Equality in New York

All Democrats save one: Aye.
All Republicans save four courageous souls: Nay.
Here come the primaries.

33-29. Every Democrat save one voted for, every Republican save four voted against. The Conservative Party and the local Teahdis will now try to purge the courageous quartet. (Tell me again how Teabagging is really a libertarian, small-government movement?)

Thanks to the Republican Party, the men and women who will now be married according to the laws of the State of New York will not be treated as married by the Federal government. And the House Republicans are now spending half a million dollars’ worth of your money in court trying to keep it that way. (Tell me again about how Republicans believe in states’ rights?)

Basic fact:

In 2004, according to a Quinnipiac poll, 37 percent of the state’s residents supported allowing same-sex couples to wed. This year, 58 percent of them did.

Yes, I’d guess New York was ahead of many other states on this, but not that far ahead. The right wing, having pandered to the gay-baiters successfully through the mid-2000s (remember Ohio in 2004?) now has to pay the price. It’s going to be a long, long walk back.

Footnote Am I right that every Republican contender for President opposed letting gay Americans serve in the military? If so, that’s something worth reminding the voters about, since three-quarters of them disagree.

GOP pols in a corner over gay rights

The wrong side of history is an uncomfortable place to be.

Republicans in the New York State Senate are caught between a rock and a hard place: the Conservative Party, representing the Teahadi wing of the GOP, won’t let them vote for gay marriage, but even in conservative districts voting against it is a losing issue and they’re worried about losing their majority. Sometimes the wrong side of history is an uncomfortable place to be.

We’re likely to see the same pattern play itself out on liberalizing the cannabis laws; as it happens, I’m not a fan of flat-out legalization, but by the end of this decade generational change will make it a clear political winner over the status quo, and the drug warriors are still too powerful to allow any early move to a sensible compromise such as legalization without commercialization. In the meantime, cannabis, along with gay rights, looks like an increasing problem for Republicans.

Footnote Of course, the glibertarian blogosphere will simply ignore the fact that their favorite politicians are against individual liberty with respect to sex and drugs. Given a choice between capitalism and freedom, they’ll take capitalism, in the sense of low tax rates on high incomes. Feh.

Will social conservatives throw the anti-gay issue under the bus?

At an academic workshop on social conservatism most of the participants think gay rights is a losing issue, ripe for jettisoning. Sign of the times?

This past weekend, I attended a workshop on the future of social conservatism.  Though this was a somewhat odd experience for someone with my politics (which I stated openly), I’m determined not to get lazy by only talking to people I agree with.  In the end I learned a lot and, I hope, contributed at least a little.

What surprised me most at the conference was that more than one speaker casually referred to opposition to gay rights as a losing issue for social conservatives—one that they’d have to abandon in the foreseeable future in favor of something else. Nobody spoke up in loud dissent, and nobody called for distinguishing same-sex marriage from other gay rights issues.

Continue reading “Will social conservatives throw the anti-gay issue under the bus?”

The Prison in Which We Put Our Children: In Memory of Sladjana Vidovic and Her Fellow Victims

In my first month of college, I was in my dormitory grill waiting in line to buy a burger. An enormous lineman from the football team strolled in, cut directly to the front of the line and said “Hey, free food!” and began grabbing the order of the person who was then paying at the register. I am not a small person, but this football player was as large relative to me as the biggest kid in 12th grade is to a pre-pubescent 9th grader in the same high school. I was afraid of him and said nothing to defend either everyone waiting in line or the person whose meal was being stolen.

And then the guy next to me in line, a slightly built upperclassman, said, “Stop cutting line, get in the back and wait your turn!” I tensed up immediately, expecting the lineman to throttle him or smash his face. Instead the far-from-gentle giant looked up, paused for a moment, and then meekly put down the food he had grabbed and walked away.

In shock, I said to the courageous fellow, “What would you have done if he’d beat you up?” He responded, blandly, “Called the police and had him arrested.”

When I heard these words a pane of glass shattered in my consciousness. I was suddenly freed of the unstated, unquestioned world view I had carried in my head all through adolescence: Bigger kids take what they want and hurt who they want and get away with it.

Even though I was never personally bullied as a teenager, realizing that the brutal rules that applied only 4 months earlier were no longer in force was a palpable relief. Even that is too mild a turn of phrase. It was a joy, the joy of becoming an adult with basic rights and protections.

Sadly, it is a joy that Sladjana Vidovic and three other bullied teens who have committed suicide at a single Ohio school will never know. American adults allow our nation’s children to live under a set of rules that we would never tolerate for ourselves. If Sladjana had been an adult and been tormented as she was at school by co-workers or neighbors or strangers on the street, she would have had many routes of legal redress and active support from the adults around her.

But because we do not give our young those protections, they drop out of school, or become depressed, or retreat into drugs and alcohol, or take their own lives. The only place we tolerate such a grossly unjust situation among adults is in prison, and that’s where our acceptance of bullying has effectively put countless children in this country.

“Gerard V. Bradley is a Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame”

A law professor shouldn’t be gay-baiting a Federal judge; at least, he should be trying to do so halfway intelligently.

A fact of which Notre Dame ought to be heartily ashamed. I’m not sure which is worse: Bradley’s gay-baiting of a Federal judge or the smarmy, slimy way he did so.

If a gay judge should have recused himself from the gay-marriage case, because he might want to get married, and if (as the Prop Hate proponents asserted) gay marriage threatens the stability of straight marriages, then would any straight married judge have had a conflict of interest sufficient to generate a recusal inquiry? Do we need a class of eunuch judges to decide all cases involving sexual activity?

Presumably Gerard V. Bradley isn’t a blithering idiot in real life. Presumably he doesn’t accept this sort of dimwit argument from his law students. But as long as it’s AMDG* (or perhaps merely for the greater glory of the Red Team), he can’t even notice his own folly.

Sad, really.

* A commenter notes that I had appropriated a Jesuit motto to a Holy Cross Fathers institution. My bad.

Strong enemies, fickle friends

Barack Obama uses Father’s Day to extend recognition to gay couples. The Religious Right notices. Friends of gay rights don’t notice. Not good.

Did you catch this? I didn’t. It’s from the President’s Father’s Day proclamation, not generally a source of breaking news.

Nurturing families come in many forms, and children may be raised by a father and mother, a single father, two fathers, a step father, a grandfather, or caring guardian.

Pure Obama: strong but unemphatic. “Two fathers” dropped, seemingly casually, into the middle of a list, and suddenly the President is officially recognizing the fact that gay couples, too, raise children, and sometimes do it well.

Steve Benen makes fun of the Christian Right for going off about this, but it seems to me that the American Family Association has gauged its importance more accurately than Steve has. “Two innocuous words”? Not in the context of the gay-marriage debate.

But what strikes me hardest about this is that I’m only hearing about it via Obama’s right-wing critics. The Victory Fund, which sends out a press release every time a lesbian is elected dogcatcher, hasn’t bothered to mention that the President decided to use Father’s Day to reach out to gay couples. As far as I can find, none of the bloggers who have savaged Obama as a coward and a closet homophobe for not endorsing gay marriage and going slow on DADT and inviting Rick Warren to speak at the Inaugural bothered to notice this completely unforced, and predictably costly, pro-gay gesture.

As Machiavelli says, the problem with trying to make change is that you have strong enemies and lukewarm allies. But it seems to me that there’s something else at work here: progressives, who ever since Vietnam have been somewhat abashed about expressing patriotism, also tend to feel a little bit queasy when they hear a President being praised. Maybe it’s just grass-is-greener envy, but I think the right wing does a better job of backing its allies in office. Sometimes – as with Nixon and Bush II – that comes back to bit them. But mostly it helps them get their way.

Obama on gay marriage

One of the things that got me interested in Barack Obama as a Presidential candidate was the answer he gave, in a church venue, sometime in 2007 – I’d be grateful to anyone who can point me to the video – on the question of gay marriage. He said, as I recall:

1. My church holds that marriage is between a man and a woman.
2. The principles of religious liberty mean that the government shouldn’t tell my church that it’s wrong about that.
3. Other churches believe otherwise.
4. The government has no business telling them that they’re wrong, either.
5. The definition of marriage should be left up to individual churches.
6. The government should define and protect a status of domestic partnership open to any adult couple.

Shorter version: since gay marriage is bitterly controversial among various religious groups, and the state doesn’t need to take a position with respect to that controversy, it shouldn’t. Andrew Sullivan calls this “cowardly,” but in any other context he’d recognize it as reflecting Obama’s Oakeshottian desire to avoid having the state take a stand on one side or the other of a social conflict unless justice demands it.

That seems to me to be both right and politic. I understand why the belief of some churches that marriage is only a male-female thing profoundly offends some gay people. But I think the desire to have the government tell (e.g.) the Catholic Church that it misunderstands one of its own sacraments is not a desire that ought to be granted. On the other hand, if the state recognizes pairwise domestic partnerships, denying equal recognition to same-sex pairs seems obviously wrong. (And no, I have no trouble seeing why multiplicity, or arrangements involving minors, are different questions that ought to get the opposite answer.)

Obama has continued to say since that he believes that marriage is between a man and a woman. But he also opposed California’s Proposition 8, albeit not as loudly as I would have liked. He hasn’t said anything since that leads me to believe that he’s changed his original position. He continues to say that he wants DOMA repealed, though he hasn’t moved on that.

This, I think, answers the puzzlement about how Obama, a decent human being, could want to deny gays the right to marry. He doesn’t.

Footnote No doubt Glenn Reynolds will welcome the news that his President agrees with him about “separating marriage and state,” and will stop saying that Obama is “anti-gay-marriage.”