Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reconciliation on Gay Marriage?

David Blankenhorn and Jonathan Rauch have an essential essay today at the New York Times, "A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage":

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill ....

Linking federal civil unions to guarantees of religious freedom seems a natural way to give the two sides something they would greatly value while heading off a long-term, take-no-prisoners conflict. That should appeal to cooler heads on both sides, and it also ought to appeal to President Obama, who opposes same-sex marriage but has endorsed federal civil unions ....

In all sharp moral disagreements, maximalism is the constant temptation. People dig in, positions harden and we tend to convince ourselves that our opponents are not only wrong-headed but also malicious and acting in bad faith. In such conflicts, it can seem not only difficult, but also wrong, to compromise on a core belief.

But clinging to extremes can also be quite dangerous. In the case of gay marriage, a scorched-earth debate, pitting what some regard as nonnegotiable religious freedom against what others regard as a nonnegotiable human right, would do great harm to our civil society. When a reasonable accommodation on a tough issue seems possible, both sides should have the courage to explore it.

Read the whole thing, here (via Memeorandum).

I doubt we'll find a better case for gay marriage compromise than this. As
Dale Carpenter notes:

Rauch and Blankenhorn are among the ablest defenders of their respective positions, pro and con gay marriage, in the country. Both have written excellent books on the subject. What they say will be noticed by all sides, especially because they say it together. There will be strong objections on both sides: from SSM opponents who oppose recognition in principle and not just for instrumental reasons, and from SSM supporters who will worry about the practical consequences and who will wonder why such marriages alone will be qualified by morals exemptions ....

The devil is in the details ... but the op-ed starts a conversation about federal legislation that might be politically achievable in the near future.
Here's Rob Vischer's response, at PrawfBlawg:

For someone (like me) who believes that the legal treatment of same-sex relationships should remain a state-level responsibility, who believes that the law will (and should) do more to support long-term, committed relationships among gays and lesbians, and who is concerned that the rhetoric of "marriage equality" has shown a tendency to minimize the importance of religious liberty (especially institutional religious liberty), what's not to like about this proposal?
Not too much, in my opinion, but here's a taste of the "strong objections" that Carpenter envisions, from Pam Spaulding:

I have a problem with this already, though I see where they are trying to accomplish - getting same-sex couples access to the rights and benefits of civil marriage and cede the word marriage to those who cannot decouple it from religious marriage in their heads ... but Blankenhorn and Rauch's solution, by accommodating the "misunderstanding" about the word marriage -- rather than redefining it (something that has occurred countless times in the past), chooses to draw an institutionalized line of discrimination. Many of the same excuses for bans on interracial marriage revolved around religious objections to it, with scripture cited about the morality of race mixing ....

Sorry to say, our opponents are acting in bad faith. They attempt to sway positions with outright lies, such as conflating homosexuality with bestiality, thus leading to, say, man-goat nuptials, something that has nothing to do with any sane religious conviction, btw. That's extremism and intellectually bankrupt fear-mongering. The problem with the religious right is that they don't want any compromise, because the ultimate goal is to have government intervention and control on all matters of sex and reproductive freedom -- those are issues that extend way beyond civil marriage or social security benefits for same-sex spouses.

If anything, the marriage equality movement has been the faction constantly forced into compromise in the form of separate and unequal domestic partnerships and civil unions. These are incremental gains that have had a positive impact on same-sex couples, but it has also created this patchwork faux equality that is causing the legal machinations we are seeing.

The flawed premise of this op-ed is that both sides of the issue have equal power; that's illogical. The side on the status quo in this case holds the power and doesn't want to cede any of it, obviously, because it sees that granting the power of civil equality is threat to its vision of the country and the existence of marriage as they understand it. The side of social change always has the uphill battle, and the law leads, not follows the people when it is a contentious issue. And even when the law extends civil rights, that doesn't mean the public is ready to or willing to accept that change. We're clearly still fighting race-based civil rights issues, and that reflects a society that has not fully matured on the matter. It will be no different as LGBTs win civil rights, one by one.

Actually, Pam Spaulding imputes things to the traditionalist side that are virtually unheard of outside of the radical left's fever swamps? Bestiality? I've been blogging about this issue for months, and I can't recall the word ever being used by conservatives, or anything close to it. Not only that, where Blankenhorn and Rauch eschew taking sides, Spaulding adopts the stance of victimology. But Indeed, those "misunderstandings" on definition of marriage are found among gay rights advocates on the left, not of traditionalists, so her point's evasive, if not dishonest.

No doubt the left will smear advocates of even a fair-minded and reasonable proposal as bigots and religious fanatics. That said, I appreciate Blankenhorn and Rauch's serious effort to point the way ahead. We'll be seeing a lot more controversy over the issue, and real soon, considering the pending California ruling on Proposition 8.

So, stay tuned ...


Nikki said...

My concern is not the legal paper work or shared benefits. That is all fine and dandy. My concern is with the ramifications of gay adoption. As soon as a gay couple are clothed in the word marriage, then legally they have to be considered by an adoption agency or foster care. This to me is far more disturbing than what a civil union might bring. :)N

AmPowerBlog said...

Thanks Nikki: I think the compromise is a start.

Anonymous said...

I am one of many who oppose SSM for non-religious reasons, having nothing to do with bestiality. First of all, I reject the idea that marriage is a right for anyone. Society decides to sanction marriage because there is a return on the investment for heterosexual marriages. I have argued that sanctioning SSM is a bad investment for society. There is no evidence that SSMs produce the same societal benefits. So I don't like this compromise at all.

Anonymous said...

Hey Professor,

Seems like your infactuation with the magic delete button doesn't only apply to me, but to your other detracters here as well doesn't it? Congrats on maintaining your integrity at its peak sir.


Have a look folks:

"Repsac3 has left a new comment on the American Power post "Reconciliation on Gay Marriage?" (only to have Donald Douglas quickly & quietly delete it from his blog for reasons that I leave for the readers to discern for themselves.)

After quoting Pam Spaulding's discussion of dishonest & disingenuous arguments some on the right offer against gay marriage, Donald says (with a straight face, as far as I can tell): "Bestiality? I've been blogging about this issue for months, and I can't recall the word ever being used by conservatives, or anything close to it."

I replied:

Um, Donald... You need to pay more attention to the things your conservative brethren are saying. There's 2 former Republican presidential candidates among the rightwing folks using that very analogy:

From Homosexual Marriage to Bestiality: "U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) touched off a media firestorm in 2003, when, in an interview with an AP reporter, he suggested that allowing same-sex marriage was a strategic descent down the slippery slope toward acceptance of other perversions, such as incest, pederasty, and bestiality."

Seems like a very offensive comment needing to be deleted by watchful eyes.

Anonymous said...


Infact, I had the same concerns regarding the biological necessity for adopted children to be given the natural choice of a male/female parenting option. I even argued this point with opposing views until I read peer reviewed social psychology studies which indicated otherwise.

These studies indicate that there is no correlation between dysfunctional child rearing and gay parents. Infact, in a world where there are countless numbers of orphans waiting for homes, I doubt these children give a sh$$ about anyones' bigoted opinion that only be afforded a male/female parenting option.

Anonymous said...

I can remember when all of the people in the know stated that single parent, read mother, headed families were just as good as heterosexual families at child rearing. Well it turns out that is not true. I suspect that a few years down the road we will having the same attendant problems.
Leftist lead us down the road where fathers are unimportant to children's best interest to where mothers or fathers are unimportant to a child's best interest. One wonders how many disasters they have to create before even they get it?

repsac3 said...

Dennis: "I can remember when all of the people in the know stated that single parent, read mother, headed families were just as good as heterosexual families at child rearing."

I don't recall that, at all... Single parent homes (male or female) are usually sufficient for raising kids, but exposure to both genders is optimal, & I'm pretty sure it always has been. I doubt there were many credible or widely respected studies suggesting single parent homes were just as good for kids as those of a heterosexual couple...

For me, the issue has never stopped at what's "best" for children--which I agree is most often a home with one's own mother and father--but what is second best, third best, and on... ...along with what is possible.

Should parents who don't love each other stay together because of the children, or is it better for them to split up, but jointly raise their children as much as possible?

If we find a child in a single parent home, whether due to divorce, death, or abuse, is there any question that having that child stay in the same home as his/her remaining biological parent becomes the new "best" option, or should we take steps to get that parent remarried or give that child to a loving two parent family?

Are adoptions by single men or women better or worse for a child than adoptions by gay male or female couples? Or is it better to keep them in group homes or with foster families, and not allow them to be adopted at all, if they cannot be adopted by a married heterosexual couple?

If someone were to list and rate all the options for child rearing--rather than just saying heterosexual parents are best, and leaving it at that--I wonder whether we're really allowing / prohibiting the options we should based on sound psychological and sociological principles... If the same social scientists who tell us that heterosexual two parent homes are best for children were to go on to say that in cases where two heterosexual parents are not possible, two parent homosexual homes are better for children than single parent homes, I wonder whether anyone would suggest banning single parent adoptions, instead of homosexual ones?

Just something to think about...

Anonymous said...


If you're quoting what I said you have it wrong. I did not say that these social-psych studies indicated anything about single parent households. Infact, single parent households, for obvious socio-economic reasons are harder on children than their wholesome counterparts. At least, thats what I gathered from the studies that I have read. Obviously that does not imply that all single parent households are dysfunctional.

Just a clarification.

Anonymous said...


As usual, you raise very interesting and detailed questions regarding the matter.

Are children better of with remarried parents? etc etc.

I guess the short answer is that it is highly subjective.

Things to consider:

1. Individual family situations.
2. Role of extended family
3. Role of Grand parents
4. What type of break up, divorce, death etc etc.

and so on.

Hope I am not off base here.

repsac3 said...

Hope I am not off base here.

Not as far as I'm concerned...

The only thing I would say is, while your suggestion to look at the individual circumstances of each case would be a good one in an ideal world (even if it might be a tad impractical in the real one), there can be basic standards that we can use to get by until we reach that ideal state.

What I mean is, just as almost all people from experts on down agree that barring individual circumstance, a child's biological mom & dad, married & together, is the ideal situation for raising a child, we can also determine what the second best situation for that child is when the best one is not an option--barring individual circumstance.

The same criteria we use to judge the best option can be used to judge and rank all other options, too--in fact, I'd be surprised if it hasn't already been done, several times, more'n'likely--and once we know what the rest of the options are, in order, when a happily married mom & dad isn't possible, we can make more informed decisions about the welfare of children.

Is banning gay adoption a sound idea, or are two gay parents better for children than one single parent? (And if so, should we be banning single parent adoptions, instead?) Is it better for children to stay in group homes or with foster families, or is any kind of adoption--single parent, gay, ??? --more beneficial?

While "what's best for the child?" isn't the be all, end all question for child advocates--while rich parents can provide better food, housing, education & opportunity to kids, we don't remove the children of poor parents & give them to rich adoptive parents--going beyond just knowing "the best" situation for raising children, and instead knowing and discussing the rank of all of the options, would certainly be a step forward.

The perfect should never be the enemy of the good. Like it or not, not all children are going to live in homes with a happily married mom & dad. Simply repeating platitudes about the best situation for raising children isn't going to help them.

Anonymous said...

Once again, the vast majority of commenters lead down the wrong road. Parenting isn't part of applying for or receiving a marriage certificate. How can you deny full marriage equality to gay and lesbian taxpayers based on some sort of procreation standard? It fails on all counts. Gays and lesbians do have children. And not all heteros have kids. Should old or infertile couples be denied marriage licenses? Who out there was asked by the city clerk about their ability or intention to procreate before they got their marriage license. If procreation defines marriage, then get ready for the government to get even deeper into womb control business that it already is. Is that what you want?
And to those who say that gay marriage isn't a right, I will also point out that the right to privacy isn't in our constitution either. And by the way, neither is specifically heterosexual marriage in our federal constitution. When the founders wrote that each man is created equal, that said it all. Equal, in all ways, and at all times. What part of that don't you understand?
You don't have to like gay or lesbian people, but America is not founded on that concept. It's based on the idea that we are all treated equally under the law.
Compromise on equality is inequality. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Laura Antoniou said...

Rick Sanctorum:

"In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality —"

John Cornyn: The senator from Texas issued a written statement in which he advocated a constitutional ban on gay marriage with the following logic: "It does not affect your daily life very much if your neighbor marries a box turtle. But that does not mean it is right. . . . Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife." He left these remarks out when delivering the speech, but it was in the hand-out.

Huckabee: “I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal,” he said in the interview, published on the Web site Wednesday. “Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again.”

In 2006, Colorado Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Janet Rowland went beyond the pale in the slippery-slope analysis. "For some people, the alternative lifestyle is bestiality," she said. "Do we allow a man to marry a sheep?"

National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez said the reason a bestiality case happened in Massachusetts is because of gay marriage. She later on said it was "bad judgment" to say so.

Muscle Obsessive said...

Donald, you made a statement so outrageous that a simple Google of conservative links between gays and bestiality revealed 58,000 websites. And you claim that conservatives don't make the connection.

Hell, Over on FreeRepublic, they make it HOURLY. Then you got caught either telling a deliberate falsehood or being amazingly ignorant.

And you suppressed that valid and well-supported revelation.

And you got pulled on doing that TOO.

Weak. Almost pathetic and a certain loser strategy in the courtroom or any public forum.

Anonymous said...


My intention was not to promote any precedence on who gets priority over children, but just to shed a light on what sort of family situation has been studied and perhaps deemed most suitable through data that I have come across.

I hope I wasn't taken out of context in that regard. If that were the case, we'd be taking chidlren from single parents because they aren't as socio-economically reliable and so on. It is a slippery slope but I certainly do think their should be some serious scientific inquiry into what is best and most suitable holistic outcome for all amd what sort of scenario should prevail, given the choices.

Simplying having pre-meditated rules for certain groups of people is sort of like trying to fillet a fish with an axe.


repsac3 said...

@ Anon: Much of what you say is true of course. I've been down that road here & at my own blog many times, and I just didn't see the point of doing so again. I did at one point mention that I wasn't sure the compromise that is the actual topic of this post is necessary, but as happens sometimes, my words didn't last. (You can find them posed elsewhere, however.)

This adoption/raising kids angle is kind of interesting too, though... As I've said, I'm surprised that thew only part of the study we ever hear about is that mommy & daddy is generally best. Since mommy & daddy just isn't going to be the reality for a whole lotta kids, I'm surprised that no one--not even the people who blare about the top of the ladder--ever says word one about the rest of the rungs, 2nd best to worst.


Simplying having pre-meditated rules for certain groups of people is sort of like trying to fillet a fish with an axe.

I'm with ya, CS... But from what I know of family services & the courts & whatnot, it just isn't practical or possible to treat each situation as uniquely as it deserves to be treated, which is why so many family placements and reconciliations get screwed up. There just isn't the money, or the personnel, or the time, to offer much more than we are. Some cookie cutter policy is necessary just to keep the situation from getting worse.

No doubt we Americans can do better with protecting our young who get caught up in family strife--and I think we have improved over the years--but we're still a long way from giving families and especially children as much individualized evaluation & attention as they probably need.

I believe we can--and indeed have to--make general rules that will accommodate the majority of possible family situations, and then deal with the exceptions to those rules.

As I said, most folks (including me) agree that an intact mom & dad generally is best. That doesn't mean that there aren't instances where some single parent situations are better for the kids than some two parent household situations, but because most two parent situations are better, our bias is toward them. IOt ain't perfect, and we do make mistakes, but generally, it works out pretty well. I don't know whether we can expect more, unless we're willing to give up more, to get it.

chibi said...

sooo you've already deleted a comment calling you out on your lies. nice to know you cannot be trusted. here again, the evidence that you are blatantly LYING when you say no conservative has equated homosexuality to bestiality. i hope you're man enough to leave it up. or are you a childish coward, and going to prove it a second time?

i hope you're a real man, my dear. only cowards delete evidence of the truth.

So Donald, are you man or a mouse?

chibi said...

here's the full comment from repsac that was censored in a most cowardly way:

"Um, Donald… You need to pay more attention to the things your conservative brethren are saying. There’s 2 former Republican presidential candidates among the rightwing folks using that very analogy:

From Homosexual Marriage to Bestiality: “U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) touched off a media firestorm in 2003, when, in an interview with an AP reporter, he suggested that allowing same-sex marriage was a strategic descent down the slippery slope toward acceptance of other perversions, such as incest, pederasty, and bestiality.”

Huckabee: Gay Marriage Could Lead To Pedophilia, Bestiality, Polygamy: “Well, I don’t think that’s a radical view to say we’re going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal. Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again. I think the radical position is to make a change in what’s been historic.”

Audio: We’ll compare you to anything we want. And if you call us out on it, we’ll compare you to “spinners”: “Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. makes the gay/brother-loving/sheep-schtupping connection, and Matt Barber defends it/ denounces anyone who would dare be offended by it:”

California Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage, Polygamy, Polyamory, Man-Boy Love, Bestiality, Necrophilia . . . (The Virtual Abbey)

Kathyrn Jean Lopez: Gay Sex Is Like Bestiality | Oliver Willis: “National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez has a Rick Santorum moment and says the reason a bestiality case happened in Massachusetts is because of gay marriage. Conservatism and bigotry, their status as synonyms just hasn’t been officially recognized yet. By the way, Lopez is Mitt Romney’s biggest supporter at National Review, any surprise”

Race for Governor marred by bestiality comparisons: “The contest to become Governor of Colorado has been rocked by comments from a Republican candidate comparing gay marriage to bestiality.”

States to Vote on Incest and Bestiality | Up My Own Ass"

sweetie, we aren't the ones lying and censoring people to cover that fact up.

Dr. Psycho said...

Goodness me. I hope you don't need to soak your deleting finger in hot water after clearing away today's comments CALLING YOU ON YOUR OUTRAGEOUS CLAIM THAT CONSERVATIVES NEVER EQUATED HOMOSEXUALITY WITH BESTIALITY.

Zoe Brain said...

Donald, I'm a NeoCon from wayback. Never concealed it, and it does lead to some friction on some sites I regularly visit, when I point out the Emperor has no clothes.
But your statement:
Bestiality? I've been blogging about this issue for months, and I can't recall the word ever being used by conservatives, or anything close to it. is jaw-dropping. It happens all the time, and not from the goose-stepping groups we put in the attic.

It happens from conservative senators and congressmen. It happens at federal level, It happens at state level. It happens at city and county level.

Those who are calling you out on it are obviously not of your political persuasion, so may not be credible. But just Google it for yourself. Go look at Free Republic, under the "Homosexual Agenda" tag.

There are elements not just of the Wingnut right, but the mainstream, who are rabidly insane on this issue. They resemble the DNC in that regard.

We need to reform here. We can't do that by denying that there's a problem.

Unknown said...

Speaking as half of a legally married couple in California (as of September 2008), and adoptive parent of two wonderful sons, I'm always a bit bemused by people who argue the 'SSM shouldn't be allowed because they don't have children" or _shouldn't_ have children.
Both our sons spent years in the foster care system; when we adopted them, each of them was five years old. The chances of a five year old African-American boy being adopted out of foster care are better than my chances of winning the lottery, but not by much (exaggeration for emphasis, do not take this as a legitimate statistical claim).
My point? If we had not adopted them, they would most likely have stayed in the foster care system until they aged out at eighteen. We did not knock down a line of eagerly waiting opposite-sex married couples to get to them, nor did the social services agency give us SSM priority standing.

I'm not claiming to be St. John Bosco here, but if you sincerely believe that our sons would have been better off in foster care than being adopted into a stable, loving family (that happens to have two fathers) I double dog dare you to look my older son in the eye and tell him so.

The seven year old would just laugh at you.

Rebecca Eller said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.