Archive for the 'same-sex marriage' Category

gay marriage! controversy! slow down!

[by JSC5]

I’m a little late in getting to this, but a federal judge has ruled that California’s Proposition 8, which prohibited gay marriage in that state, is unconstitutional. I like to think of same-sex marriage is one of those “duh!” issues, like beer deregulation or early childhood education. We recognize, however, that despite how simple an issue it is for some, same-sex marriage has caused a great deal of controversy for other people. Orin Kerr had a post up recently over at Volokh Conspiracy that took this fact of controversy and conflated it with actual importance. He starts by quoting Judge Walker’s ruling, and then responds to it:

[Judge Walker’s opinion]: “Because the evidence shows same-sex marriage has and will have no adverse effects on society or the institution of marriage, California has no interest in waiting and no practical need to wait to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Proposition 8 is thus not rationally related to proponents’ purported interests in proceeding with caution when implementing social change.”

[Orin Kerr’s commentary]: Whatever your views of same-sex marriage — or Judge Walker’s decision as a whole — I think this particular part of the analysis is pretty weak. First, the idea that same-sex marriage is not a significant social change strikes me as plainly incorrect. This is one of the more significant questions of social policy of our time: Whether you think it’s the greatest advance for civil rights in America or the end of the world, it seems pretty clear that it’s a big deal.

Now, gay marriage is certainly politically salient in that it stirs up emotions and seems to divide people into two camps. That said, I don’t think it’s nearly as polarizing as he makes it out to be. Who exactly is Kerr hanging out with to make him think that mainstream opinion runs from “the greatest advance for civil rights in America” to “the end of the world”? I know a lot of pro-gay marriage people, and I don’t think a single one thinks that gay marriage clearly outranks the civil rights movement for African-Americans or the women’s rights movement. Furthermore, I know many (though fewer) anti-gay marriage people,  none of whom think it will seriously end the world. In fact, mainstream opinion on this subject seems to stretch from “good idea/duh” to “I’m concerned about it/ewww”.

Either way, I’m not sure that the actual level of controversy even matters. It seems that Orin Kerr is confusing (1) political salience with (2) actual breadth or depth of change. What exactly is the evidence Professor Kerr would offer up in defense of his contention that same-sex marriage is “one of the more significant questions of social policy of our time”? The simple fact that Americans fall into two broadly equal pro and con camps isn’t enough. Lots of issues – both important and superficial – are politically salient in a similar way,  so the mere fact of salience can’t help us to distinguish actual importance.

Just how important and sweeping of a change would gay marriage be? Judge Walker;’s answer (quoting a bevy of experts who testified at trial) is that it’s pretty important for the gay couples who would get married, and not at all important for everyone else. In response, Orin Kerr says that the mere fact of political controversy proves Judge Walker wrong.

It’s an effective strategy for troglodytes trying to make sure that gay people don’t have the same rights as everyone else. They don’t even need to marshal any real evidence or reasons as to why the proposed reform would be bad or that implementing it right now would be dangerous; all they need to do is disagree, and the disagreement becomes the evidence.That is, until smart professors like Orin Kerr, along with the rest of us, some day stop believing the hype.

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Catholic strategy, take 3

This is my third post in a series (see previous posts  here and here) criticizing the Catholic Church’s strategy regarding gay marriage and abortion. The brief version of the argument goes like this: as a rational actor, the church should view its strategic choices as either 1. go for broke now and push back against the gay marriage tide but also risk becoming irrelevant int he future, or 2. bide your time, keep moderates in the fold, and play long ball. My instinct is that option 2 would be much more fruitful for them, given their goals. The risk is just too high that today’s younger generation will be completely turned off by their anti-gay marriage antics. After all, if just the under-35 crowd made the laws in this country, we’d have legal gay marriage in 38 states by now.

So with that as background, does it make sense for the Catholic Church to continue to make opposition of gay marriage its Waterloo? The latest development: the Church gave DC an ultimatum, threatening to stop providing social services in the city if the city council votes in favor of recognizing out-of-state gay marriages. Classy.

This seems ridiculous on several levels. First, why make your stand at gay marriage? Why not make these puerile threats over decisions to go to war, support abortion rights, fail to provide an adequate social safety net, failure to reduce crime rates, etc? I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure there is no theological reason to highlight gay marriage over any of these other social priorities that the church professes to believe in. Secondly, the Church looks like a bully for picking on DC. DC is a poor city with high need for social services, so it’s an easy target for a threat like this. Did the church make such threats in Maine, Massachusetts, Iowa, California, New Hampshire, Vermont when similar issues were being decided? No. Bullies pick on the weak kids. Principles are easier to stand up for when the opposition is the DC city council rather than the supreme court of Massachusetts.

Anyway, that’s the last I’ll have to say on the subject, until the next time the Catholic Church decides it doesn’t want under-35 people to be welcome at communion.

The Catholic Church’s strategy for America: fewer members, one voice

The Catholic Church has been busy getting involved in US politics in the last few weeks. The Church’s decisions, however, are incompatible with a ‘big tent’ strategy aimed at growing membership. Like the Republican Party, the Catholic Church’s move towards ideological purity risks further alienating the moderate parishioners it needs to grow.

Continue reading ‘The Catholic Church’s strategy for America: fewer members, one voice’


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This is a group blog. JSC5 currently writes from the US. JSC7 writes from behind the Great Firewall of China.

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