Re: A more perfect union

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Anyhow, I'm off my rocker, am I not?

No, I think you just mistake the motivation of the people out voting against gay marriage. Most of them don't care about the underlying issues of fairness or morality; they just want to stick it to the queers.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 8:50 PM
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That is to say, a ballot issue denying homosexuals the right to get drivers' licenses would automatically start with a 35% or so base of support.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 8:51 PM
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I'm a little confused; surely a relationship doesn't have to involve romance, but I think it would be a mistake to weaken a civil union down to the level of being roommates. Mostly because I'm imagining a divorce from a roommate. Also, I'm not quite sure what that would look like, anyway, so I'm not sure why it would need to be distinguished as a way to "qualify"; we never had to declare that we were in love to get a marriage license. We could have been just sneaky roommates.

But I'm on board with the general idea of the state recognizing a civil union and marriage being a religious thing only. It's not all that different from how it is now. We had to fill out paperwork downtown to get married, and no one asked about religious affiliation. On the state's end, it didn't matter how the ceremony happened.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:02 PM
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Obama opposes gay marriage - right? I haven't seen detailed elaboration of his position. Is his opposition based on religion?


Posted by: OutOfTheBlue | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:02 PM
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Apo's right. And also, while I fundamentally agree with you on principle, if this were put in action, given the comparisons that have already been made to civil rights measures, it would be symbolically like saying, "Oh, so everyone's fighting to sit at the front of the bus now? Fine, no more buses for anyone." I know, analogy ban and all, but it's not my analogy, and the pre-existence of the analogy is what I'm talking about.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:03 PM
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they just want to stick it to the queers

This is true of many of same-sex marriage's most vocal opponents in more ways than one.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:04 PM
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This does seem problematic as long as we're trying to tie important things like, oh, immigration rights to marriage, erm, sorry, "civil partnership".

That said, I've proposed this very idea to conservative friends who oppose gay marriage, and gotten surprisingly negative responses. Because in their view it is the state's duty to promote marriage, dammit (and none of that gay shit, either). It's part and parcel of holding society (civilization?) together, or something.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:09 PM
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weaken a civil union down to the level of being roommates.

I was long-winded already and didn't elaborate. I'm imagining long-term roommates who are not romantically involved, but whose finances, for instance, might make more sense if they were entwined officially. I could be persuaded away from the roommate thing.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:09 PM
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I totally agree. And to address Cala's point: if you make nullifying the union just as difficult as nullifying a marriage, you will discourage it to the same extent. In other words, there isn't much of a social incentive for folks who marry at the courthouse not to divorce (besides that it's a pain in the ass), so likewise with civil unions.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:10 PM
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In Australia, if you're roommates with someone for long enough, you automatically get common-law married. They also have scary spiders.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:12 PM
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People going for the domestic partnership should provide evidence of having had sex at least once, but they shouldn't be required to keep on doing it. That way the sanctity of relationships will be preserved, and not watered down with mere roommate-situation-type-thingies. Whereas the demand for repeated sexual intercourse would just be too hard for many couples.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:13 PM
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10: does this apply to same-sex roomates as well?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:13 PM
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8: Oh. As I see it, the only relevant thing is the alleged strength of the commitment, which should be relatively high; whether the roommates are in love or not isn't properly the state's concern. So I think your long-term roommates would be fine, and short-term roommates would be unlikely to bother.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:14 PM
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Wondered how the Mormons alone could have gotten 8 to pass in CA, then saw Contra Costa county went yes. Saw the African-American population went 70/30. Is this going to be the elephant in the room whenever Obama's progressive cred comes up, or are people discussing it?


Posted by: Counterfly | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:15 PM
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12: Yes, that's kind of the point.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:16 PM
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I think Prop 8 is a good example of why civil rights issues should be for courts to decide. They necessarily involve minority populations, some of whom may not be incredibly popular in the majority. If the courts define the rights of personhood to include even homosexuals, it shouldn't be the right of the heterosexual majority to rewrite the law so that such an interpretation is no longer possible. Right?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:16 PM
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Because I roomed with an Australian for a while in college once. Now I'm worried I might have accidentally married him.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:17 PM
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the only relevant thing is the alleged strength of the commitment

Right. Long-term roommates for whom this might afford some benefit would bother to go through the process. Short-term roommates wouldn't be bothered. A market solution!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:18 PM
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I'm in favour of returning to Ye Olde Dayes, when marriage was merely a contract in the eyes of the law/state. Kinda like a pre-nup, but sign it and poof!, you're married. Then you can wander out and have a big party and get a religious blessing or have your fairy godbrother toss pixie dust on you. The state would only enter into it should the partnership dissolve and there be issues of interpretation over, say, who gets the cat. Child support and whatever would be determined by a mathematical formula, as it is now in CA. No licences, no clerks presiding over civil ceremonies... just an arrangement between consenting adults. [From a legal standpoint, one cannot have a contract between/with minors, or, to assuage the fears of Rick "I'm scairt teh gays will steal my wwee-wee" Santorum, draft animals.]


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:18 PM
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16: I'm guessing it's headed for the Supreme Court eventually.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:18 PM
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are people discussing it?

Yes.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:19 PM
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In China, you get married when you sign papers with the government, but then, maybe as long as a year or two later, have a ceremony with your families and start actually living together.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:21 PM
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Derrida proposed something along these lines in his last interview.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:23 PM
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This is precisely the structure in French law. It's called a "Pacte Civile de Solidarité" I think; anyways, it's anacronised as "PACS," which is how everyone refers to it. It's available to anyone who shares finances, households, legal status. In order to dissolve it, you have to go through a divorce sort of process. A lot of straight couples who are ideologically opposed to marriage have chosen to get a PACS.

Marriage is still a legal option, but because of the Catholic stranglehold on French culture, a LOT of younger people just ignore marriage. That's probably why there isn't more outcry over the "separate but equal" institution: in France, people just don't attach as much cultural weight to marriage as they do here.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:27 PM
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I think it's more complicated than 1/2 make it seem. Yes, there are a bunch of people out there who have irredeemably hostile attitudes toward homosexuality. But there are no doubt many more who find it foreign and icky and scary, but don't have an inherent desire to stick it to the queers. (think of the people who would be disturbed to hear that their child was planning to marry someone black/white/asian, but still wouldn't vote to ban interracial marriage)

At least in California, the pro-Prop-8 folk did an excellent job of targeting these people, and the anti-Prop-8 folk did a horrible job. Even so, the margin of victory this time was 75% smaller than it was 8 years ago.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:27 PM
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14: Can you make the link to Obama explicit for me? Because he's a progressive? If so, he said publicly that he opposed the measure, though he didn't do any tv or radio spots pushing the no vote. I suspect that he, like most people, thought it would fail and thus didn't want to offer McCain any last-minute wedge issues to peel off a state or two. That said, I'm wondering, because you raised the issue of the disproportionately high rate of yes votes among Africa-Americans, if you think that Obama has to address something or other because he's black. So before I start jumping up and down for no good reason, I'd be grateful for a clarification.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:34 PM
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I've been reading Sarah Vowell's The Wordy Shipmates, all about John Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay Colony and it's been really enlightening to how much the founders intentions have been twisted. While they might have come to America seeking religious freedom, they believed in something very much like civil unions instead of marriage, believing the state had no role in a religious institution.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:34 PM
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It's a bad argument. They're saying that because Obama motivated black voters to show up at the polls, and black people are homophobic, Prop 8 succeeded. Am I missing something?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:36 PM
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Derrida proposed something along these lines in his last interview.

That's interesting. Is there a philosophical follow-up to Derrida? Rorty, maybe?

I admit my modern-philosophy drive-by is basically Nietzsche-->Heidegger-->Sartre (basically dumbing down the previous stuff with Being and Nothingness)-->Derrida.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:40 PM
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An overhaul of the marriage system to clearly separate religious and civil aspects does make some sense, as an abstract idea. But I don't see that it makes sense as a political tactic. The idea of compromise to make people less "icked" assumes that there's a static array of voters to win over; but demographics are on our side, as water moccasin pointed out:

the margin of victory this time was 75% smaller than it was 8 years ago.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:43 PM
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Am I missing something?

I don't know. This suggests that the underlying assumption, as you and I seem to see it anyway, is wrong -- in addition to being a bit insidious.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:44 PM
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Obama publicly disavowed support for gay marriage and for Prop 8. My guess is that he was just being careful; remember Bill Clinton's advice to Kerry in 2004. If it goes to the courts, he can wash his hands of it.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:44 PM
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Last chapter read:Duke of Parma's 7th month seige of Maastricht. Very intense with women digging countertunnels to battle Parma's sappers underground.

At the end of the seige 400 of Maastrict's 30,000 residents survived. Why did they fight Parma? They were Protestants who didn't want Catholics in their town.

The religio-philosophical wars never stop. They used to fight with a greater committment and passion back in the day.

I bet you think Parma, the people of Maastrict, and I are all crazy. No, this was normal human behavior for 5000 years. You defend and expand your religion. Letting your family, friends and allies suffer for strangers' alien beliefs, or for abstract and meaningless liberal principles...that's what is crazy.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:45 PM
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Shorter Bob: "Since the dawn of time..."


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:54 PM
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Well, if we do the bad things, when our enemies come into power we won't have a strong argument to keep them from doing the bad things?

A strong argument? For fuck's sake. Liberalism.

You don't allow your enemies to gain power.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:54 PM
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An overhaul of the marriage system to clearly separate religious and civil aspects does make some sense, as an abstract idea.

I think it makes a hell of a lot of sense as a matter of law also. This stuff is a bit of a mess. As politics though ....


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 9:56 PM
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It's perfectly reasonable to claim that Obama's candidacy increased the margin of success for Prop 8 (though not that it pushed it over) by increasing the African-American share of the electorate.

It's also perfectly reasonable to want Obama to have spoken more forcefully against Prop 8.

I don't think it's the elephant in the room. Obama's position is perfectly clear, and it's not as progressive as yours or mine. He supports civil unions, not marriage, is on the record clearly about both.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:02 PM
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Actually, the Obsidian Wings link above makes a reasonable case that increased black turnout did make the difference.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:06 PM
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26: not that, calm down. He does have the hopes of progressives in his hands, though, and now that he's in power it would be nice to see him come 'round to an important issue. If he truly feels that gay marriage sucks, rather then the tactical thing you mention, knowing it would fail etc., then, bummer. But at least he's been honest.

28: It does seem to me a reasonable assumption that if Obama increased African-American turnout by a lot, and an issue that African-Americans overwhelmingly support passes, that might have been a lot closer otherwise, there might be a link, no?


Posted by: Counterfly | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:07 PM
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38:No, it doesn't.

Blaming 8% of the voters for the passing of the proposition is very wrong. The homophobic attitudes of many in the black community is a challenge, but homophobia is a general challenge.

Sebastian is very smart, and very wicked.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:18 PM
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39: I just don't see where we get by racializing this further. If it were possible to say, "OK, the gay rights movement needs to reach out more to straight blacks" without getting into another bitter blame-game of "Who's More Oppressed?" followed by "Whose Turn Is It?" then fine. I do not look forward to how this will play out. Dan Savage's column is borderline race-baiting, as it's obvious his commenters took up. He's trying to disavow it in his update, by saying it's not all black people he hates, because some black people are gay, but that he basically thinks the rest of them are homophobic and fuck them. I just don't think it's a productive way of discussing Prop 8.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:19 PM
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40 corrected

70% of 8%. Or whatever, I haven't even bothered with the numbers, because it is just a pernicious argument.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:20 PM
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38: My bad. I thought the final tally was under the 52% threshold. Having looked at the final numbers, I see that I was wrong. Anyway, the bigger problem with the calculations in that post is that they're all pretty much fictional and half-baked.

39: He doesn't have my hopes in his hands. And he's on the record opposing gay marriage -- over and over again. And yet, he did come out against Prop 8 based on what amounts to an equal protection argument. Also, the tactical thing I mentioned is called getting elected. Finally, I'm not sure it was tactics so much as strategy; he did very little last-minute issue positioning during the campaign. Cutting an ad of some kind would have required a big deviation from his message. I'm not sure, for better or worse, that he does that.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:20 PM
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41 is to say, I blame the people who fueled the Prop 8 movement, and who targeted church-goers in California (who may indeed disproportionately be black). The Mormon money machine is behind this, as far as I understand it, not some massive African-American conspiracy to disenfranchise gay people.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:22 PM
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40: Yes, it does.

Drum has been very perceptive on this -- he predicted the margin back in May.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:23 PM
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39: Further to 43, I still don't know that I understand your argument. Your .1 seems to be saying that race had nothing to do with your earlier comment. (And by the way, I'm calm enough, thanks.). But your .2 goes right back to a connection, based explicitly on race, between Obama and the passage of Prop 8.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:24 PM
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I never caught any of the Prop 8 campaign. Californians, is it true that the No on 8 side ran it incompetently?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:25 PM
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47: Yes, it was a shit campaign, including, I'm told, making no effort to do outreach in African-American churches.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:26 PM
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The Mormons suck more, but with less bitter irony, because they didn't also help Obama over.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:27 PM
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I thought very little of the No on 8 ads I saw. The long one in which various white people quoted Corinthians 13 and then kissed their straight or gay white partners struck me as having written off the African-American community altogether, and appealing badly to Christians on an "emotional" register that they don't seem to have fully understood in making the ad. You don't win over Christians to anti-8 by making them feel, suddenly, for the first time, that homosexual relationships are valid because they saw a cute white gay couple kiss for half a second after reciting a phrase from the Bible. You win them over by talking about legal rights and the purpose of law being separate from whatever religious/emotional hangups they have. You're not going to change the ick-fear factor by briefly making them feel ick and fear.

I commented at a few sites about that particular ad that I thought it was creepily racist (like 40 people in the ad and no Hispanic or Af-Am people? at all?). I was told by the people who posted it that, "sadly," African-Americans have been written off as anti-8 voters, or that, "sadly," gay non-white couples gross out white Christians. Sadly, considering white Christians the only voters who count is what's fucking wrong with every campaign that's failed this year.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:32 PM
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40:No, it doesn't. Too reductionist.

You are creating a very focused narrative for an event that is very complex. In any case, flip 5% more whites in California and prop 8 fails. So whites are to blame. Or 10% more Hispanics. Or 30% more Asian-Americans. Or get 25% more turnout. Or whatever.

This narrative about black votes really fucking offends me.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:32 PM
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You know, that's the source of all the unexamined prejudices I have. It's just that no one has done the proper outreach to me.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:33 PM
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I agree mostly with 41, except that assembling majorities is done bloc by bloc, and so "racializing this further" has some benefit to it. But yes, it's important not to say "Finally! The excuse to hate black people we've all been waiting for" and I know that's in the subtext in places.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:34 PM
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Ta-nehisi Coates has been great on all this.

making no effort to do outreach in African-American churches

This is key. You can't just assume people will get the point because they've been discriminated against before. To use Coates's example, that's why Irish people were so great during the civil rights movement, right?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:36 PM
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52 is funny (you dick). But the point stands: the No on 8 folks didn't do outreach campaign in the African-American community.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:36 PM
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50 -- one of the harshest criticisms I've heard about No on 8 is that it was too cerebral and legalistic and not gay enough. The all-white stuff is hideous but many feel that a little more "we're loving couples too" would have been better.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:37 PM
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Especially toward the end, when it was unlikely to hurt him in the national race.

I think Drum is wrong about this; at any rate he provides no evidence and makes no argument. Incidentally, OR adopted a similar measure in 2004, and it sure as hell wasn't African-Americans who passed it.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:40 PM
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The lesson that more outreach in the black community is necessary is a good lesson. But it involves a narrative about black votes.

Reality offends me.

At 7:00 pm on election day, I was on the phone (there was a lull at the polling place I was doing No on 8 stuff at) saying to a friend, "I can't believe that the black Yes vote is going to be that high. It sounds too much like 'where's your coalition now, liberal?'" But there it was.

A voter took my picture with his cell phone and said that I was the Ku Klux Klan telling people how to vote at the polls and that he was going to find a policeman and arrest me. That was a little weird. The best part was when he went up to my partner and said that he was all right, but I was too aggressive.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:42 PM
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I thought at the time that the ad I put up here was interesting. But watching it again just now, I like it less.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:43 PM
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The No on 8 campaign was pretty sloppy. Most of the commercials I saw ran on Bravo, which amounted to preaching to the converted. And that ad with the thwarted bride was awful. I would have liked to see an appeal to older African American voters, who turned out in huge numbers, and who did support Prop 8. This was a historic election for America, why would you want to taint your ballot by coming down against civil rights?

On the subject of the original post, it does make sense to make marriage a private, rather than a governable, matter. The arguments against gay marriage reveal that people's attitudes towards marriage have less to do with legal rights than with culture, faith and religion -- concerns in which the government has no business to meddle. I've heard the argument over and over that civil unions come with all of the bells and whistles of marriage, and that people who oppose gay marriage aren't trying to deprive gays of anything, they just want to reserve "marriage" for heterosexuals. It's an issue of cultural status and blessing, which the government shouldn't be in the business of conferring or withholding.

So: Keep government out of it entirely. If gays aren't allowed to get married by the government, no one should be. You can get your civil union license at City Hall, and have your priest, pastor or community leader marry you in the culturally meaningful building of your choice.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:45 PM
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What I found interesting was that the LDS, in the course of pumping money into 8, felt it rhetorically necessary to accuse the anti-8 folks of revoking the tax exempt status of churches. Felt a bit like Palin (falsely) insisting that her Teleprompter fucked up at the convention and she did ok anyway.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:46 PM
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56: I just don't think that works against the kind of campaign the Pro-8s were running. What they stoked fear about was that homosexuality would be "taught" in schools. Maybe this is just white, Christian-raised me talking here, but the people I grew up around were a lot more disturbed by gay and gay-friendly people teaching in schools than they were by the idea that gay people exist. And, for them, whatever people do behind closed doors is fine, but they don't want it to seem normal or OK for gay people to hold hands in public, because it's somehow inherently indecent to fly in the face of heterosexual gender norms in front of children. The larger issue here is not that they don't believe gay people love each other, but that they're terrified that the very fabric of society is held together by a public terror of homosexual expression.

The anti-homophobia campaigns in NYC have been pretty good, I think, and they mostly feature people (including, or mostly, people of color) saying that they're straight themselves, but want to teach their kids that it's not OK to hate gay people. It targets straight parents by representing them and suggesting ways of talking about the issue, rather than posting pictures of beautiful white people smooching.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:48 PM
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revoking the tax exempt status of churches

A swell idea, but certainly not the same idea.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:49 PM
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it's not OK to hate gay people

This is the proscription and prescription I'm after.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 10:59 PM
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Do people start to hate gays more when they get old? No? Then don't worry. Time is on our side.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:09 PM
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Do people start to hate gays more when they get old?

I start to hate all people, gay and straight, when they get old.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:13 PM
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I will here make another bold prediction, after my famous assessments that Barack Obama would be elected president in '08 (made four years ago, and repeated throughout the primaries), and that he would win with 350+ electoral votes (made about two weeks after the RNC):

Gay marriage will be legal, and no longer contested by legislation, in the state of New York before it will be legal in California. East Coast rulez, West Coast droolz.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:18 PM
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This view--just eliminate marriage!--is actually incredibly common. I find it: (1) politically counterproductive--hey I know, they accuse of trying to end marriage so let's end marriage (2) personally offensive--hey, let's deny secular & interfaith heterosexuals marriage too! (3) further muddies the distinction between civil & religious marriage which needs to be unmuddied--but apparently I'm a distinct minority among internet liberals on that.

As for prop 8: it so easily could have happened that way in Massachusetts, if our state constitution was as dumb as California's--and California could so easily have followed the "initial backlash-reluctance to take away rights from real live gay couples-everyone stops caring" trajectory of Vermont and Massachusetts

...On the Obama/black voters thing: the fact that Obama is more popular than Jesus among a very pro-prop-8 constituency implies that less mealy-mouthed opposition from him might have made a difference. But what else is new from a Democratic presidential candidate other than Dennis Kucinich? A key Kerry ally in the Mass. state Senate was refusing to use the means at his disposal to stop the amendment in Mass. in 2004, probably in part to help Kerry--at the time, it looked like it might pass, and I was pretty mad. And Kerry was not nearly as cynical on this stuff as Bill Clinton wanted him to be.

David Patterson is pro-gay marriage, the NY Assembly passed a gay marriage bill last year, and the Democrats just took the Senate for the first time in decades & decades & decades....I wonder if they can show up Cali.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:19 PM
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(3) further muddies the distinction between civil & religious marriage which needs to be unmuddied--but apparently I'm a distinct minority among internet liberals on that.

"further muddies"? I think changing the name of "civil marriage" from "civil marriage" to "civil union" would make it more clear that it is a different thing from religious marriage.


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:21 PM
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The best part was when he went up to my partner and said that he was all right, but I was too aggressive.

Heh.

personally offensive--hey, let's deny secular & interfaith heterosexuals marriage too!

But what, actually, would you be denied here?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:22 PM
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I just find it nuts that Massachusetts is now more progressive on both marijuana and gay marriage. Oho, the tables are turned!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:24 PM
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71: We're closer to Europe ovah heah.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:27 PM
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just eliminate marriage!

Katherine, this is a very uncharitable reading of the post. I expect to attend many Catholic family members' weddings in the coming years, and it will mean no less to me whether or not their union is blessed by Uncle Sam, let alone state and local authorities.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:28 PM
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70.2 cont'd, in the secular case, not any of the civil consequences attending to marriage, since they would all be covered by the newly spiffed up civil call-them-anything-but-marriages, and not anything on the religous side either, since you didn't want that in the first place.

Similarly "interfaith" (what is that, like being intersexed?) hetero couples could still get married, if they wanted, in their religious institutions—once for each faith! Indeed, if I'm not mistaken, that's how it works now anyway: you get married by the sky pilot, and then you also execute a civil procedure. (Which suggests that homosexual couples can get married in the religious but not the civil sense the nation over, provided that they find obliging ministers.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:29 PM
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71: Well, MA has long since expelled its African-American population. And I think we've determined that's the key variable, right?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:30 PM
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"But what, actually, would you be denied here?"

Ask the Mass. Supreme Court.

I figured the marijuana thing would pass, but I was definitely surprised by the margin.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:30 PM
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Why don't you just tell me, Katherine, because I think your comment is a non sequitur.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:31 PM
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75: here I thought the presence or absence of an utterly retarded system for modifying the state constitution was the key.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:31 PM
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To extend Stanley's analogy (!!!), I still have a birth certificate and even a social security number, though I wasn't baptized. (Maybe if I hadn't been circumcised, I'd be in direr straits?)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:33 PM
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Which suggests that homosexual couples can get married in the religious but not the civil sense the nation over, provided that they find obliging ministers.

This is certainly true in CA (suck it, Massholes). I've been to several such ceremonies.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:33 PM
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"Similarly "interfaith" (what is that, like being intersexed?) hetero couples could still get married, if they wanted, in their religious institutions--once for each faith!"

Or neither, if they happen to be Catholic or Jewish. I'm sure they can find a nice Unitarian but the word "marriage" is meaningful to people--the entire basis for the damn court decisions saying that civil unions aren't good enough!!!!!!-- and arbitrarily denying it to straight people is actually a crappy, stupid crappy remedy for arbtirarily denying it to gay people. And politically counterproductive to boot.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:33 PM
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I was going to comment about how when I stop and think about Prop 8 I get so upset that I basically shut down but then Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other came up in Party Shuffle and somehow that made it okay for the moment.

I do basically go blank when I think about it. What I feel is too large to be felt just yet. I think it's stupid and counterproductive to blame black voters, though. Everyone has to learn and get better at this and we don't strengthen any coalitions by pointing fingers two days after an election much less by bald racism. Progress has never been fast for anyone in this country and it won't be fast for us. Everyone has had to lose a lot of fights before they win any. Looking for someone to blame, a la standard Republican operating procedure, isn't going to do anyone any favors and isn't going to teach anybody to be accepting.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:34 PM
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28: individually necessary, jointly sufficient.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:34 PM
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78: Now that you've embraced the queers, you've turned your anger on the retards? Nice. So filled with hate, you Bostonians. Is it the long winters?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:34 PM
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Hey, I'm in the state of sunshine and militant heterosexuality.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:36 PM
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Well, one of 'em, anyhow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:36 PM
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82 is lovely and made me cry. Again. Fucking Prop 8. I blame Tweety and all the other transplanted East Coast hate-mongers.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:36 PM
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Ben, you are making the "why can't you settle for civil unions, they're just as good" argument to me. It is the exact argument that every state Supreme Court rejects. Now, obviously, it wouldn't be *unconstitutional* for the gov't to not marry anyone. But the effect would be that ministers get to decide who can get married & who can't.

What possible earthly purpose does it serve to "get the gov't out of the marriage business"? It deeply alienates people like me, and I have yet to find a single opponent of gay marriage who it persuades. But it is all the rage in internet lalaland.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:38 PM
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I've been flipping off the mormon temple in my neighborhood pretty regularly, but it doesn't seem to have helped yet.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:39 PM
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I pissed on the pentecostal church next door several times a week and it didn't even slow em.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:43 PM
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Surely someone has written something about the irony of the Mormon church lecturing us about the sanctity of *traditional marriage*.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:44 PM
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Or neither, if they happen to be Catholic or Jewish.

Indeed, that is a problem. I don't know how actually existing Catholic-Jewish couples handle this, other than through conversion, but I bet at least some of those that decide simply to make do with a visit to the courthouse don't think they're getting "married", really, but instead entering into a civil relationship with a (confusingly) identical name. (How could they be getting married?)

the entire basis for the damn court decisions saying that civil unions aren't good enough!!!!!!

If no one could get "married" civilly, wouldn't that basis be a bit damaged?

I mean, I recognize that people want to be able to get "married", and not civilly united, but I think that if the government only offered one sort of union, (a) people would call it marriage anyway, even if that would be the legally incorrect term; (b) contrary to your contention it would actually make people more aware of the difference between civil and religious marriage, since civil marriage doesn't seem to be anything other than civil unions that people call marriage; (c) the fact that there was only one way to get any governmental recognition for your union would significantly lessen the sense that such unions were somehow less real, or less significant, or socially weirder, than those that additionally had the sanction of some religious institution or other, and (d) the denial wouldn't be arbitrary at all. After all, marriage is a religious institution—innit?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:45 PM
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It deeply alienates people like me

You still haven't explained why. Or did I miss something?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:45 PM
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However, I feel I'm in danger of being an asshole, or have already been one.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:46 PM
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What possible earthly purpose does it serve to "get the gov't out of the marriage business"? It deeply alienates people like me, and I have yet to find a single opponent of gay marriage who it persuades. But it is all the rage in internet lalaland.

I think the purpose would be to distinguish the government ratification of a marriage (the "civil union", providing certain financial and civil rights), from the actual (usually religious) marriage ceremony.

Why does it alienate you? Have you explained that somewhere?


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:48 PM
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I almost always lurk here rather than commenting, but I agree with Katherine, mostly for her reason number two.

There's a reason that Democratic politicians keep saying that they're in favor of civil unions and against same-sex marriage; marriage is a concept that society rightly or wrongly accords an awful lot of weight beyond the legal entitlements and responsibilities attached to it. I have a viscerally negative reaction to a strategy that seems to concede that same-sex or unchurched unions are less fully real than those blessed in churches or synagogues or what have you. The word matters, and I fail to see how increasing the number of people who can't get married improves things.


Posted by: King Rat | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:48 PM
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I don't know how actually existing Catholic-Jewish couples handle this

My sister and her husband had a wedding ceremony presided over by a rabbi and a priest. I don't know how common such things are.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:49 PM
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The ceremony part of civil marriage is just the beginning. There are various legal implications that can't/shouldn't be gotten rid of. Tenancy by the entireties, for example.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:50 PM
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The ceremony part of civil marriage is just the beginning. There are various legal implications that can't/shouldn't be gotten rid of. Tenancy by the entireties, for example.

Surely such things would be carried over into civil none-dare-call-them-marriages, though; otherwise, what would be the point?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:51 PM
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Omar is the new Kobe.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:51 PM
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marriage is a religious institution--innit?

Is this true?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:52 PM
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Marriage is prob fundamentally a societal institution.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:54 PM
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94: yes, you have been one. Specifically, here:
"I don't know how actually existing Catholic-Jewish couples handle this, other than through conversion, but I bet at least some of those that decide simply to make do with a visit to the courthouse don't think they're getting "married", really, but instead entering into a civil relationship with a (confusingly) identical name. (How could they be getting married?)"

Am I insane to see some parallel between:

Only religious people can REALLY get married--and not those wishy washy fake religions either. But the other people can have civil unions, with the same legal rights--that ought to be good enough. But let's not call it marriage, that offends the religious.

and

Only straight people can REALLY get married. But gay people can have civil unions, with the same legal rights--that ought to be good enough. But let's not call it marriage, that offends the religious.

I can see the argument that the civil arrangement is going to be the one that really matters if it's the only one with the legal consequences--people may call it "civil unions" but it will eventually have the same meaning as "civil marriage" does now, and so you're only pretending to get gov't out of the marriage business--really, you're getting churches out of the civil marriage business in return for calling civil marriage by a different name. This has got to be what people find appealing about it. But, churches WON'T find that appealing at all, & so this is worse than useless as a political tactic.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:55 PM
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Huh? Fake religions?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:57 PM
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The problem here is that even though religion is behind a lot of people's opposition to gay marriage, it isn't because they think Religious Marriage is the same thing as civil marriage. It's because they think being gay is sinful.

And in some cases, it really isn't even that. I'm telling you, I have spoken to and heard about a *lot* of Californians who voted yes and yet really don't have a problem with gay people, or even gay marriage, but felt that since the issue was on the ballot, and the churches were telling them to vote yes, they had to do as they were told by their churches. I think that by and large in California, while there are certainly bigots and homophobes left, most people's attitude on the matter is very life-and-let-live, really--as long as they're not pushed. When pushed to actually mark a ballot, or endorse gay marriage, they get a little nervous, still.

And as McManlypants says, pushing on those people even more--while understandable, what with the frustration and irritation of the stupid thing passing--is probably counterproductive. Which might actually be why it's the churches and the homophobes who keep pushing this shit onto the ballot.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:59 PM
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I can see the argument that the civil arrangement is going to be the one that really matters if it's the only one with the legal consequences--people may call it "civil unions" but it will eventually have the same meaning as "civil marriage" does now, and so you're only pretending to get gov't out of the marriage business--really, you're getting churches out of the civil marriage business in return for calling civil marriage by a different name.

Well, that's the argument. I don't see why the churches would be so upset about it. As noted, you still have to enter the civil marriage separately from the godly one anyway.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 6-08 11:59 PM
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As my earlier comment suggests, I think the language of marriage is really important to both straight and gay couples. A lesbian student of mine recently mentioned before class that she may have to take a call because her fiancée was taking their daughter to the doctor, and it struck me how important it is for her to be able to say that--not "my partner" or "my co-habitating significant other" or "my soon-to-be-civilly-united person" but "my fiancée." It's a language that is used to communicate the legitimacy and sanctity of the relationship, and its current status, in an unambiguous way.

As an unpartnered person, and as a mostly-straight person who is privileged enough socially by that I could choose to call a boyfriend, fiancé, or husband a "partner" if I wanted without fearing that it undermined my relationship's legitimacy, I take the language of marriage and its power for granted. The excitement of "fiancé[e]" is lost on me, because it's part of a system I reject for myself. To someone for whom these rights are new, the right to say "wife" or "husband" without qualification or explanation is really important.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:00 AM
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(Ironically, I was married by a cantor, with plenty of Hebrew in the ceremony. But I am not really wedded according to the laws of Moses & Israel even if the nice cantor from Scarsdale said so. I am, however, married according to the laws of the state of New York, and I find it: (1) bizarre (2) maddening that people think it's so very curious & irrational to be bothered by the prospect of having the state of New York no longer recognize marriages like mine.)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:00 AM
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That said, I don't really see what the opposition is to roommates getting civil unioned or married or whatever. Who cares? If two people get along and want to promise to stay together for the sake of health insurance or childrearing or splitting the rent or whatever, why is it anyone's business but their own?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:01 AM
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churches WON'T find that appealing at all, & so this is worse than useless as a political tactic

Aha. I was not suggesting a political tactic, and perhaps I was unclear. I was on about political theory: "What if we framed the debate this way, and since anyway there aren't any elections upcoming, let's talk about it?". I'm not trying to nullify any marriages.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:01 AM
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Apparently I'm wrong about the civil part being separate. I swear to god, I was told otherwise.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:03 AM
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"I don't see why the churches would be so upset about it. As noted, you still have to enter the civil marriage separately from the godly one anyway."

No, you don't--you have to go to city hall to get the license, but a clergyman can perform the legal civil ceremony.

And, are you kidding me? There is zero chance of anyone forcing the Catholic or Mormon churches to perform gay marriage ceremonies, & yet they seem to think that they should have some say in who can get legally, civilly married or not.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:03 AM
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(And, to follow up, I think it's the exclusive right to that language that is mostly being fought for here by pro-8 types, not really just rights.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:03 AM
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Are b and Katherine the same person? Because that would totally blow my mind.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:04 AM
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Katherine's right, but only because she's talking about the real world. If it weren't for that, getting government out of the marriage business would be a peachy idea.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:07 AM
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I don't think most roommates actually *want* to get married, but if people want to make a binding legal commitment to each other I don't think it's actually the gov'ts place to make sure they're planning to have sex with each other. (Well, I guess the INS considers it their business. But I think it mainly doesn't arise.)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:09 AM
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I think it's not entirely clear that, as ben says in 99, all of the rights and privileges obtaining to civil marriage would automatically carry over to the new system-you'd have a fight with the bigots setting it up, and you can't be sure you'd win all the way down the line.

Second, as AWB says in 107 this is very powerful language, and I'm angry at the thought of effectively telling the bigots they're right to keep it away from same-sex unions. Angry does not begin to describe my reaction to the thought of taking the power of the language away from nonreligious and interfaith unions, but that's likely because I have skin in that particular game.

Finally, I think you have to give the antigay side credit for not being entirely composed of morons. They're not going to be tricked into putting same-sex couples on the same legal footing as heterosexual couples just because you change the nomenclature. This is, I think, a fight that has to be fought and won directly.


Posted by: King Rat | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:09 AM
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Another way to frame it might be to ask what the governmental benefits attendant on marriage are, and whether they should be. A proper health care system would neatly render moot the problem of spousal health benefits.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:09 AM
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The real world is for chumps.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:09 AM
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(Ironically, I was married by a cantor, with plenty of Hebrew in the ceremony. But I am not really wedded according to the laws of Moses & Israel even if the nice cantor from Scarsdale said so. I am, however, married according to the laws of the state of New York, and I find it: (1) bizarre (2) maddening that people think it's so very curious & irrational to be bothered by the prospect of having the state of New York no longer recognize marriages like mine.)

Are you envisioning some scenario in which the state of New York "recognizes" some marriages, but not yours? Because some marriages were more religious than yours? How would that happen?


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:09 AM
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As a tricky looking man might once have said,

Is it the real world? I would rather be without it, for there is queer small utility in it. You cannot eat it or drink it or smoke it in your pipe, it does not keep the rain out and it is a poor armful in the dark if you strip it and take it to bed with you after a night of porter when you are shivering with the red passion. It is a great mistake and a thing better done without, like bed-jars and foreign bacon.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:11 AM
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No, I am envisioning a scenario in which the laws of Moses, Israel, the Roman Catholic Church, or other religious authorities are the only game in town for determining who can get married. The word is meaningful to people, including me.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:13 AM
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As far as I know we're not. I don't think I'm even particularly agreeing with Katherine here. In the perfect B world, the state wouldn't give a shit about marriage at all, and we'd provide generous public support to single parents while their children are young and put social pressure on both parents to raise their kids together.

I mean, I'm the chick with the boyfriend here. I'm not all into finding the language of marriage deeply meaningful, at least not in the sense that most people mean it.

(And in answer to K's question upthread, the reason "the state should get out of marriage" is all the rage in internet land right now is because people are irritated. And because the entire argument over gay marriage highlights the problem with marriage--it's a concept that is religious *and* civil, and one that has moral and legal overtones, and they overlap quite a lot. Which is why people get upset about it.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:13 AM
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I'm not all into finding the language of marriage deeply meaningful, at least not in the sense that most people mean it.

B knows an archbishop who's a soft touch for annulments.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:15 AM
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It's a mistake to think that surrendering marriage to the churches would be "effectively telling the bigots they're right to keep it away from same-sex unions." Conservative and Reform synagogues marry same-sex couples. Episcopal churches marry same-sex couples. Winning civil unions as a secular and equal right regardless of sex would make the fight over same-sex marriage a strictly religious affair, but there are religions on both sides of it.

And in many ways, we're likely to start approaching the issue this way. If federal civil unions come to pass, not unlikely under Obama, something like this state will obtain. The fight for full marriage rights will continue, for reasons that AWB and others explain, but it will become very explicitly a conversation about language and respect as the material consequences recede. And we'll win that one, too.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:15 AM
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It was that your comment began with, "That said". But I couldn't find anything that you had said prior to that. And Katherine's comment immediately preceded yours. So. Anyway, I'm still not sure I believe you.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:16 AM
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123 to 114.

Of course you guys all realize that if civil unions were a perfectly acceptable substitute for marriage, then gay people wouldn't give a shit about being told they can't get married. But many of them do.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:16 AM
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124: You have no idea how easy annulments are to get. My dad got one after my folks divorced. 22 years of marriage, two kids.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:17 AM
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126 to 123.1


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:17 AM
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124: You have no idea how easy annulments are to get. My dad got one after my folks divorced. 22 years of marriage, two kids.

I didn't think "Catholic" meant "universal" in the sense of easy, IYKWIM. Geez.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:18 AM
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I can beat that; my parents' marriage was annulled after 27 years & 4 kids.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:20 AM
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it will become very explicitly a conversation about language and respect as the material consequences recede

Maybe the problem is that for pro-8ers, it already is only a conversation about language ("we want to define 'marriage' as 'between one man and one woman'"), while for anti-8ers, it's mostly framed as about rights (hospital visitation rights, financial benefits, state recognition). But there's an unwillingness among some straight allies, like some of us, to recognize that, for gay couples and those who oppose them, the language is really the thing that creates such intense desire or revulsion.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:20 AM
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No, I am envisioning a scenario in which the laws of Moses, Israel, the Roman Catholic Church, or other religious authorities are the only game in town for determining who can get married. The word is meaningful to people, including me.

But you did find religious officials to marry you to someone of a different religion. And the state doesn't care whether your marriage was officiated by a religious official or some random guy anyway.


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:21 AM
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To answer the original post: yes, you are off your rocker. Because there was a setback in the fight to award equal rights to gay couples you now think it would be easier to start a new fight to redefine marriage? What colour is the sky in your world?

Gay marriage is going to happen sooner or later, within the lifetimes of the people reading this. It won't be an easy fight, but consider the progress made even under Bush. With Obama in the White House I'd expect the acceptance of gay marriage to accelerate.

As a sidenote, experience over here has shown that most gay people who want to marry, want to marry, not get fobbed off with some insulting marriage-lite scheme.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:22 AM
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132: Well, indeed; in CA, civil unions basically are defined as guaranteeing the rights of marriage by a different name.

But as I said to my dad, it's basically a version of separate but equal. And the CA supreme court agrees with me.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:23 AM
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"And the state doesn't care whether your marriage was officiated by a religious official or some random guy anyway"

Right, because civil marriage exists.

Honestly, I feel like I'm speaking a different language here. Why is this so fucking hard to understand?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:23 AM
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134: Come on, people. The post was a thought experiment. Stanley is not actually in charge of writing legislation.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:24 AM
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136: But...civil marriage would also exist if it was called "civil union".


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:35 AM
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Finally, I think you have to give the antigay side credit for not being entirely composed of morons. They're not going to be tricked into putting same-sex couples on the same legal footing as heterosexual couples just because you change the nomenclature.

I have been under the impression that that's widely embraced as a compromise, at least widely enough to make it politically feasible.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:36 AM
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131 is awesome.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:43 AM
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And it's a compromise that was a huge win. That was not politically feasible 10 years ago. DOMA must be repealed to institute federal civil unions.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:43 AM
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Watching John Turturro play Primo Levi. Apparently the movie radically sucks compared to the book.

Humans establish communities above & beyond the law. These are the important connections for people. Families. Your neighborhood isn't lines on a map, your nation isn't a constitution. The community is not a rational choice.

Marriage is one of the institutions that mark acceptance into this extra-legal community. It is the interface between "stranger" & "kin" It may be the primary institution that moves the outsider into the community.

The state is not the people. Civil unions are a relationship between a couple & the state. Civil unions are exclusionary ands alienating, by design.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:45 AM
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62: I dunno. The Prop 8 TV ads said hardly anything about letting gay people get married, and only marginally more about the state recognizing said marriages. Their most popular ad showed Gavin Newsom saying "this is the way it's going to be, whether you like it or not!", with the clear implication that if you didn't like it, you could vote to tell Gavin he was wrong. The other big ones were all of the theme "your young child will be taught that gay marriage is OK, and there's nothing you can do about it, unless you vote for this."

In response to this, there were platitudes about discrimination.

Where was the ad of some guy sitting on a chair looking happy, talking about how he's finally found someone that he wants to spend the rest of his life with, and showing a little jewelry box with a ring in it, and how he's so excited, and then going into "but now I guess that there are people out there who are going to tell me I can't get married? I don't understand... what did I ever do to them? Why do they want to stop me from this?", sitting there for a few seconds, then saying "Maybe I can pawn the ring, I guess?"

Or have some old woman saying something like "Oh, I remember the 50s. I was living in Arkansas at the time, and gosh, it seemed like everything was changing so fast. Those California courts went and said black people and white people could marry... we couldn't let that happen to us, it'd be a disaster. I try and remember why it was so important to keep black people in their place, and I can't. I thank God every day that my daughter found it in her to forgive me I have to live with my mistakes. Other people don't have to repeat them."

Make people confront what they're doing when they vote for it. Don't tell them that it's Unfair and Wrong, tell them that it's going to crush the dreams of Bob Smith who works as a shipping clerk at the warehouse out by the freeway.

And for the love of god, don't buy ads Bravo or have people stand at the corner of 18th and Castro waving "No on 8" signs.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:55 AM
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143 re-reminds us. I have just got to say that among the people I work with, the most surprising thing about the day was that California, of all places, was the place where gay marriage was affirmatively eradicated by the voters and 40,000 people had their marriages invalidated, by the voters of California. More than one person was going around saying "Really? If equal rights is still too radical of a concept in CALIFORNIA, I can just imagine what a huge margin equal rights would lose by in every other state. I guess I was way too optimistic about tolerance in this country."

The idea that the measure lost because the "No on 8" forces were staggeringly incompetent is a welcome alternate hypothesis.


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 1:00 AM
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If equal rights is still too radical of a concept in CALIFORNIA.

San Francisco and Hollywood get all the press. No one thinks about Ontario or Downey or Palmdale or Fresno or Riverside or a hundred other Central Valley or Inland Empire cities. Unfortunately, it appears that "No one" includes the No on Prop 8 crowd.

Don't get me wrong, it would still suck if the No on Prop 8 people did a good job and 47% of the state still voted in favor of banning gay marriage. But it would certainly suck a lot less.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 1:09 AM
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And if anyone wants to say the "blah blah all the rights accruing blah blah we don't need that mystic mumbo jumbo" is satisfactory, I can point to Primo Levi, who was protected by the law until he wasn't.
Only 70 years ago.

The law is nothing. The mystic mumbo jumbo is the point.

Fuck tolerance. It has to be full acceptance.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 1:10 AM
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145: 8 passed in LA County.

The No On 8 people just didn't do a good job in a hard, uphill battle.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 1:10 AM
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Getting the state out of the marriage business would not be a peachy idea.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 1:14 AM
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146: Fuck off, bob.

147: Yeah. Hell, it got 25% of the vote in San Francisco. The no-on-8 people had a tough fight, and they did lose a battle in a ware where victory seems inevitable, but man... it sure doesn't seem like it had to be this way.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 1:15 AM
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Although a few US states still has common law marriage and that may be a good thing.

Associating marriage and religion is offensive. The catholic church managed to take over what was until then a completely secular affair in the high middle ages. When civil marriage partly undid that, it was a great thing.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 1:23 AM
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149:You fuck off.

We shouldn't have to have laws prohibiting torture. We shouldn't have to have laws protecting a woman's right to choose. We shouldn't have to have laws recognizing gays as human beings.

Those laws are actually doing the opposite of their purported purpose. They are actually protecting the very bad people who would oppose such rights and freedoms. They are a public acceptance & tolerance of assholes. The laws are saying, in a sense, that those with evil attitudes and opinions are in some sense "ok", an accepted part of the community. They ratify intolerance by regulating it.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 1:31 AM
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don't buy ads Bravo or have people stand at the corner of 18th and Castro waving "No on 8" signs.

Um...why not?

Get your votes where you can. You need to persuade the middle while turning out the base.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 1:35 AM
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Maybe it's just because it's 3 in the morning, but I don't understand Katherine's objections at all. I was married by a rabbi. Under the Stanley Plan, I'd be both Jewishly married and New Hampshirely civilly unionized. If you take the stigma out of "civil union" it seems to me you solve some of the problem. The state treats everyone equally. If a given religion won't marry a given couple, well, fuck 'em. (As it happened, we had to shop around a bit for a rabbi who'd marry us, and I was this close to saying "fuck 'em" and having a civil ceremony instead. My gay friends don't have that option.) And as Ben said, I think, no one's going to arrest you for calling your civil union a marriage.

I don't mean to claim this is a brilliant political strategy, I just think it's a good idea.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 1:45 AM
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"nd as Ben said, I think, no one's going to arrest you for calling your civil union a marriage."

No, but it would be socially acceptable for people not to see you as really married. It would be marriage with a footnote.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 2:01 AM
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"as Ben said, I think, no one's going to arrest you for calling your civil union a marriage."

That's ecqually true of gay people today. How can you be upset by prop 8 and support this idea at the same time? It's rather bizarre.


Posted by: David Weman | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 2:04 AM
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Um...why not? Get your votes where you can. You need to persuade the middle while turning out the base.

Maybe Bravo was worthwhile, but 18th and Castro is probably the single gayest intersection in the entire country. All the local newspapers ran constant articles about Prop 8, all the neighborhood merchants had "No on 8" signs up, handwritten if they couldn't find an official one. Everyone who lives there was already going to vote No. Even going three miles west to the Sunset or two miles North to the Western Addition would have increased the chance of finding a potential additional vote immeasurably.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 2:38 AM
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154,155: There's a big difference between the state telling you your union is second-class and some church doing so. The latter is unfortunate, but Constitutionally protected.

I'd rather the state offer the same institution to everyone, and it doesn't much matter to me what they call it.



Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 2:50 AM
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I guess another reason the idea sits wrong, even in the abstract, is it ratifies the germ theory of homosexuality, essentially saying "don't worry, we won't get teh ghey in your marriages."

Aha. I was not suggesting a political tactic, and perhaps I was unclear. I was on about political theory: "What if we framed the debate this way, and since anyway there aren't any elections upcoming, let's talk about it?".

I don't see the distinction, except in short-term v. long-term. Nobody here, AFAIK, is deciding what Gay Rights Central Command will do for the next cycle. "Reframing the debate" = "maybe if we do it like this, people won't hate the idea" = politics at a slight remove.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 5:30 AM
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Second para above should be in italics.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 5:30 AM
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125: Episcopal churches marry same-sex couples.

Actually, this is really tricky, and I'm not sure that they do all that often. I'm pretty sure that in Massachusetts the Bishop has asked parishes not to marry gay couples, though they are free to bless their unions.

I know that the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, one of the leftier Episcopal seminaries, had a policy of not marrying anyone in their chapel in protest.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 5:50 AM
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I guess another reason the idea sits wrong, even in the abstract, is it ratifies the germ theory of homosexuality, essentially saying "don't worry, we won't get teh ghey in your marriages."

The germ theory thing seems to be how it is viewed. I'm inclined not to give churches a choice. If the couple were het and would get married then the church has to marry the gay couple too or lose the lovely tax exemption and, even more important, lose the state granted right that the clergy/elders/whoever can perform marriages.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 5:57 AM
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I'm imagining long-term roommates who are not romantically involved, but whose finances, for instance, might make more sense if they were entwined officially.

Don't a lot of marriages end up like this anyway?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 6:22 AM
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I guess the idea is: okay, religious right, you can have the word "marriage" & give up the ability to create the binding legal union that gives the commitment force; the legal arrangement becomes entirely secular & you leave it alone, but in return, we'll agree to call it "schmarriage." This compromise depends on: (a) the word having enough meaning to religious communities that this sounds like a good deal--but why? They can already say that someone doesn't have a true Christian marriage, isn't really married in the eyes of God, etc., AND they have the authority to perform the civil ceremony, AND the political ability in most places to prevent teh gays from participating. (b) the word not having enough meaning to non-clergy that they won't be upset about giving it up. Both sides of this seem extremely dicey, & it seems close to impossible for both to work at once--you're arguing to me that the word is meaningless & it's irrational, bizarre, and bewildering (just stop fucking asking this, all right? You're not going to get an explanation that satisfied you & I find it insulting & condescending) for it to mean anything to me, and yet the religious right is supposed to be psyched about giving up all power over the legal institution in return for control over the word? Either they're getting something meaningful, or they're not.

So that's one reason this is a political nonstarter. The other reason is that this proposed compromise ignores the fact that there are over 50 different jurisdictions that marry people in this country, & they all use the word "marriage" for the legal institution, as does the federal government, as do international jurisdictions. You're presumably not going to get all of them to repeal their marriage laws & replace them with non-discriminating civil unions at once. Call it "schmarriage" & "civil union" instead in one jurisdiction, & it's not clear that others will recognize it as equivalent to civil marriage, as opposed to a quasi-second-class thing like domestic partnerships or civil unions. Maybe they won't do this if it would harm straight people--but straight people have the option of going to the next state over and getting legally married in a church. Unless the state that adopts the civil union law refuses to recognize any marriages performed in other states, I suppose, but that'd be a real pain for everyone.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 7:05 AM
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In states and countries that have civil unions, can heterosexual couples opt for a civil union? As a show of solidarity or something?

If there were civil unions in Texas, I'd do it. But I don't know that I have the oomph to go to Vermont over it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 7:08 AM
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I just find it nuts that Massachusetts is now more progressive on both marijuana and gay marriage. Oho, the tables are turned!

Come back to Massachusetts, Sifu. It's so much cooler here.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 7:09 AM
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It's perfectly clear to me that Loving v. Virginia compels states to accept same-sex marriage. We just need a couple more justices willing to put their bigotry aside and see it. Which is going to take some time.

But it's a whole lot easier to imagine than getting everyone to agree that my marriage, Katherine's, and 80 million others ought to be invalidated, in favor of some alternative status.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 7:21 AM
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No, I am envisioning a scenario in which the laws of Moses, Israel, the Roman Catholic Church, or other religious authorities are the only game in town for determining who can get married.

(a) the word having enough meaning to religious communities that this sounds like a good deal--but why?

As I understand this proposal, all this would do is make it such that the religious ceremonies and the civil contract aren't the same thing. Everyone can get civilly married; only people who get a minister to marry them are religiously married. It's not just changing the word; it's separating the religious function from the civil function completely.

That might be hard to pass politically, because the clergy like having the legal power, but as I understand it is has the opposite effect from the one you're worried about: you're just as married under the law no matter the state of your religious ceremony. Sure, you can only get religiously married if you can find someone willing to do the ceremony, but that's how it is now.

But it's a whole lot easier to imagine than getting everyone to agree that my marriage, Katherine's, and 80 million others ought to be invalidated, in favor of some alternative status.

I don't think this follows. Presumably you filled out the marriage license and had the officiant send in the forms so your marriage is registered civilly; your civil marriage doesn't go anywhere. All this would do is take away the power of the priest that married me and shiv as a civil authority going forward, so if the priest officiates at my sister's wedding she'd have to fill out something separate to be civilly married.

That's a big change, but it's not one that would invalidate anyone's existing marriage. I also think something like this is the case in a few European countries.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 7:49 AM
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If the couple were het and would get married then the church has to marry the gay couple too or lose the lovely tax exemption and, even more important, lose the state granted right that the clergy/elders/whoever can perform marriages.

Lovely as the more vindictive, hillbilly parts of my psyche find this, it isn't a good idea. The only path to being left the hell alone is letting churches think they figured out on their very own that in fact none of us are going to take anything away from their precious little selves. (In other words, I would prefer to see tax exempt status stripped from all churches regardless of their political bent as a matter of principle.)

Ultimately, Prop 8's passage could be really, really depressing to me except for four things: (a) I couldn't get married on Monday, either, so nothing has changed for me and (b) Rah has not been taken away by a phalanx of Californian wingnuts and (c) progress in this country has always turned out to be glacial in that it is both incredibly slow and unstoppable and (d) time is truly on our side. Until then, you know what? I still have to live peaceably beside my Republican neighbor. I'm sure this makes me a despicable procedural liberal limp-wristed centrist or some bullshit but whatever, it's my fucking marriage, I'll get as upset or not as I want.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 7:53 AM
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I also think something like this is the case in a few most European countries.

Those without an established state church where the priest/pastor acts as a registrar by virtue of being part of the state apparatus.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:00 AM
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Yeah, as I understand this proposal, it's less about the name and more about removing the automatic registrar function.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:04 AM
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Sorry, I get worked up.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:05 AM
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I would prefer to see tax exempt status stripped from all churches

That would be the most satisfying moment of my political life.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:05 AM
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And, like, historically, this has often been the case. Marriage by consent was the rule for a while. Why were you married? Because you'd made a promise and you were having sex and the community treated you as a couple. Were you religiously married? Well, the priest hadn't been through the village this year, so.... Tying the two together is a relatively recent phenomenon.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:09 AM
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Cala makes the case better, of course.

And, following on something above, the perspective of the Religious Right on civil marriage is actually a little confused. I once confounded a very religious acquaintance by asking him how it was that civil authorities had the power to make a sexual relationship legitimate in the eyes of God.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:15 AM
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I would prefer to see tax exempt status stripped from all churches.

That would be one of, if not the best simple political actions possible.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:17 AM
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Well, if the idea is to get the church out of civil marriage, I don't have a major problem with it, but of course 9 times out of 10 it's presented as getting gov't out of marriage--the hope being that people's emotional reaction to the word "marriage" overrides the loss of power to churches. It shouldn't be that shocking or bewildering that some non-clergy take that at face value. And, again, since the civil institution is called "marriage" in every other jurisdiction & will continue to be called marriage in every other jurisdiction, it's not actually clear that changing the name to "civil union" or what have you in one state has any practical effect.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:19 AM
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(c) progress in this country has always turned out to be glacial in that it is both incredibly slow and unstoppable and (d) time is truly on our side.

Ya know, we have been moving backwards on abortion for thirty years, and then there's the torture thing, and oh, did I mention I watched a movie about Primo Levi last night?

Not that I want to mess with people's religion.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:21 AM
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I'm not seeing the huge upside of stripping churches* of tax exempt status. Nine out of ten of them really aren't in it for the money/politics, and you'd be screwing them too.

*insert cheap joke


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:22 AM
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I should note that by "churches" I don't just mean Christian churches. I'd like to see tax-exempt status taken away from any religious organization that enjoys it, regardless of religion. (This includes any religious organization that claims to represent my religion, if there even are any; if they exist they're probably a scam.)

That's regardless of gay marriage, though. In that fight I would much rather be patient and win via legitimate legal means than score points by taking any sort of litigious revenge.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:23 AM
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f-mortal, I'm a pretty nice guy, too, but I still pay taxes.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:25 AM
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I was married by a justice of the peace. This is exactly the thing that I can do with my beloved, and RMMP cannot do with his. The proposal as I understand is to equalize our situations not by bringing him to my status, as I think the Constitution clearly requires, but by bringing me to his. Or bringing us both to some intermediate it's-not-marriage-but-you-can't-tell-the-difference status. My point is that a thought experiment that postulates that changing my status -- shared by tens of millions -- either to option 1 or option 2, rather than changing RMMP's status, is beyond unrealistic.

I don't care what the religions do. If the Catholic Church can't be stripped of its tax exempt status for publicly denying Kerry communion during the 2004 campaign, then virtually nothing would suffice.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:26 AM
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I mean, it's not clear that it has NO practical effect.

If you're not talking about changing the name at all, and you're just saying: don't let clergy perform civil marriages, I'm totally okay with it but: (1) it is not in any way a compromise about gay marriage (2) it may be mildly impractical--there are only so many sea captains, justices of the peace, magistrates, mayors, town clerks etc. out there.

If we're talking about not giving clergy any special authority to solemnize marriages, & letting more adults officiate and/or letting couples marry each other in the presence of witnesses w/o an officiant, I am more than okay with it. I believe Massachusetts already lets anyone marry anyone to anyone w/o requiring them to get ordained online or whatever first--you just register with the state as an officiant.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:27 AM
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Do churches get some special tax exemption that's different from any other 501(c)(3) non-profit?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:30 AM
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174: What'll really fix your little red wagon is that under Catholicism, the priest is entirely irrelevant to making the marriage happen. The priest is just a special witness that the church trusts, basically. shiv and I technically performed our own marriage. We're the contracting parties, after all.

but of course 9 times out of 10 it's presented as getting gov't out of marriage--the hope being that people's emotional reaction to the word "marriage" overrides the loss of power to churches.

Not to tweak you too much here, but the interesting thing about your 163 was your flipping back between 'it's just a word, they couldn't possibly think having the word was important' and 'that word is really important.'

I don't care what it's called at all; the important functional thing would be to make it so that the religious function and the civil function couldn't be fulfilled by having just one ceremony. I'm sure once the wedding-industrial complex got ahold of it, couple that are getting religiously married will have the civil function as part of the rehearsal dinner, and the W-IC will try to sell us more plastic shit.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:31 AM
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you'd be screwing them too

Being taxed isn't getting screwed; it's being treated normally.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:33 AM
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I think churches think the word is plenty important, but why would they accept control over the word for loss of power over the legal institution when they currently have both?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:33 AM
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it may be mildly impractical--there are only so many sea captains, justices of the peace, magistrates, mayors, town clerks etc. out there.

Probably more than there are clergy, when you add them all up. Over here, there's a specific job of Registrar, employed by local government, who performs marriages and registers births, adoptions and deaths. You have maybe half a dozen per county/city, and that's what they do all day. Works for me.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:33 AM
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181: I'm pretty sure the proposal here is to make it so that only a justice of the peace can perform a marriage, not a religious official. (And also to rename the thing "legal union" or something, rather than "marriage", although I think that's secondary.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:35 AM
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185: I repeat the question in 183. My impression is that their tax status is the same as any other 501(c)(3) organization, & I don't see why churches alone should be ineligible for 501(c)(3) status. Am I wrong about that? I don't see why they should get preferential treatment over other non-profits either.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:35 AM
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181: What you say is sensible, particularly politically. I do wonder though, if something better couldn't be done at least in theory. Strip all legal consequences from the state of `marriage'. Any church/whatever that wants to regulate the application of this label to its congregation, and they symbolic application of it, is still free to do so though. Back to the legal framwork: without the connection to religious marriage, we'd be free to tease apart some of the civil issues that are currently glommed together. Everyone currently married automagically gets a package of legal rights and responsibilities matched to current status, and we have a simple procedure to apply for same for any couple (het or gay). But parts of it should be separable, and easily assignable outside the framework of `marriage' (i.e. hospital visitation rights. Why shouldn't a person be able to give this to a lifelong friend?)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:35 AM
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188 should have said "justice of the peace or other civil official".


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:36 AM
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187: Exactly. Hiring a few more wouldn't be onerous, in places that needed it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:38 AM
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Well, as I said, I'm fine with taking clergy out of the marriage business, but this is in no shape or form a useful compromise on gay marriage. To sell it as a useful compromise depends on playing with people's emotional reaction to the word "marriage", so to then treat people who fall for your rhetoric & have an emotional reaction to the word marriage as if that's inexplicable, irrational, etc. is obnoxious & condescending.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:38 AM
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183: Non-religious charities have to go through a complicated application and approval process while churches just automatically qualify. The former also have to be accountable for where the money goes, while churches do not have to file any financial disclosure statements. And I suppose property tax laws on charities vary from place to place, but that's a shitload of prime property that gets a super-valuable exemption that gets made up for by everybody else, which amounts to a subsidy.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:41 AM
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188 -- This from the OP: My zany and not-fully-sussed-out position on the issue is: no governmental recognition of marriage for anyone. Government at all levels* should view marriage as it does, for example, Catholic baptism: it's a private matter, not subject to public purview. And as a substitute for the legal and practical concerns that the category of civilly recognized "marriage" currently (and incompletely, in my view) addresses: civil unions.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:41 AM
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186: I think it's a smaller shift than what they currently think they have. I'm sure my opinion on this is informed by being part not just of a country that has rules on marriage but a religion that has it's own set of rules AND having to deal with immigration, which was another set of paperwork entirely. Getting married already meant a lot of forms that one central authority didn't have the poewr over.

As far as whether the churches would deal, there are Catholics all over the world and I'm sure the laws are different in many places (including places that already have a distinct civil function) and it manages to work out getting people religiously married in all sorts of places. I'm sure everyone would flip out -- I'm not arguing for the feasibility of this -- but it's not exactly a new problem.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:41 AM
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And no one has even attempted to respond to the "51 different sets of marriage law in this country alone" point, which makes this totally useless as a practical solution--ironically, "let's fix the practicalities by having the government not use the word "marriage" for them" is, as far as an actual political proposal, a completely useless nonstarter & good only for having tedious internet bull sessions about the meaning of the word "marriage."


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:42 AM
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In practice there is no way to get churches out of the marriage game, nor is there any way to cleanly separate civil marriage from religious marriage. The vast majority of USAmericans are religious to some degree or other and the vast majority support the entanglement of civil and religious marriage in some form or another. In addition, marriage is something that is handled at the state, not federal, level.

I very much like the idea of simple uniform nationwide standards in this as in a lot of other things. However, there is simply no mechanism by which such standards can be brought about in the case of marriage. It is inevitably going to be a state level fight. The best the federal government can do is perhaps to recognize some form of civil union for the purposes of taxation and federal benefits, shoehorning in both civil marriages and various forms of civil unions, common law marriages, and the like.

I suggest attacking the problem by recognizing a split not just between religious and civil marriage, but between state and local level civil marriage and federal level civil unions. Right now Federal recognition of a marriage is simply adopted from the individual states, so a federally recognized marriage is not subject to uniform standards. Perhaps there should be an alternative mechanism that subsumes the current one and extends it by providing a means to register a civil union directly with the federal government. Over time, the federal civil union would hopefully trickle down to the state level.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:45 AM
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good only for having tedious internet bull sessions

Are you new here?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:45 AM
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195: I see that, but I think there Stanley is referring exclusively to the word, "marriage". The status and rights that currently comprise "marriage" would exclusively in the hands of the state, under differnet verbiage.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:46 AM
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Non-religious charities have to go through a complicated application and approval process while churches just automatically qualify.

So are you saying that if, for the sake of argument, Marcotte wanted to try it on, she could just register her "Church of the Disco Ball" and stop paying taxes and nobody even ask questions? Then why doesn't everybody?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:47 AM
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161: md 20/400 I'm inclined not to give churches a choice

But churches already refuse to marry all sorts of people - the Catholic church won't marry you if you don't attend a pre-marriage course, if they think one party is being forced into it, etc. I don't think your idea can be implemented.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:48 AM
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"And I suppose property tax laws on charities vary from place to place, but that's a shitload of prime property that gets a super-valuable exemption that gets made up for by everybody else, which amounts to a subsidy"

Well, I live near Cambridge--to me it seems at least as defensible for some poor church in Roxbury to be exempt from property taxes as say, Harvard. Some sort of cap on the real estate value you can claim an exemption for might make sense though. I do agree that not being subject to the same legal hoops & disclosure requirements as other nonprofits isn't fair.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:48 AM
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197/198: is there any reason you believe it would have to be a federal solution? This sort of thing could be done at the state level.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:48 AM
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I think the issue of getting the churches out of the marriage business is somewhat orthogonal to the acceptance gay marriage, but might be helpful to do at the same time, as a clean break.

As far as useful compromises go, fuck that for a game of soldiers it if it's much of a compromise. No second-class status need apply.

Which is why I kind of like the idea of stripping all legal status from the word. Church X can vilify gay marriage and not accept gay members, Church Y down the street can celebrate it. Neither would have any legal effect. At the same time legal status of couples wrt inheritance, insurance, visitation right, etc. etc. is available to all.

Of course, I can't see it happening in this country any time soon, so that's a separate issue.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:49 AM
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(i.e. hospital visitation rights. Why shouldn't a person be able to give this to a lifelong friend?)

No good reason. Just a difficulty in administration. And enforcement: I can give anyone I want the right to visit me, but I can't make institution X honor that gift. An enforcement mechanism would have to be created to ensure that X would do so. On the other hand, I have the culture and the tradition behind me when I say I want to visit my wife in the hospital. Why on earth would I want to give that up?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:50 AM
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"197/198: is there any reason you believe it would have to be a federal solution? This sort of thing could be done at the state level."

By 50 states at once? Not likely. If it happens one state at a time, do that states' civil unions count as civil marriages under federal law & the laws of the other 49 states? Or are they separate, second-class benefits that are only good within that state's borders, much as Vermont's civil unions are now?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:51 AM
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I do agree that not being subject to the same legal hoops & disclosure requirements as other nonprofits isn't fair.

Yeah, this is the big deal. I have no problem with the idea that once churches were stripped of their special status they could apply to form non-profit the same as any other group, of course.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:51 AM
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204 leaving it entirely to the states effectively abandons huge swaths of the country to the retrograde elements who predominate there. I'm not willing to simply say "tough shit" to all the LGBT folk in the Bible belt, for example.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:52 AM
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Why on earth would I want to give that up?

Why would you be giving it up? As for enforcement, it's easy enough except in cases where the patient is deemed incompetent. Enforcement is easy enough; make it so any hospital has to treat my designated visitor(s) exactly the same as they would family members, etc.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:53 AM
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I can't see it happening in this country any time soon, so that's a separate issue.

You can't articulate a reason why tens of millions of people would want to adopt a proposal that would affect, and complicate, their lives. Of course you can't see it happening.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:54 AM
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I'm fine with whatever word they want to use. Civil marriage, religious marriage. It's already the case that they count as distinct things under the law. Technically, Allegheny County didn't recognize my Catholic marriage as a civil marriage; they recognized the priest as someone who could perform a civil marriage, and whether I also got religiously married is entirely irrelevant. If we hadn't filed the paperwork to the court house we wouldn't have a civil marriage.

197: It's no less useless as a practical solution than amending 51 sets of marriage laws to allow for same-sex couples, and the argument's no better than it would be if I said 'there's no reason to vote against prop 8; there's 51 different sets of marriage law in this country alone.' In some ways it might be easier; civil marriage is just the same no matter what, and the feds continue to recognize civil marriage. It just removes the procedure for getting a civil marriage from religious officials.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:54 AM
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Not likely. If it happens one state at a time, do that states' civil unions count as civil marriages under federal law & the laws of the other 49 states?

Should be: Recognized under federal law, and change the reciprocity so that State A doesn't have to recognize any marriages from State B if State B will not recognize all of State A's.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:56 AM
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make it so

With a magic wand? One that reaches to Virginia, so if we're in a car wreck there, the same rules apply?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:56 AM
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214: sure, state by state is a problem with that, I agree. A solution for the entire country would be best, but getting there is not clear.... I alluded to this as a practical problem.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:57 AM
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You can't articulate a reason why tens of millions of people would want to adopt a proposal that would affect, and complicate, their lives. Of course you can't see it happening.

I take Katherine's point that it would be hard to get all of the states to make a change, but I don't really understand why this would particularly complicate people's lives. Don't you already have to go down to city hall to get a marriage certificate, even if you're having a religious ceremony?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:58 AM
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Yup.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:59 AM
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You can't articulate a reason why tens of millions of people would want to adopt a proposal that would affect, and complicate, their lives.

I can easily articulate it: The current system is unjust. Finding your way to justice is not always without complication.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 8:59 AM
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If it happens one state at a time, do that states' civil unions count as civil marriages under federal law & the laws of the other 49 states?

Well, yeah. Isn't that how you'd expect it to work (after we got rid of DOMA)? You might have a little litigation about it. but presumably you'd have a civil-unioned het couple from NJ move to Tennessee, where they don't have civil unions, look at a form asking if they were married, and check the box saying yes, because that's the closest to accurate box. Tennessean officials would, it seems to me, be overwhelmingly likely to treat civil unions as marriages just out of inertia, recognizing that it means pretty much the same thing that 'marriage' does in Tennessee.

You could have a state throw a hissy fit -- passing a law that they're not recognizing any 'civil unions', gay or het, from a state that doesn't do marriages -- but in the absence of such a law I'd expect recognition.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:01 AM
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It's already the case that they count as distinct things under the law.

This is true, to the extent that one counts as something under the law, and the other is nothing under the law.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:02 AM
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To put it another way, no one's ever asked me for my marriage license. If I had a Stanley-plan civil union, and got in a car accident in Tennessee, where they don't have civil unions, I don't see how it would practically complicate Buck's ability to visit me if he shows up and says we're married, unless the people of Tennessee are prepared to put a lot of effort into checking everyone's documents to make sure they can screw over people from civil-union-not-marriage states/


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:04 AM
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"It's no less useless as a practical solution than amending 51 sets of marriage laws to allow for same-sex couples, "

I assume you mean no more useless. Yes, it most certainly is more useless. As Charley said, the idea is to eventually get the Supreme Court to rule that the 14th amendment equal protection clause requires states to recognize gay marriage. It's just that it's unwise to bring that case until: (1) you could get the federal courts to agree with you (2) popular acceptance of the idea is strong enough that there wouldn't be a serious risk of an anti-gay-marriage amendment to the U.S. constitution passing. Fortunately, the U.S. constitution is way the hell harder to amend than the California constitution, so I fully expect this to happen in my lifetime, but I wouldn't want to guess exactly how many years it'll take. Until then, you target the most receptive states. Which are likely to be more receptive to letting gay people get civilly married than losing the ability to get civilly married themselves, because the latter actually could plausibly harm them & disrupt their lives.

Given the election results, I would guess that the next logical target is New York.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:05 AM
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I'm pretty sure NY has a law teed up and ready to pass, now that the Dems have both houses of the legislature. No guarantees, but I wouldn't be surprised by a law early next spring.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:07 AM
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I don't see how it would practically complicate Buck's ability to visit me if he shows up and says we're married...

If Buck was a woman and you were at a Hospital with fundy staffers they could simply refuse to accept his(her) word. This shit really does happen.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:09 AM
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221: you're probably actually right about this--though federal gov't recognition seems like more of a potential problem--but: (1) if a gay couple has a car accident in Tennessee they still have problems (but that's true under the Massachusetts marriage-for-everyone too solution of course); (2) what if I settle in another state permanently? In cases of divorce, inheritance, etc. the paperwork matters.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:09 AM
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216 -- The complication isn't about the stupid ceremony. That's the absolute least of everything. It's about all the ways in which being married matters. As you go forward. SB is talking about eliminating marriage altogether, and replacing it with a series of contracts, that would be binding on third parties. While the 'justice' of making everyone equal in this way might have superficial appeal, the appeal to the tens of millions of people who would have to go through the effort to have contracts that would be binding in all the various situations and locations -- where there's already a centuries old status the suffices perfectly well for those entitled to it -- is not as apparent.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:10 AM
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220: Right, so all this would do is say, getting that something under the law is no longer something a priest or minister or rabbi is allowed to do, it has to be one of our government officials. Then rules of what couples the government officials are allowed to marry clearly don't affect the religious ceremony at all.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:10 AM
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Cala, I don't have a huge problem with that, but it seems completely different from what the original post proposes.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:13 AM
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I'm not sure what Stanley was proposing, but it makes more sense my way.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:16 AM
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`superficial' appeal?

The centuries of status holds a lot of centuries old cruft too, and while some (particularly religious) groups are quite fond of the social engineering aspects it's hard to argue for them otherwise. But I fail to understand what is `superficial' about how these laws are clearly discriminating against non-heterosexual couples. I merely suggested a possible solution that solves that problem, among others.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:17 AM
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227 is along the lines of (part of) what I was thinking, too.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:18 AM
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Non-religious charities have to go through a complicated application and approval process while churches just automatically qualify

With the proviso that they not engage in partisan political speech, a condition they routinely flout with impunity.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:22 AM
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230 -- You can propose that everyone with more than median household wealth ought to turn over to the government all the excess, which would then distribute it among those with less than median household income, so as to bring them up to median. The justice of this solution is self evident. Now try getting people to agree to it.

I agree that the current marriage laws discriminate. I think that discrimination is illegal. As between two solutions -- repeal/invalidation of the discriminatory provisions or engage in a massive legal displacement of the legal situation of tens of millions of people -- I can't see much to recommend the latter. YMOMV. Fine.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:24 AM
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232 - They get away with it because no Attorney General wants to destroy his/her career by prosecuting churches. A mosque, on the other hand...


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:25 AM
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a condition they routinely flout with impunity

It would be almost impossible for them not to, given how deeply both institutions are woven into the fabric of American society. Which is why they shouldn't get an automatic tax exemption.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:29 AM
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232: Right, which is more support for the idea of just getting rid of the status.

233: My suggestion would make no practical difference whatsoever (at least in theory --- I did stipulate this is all pretty theoretical) to anyone currently married, so I don't understand where that bit came from, can you expand?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:29 AM
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The justice of this solution is self evident. Now try getting people to agree to it.

I disagree. And, regardless of the truth value of the first statement, it is pretty obviously nothing like the question we are discussing, so I fail to see why you thought it relevant.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:31 AM
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I think, and have said, that the theory that there would be no practical effect is untenable. I can put it more simply, though. The social conditions under which this theory could be true are far less likely to occur than, and in fact would include all the elements (and then many more) of, those conditions necessary for the invalidation of the discriminatory aspects of the current laws.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:35 AM
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Seems to me that the issue about hospital visiting is a red herring here. There are plenty of reasons why you might want someone other than your legal next of kin to be the nominated contact or whatever while you're in hospital. and it's only the intransigence of the insurance companies that creates these atrocities. It's an important issue, but a different one.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:39 AM
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238: Ok, that's fair enough. And you'll note that I always stipulated that in practice the other way round may be more practical. I suspect the social conditions you mention will happen, actually, but probably not for a long time (the alternative seems too bleak to consider). Then again, Obama's recent victory shows me some of these long timelines are shorted than I may have expected. Still, I don't expect to see it in our lifetimes.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:40 AM
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It's an important issue, but a different one.

I agree, actually. I shouldn't have brought it up really, but I was searching for an easily separable issue but that wasn't the best one.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:42 AM
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I'm pretty strongly in favor of making the civil / religious distinction more clear cut and leaving "marriage" to the churches. Gay and gay-friendly Christians can then form their own church.

I think that if the legal roadblocks are down, it will still take a generation or two for prejudice to disappear, just as with race.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:43 AM
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I absolutely expect to see Loving extended to same-sex couples in my lifetime. I do not expect to see either the end of all marriage (the SB proposal), the replacement of marriage with civil union (the Stanley proposal), or the disqualification of religious figures as officiants in a legal marriage (the Cala proposal) in my lifetime.

One of these things has no effect on het couples except relieving them of the ability to impose legal detriment on others through bigotry.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:47 AM
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As you go forward. SB is talking about eliminating marriage altogether, and replacing it with a series of contracts, that would be binding on third parties.

Aslo: Isn't this essentially what civil marriage is? It's a shorthand for a collection of contracts, that are easy and cheap for a (heterosexual) couple to agree to.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:47 AM
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"Loving v. Virginia": besy legal-case name ever?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:49 AM
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No, but it would be socially acceptable for people not to see you as really married. It would be marriage with a footnote.

This can be true in some religious communities anyway. My ex-in-laws, for example, not "really married" in the eyes of the Catholic Church (and devout members thereof) because ex-FIL and ex-bioMIL were divorced. Stanley's proposal just takes away the legal presumption of "real marriageness" current law grants to some but not all partnerships.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:49 AM
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My ex-in-laws, for example, not "really married" in the eyes of the Catholic Church

Right, this is not a new idea. And it's hardly the only area of such discrimination accepted in churches (you're not a `real' X, 'cause you go to the wrong church). You can't get rid of this, you just don't want to normalize it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:53 AM
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As Charley said, the idea is to eventually get the Supreme Court to rule that the 14th amendment equal protection clause requires states to recognize gay marriage. It's just that it's unwise to bring that case until: (1) you could get the federal courts to agree with you (2) popular acceptance of the idea is strong enough that there wouldn't be a serious risk of an anti-gay-marriage amendment to the U.S. constitution passing.

And don't forget (3): until the composition of the court changes to one likely to be favorable. Stare decisis being what it is, teeing up the issue at the wrong time in front of the wrong court can have lasting effect.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:55 AM
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248.last is important.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:59 AM
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Isn't (3) the same as (1)?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 9:59 AM
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250 - no. Having the court actively rule against you is far more harmful than knowing you won't win and therefore not bringing the case in the first place.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:03 AM
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Footnote: I think the due process argument from Loving is even better. Maybe that's just me. I did think that the Mass court got the EP analysis right in Goodridge.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:06 AM
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I understand that language means something to people, but really, the language is so confused because of both civil and religious recognition are called by the same name, even though they have substantially different purposes. The government should only be in the business of protecting legal rights (i.e. what we now call civil unions), not religious recognition; if that means removing the term "marriage" from the government, fine with me.


This debate (especially regarding who to blame for Prop 8) is why politics is so maddening. Even during an election in which 90% of things went right, there are still many people for whom the 10% of things that went wrong are more important. When they rightfully complain, the knee-jerk response from the majority is to think they are ungrateful, after all, I did my part and didn't the other 90% go well? And the knee-jerk response from the minority is that it must be your fault that everything else passed and this didn't. And thus begins the circular firing squad.


Posted by: F | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:12 AM
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156: Realize this is long past, but while there are practically no undecided voters at 18th and Castro, there are plenty of non-voters. I know the point was that you have to move beyond your comfort zone, but you can also expand the number of voters among your soft supporters. In many cases that's less resource-intensive than going to communities where your supporters are more spread out.

It's a mistake to thing of interest groups as states with all-or-nothing electoral votes. You can very often intensify your support.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:14 AM
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"Loving v. Virginia": besy legal-case name ever?

"A Quantity Of Books v. Kansas"


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:19 AM
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251: right, which is why I said you would be unwise to bring the case if you wouldn't win. I suppose "if you'd lose at the Supreme Court" would've been clearer & pithier, but that was, in fact, exactly what I meant.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:19 AM
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"Loving v. Virginia": besy legal-case name ever?

Not necessarily. It's hard to top I Am The Beast Six Six Six of the Lord of Hosts in Edmond Frank MacGillvray Jr. Now.I Am The Beast Six Six Six of the Lord of Hosts IEFMJN.I Am The Beast Six Six Six of the Lord of Hosts.I Am The Beast Six Six Six of the Lord of Hosts OTLOHIEFMJN.I Am The Beast SSSOTLOHIEFMJN.I Am The Beast Six Six Six.Beast Six Six Six Lord v. Michigan State Police, et al.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:19 AM
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Though Homo v. Cox still probably wins.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:22 AM
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257 links to the article I have been hoping for al lmy life.

Why do all these homos keep suing my cox?


Posted by: Cryptec Nid | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:23 AM
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My ex-in-laws, for example, not "really married" in the eyes of the Catholic Church (and devout members thereof) because ex-FIL and ex-bioMIL were divorced.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:23 AM
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Sorry, don't know what happened there. Wasn't important.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:24 AM
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250: I suppose so, yes. For whatever reason, I find myself reading "federal courts" as "federal district and circuit courts."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:27 AM
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I think what's useful about Stanley's thought experiment is not whether it's a good idea independent of its chance for passage (about which there's considerable disagreement here) but how it reflects the history of the equal marriage movement and its likely future.

Gay marriage was not on the radar of big gay rights groups until about 15 years ago, maybe a little more. They were focused on anti-discrimination laws in the workplace, don't ask don't tell, and there was considerable disdain for marriage as a heterosexual (not to mention bourgeois and patriarchal) institution.

Individuals suing for the right changed that. [Skips huge chunk of movement history.] The result has been two related prongs: the development of civil unions and fully-empowered domestic partnerships, and the fight for equal marriage.

The two prongs are very closely intertwined in the federal DOMA, which allows states not to recognize other states' civil unions as well as "marriages". The first is explicitly focused on equalizing the material rights and benefits that accrue to married couples. The second is all that and a bag of chips, the chips being dignity and full social recognition, and it's playing out within congregations -- many of which have begun to marry same-sex couples.

It's strongly likely that Obama and Congress will overturn the second part of DOMA and create a federal civil union law. The result will be national separate but equal status, at which point the puzzle that the thought-experiment "solves" will be thrown into much sharper relief. What are we sanctioning when we sanction marriage, if it's no longer a tax break and visitation rights?

The answer will not be automatic, but it will be obvious, nationally, in a generation.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:30 AM
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I also agree with the Stanley argument, and that's how I've felt pretty much since I've thought about this issue several years back. Katherine has a decent point that churches may not want to give up their current power over the legal status in return for power over the "name" (because I do feel, as Ben does, that the civil contract will simply be referred to as "marriage", just as my father was always an "immigrant" and not a "resident alien"). But the point that really appeals to me about making this a major issue is that churches don't vote, at least not directly.

So when you offer the separation of the legal label from the religious label, you are taking a lot of wind out of religion's rhetorical sails on this issue. Plus, those who want a religious marriage will be able to find one no matter what. Those who want a secular marriage can do what I plan on doing, get hitched in front of a Justice of the Peace, then feel safe and content that I have just satisfied virtually every extralegal definition of "marriage" (and why the fuck should I care about the precise legal term in this instance when I don't in virtually any other matter?).

But the key is that the churches will no longer be able to fight on the issue of "they're diluting our word, our sacred bond!". They'll be forced to try and oppose it by openly anti-civil-rights tactics, which will be much harder for their parishioners (who actually cast the ballots, after all) to justify to themselves. Though Katherine does make a good point that there'd be a horrendous smear tactic over how "The state wants to declare that your marriage doesn't count! You're only in a union! How could they demean all those years of loving matrimony in one stroke of the legislator's pen? Vote no on Prop 3b!". But the nice thing is that such scare tactics would only apply to people who are:

1) Secular enough that they never felt the urge to go through any non-civil ceremony. They seem pretty rare. Even my folks went through some religious ceremony at the Church of England to make the parents happy.

2) Despite that, absolutely deadset on the legal language pertaining to their relationship saying "marriage". And feeling that the state actually has a right to say if the marriage is "valid" beyond conferring the legal rights inherent in the contract. And if you assume the state has some ability to confer a deeper extralegal legitimacy upon a relationship despite being an impersonal body with no understanding of your life or love, why aren't you torn to shreds by all the churches that very obviously feel your marriage is illegitimate and your very lifestyle is odious?

I think the people who fulfill criteria 1 and 2 are a pretty small slice of the electorate, at least compared to people who just feel kind of icky about saying gay people can get married, when after all, doesn't our church not allow that? (forget that the church just down the street does)


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:32 AM
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I think CharleyCarp has said that he kind of fulfills 1 and 2.

"When you offer" is doing a lot of work here. There is no organized social force that actively desires this outcome. So gaming it out politically is a parlor game at best.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:37 AM
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264 is horribly written, ouch. It's been a long week.

There is no organized social force that actively desires this outcome.

Well, there's Stanley and me. Probably Ben too. I figure our meetings will double as microbrew appreciation nights. If we can get the Paulite internet libertarians onboard, we'll also have a blimp. And from there the snowball will just keep rolling downhill.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:41 AM
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"the language is so confused because of both civil and religious recognition are called by the same name, even though they have substantially different purposes. The government should only be in the business of protecting legal rights (i.e. what we now call civil unions), not religious recognition; if that means removing the term "marriage" from the government, fine with me."

There's actually lot of overlap in the purpose, namely: society recognizing a couple's lifelong, binding, exclusive romantic commitment to one another. (I agree that it's not the state's business to be checking to make sure you have sex & romantic feelings for one another, but that's certainly what it means in practice for most people & what it's assumed to mean.) In the case of religious marriage, there's also the stuff about God blessing the union, but a civil marriage is *not* actually, in practice, regarded as equivalent to the execution of power of attorney, a health care proxy, a will, & a bunch of deeds giving you shares in each other's property.

And while this is a pretty religious country--which couple do more people regard as *really* being married?

(1) Couple A has a secular ceremony at city hall that creates a legal civil marriage, but no religious ceremony, & many religious denominations don't regard them as having a valid marriage.

(2) Couple B has a religious commitment ceremony but they do not get a marriage license or register their marriage with any state.

I think it's pretty clearly couple A. It's possible it would continue to be couple A if you changed the official legal name of the ceremony they had from "civil marriage" to "civil union" at all levels of gov't simultaneously at once--but it seems risky to me, especially given that it WON'T actually happen simultaneously at all levels of gov't.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 10:51 AM
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a couple's lifelong, binding, exclusive romantic commitment to one another

In order: not necessarily, no, not likely, and not historically.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:01 AM
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"But the nice thing is that such scare tactics would only apply to people who are:

1) Secular enough that they never felt the urge to go through any non-civil ceremony. They seem pretty rare. Even my folks went through some religious ceremony at the Church of England to make the parents happy.

2) Despite that, absolutely deadset on the legal language pertaining to their relationship saying "marriage"."

Apparently not, because my having a religious ceremony has no effect on me finding it extremely objectionable to cede the power to decide who's REALLY married to churches.

" And feeling that the state actually has a right to say if the marriage is "valid" beyond conferring the legal rights inherent in the contract. And if you assume the state has some ability to confer a deeper extralegal legitimacy upon a relationship despite being an impersonal body with no understanding of your life or love, why aren't you torn to shreds by all the churches that very obviously feel your marriage is illegitimate and your very lifestyle is odious?""

This is, again, identical to the argument for why gay people should be perfectly content to settle for civil unions. But the word & the community recognition it implies matter to people. You can opt out of bigoted churches; you can't opt out of the state or society.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:03 AM
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268: yeah, you could quibble with various aspects of that definition, but if you disagree with this you're just full of shit

"a civil marriage is *not* actually, in practice, regarded as equivalent to the execution of power of attorney, a health care proxy, a will, & a bunch of deeds giving you shares in each other's property."


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:06 AM
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And if you assume the state has some ability to confer a deeper extralegal legitimacy upon a relationship despite being an impersonal body with no understanding of your life or love

I think the crux of the matter is the varying attitudes toward extra-legal non-state social institutions that confer legitimacy. The "free associations" of Tocqueville. I think they are critically important and prior to "official" institutions.

Kiwanis. Neighborhood associations. Sam's club. Catholics.

If your right to vote is protected but you are not allowed to sit at the private lunch counter with the white people, you are still in profound danger. This was the point and purpose of many of the 60s civil rights extensions, and why those extensions were so controversial and powerful.

Secularists, and I am one, get too hung up on the supernatural or spiritual elements of religions and forget their primary purpose is social bonding.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:06 AM
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This is, again, identical to the argument for why gay people should be perfectly content to settle for civil unions.

But it isn't, because that argument is pushing for them to accept something that's separate from what is granted to straight couples. I want to eliminate that separation at the state level. Grant the legal rights and acknowledgment of commitment that can be granted by the state, and then people can call it what they want on a colloquial level. As I linked in 264, people who enter that contract and commitment will have satisfied pretty much every possible definition of marriage apart from a strictly religious one (which can only be conferred by the other people in a church acknowledging a marriage as "valid" in their eyes anyway) or in the strict legal terminology (which will not be available to anyone, as legislators would effectively take the law books and do a find-replace for "marriage" with "civil union").


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:13 AM
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272: Right and the term `marriage' then has coloquial usage, and perhaps a technical meaning within a particular church that has no relevance outside that church. Said church has no ability to say who is and who is not `married', only who is `married in the eyes of this church'. Which is pretty much the situation today, except you've stripped everything else away from the church (as is logical).

I agree with Kathereine that `settling for civil unions' isn't right, but dragging the churches kicking and screaming into the 21st century isn't the only way to make everyone's marriages equal.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:18 AM
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"a civil marriage is *not* actually, in practice, regarded as equivalent to the execution of power of attorney, a health care proxy, a will, & a bunch of deeds giving you shares in each other's property."

a shame, that, but true.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:19 AM
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which couple do more people regard as *really* being married?

I'd say they're both married, except in the strictly legal sense in which only couple A is married. After all, it's the commitment, the creation of a new family unit, that deserves the title of "marriage". That's why common-law marriage exists, because it's the commitment and relationship that deserve the title rather than any particular ceremony. Legal rights are another arena entirely from social acceptance of the relationship, and it's one where it's vital for us to establish equality. Hence the identical "relationship package" contracts (whether called marriage or civil union) granted by the government to all straight and gay couples who desire them.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:19 AM
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And all those state actions that intentionally interface the "public" * "private" in order to protect minorities, like hate speech laws, are still deeply controversial. Those laws that limit the protected rights of some to extend the rights of others.

It has to be marriage precisely because it fucks with private religious values. The difficulties, costs, non-rationalities, illiberalisms are features not bugs. We show our deepest committments as a nation in emotional expressions.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:24 AM
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The acknowledgement of commitment is currently so bound up with the word "marriage" that I worry that you give up the word to religions & you also give up the societal acknowledgment. If all levels of gov't at once replaced "marriage" with "civil unions", "husband and wife" with ""civil partners". etc. in all their laws, then this worry would probably be groundless--the practical effect would be the same as keeping civil marriage & denying religions the ability to officiate. But it wouldn't really work that way, so there's real potential of disruption....we're back at 238 in other words. No one who opposes equal marriage for gay people is going to agree to eliminating civil marriage in favor of egalitarian domestic partnerships/civil unions (have you ever met a single person who holds this position?), and there will be some people who do support equal marriage for gay people but who oppose the elimination of civil marriage.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:24 AM
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I think the main function of a marriage is to recognize a family unit (kids or not), and that's what's missing with the idea that one could just negotiate all the contracts piecemeal. It's not a love or sex thing. (And probably historically, it's mostly concerned with ensuring someone knows whose kids are supposed to get the land.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:28 AM
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cede the power to decide who's REALLY married to churches

I think soup expresses my feelings on this better than I do. Churches may think they can determine who's REALLY married, but then they also think they can determine who's REALLY getting into heaven. That's what they do, they imagine their opinions have legitimacy outside their small social circle. The rest of us don't have to give a shit.

Couple themselves decide if they're married. Governments decide if they get visitation rights, break-up settlements, inheritance rights, etc. Churches decide if they're "married in the eyes of the church", which shouldn't mean much if it's not your church, and can't be helped by any act of government or use of "marriage" as a legal term.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:28 AM
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that one could just negotiate all the contracts piecemeal.

Actually, I was unclear. Bundling is good here -- but I think that some decoupling makes a lot of sense.

There is a bunch of stuff about child rearing that is irrelevent if you don't have children, but also much of it is relevant if you do have a child with someone you aren't married to.

There is a bunch of communal property and taxation stuff.

There are individual things like hospital visitation.

etc.

What I'm saying is, rather than bundle this all up as one package labelled `marriage', it could be re-alligned more functionally if you're in the process of rethinking this anyway.

I'm definitely not suggesting negotiating piecemeal.

Your right about the role of recognizing (and moreso, enforcing) the idea of a family unit. The contract aspects facilitate and define that, to a degree. So what I'm suggesting is to break it up into more logical chunks, and relax/extend the scope where it makes sense.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:34 AM
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No one who opposes equal marriage for gay people is going to agree to eliminating civil marriage in favor of egalitarian domestic partnerships/civil unions (have you ever met a single person who holds this position?)

I think that's partially because people haven't been forced to grapple with it yet. Anti-gay-marriage groups have been able to get a lot of mileage out of purely semantic arguments about the sanctity of the word. If that tactic were stripped from them, and ordinary church-going voters were forced to justify to themselves stripping away the right to visit a sick loved one in the hospital, or keep the house that the couple lived in after the person whose name was on the deed dies, or any of those other perks, I think things would shift. I think you would run into a fair number who support universal unions but not universal marriage as a compromise, since without the fig-leaf of sacred language, it's very difficult to reconcile a self-image as a kind and non-bigoted person with voting to strip these civil rights from a minority.

As you point out, the relevant weighing is whether that group is larger or smaller than the group of people who would be convinced by arguments that the state would be trying to strip them of their "real" marriages. I obviously think it would be larger, but I haven't seen any particular data in either direction apart from the considerably better polling for civil unions than for gay marriage suggesting that there are a lot of social conservatives to moderates who really find the legal word as their main sticking point.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:39 AM
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"Couple themselves decide if they're married. Governments decide if they get visitation rights, break-up settlements, inheritance rights, etc. Churches decide if they're "married in the eyes of the church", which shouldn't mean much if it's not your church, and can't be helped by any act of government or use of "marriage" as a legal term."

This, again, suggests that civil unions ought to be good enough for gay couples. I realize you can distinguish the cases, but you're distinguishing them by taking inconsistent positions about what ought to matter to people & what doesn't.

Anyway, I think this whole discussion is mainly a waste of time until the proponents of the "just get the gov't out of the marriage business" find just ONE example of an actual person who (1) supports eliminating the legal state of "marriage" & replacing it with civil unions that don't discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation (2) opposes gay marriage.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:40 AM
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This, again, suggests that civil unions ought to be good enough for gay couples.

Actually it doesn't.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:43 AM
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Right, the difference is whether 'civil unions' aren't good enough for gay couples because they want the word 'marriage' or whether they aren't good enough for gay couples because they want the same status as het couples. If it's the latter, the 'civil unions for everyone' solution works on that level.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:49 AM
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Futher to 283: Don't get me wrong, Katherine: If I had a magic wand on this, I'd keep the marriage language (though I'd strip out some of the contract stuff, as above) extend it to everyone, strip churches of the ability to perform the civil service, and tell them to pee up a rope if they didn't like it.

However, the `proposal' (it isn't really that concrete) puts everyone gay het or whatever on identical footing. They can call it what they want to, they are identical under the eyes of the law. They can't make the catholic church (or whoever) `recognize' it, but that's not really the issue.

So really, the only question is (and it's a fair one) does letting the churches play with the word (in a non-exclusive way) as they wish buy anything useful? I'm not sure it does, but it at least lets you finesse the question of what is being `taken away'


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:49 AM
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284: yes; which is partially a problem of the ambiguous meaning of the word. I agree with Katherine that there are socialization aspects to consider, but I don't know how much to really weight that if everyone actually is identical under the law.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:51 AM
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as an aside, that ambiguity of usage is really grating sometimes. In many ways we'd rather not be married, in part to avoid the annoying pigeonholing and assumptions. The pros outweighed the cons due to issues particular to our situation, but only just.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:54 AM
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284: But my point is also that the government can't really confer the right to call something a marriage. It can only confer legal rights that roughly square with a societal conception of this one type of committed relationship. The couple themselves, and their chosen social circle, are the ones who really determine who is married and who isn't. It would be somewhat tougher to justify the terminology without any kind of commitment ceremony, because marriage is a big deal and we're a ceremony-loving/respecting species. However, I feel that any sort of commitment ceremony, whether legal, religious, just for shits and giggles, paired with the couple's self-determination of their own relationship, is more than sufficient to consider people married whether or not those ceremonies officially used that term.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 11:55 AM
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I just rewatched Four Weddings and a Funeral, and it is amazing to remember that it was rather daring in its time for the remark (paraphrased) that "We always joked that none of us had fallen prey to marriage, without noticing that these two [gay couple among Hugh Grant's circle of friends] had been effectively married all along." That seems banal these days, but in the early '90s I don't think it would have.

I actually think of this issue as oddly and wonderfully driven in part by People magazine and Oprah. Normalizing images of couples who love each other, covering celebrity same-sex weddings, etc., in the mainstream popular culture is huge. More than almost anything other than personal friendship or family relationship.

(I'm also suddenly remembering the pompous, labored explanation from the New York Times about why they were going to call their page "weddings and celebrations" because they were now going to include gay couples. Because obviously only straight people get to have weddings, duh.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:09 PM
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I'm sure this has been linked before, but anybody who wants to weigh in on this (or any other) issue can send a message to the Obama transition team. Kinda reminds me of Al Gore's reinventing government effort, in a sweet, dorky, mostly good way.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:15 PM
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Witt is exactly right about People magazine. I'd be curious to know how it came about, but I've known since the mid-90's that it's very good on gay issues.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:15 PM
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I'd be curious to know how it came about

The market responding to the deep biological/cultural yearnings. I'd bet anything that the same factors that make (mostly) women want to buy celebrity gossip magazines and read about weddings and breakups and babies is the same thing that makes (mostly) women want to produce and read fan fic (including, not incidentally, slash).


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:18 PM
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Also, just the celebrity culture bubble. Writers for People are at least vicariously immersed in a social milieu where gay people are completely accepted as a standard part of the norm (and personally, magazine writers in NY are probably in a milieu that feels about the same way about gayness). They're going to be accidentally progressive on gay issues just because they lose track of the part of the country where gayness is still controversial.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:25 PM
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But People went early beyond celebrity-gay and into the heartland, doing critical pieces on Fred Phelps for example. I bet someone has the institutional history of it, and I imagine there's more to it than accidents and gradual frog-heating.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:39 PM
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147: Not really a surprise - LA County is far more uptight than the Hollywood-is-the-home-of-Satan folk would have people believe. Additionally, it has a large Catholic population, and the Catholic churches were preaching for 8 from the get-go.

164: CA's domestic partnership law for heterosexuals is restricted to couples where one is over 62. However, West Hollywood is far more laid back - they even allow out-of-staters to get DPed. It won't buy you any rights outside of West Hollywood, but you get a nice certificate. [And if you get DPed at City Hall, the City Clerk will do your vows and the staff throws confetti. I can lend you my son to mutter 'My parents are sooooo weird', as he did when the Biophysicist and I were DPed many a year ago.]

You live in a state with "informal marriage" - all you and Jammies have to do is agree that you are married, live together and hold yourself out publicly as husband and wife. No paperwork, no ceremony. [And sadly, no confetti.]


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 12:58 PM
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And if you get DPed at City Hall, the City Clerk will do your vows and the staff throws confetti.

I don't think that abbreviation means what you think it means.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 11- 7-08 3:08 PM
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