Huckabee’s Non Sequitur

“Christians who themselves abandoned the primacy of lifelong marriage to follow the divorce and remarriage customs of a secular society have as much to answer for as do those who militantly push to redefine marriage,” Mike Huckabee reportedly says in his new book. Actually, there’s no contest—divorce, while sometimes necessary in light of domestic violence or unresolvable incompatibility, by its very definition renders families asunder and denies children the presence of one of their parents in the home (and, often, in their lives). Same-sex marriage creates or reinforces families and provides children with the added safety and security of two legal custodial parents.

Huckabee may be inching away from some of his worst rhetoric of the past, but he still can’t bring himself to see that gay families are not anti-family.

More. Social conservatives can always count on Mike.

Going for Broke

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. “The court’s announcement made it likely that it would resolve one of the great civil rights questions of the age before its current term ends in June,” says the New York Times.

I believe it would have been preferable if all the appellate circuits had supported the freedom to marry, and for a while it looked like that might be happening—until a November decision from a divided three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati ruled otherwise. The Supreme Court could have requested that the full Sixth Circuit rehear that case and rule, perhaps signaling displease with the panel decision. But that’s not the route the high court took.

Now it will be all (as most court-watchers expect) or nothing (a devastating reversal of the circuits that found a constitutional right to marry).

On a positive note, Time finds evidence Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage. Well, some of them, at any rate. And some is better than none, with more likely to follow, eventually leaving just a hardcore rump of rejectionists. Not that they should be forced to bake us cakes!

More. I’ve made this point before, but the New York Times now agrees:

The news Friday that the Supreme Court will rule on same-sex marriage brought elation from gays and lesbians…. But another group also saw a possible reason to celebrate if the court does indeed rule that way: Republicans.

If the high court resolves the issue as expected in June, it could deliver a decision that has the benefit of largely neutralizing a debate that a majority of Americans believe Republicans are on the wrong side of—and well ahead of the party’s 2016 presidential primaries.

Domestic Partner Benefits Are (Almost) Passé

The Washington Blade reports that the State Department is considering phasing out domestic partner (DP) benefits for unmarried gay employees now that the government can recognize same-sex marriages. There have been some objections raised, but once gay couples are free to wed throughout the nation, DP benefits will have served their purpose and can be dispensed with. This has already happened at many companies in states with marriage equality.

The Blade notes that one gay State Department employee complained: “While it’s great that we can get married much more easily now, my partner and I are not looking forward to being forced into a shotgun marriage due to a policy change that takes away the benefits we were promised.”

But spousal benefits are intended for family units with a commitment to permanency, and hence marriage—two individuals who by dint of legally binding mutual obligations are treated as a collective singular. They aren’t, or shouldn’t be, freebies for shacking up. If you want the benefits of being a spouse, that requires accepting the legal responsibilities of marriage. And that, in fact, was a theme we’ve sounded here at IGF CultureWatch over the decades. Ten years ago I wrote With Marriage an Option, Who Needs DP Benefits?, as Massachusetts was about to become the first state to recognize same-sex marriages (and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, one of the state’s largest employers, moved to drop DP benefits for state residents).

That 2004 post noted another post, from 10 years earlier, in which I took a critical view of activists demanding that private employers provide DP benefits to both gay and straight couples alike:

How much more constructive it would be if our movement, while pushing for full marriage rights, stopped making alliances with cultural leftists favoring benefits for unwed heteros. As David Boaz advocates in the January 1994 issue of Liberty, a libertarian journal, workers should be told “if you want the benefits of marriage, get married; but if the state won’t let you get married, we’ll be more progressive.” Benefits, he asserts, should not be seen “as one more goodie to hand out,” but “as a way of remedying an unfairness, not to mention retaining valued employees.”

He’s right. Domestic partnership benefits should be a stopgap measure for gays and lesbians until we achieve full marriage rights (based on legally recognized commitments).

That day, thankfully, will soon be upon us.

A Fundamental Right to Offend

Reason’s Nick Gillespie reminds us of the pivotal value of unfettered free speech, including speech that offends sensibilities and hurts feelings. He cites Jonathan Rauch on why this has been so vital for gay people and the advancement of gay social acceptance and legal equality, noting:

Rauch tells the story of Franklin Kameny, a government astronomer who lost his job for being gay. How Kameny won it back is an epic story of slow-moving but ultimately triumphant justice. More important, Kameny and others like him never supported laws that would limit speech. Instead, writes Rauch, “They had arguments, and they had the right to make them.”

Gillespie’s post also quotes Rauch, author of the seminal work Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, who writes:

In any case, we can be quite certain that hate-speech laws did not change America’s attitude toward its gay and lesbian minority, because there were no hate-speech laws. Today, firm majorities accept the morality of homosexuality, know and esteem gay people, and endorse gay unions and families.

For more, a link in Gillespie’s post takes you to an excerpt from Rauch’s forward to Kindly Inquisitors, in which he wrote:

Gay people have lived in a world where we were forced, day in and day out, to betray our consciences and shut our mouths in the name of public morality. Not so long ago, everybody thought we were wrong. Now our duty is to protect others’ freedom to be wrong, the better to ensure society’s odds of being right.

But as Gillespie notes, threats to free speech “are more likely in America to come from people you know and respect,” by way of efforts to prevent exposure to what, in another context, George Will referred to as restrictions perpetrated “in the name of a new entitlement, not to have your intellectual serenity disturbed, your emotional equilibrium upset, or your feelings hurt.”

More. It’s behind the WSJ’s firewall, but google “The Scandal of Free Speech” site:wsj.com to read Bret Stephens’ column on politically correct suppression of speech. Excerpt:

Last May, sex-advice columnist Dan Savage gave a talk at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics in which he used a term so infamous that it caused members of the audience to walk out “in a state of distress.” Later, a petition was put forward to demand that the institute apologize “for failing to stop” Mr. Savage from using the term, and to “assert a commitment to preventing the use of slurs and hate speech in the future.”…

The word is “tranny,” meaning a transgender, or transsexual, or transvestite person. So hideously offensive is this word nowadays that, when I arrived at an Institute of Politics event a few weeks later, a group called Queers United in Power—or QUIP, minus the humor—held a protest outside and handed out fliers denouncing (without spelling out) the use of the “T word.” I had to ask around to find out just what the word was; I got the answer in a whisper. …

I was reminded of this small episode following last week’s massacre of journalists in France, after which it has become fashionable to “be” Charlie Hebdo. Sorry, but QUIP is not Charlie Hebdo: QUIP is al Qaeda with a different list of moral objections and a milder set of criminal penalties. Otherwise, like al Qaeda, it’s the same unattractive mix of quavering personal sensitivity and totalitarian demands for ideological conformity.

Furthermore. “Knowledge starts as offendedness”: Jonathan Rauch on free speech and the speech code mentality (video clip).

Still more. The mirror image of arbitrarily declaring what can be said (and except on public university campuses, this typically involves thuggery but not state power) is to force people to engage in expressive activity in support of ideas they don’t, you know, support (which does involve state prosecution and criminal punishment of those who refuse to comply). Which then leads to competing grievance claims.

Final Word on this tangent. The Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto takes on the New York Times’ Frank Bruni in Call the Cake Police! (It, too, is behind the paper’s firewall, so google “Call the Cake Police” site:wsj.com:

Without harboring animus toward gays or sharing the eccentric baker’s social and religious views, one may reasonably ask: If a baker is uncomfortable baking a cake for you, why call the cake police? Why not just find another baker who’s happy to have your business? …

Bruni’s purpose here is not to vindicate his personal dignity as a gay man. Rather, it is—and he makes this explicit by the end of the column—to reject the principle of religious freedom almost totally. … To do that, he reduces the religious-liberty claim to a nullity, too weak to withstand even the most ludicrous counterclaim he can think of. If he’s right, our Muslim baker [in a hypothetical , requested to bake a cake with an image of Muhammad] is out of luck. (At least he won’t have to worry about the New York Times’s printing a picture of the offending cake.)

I also liked Taranto’s description of the kind of slippery slope arguments that “starts with something seemingly benign and leads by steps, usually of declining plausibility, to 1930s Germany or 1950s Mississippi.” LGBT activists that mock arguments that predict marriage equality must inevitably lead to a right to marry your dog are cheerleaders for arguments that allowing traditionalist religious believers not to bake same-sex wedding cakes (note: they are willing to make any other kind of cake for gay customers) will lead promptly to sexual-orientation segregation.

Ok, one last addition: Reason’s Scott Shackford also parses Bruni’s illogic.

Finding a ‘Moderate’ Gay Marriage Position as Goalposts Shift

Jeb Bush, the new GOP presidential front-runner (but at this early stage, don’t bet the ranch), weighed in on gay marriage. What he said marks a welcome shift toward moderation in line with statements by other GOP governors of late (including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, among others), and is in marked contrast to earlier Bush statements (actually, in contrast to his statements of just a few days earlier).

Republicans who are not creatures of the religious right like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee are increasingly coming to terms with the fact that a moderate position on gay marriage for most Americans today (as opposed to four or eight years ago) is the freedom to marry.

As reported by the paper of record:

As gay couples began to wed in Florida after a court ruling, Jeb Bush, the state’s former governor and long an opponent of same-sex marriages, struck a conciliatory note on Monday, telling The New York Times that “regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law.” …

Mr. Bush’s comments suggested a tepid acceptance of the new legal status, or at least an acknowledgment that there is little he can do to block it.

“We live in a democracy, and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law,” Mr. Bush said in a statement. “I hope that we can show respect for the good people on all sides of the gay and lesbian marriage issue—including couples making lifetime commitments to each other who are seeking greater legal protections and those of us who believe marriage is a sacrament and want to safeguard religious liberty.”

The Times further noted:

His remarks were markedly more sympathetic to same-sex marriage than comments he made to The Miami Herald on Sunday as he left a golf course. “It ought be a local decision—I mean, a state decision,” Mr. Bush told The Herald. “The state decided. The people of the state decided. But it’s been overturned by the courts, I guess.”

Gay rights leaders said they found Mr. Bush’s statement on Monday encouraging. Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, a group that has pushed for same-sex marriage, said that “most Republican politicians have been adamant in their opposition and provide no room for evolution.” Mr. Bush “at least is expressing his respect for those who support marriage equality,” Mr. Sainz said. “That’s a big change for Republicans.”

And on this point, I must agree with HRC.

According to a look at Bush’s statement and the responses to it by Business Insider, “Jeb Bush Changes His Tune On Gay Marriage“:

Bush was clearly attempting to strike a moderate tone with his statement. The Miami Herald’s Mark Caputo, one of the foremost experts on Sunshine State politics, described it as having a “neither too-hot-nor-cold Goldilocks quality.” However, it was still a marked shift from his past comments on gay marriage.

LGBT Democrats will complain that tepid acceptance is no longer acceptable. Indeed, according to Business Insider:

“Jeb Bush remains as out of touch as ever with Floridians and voters nationwide on the civil rights issue of our time,” the [Florida Democratic Party’s] chair, Allison Tant, said in a statement. “Bush championed these discriminatory policies as governor, and it’s a shame that he remains determined to stand for the forces of bigotry.”

This, of course, ignores that just a few years ago their beloved Clintons were also opposed to same-sex marriage, as for that matter was Barack Obama, but let’s not get sidetracked into the swamp of LGBT Democratic hypocrisy.

We conclude that accepting the inevitable is indeed a sign of progress for the leading presidential contenders from the nation’s conservative party.

More. Chain reaction: Marco Rubio now says about gay marriage: Courts are weighing in and “whatever the law is, we’re going to abide by it and respect it.” He doesn’t want to be out-Bushed!

I should add that I find it increasingly difficult to take N.J. Gov. Chris Christie seriously, but let’s note that his tone about gay marriage is more antagonistic that the latest statements from Bush and even Rubio. Christie is willing to accept the inevitable in New Jersey but calls on the GOP to continue fighting against the freedom to marry nationally. That attempt to court social conservatives who aren’t going to support him anyway shows, again, how out of touch he is.

Furthermore. Mitt Romney, who apparently still supports a federal constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage nationally, looks likely to challenge Bush for the center right space. So it will be interesting to see how that plays out. The divergence is being noted. The Independent reports:

This week [Bush] also set himself apart from many conservatives (and Mr Romney) on gay marriage. While not fully endorsing same-sex marriage, he said in a statement that rulings by court judges allowing it, as has just happened in Florida, should be respected by everyone. “We live in a democracy,” he said, “and regardless of our disagreements, we have to respect the rule of law.”

‘Manspreading’ and the Frequent Pettiness of Grievance Activism

A New York Times exposé is getting a lot of internet buzz. The topic is “manspreading,” the practice of men spreading their legs while sitting on public transportation. The articles begins by describing the issue as one of men taking up space beyond the confines of a single seat. But before long, we get to the heart of the matter: manspreading is described by aggrieved women as sexual harassment.

Here is a photo from the Times piece showing this insidious practice. Trigger warning, beware of the microaggressions you might experience from viewing this.

Many readers taking exception to the Times piece (Gawker reposted a range of comments) pointed out the obvious: men have testicles and it can be uncomfortable to sit with legs together.

The counter-response by some feminists has been, essentially, “too bad” (I’m putting it politely). Like Victorian prudes, propriety demands that legs only be crossed at the ankles.

The libertarian-minded writer Cathy Young puts things into perspective:

[F]eminist activists and commentators have tended to… promote women-as-victims, men-as-bad-guys narratives. … Trivial pursuit is not the path to equity. Feminism is now battling the alleged scourge of men who take up too much space on public transit by spreading their legs? Not only is this selective male-shaming (social media users quickly noted that female riders are guilty of different-but-equal sins), it is also a comically petty grievance that could suggests the aggrieved have no real issues. Half of successful advocacy is knowing to pick one’s battles.

Women, minorities, gay people, all people…there are plenty of real problems, yet our culture of grievance is obsessed with manufacturing offenses and then forcing others to repent these secular sins. it’s often about nothing more than who’s got the power to make others placate their wounded egos.

More. Craig123 comments: “The objections to ‘manspreading’ are part of the wider feminist critique of masculine ‘swagger,’ which has all to do with a hatred of masculinity and masculine expression. Gay progressives, these are your left-coalition allies. Enjoy your neuterdom.”

Furthermore. No, this isn’t some obscure point raised by fringe feminists. Via the local CBS affiliate, in Bill de Blasio’s New York MTA To Launch Campaign Aimed At Curbing ‘Manspreading’ on Public Transit.

Still more. And let us not invisibilize those other manifestations of patriarchy that have appeared in in the feminist lexicon of late, among these manslamming (“the sidewalk M.O. of men who remain apparently oblivious to the personal space of those around them”) and mansplaining (“explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman”).

Marriage and the State, Revisited

Last November I posted about traditionalist Christian ministers proposing a separation between religious and civil marriage—meaning that legal marriage would be performed and recognized by the state, but couples also could partake of a religious ceremony, if they chose to do so. Clergy, however, would not be licensed by the state to perform marriages. Proponents of this are asking conservative clergy to pledge not to sign government marriage licenses.

As the New York Times has just run an article about this debate within conservative Christian circles, let me reiterate. Clearly, these traditionalist (or, anti-gay-equality, if you prefer) clergy are motivated by their theological opposition to same-sex marriage. So be it, I still think it’s a good idea. I’ll repeat what I said before: religion is better off the less encumbered it is by the state and its dictates. And individual liberty is better served when the state does not intrude into matters of religious conscience. As the Times article notes as it concludes:

Dr. Radner, the pledge’s other author, is on sabbatical in France, which has long separated religious marriage from civil marriage. Seeing the separation up close has only made him more of a fan.

“Just living here made me realize that the church can function rather well,” he said, “and also avoid some of the conflict that we seem to get all embroiled in in the U.S. over sexuality matters, by being somewhat disentangled, practically, from the civil marriage system.”

Campus Left Targets Israel, Where Gays Are Free

Those on the left who believe the Western/capitalist world is the source of all evil often target Israel as the one country so vile that not only should it be boycotted, but institutions must be pressured to divest from Israeli investments. This is, sadly, a view that’s all the rage on American and European campuses these days (here’s a look at Wellesley). Which is why it’s good to see ads such as this one: Hamas, ISIS and Iran kill gays like me.

More. Milo Yiannopoulos writes:

As a gay man I would be killed in at least ten Islamic countries for being who I am. … Feminists and left-wingers need to stop inventing fictitious complaints about “manspreading” and “manslamming” and tackle genuine oppression in the Middle East. So far they have been shamefully and inexcusably cowardly about speaking truth to real power.

Freedom Ascendant, and Under Siege

No doubt 2014 is the year the tide was turned on marriage equality and there is no going back (take a look at Freedom to Marry’s map of the states at year-end). Up next is 2015, when the assumption is the Supreme Court will rule in favor of a nationwide constitutional right for gay people to marry.

As the Washington Blade reported this week in noting that the Supreme Court declined a request by Florida’s attorney general to stay marriage equality there, after a district court ruled in favor of it:

The refusal from the Supreme Court to stay same-sex marriages in Florida is noteworthy because although justices have denied similar requests to halt same-sex marriages in Alaska, Idaho, South Carolina and Kansas, they’ve never done so before in a state where a federal appeals court has yet to rule on the issue. The decision with regard to Florida could be a sign the Supreme Court is ready to rule in favor of nationwide marriage equality no matter what the federal appeals courts decide in the interim.

Expectations can be disappointed and hopes delayed, or dashed, but the signs look good.

This being IGF Culturewatch, let us again note that there is an authoritarian shadow that’s attached itself to the fight for the freedom to marry, and that is the desire by some to force conservative Christians to provide services to same-sex weddings, which they feel is a violation of their freedom not to be forced by the state to engage in activity that violates their religious beliefs. This is part of a wider, uglier spirit of the age, described in Politico by Flemming Rose:

…the grievance lobby has succeeded in shifting the fulcrum of the human rights debate from freedom of speech to the necessity of countering hate speech; from the individual pursuing individual liberties to the individual being aggrieved by the liberties taken by others. That shift becomes counterintuitive, the logic increasingly absurd. Those aggrieved by free speech are defended, while others whose speech is perceived as offensive to such a degree that they are exposed to death threats, physical assault, and sometimes even murder are deemed to have been asking for it: “What did they expect offending people like that?”

Freedom to marry is a culture-shifting advance forward, but it is not the only freedom that matters. For a sense of this, here’s a look by the Mercatus Center at California that’s not quite up-to-date but you get the gist (the status of freedom in the other states can also be viewed).

Here’s to a new year that will advance liberty for all.

The Victory Fund’s Spurious ‘Bipartisanship’

Chuck Wolfe, outgoing president of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, in an interview with Metro Weekkly, has some decent things to say about the need to support LGBT candidates in both parties, such as “if I have an opportunity to put an openly gay person or an out lesbian in the Republican caucus who can speak up inside that caucus meeting I’m going to do it.” But then he reaffirms the Victory Fund’s litmus test to only endorse candidates who are thoroughly pro-choice on abortion, which has eliminated a good many gay Republicans from receiving Victory Fund support.

And, of course, the Victory Fund bent knee to LGBT left and union activists by refusing to support San Diego’s Carl DeMaio this year in his race for Congress, which he narrowly lost after LGBT Democrats unleashed a slew of last-minute dirty tricks.

No surprise there, since former George W. Bush press secretary Dana Perino revealed that in DeMaio’s 2008 race for San Diego mayor, “The Victory Fund not only declined to endorse DeMaio, it’s common knowledge in San Diego that it then gave his confidential campaign information to the Democrats and bragged about it.”

Sorry, Chuck, but bipartisanship doesn’t mean soliciting money from gay Republicans as well as Democrats. Either you’re bipartisan in offering support to qualified candidates who can win, or you’re not, and Victory Fund isn’t.