Jersey caught the gay
December 14, 2006 6:15 PM   Subscribe

The gay. So New Jersey approved civil unions for same-sex relationships joining Connecticut and and Vermont in the CUS-SR club. Need another reason to move to the Garden State? Here's one. And another. Don't worry, we have room for everyone. Er...maybe not.
posted by jourman2 (112 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Woo, NJ!
posted by figment of my conation at 6:19 PM on December 14, 2006

Wow, Jersey is getting a lot less sucky than when I grew up right nearby (just across the border in NY state). Good for you guys.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 6:24 PM on December 14, 2006

It's Jersey. The toxic waste has made all the residents into hermaphrodites anyway, so it's not like it really matters.
posted by jonmc at 6:31 PM on December 14, 2006

Oh come on now. Toxic waste only blankets the area between Secaucus and Ocean County. Oh, and Camden too. Otherwise Jersey's a fine place.
posted by clevershark at 6:33 PM on December 14, 2006

Yes...only three comments in and we've got a Jersey hater.

posted by jourman2 at 6:34 PM on December 14, 2006

There's a "low-hanging fruit" joke in there somewhere (sorry).
posted by clevershark at 6:38 PM on December 14, 2006

As I understand, NJ is just a suburb of NYC. I wish to avoid the latter, so I guess I must the former as well. :P
posted by taursir at 6:42 PM on December 14, 2006

As I understand, NJ is just a suburb of NYC.

Only half of it, the other part is a suburb of Philly.
posted by octothorpe at 6:43 PM on December 14, 2006

At least we don't have to pump our own gas... and gas is cheap here too... So nyah...
posted by daninnj at 6:49 PM on December 14, 2006

CT is still a better choice. And I'm from NJ.
posted by smackfu at 6:54 PM on December 14, 2006

Yes...only three comments in and we've got a Jersey hater.

Dude, three of my heroes (Bruce Springsteen, Kevin Smith & Tom Perrotta) are from Jersey, I love Jersey. It was just too hard to resist.
posted by jonmc at 7:02 PM on December 14, 2006

I was fond of NJ when I lived there and went to college, but civil union is simply a way around legal marriage, and the taxes on property in the garden state are about as bad as it can get. It was my understanding that the nicest place around was Staten Island,till they put in the Verazanno Bridge, and then barbarians flooded the Island; Islanders (natives) moved to Jersey; Jerseyites moved to Penn; Pennzies moved further West (Ohio etc) and thus the West was settled.
posted by Postroad at 7:21 PM on December 14, 2006

From what I understand (and I"m sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong) unlike the other states, you don't HAVE to move to NJ to get hitched. You simply go there for the ceremony, and then return to NY (or wherever else) and sue that state to recognize your union. Easy peasy!
posted by hermitosis at 7:25 PM on December 14, 2006

I joke plenty about NJ, but I'll also be the first to say that Hoboken kicks ass.
posted by clevershark at 8:13 PM on December 14, 2006

As someone from South Jersey... we miss out on the all the Jersey stereotypes. :( It's basically Ohio.


Wooo civil unions! It's basically gay marriage, until the older generation dies. Then our kids cross out "civil unions" and write in "marriage" in the law books, while shaking their heads at us in disbelief.
posted by ®@ at 8:26 PM on December 14, 2006

begin derail

I'm all for civil unions. I think that they're necessary in today's society.But if you want to get married in the eyes of the Allmighty whatever, go straight and marry someone of the opposite sex. Duh. Semantics being what they are, I really don't see the difference as long as the benefits and rights of a union or a marriage are equal. If you're a practicing Catholic/Christian and also gay, you're a hypocrite. It's like wanting to marrying a hardcore Jewish girl in a temple with the rites of the Torah and refusing to convert to Judiasm.

I think the "husband" of Mr. Smith should get to control his assets after he dies, and receive pensions and SS benefits. But the sticking point is the name. I personally couldn't care less, but marriage is a belief based term, and all mainstream religions do not accept homosexuality as something to be tolerated. This is a government sidestep that I applaud. Don't give the religious loonies the ammo to derail this by forcing the term "marriage" down their throats.


and now you may return to your regularly scheduled posting
posted by Debaser626 at 9:19 PM on December 14, 2006

The New Jersey law won't grant survivor rights in Social Security or in most private pensions, both of which are governed by Federal law which doesn't recognize any gay unions (whether called marriage or not).
posted by MattD at 9:34 PM on December 14, 2006

“the distance between nothing and civil unions is greater than the distance between civil unions and marriage.”

He's right, and it's good--but it's not equal. This will be challenged and once it's shown that the same rights and benefits that straight couples get in NJ aren't being fully bestowed, the courts will require full civil marriage.

Debaser, marriage in the US is a legal, civic contract, not a religious thing. Getting married by a priest or rabbi is not a legal marriage. Civil unions are not transportable (unlike marriage) nor do they bestow the over 1000 rights and benefits the federal govt bestows on straight couples who marry and their families. More here. A civil unioned couple in NJ goes over the state line to NY or PA and they're nothing. That's not equal to marriage--the courts required the legislature to give all the same rights and benefits--not some of them.
posted by amberglow at 9:37 PM on December 14, 2006

more on the ruling and what comes next at Blue Jersey--... "We want to try out civil unions and look at the pros and cons for gay and lesbian couples. ..." ...
posted by amberglow at 9:53 PM on December 14, 2006

and a better rundown of who supports marriage and who doesn't in the Assembly and Senate
posted by amberglow at 9:55 PM on December 14, 2006

If the Supremes actually care about what the Constitution says, then a couple who obtains a civil union in Jersey is entitled to the rights of marriage in Texas, or any other state that has banned civil unions. The US Constitution trumps state Constitutions and the relevant part of the US Constitution is pretty unambigiuous

Article IV.

Section 1
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.

It doesn't say anything about full faith and credit only for public acts that Dobson and the other homobigots like.

Of course, I'm sure that the twits actually sitting on the court will manage to ignore the document they're supposed to interperate, and instead issue a ruling that satisfies their own sick desire to see some people condemned to second class citizenship.

Debaser626 We tried separate but equal in the 1960's, it didn't work then, and it won't work today, and I really lothe people like you who think its acceptable.

Furthermore, you happen to be wrong in virtually every particular. Marriage has multiple meanings, only one of which is religious. If marriage were religious the US would be forbidden from performing marriages.

I'm also quite curious about your views on divorce, specifically I'm wondering if you also believe that any divorced person who also claims to be Christian is a hypocrite. (yes, that's a trap, but if you don't answer you're a not just a bleater for the homobigots, you're also a coward).
posted by sotonohito at 10:28 PM on December 14, 2006

Oh yes, I forgot to add: Go New Jersey!
posted by sotonohito at 10:32 PM on December 14, 2006

This former Jersey resident applauds.

sotonohito, every civil rights movement has tension between the radicals and the incrementalists. I prefer to think of this as one necessary acclimating step on the way to true gender-neutral law.

But Debaser is probably missing the point that the legislature passed this law under orders from the state Supreme Court, and passed as limited a law as they could and still hope to satisfy the court.

Anyway, I'm in Wisconsin, which just passed a DOMA for the state constitution. So from where I sit, Jersey is farther along.
posted by dhartung at 10:44 PM on December 14, 2006

If you're a practicing Catholic/Christian and also gay, you're a hypocrite.

This is going to be an awesome argument for the ninety billionth time. Can we shortcut to the summary?
posted by booksandlibretti at 10:55 PM on December 14, 2006

Yup. And I live in Texas, which is positively retrograde, so yeah, NJ is taking a step in the right direction, but the fact that they haven't made marriage open to all of their citizens is still wrong.

I recognize the tension between incrimentalists and radicals, and there's no doubt that I fall squarely into the radical camp. But Debaser626 wasn't talking incrementalism, she/he/it was talking pure defeatism. Take the puny pseud-marriage offered and shut up. Bugger that for a lark.

Prior to 1967 I'd have been in the same boat as my cousin, forbidden by law from marrying my partner. Fortunately equality was extended to interracial couples, so I'm married. I don't have a civil union, despite the fact that various religions have traditionally defined marriage as only between members of of the same "race". My marriage is equal legally equal to every marriage in the US. Accepting anything less for my cousin is wrong and that's all there is to it.
posted by sotonohito at 11:01 PM on December 14, 2006

What amberglow said.

I say either equalize marriage (and call it "marriage"), abolish marriage and extend civil unions to straight couples, or give up the idea of favoring couples entirely and treat everyone as single individuals -- which is my position. But yes, if one must favor couples civil union is a step forward compared to "DOMA".

And debaser69, to most Protestant Christian denominations marriage is not a sacramental state and a wedding is not a religious ritual: to Protestants the only sacraments are Baptism and Communion (also called Eucharist or Lord's Supper). One gets married in a church by a clergyperson as a matter of custom not doctrine, and (in the U.S.A. anyway) the marriage license is still issued by the State. So unless you mean to say that marriages between heterosexual Protestants are not really marriages then you might want to rethink your position; if you mean to say that straight Baptist couples are not really married either you'll face worse opposition than I'd bother to provide.
posted by davy at 11:14 PM on December 14, 2006

davy - "give up the idea of favoring couples entirely and treat everyone as single individuals -- which is my position"

Errr, what about legal wills? visitation rights? veteran benefit plans?

Are you saying that you'd prefer that every citizen had as few rights as same-sex couples do today? I'm confused.
posted by tehloki at 12:03 AM on December 15, 2006

every civil rights movement has tension between the radicals and the incrementalists.

It's not radical at all to want the promises of our Constitution and laws extended to all whom they apply. It's not radical to want what all people who grow up here are brought up to want (which includes marriage). It's actually the exact opposite of radical, and deeply traditional--staid even.
posted by amberglow at 3:15 AM on December 15, 2006

Sorry to nitpick, but isn't it "teh gay," not "the gay?"
posted by grouse at 3:19 AM on December 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

...To settle for civil unions is to settle for political futility, expediency, timidity, and comfort. It lodges same-sex families into a limbo difficult to escape. They become perceived as having the same rights, making those who want equality grow complacent.
Third, instead of utilizing the full 180 days given to them by the State Supreme Court, New Jersey's Democratic leadership rushed through a civil unions bill. ...

posted by amberglow at 3:30 AM on December 15, 2006

How about we stop referring to civil marriages as marriages and leave that historically religious term to the churches. Then start calling civil marriages civil unions and offer them to anyone who wants 'em.
posted by heydanno at 5:10 AM on December 15, 2006

Because they'd have to change the wording of thousands and thousands of local, state, and federal laws and regulations.
posted by amberglow at 6:18 AM on December 15, 2006

they'd have to change the wording of thousands and thousands of local, state, and federal laws and regulations.

No they wouldn't. Only a statutory interpretation law would be need, much like the laws in some jurisdictions that say that any law referring to people using male pronouns also applies to women.
posted by grouse at 6:51 AM on December 15, 2006

but it would have to cover "spouse", "family", "husband", "wife", "married", etc, and all of the automatic beneficiary things spouses get (SS, pensions, etc)
posted by amberglow at 7:12 AM on December 15, 2006

every single one of these federal things, for just some.
posted by amberglow at 7:16 AM on December 15, 2006

I didn't think I'd ever say this about my motherland: I'm proud of you.
posted by effwerd at 7:34 AM on December 15, 2006

This is actually a huge dissapointment, because civil unions are fundamentally inferior to recognized marriage. Remember, the NJ Supreme Court came within one vote of mandating same-sex marriages, instead of leaving this issue up to the legislature. (BTW, the media reporting on this facet of the story is terribly misleading. The mention the fact that the vote was 4-3, leading people to believe that the homosexual plaintiffs barely won. In fact, the court was unanimous in granting same sex couples "eqaul rights" but four were unwilling to force the legislature's hand and mandate marriage instead of civil unions).

Civil unions will not be respected out of the state. Sotonohinto argues that the Full Faith and Credit Clause would force other states to recognize civil unions. This is incorrect, the Supreme Court has long read into the clause a "public policy" exception, which bascially means that if one state objects to a second state's acts on moral grounds, the first state is not obligated to reciprocate. (The exception is far more complicated than I've described it here, but that's the gist of it.) Furthermore, public policy exceptions to the side, marriages, even heterosexual ones, are not considered to be "public Acts, Records, or judicial Proceedings." All fifty states recognize heterosexual marriages performed in the other, but they are not required to do so by the Constitution.

In fact, back before the early 1960s, states that still had bans on interracial marriages would not accept the legitimacy of such marriages performed in states that did. Those states were able to overcome challenges based on the Full Faith and Credit Clause for the reasons described above. These laws stayed in effect until the Supreme Court of the US struck them down as a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

That issue aside, civil unions also present the problem, as amberglow has mentioned, of "equality fatigue." People wil being to see civil unions as "good enough." Civil unions are both seperate from and not equal to marriage, but this bill is enough of a compromise to satisfy most. (Not that I think civil unions are a bad thing - it is certainly better than the lack of legal rights offered to same sex couple previously.)

I'll end by noting one good, but extremely cynical, thing about NJ's choice of civil unions over marriage. As soon as a state starts to offer same-sex marriage to non-state residents (this could happen in MA, because the new Democratic governor may fight to get that current limitation repealed) the rush is on. Same sex couples will flock to that state to get married, come home, and then sue for their rights as married couples. (Or even more interestingly, a couple will get married and then sue for divorce in the same-sex marriage state. This presents a special issue under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, because while states aren't required to reciprocate marriages, they are required to reciprocate divorces. Why? Because divorces are "judicial proceedings." If the home state refuses to recognize the divorce - this will go straight to federal court). Most of these cases will be thrown out initially, either due to state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage or the federal Defense of Marriage Act. However, some of these will be appealed, and eventually the matter will reach the Supreme Court. (For instance, it is not clear that DOMA is constitutional because, on its face, it would allow states to ignore a same-sex divorce, which as described above, probably violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause).

Now, for the cynical point - I'm not sure that at this point, the Supreme Court would rule in favor of the same-sex plainitffs (on whatever issue they bring up). We all know the court is four liberals, four conservatives, and Justice Kennedy (who is conservative overall, but has a pretty liberterian/socially liberal streak in him - he wrote the decisions decriminalizing gay sodomy and struck down the juvenile death penalty). That's not a very friendly court for social activists to walk into, and strategically, it may be better for people to wait to make a court case out of same sex marriage. I think we've seen the peak of same-sex paranoia in the 2004 elections, but it is still a potent issue two years later, and rushing to the court house doors is not going to make things easier. (At the same time, the whole point of constitutional rights is to protect individual liberty from political whim - so I guess it depends on how much equality you're willing to sacrifice in the short term to allow for a better chance at equality eventually).
posted by thewittyname at 7:37 AM on December 15, 2006 [2 favorites]

Without gay marriage, how will the Republicans hold on to the government?

posted by mmrtnt at 7:58 AM on December 15, 2006

as for the current Supremes, they wouldn't rule in favor--i had hoped that pre-01 this would have gone to them, but it never did. We'll have to wait til Scalia and Thomas kick the bucket now, unfortunately. DOMA was clearly unconstitutional and should have been challenged then too. Marriages in Hawaii as well were in their state courts all during the 90s.
posted by amberglow at 10:59 AM on December 15, 2006

It's not radical at all to want the promises of our Constitution and laws extended to all whom they apply. It's not radical to want what all people who grow up here are brought up to want (which includes marriage). It's actually the exact opposite of radical, and deeply traditional--staid even.

Stop arguing with people who are on your side.
posted by dhartung at 12:31 PM on December 15, 2006

dhartung--presenting it as a choice between incrementalists/timidity/"realists"/etc and radicals is absolutely false.
posted by amberglow at 12:46 PM on December 15, 2006

amberglow The term "radical" isn't bad. Following the US Civil War the people who wanted to implement full and immediate civil rights for the freed slaves were termed the "Radical Republicans". Its an honor to be counted as their ideological decendents. Radical simply refers to a sudden and sweeping change.

Given that currently gays don't enjoy equality with straights, at least not where marriage and so on is concerned, the desire to see gays immediately get the full package of rights is radical. Its also the only proper, human, and civilized, point of view that exists.

I'm a radical, and so are you. Don't deny it, revel in the term. Its appropriate, and it has a rich historic tradition of being the winning team. Mostly when the incrementalists won out the result was, unpleasant. Note the horrors of Jim Crow, for example, which set back the full equality of black Americans by over a hundred years. That's what incrementalism gets us, decades, if not centuries, of inequality while they get to pat themselves on the back for being so thoughtful and reasonable.

We're advocating a sudden change in society, a change for the better, but a sudden and deep shift none the less. That's radical. But I tend to think of the term in the mid 1980's "Bill and Ted" sense... "Woha! Radical dude!"
posted by sotonohito at 2:16 PM on December 15, 2006

I just don't see it as radical at all--it's just an expansion of existing rights--something this country has always done, whether it's voting, or education access, or labor laws or health and safety laws or workplace comp or disability laws, etc.

It's also because we're all brought to fall in love and marry, and we've internalized that socialization too, even if we're gay or lesbian or whatever. I think many straight people see it as entirely natural and entirely un-radical too--especially those under 40.

I guess i'd have to think that everything is radical to believe that this fight is. I see "radical" as something big and really sweeping and life- and society-changing--like a switch from capitalism to communism, or an emancipation or something.
posted by amberglow at 3:34 PM on December 15, 2006

I'm a liberal; i'm a progressive; i'm even mildly socialist--i'm no radical tho.
posted by amberglow at 3:35 PM on December 15, 2006

Of course its an expansion of existing rights to include people traditionally denied those rights. When women were granted the right to vote it was "just" an expansion of existing rights. When the various "Black Codes" put in place by the former Confederate states it was "just" an expansion of existing rights. The entire history of freedom is "just" the history of more people being granted the rights formerly given only to an elite.

But let's not pretend that such moves were not upsetting to society. Women had been considered inferior to men for most of recorded history. Blacks had been considered inferior to whites for over 500 years by the time of the civil rights movement back in the 1960's. Society was built around those false assumptions and changing the law required a restructuring of society.

Similarly our current society has been built around the idea that homosexuality is devient, evil, wrong, and in all ways inferior to hetrosexuality. It was only a couple of years ago that SCotUS ruled that laws prohibiting homosex were unconstitutional.

The truth is that the opponents of same sex marriage are quite correct, at least with regards to the magnitude of what we're proposing, if not its desireability. We are proposing that society officially endorse homosexuality as being fully equal with hetrosexuality. They say that in a tone of horror, I say it with pride. As a civilized, decent, human being you don't see this as a huge shift, its merely recognizing what should be obvious to any decent, civilized, human being: gay people are equal to straight people.

But a huge portion of the world, including our nation, is neither decent nor civilized. They don't think that homosexuals are vile devients, they *KNOW* that homosexuals are vile devients. Allowing same sex marriage is truly as sweeping and deep a change as allowing women to vote, or ending slavery. I make no comparison between the horrors of slavery and the inequities suffered by homosexuals, but the social impact of the respective changes are comperable.

Right now there are hundreds of little, grind your face down, types of laws that either outright discriminate against homosexuals or allow discrimination against them. Once same sex marriage enters the picture every single one of those laws is going to be pretty much instantly invalidated. That alone makes same sex marriage a sweeping change.

The magnitude of a social change is not measured by how decent people view the change, but by how the change is viewed by those who would smash down others to make themselves feel socially superior.

All successful radical movements are considered utterly mainstream and non-radical once they succeed. We'll succeed, and twenty years after we do everyone will wonder what the big deal was.

You're still seeing "radical" as meaning wild, wolly, and dangerous. It isn't, it just means seeking a sudden and dramatic change. "The Nintendo Wii's controller is a radical departure from traditional designs." As an example. Radical can be bad, sure, but it isn't by definition.
posted by sotonohito at 4:34 PM on December 15, 2006

but it's really not a dramatic change--Look at Mass. And look at all the (civilized) nations that already have equal marriage laws. Defining our fights by what those opposed and horrified consider them to be is a mistake.
posted by amberglow at 7:05 PM on December 15, 2006

And it's a losing game--we gain nothing by adopting their sky-is-falling and extreme language (like when Santorum says we're a worse threat to the country than terrorism), and we lose possible support by not pointing out the clear and obvious similarities to straight people's hopes and wishes and needs and rights.
posted by amberglow at 7:06 PM on December 15, 2006

Like when 2 guys first went to a prom as dates--i was already in college and i was astounded at their courage and strength. It never even would have occurred to me that i could have done something like that, but they weren't radical--they were just braver, and the environment was more accepting.

Rosa Parks didn't do anything radical, nor was she a radical. She did what the white folks did every day. She also had incredible courage and strength, but wasn't radical, i don't think.

We have many many thousands of already-existing families and couples who are living their lives but need the rights and benefits and protections marriage provides. They were all brought up to want to meet that special someone and marry just like straight people, and now are going to court to get that right they should have. It may be seen by those who are shocked or angered or disgusted or insecure as a radical thing, but it's truly not--it's just a normal thing.
posted by amberglow at 7:12 PM on December 15, 2006

I'm not sure what you mean when you use the word "radical". Could you offer a definition please? Obviously we're meaning two different things when we use the same word, or we have wildly divergent worldviews. Given that we're in essential agreement on the issue, I suspect that we're arguing terminology (which is one of my major hobbies, I love arguing language), but I'd like to be sure.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to reply for around 20 hours or so, I'm in Japan at the moment and my net connection is through my university here, and they're about to kicke me out because they liked to close early on Saturday.

Looking forward to seeing your reply.
posted by sotonohito at 7:32 PM on December 15, 2006

I was really happy about this decision, until I read some opinions like amberglow's, and did some research and realized that this incremental change isn't really something that's going to make a huge difference. Gay couples would still be denied federal benefits, and it will take a Supremes ruling before other states will recognize the union.

It's just so unbelievable that in the 21st century we're still denying people basic rights based on who they love.
posted by dejah420 at 8:20 PM on December 15, 2006

I think it's more about how i see what "radical" means in terms of actions and desired results than about a dictionary definition--doing something in exactly the same manner and form as the people who already have the rights you want do it isn't radical in my book, whether it creates giant change or not. It's just "working within the system". Our families already exist and need rights. It's not the destruction or upsetting or stopping of anything or anyone else's rights. It doesn't even affect others' rights, no matter how much they may want everyone to think so.

Doing some act that is commonly done but hasn't been done by your group isn't usually radical, especially if it's to take part in a common and accepted tradition. These couples went to their City Halls and tried to get marriage licenses. Straight couples do that every single day. They were denied and went to court, unlike all the straight couples (who don't get denied). They didn't occupy the City Hall. They didn't force or demand change thru all the possible means available, violent or not. They didn't stop straight couples from getting their licenses. They didn't shut it all down or even disrupt it in any way, nor did they want to. They didn't even go to court to stop the process entirely--another available option to them, given its discriminatory nature. They did nothing radical at all--they followed the traditional procedure when dealing with government when they went to the City Halls and applied, and when they went to court when denied. (Every year here in NYC there's a Valentine's Day thing that happens where many of our couples go to City Hall to get licenses--they've been doing it every year for well over a decade--they get turned down again, and go home.) They didn't do anything different from any other law-abiding citizen.

In San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsome actually committed a radical act and the Mayor of New Paltz, NY, too, when they started issuing marriage licenses and actually marrying people in opposition to all the existing laws, procedures, and tradition. They stopped doing all their other work to commit illegal acts. The couples who wanted to marry didn't do anything other than follow the same, regular procedure straight couples do, in exactly the same manner and form.

Going out on strike when you're in a union and can't get the contract you need isn't radical either, even if it wholly disrupts people's lives and movements. Blowing up the subways without even negotiating is radical. Doing internal sabotage is radical. ... Following prescribed procedures to attain something isn't radical in my book. (In a related note, if Rosa Parks' busdriver that day had personally dragged her to the back or hit her or thrown her off the bus himself (instead of calling in the cops)--in contradiction to his required job and endangering all the other passengers--that would have been radical too, in my book. Ms. Parks herself did nothing radical nor was it anything other than what the white people had always done, in exactly the same manner as them--she got on the bus and sat down.)

A radical act or plan is not carried out by following the wholly usual and prescribed manners of behavior. Any change that results from the act or plan is not necessarily radical either (and on that note, there are many who say that any societal changes effected by non-radical acts and behavior ("working within the system", in other words) are much more rooted and lasting than others, even if they end up dramatically changing society). Just because others may call it radical or extreme or dangerous or a threat to families or a threat to America does not make it so.

Sorry this is so long--it's always hard for me to explain this kind of thing clearly.
posted by amberglow at 10:46 AM on December 16, 2006

I guess it's a combination of intent, actions, and behavior that makes something radical or not? The couples who want to marry don't intend anything radical--They weren't acting to change the system for the whole society--they just want the rights, benefits and protections straight couples and families get, and are entitled to them by the Constitution. Their actions exactly followed the regular procedures and were exactly the same as straight couples. Their behavior was not disruptive nor in any way out of the ordinary for those who deal with government, are denied, and seek redress. Their intent, behavior, and actions were not of those seeking radical change or radical action, but of those seeking the same rights they see all around them enjoying, and following the same procedures as those people do.
posted by amberglow at 10:54 AM on December 16, 2006

oh, one more thing--by doing things in this "normal" way, and for the "normal" reasons (which were personal and familial, like all couples and families), the power they have is actually enhanced--especially in terms of actually attaining the rights and benefits sought, which can only be gotten thru the legislatures and courts. By acting lawfully at all times, they made their case in ways radical actions and events would not have, and they've gained support (in the public, in the legislature, and in the courts) that radical actions and events would have denied them.

Different aims require different tactics and actions.
posted by amberglow at 11:00 AM on December 16, 2006

Yup. Definately arguing terminology [rolls up sleeves and grins in anticipation].

You seem to be defining "radical" to mean harmful, destructive, or outside boundaries. I think you are incorrect to deny the inherently radical nature of what we're both advocating because a) your definition of radical does not match the generally accepted definitiuons, and b) you seem to be in error about boundaries.

By acting lawfully at all times, they made their case in ways radical actions and events would not have

Here's a perfect example. You seem to equate "radical" with "unlawful". That is not part of the definition most people use.

I don't, personally, define radical as acting outside boundaries, but you seem to, and in that you seem to be inconsistant. I actually don't classify Ms. Parks' action as radical, however by your own definition I would assume you would. Ms. Parks was acting outside the proscribed procedures, just because those procedures are wrong, immoral, and bigoted does not mean that she wasn't acting outside them. The proscribed procedure for black people was to sit at the back of the bus, and more importantly the proscribed procedures of society in general (or at least society as it was dictated by the white elites) proscribed different rules for blacks and whites. By acting as if she had the very rights she was denied (legally, socially, procedurally, etc) Ms. Parks was very much acting outside the proscribed procedure.

Same goes for the gay people applying for marriage licenses on Valentine's Day [1]. The "Proscribed Procedure" applies only to straights. They are explicitly denied access to that procedure and therefore by acting as if they had the same rights as straights they are, same as Ms. Parks was, acting outside the proscribed procedure. Again, the proscribed procedure is wrong, bigoted, and unjust, but none of that changes the fact that they're acting outside the procedure.

Again, I don't classify either of those acts as "radical" becuase they aren't, they're protest, but protest is not necessarially radical.

You seem to be working on the assumption that it isn't outside bounds for a person to claim equality, and that simply isn't true. Every privilaged elite throughout history has opposed measures to bring about equality, often wars are fought over the issues. The reason they have to struggle for equality is because the procedures deny them equality, regardless of whether those procedures match the official ideology of the government or not.


I also think you are wrong with regards to how you view the situation. Any time a previously discriminated against group gains equality it's a major social shift. Yes, our law supposedly grants freedom, equality, and justice to all. But you know as well as I do that it isn't true, and never has been. The history of America could be written as the story of people simply trying to claim what should be rightfully theirs.

However the fact that the Constitution grants freedom and equality to all didn't make the shift from "blacks == slaves" to "blacks != slaves" any less of a major shift. Just because it *shouldn't* have been a major change didn't mean it wasn't.

That's where the "radical vs. incremental" argument enters, and that's what we're really arguing about. Every major social change has seen three groups emerge. The first is the conservative group (AKA, "History's Biggest Losers"), they simply argue that the situation as it is now is perfect, and there's no need to change it. In the same sex marriage argument they're the ones saying that marriage should be limited to straights.

The people arguing for change are classified as radicals or incrementalists. Incrementalists say that the change should take place slowly, or in steps. An example of this would be the majority of the abolitionist movement prior to the US Civil War. Most abolitionists argued for the slow phasing out of slavery, some argued that the current slaves should live out their entire lives as slaves, but their decendents should be free. Others proposed that slavery end over a period of time (usually 20 years or so), during which the labor of the slaves would be counted as repayment to their owners for the cost of purchasing them.

The radicals were those who argued that slavery should end now, with no payment to the slave owners, and that blacks should be given full and equal rights immediately. As always, the radicals were dead right, and the conservatives and their "incrementalist" appologists and/or allies were dead wrong.

Again, the term doesn't refer to violence, acting outside bounds, or any of the other things you have used in your own definitions. It refered purely to the speed at which they wanted the changes made, and the depth of the change.

You seem to equate "the way things should be" with how radical a change is. A change doesn't have to be largely different from how things are supposed to be in order to be radical, it merely needs to be suddenly, or largely, different from the way things actually are.

As I'm interperating your argument abolition, the civil rights movement, etc weren't radical because they merely set things to the way they should have been. That isn't the way the rest of the world defines "radical". Since the reality was that blacks were enslaved, and roughly half the country had its entire economy, society, etc built on the reality of slavery, when suddenly that reality was wildly altered (to bring about the way things should be) it was radical.

I will agree that often people use the word "radical" to mean bad, as in "radical religious right". The problem is that radical is a term that applies equally well to any large shift in society. If the fundamentalist nutjobs ever manage to bring about a theocracy, however they manage it (whether inside the system, or by violence, or by any means at all legal or illegal) the change to society would be radical.

Similarly, I will reiterate my argument that regardless of how things *should* be right now our society has discrimination against homosexuals built into its every level, laws, and custom. Yes, that's wrong, yes it isn't the way things should be. But that doesn't mean that when I advocate that we immediately, not over time, not in baby steps, but all of a sudden and right now, correct the situation I'm not advocating a radical change in society.

You are, naturally, free to use whatever definition you want for the term "radical", but you should be aware that most other people don't share your definition, and that you're setting yourself up for future annoyance if you continue to use your definition. By the general use definition you are a radical and you should be aware that most people using that term to describe you don't mean it as an insult, but simply as an accurate description.

A final note: As I mentioned, I enjoy arguing terminology, I'm a linguistic nit-picker, and I take great pleasure in pointless analysis of words, definitions, etc. If you don't share that enjoyment feel free to tell me so and I'll stop arguing with you. We're obviously in perfect agreement about the real issue, and if you aren't enjoying arguing the meaning of the word "radical" then I'll leave you alone.

[1] Two notes, first I find it magnificantly appropriate that they chose Valentine's Day. I was unaware of that particular bit of social protest until you mentioned it. Considering that St. Valentine was imprisoned for performing marriages contrary to Roman law, it is entirely appropriate and fitting that those denied marriage by our nation's unjust laws protest on Valentine's Day.
posted by sotonohito at 6:36 PM on December 16, 2006

dejah420 writes "It's just so unbelievable that in the 21st century we're still denying people basic rights based on who they love."

It has nothing to do with love, dejah. I firmly believe that most of the asshats who oppose equality believe that love doesn't enter into the equasion--it's only sex, to them. Deviant, immoral, bad sex. 'Course, the reason they think that is pure projection. Because the closet cases can 'pass' in straight society, and just get a quickie on the side, they have reduced their internal definition of homosexuality to 'where I like to put my pink bits,' and are thus unable to recognize that for those of us who aren't hiding, the bits-sticking isn't the biggest issue.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:48 PM on December 16, 2006

Again, the term doesn't refer to violence, acting outside bounds, or any of the other things you have used in your own definitions. It refered purely to the speed at which they wanted the changes made, and the depth of the change.

You seem to equate "the way things should be" with how radical a change is. A change doesn't have to be largely different from how things are supposed to be in order to be radical, it merely needs to be suddenly, or largely, different from the way things actually are.

Well, gay marriage is not suddenly or largely different from the way things actually are (which actually is my whole point, really--it's not different from what the majority wants nor is it different from what our society teaches us all to want). Look at Mass. and the countries that have it already. And i think the speed thing is very important too--it's taken since 92 (which is when Hawaiian couples first went to court to be married) and this struggle is still proceeding from state to state and court to court. We have decades more ahead of us as well. In no way could i call this speed or depth.

I do think national emancipation was radical, and i do think that some abolitionists were too. The majority weren't. The secessionists certainly were radical. Slaves had been freed in many states by the time we had the civil war--i believe Mass was one of the first to do so, back in the late 1700s--and it was not a new idea nor being done speedily at all. New states entering the union had to grapple with it as well.
I think there's a very big difference between owning other humans, and wanting to have the same rights as others, in the scale of injustices we do to each other. I think the remedy needed for slavery had to be more intensive and radical. I think the remedy for this doesn't need to be--and isn't--since it's not denying us life and liberty.

I think discounting actions in terms of judging whether something or someone is radical or not is wrong. It is those actions taken in pursuit of goals that end up defining the people fighting for those goals.
posted by amberglow at 7:27 PM on December 16, 2006

Also, we usually don't know what kind of change our actions will have in the future--in this situations we can see it in action in Mass. and in all those other countries, so even that is demonstable. Civil rights activists didn't know, women's libbers didn't know, abolitionists didn't know, etc--we do know and point to it elsewhere.
posted by amberglow at 7:29 PM on December 16, 2006

(demonstrable) : >
posted by amberglow at 7:30 PM on December 16, 2006

Because the closet cases can 'pass' in straight society, and just get a quickie on the side, they have reduced their internal definition of homosexuality to 'where I like to put my pink bits,' and are thus unable to recognize that for those of us who aren't hiding, the bits-sticking isn't the biggest issue.

Speaking of that: ‘hundreds of pastors’ in the same boat as Haggard
posted by amberglow at 7:34 PM on December 16, 2006

And this is pretty much the common idea of radicals and radical ideas and actions, no?

FRUSTRATED BY THE lack of progress on social and political issues and reacting to the turmoil that had spread across the land, a number of groups began to advocate radical measures to achieve their goals of justice and equality...
(article on SDS, Black Panthers, Weather Underground, and Yippies)

It's not the goals that makes something radical--it's how you go about trying to achieve them. The goals these groups were trying to achieve were not radical, and what made the people and groups radical (as opposed to mainstream groups or people working within or with the systems) was the manner they went about achieving those already existing goals.

and i'm totally loving this discussion, soto--i don't think it's just semantics tho--or it's that i'm talking tactics and actions defining the semantics?
posted by amberglow at 7:42 PM on December 16, 2006

CBS, Boston: NJ Gay Couples Won't Get All Benefits Of Marriage
posted by amberglow at 12:17 PM on December 17, 2006

I feel really oblivious. I missed one of the big differences in how we were using the term radical. You seem to be using the term largely in reference to means, in which case your anti-radical argument makes a lot of sense. I'm using the term in reference to ends, and from that POV your anti-radical argument doesn't make sense.

I also still think you're applying "well it *SHOULD* be" to your argument. "Well, gay marriage is not suddenly or largely different from the way things actually are" That sentence seems completley at odds with reality as I'm observing it. One state allows gay marriage, 49 deny gay marriage. There's, what, three states allowing "civil unions" (which we've both agreed aren't acceptable), leaving 47 states denying civil unions. Internationally things aren't that much better, a scattered handful of countries have marriage equality, with a few more granting separate-but-equal "civil unions".

Compare this to your agreement with me that emancipation was a radical end. Over half of the states had already outlawed slavery, as had every single European and Asian nation at the time. If emancipation was a radical shift, despite the fact that most of America and the world had already enacted abolition, on what grounds are you claiming that marriage equality isn't a radical shift?

I won't argue that secession wasn't radical, because it was. A sudden and dramatic shift from one state to another, yup that's radical all right. And that's why I say that radical, in terms of ends at least, is neither good nor bad. It just is.

Radical means? Well, I'll agree that often they're ineffective, but truth told I sympathize with some, not many but a few, of the radical means people. John Brown for example. My only real problem with Brown is that he was incompetent, Harper's Ferry was a lousy place to attack, very few worthwhile targets. He'd have been better off with a campaign of assissanations, arson, and other terrorist tactics. In a way I'm glad radical means weren't used successfully against slavery, if they had been I'm sure the anti-abortion fanatics could justify terrorism of their own using that example. But still, I'm not really rational on the subject of slavery, I want the raping, murdering, thugs [1] to have suffered and died horribly. Rationally I recognize that it wouldn't have been all that effective, but emotionally I don't much care.

Hmmm... More in two hours or so. I've got a vocabulary test this morning and I've got to do some study.

[1] I make the assumption that every slave owner is guilty of rape, torture, and murder until proven otherwise.
posted by sotonohito at 3:07 PM on December 17, 2006

good luck on the test.

I think i'm speaking of both, but that's because i know that marriage equality is in no way radical, and it's in fact retrograde. In terms of goals, it's a known, even if only one state and a handful of countries allow it. It does exist and nothing has happened. Our media and many politicians' use and focus on it all has ensured we all know that nothing has happened. Society did not change, and there aren't enough of us to actually drastic change marriage any more than other changes have changed it. No-fault divorce laws were a much larger change, and wives no longer being property (or allowed to own property) also were much much larger. Marriage changes all the time and it has nothing to do with us. Allowing us to marry too will not change it, nor do the people who want to marry want to change it--they want it how it is: with many vital rights and benefits. The vast attention focused on marriage equality has ensured that we (as opposed to those in the past) do know what happens when it's granted--not that much.

Even people who oppose it know that it does not change society in any large way (That scares them most--just how normal it is, and how normal the desire to marry is--which in turn normalizes us more than is already occuring)

There are radical ends, and there are radical means (and both are appropriate and sometimes necessary). Emancipation moved millions of people from the status of property to the status (sort-of) of citizen--i wouldn't even presume to put marriage equality in that vital league--ever. Marriage equality is like ENDA (the Employment NonDiscrimination Act, held up for ages in Congress)--which is also not a radical goal at all.

Was the Americans with Disabilities Act radical? the Family Medical Leave Act? etc.... I'd say no--they all just expanded protections and rights to those who had been denied access and benefits that others were enjoying. And, on the other hand, Social Security and Medicare were truly radical. Even the TVA and WPA were radical (lots of FDR's things were). Maybe it's the difference between incremental expansion and creation/destruction/wholesale change?

If, as agreed, that the expansion of rights is an essential part of our history then this cannot be radical, but simply progress. If everything that expands rights is radical, nothing is and the term loses all meaning. Progressive goals (like marriage equality, the elimination of bans on interracial marriage, etc, and all the others that have gone before) that do not either create or destroy or wholly change things are not radical. I guess the line where progress becomes radical always shifts depending on perspective and history, but there's a demarkation point and things to look for that differentiate between radical goals and means and other goals and means, i think. Marriage equality doesn't meet those.
posted by amberglow at 4:41 PM on December 17, 2006

(i wish i could say this shorter, but i really need to give examples) : >
posted by amberglow at 4:41 PM on December 17, 2006

Shorter isn't better, I like examples. Sorry about the delay in response, I had some other stuff going on after my test yesterday. I'd also like to take a moment for a bitter remark about Japanese verbs of giving and how they're used, they make English spelling look sane by comparison. Heck, they make the way the Japanese count look sane by comparison.

Ahem, sorry.


In one sense you are correct, same sex marriage isn't really going to change society. But I think that in another sense you are quite wrong. The marriage itself won't do much, but the fact is that same sex marriage does equate to government endorsement of homosexuality.

If the fundies hadn't been making same sex marriage into such a big deal you'd be completely right. But they have. THey're so obsessed with sex, and especially homosex, that they've turned what should have been just another incremental bit of progress into a last stand type battle.

When, not if but when, we succeed in bringing about same sex marriage it will spell the end for their movement. I'm not saying that fundamentalists will vanish, but I am saying that the current incarnation of their political arm will. They'll be broken and it'll take years, if not decades, for them to rebuild their organization.

And that's what makes it radical. If they'd simply accepted that us civilized folks were going to end discrimination against homosexuals nothing much would have happened. But they've made it the line in the sand, the point which may not be crossed, etc. They've expended millions, possibly billions, fighting against marriage equality, the political futures of dozens of politicians are tied to the success of their bigotry, and when they fail those politicians will go down in flames.

Anti-homosexual bigotry is pretty ingrained in American culture, not quite so much as it is in other cultures (Japan, for example is pretty bad, and let's not even start on the Islamic nations). Official state recognition of homosexuality will undermine a lot of that.

Look, as an example, at the polls regarding interracial marriage prior to Loving and after Loving. Again, I'll argue that Loving was a radical event, it completely demolished the racist miscegenation viewpoint, and less than a decade following Loving the majority of the nation had switched from thinking that interracial marriage was wrong to not caring. That's huge. Right now around 50% of America is utterly opposed to same sex marriage, I'm going to guess that the same thing that followed Loving will follow national same sex marriage, there will be cries of outrage followed within a few years by indifference.

By changing what's acceptable we change minds. And that's why I say its radical. We will be bringing about a dramatic shift in how a huge portion of the country thinks (or rather, emotes).

More later, today I really don't have anything after my first class.
posted by sotonohito at 3:00 PM on December 18, 2006

We are waiting breathlessly.
posted by smackfu at 3:35 PM on December 18, 2006

see, i'd say that makes them the radicals, for blowing this all up into a life-or-death thing. Nothing these couples are doing or want from the government is radical.

the fact is that same sex marriage does equate to government endorsement of homosexuality.
Wrong--that's their rhetoric, not the rest of the country's. What the government does now is privilege some citizens, and deny rights to us gays and lesbian citizens in defiance of the Constitution. That will stop (in some areas only) after marriage rights are achieved. That's it. Don't buy their hype. What they say and the closetcases they shelter show that their words only have meaning when they're trying to fundraise and make this a theocracy--the administration knows that, and that's why they only pander to them and speak of this shit when it's election years and they need them. They've had many state successes but not US Constitutional Amendment success and they know it. They've already lost, actually.

In terms of Loving--it was not radical. Our rights are not dependent on polls nor majority opinion--they never have been. Interracial couples had been marrying for ages, and there had even been hit movies about it all thru the 60s. It did not change viewpoints so much as it drove racist viewpoints underground (and they're re-emerging with a vengeance nowadays), and it reduced a stigma that is still attached to mixed marriages and their children. It can only enforce tolerance of others at best.

A government decision does not and can not change minds--it simply allows more of us to enjoy the rights we deserve. The Civil Rights Acts didn't make people like or accept African-Americans, nor did Brown vs. the Board of Ed nor did anything. Minds actually don't matter in terms of law and rights--you can see that clearly in the growing visibility of us everywhere and our outing of ourselves all over--it didn't stop the state amendments from passing at all. It didn't stop bashing, nor discrimination at work and in housing and in all sorts of things. If minds change later thru seeing what a big nothing it really is, so be it. That's not the goal nor the reason these couples and families deserve rights. Granting of these rights is a remedy. It's not a radical remedy nor a radical act nor a radical solution to the problem, nor even one of the biggest this country has faced, by a long shot. It won't be the last either.
posted by amberglow at 4:52 PM on December 18, 2006

Govt. decisions about rights are really just the beginning of what may or may not end up to be a radical change in attitude or behavior or attainment of rights. Most often i think it's not, until a long long time has passed, and even then, not always. Roe v. Wade, contraception laws, suffrage laws, marriage and divorce liberalization, property rights expansions--women still don't have equality, for just one group. What they do have tho, is legal remedies and recourse--which they didn't have before. That's all we'll have.
posted by amberglow at 4:56 PM on December 18, 2006

And i really do want to reemphasize that what those who would deny us rights scream and say and believe is absolutely irrelevant when it comes to rights. All previous struggles have taught us that. More Americans need to always remember it too.
posted by amberglow at 4:57 PM on December 18, 2006

see, i'd say that makes them the radicals, for blowing this all up into a life-or-death thing. Nothing these couples are doing or want from the government is radical.

Which is the crux of our disagreement. I acknowledge that all we're after here is eleminating an inequality, but where we disagree is that, from my POV, that's a dramatic change. Don't think "radical" as in means, but "radical" as in ends. We are seeking to overturn close to 2,000 years of legal discrimination against homosexuals by opening an institution previously open only to hetrosexuals to homosexuals as well. You're seriously telling me that you don't think this is a change of great magnitude?

Wrong--that's their rhetoric, not the rest of the country's. What the government does now is privilege some citizens, and deny rights to us gays and lesbian citizens in defiance of the Constitution.

As it happens the rhetoric of the enemy is actually an accurate description of reality. Just because they say its raining doesn't mean the sun is shining. I'm of the "bite the bullet" school. When I argue evolution with creationists I don't dispute their main point (ie: "You say we came from monkeys!", technically it isn't accurate, humans and modern primates evolved from a common ape-like ancestor. But so what, look at that ape like ancestor and you'll see what might as well be a monkey, so I just say "yup, that's exactly what I'm saying, and here's why".) Same thing here.

The current situation of inequality did not form in a vacuum. The government chose to discriminate against homosexuals for a reason, not at random, and that reason was the view that homosexuality was devient and was inferior in all ways to hetrosexuality. Canceling that discrimination is a tacit admission that the logic chain leading to the discrimination was wrong.

Obviously the government isn't going to be taking out PSA's going "...and remember boys and girls, homosexuality is just as natural and acceptable as hetrosexuality! [fade to that annoying "the more you know" graphic]". But by ending the official discrimination against homosexual families the government *IS* acknowledging that its reasons for the original discrimination were wrong. And that is why I say that marriage equality is a government endorsement of homosexuality.

That's why they're fighting so hard, they know that right now their bigotry is endorsed by the government, but when we win then our non-bigotted stance will be the government endorsed position. Endorsed by the tax breaks, employee benefits, being given to millions of homosexuals across the country. Endorsed every single time a same sex couple gets the same privilages that a mixed sex couple gets.

Right now every St. Valentine's day the government grants its blessings to the bigots by turning away the homosexuals you described. When we win those homosexuals will be the ones getting government blessing and the government will, effectively, be giving the finger to the bigots. That's why I say that their rhetoric is absolutely correct. Same sex marriage is a government endorsement of the equality of homosexuality.


Our rights are not dependent on polls nor majority opinion--they never have been.

Well, now we're back to "should be" vs. "is really". Yes, by the actual text of the Constitution you're right. But by the way that text has been applied you happen to be dead wrong. If you were right we wouldn't be having this discussion, the Supremes would have used the 14th and 9th Ammendments to strike down the laws prohibiting same sex marriages and that'd be that. But you may notice that isn't the way it is.

Ideally, yes, those "activist judges" [1], and the simple text of the Constitution woudl make this whole ugly mess go away. But the fact is that our rights are largely dependent on opinion polls and majorities.

As long as the majority passes discriminating laws, and the judicial isn't prepared to smack them down about it, our rights do, in fact, depend on majority opinion. They bloody well shouldn't, I'll agree completely with that, but we have to deal with what is.

A strongly worded, and quite specific, Ammendment can sometimes withstand a majority public opinion contrary to it. Sometimes. I'll observe that even the relatively streightforward text of the 1st Ammendment, as well as Article 6, didn't prevent the government from officially discriminating against non-Christians for the first century of its existence. For that matter the clear and unambigious text of the 1st Ammendment is utterly ignored every time someone is prosicuted for "obscinity" or "pornography". I don't see any notes in the 1st Ammendment saying "except for really disgusting porn", and yet right now there's a guy in jail for really disgusting porn. So, yeah, our rights do, in the real world, depend on majority opinion.

[1] As near as I can tell "activist judge" means one who does their job and applies the Constitution.
posted by sotonohito at 9:12 PM on December 18, 2006

When we win those homosexuals will be the ones getting government blessing and the government will, effectively, be giving the finger to the bigots. That's why I say that their rhetoric is absolutely correct. Same sex marriage is a government endorsement of the equality of homosexuality.
No. They won't. Not in any way, shape or form. They will still have all the same rights, and more privileges in our society. They will still be the "model American family of mom, dad and 2.3 kids". They will still be the standard norm because of sheer numbers. ...

They know all this. It was not giving the finger to whites to integrate education, even if some of them might have seen it that way (and Brown v. Board of Ed is in real trouble in the Supremes right now). They are using us as scapegoats to sucker and distract people from real concerns they should and do have because we are "other". We'll always be "other" and they'll ensure that continues in different ways once we have our rights. Look at how racism became coded except in rare circumstances. Look at how assaults and rapes are still considered to be the woman's fault until proven otherwise. In a million little and big ways, we'll remain "other" and they know that.

The interracial marriage thing would never have gotten thru if it always comes down to majority opinion. Nor would Brown. Nor would a ton of things that expanded rights. And the Federal Govt. (until Dubya) was a leader for the past 40 years in expanding rights for women and minorities like us (and Dubya was prevented from restricting the rights for federal workers Clinton gave us, even when his toadies tried). They still are leaders, in many ways. I don't need to be concerned about public opinion--our very lives are changing that all the time, and this fight is as well--for the better.

We have rights to protect the minority from the majority--it's not "should be" so much as it's "oh yeah? well--here we are--we need these rights and we deserve them"

I know we can't have faith in the current Supremes (that's why i wanted a marriage case to get thru during Clinton's terms)--i personally think Roberts will steer clear and simply refuse our cases. Congress, tho, is another story.

I don't think i'll live to see it nationally, really. I think the most we can hope for is to see it granted us piecemeal--Dept. by Dept and Division by Division and Bureau by Bureau, with help from Congress and future Democratic Presidents. I think the real push will come as gay and lesbian Boomer couples retire (and start getting some of those rights piecemeal--like changes in public hospital visitation and inheritance and 401k transfers, etc) and the Boomer Echo (or whatever they're called now) move into their 30s and 40s and confront the same family problems but as a larger group with a bigger voice and more power.

I still don't see it as radical at all tho, and think you buy into the haters' rhetoric too much. The vast majority of this country does not hate us--especially those 40 and under. They know what this fight is for, and they are with us more and more. They may even have gone to school with kids who had 2 mommies or 2 daddies (something i never knew of at all when i was young), or live in a neighborhood where there's a gay or lesbian family down the street (Even American Dad has a gay couple next door), and they see it on tv and online and are aware--and made more aware each time there's a court case or situation like Laurel Hester's in NJ. All these things counteract the haters in very real and lasting ways. Those who fight this the most can only spout shit--they can't point to anything real (or radical).
posted by amberglow at 9:46 PM on December 18, 2006

(it's weird you use terms like "government grants its blessing"--it reinforces some religious component to all this, i think. No one wants the govt's blessing--they want protection or money or help or rights or laws. The govt secures the "blessings of liberty", hopefully with all our voices and needs and hopes and votes and power in the mix--they don't bestow them.
posted by amberglow at 10:00 PM on December 18, 2006

As long as the majority passes discriminating laws, and the judicial isn't prepared to smack them down about it, our rights do, in fact, depend on majority opinion. They bloody well shouldn't, I'll agree completely with that, but we have to deal with what is.

It wasn't a majority, but just the majority of those motivated to come out and vote against our rights (egged on by the haters). We have very low voter turnout, don't forget. The majority of voting-age Americans actually didn't care enough to come out to vote either for or against them.
posted by amberglow at 10:03 PM on December 18, 2006

I do wonder tho--Scalia said during Lawrence v Texas (the sodomy thing) that: the Lawrence opinion set a precedent that could be used in the future to establish a constitutional right to gay marriage.

We know he would be against, but there is something about a court's own rulings helping them decide future related cases, esp in terms of them as people (and that swaying by public opnion).

Do you think that they would ever reverse Lawrence?
posted by amberglow at 10:12 PM on December 18, 2006

ah--it looks like there'll be immediate discrimination suits once Corzine signs--...No New Jersey mayor is required to perform marriage ceremonies, but if a mayor chooses to marry one couple, he cannot refuse to marry another.
Right now, Corzine's lawyers are deciphering whether the 'marry one, marry all' clause can be applied to couples seeking civil unions. ...

posted by amberglow at 3:32 AM on December 19, 2006

semi-related: Zogby poll: three in four troops comfortable serving with gays

Would allowing openly gay and lesbian Americans to serve without hiding be a radical act? (you know my answer)
posted by amberglow at 9:10 PM on December 19, 2006

A small correction. I said "As it happens the rhetoric of the enemy is actually an accurate description of reality." I should have said " *sometimes* an accurate description of reality". You seemed to have taken my comment that way, but I wanted to correct that. I would have sworn I typed "sometimes" but obviously I didn't.

On to more important matters.


Our argument orginally came from a relatively simple disagreement. You took umberage at being described as a radical. Context is important. Regardless of whether you or I think a change is radical, the person (not me) who used that term in reference to you was using it in a context that we've been ignoring.

He was refering to the three possible positions on any change, regardless of how important that change might be. The conservative opposes the change, the incrementalist wants the change but wants it to take place slowly, and the radical wants the change to happen spontaniously. In the context dhartung used the word there was absolutely no consideration, much less judgement, as to the cause, its magnitude, or anything else. He was purely using the word in reference to the speed of implementation of change. That's why I started arguing terminology with you.

Are we in agreement that *in his context* the word radical was properly used? If not what word would you use to describe those who want change right now, not gradually? Also, on what basis do you object to the use of the word in that context?


As for radical in its other contexts, I still think you're getting hung up on the use of radical as a synonym for "extremist" or "batshit insane" and you're allowing those meanings to prevent you from appreciating that the word has other meanings.

Regardless of how people feel about a change (gays in the military, for example) if the change is a great departure from the way things used to be, then yes, its a radical change.

Take game controller design, to completely remove politics from the discussion. The Nintendo Wii's controller can, and has, been described as "a radical new direction" or a "radical innovation". This isn't a moral judgement, it doesn't mean that Nintendo is extremist, it simply means that the new controller is greatly diffrent from the way controllers have been in the past.

In that sense, yes, allowing gays to openly serve in the military is a radical departure from current US policy. It doesn't matter if most of the soldiers support the change or not, its a change of great magnitude, therefore its a radical (magnitude) change. The change could be implemented incrementally or radically (suddenly) implemented. If gays are allowed to openly serve some radical (extremist) Christians might take radical (violent and outside the norm) acts.

Right there I've used the word "radical" in four different senses, two of which hold the emotional value you attach to "radical" two of which hold a (radically, heh) different emotional value. I'd define the first two times I used the word as being emotionally neutral, and the second two as being emotionally negative.


it's weird you use terms like "government grants its blessing"--it reinforces some religious component to all this, i think. No one wants the govt's blessing

Not weird at all. Again, you are limiting yourself to one definition for a word that has many definitions. A "blessing" does not refer only to mystic, or religious, things. Look it up in your favorite dictionary. Blessing can refer to official approval, and that's the sense in which I was using the word. Yes, the religious definition is also valid, but that's the beauty of language, the same word can mean different things.

And you're wrong. Homosexuals all over the country want the government's blessing, in the form of protections, rights, tax breaks, insurance claims, etc. Blessing in the approval sense. As far as I know its impossible for the government to offer a religious type blessing, as it isn't a deity or a representative of a deity.
posted by sotonohito at 3:08 PM on December 20, 2006

That should be "and therefore you're wrong" Bloody missed words. I'm starting to sound like Bush.....
posted by sotonohito at 3:27 PM on December 20, 2006

i think it's too restrictive and inaccurate to use only 3 words to describe all possible positions on all change. I'd use the words progressive or liberal with the caveat of "becoming thoroughly mainstream and centrist more and more each year", because you have 2 extremes at either end (the conservative and radical) and only one middle point (the incrementalist) as possible options. That's no good.

radical is positioned as an extreme in the breakdown you use, and i actually see it as an extreme in reality--i don't see much conflict at all in the way we view it. The biggest things, the most extreme actions, the most wrenching things--those are radical.

I don't think radical is an emotionally or judgmentally neutral term either. When talking politics and society, it's actually never ever neutral, nor ever used without conveying the underlying assumptions/judgments/stigmas about "radicals" and "radical ideas". I take umbrage at using it for these fights for rights because they follow in the established tradition of gaining rights in America in form and manner, and using it does convey some sort-of out-of-the-ordinary or unrealistic goal, when it's really not. A radical overthrows things and upsets the established order. A radical doesn't patiently work his or her way through the court system year by year to gain rights. It doesn't fit, especially because what the fight is about is legislative and judicial change and protections for those who need it, not the impact on others not directly affected by it, no matter what they might think. It's not zero-sum--and it doesn't take in order to give. It's not one side winning and one side losing and it's not wholesale rewriting of legislation--it's almost exactly like the ADA, which has not changed society--also not a radical act.

I don't use religious words when discussing government--most of us who are in minority religions know the dangers inherent in that, especially when it's the opposition who keeps tying religious marriage to civil marriage incorrectly. I seek no one's blessing--not one person who wants rights is seeking a "blessing". We are the government. It is answerable to us and created by us, for us, and with us. It is not some elder or some God who must "bless" us with rights. It's not approval either--by any means. No one had to start approving of interracial marriages just because all of a sudden they were declared legal. No one had to start approving of blacks all of a sudden because they were allowed to attend the same schools as whites. ...
posted by amberglow at 3:46 PM on December 20, 2006

it's not blessing or approval--it's the granting of rights and protections and benefits that are due us as citizens like other citizens who currently have these rights. Even granting is the wrong word i think, since it's really just official acknowledgement that we are eligible for and due these rights.
posted by amberglow at 3:53 PM on December 20, 2006

The government grants and acknowledges and bestows and develops and implements (and punishes and fines and criminalizes). I think you're looking at some supposed desired societal reaction to all this--it's not there. We're not naive, and going about this very practically and in a limited way--too practically sometimes.
posted by amberglow at 3:56 PM on December 20, 2006

Let me try another approach, we're pretty obviously talking past each other. It is my impression that you are unable to separate the extremist meaning of "radical" from its sudden or dramatic meaning.

dhartung described your position on same sex marriage as radical, you objected, and that's really all I'm arguing about.

In an effort to disentangle the "extremist" from the "sudden change" meanings let me give two examples:

Example 1: In this example I'm going to describe an extremist position and how that position could be advanced either slowly and gradually (ie: incrementally) or suddenly (ie: radically).

Our extremist is an anti-abortionist who wants to see abortion classified as first degree murder with the death penalty brought against women who get abortions, doctors who perform abortions, nurses who assist, etc. This position is extremist I think we'll both agree. The person who supports this position could be described as a "radical anti-abortionist", which is perfectly in line with your use of the term, and utterly acceptable. Words have more than one meaning, and I am not arguing at all that you are using the word inappropriately, I'm simply arguing that the meaning you use is not the only meaning the word has.

Our extremist could either be incrementalist, or radical, in how he wants to bring about his radical change. An incrementalist would seek to first outlaw abortion with only minor penalties, with the penalties slowly ratcheting up to the first degree murder charge he really wants. A radical wants the change to be completed suddenly, one day abortion is legal, the next its first degree murder.

Example 2: Let's look at the proposed change from IPv4 to IPv6 as an example of non-extreme incrementalism vs. non-extreme radicalism. The proposal to change from IPv4 to IPv6 is not described by anyone as extreme, there are people who advocate a diffrent new protocol, but even they don't think that IPv6 is extreme. Here, in an utterly aneceptic and rather boring (to anyone but a geek) environment we can also see incrementalism vs. radicalism (radicalism *PURELY* in the speed of change sense). The incrementalists want to roll out the IPv6 changes in careful stages so that over the course of a few years we'll ease into it. The radicals propose an approach more like that taken when the Euro was rolled out: lots of planning to make the transition painless, but the change itself taking place suddenly.

We could use the terms "radical" and "incrementalist" to describe philosophies of band-aid removal (ie: rip it off quick, or pick at it for hours), or getting into a hot tub or swimming pool (ie: plunge in, or ease your way in slowly).

Will you acknowledge that the word radical has meanings beyond "extremist" please?

If you won't, will you, using my examples, explain what terms you think should be used for the advocates of sudden change, and (more importantly) why you're so dead set against using a word according to its proper definition?
posted by sotonohito at 3:00 PM on December 21, 2006

I can acknowledge it easily. Your examples, however, when applied to all who want equal marriage rights, do not at all fit. If that anti-abortionist does not actually think they'll achieve the radical and final aims, and acts solely for the incremental changes, he or she is not radical, nor is he or she acting radically. If step 1 is just the beginning of the whole process and they make that clear, it's radical. If they hide that but take actions and make speeches alluding to their desired final result, it's radical.

The couples and families in this situation are not doing that. They want themselves and their families protected like other families. That's it. They're not fighting for a wholesale change, nor are they fighting for anyone who want Employment or Housing discrimination ended, nor people who want DADT lifted, etc. That's not their fight, but you persist in connecting it all. They are not radicals, nor are they aiming for a radical change in society. They are far more selfish than that. These people have no overarching goal, as opposed to your anti-choice example who may or may nothave an overarching goal--the total and final elimination of abortion in this country.

I'm listening to every word you say, and trying to explain why these people are not radical, and why their goal is not radical, and why their methods and actions are not radical.
posted by amberglow at 4:42 PM on December 21, 2006

And they are not being incrementalist in order to achieve some larger or radical or society-changing or sudden or total or any other or bigger goal in any way whatsoever. They want their families protected.
posted by amberglow at 4:45 PM on December 21, 2006

I shouldn't try to use examples, I'm not especially good at it. Every example I use seems to bring in more extranious stuff. So, just sticking to the case at hand.

For the sake of understanding exactly where we're getting our problem, I'm going to number each point in my logic chain for ease of reference. Please tell me what specifically you disagree with on any point you disagree.

1) The people we are discussing have the goal of marriage equality. That is, they want identical protections for their families that hetrosexuals get.

2) We are agreed that the step taken by New Jersey is a step in the right direction, but not sufficient.

3) There are two primary methods of obtaining marriage equality: either continuing to slowly take baby steps, or achieving full marriage equality in one single step.

4) Those fighting for marriage equality can be split into two camps, both of whom have the exact same goal (point 1).

5) One of these groups wants to keep persuing baby steps, they see it as being easier, being a path less likely to make our opponents unite against us, etc. These people can be called "incrementalists" because they seek multiple steps over time to the goal. They say "ok, so civil unions don't grant all the protections of marriage, but we get them, and then either we can expand what a civil union grants, or we can build on the success of the civil unions to push for true marriage."

6) The other group wants to push for a single step solution: marriage equality now. This group can be called "radicals", not because their goal is radical, not because they differ in any way at all with the other group except for the speed at which they want the same goal to be achieved. No overreaching goals, no wild eyed maniacs, no nothing. They might argue that by working for the baby steps the movement is spending its strength getting something not quite as good as true equality.

Our people in point 6 aren't going to be rioting, or doing anything unplesant, they will use identical methods as the people in point 5, they simply don't accept the idea of baby steps towards the *same*goal*.
posted by sotonohito at 8:01 PM on December 21, 2006

One problem is we can not get to a single step or speedy solution ever in a single step--the institution of marriage in this country, and our system of laws and federal and state differences, does not allow it. The Jersey people went to court for full marriage equality for themselves--in New Jersey alone. That's all they could do, because of our laws and courts, not to mention DOMA and all the State Constitutions. They did it in NY and VT, and CT, too, and Mass, and Hawaii, etc. They could not have asked for civil unions or any incremental step--no one asks for less than what they want, knowing it's not sufficient. You go to court to get what you want, not to get 1/3 of what you want.

They don't want civil unions because civil unions are not equal. Once they went to court, it was entirely out of their hands and wholly dependent on the court's ruling. We see that by mandating equality but then passing the buck to the legislature, the court has ensured years more litigation to get to full marriage equality in NJ alone (Which speaks to your "speed" point) .

I understand what you say exactly--i just disagree with your definition of it as radical in any way shape or form. It's not non-political so equating it to some development in gaming or science or whatever doesn't fit, and there are other terms we more accurately use to describe big or wholesale or speedy change for those anyway--"revolution in gaming" etc.--revolution means something entirely different in politics and in government, and it's rarely if ever used non-loadedly.

In politics, using "radical" is incredibly loaded, and the equivalent of using the words criminal and extremist, and is always used derogatorily and to condemn. See "radical feminists". See "radical homosexual agenda". See "radical commies". See "radical anarchists". See "hippies and radicals". ... See all the many other ways it's only ever used. Besides the fact that wanting equality is actually enshrined in our Constitution and thus by definition cannot be radical, using the same terms as those who fight to permanently deny us equality is insane and self-defeating and inappropriate.

These people, and all people who are fighting for equal marriage rights are not radical, nor are they radical simply for wanting full marriage equality, and not some 1/3 of equality. We don't use non-political definitions for political and rights issues as a rule--i don't see why you insist on using them that way--at all.

I'm reminded of how we reclaimed "queer"--The multiple meanings of that word were never used to imprison and execute and otherwise make someone an unperson in an official way, unlike "radical". I think most would instinctive recoil at the use of it for marriage rights, with good reason.
posted by amberglow at 6:34 AM on December 22, 2006

i just disagree with your definition of it as radical in any way shape or form

Except for the fact that you said earlier that "radical" did have the meaning of swiftly and completely.

nor are they radical simply for wanting full marriage equality, and not some 1/3 of equality. We don't use non-political definitions for political and rights issues as a rule--i don't see why you insist on using them that way--at all. and later you wrote I think most would instinctive recoil at the use of it for marriage rights

The last bit I quoted is, I think, the most important. You're objecting to the term, not because its being improperly used, despite the fact that you continue to claim that it is improperly used, but due to the connection you believe it has with the "extremist", "bomb thrower" and other uses of radical.

If I can risk a comparison, its similar to the way many people object to the use of the word "niggardly" [1]. Not becuase the word itself has any bad meaning, but because its so close to a racial slur that it just isn't worth using any more.

Similar to the way the first name "Adolph" is just plain unusable, despite the fact that 99.999999% of the people named Adolph weren't genocidial dictators.

If that's your objection, I still don't agree with you I can at least understand your objection. So, have I deciphered your objection? Is the following statement (in your opinion) true:

"While the word radical does include the meaning of 'swiftly and completely' and therefore could be used to accurately describe one camp in the marriage equality battle the word itself has been irreperably harmed by its use to describe terrorists, bigots, and other vile people; therefore I believe that it is unacceptable to use despite its theoretical accuracy."

[1] Definition follows, inf case you aren't a word geek: Miserly, uncharitable, ingenerous, and in other ways tight fisted, mean, and petty.

Personally, I think we don't use enough old Norse origin words in daily language, so I'd like to use niggardly, but I don't becuase the word is obscure and its highly likely that someone would think I was a racist.
posted by sotonohito at 7:45 PM on December 22, 2006

i recoil from the word because of the connotations, yes, but beyond that and trying to look at it objectively (which you've helped with), i don't see it fitting definitionally. Swiftly and completely doesn't fit, large change doesn't fit, wholesale doesn't fit, none of it does at all. It hasn't happened anywhere on Earth marriage equality exists, and it wouldn't happen here if we get it ever.

that said, radical is not bad, and it fits for certain things and people and actions and is needed for some things--this isn't it.
posted by amberglow at 12:19 PM on December 23, 2006

good digby thing on it, especially the tactical part: ... it's important to recognize that the court gave the legislature no choice but to come up with some sort of scheme that would allow gays the same legal benefits of marriage as straight couples. The question was whether the legislature would go full out and open the doors to marriage or create civil unions. But another question lingered as well --- would they create civil unions and also foreclose the possibility of marriage, something the court did not preclude them from doing.
Some progressives and gay rights advocates in New Jersey made the decision to apply as much pressure as they could on the legislature to go for marriage, and in the process moved what was almost pre-ordained to be a civil union bill, to one that would cause some pain on any legislators who tried to mollify their right flank with an accompanying vote to take marriage completely off the table.
It left the door open and that means that progressives won't have to reinvent the wheel when the time comes around to revisit the issue. This is smart politics....But it pays to be always thinking one step ahead with these things, paving the way for it to be easier on the next round ---- moving the goal posts back our way with each move.
... and they came up with a very effective series of web ads on the gay marriage legislation that were designed to appeal to the common sense and decency of people who are just now figuring out what they think about all this --- including the legislators who voted on the issue.
This is progressive politics today. It's happening all over the country. Give it up for the new kids. ...

We'll always disagree with whether this is a radical goal or not (and i think you're being too predictive about the supposed societal impact of it all) , but turning on a dime, as these folks had to do once the court did not give them what was due, and wholly changing strategy and tactics to ensure that the final goal (marriage) wasn't eliminated entirely, required yet another set of actions and tactics not to achieve the goal but to stop the goal from getting further away or eliminated in NJ entirely. I think this wasn't radical (of course), and throughout the entire process, nothing radical was done, and no one radical was involved. Just smart tactics, and good progressive politics, and quick thinking and change.
posted by amberglow at 12:55 PM on December 23, 2006

The subject, actually, was a bit more general than the NJ civil unions, and was regarding the entire pro-marriage movement.

Let me try it this way, again with numbered points so we can pinpoint exactly where you disagree.

1) If A = B, then B = A.

2) Among us pro-equality types in general there are two main camps.

3) One of these camps is opposed to immediately pressing for marriage, instead they urge that we go after the "low hanging fruit" of civil unions, then use the existence of civil unions as a means of eventually pushing for true marriage equality.

4) This method cannot be termed either "swift" or "complete", while it eventually would arrive at the same goal (ie: utter equality between hetrosexuals and homosexuals with regards to marriage), it would arrive at this goal slowly and gradually.

5) The other camp, the one to which both you and I belong, urges that we fight for full equality now, and that civil unions and whatnot are separate-but-equal type garbage that may actually do harm in the long run.

6) Therefore this camp could be described as urging a "swift and complete" approach to marrige equality. Complete, not necessarially in terms of "affecting the entire US", but complete as in "its marriage, there ya' go, no middle steps".

7) If "radical" = "urging swift and complete X", then following point 1, then "urging swift and complete X" = "radical".

8) Therefore the group urging that we fight for true marriage equality, not civil unions or any other intermediate steps, can accurately be termed "radical".

The argument over whether you like this term, whether the goal itself is radical or not, whether the term should be used or should be rejected due to its negative use in the past, and all other arguments are utterly and completely separate from the point I'm making here.

If you want marriage equality (nationwide, in one state, whatever, it doesn't matter for the purposes of this discussion), and you want that equality to happen immediately and fully (no civil union half measures), then it is technically accurate to use the term "radical" to describe you. Again, if you want to argue that we shouldn't use that term, that' fine and I'll be glad to argue that with you.

In order to check my own usage I asked an English teacher (high school, and my wife so she might be a bit biased), and an English professor (at my university, who I don't think is likely to be biased). Both have assured me that my use of the word is accurate in this context. On that basis I think that you are allowing your recoiling from the word to prevent you from looking at it from a purely definitional standpoint.

Check with the English majors of your choice, I'm fairly sure they'll agree with me as to the accuracy of the word.


As for whether its appropriate or not, and whether the goal itself is radical, I'm more than willing to discuss that. But until we get over this first disagreement there really isn't much point.
posted by sotonohito at 3:07 PM on December 23, 2006

fighting for full marriage equality is not in and of itself radical--i still can't buy it.

going incremental is not applicable either, because not one of the fights/actions/goals is for less than full marriage equality anywhere to start. Incrementalists actually don't exist at all in terms of the real people fighting for this and are fully hypothetical--no one anywhere has gone for less than full marriage rights. Incremental solutions are what has happened after full rights were denied.

Even with domestic partnerships and cities/localities--domestic partnerships are not what was fought for, but equality in terms of how the city treats all citizens. Domestic partnerships is what we ended up with.

You're describing all these people as radical, and putting them into context as compared to some invisible group of incrementalists. There are none involved in this at all.
posted by amberglow at 4:02 PM on December 23, 2006

No one has fought for intermediate steps, except in so far as our system is set up so that you have to go incrementally--thru local and state jurisdictions first.
posted by amberglow at 4:03 PM on December 23, 2006

and in many cases, people have not acted at all because of perceived hostility towards full rights from certain jurisdictions/courts/legislatures/senates.
posted by amberglow at 4:07 PM on December 23, 2006

they didn't go incremental due to that hostility--they stopped, and chose not to pursue it. Incrementalists would have gone ahead to get whatever they could get, since they weren't aiming for the full thing right away anyway.

Also, are both sides radical? I'd say getting State Constitutional Amendments to deny rights is clearly radical. Is everyone involved in this radical?
posted by amberglow at 4:13 PM on December 23, 2006

related thing about WI, where their Amendment banned every single thing: ... Mike Tate, who directed the unsuccessful campaign to defeat the gay marriage ban, said Doyle's comments came as "exciting news."
He said it was clear to him after more than a year on the campaign trail that Wisconsin's citizens were in favor of some form of civil unions.
"Their main qualm is that they were not there on the issue of marriage, but they did believe we should provide some sort of basic legal protections for people who choose to spend their lives with each other," he said. "We saw that time after time."

They, and no one, has ever fought for "some sort of basic legal protections" --- it's the consolation prize.
posted by amberglow at 4:26 PM on December 23, 2006

And this from California--are the majorities of legislators in the CA Assembly and Senate all radicals?
posted by amberglow at 4:32 PM on December 23, 2006

"Incrementalists actually don't exist at all in terms of the real people fighting for this and are fully hypothetical--no one anywhere has gone for less than full marriage rights. Incremental solutions are what has happened after full rights were denied."

Two things. In the second place, you are in error. I've spoken, and argued with a few incrementalists. Not those forced to the position by circumstance, but people who genuinely believe that it's counter to our long term goals to push for full equality right away. The fact that you haven't met any such people does not mean they don't exist.

Much more importantly even if you were correct and there are no incrementalists it does not invalidate the use of the term radical. The absence of quail eggs, duck eggs, platypuss eggs, etc at the local grocery store does not makie it incorrect to specify "chicken eggs". Redundant perhaps, but not incorrect.

Furthermore, this entire discussion got started because dhartung wrote: "every civil rights movement has tension between the radicals and the incrementalists. I prefer to think of this as one necessary acclimating step on the way to true gender-neutral law." Note that he was explicitly using "radical" as a contrasting term to "incrementalist", in exactly the same sense that you just denied was possible. You then replied to his post, taking offense at the use of the word radical, by taking the word in a different context than the one he explicitly used.

This entire argument has been about the use of the term radical in contrast to incrementalist. I got derailed a few times because I didn't realize at first how deep our mutual misunderstanding went, but at core that's the argument.

I believe that you are allowing your emotional response to the word radical to prevent you from thinking clearly. You hold that the word radical is bad, and therefore you do not want it to apply to you in any sense at all. As I mentioned earlier, I'll be perfectly happy to debate the question of whether its a good idea to use the word radical, in any context, to describe ourselves. But I can't do that until you concede that the term is technically accurate, in the context in which it was used, regardless of its appropriateness.
posted by sotonohito at 5:21 PM on December 24, 2006

I'd also like to observe that over 3/4 of the text in this thread is now our argument, and that we've been continuing the argument for ten days now. Nifty, huh? No sarcasm at all, I think its fantasic.
posted by sotonohito at 6:24 PM on December 24, 2006

i've met people who are incrementalists too, but they are not any of the people who are fighting these fights all over the country. They are wholly on the sidelines and worried about offending people, causing a pushback, or asking for too much too soon. They are not ever those who go to court, or who actually have the families that need these protections.

Not one person or group in any of these court cases has asked for anything less than full marriage equality. Incrementalists are not involved in these actions, nor are they involved in attaining the goal.

By your reasoning, all the CA legislators are radicals, and/or acting radically, and all the NJ legislators who wanted marriage instead of civil unions are doing the same. The judges all over who ruled for full marriage as well. No?

"every civil rights movement has tension between the radicals and the incrementalists."
The incrementalists are not in the movement at all, nor in these fights. And again, he sets up a way-too-limiting opposition without room for the very real families who need these protections all over the country. He judged, defined, and is the first to use such a loaded word, and it's not so. As a matter of fact, in all of these threads the only people possibly fitting the term radical are those who want all civil marriage abolished, i think.
posted by amberglow at 7:24 AM on December 25, 2006

and this probably would be defined as incremental as well, since it involves only marriage rights, and not employment rights, or housing rights, or being listed under the civil rights act as a protected class, or DADT, or many of the thousands of rights categories we're are not protected under.
posted by amberglow at 7:28 AM on December 25, 2006

Let's try one simple question: Will you concede that one meaning of the word "radical" describes people who want to bring about a change swiftly, as opposed to those who want a bring about a change incrementally? Yes or no. If no, please explain why.

No discussion of whether such a distinction exists here, no discussion of other meanings of radical, no discussion of whether the term should be used in any specific situation. We'll get to all that later, right now I just want a simple definitional check.
posted by sotonohito at 6:20 PM on December 25, 2006

Yes, but define swiftly.
posted by amberglow at 4:52 AM on December 26, 2006

Swiftly: in a swift manner. Swift: 2. coming, happening, or performed quickly or without delay: a swift decision."


Since you accept the above definition do you accept that there exists a generic dichotomy with "incrementalists" on one side, and "radicals" on the other, with the term "radical" being limited purely to the definition you just accepted, and being utterly and completely unrelated to any use of radical in the sense of extremist? Note please that this is a generic dichotomy, not particular to any specific movement, change, or proposal. Again, yes or no, with an explanation for no please.
posted by sotonohito at 10:30 PM on December 26, 2006

Unrelatedly, I'm going to appologize for not posting my replies in a more timely manner. My wife just arrived in Japan so I'm taking her around doing touristy things and showing her the sights in Tokyo.
posted by sotonohito at 10:34 PM on December 26, 2006

have fun! i loved Tokyo when i was there--an amazing place! : >

I don't accept a generic dichotomy with incrementalists on one side and radicals on the other. I'd accept reactionaries/conservatives on one side and radicals on the other--or a multi-part system, with incrementalists in the middle just off center to the left after moderates and centrists, and radicals at the extreme left, with progressives and liberals and other labels inbetween.

A generic dichotomy would be reactionaries against radicals. Incrementalists in no way fit into any dichotomy at all.
posted by amberglow at 7:25 AM on December 27, 2006

Well, I've been studying in Tokyo (Machida, actually) for the past 5 months, but its Carol's first time here. So as she recovers from jet lag we've been going out an about. Unfortunately its close enough to the New Year that many of the museums and whatnot are closed already, as I discovered to my surprise today when we went to Ueno and found that the TNM is shut down until Jan 2. I'd forgotten that so much closes this time of year.

But yup, Tokyo is a nifty place, which you'd expect from the planet's biggest city [1]. In general I've liked my time here, and my Japanese has definately improved. I have, however, discovered that I'm just not that impressed by the bulk of Japanese cooking, Thai and Chinese rank higher on my enjoyability list. Sushi and sashimi are exellent, as is miso soup, but the rest tends to leave me a bit cold, too sweet and mild for my taste.


As for our argument...

You're looking at things from too long a lens. If we establish a dichotomy between "those who want change vs. those who don't", then the camp of "those who want change" can be split into the incrementalist vs. radical sub-camps. Those opposed to change don't enter the picture yet, we're focused on internal differences between those who do want change. [2]

So, focusing on the internal differences between pro-change types, in general, can we agree that they can be generically split into incrementalists vs. radicals? If not, why?

[1] Or a contender, defining exactly what is meant by "city" gets fuzzy, especially since Tokyo isn't technically a city anymore.

[2] I wish Metafilter supported threaded comments, it'd make separation so much easier. I want to sidetrack here to observe that I think you are incorrect in your use of reactionary. Reactionaries are not conservative. A conservative is anti-change, he likes things as they are. A reactionary is pro-change, he wants to revert (change) to a prior "golden age" type state that he believes once existed. Current political terminology has muddied that line because most who are called "conservative" today are in fact reactionary, generally longing for a mythic 1950's that never existed.

More broadly, I think we could define a spectrum with offshoots as follows:

reactionaries (pro-change, but favoring backwards change)


conservatives (anti-change, the status quo is good)


progressives (including both radicals and incrementalists who agree on change but disagee on the tempo of change).

Between the conservative and the progressive we need an offshoot of "moderates" or "centerists" who are neither conservative, nor progressive, but who support small changes not intended to bring about the full change desired by progressives (distinguishable from incrementalists because they don't ever want the full change. In my spectrum with offshoot model Debaser626 (link to relivant comment) qualifies as a moderate or centerist because he favors separate-but-equal civil unions, not as a step towards equality, but as all homosexuals get.

Furthermore you could add a "radical vs. incrementalist" camp to both conservativs and reactionaries, on the basis of the tempo they want to see change (or its absence) in their favored direction accomplished. Its possible to be an incrementalist reactionary (ie: maybe he wants to re-ban interracial marriage, but rather than doing so suddenly he might want it to phase in over a period of 10 years with slowly increasing penalties for miscegenation, or perhaps to phase it in geographically slowly sweeping the nation from one edge to another, or whatever).

I would like to focus on our core disagreement re: the term radical, but I think my derail here might help clarify what I mean. If you'd like to continue this side discussion, I'm game, but let's not allow it to become our central discussion until we work out the whole radical thing please.
posted by sotonohito at 2:15 AM on December 28, 2006

Ah, i stayed in Ueno (where Ueno started to become Asakusa, really). If you have time, wander around Nezu too--great area. : >

It's because there are incrementalists and radicals on all sides and are found in right and left that i can't simply define one group as such, soto.

It's also that in our current political climate (And the past 50 years pretty much) it's only ever one side that's defined as radical, and that's not the right or reactionaries. Defining outgroups as "radicals" and/or "extremists" etc, has a long history -- not at all without meaning and intent. It further marginalizes those who do not have the power/rights/etc, and helps ensure they remain so. The day that radical is used as freely for those on the right who are working (and succeeding) to return to a day without roe v. wade, without minority rights, without labor laws and protections, etc, is the day that radical will be truly as you want to see it--just another word that doesn't have connotations and judgement attached--especially in terms of politics and rights and society.

It all feeds back to my main point about "radical" i think.
posted by amberglow at 8:04 AM on December 28, 2006

It's because there are incrementalists and radicals on all sides and are found in right and left that i can't simply define one group as such, soto.

And that, actually, is my point. Radical isn't limited to any political viewpoint, at least not in the "radical vs. incrementalist" sense because all sides have their radicals and their incrementalists, and that's the general definition I'm saying exists and that dhartung was using in his original comment.

Radical and incrementalist is a distinction that trancends right, left, up, down, progressive, regressive, etc. Its simply and purely a division based on speed, or suddenness, at least in the context that dhartung used it. Again, I'll agree we can have a lively and useful debate over the use of radical in other contexts, and even whether it is a good idea to use the word radical in the context in which it was used, but not until we can agree on the technical accuracy of dhartung's usage, or its lack of technical accuracy.

You appear to have just agreed that such a distinction exists and that its separate from the sense of radical as in extremist.

So, can we now agree that the term radical, in dhartung's usage, was not a reference to political positions or their extremity, but meant purely in the sense you saw in your first paragraph, ie: speed? If not, why not?


On radical in a broader sense: Your comments do have bearing on your reasons for rejecting the term regardless of its accuracy. But I still maintain that we can't meaningfully discuss that until we've settled the question of the technical accuracy of the term radical, in the "radical vs. incrementalist" context.

On Japan: I'm attending Obirin, a small university in western Machida, so I'm about 45 minutes by train from Shinjuku. Nice in terms of relatively cheaper rent and so forth, but not so great from a standpoint of easy access to the fleshpots of central Tokyo.

If you don't mind my asking, were you studying in Japan, or doing work, or what?

I'll also add that I chose my handle well before I went to Japan, and having actually experienced what its like to be gaijin I'm a bit annoyed with myself. My wife is black, I'm white, and through my association with her I've gotten a better (though naturally incomplete, and will never be fully complete) understand of the crap black Americans put up with. Black folks are America's gaijin, and now my handle seems somewhat pathetic and whiny.
posted by sotonohito at 2:53 AM on December 29, 2006

I went for 9 days vacation--got a dirtcheap rt from American! I'd always wanted to see Tokyo and it more than lived up to my expectations--i'd never been anywhere so different. (Met some fabulous mefites there too, if you want to call for a meetup--i did.) : >

The distinction exists but it's never ever used evenhandedly--until it is, i won't pretend it's without negative connotations and judgement in the real world. I know that what we're fighting for is not radical and it's not being fought by radicals in any sense of the word (including applying your definitions). Marriage equality is not a swift nor big nor transformative nor society-changing thing.

And in political fights and efforts, you never take the labels the other side bestows on you--that's accepting their frame and judgement. No one fighting to preserve Social Security talks of "personal accounts"--they say "privatization" which is what it really is. Right now, while Bush speaks of a "surge", people fighting it say "escalation" which is what it really is. If you accept the framing of those opposed, you've already lost--radical is part of the framing against marriage equality and those who need it and deserve it. ...
posted by amberglow at 10:38 AM on December 29, 2006

The distinction exists but it's never ever used evenhandedly--until it is, i won't pretend it's without negative connotations and judgement in the real world.

The part after the "--" is, again, well worth debating. But let's focus on the first part before we get to proper usage.

So. You've now agreed that the word "radical" has, among its many meanings, a meaning of swiftly as opposed to incrementally. You've agreed that the "incrementalist vs. radical" distinction is valid and exists in general.

Let's go back and apply this to the original statement "every civil rights movement has tension between the radicals and the incrementalists"

Without getting into framing, issues of whether the term is good, bad, applied fairly in its non "swiftly" sense, etc, can we now agree that the sentence above is a) using the term in a sense other than "extremist", b) in the sense of "swiftly", and c) this may be objectionable but is technically accurate? Again, if not, why not, especially given what you've already agreed is correct.

I really want to debate whether the term is useful, applicable in other senses, etc. But until the issue of the actual definition of the word, and the definition of the "incremental vs. radical" distinction is worked out I doubt we'd get anywhere if we went any further.


Marriage equality is not a swift

??? Sure it is, in some areas. Look at how it happened in Massachusetts. The decision was handed down by the courts, and the next day homosexuals were getting married. Swift. Lots of work went on before the decision (decades of work) but the decision itself resulted in a swift alteration of the status quo. One day homosexuals couldn't marry, the next they could. Swift.

As opposed to what we see in Jersey, where first homosexuals are getting a cop-out, halfway, separate-but-equal runaround, and will only eventually, after further steps are taken get true marriage equality. Incremental. As you say, incremental by default, not because anyone was actually working for incrementalism, but incremental none the less.
posted by sotonohito at 4:06 AM on December 31, 2006

but that proves my point too--when you compare MA and NJ, the people were going about the same goals the same ways--it was the NJ court and legislature that made it incremental, not the people fighting for rights. Other outside actors don't make something radical or not--it's the people themselves and their actions.

There was no tension in the movement itself and never has been. There was no one who wanted incremental change or halfway measures. There was no one who fought for part of or a 1st step towards what they wanted.
posted by amberglow at 12:48 PM on December 31, 2006

The only tension -- and the only labeling -- is outside the movement entirely. It always has been.
posted by amberglow at 12:49 PM on December 31, 2006

« Older Auf Der Walz.   |   Gallery Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments