Reply to George: XI. Gay Marriages Will Destroy Straight Marriages

Rob Tisinai

March 16th, 2011

[This post is part of a series analyzing Robert George’s widely-read article, “What is Marriage“, which appeared on pages 245-286 of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. You can view all posts in the series here.]

Pages 260-262: In which Robert George explains why legalizing same-sex marriage will lead opposite-sex parents to divorce.

At this point, Robert George has finished redefining marriage laying out his concept of marriage. He changes direction and starts to explains why marriage equality would be bad public policy.

That’s good, in a way. He walks away from the arcane, byzantine logic he’s been advancing so far and strides into the arena of recognizable public debate. These are the issues people discuss at work and with their families, rather than just in the pages of academic journals.

George has a strange view of us.

His first argument is that marriage equality will weaken the institution. As before, he starts badly:

No one deliberates or acts in a vacuum. We all take cues (including  cues as to what marriage is and what it requires of us)  from cultural norms, which are shaped in part by the law. Indeed,  revisionists themselves implicitly concede this point.  Why else would they be dissatisfied with civil unions for same-sex  couples? Like us, they understand that the state’s favored  conception of marriage matters because it affects society’s understanding  of that institution.

“Why else” indeed?  I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard this conversation:

Why can’t you be happy with civil unions?

Well, Joe, it’s because the law shapes cultural norms, which means the state’s approach to the legality of marriage shall influence society’s understanding of marriage – and by extension, your understanding and mine. Now get me another beer, would ya?

Seriously. I don’t have data, but I bet among regular people – people who don’t live in the pages of academic journals – same -sexers want to marry for the same reasons as opposite-sexers, and those reasons are mostly emotional. I’ve written of that elsewhere, but it’s not relevant here, except to point out George’s odd perspective on “revisionists.”

George offers more of the same.

However, since the whole aim of this project is to critique George’s argument, let’s see where he goes with it.

In redefining marriage, the law would teach that marriage is fundamentally about adults’ emotional unions, not bodily union or children, with which marital norms are tightly intertwined.

We’ve already covered this in past entries, right?

  • It’s the emotional union and commitment that makes marriage such a good environment for raising kids. Ideally, the commitment precedes the children, which means the emotional union often is what marriage is fundamentally about.
  • George’s personal, idiosyncratic conception of “bodily union” is confused and limited, and certainly no part of our cultural understanding.
  • We can explain marital norms without invoking children.
  • Same-sex couples can be just as eager to raise children as opposite-sexers.

George is talking about the wrong public policy.

Moving on:

Since emotions can be inconstant, viewing marriage essentially as an emotional union would tend to increase marital instability—and it would blur the distinct value of friendship, which is a union of hearts and minds.

This has nothing to do with same-sex marriage. He’s talking public policy here, and the relevant policy question is about divorce:  Is a change in emotion reason enough to end a marriage? That’s a whole different debate. Some conservative argue that innovations like no-fault divorce weaken the meaning of marriage. Go ahead, argue away. But as long as all couples (same-sex and opposite-sex) are subject to the same body of divorce law, then adding same-sexers to the mix will do nothing to alter the message.


George writes:

Moreover, and more importantly, because there is no reason that primarily emotional unions any more than ordinary friendships in general should be permanent, exclusive, or limited to two, these norms of marriage would make less and less sense.

First (and I should have pointed this out in the section on marital norms), nothing in George’s conjugal view suggests that marriage should be permanent. The most, the very most, he can argue for is a norm that married people should stay together as long as they are raising children. Once those kids are no longer at home, there’s no reason for the parents to stay together in that home either.  So the norm could say it’s fine for couples with grown kids (or no kids at all) to split up. Now, George may not like this norm, but his conjugal view can’t support anything stronger.

Second, we’ve seen that George’s conjugal view doesn’t really explain why marriages should be exclusive or limited to two. Meanwhile, the revisionist/common view can argue persuasively for those norms.

Oh, those hapless, helpless heterosexuals

George continues:

Less able to understand the rationale for these marital norms, people would feel less bound to live by them. And less able to understand the value of marriage itself as a certain kind of union, even apart from the value of its emotional satisfactions, people would increasingly fail to see the intrinsic reasons they have for marrying or staying with a spouse absent consistently strong feeling.

In other words, if marriage is not about fertilizing an egg with sperm – wait, no , George doesn’t insist on actual procreation. Let me rephrase:  In other words, if marriage is not about inserting a penis in a vagina, then people won’t understand the importance of creating a permanent, exclusive relationship that provides kids with a stable home.

It’s easy to dismiss this as the Stupid Heterosexuals argument:  straight people just aren’t smart enough to deal with two guys getting married, and it will make them divorce.

Okay, that was fun to type but it’s not really fair, especially since I believe many of our most valuable convictions are emotional beliefs instilled in us from childhood. But there are two problems with this:

  1. We allow elderly and infertile straight people to marry. Isn’t that just as bad? George tries to say no, and we’ve already seen how he fails. But even professional philosophers read George’s justification of  infertile straight marriages only to find it convoluted, even nonsensical. The average person, then, who has no need or desire to spend their days reading articles in the Harvard blah blah blah, sure isn’t going to find his reasoning convincing — or even know of it at all. Therefore, his claim that allowing gays to marry will undermine marital stability makes as much sense in the real world as a claim that letting old people marry will make young parents more likely to divorce.
  1. Some gay couples want kids. More every year, I would bet — for me, growing up in the 60s and 70s, it wasn’t even spoken of, but that’s changed now. It’s true that two men cannot create an embryo, but George’s concern for permanent, stable parental relationships makes more sense when it comes to child rearing than child bearing, anway. As more gay couples adopt or use IVF, those couples will reinforce George’s “marital norms” in exactly the same way straight couples do.

George and his co-authors write a few more paragraphs, but it all depends on the (erroneous and ill-reasoned) content that precedes them, so there’s no point in rehashing it.

Next:  George argues marriage equality will harm children, and for the first time I have to wonder whether he’s being deliberately deceptive.

David in Houston

March 16th, 2011

In this section, George assumes straight people are too stupid to understand the difference between a close friendship and an intimate sexual relationship. For some unknown reason, George’s scenario only happens IF AND ONLY IF gay couples can marry. If gay couples don’t marry, then all straight people WILL know exactly what marriage is suppose to be. His absurd logic really is laughable.

We already know this isn’t true. Opposite-sex marriage hasn’t decreased in Massachusetts during the past five years. In fact, that state has the lowest divorce rate in the country. Straight people in Massachusetts know exactly what marriage is, regardless of whether or not gay couples can marry.


March 16th, 2011

Oh, darling, get some rest. I worry about you.

Regan DuCasse

March 16th, 2011

Let me add what that means in terms of what marriage is against what a cu or a dp is.
Most married people know what marriage is, they understand their rights and responsibilities and of course, the vows pretty much are the instruction manual for it as well as the promises made.
In times of crisis, there is very serious and respectful deference to the spouse of a person.

Ask your average person what a cu or dp is, they don’t have a clue. Neither does the state or how they are to be enforced, if they bother to do it at all. The regs and rules are more convoluted and unworkable from state to state, or county to county in some places.

But a married person is married wherever they are. Anywhere in the world. Period.
For ALL intents and purposes, for the sake of practicality, there is no point in having a cu or dp.
But as many have said, it will affirm inferior status on gay people.
And George is trying to reinforce why the THINKS gay people are too inferior for legal marriage.

What I’m getting from George, and most people who are against marriage equality it’s as if gay people have been under rocks and don’t have a clue what marriage is or should be.
As if you haven’t had married people in your lives or participated in weddings.
And lack of experience with actually marrying in the full legal way that heteros do, makes you exceptionally ignorant as to how it works.

Sort of like those crude sex ed lessons the anti gay give to and about gay people (or anyone else) as if gay people are too stupid to put tab A into slot B.
Rather than understanding that there is a difference between KNOWING what to do, and not WANTING to do it.

The definition of marriage is something well understood by smart people.
But more and more I’m seeing that our opposition doesn’t know or rejects the reality based definitions of a lot of other things besides marriage.


March 16th, 2011

Yes, two men getting married will so confuse me that I will no longer understand the point of marriage and will divorce my husband. But I’ll wait until the kids are grown.

Ben in Oakland

March 16th, 2011

It’s the same message as Stanley Kurtz, just slightly different language and a different metaphor.

And underneath it all is the same half-assed assumptions, undergirded by the same unrelenting homophobia.

This is what I wrote in an unpublished article on Stanley Kurtz.

“I read with interest the debate over same-sex marriage between Stanley Kurtz and Andrew Sullivan. I had to read Kurtz’s column three times to ascertain that in fact, his column was nothing more than a collection of illogic, unsubstantiated claims, highly debatable points, and a good deal of homophobia– unfounded beliefs about “all” gay people stated as if they were the truth about “all” gay people– dressed up as social concern.

It’s not. It’s the same old anti-gay ideology dressed up in its Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes,

Mr. Kurtz’s major contention is that there is “a connection between the rise of the movement for gay marriage ands the decline of heterosexual courtship and marriage.” He basically lays the blame for problems with heterosexual with marriage at the feet of gay people. Sorry, but if marriage as an institution is in trouble, you cannot blame gay people. We’re NOT allowed to be married.

Kurtz’s claim that sex and courtship among heterosexuals is somehow connected to gay people is ludicrous on the face of it. If heterosexual men are not treating heterosexual women the way that Mr. Kurtz claims they should, or if marriages are not lasting due to changes about how men and women are interacting–all vague generalizations and no substantiation– then maybe the mothers of these men ought to be doing a better job of raising their sons.”

Kurtz or George, doesn’t matter. What a shoddy defense of flim-flam!!! Boil it down to black tar, and what you have is this: gay people are so icky-yuckee-poo that if they are allowed to be married, any right thinking hetero would immediately reject the sacredness and specialness of it, for no other reason than the much despised minority now has access to it. I mean, if just anybody, if THOSE PEOPLE can get married, why should I?

Is George really saying the notion of marriage is social only, and not personal? Bad sociology, bad psychology, but good BS. Or, can George really be saying that heterosexuals are so far divorced from their basic humanity (Thank You, cardinal George…any relation?) that two guys down the street getting married is enough to destroy this sacred bond of love and kinship that is the nuclear family?

It’s clear George doesn’t think too much of heterosexuals. Or marriage. Or children. Or love. Or commitment.

That’s the unrelenting homophobia part, unless he is really intending to say that the only thing keeping large numbers of heterosexuals in their marriages is that they sleep secure knowing that the queers can’t get married. But I don’t think he’s saying that.

The other part isn’t so ugly, but it is as deaf, dumb, and blind to reality. Still not pretty, just a bit more genteel.

Why don’t you people just take civil unions? Possible answers.

1) Because heterosexuals are more than willing to toss a bone to the dogs, a bone they wouldn’t think of chewing on themselves? Legislated inferiority is so yummy.

2) Because civil unions are a recognition that we have a moral, legal, compassionate, and social claim on society, but even the noblest of us are just too damned inferior to the basest of heteros to merit it, simply because?

3) Because if we live together, if we have children together, if we have domestic partnerships together, if we have civil unions together, if we have everything that IS marriage in our society but the name…

…if the very existence of my partner, my husband, and my family has absolutely no effect on yours, other than your insane,unprovable, and not particularly respectful-to-heteros-and-sanity belief that it does…

…in other words, if everything is exactly the same as it is now…

…then what could the possible effect be of giving us the name as well?

The obvious one, the one they keep saying is our actual goal, the we-don’t-care-about-marriage-meme that they will repeat in as many disguises as they can find because it dehumanizes us without phelpsish impoliteness:

The normalization of homosexuality.

Of course, the GREAT irony of the civil-unions-are-good-enough-for-you ploy is that by not holding up marriage as the gold standard for all couples and all families, by providing a demonstrably inferior product, marriage is being undermined by the very people who claim to be defending it. One need only look at the pacte-civile situation in France. Fewer people are getting married because the pc is easier to get into, easier to get out of, has about the same benefits and fewer responsibilities as marriage

Continuing on with my article about Kurtz:

“What Kurtz, and other social and religious conservatives have yet to answer–but cannot– is this simple question: “How does my marrying the man I love– and accepting the full panoply of rights and obligations that go along with that institution– affect YOUR marriage, how you treat your wife and children, and how you think about your marriage?”

The only place where Kurtz approaches truth is when he states that the “movement for gay marriage has little to do with an expanded regard for marriage and everything to do with an attempt to gain social approval for homosexuality.” Of course, he cannot grant us the humanity of wanting marriage for all of the reasons that heterosexuals might want it; instead, it is one more example of that nefarious “gay agenda”, out to destroy everything the normal world holds as valuable and good. But Kurtz has the kernel of truth within it, he’s just reversing the cause and the effect, and that is ultimately what this is about.

Like “don’t ask, don’t tell”, the opposition to gay marriage is not about gay people, but how much gay people bother some straight people, and a lot of wanna-be-straight-but-ain’t people. And how both can get rich from it.

So much for Kurtz and George together.

Here’s where george goes off the deep end all by himself, and demonstrates a certain obtuseness indicating that he has never read a book on anything except law in his life, and has no idea why people– especially himself– do anything.

It’s a doozie: “And less able to understand the value of marriage itself as a certain kind of union, even apart from the value of its emotional satisfactions, people would increasingly fail to see the intrinsic reasons they have for marrying or staying with a spouse absent consistently strong feeling.”

I have been to over 1000 weddings in the past 26 years. The reason nearly all of them got married was because they loved each other, and wanted to build a life together, perhaps even a family. They all wanted to do it legally. Most wanted to do it with their fmailies and friends.

however, none of that has a thing to do with whether they were prepared for it, prepared for parenthood, capable of it, really wanted it. People that stay together for he children rarely do the children, or themselves, a favor.

People stay together for the same variety and range of the many reasons as they get married. some stay together because they want to stay together and are capable of maintaining a good relationship. (Despite our many differences, that is why my husband and I are together). Some people stay together becuase they are incapable of leaving a bad relationship. I have friends who stay together because they can’t afford a divorce.

This is pernicious nonsense that marriage has but one special meaning that all people share.
But more interesting to me than the assertion itself is the type of assertion that it is. And it is of a type, a type that George and Maggie and the NOMnuts display consistently– a dewey eyed, ozzie-and-harriet kind of reality that never has existed, but which resonates with in romantic and nostalgic sort of a way with what many people think when they’re not thinking too deeply. It is the basis of this meme: every child deserves a mother and a father. Or this one: a woman makes a lousy father. So do a lot of fathers, I respond.) It is penis-in-vagina is best becuase it’s what god intended. It’s the same as natural law– it’s right because that is what it appears to be to me, and agrees with my conceptions of the universe.

It is every unstated assumption that Rob keeps finding.

And it is this that marks George’s whole waste of paper as a very well done exercise in pure propaganda. It is not intended to inform, it is intended to manipulate.

Scott L.

March 16th, 2011

NOMnuts, I love that phrase!

Edgar Manhattan

March 16th, 2011

Mr. Huckabee is also convinced that legalizing same-sex marriage will lure countless god-fearing straight men out of their heterosexual marriages and into marriage with one of their male buddies. He also claims that when this happens, the former heterosexually married men will stop supporting their children. This, of course, is a compelling argument against same-sex marriage.

I have read your posts with interest and sympathy – but Robert George did not write out of a desire to clarify his position, he wrote out of a desire to obfuscate his bigotry. Pulling apart his logic will not change anything, or convince his followers that he is using verbal tricks to try to sound reasonable. They, too, espouse hateful and degrading opinions while pretending to be reasonable. Nothing will convince them that they are actually despicable, as they have convinced themselves that they are doing holy work.

Let it lie, my friend, and move on to less frustrating tasks – your heart and mind are in the right place, unlike Mr. George’s; don’t let him poison your life trying to make sense out of what he is doing.

Ben in Oakland

March 16th, 2011

Thank you for the compliment, scott, but I would have preferred a critique of my reasoning to an appreciation of my wit. Both would not have been taken amiss.

Oh, well. :)

Ben in Oakland

March 16th, 2011

Edgar– what I had to say, but shorter.


March 17th, 2011

Rob, thanks for continuing the series.

The fight for marriage, properly waged, may take more energy than any of the fights to date, including removal of the sodomy laws. This struggle takes place, not just on the Endor moon, but up in the stars as well! (Although one can and perhaps should more charitably cast the struggle than as good vs. evil, for sure).

As someone remarked, I’m not sure we’ll be able to get the diehards to let go of their fear, but others might be more easily persuaded if we have on hand responses to George’s challenges, in a way more effective than summary dismissal.

Anyway, I have a somewhat novel response to this entire section: it’s analytically irrelevant. I can almost dismiss the whole thing. Correct me if I’m wrong, but here goes.

George goes to great lengths to say that his particular formulation of the final good of marriage, which he states normatively, is a good in itself.

Therefore, all these considerations about the social consequences and effects are analytically irrelevant. He’s not a consequentialist. All the stuff from Moore, Wilcox, Maning, Lamb, Popenoe, McLanahan, Park, etc. – all of it is inadmissible: goods in themselves are non-demonstrable (to which he stipulates).

I’ll leave the reader to speculate on why those bits are there and the role they play and the questions they raise about whether GGA really, truly believe their own dope.

Let me illustrate.

George, I think, would stipulate that health is an (objective) “good in itself”.

Would you cite Popenoe to “prove” that health is good?

Do you care with the kind great passion on display by NOM, et. al., if someone holds up a sign or puts up a ‘sense of the senate’ motion that says, “We love the unhealthy”? Not especially, right. I mean, you’d dismiss that stuff as nonsense. There is no chance that everyone or anyone is going to be convinced that health is on a ‘slippery slope’ or at risk of “cutting the last remaining threads” (p. 262). [I mention this bit about cutting threads, because that would be one thing I would slam, including with substantial scriptural support.]

Could you implement policies that are actually harmful to health?

Well, yeah, in different ways. But that just means that the question of “where’s the harm?” is NOT a revisionist question, per se. In fact, I suspect George could answer my criticism, but his answer would show that he’s committed to consequentialist reasoning, far more than he lets on, enough that he’s really a back-door consequentialist perhaps nearly as much as he decries “revisionists” for being front-door consequentialists.

In answer that question, which arises logically, George can talk bout the benefits, as he sees them, of marriage, comparing and contrasting; but he cannot reason consequentially, e.g. “…would tend to increase marital instability”, without analytical peril, I think (p. 261).

And, as most of us already know, from long experience, their list of harms is short and quite easily attended to. (See also Tim Kincaid and “The Conundrum”)

The more one looks at the contrast-in-absence-of-harm, the more one sees all that is analytically justified is one institution of marriage, not the two that George and others suggest.

If there remain differing opinions about what substantiates that institution, it remains, nevertheless, one institution analytically for gays and nongays alike.

This is just one line of thought that leads to a conclusion in favor of gay marriage. There are others I can think of. They also are formulated in such a way that one might call them “new traditionalist”, inclusive of gays but distinct from the philosophical commitments of “revisionists” as George conceived them.

If I borrow “Paleo” from Andrew Sullivan (unless Desiree has something better?), then we’d have
a. New Traditionalists
b. Paleo-traditionalists (GGA et. al.)
c. Revisionists
d. The rest


March 17th, 2011

@Ben I’m glad you brought up Kurtz. What’s he up to, these days? The fact of his great analytical failure is ripe for all kinds of things, including ad campaigns, right?

Ben in Oakland

March 17th, 2011

The last time I heard anything about Missy K. was during the prop 8 campaign, when he he was being quoted a lot by people like Douglas Kmiec, who has since repudiated the claims he made then.

I’m too lazy to do a google search on him, but here’s my guess. He has pretty much faded from the openly anti-gay scene, tohugh i’m sure he is owrkingo ut his issues somewhere and mnaking a pretty penny doing it. We haven’t heard his name bandied about in quite a while. And my suspicion is that we may lay the blame for that squarely on Timothy Kincaid and Jim Burroway.

damn you scientific knowledgy thingy guys!!! Damn you.

Some may recall when our Fearless Leaders did a takedown on Kurtz’s “research”.

What Father George has done here is resurrect Kurtze’s premises, but since natural law works better for him than actual nature, he has failed to list his sources.

Rob tisinai

March 17th, 2011

Great comments here. I’m away on vacation and only have my phone to comment with. Amicus, if you want to comment more on the basis of george’s ethical theory with its self-evident, incommensurate goods, feel free.

Timothy Kincaid

March 17th, 2011


It’s clear George doesn’t think too much of heterosexuals. Or marriage. Or children. Or love. Or commitment.

Yeah, but he loooooves his PIV

Timothy Kincaid

March 17th, 2011

No one deliberates or acts in a vacuum. We all take cues (including cues as to what marriage is and what it requires of us) from cultural norms, which are shaped in part by the law. Indeed, revisionists themselves implicitly concede this point. Why else would they be dissatisfied with civil unions for same-sex couples?

Hear those clip-clops over yonder hill, George? They mean you don’t need to rush to shut the barn door, those horses are long gone.

The cultural association of marriage with PIV ceased being the norm for heteros some time back in the 70’s. (and even before that, to conservative Protestants all sex was reserved for marriage; only good Catholic girls knew that a BJ was okay but PIV had to wait).

Like us, they understand that the state’s favored conception of marriage matters because it affects society’s understanding of that institution.

This may be the single most telling sentence in George’s article. Not because there is any truth in his assumptions about gay folk. Rather it tells us what George thinks.

“Like us…”

George (and Maggie believe that laws impact cultural attitudes. And to some degree that is true. Make something “illegal” and it takes on shades of “immoral.”

However, this does not necessarily work the other way. “Not illegal” casts no favorable light on a behavior or view, it simply doesn’t impose a position of negativity.

It is not illegal to help a little old lady across the street, eat a ceasar salad for lunch, or read racist literature. Society’s attitudes towards these behaviors are driven by the behaviors and an absence of illegality plays no role.

Yes, part of the reason that we want full marriage equality is to remove the stigma and social rejection that comes from being declared by the state to be inferior.

But, and this is the important part, we do not seek to influence cultural norms by doing so, just remove the influence that is currently present by means of legal rejection. We seek the ability to have our marriages judged on their merits, absent the influence of Authority.

But for George, this is completely true.

He rightly sees that official pronouncements of inequality do impact social understanding. And, please note, social acceptance or rejection of homosexuality is the sole goal go Robert George. If legal marriage had no impact on society, he wouldn’t even be making this argument.

George doesn’t really care what you do in your bedroom. He probably doesn’t care who visits you in the hospital or how you file your taxes. I’m sure he doesn’t want you to be beaten up or called names on the playground.

But he very much does care whether you – and especially your neighbors and their children – think that heterosexual and homosexuality are equal.

What drives George is not his belief about what is best social policy, what drives George is that his church’s teachings be considered relevant and determinant. You don’t have to live by them, you just have to believe them.

George knows – though his language here dishonestly denies it – that marriage equality does not declare to the citizenry that homosexuality is as good as heterosexuality, any more than it declares that a 20 year old bimbo’s Vegas fourth marriage to an octogenarian is as good the couple who have planned their timing and finances and life goals and took marital counseling. It just says both are legal and any opinions drawn are your own.

But he also knows that legal inequality justifies bigotry and that “gay marriage” is shorthand for any injustice. We all have heard debates over non-discrimination or adoption or whatever that included “the people of this state voted against gay marriage by 60%”.

George talks about “society’s understanding of that institution.” But what he really means is society’s understanding of the role of gay people in society. And George knows that social attitudes have shifted and that he needs every bit of Authoritative influence he can get in order for his Church to continue to seem relevant on this issue.

Ben in Oakland

March 17th, 2011


Also, TK? TKO. you said it much better than I did.


March 18th, 2011

@Rob thanks. I’m better with Q&A than … well, let’s just say my literary skills are quite pedestrian, so I can’t dash off an essay with flair with all that I mean in a weekend, like Andrew Sullivan.

Do understand, however, that none of this is a ‘labor of love’ for me. For multiple reasons, I made a promise to myself years ago that I wouldn’t get involved in this. Life is short and can be taken from you without notice – do you know what I mean? There are important respects in which this great struggle is not “Philonous”. Quite the contrary. It is the worst kind of litigation and can be corrosive (to yourself and more).

It sounds hokey, but what more that I do, it’s not for me. Really the thing that impels me the most is the notion that some kid, somewhere, can be born gay with a full birthright and not have to spend their life asking, pleading, and litigating for what should have been theirs at birth.


March 18th, 2011

@Ben Maggie Gallagher is indicted on Sweden as much as Stanley K. His dire warnings haven’t come to pass.

Okay, it’s not enough for you and I and the readers here to know it.

If someone is the “gay Frank Schubert”, they might immediately add that to their toolbox.

Second, one can trace the “religious freedom” objections to a line of religious right gunpowder that started getting passed around at least as far back as Phyllis Schlafly. Someone needs to develop that as a theme, in a way that makes the uninitiated aware they are being pawned…


March 18th, 2011

@Ben, here’s more, ripe for the false prognostications page on Sweden, or whatever:

“In my opinion, the most likely result of same-sex marriage will not be the expansion of marriage benefits to more and more relationships, but the elimination of marriage as a legal status.” footnote 12, Maggie Gallagher

Donny D.

March 18th, 2011

Ben in Oakland writes:

Kurtz or George, doesn’t matter. What a shoddy defense of flim-flam!!! Boil it down to black tar, and what you have is this: gay people are so icky-yuckee-poo that if they are allowed to be married, any right thinking hetero would immediately reject the sacredness and specialness of it, for no other reason than the much despised minority now has access to it. I mean, if just anybody, if THOSE PEOPLE can get married, why should I?

I think this covers the emotional content perfectly but would be slightly off on the reason many straight people, especially those who are somewhat pro-gay rights, vote against gay marriage. Straight people aren’t going to stop getting married or get divorced because gay marriage becomes legal. But some believe their marriages will be demeaned if gay people are also allowed to marry. They feel that would somehow “sully” the institution, “make a mockery of” it. Sure, gays should have their rights, but marriage is “special”.

So we are somehow dirty and freakish. Or at least a destructive contaminant when our lives come too close to the more intimate aspects of straight people’s.

And marriage is only for special (straight) people, who are entitled to special rights.

Like “don’t ask, don’t tell”, the opposition to gay marriage is not about gay people, but how much gay people bother some straight people, and a lot of wanna-be-straight-but-ain’t people.

I remember one pro-Prop 8 ad that had a straight woman saying in a peevish voice she was fine with gay people being allowed to live (in different words than those), but now they were going to affect her life. This is another motivation of a significant number of voters. We are okay as long as we don’t affect their lives, but if we do affect their lives, in any way that matters to them, we’ve gone too far. A strangely intolerant form of tolerance.

These are a couple of the real reasons that many straight people are against marriage equality. But though I find George et al.’s article frustrating to deal with due to its profoundly dishonest and obfuscatory nature, I strongly believe we need to come up with well-written, well-reasoned rebuttals. The kind of people who take seriously the contents of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy have a lot more say in our lives than those who don’t.

Along with the issue of hetero married couples who can’t or won’t procreate, the issue of the harm that gay marriage is supposed to do to straight marriage is crucially important.


March 18th, 2011

just a note on accuracy. here’s the topology of the debate (at least as I see it at this time and for what it is worth).

The point is that it’s counterproductive to overstate or get the opposing position wrong, although parody is fine:

George and others have never said PIV=marriage. George’s position is that PIV is necessary, but not sufficient.

He does not lay out clearly what he thinks all the sufficient conditions are. That means, technically, he hasn’t really offered a clear definition. He does not argue for them, as one would normally. That means he’s just asserted a definition.

In general, we’re involved in contesting why in an easily overdetermined “final good”, he insists that PIV is exclusively necessary, for all bona fide couple types.

His position appears to be different than Maggie’s. He is also different than his own Church on infertile couples, a fact he probably considers minor enough. I believe his assertion that you do not have to intend procreation is at odds with his own Church, as well, but I’m not expert enough.


March 18th, 2011

@TK here’s eyes on, on your latest

true or false: The “changing norm” thing is not persuasive, in relation to the group of people we need most to persuade in the short term. (It’s too much preaching to the already converted).

If you are the ‘gay Frank Schubert’ – and I know I’m overusing that, but… – the only way it could work is if you point out to people their own hypocrisy, w/r/t the changing norms. But that’s not enough. They also need a positive reason to NOT “vote their own bias/hypocrisy”.

That is partly why “protect marriage” has perhaps surprisingly discovered that, even though their arguments are weak/bare, they can still be persuasive, among the easily led …

All that is to say if we want to be incrementally persuasive, we have to say something new on the intersection of law and norms.

For source material, here’s Mag’s on the question. Notice how she offers up the target psychology that a “whole world” view turns on gays getting married or not. (!) That type of stuff is ripe for thematic overreach:

“Laws do more than incentivize and punish…they educate…set boundaries…

“The most important legal purpose of defining marriage is to communicate to the young the essential, broad characteristics of the normative (or ideal) sexual union. P. 51

“One thing that same-sex marriage does is displace formerly core public understandings about marriage: such as, that it has something to do with bringing together male and female, men with women, husbands and wives, mothers with fathers. Husband will no longer point to or imply wife. Mother no longer implies father.” P. 53

“…some profound shift in our whole understanding of the world…”

So, how to say something new? Just copy-paste?

1. We are going to include gay kids into society, fully. Fear is the great mind destroyer in this. Country after country and state after state have recognized loving gay couples at law and the old boundaries have not fallen, the house has not come in over our heads. Be sensible – how could it, unless we let it?

2. Our kids learn the wrong lesson if adults teach them that they can “vote away the gay” or keep gays from equal recognition at law. We have 40 years of science that clearly indicates that “gay” is a fact, that there is a gay orientation, and that it is not harmful to self or others. We cannot pick the facts we teach on this.

3. The “core understanding” of marriage at law is not radically altered. Of course, there will continue to be people who want to revise marriage norms, but that it is not a “gay issue”.


March 18th, 2011

George doesn’t really care what you do in your bedroom.

just a point of clarity, a propos of the above, although it doesn’t alter the trust of what TK was saying. I don’t know for sure, but someone suggested in the prior thread that George argued that the Supreme Court should not repeal sodomy laws. Therefore, he does, in fact, want to criminalize homosexuals (as well as women in their own bodies, but that’s another ball of wax), although he would state it as “homosexual behavior”, a distinction the contours of which they are still grappling with.


March 18th, 2011

@TK regarding the second half of your post:

Right now, we can hypothesize that there are people who know that gay is not wrong, yet can get persuaded to vote against gay marriage, essentially because they are told it is a ‘matter of grave conscience before God’ to do so, to preserve society or whatever.

To unpack that, we need to bring a better A-game to the question of untoward religious intrusion into the public sphere, perhaps by getting into the trenches on the issue and perhaps with the broader goals of illustrating why that is not such a good thing…!

This is an uphill battle, but it can be done.

One potential problem is that, to be persuasive, sometimes you have to talk in “religious terms”, because that is the language of our opponents, coded/dual-purpose or not.

True or false: right now, the LGBT movement doesn’t have a single, clearly “religious-based appeal” for SSM in any ad, or ad-campaign, or whatever. (There are clergy who do show up to hearings, but how far is that message reaching?)

I’m not talking about general, fuzzy appeals like “God loves you” or “Love is love” or “Aren’t they an adorably cute couple?”. I’m talking about hard-nosed, hard-hitting, secular-religious argument/positioning.

People wonder why they don’t sweep up marginal votes. That might be it, right there. Don’t know, but it stands to reason, a thesis to be tested, at least, by the pros who test these things.


March 18th, 2011

Work-order #43291:

George says:

But recognizing same-sex unions would mean cutting the last remaining threads.

I submit that this outrageous statement, sadly just an eloquent repetition of others, is highly persuasive to those who are easily led in that direction. (Again, if you have the money for focus groups, etc., you find these things out with a higher degree of certainty, less subjectivity than I can offer here).

The idea that gay marriage is the last in the line of the social weakening of the bonds of marriage is repugnant.

The entire philosophy behind subjecting a “form” to special moral opprobrium in a list of similar situated, when not warranted, can be VILE. [think: ‘accepting the Jews into society will only completely cut the thread in the long decay of Christian society, already weakened by so many moral failures and abuses’]

Thus, I submit for discussion that, if you are the ‘gay Frank Schubert’, this item is on your hot-list…!

Ben in Oakland

March 18th, 2011

Amicus– you are quite right. Boiling it all down, as I have said over and over agin, to anyone who would listen– which turns out not to be anyone in a position of influence and power-we have failed repeatedly to respond publicly on three topics: children, religion, and prejudice.

And until we do, we’re oging to keep losing.

Timothy Kincaid

March 18th, 2011


I’m enjoying this exchange. But I do want to disagree and clarify on the following:

George doesn’t really care what you do in your bedroom.
just a point of clarity, a propos of the above, although it doesn’t alter the trust of what TK was saying. I don’t know for sure, but someone suggested in the prior thread that George argued that the Supreme Court should not repeal sodomy laws. Therefore, he does, in fact, want to criminalize homosexuals (as well as women in their own bodies, but that’s another ball of wax), although he would state it as “homosexual behavior”, a distinction the contours of which they are still grappling with.

I still assert that George, like most of those who supported and defended sodomy laws, does not care what you do in your bedroom.

He does, however, care what society believes about what you do in your bedroom. He very much wants your neighbors and their children and you (to the extent he can) to believe that you are engaging in aberrant and perverse behavior.

George isn’t going to go around taking the bottle from alcoholics or the drugs from addicts or barring compulsive gamblers from the doors of casinos. He is content in knowing that society condemns such behavior and such people.

And that is what he wants for us. To face social condemnation.

Sodomy laws worked precisely in the way that George wants marriage bans to work: they assigned Authoritative condemnation and helped influence culture.

Timothy Kincaid

March 18th, 2011

True or false: right now, the LGBT movement doesn’t have a single, clearly “religious-based appeal” for SSM in any ad, or ad-campaign, or whatever. (There are clergy who do show up to hearings, but how far is that message reaching?)

I’m not talking about general, fuzzy appeals like “God loves you” or “Love is love” or “Aren’t they an adorably cute couple?”. I’m talking about hard-nosed, hard-hitting, secular-religious argument/positioning.

I have a response… but it is turning into a commentary. I’ll try to get it up today.


March 18th, 2011

Tim, Your point, on George, until I find out differently.

Can I ask what would be the purpose of George having such a view, if he also didn’t believe that what was going on was criminal or destructive (like addictions)?

Oh, for the record, I think I overstated a bit. I think there was an ad run up in Maine that went something like, I’m-a-lifelong-Catholic-and-I-love-my-gay-son or something.

There may be people on our side who are “wired” to dislike formulating these types of appeals, even though there really is NO equation that “gay” = “atheist”.

Some people may be highly reluctant to even talk about “the religious stuff”, wherein it is assumed “we lose”, because they think that just takes them off the points about civil contract, wherein it is assumed “we win”. We probably have enough evidence, if anyone has gathered it, to show that is false, even if it appears reasonable.


March 18th, 2011

@Ben regarding the three topics. I don’t disagree, although my list might be longer and include organizational skill (I was floored when I found out during Prop8 trial that opponents had organized a “Pastor rapid-response team”, if I remember the name correctly.)

Also, in trying to catch up on some of the heady debates, taking place in journals and so forth, I’m struck that our approach might be characterized as somewhat passive.

For instance, no one from the Templeton Foundation is on the horn offering me (or you) generous support to take time to write a properly detailed reply to GGA. But, they did give “financial assistance” to the Witherspoon people, so they could come up with 10 Principles. [As I recall, Witherspoon got grants from the Bush Administration – that’s right, your own tax dollars – to do research on natural law – I did have an online reference to that fact once, but cannot find it now – anyone?]

I don’t know how influential the 10 Principles is. The fact that it exists probably has more influence than its content…eyes roll.

A gay Frank Schubert might look at that and say, “you know, we’re going to start making news, rather than responding to it. The first thing we need to is check the intellectual assault, properly.”

I really think that, after some of the early fumbling, on both sides, the thought has matured enough that it could be done effectively, now. There are some fishing lines we might get pulled on and I don’t want to underestimate the inventiveness of our opponents or the sheer scope of the material to be addressed, but my sense is that a “comprehensive reply” is close at hand.

I look at AFER, however, since they are a clear repository of top-quality information, but their materials are all organized around legal arguments and terminology. The rest is spread far and wide in Law journals, and books, and people are even referring to blog entries, now, in their working papers.

This is no way to get ‘er done.

Ben in Oakland

March 18th, 2011

“True or false: right now, the LGBT movement doesn’t have a single, clearly “religious-based appeal” for SSM in any ad, or ad-campaign, or whatever. (There are clergy who do show up to hearings, but how far is that message reaching?)”

Amicus– this is exactly what I keep repeating over and over.

Every campaign so far has been deeply closeted in its mentality. The Maine ad is a perfect example. Mom– not a real gay person, but a sympathetic person ’cause everyone likes mothers– is speaking for her son. Where is the son? Why is he not speaking? Why is he not speaking as a catholic? Why is he not speaking about why his freedom of religon is every bit as important as any other catholic’s?

This is why we keep losing, because we keep asking people who are afraid of gay people how we can best talk to people who are afraid of gay people, without recognizing the inherent contradiction: They’re afraid of us. Fear alone is never a good basis for knowledge and understanding.

Instead, we should be asking gay people who are out and proud, living happy, successful lives what has worked in their lives.

And of course, to a man– and woman– they will probably say that coming out was what worked for them. Honesty. Reality. all that stuff that every political campaign so far has not even attempted.

Dianne feinstein’s commerical during prop. 8 is a great example. I don’t think she ever mentioned the words gay, lesbian, homosexual, and i’m pretty sure– marriage. she just talked about fairness and oatmeal. It was a deeply closeted ad, and she’s a hetero.

This is what I wrote about religion and prop. 8 just after the campaign. sorry for the cut and paste, but i’m not going to rewrite it. It’s heavily edited:

“Let me also add that I do not know a single out, thoughtful, grounded gay person who thinks that this campaign was anything but a loser from the get-go. I spoke to Mark Leno personally about the need to avoid this limply-liberal-everybody-make-nice approach that completely avoided the reality of gay people’s lives, only to be told that despite its repeated failure for the past 10 years in 40 states, it was going to be tried yet again in this most important contest. He wasn’t interested in what I had to say, and clearly couldn’t wait to get away from me. …

I’m not a lawyer, but I do have my 58 years of life, and 37 years as an out, proud, and happy gay man to guide me. Very frankly, it seems to me that these lawsuits are being conducted from the closet as well, and in exactly the same way as the campaign was. Once again, I see these three words being avoided: children, religion, and prejudice. …

It has been documented over and over again that the Catholics and the Mormons, along with other religious conservatives, were the primary organizers, financiers, movers, and promoters of Yes on 8. In fact, they are proud of it. Their arguments were primarily religion based: it’s against our religion, God ordained that marriage is between a man and a woman, ministers will be jailed, churches will be taxed and/or sued, religious freedom violated. The President of the Mormon church sent out a letter encouraging Mormons to “do what they can”, resulting in millions in out of state donations. Pastoral letters from the Catholic Bishops were read in church; Bishops Niedeaur and Mahoney have trumpeted their parts in this, claiming that they are only doing their Catholic duty. Brigham Young university students were encouraged to phone bank. All of this to enforce a certain, conservative religious view about homosexuality, and place a religious view about same-sex marriage onto the civil contract of marriage. The state, by virtue of the First Amendment, is supposed to be neutral in religious matters. By enforcing 8, the state is not being neutral. My marriage is a civil matter, with nothing to do with anyone’s religion but my own. We don’t have to attack people’s religion. But we to have to start talking about religion, freedom of religion, and the difference between religious belief and civil society. …

Where is the lawsuit from a coalition of religious groups– UU, UCC, Episcopal, Reformed Judaism, to name but a few, plus a host of ministers from many other denominations– who don’t want their religious beliefs dictated by the conservatives and imposed upon civil law, especially in the matter of how civil law affects their parishioners? Since this is a civil contract, why is my access to it compromised by the religious beliefs of people who want their religious views reflected by civil law? Why is it that only THEIR freedom of religion the one that counts?

Moreover, just because they claim it is about their religious beliefs does not make that a true statement. Nor does it make it right. It only makes it sound reasonable, unmotivated by hate or fear. Like all prejudice, religious prejudice is never reasonable. It’s just prejudice. And what about MY freedom of religion, which is every bit as important as theirs? Again, by not speaking out about it, we are consenting to it. We don’t have to attack anyone for their religious beliefs. But we do have to talk about it.

If this were not about gay marriage, but was about any other religious difference of opinion, this would be called what it so clearly is: discrimination on the basis of religious belief. We have laws at every level of government which say that discrimination on the basis of religious belief, yours or mine, is wrong and has no place in secular, pluralistic society. Why is this different? I’m certainly old enough to remember “exclusive” country clubs and neighborhoods. But if Prop. 8-1/2 said that Jews could be discriminated against because they do not share majority Christian belief, it would be thrown out by the courts without a moment’s hesitation, though before WWII such practices were considered acceptable. But because this is about this very ancient prejudice against gay people, often supported by religious belief but occasionally admitted for what it is, and about sex in our deeply puritanical culture, somehow, we are not allowed to point this out. Why is this 800 pound gorilla in the living room apparently invisible? What do we have to lose by calling out bigotry for what it is? What do we have to gain by pretending that it is not? How is the continuation of the closet served by not talking about bigotry and prejudice? …

The enemy is not now and never has been the religious right, the anti-gay wingnuts, or even those homo-hating-homos who wanna-be-straight-but-ain’t. The enemy is, now and always, the closet. Rip that door off its hinges and the anti-gay industry will be reduced to functional irrelevance. Our strength will be the truth about our lives, our children, our families. I would rather lose because we told the truth, than lose because we hid our heads in shame and lied. “”

End o’ rant.

Ben in Oakland

March 18th, 2011

“Also, in trying to catch up on some of the heady debates, taking place in journals and so forth, I’m struck that our approach might be characterized as somewhat passive.”

Absolutely. See my rant above. Passive to the point of having purty lips, if you know what I mean.

I sent my analysis of what went wrong with prop 8 and Maine to everyone– Matt Foreman, Bruce Bastian, Marty from HRC, Andrew sullivan, you name it– i could that seemed to be in a good position for it, including the maine people.

I did not get one single response. Maine did its closet campaign.

So, either I’m an blithering idiot who knows nothing and can’t analyze his way out of a tic-tac-toe game– I’m pretty sure that this is not true–

or else the political culture that our leaders swim in is no smarter intellectually than the NOMnuts and rightwingers, and psychologically, far inferior to the them.


March 18th, 2011


There is a lot to mull over in your post. Plenty to super-charge politically the otherwise dry, academic analysis, to date.

There is a long distance between observing that it is not apt to cede all ground on the religious dimension of the debate to how best to go about not doing that.

Personal testimony – showing people – is only a part of it. It may not have to be the lion’s share. Look how far they’ve gotten with “one man, one woman”. Something similar could be achieved, I’m sure.

The first step, though, has to start with something like this quasi online symposium that Rob has kicked off. Once you get the metaphysics right, the rest falls in line. Tricky though, and risky if you get it wrong.

It’s not conducive to brainstorming and the free flow of information to start naming and blaming, too much.

We operate, here, on a greenfield, without constraints. Any single campaign is going to be far more constrained. No single ad is going to be the perfect embodiment of all the principles you might want to convey. No single effort is going to be staffed just right. Or funded as desired.

So, my own take is to be almost brutally rigorous on the greenfield stuff and on demanding free-flow on the lessons learned stuff, but quite forgiving or understanding of this or that effort’s foibles.

Off to the movies. Hope you have a good Friday nite, before all of CA has to evacuate to fallout shelters, shortly. ;-(


March 18th, 2011

Here’s a sample of what I mean, as a gay-friendly pitch that can have religious overtones/appeal : “Vote Smart With Your Heart”

It suggests that it is not stupid or ill-informed to be compassionate in the matter.

Timothy Kincaid

March 18th, 2011

Can I ask what would be the purpose of George having such a view, if he also didn’t believe that what was going on was criminal or destructive (like addictions)?

He does believe that homosexuality is destructive, but more like ‘sex out of wedlock’ (deconstruct the meaning of that word some time). It’s socially damaging and has consequences to individuals and society. But he’s “tolerant” and so he’ll let you have free will to sin. For now.

There may be people on our side who are “wired” to dislike formulating these types of appeals, even though there really is NO equation that “gay” = “atheist”.

Despite the efforts of religious anti-gay and atheist gays, you are quite right.

Some people may be highly reluctant to even talk about “the religious stuff”, wherein it is assumed “we lose”, because they think that just takes them off the points about civil contract, wherein it is assumed “we win”. We probably have enough evidence, if anyone has gathered it, to show that is false, even if it appears reasonable.

I agree… but I go further. I think that a religious freedoms argument is our strongest argument.

We have been thinking too myopically. The battle over gay marriage has almost nothing to do with gay people. We are like the residents of Iwo Jima thinking that the whole world is fighting over who will have influence over our island.

The battle for marriage is just a high-profile battle in a larger war: the war over who will be the voice of “all that is pure and holy”. And the marriage bans are an attempt to assert the authority of conservative Christianity over the culture and its laws.

Really, the biggest losers in marriage bans are not the tiny percent of citizens who are gay couples seeking marriage protection (though of course they are the most impacted). Rather it is the roughly third of religious Americans who are having their sacraments dictated to them.

And so far they haven’t caught onto that fact. Well… a few local UU and UCC ministers have. They are the ones who are refusing to do any marriages until they can fully practice their religion.

Once the local Methodist minister recognizes that this isn’t over what the gay people can do but is really over what he can do, then we win.


March 19th, 2011

Dismissing his view of homosexuality-in-society is part of what I hope I can do with a new dialectic, alluded to earlier, “New Traditionalism”, just as soon as practicable. (There are so many layers to this chess board, one has to proceed with care).

It seems absolutely key to correctly understand his view of homosexual sex.

As I understand it, they’ve tried to develop a lot of thought on this, including some evolution, such as rejecting the ‘perverted faculty’ argument. I have a lot of work to do to catch up. gulp.

At the same time, I’m not sure that a detailed effort is required. I’d rather prefer to have the broad outline in place, before the drill-down, a complete reversal of his exposition.

Why? Because if I (or anyone) makes a clear showing that their normative declaration is ‘needlessly exclusive’ and they, themselves have defined the import of homosexual sex only in relational terms (only in relation to the norm), then I don’t really need a ‘micro-level’ view of human sexuality, except in the most general terms.


March 19th, 2011

I think that a religious freedoms argument is our strongest argument.

It may be.

It goes to the conception of what the law is there to do, how and why, currently up for discussion at the bottom of section X.

For the purposes of better activism, we need concise ways to illustrate and articulate that, to articulate “freedom”, while answering their charges (a) that our freedoms are their persecution and (b) that our “freedom” is really harmful licentiousness-at-law on the road to the end of civilization.

Priya Lynn

March 19th, 2011

There may be people on our side who are “wired” to dislike formulating these types of appeals, even though there really is NO equation that “gay” = “atheist”.

Timothy said “Despite the efforts of religious anti-gay and atheist gays, you are quite right.”.

You’re in no position to be making that kind of sweeping generalization about atheist gays. I’ve never heard a single atheist gay suggest that “gay=atheist”. You don’t like people making sweeping generalizations about christians, don’t do it to atheist gays.

Rob tisinai

March 19th, 2011

Amicus, I’m typing this on my phone on vacation, and I’m no expert on George’s general view of sex, but as I understand it, any sex that doesn’t end in PIV is immoral. Even if married. He even distinguishes between chaste and unchaste marital sex. For example, oral sex to climax means you’re using your
partner as an “instrument” and is inherently alienating and therefore wrong. Also, masturbation means you’re treating your body as an instrument and are alienating your body from the rest of your being. Seriously.


March 19th, 2011

Rob, thanks! Please, enjoy your vacation, though.

Does he have a view on abstinence or celibacy? Castration or female “circumcision”? Those are all important considerations too, especially in relation to the form in which he gives reply.

While it *seems* like it is important to have a reply on his philosophy of “sex acts”, as hard as that is to define completely (for ANY philosopher), it’s more productive to focus elsewhere.

For instance, take Tim’s summary, in the event that it is accurate, i.e. like unto “sex out of wedlock”.

Sex out of wedlock is voluntary and being single is a voluntary condition (um, mostly, that is …).

Homosexuals, in his schema, have no voluntary choice about wedlock and are involuntarily categorized by the existence of another “form”, nongays.

Therefore, homosexuals are not similarly situated (to out-of-wedlock) and he’s either made a false analogy or has begged the question, no?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but a pithy summary of his view is that gays can’t qualify for the social-institution of marriage because of their sex acts (nonPIV) and their sex acts are wrong/immoral because other people, nongays, can get married (or does he believe should get married?).

Rather than calling that “Paleo-traditionalism”, we might simply call that “Random Traditionalism” and contrast it with the New Traditionalism.

No reason one can simultaneously “shore up” the “revisionist view” at the same time.

Consider that Mags, et. al. are desperately worried that they will lose at law the ability to say, “If you are going to have a child, you should be wed.” Call it their ideal, their norm, their “sanctity” or even their “sanctimony”.

But they can keep that ideal, right? It applies to gays and nongays alike.

So, coming back to our mythical gay Frank Schubert, you put in for something like, “We’ve raised kids. We’re gay. We’re totally gay, in fact. We think that people should get married if they are going to raise kids. Including gays. Got it? Gays. Kids. Get Married. Good.” Nothing else. Just bald, moral assertion, like the opponents. Send it out for testing. It might well resonate better than the appeal for “protections” and the “benefits package”, etc.


March 19th, 2011

“No reason one can simultaneously “shore up” s/b “No reason one can’t simultaneously…”

Ben in Oakland

March 19th, 2011

Amicus: “There is a long distance between observing that it is not apt to cede all ground on the religious dimension of the debate to how best to go about not doing that.”

But we’re not doing anything. The first thing that needs to be done is to start talking about it, and loudly.

TK: “The battle over gay marriage has almost nothing to do with gay people.
The battle for marriage is just a high-profile battle in a larger war: the war over who will be the voice of “all that is pure and holy”. And the marriage bans are an attempt to assert the authority of conservative Christianity over the culture and its laws.”

I think this is true. Yet, at the same time– and I am just now thinking about it as I write– I think it is, at the same time, a much greater issue, and a really minor one as well, sort of the UnHoly Trinity of what snarkiness would call ass-hattery.

The far greater issue is that of the desire of a certain class of authoritarian personalities to control everything. This may be a deeply rooted biologically based instinct, a combination of the herd instinct and the stay-alive instinct. It might be more psychological– a way to reduce anxiety. Maybe ass-hattery is hardwired into some people, like compassion and generosity seem to be in others. Some people are just jerks. Or maybe the just believe their own publicity. I have no idea. And it doesn’t matter very much, other than it seems to exist on a mass scale.

What matters are the methods. What they seek to do is to assert their authority in all areas of human life. They not only have the right, the have the responsibility and the moral authority. And they will be happy to tell you so. And hey, if they accrue power, money, improved self-esteem, and a few heavenly brownie points in the process, well, all the better.

They accomplish this by convincing people that it is perfectly fine for them to control the most intimate aspects of any individual’s life. And if you can control that– the most intimate parts of life, the parts where you theoretically have the greatest autonomy– you can control anything.

And you don’t actually even need to control it. The mere appearance of control is what Georgie and the Magster are offering. Sodomy laws didn’t make gay sex not happen, didn’t make gay people go away, and accomplished no civil good. But they did make them appear not to exist. Neither of these people are so foolish to believe that banning marriage equality will change gay people meeting, dating, falling in love, having families, and living their lives. I doubt they are even so foolish to truly believe their own rhetoric that giving gay people the name “marriage” is somehow incredibly destructive for heterosexuals if the very facts of gay existence, sex, dating, love, family, Civil Unions, and DP’s and have not already accomplished the destruction.

It’s not just about gay people. The abortion issue is another example, an intrusion into the most intimate and ought-to-be autonomous areas of life, love, and family by the coercive power of the state. The Terry Schiavo case is another example.

The most pernicious place of all that they do this? And I say this as a thorough-going even-atheism-is-asking-the-wrong-question kind of a guy…

They will even presume to try to control the relationship, the dialogue, and the messages between a human being and its god.

So I claimed there was also a lesser issue in this, though as I said, I also think it is really the same issue. What do all of these people have in common? Ted Haggard. Larry Craig. Lonnie Latham. George Rekers. Grant Storms. Jimmy Swaggart. Any number of congressmen who have resigned their positions for attempting– or wanting to– put their junk where it shouldn’t oughta be. A good portion of the RC priesthood. The list of ex-gay Paulky boys and Hechy girls, some of whom are earning a nice living. Diaper Dave. John Ensign. Richard Curtis. Roy Ashburn, now reformed. A list of people that have been featured here, JoeMyGod, ExGW, all the usual places.

They’re not all gay. What they have in common is that they all have something inside of them, something as desperate to get out as an alien in John Hurt’s colon. And they are just as desperate to keep it hidden, preferably IN John Hurt’s colon. To control it, in short. Only some are like The Haggard One or Richard Curtis, desperate to control in others what they cannot control in themselves. (It’s so much easier). All of them want to deflect attention from themselves onto more vulnerable others, people who deserve their punishment and whose schedules are far more available.

Maybe I’ve just been swimming with the boxturtles for too long, but on observing the virulence and the passion with which these homobigots divorce themselves from reality, if not basic good manners, and pursue their obsession with Teh Gay and attacking gay people…

…the more I am convinced that they do so precisely because the desire to control one’s own behavior and thoughts, or at least deflect attention from the lack of control, makes it very much their business. It very much affects them. Whenever the homobigots go through these long, detailed descriptions of why gay/lesbian sex must be and must be about, you know they have been thinking about it. And thinking about it.

Yeah, I’m basically saying that just about every homobigot is probably a big ‘ol homo, or afraid he/she might be. (Not all. for example, a man who was molested by his uncle might blame all gay people for it, forgetting that his uncle had a wife and kids). At some point, you have to conclude that This Is Too Crazy Even for Crazy. That, and for the smarter or luckier ones, at least, the possibility of accruing power, money, and accolades by working what used to be considered an extreme disadvantage.

I think people like Haggard, Rekers, and Curtis also represent a special case: the moral homo-hatin’-homo. The reason people like these three live the lives they do– dirty, deceitful, disconnected, dangerous, dissonant (I do so love alliteration in the cause of rhetoric) — is precisely because of people who think and act like them.

My take on them is this. I don’t see this as some sort of monumental hypocrisy– though it certainly is that– where they work against ending prejudice against gay people while having a secret gay life of their own. I would take their word for it that they are not gay, if, in the case of these three jokers that were a fact in dispute. No gay person I know leads a life like that, though perhaps some do.

Hypocrisy is too simple. It requires a degree of consciousness that they clearly do not have. As Rochefoucauld said, hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue. You cannot pay that homage without knowing what it is that you do.

Curtis’s and Haggard’s lives were definitely about vice. But being gay is neither virtuous nor vicious. Paraphrasing Tevye: “It’s no shame to be gay, but it is no great honor, either.”

Nor do I see this as merely some sort of Freudian reaction formation, where they battle the private part of themselves that they don’t like in the public arena. That is probably true, but way too pat of an answer.

This is what I see here, and I hope that I am making a subtle, but real, distinction. They work against ending the prejudice against gay people because they are moral men. They know exactly how dirty and disgusting gay people are, because each had his very own life as evidence, and who would want to inflict that bit of disgusting, unclean perversity on society. Who would want that for his children? Certainly not a moral man.

Note: I said moral, not conscious, not intelligent, not compassionate, and not responsible– a bit like that moralizing Old Testament God who thinks nothing about sending a flood and wiping out little children who couldn’t sin even if they wanted to, all to prove his point that he is moral and they are not. Mark Twain’s Letters From the Earth is a great exposition of this mind-boggling intellectual and ethical vacuity and vanity on the part of Our Lord and Father, or at least those who justify the harm they inflict on others in his name.

Unlike this OT God, who had at least the grace to recognize the need to atone eventually for his own mistakes, they certainly will not accept any responsibility for the gay world that their attitudes, beliefs, and actions have created– a world a sleazy, anonymous and furtive sexual encounters, punctuated or adorned (depending on your POV) by lying, cheating, adultery, disease, and dirt, where relationships are transitory at best, destructive at worst.

All the old stereotypes, all products of the closet. and all of them true for only a certain class of ‘mo.

Nor will they easily allow us to have the gay world that we wish to have and have created for ourselves where those stereotypes have no place, because that would again require intelligence, compassion, consciousness, and responsibility, which are the moral opposites of moralizing.

I’m getting tired now. I hope I’ve contributed to the discussion.

Ben in Oakland

March 19th, 2011

Uh, oh, timothy. I’m being moderated again.

Timothy Kincaid

March 19th, 2011


Don’t know why you ended up moderated. I guess the great boxturtle in the sky has it in for ya.


March 19th, 2011

Ben, everyone can contribute. This issues only require more time, so it kinda weeds out anyone who only has time or desire for a summary dismissal or whatever.

On your last, there are books written about the religious right. One evangelical just wrote a book about their year living with gays in Chicago and reported back, if I remember the details right – it’s supposed to be quite good.

The religious right is not monolith. It’s very important to step outside our “experience of them” and try to understand the differences, perhaps.

We criticize George here, but we ought not to make the mistake of just doing that, of looking where the light is on.

There are others, including this new Dominionist heresy, that appear to be influential. I’m not aware that the Baptist convention has ever really tried to articulate anything on homosexuals, quite of the scope that GGA have.

From the perspective of the mythical gay Frank Schubert, some of the work we do here could be used for other appeals. However, I suspect one would want something particular, if one could get it. For instance, one Baptist minister (black) one said something like, “We believe in a conservative exegesis.” That gives you something to work with, right? It’s a far bit better than, “Go to hell”, i.e. nothing.


March 19th, 2011

Tim, from the Manhattan Declaration:

“We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships, just as there are those who are disposed towards other forms of immoral conduct.”

“Unjust laws degrade human beings.”

“nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it,”

To make a pronouncement so sweepingly grand, think about the degree of certainty you would have to have…that homosexuals are indeed suffering under “illusion”.

Consider just how deeply prejudicial and profoundly irrational it is to assert that a commitment to rebuilding marriage culture starts by singling out loving, committed, gay couples (quite a few of whom are raising kids).


March 20th, 2011


I came accorss this in a NYTimes review just now (I was trying to see if Sullivan said anything about marriage and doubt in his ConSoul book, which I haven’t read):

As any number of historians, sociologists and pollsters can tell you, the evangelical Protestants who now exercise a major influence on the Republican Party are an infinitely diverse and contradictory group, and their relationship to these hyperpartisans is extremely ambivalent.

Conservative Christians are fully assimilated into commercial American life and, in a variety of different ways, critical of it. They get divorced as much as anybody else, if not more. They are as consumed by doubts and aware of their weaknesses as anybody else, if not more. They generally share – along with the pope – the belief that reason must be used to nurture faith.

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