s gay marriage ban is constitutional

Well the decision has been released.

From the ruling; bold is my emphasis:

In brief, unless a law is a grant of positive favoritism to a minority class, we apply the same constitutional analysis under the state constitution’s privileges and immunities clause that is applied under the federal constitution’s equal protection clause. DOMA does not grant a privilege or immunity to a favored minority class, and we accordingly apply the federal analysis. The plaintiffs have not established that they are members of a suspect class or that they have a fundamental right to marriage that includes the right to marry a person of the same sex. Therefore, we apply the highly deferential rational basis standard of review to the legislature’s decision that only opposite-sex couples are entitled to civil marriage in this state. Under this standard, DOMA is constitutional because the legislature was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents. Allowing same-sex couples to marry does not, in the legislature’s view, further these purposes. Accordingly, there is no violation of the privileges and immunities clause.

There also is no violation of the state due process clause. DOMA bears a reasonable relationship to legitimate state interests — procreation and child-rearing. Nor do we find DOMA invalid as a violation of privacy interests protected by article I, section 7 of the Washington State Constitution. The people of Washington have not had in the past nor, at this time, are they entitled to an expectation that they may choose to marry a person of the same sex.

Finally, DOMA does not violate the state constitution’s equal rights amendment because that provision prohibits laws that render benefits to or restrict or deny rights of one sex. DOMA treats both sexes the same; neither a man nor a woman may marry a person of the same sex.

From Justice Fairhurst’s dissent; italics are in the original; the bold passage is my emphasis:

Contrary to the plurality’s discussion, this case does not present the issue of whether allowing opposite-sex couples the right to marry is rationally related to the State’s supposed interests in encouraging procreation, marriage for relationships that result in children, and traditional child rearing. Undoubtedly, state-sanctioned, opposite-sex marriage has a conceivable rational basis–some opposite-sex couples can procreate, and the State may have a legitimate interest in encouraging procreation and family stability by allowing such couples to marry.

But DOMA in no way affects the right of opposite-sex couples to marry — the only intent and effect of DOMA was to explicitly deny same-sex couples the right to marry. Therefore, the question we are called upon to ask and answer here, which the plurality fails to do, is how excluding committed same-sex couples from the rights of civil marriage furthers any of the interests that the State has put forth. Or, put another way, would giving same-sex couples the same right that opposite-sex couples enjoy injure the State’s interest in procreation and healthy child rearing?

Of course it wouldn’t.

Gay marriage decision coming tomorrow for Washington

The Washington Supreme Court page claims that

[A] decision in Andersen v. King County, a consolidated case regarding Washington’s Defense of Marriage Act, is expected tomorrow, July 26, 2006.

Washington Supreme Court gay marriage ruling is “imminent”

The Washington State Supreme Court says its long, long, long-awaiting ruling on the constitutionality of our gay-marriage ban is “imminent”.

How does excluding gay people help children?

I previously posted an irreverent summary of the “rational basis” test in the New York gay marriage ruling.

The Volokh Conspiracy has a much more serious discussion. Here are some excerpts:

Now, in the most important judicial decision yet rejecting a claim for gay marriage, we are told that gay couples may be kept from marriage not because they are unstable, but because heterosexual couples are unstable. Implicit in this view is that gay couples don’t have as large a need for the “inducement” to “make a solemn, long-term commitment to each other.” (p. 6) Implicit also is that gay couples are likely to plan more responsibly for the upbringing of their children. We thus have less reason to worry about the children gay couples are raising. Is the New York legislature listening?
[...]
But how is the exclusion of gay couples “rationally related” to this legitimate interest? How does excluding them and their children from the stabilizing influence of marriage help families headed by heterosexuals? How does denying marriage to gay families make heterosexual ones more stable, long-term, and committed? The anti-gay-marriage movement has been trying for more than a decade now to answer these questions, to offer a believable theory of harm.

Whether you think anti-gay-marriage activists have done so convincingly is beside my point here. The point is that the New York court never even tries to answer these questions. The court simply has no explanation, rational or otherwise, for why heterosexual happiness in marriage depends on homosexual exclusion from it. You could come up with such a tale, but the New York court does not do so. The omission is striking.

This is an important failing of the New York ruling: although it’s superficially plausible that marriage would be a useful inducement to straight couples to stay together, it doesn’t follow that excluding gay couples from the institution furthers the goal of stabilizing straight couples.

The military says homosexuality is a disorder

I am not making this up:

A Pentagon document classifies homosexuality as a mental disorder, decades after mental health experts abandoned that position.

The document outlines retirement or other discharge policies for service members with physical disabilities, and in a section on defects lists homosexuality alongside mental retardation and personality disorders.

Hrmph.

The Daily Show’s report on Gay Marriage

Some superior work by the Daily Show:

Two rays of hope

It’s shaping up to be a reasonably good Wednesday for gay rights. The Associated Press reports that the Senate rejected the contitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Supporters knew they wouldn’t achieve the two-thirds vote needed to approve a constitutional amendment, but they had predicted a majority of votes. Instead, they fell one short, 49-48.

That was one vote more than they got last time the Senate voted on the matter, in 2004.

“We were hoping to get over 50 percent, but that didn’t happen today,” said Sen. David Vitter, R-La., one of the amendment’s supporters. “Eventually, Congress is going to have to catch up to the wisdom of the American people or the American people will change Congress for the better.”

I realize that I’m in the minority in supporting gay marriage and opposing the constitutional amendment, but you can’t go with the crowd on everything. I do believe that current opponents are on the wrong side of history.

Closer to home, yesterday was the deadline for professional numbskull Tim Eyman to submit signatures for his Washington State Referendum 65, which seeks to repeal the recently passed gay-rights law. Tim turned up at the Secretary of State’s office yesterday, but, surprise, surprise, didn’t have enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot in November.

After hijacking an anti-gay-rights referendum from its evangelical backers, Tim Eyman ran it into the ground Tuesday.

Minutes before the filing deadline, the for-profit initiative promoter surprised many political experts by announcing in Olympia that he and other supporters failed — by a wide margin — to gather enough voter signatures to force a public vote on the state’s new gay civil rights law. It takes effect today.

Since the new law isn’t challenged by a referendum, HR 2661 is now in force. Huzzah!

This just in: gays are bad for children

I’m still working on deciphering the conservative claim that allowing gay people to get married “would undermine the family structure”. My quest for understanding led me to these ads by “Focus on the Family”:

This looks promising. Perhaps this ad contains the explanation I have been looking for.

The reality is that homosexual marriages intentionally create motherless families or fatherless families. And a compassionate society would not deliberately deny a child a mother or a father.

Aha!

I understand now. Gay marriage is bad because it deprives children of mothers or fathers. Obviously, banning gay marriage means that more children will grow up with both a mother and a father.

Right?

Uh… Oh, wait.

I guess the search continues.

Where are all the undermined families?

Thus spake our illustrious leader:

The union of a man and woman in marriage is the most enduring and important human institution. For ages, in every culture, human beings have understood that marriage is critical to the well-being of families. And because families pass along values and shape character, marriage is also critical to the health of society. Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure.

Look here: as far as I can tell, that last sentence doesn’t mean anything, unless it’s the tautology “if we change the family structure, it won’t be the same anymore”.

Herein lies a source of great perplexedness for me: what the *&#! is this “undermining” of families that the Right keeps talking about? Seriously, I want to know. I would like someone, anyone, to explain what harm will come to existing or future “traditional” families if gay people were allowed to get married.

Suppose (suppose!) you believe that having both a mother and a father creates the best environment for raising children. Suppose. Fantastic. What is accomplished by ensuring that gay people can’t get married? Will existing hetero couples suddenly dissapear overnight in some kind of Rapture-like recall of the righteous? Will heteros suddenly stop having children? Will existing families suddenly break up in despair that… what? There’s no point in carrying on if gay people can get married, too? Perhaps existing parents will run off with gay lovers, leaving their children orphaned and unloved? What exactly is the problem scenario here!?

Is it something a little more oblique? Is the unspoken fear that if we let gay people get married, they will start raising children together? Is that the secret? Did I guess it? Do I get a prize? I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but if the problem is with gay people raising children, wouldn’t it make more sense to ban that? I mean, if you’re into the whole making-other-people-conform-to-your-social-models thing?

Is there some kind of decoder ring that will tell me what phrases like “undermining the family structure” mean, or should I just conclude that they are vacuous stand-ins for vicious bigotry?

Something to ponder

When it gets back from its Memorial Day recess (a full week!), Congress will be taking up the ever-so-pressing issue of a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It will be obvious to all that this is of much greater urgency than, say, a failed war, the increasing gap between rich and poor, and dwindling access to health care.

((ahem))

Anyway, as we immerse ourselves in this fantastically productive debate, it might be worth considering these words, written by justice Greaney in his assent to the landmark Supreme Court of Massachusetts ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, aka the “gay marriage ruling”:

I am hopeful that our decision will be accepted by those thoughtful citizens who believe that same-sex unions should not be approved by the State. I am not referring here to acceptance in the sense of grudging acknowledgment of the court’s authority to adjudicate the matter. My hope is more liberating. The plaintiffs are members of our community, our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends. As pointed out by the court, their professions include investment advisor, computer engineer, teacher, therapist, and lawyer. The plaintiffs volunteer in our schools, worship beside us in our religious houses, and have children who play with our children, to mention just a few ordinary daily contacts. We share a common humanity and participate together in the social contract that is the foundation of our Commonwealth. Simple principles of decency dictate that we extend to the plaintiffs, and to their new status, full acceptance, tolerance, and respect. We should do so because it is the right thing to do. The union of two people contemplated by [the Massachusetts marriage law] “is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.” Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965). Because of the terms of [Article 1 of the Massachusetts constitution], the plaintiffs will no longer be excluded from that association.

Government to women: Your Function Is To Bear Children

This is kind of spooky. The Washington Post reports:

New federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves — and to be treated by the health care system — as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.

Among other things, this means all women between first menstrual period and menopause should take folic acid supplements, refrain from smoking, maintain a healthy weight and keep chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes under control.
[...]
Women should also make sure all vaccinations are up-to-date and avoid contact with lead-based paints and cat feces, [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report co-author] Biermann said.
[...]
The report recommends that women stop smoking and discuss with their doctor the danger alcohol poses to a developing fetus.

The full report, if you go read it, emphasizes that half of pregnancies are unplanned and that a lot of damage can be done to the fetus in the time between conception and when the mother learns about the pregnancy.

It seems hard to argue with improved infant health, but isn’t it a little… uh…. Handmaid’s Tale to tell all women “capable of conceiving a baby” to act as though they’re already pregnant, even if they have no intention of ever bearing a child? Laura’s pre-natal vitamins made her nausea worse, and pregnant women are counseled to avoid alcohol alltogether. I guess if you live alone with a cat, you’re expected to turn it in for euthenasia or adoption.

For your careful consideration and thoughtful comparison, I submit this recent Slate article discussing the ongoing politicization of the Center for Disease Control. A recent symposium on sexually transmitted diseases, organized by the CDC, was retooled at the last minute to be made more friendly to abstinence-only “sex education”.

So, is this all a coincidence, or are government-funded agencies that are supposed to provide scientifically grounded and dispassionate recommendations for public policy being remolded into reinforcers of a conservative world-view, including the idea that womens’ primary function is to bear children, and that goal should be the prime determinant of their health choices?

Texas hates gays

Most major outlets are mentioning that Texas voters approved a ballot measure calling for a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. That makes Texas the 19th state to constitutionally ban legal recognition for same-sex couples. More than 3 out of every 4 Texas voters were in favor of the ban.

What can one make of such ferocious opposition to the idea of making the institution of marriage accessible to gay couples who love each other? Kelly Shackelford, a leader Texans For Marriage says:

Texans know that marriage is between a man and a woman, and children deserve both a mom and a dad. They don’t need a PhD or a degree in anything else to teach them that

I’m not sure why Kelly feels it necessary to underline that you don’t need no durn book learnin’ to vote against gays, but there it is, in case you were wondering.

This gay-support site quotes the National and Lesbian Task Force executive director Matt Foreman:

All that today’s results show is that it is profoundly wrong and profoundly un-American to put the rights of a small minority of Americans up for a popular vote.

This is not democracy; this is tyranny of the majority. No one would tolerate this being done to any other minority, but it’s still open season on gay people.

This line of thinking, of course, is the basis for judicial intervention based on civil-rights principles and constitutional equal-protection arguments. It’s also the line of thinking that led to Canada’s judicial ratification of gays’ right to participate in marriage there.

I’m not sure why, but the ABC article ostensibly about the gay-marriage issue takes a moment to point out that in a local Texas election, the residents of a town called “White Settlement” voted more than 9-to-1 against a proposal to change the town’s name to “West Settlement”. Maybe the article’s authors saw a similar type of thinking at work.