Justin Green - DC

Political Theory and Punditry from a native of Flyover Country

My view is that we can and should be patient, because I believe the experience of marriage equality is one of the reasons public opinion has shifted. We can now see this as a reality, rather than as an abstraction. And it has led to very little social change, except for more marriages, and more family integration. You think my taking turns with my husband to walk the dogs is a subversive and destabilizing act? Please.

Most people can’t mix snark and thoughtful argumentation in the same paragraph.

Andrew Sullivan is not most people.

(Source: andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)

I suppose marriage equality is socially liberal in as much as it tries to defend and integrate a previously despised minority. But it is socially conservative in its attempt to envelop that minority in the traditions and responsibilities of family life. In this, it is exactly the same as welfare reform: ending a disincentive to family life among a minority that needs more social stability. I have to say that having finally begun to live a married life, all my previous intuitions about its integrating impact have been borne out more profoundly than I ever imagined.

If you can make the leap to seeing gay people as the equal of straight people, then encouraging their marriages to one another is arguably one of the most socially conservative measures now subject to national debate. That’s why it remains so saddening that so many social conservatives still regard it as definitionally anathema. I don’t think it’s a leap to believe that homophobia or fundamentalism are the critical stumbling blocks. Or that they are the real reasons for the resistance.

Andrew Sullivan

Most same-sex marriage advocates hope the Supreme Court will soon rule that same-sex marriage be made legal nationwide. Among supporters of such unions, I’m a rarity: Like President Obama and former vice president Dick Cheney, I think it’s healthier to let states continue to go their separate ways on marriage until the country is closer to a consensus. I believe a gradual approach is usually a safer and surer route to lasting social change when it’s available — and, on this issue, it is.

Jonathan Rauch 

Personalizing an Issue

The quote below nearly perfectly captures the rapid pace of change for gay rights in recent years:

“As more people have become aware of friends and family members who are gay, attitudes have begun to shift at an accelerated pace. This is not about a generational shift in attitudes, this is about people changing their thinking as they recognize their friends and family members who are gay or lesbian.”

That’s from the same link I posted earlier today. At bottom, it seems to suggest, “othering” and hatred directed at gay people is much more difficult when you realize a loved one is among that group.

It’s one thing to make casual homophobic comments at a group of people you feel are radically different than you. It’s quite another when that group includes someone you love.

That’s what opponents of same sex marriage are up against. No matter your political beliefs, seeing someone you care about treated as an inferior citizen, let alone human being, is something you’ll find unacceptable. As more and more people realize this basic reality, opposing civil marriage for same sex couples will become even harder.

For some time I’ve felt it will take a few generations before we’ll see same sex marriage legal across the country. 

After the last few weeks, that time table might have rapidly accelerated. That’s beautiful.

What’s Sanctity Worth?

We live in an era that routinely makes a mockery of the sanctity of marriage. Celebrities marry to get on television. Divorce rates make even the least reverent of us uncomfortable. The ceremonies themselves, once replete with careful traditions full of symbolism and meaning, are often little but expensive parties for friends.

That’s not to romanticize what once was. It’s to mourn present reality.

In our national discourse, we speak about preserving marriage’s sanctity with a fervor saved for few other issues. In today’s parlance, that means we must prevent same sex couples from being granted civil marriages. If we allow the gays to marry, the logic goes, we anger God and ruin the sanctity of the existing institution. And frankly, I sympathize with that argument…to a point. In the sense of going into a church and saying vows before a crowd, your minister, future partner, and God, there is something sanctified about marriage. The Church should have full control over who can be married within its traditions. If the Catholic Church refuses to give its blessing to a loving pair of men or women, that’s its prerogative. 

But civil marriage is not religious marriage. Confusing the two perverts both the purpose of the state and the institution of marriage itself. 

Civil marriage matters because it conveys legal rights not available outside the institution. Being a legally wed couple means access to favorable tax rates, inheritances, the pensions of your spouse, custody rights, and on and on. These rights are given because it is assumed that to be wed makes couples more responsible and is the best environment for the rearing of children. Those are things the state would find valuable with or without religious involvement.

So when we talk about sanctity and civil marriage as if they’re the same thing, let me be the first to assert the opposite. The state cannot convey sanctity. There’s nothing sacred about laws and institutions. This is especially true in a nation that purports to have at least a token separation of the church and state. If we had a national church or religion, it’d be a different discussion. 

But we don’t.

Perhaps I’m too deeply biased to talk about this issue with the disinterest most would require. A close relative of mine has been with her partner for as long as I can remember. Their relationship is one of the most loving and stable I have ever seen. Seeing them presented with the option of civil marriage and the recognition from the state such a right conveys would be one of the happiest moments of my life. That’s nothing to do with degrading heterosexual marriage or the sanctity of the institution.

It’s everything to do with love, sacrifice, and commitment. That’s what marriage is about. Leave the gender and sex of the individuals out of the equation. 

Gov. Romney believes a family with one mother and one father is the ideal setting to raise a child. That doesn’t mean adoption by other parents — whether they be single or same-sex — should be outlawed. States have to make decisions that are in the best interests of children, and where possible that should be in a home with one mother and one father.

Since it seems Tumblr is alive with MItt doing mean things today, I thought I’d post something he supports that’s both quite tolerant and politically brave. Romney believes, as I do, that each state should have its own authority to make these own choices. Most of the arguments against gay marriage, gay adoption, etc. will inevitably fade as we see the real thing in action. It’s hard to say gay marriage destroys the sanctity of marriage when it’s a functioning part of the social fabric in states that have better marriage outcomes than states without gay marriage. The same can be said with beautiful examples like Zach Wahls, who grew up with two mothers and appears more than perfectly adjusted to society.

My belief, as it has been for some time, is to allow society and culture to change the law rather than changing society and culture through law. It’s slower and more painful, but it sidesteps so many of the problems in our legal structures.

(Source: BuzzFeed)

I Love You Barack

There’s certainly something significant about our president coming out in favor of same sex marriage. But does it actually mean anything beyond feel good interviews?

Consider the facts. While mum on the subject, he ended DADT and stopped enforcing DOMA. He’s already beloved by the gay community (or at least elements of it) and worshiped like an idol by major liberal constituencies. 

So that’s it. Our President has now committed publicly to doing what he’s already doing. Awesome. Now if he only would respect the rights of states to make decisions on other matters….

Thoughts on DOMA

Our President will announce his support for same-sex marriage during the Democratic Convention in September. Mark my words.

What would such an endorsement, which I believe will be classic Axelrod (whoops, I meant Obama) material, mean for the most notable piece of federal legislation on the issue? The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was passed under President Clinton and has two primary components.

The first seeks to prevent states from being forced to recognize any same sex marriages performed in other states. In other words, DOMA overrides the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution. This has spurred numerous constitutional challenges. Those of you who’ve read my blog for some time may be surprised to hear that I’d support a constitutional amendment exempting marriage from full faith and credit. I have no desire to see an amendment passed saying something to the tune of “Gay people can’t get married.” I do wish to allow states, which have traditionally handled marriage (By the power vested in me by the STATE of …….), to determine their own laws free from unnecessary interference from Washington, D.C. or other states. This is the United States. If you don’t like your residence, no one’s stopping you from moving to a more welcoming state.

The second component is the one I’d prefer to see scrapped. It withholds federal benefits from same sex couples, meaning that existing couples as well as survivors are ineligible for the numerous tax breaks and survivor’s benefits granted to couples within traditional marriages. Like the University of Nebraska’s intransigence on granting employee +1 benefits to same sex couples, I see little reason for the federal government to discriminate in such a manner. If someone possesses a valid marriage license from any state, why should the government have the right to legislate on the manner? Under my logic, if a couple from Nebraska was to be married in New York or another state that recognizes same sex marriage, they would become eligible for federal benefits as a legal couple. That doesn’t mean they’re entitled to anything from the state of Nebraska, but it certainly means they should be treated as a married couple by their federal government.

Someone of my political leanings will always struggle to reconcile the belief in limited government and federalism with the desire to treat everyone equally. This is one of those circumstances that  causes me great discomfort. Ideally, this would be a non-issue. As I’ve written before, I’d rather remove the state from marriage altogether. Its role is hardly one of tradition, but rather one that began with the French Revolution. Marriage, at least to me, involves a church and a couple committing to each other for life. The state has little role in such an affair.

Until the state leaves the arena of marriage, however, it does have a role to play on the issue. We should endeavor to make that role one that commits as little cruelty as possible while respecting the rights of states under our nation’s Constitution. The two need not be mutually exclusive.

(Source: blogs.telegraph.co.uk)

Romney’s National Security Spokesman Is Openly Gay

A fact that doesn’t make it into the Washington Post. But I’m in no way outing Ric. He has lived with his partner, Matt Lashey, for the past nine years. Which is why this pick is interesting. For Romney to have an openly gay spokesman is a real outreach to gay Republicans, a subtle signal to moderates, and the Santorum faction’s reaction will be worth noting.

Something that to most of my generation is a non-factor. 

I’d call that progress, wouldn’t you?

(Source: andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)