Back to Basics

by David Link on July 4, 2013

Same-sex marriage came and went in the US Supreme Court, and the the most reactionary Republican dominated state legislatures responded by — passing new laws restriction abortion.  While the high court was deliberating a case challenging the power of Congress to prohibit or punish same-sex marriage under state law, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, South Dakota and Indiana were all exploring creative ways to provoke the high court to revisit Roe v Wade.

The lack of an outcry about U.S. Windsor is partly due to the fact that the opinion left those states’ anti-marriage laws intact.  But the renewed focus on abortion and Roe, at a time when the highest court in the land was setting down a marker about marriage equality suggests something else is at work.

That something else can be seen in the non-reaction in California to the opinion overturning the notorious Prop. 8. In 2000, California voters passed Prop. 22, an initiative statute prohibiting same-sex marriage, with 61% of the vote.  The state Supreme Court overturned Prop. 22 as a violation of the state constitution in 2008, which prompted Prop. 8, an initiative that amended the state constitution itself to prohibit same-sex marriage.  Prop. 8 got a little over 52% of the vote, but a win is a win.

So California’s voters must be furious about the decision in Hollingsworth v Perry, right?

If so, it’s hard to see.  Less than two days after the ruling, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals took the final step to permit same-sex marriages again in California, and while a very few of the usual suspects showed their faces to television cameras at the subsequent marriages throughout the state, there are no signs of outrage among the voters whose will was thwarted.

Opposition to same-sex marriage is different from opposition to abortion.  There is a real and substantial moral question with abortion: At what point does human life begin?  In the 40 years since Roe, that moral question has remained alive and vibrant, and the constitutional argument about abortion has seldom flagged.  Moral feelings about abortion start strong and tend to stay strong.

Not so for same-sex marriage, where moral feelings may have started strong, but have weakened substantially over time.  The moral consensus around same-sex marriage was collapsing even before the Supreme Court weighed in.  With each new iteration of the issue, voters see less reason for opposition, more reason in the arguments made for equality.  The moral argument against same-sex marriage is no more than the moral argument against non-procreative sexual activity; once heterosexuals can see their own procreative sexual desires in the broader context of a world in which procreation is controllable, the idea of sex for other reasons — pleasure, relational intimacy, emotional bonding or just for the hell of it — moves homosexuals from their historical outsider status to a proper role as fellow members of the human family.  Procreation is a good thing, but it is not all that sex is for.

The shift back to abortion for the old guard of the GOP is some evidence that this cultural shift on same-sex marriage is taking hold.  It is harder and harder to argue against the images of joyous couples getting married, and now joyous heterosexual friends and family are joining in the celebrations.  Connection and inclusion are moral instincts, family imperatives, that it takes an effort to deny.

There is still a strong sense that abortion is worth the effort.  For a small minority, the fight against same-sex marriage will continue to be a priority.  But the continent on which they once stood is becoming more of an island every day.

 

{ 19 comments }

Lori Heine July 4, 2013 at 2:04 pm

They must have enemies. The history of this country clearly shows the panorama of enemies the reactionary Right has had over the years.

Over various periods, they’ve demonized the Irish, Catholics, Jews, African Americans (they continue to come back to that one), welfare moms, communists, secular humanists, gays (they may get back to us, too, someday), etc., etc., etc.

They need enemies. They must constantly stoke the furnace of paranoia. Uppity women who have sex and get pregnant outside male dominion are one of the stock villains they keep going back to.

There’s something so coldly cynical about this. “Okay — so the gay marriage thing won’t work anymore. Let’s go back to abortion.”

It would be comical, if there weren’t so many people getting taken in by it.

Houndentenor July 4, 2013 at 2:23 pm

I’ve been hearing for over a year now that the anti-gay money is drying up. The withdrawal of the Mormons and then the closing/rebranding of Exodus Int’l confirm those rumors. There is still money in opposing abortion. Besides, the anti-gay groups have already done everything they can do to outlaw same-sex marriage. It’s going to take decades to undo the damage created by Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman in and around 2004. Repealing amendments to state constitutions is going to be a long and difficult process. Gays turn out not to have been scary enough for the majority of Americans, especially the younger generation who have grown up with gay friends and classmates. Slut-shaming, however, is still alive and well in the religious right.

Joe July 6, 2013 at 5:47 am

Thus why we’ve rebranded them the National Organization for Money, since that seems to be all their left in doing.

Tom Scharbach July 4, 2013 at 7:24 pm

There’s something so coldly cynical about this. “Okay — so the gay marriage thing won’t work anymore. Let’s go back to abortion.”

Yup. Just as cynical as the Bush/Rove/Mehlman “faggot, faggot” strategy of a decade ago.

But I’ll tell you what — folks who make a deal with the devil always wake up, sooner or later, that if you make a deal with the devil, there is the devil to pay.

If Republicans are discovering a decade late that “faggot, faggot” Faustian bargain isn’t working out so well, just wait until women decide that they’ve had enough government interference in their personal, moral/religious decisions. The Republican Party hasn’t seen anything yet.

Houndentenor July 4, 2013 at 7:44 pm

We are seeing it now in Austin. Citizens in other states are also beginning to react to similar legislation pushed through with little debate or media coverage.

Tom Scharbach July 4, 2013 at 11:56 pm

We are seeing the rush back to the 1950′s in Wisconsin, too.

It isn’t just the abortion, either. Its abstinence sex education, defunding Planned Parenthood, repealing the “equal pay for equal work” laws, effectively taking birth control and cervical cancer screening out of Badger Care, and so on. All across the board, if you don’t have three legs, you’re on the wrong end of the stick.

Most of it was rushed through with few hearings, no real debate and no uproar in the media. But women are starting to wake up and it won’t be long until the shit hits the fan.

jared July 5, 2013 at 8:12 am

As expected, none of the libby-lefty Democrats who comment here are giving any thought to the actual fact of what happens in abortion. As Kathleen Parker writes in the Washington Post, “One may wish to leave unfettered a woman’s right to do anything to herself, even if it means destroying her own offspring, but shouldn’t one be at least somewhat discomfited?”

Jorge July 5, 2013 at 1:16 am

Yup. Just as cynical as the Bush/Rove/Mehlman “faggot, faggot” strategy of a decade ago.

The only thing cynical is the people who think they can win political points with false histories.

Tom Scharbach July 5, 2013 at 6:13 am

We’ve been around this track, Jorge. The Bush/Rove/Mehlman strategy of of exploiting fear and loathing about you, me and others like us in order to mobilize the anti-gay base in 2004, using anti-marriage amendments as the vehicle, is well documented. The strategy was intentional, carefully planned and executed, and cynical. The only reason that you think that the history is false is that you won’t acknowledge that it exists.

Jorge July 5, 2013 at 8:39 am

We’ve been around this track, Jorge.

And yet you mischaracterize it yet again.

I want to know which of the three–the president with gay friends, the man who advised him, or the closeted gay man–was guilty of promoting the use of the word “faggot” during the 2004 elections. I want to know exactly when that happened. And I want to know why Mary Cheney (who was in a position to know) did not write about such an incident in her memoir.

Houndentenor July 5, 2013 at 8:54 am

You miss the point of the term “faggot, faggot”. I think Tom has explained it a couple of times before but maybe he needs a new expression. It’s not that they used the actual word. I don’t think all that many people in the Bush 43 administration were personally all that anti-gay. It’s that they used anti-gay amendments and issues (especially the promise of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage nationwide) to appeal to social conservatives in an election year. They did that and did it intentionally. And what’s worse there were gay people (Mehlman and probably Rove too not that we want to claim him…but a mail prostitute posing as a “reporter” was in the White House several times for long periods of time to see someone!) who worked on it.

As for Mary Cheney…what a joke. They all acted like John Kerry outed her even though she’d been out for at least a decade working as a liaison to the gay community for Coors to try to get the boycotts at gay bars lifted. Even so Liz Cheney flat out lied about Mary being gay on the Today show in 2000. I saw it live and was shocked that she’d lie so blatantly.

Tom Scharbach July 5, 2013 at 8:57 am

I want to know which of the three–the president with gay friends, the man who advised him, or the closeted gay man–was guilty of promoting the use of the word “faggot” during the 2004 elections.

We’ve been around that track, too, Jorge, about a hundred times. “Faggot, faggot” is a historical allusion to the racial politics of the South, in which white fear and loathing about African-Americans was used to mobilize the cracker vote.

Like it or not, I’m going to keep using the allusion, because it is apt.

Joe July 6, 2013 at 5:45 am

“If you have an enemy, you have an army.”

Kosh III July 5, 2013 at 8:32 am

“libby-lefty Democrats who comment here”
Moi?

I’ve never been pregnant(and would be rich and famous if I was LOL) but I have no problem with abortion for rape or indangerment of the mother or before viability of the fetus which is IMHO is before the third trimester.

These laws are not just about abortion but about continued control of other people by the same tired old white guys who have always fraked up the world. Back to 1860!

Houndentenor July 5, 2013 at 8:57 am

You miss the point of the term “faggot, faggot”. I think Tom has explained it a couple of times before but maybe he needs a new expression. It’s not that they used the actual word. I don’t think all that many people in the Bush 43 administration were personally all that anti-gay. It’s that they used anti-gay amendments and issues (especially the promise of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage nationwide) to appeal to social conservatives in an election year. They did that and did it intentionally. And what’s worse there were gay people (Mehlman and probably Rove too not that we want to claim him…but a mail prostitute posing as a “reporter” was in the White House several times for long periods of time to see someone!) who worked on it.

As for Mary Cheney…what a joke. They all acted like John Kerry outed her even though she’d been out for at least a decade working as a liaison to the gay community for Coors to try to get the boycotts at gay bars lifted. Even so Liz Cheney flat out lied about Mary being gay on the Today show in 2000. I saw it live and was shocked that she’d lie so blatantly.

Houndentenor July 5, 2013 at 9:01 am

Oops. That was supposed to have gone somewhere else. Maybe it did.

About abortion. As someone without a uterus, I won’t ever have to make that decision and I’m glad of it. I do favor sex ed and birth control both for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and the prevention of the spread of STDs. I note that most of the anti-abortion crowd is against comprehensive sex ed. How ironic. I also think that women are capable of consulting with health professionals and making their own decisions about their bodies and their health and they don’t need men lecturing them about it as if they are children and/or stupid.

Kosh III July 5, 2013 at 9:20 am

“I note that most of the anti-abortion crowd is against comprehensive sex ed.”

Which, IMHO, demonstrates the point that it’s about control not abortion.
They should be teaching the kids that there are lots of ways to have fun sex without the danger of pregnancy: hand jobs, blow jobs, anal sex, intercrural sex, what a straight buddy of mine delights in(fogive the language): titty-f–ing and more….

And very very few churches have families volunteering to adopt the unwanted fetuses. Jesus said it well: “woe unto you….hypocrites….”

Craig Nelson July 6, 2013 at 10:18 am

The point surely is there is no backlash. In fact, in the case of the US, it seems there is a pre-lash, as opposed to a backlash. All the sound and fury is located in the past (one may think here of Massachusetts but also Spain, Canada and Brazil). I think there is a sense that the fundamentals of this issue cannot be resolved by 9 men and women in robes. They of course have their part to play, but the ending of the barring of same couples from marrying is rooted in decisions by legislatures (even if overidden as in California and New Jersey), public votes in some states and judgments by both state and federal judges.

Part of the problem of the prelash is it was so effective that it leaves them little more to do than fight each battle state by state and conceding at least a few each electoral cycle. The terms of trade are now that states will be continually added to the marriage equality column. That is future losses are almost preprogrammed.

I think that it will be interesting to see what happens to NOM’s effectiveness in this fight now – they are surey in some kind of existential struggle. One could say x is a must win state or y is a must win battle but actually they have lost all the decisive battles – Prop 8 in the courts, 4 public votes, 10 legislatures. The really decisive losses for them were the losses inthe 4 statewide ballots in 2012.

One final thought is that Kennedy and Ginsburg have learned the art of progressive gradualism and ‘sharing the conversation’ while tpping the scales ever so slightly. Windsor is so powerfully worded it will definitely reverberate in other decisions in lower courts to come. If the rulings are favourable the 5-4 majority will not need to grant cert. If certis granted by the minority they will decide in favour of DIG. The US may come to marriage equality piecemeal, circuit by circuit over the next 5 years without SCOTUS needing to overrule. Obviously if faced by a negative ruling the 5-4 majority will likely overrule it and that will herald a 50 state marriage equality ruling across the board. A more likely outcome is a slow, steady, inexorable progression including a mix state and federal rulings, legislative action, possibly the odd state ballot over the next 5 years to achieve the goal of marriage equality across 50 states. I think it is the judges who ruled in favour of marriage equality whether at state or federal levels whose rulings look the most reasonable now – that lesson isn’t going to be lost on future judges. I think reliance on Baker and procreation is going to wear a little thin in future rulings.

Kosh III July 9, 2013 at 10:26 am

The US may come to marriage equality piecemeal, circuit by circuit over the next 5 years without SCOTUS needing to overrule.”

I think 5 years is overly optimist in places like Tennessee where TeaNut Fascists are firmly in control and are already increasing their attacks against equality. The RepublicanLite aka Democrats have not even had the courage to speak in favor of the recent decision(except for Reps. Cooper and Cohen who are in safe seats) much less call for repeal of the Amendment passed in 2006 which constitutionally made us inferior citizens with lesser rights.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: