The State of the Marriage Movement, post-election

November 4, 2004 | 110 comments

What next for supporters of traditional marriage?

The election is finished. There were thankfully no terrorist attacks. The post-mortems are arriving now in numbers, as every commentator becomes a coroner. Let’s join them. The official Church advocates using political means to encourage the traditional family (“We call on responsible citizens and officers of governement everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family . . . .”). Lately that has meant supporting the effort to codify the time-honored definition of marriage and to oppose legal recognition of SSM or of civil unions (“The Church accordingly favors measures that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and do not confer legal status on any other sexual relationship.”). Whither that advocacy, whither those efforts? Whither the cause?

First, things neither ballot propositions nor candidate positions nor vote totals are still important to gauging the effect of an election. I for one was impressed by the presidential candidates’ obvious devotion to their wives and daughters. I was impressed in the debates when George Bush and John Kerry started talking about each other’s families and it became clear that they both respected each other as husbands and fathers. Both families were also a conspicuous presence in the concession and victory speeches. These public examples, I think, do good, even if in some campaign years they are merely the tribute vice pays to virtue. In this campaign I got the sense they were not.

Constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and woman (excluding SSM, in other words), and in 8 states banning civil unions too, passed in each of the 11 states where they were on the ballot. Oregon was the closest, at 57%-43%. Marriage amendments had already passed this year in Louisiana and Missouri. There were other signs of the mood of the electorate. Values voters apparently made the difference in Ohio, where reputedly moral values was the number one concern for more folks than any other issue, including security against terrorism. Admittedly, as Rick Garnett discusses over at Mirror of Justice, this election is total victory for religious conservatives only in the minds of the secular left. Though we may also have to forgive our brothers on the religious right a little converse overstatement and triumphalism. Still, the results must be encouraging. (Note: T&S was on the cutting edge of identifying this political trend!)

Supporters of traditional marriage, however, need to realize that they have barely won a battle, much less the war. Most of the marriage amendments will be quickly challenged in the courts. Louisiana’s amendment is a harbinger of things to come. A judge has already struck it down. And if state constitutions and state court judges don’t overturn these laws, SSM activists will turn to federal courts and the federal constitution, against which state marriage amendments are powerless. Several equal protection suits are already in the works. If successful, these suits would impose SSM nationwide, marriage amendments or no. Two other points are worth considering. First, legal efforts to protect marriage, even constitutional amendments, can influence social change but they cannot dictate it any more than King Canute could stop the tide. Second, the effort to prevent SSM is defensive. It staves off an attack on the traditional definition of marriage but does nothing to reverse the sexual wantonness and broken homes that afflict so many Americans. In 1914 jubilant Frenchmen stopped the German drive to Paris along the Marne, at great cost in casualties. The war continued for four more desperate years. Defenders of traditional marriage may have defended Paris but the Prussian arms, alas, still glitter.

I wonder what strategies the movement to defend marriage ought to pursue from here? The following are my thoughts. I would appreciate yours.

First, more states need to adopt marriage amendments. The state court SSM lawsuits that marriage amendments frustrate in one state will break out in another unless the same remedy is applied. Additionally, the marriage amendment campaigns are educational. They elicit a public discussion of the purposes of marriage and commitment that can only do good. Lastly, voting in favor of a marriage amendment is a concrete act that crystallizes commitments, much like baptism or marriage itself. That commitment will help pave the way for other necessary measures or for a federal amendment.

Second, the federal lawsuits to impose SSM need to be vigorously opposed. The aim should not merely be winning the lawsuit, however. Educating the public on anti-SSM views on the meaning of marriage and the real requirements of the Constitution ought to equally be aims. These efforts should be tied to the campaign for a federal marriage amendment. Nonetheless, lawyers defending traditional marriage should be careful to not ignore every legal battle that isn’t explicitly an attempt to impose SSM. Flank warfare on tangential issues or on legal doctrines will buttress or weaken the legal position.

Third, supporters of a federal marriage amendment ought to watch court nominations closely.

Fourth, despite the election results, marriage amendment supporters need to appeal to the conservativism with a small c of the general population. Traditional marriage amendments are succeeding because SSM activists are overreaching. They need to emphasize that gays and lesbians receive lots of rights and toleration in this country and that no one wants to reverse that. They need to appeal to the spirit of compromise by suggesting that lots of changes favoring gays and lesbians have already been made, and its time that the far more numerous believers in traditional marriage get a little of their due too. This involves emphasizing that traditional marriage is the default and that SSM is the untried innovation. Along these lines, the actual hardships that gays and lesbians face need to be dealt with. Supporters of traditional marriage need to ensure, for example, that it is legally possible for a person to assign visitation rights to someone not their spouse. They need to emphasize, also, that many of the rights and privileges of marriage are mimicable by contract to those who are so inclined.

Conversely, supporters of traditional marriage must ensure that whatever steps they take to rectify real injustices do not too closely mimic the rights and privileges of marriage. If states start creating “civil unions� that are marriages in all but name, the social and political climate will rapidly grow more favorable. The causual link to any projected social ills will be unclear, like social causual links usually are. Familiarity will breed not contempt but indifference. So supporters of traditional marriage need to do what they can to prevent granting civil unions most of the rights and privileges of marriage. They also need to ensure that its not reserved for gays, either de jure or de facto. The term describing the relationship and the features of it need to be primarily geared to singles who might want someone to look out for them if catastrophe strikes.

Efforts need to be made to change hearts and minds. Good secular and non-sectarian arguments for protecting marriage need to be evolved. They should range from the sophisticated to bumper-sticker simple. Social science needs to get geared up for a protracted but hopefully educational struggle.

Finally, supporters of traditional marriage need to be as bipartisan as possible. Democrats should be actively encouraged to join the cause. They should also be encouraged to see that once these kinds of issues go away, so does the Republican advantage on them. Here is where arguments that defending traditional marriage doesn’t really hurt gays and lesbians will prove particularly helpful. Republicans, on the other hand, need to be told over and over that blacks and Hispanics support traditional marriage.

Oregon’s campaign for traditional marriage also offers some lessons. Oregon is one of the least religious states in the country. Portland and Eugene, the two population centers, are proudly secular and permissive. The campaign against the marriage amendment had twice as much money as the campaign for it. But the marriage amendment people got several things rights. African-Americans took up a prominent leadership role. Oregon’s marriage amendment cautiously said nothing about civil unions one way or the other. And the marriage amendment people made two effective arguments. First, they linked SSM to promoting gay and lesbian sex in public schools. They argued that if legal equality required recognizing marriage of all sorts it also required sex ed of all sorts, and they pointed to the Massachussetts example . I don’t know if this works as a legal argument, but it certainly works as a practical argument. They also linked SSM to no-fault divorce, the last major loosening of marriage. Not only did this highlight the pitfalls of marriage experiments, it also prepared the ground for later, broader attempts to strengthen marriage. The marriage amendment in Oregon passed by 14%.

These are my thoughts. I am interested in your views on how laws and culture changes protecting traditional marriage can best be advanced (i.e., the means). Per the Faulconer-Huff proposal, I am not interested in a debate on the morality of SSM or on the morality of applying moral views in the legal and political sphere (i.e., the ends). For those who wish to discuss the ends, this post collect links to our various debates. A discussion of means here should not be taken to imply an endorsement of the ends.

For the Canadian bloggern out there (the Canadackers? The Canadern?), here’s a rumination on the state of affairs in Canada.


110 Responses to The State of the Marriage Movement, post-election

  1. Laura on November 4, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    Adam asks, “I wonder what strategies the movement to defend marriage ought to pursue from here?”

    How about focusing on things that will actually strengthen and defend marriage and decrease rates of divorce, abuse and abandonment? Marriages are failing now, and are under more threat from within than they are from without. Young people are choosing to live together rather than to enter marriages because they’ve seen the destruction bad heterosexual marriages have had on them and their peers. They know marriages are failing. If we really mean it when we say we want to save the institution of marriage, we will spend some serious time and money focusing on things that will prevent failures and inspire young people to marry again and stick with it this time. Things like:

    teaching married people how to stay married: how to communicate, “fight fair”, resolve differences, set goals together and overcome differences of opinion without walking out.

    teaching abusive spouses to control their rage and stop the cycle of violence

    protecting abused spouses and children by providing safe places to which they can turn for shelter, food, and counseling, and teaching them how to find relationships that are non-abusive

    providing pre-marital counseling to more young couples so they go into their marital relationships with eyes wide open, knowing their future spouse’s stands on familial roles, working before/during/after childbirth, managing money, parenting, supporting in-laws, going to church, dealing with pornography, etc.

    providing extra pre-marital counseling for people entering second, third, etc. marriages, (especially when there are children/step-children issues involved) since the stresses of second/third/etc. marriages are higher enough than those for first marriages that there are significantly more divorces

    teaching parents how to be good parents: how to handle the stress of everything from colicky babies to wayward teenagers to senile parents

    teaching teenagers that marriage is a lifelong commitment that should begin, not with sex in high school, but with mutual friendship and respect that provides both spouses opportunities for growth and development throughout their lives

    It’s very easy to say marriage is under attack, and that it is being threatened by the issue of SSM, which may or may not be the case, but until and unless we take the time to examine, diagnose, repair and prevent problems within heterosexual marriages, the vast majority of all marital relationships, present and future, will continue to suffer the ravages of the “war on marriage”.

    Edgar Allen Poe wrote a short story called The Masque of the Red Death. It’s been awhile since I read it, but as I recall, it took place during a breakout of the Plague. Characters in the story worked very hard trying to protect themselves from an outside disease by trying to lock it out. Unknowingly, they actually locked death in, and in their short-sighted attempt to stave off death and save themselves from it, they actually doomed themselves by inviting death in and letting it have full access.

  2. The Only True and Living Nathan on November 4, 2004 at 2:20 pm

    Adam says:

    “I was impressed in the debates when George Bush and John Kerry started talking about each other’s families and it became clear that they both respected each other as husbands and fathers.”

    Yes, but please note:

    1) Bush complimented Kerry’s children, but said nothing nice about Kerry’s wife.

    2) Kerry complimented Bush’s wife, but said nothing nice about Bush’s daughters.


  3. Adam Greenwood on November 4, 2004 at 3:04 pm

    I believe, Laura, that this is a statement of goals with which I largely agree. I wonder how you would go about doing it, however? Are you supporting something like President Bush’s funding for family and marriage counseling?

  4. Derek on November 4, 2004 at 3:13 pm

    If marriage loses its definition as being between “a man and a woman,” I think we should all aim for polyandry and polygyny (he writes with tongue in cheek). Really though, what’s to stop it?

    Assuming the slope can slip that far, I’d say that making people aware of it is the first step to curbing the redefinition of marriage, or at least it’s one possible strategy.

  5. Adam Greenwood on November 4, 2004 at 3:24 pm

    You may be right, Derek. The slippery slope argument is a good one, though maybe it becomes more powerful if there’s empirical evidence out there suggesting that children do best in a two-parent home. I’m not sure this is the strongest argument out there, however. Unless its carefully done it comes across as a shrill scare tactic for something that most people aren’t too awfully scared of (polygamy seems so abstract) and that SSM supporters can simply deny that they are in favor of.

    I think a better approach is to show that the *arguments* for SSM usually (but not always) also justify giving legal recognition to polygamy or any other consensual relationship. This is particularly useful against the kinds of arguments that will be used to bring SSM through the courts.

  6. Rosalynde Welch on November 4, 2004 at 3:36 pm

    Laura, you wrote: “Young people are choosing to live together rather than to enter marriages because they’ve seen the destruction bad heterosexual marriages have had on them and their peers. ”

    I don’t disagree with your major points, but I think it’s clear that the marriage rate has declined and delayed not because young people’s eyes were suddenly opened to the reality of marriage, but because it has become culturally and structurally possible for men and women to meet their sexual and economic needs without marriage.

  7. Last_lemming on November 4, 2004 at 3:36 pm

    The strategy should be:

    (1) Vigorously defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in the courts. Such an effort has a high probability of success and has the added virtue of protecting states rights.

    (2) If DOMA is overturned, seek a federal constitutional amendment covering the same ground as DOMA (but no more). When the prospect of having to recognize same-sex marriages performed in Massachussetts becomes real, sufficient Congressional support for such an amendment would quickly materialize. The amendments recently voted on, however, are unnecessarily overreaching and would likely still not pass Congress.

    (3) Get serious about identifying a civil union proposal that could be supported as a compromise in states (like Massachussetts) that seem inclined to recognize them. Sticking your head in the sand and opposing all civil union proposals just gives their proponents a free hand to design them, and they will make them look as much like marriage as possible.

  8. Adam Greenwood on November 4, 2004 at 3:47 pm

    I think you’re right about step one.

    I wonder about step two, though. I can understand merely seeking a DOMA amendment if you’re trying to balance off support for marriage with other values. And it may be that there’s only enough support for a DOMA style amendment, nothing more. But I think there’s a pretty good case that an amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman can pass, and that passage would be helpful.

    I agree with step 3. Traditional marriage supporters need to sow the seeds of some kind of acceptable “civil friends’ structure now, because if the field is barren when the proponents get around to it, traditional marriage supporters won’t like the crop.

  9. Kaimi on November 4, 2004 at 4:19 pm


    I just have a second to weigh in, but let me suggest that one of your statements is not entirely correct. You write:

    “Several equal protection suits are already in the works. If successful, these suits would impose SSM nationwide, marriage amendments or no. ”

    Not necessarily. An equal protection suit against the amendment could succeed, but that will not impose SSM. That will simply invalidate the amendment. If the only equal protection challenge is against the amendment, then it will still be up to other actors, judicial or legislative, to create any law actually authorizing SSM.

    Look at Romer, after all. It’s possible to strike down an amendment _banning_ the addition of gays to antidiscrimination laws, without mandating a nationwide _inclusion_ of gays in antidiscrimination laws.

    It’s also possible, as the suit you link to argues, to try to get both kinds of relief. But it’s entirely possible for a court to grant the first kind (striking down antigay amendments) while not granting the second (mandating SSM). Again, think Romer.

  10. Adam Greenwood on November 4, 2004 at 4:40 pm

    The suit I link to isn’t a challenge to an amendment. It’s a challenge to the local county clerk not handing out a marriage license. If the federal courts decide that it’s ‘discrimination’ not to hand out marriage licenses to whoever walks in the door, then they have imposed SSM. At least that’s my quick and dirty read.

    For lawsuits that are just challenging the marriage amendments themselves, yours is an interesting take.

  11. Jonathan Green on November 5, 2004 at 12:38 am

    Adam, I hate to sound negative, but I think you’re in for a bumpy ride. It has nothing to do with the legal or moral rightness of fighting SSM. It’s too late: your issue has just been discovered as the most foolproof election season wedge issue known to the Republicans, and they will not be eager to settle the matter once and for all. No, the election strategists running the place will want to make sure that their best weapon is always ready to put them over the top.

    So here’s what you can look forward to:

    *Lots of tough talk to keep the issue smoldering but little substantive action;
    *Piecemeal legislation that will address the issue in tiny steps; or
    *Purposely futile efforts at overly broad solutions, like a constitutional amendment;
    *Badly worded bills that won’t withstand constitutional scrutiny, so the whole process can be fought from the lowest court to the highest and then repeated as necessary.

    In short, saving marriage has been called to the front lines of the culture war, so no progress can be allowed to occur for fear of losing the biggest gun in the artillery. You can plan on another SSM eruption late next year, more ballot measures in time for the 2006 elections, action on a constitutional amendment to coincide with the 2008 presidential race.

    You don’t think so? Look at abortion, another major front in the culture war. We’ve had Republican control of our government for two years. How many fewer abortions are being performed now?

    Look, I’m sorry it had to work out this way, but the fight to save marriage has been subverted to the fight to elect Republican politicians. There’s probably nothing to be done at this point. They’re ready to push the biggest button, their hands are prepared to yank the biggest chain, and they’re not going to let go willingly.

  12. Adam Greenwood on November 5, 2004 at 1:00 am

    What kind of solution would you suggest, Jonathan, to settle the issue once and for all? If the powers that be were willing to permit it, hypothetically?

  13. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 1:39 am


    That’s the smartest statement about this issue ever made on this or any blog. Hurrah to you!

  14. Adam Greenwood on November 5, 2004 at 1:49 am

    I do not wish this thread to turn into a debate on whether cynical GOPmasters will string out SSM and related issues for as long as possible. I know you feel hurt, but please refrain.

  15. john fowles on November 5, 2004 at 2:30 am

    Pretty cynical Jonathan. If you really believe that then I can see why you are extremely bitter. The question is, in your cynical view, are the democrats any different, or do they really care about some of the issues that they emphasize?

  16. Jonathan Green on November 5, 2004 at 9:43 am

    Yes, I am bitter. Cynical? Guilty as charged. Sorry for the intrusion. Please, go back to your strategy session, and I won’t interrupt again. But you might want to revisit the issue in a year or two or four and see how things are working out.

  17. Adam Greenwood on November 5, 2004 at 10:21 am

    Oh dear, John Fowles, now I’m going to have to ask you to refrain too.

    Jonathan Green is mistaken that I don’t want cynics in the conversation. It’s just that I don’t want their cynicism to be the topic of conversation. I am very much interested to know what a person who thinks politicians are cynical and manipulative (perish the thought) would do to promote “values” legislation and amendments. If I were a supporter of traditional marriage it seems to me that I would want to appeal to the Democrats for precisely the reason you’ve articulated: take the issue off the table and it no longer helps Republicans.

  18. Nate Oman on November 5, 2004 at 10:56 am

    D. wrote: “That’s the smartest statement about this issue ever made on this or any blog. Hurrah to you!”

    No it isn’t D. It is clever, and channel’s post-election Democratic funk into some actual analysis (rather than shrill prophecies of doom), but the analysis is at least questionable and certainly doesn’t qualify as the most brilliant thing ever said in the blogosphere on the topic.

  19. Steve Evans on November 5, 2004 at 11:03 am

    Jonathan, you bitter, angry man, drop me an email.

  20. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 11:06 am

    Oh Nate, you’re just jealous because I didn’t dub one of your posts the “smartest.”

    You’re pretty smart though, admittedly.


  21. Nate Oman on November 5, 2004 at 11:10 am

    “Oh Nate, you’re just jealous because I didn’t dub one of your posts the “smartest.â€?”

    Damn right! ;->

  22. Jonathan Green on November 5, 2004 at 11:29 am

    How about “smartest-mouthed statement about the issue”? Can we compromise on that?

  23. Marie on November 5, 2004 at 11:44 am

    As you worry about defending traditional marriage, keep in mind that heterosexuals have done far more to damage the institution of marriage than have homosexuals. We can focus alot of energy on defining marriage, but the biggest problem out there right now is cohabitation–not same sex marriage.

  24. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 11:55 am

    Personally, I think Jonathan’s smart post was right on the money. The SSM issue has become a political tool for conservatives. It is conservatives who want it on the table, all the time, which is so odd because it hardly affects them at all (in my opinion).

    Many gay people I know, some in relationships, really could care less about “marrying.” They are appalled that this issue has become, such an issue. If two people want to legally join up, why not let them?

    I myself am very dismayed that this issue has inspired one of the Church’s very few political pronouncements. I would have thought the Church neutral on this. Yes, I understand that the Church doesn’t approve of homosexuality, but this is different than same-sex marriage. SSM is really only for people who want it, and for all others (again, IMO) is really isn’t an issue.

    I’ll reiterate what I’ve said many times before — people think that legalizing SSM will promote homosexuality — that more people will “choose” homosexual relationships because society has now blessed them.

    It isn’t true. There will not be more homosexuals. There will not be more experimenting. The Church will not have to approve of gay behavior. It just isn’t true, though I know that most conservatives will disagree with me.

  25. john fowles on November 5, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    D. wrote It is conservatives who want it on the table, all the time, which is so odd because it hardly affects them at all (in my opinion).

    This simply isn’t true, in my estimation. The gay activist community is the reason that we read about SSM and homosexual issues everyday in the newspaper and hear about it on NPR. They are disporportionately loud given their actual representation in the populace. It was gay activists and not conservatives that forced this issue through the courts ending up with the Massachusetts ruling that contributed largely to opening this pandora’s box. And it was governmental functionaries illegally issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples after Goodrich, declaring on their own what is and is not legal rather than following the rule of law, that further enflamed that debate and created the urgency among conservatives to get constitutional amendments passed.

    Jonathan’s and D’s analyses of the SSM issue as the pet of conservatives (even though their opposition to SSM, in accord with the wishes of a majority of Americans, ended up helping them greatly), and as an issue that the conservatives put on the table and now want to keep their indefinitely are lacking considering how this issue has come to the fore in American politics.

  26. Rosalynde Welch on November 5, 2004 at 12:13 pm

    “There will not be more homosexuals. There will not be more experimenting.”

    D., I really don’t know if you’re right or wrong on this matter. But for what it’s worth, it’s not just conservatives who understand sexuality to be partially or wholly socially constructed. There’s a long and formidable tradition of politically progressive feminist and poststructuralist thought that understands gender and sexuality to be highly overdetermined by cultural and ideological factors.

  27. Nate Oman on November 5, 2004 at 12:16 pm

    D.: With all due respect, I think that there is a deep contradiction in the arguments in favor of SSM that you are not acknowledging. On one hand, we see Millian and libertarian arguments in which it is asserted that SSM is about a purely self-regarding legal relationship between two people that doesn’t imposes any costs, etc. on anyone else so what is the big deal. On the other hand, we see communitarian arguments in which it is asserted that homosexuals should not have to hide their relationships in the semi-darkness of the private sphere, but ought to be able to openly and freely affirm their commitment to one another just like anyone else. The first argument denies that the public symbolism of marriage is important, focusing instead on concrete issues of harm and freedom. This argument, not surprisingly, is used as a counter to conservative arguments that focus on the public symbolism of marriage. The second argument is used to counter conservative claims that rejecting SSM does not involve condoning employment discrimination against gays, criminalizing same-sex relationships, etc. The problem is that if you are going to invoke the public-commitment line of arguments, then the libertarian line of arguments really falls by the wayside. Perhaps you are purely committed to the libertarian set of arguments (I would have to go back and parse your comments to know one way or the other, I suppose), but by and large I think that they are far from the dominant strain of the rhetoric. Furthermore, despite the rhetoric of social disintegration, I think that the Church’s concern with SSM is almost entirely about the public symbolism of marriage. (I base this on the Church’s willingness to accept civil unions in Hawaii, although the institutional position on this may have changed.)

  28. Bryce I on November 5, 2004 at 12:41 pm

    Jonathan –

    Chill out dude! I haven’t seen you this worked up since, well, ever. I refer you to Nate’s excellent thread on political conspiracies. While I have learned to never underestimate Karl Rove and his ilk, managing the SSM debate on the scale you envisage in comment #11 is simply not possible — politics does not lend itself to large-scale conspiracies. I’m not saying that the end result of all of the arguing won’t be as you describe (although I doubt it — we’re coming up on a big round of abortion debates in the next few years that will push SSM to the side a bit), but I don’t think the results will occur as an orchestrated master political plan. There are simply too many true believers out there to be manipulated. A really astute political mind might be able to influence those ideologues on both sides to produce the standoff you describe, but for the most part, if it’s going to happen, it’s because people on both sides are fighting hard for their positions, and not because some sinister cabal is manipulating the system.

  29. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 12:43 pm


    You’re right, of course, that I am following the libertarian point of view about SSM. I also agree that the rhetoric on both sides is more nuanced than what I write here: but this might be because I simply cannot write at all, something I recognize. Though I can’t write, I still have ideas, and I try to get them across as well as I can, but I know I don’t have your vocabulary or Mathew’s at BCC (I would never think to use the word “parse” or “perseverate,” for instance).

    The SSM issue is blown all out of proportion, I believe, by both gay activists and conservative defenders. The issue may come down to a single word, “marriage.” What marriage as a word means to conservatives and Church leaders I cannot say, since I see its symbolism abused every day, in every way, already. And “marriage” to gay leaders and activists obviously means more than the legal joining of two people — they are trying to imbue it with every right imaginable, as if all the problems of the minority of homosexuals will be solved by getting a legal union passed in Arkansas (or Utah, for that matter). Legalized SSM cannot obliterate homophobia or discrimination, and might in fact inspire some anti-homosexual actions.

    Homosexuals practice an aberrant set of behaviors, and will be marginalized forever because of this. They recognize it, and I recognize it. I would like to see SSM put forth as a separate issue, for both sides. I’d like homosexuals to want SSM as a way to join society, a way of showing commitment and enthusiasm for our current society which centrally emphasizes the raising of children over all other human behaviors. Homosexuals should want to marry, to commit. Conservatives, on the other hand, should want homosexuals to commit, to raise children, to act “morally” responsible.

    I’m with you, Nate, in that I know these issues are more complicated and more nuanced, but I use these blogs mostly as a way of clarifying my own position to myself, and hence, the simplistic nature of my words here.

  30. Adam Greenwood on November 5, 2004 at 12:49 pm

    Adam Greenwood
    sits down.
    Reads comments since his last comment.
    Throws up hands in half-serious despair.

  31. Steve Evans on November 5, 2004 at 12:53 pm

    D., now that’s the best post on SSM I’ve read. I think we all need to admit to ourselves that our own positions are being worked out as we discuss them, and that no one here has any complete, cogent answer that will satisfy everyone.

    Adam, your gift of haiku is nice, although you flout the conventions.

  32. ed on November 5, 2004 at 1:02 pm

    Nate, I hadn’t heard about “the Church’s willingness to accept civil unions in Hawaii.” What do you know about this? The recent First Pres. statement seems to oppose civil unions.

  33. Adam Greenwood on November 5, 2004 at 1:05 pm

    Some of the syllables are provisional and won’t be counted. :)

  34. john fowles on November 5, 2004 at 1:08 pm

    D. wrote, What marriage as a word means to conservatives and Church leaders I cannot say, since I see its symbolism abused every day, in every way, already.

    What about looking at Church leaders’ marriages to see what it means to them. I’m sorry that your heterosexual friends from BYU ended up divorced and that you have neighbors in miserable heterosexual marriage, but really, that is the ultimate fallacy of composition to use those as examples in favor of SSM, isn’t it?

  35. Jack on November 5, 2004 at 1:36 pm

    I think there are enough concerned citizens opposed to SSM who, if they were rallied by a religious coalition of sorts, would march on Washington in such great numbers that it would make the civil rights march look like crowd at a bus stop.

  36. Adam Greenwood on November 5, 2004 at 2:18 pm

    An interesting though, Jack. What would be the opportune moment for this, do you think?

  37. Jonathan Green on November 5, 2004 at 2:33 pm

    Agh, I feel a long post coming on in a thread I really, really regret getting involved with now.

    For the record, I am not worked up. SSM is not an issue I care deeply about. And Bryce has seen me worked up before–remember 1993, Bryce? For a more recent example, see the thread on Little Utah and subsidized housing. There I was really worked up. But not now.

    Adam, let me restate my first comment without the sarcasm: the fact that your issue has been identified as a proven vote-getter is a mixed blessing. Keep both eyes open. Watch out for potholes. Watch out for the driver who purposely steers towards them.

    Apart from that, I would be more sympathetic to the anti-SSM movement if it did not invoke something very dear to me–marriage–to achieve something that I don’t think is all that important. The anti-SSM movement wants to reserve the term ‘marriage’ for heterosexuals. I’m OK with that. But I want to reserve the phrase ‘protecting marriage’ for something related to marriage as I understand and practice it, rather than let it be a euphemism for opposing SSM. I would prefer that the issues be recognized as two separate things. I really don’t care about the SSM angle, but if you can tie a simple “gays can’t marry” law to something that would actually help my marriage, I might go along with it. If the Marriage Movement were to concentrate most of its efforts on the latter, even better.

    What would help my family and other families? Cheap health care. The common understanding that 50-100 hour workweeks are bad for families and should not be expected or accepted. More time with my kids, and less time spent worrying about getting wiped out financially by a medical emergency. Safer roads and cleaner air. More books in our local library. Pick one. Or pick something else. To quote Brecht: Zuerst das Fressen, dann die Moral. If you want to help support marriage, great. If you want to ban SSM, fine. But I’m not thrilled to have the second goal masquerade as the first.

  38. Nate Oman on November 5, 2004 at 2:40 pm

    ed.: All I know is that the Church’s chief lobbyist in Hawaii took the position that the Church was opposed to same-sex marriage but was not opposed to civil unions. I know this from a conversation with her that I had at BYU. I have no idea whether the situation has since changed. Perhaps the Church now opposes civil unions as well.

  39. Adam Greenwood on November 5, 2004 at 2:47 pm

    I have to think that you’re an atypical voter, Jonathan Green. I don’t think attempts to decouple ‘protecting marriage’ from ‘opposing SSM’ are really going to persuade a lot of people. Would it really even persuade you?

  40. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 2:48 pm


    The Church’s recent statement clearly opposed civil unions.

    Jonathan, and Adam,

    One of the reason’s I thought Jonathan’s original post was so smart, is that he seemed to be speaking directly about this thread, and many of Adam’s threads about SSM and the defense of traditional marriage. Adam, you may be dismayed about some of the posts here, but you started the thread, I didn’t.

  41. Rob Briggs on November 5, 2004 at 2:54 pm

    “if [opponents of SSM] were rallied by a religious coalition of sorts, would march on Washington in such great numbers that it would make the civil rights march look like crowd at a bus stop.”

    Hmm, let’s see, blacks living in slavery for two hundred, then granted citizenship & full equal rights for an dozen years, then denied these rights de jure & de facto for nearly another hundred years — versus opponents of SSM with no such history or experience, not even remotely . . .

    Jack, I see the potential number of marchers. But I just don’t see the motivation for the march. There’d be some marchers. All the rest of us would watch in on TV.

  42. Rob Briggs on November 5, 2004 at 3:31 pm

    I don’t mean to hijack the thread but . . .

    Rosalynde, very interesting & provocative comment.

    I confess I’m one those who thinks that gays are between 3 & 10% of the population, always have been, always will be. Campaigns for or against will have little effect. That’s been my mind set.

    I’m generally aware of the “social construction” of race & gender. And a google search brought me some brief things on the social construction of sexuality, mainly based on the existence of ambiguous genitalia & intersexuals (no, not metro or retro).

    Still at the end of the day (or the century or the age), I still think that a small portion of the population will be gay; that the impact of campaigns, marches, politicians, legislation, constitutional amendments & scholarship on social construction of gender will be next to nil. For me, 200 million years of mammalian existence & several million years for homo sapiens & our near cousins have something to do with it. Gender roles are socially constructed, & to a small extent sexual identity. But sexual attraction is (by & large) biology, not social construction. Having said that, I’m the first to say we’ll all know more in 50 years.

  43. Adam Greenwood on November 5, 2004 at 3:36 pm

    I thought the New York Times article on growing up in a lesbian household said that one of the main differences seen in kids in those circumstances was that they were more likely to be gay or bisexual themselves, but I could be remembering wrong, and I certainly don’t remember their basis for saying that.

  44. Jonathan Green on November 5, 2004 at 3:36 pm

    Adam, it’s been painfully obvious since Wednesday that I’m an atypical voter, don’t you think? For persuading large numbers of people, I think you’re already doing fine. As for persuading me, I truly don’t react well to martial rhetoric, a la “defense” of marriage, or to rhetoric that promises to do one thing (“strengthen marriage”) while actually aiming for another (prevent SSM). But since I’m atypical, I wouldn’t put too much stock in my concerns if I were you.

    D. Fletcher, you’re killing me with kindness. I appreciate a bit of applause–I like to know that people are getting their money’s worth from my comments–but don’t overdo it, OK? I usually just roll my eyes at SSM threads, but for Adam it’s an important issue. I commented this once not just because of an imbalance in my humors–too much black bile, apparently–but also out of genuine concern for Adam, whom I knew at BYU and about whom other people I know have good things to say.

  45. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 3:40 pm

    Sorry, Jonathan, it won’t happen again!

    I just thought your post so… ironic, in light of where it was posted. It’s pretty funny to me that people think I hijack their posts to talk about SSM, but I’m not one of the hosts here! I don’t start any post at all.

  46. Bryce I on November 5, 2004 at 3:53 pm

    Speaking of which, when will we see D. Fletcher as a guest-blogger on T&S? or Jonathan Green?

  47. Rosalynde Welch on November 5, 2004 at 4:05 pm

    Rob, it sounds like your google search might not have delivered the most useful items. For the feminist perspective, try Adrienne Rich’s article “Compulsory Heterosexuality”; for the poststructuralist take, see Foucault’s “The History of Sexuality.”

    I honestly don’t know what to think. I do feel that, whether or not there is some stable biologically-determined male homosexual section of the population across time and space, the understanding, perception and experience of homosexuality (and heterosexuality) varies widely according to culture. See, for example, Alan Bray, “Homosexuality in Renaissance England.”

  48. Rob Briggs on November 5, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    Rosalynde, homosexuality, & homosexuality as a minority element within a given culture, seems to be present in every culture we have encountered regardless of place or time. I agree completely that its INTERPRETATION has varied widely.

    Thanks for the sources.

  49. D. Fletcher on November 5, 2004 at 4:27 pm

    Don’t forget to mention how much homosexuality can be found among the animals. It’s a natural phenomenon, not just a social/historical one.

    P.S. I don’t need to be a guest blogger. I’ll just keep hijacking threads to suit my whims.

  50. john fowles on November 5, 2004 at 4:52 pm

    Jonathan, your quote from Brecht’s Dreigroschen Oper really floored me. Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral! First fill the belly, then worry about morality. I admire Brecht’s work from an artistic standpoint, but it seems dangerous to me to base a personal philosophy on this absolutely godless teaching. This statement denies the existence of morality outside of or which transcends considerations of maintaining the creature. Thus, Stalinism is moral (and it was for Brecht at first; only later on did he moderate his views and criticize Stalin’s excesses). On this note, Kant is much more preferable: that which is moral is moral even though you have no creature-related reason for doing or believing it. An actor is even more “moral” when complying with the categorical imperative is against the person’s physical interests but the person complies anyway, merely because of the objective nature of the categorical imperative.

  51. Rob Briggs on November 5, 2004 at 4:56 pm

    Rosalynde, I think what I’m saying here, giving due allowance for social construction, is . . .

    it’s in the jeans.

  52. Rosalynde Welch on November 5, 2004 at 4:57 pm

    “Rosalynde, homosexuality, & homosexuality as a minority element within a given culture, seems to be present in every culture we have encountered regardless of place or time.”

    Really? I’ve never seen research to suggest a conclusion as broad as that. And homosexuality is not always a minority element: in 5th century Athens, for example, homosexual pederasty seems to have been a widespread phoenomenon, an expected part of the social life-cycle of privileged males.

  53. Rosalynde Welch on November 5, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    “it’s in the jeans. ”

    LOL, Rob!

  54. Nate Oman on November 5, 2004 at 5:04 pm

    Rosalynde: The analogy between ancient and modern homosexuality is a bit misleading. For example, ancient Atheneans don’t seem to have had a concept of “homosexual” or sexual orientation. Rather they had a particular notion of male love based in large part on misygonistic judgments about the possiblity of friendship with women. Martha Nussebuam had a pretty good discussion of this a while back in the Virginia Law Review.

  55. Rosalynde Welch on November 5, 2004 at 5:06 pm

    Yes, Nate, that is precisely my point. I’m contesting the presumption of a transhistorical homosexual orientation.

  56. Rob Briggs on November 5, 2004 at 5:08 pm

    Rosalynde, yes; also in certain eras & among certain classes in Rome & elsewhere. The key, I think, is in the “expected part of the social life-cycle of prvileged males.”

    When looked at across the broad culture & including the “folk” (the vast majority), it was a minority expression.

  57. Jonathan Green on November 5, 2004 at 5:46 pm

    And there’s more, John: the first person to share Brecht’s quote with me was, at the time, both my department head and bishop.

    What my bishop meant by quoting that line was that some people need material assistance before they’re ready for the Gospel. I meant something a bit different by it, namely, that an important way to strengthen marriages is to improve the conditions under which people live. Enhancing the legal and cultural status of the married state is fine, but it only gets you so far if married life is a never-ending series of personal and economic frustration. It’s true that improving the material conditions also only gets you part way, but it’s an important part, and shouldn’t be neglected. I like Brecht a lot, and not just as art.

  58. john fowles on November 5, 2004 at 5:53 pm

    I like Brecht a lot too, mostly his poetry. But it still seems dangerous to view morality as a function of materialism, which Brecht did.

  59. Bill on November 5, 2004 at 6:22 pm

    The Brecht quote may explain why the abortion rate, which fell throughout the nineties, has risen for the past three years. It turns out that women are more inclined to bring children into the world if they are confident in their ability to support them, another example of economic realities trumping political posturing.

  60. Jordan Fowles on November 5, 2004 at 7:55 pm

    Gerlach is a fine man. You were lucky to have known him in both capacities.

  61. lyle on November 5, 2004 at 10:14 pm

    “First fill the belly, then worry about morality.”

    Hm…reminds me alot of a certain people who lusted after the “fleshpots” and food of Egypt. They too wanted to fill their sexual & food desires before worshipping their God.

  62. Kaimi on November 5, 2004 at 10:15 pm


    I have just a second to weigh in, and so I can’t address some of the other comments. Re Jonathan Green’s cynicism, I think he’s right on the money. Of course, I’ve also gone on the record as believing that the continued failure of a Republican Congress and President to successfully pass a constitutional partial-birth abortion law is also because the party operatives recognize the volatitility of the issue and wish to preserve it as a political wedge more than they wish to remedy it in any way.

    (And of course others, including I believe you, have gone on the record to suggest otherwise.)

  63. Chad Too on November 5, 2004 at 10:32 pm

    I’m just getting in on this one (company president ixnayed all internet usage that isn’t directly office-related and he empowered the IT gestapo to enforce it so my blogging time has been drastically cut back).

    I’d like to go back to Adam’s initial question of “What next for supporters of traditional marriage?” Cutting him slack for his choice of words (I don’t accept that support of traditional marriage and tolerance of SSM are mutually exclusive concepts), I can’t help but wonder if the tacks taken so far have helped as much as the anti-gay-marriage folks think they have.

    Granted, I am not a lawyer, and I expect that those who are will come along and dispute my reasoning but disagreement comes with the territory here, n’est-ce pas?

    As I read the opinions is the Hawaii, Vermont, and Massachusetts cases, I see a common thread: equal protection. Since marriage is a state-offered privilege as opposed to a right, it too is subject to the equal protection requirement of those respective state constitutions. The courts in question found that marriage as defined by their state violated equal protection.

    Those courts could have invalidated marriage in it’s entirety, but they didn’t. You can only imagine the outcry. A much more narrow approach was to strike down just the parts that made civil marriage discriminatory: the opposing gender requirement.

    As we have seen in the recent election, there are many who don’t like the way “activist judges” are re-defining marriage. Yet, given the situation those courts found themselves in, the only alternative to striking down the offending parts of the marriage statutes was to strike down the whole thing.

    Much has been made of states passing heterosexual-only constitutional amendments this election. I personally think those will fail when challenged federally, but assume for a second that they are upheld. These amendments have not addressed elevating heterosexual marriage to a right, nor have they placed marriage laws outside the purview of equal-protection. All the amendments have done is denied state courts the ability to adjust the criteria for marriage license eligibility.

    I suppose my question is this, and I admit that if these state-constitutional-amendments are struck down then the question is moot. Absent specific exemption language, if a state constitutionally codifies a discriminatory definition is that definition any less a violation of equal protection than it was when the definition was statutory?

    I fear that the constitutionalization (if such a word exists) of the definition of marriage may put courts in a position where, since they can’t adjust the statutes that define marriage, the only choice they have is force a state to abandon teh privilege of civil marriage altogether.

    Your thoughts, please.

  64. Ivan Wolfe on November 5, 2004 at 10:48 pm

    Perhaps the lawyers can explain to me how a constitutional admendment can be declared unconstitutional.

    As a non-lawyer, it seems that if the constitution is amended, whatever the admendment was is now “constitutional.”

    Or are the amendments being challanged on other grounds?

    Just curious.

  65. Jack on November 5, 2004 at 11:54 pm

    “What would be the opportune moment for this, do you think?”

    I don’t know. Maybe when the Federal Supreme Court is about to overturn the state’s ruling against SSM. (which, thankfully, is not likely to happen within the next four years)

    I know you probably think me naive for suggesting such a thing (the march), but I think it’s possible. I believe that the greatest cause of division in this country has to do with the erosion of the family. There are too many who care too deeply to let it go much further without a vigorous response.

  66. Rosalynde Welch on November 5, 2004 at 11:58 pm

    Watching a PBS show tonight, I heard a pundit say something that made sense to me, and it’s tangentially related to your objectives, Adam. Referring to proposed constitutional ammendments (concerning gay marriage and other matters), she suggested that what matters most is not so much the actual content of the proposed ammendment, but rather the sense of decisiveness and commitment the proposals reflect onto the sponsoring legislators; that is, the average American might not understand or care much about the legal nuances, the advantages and disadvantages, of codifying heterosexual marriage in the constitution, but the they do understand and care that, say, Republican legislators are committed to the issue.

    I must admit that this played into my decision-making calculus for this election, although it wasn’t the deciding factor. I’m not an attorney, and I’m politics-challenged, so I really don’t understand everything that’s at stake in supporting or opposing a constitutional ammendment. But when John Kerry said that he opposed gay marriage but didn’t support a constitutional ammendment, that sounded to me like, “The instant the political winds change, I’ll support gay marriage.” Whether or not I was right, it did affect my agonizing decision matrix.

  67. Carrie on November 6, 2004 at 2:40 am

    Regarding your comment #43, what the NY Times Magazine article said was basically that we don’t know how growing up in a same sex household affects the sexuality of kids. There really aren’t many data points available, and most of the studies that have been done are politically motivated and come to strikingly different conclusions. Personally, I think it’s pretty likely that more children of homosexual parents are homosexual themselves just because of genetics. So it’s hard to say how much any effect would be due to just having a parent who’s homosexual and how much would be due to growing up in a house with two mommies or two daddies.

  68. Jeremiah J. on November 6, 2004 at 3:07 am

    Adam, I think you are being very cautious about this issue from the standpoint of the opponents of same-sex marriage. I am not familiar with the legal structure of the amendments, but my understanding is that many of them will be hard to to overturn, for the very fact that they are constitutional amendments. Most of these states already had laws against gay marriage, which themselves were preemptive bans against a practice which did not then exist. Moreover, we know that the U.S. Supreme court in its current or likely future compositon would never pass a decision like that of the Massachusetts court.

    There is also, despite the relative independence of judiciary, the political question. The two major parties, even more than before, realize that SSM is a losing issue, and that opposition to gay rights, perhaps more than ever, is a winning issue. Judicial attempts to overturn what happened on Nov. 2 would again put the squeeze on Democrats, many of whom would in turn become very irritated at a judicial stance which may have cost them the presidency. That party, which was formerly committed to gradual change in favor or gays, could become as anti-gay as the GOP. The notion that gay marriage was on the verge of wide acceptance has been proven to be a very foolish fantasy of liberal cultural circles (though Democratic political leaders understood the lay of the land much better). One can now say with confidence that we would sooner see a living wage, single-payer universal health care, or an overturning of Roe v. Wade than you would see SSM in a state like Ohio.

  69. Ethesis (Stephen M) on November 6, 2004 at 3:47 am

    One can now say with confidence that we would sooner see a living wage, single-payer universal health care, or an overturning of Roe v. Wade than you would see SSM in a state like Ohio which surprises me.

    I really thought that we were on the way to civil unions and allowing Churches to worship how, what and when they may, including marrying whoever they desired. You can tell I’m not in the right circles for judging social movements.

    I saw more of the judiciary that bans the Boy Scouts from the use of public parks coming after the LDS Church than I did a series of amendments, laws and constitutional changes.

    This entire thread, and the last week, have really given me thought. Not conclusions, so I’m afraid I don’t have anything significant to add to this thread, but thought. I’m grateful for all the posts, from all perspectives here.

  70. Ethesis (Stephen M) on November 6, 2004 at 3:51 am

    I mean, Dallas just elected a lesbian Hispanic for County Sheriff. One of only a couple-three Democrats to get elected there.

  71. Larry on November 6, 2004 at 4:00 am


    That is assuming that homosexuality is genetic. The last I heard the jury is still out on that one despite what some liberals would have us believe. Science is divided on that issue.
    Just as liberals would not like conservatives to state as fact something that is still unproven, I think it behooves liberals to accord us the same respect.
    For example:

    Dr. Breedlove at UC Berkley makes this comment:
    “These findings give us proof for what we theoretically know to be the case–that sexual experience can alter the structure of the brain, just as genes can alter it. It is possible that differences in sexual behavior cause (rather than are caused) by differences in the brain.
    M. Breedlove, “Sex on the Brain,” Nature 389 (1997), 801.

    It just might be that things are not what liberals think they are, which brings a different scientific argument into the issue of gay marriage.

    I have seen a number of statements on this site that state emphatically that one would have to be stupid not to believe that homosexuality was genetic.
    I hope this introduces some rethinking on the issue and that reason can apply as opposed to rhetoric.

  72. Jeremiah J. on November 6, 2004 at 4:58 am

    “I really thought that we were on the way to civil unions and allowing Churches to worship how, what and when they may, including marrying whoever they desired.”

    As far as I know there are no laws anywhere against a church holding a ceremony joining gay couples in marriage, and I know for a fact that it has been done in many places for decades. But these marriages are not recognized by the government (you can’t get a marriage license for a gay couple), which is what is at issue here.

    Perhaps you could see civil unions in some states. But when the issue is driven by the courts, judges may have to get creative to say that equal protection requires civil unions but not marriage. The kind of compromise which civil unions represent seems to be more likely to be produced by a legislative outcome.

  73. lyle on November 6, 2004 at 6:42 am


    yup…it is a GOP conspiracy. forget the fact that the federal courts routinely invalidate the PBA bans. leaving aside the ‘argument’ prevously held here re: PBA being void for vagueness; this has to be one of my/Al Franken’s favorite rants, i.e. that GOP control of Congress means they could have passed anti-abortion laws if they wanted to. which seems to forget two things: 1) the senate, 2) the courts which strike down laws whenever they feel like it. Roe may say that you can legislate abortion in the 2nd & 3rd trimesters…but the lower court’s don’t seem to agree…and the pro-abortion crowd feels Roe means abortion on demand whenever they want it.

  74. Robert C on November 6, 2004 at 8:59 am

    explain to me how a constitutional admendment can be declared unconstitutional

    Ivan: An amendment to a state constitution can be found to violate the U.S. constitution. Here’s a brief description of federal vs. state issues.

  75. Kristine on November 6, 2004 at 9:08 am

    “I have seen a number of statements on this site that state emphatically that one would have to be stupid not to believe that homosexuality was genetic.”

    Larry, I’d be interested in having you produce a few of those statements.

  76. Carrie on November 6, 2004 at 12:06 pm

    You’re right, my assumption assumes that homosexuality is at least partly genetic, which I firmly believe. I do recognize that not everyone agrees with this and that it’s a fairly controversial topic. Hence the reason I prefaced my statement with “personally, I think” rather than “it’s obvious to any but the most uninformed person” or something along those lines. =)

    In any case, we really don’t have the data to conclusively state the effect of having a gay biological parent or gay biological parents, the effect of being raised by gay parents, the effect of being raised by a gay single parent, the effect of having a gay parent who comes out sometime in one’s childhood, or any of the other possible variations.

  77. Carrie on November 6, 2004 at 12:52 pm

    Perhaps I wasn’t very clear, or perhaps you skimmed my comment without actually reading it. But when I preface a statement with “Personally, I think,” that usually means I understand that what’s coming after is opinion.

    In any case, we really don’t know the effect on one’s sexuality of having gay biological parents, of being raised by gay parents, of being raised by a single gay parent, of having a parent who comes out during one’s youth, or any of the other possible variations.

  78. Rob Briggs on November 6, 2004 at 2:02 pm

    Larry, I may have been one of those who said something catagorically & flippantly at the same time. So let me be both less catagerical & totally serious ;-> . Sexual attraction, for me, is in the Levis, er, jeans, er, genes.

    In other words, after electroshock to reprogram me to be gay, at some point after leaving the compound, & fairly soon IMO, I’ll be making sidelong glances at women.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

    Seriously, the “separated” identical twin research is interesting. Identical twins separated at birth tend to have the same sexual orientation. Suggesting nature, not nurture. The problem is some of them have different orientations. Suggesting nurture, not nature. Like I said, we’ll all know more in 50 years.

  79. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 2:37 pm

    Has anyone read the article “Born That Way? Facts and Fiction About Homosexuality” over at the FAIR site? Interesting stuff. (sorry, I don’t know how to create a link)

  80. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 2:39 pm

    Oh! Looks like Word Press creates the link automatically. Kewl.

  81. Larry on November 6, 2004 at 3:01 pm

    Carrie et al,

    Sorry Carrie. I wasn’t attacking your opinion on purpose.
    In response to Kristine: Have you ever looked for a needle in a haystack. There was a blog on here that said essentially “no one would disagree that homosexuality is genetic” inferring stupidity if we didn’t agree. I apologize that i cannot find it – so help, please!!!! I promise to record comments that I disagree with in the future so that when I reference them I can be more accurate. If my comment was offensive I apologize.
    Rob – It wasn’t yours I was referring to because I remember laughing when I read it.
    Jack – Thank you for putting that reference up – that is where the quote comes from.

  82. Adam Greenwood on November 6, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    “my understanding is that many of them will be hard to to overturn, for the very fact that they are constitutional amendment”

    A federal amendment will be difficult to overturn. It will also be very difficult to pass.

    State marriage amendments are more vulnerable. State courts are more likely to strike them down on technical grounds, specious or otherwise, as in Louisiana. They can also be struck down by the federal courts on the grounds that they violate the federal constitution. Finally, state marriage amendments can be as overturned as easily as they passed, by a majority vote on a ballot petition. Easy come, easy go.

  83. Adam Greenwood on November 6, 2004 at 3:09 pm

    Also, if one assumes that the judiciary generally favors SSM, then one can expect that judicial interpretations of marriage amendments will not be sympathetic or measured. I don’t know if any court would go as far as Chad Too suggests (i.e., holding that marriage amendments require striking down ALL marriages), but who knows?

  84. Nate W. on November 6, 2004 at 3:18 pm

    Why is the nature-nurture debate even important? Whether homosexuality is inborn or caused by early childhood development, both sides of the debate lead to the same conclusion — no one chooses their initial attraction on a conscious level (although the argument that subsequent choices can shape that attraction to some degree is persuasive to me). Instead of fretting over where it came from, why don’t we acknowledge that it is a legitimate issue, not one that arises in someone’s head, not one that can be easily changed (if it can be changed at all) and then consider what to do next.

    In my opinion, the element missing from both sides of the SSM debate has been love and acknowledgement that this issue affects real people, not just charicatures. Anti-SSM people must be most concerned about how their proposed policies are expressions of love toward all of the people they affect, and pro-SSM people have to ask whether their advocacy shows love and concern for people who are affected or if it is just enabling sinful behavior that will bring sadness and suffering. I don’t know the answer to that. I feel like I am just anti-anti-SSM right now. It seems like a lot of the backing of the anti-ssm amendment, at least in Utah, was more about making our gay brothers and sisters aware that they aren’t welcome than a concern about their well-being (as I heard one person comment, “I wanted to write ‘f*gs suck’ on my ballot!”). I think, however, if the anti-SSM folks can frame this debate in terms of love and concern to real people rather than institutions or concepts(which I find vacuous), they may get me to change my position on this issue.

  85. Larry on November 6, 2004 at 3:54 pm

    Nate W.

    Doesn’t nature or nurture seem important? To me it goes to the core of the issue.
    If it is nature there isn’t much of an argument. If it is nurture that changes the whole argument.
    Behaviour based on nurture does not justify what is taking place. Otherwise liars could form a group lobbying that lying (or sexual abuse etc.) is so impulsive a behaviour that it is impossible to control. Therefore let’s pass a law making it legal to lie and perjure.
    There is a rush to implementation on this issue (SSM) that causes me to believe that there is a more ulterior motive behind it. As I have said before, I don’t think marriage is the issue. If they can make any opposition to homosexual behaviour defined as hate they have ipso facto declared all homosexual behaviour as legal.
    This is where I believe it will ultimately lead – man/boy relationships being declared legal. And we know that that is a red hot topic in a family oriented society. Therefore, they must first destroy the concept of marriage as historically defined. To do this they can only use judges who make law rather than interpret it.
    Ergo – be careful of the judges you appoint.

  86. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 3:58 pm

    Conservatives are wrong when they’re right if the don’t show enough compassion while liberals are always right because they have the right to be right. (unavoidable weak puns not intended)

  87. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 4:13 pm

    Powerful comment, Larry, especially your last two paragraphs. Of course, I assume that you’re speaking againts the gay-activists/lobbyists and not necessarily against those sincere individuals who desire to feel more matriculated into society.

    That said, I hope that Nate. W.’s comment does indeed translate as well to the left as it does to the right; e.g., sincere homosexuals feeling uncomfortable with the lack of “love” on the part of gay-activists.

  88. Larry on November 6, 2004 at 4:26 pm


    I know a number of gays who I find to be terrific people. They are hurt by all the attention being foisted on them by the radicals. Believe it or not, according to one source here in Canada, most of the action on this issue was promulgated by fewer than 12 well connected elitist individuals.

  89. greenfrog on November 6, 2004 at 4:56 pm

    Good to know they were elitist, rather than populist rabble-rousers, and that rather than being a vast left-wing conspiracy, it’s a tightly-knit cabal.

    I’m certain George Soros and the International Monetary Fund are somehow involved.

    *rolls eyes*

  90. Mark N. on November 6, 2004 at 5:20 pm

    John F.:First fill the belly, then worry about morality. I admire Brecht’s work from an artistic standpoint, but it seems dangerous to me to base a personal philosophy on this absolutely godless teaching.

    I don’t think that’s all that immoral; Nibley has made statements along the same line. You can’t really teach the Gospel to people whose most basic needs are not yet being met (see “Approaching Zion”, p. 107).

  91. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 6:21 pm

    Watch out greenfrog! Don’t get dizzy.

  92. Ben Huff on November 6, 2004 at 6:22 pm

    Nate, I think we do need more than just state constitutional amendments, but I think the “more” is mostly a matter of persuasion and awareness. I would like to see a federal amendment, but your “easy come, easy go” remark is a little odd, given the margins by which these measures passed. A few decades from now those numbers could change, if the way people think about marriage changes enough, but if the way people think about marriage changes that much, I think we’ll have more serious problems on our hands. More urgent than preventing the reversal of state amendments by another vote is preventing the massive migration of public opinion that would be required to reverse them. A federal amendment might be important for that purpose, though, to keep one rogue state from feeding desensitization of the nation. There are fifty states, after all, so who wants to play the odds?

  93. Jim F. on November 6, 2004 at 6:23 pm

    Mark N: Didn’t either Brigham Young or Joseph Smith say something similar?

  94. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 6:43 pm

    Well, I would say that the “moral” thing to do is feed the belly first.

  95. Larry on November 6, 2004 at 6:48 pm

    Jim F.

    Just a thought, but if all the commentary on SSM has not yet resolved the issue would this be a good time, after the election, to go back and revisit the premises and do some deconstructive analysis ( or would deconstruction apply in such a circumstance?), or is it too polemical to even bother?

  96. Ivan Wolfe on November 6, 2004 at 7:08 pm

    I think nature means nothing.

    If you believe the gospel principle of the “natural man” we are all born with naturally occuring desires that are in conflict with God’s desires for us. Whether it is homosexual attraction, a bad temper, desires to acquire more “stuff” than necessary, or even an addictive personality – there is evidence that all of those behaviors could be, on some level, “natural.”

    If someone is “born” with a violent temper, do we say that it’s okay and he/she should indulge in it?

    It seems odd to me that we are told to stifle many of our “natural” desires (as OSC once noted, the “natural” desires of most heterosexual males is to mate with wild abandon and thus populate several small villages), yet suddenly with homosexuality, “natural” means it is okay (or at least acceptable).

  97. Larry on November 6, 2004 at 7:20 pm

    Ivan Wolfe,

    Are you descended from John Anthony Wolfe?(Presidents Tanner and Brown forefather)

    Politically it will matter if it is nature or nurture.

  98. jeremobi on November 6, 2004 at 9:10 pm


    I agree, the fact that tendencies occur naturally does not mean that all those tendencies should be indulged. In that the scripture seems clear (at least to me). But I’m not sure that nature means nothing. Men are genetically predisposed to promiscuity, so society creates rules and regulations, both formal and informal, to curb or direct desires toward other ends or to pit conflicting natural desires against each other. We (society) don’t usually try to eliminate those tendencies (or box them up, or ignore them, or stifle them), we channel them.

  99. Ivan Wolfe on November 6, 2004 at 9:24 pm

    Larry -

    I don’t believe so. My father and mother both converted in their teens, and none of our ancestors was connected to the church (as far as we can determine).

    Actually, the “Wolfe” line is the one where we can only go back a few generations – the records get sketchy after that.

    Re; nature vs. nuture:I know politically it will matter quite a bit, but I can’t see why it is trotted out as a religous argument. The argument “God made me this way” is so fraught with problems that it sort of shocks me when people use it in a religous argument.

  100. Adam Greenwood on November 6, 2004 at 9:33 pm

    A ‘rogue state feeding desensitization’ has got to be a serious fear for the traditional marriage folks. They’ve got to look at no-fault divorce, which was widely thought to be a good thing when first instituted and only now that the practice is well nigh irreversible, decades later, are its harms clear. To the extent that supporters of traditional marriage oppose SSM because they think it will damage marriage, they have to be afraid that a couple of states will practice SSM for long enough to get the American public used to it but not long enough to discover any pathologies.

    You are probably right, though, that the changes in attitudes probably pose more real dangers to the institution of marriage then the actual change in law does. Traditional marriage supporters ought to be sure to use politics as a bully pulpit to try and get a little education through. Also, they ought not to shy away from their marriage amendments once they’ve passed. They ought to refer to them as embodying a certain conception of the family that has policy ramifications in other debates.

  101. Jack on November 6, 2004 at 9:45 pm

    Adam, given that research does NOT at present conclude that homosexuality is inborn, is it reasonable to assume that hard science may yet play a role in softening the pro-SSM argument? Or will the whole thing boil down to a constitutional “right” to freedom of expression? (If there really is such a right) It would be interesting to see these folks turn to freedom of religion as a last resort. (Of course, this has been hashed out before, and then there’s the whole problem with polygamy…)

  102. Davis Bell on November 6, 2004 at 9:58 pm


    Yours is an interesting notion, and one I’m still thinking about. If not to accomplish political objectives (defeating SSM), what then are the incentives for a party/individual to seek power/office? Are those pulling the levers using one issue (SSM) to gain power to accomplish objectives relating to other issues (fiscal and foreign policy, etc.)? Or, are they simply obtaining power for the sake of power?

  103. Jonathan Green on November 7, 2004 at 1:20 am

    All good questions, Ryan. They’re all possibile, and it’s also possible that I’m entirely wrong and that Rovian electoral calculus has nothing to do with it. We’ll see. But if it was an issue I cared about, I would want the politicians I just elected to be absolutely clear that my continued support was predicated on timely and appropriate legislative action. Threatening to sponsor a third-party candidate, and actually doing it every so often, might help remind them who was serving whom.

  104. Kim Siever on November 8, 2004 at 12:19 pm

    I don’t want to hijack this thread, butt here does not seem to be a way to comment on the Notes From all Over section.

    Adam G. said, “Canada first. Saskatchewan court mandates SSM.”

    Adam, can you clarify what you mean by “Canada first”? Saskatchewan is the seventh jurisdiction to rule in favour of SSM—BC, Québec, Ontario, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and the Yukon all did it previously.

  105. D. Fletcher on November 8, 2004 at 1:49 pm

    Kim, I wish you and Steve Evans would give your impressions of Canada’s marriage laws. It is quite odd to me that our country has vehemently opposed something which seemed to have been easily passed by our northern neighbor. Are the cultures that different?

  106. Kim Siever on November 8, 2004 at 4:00 pm

    I have blogged about same sex marriage. OK, I didn’t blog about Canada’s marriage laws specifically. Just about SSM generally.

  107. Steve Evans on November 8, 2004 at 4:10 pm

    D., the short answer to your question is yes and no.

    In terms of pop culture, Canada is very similar to the United States. We drink Coke, eat at McDonalds and watch reruns of Friends. On a superficial level, you’d be hard pressed to find much difference between a Canadian and an American, except that we’re probably more multicultural.

    In every other way, Canadians feel deeply separated from Americans, and like it that way. Our political views are much more European. Yep, we’re really that different. Keep in mind, though, that within Canada there is a great deal of variety on a cultural level, even excluding Quebec. We have much more to do with our neighbors on a North-South axis than on an East-West one. For example, a Canadian from Vancouver will seem much more like someone from Seattle than someone from Toronto.

  108. Larry on November 8, 2004 at 6:35 pm


    Kim and I obviously diiffer in our opinions on SSM but I appreciate his perspective. In Canada we have a culture that, in my mind, is more elitist run than in the U.S.. Our political establishment and our bureaucracy suffer from an incestual relationship that dates back to the 1930′s. J.L Granatstein wrote an interesting book titled “The Ottawa Men” that might be of interest to you.
    Steve mentioned that we are more European and as a whole that is true, but here in Alberta there is more of an American influence.

  109. Kim Siever on November 9, 2004 at 11:07 am

    “here in Alberta there is more of an American influence.”

    Ain’t that the truth.

  110. Jack on November 9, 2004 at 11:49 am

    “you’d be hard pressed to find much difference between a Canadian and an American, except that we’re probably more multicultural.”

    Not sure what you mean by that. If you use Utah as the definitive crossection of multiculturalism in the U.S. then you’d be right. However, as one who grew up in southern California I’d be willing to bet that there is no greater ethnic, cultural or linguistic diversity than along the coasts of the U.S.. However, I will grant that in the U.S. there is a tendency to assimilate or at least bridle diversity into a larger “american” culture, which IMO isn’t always a bad thing.

    That said, perhaps I’m proving you point.


Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.