DOMA As A Wedge Issue, Ctd

Jim Burroway

March 18th, 2011

A newly released Washington Post-ABC News poll confirms what other recent polls have shown, that a majority of Americans support marriage equality. That majority remains a slim one when one considers the 3.5 percent margin of error. But five years ago,  only 36 percent supported same-sex marriage; today, 53 percent do. That’s a 47 percent increase in a very short amount of time. WaPo notes some significant trends:

In the new Post-ABC poll, the shift has been driven by several political and demographic groups whose support for such unions jumped sharply. Men, who previously were less supportive of same-sex marriage than women, now back it at the same rate. Support among college-educated whites, political independents and people who do not consider themselves religious also rose substantially.

ABC News breaks it down further:

While younger adults and liberals remain at the forefront of support for gay marriage, the new results underscore its expansion. In an ABC/Post poll five and a half years ago, for example, under-30s were the sole age group to give majority support to gay marriage, at 57 percent. Today it’s 68 percent in that group – but also 65 percent among people in their 30s, up a remarkable 23 points from the 2005 level; and 52 percent among those in their 40s, up 17 points.

…Support is up by a striking 23 points among white Catholics, often a swing group and one that’s been ready, in many cases, to disregard church positions on political or social issues. But they have company: Fifty-seven percent of non-evangelical white Protestants now also support gay marriage, up 16 points from its level five years ago. Evangelicals, as noted, remain very broadly opposed. But even in their ranks, support for gay marriage is up by a double-digit margin.

You can see the poll itself here (PDF: 85KB/3 pages). It should be noted that the margin of error for these smaller sample groups would likely be significantly greater than the poll’s overall ±3.5%. The released information does not provide margins of errors for the smaller groups, so we don’t know whether those majorities are significant in themselves, but the trend at least probably is. Especially, this trend:

Support has grown by 17 points among Democrats, but also by 13 points among independents, to a clear majority, 58 percent, in the crucial political center. And it’s 63 percent among moderates, up 21 points.

Opposing marriage equality is a losing political proposition for everyone except the conservative GOP base. Not too long ago, supporting marriage quality was a losing proposition for everyone except the liberal Democratic base.

That’s what made it the definitive wedge issue — it drove a wedge between the crucial moderates and independents from Democratic candidates. Which left the Democratic candidates sputtering that marriage bans were cynical distractions from more important issues facing the country — jobs, the economy, the global war against terrorism, whatever. Those weak arguments are why we got steamrollered in the elections.

Now, we have a president who will defend DOMA only under heightened scrutiny, and Democratic legislators introducing legislation to repeal DOMA in both houses of Congress. And in response, it’s conservative Republicans’ turn to complain that efforts to dismantle DOMA are a cynical distraction. My how times have changed.

Update: Indiana Republicans have seen the writing on the wall, and are abandoning efforts to amend the state constitution to ban marriage equality.

enough already

March 18th, 2011

Ah, but well we use this to finally regain our abrogated civil rights?
Will we use this to force the Democrats to support us?

Or will we note it and go back to our PC wars and our little infighting and splitting of hairs over which members of our alphabet soup are the truly deserving?

Ah, if dreams were but horses, beggars would ride. Five will get you ten there will be at least one comment attacking this ‘ere the night is done.


March 18th, 2011

Brian Brown and Maggie Gallagher must be in panic mode now.


March 18th, 2011

The general favorable trend is demonstrated in all national polls and all state polls and is undeniable.

However, I don’t buy that we are at over 50 percent support, even though a few national polls now show that. First, these poll numbers are all PS – pre-Schubert. If these respondents got just one viewing of one of Frank Schubert’s ads – “Princess” for example – you would see the support level drop into the low 40s. That is b/c gay marriage is a low salience issue, and any argument that there could be some negative consequence, even if speculative, suppresses support. Our side has obstinately and foolishly refused to develop arguments based on voter self-interest, and so these Schubert ads remain effective, even though they are demonstrably false.

Second, if we were north of 50 percent nationally, then states like Maine, Maryland, CA, NY, and WA would have to be in the 60%+ range to offset the low level of support in the very red states. ME and CA are below 50 percent based on their last votes, or just above 50 percent based on recent state-wide polls by PPP. NY is at 54% in the latest poll. And MD is at 51 or 48 percent based on the last two polls. WA voted for civil unions in 2009 by 53-47%, which would suggest support for full SSM would have been in the low 40s. Those numbers, while dramatically improved over 5 years ago and rising, are insufficient to yield a national support level of 53%.


March 18th, 2011

Theo — I agree with the excellent points you make in your comment. I’m curious: what do you mean by “arguments based on voter self-interest”? What’s an example?


March 18th, 2011

Oh, and I would add — the fact that ME and CA had recent votes in which same-sex marriage did not garner more than 50% of the vote does not necessarily mean less than 50% of the population in those states support same-sex marriage. It might mean, instead, that people who are against it are more likely to vote. Old people go to the polls more dependably than young people, after all.

enough already

March 18th, 2011

So right, Theo!
I do believe the surveys have it right in and of themselves.
The question which is not being asked is to what degree people support us.
Those who don’t support us really hate our guts. Those who nominally support us all too frequently do so only ought of a vague sense of ‘and why should I care what two guys do?’ This is a position all too easily exploited by emotional agit-prop and, as you point out, we have done nothing, but absolutely nothing in all these years to fight against it.
Except tear each other to pieces, of course. It isn’t even possible, for instance, for me to name the group from which our worst enemies stem here on this website because there’s somebody or other will get their nose out of joint and point out that somewhere, somewhen, at least one member of this group wasn’t that way.


March 18th, 2011

Enough Already, it seems to me that you are assuming, without evidence, that gay people will be a stronger force against those who would deny us the right to get married if we unite as one and push an agenda without internal dissent.

Who would set this agenda? What would it look like? What strategies would it utilize and what strategies would it reject?

Are you familiar with the history of same-sex marriage as an idea? Do you realize that the most powerful gay rights and leaders were all against it back in the 1980s and early 1990s, when a handful of gay conservatives and moderates were suggesting it as the way to go? HRC, for instance, was hostile to it and regarded it as selling out/as representing internalized homophobia and false consciousness. Andrew Sullivan and Bruce Bawer, among others, have written in great detail about this history. If you are in favor of same-sex marriage, shouldn’t you be thankful that gay people have never thought monolithically, marched in lockstep, or deferred to self-proclaimed “movement leaders” as if we were members of a paramilitary organization?

enough already

March 18th, 2011

Fair enough.
I don’t agree with you on most of your points. I’m going to copy your note to me and (answer) you as best I can.

Enough Already, it seems to me that you are assuming, without evidence, that gay people will be a stronger force against those who would deny us the right to get married if we unite as one and push an agenda without internal dissent.
(Well, Matt, first of all, I split my time between the US and a civilized country in Europe where I am fully human, have full civil rights and same sex marriage as well as full transgender rights are and have been reality for some time now.
I was highly active in the movement to achieve those goals and we did, as a matter of fact, find it absolutely necessary to set aside our enormous differences (especially between lesbians and gays, lesbians here have been traditionally much much, enormously less crazy about being associated with gays in any way at all then in North America.
This all began back in the bad old days of the late 1980s when Aids first ‘came’ to us in Europe. It took nearly 10 years for us to accept reality over hear and when we finally couldn’t stick our heads in the sand anymore, there were considerable discussions among the very highly organized and politically influential lesbian groups about divorcing themselves totally from us ‘infected’ gay men.

Fortunately, enough lesbians decided to stand with their suffering brothers and, together we survived. It forged a bond – I could name several groups within the SPD, the Greens, my Gewerkschaft, but you’ll just have to take my word for it – which then went on to demand our full civil rights.

Similar if not identical things occurred throughout Europe during that time period.

So, no, I am not blowing hot air, I am speaking from practical experience.)

Who would set this agenda? What would it look like? What strategies would it utilize and what strategies would it reject?
(Good question. I would suggest we take a look at how our enemies set the agenda – and, indeed the very tone of the debate. We are constantly fighting from the defensive crouch of the beggar asking for alms and never as proud, upright citizens demanding our rights. Do you think the LDS, the Southern Baptists, the Roman Catholics, the Tea Party (puh-lease), the Republicans really all have the same views on everything? Goodness, me, they do not. What they do have, however, is carefully worked out agreements on attacking us and attacking the rights of women. They actually do sit down and discuss these things. They really do set aside their considerable differences on other issues to focus on their priority – mistreating us.
So when you ask, who should lead, who should set the agenda, I am well aware of your attitude and mindset. Working with American liberals is like herding cats. Let me ask you a question, in turn. If you refuse to set down with other groups who desire freedom and to set aside some of your own priorities to achieve your freedom, just how do you intend to beat people who, so far, are killing us at the election box and who are winning every PR contest with the low information voters? I mean, concrete suggestions.)
Are you familiar with the history of same-sex marriage as an idea? Do you realize that the most powerful gay rights and leaders were all against it back in the 1980s and early 1990s, when a handful of gay conservatives and moderates were suggesting it as the way to go? HRC, for instance, was hostile to it and regarded it as selling out/as representing internalized homophobia and false consciousness. Andrew Sullivan and Bruce Bawer, among others, have written in great detail about this history. If you are in favor of same-sex marriage, shouldn’t you be thankful that gay people have never thought monolithically, marched in lockstep, or deferred to self-proclaimed “movement leaders” as if we were members of a paramilitary organization?
(Too many ideas in one paragraph. Try to organize your points of attack more thoroughly, please. One attack per paragraph is about right.

That said, first – I was first beat up demonstrating for a woman’s right to chose back in the mid-1970’s in the US.
I was kicked out as chair of our local gay and lesbian alliance in the early 1980s for being hand-fasted to my husband. Marriage did not fit in, at all with official gay politics of the day. I survived the Angela Davis politics, I survived the ‘wer mit dem gleichen zwei mal pennt, g’hört schon zum ‘stablisment’ phase of German sexual politics.
I got to hear all the arguments as to why little old monogamous, married me was a threat to the freedom of other gay men, that I wasn’t monogamous out of choice but out of fear, blah blah blah.
So, yes, dear, I know the whole history of our marriage fight thoroughly, back and forth, both in the US and in Central and Northern Europe. Those of us who advocated for gay marriage were treated much the way those of us who advocate for placing the transgender at the head of our queer community instead of behind the much safer L,G,B group are treated today.

But, your point is ill-taken. I’m sorry, but one of the great advantages of being in my fifties is that I am not yet so old as to dream of the good old days nor am I so naive anymore as to think that one can compare apples with oranges. We, the homosexuals who came out of the closet swinging ((OK, I was never in the closet. I needed the space for my feathers and boas.)) back then were wrong about many things and it took Aids and a lot of horrible losses to realise it.

I am not advocating that we march in lock-step. I am pointing out that our enemies are clear, focused and very capable of working together despite enormous differences among themselves.

We don’t.

We are not winning in America. Their hatred and nastiness are costing them support with those who have gay, lesbian and transgender friends and relations.

It is the low-information voters and the frightened young heterosexual mothers who turn against us in referendum after referendum.

I am saying that we need to temporarily set aside our differences and to fight as a solid front behind a few clear goals until they have been achieved.

After that, the natural differences in our queer communities will once again separate us into our individual orbits.

Matt, put simply, we aren’t winning. They are simply no longer gaining ground as rapidly as they did a few years ago)


March 18th, 2011

Thanks for the very thorough reply! I appreciate it.

I’m not convinced that “the LDS, the Southern Baptists, the Roman Catholics, the Tea Party (puh-lease), the Republicans” [what–no Koch brothers?] are anything near the awesome Chinese-marching-band-at-the-Olympics lockstep formations you seem convinced they are, or indeed that they can be lumped together in this way. To an extent, I’ll grant you the Mormon Church and the Catholic Church — these are very much top-down organizations with vast financial resources. But even in these cases, what the Pope pushes for and what the masses of regular folks who happen to be Catholic believe are often very different. Indeed, that’s a point that the survey itself makes — Catholics are, or appear to be, parting ways with the edicts of the Pope on this issue. You note that you’re from a country where gay marriage is legal. It’s also legal in Spain, where Catholicism might be said to have a presence.

Also, you say “working with American liberals is like herding cats.” Why not work with Americans, period? Or is the goal to get 100.0% percent of liberals to support gay marriage, write everyone else off, and then hope that the liberals capture all the branches of government? I.e., repeat 2008, which was so effective?

I agree with you that the “defensive crouch” is a huge problem. But it seems to me that many gay groups (i.e. HRC) are a big part of that problem. Questioning their strategies seems to me like it might improve our prospects, not harm them, even if it means sacrificing unity or solidarity or whatever.

enough already

March 18th, 2011

Ican’t stand the HRC. I really think they hurt us more than they help and I would not only fire them I’d make them wear poly-blend sta-pressed shirts double-knit slacks and white ribbed briefs with the Y-Front for the rest of their lives if I could. With bad hair cuts to boot.

Well,it is a sweet dream.

Oh, sure, there are probably only a few seriously well off people bankrolling this hatred apart from the LDS and the Roman Catholic church. But, just as in Nazi Germany, they work together. Sadly, yes, in lockstep on questions of civil rights for us women and the transgender. I read a lot of non-looney right wing commentary (it does exist) and they are far better at working towards a common goal than we are.

It’s not enough to have some progress made. I’m glad of it, but we have to focus and fight together. I define a liberal in America as someone who puts civil rights and humanity first and everything else down the road. That means, to me that we are making a big mistake in not figuring out how to work better with the ‘black’ churches.


March 19th, 2011


Thanks for your response! An argument based on voter self-interest is one that answers the voters’ question “How does this affect me personally?” Frank Schubert gave a thorough discussion of his approach to Prop 8. He was confronted with CA voters who felt overwhelmingly that SSM was not an issue that impacted them personally. Given that it neither harmed them nor helped them, they were inclined to allow SSM to survive.

So Schubert did focus groups to figure out the best way to unnerve these rather diffident voters. He discovered that the best approach was not to explicitly argue morality or justice or values, but to appeal to the voters’ interest in protecting his own. So they developed the ridiculous theme that if SSM were allowed, their kids would be subjected to gay sex propaganda and their religious liberty would be infringed.

Our side simply said “That’s not true.” and tried to shift the discussion to abstract themes of equality and anti-discrimination. Without any way to determine who was right, and insufficiently interested in the issue to give it detailed attention, a lot of voters simply decided that there was no upside and potentially some risk to voting for SSM, and so we lost 52-48. An example of a self-interested argument for SSM would have focused on economic growth and the ability of CA to draw in new businesses with diverse workforces. You could have had everyone from the Google guys to Hollywood execs to defense contractors making this argument in ads. And in 2008, at a time of economic upheaval, an argument like this – employed in addition to the justice-based arguments with which we are familiar – might have made the difference b/t 48 percent and 50 percent plus 1 vote. This approach was used to a very limited extent in WA, which approved civil unions by 53-47 in 2009. But other than that, our “professional” activists have yet to use this approach, even though Schubert himself has tagged it as the basis for his win.

enough already

March 19th, 2011

You are SO right.

Our professional gays are too busy pretending that voters only care about the abstract sense of justice, too busy insisting that just because we know the Christian right are telling lies the voters must know that, too.

We have to focus on winning. We have to have answers ready to go and to fight with them from the very beginning.

But do we?
Will we?

Goodness, no. We’re too busy fighting among ourselves and being this-hypen queer and that-hypen queer (and screaming either that ‘queer’ is the language of oppression or that we must use the full alphabet soup, always) to stop and think through what our enemies have learned.

We lose at the polls every time because we are fighting defence. Poorly.

They only have to convince people that there might be a risk. We have to prove to people that we are their sons, their daughters, their teachers and neighbors. It is in their interest to help us (right there I already here the objections to ‘help’) because nobody is free until all are.


March 20th, 2011

Who would set this agenda? What would it look like?

one idea was that a well conceived President’s Council on Gay Rights could serve as the clearinghouse, an organizing force, and a means of cross-pollination.

Although, at this time, having already done hate crimes and DADT without it, it may be superfluous.

enough-A, for all the reasons that you mention, but also including those who just want to ‘make history’, the emergence of nongay leadership on gay issue in the netroots movement is/was a promising organizational development. unfortunately, they still seem to defer…

enough already

March 20th, 2011

Some very good points!

It occurs to me that nearly every single positive step towards our liberation to arise from Prop. 8 was either led by conservative Republicans (Olson, GOProud), individual lesbian and transgender groups with NO connection to HRC or fierce allies outside of the professional queer world like Martha Cloackley or Kirsten Gillibrand.

Can the HRC be reformed? Would it be better to refocus on GetEQUAL? Should ACTup come out of their semi-retirement and begin doing the wrong thing for all the right reasons again?

These are problems to be resolved now, in early 2011. Not after another round of losses in 2012 nor just before, when the Obamabots are telling us all to hush up or they’ll throw us under the bus again.

Priya Lynn

March 20th, 2011

“Enough” said “We’re too busy fighting among ourselves and being this-hypen queer and that-hypen queer (and screaming either that ‘queer’ is the language of oppression or that we must use the full alphabet soup, always)…”.

If the full “alphabet soup” is trivial to you and you don’t want to see infighting over it why don’t you use the full “alphabet soup” to avoid fighting with the people who consider it important? Or is it that its more important to you to exclude some people from the “alphabet soup”/gay community than it is to stop the infighting?


March 20th, 2011

EA, I can’t answer all those questions, but, on the question of ‘marriage equality’ efforts, I would say that we might all do well if we ask for a brutally honest and full discussion of our failures and successes, and in courtesy/appreciation for that honesty, pledge not to play the ‘blame game’.

It is the only way for experience to become cumulative, mistakes to be avoided, gaps to be filled, etc., etc.


March 20th, 2011

“why don’t you use the full “alphabet soup” to avoid fighting with the people who consider it important?”

I am sure that “Enough” can answer for himself, but I wanted to weigh in on his behalf. He is right about the alphabet soup. It is at best a joke and at worst a real liability in our effort to procure full equality. It is also a profoundly reactionary and dishonest creation, one that embraces stereotypes that the gay movement had fought for decades.

There may be good arguments to use the full alphabet soup, but avoiding a fight is not one of them. IMO, the soup was imposed on gays so swiftly and without any debate precisely because there was a desire to avoid a fight. But appeasement rarely ends a conflict; it just kicks it down the road.

Priya Lynn

March 21st, 2011

Theo in my experience the only people who are against the “alphabet soup” are those who want to exclude others from the gay community. You can make up stories about how its about something else and a bad thing, but that’s what it really comes down to. For a person who’s a member of a minority that’s been excluded to then attempt to exclude other minorities is rather petty and self centred.

Priya Lynn

March 21st, 2011

Once again Theo, if its trivial to you, “a joke”, then there’s no reason for you not to use it for the benefit of the people its important to to achieve harmony.


March 22nd, 2011

About this “alphabet soup”: I am sure that many on this forum are familiar with the idea that [some of] those people who have power use various minority groups to fight with other minority groups (i.e., in fighting, to take away the minority groups’ collective power. I often wonder whether the GLBT/GLBTT/GLBTTI/GLBTTIQ/GLBTTQII/GLBTTQQIIAS(?) debate merely takes the power away from our community to fight against the larger issues of oppression that have been levied against us by the controlling majority/majorities.


March 22nd, 2011

P.S. Please correct/add to the alphabet. I am positive I missed and messed up.
T = transgender; T = transsexual, I = intrasexual(?), I = intersex, Q = queer, Q = questioning, A = androgynous, A = ally, S = straight

I also forgot the letters for pansexual, gender queer, transfag, cisgender, tryke, omnisexual, non-monosexual, gender non-conforming, gender outlaw, and genderfluid. I guess, to respect everyone, would it then be:

GLBTTIIQQAASPGTCTONGGG? How do we pronounce ourselves?


March 25th, 2011


A candidate for a self-interest argument?


Gay marriage is just the first step on the path to making it impossible for you to go to city hall to get a divorce.

This fits with the let-me-tell-you-something-about-them-that-you-don’t-know category. Did you know that one of the Witherspoon “10 Principles” is about divorce? …

The kids (with care).

They are going to start forcing your kids to learn religious doctrines in school, none of them approved by you. Once we stop teaching about facts of life, like gays, then we can start teaching anything.

It’s about transferring power from the people to the pulpit.

Priya Lynn

March 26th, 2011

Jonathon, the infighting is over the alphabet soup is with those who wish to exclude transgender people and/or bisexuals and have just a gay/lesbian community. I.E. to have a LG rather than an LGBT. As a group that knows what it is to be excluded, those lesbians and gays who want to exclude transgender people and bisexuals ought to know better.

Timothy Kincaid

March 26th, 2011


I don’t think it’s as cut and dried as gays who don’t want to use LGBTQQAI as an identity are causing infighting because they want to exclude transgender people and bisexuals.

They didn’t start the fight and should not shoulder the blame for not wishing to have an ever-fluid nomenclature. (It may be honest but it isn’t exactly reasonable to say, “well there wouldn’t be any infighting if you would just do exactly what I tell you to do.”) Nor should we assume malice on the part of those who are saying, “enough already, no more letters.”

For me, I avoid the growing alphabet list because I think it is pointless and silly. It’s a nonsensical effort to offer an emotional “inclusion” that has no meaning whatsoever.

Think about it.

We’ve been told that we must include a “Q” for “questioning”. But what does it mean?

What are the laws that we need to change that impact the questioning? Should questioning people have employment discrimination protection that is not currently being covered by laws based on sexual orientation?

(“I’m sorry ma’am, but if you were either gay or straight we could not fire you based on that alone. But because you are “questioning” we see that as an indication of your inability to make decisions and YOU’RE FIRED!”)

Oh, it doesn’t hurt anybody to be aware of questioning folk and making someone feel included may be the right thing to do. So I’m all for “lets have a great big welcome to those here today that are questioning”.

But to insist that we all identify as the LGBTQ community, change the language of our political endeavors, and champion the cause of the questioning (whatever that might be) or else we are all bigots is utter nonsense. It becomes even more nonsense as other “identities” demand a letter of their own (let’s add a P for pre-gay, those kids who, well, we all know which team they are gunna play on).

You are right that there are those who don’t wish to let trans people or bisexuals “join” our community (umm, hello? they were there before you came along, chucky). That’s a discussion worth having.

But that isn’t what we are talking about here.

Priya Lynn

March 26th, 2011

Timothy, I’ve seen many examples of the infighting being caused by people who want to exclude trans people or bisexuals (or both). I’m thinking at this moment specifically of “enough already” who hypocritically can often be heard berating people for the infighting but who himself makes a big deal out of how bisexuals or trans people (I can’t remember which one) shouldn’t be allowed to be part of the community.

For the most part the argument is about LGBT, not any other letters, some people just like to bitch about the other letters to pretend that is a real problem that is getting out of control when in fact those other letters rarely come up. I may not use any of those other letters, but I certainly wouldn’t argue like “enough” or many other gays that they should be angrily excluded from the gay (LGBT) community.

Priya Lynn

March 26th, 2011

You’ll practically never see those letters beyond LGBT come up unless someone is trying to claim there are too many letters, as is the case here. They’ll then try to use that non-issue to suggest that means transgender people and/or bisexuals should be excluded.

Timothy Kincaid

March 28th, 2011


Most of the complaints appear to me to be of additional letters – I don’t hear much complaint about LGBT. But to the extent that it exists, you may be correct that it is an objection to including bisexual or transgender people.

Priya Lynn

March 28th, 2011

Well, perhaps I’m more in tune to it being both bisexual and transgender, but everytime I’ve heard someone complaining about too many letters they’ve always followed it up with the angry insistence that bisexuals and/or transpeople should be excluded and are messing it up for the righteous gays and lesbians.

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