Potemkin VIle

What are politicians who oppose marriage equality defending any more?

We know what they say they have in mind: the mechanical litany of protecting the right of children to have two biologically related parents; some version of Christian values; the independence of the people’s will against unelected judges; and the right of a state to define family relations. Each of those has some appeal, and some merit.

But Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard revealed a gap in the politics that should ease those who are jittery about the coming Supreme Court case. After a federal court last week struck down Alabama’s prohibition on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, Hubbard said, “It is outrageous when a single unelected and unaccountable federal judge can overturn the will of millions of Alabamians who stand in firm support of the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.”

Chris Geidner helpfully pointed out that, far from multiple millions, less than 700,000 Alabamians voted for the amendment. And that’s out of a population of 4.8 million.

This does not mean marriage equality is popular in Alabama. But you can’t deny that 4.1 million Alabamians did not weigh in on the sanctity of marriage. A lot of them weren’t registered to vote, a lot probably had other things to do on voting day, and you have to assume that a lot of them just didn’t really give much of a damn about this particular issue.

It’s not unlikely that, if this decision is upheld, either on appeal or as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling next June, there will be a certain amount of discontent in Alabama, possibly more than there has been in the 36 other states whose marriage equality bans have been overturned.

But think about the magnitude of the yawn that has greeted those other decisions.

So far, the Supreme Court has only overturned one state ban on same-sex marriage, California’s. Seven million Californians passed that ban (against 6.4 million who opposed it), and the court overturned it two years ago in Hollingsworth v. Perry.

While California is a pretty blue state, it is extraordinarily hard to find any of those seven million voters who, after the court’s decision, took to the streets, stormed the courthouse doors, or even wrote letters to the editor. The decision was met by the ban’s many supporters with a shrug. All of the fear and anxiety and emotional manipulation from one of California’s ugliest initiative campaigns had been utterly forgotten. No hard feelings, who’s providing snacks for the kids’ soccer game Saturday?

And that seems to be what’s happening in the other states where bans have been falling on a weekly basis. Most people are just relieved to be getting done with this.

That might be because equality advocates have had it right from the start: this really doesn’t affect most people’s lives negatively, and the ones whose lives it does affect are positively joyous. The bans were a deeply cynical and politically timed moment in American history designed to exploit the last dying gasps of an ages-old prejudice. That spasm forced the constitutional issue, and it turns out the cynics were right in their own way. That particular form of bigotry was dying, and they timed the bans well.

This last generation of politicians still has some long-tail prejudice to cater to. But I’m feeling confident they’re going to find this snake oil doesn’t dazzle the masses the way it used to.

23 Comments for “Potemkin VIle”

  1. posted by Thom on

    The bans were a deeply cynical and politically timed moment in American history designed to exploit the last dying gasps of an ages-old prejudice.

    Designed by whom? Oh that’s right, the Republicans this site is always telling me I should vote for. No thanks.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      They drove turnout in 2004 by lower income white people who were being crushed by the horrible economy but wanted to vote on “family values”. It was cynical and devious and unforgiveable. That includes the likes of Mary Cheney and “allies” like Mary Matalin who were happy to play that game no matter what harm it did to other gay people or their “friends”. I haven’t forgotten and neither should anyone else.

      • posted by Mike in Houston on

        Let’s not forget Ken Mehlman…

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          I was going to include him but was blanking on his name. I guess I could have googled but I wasn’t sure who successful I’d be with “pathetic gay sellout 2004” so I didn’t bother.

  2. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    em>But think about the magnitude of the yawn that has greeted those other decisions.

    The yawn is the product of thousands upon thousands of gays and lesbians coming out to their family, friends, neighbors and co-workers over the last several decades, all over the country.

    Harvey Milk was dead on when he argued that bigotry could not long stand in the minds of people who knew gays and lesbians who were out of the closet, and loved or liked the gays and lesbians that they knew. Every poll and research study that I’ve seen confirms this fact — that men and women who know a gay or lesbian family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker are significantly less likely to buy the specious, fear-based arguments of the anti-gay movement.

    Everything we have accomplished — our successes in the political, legal and cultural arenas — has been built on that foundation.

    We are about to win an important battle in the struggle for equality. We have been incredible lucky to get this far, this fast. The current flowing toward equality could have been blocked at many points along the way, as all of us who labored in the fight know well, slowing us down a decade or more.

    And, despite our progress in removing prejudice in the minds of Americans, the powerful and persistent forces that brought us the spate of anti-marriage amendments a decade ago remain powerful and persistent. The rhetoric may have changed — we are no longer characterized as perverts, child molesters, disease-ridden and so on, but instead characterized as intolerant, anti-religious descendants of Robspierre and Hitler and el Quada — but the message remains: “Gays and lesbians are “other” and “dangerous”, undermining the foundations of America.

    It is not yet time to sit back and declare “Mission Accomplished”. The fight is not over. We have much yet to do.

  3. posted by Houndentenor on

    I’m going to make a prediction (note that my track record isn’t that good) that the gay marriage case is going to be a 7-2 decision with Alito and Roberts joining Kennedy and the “liberals” which will allow Roberts to write the decision himself in which he will somewhat limit the scope of the majority opinion.

    • posted by Mark Peterson on

      Based on his dissenting opinion in Windsor, I don’t see any way Alito would vote in favor. Unlike Scalia, who spent most of his dissent fulminating, Alito repeatedly channeled Robbie George with discussions about “conjugal” and “consent” based marriage that was straight out of natural law theory. Maybe he’s changed his mind in the last two years, but I don’t think so.

      On Roberts, there’s a lot of discussion about his vote. But re-listen to the 2013 oral arguments. He was almost contemptuous of the equality side, and never gave any indication that his vote was on the fence. His Windsor dissent was smart–unlike Scalia’s, an attempt to limit the scope of Windsor’s holding (which fortunately has failed). If he votes with the majority in the current case, it would seem pretty cynical.

      • posted by Doug on

        It may be cynical but it will keep him from going down on the wrong side of history.

      • posted by Mike in Houston on

        It will likely be a 5-4 decision that will give the ‘this is the Roe decision of our generation’ folks ammo – but like Brown, it will be the enforcement decisions that will be the hardest fought. And as long as Stephen and others continue to give succor to the religious liberty trope – the Mehlmans of their age – it’s going to be quite a slog.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          Perhaps my 7-2 prediction is nothing more than wishful thinking. A 5-4 decision will embolden the bigots to keep fighting. Brown took forever to implement and that was a UNANIMOUS decision. I’m still stunned by that, but realize that the justices knew that if they were going to take such a step, there could be no dissent. They did collectively what they knew had to be done for the nation. We don’t have that kind of a court. Scalia would rather the country burn to the ground before conceding anything ever. I just can’t imagine being so blinded by hate that I’d want to be associated with a decision that’s going to be inexplicable only a few generations later. Imagine having voted in the majority in Plessy v Ferguson? I think Roberts is smart enough. The question is whether his smart will overcome his bigotry. This is a man, after all, who invited a gay cousin to the oral arguments in Windsor and then voted against his own relatives marriage rights. I can’t even imagine what it takes to be that big a douchebag.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Alito wrote a strong dissent in Windsor that shut the door on any hope that he will find for marriage equality. His dissent argued that “the Constitution does not guarantee the right to enter into a same-sex marriage” and then went on to demolish the Fifth Amendment “substantive due process” and 14th Amendment “equal protection” arguments.

      I can’t see any way for him to back out of the dissent, unless he takes the position that Windsor creates a stare decisis situation, binding precedent that, however unwise, binds the Court in all future decisions. Since both the majority opinion and Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent argued that Windsor set no precedent vis a vis marriage, arguing that Windsor binds the Court would be logically absurd.

      With respect to Justice Roberts, I can see one or two technical paths to a marriage equality decision that would not conflict with his Windsor dissent, but agree with Mark that his performance at orals strongly suggests that he does not support any of the routes to marriage equality that the Court is likely to take.

      With Roberts, nothing is impossible, I suppose, and I hope he will find a way to file a concurrence. I can’t see him joining in a “marriage as a right” majority decision.

      We will be treated to an ungodly amount of speculation on the way to a decision over the next few months, particularly after the orals have taken place. I’ve learned to sit tight and wait to see what happens when it comes to the Supreme Court.

  4. posted by James in Chicago on

    It’s Republican politicians specifically AND the the Republican voters they represent, who give those reasons and all three of those reasons, as well as others, to oppose marriage equality fall apart upon any analysis. Obviously, if those reasons did have some merit, then, taken together, opposition to same-sex marriage wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable. In fact, and it’s also obvious why libertarian Republicans deny it, these reasons have always been merely a political facade to disguise the raw hatred that we gays evince within the Republican party and so it’s been with ALL legislation these past four or more decades that implies to the slightest degree that gay people are not a menace, the greatest menace even, to all that’s good and holy in the world. That’s the truth. The Christian right are that extreme and with that truth in mind I’m not entirely sanguine that the bigoted element within the Republican party will be conceding defeat any time soon. If they’re not protesting in the streets over the steady advance of marriage equality in this country, it may only indicate that they recognize the increasing unpopularity of their cause, not an inclination to yield. It’s not as if our victories were written in stone. It’s not as if the Christian right had given up all hope of informing the American public that they’ve been brainwashed into accepting the militant homosexual agenda by the liberal media, Hollywood, and a few gazillionaire homosexuals!

    • posted by James in Chicago on

      And it’s not as if the enthusiasm of the Christian right won’t play a crucial role in the Republican party’s prospects for as far as anyone can peer into the future.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      Bobby Jindal just re-proposed a federal marriage amendment in case the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality. I think any hope our homocon “friends” have that the GOP is going to come around on gay rights happening in the next election cycle is just counter to the reality of the party as it is today. Not that they won’t vote for the anti-gay candidates anyway.

  5. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    The biggest danger that we are in looking forward is replacement of Justices Breyer. Ginsburg and Kennedy with Alito/Roberts clones.

    Anticipating a presidential win in 2016, Republicans in the Senate are exploring the idea of confirming justices with a simple majority rather than 60 votes, and it isn’t a stretch to think that we will see the Court move to an anti-equality majority in the next several years.

    All the sturm und drang about so-called “religious freedom” laws and whatnot now being proposed around the country is a lot of noise (noise that must be fought back, but noise nonetheless) compared to the damage that changing the majority on the Court from moderately pro-equality to definitely anti-equality will do.

  6. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    A quick legal update on Alabama: Although the court found no grounds on which to issue a permanent stay pending appeal, the District Court entered a 14-day temporary stay to allow the state to seek a permanent stay from the 11th Circuit:

    The court finds that the state’s interest in refusing recognize the plaintiff’s same-sex marriage or in allowing same-sex marriage is insufficient to override the plaintiffs’ interest in vindicating their constitutional rights. The public interest does not call for a different result. In its discretion, however, the court recognizes the value of allowing the Eleventh Circuit an opportunity to determine whether a stay is appropriate. Accordingly, although no indefinite stay issues today, the court will allow the Attorney General time to present his arguments to the Eleventh Circuit so that the appeals court can decide whether to dissolve or continue the stay pending appeal (assuming there will be an appeal.) The preliminary injunction will be stayed for 14 days.

    If the 11th Circuit refuses to stay the decision in Alabama, as it did in Florida, marriages will begin early in February

    • posted by Kosh III on

      In Alabama, the conservative paradise that Sullivan, Stephen and others love to venerate from their cozy blue enclaves, the state is threatening to jail any clerk who obeys the law, does their job and marries gays. So much for respecting the Law.
      And the only gay legislator is threatening anti-equality officials; saying she will reveal all their adulteries and infidelities. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/26/patricia-todd_n_6549024.html

      When will all these gay Republicans go to Alabama and convince their TeaNut buddies to accept gay people?

      • posted by Mike in Houston on

        When will all these gay Republicans go to Alabama and convince their TeaNut buddies to accept gay people?

        Answer: They won’t. But they will throw rocks at HRC for trying to open up a dialogue throughout the South.

  7. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    I suspect that the politicians still campaigning hard against marriage equality are probably defending their career, more so then the anything else. Their is still amble money and power to be mined off opposing marriage equality, among members of the political right.

    I seem to recall reading about the California Briggs Initiative in the late 1970s (I believe in a Randy Shilits book).

    The guy peddling the bill once said something to the effect of “hey, the gays should be happy that I doing this then some crazy bigot.” Another way of just saying — like the Mafia — “nothing personal, just business”.

    As long as a someone can get more money and more power by pandering to bigotry — racial, or ethnic or gender or sexuality based — they are going to do it, even as they may tell themselves that “I am not a bad guy, I just doing what it takes to succeed.”

  8. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    That this particularly theatrical opposition to marriage equality is happening in the State of Alabama is probably not going to go unnoticed by historians.

  9. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    A legal update:

    District Judge Callie Granade ruled for marriage equality in a second Alabama case this morning, again issuing a stay until February 9. The state has indicated that it will appeal the decision to the 11th Circuit and seek a stay from that court, just as it did in the case decided last week.

    Meanwhile, the District Court is being asked to deal with a bit of Alabama-style obstructionism straight out of the 1960’s. The Association of Probate Judges (the officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses) issued an opinion over the weekend to the effect that the District Court opinion was binding only with respect to the couple who brought the lawsuit and that any Probate Judge who issued a marriage license to any other gay/lesbian couple violated Alabama law and the Alabama constution. The Association’s opinion is constitutionally absurd, and the lawyers representing the couple filed a motion asking the District Court to clarify that “unconstitutional” means “unconstitutional”.

    And just to keep the obstructionist ball rolling, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore published a letter to Alabama Governor Bob Bentley saluting the Probate Judges Association opinion and urging the Governor to resist implementation of the District Court order.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      Update: Judge Granade issued an order stipulating that the court’s ruling does indeed apply to all Alabama counties.

  10. posted by Tom Jefferson III on

    —Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore….

    Ah, the judge who — awhile back — said that the Ten Commandments monument belonged on public land, First Amendment be damned.

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