Saturday, April 4, 2009

the inevitability of same sex marriage

Nate Silver of has a great post about the changing attitudes of Americans - gradually, and inevitably shifting toward approval of same sex marriage. His conclusion is that by 2012 nearly half of the states would approve of same sex marriage by popular vote, and by 2016 only a handful of states in the deep south would still reject same-sex marriage with Mississippi, the last, finally coming around in 2024. Wow.

Although popular opinion is the final goal it's important to note that in none of these states is a popular vote likely to be the first step en route to marriage equality. The first step is either a State Supreme Court decision that forces the issue, or legislative action. The three states which currently enjoy marriage equality (Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa) got there because the court forced them to. In California we enjoyed one summer of court-mandated marriage equality and then lost it because of our too-easy to amend constitution.

California also came close to legislative-achieved marriage equality, passing bills in both 2005 and 2007 only to have them vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. Vermont is this week in the same place although they might very likely be able to override Governor Douglas' promised veto. Again, though, note that Vermont's first move toward marriage equality was a court decision (Baker v. Vermont, December, 1999) that resulted in their creation of civil unions.

Although people don't like to be forced to accept same-sex marriage by court decision, court decisions are strategically useful in that they give people the chance to experience a society in which same-sex couples are allowed to marry and to see that there are no negative consequences. Some people can see the justice issue in the abstract. But for many people only the concrete example of actually married gay and lesbian couples will prove to them they have nothing to fear.

Without the court decisions in Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, and Iowa we would have zero United States real-life examples of marriage equality and the gradual timeline of acceptance predicted by Nate Silver would be pushed much further back.


Bill Baar said...

Court decisions are a catastrophe. If you want legal ssm,you should through a rock at a judge becaue he/she is the one who will deprive you of it.

No...the questions UUs should be grappling with instead, is just what the heck to we mean by "marriage"? What is it we do when couples present and ask for marriage? (A UU minister refused mine by the way)

What the heck are we about, with what we claim is a right?

ogre said...

"Court decisions are a catastrophe"??

Huh? Why?

Was Brown v. Board of Education?

Was Loving?

There is *no* compulsory obligation for any minister, priest or rabbi to perform *any* marriage (nor will there be when SSM is legally accepted in all US states). It's always up to a member of the clergy to decline to perform any marriage, for any reason that seems sufficient. Perhaps it's that their faith rejects interfaith marriages. Or perhaps there's something about the couple that seems "off" and the minister is declining to be party to making a marriage that they believe is unready, or unhealthy, or a bad idea for some reason... a judgment call. But that doesn't keep one from seeking out another clergy member to perform it.

Court decisions that affirm that we all have the same right to enter into a legal union that the society grants privileges and rights to, and lays obligations to... with whomever we deeply love--that's a catastrophe?

I'm not even a minister (yet) and I know precisely what I mean by marriage. I've performed a number of them already, over the years--and, so far, haven't had to decline to perform one. But I know several who have.

And I have already thought through circumstances in which I would decline--including, but not limited to--showing up intoxicated to discuss the marriage, or insisting that I speak words that I am theologically uncomfortable with. There are other reasons too.

Bill Baar said...

Roe v Wade was a catastrophe. It's done much to cause the "culture wars".

Scalia is right when he says he's no better equipped to judge moral issues of abortion, and marriage then the next citizen. These should be left to legislatures.

When Judges rule these things there is a backlash and marriage ends up codified in state constitutions.

As for ministers denying marriage, well, if marriage is a right, necessary to ones fulfillment of their person hood, how can any minister deny it?

Catholic Charities had to pull out of the adoption business in Mass because they refused to place kids in households of ssm couples. If a minister can't deny placing a child, how can they deny the marriage...'s a right.

Bill Baar said...


Re: Was Brown v. Board of Education?

Chicago schools still heavily segregated. Detroit's schools have all but collapsed.

Was Brown a catastrophe? No, but it was hardly a success.