Outing Mikulski and Struggle over FMA

July 12, 2004 | 28 comments
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Hard core gay activists or homosexualists or gay fundamentalists or what you will have threateded to out opponents of SSM. They’ve accused a couple of staffers of keeping their homosexuality in the closet and now they’ve accused Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who has only tepidly supported SSM.

In the debates on this board, some have expressed a concern that the Federal Marriage Amendment will inflame homophobic passion. Although I’ve disagreed with the contention that every expression of unease with homosexuality or even with unexpressed homosexual tendencies is irrational prejudice, we have agreed that most fear and loathing of the homosexually afflicted and even of active, proud gays is unwelcome. Our main disagreement is over the extent to which such a prejudice actually exists. Some of you felt that a broad pool of homophobic prejudice exists in this country, which the efforts to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment will incite. I felt that this broad pool of prejudice is no more real than the broad pool of latent antisemitism that Mel Gibsons’ Passion was supposed to tap into (or else, methinks, the FMA would be getting more traction than is has). None of us really knew. We were all talking through our hats.

I don’t know how much one should trust the judgment of fundamentalist gays in these matters. For activists of all stripes (I speak as one who knows) the two modes of being are always either triumphalism or embattlement. So for what the judgment’s worth, this outing campaign at first glance would suggest a judgment that American voters do indeed dislike the homosexually-inclined and that outing homosexually inclined politicians will lead the voters to punish them at the polls.

On the other hand, for outing to make sense politically as a threat, one must think that voters are tepid enough about homosexuality that they won’t vote against supporters of SSM on the suspicion that they are closet homosexuals who given way to threats. Either the activists haven’t thought their outing campaign through, or, as I fear, they don’t care. They don’t care because they’re not acting for political motives at all.

One of the most pernicious effects of the campaign to make sodomy and same-sex into a civil rights issue is the feeling among many that being gay is one’s identity and one’s essence. If a homosexually-inclined politician to waffle on SSM isn’t just a political problem, its treason to her natural community and to her own self. Outing her is, in many ways, for her own good. Only fools would think they could be a Mormon or a Marylander.

That must be the explanation. Viewed politically, the move is unwise. It opens politicians who vote for SSM to whispering campaigns about their motives–’what are they trying to hide?”. Worse, it’s divisive. The public doesn’t like SSM but they like fuss and confrontation less. The movement to protect traditional marriage through the FMA has only gotten traction because overweening activists have overstretched themselves in the courts. And FMA will only succeed if fundamentalists gays, not fundamentalist Christians, continue to be seen as the source of the problem, the ones who won’t just let the issue drop. This outing campaign helps. Perhaps we should modify Burke’s call to action into a defense of the open society: All that is necessary for good to triumph is that evil, witting or not, be given enough rope.

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28 Responses to Outing Mikulski and Struggle over FMA

  1. Silus Grok on July 12, 2004 at 12:15 pm

    It should be noted that a major target of the outing campaign is the cadre of closeted (and not-so-closeted) staffers of congressmen who favor the FMA — which, though abhorrent, is probably a more effective political weapon than just outing congressmen.

    Also, here are a few links that may prove useful:

    The blog of the guys leading the outing campaign (IIRC).

    A NYPress article on the outings, featuring Mikulski.

    A number of articles from the Washington Blade (DC’s newspaper of record for the gay and lezbian communities) on the outings.

    And, finally, a wonderfully lopsided discussion about the “ethics” of outing over at Metafilter.

    As for the FMA being some kind of touchstone for the knuckledraggers, I don’t know… I certainly believe that the folks framing the issue are trying to appeal to the lowest common denominators as they are utterly refusing to discuss the issue on its merits… but I’d be hard-pressed to believe that this will do anything more than animate a few discussions here and there.

    *crosses fingers*

  2. DaveB on July 12, 2004 at 12:45 pm

    Outing is a complex issue within the gay community. It’s quite controversial, although a consensus probably exists that it’s okay to out politicians who take anti-gay stances, but not (for example) non-political celebrities. Michelangelo Signorile (to whom Adam’s link refers) is the most controversial of the “outers”. He is best known in recent years for exposing the gay conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan’s unprotected sexual activities. Sullivan is HIV-positive and Signorile thought that his sexual activities were hypocritical in light of Sullivan’s frequent published criticisms of reckless sexual behavior among gay men.

    (Signorile may be a radical in his method of outing, but he actually gets a lot of criticism from the more radical part of the gay community for his position that gay men bear a responsibility for ending promiscuous, unprotected sex in order to end the AIDS epidemic.)

    That said, I think Adam’s analysis of the likely effects of Signorile’s outings or outing threats is off base. It is true that gay activists view someone’s sexual orientation as an important part of that person’s makeup, like their sex or race. This position provides activists with their ultimate justification for outing: Gay politicians who take anti-gay positions are betraying their people and thus deserve to be outed.

    However, the activists who use outing fully intend it to be a political tool. Politicians or aides who remain closeted do it based on calculations they themselves have made. In the case of Rep. Mikulski (D-MD), she seems to have decided that her working-classs Democratic district wouldn’t vote for an open lesbian. So outing her threatens her re-election chances not based on what the gay activists think, but based on Mikulski’s own reading of her district. (By the way, Mikulski’s homosexuality is probably the most open secret in Maryland politics.)

    Similarly, if congressional aides hide their sexuality, they do it for self-serving reasons (whether personal or career-oriented). Outing or threats of outing are thus calculated political acts. At best (in the minds of gay activists), outing will convince closeted, anti-gay political figures to drop their anti-gay positions. A suboptimal but still favorable outcome would be to create controversy that undermines the perceived moral authority of the anti-gay Right. Most voters dislike hypocrisy — reference Bill Bennet’s gambling, Rush Limbaugh’s pill popping, the sundry adulteries of Gingrich and Co., etc.

    Also, Adam implies that in the wake of these outings, voters might start to suspect all politicians with pro-gay positions of being gay themselves — “trying to hide” something. This seems unlikely. A substantial minority of politicians (and voters) support SSM. A larger number, probably a majority, don’t support SSM outright but also don’t favor the FMA. Voters don’t suspect them of being gay because, well, if they were all gay … we might at least expect a few more drag queens at the State of the Union. I don’t see the current outing attempts as changing that.

    The whole issue of closeted anti-gay politicians and aides has an interesting parallel here to the story of Esther. Imagine she had stood by, a closeted Jew, while her people were slaughtered, while she was in a position to possibly stop it. Would that be morally blameworthy? Would it be acceptable for someone who knew of Esther’s Jewishness to take her aside and threaten to tell the king unless she took whatever steps she could to stop the slaughter? Of course, Esther is so praiseworthy because she risked her life of her own accord to protect her people. But would it have been acceptable to threaten to out a less altruistic Esther?

  3. Silus Grok on July 12, 2004 at 1:18 pm

    *doh*

    Sorry Adam: I just realized that our NYPress links were the same… I thought yours was a follow-up.

    My apologies.

    DaveB: I think that the connection to the story of Esther is tenuous at best, as being pro-FMA is not necessarily being anti-gay.

  4. DaveB on July 12, 2004 at 2:34 pm

    Silus says: “being pro-FMA is not necessarily being anti-gay.”

    True, if you put stress on the “necessarily.” But look at it this way: Imagine someone who says something like “I affirm the personal worth of gay people, and I don’t think that being gay makes you a worse person in any way, and I support the rights of gay people to have same-sex relationships and live their lives according to their best lights, and in fact I honor and support gay relationships as worthwhile and contributing to the happiness and personal growth of gay people who are involved in those relationships — BUT I favor amending the Constitution (a drastic act in our democratic system) to prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages.”

    The statements before the “BUT” are parts of a run-of-the-mill pro-gay stance. And someone who held those and other pro-gay beliefs would sound very strange if they were to also favor the FMA. If there’s not a flat-out logical contradiction in there somewhere (depending on how the pro-gay beliefs are spelled out and what reasoning is given in support of the FMA), it at least feels contradictory — and is a position that I haven’t encountered in reality.

    More importantly, the FMA itself is bad for gay people. So I would argue that supporting the FMA is anti-gay at least to the extent that the FMA is bad for gay people. How is the FMA bad for gay people? It cuts off the very possibility that any gay relationships in the U.S. can be recognized as marriages, with all the rights and responsibilities that accompany that status. The FMA would presumably invalidate the same-sex marriages that have been performed in Massachusetts, which are almost universally perceived in the gay community as “good for the gays.” Passage of the FMA would strengthen the hand of those social conservatives who advocate a more wide-ranging anti-gay agenda — in fact, a frequent argument in favor of the FMA is that we need to “send a signal” about homosexuality. The FMA sends an anti-gay signal: that committed gay relationships do not deserve the same status accorded committed heterosexual relationships, and that it is in fact so important to keep gay relationships from being accorded that status that we should amend the founding charter of our nation to do so.

    Most arguments in favor of the FMA and against same-sex marriage focus on the alleged harms that SSM would do to society as a whole and to heterosexual marriage as an institution. These arguments might be correct, and they might be strong enough to show that we should pass the FMA. But whatever the alleged benefits of the FMA for “society” at large, its proponents should at least acknowledge that those benefits would come at a cost to gays and lesbians.

  5. luke on July 12, 2004 at 4:26 pm

    I think this threat of “outing” people is nothing but a dirty trick on the part of the extremist homosexual activist lobby. I think the homosexual lobby as a whole owould probably find a great deal more acceptance if they stopped actining in an adverserial manner all the time, and if saner people within the GLBT lobby actually came out and called a spade a spade, and condemned the actions of the extremist few. Untill they do that, middle America will never accept homosexuals, and they wilol continue to be labelled as sexual deviants and freaks

  6. DaveB on July 12, 2004 at 4:58 pm

    In response to luke’s comments:

    (1) Many gay rights organizations, including the largest and best funded (the Human Rights Campaign or HRC), do not condone outing as a political tactic. HRC in particular is known for its centrist stances; it actually catches flack from some in the LGBT community for giving money to pro-gay Republicans. This mainstreaming of gay activism, rhetoric, goals, and lifestyles is a major trend since the 1990s. (The biggest gay civil rights goals these days are for permission to be mainstream: serve in the military, adopt children, get married.) Gay rights activists are hardly “acting in an adversarial manner all the time.” Some of them are quite adversarial, as some activists on all sides of most social issues are. But mainstream gay activism is, well, pretty mainstream.

    Should mainstream activist organizations like HRC explicitly condemn outing as a tactic? For all I know, some of them do. But if they don’t, it’s probably for the same reason that you won’t find a plank condemning Judge Roy Moore (of 10 Commandments fame) in the Republican platform, or a condemnation of Al Sharpton from the Democrats.

    (2) Is it really the sporadic outing campaigns or occasionally shrill activism that cause “middle America” to lable gays and lesbians “sexual deviants and freaks”? Why do abortion-clinic bombings not seem to tar pro-lifers with the label of “sexual deviants and freaks”? Why does middle America not consider Puerto Ricans sexual deviants and freaks when they get arrested at Vieques?

  7. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2004 at 7:05 pm

    Those of us who see homosexuality as an affliction and another one of a fallen world’s crosses do not think that refusing to encourage gay behavior harms the interests of those so afflicted. We are not such monsters as to wish them to embrace the sin they are prone to so hard that they can never be loosed.

  8. danithew on July 12, 2004 at 7:11 pm

    We are not so prone to be hard monsters to embrace the sin that can never be loosed.

    There, that’s better.

  9. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2004 at 7:12 pm

    Err, I don’t mean to suggest that people who support SSM are monsters. Rather that recognizing that homosexual practice is grave sin would make one a monster if one wanted homosexuals to continue practicing.

  10. danithew on July 12, 2004 at 7:16 pm

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think Adam puts the “sin” in syntax … if you know what I mean.

  11. Adam Greenwood on July 12, 2004 at 7:22 pm

    The syntax is actually correct, just complicated and tough. I put the ‘tax’ in syntax.

  12. danithew on July 12, 2004 at 7:25 pm

    grin… :)

    I’m just teasin’ ya’ll.

  13. Kaimi on July 12, 2004 at 8:07 pm

    Bah! Another thread about homosexuality. Where are Steve and Danithew with the thread-killing chupacabra comments?

    :)

  14. Steve Evans on July 12, 2004 at 9:18 pm

    Dios mio! I have not been following this thread, but I’m sure the famed goat-sucking LDS beast of legend cannot be far from making an appearance…

  15. Silus Grok on July 12, 2004 at 10:20 pm

    DaveB: How, specifically, is the FMA bad for gay people?

    I understand that it’s “bad” in the same sense that mortgage tax write-offs are “bad” for renters; or that higher returns on long-term investments are “bad” for short-term investors; or up escalators are “bad” for people who want to go down… but I can’t fathom why I should afford any weight to complaints by non-breeding couples that breeding-capable couples (putting aside the arguments vis a vis non-breeding heterosexual couples) are getting incentives to pair-bond by a society that believes that there’s value in such pair-bonding.

  16. DaveB on July 13, 2004 at 12:00 am

    Silas –

    Our society doesn’t have marriage for the sole purpose of promoting pair bonding among breeding-capable couples. It’s important here NOT to set aside the many non-breeding hetero couples who get married. Marriage is a complex institution for which a number of purposes can be adduced, but even if its main purpose is to encourage pair bonding and breeding, that’s not its sole purpose. Some hetero couples who get married don’t want to breed, but want to demonstrate (to each other and the community) their love and commitment, take part in the attending legal accoutrements, etc. Other hetero couples get married and intend to breed and intend their marriage to provide stability for raising their kids, but they also want to demonstrate their love, take part in the legal accoutrements, etc.

    (By the way, if marriage were merely an incentive toward pair bonding among breeding-capable couples, it would be illogical to exclude lesbians from marriage, since they can (and do) breed as easily as moderately infertile couples. This kind of example is not trivial, because it shows that opponents of SSM don’t oppose it on the apparently neutral grounds that it doesn’t involve pair bonding among breeding-capable couples but because it involves gay people.)

    Keeping in mind the complex meanings of marriage and the complex reasons why our society has and should maintain marriage as an institution, we can look for how the FMA harms gay people by looking at an affirmative view of the good that marriage does for people:

    Marriage can definitely help in providing stability for the raising of children. This is a benefit that gays as well as straights could use, since many gay people are raising children. Of course, if you want to argue that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to raise children (children they have through adoption, by natural birth, or through custody from previous heterosexual relationships), then this is one benefit of marriage that gay people (and the children raised by gay people) don’t need. (I would then argue that there’s something wrong with, for example, taking away a woman’s baby because that woman is a lesbian, even though she’s in a loving, committed relationship with another woman, has the financial wherewithal to raise the child, etc.)

    Beyond the raising of children, though, I would agree with scriptural and other religious teachings on the importance of marriage to personal development. “It is not good that man should be alone.” Being bound by marriage vows, rather than some less-recognized form of commitment, encourages partners to stay together through stormy weather, learning and growing and loving in ways that they wouldn’t if they had split up. As Martin Luther said, “Marriage is the school of love.” LDS leaders teach similar things. Mormons believe that marriage is good even for childless couples — and not just because it gives them a sinless outlet for their sexual urges.

    If marriage is good for hetero couples, even the childless ones, and if it’s good for them for reasons found deep in human nature, in the nature of how we can become better people, I don’t see why it’s not also good for gay couples. Banning it is thus harmful to gay people because it prevents them from taking part in an institution that would do them good.

    Again, an SSM proponent can say that cutting gay people off from the possibility of taking part in the goods of marriage is justified. But it comes at a cost to gay people.

  17. Ethesis (Stephen M) on July 13, 2004 at 12:02 am

    Why do abortion-clinic bombings not seem to tar pro-lifers with the label of “sexual deviants and freaks”?

    Well, the bombings do tar pro-lifers, in many communities, just not as deviants, only as violence mongers and freaks.

    As for the operation rescue people …

    I’ll have to post a story sometime.

  18. DaveB on July 13, 2004 at 12:13 am

    In response to Adam’s advanced syntax –

    It doesn’t seem likely to me that either legalizing or banning SSM is going to affect individuals’ choices about having gay sex. In fact, one argument that I find plausible is that SSM would encourage monogamy and reduce promiscuity among gay people. If some people who are now promiscuous would be monogamous, and if monogamy is to be encouraged rather than promiscuity (and I assume you’d agree with this even if you hold that all gay sex is wrong to some degree or other), we should legalize and in fact encourage SSM.

  19. luke on July 13, 2004 at 1:37 am

    Dave, if like others commenting here, you are a devout Mormon, i dont understand why you are such a forceful proponent of homosexual marriage.
    Arent we taught by the Scriptures and our leaders that engaging in homosexual activity is totally wrong? I sure as heck hope our Church does not buy into the arguments put forward by proponents of SSm, and turn our Church into one that is more concerned about being politically correct, rather than being a Church that follows what the Scriptures and our Leaders teach us.

  20. Kaimi on July 13, 2004 at 9:28 am

    Luke,

    As several other threads have discussed, it’s perfectly consistent for devaout members to think that anti-SSM laws are a bad idea. Remember what happened the last time the government decided to enforce a 1-man / 1-woman marriage rule? (Hint: A lot of Mormons were thrown into jail).

    It’s a belief of our church that homosexual activity is wrong. That doesn’t mean that we should have laws prohibiting it or making it difficult; there are many sins that aren’t proscibed by law.

    For further discussion of these topics, see previous threads on SSM — there are quite a few of them.

  21. Steve Evans on July 13, 2004 at 10:53 am

    And here I was, worried that I’d killed the thread. Oh, well. Thanks to Silus and to “Operation Thread Resurrection”.

  22. Silus Grok on July 13, 2004 at 11:36 am

    No offense intended, Steve… just an interesting topic.

    : )

    Now if I could just find the time to reply to DaveB’s interesting points…

  23. danithew on July 13, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    Chupabraca!

  24. john fowles on July 13, 2004 at 1:34 pm

    DaveB: from everything that I’ve been hearing and reading it seems that one of the main concerns of the FMA is preserving the word marriage for what it actually means. I have drawn criticism on another thread for defending the notion that words actually have a meaning, politics aside (that didn’t resonate well with post-modern, new-historicist readers).

    But I’ll risk coming back to the idea here in response to your passionate push for SSM. Why can’t the gay community push for civil unions with all of the same ramifications of marriage and let man/woman couples keep the word “marriage” for themselves. That is really what the FMA is trying to do. It is just incomprehensible to me that the gay community won’t let their unions assume a different title (even though the legal result would equate with “marriage”); furthermore, it seems intolerant of them. If the homosexuals could just be tolerant of the feelings and beliefs of the overwhelming majority who believe that marriage is what it is: the legal union of a man and a woman, then that would go a long way. Doesn’t the homosexual community see that heterosexuals truly feel threatened by what the gay community is doing? For example, don’t you think there’s a more practical reason than mere intolerance that families would want to avoid Disneyland and Disney World during their annual gay days at all costs? That is, even though I teach my children to treat all people like children of God and thus to be tolerant of all people, which includes people who suffer from same-sex attraction, I still would never want to expose them to the behavior displayed at such occasions. I wouldn’t even want to expose them to heterosexual behavior of that kind.

    You will reply that the “majority” has been intolerant of the gay community for a long, long time. My response to that is, so what? Does that mean that the gay community needs to be obstructively intolerant in revenge?

    Gay rights activists are hardly ‘acting in an adversarial manner all the time.’ Some of them are quite adversarial, as some activists on all sides of most social issues are. But mainstream gay activism is, well, pretty mainstream.

    I disagree with your opinion on this. How else has a miniscule minority in this society gained such a grip on the entire public dialogue? I don’t see the Raelians this prominently on the public stage. How is it that this minority has forced an overwhelming, albeit largely silent, majority to read about gay issues every single day in the media, to intimidate those with other opinions into accepting rhetoric that it is actually “normal” and “okay,” and to steer an entire culture away from social mores and values rooted in revelation and religious truth? It is a revolution and a movement that is bucking Madison’s hopes in the virtues of a large republic to curb voraciously self-interested factions from commandeering the political stage for themselves (cf. Federalist 10).

    Why do abortion-clinic bombings not seem to tar pro-lifers with the label of “sexual deviants and freaks”?

    I assume that this cannot be a serious question, but I will answer it anyway. Do you think for one moment that the majority of those who wish to protect babies (i.e. “pro-lifers”–it has nothing to do with “choice,” but with innocent life) support the actions of those who bomb abortion clinics? People who do that are extremist radicals who are acting for their own narrow agendas, not on behalf of pro-lifers. What they do greatly damages the sincere goals of pro-lifers. As to why they are not considered “sexual deviants” and “freaks,” I can assure you that they are indeed considered “freaks.” But they are not considered “sexual deviants” for the obvious reason that they are not engaging in sexually deviant behavior by bombing the clinics. Rather, they are considered violent reprobates, but not sexual deviants.

  25. DaveB on July 13, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    John –

    Lots of interesting points. In response:

    (1) Although I have postmodernist and historicist (don’t know about new-historicist) leanings, I agree with you that words have meanings and that their meanings are important. However, I’m not sure if that gets us anywhere on this issue – I don’t think any useful conclusions can be drawn from the meaning of “marriage” without circularity.

    (2) While many opponents of SSM would be happy to create a “civil union” institution for same-sex couples that’s the legal equivalent of marriage, that is definitely NOT what the FMA would do. The text of the FMA reads:

    Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.

    It is quite clear that the phrase “or the legal incidents thereof” would overturn the Vermont court ruling that led to civil unions in that state. And it seems likely that the phrase “nor state or federal law” would actually nullify any laws that tried to set up same-sex marriages or marriage-like civil unions, regardless of whether the laws were passed in response to judicial mandate. The first sentence of the amendment could be construed as merely an attempt to keep the word “marriage” for the exclusive use of heterosexuals, but the second sentence clearly reaches way beyond that.

    (3) You frame the issue of gay demands for SSM as a case of gays’ obstructive intolerance for the majority’s view that marriage should be for heterosexuals only. I disagree that the issue should be described this way, and here’s why: While it’s true that the pro-SSM view and the anti-SSM view cannot both be fully accommodated in public policy and are thus incompatible, they are no more incompatible than other opposing positions on pressing public-policy issues – and we don’t describe those other disagreements in terms of intolerance. It’s not helpful to say that pro-lifers are being “intolerant” of pro-choicers, or vice-versa, or that progressive-taxers should stop being so intolerant of flat-taxers. Rather, we recognize that the different sides disagree and we expect them to give reasons and arguments in support of their own positions.

    That’s not to say that there might not be some intolerance on one or both sides of the SSM issue. Personally, I know only one gay person who is genuinely intolerant of straight people (he’s also a genuine misogynist, FWIW), and he actually opposes SSM on queer-separatist grounds. I don’t see intolerance for straight people as a basis for any of the major arguments in favor of SSM. (I could be wrong here – show me where.) On the other hand, I know a number of straight people who exhibit and even profess varying degrees of intolerance for gay people. And some, though not all, arguments against SSM are based on intolerance for gay people.

    (4) You say: “Doesn’t the homosexual community see that heterosexuals truly feel threatened by what the gay community is doing?” Yes, I think it’s pretty clear that some heterosexuals feel threatened, while others don’t. But what are they feeling threatened by, and why? You talk about “Gay Days” at Disneyland. I actually have no idea what goes on at Gay Days. I think some displays that are common at gay events, like S/M uniforms or hot boys rubbing against each other while wearing G-strings, are definitely inappropriate for young children, and I can understand why even an adult wouldn’t want to be part of such an atmosphere, and it seems odd that Disneyland (given the kind of space it is) would allow such non-family-friendly behavior. On the other hand, if Gay Days consist of same-sex couples holding hands, kissing, or pushing strollers full of kids – behavior that’s perfectly appropriate for opposite-sex couples in a family amusement park – then the only thing “threatening” about such behavior is its same-sex content.

    But I don’t see what any of the Gay Days stuff has to do with SSM; the thread isn’t about the appropriate spatial boundaries for sexually charged behavior (like the S/M uniforms) or whether it harms children to see a pair of suburban lesbians with their adopted daughter. To get to the real issue here: You imply that some heterosexuals feel threatened by the possibility (a fact in some locales) that some same-sex couples will be called “married.” I admit that here you might be right: I don’t understand, and I don’t think many in the gay community understand, precisely why some straight people feel threatened by the extension of “marriage”, as a word and an institution, to same-sex couples. I don’t see how such an extension would devalue an existing heterosexual marriage. I don’t see how it would discourage straight folks from getting married. (Is anyone really going to say, “Honey, I’d love to marry you, but now that the gays are doing it too I just can’t see myself getting hitched”?)

    I DO see how the possibility/actuality of SSM is a big change for society, and I can see feeling initially uncertain about or even threatened by that change. But I don’t think this perfectly natural hesitation about social change should be the ending point for one’s reflections on the issue. Such conservative impulses are healthy, useful, and often correct, but it sometimes turns out that the change should be undertaken despite initial uneasiness. The image that comes to mind is Spencer Tracey in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” – apprehensive about his daughter’s marriage to a black man, but after thoughtful consideration coming around to the rightness of the action.

    Whew! I’ll respond (more briefly) to your other points in another post.

  26. DaveB on July 13, 2004 at 3:31 pm

    John –

    Continued response to the rest of your post:

    (1) I maintain that mainstream gay activism these days is moderate (as opposed to radical) in its methods and goals. Its methods are legislative lobbying, political advertising campaigns, and selective litigation. Its primary goals for the past decade have been entry into the most mainstream of social institutions: the military, marriage, Boy Scouts, etc.

    (2) There are lots more gay people than Raelians. I’m willing to bet big money that you know some gay people, but you probably don’t know any Raelians. I don’t see what purpose the comparison serves.

    (3) Gay activists aren’t forcing people to read about gay issues. They’re pressing for what they see as justice, and sometimes that means creating publicity. On the other hand, the Senate debate about the FMA is the product of conservative (and presumably straight) Republicans, and it’s certainly generated a lot of news coverage.

    In general, I think gay issues get so much play in the media (and on T&S) because they’re very live issues for our society right now. It’s true that activists have pressed for changes, but many people outside activist circles, both gay and straight, now believe that some of our institutions are unjustly structured against gay people and should be changed. Among members of the church whom I know, even among many who are against SSM because of how they see their obligations to follow the Brethren, there is a lot of questioning and intellectual disquiet about gay issues.

    (4) My tongue-in-cheek questions about pro-lifers as sexual deviants were merely meant to point out that it’s not the practice of outing politicians (or any other extremist political tactic) that gets gays branded as sexual deviants and freaks – and thus, stopping the practice of outing will probably not get those who think gays are deviants to change that opinion.

    Okay, I’ll shut up now.

  27. john fowles on July 13, 2004 at 6:07 pm

    One overarching point that I was trying to make is that gays have a hugely disproportionate voice in our society.

    I don’t see intolerance for straight people as a basis for any of the major arguments in favor of SSM. This wasn’t my point when I commented on intolerance. I wasn’t claiming that gay people were intolerant of straight people in the sense of being disgusted that they would actually like a member of the opposite sex (which I admit is the source of much heterosexual intolerance for gays). Rather, what many gay people seem to be intolerant of is the idea that many heterosexuals want to keep marriage for themselves, or that there is a reason for some heterosexuals (I am only referring to the ones with values) to feel threatened. Yes, I was referring to S&M suits and other perversions when I mentioned Gay Days, Gay Parades, etc. It seems to me (a straight father of two) that people can reasonably be disgusted at such displays and legitimately fear exposing their kids to them.

    As to the FMA and its legal results–you are right that the language it proposes prevents same-sex couples from enjoying the benefits of marriage, and not just from appropriating the word. I wonder if this would have been the case if the gay community hadn’t tried taking over the word and had merely lobbied for civil unions.

    I DO see how the possibility/actuality of SSM is a big change for society, and I can see feeling initially uncertain about or even threatened by that change. But I don’t think this perfectly natural hesitation about social change should be the ending point for one’s reflections on the issue. Such conservative impulses are healthy, useful, and often correct, but it sometimes turns out that the change should be undertaken despite initial uneasiness. This was a reassuring statement. Thank you for acknowledging that people who oppose SSM are not out of their minds but might have legitimate concerns that the gay community at large (to my observation) seems to be completely ignorant of.

    The image that comes to mind is Spencer Tracey in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” – apprehensive about his daughter’s marriage to a black man, but after thoughtful consideration coming around to the rightness of the action. I can’t agree with this. That was an issue of racism–something that is wrong per se. Overcoming it contributed to our righteousness as a whole, I believe, and God let us get around to it in our own due time as we progressed to a level where we could handle it. But the issue of homosexuality is very different–from a religious standpoint. It is categorically condemned as wrong in the Bible. Our Church leaders, prophets called of God and speaking as his mouthpiece, have spoken in their role as prophets emphasizing that homosexual activity is an abomination in the sight of God. At the same time, the Church tries to work with those suffering from same-sex attraction to resist the temptation and to follow the straight and narrow path. I know that the other threads have fleshed this out more fully and that anyone who wasn’t convinced of the Church’s posture on this over there won’t be convinced by this meager paragraph. But at the very least it should underscore the fundamental difference in the minds of many between your example and SSM.

  28. john fowles on July 13, 2004 at 6:32 pm

    Sorry. When I mentioned heterosexuals with values I was not implying that any heterosexual that supports gay rights or SSM therefore has no values. Rather, I was just acknowledging that many heterosexuals lack moral values and thus would have no problem with S&M suits and other sexual perversions anyway.

    Also, I actually think that the FMA will fail and that gay marriage will become accepted in our society. My question is how am I going to prevent my own kids from thinking they’re gay if society tells them that their natural fraternal and sisterly inclinations towards others are manifestations of their “genetic” homosexuality? And what should I do when society teaches them to experiment with their own sexuality at an early age just to make sure they’re not being oppressed by a traditionalist father who wants to control their sexuality and sexual behavior and who wants to take away their choices in life (am I wrong or isn’t this how a traditional father is already becoming characterized in our society)? Perhaps I’m just afraid that leading my family down paths of righteousness is going to become exponentially more difficult in the years to come than it has ever been.

    In spite of these fears, I think I should disclose that I actually oppose the FMA but for different reasons.

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