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Gay rights and wrongs
December 4, 2008 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Cynthia Dixon, at the time employed by the University of Toledo, read this Toledo Free Press opinion piece, and wrote this response, which got her fired. Back in May the UT President responded to the growing controversy on local TV. Now Dixon is suing. (text of the suit)

Some energetic commentary, from both sides, over at volokh
posted by aerotive (257 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
That woman has a bad case of Entirely Missing the Point, and I disagree with her with as much vehemence and eye-rolling as I can. However, I don't think she should have been fired for expressing her opinion. On the contrary, if I worked with her, I'd be grateful that I at least know what was in her heart. You aren't always that lucky.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:52 AM on December 4, 2008 [8 favorites]


So, to summarize her inane argument, it's not a comparable civil rights argument because black people can't stop being black, but gay people can stop being gay.

Yes, I see, Cynthia Dixon of Ohio.
posted by kbanas at 9:54 AM on December 4, 2008


The normative statistics for a homosexual in the USA include a Bachelor’s degree: For gay men, the median household income is $83,000/yr. (Gay singles $62,000; gay couples living together $130,000), almost 80% above the median U.S. household income of $46,326, per census data. For lesbians, the median household income is $80,000/yr. (Lesbian singles $52,000; Lesbian couples living together $96,000); 36% of lesbians reported household incomes in excess of $100,000/yr. Compare that to the median income of the non-college educated Black male of $30,539. The data speaks for itself.

Oh christ. You know what? The data may in fact speak for its fucking self, and if it does you don't need to god damn spin it. It may very well be that gays in the country earn statistically more than blacks. I don't know. Why don't I know, despite you presenting a whole mess of statistics right there? Because you presented the median income for college educated gays and contrasted them with the median income for non-college educated blacks. You suck.

Also, being gay is not a choice. go fuck yourself.
posted by shmegegge at 9:59 AM on December 4, 2008 [35 favorites]


This seems a rather straightforward application of the Pickering test. Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 US 563 (1968).

In that case, the Supreme Court laid out the test for evaluating comments from public employees. It still is good law today.

If...
1. The matter is of public concern; and
2. The employee's interest in expressing herself is not outweighed by the injury caused to the State in efficiently performing its state function for which the employee was employed,
then the employee cannot be fired for the comments.

The comment in question clearly meets the first factor. The fight will be over the second factor.
posted by dios at 10:02 AM on December 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


Using bad statistical comparisons is a choice.
posted by xmutex at 10:02 AM on December 4, 2008 [9 favorites]


black people can't stop being black, but gay people can stop being gay.


Can black people stop stigmatizing gay people?

[not over Prop 8 yet]
posted by Joe Beese at 10:02 AM on December 4, 2008


Which further proves my point, tons of blacks can't stand the gays.
posted by ChickenringNYC at 10:08 AM on December 4, 2008


Dixon's problem is she makes it abundantly clear her relationship and almost seeming representation of UT right near the opening of her opinion piece.

And if there's language in her contract that she can be fired for writing a piece like that, then, well, she can fired. It's a contract. She broke it. That's what UT can do.

It's all just thoroughly disappointing though. I hate when we get into these kinds of situations and you're stuck either drifting into free speech ACLU-ish territory or coming of like a liberal mind police. While I'd like to spoon-feed some sense and real humanity/compassion to Dixon I think I might have to air on the side of caution and defend her right to make an editorial.

questions that could affect that:
/is UT a public or private institution?
//Was there abject public calling for her termination? I can't seem to find it.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 10:08 AM on December 4, 2008


Despite being surrounded by lawyers (even my brother is one), I don't think I quite understand how the First Amendment is supposed to protect her here. Is this similar at all to the NHL's suspension of Sean Avery?* If you write something that claims your status as a member of an organization, and that stated opinion somehow brings harm to your organization or employer (discrimination lawsuits, loss of respect, etc...), aren't they within their rights to let you go?

*The potential differences might be that the university gets federal or state funds, so isn't entirely a private entity, and that Ms. Dixon was expressing a personal religious opinion, while Avery was just being an ass?

On preview, dios gave me some additional food for thought - so Dixon will have to prove that the value of expressing herself in this instance outweighs the potential consequences of embarrassment etc.... for her employer?
posted by HopperFan at 10:09 AM on December 4, 2008


Because you presented the median income for college educated gays and contrasted them with the median income for non-college educated blacks.

haha. Yeah, can you just fire her for not having the intellectual ability to correctly analyze basic data?
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 10:10 AM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


What mudpuppie said. She had a free speech right to say what she did, but not necessarily as an employee of the University. Institutions like that often have policies and contract clauses (particularly for higher-level employees like Dixon*) that limit constitutional rights in a way that doesn't violate the constitution (if that makes sense). The President of the U speaks to this issue in the link to the local TV story.

(*her name is CRYSTAL, not Cynthia)
posted by yiftach at 10:15 AM on December 4, 2008


I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the Christian lifestyle are "civil rights victims."
posted by ShameSpiral at 10:17 AM on December 4, 2008


It may very well be that gays in the country earn statistically more than blacks.

Most gay people don't have expensive little fuckers kids. Gays aren't automatically subject to employment discrimination (since they can stay in the closet if they so choose - not that I'm saying this is a wonderful option, but it is an option that doesn't exist for blacks). I'd guess that gays are more likely to be college educated, and less likely to be in prison.

What the "irrefutable economic data" has to do with her argument, I have no fucking idea. Maybe she's referring to this line from the original article: "There have been studies that show how much states benefit economically from offering equal rights, and how much money is left on the table by states that put prejudice before profit." If so, and she's right in that gays make more money, then more people should be gay because it would benefit the state's tax revenue. RECRUIT RECRUIT RECRUIT!
posted by desjardins at 10:18 AM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


black people can't stop being black, but gay people can stop being gay

Apparently so. If they find the Lord and hook up with the likes of Exodus International or PFOX who can 'help' them with procedures deemed unethical & often damaging to their wellbeing by all of the mainstream US medical & mental health organisations.

(Unfortunately I can only offer links to scientific research [PDF] rather than cherry-picked quotes from a bible so what do I know?)

There's a reason that, in some cases such as Ms Dixon's, it's called blind faith.

That said, it all comes down to the law & the lawyers as dios points out.
posted by i_cola at 10:20 AM on December 4, 2008 [7 favorites]


You know, it is becoming rather irritating, this finger-pointing at black voters for the passage of Prop 8.
posted by Mister_A at 10:21 AM on December 4, 2008 [15 favorites]


Maybe gay people should start having sex like black people.
posted by pianomover at 10:24 AM on December 4, 2008


Instead of firing her for what she said, UT should have fired her for being a superstitious loon.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:24 AM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


She was associate vice president for human resources. So while on the one hand maybe she should be able to write whatever she wants as a private citizen, her job and her employer's policies directly relate to what she was saying and are contrary to what she was saying.

You know, it is becoming rather irritating, this finger-pointing at black voters for the passage of Prop 8.

Yeah. Rather skillful use of a divide and conquer strategy, too. You can keep everybody down if you keep them throwing crap at each other.
posted by Tehanu at 10:28 AM on December 4, 2008


Gay rights for gays!
posted by Captaintripps at 10:32 AM on December 4, 2008


it is becoming rather irritating, this finger-pointing at black voters for the passage of Prop 8.
Exit poll data showed seven in 10 black voters and more than half of Latino voters backed the ballot initiative, while whites and Asians were split.

. . .

Religious voters also were decisive in getting Proposition 8 passed. Of the seven in 10 voters who described themselves as Christian, two-thirds backed the initiative. Ninety percent of voters who said they had no religious affiliation opposed the measure, but they were a much smaller portion of the electorate.[1]
There's overlap between black and Christian, but as Ms. Dixon would say, the polling data is irrefutable.

Stunning however the 90% support among the non-religious. Ah, legislated morality, ain't it grand. Living in Japan, with its < 1% Christian population -- Christians there are generally viewed as cultural freaks on the order of that Hale Bopp comet cult -- was a lot more enjoyable.
posted by troy at 10:32 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's almost like she's saying being black is implicitly bad.

The argument should not be, “You didn’t choose and can’t help what you are, so I will tolerate it.” Instead, it should be, “There’s nothing wrong with this part of your identity, so I accept it.”

People absolutely have the right to express their opinions, no matter how hateful and ignorant they are. However, I think when you start presenting yourself as a representative of a public institution and say those things, you threaten the credibility of that institution as as a place where discrimination is not permitted.
Dixon worked as an administrator in human resources. How could UT maintain that they don't discriminate based on sexual orientation when someone responsible for new hires has publicly denounced the LGBT community? That strikes me as "injury caused to the State" and reason enough to terminate her employment.
posted by anifinder at 10:34 AM on December 4, 2008 [7 favorites]


Black people didn't pass prop 8.
Old people did.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:44 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Had she not represented her affiliation to the university when she initially wrote:

"As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of the University of Toledo’s Graduate School, an employee and business owner"

would she even be litigating to get her job back now? The college president's interview indicated that it was the sensitivity of her specific position that held her to a slightly higher standard when making such comments (this, as I understand, are the underpinings to her dismissal after she refused an alternative), but I'm confused.

I agree with Dixon on one point: there are too many black men in prisons. There are too many of every flavor of people in prison, frankly, but the two points, to me, are apples and oranges. As for Carla Royster, the ex-lez who Dixon referred to with this: "When asked why she wrote the book, she responded "to set people free… I finally obeyed God." I think Carla may be missing the point of personal faith.
posted by mcbeth at 10:46 AM on December 4, 2008


I am an employee of a state university and we have been repeatedly warned and it is in our employee handbook that statements we make of our personal opinion to newspapers and online forums must not imply that we are speaking for the university. In a meeting not too long ago, the president of our university clearly stated that we have every right to make statements of our personal opinion in public forums but we can not represent those opinions as backed by the university. I can say that I think students on our campus are horrible little toads with no respect for parking regulations, but I can not say or imply that the university or the administration supports that opinion. I can say for example, that every fall semester it seems like more and more students are unable to understand what the white lines in the parking lot mean and I feel that we should do more in ticketing and policing to remedy that. But, I can't say that because so many students are too stupid to figure out what the white lines are for, the campus police have stepped up their efforts to ticket and police parking lots. The difference is implied university support for my hairbrained opinion.

In her letter, it seems to me that Nixon implies that she is speaking as a representative of the university. She not only mentions her alum status and employee status, but references the specific health care benefit policy that is unique to the university. If she had left out all the business of faith and her personal opinion on gay rights, she could easily have clarified the issue of health care benefits and the complications that arise across campus. But by combining those two issues, it muddies the water and could appear that she is speaking for the university on at least one issue, if not both. As the Human Resources person, she was directly responsible for carrying out the university's value of diversity. Her statement to the press makes it very clear that she does not consider sexuality a valid element in diversity and therefore, it seems it would be difficult for her to continue to do her job as she should.
posted by teleri025 at 10:47 AM on December 4, 2008 [10 favorites]


This looks all messed up. First, the complaint is crap. I'm an attorney who practices in the area of civil service law. There is the barest mention of the administrative procedure used to remove her from her position. Cleveland Bd. of Education v. Loudermill holds that you cannot dismiss a person without a due process administrative procedure. If these people were serious about protecting her job and not making a poltical statement, they would pound on the procedure and its defects first, then go to the free speech arguement. That's what I do every time. No mention is made of the actual procedure under which she was charged. The complaint should include that so that they could move to dismiss or for summary judgment quickly. Why not? Remember, she's a human resources supervisor, so you can bet that she knows that procedure like the back of her hand.

Nor does the complaint cite the regulations under which she was removed. If they didn't use the procedure or cite the regulations, her lawyers should just drop the bomb on that. The University would have no defense and then they go back to square one.

Either something else happened at the hearing on May 5, or these lawyers don't know what they are doing, or they are only concerned with winning the political battle and don't want to set the University's efforts by demanding the due process hearing be correct in all ways. There might be other charges we are not seeing that came up because they looked into her background at the time.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:48 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Her name is Crystal, not Cynthia, for what it's worth.

Also, wasn't Prop 8 more due to older voters than anything else?
posted by schroedinger at 10:49 AM on December 4, 2008


I don't know what to say about this. Perhaps it sucks that she was fired, but I just can't find it in myself to feel any compassion for a woman who works at the University of Toledo and identifies herself as a graduate in a letter where she misrepresents facts in order to make the case for the further repression of a despised minority, and, further, misprepresents civil rights as belonging somehow only to people who somehow can't escape their position in society, while gays somehow magically can. It's just a wash of shoddy thinking and weak argumentation in order to bolster an intolerant message, and, were I the University of Toledo, I think I would be tempted not merely to fire her, but to demand her degree back, as she has demonstrated an inability to think intelligently and critically in the manner that such a degree represents.

All she lost was a job. What she wants others to lose is the right to participate fairly as equals, and her only real argument is that her particular interpretation of an ancient text is so flawless that it should be written into law.

Good luck finding work, lady. I wouldn't hire you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:50 AM on December 4, 2008 [8 favorites]


y'all miss the point : WHITE gays are still privileged compared to a majority of black and brown people. I can't skin myself to pass as white but WHITE gay men and women can hide their sexual preference and gender and skyrocket past me on the way to better jobs, higher wages and better standard of living.

to call the gay marriage movement the second CRM has been extremely disingenious. the gay marriage movement has always been pushed by mostly middle and upper class white gays. it's why it is more in spirit with white feminism than with black civil rights advocacy.

grock, you're gonna make me quote myself : Vivir Latino breaks down the #1 reason Proposition 8 passed in California

and I go meta :

I mean, for crying out loud, anti-gay marriage propositions haven't passed in Puerto Rico and we can be as a culture and nation as homophobic as any other.

So let me repeat this because it's important : White men and women, whether gay or straight, will be seen as always having the upper-hand in communities of color. The gay communities needs to make themselves part of our communities to gain our respect and our vote; just like any other political movement.


Which brings me to the whole "marriage" canard : if churches want the word, let them fucking have it. make marriages unconstitutional under separation of church and state and only recognize civil unions --whether between heteros or gays.

white gays need to do a lot of serious re-evaluation of how they outreach communities of color, not only within the gay community but hetero as well. there's a lot of reasons why black communities will look askew to gays that have nothing to do with queerness.

call it the "richard florida" effect. in "Rise of the Creative Class", richard florida pointed out the correlation between gentrification and displacement of communities of color and queer people and artists moving into the hood.

to a lot of people in communities of color, when WHITE gays and artists move in it becomes a marker of how that neighborhood will be completely displaced and gentrified, uprooting families and distabalizing communities.

think about it : when you have two WHITE men with four times the purchasing power of people in the hood, they become a threat EXACTLY because they can pay more for rent and other amenities.

if losing to the fundies on Proposition 8 is the slap in the face white gays needed to wake up to their own privilege, then so be it.
posted by liza at 10:52 AM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


Reading Neil Stephenson's excellent Baroque Cycle novels, I am reminded of the French Huguenots who were, typically, upper middle-class merchants and tradesmen, very well off compared to the typical peasant of the day.

They were executed en-masse, enslaved and exiled from France for following the Protestant faith. Clearly this wasn't a civil rights issue, as they made a choice to follow their ungodly Pretestant lifestyle. They could wake up the next morning and decide to be Catholic, amiright?

Stupid bigots come in all races, genders and creeds. Serious, would you keep her on staff if she used the word "Mormon" instead of "Gay?" Time to for you to go, Ms. Dixon.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:53 AM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


I take great umbrage at the notion that those choosing the Christian lifestyle are "civil rights victims."

While this is sort of a cute argument, there's this thing called the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment that you might be forgetting.

Also, there is, I think, a major disconnect between the various sides of the argument when it comes to status versus conduct.
posted by The World Famous at 10:54 AM on December 4, 2008


would you keep her on staff if she used the word "Mormon" instead of "Gay?" Time to for you to go, Ms. Dixon.

I realize I am not the person to whom this question was directed, but here's my answer anyway: Probably.
posted by The World Famous at 10:56 AM on December 4, 2008


As a Black woman who happens to be an alumnus of...

A bit off topic, here.... How come some people capitalize "Black", and most people don't? For some reason this is really jarring to me, probably because I don't come across it all that often. I think it would be even more jarring to come across a sentence like "As a White man who happens to...."

What does the author mean to convey with the capitalization?
posted by gurple at 10:56 AM on December 4, 2008


She was associate vice president for human resources.

I missed that part. That makes it different, from where I sit. It's not that HR people have to be PC, they have to be bend-over-backwards impartial. Whether she was speaking for the university or for herself, she demonstrated that she has a bias.

She should not hold the title of VP for HR.
posted by mudpuppie at 10:58 AM on December 4, 2008


Instead of firing her for what she said, UT should have fired her for being a superstitious loon.

Actually, I think that judgment call should have happened earlier. Every publication gets dozens of letters crammed with ranting about - among other things - Jesus. And, quite properly, they are selective about which letters they print. This was a bad call by the editorial board. This isn't an argument - it's a rambling and illogical pseudo-religious tract, and there was no reason to take it seriously by publishing it.

Can we please get off the "black people passed Prop 8" business? Take a look at some of the links in the original thread for some critical analysis of this assertion.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:00 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Either something else happened at the hearing on May 5, or these lawyers don't know what they are doing, or they are only concerned with winning the political battle and don't want to set the University's efforts by demanding the due process hearing be correct in all ways.

It's the third one. You may have heard of the Catholic charity in MA that closed rather than follow MA law and adopt to gay couples? That is getting all kinds of bizarre retelling in the post Prop 8 discussion that has nothing to do with adoption or MA law or the actual case. No one bringing it up is even remotely familiar with the actual event they're citing. But it is politically extremely potent because it is used to (incorrectly) rebut the "no on 8" point that civil marriages will in now way affect religious practice and that churches will still be free to refuse to marry as they see fit and preach what they want about sexual morality in their services. This will be another such thing, is in fact already. "Gay liberal politics used to censor Christian belief" is what is wanted here, not any fair practice in hiring and firing. This is a tool, a weapon, not an actual concern. But it will be used to whip up concern among conservative Christians about their rights to express their religious views and to portray universities as hotbeds of liberalism that hire and fire according to adherence to a dogmatic belief system.
posted by Tehanu at 11:01 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


to call the gay marriage movement the second CRM has been extremely disingenious. the gay marriage movement has always been pushed by mostly middle and upper class white gays. it's why it is more in spirit with white feminism than with black civil rights advocacy.

Feminism was also a civil rights struggle, and much of the financial backing for the civil rights movement came from liberal whites. I am not sure what argument you are trying to make here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:02 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


As for "Black" vs. "black": AP style, which most journalists and publications use, doesn't capitalize either black or white. I think that writers who capitalize the word do so to emphasize it as a marker of difference. And in some cases, it makes a lot of sense.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 11:02 AM on December 4, 2008


Personally, I am not OK with firing people over the public expression of personal opinions, but this paragraph is not a personal opinion:
"The reference to the alleged benefits disparity at the University of Toledo was rather misleading. When the University of Toledo and former Medical University of Ohio merged, both entities had multiple contracts for different benefit plans at substantially different employee cost sharing levels. To suggest that homosexual employees on one campus are being denied benefits avoids the fact that ALL employees across the two campuses regardless of their sexual orientation, have different benefit plans. The university is working diligently to address this issue in a reasonable and cost-efficient manner, for all employees, not just one segment."

She really should not have been speaking for the university, or even speaking in any manner which might be construed as speaking for the university, and so her attempt to make this letter into something that's not about her job rings a little hollow to me. Her suit says "she did not intimate that she was writing on behalf of the University", but the above paragraph casts doubt on that claim in my eyes. The tone here, especially in the final sentence, is simply not that of a private citizen who has no connection to the university.

In any case, I suspect that this suit may not go well for her... especially since she outright refused to even consider any alternate job which might have allowed her to be employed by the university without causing injury to the state.
posted by vorfeed at 11:04 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


While this is sort of a cute argument, there's this thing called the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment that you might be forgetting.

This isn't a 1st amendment case. If you think your job has no right to fire you because they don't like what you say, try going up to your boss and telling him what you really think of him.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:04 AM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


y'all miss the point : WHITE gays are still privileged compared to a majority of black and brown people.

i don't care if they have privileges next to god almighty, they still have rights - and society advances by raising people up, not cutting them down so they're all at the same level
posted by pyramid termite at 11:05 AM on December 4, 2008 [20 favorites]


Just a minor point to all those claiming that Dixon was "spinning" those statistics, she DID write, at the beginning of that paragraph: The normative statistics for a homosexual in the USA include a Bachelor’s degree. Hence, the only thing left unsaid was that the normative statistics for a black person in the USA do NOT include a Bachelor's degree.
Before you bash someone based on their presentation of data, one should understand said presentation.

Now that that's all clear, I personally think that she has every right to spread her bile all over the press and they also have every right to print it. Unfortunately, she worked for a public institution under a private contract, and we all know how that works.
posted by eparchos at 11:06 AM on December 4, 2008


Now that that's all clear, I personally think that she has every right to spread her bile all over the press and they also have every right to print it.

Nobody's rights were violated here. There is no constitutional right not to be fired because your boss disagrees with you.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:08 AM on December 4, 2008


Ok. What's the normative statistical reality for a black gay person?
posted by Tehanu at 11:09 AM on December 4, 2008


Politically, that is. Obviously your boss can't fire you because he disagrees with your religion or takes issue with your skin color.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:09 AM on December 4, 2008


the polling data is irrefutable.

You know what's irrefutable? If not a single black person in the state had voted, the amendment would still have passed. So please retire that pseudo-argument unless you're particularly fond of the company it puts you in.
posted by languagehat at 11:10 AM on December 4, 2008 [11 favorites]


In being black, there is no choice, but in believing in god, you have a choice and can be saved from that nonsense.
posted by Postroad at 11:12 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


if losing to the fundies on Proposition 8 is the slap in the face white gays needed to wake up to their own privilege, then so be it.

wait... what?

you're saying that gays deserved to have prop 8 pass because they don't do enough to appease black voters?

let's ignore for the moment the implication you've made that somehow prop 8's merit is based on something other than whether or not gays should have the right to marry...

let's assume that, for some insane reason, prop 8 really DID deserve to live or die on the whim of one minority's prejudice... what exactly are you saying gays should have done to reach out to black communities? from what I'm able to understand from your comment, you're saying that if gays really wanted to get married, they should have stayed out of black neighborhoods. Am I understanding this correctly?

I mean, shit, I don't even think black voters were what allowed prop 8 to pass. But now you're coming along as though prop 8 were a ransom note to gays from black voters. "move out... or else."

for real, what are you on about, because your comment is almost completely offensive.
posted by shmegegge at 11:13 AM on December 4, 2008 [13 favorites]


Ok. What's the normative statistical reality for a black gay person?

She sites the normative statistical reality for out of the closet gays. I would guarantee you gays with Bachelor's degree are, on average, in a much safer place to be out of the closet than, say, a dock worker who is gay. Until we live in a world where we can be certain that every gay person feels safe about being out, those statistics are meaningless. And this is a basic class analysis that she should have been aware of, except that she doesn't really care if gays are rich or poor, it's just a factoid she could fling in favor of her intolerance.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:13 AM on December 4, 2008 [13 favorites]


In her letter, it seems to me that Nixon implies that she is speaking as a representative of the university.

No, it doesn't. She claims to be an alumna of the university, which are not representatives. Then she claims to be "an employee and business owner."

But you can't be an "employee and business owner" of the University of Toledo. It just doesn't parse.

I read it as saying "I have a social connection to the university, and I understand hiring and benefits concerns both as an employee of somewhere and as a business owner." And, really, given that she didn't just say "I am the vice-president for HR at UT," I think that's pretty well the only reasonable reading of her letter.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:19 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seconding Ironmouth. Her free speech argument is very weak, and her due process claim much stronger. Seems to me this isn't about getting her old job with UT. This about getting her new job with the Heritage Institute (where it will help if she loses this case.)
posted by Navelgazer at 11:19 AM on December 4, 2008


Personally, I am not OK with firing people over the public expression of personal opinions,

But what if those personal opinions cause doubt over the person's ability to effectively perform at his or her job? If the HR manager at a company I work for had a letter printed in the opinion page of the local paper claiming Jews would be wise to convert to Christianity since the alternative is an eternity in Hell, could I, as a Jew, realistically expect fair treatment from him or her if a human resources issue arose?
posted by The Gooch at 11:19 AM on December 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


for real, what are you on about, because your comment is almost completely offensive.

Yeah. I've been reading some of these "Gay marriage is not an issue because there are so many other issues facing black people" and, you know, I would think fair enough, but there were a lot of black people who went out and voted against rights for gay people. They didn't stay home and not vote because it wasn't their issue. They didn't say, well, hell, I have to work on prison issues, and it falls the same days as the prop 8 vote, and I have to prioritize. They actively voted against the rights of another class of people.

"We have our own issues" is an answer to the question of "why wasn't there black support in the fight against prop 8." But that's not the question people are asking. The question, unfortunately, is "why did so many black people vote to keep gay people from getting married?"

And I would be okay with the answer "it's not because they were black. It's because they were old, or religious, or small-minded just like so many other Americans; there is nothing inherent to the black experience that would make them especially intolerant to gays." And some are making this case.

But people who are responding to "why did so many blacks vote for prop 8" with the answer "because gay rights is not a black issue" are basically arguing that blacks punished gays. It was not their issue, but they went and voted that way anyway.

It's bizarre, and, frankly, as with Dixon's letter, I think it's often horseshit used to try and exuse intolerance.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:22 AM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


She sites [sic] the normative statistical reality for out of the closet gays.

What would you have her do? Cite data that cannot, by definition, exist?

I would guarantee you gays with Bachelor's degree are, on average, in a much safer place to be out of the closet than, say, a dock worker who is gay.

Your guarantee, while comforting, is also not evidence. My counter: A gay dock worker is probably more physically capable of defending himself than a gay BA, based simply on the fact that he is in large part a manual laborer, hence likely to be stronger and more fit than the gay BA, who most likely works at a desk.

Until we live in a world where we can be certain that every gay person feels safe about being out, those statistics are meaningless.

No, they are not. They have a very specific meaning from which we can glean very specific answers to very specific questions. Until we live in a world in which the majority of people understand statistics, we will live in a world in which statistics are meaningless to a majority of people.

I'm sorry, discounting her entire argument is one thing but claiming that her statistics are meaningless is another. I will preface this by stating that I find her position repugnant on many levels, just to make THAT clear, but her argument minus the Biblical ravings was fairly coherent and well-structured. If I had been "on the fence" over whether gay people were indeed people deserving of the same respect as others, it might have been convincing.
posted by eparchos at 11:22 AM on December 4, 2008


Michael Jackson seems to destroy all her arguments.
posted by davemee at 11:23 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Of course her lawyers don't know what they're doing. Dixon's being represented by The Thomas More Law Center. Their specialty is Christian Persecution Complex lawsuits. They always prefer ideological arguments over procedural ones. Cynthia Dixon doesn't realize that she's represented by a lawyers who rather score propaganda points by losing loudly than winning quietly. (They think this is homosexual agenda case!)

Me? I would have fired her just for the misleading statistics and misuse of credentials. It's a University -- bad math and dishonest arguments should be grounds for firing.

For those of you who asked: The University of Toledo is a public university. It's also my alma mater. UT presidents have traditionally be greedy lushes or nondescript losers, so I'm feeling a rare burst of alumni pride that one of them is taking a principled stand on this. (I might even pay my alumni association dues this year.) Go Rockets!
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 11:24 AM on December 4, 2008


I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended.

This may not be the most offensive part of the essay, but in my eyes it's the most ridiculous. Does she think gay people wake up, look at themselves in the mirror and think, "I am genetically and biologically a heterosexual person, but am very pleased to be an abomination in the eyes of my Creator, just for the sheer naughty fun of it"?
posted by hermitosis at 11:26 AM on December 4, 2008 [21 favorites]


You know what's irrefutable? If not a single black person in the state had voted, the amendment would still have passed. So please retire that pseudo-argument unless you're particularly fond of the company it puts you in.

Everyone who votes for something bears responsibility for it being passed. And as I understand it, the age profile of black supporters of Prop 8 is much lower than the age profile of white supporters, so it's legitimate to identify black homophobia as a problem worthy of particular attention, insofar as old-people homophobia is likely to wither away sooner, as a generation passes.

As for the guilt-by-association implications of the last sentence of your paragraph quoted above, I seriously doubt that most white racists spend a lot of time giving any thought at all to black homophobia. If they do, they probably count it as a point in favor of a demographic group they otherwise hate. Identifying black homophobia as a real problem does not put you in the company of white racists.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:27 AM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


I read it as saying "I have a social connection to the university, and I understand hiring and benefits concerns both as an employee of somewhere and as a business owner."

I disagree. As vorfeed said, that final sentence about the benefits issue is definitely an eye-catcher. To break it down even further, I think the word "diligently" does her in. That's saying you are on the inside.
posted by cashman at 11:29 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your guarantee, while comforting, is also not evidence. My counter: A gay dock worker is probably more physically capable of defending himself than a gay BA, based simply on the fact that he is in large part a manual laborer, hence likely to be stronger and more fit than the gay BA, who most likely works at a desk.

Oh, come on. If we're going to trade in preposterous assumptions, then I am just going to counter that the gay BA is probably more fit than the dockworker because he has the time and money to go to the gym all the time and more stamina because he's out dancing every weekend night. Your standing up for statistics that can't possibly be considered useful, except to try and argue that gays are somehow a super-wealthy elite, which is exactly how homophobic literature uses it with great frequency. But it is meaningless in terms of contrasting gay people to black people, because we are missing a larger part of the puzzle when trying to analyze gays and lesbians, because they are hidden from our analysis,
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:29 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


My aunt tutored at a juvenile detention center that jailed many Indian kids. When they would talk about how poorly Indians have been treated throughout history, she would tell them that Stalin killed millions of her countrymen.

Can't we just all agree that humans with power suck no matter what race, nationality, sex, or political persuasion they espouse without qualifying it with which victim has it the worst or is the most hated?
posted by Bitter soylent at 11:29 AM on December 4, 2008


Wow. Cynthia Dixon seemed so reasonable on Sex and the City.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:29 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


While this is sort of a cute argument, there's this thing called the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment that you might be forgetting.

Damn, and I meant it as a serious and considered legal argument, rather than as one of those 'quip' things we've been hearing so much about.

I'm actually not that interested in the legal mechanisms of the insane, doomed country of which the Jesus-addled Ms Dixon is a sadly representative citizen, so I'll bow out of the conversation. Thanks for your patronizing!
posted by ShameSpiral at 11:30 AM on December 4, 2008


AstroZombie : that didn't come out right.

YES! civil union equality (i refuse to call it marriage, leave that one to the loons), is a civil rights issue.

yet what really has irritated me is to hear white upper and middle class gays say they've been as equally oppressed as blacks under Jim Crow because they can't marry. actually, no. it's not just irritating and disingenuous to say that proposition 8 is like living under Jim Crow. it's bordering on obscene.

same with the assumption that because they call it a civil rights movement that black and brown people ought to jump on the bandwagon. AGAIN, there's many reasons --WHITE PRIVILEGE being the main one-- that are roadblocks for the kind of coalition building needed to defeat Prop 8.

all is not lost. what white gays need to see this is as an opportunity to learn how someone like, ahem, Obama, used diversity as a feature and not a bug when building his political coalition.
posted by liza at 11:33 AM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


if losing to the fundies on Proposition 8 is the slap in the face white gays needed to wake up to their own privilege, then so be it.

I'm sure I have read more idiotic things on Metafilter, but not recently. Civil rights aren't a reward for behaving in a certain way or "waking up" to certain facts. Think this through for a few seconds and I assume you'll be embarrassed by your original comment.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:34 AM on December 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


...we are missing a larger part of the puzzle when trying to analyze gays and lesbians, because they are hidden from our analysis,

That statement can be equally applied to pretty much any group which we are analyzing, and a proper statistician will factor that in. It's called a standard deviation. The point is, this is the data that we DO have, and I am certainly not about to box it up and forget about it until we have perfect equality, as I think this data could possibly be helpful in our move TOWARDS equality.

Also, gay dock worker was probably a wrestler in high school.
posted by eparchos at 11:34 AM on December 4, 2008


I see what she's trying to say, but her argument has a lot of loose ends. At least patch them up and try to make it a stronger argument, you know? I thought the whole idea of making an argument was to attempt to make it irrefutable.

"I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman. I am genetically and biologically a Black woman and very pleased to be so as my Creator intended."

Well, I can't wake up tomorrow and not be a lesbian. According to current research, I am probably genetically and biologically a lesbian. I've long since ended my churchgoing days because I don't really buy into it anymore ... but hey, if there is a God or something like that out there, then I too am very pleased to be as my Creator intended. Zing!

Oh, and the font on the Toledo Free Press website sucks. Pretty, but not for teh intarwebs.
posted by Xere at 11:35 AM on December 4, 2008


Hey Michael Jackson woke up and decided to stop being a Black man, what's to stop Crystal Dixon from doing the same?
posted by xmutex at 11:37 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


yet what really has irritated me is to hear white upper and middle class gays say they've been as equally oppressed as blacks under Jim Crow because they can't marry.

Your man, he is made of straw.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:37 AM on December 4, 2008 [8 favorites]


yet what really has irritated me is to hear white upper and middle class gays say they've been as equally oppressed as blacks under Jim Crow because they can't marry. actually, no. it's not just irritating and disingenuous to say that proposition 8 is like living under Jim Crow. it's bordering on obscene.

That's fair. Not being allowed to marry has certain metaphoric similarities with Jim Crow, but the actual practice of creating a fully segregated society based on race is a magnitude of awfulness more than not allowing two people to marry. It's the sort of comparison that should be made very carefully, if it all. Yes, it is painful to get a toe amputated, but it is not the same thing as getting the left half of your body cut off.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:37 AM on December 4, 2008


The first time I ever walked into a gay bar, I was terrified. Terrified. I was 18, barely out of the closet, and scared that I would be walking into a place where I would be surrounded, for the first time, by people who were just like me. Even though I had spent most of my teenage years fantasizing about that very experience, I was still terrified.

Walking into that bar in El Paso for the first time was a revelation. Not only were there people just like me but there was just about every other kind of person. People of all skin colors. Men and women. The entire range of sexuality and sexual expression. People with physical deformities. People who were "different" from the norm in almost every way I could conceive. They had gathered there, at that one place that happened to be a gay bar, because they were accepted for who they were, no matter what it was that made them different from "the norm". When I discovered not long after that the pride flag was rainbow striped, it made sense to me. It symbolized the diversity and acceptance of whatever.

I hope that out there somewhere, every night, a young person is having the same, terrifying and then revelatory experience. But the world is not what it was, it has become too easy for us to deny the things we wish to deny, and thus exclude ourselves from learning about others, or exclude those who wish to learn about us, about what makes us different. It's easier that way. More convenient.

And yet somehow we place all our faith in younger people who are, at this very moment, watching their elders try and place blame on why something went so terribly different from the way it was supposed to work out, watching people say things like "I cannot wake up tomorrow and not be a Black woman," or "White men and women, whether gay or straight, will be seen as always having the upper-hand in communities of color."

Perhaps the people saying these things should go visit that bar in El Paso. Of course, they'd have to time travel back about 20 years, but it seems sometimes today that time travel would be a lot easier than trying to achieve a real dialogue that effects positive results in today's world.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:42 AM on December 4, 2008 [18 favorites]


Her problem lies in her belief that The Invisible Cloud Being hates teh gay, so she had the divine mandate (I assume from her direct contact and conversation with the Flying Spaghetti Monster) to write an article, ironically supporting the original article's position.

As a public employee, it is her right to express her opinion. As a public employee, it is not her right to espouse discrimination. Unfortunately, we can't bring the Easter Bunny to the stand to explain her beliefs, so it is entirely possible that she will continue to miss the point.

The voices in her head tell her she's right.
posted by Chuffy at 11:43 AM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


Well, I can't wake up tomorrow and not be a lesbian.

Again, the disconnect between the various sides of the issue on the question of status versus conduct is staggering.
posted by The World Famous at 11:45 AM on December 4, 2008


Her problem lies in her belief that The Invisible Cloud Being hates teh gay, so she had the divine mandate (I assume from her direct contact and conversation with the Flying Spaghetti Monster) to write an article, ironically supporting the original article's position.

This sort of commentary needs to stop.
posted by The World Famous at 11:48 AM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


hermitosis.

The answer to your question is, "Yes."
posted by Chuffy at 11:48 AM on December 4, 2008


This sort of commentary needs to stop.

This sort of commentary needs to stop.
posted by troy at 11:51 AM on December 4, 2008 [9 favorites]


Black people could choose not to be black. Potassium permanganate works wonders as a chemical bleach for melanin. We have the science, people.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:52 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


[I]f losing to the fundies on Proposition 8 is the slap in the face white gays needed to wake up to their own privilege, then so be it.

You disgust me. If this comment is what it takes for you to realize you're an idiot, then so be it.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:53 AM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


If Proposition 8 got together with Plan 9 From Outer Space would we have Proposition 8 From Outer Space? Night of the Flaming Dead!
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:53 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


This sort of commentary needs to stop.
posted by The World Famous


I agree. I'll stop it when fundamentalist religious people stop their "sort of commentary," which leads me to write such drivel.
posted by Chuffy at 11:54 AM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


shmeggege : i don't have the specifics as to how much money and effort was put into outreach to communities of color in California, but one of the biggest complaints I've heard is that virtually no money was allocated to hold forums and do reach out by the big players like HRC.

look, am not being facetious or an asshole. am actually trying to speak publicly to an issue that is really important to me, not just as a black latina but as a woman who has many friends in partnerships and with children who live in terror of the "what if" because they don't have the same rights i have with my husband. heck, i married EXACTLY because even in a domestic partnership end-of-life issues and inheritance are not as clear cut in NY state even between hetero couples.

yet, this is more about the assumptions made by white liberals about what we people of color should do and how we should react to the issues that are important to them. for example : how can you expect black or latino people to care about gay marriage as passionately as the right to integrated schools when a huge portion of our hetero communities don't even marry?

this is what i mean by the slap in the face : as i have been told by on-the-ground organizing leaders, the variegated no-on-8 campaigns put virtually no money for holding forums, doing phone banking and overall outreach in communities of color as well as virtually no resources whatsoever for grassroots organizing in the hoods through churches and other social and community groups. allegedly not even ads in black and brown media were purchased for the campaign --i was shocked to hear that one.

it wasn't until the early polls came back that there was a dead heat, THEN did some money, people and resources were turned around but it was too late. the right wingers had funded churches way better in their outreach efforts.

again : it was assumed that many colored groups would flock to the no-on-8 just because. you can't do advocacy of civil rights on assumptions. you have consider your advocacy as an ongoing teaching AND LEARNING experiment.

white privilege is not a quirk of queer people. it's a HUGE PROBLEM with most white liberals who can't seem to wrap around their minds that, yeah, maybe they actually don't just have but enjoy the artificial advantages their skin gives them.

look at what is happening now : pin the blame on the blacks and browns even though the resounding majority of Prop 8 voters were not.

why go there? because it's easy and a perk of privilege.

it's these kinds of things that really need to be reckoned with before, during and after coalition building.

BTW : i am looking forward to making unconstitutional Prop 8 and all the similar propositions in the other 29 states that have them.
posted by liza at 11:55 AM on December 4, 2008 [10 favorites]


On preview, dios gave me some additional food for thought - so Dixon will have to prove that the value of expressing herself in this instance outweighs the potential consequences of embarrassment etc.... for her employer?
posted by HopperFan at 12:09 PM on December 4


Close. The question is what was the reason she was employed by the State. If her comment harms the ability of the state to efficiently carry out that role, then the question becomes whether the harm is de minimus or whether it outweighs her interest in making the public comment. If it is de minimus or causes no harm to the state's ability to perform the task in question, then she cannot be fired. It's not a question of pure embarrassment for the state. It's a question of whether the state's function for which she was employed is being impaired by the comments. The fight will be fought over that.

Ironmouth is also correct about the administrative procedure, but my guess is that it was followed which is why it is not part of this suit. (I actually cannot read the petition because it is being blocked at work for some social networking reason). My guess is that this really comes down to a straightforward application of the Pickering test. I'm not sure why people are arguing over Prop 8 here--it has almost nothing to do with the legal issue here.
posted by dios at 11:56 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


yet what really has irritated me is to hear white upper and middle class gays say they've been as equally oppressed as blacks under Jim Crow because they can't marry. actually, no. it's not just irritating and disingenuous to say that proposition 8 is like living under Jim Crow. it's bordering on obscene.

i imagine it would be. did someone do that, here? i haven't been reading the thread as thoroughly as I could be. I'm a little perplexed as to what inspired your comment in this thread, or the linked article. I mean, if I understand your first comment, we all were missing "the point" in some way, and that point seemed to be something about white gays and black neighborhoods and something or other.

also, so i understand where you're coming from: does it irritate you to simply hear people say "the gay marriage debate is this generation's civil rights movement?" as in, does that irritate you even though they're not saying the oppression is equal, but rather that this is simply the prominent civil rights topic of the day?
posted by shmegegge at 11:56 AM on December 4, 2008


In reference to her ability to do her previously held job, in the abc link, I wonder what the full text of this typo is:

"In my 25 plus years as a practicing human resources professional, not only did I recommend the hire, I homosexuals and heterosexuals based upon their credentials and experience."

Also, in her complaint it says she believes homosexuality is a "grave offense against the law of god." But yet I'm supposed to believe you can be in a position where you approve these people for positions in a fair manner? Right. Sure, lady.
posted by cashman at 11:58 AM on December 4, 2008


look at what is happening now : pin the blame on the blacks and browns even though the resounding majority of Prop 8 voters were not.

It's not blame, it's responsibility. Same thing as Nader voters in Florida and New Hampshire in 2000. Votes have consequences. Own up to them.
posted by troy at 11:58 AM on December 4, 2008


God created human kind male and female (Genesis 1:27).

God also made Jesus Christ a white male, early-30s, with a beard. I've seen the pictures. It seems logically offensive that black people are defiling God's work by choosing to remain black, when there are treatments available, like skin bleaching and Kenny G.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:59 AM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Would she dislike gays less if they made less money?

Did anyone find the fourth section in the first article a bit odd? In the interest of full disclosure, at least three women I dated in college subsequently declared themselves gay, so I’ve directly contributed to the community’s growth.

What those ladies needed was a real man. Er, I don't think he really "turned them gay" - they liked him as a person, but realized they are attracted to women in ways he as a man could not fulfill.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:00 PM on December 4, 2008


I agree. I'll stop it when fundamentalist religious people stop their "sort of commentary," which leads me to write such drivel.

I see. Hate begets hate, ad infinitum.
posted by The World Famous at 12:00 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


And what does blaming ANYONE do for Prop 8? It failed, now find some way to over-turn it. Unless people want to start criticizing ballots from "possible felons" (usually minorities), who voted no longer matters, except that they need to become comfortable with the notion of gay couples having the same rights as straight couples.

Education, not violence and shouting, is what is needed now.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:02 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


liza: AGAIN, there's many reasons --WHITE PRIVILEGE being the main one-- that are roadblocks for the kind of coalition building needed to defeat Prop 8.

You're drawing an equivalence between two things that occupy somewhat different planes of reality.

White Privilege is a model used to explain certain demographic data as the products of institutional discrimination. Importantly, it is a model that was, even decades ago, incongruous with the actual letter of US law. It looked to other invisible forms of discrimination to explain its premises. It's glimpsing a broken window and conjecturing a baseball.

Prop 8 is a prima facie instance of state-sanctioned discrimination, enshrined in law. It's bearing witness to the thrown rock.
posted by kid ichorous at 12:03 PM on December 4, 2008 [8 favorites]


does that irritate you even though they're not saying the oppression is equal, but rather that this is simply the prominent civil rights topic of the day?

I think the problem is that some people imply the oppression is equal.

Troy, it's not the responsibility of the non-white voters that Prop. 8 was passed. If they had all voted against it, it wouldn't have passed. You see, because even though a significant percentage of them voted for Prop. 8--a significant NUMBER of white voters voted for Prop. 8 as well. Why aren't we blaming white people for Prop. 8 passing? Why aren't we blaming the elderly? Oh, I'm sorry, the "responsibility."

Liza, I think you are making some great points. The problem is most posters on Metafilter, for all of the popularity of the "invisible backpack" link, don't like talking about white privilege and race.
posted by schroedinger at 12:07 PM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'm sure she would be fired if she said Mormon. I'm opposed to being overly-PC but the fact that she was a VP of HR really changes this around. People in HR are supposed to be P.C. How can you have the person in charge of anti-discrimination policy out gay-bashing? Or Mormon bashing for that matter.
Your guarantee, while comforting, is also not evidence. My counter: A gay dock worker is probably more physically capable of defending himself than a gay BA, based simply on the fact that he is in large part a manual laborer, hence likely to be stronger and more fit than the gay BA, who most likely works at a desk.
It's not just an issue of physical safety, although even in that case just being a dock worker isn't going to help when you're fighting other dock workers. There's also the issue of job discrimination from bigoted dock managers, and just general unpleasantness.
Yes, it is painful to get a toe amputated, but it is not the same thing as getting the left half of your body cut off.
If your body is cut in two, how can you say which side was 'cut off'? To immediately decide it's the "left" side implies that the left, or liberal side is somehow inferior and buys into the pernicious "center-right body" lie!
posted by delmoi at 12:07 PM on December 4, 2008


It may bear mentioning that Ohio is an at-will state, where Ms. Dixon can be fired for any reason, so long as it isn't illegal (for example, she can't be fired for being "too old" or "black") or unless Ms. Dixon has a special non-at-will provision in her employment contract. If her actions as an employee violated University policy, it's not clear how free speech really enters into this.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:10 PM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


white privilege is not a quirk of queer people. it's a HUGE PROBLEM with most white liberals who can't seem to wrap around their minds that, yeah, maybe they actually don't just have but enjoy the artificial advantages their skin gives them.

look at what is happening now : pin the blame on the blacks and browns even though the resounding majority of Prop 8 voters were not.


white privilege is certainly a problem, and one that needs addressing, and it certainly is in evidence here. not sure what else i could possibly have to say about that.

i am wondering a bit about these sweeping generalizations you're making, though. i can't speak for everyone, and I certainly don't know the statistics, but as a privileged white liberal I can speak from experience on an anecdotal level to say that most white liberals I know are aware of their privilege. there certainly are some who try to deny it, for reasons of guilt or what have you. but the thing about white privilege, as I understand it, is that it's not a matter of choice. It's a fact whether you admit it or not, and there isn't a whole lot that can be done to counteract it on an individual level, which is why social action is so important. what I'm hearing a lot of from you is this anger toward white liberals, coupled with an attitude that somehow white gays deserve what they got.

which leads me to another generalization: what is it with this whole "white gay movement" thing you keep saying? i thought it was a gay movement. black gays included. latino gays included.

and another generalization: black and latino voters can't be bothered to care about gay rights. hey, cool. but then they didn't have to vote on the proposition at all, did they? again, i'm not blaming prop 8's passing on blacks or latinos, and I never have. but if we're going to talk about why they voted the way they did, let's acknowledge that they didn't push a switch saying "do you care about gay marriage?" they pushed a switch saying "do you want to deny gays the right to marry?" and they pushed "yes."

that there is a backlash to centuries of white racism against blacks and latinos is, to my mind, undeniable and understandable. but that doesn't excuse the inherent bigotry of voting against gay marriage. not for blacks, latinos, whites, the elderly or anyone.
posted by shmegegge at 12:11 PM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


It's not blame, it's responsibility. Same thing as Nader voters in Florida and New Hampshire in 2000.

Nader voters, by the way, should also not be blamed for the 2000 election. non-voters, and gore's campaign staff can happily be blamed for that one. oh also, Bush cheated.
posted by shmegegge at 12:13 PM on December 4, 2008


Thanks, dios!
posted by HopperFan at 12:17 PM on December 4, 2008


shemgegge :
let me address your overall questions about personal irritation : When it comes to the similarities in lynchings, bombings, incarceration and over all abuse of power by the government vis-a-vis a minority, i think that the real civil rights movement of our era is the fight for comprehensive immigration reform not the fight for civil union equality.

and before you smack me with "Loving v. Virginia", I have to say that am 95% sold on the idea that this fight is similar but am not quite there yet because there were real incarceration consequences to interracial marriage that do not exist for gay couples. BUT i can see how "Loving" OPENED the possibility to gender and sex based marriage equality.

i still contend marriage should be taken off the books as a civil procedure in its entirety, but whatevs.

the point here is that people were attacked, maimed and killed for the right to sit in the front of a bus, the right to vote, the right to send their kids to the same schools as white children. my parents were part of the many groups that made possible the CRM and did have their day or two in jail for the cause along with the standard death wish.

so i really chafe at the idea that this is the same when immigrants without legal residency are being "disappeared by deportation" in the middle of the night from their families or thrown into privately own jails to languish, rot or die.

the violence happening right now in immigrant communities is way to reminiscent of what happened to black and brown (and some white) CRM workers and leaders in the 60s. proposition 8? not so much.

doesn't mean it's not important to do away with DOMA and the anti-gay marriage laws and amendments passed in 30 states.

i just wish people got their historical references right --there's way too many black and brown people who survived the violence of the 50s and 60s to remember that it just ain't the same.
posted by liza at 12:18 PM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


Nader voters, by the way, should also not be blamed

nobody should be "blamed" for anything. Everyone in a democratic system shares the responsibility for the consequences of their vote, or non-vote as the case may be.
posted by troy at 12:18 PM on December 4, 2008


Nadar voters hate to be blamed, but they are responsible.
posted by found missing at 12:19 PM on December 4, 2008


schroedinger : Exactly. Thank you.
posted by liza at 12:21 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nadar voters hate to be blamed, but they are responsible.

oh man, i don't want to go into this in tremendous detail again, since it's a derail, but no they're not. when one side cheats, the 3% Nader votes don't mean shit. also, as a non-voter in 2000, I'm way more responsible than any Nader voter who at least voted his conscience.
posted by shmegegge at 12:21 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Nader voters, by the way, should also not be blamed for the 2000 election. non-voters, and gore's campaign staff can happily be blamed for that one.

Not to derail, hindsight is always 20/20, and there's lots of blame to go around, etc. but I think a good case can be made that, at least in swing states, support for Gore by Nader voters could have made a difference. Maybe enough, maybe not enough, but I think the effort would have said something positive to the world. Bush was clearly not elected properly and all Americans have had to bear the consequences of that election, since then.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:21 PM on December 4, 2008


and before you smack me with "Loving v. Virginia",

it's ok. i wasn't going to smack you with anything. if that's how you feel, it's cool. you have every reason to feel the way you do about what topic is the big civil rights topic of our time. if it annoys you that people don't share that feeling, i can't imagine why it wouldn't. really, i'm just trying to understand.
posted by shmegegge at 12:23 PM on December 4, 2008


Nadar votes have a special circle in hell reserved for them for pushing the argument that there was *no* difference between the two major party candidates.
posted by found missing at 12:24 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ah - found it in around 3 minutes in, on this video - "I have separated for 25 years as a human resources practitioner and a leader. I have hired homosexuals, i have hired heterosexuals based upon their qualifications and skills. But to say that I cannot have a personal opinion based upon the conviction of my christian faith and still not be effective when I've been effective for 25 years, is pretty ridiculous."

That gets the same reaction from me as someone saying "I am racist and I think White people are horrible people. But to suggest that I can't fairly hire them is ridiculous.

Also in that video, her whole "God gave me a mandate, I woke up with a mandate from god" thing is pretty creepy insofar as she then tries to make a cogent argument about how that shouldn't be considered when evaluating whether or not she can perform her job. What if you wake up next year with a mandate from god to fire, discriminate against or otherwise malign homosexuals?

And if that seems inflammatory, consider that she is a member of the "End Time Christian Fellowship." If she wakes up one morning thinking god gives her a mandate to do something to homosexuals, she evidently will do it.
posted by cashman at 12:25 PM on December 4, 2008


Why aren't we blaming white people for Prop. 8 passing? Why aren't we blaming the elderly? Oh, I'm sorry, the "responsibility."

I'm not "blaming" any particular class of people for a vote.

The original comment:

"Can black people stop stigmatizing gay people?"

was supported by the fact that black voters as a class are apparently more socially conservative than most any other deme that was polled.

with the overall point being that one would hope historically oppressed minorities wouldn't actively choose to further marginalize another, arguably currently oppressed, minority.

Frankly, I think, as aptly demonstrated in Dixon's letter, it's more a religious-right "Old Testament For Thee But Not For Me" morality bullshit issue than a race issue IMO.
posted by troy at 12:27 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


What about her "irrefutable" data? The numbers come from a 2007 marketing study.

"The survey, conducted by Community Marketing, Inc. includes psychographic and demographic information based on a national survey of more than 12,000 gay men and more than 10,000 lesbians, and has a margin of error of plus or minus one percent at the 95% confidence level."

I have serious doubts about the accuracy of that survey. The income levels reported seem too high, as do the home ownership figures. I'd love to see a map of where the 22,000 respondents actually live. (Kansas? Mississippi?) Of course, a marketing company would puff up its data any way it could.
posted by Carol Anne at 12:27 PM on December 4, 2008


the point here is that people were attacked, maimed and killed for the right to sit in the front of a bus, the right to vote, the right to send their kids to the same schools as white children. my parents were part of the many groups that made possible the CRM and did have their day or two in jail for the cause along with the standard death wish.

You seem to inhabit a world in which white gay people go around saying "Oh, man, not being able to get married feels exactly like being lynched in the South!" Given that they largely do not do this, as far as I can tell the substance of your argument basically reduces to "I think there are more important issues than Prop 8, many of which include disparities from which white people (including gay white people) benefit disproportionately." That's completely fine, but it's not really an argument.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:29 PM on December 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


The normative statistics for a homosexual in the USA include a Bachelor’s degree: For gay men, the median household income is $83,000/yr. (Gay singles $62,000; gay couples living together $130,000), almost 80% above the median U.S. household income of $46,326, per census data. For lesbians, the median household income is $80,000/yr. (Lesbian singles $52,000; Lesbian couples living together $96,000); 36% of lesbians reported household incomes in excess of $100,000/yr.

Oh, this rang a bell.

You know what these stats are from? A marketing survey.

The survey was coproduced by Rivendell Media and sponsored by Absolut. Survey participants were solicited through over 75 widely distributed internet and print publications; with a sample size of more than 10,000 for each Index, the margin of error is plus or minus 1% at a 95% confidence interval. (emphasis mine)

Not that I have any idea what how much you make has to do with what rights you should or should not have, but I thought I'd do my part to stop bad information from spreading any further.
posted by rtha at 12:32 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


And Carol Anne beat me to it. That's last time I try to pay attention to my job instead of MetaFilter!
posted by rtha at 12:34 PM on December 4, 2008


I have serious doubts about the accuracy of that survey. The income levels reported seem too high, as do the home ownership figures. I'd love to see a map of where the 22,000 respondents actually live. (Kansas? Mississippi?) Of course, a marketing company would puff up its data any way it could.

What are your doubts based on? Seriously, you just linked the results of a marketing survey which appears professional and well-researched. Why on earth would a marketing company "puff up" their data when the goal of a marketing company is to accurately survey and exploit the market? Now, if it were a pro-LGBT organization, your statement would make sense. As it does not appear to be so, neither does your statement.
Honestly, please tell me exactly what you are basing your analysis of the income levels and home ownership figures is based on. I'd love to know.
posted by eparchos at 12:35 PM on December 4, 2008


"I have separated for 25 years as a human resources practitioner and a leader. I have hired homosexuals, i have hired heterosexuals based upon their qualifications and skills. But to say that I cannot have a personal opinion based upon the conviction of my christian faith and still not be effective when I've been effective for 25 years, is pretty ridiculous."

If gay and lesbian job applicants were not recruited, did not receive positions, were not retained, were not promoted, etc. on the basis of their sexuality, due to her influence, that would violate the University's equal opportunity policy and hurt its ability to conduct its business, and would therefore seem to be good cause to fire her. That information may come out as the case progresses. Despite her protestations, based on the naked display of hatred espoused in her opinion piece, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a pattern of behavior where she had discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation and violated employer policy. I guess we'll see what happens.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:36 PM on December 4, 2008


The normative statistics for a homosexual in the USA include a Bachelor’s degree: For gay men, the median household income is $83,000/yr. (Gay singles $62,000; gay couples living together $130,000), almost 80% above the median U.S. household income of $46,326, per census data. For lesbians, the median household income is $80,000/yr. (Lesbian singles $52,000; Lesbian couples living together $96,000); 36% of lesbians reported household incomes in excess of $100,000/yr. Compare that to the median income of the non-college educated Black male of $30,539. The data speaks for itself.

I just tried to track down these statisics, because Dixon does not cite sources. It looks to me like it all comes from a marketing study sponsored by Absolut vodka. I think the use of the word "consumers" is important in looking at this study, because it means it was not meant to figure out the absolute income of all gays and lesbians in America, but of gays and lesbians as a consumer group, and the respondents were targeting through sources that would hit the demographic of gay and lesbian "consumers": Lifestyle magazines, gay friendly political presses, etc. Also, according to the study's own written methodology (PDF), the "goal of this study was to survey self-identified “out” lesbian and gay consumers, who interact with gay and lesbian print or internet media, regarding their purchasing habits and motivators."

This does not make this a useful studying for determining the income of all gays and lesbians in America, and, as I stated earlier, it makes it a very bad study in comparing the incomes of the average gay man or woman to the average black man or woman. A comperable study might be Money, Myths, and Change: The Economic Lives of Lesbians and Gay Men by University of Massachusetts economics professor Lee Badgett. In it, she determines the following: "Lesbian/bisexual women earn 11 percent more than heterosexual women. The difference is not statistically significant. ... Gay/bisexal men, however, ... earn 17 percent less than heterosexual men with the same education, race, location, and occupation."

The average black man, by comparison, makes about 72 percent of the salary of the average white man, or 28 percent less, if I am doing my math right.

So, yes, gay men in America are more privileged than the average black men, but only insofar as they are only half as poor, compared to the average straight man. That's a prtty weak argument to make -- black women make considerably less than black men, but we would not consider the unjust financial treatment of black men to be unworthy of dicussion merely because they aren't the poorest of all.

Of course, Dixon couldn't even be bothered to make that argument. No, she found a study that inappropriately supported her case that gays are somehow a financial superclass that is doing so much better than black people in order to somehow justify her intolerance.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:46 PM on December 4, 2008 [6 favorites]


to call the gay marriage movement the second CRM has been extremely disingenious. the gay marriage movement has always been pushed by mostly middle and upper class white gays. it's why it is more in spirit with white feminism than with black civil rights advocacy.

Eparchos, I totally agree that as far as political strategy goes, a new approach and a different kind of outreach are necessary. I also understand why the unqualified or blithe comparison between racism and homophobia raises hackles.

But I don't think that's what's going on here, and that's why your statement doesn't seem to make sense. The color and the class of those who seem to be "out in front" doesn't determine whether the stakes are those of civil rights or not. There are all kinds of ways in which the type and trajectory of the discrimination these two minorities suffer. Why wouldn't they? Being black comes with a set of social burdens that are different than those that come with being gay, and at different moments and in different situations and in different engagements with the state and state power, black people and gay people become vulnerable to discrimination in very different ways. But that doesn't change the fact that this is a civil rights question. Comparing degrees of oppression misses the point entirely.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 12:48 PM on December 4, 2008


What are your doubts based on?

To sum up my doubts from my rpeceding post, the methodology of the study was to look into the income habits of out of the closet gay consumers. It was never intended as a study of the income habits of the entire gay population.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:50 PM on December 4, 2008


Income habits?

That would be a great name for a drag troupe that dresses like nuns!
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:53 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does anybody in this thread understand that EVERYBODY is a consumer?
I'm actually completely flabbergasted at how intentionally thick people are being here. Just because you do not WANT that marketing survey to actually reflect how the LGBT community lives does not make it untrue. Economics and statistics are real, valuable fields and this survey is both real and valuable. As far as the implications that economic status does not reflect quality of life, again I am flabbergasted.
Step back, look again at the links that you all have provided, and come up with a different argument. You are linking to studies which disprove your own point. The facts which YOU ARE PROVIDING do not mesh with your conclusions, and the logic which you are using to connect the two is tenuous and deeply flawed. I really don't know what to say other than "the margin of error is plus or minus 1% at a 95% confidence interval".
posted by eparchos at 12:55 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Income habits?

That would be a great name for a drag troupe that dresses like nuns!


I don't see the appeal of doing drag as a nun. Someone please link to a video if I am in error. I loves me some drag queens.
posted by Tehanu at 12:57 PM on December 4, 2008


liza: yet what really has irritated me is to hear white upper and middle class gays say they've been as equally oppressed as blacks under Jim Crow because they can't marry.

Who is saying this? Can you cite any examples? I have never heard this and I've been following the Prop 8 stuff fairly closely.
posted by desjardins at 12:58 PM on December 4, 2008


To sum up my doubts from my rpeceding post, the methodology of the study was to look into the income habits of out of the closet gay consumers. It was never intended as a study of the income habits of the entire gay population.

What you are missing here is that "out of the closet gay consumers" is as close as we're going to get to "the entire gay population" in a survey. How would you propose to survey non-consumer gays who do not admit to being gay?

foxy_hedgehog, I don't think you're talking to me.
posted by eparchos at 12:58 PM on December 4, 2008


I don't see the appeal of doing drag as a nun. Someone please link to a video if I am in error. I loves me some drag queens.

I can't go perusing YouTube at work, but search for "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence."
posted by desjardins at 12:59 PM on December 4, 2008


Ugh, thanks MeFi for reminding me of Nuns on the Run.
posted by eparchos at 1:01 PM on December 4, 2008


I say it doesn't matter how much money they make on average. It's irrelevant.

The Sikhs are a fairly prosperous minority in this country. Does that matter when they're being spit on and called towel-heads and forced to remove their turbans at school or work?

There are some mighty peculiar pre-requisites for civil rights being tossed around. I strongly suspect they're being used to mask some pretty nasty prejudices.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:05 PM on December 4, 2008 [5 favorites]


What you are missing here is that "out of the closet gay consumers" is as close as we're going to get to "the entire gay population" in a survey. How would you propose to survey non-consumer gays who do not admit to being gay?

What? What are you not understanding. There are a lot of gay people not represented by this sample, and they were not factored in, because the survey is not trying to establish an absolute understanding of the income of all gay people in America, but instead they are establishing a very clear consumer group: out of the closet gay people.

That is a specific subjection of the gay community, and the survey doesn't look outside that subsection. It's not intended to make an absolute statement as to what gay people earn in America. To do that would require different methodology, because you would have to account for people who are not out of the closet, and then see if you can find out who they are and what income they make.

I don't know why you are not clear on this. Just because somebody is not out of the closet doesn't mean their income level is irrelevant when discussing the income of gay people, especially when holding up the entire gay community's income against another group to try and make the case that they are really not that badly oppressed at all. The fact of the closet demonstrates oppression, and the economic experience of gays as a whole cannot be discussed credibly with acknowledgement and factoring in of the closet.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:09 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


subsection, not subjection.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2008


It's not intended to make an absolute statement as to what gay people earn in America.

I see what you did there.
posted by cashman at 1:10 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would guarantee you gays with Bachelor's degree are, on average, in a much safer place to be out of the closet than, say, a dock worker who is gay.

I make no claims as to the truth or falsehood of either proposition, but it's interesting how "Black people are more homophobic" causes a shitshow but not "Poor people are more homophobic."
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:11 PM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


I have a right to my puns.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:12 PM on December 4, 2008


non-consumer gays

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that there is not a statistically significant number of non-consumers in the United States, regardless of sexual orientation.
posted by The World Famous at 1:12 PM on December 4, 2008


Eparchos, I'm so sorry- I meant to address that to Liza. My apologies for sloppiness!
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:13 PM on December 4, 2008


What am *I* not getting here? From a social standpoint non-out-of-the-closet gays ARE CONSIDERED STRAIGHT, regardless of their actual behavior in secret. Get it?

How do you propose to survey the secret gay majority? I've put it to you before and I put it to you again here. I am not saying that this survey addresses the interior of the closet, I am saying that the interior of the closet is impossible to survey, THEREFORE we must make do with the actual facts that we can gather. Which are these surveys which you linked.
posted by eparchos at 1:13 PM on December 4, 2008


foxy_hedgehog: It's OK, I just wanted to clarify my distance from liza's straw man.
posted by eparchos at 1:16 PM on December 4, 2008


My doubts about the marketing survey's numbers on gay and lesbian income, etc., are based on my personal observations. I'm a 63-year-old dyke and don't believe the data accurately depict lesbian life in America.
posted by Carol Anne at 1:17 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I make no claims as to the truth or falsehood of either proposition, but it's interesting how "Black people are more homophobic" causes a shitshow but not "Poor people are more homophobic."

The homophobia might be the same, but I would say the risks are different. If you're working class, you generally can be fired for any reason at all, and you don't have the financial resources to fight it if you are fired for being gay. If you're a renter, rather than a homeowner, it's easier to evict you for being gay, and, again, you may not have the resources to fight it. Everything is harder when you're poor, and being gay can cause you problems as a poor person that a someone a little richer might not experience.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:18 PM on December 4, 2008


My doubts about the marketing survey's numbers on gay and lesbian income, etc., are based on my personal observations. I'm a 63-year-old dyke and don't believe the data accurately depict lesbian life in America.

And this is what we call "anecdotal". No offense intended. However, my personal experiences as a 30-something year old man who is a world traveler and who married a woman from a former Soviet republic and then got divorced after 6 years of living in small town New Mexico hardly depict an accurate representation of the average secular humanist Jew in America.
posted by eparchos at 1:20 PM on December 4, 2008


What am *I* not getting here? From a social standpoint non-out-of-the-closet gays ARE CONSIDERED STRAIGHT, regardless of their actual behavior in secret. Get it?

I'm sorry, but that's just not true. The closet isn't an absolute. Some people are out in some circumstances, not in others. You can be in the closet and still go to gay bars, and, back when people were still regularly rounded up by cops for going to such places, had your life destroyed. These people might not make it onto surveys, but they are gay, can experience oppression as gay people, live life as gay people, and the fact that they are not represented on a consumer servey doesn't make them de facto straights.

I would suggest actually learning something about the experience of gay people in America before pronouncing who is and isn't gay enough for their experience to be included in this discussion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:23 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


And this is what we call "anecdotal".

Yes. When dealing with a hidden population, anecdotal information is often used as a starting point for constructing a servey. You're behaving like in-the-closet gay people can't be reached at all, but serveys regularly access people like this through a variety of techniques, including anonymity. I am starting to doubt you have any familiarity with statistics at all.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:25 PM on December 4, 2008


shit. Surveys, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:26 PM on December 4, 2008


I'm sorry, but that's just not true. The closet isn't an absolute. Some people are out in some circumstances, not in others. You can be in the closet and still go to gay bars, and, back when people were still regularly rounded up by cops for going to such places, had your life destroyed. These people might not make it onto surveys, but they are gay, can experience oppression as gay people, live life as gay people, and the fact that they are not represented on a consumer servey doesn't make them de facto straights.

I would suggest actually learning something about the experience of gay people in America before pronouncing who is and isn't gay enough for their experience to be included in this discussion.


What we are DISCUSSING, last I checked, is a survey. Snide allegations of my supposed homophobia aside, gay people who do not admit that they are gay do not count for statistical purposes. How can you not understand this?
posted by eparchos at 1:26 PM on December 4, 2008


It's not blame, it's responsibility. Same thing as Nader voters in Florida and New Hampshire in 2000. Votes have consequences. Own up to them.

Are you not understanding that black votes did not pass Prop 8, or do you not want to think about it? The consequence of the black vote was zero in this case. Own up to it.
posted by languagehat at 1:27 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, theoretically speaking, what would the purpose of being in the closet BE if not to avoid discrimination based on one's sexuality? Assuming one is in the closet, one would not be as discriminated against as one who is out, correct? If this is the case, in-the-closet gays' economic status should be HIGHER, on average, than those who are out, yes? Thus bringing up the average.
posted by eparchos at 1:30 PM on December 4, 2008


I don't udnertsand this because, as in this instance, there is no absolute to statistics. They are surveys done for one purpose, and there are surveys done for another, and they can come up with dramatically different information based on what the function of the statistics is. And a survey that is intended to establish the buying power of a specific gay consumer base is not a study of the incomes of all gays in America, and, when comparing the incomes of one group to another, is not useful. It's not what the survey was meant to do. It's an eggregious misuse of statistics.

I linked to an actual study of the incomes of gay men and women in my first post. I suggest you look into it, and to the methodology used in that as compared to the one you are championing.

Also, I did not call you a homophobe. But I would say that someone who suggests as though in-the-closet gay people are the social equivalents of straights really could use some additional information, because they don't know what they are talking about.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:31 PM on December 4, 2008


Also, theoretically speaking, what would the purpose of being in the closet BE if not to avoid discrimination based on one's sexuality? Assuming one is in the closet, one would not be as discriminated against as one who is out, correct? If this is the case, in-the-closet gays' economic status should be HIGHER, on average, than those who are out, yes? Thus bringing up the average.

You;re just making shit up at this point, aren't you? How is that useful to this conversation?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:33 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


But I would say that someone who suggests as though in-the-closet gay people are the social equivalents of straights really could use some additional information, because they don't know what they are talking about.

OK, this really is just getting silly at this point. I am not discussing the plight of gay people in America in this thread. I was simply discussing the survey to which you linked and then failed to see the implications of. That is ALL I was discussing, nothing more, nothing less. I feel pretty comfortable that I've expressed with due patience the point I was trying to get across.

Now feel free to build as many straw men as you like, but don't expect me to be joining you.
posted by eparchos at 1:36 PM on December 4, 2008


By the way, most white people (nationwide) voted against Obama. That doesn't make all white people racist anymore than most blacks voting for Prop 8 makes all blacks homophobic or apathetic.
posted by desjardins at 1:38 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


You know what's irrefutable? If not a single black person in the state had voted, the amendment would still have passed

It was a pretty close vote, and some numbers are still in dispute. If black voters had not voted on Prop 8 at all, I could see how it is mathematically possible for Prop 8 to have failed. Not saying that they shouldn't have voted at all, but I do have to question the above.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:39 PM on December 4, 2008


This debate has gone in at least 3 different directions, but I want to address one of them:

Part of the indignation / frustration / bafflement arising around the comparison between gay rights and civil rights arises from a tacit disagreement about whether the two terms are joined by "identical to" or "like."

e.g.,
"the struggle for gay rights is identical to the struggle for civil rights"
vs.
"the struggle for gay right is like the struggle for civil rights"

Here's the difference, as far as I can tell. "is identical to" or its variations ("equals", "is") describes an exclusive binary condition. It is all-or-nothing; either X is the same as Y or it's not. This statement can be disproven simply by citing one aspect in which X is not like Y.

With "like" (and "is similar to", "shares aspects with", etc.), it is possible for both positive and negative statements to coexist without (necessary) contradiction. In other words, you can say:

"X is like Y in that condition1, condition2, condition3..."
AND
"X is not like Y in that conditionA, conditionB, conditionC..."

and both can possibly be valid at the same time.

Returning to the topic at hand, saying "the fight for the right to marry for same-sex couples is like that of interracial couples" is a tenable claim, if you can specify what aspects they share. However, you can't credibly say that there is an equivalence, because gays have not been drinking from separate water fountains, sitting at the back of the bus, etc. Nonetheless, what "like" does here is argue that, in the great Venn diagram of life, there is some overlap, and there's the possibility of solidarity around that overlap.

Having said all of that, there's also a distinction to be made between two ways of "taking umbrage" to this sort of claim: 1) "How dare you reduce my massive and complex and historical trauma to your single-issue problem?" vs. 2) "How dare you bring my identity into proximity with this abhorrent thing?" These are two ways of being angry about the comparison: one is about distorted proportions, the other is about disgust. If the complaints are coming from disgust, then they are disappointing and bigoted; if the complaints are coming from a lack of proportion, then they at least deserve to be taken seriously.
posted by LMGM at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


Astro Zombie: "Lesbian/bisexual women earn 11 percent more than heterosexual women. The difference is not statistically significant. ... Gay/bisexal men, however, ... earn 17 percent less than heterosexual men with the same education, race, location, and occupation."

Wait... she's saying that an 11% disparity against the direction of her apparent thesis is indistinguishable from random noise, but that a 17% disparity is okay? In the absence of other information, are we supposed to have more confidence in the methodology of this study than the Consumer Index one?
posted by kid ichorous at 1:54 PM on December 4, 2008


i still contend marriage should be taken off the books as a civil procedure in its entirety, but whatevs.

This is so patently true that I'm not sure why anyone disagrees with it, nor have I heard any cogent arguments as to why the government should be sanctioning religious rites. I mean, isn't that the essence of establishment? Let the churches or other cultural institutions deal with "marriage" and get the gummint into the civil union biz, now!
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:54 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


If Ms. Dixon's "irrefutable" economic data ($83K per annum for gay male households; $62K for gay singles; $96K for lesbian households; $52K for lesbian singles) is accurate, and her loony contention that being gay is a choice, expect a huge surge in straight-to-gay conversions during the recession.
posted by terranova at 1:55 PM on December 4, 2008


Nader voters, by the way, should also not be blamed

Yeah, those Bush votes get a pass, too.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:06 PM on December 4, 2008


Ironmouth is also correct about the administrative procedure, but my guess is that it was followed which is why it is not part of this suit.

There is a brief reference to it in the complaint, which is shockingly short. Essentially they quote one line from what is probably the transcript and dismiss it. But I think the basis for any attack starts with the administrative procedure--you usually argue (1) biased decisionmaker, making a defense impossible under due process standards; (2) base your argument of unconstitutionality on the language of any rule under which employee was charged; (3) argue the penalty was an abuse of discretion, usually giving reference to the federal Douglas factors as a guide for making such a decision (even though it does not control unless a state body actually adopts it); and (4) look for any evidentiary or procedural decision made by the deciding official violating due process decisions.

When I see a complaint like this, I think (1) prior discipline is being hidden by the plaintiff or (2) scrutiny of the employee arising out of the issue found other, significant misconduct not named in the suit. (I can think of one national case where a whistleblower who was widely defended in the press and on blogs had significant misconduct on the record which was not revealed by the press or the blogs, despite the fact that it was on the record and undenied) (Can't tell you which one) etc.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:08 PM on December 4, 2008


oh, btw, here's the snarky summary I was going to post before being insipred to write what I did above:

"You see these apples? You see these oranges? They're not the same. You know why? These oranges are assholes."
posted by LMGM at 2:11 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yeah, those Bush votes get a pass, too.

When I checked the box for Green, I really meant that Clear Skies was going to be a great EPA initiative.
posted by Tehanu at 2:11 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Are you not understanding that black votes did not pass Prop 8, or do you not want to think about it? The consequence of the black vote was zero in this case. Own up to it.

laguagehat - Usually I agree with you on most things, but I guess I can't follow your vehemence on this topic.

If the Giants beat the Jets 28-20 on four touchdowns, none of the individual TDs were the difference in the game, but each one helped provide the margin of victory.

Now in this case given the relative percentage of voters in the state for each group, it's more like the black folks kicked a field goal, maybe threw a key block, and had some spirited fans in the stands. But they did contribute to the win.

And sure, the owner of the team is an old Christian white guy and the QB, running back and most of the linemen were blonde-haired, blue-eyed strapping young lads from BYU.

But everyone who voted someone else's rights away needs to accept their share of the blame, including African-Americans.
posted by Arch_Stanton at 2:11 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd have a problem with the University firing her if she didn't work in HR in a position where she decides who to hire and who not to. It seems to me that she's admitted a significant bias that she may believe doesn't affect her decisions, but can't help but inform her judgments about people. If she'd written a letter to the editor decrying Jews, say, she'd almost certainly be removed from her position.
posted by EarBucket at 2:14 PM on December 4, 2008


Does she think gay people wake up, look at themselves in the mirror and think, "I am genetically and biologically a heterosexual person, but am very pleased to be an abomination in the eyes of my Creator, just for the sheer naughty fun of it"?

In my sadder moments I sometimes imagine how much easier life would be if this was true. To think if there were not closeted and out queers, but rather just 1 out of 10 people enjoyed being social deviants so very, very much that bringing such deep-seated cultural judgment and hatred on themselves was the whole point of it. If it wasn't about love and attraction but rather pissing people off.

I can't go perusing YouTube at work, but search for "Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence."

Go team Mefi. Thanks. I concede that I was in error and should never have presumed to place a limit on what works in the art of drag.

But everyone who voted someone else's rights away needs to accept their share of the blame, including African-Americans.

Blame advances nothing. Responsibility, everything.
posted by Tehanu at 2:15 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


You may have heard of the Catholic charity in MA that closed rather than follow MA law and adopt to gay couples?

Um, no. Not quite.

Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Boston is alive and thriving...
"As one of the largest providers of social services in Massachusetts, Catholic Charities responds to the needs of the poor and working poor, provides supportive services to children and families, and assists refugees and immigrants as they become active participants in their communities. We offer approximately 140 programs and services in 40 locations across Eastern Massachusetts, which allows us to help nearly 200,000 people each year. This work accomplishes our mission of building a just and compassionate society rooted in the dignity of all people."
In 2006 Catholic Charities decided on their own accord to halt adoptions. "We have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve. . . . The issue is adoption to same-sex couples."

Nothing was forced on them. They chose to shutter one program on idealogical and religious grounds. Their prerogative, their decision. *
posted by ericb at 2:21 PM on December 4, 2008


I'm certainly not one declare as "equal" the civil rights struggle of any oppressed groups, but it worth pointing out that there has been a gay rights struggle going on long before "Will & Grace" suddenly made gays seem oh-so-fashionable.

At my alma matter in the 1950s ... while blacks were no permitted to be admitted and there were only a handful of women admitted ... young men "caught" as homosexuals were discharged from university, labeled as in need of psychiatric care, "NOT TO BE ADMITTED UNTIL CLEARED OF CHARGES OF HOMOSEXUALITY" stamped on their files, and sent home in disgrace. More than half of them committed suicide within six months of their discharge. During my mere 40 years of life, I've slowly seen some laws fall off the books (ex: sodomy laws, which actually criminalized gay sex, with sodomy being described as anything other hetero-genital sex) while others have been enshrined onto the books, or even constitutions. If you want to look globally beyond the mere US borders, we could talk about pink triangles (similar to, but not indentical to, the concentration camp experiences of gypsies and Jews), mandatory death penalties (similar to, but not identical to, lynchings) and a host of other plights that I think most civilized people would consider "fundamental human rights".

The advancement of rights for one group in the civil sphere do not take away from the advancement of civil rights for others: blacks don't have to wait until women get all of their rights before they get a "turn up to bat". What is unique, currently, about the gay rights agenda is that it is still having to be fought at the constitutional level. I'm not someone who blames other oppressed groups for institutionalized oppression ... but I did hope that their historical experiences would open their eyes more to similarities of plights, rather than focusing on the differences.
posted by bclark at 2:22 PM on December 4, 2008 [13 favorites]


Just because you do not WANT that marketing survey to actually reflect how the LGBT community lives does not make it untrue. Economics and statistics are real, valuable fields and this survey is both real and valuable.

Perhaps this was addressed upthread - if I missed it and I'm treading trodden ground, so to speak, I apologize.

It's not that it's a "marketing" survey. It's that "Survey participants were solicited through over 75 widely distributed internet and print publications." This was not a randomized sample. It may give you useful information about gays and lesbians who read the Advocate or surf out.com, but I certainly wouldn't rely on it to accurately portray the economic status of glbt USians in general.

Asking people who listen to Rush Limbaugh to opt in to a survey will give you very different results from asking people who listen to NPR, and different again from doing the whole randomized sample thing.
posted by rtha at 2:27 PM on December 4, 2008


At least there is HOPE.
"A new poll commissioned by the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD found encouraging news for supporters of gay rights:
– Three-quarters of U.S. adults (75%) favor either marriage or domestic partnerships/civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Only about two in 10 (22%) say gay and lesbian couples should have no legal recognition.

– Almost two-thirds (64%) of U.S. adults favor allowing openly gay military personnel to serve in the armed forces.

– About six in 10 (63%) U.S. adults favor expanding hate crime laws to cover gay and transgender people.

– Nearly seven out of 10 U.S. adults (69%) oppose laws that would ban qualified gay and lesbian couples from adopting children."*
posted by ericb at 2:33 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Nothing was forced on them. They chose to shutter one program on idealogical and religious grounds. Their prerogative, their decision.

Yeah, I know. They chose to shut down their adoption agency because their ideology clashed with MA law. I was using it as an example of a case that gets misrepresented because it was their choice and is not a case of religious freedoms being denied to anyone but is usually presented inaccurately.
posted by Tehanu at 2:41 PM on December 4, 2008


I was using it as an example of a case that gets misrepresented because it was their choice and is not a case of religious freedoms being denied to anyone but is usually presented inaccurately.

Yes ... I understand. I chose to expand on your example with detail for those not familiar with the situation.
posted by ericb at 2:46 PM on December 4, 2008


look, am not being facetious or an asshole.

Actually, you are being an arsehole. You're suggesting gays deserve to be the victoms of bigotry because you think they haven't done enough on some issue you care about to make you happy.

I might as well tell you black rights and people who are about them can fuck off until black people show some sign of careing about the plight of Native Americans.

This is so patently true that I'm not sure why anyone disagrees with it, nor have I heard any cogent arguments as to why the government should be sanctioning religious rites.

Because marriage is not an inherently religious ritual. A little study of the history of marriage would disillusion you of this silly idea.
posted by rodgerd at 2:49 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yes ... I understand. I chose to expand on your example with detail for those not familiar with the situation.

Apologies, we're on the same page now.
posted by Tehanu at 2:58 PM on December 4, 2008


Are you not understanding that black votes did not pass Prop 8, or do you not want to think about it? The consequence of the black vote was zero in this case.

Exactly.

Poll: Black Voters Not Responsible for Passage of Same-Sex Marriage Ban in California.

SURVEY: Education and Income Played Big Role in Prop 8 Passage
A new statewide survey of California voters reveals that education and income were as influential as many other factors in the failure to defeat Proposition 8 in California:
"The new survey by the Public Policy Institute of California of 2,003 Californians who voted Nov. 4 found significantly less support for Prop. 8 among blacks than had been indicated by exit polls. Election Day exit polls triggered recriminations between gay rights advocates and black leaders. And now the new data indicates that 61 percent of Latinos voted for the ban, an even higher percentage than exit polls indicated on Election Day. But while a majority of non-white voters backed a ban on gay marriage, the key finding in the new survey was that voters' position on Prop. 8 was determined more by their level of education and income than their race or ethnicity, said PPIC president Mark Baldassare. Among Californians with a high school diploma or less, 69 percent voted for Prop. 8. Among college graduates, 57 percent voted against it. 'Both among whites and non-whites, among college graduates and among upper-income voters, Prop. 8 lost,' Baldassare said. 'Among both whites and non-whites, among non-college graduates and lower income voters, Prop. 8 won. It seems to me that some of what we attributed to race and ethnic differences really had to do with a socioeconomic divide in regard to same-sex marriage.'

Added Baldassare: '[If the state sees more growth among groups who are less educated and less affluent,] then you are not necessarily going to see a situation where you have growing support for gay marriage in California. It has to do with exposure to different ideas. It's perceptions about lifestyle differences, tolerance for differences, broader view of social trends and issues — all those things tend to come with more education.'

It also showed Republicans and Evangelical Christians were among the measure's biggest backers."
posted by ericb at 3:21 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Does anybody in this thread understand that EVERYBODY is a consumer?

I am not a consumer. I am a husband, a participant in my city, a farmer, a member of my family, a librarian, and a citizen of the United States of America.
posted by stet at 3:26 PM on December 4, 2008


posted by languagehat

You know what's irrefutable? If not a single black person in the state had voted, the amendment would still have passed. So please retire that pseudo-argument unless you're particularly fond of the company it puts you in.


This is false. Considering the measure passed with 52% yea overall, with about 30% of voters being black, and 70% of those black voters voting yea: 70% of 30%, or a total of 21% of yea votes came from these black voters, and 30% of 30%, or 9% of nay votes came from that pool. Removing these voters gives a new total of 31/70 or only 44.3% yea, and 39/70 or 55.7% nay -- with a huge margin for error. It is safe to say that if blacks could not vote in California, gays would be able to marry there.

There, are, indeed, many other excellent reasons to retire the argument. But let's not fail to get around to them because we started making up 'facts'.
posted by Bokononist at 3:27 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


What? The percentage of the black population in CA is nowhere near 30%. More like 12.4%, and you're assuming that every single one of those voted, but that percentage includes kids.
posted by desjardins at 3:36 PM on December 4, 2008


with about 30% of voters being black

What? As of the 2000 census, 6.7% of California's population was Black.
posted by ob at 3:39 PM on December 4, 2008


Yeah, those Bush votes get a pass, too

if a Bush voter doesn't regret not voting for Gore, then, yes, they get a pass, since there is not a misjudgment present to take responsibility (ie. consider the future implications of one's actions) for.

Same thing with Nader voters. This isn't about passes and finger-pointing blame games, it's about education and perspective.
posted by troy at 3:42 PM on December 4, 2008


On whatever you call preview-after-posting, I followed linked articles that report 10% of voters being black...using that number you wind up with 7% of yea and 3% of nay coming from the group, which removed would have left 45/90 or 50% each way : This would have totally put it up in the air. And that's with the 10% number, which seems low for California in this election.
posted by Bokononist at 3:47 PM on December 4, 2008


What? The percentage of the black population in CA is nowhere near 30%. More like 12.4%, and you're assuming that every single one of those voted, but that percentage includes kids.

No. He's assuming every single voter voted, and that's an eminently reasonable assumption. Also, his claim is that 30% of voters who cast a ballot with respect to Proposition 8 were black--he didn't claim that 30% of the people in California are black. I have no idea whether that's true, though.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:49 PM on December 4, 2008


Nothing was forced on them. They chose to shutter one program on idealogical and religious grounds. Their prerogative, their decision.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding this -- they decided to shutter the program because, if it were not shuttered, it would have been forced by law to operate in a manner inconsistent with their religious beliefs, correct?
posted by The World Famous at 3:50 PM on December 4, 2008


By the way, most white people (nationwide) voted against Obama. That doesn't make all white people racist anymore than most blacks voting for Prop 8 makes all blacks homophobic or apathetic.

I agree with where you're going with this [about not imputing the vote], but there are a variety of inoffensive political reasons a person would have voted for another candidate. People that voted yes on Proposition 8 can point to...what? Spite?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:52 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


This (really thorough and well researched) post states: Proposition 8 would have still passed by 81,565 votes, if Black voters had done no more than reflect the rest of the state's will on the matter.
posted by desjardins at 3:54 PM on December 4, 2008


People that voted yes on Proposition 8 can point to...what? Spite?

Gosh, no, Inspector! They voted for it because they really love marriage! A lot! And want to keep it all for themselves, because there isn't enough to go around!

(Also, they all bought the lies about how if 8 was defeated, kids would be forced to learn about buttsecks in kindergarten.)
posted by rtha at 4:02 PM on December 4, 2008


yea and bigots used the Bible to justify discrimination against blacks. Good she was fired.
Just b/c you're a minority you do not have the right to hate on other minorities.

Could you imagine if a gay newspaper wrote an article on out of wedlock births by black women, the financial drain on public funds and the immorality of these births and then invoked God's consequences for such "immoral decisions?"

See Cindy, you can spin isht with the Bible about any way you want.
What the world seriously needs is more love, understanding and dialogue, not preaching hate and division.
posted by hooptycritter at 4:27 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm misunderstanding this -- they decided to shutter the program because, if it were not shuttered, it would have been forced by law to operate in a manner inconsistent with their religious beliefs, correct?

They could have chosen to continue to operate in a manner inconsistent with the law and suffered the consequences for violation, if they really believed in their hateful policy. But moral cowards rarely have the courage of their convictions. It's easier to blame the government than to look inward at the group's discriminatory behavior.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:36 PM on December 4, 2008


Because marriage is not an inherently religious ritual. A little study of the history of marriage would disillusion you of this silly idea.

Well, at least one etymology of the word marriage seems to imply that it is: "Said from 1530 of the priest, etc., who performs the rite."

Anyway, in modern usage "marriage" is now used to refer to all the forms of mating in a formal ceremony of two people for life throughout history, and that does little to clarify the situation now, wherein for a large proportion of the population it IS a religious rite and this is the crux of the matter. It doesn't really carry much weight that in 4th-century Mongolia "marriage" was a barter between the father and the prospective husband (although I'll bet it was sealed with a religious rite). Certainly in Western culture it has been closely associated with the religious rite for several centuries.

The modern government originally got into the business primarily through the religious door and it needs to exit that way. What is silly is for the government to bless "marriages" when they are confused by so many people with that religious ceremony and which leads to all kinds of social problems, including the invidious denial of homosexuals their civil rights to the benefits enjoyed by "married" heterosexuals. What is even sillier is to deny that this is the source of the problem we are experiencing today. Note that the support for Prop 8 was organized primarily through religious organizations.

Beyond the opportunity to call my idea silly, what was your point exactly?
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:48 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


They could have chosen to continue to operate in a manner inconsistent with the law and suffered the consequences for violation, if they really believed in their hateful policy. But moral cowards rarely have the courage of their convictions. It's easier to blame the government than to look inward at the group's discriminatory behavior.

So, setting aside your editorializing about the merit of Catholic doctrine, the law forced them to either shut down the program or change the program to one that would violate a well-established tenet of their religion. In other words, the law infringed on the free exercise of one of the most deeply-ingrained doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Assuming that your characterization of the situation with the Catholic charity in MA is accurate (and I don't know whether it is or not), is it not reasonable for religious people to expect that the proliferation of same-sex marriage in the United States could lead to some of their most closely-held, long-standing religious beliefs and practices being declared unlawful?

Given the vitriol displayed in this thread, suggesting that an employer should terminate the employment of an employee who expresses their religious beliefs regarding same-sex marriage, is it not reasonable for religious people to expect that the proliferation of same-sex marriage in the United States could threaten their employment unless they abandon their religious beliefs or, at the very least, refrain from telling people what they are?

Given the fairly common attitude among vocal supporters of same-sex marriage (particularly here) that religious beliefs are, in general, something to be looked down upon and for society to eventually do away with, is it not reasonable for religious people (together with those who care about the Free Exercise Clause) to oppose a political movement that openly threatens both those religious beliefs and that part of the Constitution?
posted by The World Famous at 4:52 PM on December 4, 2008


In other words, the law infringed on the free exercise of one of the most deeply-ingrained doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Only in the same bizarre logical sense that laws against murder prevent the free exercise of the sacrifice of virgins on the altar by other less-popular religions, or laws against racial violence prevent the free exercise of burning crosses in the front yards of black folks. Perhaps in that sense you have a valid point that this is a restriction of speech for all Americans.

On the other hand, your argument, in essence, is to provide special exemptions for Catholics to break the law.

All religions get no special treatment under the law. Catholics get no special dispensation from the government to behave in an unlawful fashion as it applies to this specific case -- but then, neither does any other religious or secular organization.

In this way, no religions or organizations are above the law of the land. Religion is not being threatened when there is separation of any one religious organization from State endorsement, and thus this represents the will and intent of those who wrote the Constitution.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:06 PM on December 4, 2008


I can't argue objectively to save my life, but to add two cents, I am homosexual and have been since childhood. I was raised by fundies in the seventies / eighties, and the conflict with myself sent me into a debilitating turmoil from which I have still not recovered.
I am unable to make a decent living, because I have developed various paranoid problems which make people scared of me. I am unable to complete educational programs, because I am ultimately frightened of taking control of my life, afraid to engage with a world that has made me feel isolated.
If it were not for the "gay rights movement" making gay people seem more normal, I would definitely be dead by now, having been moved farther and farther to the fringe.
To me, that's a lot what it's like to be black: To know you are different, to not be able to hide it, and to feel godawfully bad about it and wish to god (or whatever) that it weren't true.

I don't understand why blacks would not understand this better. Ms. Dixon is conflating white privilege with her prejudice against gay people. White privilege exists. Gay privilege? Not so much.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 5:07 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Gay privilege? Not so much.

Homophobia is still fairly ingrained into American culture, especially so in black culture. The idea of "gay privilege" is just another way to divide people, especially now that we are in tough economic times. The Prop 8 bigots used pedophilia, as well.

Fear mongering doesn't respect rational thought -- any excuse to hate will do -- so it only makes logical sense to analyze the term "gay privilege" to the degree that it is a rhetorical tactic to set one group of disenfranchised people against another group of disenfranchised people.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:13 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


y'all miss the point : WHITE gays are still privileged compared to a majority of black and brown people. I can't skin myself to pass as white but WHITE gay men and women can hide their sexual preference and gender and skyrocket past me on the way to better jobs, higher wages and better standard of living.

You do realize that being gay and being white are totally unrelated? Sexuality and race aren't independent variables. Do you somehow lose your minority status when you become gay?
posted by aspo at 5:13 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Become gay was a very poor word choice there...)
posted by aspo at 5:19 PM on December 4, 2008


Mental Wimp, the government already stripped marriage of its religious meaning. What's done is done. Millions of non-religious people have been married in the eyes of the law.

There's really no sizeable support for changing this among people on both sides of the gay marriage issue. Thousands of atheists have been comfortable getting legally married and describing themselves as married and don't particularly care about doing some sort of global search and replace of marriage with civil unions.

Furthermore I wonder if you're over-estimating the power of this sort of Gordian knot cutting solution. How many pro-8 types are really in favor of policy that behaves exactly as though there were gay marriage with the mere exception of the word? Their various bugabears (i.e. adoption & religious freedom) would still exist.
posted by Wood at 5:24 PM on December 4, 2008


Blazecock Pileon, you seem to be trying to make a point about the presumed constitutionality of the Massachusetts Supreme Court's opinion about same-sex marriage as a law of general application that would not be unconstitutional under the Free Exercise Clause (and I don't understand why you refer to free speech).

You also seem to be making your argument based primarily on an interpretation of the Establishment Clause, rather than the Free Exercise Clause (as evidenced in your final paragraph).

But in my post above, I was not attempting to argue about whether or not the law currently recognized in Massachusetts is constitutional under the U.S. Constitution. My point (and I'm sorry if I did not make this clear) was that a) the Catholic charity, it seems, really did shut down because it was forced to (and again, I'm taking at face value the characterizations of the situation set forth in this thread); and b) if that is the case, it is not unreasonable for many religious people in California to be concerned that, if California law mirrors that of Massachusetts, similar problems may arise for their own religious beliefs.

Prop. 8 seemed to me, at least to some extent, to be a tacit admission that its supporters were at least somewhat concerned that the California Supreme Court's ruling re: marriage would not be struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Surely you can understand why religious people could legitimately be concerned about that and want to do what they could to maintain what had previously, and for the entire history of the Republic, been the status quo regarding their religious beliefs.

Your assertion that outcomes like that of a charity forced to shut down because of same-sex marriage are not only constitutional under the First Amendment but also fair and even desirable only underscores the legitimacy of (some of) the slippery slope arguments that were quire reasonably relied upon by many people who voted for Prop. 8. And I would also point out that it flies directly in the face of the dishonest argument often heard from proponents of same-sex marriage that same-sex marriages do not and will not affect Prop 8's supporters in any way.

I'm not trying to advocate for either side of the same-sex marriage argument -- I am, though, trying to point out that some (though certainly not all) of the fears that drove people to vote for Prop. 8 were reasonable, given the foreseeable effects of constitutionally-mandated same-sex marriage to religious freedom in this country.
posted by The World Famous at 5:31 PM on December 4, 2008


How many pro-8 types are really in favor of policy that behaves exactly as though there were gay marriage with the mere exception of the word?

Well, when you listen to the opponents talk, and I'm discounting the lunatic fringe and trying to appeal to a critical mass, they are offended by the idea of what they consider a union sanctified by G*D being proffered to THOSE people, because they consider their behavior profane, but they blithely assert they have no problem with homosexual unions getting the same legal privileges. I think this is a majority opinion among opponents, and the lunatic fringe drags them into opposition by rhetoric (hence the power of the word change). I'm claiming this would turn every opponent into a neutral or supporter, just enough to get majority.

That aside, I find it offensive that government ever got into the business. The religious and secular meanings of the word "marriage" have been muddled by history and practice, and that muddling has brought us precisely to this point. It is time to separate in everyone's mind the cultural/religious ceremony we call marriage and the legal recognition by government we call marriage by separating them linguistically. Atheists can still get "married" (although I really don't see them as the problem) as can anyone who wants to call their relationship marriage. They can even form little groups to sanction whatever form it takes (much like the Latter Day Saints do). It doesn't matter. The law can then sanction civil unions that confer the legal rights that we associate with heterosexual "marriage". With the government out of the "marriage" business, there is little left to demagogue. "Oooo, teh gays are trying to usurp our precious civil unions, ooooo." It just doesn't seem like it will pack the emotional punch these pernicious types need to get a majority riled up.

The big step is getting the courts to mandate that marriage (the cultural/religious thing) is not the province of the government and they cannot use that term to describe the civil unions sanctioned by the state. I think one can argue on Constitutional grounds that governments' sanctioning of marriage has become establishment of religion. Elsewise, why the religious opposition to what is essentially civil unions? It is clear that the religious would stop churches from marrying gays if they could, but the only oppression over which they have control is the govenment sanction of these unions. They are using the government to establish their view of religion, plain and simple.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:55 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm *not* claiming this would turn...

Jeez, I can't proofread worth shit.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:57 PM on December 4, 2008


Surely you can understand why religious people could legitimately be concerned about that and want to do what they could to maintain what had previously, and for the entire history of the Republic, been the status quo regarding their religious beliefs.

Except that marriage is not a religious exercise, at its core (though I understand the compunction otherwise, to bend the State to the will of a religious majority). If it was, the state would actively intervene in prohibiting atheist marriages. And based on certain interpretations of Scripture, interracial marriages would also still be prevented by law, though we now have struck down this discriminatory language.

If the State now starts to regulate marriage on the basis of religious mores, which you are suggesting the State should ("status quo regarding religious beliefs"), it then endorses a religious majority and violates the Constitution as presently written.

The First Amendment protects the rights of Catholics to conduct lawful rituals, just as it protects the rights of Muslims, Buddhists and other religious individuals to conduct their own lawful rituals. It does not intend to protect the unlawful behavior of one religion.

charity forced to shut down

Let's be clear. The charity was not forced to shut down. It shut down its own adoption service because it did not agree with a law that made discrimination against gays and lesbians illegal. That was that charity's choice, not that of the government. As ericb puts it so succinctly: "Their prerogative, their choice." No other religious and secular groups were arguing in court for special dispensation to discriminate in the same way. Again, no one is above the law, just because of the religion they practice.

I am, though, trying to point out that some (though certainly not all) of the fears that drove people to vote for Prop. 8 were reasonable

But it's not really, and I think you understand that, historically, there's no slippery slope here that bears mentioning. It wasn't like Loving ushered in the State-mandated destruction of any religious organizations. It underscored Constitutionally-mandated protection for a minority of Americans against the wiles of an oppressive majority. Pretty much like what's happening now.

Truly, if you think this kind of reaction is reasonable, you would have had to think the opposition to Loving was reasonable. It's pretty much the same situation, all over again.

What the Proposition 8 folks really fear most of all is if same-sex marriage goes to the US Supreme Court. Let's face it, the possibility of laws being enforced and having to treat gays and lesbians like equal and free citizens would be the worst of all possible outcomes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:57 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


rodgerd : you obviously don' know me. there's such a think as following the links on my profile or googling me.

now to all those gnashing their teeth, you seem to not be aware of the reality of the process : the amendment to the CA constitution still can AND I STRONGLY BELIEVE WILL BE reversed. the voting in of Prop 8 is not the end all of end all. it's actually an incredibly important set-back that has put on the table the need to not just repeal it in CA but in the other 29 states that have it as well as the craptastic DOMA.

the issue here is that i'm confronting some people with this matter of "racial privilege". doesn't mean i think negatively of you; btw. but i find myself in the position to play "the coloreds' advocate" when there's a lot of knee-jerking that doesn't really give a fair thought to "the coloreds" POV.

am not saying Dixon is right for her anti-gay position. please, go read my blogs. all am trying to bring here perspective on why the side of the force failed in CA so that we can win the next battle.

that said, i have to say that comments like yours are still shocking to me. for some of you to even think that i would be happy with the codifying discrimination without even giving me the benefit of reading some of the 7+ years of posts I have (and my co-bloggers) on civil rights including marriage equality and queer rights is really astounding. that btw, overlaps with the 12 years i've been a digital civil rights advocate, but whatever.

next time to those jumping to conclusions, do so after you've done your homework.

btw : i can't transcribe conversations in which i had people hyperbolizing about the CRM and marriage equality movements, but you can find some of what am talking about in the images of the protests after Prop 8 passed over at Flickr. some of those do make you go hmmm, speaking to those discussions i made reference to.
posted by liza at 6:09 PM on December 4, 2008


I couldn't possibly have said anything stupid about gay rights!
Don't you people know who I am?!
posted by Richard Daly at 6:18 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some Black people are homophobic purely because of their fundamentalistic religious beliefs and there's generally no arguing with them about it. However, other Black people view the issue like this: "When I walk out my door and go out into the world, it's obvious that I am Black and I can be immediately subjected to prejudice and discrimination against my race on sight. On the other hand, when a gay person walks out their door and goes out into the world, it's not necessarily obvious that they are gay and they are less likely to be immediately subjected to prejudice and discrimination against their sexuality on sight."

Of course, there are abundant exceptions, such as Black people who can pass for White, and gay people who are, shall we say, flamboyant. And of course there is the argument that gay people shouldn't have to hide an essential part of who they are in order to make their way through their life. Nonetheless, the basic difference in the minds of some Black people is that gay people generally can hide their sexuality if they so choose, whereas Black people generally cannot hide their race.

(Also...I capitalize "black" and "white" when I use them as racial descriptors because when used as such they are not describing anyone's actual color. Black people generally are varying shades of brown, and White people are generally shades of beige or pink. So, it doesn't work for me to refer to people as "black" or "white" if I'm really talking about their race and not their complexion. Plus, I just think capitalization implies greater respect.)
posted by fuse theorem at 6:20 PM on December 4, 2008


On whatever you call preview-after-posting, I followed linked articles that report 10% of voters being black...using that number you wind up with 7% of yea and 3% of nay coming from the group, which removed would have left 45/90 or 50% each way : This would have totally put it up in the air. And that's with the 10% number, which seems low for California in this election.
posted by Bokononist at 3:47 PM on December 4


Because you still want to perpetuate this myth (created by one poll featuring very bad data from CNN) and because you refuse to read the article that has been linked to twice in this thread, I'll copy and paste from said article to make it really fucking simple for you:

For Black people to have been 10% of that vote, they would have had to cast 1,032,561 votes on the measure, whether for or against. In other words, Black Californians would have had to both had an electoral turnout at the polls of almost 90% AND have all voted on Proposition 8 (i.e, NONE could have been amongst the 80,000 who just skipped the Proposition on the ballot) to reach that number of votes.

I'm going to end by doing one other thing: showing you the number of votes that non-Black people cast on Election Day in favor of Proposition 8, if I believe CNN's exit polls (which as I noted when I began, is the foundation for each and every anti-Black argument I've read on this site in the past 2 days.) You compare those numbers to the TOTAL maximum number of Black votes -- women AND men -- in this state if I give the racist haters every benefit of the doubt as I have done mathematically above -- of 504,000 votes. And then you make the argument to me that our segment of electorate is more to blame for an outcome in which we contributed -- even under the hateful math, only 4.9% of the votes. Please.

Non-Black Votes in Favor of Proposition 8:

White Men: 51% of 31% of 10,325,615 votes: 1,632,480 Yes
White Women: 47% of 32% of 10,325,615 votes: 1,552,972 Yes
Latino Men: 54% of 8% of 10,325,615 votes: 446,067 Yes
Latino Women: 52% of 11% of 10,325,615 votes: 592,170 Yes
Asian/Native: 51% of 9% of 10,325,615 votes: 473,946 Yes

Total: 4,697,635 (9.3 times the maximum TOTAL number of Black votes in California.)

Now who did all y'all say was at fault, again? Answer - it wasn't us, unless you were contending that even if we went against Proposition 8 in the same proportions as everyone else it would have failed.

BTW, it wouldn't have:

Black Votes if We'd Voted Like Other People Did:

Black Women Voting Like White Women:: 47% of 6% of 10,325,615: 291,182 Yes (a reduction of only 86,816 votes for Proposition 8 from our hypothetical maximum of Black votes cast)

Black Men Voting Like White Men:: 51% of 4% of 10,325,615: 210,643 Yes (an INCREASE, if you believe CNN's poll even though Black men were reduced to a pitiful "N/A", of 84,643 votes, almost cancelling out the change in Black women entirely)

Black People Voting Like Asians/Natives: 49% of 10% of 10,325,615: 505,955 Yes

Adding the "enlightened" Black vote to the exising totals above for everyone else we get 5,203,590 Yes votes.

Out of 10,325,615 votes.

In other words, Proposition 8 would have still passed by 81,565 votes, if Black voters had done no more than reflect the rest of the state's will on the matter.

Now. With this out of the way, can we now please redirect our energies to actually putting the "blame" somewhere it makes sense to put it and, more importantly, mobilizing together to defeat this hateful thing in the courts, and can those that have been going to the anti-Black well over this thing just shut the fuck up? (I don't expect you to be man enough to apologize.)


In short, one month in, I am shocked that people are still arguing this position. It isn't true, at best it's lazy, at worst it's bigotry.
posted by ob at 6:22 PM on December 4, 2008 [4 favorites]


If the State now starts to regulate marriage on the basis of religious mores, which you are suggesting the State should ("status quo regarding religious beliefs"), it then endorses a religious majority and violates the Constitution as presently written.

I am not suggesting anything about what the state should do. I'm suggesting that it is unfathomable that people do not understand why many religious people are afraid of the far-reaching effects of constitutionally-mandated same-sex marriage.

The First Amendment protects the rights of Catholics to conduct lawful rituals, just as it protects the rights of Muslims, Buddhists and other religious individuals to conduct their own lawful rituals. It does not intend to protect the unlawful behavior of one religion.

It also protects people from having their long-standing and well-established, mainstream religious practices outlawed. But again, I have no intent of arguing with you about the Free Exercise Clause. My point about religious people being reasonable in their fear of having their religious rights curtailed relies on your interpretation of the constitutionality of certain new restrictions on religious practice, including, but not limited to, the effect of Massachusetts law on Catholic charities' adoption agencies.

The charity was not forced to shut down. It shut down its own adoption service because it did not agree with a law that made discrimination against gays and lesbians illegal. That was that charity's choice, not that of the government.


If the assertions in this thread are to be believed, it was forced to either shut down or change its policy in such a way as to violate its own core principles. Saying "that was that charity's choice, not that of the government" is like saying that I am not "forced" to pay taxes by the law that provides that I will be imprisoned if I do not pay taxes. After all, paying taxes is my choice, not that of the government. The fact that they'll put me in prison if I don't pay is not forcing me, after all. Or am I not following the argument? It seems like we're just disagreeing on terminology now. Aside from "force," what term would you prefer be used by religious people who are rationally afraid that constitutionally-mandated same-sex marriage will put their charities in a situation where they much choose to either shut down or violate their core doctrines? We can use your word instead of "force."

historically, there's no slippery slope here that bears mentioning.


Except that one of the things that they are afraid of being part of the slippery slope has already happened in Massachusetts, and you seem to be asserting that it is perfectly constitutional, foreseeable, and even desirable for it to happen.

It wasn't like Loving ushered in the State-mandated destruction of any religious organizations.

Then that is one (possibly significant) way in which the same-sex marriage issue is different from Loving.

Truly, if you think this kind of reaction is reasonable, you would have had to think the opposition to Loving was reasonable.


I'm not sure you're making the distinction that I am between taking a given position and seeing the logic or reasonableness of the position given the position of that position's proponent. I strongly disagree with opponents of the civil rights movement. But, given the strength of their racist convictions, I can see the logic behind their opposition (though, again, I adamantly disagree with them).

What the Proposition 8 folks really fear most of all is if same-sex marriage goes to the US Supreme Court.

Yes, that is what I said above. And then I set forth part of the quite realistic slippery slope argument that makes that fear a reasonable one for someone who is concerned about that slippery slope.

Let's face it, the possibility of laws being enforced and having to treat gays and lesbians like equal and free citizens would be the worst of all possible outcomes.

There are certainly many people who see it this way. I submit that many others, who do not go to that extreme, can rationally and reasonably be afraid that their long-standing charities will be forced (sorry - pick a word and I'll use it) to either shut down, violate their own core principles, or suffer harsh legal penalties.
posted by The World Famous at 6:25 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised some of you are still capable of typing, what with all this finger-pointing.

I'm pretty sure that alienating black folks, brown folks and christians (not to mention old folks, white folks, and non-college-educated folks) by blaming them is actually counter-productive to changing their minds about gay marriage rights.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:29 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


violate their own core principles

Ya see, right there, that's the rub. Are these really core principles, or bigotry dressed up in religious rouge and biblical lipstick?
posted by Mental Wimp at 6:56 PM on December 4, 2008


liza, no offense, but I didn't know it was necessary to read someone's blog to have a conversation: I think it is totally fair to judge someone's words based upon, well, those words (without having to become an expert on all their opinions.) You've got to understand that turns of phrase like:

but WHITE gay men and women can hide their sexual preference and gender and skyrocket past me on the way to better jobs, higher wages and better standard of living

not only are a cruel form of stereotyping, but come very close to sounding like "get back in your closet and you'll be fine, so stop whining." A close equivalent (that I don't subscribe to, but carries similar connotations) would be "if black people just didn't act so black, they would find more success, just like Tiger Woods and Barack Obama." Let's be clear: no one should have to change or hide who they are to enjoy basic civil rights of the "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" variety. The issue of "white privilege" is a real one, but you do that argument a disservice by seeming to suggest that we'd be fine if we "hid our sexual preference." Expecting someone to read 7+ years of blog posts before passing judgement on your one sentence is a big ask. fuse theorem, after all, manages to make a similar argument without sounding like it is their opinion (where text, as personalized as it) certainly seems fair to interpret as what you personally believe.

Meanwhile, jabberjaw and ob are the ones making the arguments that actually concern me the most -- it is essentially a restatement of the myth of "reverse discrimination". How dare anyone be outraged at black folk, brown folk, white folk, christians or anyone else for their discrimination ... just like we shouldn't be outraged at white folk for their racism, or men for their sexism, the rich for classism, etc.? The first step towards a constructive dialog requires a certain level of confrontation ... at least to get past the "I have a black|gay|poor friend" level of believing that discrimination is something "someone else is doing".

I'm strongly opposed to pointing the finger at any particular group as being solely "to blame," but then I've been arguing that if 20% of the gay volunteers in Florida who were working to get Obama elected had instead focused their efforts on opposing our own version of this (Prop 2, which in many ways is worse, since it also prohibits "anything functionally similar" to marriage), we only would have had to convert 3% of the total vote in the state to a no-vote to have defeated the measure here. Instead, liberals (even of the white and gay variety, damn them) chose to put all their eggs into one basket ... and that basket was missing 3% of it's bottom and our egg dropped out.
posted by bclark at 6:59 PM on December 4, 2008


Ya see, right there, that's the rub. Are these really core principles, or bigotry dressed up in religious rouge and biblical lipstick?

I suppose you could consider them to be both. The idea that the Church should not facilitate the raising of a child by a couple who would teach the child a version of morality diametrically opposed to the Church's doctrine is, I think, a core principle. You can also call it bigotry if you wish (and I think of bigotry as nearly always being dressed up in religious rouge - so that part's a bit redundant). But saying that you think the doctrine is bad doesn't really advance the argument. It goes back to the fact that you won't convince religious people to support same-sex marriage by telling them that their religious beliefs are wrong or stupid.
posted by The World Famous at 7:05 PM on December 4, 2008


idea that the Church should not facilitate the raising of a child by a couple who would teach the child a version of morality diametrically opposed to the Church's doctrine is, I think, a core principle.

So they only granted adoptions to other Catholics? And, excuse me, since when have gay people's "version of morality" been anymore diametrically opposed to Church doctrine than, say, someone who supported the death penalty, or voted for a Democrat, or believed that "no fault" divorces were okay?

When exactly did being gay become SO MUCH WORSE than any other sin?
posted by bclark at 7:14 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


bclark, I honestly don't know what all of the criteria for adopting through that particular charity were. Do you? Because I really don't see what the point is of your rant about Catholic doctrine.
posted by The World Famous at 7:24 PM on December 4, 2008


bclark : A close equivalent (that I don't subscribe to, but carries similar connotations) would be "if black people just didn't act so black, they would find more success, just like Tiger Woods and Barack Obama."

exactly. and that's the point : that there's a lot of people who perceive "being white" as a form of advantage that is over and above sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, education and ability.

and yes, it is not fair and it's definitely cruel. i didn't make the rules though. am just pointing them out.
posted by liza at 7:30 PM on December 4, 2008


Oh, liza, so you think black people should act more white AND gay people should go back in the closet. Sorry, that aspect of your argument was completely lost in your rhetoric, but since we're not making up the rules here, I guess we both get to live with those cruel and unfair realities. At least you can barely tell my mother was an Asian immigrant, so I can pass for white and straight!

If I apologize for being born (mostly) white and (predominately) gay, can I make medical decisions for my significant other if they are in the hospital, please? Or does being white have to stop being an advantage for everyone before we get our turn to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Is the answer somewhere in your blog maybe?

And The World Famous, I'm not ranting against Catholic dogma, I'm just pointing out that your "diametrically opposed" statement actually isn't intellectual consistent with Catholic dogma, but what I would know? I only went to Catholic school!

Sorry, my ability to try to find common ground is apparantly exhausted for the evening: so hard to argue with people who are so right!
posted by bclark at 7:41 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


And The World Famous, I'm not ranting against Catholic dogma, I'm just pointing out that your "diametrically opposed" statement actually isn't intellectual consistent with Catholic dogma, but what I would know?

I'm sorry, bclark. I did not go to Catholic school, and I may be mistaken about Catholic dogma. In your experience, does the Catholic church take the position that same-sex sexual relationships are moral, immoral, or some third option? I was under the impression that the Catholic church's position was that same-sex sexual relationships are immoral. That is the basis for my statement above. But if I am mistaken, I apologize.

I also am not trying to argue, and I apologize if I gave you the impression that I was.
posted by The World Famous at 7:53 PM on December 4, 2008


But saying that you think the doctrine is bad doesn't really advance the argument. It goes back to the fact that you won't convince religious people to support same-sex marriage by telling them that their religious beliefs are wrong or stupid.

Let's just get the laws changed and let them catch up. I think when some of these same groups were vehemently against interracial marriage back in the day, they should have been told their religious beliefs were wrong and stupid.

I guess the real issue is, in getting civil rights, justice and equality for all (or trying to) in terms of civil rights for nonwhites, how was that done, and does that model hold the best chance to get it done this time too.

The "OMG, this is not like civil rights!" stuff is just a sideshow to me. Who gives a fuck. I marched in those marches on cold winter days. I protested. I sang the songs and went to the rallies and everything else. And you know what? Yes, when people are denied of rights, people are denied of rights. If you don't see that it's the same forces that a couple of decades ago would have wanted "You" as a nonwhite person discriminated against, relegated to second-class citizenship, or dead, then you need to look closer.

Any Black person that voted for this who is aware of the history of black folks in this country is either a bigot, a dolt, or has been scared into stupidity. I don't live in CA but I think it's the last one. Again with the anectdotal stuff, but I've seen smart people with graduate degrees turn into hate mongering morons when they get punked by their preacher or church. It's like to even stop for a moment to think about the issue is going to get you sent to hell, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. And they've been indoctrinated since a young age. So you're almost working with kids when trying to discuss it, because that fear is pervasive man. You can almost see the sweat and watch the mental faculties just shut down.

People are brainwashed into not only believing that if they support this stuff they'll go to hell, but if they even stop to think about it, they'll go. This is where good stuff like this shown in a college class and a couple of doses of KRS, can help. Gotta stop that blue mcp from spinning long enough to get the disc in.
posted by cashman at 8:03 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let's just get the laws changed and let them catch up. I think when some of these same groups were vehemently against interracial marriage back in the day, they should have been told their religious beliefs were wrong and stupid.

If that's your argument, then fine. I hope you are not one of the people saying that the Pro-8 folks are stupid because their slippery slope arguments are unjustified, though (except for the education one, which really was incorrect as it was stated).

Consistent with your point, when a religious Prop-8 supporter says to you that they supported Prop 8 because they are concerned that their right to free exercise of their religion will be reduced, the answer is: "Yes. It will result in a reduction of your right to exercise your religious beliefs, but that's ok because I think your religious beliefs are wrong." But if someone takes the position that constitutionally-mandated same-sex marriage will have no effect on religious freedoms, they are mistaken.
posted by The World Famous at 8:28 PM on December 4, 2008


But if someone takes the position that constitutionally-mandated same-sex marriage will have no effect on religious freedoms, they are mistaken.

I have no idea how to even begin responding to this.
But for starters you could look up "mandated" versus "protected" and "freedoms" versus, ah, whatever it is you think that word means because I don't believe it means what you think it means.
posted by joe lisboa at 8:53 PM on December 4, 2008 [3 favorites]


If the church wants to discriminate as a matter of institutional policy, then yes, it seems clear to me that they're losing some of their religious liberties.

"Yes, the church was bigoted in its actions, and now that won't be permitted anymore," really does seem like the best we're going to do here.
posted by Richard Daly at 9:06 PM on December 4, 2008


When exactly did being gay become SO MUCH WORSE than any other sin?

Since YHWH took out Sodom, man.

Well, not really. When Falwell's political mask fell off in the aftermath of 9/11 we got to hear what they really think:

"The ACLU has got to take a lot of blame for this. And I know I'll hear from them for this, but throwing God...successfully with the help of the federal court system...throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools, the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked and when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad...I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen."

The Christianists -- fundies and the "Opus Dei" strain of Catholicism -- are fighting on all of these fronts -- a) trying to put God back in the public square (the occasional Ten Commandments monument bullshit), b) trying to get teachers and administrators to lead bible studies and school prayers again, c) attempting to restrict access to abortion and borderline contraception, if not contraceptive methods themselves, d) demonizing and denying the legitimacy of the Wiccans and the feminist movement, and of course e) attempting to roll back any societal movement towards equal rights for homosexual life partners.

This is the shape of the kulturkampf. Our friends on the Christian Right really believe they're fighting for the soul of our American Culture and the survival of traditional society itself.

And they are, I guess.
posted by troy at 9:06 PM on December 4, 2008


Ugh. Now we're down to arguing about the meaning of words? You know, there is no requirement on Metafilter that you invent some way to disagree with people.

But for starters you could look up "mandated" versus "protected" and "freedoms" versus, ah, whatever it is you think that word means because I don't believe it means what you think it means.

I'm not sure how to go about helping you understand that "constitutionally-mandated same-sex marriage" is exactly what I mean. I am referring to the legal theory that, if the Government recognizes opposite-sex marriage, then the Constitution mandates recognition of same-sex marriage, as well. Hence "constitutionally-mandated same-sex marriage."
posted by The World Famous at 9:08 PM on December 4, 2008


Also, being gay is not a choice. go fuck yourself.

that makes me wonder - if you fucked yourself, wouldn't that make you technically gay?
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:48 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


My point (and I'm sorry if I did not make this clear) was that a) the Catholic charity, it seems, really did shut down because it was forced to

As Blazecock Pileon points out -- the Catholic charity was not forced to shut down. It was their decision to shut down one of their programs – their adoption program -- due to idealogical/religious reasons.

Proponents of Prop. 8 -- and supporters of similar efforts -- are spreading misinformation -- stating that churches and their officiates will be legally hassled for anti-gay speech rhetoric; that children will be "indoctrinated" in public schools about "gays," etc. Yadda, yadda, yaadda. They conveniently ignore that "free speech" and "separation of Church and State" prevents that they would be in subject to legal recourse. It’s all scare tactics.

Oh my, what if a black man has consensual sex with and wants to marry a white woman?
posted by ericb at 9:57 PM on December 4, 2008


As Blazecock Pileon points out -- the Catholic charity was not forced to shut down. It was their decision to shut down one of their programs – their adoption program -- due to idealogical/religious reasons.

Did they or did they not shut down the adoption program because there was a new law that made it illegal for them to operate it according to their religious beliefs? Am I wrong about this, honestly? It seems like you are just making a semantic argument about the way that I have phrased the sentence -- that you do understand why the program was shut down, but you're just trying to disagree for the sake of being disagreeable.

The ideological/religious reason for the program allegedly shutting down, as I understand it, is that Massachusetts law changed in such a way that, in the charity's view at least, prevented the charity from operating according to a fundamental tenet of the Catholic church. Is this not the case?

Is it not true that Massachusetts law changed in such a way as to make it unlawful for the Catholic charity's adoption program to operate according to the tenets of Catholicism? If that is not true, then tell me, and back it up. I'm not trying to argue here. I'm trying to communicate about the true nature of the issue, and I am not advocating for either side of the issue.

Did a Catholic charity shut down its adoption program due to "ideological/religious reasons?"

What reasons?

Do you really disagree with me? Really?
posted by The World Famous at 10:14 PM on December 4, 2008


There's really no sizeable support for changing this among people on both sides of the gay marriage issue. Thousands of atheists have been comfortable getting legally married and describing themselves as married and don't particularly care about doing some sort of global search and replace of marriage with civil unions.

Dude, I will be first in line to exchange my marriage certificate for a civil union one if that is an option, and if the legal rights are the same. Cause when I got married, in a completely secular, no-god-invited ceremony, the state of Missouri did not give me an option of which legal certificate to get. I think if it were an option there might be more support than you think.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:18 PM on December 4, 2008


*that they would be subjected to legal recourse.*

Churches/religions can preach in their sermons, write in their newsletters and stand outside their vestibules proclaming loud and clear that "Gays are Evil," "Gays are Sick," that "Gays are the Trigger Event for the End of the World." Let them preach what they want. The Constitution allows them to do so.

But, what they can't do is negate the most fundamental proponent laid out in 1776: All men are created equal.

ALL, not SOME.

ALL!!! Gay, straight, male, female. Fat, thin, black, white, asian et al.

ALL, not SOME.

ALL!!!
posted by ericb at 10:30 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm suggesting that it is unfathomable that people do not understand why many religious people are afraid of the far-reaching effects of constitutionally-mandated same-sex marriage.

What effects? Why do people keep parroting this "far-reaching" nonsense? Do you really not understand that you are echoing the very same arguments made against the outcome of Loving back in the 1960s?

Then that is one (possibly significant) way in which the same-sex marriage issue is different from Loving.

No, it really is not, and if you are honest you will take a moment to step back and recognize that your objections are the very same as those made back then.

Same-sex marriage was once legal in California and in that duration of time when gays and lesbians were getting married, the Catholic Church and other religious organizations were not affected in any deleterious way (though they might claim damages they have yet to qualify in any honest way).

Further, gays and lesbians married in California and Massachusetts continue to keep their legally-derived marital status and nothing untoward has happened to religion in the United States, other than fundamentalists getting themselves upset about the country going to hell in a handbasket.

Still further, nothing untoward has happened to devalue or otherwise damage opposite-sex marriage — religious or secular — in the time that gays and lesbians continue to be married in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

If you have any serious examples of how the institution of ecumenical, opposite-sex marriages has been negatively impacted by same-sex marriage, bring them over here. Because you will find them nowhere else in the real world.

Otherwise, there is not much difference between same-sex marriage being made illegal, and interracial marriage being made illegal, on the unsubstantiated basis that allowing either has had a negative effect on society. The end of the world didn't happen in 1968 and it's not happening now.

Finally, when the Catholic Church chose to abandon adoption services, they did so in order to make a political gesture, hurting children in the process. They did so out of spite and of their own prerogative. But the Constitution of the United States of America is not in the business of making papal doctrine into common law, despite attempts to bully the government into writing discrimination into law. And God-willing, it never will again.

As a matter of equality, decency and basic fairness, the laws that apply to all Americans stand above religious and, yes, even Catholic laws, and that's as fair a shake as every American deserves, gay or straight.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:38 PM on December 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm trying to communicate about the true nature of the issue

When Denny's refuses to allow any black folks to sit and eat in their restaurants, is that a violation of the rights of the management of The Denny's Corporation to decide how to run its business, or is it discrimination against black folks?

If we're talking about the true nature of the issue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:41 PM on December 4, 2008


that makes me wonder - if you fucked yourself, wouldn't that make you technically gay?

Based on the way my right hand has behaved toward me, it's super gay.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:42 PM on December 4, 2008


Did a Catholic charity shut down its adoption program due to "ideological/religious reasons?"
“In a stunning turn of events, Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley and leaders of Catholic Charities of Boston announced yesterday that the agency will end its adoption work, deciding to abandon its founding mission, rather than comply with state law requiring that gays be allowed to adopt children.

The Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, president of Catholic Charities of Boston, and Jeffrey Kaneb, chairman of the board, said that after much reflection and analysis, they could not reconcile church teaching that placement of children in gay homes is ''immoral’ with Massachusetts law prohibiting discrimination against gays.

…In recent weeks, Hehir said, he had become increasingly concerned that the struggle over gay adoption would detract from other important work done by Catholic Charities. Since its founding, the agency had branched out significantly, helping 200,000 people in about 130 programs, including food pantries, day-care services, immigration legal clinics, and substance abuse programs. Only $1.3 million, or less than 4 percent of total revenues, is dedicated to adoption work now, Hehir said.

Some board members said another concern was the potential impact on financing. The United Way of Massachusetts Bay, which provided $1.2 million to Catholic Charities last year and is the largest private funder of the agency, planned to review its funding if the agency discriminated against gays and lesbians in its adoption work.

By late last week, Hehir said, it became clear that the simplest approach would be to withdraw from adoption services altogether. He convened a meeting with the board yesterday morning, in which members voted unanimously to pull out.” *
posted by ericb at 10:44 PM on December 4, 2008


Banned in Boston
"Catholic Charities of Boston made the announcement on March 10: It was getting out of the adoption business. ‘We have encountered a dilemma we cannot resolve. . . . The issue is adoption to same-sex couples.’

It was shocking news. Catholic Charities of Boston, one of the nation's oldest adoption agencies, had long specialized in finding good homes for hard to place kids. ‘Catholic Charities was always at the top of the list,’ Paula Wisnewski, director of adoption for the Home for Little Wanderers, told the Boston Globe. ‘It's a shame because it is certainly going to mean that fewer children from foster care are going to find permanent homes.’ Marylou Sudders, president of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said simply, ‘This is a tragedy for kids.’

How did this tragedy happen?

It's a complicated story. Massachusetts law prohibited ‘orientation discrimination’ over a decade ago. Then in November 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ordered gay marriage. The majority ruled that only animus against gay people could explain why anyone would want to treat opposite-sex and same-sex couples differently. That same year, partly in response to growing pressure for gay marriage and adoption both here and in Europe, a Vatican statement made clear that placing children with same-sex couples violates Catholic teaching.

Then in October 2005, the Boston Globe broke the news: Boston Catholic Charities had placed a small number of children with same-sex couples. Sean Cardinal O'Malley, who has authority over Catholic Charities of Boston, responded by stating that the agency would no longer do so.

Seven members of the Boston Catholic Charities board (about one-sixth of the membership) resigned in protest. Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which lobbies for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equal rights, issued a thundering denunciation of the Catholic hierarchy: ‘These bishops are putting an ugly political agenda before the needs of very vulnerable children. Every one of the nation's leading children's welfare groups agrees that a parent's sexual orientation is irrelevant to his or her ability to raise a child. What these bishops are doing is shameful, wrong, and has nothing to do whatsoever with faith.’

But getting square with the church didn't end Catholic Charities' woes. To operate in Massachusetts, an adoption agency must be licensed by the state. And to get a license, an agency must pledge to obey state laws barring discrimination--including the decade-old ban on orientation discrimination. With the legalization of gay marriage in the state, discrimination against same-sex couples would be outlawed, too.

Cardinal O'Malley asked Governor Mitt Romney for a religious exemption from the ban on orientation discrimination. Governor Romney reluctantly responded that he lacked legal authority to grant one unilaterally, by executive order. So the governor and archbishop turned to the state legislature, requesting a conscience exemption that would allow Catholic Charities to continue to help kids in a manner consistent with Catholic teaching.

To date, not a single other Massachusetts political leader appears willing to consider even the narrowest religious exemption. Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, the Republican candidate for governor in this fall's election, refused to budge: ‘I believe that any institution that wants to provide services that are regulated by the state has to abide by the laws of the state,’ Healey told the Boston Globe on March 2, ‘and our antidiscrimination laws are some of our most important.’

From there, it was only a short step to the headline ‘State Putting Church Out of Adoption Business,’ which ran over an opinion piece in the Boston Globe by John Garvey, dean of Boston College Law School. It's worth underscoring that Catholic Charities' problem with the state didn't hinge on its receipt of public money. Ron Madnick, president of the Massachusetts chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, agreed with Garvey's assessment: ‘Even if Catholic Charities ceased receiving tax support and gave up its role as a state contractor, it still could not refuse to place children with same-sex couples.’

This March, then, unexpectedly, a mere two years after the introduction of gay marriage in America, a number of latent concerns about the impact of this innovation on religious freedom ceased to be theoretical. How could Adam and Steve's marriage possibly hurt anyone else? When religious-right leaders prophesy negative consequences from gay marriage, they are often seen as overwrought. The First Amendment, we are told, will protect religious groups from persecution for their views about marriage.

So who is right? Is the fate of Catholic Charities of Boston an aberration or a sign of things to come?

I put the question to Anthony Picarello, president and general counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Becket Fund is widely recognized as one of the best religious liberty law firms and the only one that defends the religious liberty of all faith groups, ‘from Anglicans to Zoroastrians,’ as its founder Kevin J. Hasson likes to say (referring to actual clients the Becket Fund has defended).

Just how serious are the coming conflicts over religious liberty stemming from gay marriage?

‘The impact will be severe and pervasive,’ Picarello says flatly. ‘This is going to affect every aspect of church-state relations.’ Recent years, he predicts, will be looked back on as a time of relative peace between church and state, one where people had the luxury of litigating cases about things like the Ten Commandments in courthouses. In times of relative peace, says Picarello, people don't even notice that ‘the church is surrounded on all sides by the state; that church and state butt up against each other. The boundaries are usually peaceful, so it's easy sometimes to forget they are there. But because marriage affects just about every area of the law, gay marriage is going to create a point of conflict at every point around the perimeter.’

For scholars, these will be interesting times: Want to know exactly where the borders of church and state are located? ‘Wait a few years,’ Picarello laughs. The flood of litigation surrounding each point of contact will map out the territory. For religious liberty lawyers, there are boom times ahead. As one Becket Fund donor told Picarello ruefully, ‘At least you know you're not in the buggy whip business.’

Picarello is a Harvard-trained litigator experienced in religious liberty issues. But predicting the legal consequences of as big a change as gay marriage is a job for more than one mind. So last December, the Becket Fund brought together ten religious liberty scholars of right and left to look at the question of the impact of gay marriage on the freedom of religion. Picarello summarizes: ‘All the scholars we got together see a problem; they all see a conflict coming. They differ on how it should be resolved and who should win, but they all see a conflict coming.’

These are not necessarily scholars who oppose gay marriage. Chai Feldblum, for example, is a Georgetown law professor who refers to herself as ‘part of an inner group of public-intellectual movement leaders committed to advancing LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual] equality in this country.’ Marc Stern is the general counsel for the center-left American Jewish Congress. Robin Wilson of the University of Maryland law school is undecided on gay marriage. Jonathan Turley of George Washington law school has supported legalizing not only gay marriage but also polygamy.

Reading through these and the other scholars' papers, I noticed an odd feature. Generally speaking the scholars most opposed to gay marriage were somewhat less likely than others to foresee large conflicts ahead--perhaps because they tended to find it ‘inconceivable,’ as Doug Kmiec of Pepperdine law school put it, that ‘a successful analogy will be drawn in the public mind between irrational, and morally repugnant, racial discrimination and the rational, and at least morally debatable, differentiation of traditional and same-sex marriage.’ That's a key consideration. For if orientation is like race, then people who oppose gay marriage will be treated under law like bigots who opposed interracial marriage. Sure, we don't arrest people for being racists, but the law does intervene in powerful ways to punish and discourage racial discrimination, not only by government but also by private entities. Doug Laycock, a religious liberty expert at the University of Texas law school, similarly told me we are a ‘long way’ from equating orientation with race in the law.

By contrast, the scholars who favor gay marriage found it relatively easy to foresee looming legal pressures on faith-based organizations opposed to gay marriage, perhaps because many of these scholars live in social and intellectual circles where the shift Kmiec regards as inconceivable has already happened. They have less trouble imagining that people and groups who oppose gay marriage will soon be treated by society and the law the way we treat racists because that's pretty close to the world in which they live now.

Of all the scholars who attended, perhaps the most surprising is Chai Feldblum. She is a Georgetown law professor who is highly sought after on civil rights issues, especially gay civil rights. She has drafted many federal bills to prohibit orientation discrimination and innumerable amicus briefs in constitutional cases seeking equality for gay people. I ask her why she decided to make time for a conference on the impact of same-sex marriage on religious liberty.

‘Not because I was caught up in the panic,’ she laughs. She'd been thinking through the moral implications of nondiscrimination rules in the law, a lonely undertaking for a gay rights advocate. ‘Gay rights supporters often try to present these laws as purely neutral and having no moral implications. But not all discrimination is bad,’ Feldblum points out. In employment law, for instance, ‘we allow discrimination against people who sexually abuse children, and we don't say 'the only question is can they type' even if they can type really quickly.’

To get to the point where the law prohibits discrimination, Feldblum says, ‘there have to be two things: one, a majority of the society believing the characteristic on which the person is being discriminated against is not morally problematic, and, two, enough of a sense of outrage to push past the normal American contract-based approach, where the government doesn't tell you what you can do. There has to be enough outrage to bypass that basic default mode in America. Unlike some of my compatriots in the gay rights movement, I think we advance the cause of gay equality if we make clear there are moral assessments that underlie antidiscrimination laws.’

But there was a second reason Feldblum made time for this particular conference. She was raised an Orthodox Jew. She wanted to demonstrate respect for religious people and their concerns, to show that the gay community is not monolithic in this regard.

‘It seemed to me the height of disingenuousness, absurdity, and indeed disrespect to tell someone it is okay to 'be' gay, but not necessarily okay to engage in gay sex. What do they think being gay means?’ she writes in her Becket paper. ‘I have the same reaction to courts and legislatures that blithely assume a religious person can easily disengage her religious belief and self-identity from her religious practice and religious behavior. What do they think being religious means?’

To Feldblum the emerging conflicts between free exercise of religion and sexual liberty are real: ‘When we pass a law that says you may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, we are burdening those who have an alternative moral assessment of gay men and lesbians.’ Most of the time, the need to protect the dignity of gay people will justify burdening religious belief, she argues. But that does not make it right to pretend these burdens do not exist in the first place, or that the religious people the law is burdening don't matter.

‘You have to stop, think, and justify the burden each time,’ says Feldblum. She pauses. ‘Respect doesn't mean that the religious person should prevail in the right to discriminate--it just means demonstrating a respectful awareness of the religious position.’

Feldblum believes this sincerely and with passion, and clearly (as she reminds me) against the vast majority of opinion of her own community. And yet when push comes to shove, when religious liberty and sexual liberty conflict, she admits, ‘I'm having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.’

She pauses over cases like the one at Tufts University, one of many current legal battles in which a Christian group is fighting for the right to limit its leaders to people who subscribe to its particular vision of Christianity. She's uncertain about Catholic Charities of Boston, too: ‘I do not know the details of that case,’ she told me. ‘I do believe a state should be permitted to withhold tax exempt status, as in the Bob Jones case, from a group that is clearly contrary to the state's policy. But to go further and say to a group that it is not permitted to engage in a particular type of work, such as adoptions, unless it also does adoptions for gay couples, that's a heavier hand from the state. And I would hope we could have a dialogue about this and not just accusations of bad faith from either side.’

But the bottom line for Feldblum is: ‘Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.’

Marc Stern has known Chai Feldblum since she was eight years old. ‘Vivacious, really extraordinary,’ he says as he smiles, shaking his head at the memories of the little girl whose father he knew well. ‘Chai is among the most reasonable [gay rights advocates],’ he says. ‘If she's having trouble coming up with cases in which religious liberty should win, we're in trouble.’

As general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, Marc Stern knows religious liberty law from the inside out. Like Anthony Picarello, he sees the coming conflicts as pervasive. The problem is not that clergy will be forced to perform gay marriages or prevented from preaching their beliefs. Look past those big red herrings: ‘No one seriously believes that clergy will be forced, or even asked, to perform marriages that are anathema to them. Same-sex marriage would, however, work a sea change in American law. That change will reverberate across the legal and religious landscape in some ways that are today unpredictable,’ he writes in his Becket Fund paper.

Consider education. Same-sex marriage will affect religious educational institutions, he argues, in at least four ways: admissions, employment, housing, and regulation of clubs. One of Stern's big worries right now is a case in California where a private Christian high school expelled two girls who (the school says) announced they were in a lesbian relationship. Stern is not optimistic. And if the high school loses, he tells me, ‘then religious schools are out of business.’ Or at least the government will force religious schools to tolerate both conduct and proclamations by students they believe to be sinful.

Stern agrees with Feldblum that public accommodation laws can and should force truly commercial enterprises to serve all comers. But, he asks, what of other places, such as religious camps, retreats, and homeless shelters? Will they be considered by courts to be places of public accommodation, too? Could a religious summer camp operated in strict conformity with religious principles refuse to accept children coming from same-sex marriages? What of a church-affiliated community center, with a gym and a Little League, that offers family programs? Must a religious-affiliated family services provider offer marriage counseling to same-sex couples designed to facilitate or preserve their relationships?

‘Future conflict with the law in regard to licensing is certain with regard to psychological clinics, social workers, marital counselors, and the like,’ Stern wrote last December--well before the Boston Catholic Charities story broke.

Think about that for a moment. Of all the experts gathered to forecast the impact of gay marriage on religious organizations, no one, not even Stern, brought up adoption licenses. ‘Government is so pervasive, it's hard to know where the next battle will be,’ he tells me. ‘I thought I had a comprehensive catalog, but the adoption license issue didn't occur to me.’

Will speech against gay marriage be allowed to continue unfettered? ‘Under the American regime of freedom of speech, the answer ought to be easy,’ according to Stern. But it is not entirely certain, he writes, ‘because sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace principles will likely migrate to suppress any expression of anti-same-sex-marriage views.’ Stern suggests how that might work.

In the corporate world, the expression of opposition to gay marriage will be suppressed not by gay ideologues but by corporate lawyers, who will draw the lines least likely to entangle the company in litigation. Stern likens this to ‘a paroxysm of prophylaxis--banning 'Jesus saves' because someone might take offense.’

Or consider a recent case at William Paterson University, a state school in New Jersey. A senior faculty member sent out a mass email inviting people to attend movies with a gay theme. A student employee, a 63-year-old Muslim named Jihad Daniel, replied to the professor in a private email asking not to receive messages ‘about 'Connie and Sally' and 'Adam and Steve.'‘ He went on, ‘These are perversions. The absence of God in higher education brings on confusion. That is why in these classes the Creator of the heavens and the earth is never mentioned.’ The result: Daniel received a letter of reprimand for using the ‘derogatory and demeaning’ word ‘perversions’ in violation of state discrimination and harassment regulations.

Interestingly, Stern points out, a single ‘derogatory or demeaning’ remark not seeking sexual gratification or threatening a person's job security does not constitute harassment under ordinary federal and state sexual harassment law originally intended to protect women in the workplace. Moreover, Stern says, ‘our entire free speech regime depends on the principle that no adult has a right to expect the law will protect him from being exposed to disagreeable speech.’

Except, apparently in New Jersey, where a state attorney general's opinion concluded, ‘[C]learly speech which violates a nondiscrimination policy is not protected.’ ‘This was so 'clear' to the writer,’ notes Stern, ‘that she cited not a single case or law review article in support.’ Ultimately, the school withdrew its reprimand from Daniel's employment file after receiving negative publicity and the threat of a lawsuit from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Sexual harassment law as an instrument for suppressing religious speech? A few days after I interviewed Stern, an Alliance Defense Fund press release dropped into my mail box: ‘OSU Librarian Slapped with 'Sexual Harassment' Charge for Recommending Conservative Books for Freshmen.’ One of the books the Ohio State librarian (a pacifist Quaker who drives a horse and buggy to work) recommended was It Takes a Family by Senator Rick Santorum. Three professors alleged that the mere appearance of such a book on a freshman reading list made them feel ‘unsafe.’ The faculty voted to pursue the sexual harassment allegation, and the process quickly resulted in the charge being dropped.

In the end the investigation of the librarian was more of a nuisance--you might call it harassment--than anything else. But the imbalance in terms of free speech remains clear: People who favor gay rights face no penalty for speaking their views, but can inflict a risk of litigation, investigation, and formal and informal career penalties on others whose views they dislike. Meanwhile, people who think gay marriage is wrong cannot know for sure where the line is now or where it will be redrawn in the near future. ‘Soft’ coercion produces no martyrs to disturb anyone's conscience, yet it is highly effective in chilling the speech of ordinary people.

Finally, I ask Stern the big question on everyone's mind. Religious groups that take government funding will almost certainly be required to play by the nondiscrimination rules, but what about groups that, while receiving no government grants, are tax-exempt? Can a group--a church or religious charity, say--that opposes gay marriage keep its tax exemption if gay marriage becomes the law? ‘That,’ says Stern, ‘is the 18 trillion dollar question.’

Twenty years ago it would have been inconceivable that a Christian or Jewish organization that opposed gay marriage might be treated as racist in the public square. Today? It's just not clear.

‘In Massachusetts I'd be very worried,’ Stern says finally. The churches themselves might have a First Amendment defense if a state government or state courts tried to withdraw their exemption, he says, but ‘the parachurch institutions are very much at risk and may be put out of business because of the licensing issues, or for these other reasons--it's very unclear. None of us nonprofits can function without [state] tax exemption. As a practical matter, any large charity needs that real estate tax exemption.’

He blames religious conservatives for adopting the wrong political strategy on gay issues. ‘Live and let live,’ he tells me, is the only thing around the world that works. But I ask him point blank what he would say to people who dismiss the threat to free exercise of religion as evangelical hysteria. ‘It's not hysteria, this is very real,’ he tells me, ‘Boston Catholic Charities shows that.’

Fundamentally, Stern sees this as a ‘religious war’ between people for whom an egalitarian secular ethic is the only rational option and people who can make room for an ethic based on faith in a God who commands. There are very few signs of a willingness to compromise on either side, he notes.

‘You look around the world and even the right to preach is in doubt,’ he tells me. ‘In the United States we are not foreseeably in that position. Fundamentally speech is still safe in the United States. Beyond speech, nothing is safe.’

Robin Wilson is an expert in both family law and health care law. So when Anthony Picarello approached her about thinking through the impact gay marriage may have on religious institutions, she had a ready model at hand: the struggles over conscience exemptions in the health care field after Roe v. Wade elevated abortion to a constitutional right.

Wilson predicts ‘a concerted effort to take same-sex marriage from a negative right to be free of state interference to a positive entitlement to assistance by others. Although Roe and Griswold established only the right to noninterference by the state in a woman's abortion and contraceptive decisions, family planning advocates have worked strenuously to force individual institutions to provide controversial services, and to force individual health care providers to participate in them.’

‘This litigation after Roe,’ she says, ‘provides a convincing prediction about the trajectory that litigation after Goodridge will take’ (Goodridge being the Massachusetts supreme court decision that legalized gay marriage). The post-Roe litigation also provides fair warning about the limits of First Amendment protection. The lever used to force hospitals and doctors to perform abortions and sterilizations was the receipt of any public money. ‘Given the status of most churches as state nonprofits and federally tax-exempt organizations, it is likely that public support arguments will be advanced to compel churches to participate in same-sex marriage. Thus, churches in Massachusetts (and perhaps soon other states) may have much to worry about,’ Wilson writes. ‘Churches that oppose same-sex marriage today may perceive a credible, palpable threat to their tax-exempt status, the benefits of which are substantial.’

This threat is credible, she explains, because to be recognized as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must have purposes and activities that do not violate fundamental ‘public policy,’ a concept that neither the Supreme Court nor the IRS has fully defined.

The case that worries Wilson in this regard is one that Chai Feldblum mentioned: Bob Jones University v. United States, in which the IRS revoked the federal tax exemption of Bob Jones University because the school prohibited interracial marriage and dating among its students. The Court easily dismissed Bob Jones's claim that its prohibition on interracial dating was religiously grounded and therefore protected by the First Amendment. The denial of tax benefits, the Court asserted, would not prevent the school ‘from observing their religious tenets.’

Equally, the First Amendment did not prevent religious hospitals from being punished for refusing to perform abortions, once abortion became a constitutional right. It was Congress and state legislatures that stepped in to provide generous statutory religious exemptions. Once gay marriage is legal, it too will probably become fundamental public policy. To protect the tax-exempt status of religious groups that oppose gay marriage will thus likely require legislative intervention to create religious exemptions at either the state or federal level or both, says Wilson. She means the same kind of religious exemption that, to date, no politician in Massachusetts besides the outgoing governor is willing to support.

Jonathan Turley, the George Washington professor who is a First Amendment specialist, also sees a serious risk ahead. Turley has no problem with gay marriage. But the gay marriage debate, he notes, exposes ‘long ignored weaknesses in doctrines relating to free speech, free exercise, and the right to association.’
posted by ericb at 10:59 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ, ericb, learn to link.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:06 PM on December 4, 2008


Blazecock Pileon, you seem to be under the impression that I am arguing against same-sex marriage. Or, at least, you seem to be arguing in favor of it, with my posts as a target. I really don't think I'm the proper target of your arguments. I have been trying to point out that, contrary to an assertion made above, there is a reasonable basis for at least some of the fears of some Prop 8 supporters with regard to religious freedoms. If you, like some others here, think that, for example, religious charities should not have the freedom to refuse to arrange adoptions for same-sex couples, then that's fine. But don't pretend that it is unreasonable for religious people to be afraid of that outcome, particularly if you think that that outcome is realistic and favorable.

What effects? Why do people keep parroting this "far-reaching" nonsense?

I think I have been discussing some of them throughout this thread. If I am mistaken, and I have not been, then it is probably useless for me to repeat myself again.

Further, gays and lesbians married in California and Massachusetts continue to keep their legally-derived marital status and nothing untoward has happened to religion in the United States


I think the doctor in the Benitez case might disagree with you, as would the Catholic charity who, I understand, shut down its adoption program. I also suspect that you probably think that those two outcomes are favorable, so you don't much care.

If you have any serious examples of how the institution of ecumenical, opposite-sex marriages has been negatively impacted by same-sex marriage, bring them over here. Because you will find them nowhere else in the real world.

I am quite certain that I have not advanced any such argument. Again, see the first paragraph of this post.

Otherwise, there is not much difference between same-sex marriage being made illegal, and interracial marriage being made illegal, on the unsubstantiated basis that allowing either has had a negative effect on society. The end of the world didn't happen in 1968 and it's not happening now.


I am also quite certain that I have not advanced this argument, or anything even remotely similar.

Finally, when the Catholic Church chose to abandon adoption services, they did so in order to make a political gesture, hurting children in the process. They did so out of spite and of their own prerogative.


If you have evidence for this assertion, I would like to see it. Thanks.

But the Constitution of the United States of America is not in the business of making papal doctrine into common law, despite attempts to bully the government into writing discrimination into law. And God-willing, it never will again.


Though there are some somewhat compelling arguments in favor of creating a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, the Constitution of the United States has never, to date, made same-sex marriage a Constitutional right. I suspect that, sometime in the next 10 years, the Supreme Court will decide to interpret the Constitution for the first time in history as providing such a right. I also suspect that Prop 8's passage will actually contribute to that result. But I think that it is way off-base to characterize the Framers' drafting of the Constitution and all Constitutional jurisprudence from the inception of the country until the present as being the result of the Pope bullying the U.S. into having the law be what it has been since day one.

As a matter of equality, decency and basic fairness, the laws that apply to all Americans stand above religious and, yes, even Catholic laws, and that's as fair a shake as every American deserves, gay or straight.


Yes. This is, I believe, a far stronger argument than the constitutional argument. There is still the small matter of the Free Exercise Clause, of course. But, if the No-on-8 propaganda was perfectly 100% honest, proponents of same-sex marriage have absolutely no desire to infringe in any way on the religious beliefs or practices of anyone in this country, right? So maybe we can find a way to accomplish what No-on-8 pretended was its goal--to have equality for same-sex couples while not adversely affecting religion in any way. What do you think?
posted by The World Famous at 11:14 PM on December 4, 2008


Jesus Christ, ericb, learn to link.

I know how to link.

I present the entire article in this instance to address the statements of The World Famous.
Did a Catholic charity shut down its adoption program due to "ideological/religious reasons?" What reasons?
While extreme, my article quote is meant to outline the issue at hand.

Sorry if you had to endure scrolling through an "epic" quotation.
posted by ericb at 11:17 PM on December 4, 2008


Thank you, ericb.

Is it now clear that religious people who are afraid that same-sex marriage will lead to far-reaching religious freedom conflicts are justified in that fear?
posted by The World Famous at 11:30 PM on December 4, 2008


The World Famous, when Denny's refuses to allow any black folks to sit and eat in their restaurants, is that a violation of the rights of the management of The Denny's Corporation to decide how to run its business, or is it discrimination against black folks?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:36 PM on December 4, 2008


The stuff discussed in the response in the header of this post, coupled with the passage of prop 8, examined in the light of the fact that it is nearly impossible to change somebody's character, are really starting to depress me. If you're gay, you can't wake up and say "today I will be straight". However, if you're a crazy religious wingnut who hates gay people, can you really wake up and say "today I will accept homosexuality as a natural phenomenon that has no effect on me"? I think that in trying to change the minds of the sort of person who voted yes on prop 8, we are coming up against the same kind of struggle to change humanity as they themselves are in their fervent opposition to homosexuality. They're just too set in their ways to be changed.
posted by tehloki at 11:38 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


The World Famous, when Denny's refuses to allow any black folks to sit and eat in their restaurants, is that a violation of the rights of the management of The Denny's Corporation to decide how to run its business, or is it discrimination against black folks?

When Denny's refuses to allow any black folks to sit and eat in their restaurants, Denny's is not violating it's own rights. It is discriminating against black folks. I don't think your question is formulated very well. What is your point?
posted by The World Famous at 11:39 PM on December 4, 2008


Ahem. Someone seems to be enjoying her 15 minutes. She's even appeared on the fab new iLifeTv show, Speechless... Silencing Christians.

However, according to 1 Timothy 2:11-12, as a good Bible-following Christian female, she shouldn't have taken the UT management job in the first place: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”
posted by terranova at 11:42 PM on December 4, 2008


I don't think your question is formulated very well.

I think the question is formulated just fine. I beginning to believe that you're acting in bad faith in refusing to acknowledge the premise of my question, which I believe you understand perfectly fine, namely that discrimination is not allowed by law, just because some entity (religious or not) has an interest in discriminating, and that the law applies to all entities.

When Catholics choose to refuse to allow anyone to adopt children because of same-sex couples, is that a violation of the rights of the Catholic Church to decide how to run its adoption service, or is it discrimination against gay and lesbian couples?

When Denny's refuses to allow any black folks to sit and eat in their restaurants, is that a violation of the rights of the management of The Denny's Corporation to decide how to run its business, or is it discrimination against black folks?

Exactly who are you blaming for open, unlawful discrimination? Gays, lesbians and blacks? Or Catholics and Denny's management?

I think you understand all of this perfectly well. I await your honest answer.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:50 PM on December 4, 2008


If you have evidence for this assertion, I would like to see it. Thanks.

Ericb has done a more than adequate job of providing evidence for this assertion; I won't waste my time or yours repeating it. I suggest that you carefully read the source of his comment here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:58 PM on December 4, 2008


I think the question is formulated just fine. I beginning to believe that you're acting in bad faith in refusing to acknowledge the premise of my question, which I believe you understand perfectly fine, namely that discrimination is not allowed by law, just because some entity (religious or not) has an interest in discriminating, and that the law applies to all entities.

Dude, I answered the question. What do you want from me?

When Catholics choose to refuse to allow anyone to adopt children because of same-sex couples, is that a violation of the rights of the Catholic Church to decide how to run its adoption service, or is it discrimination against gay and lesbian couples?

The answer to this question, as phrased, is: No.

When Denny's refuses to allow any black folks to sit and eat in their restaurants, is that a violation of the rights of the management of The Denny's Corporation to decide how to run its business, or is it discrimination against black folks?


I already answered this one above. Did I get it wrong?

Exactly who are you blaming for open, unlawful discrimination? Gays, lesbians and blacks? Or Catholics and Denny's management?


I'm not blaming anyone for anything. But if someone violates some specific law by unlawfully discriminating against someone, then they, the discriminator, are the one discriminating. Did I get that answer right?

Ericb has done a more than adequate job of providing evidence for this assertion

I really did appreciate ericb's post. I even favorited it.

Why are you quizzing me? What's your point?
posted by The World Famous at 12:25 AM on December 5, 2008


The answer to this question, as phrased, is: No.

You're being disingenuous, as I thought. Shame on me for wasting my time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:28 AM on December 5, 2008


Blazecock Pileon, I am not being disingenuous, and I do not understand how you can disagree with my answer to that question, unless you do not understand the question that you yourself asked. Tell me this:

Under what definition of "discrimination" is it discriminatory of a charity stop arranging adoptions altogether? Because the legal definition in every jurisdiction I'm familiar with is rooted in the idea that discrimination is disparate treatment. Uniform refusal to arrange adoptions for any couples at all is not discriminatory. It is not disparate treatment.

Your question had two parts, and the answer to both parts is no: 1) It is not a violation of Catholic Charities' rights when Catholic Charities decides to do something. It cannot violate its own rights. 2) It is not discriminatory against gays and lesbians when Catholic Charities refuses to arrange adoptions for any couples at all, no matter what their gender composition is.

The question that you did not ask, but you may have meant, is whether Massachusetts law, if interpreted as requiring the Catholic charity's adoption program to arrange adoptions for all couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, would be in violation of the Free Exercise and/or Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. I don't know the answer to that one. It's quite complicated, and it is an un-settled legal question. I do know that it is reasonable for the Catholic charity's directors to fear that their right to exercise their religious beliefs might be curtailed by the implementation of Massachusetts law, and that people, including some judges, may take the opinion that a recent state discrimination statute outweighs the First Amendment in that regard.
posted by The World Famous at 12:43 AM on December 5, 2008


Except that marriage is not a religious exercise, at its core

actually, in catholic doctrine it is a sacrament, just like communion, baptism or extreme unction
posted by pyramid termite at 1:01 AM on December 5, 2008


"[T]he more the employee's job requires confidentiality, policymaking, or public contact, the greater the state's interest in firing her for expression that offends her employer." McEvoy v. Spencer, 124 F.3d 92, 103 (2d Cir. 1997)
posted by terranova at 1:04 AM on December 5, 2008


MetaFilter: just like communion, baptism or extreme unction.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:03 AM on December 5, 2008


The World Famous, I don't want to get into Catholic dogma too much, but let's say that the error of "God hates teh gays so much" inside that framework is connected to the difference between eternal sin, mortal sin and venial sin. Mortal sins are, in essence, killing, stealing, adultery, bearing false witness, and not honoring the parents: you go to Hell unless you confess and absolve those. The rest, the venial sins, get you Purgatory unless you atone for them (if Purgatory is currently "in season" in the Catholic church), with a whole lot of astericks for such things as mental illness or being deliberate about that sinning. So in a Catholic worldview, us gays are not completely separated from God the way, say, a thief or a disobediant child world be. Talking about the downfall of Sodom or quoting bits of Leviticus don't have the same standing dogmatically.

pyramid termite hits the nail on the head of what the real cause is: Catholic dogma sees marriage as a holy sacrament. That's also why they don't recognize divorces that fall outside of the one exception in Matthew 19 -- a fornicating partner. In the Church's view, anyone who gets a divorce for any other reason remains an adulterer for the rest of their lives, which is actually pretty similar to the view they have of gays (except, since we can't married in the first place, we're merely fornicators ... adultry is a hetero-sin.)

Where your argument fails, The World Famous, is when you described it as requiring the Catholic charity's adoption program to arrange adoptions for all couples, regardless of their sexual orientation. Nothing in the law says that any two gays who show up have to be issued a child: a proper wording of the question would be, can their sexual orientation alone allow this discrimination by the Church. In the past, they could put rouge on their discrimination by saying "no unmarried couples" and the Mass. law punches a hole in that. So if there was a slippery slope, we slid over it along time ago ... somewhere around "making divorce easier to get." Definitely can't blame the gays for that one.
posted by bclark at 3:45 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


bclark : the short answer to your questions is NO.

like some of the other drama-soaked commenters on this thread, you didn't do even the minimum of reading all the comments of the person you're attacking. as it pertains to attacking me, neither have you read at least the two links i provide in one of them to previous articles i've written on the subject.

anyhow, am not just looking forward to lobbying against DOMA. i want marriage considered unconstitutional if it can't be for all peoples, gay or straight.

if it's the sanctity of marriage that people are fighting over, the states should not have a bone to pick on that fight. make "marriage" unconstitutional and give it back to the churches; but make it illegal for registries to perform and recognize marriages as well.

"the State" should only be in the business of civil unions --the real "social contract" constitutionally acceptable in our courts in which religion should have no bearing and discrimination would be unacceptable.
posted by liza at 7:14 AM on December 5, 2008


Jesus Christ, ericb, learn to link.

is this a joke? ericb is like the all-time king of comment linkers. whenever anyone says anything, ericb is back in minutes with the stats and analysis links to shed some light on it.
posted by shmegegge at 8:38 AM on December 5, 2008


like some of the other drama-soaked commenters on this thread, you didn't do even the minimum of reading all the comments of the person you're attacking. as it pertains to attacking me, neither have you read at least ithe two links i provide in one of them to previous articles i've written on the subject.

Thanks, liz, for being such an expert on what I've read and haven't read, but you underestimate the amount of reading I did before starting to participate. I'm not attacking you, I was attempting to help point out why so many people are reacting so strongly to what you wrote. In the future, I guess I should avoid having conversations with you until I've become an expert on everything you've wrote: duly noted, but so not my buzzsaw to kiss.

It doesn't, however, change my perspective on some of what you wrote, how you've chosen to clarify that statement, or how you attempt to make attempts to engage you on that topic into arguments about our drama-soaked lack of reading comprehension. Those are such low-hanging fruits of debate. However, despite that, I don't share your desire to make all marriages unconstitutional as a tactical approach. That to me seems like a great to invite a topic that distracts from the core issues by reinforcing that the gay community is completely removed from the religious community.
posted by bclark at 10:06 AM on December 5, 2008


Being a Los Angeles resident, I was actually tempted to march with folks out in Hollywood after Prop 8 passed. Until I saw how many gay folks criticizing black folks for voting for Prop 8. One even justified his calling of black folks "niggers" because he was called a "faggot."

I noticed that the biggoted gay folks tended to be white males. Then I started thinking, did the anti-Prop 8 folks do any effective outreach into non-white communities?

All Prop 8 arguments up until about a week before the election focused on teaching gay marriage in school. The Prop 8 folks framed the argument, and steered the whole campaign along to "hey we can't teach kids about gay marriage in schools!!"

Eventually the anti-Prop 8 guys made a commercial that compared Prop 8 to Japanese internment camps and laws criminalizing interracial marriage, but by that time it was too little, too late. Anti-Prop 8 spent so much time arguing about teaching gay marriage in school, that they seemed to have forgotten the core of the reason Prop 8 was evil - the removal of fundamental civil rights.

Distracting voters from the civil rights argument was a masterful stroke on behalf of the pro-Prop 8 camp.

Ultimately, any vote comes down to political campaigning and outreach. This includes Prop 8. Despite the fact that it's a no-brainer when it comes to fundamental civil rights for some of us, such is not true for everybody. You actually have to use rhetoric, and persuade people of your cause, no matter how valiant.

And this is California. You don't win campaigns without outreach to non-white communities.

My take on the anti-Prop 8 campaign is that it was weak, and it was insular. Their target audiences were people like me, people like them - highly-educated, socially liberal people. They focused a lot of their campaign on the Internet, on YouTube and blogs.

When anti-Prop 8 had a TV ad, do you know who the celebrity face was? Diane Feinstein. As soon as I saw that, I thought, man we're going to lose. How disconnected to the world do you have to be to try to convince voters with Diane Feinstein?

Where was the Ellen DeGeneres / Portia Del Rossi commercial? Where was the Magic Johnson commercial? Where was the Leo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie commercial? If they existed, California voters didn't see them. I would have preferred a Sean Penn commercial to a Diane Feinstein one.

Bigotry might be one reason Prop 8 won. Christian Fundys, old folks, maybe even black and brown and yellow folks who all hate gays, they might be a reason as well.

I think the biggest reason Prop 8 won is that the anti-Prop 8 campaign was a failure. It failed to use its resources to speak to everyone. It failed to outreach to the communities that mattered. It failed to speak to the hearts of voters, to touch us, to help us feel the emotional draw to vote No.

It failed to preach to the Christian communities the values of love and acceptance, and instead let them rely on arguments of fear and Biblical bigotry. It failed to tell Hispanics and Blacks how banning gay marriage could affect their communities. It failed to show us that gay marriage doesn't hurt anybody.

So, if somebody out there thinks that gay folks are wrapped up in their own little white male world, I can see why.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:42 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


The tactic of working toward making marriages illegal is as divisive and fruitless as attacking minority religious people for being hypocritical.

What needs to happen for gay marriage to be universally accepted is to make the issue itself about the moral, ethical and religious freedom TO get married rather than a legal freedom FROM discrimination.

Christians of all stripes should be at the forefront of this ideological shift and demand for inclusion and universal love rather than on the barricades against it. It is a failure of the churches that they have not all accepted that, but it is a failure of the gay rights movement that it hasn't been more central to the argument, as Liza and Jabberjaw point out. Instead of handing out blame, let's reach out in camaraderie! (No fisting jokes plz). One thing this means is cutting out all the comparisons to the racial CRM. Try something else. That just annoys the people you're trying to persuade, whether it's justified or not. Also stop railing against religion all the time--it sets up the bigots for martyrdom. Instead, how bout:

Two people committing to join for life and raise a family is a cornerstone of any nation that thinks of itself as a moral authority. Preventing two individuals from joining a sacred union is destabilizing and divisive. Everyone should be able to participate in the mainstream of American culture, not just for their own sake, but to preserve the Home and Hearth traditions that make our country great. (or to paraphrase Family Guy: "Why shouldn't gays be as miserable as the rest of us?")

In conclusion, ffs lefties quit freaking out and eating each other's tails and harshing the universe's mellow. The hardened distinctions between parties and ideologies are breaking down these days, let's use the opportunity to form alliances between historically divided groups rather than forming new barriers to understanding.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:44 AM on December 5, 2008


I do know that it is reasonable for the Catholic charity's directors to fear that their right to exercise their religious beliefs might be curtailed by the implementation of Massachusetts law,

I think you are being disingenuous, because you clearly understand that this could be said of any "religious belief" that violates civil law, e.g., human sacrifice, use of illegal herbs as sacraments, discriminating against racial minorities and women, or, yes, gays. So you're trying to paint as reasonable these Catholics who fear their illegal and unconstitutional behavior will become illegal in black-letter law, whereas, they are, in fact, not. But you apparently have some ax to grind here and want to pretend that there is no pretense in your restating the problem in terms of religious beliefs, rather than in terms of immoral and illegal behavior. Whatever. If it gets you where you want to go, keep it up.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:47 PM on December 7, 2008


I can't believe how differently I'm reading The World Famous' comments from how others clearly are.

Please correct me if I'm mistaken but:

The Catholic church can be reasonable about their fears of having their actions restricted without those actions themselves being reasonable.

Put another way, the catholic church was (hypothetically) absolutely right in its fear that making interracial marriages legal would force it to adopt to mixed-race couples, that does not make its practice of refusing adoptions to those couples reasonable. They were right, they are going to be forced to either lump it or leave it, they are going to be forced to adopt to homosexual couples. The Massachusetts decision supports this entirely: from their perspective they are facing restriction of their rights.

From the outside they never had this right but from the internal perspective they did and now it is being restricted.
posted by Skorgu at 4:06 AM on December 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


You are not mistaken, Skorgu.

Mental Wimp, however, is mistaken.
posted by The World Famous at 8:34 AM on December 8, 2008


What's your point, World Famous? Public service must follow public standards, even though the private persons or groups performing that service may have religious objections to those standards.

"They can be reasonable about their fears of having their actions restricted"... well sure! They chose to involve themselves in a public matter, but that doesn't give them the right to dictate its terms. As much as I appreciate their selfless service in the realm of adoption and foster care, those children do not belong to the church and the church does not get unilateral say in their future.

It's important to note, this is not an issue of a law being crafted specifically to outlaw a religious belief (that homosexuality is a sin). Nor is it crafted specifically to legitimize a competing belief. Pro-gay-adoption or pro-gay-marriage laws are about extending secular rights and benefits to people who meet the rational secular criteria for them. "The couple in question having exactly one penis and one vagina, and not on the same person" has absolutely, positively zero bearing on whether they can make medical decisions for each other.

This, I believe, obviates the first amendment concerns that have been used here to defend the church's position, just as the rational secular protections against child exploitation obviate first amendment concerns from "marry off your 12-year-old daughter to a 40-year-old" sects.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:06 PM on December 8, 2008


What's your point, World Famous?

If you read my posts above, I think I have made clear what my point is. If I am such a poor writer that my point cannot be easily found by reading my posts, you might try using your browser's "find" function for the words "my point," which will lead you to a couple of posts where I use those words to reiterate what my point is. I do not always use the term "my point" when I state my point, but on a couple of occasions I did. You will get a better picture of it if you read the rest, as well.

I think (or I hope, anyway) that you will find that you agree with my point, given the content of your post.
posted by The World Famous at 12:55 PM on December 8, 2008


Newsweek's cover story this week: The Religious Case for Gay Marriage
"....All the religious rhetoric, it seems, has been on the side of the gay-marriage opponents, who use Scripture as the foundation for their objections.

The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: 'The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition.'

To which there are two obvious responses: First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. 'Marriage' in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God's will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should."
posted by ericb at 1:35 PM on December 8, 2008


Wow. That Newsweek article is a train wreck. Thanks for posting the link, ericb.
posted by The World Famous at 1:47 PM on December 8, 2008


Thanks for the condescension. I did indeed read your arguments, but I took your advice and did a ctrl-f anyway:

"My point (and I'm sorry if I did not make this clear) was that a) the Catholic charity, it seems, really did shut down because it was forced to (and again, I'm taking at face value the characterizations of the situation set forth in this thread); and b) if that is the case, it is not unreasonable for many religious people in California to be concerned that, if California law mirrors that of Massachusetts, similar problems may arise for their own religious beliefs."

Well, (a) was false, and (b) was contingent on (a). So your first usage of "my point" proved nothing at all. You later amended it to meet the facts but in a way that was self-evident and thus proved nothing we didn't already know.

So yes, as I said, you're right that the law can impact the actions of religious people in ways that are inconsistent with their beliefs. So? I asked what your point was because I assume that can't be it, that your previous "my point"s were in the context of the posts that contained them, but that you were setting it up for something more substantive. Because if that's it, "they may have to obey the law", then you've spent a lot of effort and taken a very abrasive tone trying to prove something to us that we already knew.

If you're trying to make a claim that any such law is a violation of the first amendment, or that it's not but it's still a justification for the yes-on-8 stance, then I'm afraid you do need to be more explicit about your logic because I feel those points have been addressed exhaustively.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:51 PM on December 8, 2008


Thanks for the condescension.

I have no intent of being condescending. It seemed to me that the point you were trying to make was one that I had already been through exhaustively above, and I did not see any point in starting up the same thing again. Sorry if I came across as condescending.

I'm thinking that maybe you missed this:

"I am, though, trying to point out that some (though certainly not all) of the fears that drove people to vote for Prop. 8 were reasonable, given the foreseeable effects of constitutionally-mandated same-sex marriage to religious freedom in this country."

Given the content of your post above, I would think that you would agree wholeheartedly with my earlier statement that "religious people who are afraid that same-sex marriage will lead to far-reaching religious freedom conflicts are justified in that fear." Wouldn't you?

Please note that I am not making any normative statement about same-sex marriage, nor am I interested in arguing about whether or not various effects of same-sex marriage by judicial interpretation of the Constitution on religion actually are violative of the various clauses of the First Amendment.
posted by The World Famous at 2:11 PM on December 8, 2008


I didn't miss it, it just seemed to boil down to the same "they have a right to be scared" claim that doesn't really mean much in and of itself since their fears do not intrinsically speak to the legitimacy of either side of the debate.

"I would think that you would agree wholeheartedly with my earlier statement that 'religious people who are afraid that same-sex marriage will lead to far-reaching religious freedom conflicts are justified in that fear.'"

Far-reaching? No. I don't see any conflict in here that's any more meaningful than those used to "justify" anti-miscegenation laws, a point which was brought up to you by Blazecock Pileon and then again, and to which you have yet to respond in detail. Your only response that I saw was to say that the example showed how Loving was different from the gay marriage debate, when in fact we were pointing it out as a strongly analogous situation.

I guess the crux of my confusion is evident in this quote, which I admit I overlooked before:

"But, given the strength of their racist convictions, I can see the logic behind their opposition (though, again, I adamantly disagree with them)."

This statement does not make much sense to me. Strong racist convictions would seem to be inherently illogical, and thus the same would apply to opposition based on those convictions. Perhaps you just meant that you can explain their opposition based on racism, without speaking to the logic or illogic of it. If that's true, then fine, but at the risk of being a broken record I don't quite see the point of saying so since I'm pretty sure we all know that already.

Since you were drawing an analogy, complete the parallel by replacing "racism" with "homophobia" in the previous paragraph and I think you'll better understand my confusion.

And believe me, I "get" the difference between understanding the validity of a viewpoint, and agreeing with its conclusions. What I don't see is how you've justified even the validity of the yes-on-8 viewpoint such that its supporters aren't necessarily irrational bigots.
posted by Riki tiki at 3:31 PM on December 8, 2008


I didn't miss it, it just seemed to boil down to the same "they have a right to be scared" claim that doesn't really mean much in and of itself since their fears do not intrinsically speak to the legitimacy of either side of the debate.

Nothing in this thread is new. This entire topic is a kabuki play at this point. An argument needs not speak to the legitimacy of either side to have merit in a discussion. Context is good. Viz:

This statement does not make much sense to me. Strong racist convictions would seem to be inherently illogical, and thus the same would apply to opposition based on those convictions.

Strong racist convictions start with different priors than you and I and are in that sense illogical. Sure, based on objective scientific evidence they're illogical too, yet Prop 8 passed. People hold illogical beliefs, understanding them is the key to changing them. Castigating and misrepresenting (not you specifically, the thread in general) someone trying to make a substantive point regarding the motivations and internal processes of those you (and I) disagree with is not the way forward.
posted by Skorgu at 3:50 PM on December 8, 2008


The Catholic church can be reasonable about their fears of having their actions restricted without those actions themselves being reasonable.


Disagree, vehemently. The two are not separable except rhetorically.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:24 PM on December 8, 2008


Thank you, Skorgu, and fair enough, but I think you overstep when you say "understanding them is the key to changing them." That may be true for some people, and it may be true for some beliefs. But prejudice, as a rule, comes from a very guarded place in people's minds, and once you're identified as an agent of change you're immediately delegitimized -- often by putting you into the same "low" status as those you're trying to defend. Hence, straight supporters of gay rights having their own sexuality questioned, or white supporters of african-american rights being called "[n word]-lovers".

I guess what I'm saying is that the effort-to-reward ratio is untenable for that kind of conversion. It's great when it happens, makes for heartwarming stories of stodgy ol' boys learning a lesson about tolerance and acceptance, but it's the exception and not the rule and the effort that went into reforming that one bigot could've been put to more constructive uses -- like preaching that same tolerance to young people whose brains haven't hardened yet.

So no, I don't trouble myself with the hope that homophobic opposition to gay marriage can be reasoned with. It can be reduced by social pressure, diluted by life experiences, or simply fade with the passing of generations, but I don't think "winning the argument" will ever happen on a noteworthy scale.

In the meantime, it's enough to be able to identify when someone is wielding a position of public authority as a tool for their own bigotry. Crystal Dixon may never realize that gay people deserve the same rights, but we don't have to stoop to her level of discourse to recognize that it's inappropriate for her to represent it as public policy on any scale.
posted by Riki tiki at 5:10 PM on December 8, 2008


Mental Wimp: I can't mount a worthy debate on the issue now unfortunately. However, even granting your point if they can be separated rhetorically, might that be beneficial to this debate?

Riki tiki: Well said. I don't particularly have an opinion on what to actually do about this whole mess (save waiting for the old bigots to die) but I do know friendly fire when I see it.
posted by Skorgu at 2:58 AM on December 9, 2008


if they can be separated rhetorically, might that be beneficial to this debate?

Perhaps. I haven't thought that through. How would you use that rhetorical separation to further the issue?
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:30 AM on December 9, 2008


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