Marriage: A 2016 Non-Issue?

Don’t look for culture war arguments in Campaign 2016, says Michael Barone:

I don’t think you’ll hear much about it in the 2016 campaign. The reason is that opinion on it cuts across party lines. More than any other issue I can remember, it splits Americans along lines of age. Elderly voters tend to oppose it, though by significantly smaller margins than in the past. Young voters tend to favor it by increasingly large majorities.

Most Democratic politicians favor same-sex marriage. But they don’t want to risk losing the support of elderly and many churchgoing black voters who oppose it but would otherwise support them. Most Republican politicians oppose it. But they want the votes of many Millennial generation voters who consider it a no-brainer. These splits affect primary as well as general election electorates.

So both parties are in the position of the legendary old-time politician who said, “Some of my friends are for the bill and some of my friend are against the bill, and I’m always with my friends.”

While obviously liberal Democrats have been readier to support marriage equality than conservative Republicans, few would have predicted the general silence from the mainstream GOP on this issue as of late.

Payback Time, Again

Equality Virginia, the commonwealth state’s marriage equality lobby, can claim a role in bringing the freedom to marry to all Virginians. Kudos all round. But now, what will they do? I know! Force bakers and photographers to accept gigs that they would rather turn down. That’ll show ‘em.

This week, the group sent out a fundraising letter stating:

While we celebrate marriage, opponents of equality are doubling down on intolerance—doing their best to push Virginia backward, and trying to…use the upcoming General Assembly session to ensure that “the rights and freedoms of those who disagree with the redefinition of marriage are treated equally and not discriminated against in their religious practice, education, business, or employments.”

“The situation is urgent,” the letter declares.

Along the same lines, the Washington Post “Civilities” advice column recently ran a letter about New York state innkeepers who were fined $13,000 by the state:

I am writing about the New York state couple who refused to allow a lesbian couple to use their farm for their wedding. As a gay man who recently married, I’m troubled by this situation because I find that too many gay people who say they are being discriminated against are not willing to see that others have different beliefs and values, especially when it comes to marriage rights. In planning my own wedding, I had only one bad experience when a vendor said it would not cater to my husband and me; I took my business elsewhere. As bad as this sounds, I believe that business owners should have the freedom to choose whom they serve…

Post columnist Steven Petrow responded, indignantly: “Of course, it’s a shame that not everyone in your shoes gets to celebrate with their second-choice of vendors.” He continued:

Frankly, I wasn’t surprised to see some columnists’ blowback against the lesbian couple or New York’s $13,000 penalty against the innkeepers…. I was surprised, though, by the large number of my LGBT Facebook followers who seemed to share that view. One gay man posted: “Why ruin someone else’s livelihood, when you still found another venue, still got married, and are still just as happy?” And this from a lesbian reader: “Let us not start becoming bullies after everything we fought for….

Clearly my sympathies lie with the McCarthys [the lesbian couple], not the farm owners. I can only imagine the hurt and humiliation the couple felt when they were turned away, and I applaud them for not taking the insult quietly.

To which the Cato Institute’s David Boaz tweeted, “Let’s go around fining everyone $13,000 to show the need for tolerance.”

As I’ve said before, whether you think government should force small businesspeople to provide services for religious ceremonies they feel violate their religious beliefs has all to do with your concept of individual liberties, and whether these are fundamental rights of individuals or are gifts for the state to bestow as progressive elites decide is fit, and holding that the right not to act is no right at all. For those in the latter camp, there is just no convincing them that this is all so very wrong.

More. Making A Conservative Case for Gay Marriage. It isn’t helped when the secondary message is that we have no tolerance for religious dissension.

Spot On

Just because it’s fun, and true, here’s a link to our friend James Kirchick’s latest take-down of the rich, powerful and corrupt: The Rise and Fall of Chris Hughes and Sean Eldridge, America’s Worst Gay Couple.

Just one of the article’s pertinent observations:

One suspects that had this couple been heterosexual and conservative, the initial media attention would not have been quite so toadying. We would have no doubt been treated to endless stories about how a “rapacious” “right-wing” millionaire, who had done nothing to earn his fortune, set out to destroy one of liberalism’s great institutions all the while enabling his power-mad spouse to “buy” a seat in congress. But everything about the Hughes-Eldridge pairing militated against such a portrayal. The prospect of a fresh-faced, conventionally liberal, gay couple hit every media sweet spot.

More. The Washington Blade takes on Hughes. The story is really one about factions of the left duking it out, the parvenue progressives vs. the Old Guard.

The Last Holdouts

Just a few scant years ago, who would have thought that marriage equality could be coming even to Mississippi? Not that the fight there is over. As The Clarion Ledger reports:

Same-sex marriages won’t be allowed in Mississippi while the state defends its gay-marriage ban, a federal appeals court said Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves on Nov. 25 overturned Mississippi’s definition of marriage as being only between a man and a woman, but he put his own decision on hold for two weeks to give the state time to appeal his ruling.

On Thursday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Mississippi cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples during the appeals process. But the New Orleans-based court agreed to a quick process for considering the dispute over Mississippi’s definition of who can marry.

The paper also reports that:

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said he voted for Mississippi’s constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and he “absolutely” still supports it.

“This is a constitutional issue with me,” Bryant told reporters Tuesday in Jackson. “You know, the people of the state of Mississippi vote to change a law, and then one federal judge can say, ‘Well, I’m going to overrule that.’ Then what good is the rule of law? What would be next? What if a judge said, ‘We think you ought to legalize marijuana.’ Then does that mean the laws of the state don’t exist anymore?

“So, this is a constitutional battle that I think you’re seeing waged all across the United States, is whether or not the people of a particular state, or the lawmakers that represent it, have the right to make certain laws,” Bryant said.

Recent months have seen a surprising number of conservative GOP governors and other officials acquiesce to the inevitable and accept, if not support, rulings favoring the freedom to marry (including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, among others). But the hard core of the social conservative base, exemplified in Congress by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and by governors such as Bryant and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, will man the guns of the last redoubt.

It matters not the Gov. Bryant’s argument is, well, specious, given that a key role of the judiciary is to overturn “democratically” passed laws that violate the fundamental protections of the federal Constitution. Ours is a republic of separate and distinct branches, some with the power to overrule others, and not a majoritarian dictatorship or mobocracy. Conservatives used to understand and defend that point, to the chagrin of progressives.

That the left often supports government overreach of dubious legality, and that these expansions of federal executive power do not involve the protection of fundamental liberties but far more often violate individual rights, confuses things. Fair enough, a pox on both partisan houses, as both left and right, conservatives and progressives, Democrats and Republicans are too often power-grubbing hypocrites, if not downright cesspools of corruption.

Nevertheless, recognition of the right to marry is coming, even in Mississippi, if not with a 5th Circuit ruling, then when the Supreme Court inevitably weighs in. And this expansion of liberty, despite the opposition of local majorities, is fundamentally and constitutionally sound.

The Catholic Church’s Ongoing Marriage Muddle

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, appointed by Pope Francis, has a softer tone in his opposition to gay marriage, but he lacked a convincing argument this week on CBS’s “Face the Nation” (view clip here, after ad) as he tried to explain the Roman church’s opposition to gay marriage because it’s necessary “to protect mothers and fathers who come together to continue the human race.”

When asked by interviewer Norah O’Donnell about gay parents, he returned to the need for “legislation that supports, protects and upholds those who take the risk to bring children into the world”, but not for gay couples who are raising children, because they are “not bringing children into the world to preserve the human race,” or at least are not bringing children into the world “through their own love,” which is what deserves the state’s protection.

Church representatives had an easier time when they could just declare homosexual relations a sin and be done with it. Instead, the kind of convoluted argument Archbishop Cupich puts forward is going to be increasingly unconvincing as more gay couples become parents, even assuming that one were to accept the view that childbearing is the only legitimate rationale for state-recognized marriage.

Australia and Finland Move Forward

On the international scene, there’s good news from down under: ruling Liberal party leaders will shortly decide whether to allow their members a conscience vote on a recently introduced marriage equality bill. As Reason reports:

“Want to hear a senator introduce legislation legalizing government recognition of same-sex marriage in a speech that also invokes the names of Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwing von Mises? You’ll have to go to Australia for that, mate.”

Liberal Party Prime Minister Tony Abott remains opposed to allowing gay people the freedom to marry (but will likely acquiesce to allowing a parliamentary vote). Also opposed to marriage equality was former Labour PM Julia Gillard, although she now says that gay marriage seems inevitable.

And more good international news. Finland is set to become “the last Scandinavian country in which gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot if the measure receives final approval,” the Washington Blade reports. And right on Putin’s doorstep, that’s sure to unleash fresh rage from Russia’s gay-hating despot, whose tyranny has driven many Russian gays to seek asylum in the U.S.

More. Putin surrounded by deviant nations! Poland gets its first openly gay mayor in elections with record number of LGBT candidates.

Social Issues Polarization and Politics

There is a similarity in the way that Obama has approached immigration and the Hispanic voting bloc, and his approach to gay issues—including “don’t ask don’t tell” repeal, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and marriage equality—and the gay voting bloc. It boils down to this: Obama and the congressional Democratic leadership (Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi) will often not act when they can in order to maintain a campaign issue and mobilize the relevant bloc for the next election. But when Obama feels he is forced to act, he does so in a way that’s ensured to inflame polarization and partisanship, which he then attempts to use to his advantage.

On immigration reform, in 2007 Sen. Obama scuttled a comprehensive legislative deal worked out with John McCain and other immigration centrists in both parties, allowing him to use the issue in his 2008 presidential campaign. Then, having won the presidency and with his party in control of both houses of Congress, Obama, Reid and Pelosi did nothing for the next two years on immigration. Then they ran on the issue (albeit unsuccessfully) in the 2010 midterms. At which point the Republicans took over the House and blocked a somewhat bipartisan deal that had passed the Democratic Senate, as part of their own bloc pandering (for the anti-immigration vote).

Similarly, as I’ve blogged before, Obama and congressional Democrats did nothing to move ENDA out of committee during 2009-10, when in control of Congress. Nor did they attempt to put an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell” up until the very end of 2010, when LGBT activists (excluding the lapdogs at the Human Rights Campaign) and several LGBT progressive bloggers went ballistic, since it seemed likely the GOP would win the midterms.

The Democrats’ endgame strategy was to attach “don’t ask” repeal to a Defense Authorization bill they knew Republicans would be compelled to vote against, even if they supported ending the ban. Gays serving or hoping to serve their country would lose out, but the issue could be used to mobilize gay voters in the midterms. And if the GOP took the House, Republicans could then be blamed for keeping the ban in place (which the GOP leadership, alas, would do, placating their party’s social conservatives base).

At which point, thanks mainly to Senators Susan Collins, a Republican, and Joe Lieberman, by then an independent, a “clean” motion to end the military ban was pushed and passed, with a surprising amount of GOP support, but annoying the Democratic leadership that had wanted to stymie it.

As Collins aide Mathew Gagnon wrote:

The White House and Reid had decided that hammering home the “party of no” narrative and painting the Republicans as obstinate obstructionists was, to them, good politics. Since that wasn’t actually happening, they tried to make it appear that it was.

But Reid got outflanked. Collins, together with Lieberman, unexpectedly introduced a standalone bill to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell, intended to go around Reid’s roadblocks. After a great deal of lobbying to rally a number of other Republicans to support the bill — a necessary step to prevent a filibuster — the Collins bill eventually passed 65-31.

And that, of course, is just one example of the Obama way.

More. Via Edward Morrissey in The Fiscal Times:

The Obama administration and Democratic majority…agenda has focused on wedge issues that have little to do with the middle class, but everything to do with demagoguing for narrow activist interests. … Democrats could have produced a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2009-10 rather than Obamacare or Dodd-Frank, but chose to renege on Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge of making it a first-year issue.

NOM’s Time Is Passed

I think that Salon may be jumping the gun in declaring that the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage has “collapsed into debt“—it doesn’t take much money to fund a group that basically issues press releases and talks to the media, so I suspect it will be around to make mischief and get quoted. But NOM’s fortunes are clearly in decline as the freedom to marry advances without popular backlash, outside the diminishing fever swamps of the anti-gay right. Also, alienating bedrock Republicans by backing liberal Democrats over gay GOPers was just plain stupid.

Marriage and the State

R. R. Reno, who edits First Things, a journal for very serious religious conservatives, proposes separating religious marriages from government-sanctioned civil marriage, as a protest against state recognition of same-sex marriage. The government would do its thing, and ordained ministers would do their thing, but ministers would no longer operate as agents of the state when it comes to performing marriages.

Some libertarians have long supported “privatizing” marriage, which would remove government from the marriage-sanctioning business altogether, making civil marriage a contract agreed to between the parties (the enforcement of which, if disputed, would fall to government to adjudicate, as with other contracts)—a somewhat different and more radical idea.

Although Reno’s First Things argument is based on animus toward equality for gay people under the law, I don’t know that it’s a terrible notion in and of itself. Religion is always stronger when it is freest from government’s command.