Principled bigotry is still, you know, bigotry

by Henry on March 5, 2014

Conor Friedersdorf makes some remarkably wrong-headed claims in a post on gay marriage in the Atlantic.

In America, there is plenty of homophobia, plenty of anti-gay bigotry, and plenty of people whose antagonism to gays and lesbians is rooted in hatred. Sometimes the language of religious liberty is used to justify behavior that is anything but Christ-like. But the Slate article is implicitly trafficking in its own sort of prejudice. The working assumption is that homophobia, anti-gay bigotry, and hatred are obviously what’s motivating anyone who declines to provide a service for a gay wedding. … . In [Christian] circles, there are plenty of ugly attitudes toward gays and lesbians, as well as lots of people who think gay and lesbian sex and marriage is sinful, but bear no ill will toward gays and lesbians themselves.

Friedersdorf has a limited point, to the extent that the Slate article that he’s criticizing suggests that refusal to provide services to gay marriages is rooted in personalized hatred. It’s entirely possible that the people in question justify their refusal on some version of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ But Friedersdorf’s suggestion that this is not itself a kind of bigotry seems to me to be very obviously wrong.

Bigotry derived from religious principles is still bigotry. Whether the people who implemented Bob Jones University’s notorious ban on inter-racial dating considered themselves to be actively biased against black people, or simply enforcing what they understood to be Biblical rules against miscegenation is an interesting theoretical question. You can perhaps make a good argument that bigotry-rooted-in-direct-bias is more obnoxious than bigotry-rooted-in-adherence-to-perceived-religious-and-social-mandates. Maybe the people enforcing the rules sincerely believed that they loved black people. It’s perfectly possible that some of their best friends were black. But it seems pretty hard to make a good case that the latter form of discrimination is not a form of bigotry. And if Friedersdorf wants to defend his sincerely-religiously-against-gay-marriage people as not being bigots, he has to defend the sincerely-religiously-against-racial-miscegenation people too. They fit exactly into Friedersdorf’s proposed intellectual category.

This isn’t just abstract word games. Irish readers will likely be familiar with the controversy over the last few months over comments made on a talk show by Panti Bliss, an Irish drag performer about various opponents to gay marriage in Ireland, including columnist John Waters (perhaps best known as the straggly haired father of Sinead O’Connor’s love child), right wing commentator Breda O’Brien, and Catholic ‘research’ and ginger-group the Iona Institute. I don’t know the exact wording of those comments, since the media have declined to reprint them, likely on the advice of their learned friends, but they clearly involved some active suggestion that these individuals were homophobic. The individuals so described reacted with outrage, professing in at least one case their lack of bias against gay people, and claiming that the objection was to save the institution of marriage, and to protect the rights of children. They also won a substantial financial settlement against Ireland’s state broadcaster for airing these comments.

Panti Bliss’s immediate response in a after-performance oration at the Abbey Theater is below, has been viewed on YouTube half a million times, and is altogether awesome. It’s particularly well worth forwarding to any American-Irish relatives you might have intent on marching in the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade, and unaware of how things are changing in the home country.

But his follow up radio interview is also well worth listening to, as a specific response to the question of what is, or is not homophobic. His argument (starting around 17:00 or so) can be summarized thus. Ireland; especially rural Catholic Ireland, is still drenched in cultural homophobia, so that ordinary people who individually like the gay people around them, are often homophobic, and oppose gay marriage for homophobic reasons. This doesn’t mean that those people aren’t very likely nice, pleasant people in a multitude of ways, who would happily sit down with their gay friends and neighbors. But they are homophobic, and when they act on their homophobia in the public space so as to try to limit the rights of gay people, it is perfectly fair game to call them out on it. Saying that someone is homophobic is not necessarily to imply that they individually hate and fear gay people. It is to imply that they are prejudiced (whether because of principle, culture, or active detestation) against gay people in ways that lead them passively or actively to oppose gay people participating fully, with full rights, in public and private life.

Even in contexts where expensive lawsuits are unlikely, such as the US, Friedersdorf’s claims have very problematic implications. As the hed paragraph of his post describes his argument, “Some opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in bigotry and some isn’t. Assuming otherwise is itself prejudice rooted in ignorance.” These may or may not be Friedersdorf’s own words, but they do accurately describe what Friedersdorf claims. And the implication is straightforward. If Friedersdorf is right, people should not disapprove of opponents to gay marriage whose opposition stems from sincere religious beliefs. They shouldn’t push back against these views as in any way socially illegitimate. Instead, they should push back against the themselves-prejudiced and bigoted people who claim that religious opposition to gay marriage is a kind of bigotry. This seems so wrong headed to me that I don’t even know where to start.

{ 485 comments }

1

CJColucci 03.05.14 at 4:24 pm

The working assumption is that homophobia, anti-gay bigotry, and hatred are obviously what’s motivating anyone who declines to provide a service for a gay wedding.

We all have working assumptions. We have to. The question is whether these working assumptions are correct, or plausibly based on the evidence. If CF has anything to say about this, other than that the “working assumption” is impolite, I’d be surprised.

2

MPAVictoria 03.05.14 at 4:28 pm

Everything about this post is 100% right and 0% wrong.

3

Anon 03.05.14 at 4:40 pm

This post raises many interesting issues. You’re surely right that the principle problem in Friedersdorf’s article is its failure to recognize that “bigotry derived from religious principles is still bigotry.”

But I think it’s also problematic in that it accepts at face value a questionable assumption in the language of anti-bigotry: that personal feelings and emotions are more important than actions, that, for example, to hate or fear someone is a more vicious form of bigotry than to political oppress them or actively constrain them. In truth, what matters most is not what we feel but what we do.

That’s a moralistic side of the language of anti-bigotry, an obsession with the ideological purity of our and others souls, that I think is not only false but harmful, since it invites people toward either a kind of guilt-free passive complicity (“Let the states decide whether to allow same-sex marriage, but I don’t personally have anything against it”), toward a guilt-free active complicity of the “love the sinner” variety (“I can’t be a bigot if I love you), or towards a total passivity (“as long as I have the right emotional states, I’m one of the good sides, even though I don’t do jack to actively further the cause”).

I wonder what the justification of both this moralistic emphasis is: why worry primarily about hatred and fear? Why, for example, the preference for the terminology of “homophobia,” as though these emotional states, and not active outright abuse, ridicule, and oppression, were the real problem?

I supposes it might be a casual belief that most forms of bigotry are primarily based in emotional states like hatred and fear, so they should be the main target in fighting anti-bigotry. That strikes me as naive and inefficient, since it doesn’t acknowledge or target the origins of those emotional states in broader social conditions and relationships.

Perhaps it’s more strategic: a form of internal critique, attempt to use a bigot’s own values against his or her prejudice. For example, nobody wants to be a coward, so if I call your bigotry fear, it’s more likely to psychologically motivate you to lose it? So it’s not necessarily accurate, but more effective?

4

Henry 03.05.14 at 4:46 pm

I don’t know that the post accepts this at face value – it acknowledges it as a possible claim, and then goes on to say that it is more or less beside the point. Or, at least, that’s what I try to do anyway …

5

Anderson 03.05.14 at 4:47 pm

I have gotten tired of extending any courtesies to people opposed to equal rights for gays. (It goes beyond gay marriage, because in the USA, several states are proposing laws where gov’t and private parties could refuse to provide service to a gay person.)

Your religion says being gay is bad? Don’t let them join your church, then. But civil marriage has nothing to do with religion. I wish there were some typographical way to drill that into people’s skulls. Atheists get married. Hindus get married. Lots of non-Christian people get married. This entire debate hinges on an equivocation between “marriage” the religious ritual and “marriage” the civil status.

So if Friedersdorf, or anyone else, is pretending there’s a valid religious objection to gay civil marriage, fuck ‘em.

6

Crickets Chirpping 03.05.14 at 4:54 pm

“So if Friedersdorf, or anyone else, is pretending there’s a valid religious objection to gay civil marriage, fuck ‘em.”

No, just the libertarian objection – I don’t want the state to endorse my marriage or anyone else’s marriage, gay, straight or poly. But, I live in the real world, not getting a civil marriage approved by the state will cost me and my spouse time, money and energy to set-up the legal work arounds for almost all of the differences between what I define by myself as marriage and what the state does. Wouldn’t it be nice where people, not governments defined their own marriages and the civil was removed from what is one of our most intimate forms of relationships?

7

A H 03.05.14 at 4:57 pm

Friedersdorf’s post is useful in that it is pure example of the libertarian tendency to favor Business freedom over individual freedom ever time.

8

Anderson 03.05.14 at 4:58 pm

6: if we were designing the civil society from the ground up, I would probably agree with you, and reserve government aid (favored tax status, whatever) for persons raising children (you might object to that too of course). But we are not writing on a blank slate.

9

ezra abrams 03.05.14 at 5:00 pm

not only hateful, but hypocritical: the religious pick and choose which part of the text to emphasize.
On the other hand, my mom volunteers at St Joes, and they provide a calorie rich lunch free to anyone who shows up.
People are not all good or all bad.

10

emjaybee 03.05.14 at 5:13 pm

Fred Clark at is, as usual, way out in front on this.

The “religious liberty” bill is also the “anti-gay segregation” bill — that’s the point. It’s an attempt to monopolize religious liberty — to monopolize religion itself and liberty itself — so that they are solely the property of one class of people. And LGBT people would not be a part of that class or of that monopoly.

11

Phil 03.05.14 at 5:19 pm

I grew up in a politically left-wing, socially liberal Christian household, and even now – many years of adult life later – the extent to which “Christian” translates as “deeply deeply concerned about what other people do with their genitalia” still beats the hell out of me. (I mean, where, people? JC didn’t say very much – compare the Synoptics to the collected speeches of, say, Tony Blair or GWB – and he was really quite specific on a lot of quite demanding points. On the boinking, not so much.)

To be fair, I have struggled with the whole “why do you hate us?” line of argument; it’s clear that lots of people who oppose giving gay people equal rights don’t have any animus towards actual gay people, they just… don’t think it would be… right. The great thing about Panti Bliss’s intervention is that it goes a couple of steps behind that answer: homophobia isn’t about hating actual gay people, it’s about holding beliefs which make it natural and normal to act as if you did. And they’re beliefs that we all hold, to a greater or lesser extent, because we’ve all been brought up that way.

12

Anderson 03.05.14 at 5:23 pm

10: wow, I hadn’t looked at his blog in years … he’s *still* plowing through the Left Behind series. It’s some kind of penance, I guess.

13

bianca steele 03.05.14 at 5:29 pm

Friedersdorf’s argument just doesn’t make sense. Essentially, he puts the following burden on his opponents: They decide that some belief or practice is bigoted or hateful. He wants them to wait before pronouncing on their conclusion. First, they have to figure out whether anyone holds to that belief or practice for reasonable, justified, whatever religious reasons. If someone does, they have to pull back on their opposition to the belief. Since he almost certainly doesn’t extent the same privilege to every religion, it’s hypocritical, too. I do not have to ask myself, before criticizing a practice, whether it’s some legitimate part of some legitimate religion, much less research the question before I’m able to act.

14

Jason 03.05.14 at 5:41 pm

According to Friedersdorf, there is a process by which you can cleanse the moral stain from bigotry:

1. Espouse bigoted views
2. Institutionalize them
3. Wait N >> 1 years (200, 2000, etc)

… and soon you’ll have bigotry you can be proud of!

15

SamChevre 03.05.14 at 5:48 pm

in the USA, several states are proposing laws where gov’t and private parties could refuse to provide service to a gay person.

For private parties, that’s the historical general law of the land–you can refuse to provide services to anybody, on any grounds that seem good to you. This general freedom was constrained by the Civil Rights Acts, and that constraint was permitted in Heart of Atlanta–but that constraint is narrow. In general, except for specific businesses and specific named categories, any business can refuse to serve anyone it wants for any reason it wants.

Eugene Volok has a good summary here, in the context of cab drivers who do not want to transport alcohol.

16

Adam Hammond 03.05.14 at 5:55 pm

To agree with Anon at #3,

The point is easily seen with institutionalized gender inequality. Throughout time, these societies always claim to *love* and *cherish* women, and that is why they keep women safe from the sullying effects of money and power.

What matters is your actions, not your feelings!

Sure, you love your mother and your sisters, daughters, and wife … but if you act to deny them rights, then you are are a sexist bigot. Your motives don’t enter into it.

It may be harder to see in the case of gay rights (or race), but it is the same issue. Shut up about how many friends you have or how much you care about some issue. Your feelings aren’t germane. Only your actions matter.

17

MPAVictoria 03.05.14 at 6:04 pm

“Eugene Volok has a good summary here, in the context of cab drivers who do not want to transport alcohol.”

If you do not want to drive people and their purchases don’t be a cab driver. Same applies to wedding photographers and bakers.

18

Sumana Harihareswara 03.05.14 at 6:06 pm

Thank you for bringing my attention to Panti Bliss’s speech. Breathtaking.

19

Aristodemus 03.05.14 at 6:11 pm

‘Homophobic’ and ‘homophobia’ strike me as obviously pejorative terms, in ways that terms like ‘Catholic’ or ‘traditional marriage advocate’ do not. However, under Panti Bliss’s rendering, and your summary of his position, anyone who actively or passively opposes ‘full’ participation and rights for gays is a homophobe. Thus, there’s no way to be a full-communion Catholic or traditional marriage advocate without being a homophobe. That seems not obviously right, precisely because part of the pejorative charge of ‘homophobia’ has precisely to do with the mental state of the person who’s the object of the charge. If there is no pejorative aspect of the word, then what is the point of calling Catholics or traditional marriage advocates ‘homophobes’ in the first place? Why not call them the term they use to self-describe themselves and their position?

Also, you’re begging the question against the traditional marriage advocate when you say that homophobic bigotry amounts to a passive or active opposition to the full participation, with full rights, of gays in society. Precisely the assumption at issue is the definition of ‘full’. Traditional marriage advocates think there’s a fundamental difference between women and men, and these differences are manifested/codified in the marriage bond. Therefore, gays aren’t being denied anything, since they aren’t qualified to marry one another in the first place; even ‘denied’ marriage rights, gays are participating fully in society. Obviously equal marriage advocates disagree.

To deny this rendering of the traditional marriage position on the grounds that their worldview is false just is to say that the traditional marriage position is false, and that really is to beg the question.

20

roy belmont 03.05.14 at 6:13 pm

Incoherent anti-gay argument.
Incoherent pro-gay argument.
And it’s very important you choose one or the other, because incoherence is all that will save us now.
Proponents of gay marriage:
“We were born this way and nothing can change that.”
Advocates for trans-gender acceptance:
“We were born into an exterior gender identity that surgical and cosmetic reconfiguration will adjust toward a truer image of our true selves.”
Anti-gay bigots: “People weaker than me have to do what I want them to. Even if it’s illogical and harmful.
God doesn’t like queers, it says so in the Bible.
It also says you should kill adulterous women with rocks, but we choose to ignore that part.”

Related anecdotal true fact:
None of you bourgeois ninnies will believe it, but I “twerked” the Hooker’s Ball in SF in 1978.
On the jumbotron dudes. No bikini. Massive applause, the most I ever got live for any performance so far.
It wasn’t called “twerking” then. Generated more than a little fundamentalist heat though, you betcha.

21

MPAVictoria 03.05.14 at 6:19 pm

“Incoherent pro-gay argument.”

Hardly incoherent roy. These people just want to be treated with respect.

/Of course you have never been a dependable ally on gay rights issues.

22

bianca steele 03.05.14 at 6:30 pm

I think Volokh’s commenter is more right than him. If you want to do business only with a certain group (not a protected group under civil rights laws), you should have to advertise that you don’t serve the general public. For that matter, those “no shirts no shoes no service” signs would seem to indicate that the stores do have to declare who they won’t do business with. Those signs aren’t there because the grocery store wants to impose a dress code, they’re there so the store can kick people out without being sued.

23

TheSophist 03.05.14 at 6:40 pm

There were reasons why I did not choose to join the military as a career. Chief amongst them was the near certainty that in the military I would be commanded to do things that I found deeply morally objectionable. Similarly if my principal today commanded that we teach that (eg) homosexuality was sinful I would resign. If the “bakers of conscience” really don’t want to bake for gay weddings, then, as mentioned above, find another profession. (It should be noted that many christians throughout many places and times made much greater sacrifices for their faith than a mere career change.)

Additionally, living in AZ I’ve been fully exposed to the SB 1062 debate. A couple of quick thoughts. 1: I’d love to see all quaker business owners refusing to serve members of the military or the NRA, and using 1062 as their justification. (Not meaning that I actually would have wanted that to happen, but that it’s more clearly justified by 1062 than any anti-gay animus is.) 2. The bill discriminates against me as an atheist. It lets everybody else discriminate, but not me.

And a quick point about the generation gap on these issues: my (hs) students unanimously thought 1062 was idiotic. In our discussions of it my strawmen were the only pro-1062 arguments on the table.

24

Plume 03.05.14 at 6:48 pm

Three keys here for me:

1. America has given far, far too much latitude to so-called “religious freedom.”
2. It has always valued business ownership and its “freedom” above workers, consumers and the earth.
3. It does not seem to recognize that there are direct conflicts when it comes to ideas of “freedom” and “liberty,” believing instead that these overarching themes are self-evident and automatically end those conflicts.

And perhaps a fourth: These problems are more easily resolved than we’ve been led to believe.

Dealing with just the first, we are supposed to be a nation of laws. There should be no religious exemption to any of those laws. If we have religious exemptions, why not other kinds? Why stop there? We could “exempt” ourselves right out of adhering to any of them if we really took the time to think it out and come up with different belief-sets.

IOW, why religious exemptions, as opposed to philosophical, ethical, geographical, historical, ethnic, gender-based, etc. etc.?

No religion, if it is based on the supernatural, can prove its tenets or legitimacy. No religion can prove its necessity. No religion can prove that it holds superior wisdom, knowledge or access to either. And the mere fact that we’ve had thousands of different religions throughout history proves that no one religion is the only one. They are all fictional in origin, design and continuation. I could just as easily say that the world began when two space beings, both of whom bore a striking resemblance to Jimmy Durante, thumbed their noses at each other and the universe was born. That’s every bit as likely as Noah’s Ark or the story of Adam and Eve, etc. etc.

That said, as long as one’s religious views do not come into conflict with established law, go for it. Believe what you want to believe. But you shouldn’t have the right to impose those beliefs on others, and you’re doing that when you refuse service to others in the name of your religion.

And that leads to #2. Once you open up for business, you open up to “the public.” And you don’t get to decide what constitutes that public. You don’t get to limit that public to your own ideas of what it should be. It is what it is, and that’s not your call, at all, as a business owner or a religious person. If you don’t like that, don’t start a business.

25

m00se 03.05.14 at 6:51 pm

Sorry – having the freedom to do something is not the same as forcing everyone to celebrate it with you. A close corollary to this is are people that violate the law to support a cause they feel transcends the law.
In the case of SSM, its not always a matter of hate, but rather finding it silly. People like me feel that if you want to marry a person of the same gender, you can. Don’t expect me to celebrate it, however. Unfortunately this whole process demeans the institution – in my personal opinion. Which has no legal weight. If you look at the numbers of children born out of marriage its clear that marriage as an institution is on the skids, and SSM is just reinforcing how silly people regard marriage these days.
Hating Conor for stating what he said is hypocritical at the least, and hateful at the most.

26

christian_h 03.05.14 at 6:54 pm

Yes to the post. Can we also point out that these bills are CLEARLY not about what they claim to be about? They address a complete non-issue, after all. Maybe there are a handful of people out there who would try to sue a photographer into taking pictures of their wedding just to make a political point (and I would even agree that such people are… rude?), but surely there is no chance this will be a widespread problem for people who don’t like to work a same-sex wedding.

In other words what these bills are really about is to serve as an affirmation that the public expression of bigotry is just fine – and in fact supported by the (until now allegedly silent) majority. CF’s devout Christian whose only problem is with the institution “gay marriage” would, after all, never be so hateful to tell the couple asking him or her to cater their wedding “look I can’t, it’s a GAY wedding”. They’d find a more, well, Christian way to let them down. Right?

27

The Temporary Name 03.05.14 at 6:54 pm

Incoherent anti-gay argument.
Incoherent pro-gay argument.
And it’s very important you choose one or the other, because incoherence is all that will save us now.
Proponents of gay marriage:
“We were born this way and nothing can change that.”

Is the point here that you can cherry-pick as ably as Pat Robertson?

28

Cian 03.05.14 at 6:58 pm

#11:
Actually Jesus did have a pretty strong position on families. He was against them. In his opinion families got in the way of following God. The man was hardly subtle on this point. So family values Christians are an oxymoron anyway.

29

christian_h 03.05.14 at 7:00 pm

Look roy I actually probably agree that the argument “people are born gay” is a bad one. But that’s all it may be – a bad argument. That’s not on the same level as “god hates [gays]” which is not a “bad” argument so much as not an argument at all, but rather oppressive speech.

30

P O'Neill 03.05.14 at 7:10 pm

The Bock the Robber blog (and associated Tweets) have been excellent on the Panti issue and this post in particular discusses the words that caused the greatest shock to Catholic Ireland since the bishop and the nightie.

31

Plume 03.05.14 at 7:10 pm

I also can’t see how someone could view same-sex marriage as “sinful” and not have some massive bigotry toward gay people. It strikes me as impossible.

And, seriously, people. Grow up on the whole “sin” thing. The ogre god of the bible thought it was an abomination, subject to the death penalty, to wear two different fabrics at the same time; eat shellfish; plow your fields in a non-orthodox manner; talk back to your parents; work on the Saturdays; or fail to scream out loudly enough in the city while being raped.

The bible isn’t exactly the best guide for sane, rational discussion of how to live a proper life.

Any close look at Leviticus and Deuteronomy will take one down the rabbit hole into surreal and colossal crazy time, when it comes to what constitutes a “sin.” And the major stories, if taken literally, show that in literary form.

The god of the bible brings death suddenly into the world because Adam and Eve eat an apple. They had no parents, schooling, “role-models” or direct face-time with any other beings who spoke with them. They had no books or oral traditions to derive “morality” and “ethics” from. They were never tutored. Yet this crazed, highly insecure ogre god brings death and misery into the world because they got hungry and curious.

If “religious” people want to call homosexuality a “sin” because it’s in the bible, then be consistent. It is but one of hundreds of “sins” named by the tyrannical madman in that anthology. If you decide to cherry pick, you shouldn’t get any cover for your bigotries — especially political cover.

32

BruceB 03.05.14 at 7:13 pm

Mostly good post – but in a post on decrying bigotry I don’t expect to find the label “love child”. Isn’t this just a “nice” if slightly out-of-date way to say “bastard”?

33

Plume 03.05.14 at 7:13 pm

Christian H,

Of course people are born gay. Just as heteros are born being attracted to the opposite sex.

The thing is some heteros want to think of it all as a “choice” and a “lifestyle” so they can pin themselves with the “moral” badge, and others with the “immoral” badge. If it’s not a choice, if it’s biological — which is the case — that’s much harder to do.

34

MPAVictoria 03.05.14 at 7:14 pm

“Look roy I actually probably agree that the argument “people are born gay” is a bad one”

Why would it be a bad argument? Are you saying that people can just decided not to be gay? Because I hate to tell you this but, in the vast majority of cases, they can’t.

http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/orientation.pdf

35

djw 03.05.14 at 7:16 pm

Nicely said, Henry.

36

GiT 03.05.14 at 7:17 pm

Seems to me “The people are born gay” argument only came up because of a sort of local gambit of the following form: ‘Even if we wave aside your silly adherence to the naturalistic fallacy, being gay is sometimes/often natural, so the “bad because not natural” argument fails by its own lights.’

Unfortunately the context gets lost and people use the fallacy as a pro- argument.

37

Trader Joe 03.05.14 at 7:20 pm

@22
“I could just as easily say that the world began when two space beings, both of whom bore a striking resemblance to Jimmy Durante, thumbed their noses at each other and the universe was born.”

Too late- Scientology already grabbed this one.

Good post. There’s not much to debate here (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

38

JanieM 03.05.14 at 7:22 pm

Why would it be a bad argument?

Because whether it’s a choice or not shouldn’t make any difference to questions of equality.

39

The Temporary Name 03.05.14 at 7:23 pm

Whatever the research says it is none of my business if two people wanna be partners of some sort. It’s the anti-gay-marriage argument that requires hair-splitting around sexuality, the pro argument requires none.

40

The Temporary Name 03.05.14 at 7:23 pm

Or what JanieM said.

41

GiT 03.05.14 at 7:24 pm

“Why would it be a bad argument? Are you saying that people can just decided not to be gay? Because I hate to tell you this but, in the vast majority of cases, they can’t.”

It’s a bad argument because there’s nothing wrong with being gay regardless of whether or not you can exercise choice in the matter. Whether its nature, nurture, or free choice as exercised through Descartes’s pineal gland is irrelevant. If people *could* choose to not be gay, treating them poorly because of their failure to make that choice would still be stupid, immoral bigotry.

42

Salem 03.05.14 at 7:27 pm

“Look roy I actually probably agree that the argument “people are born gay” is a bad one”

Why would it be a bad argument? Are you saying that people can just decided not to be gay?

There are all kinds of things about myself I can’t change. It doesn’t follow that I was born with them.

43

Plume 03.05.14 at 7:33 pm

JanieM and GiT,

Excellent points. I should remember to add that when I say it is biological. There is nothing wrong with it regardless — choice or natural.

But I do think religious condemnation comes primarily from the belief that it is a “choice” and a “lifestyle,” something that a “proper” religious upbringing or intervention can change.

I think that’s the basis for their condemnation, along with their cherry picking of the bible. That it is a “sin” because of “free will” and all of that, etc. etc.

If their god created gay and straight alike, it’s far more difficult for them to pull that trick.

44

adam.smith 03.05.14 at 7:37 pm

I find the moral issue a lot easier than the legal one.
Morally, people who want to refuse services for gays for whatever reasons are bigots and should be called and treated accordingly. Henry is right. End of story.

Legally, I’m not sure where to draw the line and I find the Volokh post helpful to distinguish between two issues:
1. Discriminating against a protected class. Gays should be a protected class and denying a service to someone because they’re gay should be illegal (it isn’t, if I understand correctly, at this time in Arizona). That means that yes, in theory bigot photographers should have to fotography gay weddings (bus as christian_h says, this is mostly an imaginary problem. But where it isn’t—the small town wedding with only one florist around—tough luck for the bigots). But clearly we accept some limits to this and I think it’s not that easy to get these limits just right: Most people would agree that a priest or a church shouldn’t have to perform gay marriages, so that part is easy (it’s also probably a clear-cut 1st amendment issue). But how about a university with religious roots. Can they forbid their students from getting married to a same-sex partner without losing tax-exempt status? I don’t know (and just to re-iterate: morally, both the church and the university are bigots. But bigotry shouldn’t necessarily be illegal)

2. Denying services as a general right of businesses. MPA Victoria’s “If you do not want to drive people and their purchases don’t be a cab driver. Same applies to wedding photographers and bakers.” seems way too broad. Of course we want to give people the right to not provide a service. If you’d like a sympathetic example, take someone who provides services with special cultural meaning/significance (think ethnic dance or music performances). Now a sorority wants to hire them for their racist ” beer olympics” that ridicules their culture. Surely we want them to be allowed to say no?
I’m not sure where exactly to draw the line here – starting with banning discrimination against protected classes and for essential services seems pretty straightforward, so what’s left would be margin-cases like the booze & the muslim cabbie. I don’t think there are clear-cut rules for such cases.

45

MPAVictoria 03.05.14 at 7:41 pm

“2. Denying services as a general right of businesses. MPA Victoria’s “If you do not want to drive people and their purchases don’t be a cab driver. Same applies to wedding photographers and bakers.” seems way too broad. Of course we want to give people the right to not provide a service. If you’d like a sympathetic example, take someone who provides services with special cultural meaning/significance (think ethnic dance or music performances). Now a sorority wants to hire them for their racist ” beer olympics” that ridicules their culture. Surely we want them to be allowed to say no?
I’m not sure where exactly to draw the line here – starting with banning discrimination against protected classes and for essential services seems pretty straightforward, so what’s left would be margin-cases like the booze & the muslim cabbie. I don’t think there are clear-cut rules for such cases.”

I am going to need to think on this one. Interesting example adam.

46

MPAVictoria 03.05.14 at 7:43 pm

“Excellent points. I should remember to add that when I say it is biological. There is nothing wrong with it regardless — choice or natural.”

Agreed. Though I will say the vast majority of LGBT people I know believe it is something they were born with and most certainly not a choice.

47

SamChevre 03.05.14 at 7:44 pm

I also can’t see how someone could view same-sex marriage as “sinful” and not have some massive bigotry toward gay people. It strikes me as impossible.

Many commenters seem to be afflicted with this inability, so maybe an analogy will help.

It is possible to think that smoking is harmful to self and to others, without being “massively bigoted against smokers.”

48

Plume 03.05.14 at 7:51 pm

SamChevre,

Smoking is something people do. It’s not who they are. That’s a very, very poor analogy.

You might as well have said playing soccer, or going shopping, or mowing the lawn too early in the morning.

You’re talking externals, not the innermost self.

49

GiT 03.05.14 at 7:52 pm

“But I do think religious condemnation comes primarily from the belief that it is a “choice” and a “lifestyle,” something that a “proper” religious upbringing or intervention can change.”

I think that’s just a convenient cover or rhetorical tool. “It should be as easy as quitting your bowling league!” They don’t care about the origins. They’re just operating on the basis of disgust. If they were to admit it can be “natural”, it would still be proper to suppress and deny it, like all the “natural” things they already do this with.

50

TM 03.05.14 at 7:53 pm

Friedersdorf’s defense of the indefensible is a rather standard example of let’s call it “liberal pre-emptive disarmament”. It’s the voice that keeps whispering: Don’t be tough on your right-wing opponents – don’t criticize them too hard – don’t say anything they might find offensive (no matter that they consider anything a liberal might say offensive) – always give them the benefit of the doubt – always assume that they didn’t mean to be rude (even though that’s what they are) – and especially, don’t ever say anything that might by whatever contorted logic be interpreted as disrespectful of religious views, no matter how lunatic or bigoted those views actually are. As a liberal, you are supposed to always respond with tolerance to right-wing hate speech – after all, they are entitled to their opinion, it’s not illegal to have ugly views – but the tolerance always ends when the liberal fights back. Friedersdorf couldn’t be clearer: actually discriminating against gays may be totally ok but criticizing the discriminator is one step too far. Ponder that.

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christian_h 03.05.14 at 7:54 pm

Yeah sorry – I really meant “bad argument” as Jamie and others described, not “wrong argument”. (I also think that if understood as an absolute it’s wrong just like all “it’s 1005 nature, 0% nurture” type arguments, but as pointed out in informed debate it is of course not taken a such an absolute.)

52

adam.smith 03.05.14 at 7:55 pm

Though I will say the vast majority of LGBT people I know believe it is something they were born with and most certainly not a choice.

As Salem @39 points out, this is a false dichotomy. My understanding of the research is that we believe that homosexuality is the result of an interplay between genetic and environmental factors. There are identical twins with different sexual orientations, so it’s clearly not _just_ genes. That doesn’t make it a “lifestyle” or a “choice”.

53

Plume 03.05.14 at 7:56 pm

Denial of service is just Jim Crow in various guises.

Once a person opens a business to the public they lose that “right.” They don’t get to decide what “the public” is. It’s simply not their call. The public is all of us.

We already grant business owners far, far too much power in this society. They already hold massively disproportionate power, wealth, voice and control over others. At a minimum, in a capitalist society, the public is the public. As a part of that very bad bargain of turning over massively disproportionate power and wealth and control should come the right of the consumer to go wherever they want to go and know they will be served.

It’s the least the business owner can do in exchange for his or her grotesquely oversized influence and control over our economic destiny.

54

Laurens M. Dorsey 03.05.14 at 7:59 pm

Framing the patently self-serving will of a majority as a defense of individual liberty should be simply risible. Why isn’t it?

(Come to think of it, I don’t think I even seen the phrase “tyranny of the majority” since the last glaciation. But maybe I’m not paying attention.)

55

Plume 03.05.14 at 8:06 pm

GiT,

I can see that to a degree. For instance, sexual abstinence in general. Whether hetero or gay, we are naturally sexual creatures. Sexual abstinence is not “natural” to our species. But the three monotheisms, and especially Christianity, preach the suppression and repression of our sexuality.

Which is why I think a lot of the anti-abortion movement is really about sexual repression, not saving blastocysts. If they really wanted to do that, if they really wanted to prevent abortions, they’d be on every street corner handing out condoms, etc. etc. But they don’t, because they also seem to believe that birth control increases having sex. And they don’t want that.

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JanieM 03.05.14 at 8:12 pm

1: I’d love to see all quaker business owners refusing to serve members of the military or the NRA, and using 1062 as their justification. (Not meaning that I actually would have wanted that to happen, but that it’s more clearly justified by 1062 than any anti-gay animus is.) 2. The bill discriminates against me as an atheist. It lets everybody else discriminate, but not me.

This.

Plus Catholics refusing to do business with people who eat meat on Friday (or whatever the modern Catholic equivalent is). And Baptists refusing to do business with people who play cards (ditto). Ad infinitum. I was thinking of drafting a bunch of questionnaries for storekeepers to hand out to make the sifting process easier. ;-)

I do wonder whether the people who are so hot to have this bill passed realize all the ways in which it could come back to bite them. (Not for the first time in relation to a bill passed in Arizona.)

As for point 2, I don’t have time to work out the thought train, but I’m pretty sure you shouldn’t be able to use your own protected status as a club to beat other people with. One way to say a piece of it is that freedom “of” religion surely implies freedom “from” religion: where is my freedom of religion if I am penalized for not adhering to yours?

Too bad more of these self-styled Christians don’t think like the Maine legislator (deacon at his church) who said, during the debate over LD1020, the first marriage bill, in 2009, “Well I know I have enough sins to worry about for myself and I don’t have to judge others and I don’t think any of us do.”

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Displaced Person 03.05.14 at 8:13 pm

In defense of Chritianity and to complicate this thread most scholars (who read ancient Hebrew and Classical Greek) do not think that the Bible (Tanakh or New Testament) condemns same sex behavior as many modern Christians think it does. Part of the reason is a history of problematic translation into English. See, e.g. Jesus. the Bible and Homosexuality by Jack Rogers and David Jensen’s God. Desire and a Theology of Human Sexuality. The interesting question is why are so many churches and Christians uninterested in the scholarship? For the unchurched among you ponder Matthew 19:12 while recalling the ancient Jewish view of eunuchs.

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Trader Joe 03.05.14 at 8:15 pm

“Once a person opens a business to the public they lose that “right.” They don’t get to decide what “the public” is. It’s simply not their call. The public is all of us. “

There are actually lots of legitimate reasons this isn’t correct. When I open my guns and ammo store, I might like to sell to everyone but society has decided there are individuals who can’t have guns so I can’t sell to the whole public – sorry felons, sorry people with mental illness, no guns for you.

When I open my pharmacy the law says I can’t sell opiates, narcotics and kinds of good stuff to anyone that comes up to the counter with legal tender…sorry pain killer addict no percoset for you.

You can’t sell smokes to a minor. You can’t sell liquor in certain counties. I could go on and on – practically every political division has rules about what can be sold to whom. Limitations are imposed on businesses all the time and all the time businesses make distinctions about whom to sell to and at what price (buy a car lately?).

While I fully agree that in the case at hand denial of service is wrong. Its not the case that its always wrong. There are legit reasons to deny service – race, religion, sexual orientation etc. just aren’t any of them.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.05.14 at 8:19 pm

The problem with these absurd examples like “secular Sam the plumber who doesn’t want to fix the butcher’s plumbing because of his militant veganism” and “racist sororities hiring ethnic groups to perform so they can treat them in a racist and demeaning fashion” is that they basically never happen. I’m sure you can track down a few examples if you really tried, but I’ll give you $5 for one you find if you promise me $1 back for any example of anti-LGBT discrimination I can find. I’m suspect zero people take that deal. All this agonizing over whether the line is just sufficiently clear or not is out of proportion to the actual existing discrimination that people are suffering here on planet Earth and not in whatever rarefied theoretical air Volokh inhabits. So maybe it would be kind of a bummer if secular Sam was forced to repair the butcher’s plumbing, but it’s not a real problem that seriously demands our consideration. The actual rules need to be weighted in accordance with how many people they’d affect, and right now, the main use of so-called “religious conscience” exemptions is to get out of providing general services because you don’t like the way some people live. Sorry, if you want to be a fully participating member of society, you don’t get to do that, and I’m glad you don’t get to do it. Whatever meager infringement that constitutes on your “religious freedom” is more than balanced by the actual freedom gained by discriminated-against minorities who no longer have to worry about being treated like second-class citizens.

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etv13 03.05.14 at 8:24 pm

@JanieM: If whether or not it’s a choice doesn’t matter, what’s the principled basis for anyone choosing not to serve, say, KKK members? Are you really willing to say, “If you don’t want to cater that Klan event, get out of the baking business?”

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.05.14 at 8:29 pm

@JanieM: If whether or not it’s a choice doesn’t matter, what’s the principled basis for anyone choosing not to serve, say, KKK members? Are you really willing to say, “If you don’t want to cater that Klan event, get out of the baking business?”

Yes, let’s spend a lot of time worrying about something that has probably happened like three times in American history so we can avoid creating rules to counteract discrimination that is historically and presently pervasive.

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CJColucci 03.05.14 at 8:35 pm

When I’ve tutored law students over the years, I have found that an effective way to teach certain concepts is to teach them backwards. For example, Miranda warnings are a pro-cop tool — magic fairy dust the cops get to sprinkle on dodgy but not obviously coerced confessions and get them in without judges lookibng too closely at how they were obtained.
So with the “no one has to serve anyone they don’t approve of” business. Start with the idea that the overwhelming majority of people in business do business on a business basis and don’t arbitrarily turn away paying customers. Then think of legitimate reasons they might turn down business: the customer has no money, is making a nuisance of himself, or smells bad. There are lots of them, especially in certain kinds of “personal service” businesses, and they are impossible to specify in advance, but we know them when we see them. Still, we couldn’t possibly write a statute that said: “serve everyone except under the following conditions,” so, by and large, we rely on the business-like behavior of most business people to work it out.
In some situations, however, just letting the businesspeople do as they please is massively inconvenient to considerable and respectable classes of people. So specific rules develop. For example, we invent the rule innkeepers and carriers have to provide service to anyone unless there is some reason society is prepared to accept as legitimate: he won’t pay, he won’t behave, he stinks. As society gets more and more interdependent, more kinds of business get this “public accommodation” treatment. And sometimes something really odd happens, like businesses don’t want to serve blacks or Jews or gays. That becomes a problem, so we make a new rule.
Now, we don’t bother trying to cover everything. Examining the bona fides of every business refusal to give service is a huge and messy enterprise, and we don’t gin up the public force every time some quirky milliner refuses to sell hats to Republicans. After all, such stuff is rare, and we can usually count on other milliners to sell hats to republicans. But if that sort of thing became sufficiently widespread and inconvenient, we’d put a stop to that, too, and rightly so.
There will be marginal issues, of course. There may be a reason to permit the baker to refuse to create a custom-designed wedding cake for a same-sex wedding while requiring him (or her) to sell that tray of cannolis in the display case for the same wedding. Or maybe there isn’t. But these kinds of issues are marginal, and however they come out is not, realistically, a deep offense to either freedom or equality. Until they’re widespread enough to cease to be marginal.

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JanieM 03.05.14 at 8:41 pm

If whether or not it’s a choice doesn’t matter, what’s the principled basis for anyone choosing not to serve, say, KKK members? Are you really willing to say, “If you don’t want to cater that Klan event, get out of the baking business?”

This is either too inane or too complicated to answer, but I’m glad Jerry made a stab at it.

If whether it’s a choice or not matters, why do people get to be protected for choosing certain religious beliefs?

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adam.smith 03.05.14 at 8:42 pm

“racist sororities hiring ethnic groups to perform so they can treat them in a racist and demeaning fashion” is that they basically never happen. I’m sure you can track down a few examples if you really tried, but I’ll give you $5 for one you find if you promise me $1 back for any example of anti-LGBT discrimination I can find.

which is why my post had two parts, the first one dedicated to discussing protected classes and stating that LBGT folks (as opposed to, say, racist frats) should be a protected class.
That said, though, the reason you don’t hear about any of those hypothetical cases is that, as Volokh points out, most private businesses have the right to refuse service to whomever they want and that does, in fact, happen all the time. It’s what bouncer of exclusive clubs do, it’s what well-known instrumental teachers who can be selective do, it’s what lawyers who don’t want to represent a client do etc. etc. I don’t know in how many of those cases you’d like the position of the one refusing the service, but I’m pretty sure that we don’t want to oblige every service provider to accept every customer???)

The only cases in which they _don’t_ have that right are discrimination against a protected class and if they’re providing essential services.

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JanieM 03.05.14 at 8:44 pm

Or, what CJColucci said.

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Bruce Wilder 03.05.14 at 8:44 pm

I’m too lazy to track down appropriate links for reference, but California has legislation, which prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in broad categories of housing and real estate transactions, and the first, and maybe still only, major case brought under the law concerned a condo/time-share development in Palm Springs, which was illegally trying to be more or less “exclusively” gay.

I don’t know that this was a bad thing, either way, but it could certainly be viewed as an ironic application of the law.

There’s a tension between wanting to permit people rights of free association to promote and develop subcultures and, at the same, wanting to police and suppress the segregation and bigotry, which is, inevitably, a risk of such efforts.

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Joshua W. Burton 03.05.14 at 8:46 pm

The problem I see with this line of argument is that it proves too much. If these religious beliefs, however sincere, are bigoted, and if the teaching of bigotry is dangerous to a free society, then a moral obligation to take the fight to the bigots — in the private sphere, as well as the public — is implied. The power relationship no longer figures into it; it is meritorious to kick bigots when they are down. We wouldn’t stop at closing the bakeries; we’d have to break into the churches.

People who believe that those called to their priesthood must be celibate, or that those sealed in their temples must be baptized and paid up on tithes, or that those claiming hereditary descent from Aaron mustn’t marry divorcées or converts, are also propagating (or at least quietly holding, and maintaining by example) views that the public sphere will not, and should not, countenance. If such beliefs are socially dominant (or have been so within living memory), then they exercise a sort of coercive monopoly power and may need to be actively challenged just to clear the public space for others: this is roughly the case with opposition to gay marriage in the West today. But we don’t cross their lintels to shut them down, burn their altars and scatter their adherents . . . unless, as in the case of frank racial bigotry (Bob Jones, NGK in South Africa), we consider their beliefs toxic even stripped of public voice or power.

In the current context, this point is somewhat academic; no one can decently argue (though the right is having a go at it) that LBGT Power Triumphant holds the public sphere today. So the limited point that somebody can object to sanctioning violations of a purity code without being a bigot doesn’t buy him much; he still has to respect and acknowledge gay marriage as a nod to the civic will and a fruit of the same personal autonomy that protects him in his cloisters. But in principle I see a very big difference between compelling a rabbi (in a Christian country where rabbis don’t own TV networks) to permit an interracial marriage in his shul (supposing arguendo that somewhere in the world there is a rabbi who opposes that) on the one hand, and compelling him to permit an intermarriage on the other. And, inside his shul, a gay marriage resembles the latter much more than the former. So there is a distinction of principle here that still matters.

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EA FH 03.05.14 at 8:48 pm

Great post, although I side with the Slate columnist.

There are a couple of arguments which are getting blurred, and which revolve around our recognition of negative rights (namely, a right which prohibits from acting upon another human being in some way regarding an specific issue). I believe the distinction between fake and real bigotry is not the main point – it has to do with what is revealed and what is not revealed.

In the political sphere, a strictly positivist view would agree that government cannot issue any restriction on my claims, as a citizen, to access its goods and services if I am expected to contribute to its operation (via taxes) and its organization (via voting). Meanwhile, a ius-naturalist would argue that regardless of my contributions, government should not impinge on my claims for fair treatment before the law and the like due to inalienable rights. But in the private economic sphere, this two views grow more complicated: For one, if a business owner decides, given its beliefs, not to serve a patron due to a self-imposed restriction (or whim), if that restriction is egregiously out of sync of its customer base, then the market will punish the said practice and the business will go bust. The whole point of (different degrees of) market rationality is to act as a straight jacket for these behaviors.

The interesting cases lie at the boundary, as in the photographer’s case: she had no problem in photographing events where same-sex couples participated (because *business is business* after all); she drew the line at marriage events. Without knowing the detailed workings of the case, my problem is with the growing consensus to force business to serve these events, regardless of what that entails. If you do not believe in markets, then this is not your problem – but to paraphrase a old Christian adage, “markets do not care whether you believe in them, because they sure believe in you…”

Let’s see some historical examples: in the South, businesses generally discriminated against patrons of color, by offering goods of lesser quality to them, or even denying such goods. They did so because of legal guarantees to such behavior: minorities faced restrictions to own businesses, so a minority entrepreneur could not offer a better service than white businesses to its own group. The whole point of the Civil Rights Act was to eliminate these restrictions and in doing so, level the playing field – introducing competition would eventually made new businesses drop those restrictions willingly in the best of cases.

Today, however, similar restrictions do not operate at the level of sexual orientation, and in fact, at their most harmless, are found in many places – for example, the ever common “no shirt, no shoes, no service…” For this reason, if SCOTUS rules (in the unlikely case) that the photographer was wrong to deny service, a broadly designed law to mandate businesses to serve patrons without regard to their willingness to provide such service could cause some unintended consequences – while I believe that the effect over businesses will be small (as no big business became rich by practicing public bigotry), it could start a damning practice by part of consumers to sue the business if they feel their rights to partake in consumption are discriminated against – for example, given racial disparities reflected in income due to a myriad of factors, a shrewd plaintiff could argue that prices in a minority neighborhood are above the capacity to pay for the average income in that area. and hence has a claim against the business to serve its patrons (via lower prices).

The outcome of that would become painfully obvious over time.

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The Temporary Name 03.05.14 at 8:52 pm

to kick bigots when they are down

Down?

We wouldn’t stop at closing the bakeries

What did we close?

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JanieM 03.05.14 at 8:54 pm

More random points about choice/not-choice:

1. Being gay may not be a choice (I’m gay myself; I don’t believe I had a choice), but getting married is certainly a choice, and actually having sex is also a choice.

2. If it’s folks who want to discriminate against gay people who are pushing the “they have a choice” idea, then I don’t see what’s gained by letting them frame the terms of the debate.

3. I don’t think my choices about who to have sex with (or how often, or what kind of sex, stipulating consenting adults etc.) should subject me to second-class citizenship because someone else doesn’t approve of them. So there again, arguing that “it isn’t a choice” isn’t useful or relevant.

4. There’s an unpleasant whiff of “I can’t help myself” to reliance on the “it’s not a choice” argument. That’s another way in which it allows the other side to set the terms of the debate.

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JanieM 03.05.14 at 8:58 pm

5. I think it’s important to fight part of this issue precisely on the basis of free choice. My first-class citizenship status shouldn’t be dependent on whether I’m willing to constrain my choices according to other people’s religious beliefs.

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Anderson 03.05.14 at 8:59 pm

There’s an unpleasant whiff of “I can’t help myself” to reliance on the “it’s not a choice” argument.

Excellent point. It’s like refusing to allow marriage or basic rights to people who put the toilet tissue roll on the spindle the wrong way. (Which is overhand, in case you wondered.) It has no impact on the underhand-rollers lives. It implicates private behavior that none of the objectors is even required to see. And it’s a choice, but So What?

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Joshua W. Burton 03.05.14 at 9:06 pm

@68: Down?

Just what I said in para 3 @67: no one can decently claim today that the agora is already clear and we’re policing the cellars. My point is merely that unfashionable religious principle has rights in the private sphere that bigotry should not enjoy. It’s a fine point for a better world with better problems (bim’hera b’yamenu).

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Plume 03.05.14 at 9:07 pm

On marriage, same sex or otherwise:

One way to resolve the issue would be . . .

Remove any “force of law” from religious ceremonies. They would have no legally binding effect. None whatsoever. In order to gain that legally binding effect, all couples would have to apply for a civil union license, which would be federal, not left up to states. And the federal government could not turn down two consenting adults of legal age on the basis of their sexuality. That license would have the force of law across the entire nation. All legal protections accorded to a married couple would apply.

Churches, temples, synagogues, etc. etc. would perform a purely ceremonial function, without one iota of legal force. If they chose to be bigoted regarding who they allowed inside their doors for that ceremony, that would be up to them. But it would have zero impact on any couple’s legal rights.

Eventually, this marginalization (of religious organizations) would “naturally” lead to the reduction in that bigotry, I’m betting. Fewer and fewer people would bother associating with discriminatory orgs. In many ways, it has the force it does at present because it can directly impact legal status. Without that, the rationale behind the discrimination starts to fade away as well.

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Plume 03.05.14 at 9:19 pm

JanieM,

Fair enough. But, at least from my POV, it’s important to always link this with hetero and gay. As in, neither has a choice in the matter. I can definitely see it as problematic if some how this is all confused and knotted up to become:

Heteros have a choice. Gay people don’t.

I don’t buy that for a second. I think we have a very strong biological drive toward attraction of opposite or same sex. We lean, biologically, one way or another. Socialization can sometimes overcome that natural lean, as it most likely did in various cultures throughout history. It was socially accepted, for instance, in ancient Greece, (Sparta, especially), Rome, in part of the Celtic world, etc. etc . . . though class and gender issues further modified that acceptance.

Nature and nurture and the environment, etc. In short, it’s far too complicated and dynamic to be left up to the collected and heavily edited texts of ancient religions.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.05.14 at 9:24 pm

@adam smith

That said, though, the reason you don’t hear about any of those hypothetical cases is that, as Volokh points out, most private businesses have the right to refuse service to whomever they want and that does, in fact, happen all the time. It’s what bouncer of exclusive clubs do, it’s what well-known instrumental teachers who can be selective do, it’s what lawyers who don’t want to represent a client do etc. etc. I don’t know in how many of those cases you’d like the position of the one refusing the service, but I’m pretty sure that we don’t want to oblige every service provider to accept every customer???)

Yeah, most of the time, if you think a customer is more trouble than they’re worth or you just don’t like them or whatever, you say, “sorry, we’re booked.” And you move on. Considering how hard discrimination is to prove, the plumber telling you they’re too busy or the music teacher not having time in the schedule for you is likely the end of the conversation. But! if the music teacher is all like, “I can’t teach you guitar because you’re gay and that’s gross,” now there’s evidence, and if a lawsuit happens, then sucks to be them, should’ve kept their dumb bigot mouth shut.

I don’t support forcing every business to accept every customer, but given how that’s not something that anyone has ever tried to make happen, I’m going to spend zero time worrying about this hypothetical future that anti-discrimination laws don’t help bring about anyway.

@Joshua Burton

The problem I see with this line of argument is that it proves too much. If these religious beliefs, however sincere, are bigoted, and if the teaching of bigotry is dangerous to a free society, then a moral obligation to take the fight to the bigots — in the private sphere, as well as the public — is implied.

No, it isn’t. It’s entirely possible to do a cost-benefit analysis and decide that repressing people’s private church gatherings or forcing clergy to perform same-sex marriages is a much more serious infringement of freedom than telling people who provide religion-agnostic services that they can’t arbitrarily refuse to provide those services to people if they’re generally open to the public. They can have the Bigot Power Hour on their own time, in their own space; we’ll wear them down eventually, but we don’t need to leverage the power of the state to force it.

But in principle I see a very big difference between compelling a rabbi (in a Christian country where rabbis don’t own TV networks) to permit an interracial marriage in his shul (supposing arguendo that somewhere in the world there is a rabbi who opposes that) on the one hand, and compelling him to permit an intermarriage on the other. And, inside his shul, a gay marriage resembles the latter much more than the former. So there is a distinction of principle here that still matters.

What does this mean? I can’t for the life of me parse out what you’re trying to say.

Again, this is a nonexistent problem because, guess what, no one who is interested in marrying a member of the same sex is also interested in forcing Imaginary Rabbi to officiate the ceremony for the simple reason that people tend to not like hanging out with those who are bigoted towards them.

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Anderson 03.05.14 at 9:27 pm

I for one have never seen or heard of a florist or cake shop that presents itself as “Catholic Weddings Only,” for instance.

It’s pretty intrinsic to the decision to open such a business in the first place that you are going to provide services to people with different beliefs and values than your own.

Just another reason I have no sympathy for these bigots. Ya don’t wanna be associated with icky gay weddings? Get out of the wedding-support business.

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Donald Johnson 03.05.14 at 9:32 pm

I’m for gay marriage, and have been since the mid to late 90’s. Against my better judgment, I’m going to explain how it was possible to oppose gay marriage and not hate gay people. You may believe in a certain religion for other reasons–but that religion also teaches that sex outside of a traditional marriage is always wrong. You don’t necessarily begin from a premise that leads you to search out the religion that justifies gay-hatred. So premarital sex is wrong, and jerking off is wrong. (I was in a constant state of mental anguish on that last one as a teenager.) I believed all this, so I thought gay sex was wrong, but I had gay friends, heterosexual friends who had sex outside marriage, and I’ve already alluded to my own practices. I didn’t hate any of these people or myself. I didn’t think gay sex was any more sinful than the other forms that were forbidden and when Jesus said that anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery in his heart, I pretty much assumed that this cut the ground out from under any self-righteous feelings I might have had towards others.

I’ve changed my mind along with the Episcopal Church on gay marriage and in fact get frustrated these days with people who still think as I did twenty years ago, but can still remember what it was like to think differently.

Of course, none of this is a reason for supporting socially conservative religious people who want to pass laws allowing discrimination against gays. Just thought I’d point out that not all of them are haters.

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Donald Johnson 03.05.14 at 9:37 pm

Actually, on that last point, I may backtrack a bit. Even when I was a believer in the sinfulness of gay sex, I was in favor of equal rights for all. Sexual sins weren’t the government’s business.

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TM 03.05.14 at 9:38 pm

Burton: “If these religious beliefs, however sincere, are bigoted, and if the teaching of bigotry is dangerous to a free society, then a moral obligation to take the fight to the bigots — in the private sphere, as well as the public — is implied.”

It’s not implied at all. What is being debated (in the OP and see 50) for Pete’s sake is whether or not it is fair to *publicly criticize bigots as bigots*. Nobody has even suggested kicking them in the a** or in any way inconveniencing them “in the private sphere”.

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Donald Johnson 03.05.14 at 9:40 pm

Though that contradicts my opposition to gay marriage. I haven’t thought much about what I was thinking back then, so it’s a little confused in my memory. I probably would have opposed gay marriage if someone had proposed it in, say, 1990, but if exposed to arguments in favor of civil marriage I think I could have been persuaded to see that civil marriage was none of my business and Christians had no right to tell others how to live their lives.

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Joshua W. Burton 03.05.14 at 9:41 pm

Jerry Vinokurov, @76:

What does this mean? I can’t for the life of me parse out what you’re trying to say.

Racist rabbi, won’t perform interracial (Jewish) marriage: bigotry, gloves off.
Traditional rabbi, won’t perform (Jewish/Hindu) intermarriage: private sphere, act of conscience, find another officiant and let it go.
(???) rabbi, won’t perform gay marriage: (???).

Asking a baker to cater a gay marriage as a public accommodation (or lose his lease etc.) is within the public sphere where this isn’t the relevant distinction. Asking a rabbi to perform a gay marriage (or lose his zoning, tax status, etc.) is where we get one answer if we are trying to root out bigotry, but a different answer if we are broadly tolerating acts of conscience. And it’s not a nonexistent problem, because there are assuredly people who passionately wish to be married by the most traditional member of their chosen clergy who will have them, and who would use the power of the state to push this envelope if that power allowed itself to be thus wielded.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.05.14 at 9:53 pm

Asking a rabbi to perform a gay marriage (or lose his zoning, tax status, etc.) is where we get one answer if we are trying to root out bigotry, but a different answer if we are broadly tolerating acts of conscience.

What? Where is the rabbi or any other religious official being asked to do this? Look, it’s possible to both a) “respect” (in a legal sense) the prerogative for clergy to set their own rules regarding what constitutes a legitimate marriage ceremony in the eyes of their religious order, and b) mandate that businesses which are open to the general public cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. In fact, we know empirically that this is possible when it comes to race, because it’s been the legal status quo for decades now, and somehow racist churches have not been shutdown by an influx of lawsuits demanding that they officiate interracial marriages. Turns out, religions aren’t businesses*; who knew?!

And it’s not a nonexistent problem, because there are assuredly people who passionately wish to be married by the most traditional member of their chosen clergy who will have them, and who would use the power of the state to push this envelope if that power allowed itself to be thus wielded.

Oh, well, if it’s such a serious problem, please to be taking my bet upthread!

“There possibly exist some people who fit these hypothetical descriptions I have just invented” is not an argument, and there is no legal mechanism for a gay couple to force a church to officiate their gay wedding.

*: although some forms of charismatic Protestantism do come awful close

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Joshua W. Burton 03.05.14 at 9:53 pm

TM @80:

It’s not implied at all. What is being debated (in the OP and see 50) for Pete’s sake is whether or not it is fair to *publicly criticize bigots as bigots*. Nobody has even suggested kicking them in the a** or in any way inconveniencing them “in the private sphere”.

Well, but why not? I’m suggesting kicking bigots, every chance I get; it seems like a good way to live your life, once you see where tolerated bigotry leads. See Frown Power.

For this reason, I think that it’s worth remembering that when I oppose gay marriage (or, say, cohen-divorcée marriage) objectors, I am fighting an improper encroachment into the public sphere, not calling them bigots. The OP wants to elide this distinction, but I think it’s worth preserving, even though it doesn’t affect the present case, because I can and do treat bigots as I would not treat the tradition-bound clergy of many faiths.

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Barry 03.05.14 at 10:22 pm

Joshua W. Burton 03.05.14 at 9:41 pm
” Asking a baker to cater a gay marriage as a public accommodation (or lose his lease etc.) is within the public sphere where this isn’t the relevant distinction. Asking a rabbi to perform a gay marriage (or lose his zoning, tax status, etc.) is where we get one answer if we are trying to root out bigotry, but a different answer if we are broadly tolerating acts of conscience. And it’s not a nonexistent problem, because there are assuredly people who passionately wish to be married by the most traditional member of their chosen clergy who will have them, and who would use the power of the state to push this envelope if that power allowed itself to be thus wielded.”

For those who might believe this argument, every single law I’ve heard about on gay marriage, rights, etc. has clear protections for religions and there is a First Amendment and considerable case law on this.

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Anderson 03.05.14 at 10:24 pm

84: it’s a fair point that, personally, I do not care whether people are bigots, so long as they keep it to themselves. Bigotry is not the problem; socially acceptable bigoted practices *are* the problem. And Friedersdorf is trying to argue that these practices are indeed socially acceptable.

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Joshua W. Burton 03.05.14 at 10:25 pm

JV @83: In fact, we know empirically that this is possible when it comes to race, because it’s been the legal status quo for decades now, and somehow racist churches have not been shutdown by an influx of lawsuits demanding that they officiate interracial marriages.

Well, then, for “church” read “religious school” (though I strongly doubt that an unredeemed Afrikaaner NG Kerk could defend itself in the US on 1st Amendment grounds today). The law of the land is clear on racial discrimination in schools: must a seminary, yeshiva or madrassa admit gay students to keep its 1A “free exercise” rights, or is there a distinction here, contra the OP?

Oh, well, if it’s such a serious problem, please to be taking my bet upthread!

Not sure the terms of the bet fit the situation I’m describing. I know a lot of gay Orthodox Jews, most of whom are conventionally intolerant of more liberal Jewish denominations. Several couples will be (civilly) married this summer, when my local jurisdiction sorts out the rules.

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Joshua W. Burton 03.05.14 at 10:30 pm

Barry @85: For those who might believe this argument, every single law I’ve heard about on gay marriage, rights, etc. has clear protections for religions and there is a First Amendment and considerable case law on this.

Sure. But if we frame the argument as Henry does here, that’s a defect — presumably, to be corrected at a later time. Anticipating that move, I’m agreeing with all his currently tabled pragmatic goals, while reserving a concern about the framing.

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Oxbird 03.05.14 at 10:31 pm

You say: It’s entirely possible that the people in question justify their refusal on some version of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin.’ But Friedersdorf’s suggestion that this is not itself a kind of bigotry seems to me to be very obviously wrong. I tend to agree in the context you discuss but am not as certain as you appear to be. Apply the thinking to a somewhat different context, that of religion rather than gay rights. A Catholic (or choose your religion) can be a bigot who hates Muslims (or choose another religion). She may elect to dissuade her daughter to marry a Muslim because all Muslims are terrible people, in which case I would say she is a bigot. Or, she may seek to dissuade her daughter from marrying a Muslim because she believes it important that her grandchildrens’ parents both be Catholic and bring up their children as devoted Catholic parents and is otherwise positively disposed towards Muslims; and, is indeed a member of the Board of Directors of the Muslim Defense League. I would not be comfortable calling her a bigot. And, I expect that those who would are of that view simply because they do not find religious views of much importance.

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CJColucci 03.05.14 at 10:32 pm

I strongly doubt that an unredeemed Afrikaaner NG Kerk could defend itself in the US on 1st Amendment grounds today

I don’t, and it’s my business to know these things.

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adam.smith 03.05.14 at 10:32 pm

I don’t support forcing every business to accept every customer, but given how that’s not something that anyone has ever tried to make happen, I’m going to spend zero time worrying about this hypothetical future that anti-discrimination laws don’t help bring about anyway.

well, I was responding to someone who did at least appear to make that argument. I think getting the details of discrimination laws right is more important and more difficult than you allow. I agree this isn’t terribly hard for businesses discriminating against gays (and I’ve said so from the start): Designate sexual orientation protected category –> discriminating against someone bec. of sexual orientation is illegal, the end.
But what to do with cases where no protected category is involved is neither trivial nor irrelevant (not least because sexual orientation isn’t protected in many places). Nor is which categories we should protect and which we shouldn’t. E.g. currently age is only a protected category under federal law once you’re over 40.

Yeah, most of the time, if you think a customer is more trouble than they’re worth or you just don’t like them or whatever, you say, “sorry, we’re booked.” And you move on. Considering how hard discrimination is to prove, the plumber telling you they’re too busy or the music teacher not having time in the schedule for you is likely the end of the conversation

but you’re throwing a lot of things together here. You don’t have to state prejudice to be discriminating. E.g. in NYC, racial discrimination in property is proven by sting operations with actors from different races (great This American Life show on this). If you systematically discriminate against a protected group that’s illegal and not just hypothetically so. And we do want to define, legally, for which groups of people this applies. That is, in fact, one of the most significant struggles in anti-discrimination activism. I don’t know why you just brush this aside?

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SamChevre 03.05.14 at 10:35 pm

I’m sure you can track down a few examples [of people being refused services by a business when they could pay] if you really tried, but I’ll give you $5 for one you find if you promise me $1 back for any example of anti-LGBT discrimination I can find.

You don’t want to make that bet.

I could go stand outside any popular nightclub and get dozens of people, every Friday and Saturday night, who’d have been happy to pay the cover but didn’t get in. Or call any family lawyer and hear about dozens of potential clients who were just clearly too angry/dysfunctional/whatever to represent in court.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.05.14 at 10:40 pm

The law of the land is clear on racial discrimination in schools: must a seminary, yeshiva or madrassa admit gay students to keep its 1A “free exercise” rights, or is there a distinction here, contra the OP?

There is no First Amendment right to a tax exemption. If you want the exemption, you play by the rules. If you don’t feel like playing, pay up and do what you want.

I know a lot of gay Orthodox Jews, most of whom are conventionally intolerant of more liberal Jewish denominations. Several couples will be (civilly) married this summer, when my local jurisdiction sorts out the rules.

Ok, and so what? Like, that’s a bummer for your gay friends, but I don’t see what it shows. If they don’t want to be part of a more liberal Jewish denomination, they can start their own, if they feel so inclined. The law still won’t make an Orthodox temple officiate their ceremony, nor should it.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.05.14 at 10:42 pm

You don’t want to make that bet.

I could go stand outside any popular nightclub and get dozens of people, every Friday and Saturday night, who’d have been happy to pay the cover but didn’t get in. Or call any family lawyer and hear about dozens of potential clients who were just clearly too angry/dysfunctional/whatever to represent in court.

I’m sure you can track down a few examples [of people being refused services by a business when they could pay] if you really tried, but I’ll give you $5 for one you find if you promise me $1 back for any example of anti-LGBT discrimination I can find.

Yes, I guess I wouldn’t want to take the version of the bet where you literally rewrote the terms from what I actually said.

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adam.smith 03.05.14 at 10:48 pm

The law of the land is clear on racial discrimination in schools: must a seminary, yeshiva or madrassa admit gay students to keep its 1A “free exercise” rights, or is there a distinction here, contra the OP?

That’s exactly the point I was trying to get at with my first post at @44. I don’t see any problem in treating bigotry differently legally and morally.
I’ll call such yeshivas, seminaries etc. bigotted, most certainly. But as CJColucci points out, bigotry itself is protected by the 1st amendment.
There is no question that churches can hold bigotted doctrine and still enjoy tax exemptions etc. The question is what to do with religious schools and the like. I’d tend to say that schools who don’t accept gay students do not serve the public interest and should not receive tax exemptions (though they should obviously _not_ be closed. No one argued that the feds should close down Bob Jones U).

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SamChevre 03.05.14 at 10:50 pm

Jerry Vinokurov

What is it you are arguing doesn’t happen then? The class of things I’m talking about, and Eugene Volokh is writing about, is “businesses refusing to provide services to people who could and would like to pay for them.” That’s the typical rule–they can if they want to. (Personally, I’d like to say any exceptions should be “acceptable because necessary”, like any other suspension of rights such as habeas corpus, but that’s a minority position.)

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.05.14 at 10:55 pm

But what to do with cases where no protected category is involved is neither trivial nor irrelevant (not least because sexual orientation isn’t protected in many places). Nor is which categories we should protect and which we shouldn’t. E.g. currently age is only a protected category under federal law once you’re over 40.

It’s not actually that hard. Step 1: do some studies to determine if the discrimination exists. Step 2: add that class of people to the protected class category.

This is not a difficult exercise to do with regard to race, nor is it difficult to do with regard to sexual orientation. We know discrimination happens on those grounds. So we pass laws to protect those groups of people. We don’t have to consider every possible permutation of all the possible interactions before we are able to codify in law a sensible principle like “discriminating against LGBT people is wrong.”

but you’re throwing a lot of things together here. You don’t have to state prejudice to be discriminating. E.g. in NYC, racial discrimination in property is proven by sting operations with actors from different races (great This American Life show on this). If you systematically discriminate against a protected group that’s illegal and not just hypothetically so. And we do want to define, legally, for which groups of people this applies. That is, in fact, one of the most significant struggles in anti-discrimination activism. I don’t know why you just brush this aside?

I’m not brushing it aside; obviously what you say is correct. I just don’t see it as the primary point of discussion in this case. It has nothing to do with Volokh’s fantasyland of vegan plumbers, which he apparently fears will be right around the corner if we aren’t very nice to bigots.

I just don’t have a lot of time for this casuistry of trying to gin up hypotheticals that practically never actually happen in order to try and argue against legislation that could provide real relief to real people, right now. As I said, we do not need to conceive of and debate every theoretical permutation here. I mean, there is absolutely zero reason to think that Volokh is somehow sincere in his concern for those hypothetical people that he dreams up; that’s just a sideshow intended to muddy the waters and justify the persistence of a whole boatload of bigotry for just a little longer. It’s a typical libertarian “freedom” charade and I’m not having any of it.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.05.14 at 11:00 pm

What is it you are arguing doesn’t happen then? The class of things I’m talking about, and Eugene Volokh is writing about, is “businesses refusing to provide services to people who could and would like to pay for them.” That’s the typical rule–they can if they want to. (Personally, I’d like to say any exceptions should be “acceptable because necessary”, like any other suspension of rights such as habeas corpus, but that’s a minority position.)

The problem with these absurd examples like “secular Sam the plumber who doesn’t want to fix the butcher’s plumbing because of his militant veganism” and “racist sororities hiring ethnic groups to perform so they can treat them in a racist and demeaning fashion” is that they basically never happen.

I’m not talking about “businesses not providing services to customers who are willing to pay.” I am talking specifically about the sort of ludicrous inventions that proliferate in Volokh’s post, which are intended to muddy the waters with “ah, but what if the bigots demand to be served? Does the Jewish print shop owner have to print neo-Nazi propaganda?!” which are basically things that happen so rarely that they hardly merit consideration when compared to actual existing discrimination. It’s an argument one step removed from the ever-present conservative whine of “WAAAAH YOU ARE INTOLERANT OF MY INTOLERANCE WAAAAH,” and deserves about the same degree of respect.

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MPAVictoria 03.05.14 at 11:04 pm

“My understanding of the research is that we believe that homosexuality is the result of an interplay between genetic and environmental factors. “

If genetic factors are involved then aren’t you in fact “born that way” in some sense of the term? I agree with Christian that it is not some sort of 100% gay gene scenario but genetics does play a role so if homosexuals want to say “I was born this way” I don’t think it is your place to correct them.

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bianca steele 03.05.14 at 11:16 pm

Frown Power: I think that’s what you get when you order prime rib on a Friday in Lent. Or, depending on the waiter, when you order the cod stuffed with shrimp.

Oxbird: I don’t disagree, as long as her reason is wanting to make life easier for her grandchild by not saddling her with too many Purgatory points, or something along those lines. If it’s that she doesn’t believe non-Catholics can be moral people, then it’s bigotry. And if she doesn’t want non-Catholics moving into the neighborhood because her granddaughter might fall in love with one, it’s bigotry.

Moreover, I find it really weird that so many people seem to think there’s a question whether the government is going to make religions change religious stuff. The point is not to force a religion to become more equal so its members will have better lives (people within the religion can do that if they like). The point is to make it more difficult for religions to be hostile to outsiders in areas where it matters.

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JW Mason 03.05.14 at 11:17 pm

Agree with the post.

I would just go a step further. I would say that essentially all bigotry is principled bigotry. There has never been any kind of discrimination that was not justified in terms of some kind of principle. The pure, unmotivated animus that Friedersdorf wants us to reserve terms like racism or homophobia for, does not exist.

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Plume 03.05.14 at 11:37 pm

MPAV,

Well said.

The idea of a “gay gene” could bring in all kinds of horrible SF scenarios. Designer babies, and making sure it didn’t exist. Splicing it out, etc.

I don’t see it (our genetic makeup) as some standard, and then a deviation from that standard — like something that needs correcting, fixing. Hetero or same sex — both are “natural.” Both should be equally valued. One is not superior to the other.

The “born that way” viewpoint can be twisted in ugly ways, too, and we have to remain vigilant there as well. Just like the choice and lifestyle views. It wasn’t that long ago that people thought women were “naturally” inferior” to men, or blacks to whites, etc. etc. Some troglodytes still feel that way. So biology, obviously, can be misused and abused.

But, overall, I think it’s an important component, in proper context. Our biology shapes who we love — as does our environment, society, etc. etc.

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stubydoo 03.05.14 at 11:45 pm

Religious people just need to learn that their religion, and religion in general, just isn’t as special as they think it is.

Their attempt to carve out religion specifically in the Arizona would-be-law was tactically stupid.

They could have had a debate about whether a mom-and-pop business should be allowed to apply personal morality in business decisions, but by trying to make the legal test one of whether or not an objection is “religious” they were going to fail. They knew all along that “religious” ideas includes a bunch of stuff they themselves find repugnant (e.g. Islamic practice from a Christian perspective), and on their better days they even remember that their own sacred texts contain a bunch of silly stuff that they happily ignore.

As I understand it, the fact that Muslims might appreciate such a law did eventually get well publicized in Arizona, and this apparently helped aid the law’s demise.

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Bruce Wilder 03.06.14 at 12:11 am

“pure, unmotivated animus”

Still, I’m not sure CF is entirely wrong in his premise — that “hatred” is not the right label for the emotion. And, I’m not sure that “bigotry” gets social context right, either.

The institutional history, here, is a transformation of the social control and meaning of sexuality, within living memory. In the 1950s, the only socially-approved context for sexual intercourse was within a (heterosexual) marriage, defined by a license from the state, possibly seconded by a ritual contract administered by the church. Every other form and context of sexual behavior was guarded by sanctions of law and social taboo, including, but hardly limited to, religiously motivated shaming. A whole range of sexual contexts were liable to humiliating social sanctions, bound to induce shame in those caught out. Discrimination in a variety of circumstances was required — an unmarried couple couldn’t rent an apartment in many jurisdictions; morals clauses in employment contracts and professional licensing could get a person caught up in a sexual scandal fired. Sexual taboos were reinforced by elaborate systems of censorship, and periodic moral panics orchestrated by newspapers reporting on scandals, or pre-electoral police campaigns to “clean up” neighborhoods.

It seems to me that the reluctance of some to express acceptance of gay marriage is just a vestige of the feelings of disgust or revulsion, engendered by this largely defunct institutional scheme, or its religious remnants, in creating the associated taboos. I wouldn’t call the emotions, “hatred”, though in their most violent expression there might little operational difference. The attachment some may feel to the old conventions may simply be brought into a state of cognitive dissonance, by the new inclusiveness of marriage.

It is a different definition of marriage — more of a voluntary dyadic contract, with the licensing of sexual behavior no longer an important element, since society no longer attempts such a detailed control of sexual behavior. The taboos have been worn away by the use of political hot-buttons, and an exhibitionistic popular culture.

Politically, though, it is also true that there a a variety of constituencies and movements to restore an oppressive and hierarchical control of sexuality. The most threatening of these uses abortion, not homosexuality, as its point issue. Is that “bigotry”? It is authoritarian in ways I dislike.

It is the authoritarian threat that makes me think it would be good to pivot to a defense of freedom of sexual choice, with gay relationships a legitimate part of that range of personal autonomy. In a time when technology is stripping us of some of the props of personal privacy, it may be important to think through how we honor and protect the individual’s core self, within a society that supports the choices an individual makes from private as well as public attack.

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parse 03.06.14 at 12:22 am

I don’t think Fridersdorf argues that the photographer should be allowed to discriminate, and he certainly doesn’t deny that the photograher did discriminate. Set aside for a moment the tension here between individual liberty and non-discrimination law. Whether you think the New Mexico Supreme Court decided the case rightly or wrongly, that is separate from the question of what motivated Elaine Huguenin.

Unless you really believe that the only motive for discrimination is hatred, it seems you have to agree with Fridersdorf’s claim that whether someone discriminated is a separate question from whether they hate the object of their discrimination. It seems to me that one of the reasons that discrimination is so pervasive is that it serves the economic interest of powerful people whose self(ish) interest provides sufficient motive for discrimination even absent any animus, much less outright hate.

I think the practice of discrimination reasonably suggests the suspicion that the agent is a bigot, and I think if I had to choose I know what I’d say about photographer in this case. But I don’t have to choose, and the presence of some of the details Fridersdorf shares make me less certain than I’d be otherwise.

I also think the assumption that bigotry is the motive for all discrimination tends to fix individual acts of discrimination as paragimatic and diverts attention from institutional discrimination.

For me, bigotry, prejudice and discrimination are three different things, though they often travel together. And the only one that requires hatred is bigotry.

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adam.smith 03.06.14 at 12:45 am

As Henry acknowledges from the start, “hatred” is probably the wrong term to use:

Friedersdorf has a limited point, to the extent that the Slate article that he’s criticizing suggests that refusal to provide services to gay marriages is rooted in personalized hatred.

but like Henry, I really don’t see how a personal decision to discriminate can be described as anything else than bigotry in the Webster sense of “a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)” (my emphasis).

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MPAVictoria 03.06.14 at 12:49 am

“For me, bigotry, prejudice and discrimination are three different things, though they often travel together. And the only one that requires hatred is bigotry.”

Why should I care why they refuse me service? Isn’t it enough that they do ?

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parse 03.06.14 at 1:23 am

Why should I care why they refuse me service? Isn’t it enough that they do

Enough for what? It’s enough to object to the behavior, but it’s not enough to prove that they hate you.

adam.smith, you are correct to point out that Henry admitted Friedersdorf has a limited point, but I’m less inclined to think he’s claiming in the Slate piece that he has a larger point. And I think Henry is wrong in framing Friedersdorf claim as being that sincerely-religiously-against-gay-marriage people aren’t bigots, in the sense of hating the objects of their discrimination. He’s only saying that they aren’t necessarily bigots.

It seems to me that MPAVictoria’s comment concedes the argument: it doesn’t matter whether they are bigots or not.

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Bruce Wilder 03.06.14 at 1:24 am

If the photographer says, “I can’t do it; I’m booked” or “Sorry, I’m away that weekend”, whether the excuse is true or not, they’ve refused service, but it has a rather different meaning from, “I won’t do it, because I don’t want anything to do with you people and your perversion.”

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Keith 03.06.14 at 1:47 am

Religious freedom is surely a mistaken idea.

Religion is rubbish.

The reason for constitutional rules about it is the tendency of religious groups to murder each other. It is proper to ban the murder of one group by another and Laws to promote Religious tolerance reduce the danger of Genocide.

The freedom of people to act in an absurd way in their own sect cannot be extended to a general right to discriminate. A Jewish female barrister may accept that she must be separated from Jewish men at Synagogue if she is orthodox, as that is her tradition she accepts. But a lawyer should accept a brief from any possible client applying the cab rank rule. So a Barrister should accept a Moslem client, or a Hindu, or atheist.

The difficulty with debating such issues arises from the fact that the distinction between negative and positive liberty is meaningless. Most of the time if one vendor refuses to serve you there are other vendors who will. But what if all vendors refuse to provide you with service? A boycott that is very comprehensive has the same effect as a general ban by Statute Law.

Libertarian arguments assume only the State can be oppressive; but that is what is wrong with Libertarianism.

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 1:59 am

Plume’s contention that it is “improbable” one can be anti-gay marriage while not being bigoted seems less compelling than, say, Thomas Reid’s contention that you can’t be angry at an object when you realize it is inanimate (i.e., a chair you stubbed your toe on). But perhaps this is only slightly so. There is something about Plume’s argument that resonates.

Aristodemus makes an excellent argument which I think is close to the cutting edge on this issue, at least amongst Catholic philosophers – the classic “type” distinction. However, another look at that “incompatible types” argument reveals a very shaky assertion. There are gay penguin couples. There are three men and a baby! What exactly is incompatible here? An appeal to the reasons for sex and marriage isn’t going to convince.

In Michigan, Tuesday’s news was about the gay marriage trial. Atty. Genl. Bill Schuette, who has presided over the rollback of a number of civil liberties under a conservative flag in recent years, has attempted to direct county clerks to disregard Federal law. For testimony, the State’s “Princeton-educated philsopher” (poor fellow didn’t even get his name in print) got disqualified from testifying, so they went to Mark Regnerus, who has a lot of fine-sounding things to say about the problem of people jumping to conclusions and potentially disrupting what are (to hear him tell it) potentially finely-tuned, almost hairtrigger social learning mechanisms.

And in fact I think this is where the cutting edge of anti-gay marriage-without-bigotry thought is: It’s not settled what might be the “best” average approach.

But that’s not saying much. Some of the ‘potential disruption’ is clearly due to society’s pressure on children and families not to live in households headed by “nontraditional couples.” There is no settled account of how people learn various roles, let alone how adaptive they may be in reaching different potential roles, but the smart money is on people being more flexible than was assumed – history has not simply been the happy atomic family structure from Little House on the Prairie. At the very least, people have survived and even built the modern world in times of great upheaval, with massive rates of child abandonment and orphanages.

In this state, there’s thousands of children who are waiting for foster care – “3000 children at any time” according to the state’s adoption website.

Society is trying to perform triage on these real social problems – “up to 40% of all homeless people in the US identify as LGBT” (The BBC’s Altered States program from 16 October 2013, filmed in Detroit.)

Surely I haven’t answered the question about whether, in a situation where there is choice, homosexual couples can raise children better than hetero couples. For that I think that the argument must be “not much difference, especially in the presence of more robust social support structures.” If anything, the obsession of society with small-people ownership, in “parental rights,” in the quiet retirement for the elders and a small house for four by the curb for young parents has deprived many children of more opportunities for support and enrichment than gay parents have.

I pondered the argument towards conservativism as a guiding principle on and off occasionally. Even in the absence of our family crisis, why is it that Mr. Regnerus (crusader or not, I could admire his willingness not to insist upon a “Dr.”) has to argue in favor of mixed-sex couples for children as the preferred model, when in fact he says that the science is unsettled and it could go either way? I mean, the science isn’t even there to say that mixed-sex couples do at least as good a job as same-sex couples! What sways the debate at the moment is, again, that crisis of orphans and others needing a new home, and if we have to limit it to rights, the right of people of all types to procreate.

112

bxg 03.06.14 at 2:55 am

Suppose I am own a print shop and someone asks me to print a large run of some objectionable (to me), but apparently legal, screed – e.g. a misleading but cleverly crafted hate document advocating against a currently topical gay-rights initiative, say. Do you think the law should force me to fill his order, since I hung my shingle out as offering print services?

It’s pretty clear from the above that Mr Vinokurov, say, would answer that this is such a rare hypothetical that it is undeserving of an answer – we must wait until it’s a _real_ and pervasive problem which perhaps it isn’t (is that unfair?). So punt.

But I don’t think this is trolley-problem rarefied; I think questions such as this are legitimately interesting, current, and relevant hypotheticals. But if taken so, neither answer (either yes or no) is irrelevant to the Arizona Law.

N.b. a point made in the Volokh thread was that taxi drivers almost always benefit from government imposed supply limits, which might change the whole equation, whereas as baker’s (or printer’s) decision deciding whether to open a shop or else go fishing doesn’t so obviously prevent a more open-minded competitor enter. It’s not restrictive or open; it’s restrictive + open vs open. Sort of, to a first approximation; at least more so in the taxi case.

N.b.2. be careful what you wish for. “If you advertise a service, and someone approaches you with the advertised $ price, you must follow through; end of story” as a general thought embeds a privilege to financial wealth that will wreck us. I’d like to be able say in a very context-dependent fashion “I will do this for you, but I need $X in compensation” without some random billionaire coming in and saying “I have $X+1, you’ve proven you will offer this service for even less compensation, so do this for me or I’ll sue you unto death for discrimination”). And my wish could lead to badness (I don’t like that the billionaire is gay, say) but the contrary suggests a forced blindness to most other than the number written on the check.

113

Alex 03.06.14 at 3:06 am

It really is nonsense to present gay parenting as the adoption of orphans. I know people love doing that for PR reasons, but it’s vanishingly rare, most orphans predictably get adopted by relatives – not kindly gay couples Daddy Warbucks style. Most children in foster care are there because of temporary problems with their family, and don’t need adopting.

The overwhelming majority of kids with ‘gay parents’ are the product of one parent’s failed heterosexual relationships. The next biggest portion are created through surogacy/IVF. Then lastly the smallest group are through adoption, mostly from overseas, some of whom might be orphans – but as there isn’t always a full audit trail we can’t be sure.

Gay marriage is worrying because it does deeply effect the rights of children. For most of history we made do with the presumption of legitimacy for determining parenthood. Then for a brief moment DNA testing raised the possibility of a sensible parenthood laws. The gay rights movement has trashed that, and is absolutely working for a move away from the rights of biological parents and revitalised child of the family provisions, step parental adoption, the presumption of legitimacy, surogacy, and so on.

114

roy belmont 03.06.14 at 3:09 am

JanieM -
I’m in complete agreement with your #38.
Instead of just nattering on again about false polarities, and how bitterly and eagerly so many otherwise reasonable intelligent people are drawn into them, to the detriment of any movement toward real progress…I’ll just say that.
For now.
Or at least for a few minutes, I have to fix dinner.

115

GiT 03.06.14 at 3:20 am

“The gay rights movement has trashed that, and is absolutely working for a move away from the rights of biological parents and revitalised child of the family provisions, step parental adoption, the presumption of legitimacy, surogacy, and so on.”

So what?

116

js. 03.06.14 at 3:47 am

So… a lot of people are reaching for the salts because ‘bigotry’ was applied to people who, let’s note, do not just oppose gay marriage in their oh so tender hearts but actually work in various ways (through relevant institutions and such) to deny members of the LGBT community full civil rights, which yes, under the current regime includes marriage rights. Fine. Let’s refrain from attributing any emotional states to them whatsoever. Their goals and actions continue to be indistinguishable from those of a bigot-according-to-your-preferred-definition. I don’t see why this should at all affect my view of them qua social actors.

Or from another angle: Let’s say that I am opposed to marriage tout court: I want to get rid of it for straight people. (Not entirely fanciful this, and fairly accurate reflection of my self 5-10 years ago.) Still, I did and do completely support full marriage rights for gay people because this is what the LGBT community has been and is fighting for. So if the Christians et al really care so much about their gay friends, or gay people generally, they can stuff their principled objections and support marriage equality. If they don’t, I can reasonably continue treating them as effectively bigoted.

117

adam.smith 03.06.14 at 4:12 am

I think Henry is wrong in framing Friedersdorf claim as being that sincerely-religiously-against-gay-marriage people aren’t bigots, in the sense of hating the objects of their discrimination. He’s only saying that they aren’t necessarily bigots.

Henry is doing no such thing. He’s saying that the distinction Friedersdorf makes between bigots and people who have absolutely nothing against gays, but just don’t think they should have equal rights is non-sensical. That second group of people are also bigots and should be called bigots. Again, I challenge you to come up with a non-bigotted reason for refusing to photograph a gay wedding.

I assume many pro-segregationists in the South didn’t actively hate blacks. I mean – they let them take care of their children and all. But surely in wanting blacks to remain 2nd class citizens they were still bigots?

118

adam.smith 03.06.14 at 4:30 am

I think questions such as this are legitimately interesting, current, and relevant hypotheticals. But if taken so, neither answer (either yes or no) is irrelevant to the Arizona Law.

after a couple of back-and-forths with JV, I think I understand now that this is the part with which he disagrees. He thinks (correctly imho) that sexual orientation should be a protected class and that generic concerns about “should one be allowed to not provide a service” are irrelevant.
I’m more interested in the general rules than JV and I do think there are some interesting questions at the margins, but I think the basic existing structure:
1. Businesses are not required to serve everyone
2. But they are not allowed to discriminate against a group classified by a protected class and
3. Their right to refuse service is severely curtailed if the service they offer is deemed essential
takes care of about 98% of all scenarios. The only real questions are what to do with the remaining 2% (the muslim cabbie, businesses that may be primarily religious institutions etc.) and what/who to classify as protected under 1. and as essential under 3.

119

roy belmont 03.06.14 at 5:18 am

Since the dispute around legal rights to discriminate against gays in AZ would be meaningless absent a substantial pre-existing intolerance, I’ll let the lawyers and jots and tittlers have at it on that.
The official topic may concern the rules, but the subject gets its heat from contemporary sexual morality.
-
Gay marriage wasn’t on the minds of the outraged queers of the Stonewall riots. They wanted out from under the legalized sadistic oppression of the NYPD.
There’s a pink marble triangle in a little park in Amsterdam. Seriously eloquent, if you know the history behind it.
Gay marriage has been moved into the center of what these things are about. It’s become the litmus test, the signifier. Even as intrasexuals and bi’s are sort of left out of the party. What kind of marriages are bisexuals up for anyway?
I was against gay marriage as opposed to civil union (which I was and am strongly for) until a few years ago. Now I don’t really care.
Not at all because I’m in favor of societal force keeping gays from mainstream equality, but for reasons like those Alex @113 sets out so clearly. And also because:

… the bacterial system can be harnessed to make precise changes to the DNA of humans, as well as other animals and plants.
This means a genome can be edited, much as a writer might change words or fix spelling errors. It allows “customizing the genome of any cell or any species at will,” said Charles Gersbach, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University.
https://tinyurl.com/kj73lxm

We’re not headed toward some kind of “Norman Rockwell+gays” thing here.
This debate is happening in a sci-fi context that most of the participating seem to think is pretty much 1950’s America. Get over this bigoted view of sexuality and everything’s going to be “normal” and nice.
What matters most, imo, is something that’s being accepted without question. The negation of human biological reality in favor of arcane power being steadily accumulated in hands that no longer seem particularly human.
Same sex marriage doesn’t have anything central to do with that. But the polarity’s locking it into a binary of acceptance/rejection. We’re losing any sense of “human”, it’s being replaced by heedless futureless consumerism.
Want a kid? Buy one, make one in a laboratory. They’re cuter than chihuahuas.
It’s not hard to see the innocence in most on both sides of the superficial question. Gays were laughingly harmed, lives destroyed – Turing! Turing for fuck’s sake! – by disdainful agents of “normal” society.
Horrendous unnecessary suffering. Sin, if there ever was sin.
Anything that stops that will be a good, in the minds and hearts of the harmed and their sympathizers.
There’s something in the knee-jerk reflex that runs parallel to the comforting, in the eyes of some feminists, presence in global politics of women like Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland.
There’s more to it.
There’s babies, yes, but there’s tradition too. And untried ways of raising children, untried unproven ways of being.
That’s the healthy part of the skeptical reaction of the base that’s galvanized behind fascist idiocy like the AZ laws.
I’m trying to get otherwise heart-motivated people on this side to see how they’re being played against an obviously inferior enemy. You should be suspicious of that.
I’ve been on the receiving end of bigoted anti-gay scorn. More than a few times, accurately delivered or not.
I’ve been fighting for some kind of healthier sex attitudes most of my adult life. Jumping from puritanical stupidity and cruelty to wide-open amorality (as long as there’s no obvious immediate harm!), isn’t going to do it.
There’s long-term invisible danger. There always is.
That’s what many decent people on the other side, whose fear and concern is being exploited, are about. Dismissing them all as ignorant bigots isn’t going to do it.
They see acceptance of gays as acceptance of hedonism, amoral selfishness. TV shows aren’t going to change that.
They’re getting confirmation of their position from an artificial, manipulative encouragement. Biblical reasons for intolerance they see as the path toward survival are amped up from the sidelines. So they see gay marriage, ultimately, as a threat to their survival, and the survival of their kids.
Nonsense, and in a calm open atmosphere of honest discussion, they’d realize that.
Instead they’re being driven into a pseudo-religious rigidity. And kept there.
The incoherence of their claims is obvious, but it needs to be answered with humane coherence, not an equally rigid mindless rejection.

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etseq 03.06.14 at 5:23 am

I see the trolls are out in this thread. CF was concern trolling for his evangelical homophobic buddies, who he seeks to defend at all cost from being labelled bigots, so we have this massive derail about parsing peoples individual motivations and intentions. Ditto with Volock’s parade of horribles. That’s just chaffe to distract us from the actual harm proximately caused by descrimination.

Also, many keep trying to reframe these disputes as competing liberty claims between private actors but anti-discrimination laws create a cause of action grounded in violation of equality. In the context of civil rights litigation, equality trumps competing liberty interests, unless there is an exemption in the statute, such as the narrow religious organization and ministerial exemptions. The statutory framework does not consider the motivavtion or any particular justification for the discriminatory harm, as that is irrelevant to recovery of damages.

Finally, if libertarians are opposed to all anti-descrimination laws as a matter or principle then they should either argue for the abolishment of all such existing laws rather than object specifically to application of those laws to sexual orientation.

jwg

121

etseq 03.06.14 at 5:37 am

WTF is up with Roy Belmont? He seems to channel several personalities – radical sexual liberation on one hand (valorizes the radicals of stonewall but tut-tuts the boring assimilationists who want marriage), bioconservative criticism of gay genetic enigineering (he lost me with his precious bodily fluids segway) and religious objection to “untried ways of raising children” & sympathy for religious zealots who are somehow being bullied and manipulated by the eltists gays.

Just seems like an elaborate attempt at concern trolling – gays are icky and they harm kids.

122

Lewis 03.06.14 at 5:40 am

I’ve read this whole thread and roy seems like the most sensible contributor.

123

etseq 03.06.14 at 5:41 am

Alex & Roy seem to have issues with gays raising children…quit beating around the bush and spit it out…This is exactly the type of “reasonable bigotry” nonsense that homophobes constantly allude to without any evidence….

124

etseq 03.06.14 at 5:49 am

Ed Herdman – another concern troll who takes several paragraphs worrying about gays & children and giving odd compliments to Mark Regnerus.

These gay threads draw the wierdest comments….

125

etseq 03.06.14 at 5:56 am

Bruce Wilder – whats the point of the elaborate explication/defense of christian conservatives? I don’t buy the attempt to shift responsibility to solely structural or institutional forces – individuals still have agency and are responsible at some level for discriminatory actions. You seem to be arguing that its ultimately the fault of gays for “destabilizing” the existing order and thats just blaming the victim.

126

John Holbo 03.06.14 at 5:59 am

Probably someone upthread mentioned it but I didn’t see it. ‘Bigot’ is, etymologically, a term for a religious hypocrite or someone dressing up a negative judgment with hollow sanctimony. The idea that that there is some natural presumption that, so long as someone says they are doing it for religion, it can’t be bigotry, seems wrong.
Rather, the proper thing for Friedersdorf to argue would seem to be that we ought to be more tolerant of bigotry, because religious liberty.

127

etv13 03.06.14 at 6:00 am

JanieM@65: Jerry “made a stab at it”? Jerry did no more than you did when you decided my question was too inane or complicated to bother with. CJ Colucci wrote very sensibly and reasonably, but that comment wasn’t addressed to my question, I don’t think. And to answer yours @63, assuming it wasn’t merely rhetorical, I don’t think people should get protected simply because they’ve chosen some particular set of religious beliefs. But race, gender and national origin are protected classifications in large part because people don’t choose those characteristics and can’t change them. It’s a lot simpler to make the argument that sexual orientation should be a protected classification because it’s like those others than it is that it should be a protected classification because equality. If you argue, as I gather you do, that sexual orientation should be a protected classification regardless of whether it’s innate or freely chosen, then I’m left wondering how to lawfully and honestly keep the KKK out of my (admittedly purely hypothetical) bakery.

128

etseq 03.06.14 at 6:03 am

Also, several people keep objecting that businesses do not have a general obligation to serve all comers but this is contrary to the the holding in Bell v Maryland that public accomodation statutes are based on common law “common carrier duty” which was enhanced by civil war amendments.

129

unhelpful 03.06.14 at 6:15 am

Again, I challenge you to come up with a non-bigotted reason for refusing to photograph a gay wedding.

Out-of-context and off-topic challenge accepted!

(a) Perhaps my spouse, who I love deeply and would rather not leave (even though they hold some retrograde views), has promised to divorce me if I photograph a gay wedding.

(b) Perhaps my primary interest in photographing weddings is artistic, tightly bound to the private sexual thrill I get from capturing images of men and women performing cultural rituals of virginity and submission in the hours and minutes before they engage in coitus. Gay weddings hold no interest for me either as an artist or as a sexual being. I just don’t get the same charge from them, never have. I don’t feel that I could do a very good job as a photographer if I’m not artistically/erotically stimulated, and I refuse to take commissions which I feel would result in substandard work.

(c) Perhaps I am a recently divorced homosexual person, and I feel that observing and photographing gay weddings would bring back very unpleasant and (now) traumatic memories of my own wedding day. For my own mental health, and on the advice of my therapist, I’m only photographing heterosexual (and some transgender) weddings.

130

The Temporary Name 03.06.14 at 6:16 am

I’m left wondering how to lawfully and honestly keep the KKK out of my (admittedly purely hypothetical) bakery.

KKK member’s hood wakes up a mouse, which finds the cheese on the scale. As the other end of the scale goes up it strikes a match, burning the rope that held the ten-ton weight. The ten-ton weight falls onto an elephant, which trumpets in pain, waking up the owner of the bakery who, seeing the elephant, screams “NOOOOOOO!” and the KKK member leaves.

131

adam.smith 03.06.14 at 6:22 am

contrary to the the holding in Bell v Maryland that public accomodation statutes are based on common law “common carrier duty”

1. While IANAL, I am literate enough to read that this is not part of the decision (which never decided on the merits), but of the concurring opinion.
2. The “common carrier” argument advanced by Douglas in his opinion is based on the claim that “Restaurants in the modern setting are as essential to travelers as inns and carriers.” in other words, he’s arguing that lunch counters provide essential services.

132

pretendous 03.06.14 at 6:43 am

Was it not Atrios who wrote something along the lines of “Just because your homophobia and misogyny are ordained by God doesn’t make your beliefs not homophobic or misogynistic.”

133

SoU 03.06.14 at 6:48 am

roy @119:
“…many decent people on the other side, whose fear and concern is being exploited, are about. Dismissing them all as ignorant bigots isn’t going to do it.”

i agree that a dialogue with these individuals is certainly preferable to just labeling them bigots and writing them out of the conversation entirely – as that path would only drive them further to the camp that is using their energy for something more pernicious. but that is still no reason to accommodate their beliefs or permit these practices. the argument about the tone of the conversation can be wholly valid but still not touch upon the question as to whether the conduct is permissible or not. we shouldn’t treat junkies like criminals, but that doesn’t mean we should permit them shooting up in public places.

And furthermore – this may be so much to the point that it is irrelevant, but… Henry’s post above is a response to an article by Conor F, itself a response to an article in Slate by M. Stern, which is itself a response to an article by Ross Douthat (a great name for a master of finger-wagging). if anyone in this debate can be accused of ‘manipulative encouragement’ of the religious and other sentiments of the American people, i would say it is him.

there may be a real concern about decadence or hedonism or amoral selfishness (or whatever) in American culture and its approach to sexuality, but pinning these things upon the gay community, even suggesting that the gay community is somehow responsible for this trend, strikes me a scapegoating pure and simple.

and i don’t know what “untried unproven ways of being” means in your post, so clarify if i misunderstand here, but your seeming approval of that element of the reaction exists in strange tension with your constructivist reading of sexual identity espoused further upthread (& even in that selfsame post).

134

Plume 03.06.14 at 6:57 am

Ed Herdman @111

My comment wasn’t just that being against gay marriage must mean bigotry. It was in response to the suggestion (up-thread) that gay marriage was “sinful,” which takes things a very large leap forward into cloud cuckoo land. At least to me.

I can’t see how anyone could view it as “sinful” and not be a bigot. I suspect those who are against it, without that qualifier, as well. But adding the adjective “sinful” seals the deal. Again, at least to me.

“Sin” being one of the most absurd concepts to ever come down the pike, especially as seen by the three monotheisms of the Levant . . . especially when cherry-picked throughout the centuries.

If “sinful” has any real purpose or meaning, it should be to describe cruelty and degrees of cruelty. The spectrum of morality to immorality being one of kindness, generosity of spirit, compassion and empathy . . . on to their opposites. Same-sex marriage has nothing even remotely to do with “sin” or immorality, etc.

135

Collin Street 03.06.14 at 6:58 am

Was it not Atrios who wrote something along the lines of “Just because your homophobia and misogyny are ordained by God doesn’t make your beliefs not homophobic or misogynistic.”

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell.”

136

djw 03.06.14 at 7:38 am

What kind of marriages are bisexuals up for anyway?

The kind where you marry someone you are in love with and want to build a life with.

137

Alex 03.06.14 at 8:45 am

“Alex & Roy seem to have issues with gays raising children…quit beating around the bush and spit it out…This is exactly the type of “reasonable bigotry” nonsense that homophobes constantly allude to without any evidence….”

Yes. It’s also true that plenty of gay rights activists have issues with straight men raising their own children, and gay marriage is very popular because it can be used to usurp the rights of biological fathers and award parenthood to someone on the basis that they’re fucking the kids mom (cf child of the family provisions, step parental adoption, the presumption of legitimacy, etc).

138

Daniel 03.06.14 at 9:21 am

>>perhaps best known as the straggly haired father of Sinead O’Connor’s love child

139

Bruce Baugh 03.06.14 at 10:09 am

Having just read the whole thread, I find myself mostly thinking “What Jerry Vinokurov said.” We can construct hypothetical situations of a sort intended to shock the conscience of someone like Friedersdorf. But the fact is that anti-gay bigotry is real and a regular part of many, likely most, LGBT people’s experience in ways that actually do have a material impact on their quality of life. There isn’t a major political party backing “kill the straights, and if we can’t do that, at least make sure to keep them in misery and need” efforts, nor a parade of influential wealthy zealots sponsoring legislative efforts at that. Nowhere in the world do straight people face a counterpart to the lethal official hatemongering in places from Uganda to Russia, and if they did, GLBT people and groups would smack down queer people cheering them on here at home rather than rallying to support the crusade.

Furthermore, we don’t find efforts to oppose “sure, go ahead and discriminate” legislation being pushed by people also pushing legislation to make it easier to kill people you think are threatening you.

So this is in reality a thoroughly one-sided kind of deal, and we can talk about equivalent situations only by a whole cavalcade of counterfactuals. It’s important to keep coming back to the reality, which is that straight people as a group have a lot of nasty possible leverage over LGBT people and the Arizona bill is part of a coordinated and well-funded effort to make that leverage stronger and nastier.

140

etseq 03.06.14 at 10:49 am

Alex is an MRA who thinks gays are stealing straight men’s kids…see perfectly rational response – nope nothing irrational or literally homophobic (fear of gay conspiracy to steal kids???)

141

etseq 03.06.14 at 10:51 am

Also, I doubt many gay men “are fucking kids mom” – just saying…

142

MPAVictoria 03.06.14 at 11:13 am

Roy has always been a nut and he has never been an ally on the issue of discrimination against LGBTQ. See his comments on the Duck Dynasty thread for example.

143

Ronan(rf) 03.06.14 at 11:16 am

The KKK should be allowed buy bread anywhere, and the Jewish copyshop owner should have to print the Nazi’s propaganda (unless he says something along the lines of ‘sorry, the machines broken’)
Simple

144

MPAVictoria 03.06.14 at 11:19 am

“Also, I doubt many gay men “are fucking kids mom” – just saying…”

I think he is worried about the lesbians. And yes we seem to have attracted a MRA troll.

145

Ze Kraggash 03.06.14 at 11:29 am

I don’t understand why anyone would want antisemitic caterer for their bar-mitzvah or homophobic photographer for their gay wedding ceremony. It is the kind of ceremony you’re talking about, not a category of people. Right? And even if they can be forced to do it, it would seem completely crazy to insist. Where’s the issue?

146

parse 03.06.14 at 12:37 pm

adam.smith, I don’t want the use of the word bigot to be the sticking point, so I’ll concede that there are perfectly reasonable definitions of the word bigot that don’t include the notion that bigotry is motivated by hatred. So call the photographer a bigot, and you aren’t claiming she’s motivated by hatred for gay people.

That leaves the question: can we assume is her bigotry is motivated by hatred? That seemed the particular charge that Friedersdorf was at pains to counter. And it seems obviously true to me that acts of discrimination are not necessarily motivated by hatred.

I’m not sure if Friedersdorf finds the question important for the same reasons I do. It would be easy to focus on the distinction as a way to excuse discriminatory behavior, and I think that would be a bad thing.

As I indicated above, the reason it’s an important question for me is that I think that the idea that discrimination is universally (or even usually) the result of personal animus for the victims of discrimination makes it more difficult to understand institutional discrimination, which I believe is more pernicious than acts simply motivated by one person’s hatred for a particular group.

In the particular case at issue, weigh the harms of a state refusing to offer legal marriage to same-sex couples with a photographer refusing to take pictures of the wedding.

147

SamChevre 03.06.14 at 1:01 pm

If “sinful” has any real purpose or meaning, it should be to describe cruelty and degrees of cruelty.

It will translate better if you think “harmful” rather than “cruel”. “Sin is actions that harm self, others, or the social fabric” is a mostly-accurate definition of what most people who use the word “sin” mean by it. (An example of “harm the social fabric” would be “liar loans”–both lender and borrower are harming the system, but they aren’t harming each other.”)

148

Barry 03.06.14 at 2:07 pm

Jerry Vinokurov 03.05.14 at 9:24 pm
” Yeah, most of the time, if you think a customer is more trouble than they’re worth or you just don’t like them or whatever, you say, “sorry, we’re booked.” And you move on. Considering how hard discrimination is to prove, the plumber telling you they’re too busy or the music teacher not having time in the schedule for you is likely the end of the conversation. But! if the music teacher is all like, “I can’t teach you guitar because you’re gay and that’s gross,” now there’s evidence, and if a lawsuit happens, then sucks to be them, should’ve kept their dumb bigot mouth shut.”

Somebody pointed out that one of the reasons for the AZ bill was that people wanted to say this out loud.

149

Barry 03.06.14 at 2:11 pm

Also, to refuse service in cases where they can’t get away with ‘sorry, I’m all booked up’,
like government officials.

150

Barry 03.06.14 at 2:19 pm

Barry @85: “For those who might believe this argument, every single law I’ve heard about on gay marriage, rights, etc. has clear protections for religions and there is a First Amendment and considerable case law on this.”

Joshua W. Burton “Sure. But if we frame the argument as Henry does here, that’s a defect — presumably, to be corrected at a later time. Anticipating that move, I’m agreeing with all his currently tabled pragmatic goals, while reserving a concern about the framing.”

Wrong. Please read and understand what I wrote. US law, to the constitutional foundations, treats religious organizations *differently* from other organizations and businesses.

151

Shared Humanity 03.06.14 at 2:28 pm

I consider myself an enemy of bigotry. As a white father of a black adoptive son, I have found it in places that I wish I had not. Panti has forced me, in this short talk, to look inward and see the homophobia I would choose to deny. We all need to continue to grow and learn throughout our lives. I am grateful that Panti has the courage to tell us what is so.

152

GrafZeppelin127 03.06.14 at 2:49 pm

I think what is critical to understand here is that discrimination by commercial actors inflicts actual economic harm on those being discriminated against, irrespective of whether that discrimination is justifiable or permissible.

Generally speaking, private businesses that are public accommodations (shops, restaurants, hotels), whose doors are unlocked and open to the public during regular business hours (or in some cases, 24/7), by their very existence constitute an open, unconditional and universal offer to the general public of goods and services for sale. Anyone and everyone has the right to accept that offer on the same terms, and thus form a retail contract with the merchant. For the merchant to turn around and withdraw that offer after the customer has accepted it amounts to a breach of contract; the customer has to expend actual resources, including time effort and money, to find and consummate a comparable offer, assuming one exists. Those are contract damages; actual economic harm inflicted on the customer by the merchant, for which the merchant may be held accountable.

What Friedersdorf and others seem to be saying, or perhaps deliberately leaving unsaid, is that this sort of breach of contract (and by extension, infliction of harm on others) is either (1) justifiable or permissible if it is motivated by the merchant’s “religious beliefs,” or (2) not an “infliction of harm” at all, on anyone, because it is motivated by “religious beliefs” and is therefore justifiable and permissible. Meaning, inflicting economic harm on others in this fashion constitutes “religious practice,” or the “exercise of religion;” “religious freedom” includes the “right” to inflict economic harm on others, so long as the infliction of harm is motivated by one’s “religious beliefs.” Hence, according to this logic, so long as one is “exercising” his “religious beliefs” and “practicing” his “religion,” he is not inflicting harm on others; if he is, it doesn’t matter anyway because he has a “right” to “exercise” his “beliefs” and “practice” his “religion.”

Really?

The problem is not so much that “[b]igotry derived from religious principles is still bigotry,” it’s that the intentional infliction of harm on others derived from religious principles is still the intentional infliction of harm on others.

Someone recently suggested to me that I was wrong about this, because, e.g., sending someone to prison is an infliction of harm on that person, but if that person has been convicted of a crime, then it is not harmful because it is the proper result. This is a very dangerous road to go down. For one thing, even though the harm is justifiable and permissible, it’s still harm. If we lose sight of that, we become inter alia less mindful of the rights of the accused. Moreover, if we regard the harm as not only justifiable and permissible, but deserved, and then come back to the original question, we can’t escape the implication that gay people somehow deserve to be mistreated, and deserve to have economic harm inflicted upon them, by “religious” merchants.

We really don’t want to go there.

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 3:05 pm

etseq is another troll who doesn’t read the substance of a post before making a pronouncement about it, I guess. Maybe I was unclear there, so let me try again: Regnerus’ point seems to be as developed as the anti-gay marriage argument gets – concern for children. It’s not much of a compliment when I’m saying that he misses the forest for the trees. But I still think there are some obvious gaping holes in that account (and attempted to present some of them). Does that make sense now? I’m not going to strawman views and try to use reductios where they don’t fit, if that’s what you think a reasonable commenter should be doing.

Roy Belmont nearly gets it right when he talks about “untried ways” of not only raising children but being. Where I differ is that I think that not only have these things happened endlessly throughout human history and throughout nature, but I also raise an objection to the hetero couples model being that much better, or necessary than, alternate models of living.

Alex has a point about gay marriage not being a catch-all, but nobody who has a brain expects it to be. Raising gay supremacy in this thread is a very strange move at best – I’m just going to laugh at that one. The personality flaws that disqualify a person from raising a child have no obvious connection to sexual orientation, in either way. I’ve known some hopeless couples on both sides.

Perhaps society has an interest in modeling gender roles a certain way. But what is that interest grounded on? Tradition, it seems. There have been plenty of societies which seem more “feminine” than ours, either in terms of their own traditions or having a more matriarchal sexual power balance, and they didn’t exactly collapse in on themselves in an orgy of dangerous gayness. Nothing against people being macho, but again, that’s not the only way the world can work here.

@ Plume: So then we can take my comment as a tentative expansion of your comment. I appreciate you’ve made a stronger claim than I presented, though, so thanks for the correction. But how about that stronger claim: Can somebody be anti-gay marriage without being bigoted in some fashion or other?

Just going by the numbers, I think the thread shows the answer is not as clear as one might think. The only things that look like non-bigoted responses to the pro- side of this discussion have pretty obvious gaping holes in them, like Aristodemus’ question-begging that we should be convinced there is a “type mismatch.” I know that a utilitarian / consequentialist view of the harms of a type mismatch is not likely in keeping with the ethical tradition that comes from, but I point out that just saying there is some kind of ‘fundamental difference in kind’ is not convincing at all.

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 3:14 pm

@ 142 and 144:

So it’s interesting that there is a difference between what people normally think (sorry Ronan) on what, say, internet service providers need not to discriminate against, and what small shop owners need not to discriminate against.

At first glance, the issue is arguably just choice. You don’t seriously have a choice of internet service providers. Copy shops, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen.

That being said, I wouldn’t be especially worried if Kinko’s or Staples banned the KKK from reproducing hateful literature on their machines.

But maybe it really is an issue of fundamental rights. Access to the Internet, and freedom of speech on it, is arguably a fundamental right in this day and age. Having a protest available on the Internet is often more important than marching on Town Hall. We might say that the KKK member has the right to get on the Internet, and the Internet makes it easy to disseminate hateful views with great ease. But that might be different from the right to a particular company’s servers or services that go beyond just making the message available, and allow them to target or amplify that message and make disseminating that hateful speech easier. You can get banned from Xbox Live, from any Forum, from news sites’ comment threads, and from many messaging services.

Maybe we draw a line with sites like Twitter or Facebook banning users for this behavior because those seem to represent the ability to have free speech at all, given it is pretty hard to disentangle the channel from amplifying the message.

In the case of the small Jewish print shop, or Kinko’s, you’re not denying the KKK the ability to disseminate their literature. We’re denying them particular resources to amplify that message.

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Salem 03.06.14 at 3:23 pm

It is the authoritarian threat that makes me think it would be good to pivot to a defense of freedom of sexual choice, with gay relationships a legitimate part of that range of personal autonomy. In a time when technology is stripping us of some of the props of personal privacy, it may be important to think through how we honor and protect the individual’s core self, within a society that supports the choices an individual makes from private as well as public attack.

If you re-wrote this, with [sexual choice] replaced by [economic choice], and [gay relationships] replaced with [running a business], this is pretty much exactly what the people described in this thread as “bigots” would say.

I think the phrase “core self” is revealing. What is our core self, and what does it encompass? I think this is a large part of the contention here, between people who prioritise individual sexual freedom as a key part of the “core self” versus people who don’t, and hence see little problem with the notion of society overriding or at least putting pressure on people’s sexual decisions; and between people who see economic freedom as a key part of the “core self” versus people who don’t, and hence see little problem with the notion of societal overriding or at least putting pressure on people’s economic decisions.

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 3:26 pm

Isn’t the answer to that simply that the two things aren’t alike? Society has pressing interests in one sphere, but not so clear interests (if any) in the other.

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Bruce Baugh 03.06.14 at 3:47 pm

Shared Humanity: “We all need to continue to grow and learn throughout our lives.” This is it, really. It turns out that one of the trials of aging in a heterogeneous society is that it never stops. There’s no point at which we ever get to say, right, done it, I’m fully enlightened and considering everyone’s well-being as fully as I’d wish them consider mine, I have nothing more major to learn. There’s always something we haven’t realized we need to do, or stop doing, and so we never get to coast along on a solid and sure foundation of traditional practice.

I’m 48 now and sometimes find it a drag. I can only wonder what it is that I’ll look back on from 58, or 68, or whatever, and think, “Well, drat, I wish I’d known that and incorporated it into my routine back in 2014.” (Or, for that matter, 2004, or 1984.)

But the alternative is to refuse to do the right thing in light of the evidence we have at any particular moment, and that sucks.

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SamChevre 03.06.14 at 3:51 pm

Society has pressing interests in one sphere, but not so clear interests (if any) in the other.

Not at all sure which sphere is which. Assuming that sexual choices have some impact numbers of and support structures for children (which they do), there’s a clear social interest. And while some economic activities (common carriers, emergency services) raise obvious pressing social interests, it’s not at all clear that ALL economic activities raise those issues.

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etseq 03.06.14 at 3:58 pm

Ed Herdman – I’m no troll but you sure do a good impression of one. As a gay man, I’m not sure which is worst sometimes – the vitriol and hatred of the extreme right or the morally obtuse intellectual masturbation that constructivists like you engage in where you bloviate for several paragraphs, flirting with Regnerus while never quite distancing yourself from his junk science and then ending with a paeon to “sexual freedom” These cases have very little to do with sexual freedom – its extremely reductive to frame gay rights as sexual freedom. And frankly, the Queer Left has made same sort of cynical arguments against gay marriage but they frame it as selling out sexual radicalism for assimilation.

Salem – this thread has been hijacked by some many competing narratives that its almost impossible to tell who is arguing in good faith and who is just having a laugh. I resent Libertarians like Barnett attempting to hijack gay rights for some libertarian crusade against government regulation. Many have been uncomfortable with Kennedy’s gay rights jurisprudence and would prefer if he would return to a more traditional equal protection analysis.

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Ronan(rf) 03.06.14 at 4:03 pm

” That being said, I wouldn’t be especially worried if Kinko’s or Staples banned the KKK from reproducing hateful literature on their machines. “

Whether or not I would be worried is one thing, whether or not Kinko’s should be allowed is another. (Unless the literature/organisation itself was illegal, which is another story)

“At first glance, the issue is arguably just choice. You don’t seriously have a choice of internet service providers. Copy shops, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen.”

But this is relative. In the town I grew up in I could think of (off the top of my head) nowhere I could get something photocopied in bulk. I’m sure there was somewhere, but not many options.
On the initial analogy, I do think it’s a bizzare line of reasoning to argue that a white supremacist should be prevented from buying a loaf of bread because of their political opinions. This is just discriminating against political speech, isnt it ? Is this really a position ? Taken to it’s logical conclusions a member of the Klan/Nazi is potentially excluded from buying anything, at the shopkeepers whim.

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etseq 03.06.14 at 4:03 pm

Note to concern trolls/Libertarians- NO there isn’t a non-bigoted objection to gay rights.

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CJColucci 03.06.14 at 4:08 pm

Suppose I am own a print shop and someone asks me to print a large run of some objectionable (to me), but apparently legal, screed – e.g. a misleading but cleverly crafted hate document advocating against a currently topical gay-rights initiative, say. Do you think the law should force me to fill his order, since I hung my shingle out as offering print services?

As the law now stands, the print shop owner can say “no,” and even give his non-business-related reasons without fear of losing a lawsuit. (Nothing, apparently, can prevent people from bringing them.) If it ever became the case that enough print shop owners said “No” to create a serious problem for people who need printing services, we’d have to reconsider. The “right” to refuse service for lots of reasons is not baked into the wedding cake of the moral universe; it is a practical response to the reality that most businesses do business on business terms and, usually, there is no need to do anything about the outliers.

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MPAVictoria 03.06.14 at 4:34 pm

” To believe that someone’s identity is inherently sinful is, to my mind, to be bigoted against them. If you believe black people are sinful and deserve fewer rights, you are racist. If you believe Jews are sinful and deserve fewer rights, you are anti-Semitic. I simply cannot see why those who believe that gays are sinful and deserve fewer rights should be held to a different standard.”

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/03/06/homophobia_bigotry_prejudice_conor_friedersdorf_calls_me_ignorant.html

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 4:35 pm

@ etseq:

I agree with you that there’s no non-bigoted objection to gay rights. (My reworking of what Plume wrote is actually slightly different from that.) But if you can pull your head out of your concerns for a moment, you’ll notice that what I’m discussing is not just gay rights, but the argument of some anti-gay marriage commentators on the intersection of gay rights with the rights of children. (I write that they’re holding up minor concerns while ignoring more major ones.) Gay rights discussion is important, and I don’t mind you want to push that issue to the fore and make others see reason.

However, I don’t think that I’m personally likely to make any breakthrough with the usual band of regressives in the comment thread who are predictably arrayed against it. If they can’t get something that is really obvious, then I’m not likely to make them see otherwise, and that’s been demonstrated in the comments to pretty much every post on CT ever. You might fare better, so feel free – but don’t pretend that you can tell me how to use my time.

You don’t have much of a point about “hijacking” the thread. I am not going to waste my time just saying that Henry is right and obviously terrible objections to gay marriage are terrible, because I view that as already settled. Pretty much everybody but the most obtuse posters agree with that. If you want to try and get the usual suspects on CT in line, go for it – but you won’t make any headway, unfortunately. I understand why this makes you unsure whether I’m an ally or not, but I think you will survive.

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TM 03.06.14 at 4:35 pm

I think somebody mentioned this already but most of the dictionary definitions of bigot/bigotry that I can find make no mention of hatred. It really means prejudiced or intolerant and as John pointed out, the original meaning is “religious hypocrite”.

There is a tendency to redefine such terms and to object when they are used correctly.

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MPAVictoria 03.06.14 at 4:36 pm

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 4:38 pm

@ Prejudice and intolerance might be necessary conditions for being a bigot, but they aren’t sufficient. I had a religious studies teacher who loved to make the point that intolerance requires a disagreement, but his misinformed comments about Muslim belief made it clear that disagreement and intolerance aren’t always grounded in fact. In fact, the comments rose to the level of bigotry.

Yeah, it’s true, as far as it goes – which isn’t very far at all.

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bianca steele 03.06.14 at 5:03 pm

I’m sure my use of the word “bigot” is influenced by reading old books that use it to mean “religious ultra-conservative,” but now it means someone who’s strongly prejudiced against people because of their race, class, ethnicity, or religion (the definition I learned first), and I think everyone in the thread has been using it that way.

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etseq 03.06.14 at 5:14 pm

Ed – So, its basically it all boils down to you and your right to pontificate in CT comment threads? You sound like a libertarian alright… And you still have this creepy need to contrast gay rights vs childrens rights, which says alot about you….When you sound like a right wing homophobe, you might want to reevaluate your arguments.

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adam.smith 03.06.14 at 5:17 pm

This is just discriminating against political speech, isnt it ?

I’m not aware of any laws preventing private actors from discriminating against political speech. As CJColucci, who actually appears to be a lawyer, points out, it already is perfectly legal for me to refuse to rent out my restaurant to the KKK because I don’t like their politics. And I’m absolutely convinced that it should be legal. I also don’t think this is at all rare. A lot of venues “discriminate” on political grounds—be it by turning away people whose politics they don’t like or giving better deals/lower rent to people whose politics they like. I know a lot of academics that offer free or reduced consulting fees when they agree with an organization’s political goals. I can’t believe people really think that shouldn’t be allowed? (and in terms of discrimination law, charging different prices is just as much a violation as refusing service)

The reason people shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation is, morally, that there is a history of discrimination against gays and that we have an interest as a society to put a stop to that and legally that sexual orientation should be a protected class. The “public businesses must serve everyone” argument is just a bad argument, certainly legally and I think morally as well, even if, in this case, it gets to the right conclusion. That’s the point of the counterfactuals I and some others have provided: to show that this particular argument is bad.

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Plume 03.06.14 at 5:33 pm

“Societal interests.” That’s funny. Since when have we ever done anything with societal interests in mind? We do things with the interests of the ruling class in mind, only and always.

For instance, it’s obviously not in society’s best interests to ever allow large accumulation of personal wealth and power, but that’s the name of the game in America. It’s not in society’s interests to allow any pollution, any harmful substances, like BPA and its alternatives or 10,001 other things produced by the capitalist system in the name of profits over people. But we do. We the people don’t have a say in the matter under our economic system, because, uh, freedom.

So we fight these battles elsewhere, on civil rights, for instance, which takes us decades and decades and then it never seems to ever be resolved, as some new group of lunatics — almost always right-wing — emerges to bring forth their version of Jim Crow even though we thought we got rid of that once before. It never ends.

And this will keep on happening as long as we let the power of money, business, corporations, cartels substitute for democracy and democratic voices. This will keep on happening as long as we fool ourselves into thinking we’ve make this oh so smart bargain with business interests in which we let them do their thing in exchange for them taking good care of us.

We’ve been bamboozled.

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Ronan(rf) 03.06.14 at 5:36 pm

Unless I’m misreading CJColucci though, s/he is arguing it’s legal until:

“it ever became the case that enough print shop owners said “No” to create a serious problem for people who need printing services, we’d have to reconsider. “

(ie it’s a practical issue not a moral one)
So if it ever became a serious difficulty for white supremacists/Nazi’s to access service X, would it be justified to protect their rights through anti discrimination law ?

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adam.smith 03.06.14 at 6:10 pm

So if it ever became a serious difficulty for white supremacists/Nazi’s to access service X, would it be justified to protect their rights through anti discrimination law ?

I don’t think so. Empirically, this is definitely wrong. As Corey has shown here repeatedly, communists were discriminated against, yet such protections never materialized.
Morally – and that may go counter to what CJColucci says – I believe there are good reason why political views are never included in anti-discrimination statutes, but I’ll admit I don’t have a well fleshed out theory on how exactly politics are different from classes that are protected.
Finally, remember there are limits to denying services, where a service is deemed essential so it would e.g. be illegal for airlines to refuse to transport neonazis (or communists). It’s certainly conceivable that our KKK friends would argue that copying is an essential service. Arguably the only copy shop in town could be considered such.

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Aristodemus 03.06.14 at 6:13 pm

Just to clarify: My claim at the earlier portion of this post wasn’t necessarily that the traditional marriage advocate is right that there’s a ‘type-mismatch’ or whatever, and thus traditional marriage is the correct position. My claim was that it’s question-begging to call them ‘bigots’ for holding the position.

They have an argument that’s reasonably worth considering and that’s as strong as lots of other philosophically live but seemingly-ethically-questionable positions (e.g. infanticide). Why think that people who hold the traditional marriage position are bigots or some other morally condemnatory term? That’s what middle-brow critics of Peter Singer do. I think that the motivation to heap pejoratives on the traditional marriage advocate really does just undercut Henry’s whole point in this post. I’m inclined to think that the idea is to ‘shame’ the traditional marriage advocate precisely because one thinks that the argument they offer ‘comes from a place’ (e.g. a mental or psychological state) of bigotry. That’s what justifies or motivates the name-calling. And the attempt to cover up the pejorative nature of a word like ‘bigot’ or ‘homophobe’, under the claim that it’s simply descriptive of the position under consideration, betrays ignorance, malice, or both.

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The Temporary Name 03.06.14 at 6:30 pm

(e.g. infanticide)

Seriously?

I’m inclined to think that the idea is to ‘shame’ the traditional marriage advocate precisely because one thinks that the argument they offer ‘comes from a place’ (e.g. a mental or psychological state) of bigotry. That’s what justifies or motivates the name-calling.

It does come from a place of bigotry. People die over this stuff and you wanna split hairs and drink tea when it has absolutely nothing to do with your life except that it’s an opportunity to play the victim. Malice is utterly reasonable when you’re the person who doesn’t want other people to have rights. You should be ashamed.

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 6:32 pm

@ Aristodemus and esteq

Right, I should know better than to accept the esteq-ian view that giving some space to consider a particular argument is tantamout to uncritically accepting it. That being said, I still find the argument unconvincing – I am less interested in knowing that gay marriage detractors have some particular reason or other for their views, or in knowing equating dissent with necessary bigotry is not true – those things are obvious (especially the first). I am more interested in finding out whether those views actually make any sense. My attempt to move to consider that view should be a direct move beyond begging the question.

The political scientist in me realizes that as a matter of tactics, it’s probably good to just have people continually pounding the table and saying this is a simple matter of gay rights. This is of course not the only thing that Crooked Timber is about – at least a few people fancy themselves philosophers who are actually interested in finding out what is right. And in fact it’s not true that trying to bury the most advanced argument that gay marriage detractors can bring is necessarily good in a purely tactical sense either, because ideas have a way of getting around.

Surely there are better forums for a public awareness campaign about gay rights than CT, where most people (including myself) will not question them, and at least a few people will eat up all your time trying to deny them…that’s the Tao of CT.

Again, let’s realize what my goal is here: It’s to consider the argument of what’s good for children in isolation (it seems a reasonable simplification), because that’s the argument that guys like Regnerus try to make. Regnerus doesn’t give a shit about gay rights, so why will an argument about gay rights sway him, or people who think like that? And yet I think I showed that you can meet him on his challenge and show that move doesn’t work either.

I think that children are being abused in this debate. Regnerus seems sincere and not cynical, and I think that esteq is being sincere and not cynical as well. But, y’know, so what? Regnerus’ position obviously hurts some kids because it closes out the possibility of many children finding placement with foster families or adoption, and it also obviously abuses people who want to procreate who don’t happen to have an opposite-sex partner to procreate with – he fucks with everybody while blithely making the claim that gay marriage might just totally upset the applecart.

The stranger argument is that I’m trying to make a “contrast” between gay rights and kids’ rights. Everything I’ve written actually points to there being a convergence between the interests of kids and all people, including people who identify as LGBT and those who don’t self-identify in any particular category. So yeah, I don’t see where the defensiveness comes from.

My goodness, people pontificating on CT! Will the madness ever stop?

@ Plume:

Where the hell did anybody write about capitalism? ?_?

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 6:33 pm

Oh, and a thumbs-up to The Temporary Name, who has briefly said what I intended to. I just want to extend that by saying that not only is the gay rights angle critical, but the hair-splitting over “what’s good for kids” is actually counterproductive and in fact deadly there too.

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MPAVictoria 03.06.14 at 6:36 pm

Must be nice to be so far removed from the issue that it is nothing but a mildly interesting academic discussion for you Ed. Congratulations on your good luck.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.06.14 at 6:57 pm

@bxg

It’s pretty clear from the above that Mr Vinokurov, say, would answer that this is such a rare hypothetical that it is undeserving of an answer – we must wait until it’s a _real_ and pervasive problem which perhaps it isn’t (is that unfair?). So punt.

If the price of counteracting discrimination against LGBT people is that somewhere, someone will be obligated to print a poster they don’t like, I contend that as a society we should be willing to pay that price.

@adam.smith

I’m more interested in the general rules than JV and I do think there are some interesting questions at the margins, but I think the basic existing structure:
1. Businesses are not required to serve everyone
2. But they are not allowed to discriminate against a group classified by a protected class and
3. Their right to refuse service is severely curtailed if the service they offer is deemed essential
takes care of about 98% of all scenarios. The only real questions are what to do with the remaining 2% (the muslim cabbie, businesses that may be primarily religious institutions etc.) and what/who to classify as protected under 1. and as essential under 3.

I agree with this formulation. Of course there will always be corner cases; that’s just how rulemaking works. You think you’ve thought of everything and then some weird situation comes along and it turns out that your rule isn’t quite as airtight as you hoped it would be. What I’m saying is that this is ok. This is the normal way of things, and we should make peace with that. Legislating means, ideally, going through the process of reflective equilibrium: if we find that our rule has consequences we aren’t willing to tolerate, we amend it. We can take the first-order step in terms of anti-discrimination laws, and if that step somehow generates really unacceptable consequences, then we’ll talk about it. It turns out that we’ve already done this experiment once with racial discrimination, and the country didn’t fall apart, so I feel like I’m on solid ground in arguing that it won’t fall apart when we extend those protections to LGBT people.

@etv13

JanieM@65: Jerry “made a stab at it”? Jerry did no more than you did when you decided my question was too inane or complicated to bother with…. If you argue, as I gather you do, that sexual orientation should be a protected classification regardless of whether it’s innate or freely chosen, then I’m left wondering how to lawfully and honestly keep the KKK out of my (admittedly purely hypothetical) bakery.

I like it when the questions answer themselves. Your example is indeed to inane to bother taking seriously, but I’ll respond just as I did above: if the price of combating discrimination against LGBT people is that you have to sell a cake to the KKK, then that’s just how it is. But currently, the law actually allows you to refuse, if I understand CJColucci’s post correctly, so it’s a total non-issue that we don’t have to worry about.

@Aristodemus

They [people who oppose LGBT rights] have an argument that’s reasonably worth considering

No, they don’t. Let’s hit the empirical points first: there’s nothing to suggest that gay parents can’t raise children just as well as straight parents. Right off the bat that eliminates pretty much all the “empirical” arguments against gay rights, such as they are. What’s left behind is a bunch of handwaving bullshit about “natural complementarity” or “God says gays are icky.” Those are not assertions anyone should take seriously, and it’s just as well they don’t. Other than that, “traditional marriage advocates” (henceforth: bigots) have nothing to say, though they say it loudly. There literally exists not a single anti-SSM argument that’s worth consideration.

But that’s still not the major problem with the debate. The major problem is that you have a group of people who are demanding that other human beings justify their humanity. Same as it ever was: once upon a time, it was not considered enough for a black person or a Jew to simply say, “we are human and are entitled to human rights,” and now, it’s not enough for LGBT people to say the same. There is no “dialogue” possible with someone who refuses to accept your humanity. It doesn’t matter whether the challenge comes from a religious text or some kind of other philosophical foundations; any debate that starts with the premise that another human being is required to justify their own humanity is already worthless.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.06.14 at 6:58 pm

Ah blockquote, my eternal nemesis! Will you never cease to thwart me?!

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.06.14 at 6:59 pm

Regnerus seems sincere and not cynical

Do you send money to televangelists and fall easily for Craigslist scams?

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etseq 03.06.14 at 7:06 pm

Ed – I must say you have the art of concern trolling down but the schtick gets old fast. You simply keep begging the question and your amatuer level attempts at deconstruction aren’t that convincing. You are either naive or lying about Regnerus and his “good faith” study – it was never intended to an objective scientific study – it was right wing propaganda shaped more by Roman Catholic natural law than any secular concerns.

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Aristodemus 03.06.14 at 7:08 pm

Jeff McMahon and Peter Singer are prominent philosophers who defend infanticide, for different reasons and in different cases. There are numerous others.

The point is that many philosophical positions justify difficult-to-accept behaviors, activities, and policies. The challenge is to argue against these positions–not to offer ad hominem arguments and then attempt to defend the ad hominem as simply descriptive of the position you’re arguing against. This style of argument really is just rhetoric–which is to say that it’s not philosophical and it’s barely an argument–and it’s designed to shame and frighten rather than to engage. Ask yourself whether Socrates would’ve confronted an interlocutor in this manner, and then try to compare your own rhetoric to your answer.

That ‘people die over this stuff’ is perhaps the greatest reason to address the arguments as forthrightly and dispassionately, rather than as obliquely and rhetorically, as possible. That sort of engagement leaves room for your opponents to believe that you’re more interested in insulting and besmirching them than you are in discovering the truth, and thus it leaves them room not to have their minds changed. If some of us are ‘tea drinkers’, it is only because we treat the arguments, and their practical consequences, with the respect they deserve.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.06.14 at 7:17 pm

The challenge is to argue against these positions–not to offer ad hominem arguments and then attempt to defend the ad hominem as simply descriptive of the position you’re arguing against.

There is no challenge. There is literally not a single valid argument against SSM that holds up under any kind of enduring philosophical scrutiny. These arguments have been had and they have been won, and we do not need to keep pretending that malicious, stupid people have anything but malicious and stupid things to say.

This style of argument really is just rhetoric–which is to say that it’s not philosophical and it’s barely an argument–and it’s designed to shame and frighten rather than to engage.

Boohoo people are being mean. See, it’s really the religious bigots who are the high-minded philosophers! Don’t you feel bad about yourself now?!

Oh wait, no I don’t.

Ask yourself whether Socrates would’ve confronted an interlocutor in this manner, and then try to compare your own rhetoric to your answer.

I don’t ask myself whether Socrates would’ve confronted someone in a particular manner because I don’t care. Socrates is not my discursive model.

That ‘people die over this stuff’ is perhaps the greatest reason to address the arguments as forthrightly and dispassionately

Yes, you know what’s really important is that we take seriously arguments that a whole group of people aren’t worthy of full humanity. That’s the really principled thing to do! I’m sure slaveowners and fascists would be likewise very receptive to our Socratic arguments about the full humanity of black people and Jews.

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The Temporary Name 03.06.14 at 7:17 pm

Jeff McMahon and Peter Singer are prominent philosophers who defend infanticide

Infanticide is very much like two boys kissing I suppose.

If some of us are ‘tea drinkers’, it is only because we treat the arguments, and their practical consequences, with the respect they deserve.

You are a bigot. It’s a matter of fact. That you are insulted by it is just so tragic, but is neither here nor there to the fact of it – it’s a word that means something! – or to the weakness of your argument. And aren’t you banned, Hector?

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.06.14 at 7:19 pm

And aren’t you banned, Hector?

Doubtful this is Hector. The spelling is too good, and there’s not enough anti-feminist ranting.

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The Temporary Name 03.06.14 at 7:22 pm

It’s nicer to think it is because there’d be less of him.

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Bruce Baugh 03.06.14 at 7:23 pm

This is a “yes, and” followup to Jerry Vinokurov@182. It’s possible that there actually is an argument against same-sex marriage, and against general civil equality for GLBT people, that doesn’t boil down to bigotry. But y’know, a lot of people – particularly people targeted by efforts to keep or return them to second-class status – have actually been through the arguments arrayed against them, analyzing them in a variety of methodologies and conceptual frameworks. This is not a thing that started last week or anything like that.

So at this point if anyone wants to convince me that there’s a non-bigoted argument, they’re going to have to show that they’ve already done some basic self-questioning analysis of it. I’m not interested in spending my own time, nor asking anyone I like to spend their time, on what we have every reason to expect will turn out to be more of the same old crap.

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Aristodemus 03.06.14 at 7:24 pm

Jerry Vinokurov,

Which position in the ‘definition of marriage debate’ requires anyone to justify their humanity? I don’t know of an argument that claims that ‘gays aren’t human’, but I also don’t know of an argument which claims that ‘the ability/right to marry is a necessary condition to be human’.

I wouldn’t call natural law arguments or gender essentiality arguments ‘hand-waving bullshit’. At least, I don’t think of Peter van Inwagen, Alvin Plantinga, or Dean Zimmerman as hand-waving bullshitters. There’s also an interesting linguistic case to be made that we shouldn’t let voting (i.e. public opinion) change how words are defined; one can be an ‘equal-rights for LGBT’ advocate and still believe this position. Interesting, that is, to some people. But for you, it sounds like the question of whether someone is a bigot amounts to whether they can offer an argument that you find persuasive. Therefore, it seems, whether another person is a bigot has more to do with you than it has to do with the other person or the argument they make. This strikes me as exactly the sort of ‘bigotry’ or ‘prejudice’ you claim of your dissenters.

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 7:29 pm

@ MPAVictoria:

Rolling the dice that I’m not in the middle of helping to care for somebody else’s baby myself, eh? Ad hominems against people on the Internet, whose circumstances you don’t and can’t know, aren’t smart.

No, it’s not a purely “academic” issue.

On the other hand, smothering the blog in etseq-style truisms (I guess that’s all we’re supposed to do?) aren’t going to change anything. You know, if you guys think the argument isn’t interesting, then don’t engage with it. I chose to try and disarm Regnerus, which is a damn sight more than some of the real bores in this thread with their repetition of uncontroversial platitudes about rights.

But yeah, if we could just shoot down Regnerus with “he’s trying to use kids as a smokescreen for denying rights to gay,” then yeah, fuck him. But we all know that’s not gonna work to answer the challenge, and I don’t find it a very good use of time just to stand around clapping each other on the backs at our virtue for not being obviously regressive.

Yeah, let’s not try and pretend that the armchair philosophers are doing this for any other reason than sport. That argument doesn’t catch.

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Ronan(rf) 03.06.14 at 7:32 pm

Every time I comment online I ask myself ‘what would Socrates do’

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Aristodemus 03.06.14 at 7:34 pm

Ronan(rf), who ever thought that puerility could be a strong suit?

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 7:34 pm

How the fuck did I let the opportunity pass by to point out that the “concern trolls” have successfully diverted the discussion from a possibly fruitful two-track discusion into useless shooting in a circle? Good goddamn, just talk about what you want to and leave the topic policing to Henry.

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CJColucci 03.06.14 at 7:39 pm

CJColucci, who actually appears to be a lawyer

There have been adversaries, and some judges, who would disagree with you.
Just to clarify things, I would also object now to laws outlawing refusal to serve for reasons of political view, but my moral objections presuppose a background norm of most businesses doing business for business reasons so people with awful political views can get what they need somewhere within reason. If that changed, and the resulting inconvenience was sufficiently severe, I might reconsider. But not now.

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roy belmont 03.06.14 at 7:42 pm

SoU-
Thank you. It’s kind of amusing to be called names by people who clearly don’t understand what you’re saying, or why you’re saying it, but it’s, in a virtual, internetty kind of way, spooky and discomfiting. Threatening even.
I get the impression that a few of the commenters here, if they knew where I lived, might be driven by their polarized antipathy to, you know, do something about it. Or if they had say a way to virtually, you know, monitor….aagh.
It’s okay to be mean to mean people.
It’s okay to hate on haters. Etc.
Scorn and contempt are always the signifiers.

i don’t know what “untried unproven ways of being” means in your post,

The quote. The science.
The fact that even now, early days, there is an arrogant crowing about the technologies and techniques of manipulation of the core machineries of biology, by ungoverned amoral, and limitlessly arrogant, power-mad priests of scientific triumphalism, to put it in polarizing terms, scares the shit out of me.
The blunder at the heart of anthropogenic climate forcing, and all the hideous damage next to and around that one principal fuckup, comes right out of that myopic dis-human attitude toward life. Control of vital things dimly understood in the most superficial ways.
What could go wrong? Oh let’s see…uhm… the weather, how bout?
The legitimate, morally near black and white, sense of victimhood from which these accusations of bigotry originate, is being played. My contention.
Used to keep the polarity decentered.
Evolution was like that ten years ago. The heat of the debate was obscuring the fact, the fact, the fact, that both sides were in favor of human control of human evolution. After millions of years of supra-human evolution gave us every thing we value about ourselves. Now we’re going to run it. Oh yeah dudes, you got it.
The center is life, the biological machinery, which is more and more in the hands of neo-humanoid weirdos.
With clear obvious consequences. Which are obscured behind these real but not central conflicts. because they’re personally central, and we live in a cultural moment when personal centrality is all there is.
Rufus Wainwright, a gay man with a husband, has a child with Leonard Cohen’s daughter. Good for them. And good will to them.
The cultural and societal environment that child is raised in is way more important than anything to do with Wainwright’s identification as a gay man.

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James Conran 03.06.14 at 7:48 pm

Henry – I second BrianB’s objection to your parenthetical remark about John Waters. Unless you’re making some kind of hypocrisy point it seems needlessly belittling of the man (who provides plenty of rope with his words), but more importantly it has a derogatory tone that would I imagine be hurtful to the progeny concerned.

On the substance of the post, I’m all for gay marriage and suspect there is no argument against it that doesn’t depend on some premise that homosexuality is less valid than heterosexuality, i.e. a “homophobic” prejudice (admittedly without having given this deep thought). However, I’m not sure that means everyone who opposes gay marriage should be described as bigots or homophobes. In these things I defend the “sinner-sin” distinction – that is I would distinguish between racist/homophobic/etc. acts and attitudes and racist/homophobic/etc. people. So, expose unreservedly the homophobic underpinnings of arguments against gay marriage, but reserve the tag of “homophobe” for the hard cases….

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adam.smith 03.06.14 at 7:49 pm

but I also don’t know of an argument which claims that ‘the ability/right to marry is a necessary condition to be human’.

seriously? Then you haven’t actually spend as much time on this question as you would like everyone to think. Never heard or seen this one?

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival.

It’s, um, rather prominent in the debate…

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The Temporary Name 03.06.14 at 7:52 pm

But yeah, if we could just shoot down Regnerus with “he’s trying to use kids as a smokescreen for denying rights to gay,” then yeah, fuck him. But we all know that’s not gonna work to answer the challenge

How many units of challenge-answering are required in this thread? Even if he’s sincere he’s not actually being used by people who’d bother to read his arguments. He’s an additional bible verse, neither here nor there to the question of whether or not two people are allowed to do stuff that doesn’t harm me despite my possible disapproval.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.06.14 at 7:53 pm

The best (or worst) effort I ever saw at coming up with an objective argument against marriage equality that was not grounded in religion or “morality,” wound up going to what I thought was a very dark and scary place. The argument was essentially this:

1. Promoting the procreation of children is a compelling state interest; viz., the state has an interest in perpetuating itself through human reproduction.

2. An opposite-sex couple has the capacity to procreate; a same-sex couple does not. Therefore the the latter can never be considered “equal” to the former. The capacity to procreate makes the former “unique” and “special,” and therefore deserving of “special” treatment, “special” recognition, “special” privileges, and “special reward,” from the state.

3. In addition, since opposite-sex couples disproportionately bear the costs and burdens of child-bearing and child-rearing, they ought to be compensated for performing these services on behalf of the state and society.

4. Exclusive access to marriage (viz., reserving “married” / “spouse” status and all of the concomitant legal rights, benefits, privileges and immunities to opposite-sex couples only) is an appropriate “special” benefit / treatment / recognition / reward, and appropriate “compensation,” for opposite-sex couples’ uniqueness, and service to the state.

This person actually compared marriage to veterans’ benefits. Non-veterans are not considered “second class citizens” because they don’t have access to veterans’ benefits, therefore same-sex couples should not complain about being treated as “second class citizens” by not having access to marriage.

The whole thing was rather sickening, as you might imagine. But it shows what happens when you hate to try to defend the indefensible.

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MPAVictoria 03.06.14 at 7:54 pm

“No, it’s not a purely “academic” issue.”

Then why act all offended when people take is personally?

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 8:15 pm

Temporary Name / Jerry Vinokurov, those are good questions. Yes, believe it or not, many people get emotional when kids or babies are mentioned; this is not psychologically improbable in the least. There is misinformation out there about what gay marriage and gay adoption means for kids and society. I am pretty sure that Regnerus believes that he’s doing the right thing “by the kids,” and also that he’s not thought hard enough to realize what a farce it is.

The more direct question, “how many units of challenge-answering are required,” has a couple possible responses:
a.) Post about what you want to;
b.) How much more profitable is it to just repeat truisms, like “gay people have rights?” (well, I never!);
c.) I have spent most of my time trying to correct etseq’s misplaced accusations of concern trolling (which are really just a tactical approach to the issue – burying it and harassing the messenger). If you want to preach to the choir, go find a choir. This is a blog where people try to, uh, talk about current issues in a philosophical way. If they like. I am willing to talk about different things, too!

Regnerus is arguably topical because the Michigan trial is happening right the fuck now; he just said those things and a bunch of people read his “concerns for children” in the Section A news.

@ MPAV

I’m more disappointed: Why would a daily forum contributor like yourself be naive and stupid enough to step in it once again? This isn’t the first time you’ve seen something like this happen, so don’t pretend that you’re not just lazily trolling. I’m OK with explaining to etseq two or three times while he tries to reorient himself from his own position (which is totally okay!) towards realizing I’m trying to blunder through a totally different kind of question here, at which point he can love it or leave it – at some point it became something else, a kind of “how dare you threaten to distract me from talking about what I want to talk about, on a public blog at that!” which is a totally nonsensical view. But yeah, it’s a blog, and people are going to talk about different things.

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MPAVictoria 03.06.14 at 8:23 pm

“I’m more disappointed: Why would a daily forum contributor like yourself be naive and stupid enough to step in it once again?”

Disappointed that people care enough about gay rights to get agitated when some tries to make their life experiences an academic question?

Eh I can live with your disappointment.

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dbk 03.06.14 at 8:23 pm

What exactly is the non-bigoted religious argument against SSM? About 200 comments into this thread, I regret to say I haven’t identified it.

Marriage is a civil right if I understand it correctly, and has been/ is in the process of being accorded to those of the same sex in the various U.S. states. I consider this right to encompass by definition all concomitant rights accorded married couples, including the right to a family.

Given that the particular family configuration currently seen as the standard in the developed West (nuclear, heterosexual) is not the only family configuration history has witnessed, and may not even be the most desirable for children – who actually appear to thrive in larger configurations, whether those of the extended family or even the clan – I am concerned about arguments that oppose SSM “for the sake of the children”.

Frankly, any argument that goes “I love my gay/lesbian friends/relatives/coworkers/acquaintances as individuals, but … ” is going to have to be very powerful to convince me that there is no emotional substrate informing what comes next.

I take seriously the maxim “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” and consider that I am obligated to extend this maxim into the civil sphere, according my fellow-men the same rights I accord myself, including the right to a family – at least until such time as all human beings are required to pass a fitness examination for parenthood, and that time isn’t on the horizon, is it?

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The Temporary Name 03.06.14 at 8:25 pm

Regnerus is arguably topical

I certainly agree with “topical” but it would have been someone else if not him. He’s a set of clothes to hang on the dummy of bigotry, and a new season will bring a new style.

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Aristodemus 03.06.14 at 8:37 pm

My point here isn’t to argue the case of the traditional marriage advocate. This has been done, influentially and strongly, by well-respected philosophers, and the citations are easily available.

The debate in this thread isn’t supposed to be about the soundness or validity of the traditional marriage position. It’s supposed to be about whether even the most dispassionate advocate of the traditional marriage position can correctly be called a “bigot” or a “homophobe”. Henry did not claim the following, but many in this threat have, and it is that the arguments offered by the traditional marriage advocate are so bad that the advocate is worthy of the labels “bigot” or “homophobe”. I claim, “The arguments don’t seem so obviously bad, given that they’ve been given prominent, persuasive defenses by people who were and continue to be respected philosophers.” You say, “No, even their arguments are so bad that the makers of them can be condemned as bigots and homophobes.”

So, there’s an impasse. My position isn’t to convince you that any traditional marriage advocate is giving a true argument; rather, my position is to convince you that at least some traditional marriage advocates give dispassionate, thoughtful, worthwhile arguments. And that they give those sorts of arguments precludes their being called bigots or homophobes. Well, what is the difference between a ‘worthwhile’ argument and a ‘non-worthwhile’ argument? A lot of that has to do with what you find rhetorically convincing or compelling, and now, the question of whether a traditional marriage advocate is a homophobe or bigot depends on how you find their argument – whatever that means.

This is not a recipe for successful communication. And indeed, as a principled way of considering which arguments one should consider and which are repugnant and ignorable, it is deeply subjectively-psychologically dependent. And worse, it’s going to end up being equally justifiable by your opponents–in which case, no one is going to end up convinced that anything the other side is saying is worth listening to, because you/we/I already have such a vested interest in dismissing arguments we disagree with without actively considering them; that is, we have such a vested interest in think that what we already believe is true that we’re not in the best psychological position to assess which arguments can be dismissed, and which holders of which positions can be condemned, out of hand.

What I’m trying to point out here isn’t whether the traditional marriage advocate has a ‘good’ argument. It’s that the rhetorical strategy of trying to justify ad hominem is a logical fallacy for a reason.

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parse 03.06.14 at 8:38 pm

There’s also an interesting linguistic case to be made that we shouldn’t let voting (i.e. public opinion) change how words are defined; one can be an ‘equal-rights for LGBT’ advocate and still believe this position.

Who is the “we” that gets to prevent changes in how words are defined, and how are they going to accomplish that? And according to this linguistic case, do we allow changes to how words are defined for reasons other than public opinion, or must all words keep their original definitions in perpetuity? Like, are we allowed to forgive William Blake for writing The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

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MPAVictoria 03.06.14 at 8:42 pm

“This strikes me as exactly the sort of ‘bigotry’ or ‘prejudice’ you claim of your dissenters.”

Ah the old “I’m not a bigot you are” gambit. A little tired don’t you think?

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 8:48 pm

MPAV:

I apologize profoundly if I have even appeared to minimalize your life experiences.

But – Kind of like, uhh, you straightfacedly did with me? I dunno. I literally just heard from somebody that “the boy said he wanted to be in a family with a mother and father.” That is a kind of belief I want to be able to respond to. Never underestimate the ability of otherwise good people to say that “others” are going to cause the end of the world. “Your beliefs are dumb” is not going to cut it when I have a chance to challenge some real, non-forum-troll person’s belief.

@ Temporary Name:

Indeed. If we can just agree to hold our noses a bit while somebody invokes freedom of speech in an attempt to try and demolish his argument, maybe we can make some progress. Probably we won’t: I would be better off mailing him directly – but I would like to get some better feedback from people than “well gee this cramps my style.” I haven’t been censoring or clouding other peoples’ posts by writing this.

Let’s be honest here – how many people on CT had heard of Regnerus before this? Or, more importantly, had an answer to the substance of his poor little argument? It’s preparation. “I don’t care” is not a good reason for me to self-censor on this, particularly when I have been quite openly supportive of more interesting directions for the discussion.

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Alex 03.06.14 at 9:19 pm

Does someone want to take the trouble to explain to me why there isn’t a direct trade off between the rights of gay parents and the rights of bioparents? You either base the law on biology, or you base it on social links with the mother (child of the family provisions, step parental adoption, the presumption of legitimacy, etc). It seems clear that if you choose the first gay couples lose out, if you choose the second straight men lose out – which is why gay marriage advocates campaign for the second.

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adam.smith 03.06.14 at 9:23 pm

Aristodemus – since you’re so keen on philosophizing, you should get your logical fallacies right. Calling someone a bigot isn’t an ad hominem attack. That would be discarding an argument because of the person who makes it, which best I can tell no one here has done. This however:

“The arguments don’t seem so obviously bad, given that they’ve been given prominent, persuasive defenses by people who were and continue to be respected philosophers.”

is a logical fallacy referred to as “argument from authority”. In particular, the three folks you cite are, indeed, well known philosophers, but most certainly not because of their defense of discrimination against homosexuals, so there is no particular reason to think those arguments are particularly worthwhile of attention. And if you do want to point to authority, at least Plantinga has, in his defense of intelligent design nonsense, shown in the past that his religiosity trumps rational arguments…

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CJColucci 03.06.14 at 9:31 pm

Maybe I’m confused, but I always thought “You’re a homophobic bigot; therefore, your argument sucks” was an ad hominem argument. Apparently, however, I got that wrong. If I understand Aristodemus correctly, the proper form of the ad hominem argument is: “Your argument sucks; therefore you’re a homophobic bigot.”

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js. 03.06.14 at 9:34 pm

my position is to convince you that at least some traditional marriage advocates give dispassionate, thoughtful, worthwhile arguments. And that they give those sorts of arguments precludes their being called bigots or homophobes.

This is completely unpersuasive. Why does someone’s ability to construct even “worthwhile” arguments preclude their being bigoted or prejudiced? Surely it’s far more plausible that an otherwise capable philosopher may be bigoted along particular axes, that they fail to fully consider or realize the necessary consequences recognizing the humanity of others in society. (Also, Plantinga definitely has an ax to grind—I’m not sure he’d be my poster child for “dispassionate” arguments in this area.)

And again, look, if you’re getting palpitations because of the application of the word ‘bigot’ (and cognates), I for am happy to switch to the admittedly unwieldy indistinguishable-in-their-goals-and-actions-from-bigots-but-not-themselves-bigots, and then as far as the sphere of social action is concerned, I can go on treating them as I would have otherwise, reasonable enough given their policy goals, etc. But they’re not bigots! That should be satisfactory, surely.

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Aristodemus 03.06.14 at 9:42 pm

In the linguistic case, the claim is simply that we don’t vote or take a poll on the meaning of words, only because the relationship between meaning, concepts, and reality is so fraught. I mean, this really just is Philosophy of Language for the last fifty years, which has given us no settled conclusion on what language is, how its related to concepts, and how communication works.

Consider Putnam’s example of H2O and XYZ. Water has a chemical definition, H2O, that underwrites all of its functional instances. So, anytime you call some object water, you’re just calling it H2O. Suppose that a crazy religious legislature gained a majority and wanted to write a law asserting that holy water wasn’t H2O, but some supernatural compound. The chemical definition of holy water doesn’t change just because a legislature passed some law about the use of the word.

A similar reasoning applies to any other word. Unless the word is a legal-technical term, designed prohibitively as legal terminology, it’d be improper for a majority to change the definition. And that goes even for non-Natural Kind terms. We didn’t vote on the meaning of “road” or “book review”, and the words don’t change their meaning just because we voted for them to change their meaning. If that were so obviously and easily possible, why don’t we just vote to change the meaning of the N-word? A massive majority would support such a change. Then people could use it with impunity, because of course it wouldn’t be derogatory anymore.

Anyway, you could say, “I support equal rights for gays, and so I support the creation of an institution that’s open to all forms of sexual preference, that walks and talks like marriage but isn’t called ‘marriage’.” I’ve provided a decent summary of reasons why you might not favor calling these relationships marriages. How, exactly, could you consider a person who argued for something like this a bigot?

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js. 03.06.14 at 10:02 pm

Anyway, you could say, “I support equal rights for gays, and so I support the creation of an institution that’s open to all forms of sexual preference, that walks and talks like marriage but isn’t called ‘marriage’.”

Look, I don’t really give a fuck what you or anyone else call this or that. You want to dismantle the currently existing institution of marriage (which is what you’re implying)—I’m pretty much on your side. Insofar as someone wants to deny the LGBT community full participation rights in actually existing civil institutions, I can continue to reasonably regard them as, to repeat myself, indistinguishable-in-their-goals-and-actions-from-bigots, (whereby I give you ‘bigot'; you can, armed with your copy of ‘The Meaning of “Meaning”‘, do with it what you will, and perhaps just maybe kindly spare us the philosophy of language 101 refresher).

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etseq 03.06.14 at 10:03 pm

Wow…if anyone is still paying attention, this thread should be a classic study in concern trolling.

Concern trolls are a unique phenomenon because they are sophisticated enough to engage on the surface level but then spew out paragraph after paragraph of non-sequiturs, along with a nasty libertarian dudebro attitude. Eugene Volokh has made a career off being a professional concern troll – in fact, he has a special affinity for gay concern trolling with such classics as gays really are out to convert you, the gay slippery slope is real, and gay rights are a danger to god and country…

I’d suggest that anyone who hasn’t watched the video of Rory O’Neil aka Panti, do so for a reality check. The Catholic Church in Ireland is pushing back hard on gay marriage but I think they overplayed their hand by allowing the nuts at the Iona Institute to become the face of the Catholic Church on this one.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.06.14 at 10:08 pm

Anyway, you could say, “I support equal rights for gays, and so I support the creation of an institution that’s open to all forms of sexual preference, that walks and talks like marriage but isn’t called ‘marriage’.” … How, exactly, could you consider a person who argued for something like this a bigot?

I used to think the exact same thing, i.e., I was entirely in favor of creating a separate legal designation that is entirely, in every way, in all respects and for all purposes, equivalent to “marriage” (or “married”). And I asked the question, why would the gay community (and non-gay advocates of equality) not be OK with this?

I thought through it, wrote through it, and talked through it, and came to the understanding that the answer is no, for a very simple reason: separate-but-equal. 60 years ago the Supreme Court established that “separate-but-equal” was not good enough, because “separate” is inherently not “equal.” Like separate facilities, the only reason to have a separate status is to discriminate. That’s why advocating for a separate-but-equal domestic status might be considered bigoted.

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Plume 03.06.14 at 10:17 pm

The entire “definition of marriage” argument is moronic, as is the term, “traditional marriage,” especially when used from a so-called “biblical perspective.”

Traditional marriage in the Levant of the time meant prearranged, without the consent of the girl, who was rarely “of age.” It also meant, among the rich, many wives, none of whom had any rights. Yes, this changed over time, through the centuries, and eventually became less barbaric. But even in America, we had laws on the books up until 1980 that said a husband could force his wife to have sex without her consent. As in, he could legally rape her and get away with it. “Traditional marriage” in short has a long history of atrocity, oppression of women and children, domestic violence and so on. And its “meaning” changed through time, and changed again and again.

Why anyone would cling to the belief that “the definition of marriage” — as they see it — must be protected defies all logic. It is solely a matter of emotional, irrational attachment to a myth — one that was never constant.

The “definition” was imposed on society, typically by wealthy men, by the ruling class of its day, without the participants having any say in the matter. Clinging to the ruling class’s version of anything, especially given its history, should be fought at every turn.

In short, F your definition of marriage.

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 10:28 pm

@ Alex:

I don’t think that there is a direct tradeoff between “a direct trade off between the rights of gay parents and the rights of bioparents” for two reasons:

One, this isn’t a zero-sum game. You can preserve the rights of all parents.
Two, that is sloppy as hell terminology. “Gay parents” can be bioparents.

Also, since people keep harping on it (and probably rightfully so), I’ve got to distance myself from Aristodemus’ stance which I don’t share. Aristodemus has repeatedly said “people have good reasons” but I haven’t seen (skimming through the posts) a description of the argument we should be respectful of. Yeah, I can see why that would be called concern trolling! I don’t think it’s reasonable to simply try to force others to agree to a blank check on stipulating that “there are good arguments” here – where’s the beef?

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MPAVictoria 03.06.14 at 10:29 pm

“In short, F your definition of marriage.”
*Stands up and applauds!

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GrafZeppelin127 03.06.14 at 10:34 pm

The “definition of marriage” argument is a red herring. The word “marriage” need not be “defined” at all in order for the legal institution and status to include consenting same-sex couples.

New York provides an excellent example. Section 10 of the DRL defines marriage only as “a civil contract requiring the consent of the parties.” There’s no other definition of “marriage” (or “married,” or “spouse”) anywhere in New York law or in the New York State Constitution. The state formally legalized same-sex marriage by enacting § 10-A, which states, paraphrasing, “A marriage that is otherwise valid in this state shall be valid irrespective of whether the parties to the marriage are of the same or different sex.” This did not so much expand or change the “definition” of marriage as acknowledge that consenting same-sex couples could marry and be treated as married under state law, the same as consenting opposite-sex couples.

The only reason to “define” marriage, whether in law or for oneself, is to limit it, to exclude people from it. Inclusion does not require definition, let alone “re-definition.”

Also, opponents of equality referring to themselves as “advocates” or “supporters” of “traditional marriage” are also prevaricating. To the extent there is any such thing as “traditional marriage,” it’s something they’ve defined for themselves. What they “support” is not “traditional marriage,” it’s exclusivity. I use the term “exclusivists” (or “marriage exclusivists”) to describe such individuals.

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Bruce Baugh 03.06.14 at 10:39 pm

I would be willing to concede that someone making the “marriage is about procreation” argument is genuinely not bigoted against LGBT people if I saw them making any real effort to deny non-reproducing opposite-sex couples the benefits of marriage. I’m not fussy about what that effort should be, either, since there are lots of fronts available. Fertility tests as a prerequisite for marriage? Reduction of tax breaks every N years without progeny? I dunno, really. All I ask for is a tiny fraction of the effort that we see channeled against same-sex couples put against opposite-sex couples who aren’t reproducing. Show me the effort, and I’ll grant the lack of homophobia.

Meanwhile, back in reality, so nearly as I can tell, this never, ever happens.

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Bruce Baugh 03.06.14 at 10:40 pm

Also, Graf, you’re on a heck of a roll. Thank you.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.06.14 at 10:41 pm

I’ll get back to Aristodemus’ nonsense later, but for now:

Let’s be honest here – how many people on CT had heard of Regnerus before this?

*raises hand*

Regnerus has been all over the goddamn internet with his “research” for years now. If you have some interest in the LGBT equality debate, you are more likely than not to have encountered his work.

Does someone want to take the trouble to explain to me why there isn’t a direct trade off between the rights of gay parents and the rights of bioparents?

Because it’s a product of your fevered imagination.

You either base the law on biology, or you base it on social links with the mother (child of the family provisions, step parental adoption, the presumption of legitimacy, etc).

“Biology” on its own counts for precious little. If all I do is donate a kidney, I don’t get a say in how the recipient lives their life; if all one does is donate genetic material, then there’s not a lot to commend them as parents. Luckily, we don’t have to choose between those two things, we can take both into account. It’s just that when it comes down to it, the welfare of the actual child would be paramount. I don’t see how that’s supposed to somehow be injurious to straight parents who are, you know, actually parenting.

It seems clear that if you choose the first gay couples lose out, if you choose the second straight men lose out – which is why gay marriage advocates campaign for the second.

Right, The Gays are deliberately trying to undermine straight men by campaigning for the welfare of the child to be taken into account in custody situations, as though this wasn’t already the case long before SSM even became a thing. Lose the tinfoil hat.

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CJColucci 03.06.14 at 10:44 pm

Graf Zeppelin:

I used to think the same way. Although I had no objection to same-sex marriage, I thought there was a deal to be had creating a legal status with the substance but not the name of marriage, and that advocates of same-sex marriage ought to take it. (I used to think I was a worldly, hard-nosed realist. Now I know better.) But whatever the abstract merits of the case, there wasn’t anyone on the other side of the table to make that deal with. So now they’re stuck with marriage in fact and name, and whine for the alternative they never would have accepted. Cue the violins.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.06.14 at 10:56 pm

@Bruce,

The reason we don’t see the same kind of effort directed against non-procreative hetero couples, I think, is that a lot of this is about controlling thought and perception. Preventing non-procreative people from marrying is not the point; preventing people from thinking, believing or perceiving that “marriage” means, can mean, or should mean, anything other than what exclusivists think it means, and want everyone else to think it means, is the point. Wanting marriage to be that one particular thing, is the point. Seeing a non-procreative opposite-sex couple get married doesn’t undermine those thoughts and perceptions. Seeing a married same-sex couple does.

The fact that same-sex couples “can’t procreate” (which is not true, since they can procreate with the aid of a third party) is just a brick in the wall, so to speak. It’s not a legal justification; it’s a justification for maintaining an abstract perception.

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djw 03.06.14 at 10:57 pm

I would be willing to concede that someone making the “marriage is about procreation” argument is genuinely not bigoted against LGBT people if I saw them making any real effort to deny non-reproducing opposite-sex couples the benefits of marriage. I’m not fussy about what that effort should be, either, since there are lots of fronts available. Fertility tests as a prerequisite for marriage? Reduction of tax breaks every N years without progeny? I dunno, really. All I ask for is a tiny fraction of the effort that we see channeled against same-sex couples put against opposite-sex couples who aren’t reproducing. Show me the effort, and I’ll grant the lack of homophobia.

Indeed. It’s such an inherently and obviously cynical gambit, since they know (and they know we know) that no one who claims to hold this view has ever or would ever express even a hint of disapproval at marriages between lovely and lonely elderly widows and widowers. They know a man who would still marry his girlfriend after some illness cost her her fertility would be praised for his devotion and loyalty, rather than condemned for not properly understanding marriage. That the argument is made straightfacedly despite how widely known it is that no one would ever take it seriously in any other context is as compelling a piece of evidence I can imagine that Harry Frankfurt’s little book is required reading for making sense of the world we live in today.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.06.14 at 10:59 pm

@CJColucci:

I don’t know what you mean by this:

So now they’re stuck with marriage in fact and name, and whine for the alternative they never would have accepted.

Who are “they”? Who do you hear/read “whin[ing] for the alternative” and what does that look/sound like? I don’t hear the gay community, or non-gay advocates of equality, “whining” for anything, let alone any separate-but-equal domestic status for gay couples. So I’m not sure what you’re talking about here.

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Bruce Baugh 03.06.14 at 11:00 pm

Graf: I’m in complete agreement about the importance of controlling perceptions.

djw: Harry Frankfurt’s book really was an epochal mental milestone for me.

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JanieM 03.06.14 at 11:02 pm

Graf — I took CJColucci to mean that it’s the other side that’s whining because the gays allegedly wouldn’t accept civil unions.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.06.14 at 11:07 pm

@JanieM –

I was just thinking that might be the case, but reading the comment again it seems to me CJC was saying that the gay community should have accepted a separate-but-equal status but would not come to the “table” to discuss it, and is now “whin[ing]” about that lost opportunity. It’s not clear which “side of the table” is the “other” side CJC is referring to, from the way the comment is written.

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adam.smith 03.06.14 at 11:08 pm

*raises hand*

Regnerus has been all over the goddamn internet with his “research” for years now. If you have some interest in the LGBT equality debate, you are more likely than not to have encountered his work.

word. And not just his work, but also the numerous rebuttals of it, including the SSR audit demolishing the paper and the Slate (Slate!) takedown of Regnerus etc. So the whole “I’m doing a public service by taking him seriously and providing measured counter-arguments” is a little late.

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Ed Herdman 03.06.14 at 11:25 pm

My sincere apologies to the few people who are that dedicated to this issue that weren’t able to avoid the issue. It’s a free speech issue, nothing more. The only reason this discussion has gone on so long is because it was disingenously called concern trolling, when I attempted to merely mention the issue (with some up-to-date news about it) and dismiss it in the same post. We’re only talking about it because some people couldn’t fathom why somebody would want to talk about topical things in a topical thread. Well fuck me.

This is at best a semi-professional forum – and totally public, anybody can post here. Nobody has to pretend they are “doing a public service” for dedicated topic followers, and you can’t seriously believe that every random person coming here is going to be that up-to-date with all the literature.

Especially when so many other comments offered by detractors of this “concern trolling” have been extremely basic and repetitive.

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JanieM 03.06.14 at 11:54 pm

Graf — I agree it’s not clear, but I just think that CJC was being careless with pronouns in that paragraph.

Here’s my gloss:

Although I had no objection to same-sex marriage, I thought there was a deal to be had creating a legal status with the substance but not the name of marriage, and that advocates of same-sex marriage ought to take it. … But whatever the abstract merits of the case, there wasn’t anyone on the other side of the table [for the advocates of same-sex marriage] to make that deal with. So now they’re [the "advocates" of "traditional marriage" you mentioned in the comment CJColucci is responding to] stuck with marriage in fact and name, and whine for the alternative they never would have accepted.[because they were never on the other side of the table willing to negotiate about civil unions when it might have mattered] Cue the violins.

Hopefully CJC will come along in person and clarify.

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js. 03.07.14 at 12:07 am

JanieM @233:

That seems exactly right—it’s (a _much_ more clear presentation of) how I read it the first time around.

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GiT 03.07.14 at 12:35 am

Not as familiar with Inwagen or Zimmerman, but Alvina Plantinga probably falls to the level of hand-waving bullshit (cf. http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/is-alving-plantinga-for-real-alas-it.html). Along with quite a bit of philosophy of (mostly Christian) religion, as far as I can tell. Certainly sometimes religious thinking about concepts that are at bottom not especially or uniquely religious gets us to some interesting places, but all the tarted up apologetic and theodicy stuff is, well… it is what it is: more or less the exemplar of hand-waving bullshit, whether it’s from Descartes, Kant, and Hegel or Inwagen, Plantinga, and Zimmerman.

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Consumatopia 03.07.14 at 2:12 am

The next biggest portion are created through surogacy/IVF.

This will be a growing problem for those opposed to gay parenting or other applications of fertility technology. It means arguing that there are children out there who should not have been created.

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CJColucci 03.07.14 at 2:31 am

Sorry for the sloppy pronouns. JanieM’s translation is spot on.

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Consumatopia 03.07.14 at 3:34 am

And untried ways of raising children, untried unproven ways of being.
That’s the healthy part of the skeptical reaction of the base that’s galvanized behind fascist idiocy like the AZ laws.

Parents, educators, psychologists, pastors, political reformers and gurus come up with new ideas to apply to the raising of children and living life in general constantly Go to the nearest library or book store and I’m sure you’ll find shelves full of new ways of raising children or being, subject only to very limited if any trials or proof at all. This is inevitable–being a parent is a messy process for everyone, and it’s human nature to look for some way to some way to improve it. That there are untried ways of being out there is all the more reason for someone to go out there and try them out! When an individual wants to try something new, the burden of proof shouldn’t be on the individual showing that it’s good, it should be on the community showing that it’s bad.

It is totally understandable that decent people in desperate or confusing circumstances will lash out against things they don’t understand. But there’s nothing healthy about that reaction at all.

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etv13 03.07.14 at 10:30 am

@Jerry Vinokurov: Despite there being a real-life case in New Mexico and all, I’m not so sure the KKK case is a lot less unlikely than gay people wanting to give their business to a bigoted photographer or baker. Aren’t they worried about screwed-up exposures, or spit in the batter? I sure would be. Anyway, I think it’s a cop-out to say “This is so improbable it’s not worth troubling about,” and once you’ve said that, I can’t take your further conclusions seriously.

I think sexual orientation is more like race or gender than it is like political beliefs, so if I ask myself, “Would you support this if it were based on race or gender?” and the answer is “No,” then I tend to think the New Mexico court got it right. But to the extent that someone like JanieM argues that sexual orientation is closer to political beliefs or other chosen actions, then I have doubts. I think people ought to be able to choose not to do business with people whose freely chosen actions or beliefs are abhorrent to them, at least in arenas where those choices are directly implicated — i.e., catering a Klan event as opposed to selling groceries to someone who happens to be a Klan member. I don’t think opening a bakery obligates you to bake a “Happy Birthday Nathan Bedford Forrest” cake, or a wedding cake for the guy who broke your heart in high school, or just anyone else who slaps $200 bucks down on your counter. I think we can draw principled distinctions, and we should, and not just throw up our hands and say, “This will never happen, so it’s not worth thinking about.”

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Ze Kraggash 03.07.14 at 12:34 pm

Aristodemus 213, I like your water analogy. But perhaps it’s been taken care of already, by the language itself. How about this: during the debate about the right of gays to marry, a new concept had emerged in the public consciousness; let’s call it “gay-marriage”. And the emergence of this concept helped the “for” side win – and simultaneously lose – the debate. They lost, because gays still don’t get married: they, in the public’s mind, get gay-married.

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Bruce Baugh 03.07.14 at 1:44 pm

Ze Kraggash, that’s both ridiculous and wrong.

Ridiculous, because homophobes are always going to find grounds for objection and distancing, because they’re homophobes (until they stop being so). When the problem is that gay people are abnormal, unnatural, and wrong, whatever they do will seem abnormal, unnatural, and wrong. That’s not something the rest of us can fix.

Wrong, because all you have to do is look around at how people generally talk about it. Celebrities like George Takei and Ellen Degeneres aren’t “gay-married”; they’re married. They had to wait to get married, but then they got married. They have a husband or wife as appropriate. Institutions like the Defense Department provide spousal benefits, not “gay-spousal” benefits. There are no “gay-marriage” certificates, just marriage certificates. When I’m in an environment to hear some random chatter about folks’ friends, colleagues, etc., getting married, I simply don’t hear this “gay-married” stuff at all.

It looks to me like you’ve built an eidolon of “the public’s mind” that’s more interesting to you than reality.

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Ze Kraggash 03.07.14 at 2:04 pm

Bruce, I counted 6 instances of “gay marriage” in the OP. It’s definitely a thing today, even if it started as a shorthand for “the right for gay people to get married”. And that the benefits are the same, well, that’s the whole point, like with water and holy water. Everything is the same (well, except for the configuration of genders), and yet they are different lexical concepts.

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Collin Street 03.07.14 at 2:27 pm

Everything is the same (well, except for the configuration of genders), and yet they are different lexical concepts.

I’m reminded of the catholic position on transubstantiation. Only backwards: the accidents change, while the substance remains the same.

Ineffable, truly.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 2:33 pm

@Ze Kraggash,

Everything is the same … and yet they are different lexical concepts.

Which is another way of saying “separate-but-equal.” The only reason to employ “different lexical concepts” to identify the same institution and the same status is to discriminate. Even if it’s only nominal discrimination, it’s still discrimination; it serves no other purpose.

The “whole point” is not that the “benefits are the same;” it’s that we not discriminate. “Separate-but-equal” died a legal death 60 years ago; we’re not resurrecting it now.

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adam.smith 03.07.14 at 3:23 pm

“modern marriage,” “interracial marriage,” “common law marriage,” “gay marriage,” “second marriage,” “interfaith marriage,” “marriage of convenience,” “arranged marriage”… — there are a lot of different marriages and different people have different value judgments about them and that’s OK(ish). But legally and in the eyes of the state they’re all the same “marriage”, which is the point of equality. And, as Bruce says, for the most part for the people involved they’re also just “marriage”.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.07.14 at 3:31 pm

@Aristodemus

Which position in the ‘definition of marriage debate’ requires anyone to justify their humanity? I don’t know of an argument that claims that ‘gays aren’t human’, but I also don’t know of an argument which claims that ‘the ability/right to marry is a necessary condition to be human’.

Yes, no one actually literally says “Prove to me that you’re human,” because that’s not how these things work. But the essence is the same: arguments that certain types of people should be deprived of what we take to be basic human rights, are effectively arguments that view those people as less than human.

I wouldn’t call natural law arguments or gender essentiality arguments ‘hand-waving bullshit’. At least, I don’t think of Peter van Inwagen, Alvin Plantinga, or Dean Zimmerman as hand-waving bullshitters.

Ahahahaha you take Alvin Plantinga seriously! That’s all I need to know about that.

You’re still missing the point though: the debate has been had and it is over. There is nothing left in the anti-SSM camp that requires any further consideration. Pretending that good-faith arguments remain is like pretending “the science isn’t in yet” when it comes to global warming. Even if I were to grant arguendo that at some point one could have conceivably been making good-faith arguments about how SSM would hurt the children or undermine “real” marriages (and, mind you, I don’t grant that for one second), that point would still have been, oh, about 15 years ago at the latest. Today there is nothing remaining of those arguments besides, surprise, the very anti-gay animus that drove them in the first place.

There’s also an interesting linguistic case to be made that we shouldn’t let voting (i.e. public opinion) change how words are defined; one can be an ‘equal-rights for LGBT’ advocate and still believe this position.

One can be pig-ignorant of linguistic history and believe whatever they want; doesn’t make it so. Turns out that public opinion causes shifts in what words mean all the time.

But for you, it sounds like the question of whether someone is a bigot amounts to whether they can offer an argument that you find persuasive.

For any old argument about anything? Obviously not. As it relates to LGBT rights? Absolutely. Again, we are not obligated to take all arguments seriously; one hundred years ago, it would have been, “oh, you’re failing to take into consideration my totally serious and not all bigoted argument for why black people are just genetically inferior.” Sixty years ago, same thing but for interracial marriage (“God made the races separate etc.” was a thing an actual judge wrote in an actual opinion). So yeah, I’m not interested in giving any respect whatsoever to tired bullshit that we know to be tired bullshit. The first time someone asks you about the evolutionary “missing link” you might humor them; the tenth time, you can just tell them to fuck off.

Therefore, it seems, whether another person is a bigot has more to do with you than it has to do with the other person or the argument they make. This strikes me as exactly the sort of ‘bigotry’ or ‘prejudice’ you claim of your dissenters.

Ah yes, the good old “it is those who are intolerant of intolerance who are the real intolerants” canard. Do you feel clever playing this game? Did you smirk to yourself when you typed that, feeling very satisfied with the strength and persuasiveness of your logic? I mean, I can’t imagine any other reason why you would even bother typing those words, because they sure as shit don’t constitute a sensible argument.

@etv13

Despite there being a real-life case in New Mexico and all, I’m not so sure the KKK case is a lot less unlikely than gay people wanting to give their business to a bigoted photographer or baker. Aren’t they worried about screwed-up exposures, or spit in the batter? I sure would be.

The point of the case is not to compel people to actually do the work (of course I don’t want some bigot catering my wedding), it’s to punish them for the discrimination.

Anyway, I think it’s a cop-out to say “This is so improbable it’s not worth troubling about,” and once you’ve said that, I can’t take your further conclusions seriously.

It’s not a cop-out, it’s how actual cost-benefit calculations are done. What’s the cost of X times the probability of X happening, that sort of thing. People who think that you can immediately create the perfect legislation that covers every corner case are either simply delusional, or they’re actually concern-trolling to prevent the passage of legislation that would address 99% of the cases.

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Bruce Baugh 03.07.14 at 3:49 pm

Another “yes, and” reply to Jerry. :) As follow-up to the well-phrased “People who think that you can immediately create the perfect legislation that covers every corner case are either simply delusional, or they’re actually concern-trolling to prevent the passage of legislation that would address 99% of the cases.”, I note that there’s one side in the argument over marriage equality that believes in appointing good judges and paying the expenses of a well-run judicial system that can deal with the inevitable corner cases. It’s not the homophobic side, where we find a bunch of the same leaders and prominent activists also trying to keep the judicial system under-staffed, under-funded, and tied up as many ways as possible.

However much we talk about issues independently of each other, the fact is that in practice, laws and regulations are made and implemented by people. It’s always worth looking at what else someone pushing for a particular issue is in favor of, particularly when they’re also playing a prominent part in pushing for others – raising money, coordinating efforts, campaigning for office on a stance about them, and so on. There’s nobody prominent on the pro-bigotry side who’s in favor of good government, in the sense of having well-written laws, regulations sensibly derived from them and updated regularly in response to changing conditions, accurate data about what conditions are, well-compensated employees with sufficient resources to perform their jobs well, hiring and firing and promotion related to performance of job duties as opposed to partisan toadying, stable sources of revenue, responsible accounting for expenses, and all the rest. Not a one. They’re all on the side of hustlers, crooks, kooks, fanatics, and other moral low-lifes.

That matters. It’s right that we take it into account. There are people arguing in favor of marriage equality that I dislike and whose policies I’d prefer not to see prevail, but there’s not a single prominent opponent of marriage equality that I can find who shows any scrap of caring about basic civic virtues.

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CJColucci 03.07.14 at 4:17 pm

I think people ought to be able to choose not to do business with people whose freely chosen actions or beliefs are abhorrent to them, at least in arenas where those choices are directly implicated — i.e., catering a Klan event as opposed to selling groceries to someone who happens to be a Klan member. I don’t think opening a bakery obligates you to bake a “Happy Birthday Nathan Bedford Forrest” cake, or a wedding cake for the guy who broke your heart in high school, or just anyone else who slaps $200 bucks down on your counter. I think we can draw principled distinctions, and we should, and not just throw up our hands and say, “This will never happen, so it’s not worth thinking about.”

It’s harder than it looks, as evidenced by the lack of laws or proposed laws that draw, or even try to draw, such “principled distinctions.” I wouldn’t be terribly upset with a regime in which the baker doesn’t have to sell a custom wedding cake but does have to sell the cannolis in the display case. I could even come up with a decent argument for why that might make sense. But no law actually on offer draws such lines; the baker can refuse both transactions. If forced to choose between the harm caused by making the baker bake the cake or by depriving the customer of cannolis, cannolis for everybody.

.

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JanieM 03.07.14 at 5:17 pm

The lawyers can correct me if I’m wrong, but I would add that U.S. anti-discrimination laws as they already exist don’t depend on the distinction etv13 is making so much of (whether something is inborn or chosen). That’s a big reason why I declined to bite this hook in the first place: because it had (and has) all the feeling of a manufactured red herring in a game of gotcha. “Oh, you don’t believe ‘it’s inborn’ is a good argument? Then bam, you’re in trouble, and I’m cleverly going to show you why.”

Except that I’m not in trouble (at least not for that reason), because the law already doesn’t make anything of that distinction, so I’m not losing anything if I refuse to rely on it.

Furthermore:

If a principled distinction based on inborn vs. chosen characteristics is so important, then what the heck is “the guy who broke your heart in high school” doing on a list of people you might want the right not to do business with?

As for inborn qualities, here’s a good example of the sword cutting both ways.

Bottom line, if etv13 wants a principled distinction based on something s/he feels is important and I don’t, then etv13 can do the homework; I have my own agenda to attend to. There’s plenty of material even in this comment thread about how anti-discrimination law really evolved — e.g. in relation to groups that have historically been discriminated against, and not in relation to inborn-ness — and how complex the subject is (see CJC, JV, and others). For anyone who cares, two books that taught me a lot about the subject (including how irrelevant my own untutored assumptions were) are Same-Sex Marriage and the Constitution, by Evan Gerstmann, and Liberty and Sexuality, by David Garrow.

*****

Cannolis for everybody. I’ll go along with that. :-)

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.07.14 at 5:50 pm

I note that there’s one side in the argument over marriage equality that believes in appointing good judges and paying the expenses of a well-run judicial system that can deal with the inevitable corner cases. It’s not the homophobic side, where we find a bunch of the same leaders and prominent activists also trying to keep the judicial system under-staffed, under-funded, and tied up as many ways as possible.

This is such an important point and I’m so glad you bring it up. A lot of what happens at the policy level can percolate up from the judicial level, and the right wing has been working overtime to sabotage the judicial system any way it can. It really is, in the end, about domination, and not about abstract linguistic arguments or even “traditional marriage.”

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adam.smith 03.07.14 at 5:57 pm

agree with JanieM that “born this way” isn’t particularly helpful or necessary. A lot of things that we do want to discriminate against likely have a genetic component (psychopathy, for a start). And, of course, religion, which has always been a protected class, has very little to do with genes (religiosity as a trait probably does, but which religion you end up with almost certainly doesn’t).
So the reason we want to treat sexual orientation differently from political beliefs needs to come from something else. I’m not 100% sure what that is, but one thought is that other people’s politics affect you much more than other people’s religion: If someone prays to god, the FSM, or not at all makes no difference to a third party. If someone pressures the government to spend more money on tanks and less money on schools it most certainly does.

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adam.smith 03.07.14 at 6:00 pm

but one thought is that other people’s politics affect you much more than other people’s religion

meant to write this not about religion but about sexual orientation, but same difference.

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Jerry Vinokurov 03.07.14 at 6:02 pm

Speaking of “born this way,” there’s a conservative take on doing away with “orientation” as a reified distinction over at First Things. Of course, the author would like to do so because he’d also like us to go back to the days when masturbation was considered a mortal sin, and much other nonsense besides, but I thought it was interesting to see a conservative trying to outflank mainstream liberalism on the left.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 6:09 pm

@JanieM,

Anti-discrimination statutes such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.) typically don’t make the “inborn/inherent characteristic” vs. “chosen behavior” distinction per se; they actually specify which characteristics may not be the basis of discrimination (e.g., “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin”, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1)). The underlying principle, to put in in somewhat over-simplified layman’s terms, is that it’s unfair and unlawful to discriminate based on a characteristic that a person cannot help having, and cannot simply voluntarily change.

“No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” is acceptable because a customer can always walk out, put on a shirt and/or shoes, and come back. “No Colored, No Mexicans, No Queers” is not, because they can’t.

If you refuse to serve the boy who dumped you in high school, you’re attempting to punish him for something he did. If you refuse to serve an Irishman, you’re punishing him for what he is.

These distinctions don’t end the analysis, 0bviously. Are you refusing service to this customer because he’s gay, or because he blew his boyfriend last night?

There’s no common-law doctrine distinguishing acceptable from unacceptable bases of discrimination in the commercial context. The statutes typically name certain unacceptable bases, and under the principle of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, if a basis is not named in the statute, a discrimination lawsuit becomes a reasonability and balance-of-harms question; a common-law dispute rather than a statutory violation.

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JanieM 03.07.14 at 7:07 pm

Graf, thanks.

You write, they actually specify which characteristics may not be the basis of discrimination (e.g., “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin”, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1)). The underlying principle…is that it’s unfair and unlawful to discriminate based on a characteristic that a person cannot help having, and cannot simply voluntarily change.

The list does not fit the principle. Religious beliefs are a choice, not “a thing that a person cannot help having.” (The fact that religion is mentioned in the Bill of Rights and the other thigns aren’t doesn’t matter if we’re talking about abstract principles we’d like to see implemented.)

One reason I still don’t want to rely on the “inborn” distinction is precisely, as I said above, that if I’m thinking about general principles, I don’t want to be subject to discrimination because my actions (or imagined actions) violate someone else’s religious beliefs. I don’t believe a landlord should be able to turn me away because I might “commit sins” on her property. Let her worry about her own damned sins; mine are none of her business. To me, that’s part of what the shared public realm means, or should mean, in a diverse society.

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etv13 03.07.14 at 7:10 pm

@Jerry Vinokurov: As far as I can see, the only people proposing legislation just now are the bigots, and even they are starting to back off. I don’t see any reason to apply a cost-benefit analysis to a free-ranging discussion in a comments thread; it strikes me as a perfectly appropriate place to hash out corner cases and other imponderables. If you think it’s a waste of your personal time and effort, then fine, don’t comment on it.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 7:25 pm

@JanieM,

There’s a fine distinction to be made between the term “religion” as set forth in the statute, and the term “religious beliefs” as used here.

“Religion” refers to a person being Jewish, or being Catholic, or being Rastafarian, not to the conscious choice to entertain specific articulable thoughts that constitute “religious beliefs.”

Now, I agree wholeheartedly that religion is in every conceivable respect a choice; it’s just as much a choice to “be Jewish” as it is to believe that one must keep kosher for Passover. But the rationale behind the inclusion of “religion” in the list of characteristics that cannot be the basis of discrimination, includes inter alia the fact that being (or self-identifying as) of a particular religion does not necessitate harboring any particular thought or belief. A person in a position to discriminate, such as an employer or a merchant, cannot assume that I “believe” any particular thing just because I “am Jewish.” He also can’t assume that I am Jewish (let alone believe any particular thing) because, e.g., my last name is Goldstein.

I suppose, also, that “religious liberty” includes the right to believe that one cannot voluntarily change one’s religion, and cannot pick and choose which religious tenets to follow and which to disregard. It’s the kind of thing we can’t (or shouldn’t) require people to change or give up if they want to avoid discrimination.

I think sexual orientation might fall into that category as well. Even if it is a “choice,” even if it can be changed or disavowed, a person shouldn’t have to do that in order to avoid discrimination. Now, of course, if we add that additional caveat (viz., characteristics that a person cannot change or discard, or should not be compelled to change or discard), there may be other things that people should not be required to change or discard in order to be employed or served without discrimination. The key is not so much identifying what they are but finding an organizing principle to distinguish what is from what isn’t in that category.

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adam.smith 03.07.14 at 7:37 pm

@GrafZeppelin:

finding an organizing principle to distinguish what is from what isn’t in that category.

very much agree with that, but I’m not sure your organizing principle cuts it. Why is “being Lutheran” (Judaism is a poor example here, as it’s a hybrid between religion and ethnicity) more of an identity than “being a Klansman” (or “being a socialist” if you want someone nicer ;) At least for me, my political identity is much more integral to who I am than my atheism. Certainly I shouldn’t be compelled to have to change my political identity either? Why then are political views not protected?

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Bruce Wilder 03.07.14 at 7:38 pm

The underlying principle, to put in in somewhat over-simplified layman’s terms, is that it’s unfair and unlawful to discriminate based on a characteristic that a person cannot help having, and cannot simply voluntarily change.

So, you think someone cannot change her religion? That is not a minor quibble. People should be free to choose and exercise their religious beliefs, if any, and not suffer public regulation or opprobrium. Similarly, people should be free to make sexual relationship choices, which are intimate and extremely personal. I presume when people make the point that it is “not a choice” they can be making the point that sexual expression can go to the core of a person’s being and identity, and making appropriate choices is central to protecting that core — they are not conceding that it is OK to restrict choices of such an intimate nature as sexual identity or religious spirituality.

I think your interpretation misses a couple of other key points about the shape of the law in this area.

First, the statute identifies a universal, not a peculiar characteristic, and, on its face, protects everyone, not just a subset of the population. Everyone has a race. Everyone has a sexual orientation. Everyone has a religion, even, for the purposes of the statute (– it would be illegal to discriminate against atheists or agnostics).

Arguments with bigots often turn on the bigots perverting or denying this universalism — the bigots will claim that a particular group is specially privileged by anti-discrimination legislation. This can be a critical political frontier in the struggle to achieve or maintain civil rights. But, it is the essence of bigotry to establish a hostility between an in-group versus an out-group, with an eye to protecting the privilege of one, or protesting the (supposedly wrongly assigned) privilege of the other.

The second point is that the law is informed by history. These universals are chosen for these enactments, because we have had experience with the pernicious effects of social conflict, oppression and injustice built on principles of discrimination. There’s a history of horrendous racial oppression. There’s a history of religious wars. There’s a history of cruelty and caste regarding sexuality and sexual orientation.

Forgetting history is a second frontier in arguments with bigots. The bigots will always want to forget history, or to deny that effects of that history are still with us. They will attempt to use universal principles to protect their right to discriminate, humiliate and denigrate, and to recreate the in-group privilege and out-group oppression that is their political desiderata. The racialists will argue that prohibitions on racial or ethnic discrimination make efforts at diversifying college admissions or police forces or other workplaces, illegal, for example. (David Bernstein, George Mason University and Volokh Conspiracy, has made a career out of these kinds of arguments.)

In this context, “traditional marriage” is an exercise in forgetting history. Actual historic marriage, only as long ago as, say, 1950, was quite a different institution from marriage in 21st century America, embedded in a web of sexual repression and control, which the Sexual Revolution overthrew. 21st century marriage is not a license for sexual intercourse in anyone’s concept, but that’s exactly what it was, legally, in 1950 America. In the new concept, marriage is a nearly entirely private matter of a committed, continually voluntary relationship, and excluding perfectly legal sexual relationships from marriage makes no sense — reason immediately recognizes the senseless of discrimination in this matter. But, that’s because we no longer make adultery or fornication or masturbation a matter of the criminal law, nor do we make sodomy a more serious crime than arson; a big-city mayor would not initiate his re-election campaign with raids on gay bars or having the police beat up transvestites in the streets; we don’t prohibit birth control (or at least, not most means). Etc.

I have no doubt that there are many people of good will, who find in their subjective reactions, some un-thought-out impulse of . . . I don’t know . . . discomfort or disgust, with the idea of gay marriage, and they seek to rationalize or justify those feelings, as humans are wont to do. But, there are also committed bigots, who have an agenda of bigotry, who want to re-create the evils of the past. There are white supremacists, still. And, people, who want to prohibit abortion, and birth control, and put women into a subordinate roles, etc. We shouldn’t let the bigots disguise themselves, with a forgetfulness of history and experience.

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etv13 03.07.14 at 7:51 pm

@JanieM: (Your link made me have to close my browser to get rid of the obnoxiously loud ad it played.) Religion is a special case; it’s on the list precisely because it enjoys a special status under the First Amendment. That doesn’t vitiate the general principle the Graf laid out. Nor do I think the specters of pedophilia or psychopathy offer a good reason to abandon that principle. As for religion, it cuts both ways: if you can’t discriminate against me on the basis of my religion (or rather, lack thereof, in my particular case), I can’t use my religious beliefs (the admittedly purely hypothetical ones) as a basis for discriminating against you. That’s the law as I believe it currently stands (at least with respect to multifamily landlords and most employers), and that’s the way I think it should be.

I’m sorry you think I’m trying to trap you in a game of gotcha. I’m not; I think it’s important to think and argue about these issues. I’m not proposing any legislation, but as Bruce Baugh points out, somebody has to decide the corner cases, and when they do, they need some tools for dealing with them.

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etseq 03.07.14 at 7:56 pm

@253 Meh…That article is much like the comments in this thread – it’s a sophisticated version of concern trolling i.e., its written in as pastiche of the worst of Foucauldian post-structuralism – a bit of anti-foundationalism here and bit of social constructionism there – but the trolling comes at the end with the big reveal – after he has dissolved all the folk essentialism that gives rise to the modernism we take for granted, he then reverts back to pre-modern natural law to anchor his morality, which is completely contradicts everything he wrote up to that point. Who does he hope to convince with such a bait and switch? Not the traditionalists who never accepted modernism to begin with, nor the post-modernists who may agree with his criticisms of modernism but have no desire to return to the pre-modern repression of traditional religion. The only audience I can see who takes him seriously are a few cynical queer theorists who cling to some rose colored nostalgia for a non-existent sexual nirvana that supposedly existed prior to the “creation” of modern sexual categories. For those few “idealists” who think that the abjection of the closet was superior to our modern politics of equality, then they are free to ally themselves with repressive religion in some bizarre gambit to turn the clock back. I know of one “radical” law professor who hates the concept of gay marriage so much that he actually published a law review article proposing an alliance between radical “queers” (as far as I can tell he definition of “queer” is so extreme that Judith Butler and he are basically the only people who fits) and fundamentalist religions, including ex-gay therapists who he seems to think shares his desire to “abolish” modern sexual categories. See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1677934.

Does anyone talk this stuff seriously? Who knows – maybe concern trolling is an viable strategy for academic careerism but for quotidienne politics? Not so much…

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 8:04 pm

@adam.smith

Why is “being Lutheran” … more of an identity than “being a Klansman”[?]

I don’t know. I suppose it isn’t. Since I never said or implied that it was, I’m not sure what you’re getting at here.

I would consider both to constitute voluntary membership in a private club, and both to give rise to an implication of certain “beliefs” or a certain “belief system.” But that’s not really the point.

I didn’t attempt to articulate an organizing principle by which the target’s “being a Lutheran” is not a valid basis for discrimination, but his “being a Klansman” is. [And I would really, really like to know why everyone always seems to go sprinting and racing as fast as they can to the Ku Klux Klan, specifically and by name, as the immediate, instant, automatic, reflexive and ubiquitous avatar for any actor in any pseudo-illustrative counter-example...]

Is “being a Lutheran” the kind of thing we should compel or require someone to change or discard in order to avoid discriminatory treatment?

Is “being a Klansman” the kind of thing we should compel or require someone to change or discard in order to avoid discriminatory treatment?

If the answers to these questions are not the same, why?

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 8:10 pm

@Bruce W.:

So, you think someone cannot change her religion?

Of course someone can change her religion.

I think your interpretation misses a couple of other key points about the shape of the law in this area.

Which is why I qualified it as an “over-simplified” expression made in “layman’s terms,” not an “interpretation.”

In this context, “traditional marriage” is an exercise in forgetting history.

I like to think of it as an exercise in thought control, but that’s really the same thing.

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JanieM 03.07.14 at 8:11 pm

@JanieM: (Your link made me have to close my browser to get rid of the obnoxiously loud ad it played.)

Sorry. I read CT in Firefox with scripts turned off. I see no ads and hear no music, so I didn’t realize that would happen.

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JanieM 03.07.14 at 8:17 pm

I should have said that I surf the web in general (not just CT) in Firefox with scripts turned off. If there’s something I particularly want to see/hear, I open IE and look at it there. Keeps the clutter and nonsense at bay.

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adam.smith 03.07.14 at 8:20 pm

I didn’t attempt to articulate an organizing principle by which the target’s “being a Lutheran” is not a valid basis for discrimination, but his “being a Klansman” is.

I wasn’t sure whether you are, but that is the organizing principle underlying current anti-discrimination law. Religion is protected, politics isn’t. I think that’s right, but I’m not entirely sure why. Are you saying it isn’t?

(Klansmen, btw., just make for great illustrations, both literally and figuratively. They don’t violate Godwin, yet everyone decent agrees they’re evil AND they wear costumes that make them easy to picture. The Klan has also been the “beneficiary” of some of the best known defenses of free speech, such as the ACLU’s representation of Brandenburg in Brandenburg v. Ohio, so using the Klan for extreme cases isn’t just a hypothetical ).

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CJColucci 03.07.14 at 8:26 pm

I suspect that the reason behind what classes our antidiscrimination laws protect is not a general principle, although most of the classes, except religion, would comfortably fit into the “born this way” theory and you could craft an explanation for religion based on its being, if not inborn, at least very hard to change. I suspect, though, that the classes we select for protection are selected for us by the discriminators themselves: religion gets protected because enough people discriminate against, say, Jews, to make it a big enough problem to address; politics does not get protected because not enough people discriminate against, say, Republicans to make it a big enough problem to address.

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Ragweed 03.07.14 at 8:37 pm

Is there no protection for Republicans or other political alignments? Can someone fire an employee because they are a member of the Republican or Democratic Party? I thought there were some protections along those lines.

John

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adam.smith 03.07.14 at 8:44 pm

politics does not get protected because not enough people discriminate against, say, Republicans to make it a big enough problem to address.

see, but I’m not convinced that’s the case. I mean – it’s obviously true for mainstream politics, but you can’t tell me that discrimination against communists hasn’t been pretty significant. There were employment blacklists, after all. Obviously that doesn’t mean there’s a good principle, it could just be that protection of religion is much more deeply rooted in US history than that of political views.
But I still wonder if there isn’t actually something that does distinguish the two.

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SamChevre 03.07.14 at 8:50 pm

SFAIK, the answer to “Is there no protection for Republicans or other political alignments? ” is no.

The level of skewedness in political position in most college faculties or government departments would get disparate impact scrutiny if the outcomes of a protected group were that disparate.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 8:53 pm

Religion is protected, politics isn’t. I think that’s right, but I’m not entirely sure why. Are you saying it isn’t?”

Am I saying what isn’t what?

Irrespective of what you or I think, “politics” is not enumerated amongst the protected classes or characteristics in the Civil Rights Act. “Religion” is. (Bear in mind also that the Civil Rights Act only prohibits employment discrimination.) The Supreme Court’s Equal Protection and Due Process jurisprudence recognizes neither religion nor politics as a protected class; religion is protected separately by the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment.

Refusing to serve a Klansman because he is a Klansman is not the same as refusing to serve a gay person because he is gay. What’s the difference? We could spend all day listing the differences between a generic Klansman and a generic gay person, and the justifications for refusing to do business with one and the other.

Let me introduce The Trolley Problem.

Scenario 1: Trent is the driver of a runaway trolley, that through no fault of his own is careening down the tracks out of control. There are three workmen on the track up ahead who cannot be warned in time to get out of the way. If Trent throws a switch, he can divert the trolley onto a side track where there is only one workman, who also cannot be warned. Trent throws the switch, and the trolley kills the one workman on the side track, sparing the other three.

Scenario 2: Dave is a doctor with three terminally-ill patients in his office ward, each in need of an organ transplant. A healthy patient comes in for his annual check-up. Dave anesthetizes the patient, harvests his organs and gives them to the three ward patients, saving their lives.

Now, the proper result in each case, at first blush, is obvious: Trent did the right thing, Dave did not. Trent’s action is not and should not be punishable by law, Dave’s is, and should be. But when you start to examine their actions, the choices they made and the reasons why they made those choices, the similarities overwhelm the differences. Trent and Dave both effectively made the same choice for the same reasons with the same outcome, yet one is regarded as a hero and the other as a murderer. Not only are we OK with what Trent did, but we would want anyone in Trent’s position to do the same thing. Not only are we not OK with what Dave did, we don’t want anyone else to ever do that.

The question is, why? And the reason for asking why is not to suggest that either outcome is wrong, that the outcome should be the same in both cases, or to advocate on either Trent or Dave’s behalf. Why is society willing to tolerate what Trent did, but not what Dave did? (Or, conversely, why is society willing to punish Dave, but not punish Trent?)

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Ze Kraggash 03.07.14 at 8:53 pm

I like JColucci’s pragmatic-heuristic line: something becomes a problem – it gets legislated, end of story. There is a trouble, however: it has to be a certain sort of problem. Something that is deemed problematic by the elites first, and then advocated and propagandized so that a corrective legislation can be enacted. There’s certainly more than a whiff of decadence in a discussion of the terrible indignity of being refused a bespoke cake, while at the same time there is no law (and will never be) against refusing a slice of bread to a hungry kid who can’t pay for it.

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Ed Herdman 03.07.14 at 9:02 pm

I think simple fear (and the use of “security of the country / military necessity”) and unknown quantities could explain discrimination against groups which can be portrayed (however disingenuously) as arrayed against the country’s interests. Somebody who actually does want to overthrow the legal order, like KKK members or GL Rockwell’s Nazis, well you might see them down at the trading station, so let’s give ‘em a pass.

Aside from being centered at the edge, if not in the heart of the South, Washington D.C. society in the era of HUAC doesn’t seem to have been flooded with real communists (how many communists were there in the area)? The old boys’ consensus about dealing with blacks started to crumble, but communists have apparently remained sufficiently exotic in the corridors of power to continue to be an easy target for Othering even today.

Also, Plantinga. Hahahah. I can only read a few paragraphs about Plantinga at a time before twitching…holy crap. But still not as crazy as that guy etseq linked to, who apparently is the person Alex had in mind way upthread talking about gay supremacists. Saying that gays should enter an alliance with ex-gay therapists…gives me another chance to mention that Chappelle Show skit about the “blind black white supremacist.”

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 9:13 pm

There’s certainly more than a whiff of decadence in a discussion of the terrible indignity of being refused a bespoke cake, while at the same time there is no law (and will never be) against refusing a slice of bread to a hungry kid who can’t pay for it.

A “hungry kid who can’t pay for” something can’t accept the offer, and thus can’t form an enforceable contract with the merchant; no consideration, no acceptance, no contract. The premise behind commercial discrimination is that the merchant makes the same offer to everyone on the same terms, those terms including price. Someone comes in with money to spend accepts that offer, with consideration; if the merchant then withdraws the offer, he breaches the contract.

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adam.smith 03.07.14 at 9:27 pm

@Graf – obviously the Trolley problem doesn’t need introduction on this blog… but even for the significantly more hypothetical Trolley problem, the point of the different scenarios is to, in the wise words of Wikipedia “find a relevant moral distinction between the two cases.” and so given that at least for me (and I’m still not entirely sure what you actually think) it _is_ OK to discriminate against the Klansman (but not the gay man), I’m trying to figure out what the exact nature of that moral distinction is.

You propose as an answer ” unfair and unlawful to discriminate based on a characteristic that a person cannot help having, and cannot simply voluntarily change.” in @254 and then try to explain how that applies to religion in @257. I then say that I’m unconvinced that you can use this to distinguish between religion and politics — and from that point I honestly don’t understand what you’re arguing anymore. If you could rephrase what you’re trying to say in 262 and 271 that would help. To restate what I don’t understand is
1. Do you think there should be a ban on discrimination based on politics?
2. If you don’t think there should be such a ban, by what organizing principle do you distinguish deeply held religious beliefs from deeply held political beliefs.

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CJColucci 03.07.14 at 9:45 pm

Ragweed:
There is some protection, but only in the context of public employment, for political affiliation. Quick, dirty, and oversimplified, if you’re an ordinary government employee, say a cop or a doctor in a public hospital or an accountant in the tax department, you can’t lose your job because of your political affiliation. If you’re a — legal buzzword alert — “policymaker,” however, you can be canned for political reasons, the logic being that the “policymaker” is intimately involved in carrying out not merely the routine functions of the office, but also advancing the policy goals of the political people in charge. The question of who is a “policymaker” can be tricky. Sometimes, it’s obvious. If a Republican wins in 2016, Attorney General Eric Holder is out on his ass. But what about the line Assistant U.S. Attorneys in, say, Newark? Not so clear. I and over a hundred Assistant Attorneys General in NY lost our jobs when a Republican won as Attorney General (an elected office in New York). Although most of us simply processed the continuing flow of lawsuits day in and day out and were never consulted on anything that might be considered “policy,” those who sued were told they were “policymakers” and, hence, subject to politically-motivated termination. Application can be difficult, but the principle is clear enough.

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SamChevre 03.07.14 at 9:54 pm

oversimplified, if you’re an ordinary government employee, say a cop or a doctor in a public hospital or an accountant in the tax department, you can’t lose your job because of your political affiliation.

One over-simplification I think is key is that you CAN be not considered for hire for reasons that are closely related to political affiliation, in ways that would be sharply illegal if applied to race or gender.

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etseq 03.07.14 at 10:04 pm

@273 Although I am huge fan of Chappell and loved the skit you referenced, I don’t think it captures the nuanced absurdity of the “queer theorist alliance with ex-gay fundamentalist” The post-modern turn in the humanities has effectively isolated and minimized its impact on the development of normative legal theory. The humanities in many ways turned its critical lens inward and has devolved into obscurantism ever since rendering it incapable of even communicating with other disciplines.

In the case of the Queer Theorist law professor, its incorrect to label him as a “Gay Supremacist” because Queer is orthogonal to Gay – by insisting on the denaturalization of all identity categories, Queer attempts to delegitimize the very conception of “Gay” and “Straight” and in the internal battles of academic gay politics of the 1990s, Queer was just as antagonistic towards Gay as fundamentalist religion was. Queer lost the battle, however, because of this reflexive nihilism that made it a difficult sell to ordinary people not invested in elite academic discourse. This attack on “identity politics” from the Left was not unique to sexual orientation – race and gender were also vulnerable to post-structuralist criticism. There was a similar movement in the legal academy that attempted to apply post-modern techniques to the law – Critical Legal Studies, Critical Race Theory, etc. The “Crits” however were never that influential outside of a few elite law journals – the humanities were not so lucky.
Back to the Queer Theorist law prof, its difficult to comprehend the level of cognitive dissonance that leads an out “gay” law professor to so despise state of left politics that he views fundamentalist religion as his natural ally against Barack Obama. He seems to have been inspired by Judith Butler and her “anti-foundationalist coalition politics” (pause for a moment to absorb that he thinks this is a coherent concept worth emulating) and really does take seriously the aphorism – the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That he embraces the advocates of psychological torture (ex-gay therapists) is a level of self-loathing that shocks me as a gay man. He is lucky that he has such a secure academic placement that allows him to theorize such nonsense.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 10:06 pm

1. Do you think there should be a ban on discrimination based on politics?

No.

2. If you don’t think there should be such a ban, by what organizing principle do you distinguish deeply held religious beliefs from deeply held political beliefs.

The question makes no sense, because the answer to (1) does not require a distinction between “deeply held religious beliefs” and “deeply held political beliefs.”

[I think we've also lost sight of the fact that in this context, "deeply-held religious beliefs" are being used as a sword rather than a shield, to excuse, justify or grant permission for discrimination rather than protect the holder from discriminatory treatment, but that's not really relevant now as we're only talking about them as a shield at this point.]

I did not “propose as an answer” to this or anything else by stating that it is “unfair and unlawful to discriminate based on a characteristic that a person cannot help having, and cannot simply voluntarily change.” (Which it is.) I was attempting to explain — in a highly over-simplified 35,000-foot-high-level-abstract fashion — the principle underlying the inclusion of enumerated categories (expressio unius est exclusio alterius) set forth in anti-discrimination statutes such as Title VII, and “protected classes” under the Supreme Court’s Equal Protection and Due Process jurisprudence. I.e., the reason why some specific enumerated human characteristics are singled out in law as being an improper basis for discriminatory treatment — which itself is not, in and of itself, unfair or unlawful.

Of course, the “immutable characteristic” aspect doesn’t end the inquiry, as several others have pointed out. It could be argued that religion, unlike race and gender, is not an “immutable characteristic” — but then again it could be argued that race and gender are not immutable characteristics either, since they can at least outwardly be “changed.” But the fact that a characteristic is not necessarily immutable does not necessitate that it be removed from the list. The analysis then shifts from immutable characteristics, things a person cannot change or abandon, to characteristics that a person should not be compelled or required to change or abandon in order to avoid discriminatory treatment.

The problem with the phrase “should not” is that it implies at least some level of subjective moral judgment. We should not punish Trent for killing the one track workman; Dave should not be at liberty to harvest a healthy patient’s organs.

The ultimate point is that the fact that the answer to the question of whether it is OK for [X] to discriminate against [Y], to mistreat [Y], inflict economic harm upon [Y], to effectively punish [Y] for being [Y], might be different depending on what [Y] is, does not invalidate the entire premise of discrimination. It is neither inconsistent nor hypocritical to answer no if [Y] is gay, and yes if [Y] is a member of a political hate group, or beats his wife, or has bad breath.

[I]t _is_ OK to discriminate against the Klansman (but not the gay man), I’m trying to figure out what the exact nature of that moral distinction is.

The answer lies in the answer to the Trolley Problem.

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Collin Street 03.07.14 at 10:17 pm

Of course someone can change her religion.

They can’t, you know. What you believe isn’t under your conscious control.

[there are problems with most of what you write that suggests you haven't done a very good job thinking through things. Doubt yourself more: if you're acting in good faith your errors must therefore be invisible to you.]

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adam.smith 03.07.14 at 10:35 pm

The answer lies in the answer to the Trolley Problem.

Oh, cut the condescension. You’re not my highschool teacher. If you think there is a clear answer, spell it out, don’t turn it into a Socratic guessing game.

It is neither inconsistent nor hypocritical to answer no if [Y] is gay, and yes if [Y] is a member of a political hate group, or beats his wife, or has bad breath.

I’m not interested in labeling anyone as hypocritical nor in invalidating the premise of discrimination(???). I’m interested in getting sexual orientation recognized as an enumerated protected class across the board (as opposed to the patchwork we have now that leaves it out where its most needed) and for that reason I’m interested in formulating the best set of arguments of why it should be. Obviously I know that better arguments don’t win political fights, but they may help a little.

So let’s take this:

the fact that the answer to the question of whether it is OK for [X] to discriminate against [Y][...] might be different depending on what [Y] is

That’s obviously true. But if we have a debate as a society about which Ys should be shielded against discrimination some clear rules on how to identify them might help. (CJColucci disagrees – they think it should be handled pragmatically where needed. I can respect that as a view, but I don’t find it convincing). And I’m entirely unsure where you’re going with the “The problem with the phrase “should not” is that it implies at least some level of subjective moral judgment.” This sounds like you want to leave this to the subjective moral judgment of…the majority?…decent people? But surely that can’t be right.

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Alex 03.07.14 at 10:44 pm

I don’t think the law is as principled as people think. Classes got on the list because of politicians were reacting to particular historical circumstances, anti-semitism, segregation and discrimination against women. Is there any statement from the time where someone made a principle based justification based on immutability? I’m not aware of one, they just had particular sympathies. In other places different sympathies lead to other classes, like marital status or military service, being included.

As for sexual orientation, what makes that different from other sexual proclivities? Why is it wrong to discriminate against a gay man, but not a foot fetishist. Again, it’s just the way people’s sympathies lie at the moment, not a matter of principle or logic.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 10:45 pm

@adam.smith:

Let’s also be clear about what a, quote, “ban on discrimination” actually is. I think a lot of misunderstanding about this issue comes from a fundamental failure to understand exactly how we, quote, “ban” discrimination, in part because of all the focus on what should be, quote, “banned” and why.

Discrimination is not a crime. It has never been a crime, never will be a crime, and no one with any influence is suggesting or advocating that it should be a crime. No one has ever gone, and no one will ever go, to prison, or even on probation, as a result of having discriminated against an employee or a customer (including a potential employee or customer). No one has ever been stopped, arrested, detained, or questioned by police for discriminating against an employee or a customer. No one has ever been issued a ticket or citation, nor has anyone ever paid, nor will anyone ever pay, one single dollar in fines to the federal government, nor to any state or local government, as punishment for discriminating against an employee or customer.

Discrimination is not a crime, a misdemeanor, a violation, or a civil offense. It might be a tort, it might be a breach of contract, but it’s not precisely either of those.

What it is is the subject of a private civil cause of action that is expressly authorized by statute. In other words, the legislature provides that a person can sue an employer, commercial actor, or other person or entity who is in a position to discriminate, for damages caused by the discriminatory treatment on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or whatever other improper basis are set forth in the statute.

Because it is a private civil cause of action, the plaintiff (i.e., the accuser) bears the burden of proving that (1) he was treated in a discriminatory fashion, (2) the treatment was substantially motivated by his membership in one of the enumerated categories, and (3) he suffered economic harm as a result.

What all this means is that the law does not actually, quote, “ban” discrimination at all. What it does is allow individuals to enforce their right to equal or non-discriminatory treatment, within the legal/statutory definitions thereof. To the extent the discriminatory treatment is not set forth in the statute, the victim can still sue (under a tort or contract theory), but again this does not constitute a “ban” on discrimination so much as a right of action to redress whatever economic harms it causes.

If anything, anti-discrimination statutes and common-law doctrines impose a legal duty on employers and commercial actors to treat employees and customers in a non-discriminatory fashion. When they discriminate, they run the risk of breaching that duty and causing economic harm to the counterparty, for which the law will hold them accountable — if that breach of duty, causation and damages can be proven. As in all other situations, the actor has to decide if the behavior is worth the risk of being successfully sued for any economic harms his behavior inflicts on others.

Imposing a legal duty with respect to a certain behavior is not the same as “banning” that behavior. Discrimination is not “banned” in this country; we have a legal duty to treat others fairly. There’s a difference.

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etv13 03.07.14 at 10:51 pm

In California, Labor Code sections 1101 and 1102 protect the political affiliations and activities of non-governmental employees. I believe several other states have such statutory protections as well.

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adam.smith 03.07.14 at 10:54 pm

@Graf – I do understand the basics of anti-discrimination law, thanks. I use “ban” as a shorthand the same way much of the media does. I don’t see how that changes anything, though.

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adam.smith 03.07.14 at 10:59 pm

@etv13 – that’s really interesting, thanks! I did know that states had passed legislation limiting lay-offs under at will contracts, didn’t know that some specifically enumerated politics. That’s good, of course (though really, the solution should be to just abolish at will employment. Not that that’s ever going to happen). See also Corey and Chris’s great posts on employment and freedom.

That said, this wouldn’t affect hiring, though, would it? You could refuse to hire conservatives but not women or African Americans, right?

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 11:16 pm

If you think there is a clear answer, spell it out, don’t turn it into a Socratic guessing game.

OK, OK. No condescension intended; just busy with other things and trying to save time. I don’t necessarily think there is a clear answer, but here goes:

The Trolley Problem illustrates that two identical choices made for the same reason with the same result under different circumstances can properly have two very different legal and moral outcomes for the actors making those choices. Where saving three lives at the expense of one was the proper moral outcome in one scenario, it was not the proper moral outcome in the other, hence the legal outcomes are properly different. The distinctions lie not in the choices the actors made, but in the surrounding circumstances, the people affected by those choices, and how society as a whole incentivizes, encourages, and discourages behavior.

Working on the railroad is a dangerous job. But it’s a job that society needs and wants people to be willing to do. We want people to do dangerous jobs; we want people to take the kinds of risks that Trent and the track workmen were taking by going to work every day in the train yard. In other words, we want people to be willing to work on the railroad; we want them to voluntarily take the risk of being run over by a runaway train, and we want them to take the risk of being at the controls when a train gets out of control, having to make that kind of decision, and we want them to minimize harms however they can.

By contrast, a doctor’s office is not supposed to be a dangerous place for people who go in there voluntarily for treatment. A person going to the doctor should not be at risk, and should not have to bear the risk, of being carved up by a physician to be an involuntary organ donor. We want people to be healthy; we want them to go to the doctor, and not just when they’re sick, hence we don’t want them to fear for their lives if and whenever they do.

In short, we want people to go to work on the railroad knowing they might not come home alive, but we don’t want people to go to the doctor’s office knowing they might not come home alive. We’re willing to put railroad workers at risk in ways we’re not willing to put patients at risk.

Now, recall:

Is “being a Lutheran” the kind of thing we should compel or require someone to change or discard in order to avoid discriminatory treatment?

Is “being a Klansman” the kind of thing we should compel or require someone to change or discard in order to avoid discriminatory treatment?

Remember that discrimination is a private civil cause of action, not something that is “banned” by law. It’s the individual’s job to enforce his right to be treated fairly; he can choose to do that, or he can choose to change the characteristic or behavior that motivates the unfair treatment. If he can’t do the former, he can only do the latter. If we don’t allow him to sue (or if his suit does not succeed), then there is at least an element of society telling him that he should change if he wants to avoid the unfair treatment.

So, do we want to make people change their religion? Do we want to tell people they have to stop being Lutheran?

Do we want to tell people they have to stop being Klansmen?

I think a moral argument could be made that the answer to the former question is no, and the latter question is yes. I think one could make the case that society as a whole would want to encourage religious affiliation, or even perhaps be indifferent thereto, but would want to discourage membership in violent racist hate groups. I think there’s a difference between saying to a person, “If you want equal treatment, stop being a Lutheran,” and “If you want equal treatment, stop being a Klansman.”

So, where does “If you want equal treatment, stop being gay” fall into this spectrum? Can society ask, require or compel a person to “stop being gay” in like fashion? Assuming it could, would society want to discourage people from being gay, in the same sense it would want to discourage people from joining racist hate groups?

I think the answer to both of these last two questions is “no.” But not everyone would agree.

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etv13 03.07.14 at 11:20 pm

GrafZeppelin127 @ 283: Actually, in California the DFEH can impose administrative penalties of up to $150k per complainant in a discrimination suit, and the federal EEOC can impose “liquidated damages” of double the actual damages under the ADEA, so it’s not strictly accurate to say there are no governmental penalties for discrimination.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 11:26 pm

@etv13,

Thanks; I’ll look into that. If there are statutes in other states that I’m not aware of that impose criminal penalties for discrimination, then I stand corrected. But authorizing special damages in a civil lawsuit or administrative proceeding is not the same thing as levying fines for criminal misconduct.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 11:28 pm

@adam.smith:

I use “ban” as a shorthand the same way much of the media does.

Apologies again; I didn’t mean to imply that you, personally, didn’t understand this.

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etv13 03.07.14 at 11:33 pm

adam.smith@286: Here’s what the treatise I consulted (Wilcox, California Employment Law) has to say about that, in its sections on what you can inquire about in a job interview: “Inquiries regarding an applicant’s membership in organizations and non-work activities can lead to claims of discrimination. While nothing in Title VII or the FEHA specifically prohibits such inquiries, membership in certain groups can disclose protected status. . . . [big jump] Labor Code section 1101 guarantees employees’ rights to political freedom. . . . While this statute does not refer to applicants, inquiry into political activity in the interview phase, could be construed as tending to control or direct the employee’s political affiliations in the future.” In other words, it’s not strictly prohibited, but most California labor and employment lawyers would probably advise their clients not to ask or base hiring decisions on it. (I certainly would.) Bear in mind, if you’re a decent-sized employer, just getting sued on something like this is going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and that’s if you win.

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etv13 03.07.14 at 11:42 pm

GrafZeppelin127: Also, California Labor Code section 1103 makes violation of sections 1101 or 1102 (among others) a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to one year.

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Ze Kraggash 03.07.14 at 11:50 pm

I think there’s a difference between saying to a person, “If you want equal treatment, stop being a Lutheran,” and “If you want equal treatment, stop being a Klansman.”

For some reason this reminds me of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.07.14 at 11:50 pm

@etv13,

I don’t think those sections of the Labor Code proscribe the kind of discrimination we’re talking about here. They appear to prohibit employers from making rules forbidding, coercing or controlling employees’ political activities, coercing or threatening employees, retaliating against them, and so forth. This is a whistleblowing statute, not an anti-discrimination statute.

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Ed Herdman 03.07.14 at 11:54 pm

@ 278: Agreed, there’s layers of absurdity in “the real deal” beyond what the skit made of it.

@ adam.smith:

“That said, this wouldn’t affect hiring, though, would it? You could refuse to hire conservatives but not women or African Americans, right?”

There are some sentiments here against at-will employment, but it’s worth mentioning that a lot – no idea if it’s wise to say “probably most,” but surely tons – during the hiring process, simply because of the ease with which it could be said that “we thought other applicants were uniquely qualified.” Even saying “we thought other applicants would be a better fit with our corporate culture” doesn’t seem to raise eyebrows.

There was at least one very recent study which sent around resumes with “non-white-sounding” names and there was significantly lower follow-through on those than on the applications with the white-sounding names.

Thankfully, it doesn’t seem that politics can be easily determined from one’s name (although an employer could make a guess that an applicant with a “black-sounding” name might be a Democrat, and a well-presented application with a white sounding name applying for a management job might be a Republican).

Excuse me if I’m getting off the rails a bit here though – the hiring process allows for a lot of abuses because it is fundamentally about giving one person the power to approve or disapprove of another in a way with potentially material consequences, and as enough people making employment decisions share similar biases, on the aggregate you have a sizable problem of bias against various people – though I’ve not heard that there is a political component to this (at least in the post-blacklist days, but that didn’t permeate society in the way that still current anti-black job discrimination seems to).

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etv13 03.08.14 at 12:40 am

GrafZeppelin127: Section 1102.5 is explicitly a whistleblowing statute. Section 1101, on the other hand, says “No employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy: (a) Forbidding or preventing employees from engaging or participating in politics or from becoming candidates for public office. (b) Controlling, or directing, or tending to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees.” Section 1102 says employers can’t coerce employees into adopting or refraining from following “any particular course or line of political action or political activity” by threatening to fire them. That sounds like a lot more than whistleblowing to me. Now I’m going to go off and read Gay Law Students Assn v. Pacific Telephone, because according to the annotations, that case included a claim of wrongful refusal to hire, and I want to see what became of it.

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Collin Street 03.08.14 at 12:45 am

Apologies again; I didn’t mean to imply that you, personally, didn’t understand this.

Hrm.

Then who was your comment directed to, who was it you wished to impart previously-unknown unknown information to?

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GrafZeppelin127 03.08.14 at 12:45 am

@etv13,

OK, but it’s still not an anti-discrimination law akin to Title VII (42 USC 2000e et seq), let alone a proscription of commercial discrimination of the sort contemplated by, e.g., Arizona’s SB1062.

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adam.smith 03.08.14 at 1:12 am

@Graf – thanks, I was maybe just getting frustrated bc I felt we were talking past each other. But this is helpful:

I think one could make the case that society as a whole would want to encourage religious affiliation, or even perhaps be indifferent thereto, but would want to discourage membership in violent racist hate groups. I think there’s a difference between saying to a person, “If you want equal treatment, stop being a Lutheran,” and “If you want equal treatment, stop being a Klansman.”

I don’t think this works. The main reason is that you could substitute “social democrat” for “Klansman” and I’m not convinced that there is a difference between “I think there’s a difference between saying to a person, “If you want equal treatment, stop being a Lutheran,” and “If you want equal treatment, stop being a Klansman.””
But I don’t think the state should be in the business of distinguishing acceptable from unacceptable political views, so any rule that applies to a Klansman needs to apply equally to a social democrat. (This is assuming, of course, that the Klansman hasn’t done anything illegal, in which case discrimination could be based on his criminal record).

The other reason is that I’m uncomfortable making non-discrimination essentially dependent on social approval. I don’t think we’d want to argue that protection against discrimination should depend on society deeming a group “worthy”. This may, as others have suggested, empirically be the case, but I’d say that’s a bad thing. (btw. most arguments about Trolley problem I’m aware of focus on differences in the actions – i.e. process rules – rather than context.)

So for me this leaves me with these still unsatisfactory, but at least tentative rules for when a class should be protected:
1. history of discrimination
2. key part of a persons identity
to this I’d add
3. no negative impact on others

I believe 3.) here is key to allowing us to distinguish politics from religion (or sexual orientation).

@etv13 – thanks, I appreciate you taking the time to look that up. Makes it all the more scandalous that we still have no such protection for sexual orientation in 29 states. Who knows, ENDA might actually pass the House at some point.

@Ed – of course de facto discrimination occurs in hiring and is, unless the employer is rather inept, impossible to prove. That’s a problem with no good solution – as I mention upthread there are agencies that use undercover stings to expose such discrimination in housing, but in employment the same is all but impossible, but of course no reason to give up on anti-discrimination provisions. For large employers it may be possible to make a statistical case that discrimination occurs. That has been done successfully for promotions in the past, though of course it’s much harder for hiring.

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adam.smith 03.08.14 at 1:13 am

ugh, messed up key paragraph. Should read:

I’m not convinced that there is a difference between “If you want equal treatment, stop being a Lutheran,” and “If you want equal treatment, stop being a social democrat”

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roy belmont 03.08.14 at 1:29 am

etseq-
Of the 16 (so far) uses in this thread of the noun phrase “concern troll” and its adverbial noun instance “concern trolling”, 10 of them have been by you.
This seems to be something you’re very concerned about.

Also:
… sophisticated enough to engage on the surface level but then spew out paragraph after paragraph of non-sequitors, along with a nasty libertarian dudebro attitude.

Gonzo! Fiery breath! Mean and quick-witted invective!
Gettin it done, man!
-
More seriously – there was a movement in my youth some of the older readers here maybe familiar with. It was called the “Civil Rights” Movement.
Very controversial at the time, a certain amount of polarity in evidence (you wouldn’t believe how nasty, and mainstream), and a lot of legal battles.
Also assassinations. Martin Luther King, the acknowledged hero of that movement, was killed in an assassination that to this day is pretty much unresolved.
But “12 Years A Slave”! Lupita! Obama!
Yeah?
Jordan Davis. Trayvon Martin. The percentages of black males killed in the street, unemployed, in privatized prisons in virtual slavery.
Non sequitor right, you astute little thing you?
Maybe.
Or maybe the gloss of mainstream social acceptance, which is mostly a mediated virtual fantasyland, doesn’t mean much.
Maybe there’s a cosmetic aspect to same sex marriage, just like there is to the seemingly post-racist nature of American reality?
Maybe what was really going on there didn’t get fixed by laws and national holidays and school themes. Just prettied up.
But it sure made a lot of relatively gullible folks feel better. About things, and themselves.
There’s a constellation of motives behind the bigotry at question here. Not all of it is ignorant and superstitiously fearful. Some of it is genuine, if basically unsophisticated and bewildered, concern.
Not just for children as consumer accoutrements, but for the world those children will have to live in, and how they’ll have to live in it.
Yelling that it’s all nothing but prejudicial ignorance, wholly inferior to your massively superior grasp of what’s important, may make you feel better, but my guess is you feeling better isn’t going to do shit to change what really needs changing.

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etv13 03.08.14 at 1:46 am

Okay, here’s the deal on Gay Law Students’ Association v. Pacific Tel. & Tel.: It’s a 1979 California Supreme Court case that held (1) under the equal protection clauses of the federal and state constitutions, a public utility can’t discriminate against people in its employment practices on the basis of sexual orientation; (2) under a particular provision of California’s public utilities code, ditto; (3) the plaintiffs had a cause of action under Labor Code sections 1101 and 1102 for violation of their political rights; and (4) the then-existing California Fair Employment Practices Act did not protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. This part of the decision included a discussion of why the FEPA was not like the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which the California Supreme Court had held in 1970 barred all types of arbitrary discrimination with respect to public accommodations. The Unruh Act listed race, color, religion and sex as improper bases for discrimination, and in the 1970 case the court had held that the list was merely illustrative and not exclusive. But the Unruh Act, the court argued, was based on the common law principle that public accommodations should be equally available to all, while the FEPA was a legislative innovation that should be given a restrictive reading. The court also noted that the federal courts had all declined to extend Title VII, which also barred discrimination on the basis of sex, to sexual orientation discrimination.

Going back to Labor Code sections 1101 and 1102, the court in Gay Students Assn. held that they did protect applicants for employment as well as current employees. (I don’t know why the treatise I quoted upthread didn’t refer to this — it cited Gay Students Assn. in the section on wrongful termination.) The court noted that while the provisions only refer to employees, identical language in the federal Labor Management Relations Act had been held to include applicants, and it went on to say, “We cannot view the statutes as permitting employers to hire only members of the Republican Party, but forbidding them from hiring members of the Democratic Party.” The court also held that the political activities protected by the statutes extended beyond partisan activities and included things like wearing black armbands and advocating for gay people to “come out of the closet.” (The scare quotes are the court’s; I gather this was a relatively new concept — or at least term — back in 1979.)

So, adam.smith, there’s a more complete and (I hope) satisfactory answer to your question than I was able to give before, and GrafZeppelin127, I think based on this holding, sections 1101 and 1102 do function pretty equivalently to Title VII with respect to political activities and affiliations in California.

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GrafZeppelin127 03.08.14 at 1:48 am

@adam.smith,

I’m not sure I would put “being a Klansman” in the category of “political views.”

“Political views,” like “religious beliefs,” are thoughts. We can’t outlaw thoughts, we can’t evaluate thoughts, we can’t base legal duties and entitlements on thoughts, and we can’t even really encourage or discourage thoughts qua thoughts. Unlike being black, female or Mexican, which are characteristics, unlike being a rapist or a child molester, which are behaviors, and irrespective of thoughts being incidental to characteristics and behaviors, “views” and “beliefs” by themselves are pure thoughts.

Being a member of a violent racist hate group involves more than simply having thoughts. Seeking, attaining and maintaining membership in a particular club or organization is a behavior. And it’s a behavior that, one could argue, has a negative effect on society, even constitutes a threat to society, that society might have an interest in keeping to a minimum. Meaning society has an interest in having as few people as possible be members of violent racist hate groups, and therefore is not going to encourage or enable membership in violent racist hate groups (or encourage and enable any concomitant behaviors) by protecting members of violent racist hate groups from discrimination on the basis of such membership.

Does society have a similar interest in having as few people as possible being Lutherans?

Does society have a similar interest in having as few people as possible being social democrats?

Does society have a similar interest in having as few people as possible being gay?

One could argue that the existence and presence of violent racist hate groups is harmful to society. Is the existence and presence of Lutherans harmful to society in the same fashion? Or social democrats? Or gays?

I understand your frustration, but I’m just not sure we can really do much better than that. In the end society, via the law, has to make moral and legal judgments about what it will and will not tolerate. That answer is highly unsatisfactory and inadequate in light of Justice Scalia’s acid dissents in Romer, Lawrence and Windsor. But we’ve gotten to where we are in part because society has slowly, gradually, finally, come to the realization that the mere existence and presence of gay people is not harmful to society, let alone in the same way that the existence and presence of violent racist hate groups is harmful to society. And yet there are exceptions; the principle collapses if a person believes that gay people and homosexuality are just as evil, dangerous, threatening and harmful to society as Klansmen and racism.

But again, I don’t know if we can do any better. Eventually we reach a point where things really can’t be objectively and abstractly categorized any further, and we have to rely on our collective wisdom, experience and morality to “know” what’s right and reach the proper conclusion.

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etv13 03.08.14 at 1:52 am

Aargh. The quote in 302 above should be “forbidding them from firing members of the Democratic Party.” Sorry about that.

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Ed Herdman 03.08.14 at 3:43 am

The idea that being in the Klan isn’t sufficiently political seems strange to me. With apologies to Republicans, if you have some Republican who holds some Klan-like sentiments (but perhaps not the full spectrum), how do you propose to litmus test the difference between them and a Klansman?

I totally get the not wanting to give quarter to racism, but it seems that we can get tangled up in a process that will essentially end in just giving ad-hoc justifications for approving or disapproving of different groups’ right to partake in some of the goods of society.

@ adam.smith: Good expansion there of the points I was trying to make. I know you know of these things. One thing comes to mind, though – what makes stings against employers impossible? I see the difference between that and a sting of bars that don’t card minors, but I am not sure what the difference is with housing. HUD’s reliance on a network of small testing groups without good funding (e.g. Fair Housing Center of metro Detroit) seems to me to indicate what we might expect if the government tried to get started on policing this – it would only do it half-heartedly, with not enough funding and with prominent pushback and allegations of political interference from the business community.

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Collin Street 03.08.14 at 5:03 am

we can’t base legal duties and entitlements on thoughts,

Absolutely we can. In fact we do, all the time: whether you go to jail for five years or ten depends on what we reckon you were thinking when you killed the guy.

I’ve noticed that a lot of arguments seem predicated on the impossibility of seeing inside other people’s heads… but to be blunt this isn’t impossible at all, in the general case. We can, we do, work out what people are thinking by looking at what they’re doing, the same way we can work out people’s bone structure by looking at their skin: actions derive from thoughts, and so actions demonstrate thoughts. With some error and uncertainty, yes, absolutely, but very often not enough to matter.

307

MPAVictoria 03.08.14 at 5:31 am

“More seriously – there was a movement in my youth some of the older readers here maybe familiar with. It was called the “Civil Rights” Movement.”

If only Dr. King had said something about people who wanted to be cautious, people who ask those being oppressed to be patient and wait for equality.

http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

“Yelling that it’s all nothing but prejudicial ignorance, wholly inferior to your massively superior grasp of what’s important, may make you feel better, but my guess is you feeling better isn’t going to do shit to change what really needs changing.”

Hmmm… If only there was someway we could see if the current approach to gay rights was working or not? Some method through which we could discover if the attitude of the general public are changing.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/support-for-same-sex-marriage-hits-new-high-half-say-constitution-guarantees-right/2014/03/04/f737e87e-a3e5-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html

In short screw being understanding with bigots. We will drag them into the 21st century kicking and screaming. The kids will be better off growing up in a world where two people who love each other can get married, just like everybody else.

/but like I have already said twice you are no ally of mine.

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adam.smith 03.08.14 at 6:00 am

@Ed – there are two separate problems. One is political. Pretty much any rule enforcement in the US – and certainly all enforcement that affects poor people – is a disgrace. HUD is a good example, we’ve talked in a different thread about the joke that is labor law enforcement (even for easily enforceable things like hours&wages), we don’t even have to talk about safety & environmental inspection (the memory of West Virginia being fresh). That could, of course, all be solved and it wouldn’t even be terribly expensive since inspectors often pay for themselves via fines.

The additional issue with discrimination in employment however is that even with inspections it’s much harder to prove. For housing you just send two people, one black, one not to inquire about an apartment and if they tell the black person there is no vacancy or tell them a different price, that’s proof of discrimination. But for employment it’s much harder to show that the reason a person wasn’t called/interviewed/hired was because they were black/female/gay etc. Your best bet are statistics and that works only for relatively large firms or organizations and is basically impossible to apply on hiring because there is no way for you to get your hands on data about all applicants.

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etseq 03.08.14 at 6:31 am

@307 – Ditto – Roy isn’t a very good concern troll – they have to have thick skin to survive and he is obviously VERY sensitive to being called out on his crap.

The others in this thread seem to be more interested in metaphysical questions and in divining some sort of unifying theory to tie together various strands of jurisprudence and positive law regarding non-discrimination. It’s interesting but in the end I am too much of a legal realist to tilt at those windmills. I am not a cynic, however, and unlike the crits, I do see a valuable roll for legal counter-majoritarianism. Courts will always be constrained but they do serve as a signalling device for a certain type of public/constitutional morality that is very powerful, especially in light of the Civil Rights movement.

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roy belmont 03.08.14 at 6:36 am

like I have already said twice you are no ally of mine.
I don’t know how to make emoticons with punctuation keys, sadly.

Really trying here kid.

Okay, ready?
No?
I’ll wait.

Okay.
1. You’re seeing the public clamor for gay rights and the subsequent increase in approval ratings as causally related. As opposed to something a little more nuanced.
Which I tried real hard to say up there in simple easy to understand words.
Keeping the fundamentalists pumped and at the same time keeping them in the crosshairs of progressive scorn means there will never be a combined strength from those groups, working together.
They hate you, you hate them, what’s not to like? say the people that are fucking both of you over.
Ask Jamie Dimon if he gives a shit about gay rights.

2. You have to know they’re bigots before you cut them off from your powerful and healing understanding, and get ready to drag them into what you think of as your 21st century.
Get that part?
The danger is you create a climate where it’s okay to cut people because someone says they’re a bigot. Because they’re carrying some signifier that all right-minded people recognize as meaning “bigot”. Notice how bigot sounds so much like…
Still with me?
Eventually what you’ve done is recreate the climate of prejudicial oppression note for note, only now with you doing the hating and contempting, and your former oppressors squirming under your righteous virtual bootheels. Victory! Yes!

I don’t want to be your ally in that. You or anyone else.

…can get married, just like everybody else
No, not like everybody.
There’s age limits everywhere, though afaik they do vary a little from state to state in the US.
And there’s an absolute limit on the number of people who can get married – it’s two.
Is that natural? Normal?
Or just old-fashioned and stupid?

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etseq 03.08.14 at 7:21 am

Roy sure does get his grumpy when he is challenged….not a very good concern troll – too emotive…

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Bruce Wilder 03.08.14 at 8:04 am

roy belmont @ 310

People do love feeling righteous, especially when there’s no doubt or serious contest involved. And, sometimes, when people say, “racist” in response to some conservative trope in our reality-show politics, it almost seems as if we’ve been trained, the name-calling response is so Pavlovian.

There just isn’t much sympathy for the children of lesser gods.

313

GrafZeppelin127 03.08.14 at 12:48 pm

@Collin,

I thought of that, and it’s a valid point. Hate crime enhancements are problematic legally and constitutionally, because inter alia of the impossibility of literal, direct mind-reading. We get away with it because as you pointed out, thought can be derived from action, as in the case of hate crime enhancements, but action is only circumstantial evidence of thought; direct evidence of thought is impossible except for an admission thereto by the thinker. The thought as motivation for the action, as opposed to the thought qua the thought, is what the law discourages and punishes. The thought itself is not the crime, the legality or illegality of the act doesn’t depend on the thought, guilt or innocence doesn’t depend on the thought. The act has to occur and be proven first before the thought becomes relevant.

Thoughts qua thoughts can’t be illegal. Being a pedophile is not illegal; molesting children is. You can be sexually attracted to kids, and even tell the whole world that you are, but there’s nothing society can do via the law to punish or discourage pedophilia except forbid you from acting on it.

314

GrafZeppelin127 03.08.14 at 1:15 pm

The idea that being in the Klan isn’t sufficiently political seems strange to me.

As it should be, since I never said, suggested or implied any such thing. If anything, I said the opposite; “being in the Klan” is more than just merely “political,” more than just having “political views.” What I actually said was, “political views” are thoughts, joining and being a member of a particular organization or club is behavior, to which the thoughts themselves are incidental.

The difference between a Klansman and a “Republican with Klan-like views” is simple: one chose to join and be a member of that particular club, the other did not.

315

Barry 03.08.14 at 1:27 pm

GrafZeppelin127: “I thought of that, and it’s a valid point. Hate crime enhancements are problematic legally and constitutionally, because inter alia of the impossibility of literal, direct mind-reading. “

Wrong. Many laws and principles rely on making reasonable conclusions about states of mind.

316

GrafZeppelin127 03.08.14 at 1:50 pm

Many laws and principles rely on making reasonable conclusions about states of mind.

Doesn’t mean they’re not problematic. Doesn’t mean that literal, direct mind-reading is not impossible. So I fail to see how anything I said is unequivocally “wrong.”

317

MPAVictoria 03.08.14 at 2:04 pm

“There’s age limits everywhere, though afaik they do vary a little from state to state in the US.
And there’s an absolute limit on the number of people who can get married – it’s two.
Is that natural? Normal?
Or just old-fashioned and stupid?”

Comparing gay marriage to marrying children? Classy Roy. Classy. Like I said you are no ally of mine.

318

MPAVictoria 03.08.14 at 2:12 pm

“Which I tried real hard to say up there in simple easy to understand words”

Also this is a lie. You never try to say ANYTHING clearly here Roy. In fact you do the opposite. You always use weird formatting, odd grammar and punctuation, etc. to make it difficult for anyone to understand what you are saying. It is your schtick.

319

Igor Belanov 03.08.14 at 2:52 pm

I certainly gain the impression that Roy is suggesting that people who demand witch-hunts against ‘bigotry’ can easily become bigots themselves in their own own self-righteousness and unwillingness to recognise other points of view.

This thread has certainly proved him right.

320

The Temporary Name 03.08.14 at 3:34 pm

Eventually what you’ve done is recreate the climate of prejudicial oppression note for note

In which gangs of homosexuals drive to the Christian part of town, pick out some obvious god-botherer and beat him to death.

The “why can’t THIS be true” argument isn’t different from other idiotic arguments you’ve made.
Get that part?
Bigot sounds like…parrot.
Still with me?

321

adam.smith 03.08.14 at 4:12 pm

The difference between a Klansman and a “Republican with Klan-like views” is simple: one chose to join and be a member of that particular club, the other did not.

but the Klan isn’t illegal, so I really don’t see how membership in it should matter. But also, using the Klan has really distracted from what I wanted to get at, so let’s drop it. In everything I wrote, please replace “Klansman” with “Social Democrat”. Social democrats are a small minority in the US, but
In @279, you say that you don’t think politics should be specifically protected against discrimination. So if I understood that right, you think it should be/remain legal e.g. for a caterer to refuse to cater a meeting of the DSA because of their politics. If that’s the case, my question remains – how is that different in a relevant way from discriminating against a religion?

322

mattski 03.08.14 at 5:25 pm

Martin Luther King, the acknowledged hero of that movement, was killed in an assassination that to this day is pretty much unresolved.

*Pet Morbid Issue Warning*

Actually, there is a preponderance of evidence pointing to our intelligence communities/military-industrial interests in the four “big ones” of the 60’s.

See here for example.

323

MPAVictoria 03.08.14 at 5:34 pm

Shorter Igor: Won’t somebody think of the bigots?

324

Igor Belanov 03.08.14 at 5:47 pm

It just gets a bit tiresome when people who clearly are not bigots are expected to apologise for their opinions. I don’t think anyone who has commented on this thread is homophobic, but from some of the rhetoric expressed you would think it was one long anti-gay tirade.

325

Consumatopia 03.08.14 at 5:52 pm

If the only reason you can think of for opposing some social practice is that it’s new, untested, and unproven, then that is, in fact, bigotry, because we try new, untested, unproven things all the time without public outcry (as I tried to point out @238, though formatting problems got in the way).

Note that civil unions are at least as untested and unproven as gay marriage. You want to create a new, parallel marriage-like system that couples can enter into and adopt children? Will civil unions be just as good as for children as marriage? Will people who would otherwise have gotten married instead enter civil unions? These are untested questions, but the potential social harms from civil unions seem at least as plausible as the imagined harms from gay marriage.

As soon as we legalized homosexual sex, we were on untested territory. Given that homosexual sex was illegal, of course marriage had to be heterosexual only. Once gay sex is legal, preventing out-of-the-closet gay couples from marrying was an untested and unproven state of affairs. (And to the extent it has been tested since then the results have been unfortunate).

Note that polygamy and underage marriage are not new, untested, or unproven at all–we abandoned them because of negative experience with them.

Are there ignorance, prejudiced people that we should still feel sympathy with? Absolutely, we should all still feel sympathy for Uganda, even if their despicable new anti-gay legislation seems to be popular. And, yes, that bigots see fit to deny the fundamental rights of gay people does play to benefit of the wealthy and powerful across the globe.

But the thing about “let’s you and him fight!” is that even if you don’t want to fight, if the other guy does, you’re gonna fight. Gay people aren’t under any obligation to pretend that their rights aren’t being denied or that bigotry doesn’t exist just because it would be convenient for the larger progressive project. And if you’re going around screaming at gay rights supporters that they’re obligated to, then you are the one who is picking a fight.

Here is the most ineffective civil rights argument ever: “Your legitimate concern that extending me basic rights is an untested, untried proposition is not bigoted at all, but I’m asking you to put that concern aside because it means a lot to me”. The seems to be the only argument that permitted to us by the opposition-to-bigotry-is-bigotry brigade.

326

MPAVictoria 03.08.14 at 5:53 pm

324:

I think Alex comes pretty close. And while Roy may not BE a bigot (though some of his comments are questionable to say the least ) he is certainly spending a lot of energy defending bigots. Which is something he has made a habit of recently.

327

adam.smith 03.08.14 at 6:04 pm

I don’t think anyone who has commented on this thread is homophobic

If you don’t think that Alex, who thinks that teh gayz are stealing straight folks’ children, is homophobic we’re clearly not using that word the same way.
I do think Ed got a bit of undeserved flak, but he also stumbled remarkably cluelessly into the whole Regnerus thing and I can’t blame people like etseq for being a wee bit frustrated when people act as if Regnerus hasn’t already been thoroughly discredited.

(I ignore any conversation involving roy belmont since I can’t be bothered to read something formatted purposefully to be unreadable, so no idea what went down on that part of the thread).

328

The Temporary Name 03.08.14 at 7:05 pm

I can’t blame people like etseq for being a wee bit frustrated

Yes. The arguments against same-sex marriage are bad. And when one argument is shown to be bad, the opponent moves on to the next bad one. Why might that be?

329

Plume 03.08.14 at 7:59 pm

I think a key here is the very concept of “religious liberty.” Why should religion be considered some special set, deserving of special protections? What has it ever done to deserve that? What history of oppression does it have to show in this country to garner that?

If anything, organized religions have been the institutions delivering the oppression through the centuries, not suffering from it. They have been the orgs dishing it out, not receiving it.

Especially Christianity. And given its overwhelming majority status, it’s a bit like setting aside special rights (and rites) for CEOs of Goldman Sachs, because of all the “oppression” they’ve had to deal with over the years.

We need to reassess our relationship to religious organizations, and force them to make a case for their continued special rights. We should start by ending their tax exempt status. Yesterday.

330

Bruce Wilder 03.08.14 at 8:10 pm

Thank you for sharing your ignorance, Plume.

331

adam.smith 03.08.14 at 8:15 pm

What history of oppression does it have to show in this country to garner that?

I’m not the biggest fan of religion, but surely you’re joking?
Discrimination against “papists” catholics, anti-semitism (with Jewish quotas and all), the Haun’s Hill massacre of Mormons, random attacks on Sikhs, the NYPDs (and FBIs) surveillance of mosques etc. etc. this stuff really isn’t hard to come up with. Also, of course, religious liberty protects atheists as well and that’s not a hypothetical. Atheists have won their share of 1st amendment/religious liberty cases.

Tax exempt status is a separate issue, though it’s so firmly engrained in 1st amendment jurisprudence that I doubt it’s worth spending much time on. If you’re going after quasi-utopian goals, there are more worthwhile ones.

332

The Temporary Name 03.08.14 at 8:20 pm

Discrimination against “papists” catholics, anti-semitism

This is a mediocre answer to your question about what differs in politics and religion as far as service to adherents goes: families identify as religious, and it’s tough to shake, unlike political loyalties which can often rest on a whim. When I discriminate against Hindus I discriminate against people who may not have had choice-worthy-of-the-name in the matter.

333

Bruce Wilder 03.08.14 at 8:34 pm

I presume the purpose of discrimination is to control the people discriminated against.

Does it matter to justice or liberty, whether the characteristic upon which discrimination focuses is more or less indelible?

Are we saying that discrimination in employment, say, would be OK, if it aimed to control one’s political affiliations and behavior? Or, religious commitments?

334

Ed Herdman 03.08.14 at 8:50 pm

Barry @ 315:
The “reasonable person test” (or whatever this is) seems to say that we can actually make probabilistic determinations of the thought process of others, while other tests (hearsay, reasonable doubt) say that we should be reluctant to make probabilistic determinations. Maybe the simple answer is that there are pressures in different directions here, with an overall emphasis on preventing sloppy distinctions.

That being said, if a person can be found guilty of a murder beyond a probable doubt, a kind of “reasonable person test” (whatever’s used for hate crimes) reading of their mental state doesn’t seem to be constrained by the probable doubt, and in fact in the minds of some jurors it might be possible that confusing issue casts into doubt the verdict on the murder count (even though we would hope it shouldn’t).

@ adam.smith

Thanks for putting the difference between housing and employment reasoning in sharper relief. “Not a good fit” isn’t a smoking gun like a number of dollars is, alas.

The Regnerus issue, one final time – there is a strange disconnect between the assumption that only people who are fully conversant in all the issues can decide what is proper for exploratory posts (look! roy is posting), and the apparent connection of many of the people who hold that belief with the further belief that topic shepherding / crowd policing is a more interesting use of time. I ultimately had to ask the question (@ 208) if it was interesting to get the straightforward answer. Ultimately, a bit of self-control on the part of the topic shepherds would have allowed the post to die in obscurity, which was OK by me (it’s happened before).

What I would’ve given for Belle giving a direct insight, saying “do you seriously think you are astounding me with this Mark Regnerus fellow?” Instead we had a day of prolonged all-liberal firing in a circle. I will do my best to avoid this kind of thing in the future, but others should have some more restraint.

335

Alex 03.08.14 at 8:58 pm

“If you don’t think that Alex, who thinks that teh gayz are stealing straight folks’ children, is homophobic we’re clearly not using that word the same way.”

Am I also heterophobic when I object to the impact of child of the family provisions, step parental adoption, & the presumption of legitimacy, in straight marriages?

The gay rights movement chose their position. It disagrees with traditionalists on who should be able to marry, but they’re in agreement with the most revanchist conservatives when it comes down to the impact of marriage on parental rights. It it a shame this has happened to a movement that was once progressive.

I could see myself supporting gay marriage in other circumstances. We could have a gay rights movement which didn’t campaign against the rights of bioparents. We could have one which didn’t pretend gay parenthood was homosexuals adopting orphans, when it’s in fact mostly bi-sexuals with children from prior relationships. But we don’t.

336

Plume 03.08.14 at 9:08 pm

I’m talking about “religious liberty” in the context of anti-gay-rights; as the excuse for blocking contraception coverage; as an excuse for imposing new versions of Jim Crow.

As in, you know, the topic above?

I’m talking about right-wing Christians oppressing others, without being oppressed in turn.

In America, that’s the context and the reality. I in no way suggested or implied that “minority” religions haven’t had their share of persecution. I know they have. But that isn’t the subject here. And that’s not what those spouting off about “religious liberty” are talking about.

337

adam.smith 03.08.14 at 9:26 pm

Plume – if what you wanted to talk about was that religious liberty shouldn’t be an excuse to legitimize discrimination (something that pretty much anyone here agrees with), then why not write that rather than

I think a key here is the very concept of “religious liberty.”

(my emph.) and

What history of oppression does it [religion] have to show in this country to garner that?

If you think that’s the way to make a contextual rather than a general statement about religions liberty then, well, your writing really sucks ;).

Am I also heterophobic when I object to the impact of child of the family provisions, step parental adoption, & the presumption of legitimacy, in straight marriages?

I dunno. Clearly, like most MRAs you have lots of fears&issues. You’ll be happier hashing them out with a good therapist than on the backs of other people (or in the comment section of this blog).

338

Plume 03.08.14 at 9:31 pm

adam.smith,

No. I wasn’t trying to make a statement with my statement about the right way to make a statement. It wasn’t a lesson in the proper mode of argument in favor of an argument.

But I did think that others here would be able see, given the topic and my previous comments, what the intent was, etc. etc.

I’ll try to be more careful next time for the hopelessly pedantic.

339

Plume 03.08.14 at 9:39 pm

Beyond that, the issue with minority religions, as far as persecution goes, hasn’t been their inability to impose their narrow vision on employees or customers. At least not generally speaking. That seems predominantly to be an issue for the Christian majority, for their religious organizations, and for business owners who claim some form of “religious conscience” as an excuse.

How often do we bump into a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist or a Hindu angrily attacking some new rule that supposedly forces them into going against their religious conscience?

Of course, they may happen all the time, but we almost never hear about it. But we do, constantly, hear about how Christians are supposedly oppressed and forced to go against their beliefs in this or that situation.

We never should have handed out exemptions in the first place. This is a secular society. If you’re a citizen, you should adhere to the laws of this society. Having a religious exemption is no more legitimate than having because you’re left-handed, or you have hazel eyes, or you like broccoli for dessert. Why religious exemptions, and not exemptions for a thousand other reasons?

340

roy belmont 03.08.14 at 10:51 pm

MPAV-
This:
…can get married, just like everybody else
No, not like everybody.
There’s age limits everywhere, though afaik they do vary a little from state to state in the US.

I tried to think of some way to make that briefer and clearer, but…
You see that as equating gay marriage with child marriage, I don’t and didn’t intend it so.
What it says is there are rules about who can get married.
And who can’t.
17 year old and a 20 year old for instance. Widen it out, there’s a line. You approve of there being a line. Somewhere. So do I.
How many lines? Who gets to say?
Reason? Rational, logical morality?
Reason doesn’t have anything to say about morality. At all.
It has to be bent and fragmented to serve, by people who have no argument at all without it. That’s one of the valid points of religious conservatives.
You can’t just work with immediate obvious harm, there’s long term stuff no one can predict.
For instance the mass combustion of fossil fuels. Oops.
Though there were, at the beginning of that, dissenters and objectors, who were scorned and ridiculed. And forgotten to history.
Progress! Modern! Go!
If you agree with any of those rules about who can marry whom you are smack dab in the middle of the problem of what those rules should be.
Who they should protect, who they should discriminate against, and ultimately what societal goals they move toward.
Don’t say something idiotic like “Anyone who loves someone who loves them.” because you don’t mean that.
Basing your position on your emotional reaction “Just don’t discriminate against me and mine ” leads toward the whole enlightened-self-interest nonsensicality.
And, very important to me, it leaves out anyone who isn’t part of a group with enough mainstream economic presence to make their opinions felt and heard.
Intrasex people get thrown out in the same bathwater as gays in the purgings done by the ignorant, but they are not gays. They are freaks of gender.
In a positive usage of the term, mine, they are freaks.
I am a freak, unbeknownst to you. I identify with freaks.
You yourself are, in my reading, probably a freak. It’s about how many of your group there are. And how loud. In your version of things. Not mine.
Once upon a time our human ancestors were freaks in their primate communities. Now that freakishness is normal. Us.
La di da evolution la di da,
But we’re living in a time when human evolution is primarily in the hands of myopic weirdos and financial carnivores, and anthropogenic luck. For the moment.
One little tick on the compass, and…Mother Nature bats last.
Anyway, I knew someone who complained to me one time her boyfriend wouldn’t fight, meaning spat, wouldn’t argue, he was so damned polite and considerate.
The peak experience for her was saying something insulting to him in the heat of battle and his response was,
“You, you…you name-caller!
One way to block discrimination against freaks is to widen the definition of normality to include everyone. But you don’t want to do that.
You want to widen it to include you and those you approve of. Well so did the people that perpetuated the horrors of discrimination this conversation is about.
(Do you know Alan Turing’s story? Do I sound like I’m anything but outraged by it? Can you see that the mindless scorn and contempt operating there are what I’m arguing against here?)
So it’s a street fight for who gets to make the rules. Okay, but let’s not pretend it’s about some obvious right and wrong. It isn’t obvious at all.
Polygamy’s against the law. Why?

Still waiting.
-
322-
a preponderance of evidence pointing to
The existence of a “preponderance of evidence”, absent any subsequent move toward real justice, isn’t what most sane people would call “resolution”.
The larger point there, missing due to space constraints, is MLK was gunned down as soon as he crossed the line between liberation of a distinct oppressed minority, who mostly just wanted into the game, to the larger cause of all those below, white or black or brown. Outside his clad as it were. Changing the game, not allowed.
He moved out of the limiting arena of race and into the wilderness of economic oppression.
He was killed for that reason.
His murder is unresolved because the people that did it, and their spiritual heirs, are still powerful, still running things.
Only now they’ve got them a mixed-race presnet and a buncha gay-bobs on the TV.
To deflect anything like a movement toward full-spectrum change.
Like the change MLK was moving toward.
When they killed him.

341

The Temporary Name 03.08.14 at 10:52 pm

We could have a gay rights movement which didn’t campaign against the rights of bioparents.

I saw a bioparent on the sidewalk just ten minutes ago. I pushed him over and his little bag of groceries spilled out all over the sidewalk. HA HA HA.

342

Ze Kraggash 03.08.14 at 11:00 pm

328

Yes. The arguments against same-sex marriage are bad. And when one argument is shown to be bad, the opponent moves on to the next bad one. Why might that be?

Something like what Roy Belmont 340 said. The argument against same-sex marriage is trivial, but the underlying assumptions about homosexuality are controversial. Or, rather: they are still controversial in the mainstream society, very much so, despite the prevailing scientific consensus in the last few decades. There is still the assumption, prevalent in many parts of the world, that homosexuality is unnatural, abnormal, a disorder. From this assumption, the argument against same-sex marriage is simple and logical: why normalize the abnormal?

343

The Temporary Name 03.08.14 at 11:06 pm

The bigoted argument, yes.

344

Consumatopia 03.08.14 at 11:14 pm

What Plume said @339 was reasonable, and not all that far from what he said @329. There is a problem with the very concept of religious liberty, the protections it offers to believers and non-believers are asymmetric, and it’s not at all clear that religion has been more oppressed than oppressing.

It’s not a high priority on my list of priorities, but upcoming court cases could change that.

345

adam.smith 03.08.14 at 11:16 pm

I saw a bioparent on the sidewalk just ten minutes ago. I pushed him over and his little bag of groceries spilled out all over the sidewalk. HA HA HA

If you didn’t also snatch their children, you’ve failed “the movement”. We’re disappointed.

346

Ed Herdman 03.08.14 at 11:18 pm

Temp. Name wins the thread.

But the bioparent was gay! And he didn’t even know it. WHAT A TWIST.

@ Plume: This looks like furious backpedaling to me:
“How often do we bump into a Muslim or a Jew or a Buddhist or a Hindu angrily attacking some new rule that supposedly forces them into going against their religious conscience?”
If we were discussing this in parts of the world being overtaken by militant Islamic-affiliated groups, or in Israel in the pre-settlement era, or if you were a Burmese/Myanmarian junta leader, or the Sepoy rebellion of 1857, would you see things the same way?

So maybe you will say “oh, but I will be like any good person and not attempt to discriminate against them.” But then that is what religious freedom is about: Not having to make ad-hoc judgments of people.

Religious belief by itself is, at worst, just some silly thing a person believes. There have been many and varied approaches that balance societal interests against the complete repression of people for having their silly beliefs, in the name of preventing some supposed inflammation of society that might occur because of these usually harmless beliefs.

@ Ze Kraggash:
“…the underlying assumptions about homosexuality are controversial.”

We also need to be careful not to pretend that what are actually arguments are unassailable because they have been cast as “fundamental principles” or whatever.

“Why normalize the abnormal,” requiring the definition of abnormal as “not capable of improving on the status quo,” certainly seems to explain why normal people believe something. But it is a tragic farce that supposedly esteemed commentators (like He Who Will Not Be Named) propose such an argument straight-faced. This particular argument has been dealt with multiple times in the thread (I dismissed it earlier myself), anyway.

347

Ed Herdman 03.08.14 at 11:36 pm

Sorry, scratch that last response. Confidence levels time!
“And when one argument is shown to be bad, the opponent moves on to the next bad one. Why might that be?” Confidence level the question is rhetorical: Have a guess, take a number.

Confidence level that people quoting this question understand it is a rhetorical question: 95%+

“Only now they’ve got them a mixed-race presnet and a buncha gay-bobs on the TV.
To deflect anything like a movement toward full-spectrum change.
Like the change MLK was moving toward.
When they killed him.”
Confidence level in Full Spectrum Presnets: 110%! That roy’s artificial lung is malfunctioning: 70%?

348

mattski 03.08.14 at 11:38 pm

@ 340

I don’t substantially disagree as to why MLK was murdered. But, roy, you strike me as not particularly self-aware in a couple of departments. For one thing you routinely make bigoted remarks while protesting your support for the underdogs generally. For another thing you don’t show much recognition of the aggression driving much of what you write. And you slip easily into paranoid generalizations like this:

His murder is unresolved because the people that did it, and their spiritual heirs, are still powerful, still running things.
Only now they’ve got them a mixed-race presnet and a buncha gay-bobs on the TV.
To deflect anything like a movement toward full-spectrum change.

It’s not all a plot, roy. Though some of it certainly was…

349

mattski 03.08.14 at 11:43 pm

Also, roy-

Reason doesn’t have anything to say about morality. At all.

Actually, reason has quite a bit to say about morality. But reason is a subtle thing.

350

Alex 03.08.14 at 11:49 pm

@ adam.smith #337 and the rest of you cunts.

“I dunno. Clearly, like most MRAs you have lots of fears&issues. You’ll be happier hashing them out with a good therapist than on the backs of other people (or in the comment section of this blog).”

LOL, you guys are so witty. A anti-bigotry thread ends with mental illness putdowns and jokes and laughter and backslapping all round. I’m literally pissing myself, but that’s possibly just my neurological handicaps. Yeah, you’ve all shown me. Great job dudes.

351

Consumatopia 03.08.14 at 11:52 pm

Gendered insults are probably the wrong way to dodge an MRA accusation.

352

Alex 03.08.14 at 11:54 pm

I’ve still won.

353

Tyrone Slothrop 03.09.14 at 12:03 am

It’s grand entertainment, Crooked Timber is – grand entertainment!

354

The Temporary Name 03.09.14 at 1:08 am

Oh dear. Troll of Sorrow?

355

mattski 03.09.14 at 1:10 am

You speak true, Tyrone.

Special treat for roy.

356

Plume 03.09.14 at 1:35 am

Consumatopia @344,

Thanks.

And, notice that I said “religious organizations,” not lone souls under the thumb of religious persecution as lone souls. I wasn’t talking about individual Catholics, or Muslims, or Hindus, etc. etc. I was talking about big, fat religious organizations.

And even in the case of the singular Catholic in America, is anyone saying they are still being persecuted here, today, right now? For being Catholic? For being “Papists”?

My own people were Catholics from Ireland, and knew the real thing. That’s not happening in America, in the 21st century, even for folks running for office. It was an issue for Kennedy in 1960. It’s not today.

Atheists, OTOH, can’t run openly as atheists for major political offices in America. They’d have a better chance running openly as a gay person, and in the latter case they’d see plenty of opposition, etc.

357

Plume 03.09.14 at 1:39 am

Ed Herdman,

No backpedaling. The subject was America, not other nations.

America is easily the most religiously besotted nation in the developed world, the one most likely to believe in Creationism, and not believe in Evolution, the one with the most carve outs and exemptions for religious belief, and the one that lets religion infiltrate the public sphere (especially schools) the most.

Again, this is a major mistake, IMO. There should be no special exemptions for religious affiliation. I see no more logic to given them out than to give them out to members of the polar bear club, the chess club, the bird watchers club. There is no logic or societal interest in doing so.

358

Plume 03.09.14 at 1:51 am

I wish we could edit our posts after the fact.

The last paragraph is kinda mangled.

In short, I think we (unfortunately) take it for granted that there should be religious exemptions. This, I’d like to see questioned, broadly. Both the taking for granted part, and the exemptions themselves.

359

Consumatopia 03.09.14 at 1:57 am

FWIW (not much), Plume, although I said your position was reasonable, I can’t sign on to it fully. For example, I don’t think the government has the right to ban communion wine or kosher/halal food preparation, even if those bans were incidental results of some genuinely secular goal.

To put it another way, although I see problems in the the “free exercise” concept of religious freedom, I have difficulty coming up with any less problematic alternative. I have some vague nothing that if something is really important to someone that other people should make reasonable accommodations for it, but it’s hard for me to a workable rule that doesn’t explicitly favor religious motivations. Looking over the history of the Constitution, I would say the free exercise clause has prevented more harm than it caused, even if some conservatives today (from the Arizona legislature to Hobby Lobby) seem determined to prove me wrong.

It does seem like the logical consequence of this is for people who don’t believe in deities to create religion-like entities of their own. I mean, Objectivism is pretty religion-like, isn’t it? Whoops, now all taxation violates the First Amendment. Not every faith respects “Render unto Caesar”.

360

Consumatopia 03.09.14 at 1:57 am

“I have some vague nothing”

should be “notion”, though I also have some vague nothings

361

Consumatopia 03.09.14 at 2:07 am

I should also say that I could could imagine religion-like non-supernatural entities being employed for good. Perhaps a “religion” around cloud computing, insisting on something like confessional privilege.

362

Plume 03.09.14 at 2:09 am

I wouldn’t want the government to ban those things, either. And I don’t see why they’d want to, or why that would ever be an issue.

I’m talking about exemptions from established law. Practices such as those you mention don’t conflict with them.

And I’m not a big “law and order” guy in the first place. As mentioned before, I lean anarchist, from an ecosocialist base. It’s just that if we’re going to have laws, I see no reason why we give preferential exceptions for some groups rather than others, when it comes to escaping from those laws.

It might be an bad analogy, but here goes:

Stoplights. We all gotta adhere to them. It would be strange to allow people with certain religious affiliations to go through red lights, and not everyone else.

363

Consumatopia 03.09.14 at 2:14 am

Okay, but consider photo ID. It seems both reasonable to require most people to have them, yet hard to avoid making alternative arrangements for people of faiths that refuse to accept them.

364

Ed Herdman 03.09.14 at 2:22 am

I am unconvinced by your “I’m an anarchist, but stoplights” analogy; we really have to stretch a bit to make an analogy from that with religion. So you’ve got your stoplights, and respecting red lights is good because it keeps us from potentially veering into traffic. But, of course, any of us who drives has spent a not insignificant period of time waiting for that light to turn, even though we know there is no traffic coming. I ran into that today, and arguably only the stoplight camera stops me from turning in cases like that.

Something vaguely similar is described by Consumatopia just above – there may be a lot of silliness and downright abuse that slides by because of the religious freedoms protection, but trying to make an iron-clad rule (or abolishing the category distinction) that denies there can be good in any of those cases seems to me like pulling out into traffic without checking the lights. Even if everybody in this thread would agree that we would be reasonable in exerting our ability to discriminate against people who appeal to religious freedoms, there is a certainty of the abuse of such a rule by other people. Now, before this turns into another round of criticizing Plume for envisioning utopias, I did want to say religion as a vehicle for politics is not clearly a bad thing only. There’s many clear cases of religion being a vehicle for bad politics – but many cases where it hasn’t been.

365

Plume 03.09.14 at 2:24 am

Consumatopia,

I guess there would be all kinds of “no harm, no foul” kinds of situations. In all of those, I wouldn’t really care. It makes governance very complex and messy, but that’s to be expected. Perhaps if we could limit those exceptions to just that kind of thing — the kind of things without broader implications, without harm to others — and that would be key.

Would that exception of exemption involve a conflict with someone else’s rights or freedoms?

In the case of having or not having an ID, it sounds like it’s a no harm, no foul deal.

But would Republican officials except this when it comes to voting? Perhaps only if they think that particular religious group is likely to vote for them.

Again, it is messy and complicated. So I’d err on the no harm, no foul side, and if that’s not the situation, the “everyone has to stop at red lights” side.

366

Plume 03.09.14 at 2:31 am

But, again, this creates that same problem of categories.

Why religions? Why should one’s religious affiliation grant them a waiver from that Photo ID? Why that as opposed to membership in the chess club?

It’s still a sticky wicket and a slippery slope.

Rather than society bending over backward to accommodate religions and their practices, perhaps religions need to be a bit more choosy about the things they really, really deem important. Over time, the list of things they say they won’t do, can’t do, or must do, despite the conflict with society, seems to have grown. Pretty much all the major religions started with a much smaller set of the “sacred” and they made accommodations with the powers that be to a far greater extent . . . . then, as opposed to now.

In short, who should be accommodating whom? And to what degree, how often, etc. etc.

367

Plume 03.09.14 at 2:42 am

Last comment.

Would that we could all arrive at common ground, consensus, solutions, via the democratic process, etc.. Truly democratic. Not in name only. But the real thing, voluntarily.

I’d rather we have far less separation, segregation, separatism, according to this or that belief. Agreement, cooperation, consensus and solidarity, rather than being at each others throats all the time.

As my grandma used to say, watching us wee siblings argue things to death, “Fight ye devils, fight!! I hate peace!”

G’night, all. And, please, stop beating up bioparents. It’s just so unseemly.

368

MPAVictoria 03.09.14 at 4:05 am

Roy
Your
Writing
Style is
Hard to follow
Would you
Stop
Breaking
Breaking
Up lines
For no good
Reason.

369

adam.smith 03.09.14 at 5:35 am

for those still reading along, Linda Greenhouse’s column on the topic is, even by her standards, exceptionally good: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/06/opinion/greenhouse-after-the-veto.html
It’s a great primer on SCOTUS on religious freedom. One of the interesting things I learned is that Scalia wrote the majority opinion in two key cases in which SCOTUS restricted religious exemptions. Another interesting bit is that the SCOTUS decision that caused Congress to – almost unanimously – pass the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” was about native American religion. Lots more interesting bits and discussion.

370

Bruce Baugh 03.09.14 at 7:15 am

MPAVictoria, love your #368. :)

This is just to say
That Roy
has thrown away
all his clues

and which
he could probably use
to make
good posts
on good opinions

Forgive him
he is recursively
clueless
and shouldn’t
be coddled

Burma Shave

371

GiT 03.09.14 at 8:02 am

Ugh, TED talks. Sam Harris really shouldn’t try to lecture anyone about moral philosophy.

372

Ronan(rf) 03.09.14 at 1:12 pm

Stylistically, I have to say I like roy’s comments, which are pretty easy to follow once you get used to the rhythm (although there’s many a tangent, which complicates things).

373

MPAVictoria 03.09.14 at 1:47 pm

#372

I have say I disagree. It is simply his way of making his comments seem deeper and more interesting than they actually are. Take his comment at 340 for example. Once you take out the weird formatting, repetition and odd word choice all he is saying is why should we let gays get married if we don’t let people marry children or if we don’t allow polygamy. Add on to that a bit of “what if the bigots are right about teh gays effects on children/society” and “what if you worked with the people who hate you and call your love an abomination” and you have his contribution to this thread. None of it is new or interesting. In fact, it is basically what he says in any thread on gay rights.

And frankly I am tired of his condescension.

374

mattski 03.09.14 at 2:46 pm

What roy is about is, “I am a freak, look at me.”

He has a point, and it’s an irritating one.

375

Igor Belanov 03.09.14 at 4:52 pm

Said it before, I’ll say it again.

Witch-hunt.

376

Kevin Erickson 03.09.14 at 4:55 pm

I feel obligated to point out that the Pet Shop Boys have set Panti’s speech to music.

Listen and download here.

377

MPAVictoria 03.09.14 at 5:47 pm

“Said it before, I’ll say it again.

Witch-hunt.”

So are Alex’s comments acceptable?

378

bob mcmanus 03.09.14 at 5:59 pm

368: I haven’t noticed any such criticism of Belle Waring’s lack of line-breaks and paragraphing, indistinguishable digression, pseudo-folkiness, and generally stream-of-consciousness writing style, which I find aggressive and unreadable.

379

Consumatopia 03.09.14 at 6:20 pm

Roy doesn’t have line-breaks and paragraphing, he has line-breaks instead of paragraphing. And he clearly has some kind of problem here, because he’s constantly complaining that everyone misunderstands him. That’s not everyone else’s fault.

But even though the formatting does make it harder to go back and check what he said previously, I don’t think it’s the main culprit here. I would point to all of his rhetorical questions (320 nailed this). Combine that with an anti-reason hyper-evolutionary world view that doesn’t seem to be quite fully worked out, and it’s often genuinely difficult to guess what answer he was expecting.

380

bianca steele 03.09.14 at 6:34 pm

Every time someone says someone should shut up because “he only wants attention,” I see another reason to go somewhere else. Every time someone implies there’s only one person here (not them) who’s ever wrong. If I knew for certain there was a religion where people are taught not to call attention to themselves, I’d say its appearance on this thread was ironic.

381

Igor Belanov 03.09.14 at 6:39 pm

@ MPA Victoria

I was referring to the Roy-baiting.

If people were only going to post comments that all agreed with each other then this blog would be ridiculously dull. Some regular commentators who have now been ejected from the site were relentlessly trolling and deliberately causing offence. I hardly think this applies to Roy, and to single out his style of writing is just childish, especially in view of the fact that there seem to be few rules for the expression of prose in blog comments.

382

mattski 03.09.14 at 7:55 pm

to single out [roy's] style of writing is just childish

??

roy writes distinctively and seemingly with a purpose. One of his purposes is to be different. There isn’t anything remotely disrespectful in acknowledging that. On the contrary. But I don’t sense that people want roy to leave. That isn’t my purpose in criticizing him. Let him be free to say what he wants, and let others be free to respond as they wish.

Mao OTOH, different story.

383

William Timberman 03.09.14 at 7:57 pm

Aphorism seems to be most hated of isms. Metaphor, meta-anything, in fact, is a drag. Phenomenology is for the weak. Never mind we aren’t sure what it is, we must do something about it. Post-haste. Buddhists, poets, post-modernists, and other artists of the articulate absence need not apply.

Damned if I know why we have to be this way — at any rate I fail to see why a certain amount of seemingly aimless pondering ever hurt anyone. Let’s for variety’s sake welcome the whole menagerie, even the grinders of teeth, and do please leave off telling everyone we’ve heard it all before, which is never, ever true.

384

Consumatopia 03.09.14 at 8:33 pm

I don’t want Roy to leave, but it should be fairly easy to see why some reasonable people are irritated by someone who posts sneering, intentionally confusing rants then insults people for failing to understand them. And, yes, it is entirely fair to discuss someone’s writing style once they start insulting you for misreading them. I am very surprised that a couple of posters above fail to see this.

I’m not saying Roy should be stopped from doing that stuff, but nor should anyone be stopped from pointing it out.

385

MPAVictoria 03.09.14 at 8:39 pm

384 and 382 reflect my thoughts nicely. I find Roy very aggravating but have no wish for him to leave.

386

adam.smith 03.09.14 at 9:45 pm

I don’t want Roy to leave

putting them on a stake a see if they burn, on the other hand… ;)

387

Collin Street 03.09.14 at 9:49 pm

Roy doesn’t have line-breaks and paragraphing, he has line-breaks instead of paragraphing.

It’s pretty straightforward: each paragraph is a sentence long, or equivalently each sentence forms a complete paragraph. It looks a bit more complex than that, but that’s just because there’s no blank lines between paragraphs so the paragraph-ending line-breaks get confused with the paragraph-internal soft line-breaks. Look at the short lines, see how they all end sentences, and how all ends-of-sentences match ends-of-lines.
[ragged-right text, without marking your paragraphs by indentation or vertical spacing? bad typographic choice, as we see here.]

Which is to say, Roy’s language isn’t consciously structured above the sentence level.

As I’ve mentioned before, problems with language structures above the sentence ["pragmatics"] are a common symptom of mild autism-spectrum conditions, because real-world language structures work on knowing what your listeners/readers already know/think so you can pick the words that will help you change that to what you want them to know/think. And that “knowing what your listeners know/think” is empathy/theory-of-mind and that’s a core part of what makes autism autism.

[no mental-health qualifications, but a linguistics major and a Cert III graphic pre-press.]

388

Consumatopia 03.09.14 at 9:57 pm

a common symptom of mild autism-spectrum conditions

Well, honestly, *I* kind of have mild autism-spectrum conditions, I doubt I’m the only one who posts in comment threads who does, so this is all just silly.

389

bianca steele 03.09.14 at 10:15 pm

real-world language structures work on knowing what your listeners/readers already know/think . . . . And that “knowing what your listeners know/think” is empathy/theory-of-mind and that’s a core part of what makes autism autism.

I’m no expert either, and in fact from the frequency with which you tell commenters they have mental-health issues, frankly, I assumed you were. But I don’t think the above is correct. People with autism do not have a theory of mind that is inaccurate in some specifics, so that they believe falsehoods about what other people believe. They are said to have no theory of mind, which is a bit different. I do not believe that the psychiatric definition of mental health includes “knowing what everybody else believes, feels, and wants, at all times.”

390

roy belmont 03.09.14 at 10:57 pm

Too much attention dudes.
I got sneered at (not the first time!) for dumping full-body posts, here on this very blog here, some time back.
I was just writing and writing then bang sending.
Schooled by scornful masters.
Scorn that was really originating in the content but was enabled by the form.
Thank God we’re past that eh?
Been spending a certain amount of time on Twitter, me?
Reading funny incisive stuff, that’s as you know >140 characters, so only a few lines long.
This format changes the thinking behind the post in some way I haven’t bothered to analyze because it doesn’t bother me.
It certainly doesn’t bother me to get snark about my style from people who can’t make move one against the content without bouncing off the walls of the court.
I got disemvowelled (!) on one of the Nielsen-Hayden sites back in 04 or something, for suggesting there was a Zionist aspect to the Iraq invasion, but the salient feature of that for this conversation is everybody was complacently smugly snarking along (bells! ringing?) on their confident assessments of my age and experience range, both of which were laughably wrong, based simply on nym and tone.
Tone is malleable, dudes, you can shape it.
I’m a word guy. Since grade school.
Some of it is play, some is practice.
And let me say here that I’m here because there are basic standards for discourse here, which I have learned from here and am grateful for that learning, here.
But I do write about things that matter to me.
I defy whoever it was to provide one single instance of bigotry in my writing on this thread.
I defy you, sir.
No fair using “gay-bobs”, that was humor, not bigotry.
Things of interest to my security staff:
…I’m not saying Roy should be stopped…
-
Collin Street’s pompous idiocy about autism is going to bite him in the ass.
Which portion of his anatomy he has my permission to begin calling Herdman.
-
And this:
Actually, reason has quite a bit to say about morality.
Switching from the obvious rhetorical use of “say” in my phrase, to the literal usage in your phrase, may make you feel even more smugly situated but it, in its own turn, doesn’t have jack shit to deliver on the point I made.
It’s too tangential for this now. But if you’d care to put something up that you think backs up your assertion, I will eviscerate you, I can promise you that.
Whether you will have the honor and grace to accept defeat remains to be seen.
-
Ronan, thank you again, in a simple way it’s really all I ask.
-
MPAV-
I will never leave you.
Even if you get that restraining order extended.
But please don’t write any more poetry at me.

391

mattski 03.09.14 at 11:40 pm

roy,

U B funny. Maybe you ought to make clear to me what you meant by “reason doesn’t have anything to say about morality.” You have talents–braggadocio for example–but clarity doesn’t seem one of them.

So, on the question of drawing lines regarding who can and cannot marry, there is a societal consensus that children and adults have different rights. As you say, this is not controversial. I would add, this distinction between youth and adult is reason based. The fact that some degree of uncertainty and arbitrariness is built into the problem of drawing a line between a legally responsible person and a legally not-responsible person does not negate the basis in reason of this distinction.

You also made this interesting remark,

You can’t just work with immediate obvious harm, there’s long term stuff no one can predict.

If “no one can predict” a future harm, then what? What are you suggesting? Blind writing of rules by wizardry?

*Btw, I don’t think I accused you of bigoted remarks in this thread. That would have been foolhardy of me since I haven’t read the entire thread. But, yes, you do come out with some pretty weird stuff about Jews…

392

Ed Herdman 03.09.14 at 11:46 pm

And Roy sets the clock back to the mid-90s, the last time I heard somebody try to use my last name as an insult…good show tough-guy Roy.

I think the sentence structure stuff / mental health discussion about Roy is misplaced. It’s more a matter of the posts not being able to be taken seriously – not the typographical structure, but the concept of thematic progression. The four lines I posted are farcical, like watching somebody try to crawl back into the womb. What cause there is for this is really none of my business, though.

393

Collin Street 03.09.14 at 11:59 pm

If “no one can predict” a future harm, then what? What are you suggesting? Blind writing of rules by wizardry?

Well, it suggests a certain caution and tentativeness, same as any other unknown-unknown.

394

Ed Herdman 03.10.14 at 12:03 am

Caution and tentativeness implies prediction. There’s “unknown-unknown” and then there’s the totally unknowable.

The main point, which has been repeated endlessly in this thread, is that the people arguing about “unknowns” need to focus more on why we assume that conservativism is the preferable outcome, especially given that the current state of affairs is not as natural as many seem to immediately assume.

395

roy belmont 03.10.14 at 12:53 am

391-
Okay, “routinely” but not here, then.
It’s almost a cliche now, but it bears repeating: saying pejorative things about someone’s speech, especially in sensitive areas like either of those under discussion, without offering any example as proof, is a device for winning an argument without actually having to do anything involving ideas or meaning, or fact .
It’s a club not an argument.
You need to bring the actual factual. If you have it.
Or rather, if you think you do.
Because you don’t.

On Reason Alone, as a Proffered Foundation for Social, and Individual, Morality:

If “no one can predict” a future harm, then what? What are you suggesting?

I am suggesting we are in deep shit, and a whole lot of people are running around with shovels in their hands. Which you’d expect right? Except the hole’s getting deeper.

One would note that your response to the challenge made to a statement on your part purporting to situate reason as the only necessary underpinning for social morality was met with a question on your part as to my position on that subject. And nothing else.
-
Collin Street. Honor.
Tell your posterior I was only using his last name there for purposes of tough guy posturing. Using only last names is manly and gruff. In the same way that ignoring someone can be decorously insulting.
It had nothing to do with the semantic meaning or ethnic origins of said name in this instance. Those are unknown to me.
Plus, I have no idea whether someone’s name attached to a comment here is even connected to anything else, like their non-virtual life or something.

396

Collin Street 03.10.14 at 1:16 am

The main point, which has been repeated endlessly in this thread, is that the people arguing about “unknowns” need to focus more on why we assume that conservativism is the preferable outcome, especially given that the current state of affairs is not as natural as many seem to immediately assume.

Well, I don’t: conservatism would make sense as a precautionary principle if situations remained constant, but in the real world, situations change, and a fixed response to a changing situation is effectively-the-same as a changing response to a fixed situation: you shouldn’t privilege the status-quo, because the circumstances that gave rise to it and made it sensible in the past invariably no longer exist.

Or, unknown-unknowns means doubting “keeping things the same” as much as doubting “suggestions for change”. Precautionary principle argues against conservatism.

397

roy belmont 03.10.14 at 1:46 am

mattski-
Reason makes sense, sort of by definition. But without standing on received morality, there’s really nothing there.
Arguments that center around things like enlightened self-interest, or the thought problem of “If everybody can steal because stealing’s not wrong, then everyone has to guard their stuff all the time, and nothing gets done beyond mere animalistic survival”
imply a totality of comprehension that doesn’t exist.
Humans survived umpteen millennia with superstition and some form of religious engagement guiding their moral behavior. We’ve had a few hundred years of Enlightenment rationality, some of the products of which are not what any rational person would call an unqualified good.
Rebutting a criticism of rational morality, with the assumption and imputation that I’m suggesting institutional religious dogma as presently constituted in its place, isn’t going to get it. I’m not.
I’m waiting for your proposal that reason has a lot to say about morality, in the sense that it has something to offer in place of the obvious systemic failures of religious, as presently constructed, dogma.
Something besides a return to self-determined morality based on what bothers the socially powerful. Even though that’s what we have already pretty much. It’s just we have this gloss of something higher operating.
If there’s only the vision of individuals, however rational, in the present moment to guide our behavior, we’re screwed. Would be my basic position here.

398

MPAVictoria 03.10.14 at 2:04 am

Roy I have said all i need to say to you in 373. You hide how old and tired your arguments are behind your odd, hard to read writing style. Please keep going if you must but don’t imagine you are fooling anyone.

399

Ed Herdman 03.10.14 at 2:19 am

@ Colin Street: Yeah, that’s a reasonable summary of things (though I have one quibble with what you write here). I am sorry for appearing to identify you with that principle.

I thought I made a misstatement in my post: “conservativism is the preferable outcome” could have been written as “conservatism is the preferred operating principle” (aside from fixing my usual “conservativism” typo).

I don’t think that the argument here is one where there ever was a state of affairs where there was some status quo that male-female couples only was a good state of affairs, though: There have always been people who do not fit in that rubric and there has always been a pressing need to fit families together. The ability of people to procreate in nontraditional ways just swings things further away from the wisdom of nostalgia-for-an-unreal-history, though.

400

Plume 03.10.14 at 3:00 am

Reason and morality? Seems self-evident to me.

It also seems self-evident that few of the major religions are at all concerned with morality, especially the three monotheisms of the Levant. They are, instead, concerned with obedience, total submission to authority, and the total absence of questioning that authority.

Buddhism, OTOH, has actual morality baked into the pie. It’s not about obedience or submission. It’s about kindness and compassion for all things. But it’s also more a philosophy than a religion, so there is that.

I see reason and morality walking easily hand in hand. To me, morality is compassion, generosity of spirit, kindness, deep empathy and understanding. Immorality is cruelty, something the god of the bible does very, very well. Absolute cruelty which, if you take the texts literally, involved and involves repeated genocides and the mother of all genocides to come.

Humans want to live, thrive and pass on their genes. That’s our biology. The best way to do this, logically, is to cooperate with others, establish networks of mutual aid and support — the larger the better. Reason tells us that peace, harmony with one another, and harmony with nature all lead to the best results for us as humans, and obviously go directly to the heart of our biological drives. Many of the major religions, OTOH, preach war, annihilation based upon failure to bow down and obey this or that god. “Morality” is the furthest thing from the intent of those texts — again, if one believes in them literally, as something that actually did happen and will happen.

“Do this or you’ll die an agonizing death!!” isn’t moral or a moral teaching. It’s just a barbaric, monstrous message of fear and dictatorship.

We’ve never needed organized religion to be “moral.” Ever. And the texts of the three major religions of the Levant, if read literally, actually teach people to be violently immoral.

401

Plume 03.10.14 at 3:07 am

Exceptions exist in those texts, of course. There is beautiful poetry, wonderful allegories, psalms, proverbs, etc. And the glorious and profound Sermon on the Mount. We can find beauty and wisdom in the pages of those texts.

But overall? Violence galore, cruelty galore, atrocities, genocide, misogyny — immorality writ large.

From my POV, the religious right has pretty much avoided and ignored the beauty and wisdom, choosing instead to key on the autocratic, authoritarian, cruel and absolute.

And that has had profoundly negative consequences in America.

402

mattski 03.10.14 at 3:08 am

Collin,

Was roy not arguing a ‘go slow’ conservative approach to changing the rules of marriage? On the grounds that we might open a can of worms if we change the rules? That was my impression. And you added this,

Well, it suggests a certain caution and tentativeness, same as any other unknown-unknown.

Caution, you say. And then,

Precautionary principle argues against conservatism.

And you say that after saying we should be as skeptical of change as of standing pat. So, I get the impression you’re just running your mouth…

403

Aristodemus 03.10.14 at 3:15 am

This is obviously far afield at this point in the thread, but just for the sake of completeness, a note about ad hominem. My impression was that the point of getting to call the person who’s otherwise-friendly-but-anti-equal-marriage a ‘bigot’ or a ‘homophobe’ was precisely because whatever passive or active attitude or belief they hold that leads them to oppose equal marriage could be pushed back against as ‘socially illegitimate’ (to use the OP’s phrase), and so ignored. That’s the ad hominem: You’re a bigot; therefore, your argument isn’t worthy of consideration. He doesn’t make that point explicitly, but what else could be the point of trying to ensure that an argument can be treated as socially unacceptable?

404

Charles Peterson 03.10.14 at 3:27 am

My sister says she opposes gay marriage because she opposes all marriage. Of course this is deeply unfair to those who want marriage where is in fact available to others, and she can sometimes be persuaded of that. (She’s recently split with the Democratic Party after Obamacare (of no consequence to her now, being retired) and american liberalism and decided she’s a left anarchist.)

I feel it’s also unfair as she’s been happily, more or less, common law married for 30 years in a close and strongly mutually beneficial partnership. And I’ve been a mostly unhappy wrt-his-loneliness single man who thinks he might have wanted to have been happily married 30 years ago, if it were possible to find someone compatible and willing, recently happy to have a steady lady friend but still feeling isolation when sometimes weeks have necessarily gone by wo a touch, and thinking in many ways a partnership could still be better than a friendship. But it has always seemed to me those most compatible with me have been unlikely to feel compatible with marriage to any man.

My sister has also taken to calling marriage socialism for the rich and middle class (and, therefore, by her reasoning, unfair to working class people as she calls herself). She says the middle class and rich get all the benefits, the shared subsidized group health insurance, the useful tax breaks, and much larger potential social security benefits. And yet, conservative rich people sit around on talk shows blaming the poor for not getting married as much, and why should they, she says?

I don’t think it’s illegitimate to consider marriage a form of social benefit bestowed on certain people. But to me, marriage is still a fine idea, if properly implemented. And to be fine, that proper implementation foremost requires equal access. I don’t see the inequality of benefits it may provide different classes of people to be the fault of marriage. It’s unreasonable to think marriage will fix everything. But in my view, without mutualistic partnerships like marriage, there is no hope for any social movement. And looking around at all my unmarried friends on the left especially, a gulf which has opened up in my lifetime, I see little hope for humanity.

405

mattski 03.10.14 at 3:29 am

roy, pardon me if I take unclear writing as evidence for unclear thinking. And pardon me if I take sloppy and inaccurate statements as evidence of sub-standard reasoning.

I am suggesting we are in deep shit

And how should we apply this nugget of wisdom?

One would note that your response to the challenge made to a statement on your part purporting to situate reason as the only necessary underpinning for social morality was met with a question on your part as to my position on that subject. And nothing else.

No, roy. You aren’t paying me the respect of listening to what I’m actually saying. “Only necessary underpinning?” That’s you, not me. And in support of my claim that reason has “quite a bit” to say about morality I did, in fact, post a video of Sam Harris speaking on the subject. I did not endorse everything Mr. Harris said, btw. But I gave you food for thought.

I also made a brief argument that the restriction on marriage by minors is supported by reason. Because youthful, immature people are not expected to have the capacity to make long term commitments. So when you say I offered “nothing else” you were just mistaken. Again.

My plea to you is this: when you write, slow down. Pay more attention.

406

Plume 03.10.14 at 3:42 am

Aristodemus,

IMO, there is no logical or rational argument against same-sex marriage, whether or not the person making it is a bigot. And I think most people who argue in favor of it, and against those who oppose it, do so on that basis. Not because they dismiss all counterarguments as necessarily coming from bigots.

Though, I imagine it is comforting for those who oppose same-sex marriage to believe so — to believe no one can actually argue against their position on the merits.

Their bigotry really isn’t the issue, unless it leads to unjust policy — in this case, a new form of Jim Crow, etc. etc. Their bigotry is their own problem, and something they have to work out for themselves.

There is simply no rational reason to be against it. It harms no one. It does nothing to heterosexual marriage. It “threatens” no one and no institution. It is inclusive, as opposed to exclusive.

An analogy:

An icecream shop on the corner. It once served just three flavors, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. A longtime customer, who had been buying his vanilla icecream cone there for years, was horrified to discover one day that the owner had increased the number of flavors to 35. The original three flavors were still there, still on tap, and still in the front row. But the old customer was still quite upset, and demanded that the owner get rid of all the other flavors.

“You’re ruining my experience of vanilla!! I won’t stand for it!! I’m calling for a boycott of your shop right now!!!”

“But, Ralph, my good friend, look. Your vanilla is still here, right in the front, and it’s not even touching any of the other flavors. They won’t contaminate it. My vanilla is the purest vanilla in the 50 states!”

“Doesn’t matter. You’re destroyed the meaning of vanilla by letting in these other flavors!! I just won’t have it!! We will take you down!”

The idea that by letting previously discriminated against citizens join the marriage club, marriage itself is threatened . . . is absurd. It really does harken back to the days of Jim Crow, etc.

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Consumatopia 03.10.14 at 3:43 am

@Aristodemus, 403

My impression was that the point of getting to call the person who’s otherwise-friendly-but-anti-equal-marriage a ‘bigot’ or a ‘homophobe’ was precisely because whatever passive or active attitude or belief they hold that leads them to oppose equal marriage could be pushed back against as ‘socially illegitimate’ (to use the OP’s phrase), and so ignored.

If you actually watched the video, you wouldn’t have that impression at all. He says something like “I’m a homophobe, how could I not be after being raised in this overwhelmingly homophobic society?” Panti and Henry’s point is that decent, otherwise reasonable people can find themselves with homophobic or otherwise fundamentally wrong beliefs.

That is not ad hominem. What it’s trying to do is avoid this kind of ad hominem: ‘these people seem reasonable and civil, they have high social ranking with media or academia, so if they’re arguing against someone’s right to get married, there must be something to it’. We still have to engage with homophobic reasoning, but we don’t have to compromise with it or assume that there is some degree of truth to it. Which is kind of important when your talking about positions that imply the inferiority of some classes of people. (Which I’m sure you won’t agree with, but 400 comments in I don’t care).

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adam.smith 03.10.14 at 4:48 am

@404 – opposing all marriage is obviously a valid argument (and an old one – it’s brought up e.g. by a gay Congressman in a pretty early season of West Wing).
Pointing out that a lot of the fiscal benefits of marriage are more relevant if you make good or very good money is more than fair.
But given the status quo, using it to oppose gay marriage is a non-sequitur. As long as there is marriage, it needs to be an equal right, just like any other policy I oppose/favor (e.g. I want higher taxes. But I’d obviously oppose higher taxes levied only on women – or African Americans or Catholics etc.).

There is also an argument from radical queers that gay marriage is the wrong goal (search for “against equality” if you want to see prominent voices). I’ve never found their arguments remotely convincing (and a lot of them remind me quite a bit of immiseration theory), but they obviously don’t come from a place of bigotry.
What I do find more convincing, coming from a place of radical activism, are people who don’t see gay marriage as their fight and think it takes up a disproportionate amount of energy and resources. But obviously those people don’t oppose gay marriage, they just don’t get excited about it.

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js. 03.10.14 at 5:04 am

400+ comments! Yowza. Anyway, the thread is way past this, but I wanted to make a small point re the religion vs. politics thing from a 100+ comments ago:

Surely part of the distinction between religious beliefs (and activities) and political views is that we tend to regard a person’s religious beliefs and activities as part of the private sphere (whether rightly or wrongly), whereas political views and activities are by definition stances in the public sphere and indeed attempts—however indirect—at affecting/molding the public sphere that is shared by everyone. I don’t think this at all means that political views and activities shouldn’t be protected against discrimination (I think they should be), but I do think it has at least something to do with why we treat we treat religion and politics differently when it comes to protection against discrimination.

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Plume 03.10.14 at 5:46 am

js. @409,

Good points. When religious beliefs remain private, they should be protected. They are none of anyone’s business, while they remain in the head (and heart, to use metaphor). The problem is, when it comes to impacting public policy, they’ve obviously crossed the line from private to public. And they’ve become “political” when they seek to shape public policy, laws, regs, etc. etc. They’ve stepped into the political realm as well when they refuse to adhere to those laws and regs.

In that case, the religious person has become a political actor and should be treated as such. Which is why it makes no sense to continue “protecting” them as if they are being solely religious. They aren’t. It’s a conundrum of sorts, and one which provoked many a religious leader through time to advocate for the clear cut separation of religion from politics and political activism. Perhaps they saw that it was unwise to leave the safety of one realm for the chaos and agon of the other.

To me, a business owner, with or without religious beliefs, runs into the same deal. He or she ceases being a private citizen in a sense, once they open up their business to the public. They don’t get to choose that public. The public is what it is. It’s not open to tinkering, limiting, segregation, separatism, discrimination, etc. etc.

The public is all of us. Everyone’s included, whether the business owner likes it or not.

So the religious person and the business owner leave the realm of “protection” once they venture into the political — the public. Or they should. At that point, they shouldn’t be given any special benefits, preferences, rights or exemptions withheld from the rest of us. We the people, etc. When they are, they become privileged sets, above the rest of us. I see no reason for their privileges or their exemptions.

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roy belmont 03.10.14 at 7:19 am

405-
The context in which you delivered “reason has a lot to say about” was, in my cursory haste-filled reading, one in which the intent was to center reason as good enough to build a moral system on.
Kind of a logic thing there. Having dispensed with received morality from dubious theo-centered sources and all. What’s left?
Logic. Reason.
If I’m going to argue with Sam Harris, I’ll argue with Sam Harris. Not that I’d actively seek out a conversation with a tendentious fool.
As nor did I seek this conversation. Your aggressive and borderline insulting response to my statement is why we’re talking.
After more than a couple of insults and misreadings from others and on and etc on.
Of course reason has a lot to say about morality, that’s what it does. Analyze, criticize. I love it, in its place.
It has not been, and never will be, the t-h-e tool for the creation of a system of human moral guidance.
The ascendant triumph of reason over both metaphysics and emotion has brought us to the brink of self-extinction. Just one of many condemning missiles I have at my disposal, waiting for your presence on the battlefield.
If you’d like to condense Harris’ hollow claptrap and represent on that, the part you agree with, feel free. The original offer stands.
I just want you to make an assertion to back your claim. Some meat for my ravenous hounds.
I have no obligation to replace the edifice of reason in some hypothetical moral architecture. My sole claim in this is that it has nothing to offer without something else being there first, and primary.
This:
Because youthful, immature people are not expected to have…
Can you not see that underneath that is the primary necessity for caring about children?
Emotion. Irrational heart-driven feeling.
That if someone doesn’t care what the effects on others are, their acts are only going to be governed and governable by self-interest internally and force and threat externally?
Which is where the argument generally ends up with chauvinists of rational supremacy.
This is a recipe for social collapse or the insectivization of the species. It is not a path toward a better world for anything but inhuman bugs.
So, again, meat.
Reason is____ to morality. Because____.
You can print that out and fill it in if you’d like.
Or just keep copping an attitude of baseless superiority, from which your specious advice as to the form of my writing descends to that strawman on the floor.
I’m up here, waiting.

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Consumatopia 03.10.14 at 3:05 pm

For anyone actually interested in the ideas rather than paying back Roy’s insults and aggression with more aggression, I would strongly recommend Karl Popper’s “Towards a rational theory of tradition”. It’s in his “Conjectures and Refutations”, and I think it can be scrounged up online as well. I promise it’s much more worthwhile than the rest of this thread, or even this post!

Your aggressive and borderline insulting response to my statement is why we’re talking.

This is definitely true. Ed and Collin pointed out serious problems with you defense of tradition (as have some others over these 100s of posts), but their tone wasn’t as aggressive as mattski’s, so you ignored them. The rest of us are all up there, and we’ve been waiting. So much for “evisceration”.

Of course reason has a lot to say about morality, that’s what it does.

I see no context for the previous statement that mattski disagreed with that distinguished it from the exact opposite of this one. Not saying that he (and I) didn’t misunderstand you, but it was a pretty damn understandable misunderstanding given what you wrote.

The ascendant triumph of reason over both metaphysics and emotion has brought us to the brink of self-extinction.

First, who said anything about abandoning metaphysics and emotion? Reason can take feelings into account. Reason can also examine and question where feelings come from. Some feelings (regard for children) come from good places, other feelings (gays are teh gross) come from terrible places. Reason is what allows us to develop emotions about our emotions, and traditions for mediating conflicts between different traditions. Our problem is not tradition, emotion, instinct, or metaphysics. Our problem is when any of those things must be unquestioned–for example, when the judicial system is invoked to punish people for saying others are homophobic, as in the OP.

Second, it’s not true at all. You think there’s no emotion and metaphysics behind the consumption of fossil fuels? “Drill, baby, drill!”? Nascar? Atlas Shrugged? George Will on the totalitarianism of trains? The reason we have disagreements isn’t because there used to be a peaceful, harmonious world in which everyone’s traditions agreed, then these nastly Enlightenment Vulcans showed up and declared war on everyone. We live in a pluralistic society, and we have to contend with people of different emotions and traditions disagreeing with one another., When one homosexual proposes to another, they are, in fact, trying to uphold rather than destroy the tradition of marriage.

Third, it doesn’t even matter if it were true. If I had to choose between the brink of self-extinction today, and centuries of stumbling around in ignorant darkness waiting for the next asteroid or gamma ray burst to wipe us out, I’ll definitely pick the former.

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Igor Belanov 03.10.14 at 8:12 pm

I’m really quite sure that Roy WASN’T arguing in favour of ‘tradition’, so that makes most of your last post utterly superfluous.

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Consumatopia 03.10.14 at 8:33 pm

“There’s babies, yes, but there’s tradition too. And untried ways of raising children, untried unproven ways of being.”

I’m really quite sure that whatever argument you’re projecting onto Roy’s rorschach blot is in your own head. Without tradition or fear of the new (or sympathies with other people’s fear of the new), Roy simply doesn’t have a coherent point.

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The Temporary Name 03.10.14 at 8:33 pm

If Roy wants to say BE NICE he could be less of a jerk about it.

416

Consumatopia 03.10.14 at 8:35 pm

He could also stop arguing for something entirely different.

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mattski 03.11.14 at 2:06 am

Consumatopia,

Thanks for your smart & balanced remarks. I am guilty at the emotional level of taking roy’s bait. And, yeah, describing roy’s stuff as a rorschach blot is right on.

‘Nite.

418

roy belmont 03.11.14 at 3:12 am

There used to be a squib thingie in The New Yorker, back in the days when I was learning style and tone (!), when it was still devoted primarily to the literate word, called “Places We Stopped Reading”:

rather than paying back Roy’s insults and aggression with more aggression

You want to get with Mattski on this? You guys have a lot in common. Baseless insults presented as reportage. Representing a defensive response to an attack as an attack.
Smug disdain for dimly understood work. But you write so weird!
It’s not that weird, man, that’s just an excuse and you know it.
I don’t ever even think of insulting people until they’ve already insulted someone.
Tradition? I got your tradition hangin, right here.
I guess if you elide completely the, to me, near endless reiteration, by me, of false polarities being the real danger in all this, you could manage to twist and rearrange what I’ve been saying into a “defense of tradition”, but it wouldn’t be anything like a sound reasonable interpretation. Just more pseudo-righteous bias.
Saying that we need moral distinctions as a social community isn’t overly controversial, I don’t think.
Moving from what is obviously my position on traditional morality – intrasex, Turing, and way back at the top, “twerking” to mass applause at the Hooker’s Ball in ’78 (n.b. Belle Waring, true fact) – to my assertion that the completely untried unproven assumption of reason as the only necessary ground for morality, doesn’t put me anywhere near the strawman’s dock. Unless you’re locked into the above mentioned artificial polarities, and have only a binary choice available.
Because, ding!, there may be another way. Maybe even more than one.
Maybe even a way that has tradition and reason and inspiration and compassion and wisdom and a whole lot more in it.
Instead of collective selfishness and fear.
I’m not otherwise bringing my idea of what should be to this, I’m critiquing some of what’s being presented here as dogma.
Things all the cool good people know already.
That make it possible to use words like bigot in exactly the way ignorant people use the word faggot.
It is astonishing, and tedious, how bizarrely these arguments assertions have been made with very little substance, then, when challenged, morph into attacks on everything but the specific questions I’ve asked in response.

Roy’s relatively coherent point:
Without traditional morality, which is criminal in its dysfunctionality, we will need something more than reason to structure moral guidance, especially for the young. Reason is incapable, by itself, of anything like moral guidance. It’s parasitic, symbiotic at best. It needs a host.
Whatever that is, it will be more likely to come from people who are not trying to tear each other apart.

Roy likes to think that he is in fact nice, until others are not nice.
When others are very much not nice, Roy enjoys hinting that Roy may be capable of being really not nice as well.
But Roy’s not real big on giving a damn about nice.
Roy likes truth a whole bunch. It’s an aesthetic thing.
-
MPAV- Well, I’m not talking to you, either.
Only I worry that you won’t get that.

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roy belmont 03.11.14 at 3:28 am

412-
Against my better judgment I went back this in its entirety, and found a gift:

If I had to choose between the brink of self-extinction today, and centuries of stumbling around in ignorant darkness waiting for the next asteroid or gamma ray burst to wipe us out, I’ll definitely pick the former.

The accusation of incoherence from a mind capable of that.

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The Temporary Name 03.11.14 at 3:59 am

Whatever that is, it will be more likely to come from people who are not trying to tear each other apart.

Your coherent point is maybe something. Well done.

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Consumatopia 03.11.14 at 4:38 am

mattski and I certainly don’t always agree, (I’d never link Sam Harris ;-)), but I think you’re being completely unfair with him. Anyway, ignoring all of that stuff at the beginning where you seemed to be mostly describing yourself…

It’s not that weird, man, that’s just an excuse and you know it.

Well, it’s just that you constantly complain about people misunderstanding you (as you’re insulting them for it). I promise you we’re not doing it on purpose!

“I guess if you elide completely the, to me, near endless reiteration, by me, of false polarities being the real danger in all this,”

For that to be a coherent point, you need to point at an actual false polarity that someone else holds, and I don’t believe that you have.

“you could manage to twist and rearrange what I’ve been saying into a “defense of tradition””

I figured that your defense of tradition, as I directly quoted, was supposed to be the false polarity you were trying to establish. If you don’t want to defend tradition anymore, that’s up to you.

Saying that we need moral distinctions as a social community isn’t overly controversial, I don’t think.

I don’t think so either.

to my assertion that the completely untried unproven assumption of reason as the only necessary ground for morality

I’m not sure whether mattski actually holds Sam Harris’s position or he just posted that because a Roy Belmont/Sam Harris juxtaposition is inherently hilarious. All we know is that he disagreed with the other half of your apparent false polarity “Reason doesn’t have anything to say about morality. At all.” I know, you meant something else by that! Something really sensible I’m sure!

(I might believe that if one had perfect Laplace’s Demon knowledge that all morality would be knowable by reason, but that’s an irrelevant impossibility.)

I don’t think anyone else claimed that “reason is the only necessary ground for morality”. I do believe, though, that in a pluralistic society, any sort of government-enforced morality must be grounded in reason. (Nothing can be the “only” anything, we must start with some assumptions, but those assumptions must be open to question.) When two people with different traditions disagree, something more than tradition (whose tradition!) is both empirically and morally required to resolve the conflict.

Maybe even a way that has tradition and reason and inspiration and compassion and wisdom and a whole lot more in it.

I think I offered such a way @412, if a bit dryly. More importantly, I think that’s exactly what Panti demonstrated in the video in the OP, as well as the linked audio interview. Did you see/hear those?

Without traditional morality, which is criminal in its dysfunctionality, we will need something more than reason to structure moral guidance, especially for the young. Reason is incapable, by itself, of anything like moral guidance. It’s parasitic, symbiotic at best. It needs a host. Whatever that is, it will be more likely to come from people who are not trying to tear each other apart.

I’ll buy that. Reason, by itself, isn’t really a motivator at all–it’s only engaged when motivators pull in different directions. But I mostly believe that people should default to conformance with tradition as individuals freely choosing to do so. With some encouragement and assistance from their neighbors, of course, but the closer that encouragement is to coercion, the stronger the need for publicly justifiable reason.

When others are very much not nice, Roy enjoys hinting that Roy may be capable of being really not nice as well.

You were never nice, Roy, but at this point I don’t really care because it’s kind of funny. Which I suspect is the attitude of most of your defenders above. After this thread, I don’t think that any promise by you to “eviscerate” anyone in an argument is credible anymore. You can enjoy hinting whatever you like.

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Consumatopia 03.11.14 at 4:42 am

@419, quoting myself:

If I had to choose between the brink of self-extinction today, and centuries of stumbling around in ignorant darkness waiting for the next asteroid or gamma ray burst to wipe us out, I’ll definitely pick the former.

So I prefer possible self-destruction to inevitable annihilation by nature. Yeah, that’s some real incoherence there.

But, hey, you can keep trying to tear me apart. See if that starts working for you.

423

Consumatopia 03.11.14 at 4:55 am

(Nothing can be the “only” anything, we must start with some assumptions, but those assumptions must be open to question.)

Should be (Reason can’t be “only” anything…)

Hey, at least when I’m confusing, it’s not intentionally!

424

Igor Belanov 03.11.14 at 12:14 pm

Consumatopia seems to believe that choosing the risk of self-extinction today confers immunity to asteroid impact or gamma-ray bursts. Sounds like a kind of religious faith in the power of ‘modern civilisation’ to me.

425

MPAVictoria 03.11.14 at 12:19 pm

“Your coherent point is maybe something. Well done.”

Of course he then decided to try and tear other people apart….

426

Consumatopia 03.11.14 at 12:43 pm

No, Igor, I don’t seem to believe that. You are batting a zero when it comes to describing other people’s comments on this thread.

Civilization might allow us to avoid an asteroid impact or withstand the consequences of a gamma ray burst. Civilization gives us the possibility of survival. I’ll take a possibility of destruction if it means possibly avoiding a certainty of destruction.

Everything mortal is on the brink of extinction. That’s the definition of mortality. The question is, should we try to have some say in our own fate, with the promise of avoiding inevitable natural destruction but the risk of self-destruction? My answer is yes, because A) in the long run, that’s the only possible way to survive and B) our attempt to choose our own fate (i.e. free will) is a necessary part of what makes us human beings.

Ultimately, you can’t decide not to decide. If we choose now to abandon civilization and reason (no, I’m not saying reason is all we need!), the immediate mass starvation and the inevitable total annihilation would then represent a chosen act of self-extinction.

427

MPAVictoria 03.11.14 at 1:30 pm

“MPAV- Well, I’m not talking to you, either.
Only I worry that you won’t get that.”

It is not that I am not talking to you roy, if you ever have anything new to say please say it and I will certainly TRY to understand. It is just that in every thread about LGTB rights you are so busy defending the poor, persecuted bigot who just wants to be left alone to discriminate in peace that you never say anything original.

/Also implying that I am stupid is not really in keeping with the”I am so smart and above it all” persona you are trying to create but if it makes you feel better to attack my intelligence by all means carry on.
//I suppose if I posted all of my comments in Iambic pentameter or something I could be as smart as you.

428

mattski 03.11.14 at 3:42 pm

I’m not sure whether mattski actually holds Sam Harris’s position or he just posted that because a Roy Belmont/Sam Harris juxtaposition is inherently hilarious.

:^) I did say above that I wasn’t endorsing everything Harris said. I’m not super-familiar with Harris. But after watching some of his lectures etc on youtube I definitely think a Sam Harris post on CT would be fun & interesting. (Anyone care to mention their main objections to his stuff? My impression is he’s too aggressive towards established religion but overall he seems fairly good to me.)

roy wrote,

Without traditional morality, which is criminal in its dysfunctionality, we will need something more than reason to structure moral guidance, especially for the young. Reason is incapable, by itself, of anything like moral guidance. It’s parasitic, symbiotic at best. It needs a host. Whatever that is, it will be more likely to come from people who are not trying to tear each other apart.

This seems fraught with problems of bad assumptions, bad expression and generalized muddle. Whatever you think about Sam Harris it seems to me he makes a reasonably sound case that the question, “under what conditions (including social norms) do human beings flourish” is served quite well by reason. Do folks here disagree with this?

I also think it’s fairly important to try to be clear about what we mean by “reason.” To me, reason means unbiased observation of the world. Clear seeing of reality, of what is in front of us. As I suggested above, that is a subtle thing. Because it is extremely easy to mistake casual observation for close observation. And really, really close observation of reality is comparatively rare. (And in my opinion shades over into spiritual pursuits.)

So, while we often need to rely on tradition just to “keep a hand on the tiller” so to speak, as I see it reason is generally quite a good guide to morality. Reason is pretty much the only way to profitably challenge our prejudices.

429

Ze Kraggash 03.11.14 at 4:05 pm

Reason is pretty much the only way to profitably challenge our prejudices.

Traditions are also based on reason. Prejudice is also something that was introduced, long time ago, for a reason, and by now it has become certainty and doesn’t need reasons anymore. It’s definitely a good idea to challenge it, to rediscover its reasons and discuss them, but that’s not what’s going on when you just declare it ‘bigotry’.

430

Consumatopia 03.11.14 at 4:23 pm

re: Harris, I don’t know all of his work, but he was a defender of torture. And I find it difficult to see how the kind of things he talked about in that video are sufficient to resolve any argument between, for example, consequentialist and deontological ethics. In other words, even within Western secular moral traditions, there are fundamental disagreements among rational people don’t seem to be resolvable by collecting descriptive facts. (For a better attempt to resolve such discrepancies and combine those traditions, consider Derek Parfit’s “On What Matters”. I find it more convincing than Harris rallying us against the Muslims.). Also, our uncertainty about the facts is obviously morally significant–we can never know with certainty how our actions will effect human flourishing.

431

Consumatopia 03.11.14 at 4:43 pm

“It’s definitely a good idea to challenge it, to rediscover its reasons and discuss them, but that’s not what’s going on when you just declare it ‘bigotry’.”

We didn’t just randomly declare it bigotry. We know, from experience, that otherwise decent and intelligent people, when raised in a society that is deeply prejudiced against a group of people, are likely to share that prejudice. We’ve been having this argument for quite a few years, with no one finding an argument on that side that didn’t depend on bigoted assumptions. It’s reasonable to hypothesize that there isn’t any. The way to refute that hypothesis is to find a non-bigoted argument against gay marriage. It does NOT refute the hypothesis to just assume that the numerous opponents of gay marriage must have some valid reason.

432

mattski 03.11.14 at 4:56 pm

Traditions are also based on reason.

You really need to be more specific. Sure, there is some basis in reality for most traditional mores and rituals. That doesn’t mean all traditions are equally based on an accurate description of the world. (!)

I think you have a point in suggesting that pejorative terms like “bigot” can be easily abused. I think the word “racist” is often overused, for example. That is unfortunate, but this gets to the basic human problem that people like Einstein and Gandhi are the exception, not the rule. Your average Joe is going to judge other people relatively carelessly. But this doesn’t mean that a word like “bigot” can’t be used wisely.

433

mattski 03.11.14 at 5:05 pm

In other words, even within Western secular moral traditions, there are fundamental disagreements among rational people [that] don’t seem to be resolvable by collecting descriptive facts.

Agree. There are going to be moral questions that don’t have obvious answers, and that will be decided relatively arbitrarily. This is a good problem to have since it suggests that there isn’t very much at stake in such an instance.

Also, our uncertainty about the facts is obviously morally significant–we can never know with certainty how our actions will effect human flourishing.

Yes. But you’re also introducing knowledge of future facts, which is a different sort of thing. Scientific method = usually a pretty good approach.

434

The Temporary Name 03.11.14 at 5:44 pm

It’s definitely a good idea to challenge it, to rediscover its reasons and discuss them, but that’s not what’s going on when you just declare it ‘bigotry’.

It’s like you’ve never had an argument before. I have seen, on these very internets, people get called out for bigotry and acknowledge that they have made a bad move. I have seen it happen in my workplace, I’ve seen it happen on the street, and it’s happened to me. Do people get mad? Sure! But the people who don’t want to discuss and reason tend to shut up about their bigotry just like the people who have realized the error of their ways. A tradition of not airing your bigotry in public is kind of a nice one.

435

someguy88 03.11.14 at 5:51 pm

CF very obviously did not in any way argue that religiously inspired bigotry is acceptable.

He is arguing that viewing homosexuality as a sin/wrong does not make you a bigot.

A bigot is

a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

The Pope is not a bigot. He does not hate people who masturbate. He does not hate people who have used contraception. He does not hate homosexuals. He will not marry homosexuals but that does not make him a bigot.

Pretending that CF is arguing that religiously inspired bigotry is acceptable is a neat shuffle that allow us to skip that actual debate. We can declare any disapproval of homosexuality as defacto bigotry. Without any bothersome analogies that demonstrate how nonsensical it is to automatically equate disapproval of homosexuality with bigotry.

436

The Temporary Name 03.11.14 at 6:12 pm

Of COURSE the pope’s a bigot. He aspires to be the head of an organization that’ll never let a woman into a position of power.

A bigot is

You understand the way dictionaries work, right?

437

MPAVictoria 03.11.14 at 6:17 pm

So the Pope is not “a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices”?

438

Ze Kraggash 03.11.14 at 6:54 pm

TTN, what is “bigotry”, exactly? Forget religion. Where I live (Eastern Europe) people are not religious. If you ask a random person, they’ll tell you that sexual attraction to a person of the same sex as self is a mistake of nature. If you want to reason with them, they’ll reason with you. But not for long, because they’ll quickly decide that you’re an idiot.

According to wikipedia “The World Health Organization’s ICD-9 (1977) listed homosexuality as a mental illness; it was removed from the ICD-10, endorsed by the Forty-third World Health Assembly on 17 May 1990 … The Chinese Society of Psychiatry removed homosexuality from its Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders in 2001″. So, only a couple decades ago homosexuality=sickness was (intuitively appealing) science. No chance of same-sex marriage, be happy you’re not institutionalized. When, what year approximately has it become bigotry? Shouldn’t you give it time, a couple of generations, to sink in?

439

MPAVictoria 03.11.14 at 7:03 pm

“When, what year approximately has it become bigotry?”

At what point did slavery become wrong? At what point did viewing women as property become sexist?

440

The Temporary Name 03.11.14 at 7:28 pm

Shouldn’t you give it time, a couple of generations, to sink in?

No.

441

Ze Kraggash 03.11.14 at 7:40 pm

Yes.

442

MPAVictoria 03.11.14 at 7:42 pm

“Yes.”

Just let me keep my slaves for a couple more generations….

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The Temporary Name 03.11.14 at 7:42 pm

Ze, you’re dumb enough to think you know what everyone you see thinks. You’re not qualified to give a yes.

http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2014/02/28/hunted-in-russia-a-documentary-about-vigilante-groups-that-track-down-beat-up-and-humiliate-gay-men/

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someguy88 03.11.14 at 8:01 pm

MPAVictoria,

If we define bigot as

‘a person who is obstinately devoted to his or her own opinions’

Almost everyone is a bigot. Right? I have met very very few people whose opinions can be influenced by reason, arguments, or persuasion. [A few at work and that is about it.] Actually on the Web I am not sure I have ever met anyone who could be influenced by reason, arguments, or persuasion.

I think the hatred part is very key. Right?

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someguy88 03.11.14 at 8:03 pm

The Temporary Name,

‘You understand the way dictionaries work, right?’

Not perfectly but pretty well. That is why I copy/pasted the definition I supplied from a dictionary.

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The Temporary Name 03.11.14 at 8:13 pm

That is why I copy/pasted the definition I supplied from a dictionary.

That is why I identified that it was from a dictionary and wondered if you knew how to read it.

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roy belmont 03.11.14 at 8:20 pm

More just for fun, now:

The sun and the moon, both perfectly circular, both occupying a .5 degree arc of the celestial sphere. Precisely.
They both rise in the east and set in the west.
They both shed light.
Any reasonable person observing that, without information from outside the range of observation and logical process, would assume they were the same size and doing generally the same things. But no. Au contraire.
Fortunately we figured out that was wrong before sending humans toward them.
But there is no reason, other than immaturity and desperate hunger for someone to look down on, to disdain those who thought that before the geometries and lenses of science gave us the truer picture. This is the same disdain that has us scorning our own ancestors for their much harder lives. It is travesty, and dishonorable.

It shouldn’t need saying but our progress of knowing is littered with counter-intuitive destructions of what seemed obvious and rational until proven otherwise.
Some humility is called for but instead we’re now watching tunnel-blind meta-arrogant technicians take their dull knives to the core structures of material being.
What could possibly go wrong?
And they’re being enabled by bewildered and angry folks who’ve been driven into reactions to threats which are real and present dangers to themselves, however artificial their origin.

In the case of what’s now called the LGBT community, the threats are of continuing vicious intolerance from what most of that community perceives as religious tradition.
Or bigotry. Because that’s what it itself says it is, religiously validated intolerance. Maybe it’s lies, maybe it’s delusion, maybe something else is going on.

Having already made my central point as clearly as I am able, let me just say, sort of again, there are many decent people behind that wall of intolerance who are as scared and threatened as anyone else. And angry about it.
They’re being amped, played, used to fight pseudo-battles, sports contests involving real lives, to keep the strength of common purpose from turning against what’s really messing everybody up.

See? Normal writing. Fun.
I’m not interested in further engagement on this, too much ego-driven crap, too much nonsense, no substance, no furthering.

MPAV- What I was afraid you wouldn’t get is the paradoxical nature of telling someone, by talking to them, that you aren’t talking to them.
More seriously, I don’t think you can tell that what I’m doing is not dancing around without taking a side – I’m insisting that the place and the matter of dispute are much bigger and more complex, and the nature of that too easily, without difficult explication, lost in the noise of shallow cliche and mindless knee-jerk reactions.
I understand the real suffering behind your voice. Believe me if you knew where I’ve been, and what it’s been like for me… well, it wouldn’t seem so stupid for one thing, to be trying to get what few open minds and hearts there still are to reach across these narrow temporary bridges.
Life is brief.

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Ed Herdman 03.11.14 at 8:23 pm

One comment about the place of self-awareness in the “bigot-naming” question.

It is a different thing to say that the Pope has bigoted views than it is to say that the Pope is a bigot. This may be because we expect that a person has some level of self-awareness about their bigotry.

It’s obvious that views are split about whether it’s effective to be liberal with naming bigots, as intended to collapse the envelope of respectable behavior or shock the recipient of the accusation into self-awareness. However at the same time the psychological dimension is still there, and it seems to me that calling the Pope a bigot is likely to have a negative effect on spurring awareness in others.

This particular issue is somewhat unlike many others raised in the thread. The question of whether the Catholic Church’s traditional stances on celibacy and women in the priesthood are probably about as far as you can get away from rationally disentangling bigotry from mystery, because that stance simply isn’t receptive to rational argument. As far as I know, the question of whether women can be priests isn’t based on any judgment about womens’ abilities, or indeed about women at all. It’s based on a belief about what God likes – at best, it’s a matter of interpreting history in a way to keep tradition (the assumption being that the form given the Church was the correct one from the start – again, this is radically different than the arguments mentioned upthread which are actually susceptible to reason).

That being said, if somebody wants to include “holds their views are immune to reasoned critique” as an additional definition of a bigot, I wouldn’t mind very much. I lean that way myself. I’m not sure you can really do this while being consistent (and completely sane) though.

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Ed Herdman 03.11.14 at 8:28 pm

Hmm, “susceptible to reasoned critique” – on their own grounds of course. There’s a lot of great literature out there begging people not to make this move (Russell, Sagan et al) so the point is really not about argumentative tactics, but rather psychological ones. I’m not so naive to think that if you look at the Pope with puppy-dog eyes long enough that he’ll let women into the priesthood, though. The point is rather to be careful about deploying that option, if possible. Shock eventually loses its power to shock.

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someguy88 03.11.14 at 9:04 pm

Ed Herdman,

Instead of creating a new definition of bigot that cannot be consistently applied and has some degree of insanity as a side effect, why don’t we just admit that some people who disapprove of homosexuality are not bigots?

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The Temporary Name 03.11.14 at 9:09 pm

Shock eventually loses its power to shock.

Who was it who believed the shock-talk shows like Jerry Springer in the US were a positive thing? I think the idea was that these were the only shows on which you would see deviations from the norm, however ridiculous, and that helped.

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djw 03.11.14 at 10:09 pm

Ze Kraggash @438:

According to wikipedia “The World Health Organization’s ICD-9 (1977) listed homosexuality as a mental illness; it was removed from the ICD-10, endorsed by the Forty-third World Health Assembly on 17 May 1990 … The Chinese Society of Psychiatry removed homosexuality from its Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders in 2001″. So, only a couple decades ago homosexuality=sickness was (intuitively appealing) science. No chance of same-sex marriage, be happy you’re not institutionalized. When, what year approximately has it become bigotry? Shouldn’t you give it time, a couple of generations, to sink in?

The implied premise here seems to be that if a belief or practice is sufficiently widespread and uncontroversial, it simply can’t, by definition, be bigotry. But why? Why would anyone make such a claim? There’s nothing whatsoever about the concept of bigotry that suggests it can’t overlap with broad social consensus at times.

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Ed Herdman 03.11.14 at 10:15 pm

@ someguy88: I’m just giving this a really rough treatment. FWIW I think that people worrying about whether the Pope is a bigot should just be keeping their eyes on the ball. I don’t care if the Pope isn’t allowing women into his super-secret funhouse. I do care that the Pope and his system is propagating power discrepancies. I’ll give it to you though, the definitional stuff is hard to parse. But clearly some people can actually be bigots while claiming they have “good reasons” to be.

@ Temp Name:

I’m not coming at this from the belief that the desire of centrists to have a polite, mild discussion overrides the necessity of some people being loud and abrasive. That’s clearly been helpful to society, like the Stonewall Riot guy who said (IIRC) that they were tired of the ‘polite little fairies’ stereotype. It’s OK to start out with the message cranked up all the way. I agree that the Springer Show can be an example where shock starts to become a parody of itself, but there’s also been a lot of people who were able to take the show seriously, sometimes even coming to important revelations when the show was intending anything but.

People trying to get the message across do have to try to find the effective way of getting the message across – but there’s also right not to carry the whole burden in a conversation with people who just want to do their thing without worrying about being called bigotry (or dealing with important little niceties like not actually propagating harms on other people). That’s just a way of trying to dress up a lack of consideration for others, with just the bare minimum of realization that others have an actual interest in the issues.

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MPAVictoria 03.11.14 at 10:22 pm

“More seriously, I don’t think you can tell that what I’m doing is not dancing around without taking a side”

You have not read me
You have taken a side roy
It is the wrong one

/Haiku’s can be fun
But they don’t always make sense
Refrigerator

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The Temporary Name 03.11.14 at 10:29 pm

I agree that there are multiple ways to go about things, and certainly kinder people will do kinder things. They’re out there! Perhaps Roy can exercise his excessive kindness and good feeling to encourage the people doing the good things, rather than trying to poop in the punch-bowl of those who, at some future time, may cause some unspecified moral apocalypse by being mean to people who don’t like certain other people to have rights. Here and now those complaining about being called bigots have gotten us up to 453. They’re doing a lot of thinking about this stuff and not simply running off in disgust.

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Ze Kraggash 03.11.14 at 10:40 pm

There’s nothing whatsoever about the concept of bigotry that suggests it can’t overlap with broad social consensus at times.

Not just social, in this case scientific consensus as well. Fine with me, that’s why I asked for a definition. By this definition bigotry is a permanent and perfectly normal human condition.

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Ed Herdman 03.11.14 at 10:45 pm

Finding it a bit hard to traverse your intention shifts (from seriousness-to-irony-and-back in the same sentence, multiple times?) but I can say this: Aside from a matter of decorum, I’m not complaining about the bigot-calling at all. If it’s effective then it’s fine by me. Roy is one of the people who probably is an easy target for that kind of thing, since he is getting mad at being called a bigot but can’t quite find it in himself to do anything to kick the habit – do anything other than keep complaining of a failure on the other side to be respectful of what cannot be respected. For people who aren’t introspective at all, these niceties in hopes of instilling a value shift obviously don’t apply.

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roy belmont 03.11.14 at 10:49 pm

“excessive kindness”!
There is no real goal here for the dominant voices but personal gratification. It’s dressed up in formal clothes, but it’s wanking away toward useless futile temporary orgasm. Because it feels good.
How’s that?
Single focus, on a myopic personal view, with a confirming message from an off-stage source that cares nothing about your well-being, but awards your complicity in its effort with increments of comfort, while the world, the real one, the one three generations from now if they exist at all will inherit, goes exponentially to hell.
Better?
In the boy scouts, in the woods, I saw some older kids put a tarantula and a horned toad in a quart Mason jar and shake it up until the two creatures started fighting.
That’s what I’m seeing.
Ignorant nastiness and sneering defense of ignorant nastiness, because it’s in response to ignorant nastiness.
That’s what will save us.

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Ed Herdman 03.11.14 at 10:52 pm

I’m sure those people saved from Mason Jar masturbatory artifacts three generations from now will be lining up to shake your very individual hand, roy.

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roy belmont 03.11.14 at 10:55 pm

“Ignorant nastiness and sneering defense of ignorant nastiness”
Pretty much says it all for me.
Oh yeah, and the first two lines I wrote here:
“Incoherent anti-gay argument.
Incoherent pro-gay argument.”

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Consumatopia 03.11.14 at 11:12 pm

But there is no reason, other than immaturity and desperate hunger for someone to look down on, to disdain those who thought that before the geometries and lenses of science gave us the truer picture.

This is absolutely true, the Karl Popper essay on tradition I mentioned above strongly makes this case. Our explanations today aren’t better because they’re “sciency” looking while the old ones are goofy looking. They’re better because our ancestors developed a tradition of critiquing their explanations by comparing them to alternatives.

Some humility is called for but instead we’re now watching tunnel-blind meta-arrogant technicians take their dull knives to the core structures of material being.

In the case of gay marriage, what’s actually happening is that we’re now recognizing previously unrecognized “core structures” that were forced to remain silent. I mean, I think you get this, but it’s worth emphasizing–it is gay marriage opponents, not advocates, who want to cut out pieces of reality that do not fit their mental abstraction.

Having already made my central point as clearly as I am able, let me just say, sort of again, there are many decent people behind that wall of intolerance who are as scared and threatened as anyone else.

Of course. Panti Bliss made that point all the way at the top. The question is, how should we respectfully approach these decent, scared people, without implicitly validating their mistaken and hurful views? Panti did a better job navigating that Scylla and Charybdis than I can recall any other speaker doing off the top of my head.

I’m not interested in further engagement on this, too much ego-driven crap, too much nonsense, no substance, no furthering.

It might have gone better if your first post were like this last (good) one.

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The Temporary Name 03.11.14 at 11:18 pm

from seriousness-to-irony-and-back in the same sentence, multiple times?

Sometimes. But I also think I misread your last, My apologies.

For people who aren’t introspective at all, these niceties in hopes of instilling a value shift obviously don’t apply.

Yes. Speaking of a lack of introspection…

There is no real goal here for the dominant voices but personal gratification.

Ha!

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Consumatopia 03.11.14 at 11:33 pm

Oh, you’re back to trying to eviscerate us. Because, yeah, ask around, I’m sure a bunch of us feel that Roy really told us what was what.

Here’s something I wondered about:

Incoherent pro-gay argument.

Where was this incoherent pro-gay argument? In Panti’s video? The audio interview? In Henry’s OP? In the 19 posts preceding the point at which you said that?

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MPAVictoria 03.11.14 at 11:49 pm

“while the world, the real one, the one three generations from now if they exist at all will inherit, goes exponentially to hell”

Don’t care about what you care about. Care about what I care about.

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roy belmont 03.12.14 at 12:08 am

More anecdotes:
Tod Browning’s Freaks, a movie ostensibly about the circus and actual freaks. It has actual freaks in it, and a villain who’s Hollywood 30’s glamorous. She’s venal, conniving, and uses the main protagonist, a midget, to get to his wealth, by seducing him.
In the end she’s turned into a freak by being…well, you should see it I guess.
The virulent cruel rage of the oppressed, when they get the upper hand.

I get shit for not being easy to read and consistent. Then when I am clear and consistent, as in asking for some kind of substance to back up claims of reason’s moral utility, I get vapor and scornful invective.
Or when asking for evidence of my supposedly bigoted statements, just vapor and disappearance.
And now the thread’s pretty much run its course. Burps and snarls.
It is impossible to overcome arguments that disappear when they’re lost. But it’s fun to try. Up to a point. Only it’s not fun now. I like fun.
Sincerity is scorned, then humor is scorned, logic is abandoned when it leads to “wrong” conclusions. Or blanketed in lexically intricate smog.
Take the field. There’s no goalposts. We won!
Where this goes isn’t to freedom and acceptance.
Married gays isn’t freedom, isn’t liberation, it’s the illusion of freedom. Or the weightless seconds of a train wreck.
No more than legalized weed, held at the price point of illegality and taxed, is a victory.
It’s a scam masquerading as liberation. And it keeps people pacified and polarized.
No more than a mixed-race president means America is a racially better place than it was 50 years ago. Better for some for sure. Better on the surface. The n-word! No!
But not enough, and too many are still at the bottom. More toys, more distractions. More tokens.
And a body count that’s spiking, in an environment that’s degrading like it was on fire. The same illusion of progress that the black community has experienced is being drawn down on the legitimate struggle of the sexually marginalized. The ones with a loud enough economic voice anyway. Disillusion’s just around the corner.
The same easy stunt that got everyone thinking Obama was the answer to Bush, when he was just Phase 2 of the same operation.
Sophisticated manipulation of genuine anxiety. Russia hates gays! Women! Pussy Riot!
We hate Russia!
People who can’t think very well are being played, pushed into fighting each other, and bought off with trinkets and increased privilege.
Compassion and understanding are the only things that will work against that.

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mattski 03.12.14 at 12:12 am

Not just social, in this case scientific consensus as well. Fine with me, that’s why I asked for a definition. By this definition bigotry is a permanent and perfectly normal human condition.

Yes, but “scientific” in this sense is also heavily cultural. Scientists are creatures of their time & place like anyone else. And, yes, bigotry is normal. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is desirable.

I was homophobic as a young man. (It would be false to say all traces of homophobia are vanished from my mind.) Only a few years ago I was quite cool to gay marriage, thinking, “Eh, the time isn’t right. Why not just be content with civil unions for now.” I do feel we’re going through a seismic shift in this area. I think it is an auspicious development.

The bottom line is we’re fallible humans, we’re subject to indoctrination, and we have a more or less natural fear of anything that is different than ourselves. Questioning our prejudices isn’t easy, but it makes us bigger, gentler, more accepting people.

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Consumatopia 03.12.14 at 12:15 am

Hey, I liked most of your coherent post, Roy.

You’re drifting into timecube territory now, though.

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mattski 03.12.14 at 12:18 am

Then when I am clear and consistent, as in asking for some kind of substance to back up claims of reason’s moral utility, I get vapor and scornful invective.

Whopper!

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adam.smith 03.12.14 at 12:34 am

but “scientific” in this sense is also heavily cultural

no kidding. I mean, the scientific consensus in Germany during the 1930s was that race-science was scientific. And in the 19th century, craneology was widely accepted as science. That makes bigotry more understandable—being a homophobe in the US in 1975 is a lot more understandable than in 2014, just as being a racist in 1875 is more understandable in 1975 etc. That still means people holding those views were bigots. Society in 1870 had a lot more bigotry than society today.

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roy belmont 03.12.14 at 1:01 am

469-
As late as the 70’s in the US, and worldwide, intrasex people were being mutilated in the name of medical science and consensus gender models.
The history of medical use of institutionalized populations is still writing itself, but while the Nuremberg laws were being written in response to Mengele’s scientific atrocities, inhumane and inhuman research was being conducted on people who were considered expendable in the name of scientific progress – the retarded, the imprisoned, the insane, orphans. In the US.
A hideous and mostly hidden feature of medical progress.
The Salk vaccine was developed using that dubious protocol as regards fit subjects for experiment.
Bigotry too often gets defined by those powerful enough to insist on their definition of it. And the truly marginal get left out, or behind.
Not the least of my labor here gone to make that point.

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Consumatopia 03.12.14 at 1:49 am

Bigotry too often gets defined by those powerful enough to insist on their definition of it. And the truly marginal get left out, or behind.

I certainly don’t hate Conor Friedersdorf, but no one thinks he is among the truly marginal.

Also, you see that dude in the dress in the video? Do you understand that his opponents won a financial settlement from a public broadcaster because he used the word “homophobic” in a way that offended them?

Yeah, sometimes scientists are acting on prejudiced bigotry, (as several people just said and you repeated just so you could feel self-important). At least as often, people oppose scientists out of prejudiced bigotry. How to know which side or sides are acting on bigoted ideas in any given instance? Let them both make a case for their positions and use our reason, intuition etc as best we can to decide between them.

Critically compare our belief systems, try new things, learn from our mistakes. If there’s a better way to go through life, Roy, you sure as hell haven’t told us what it is yet.

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Consumatopia 03.12.14 at 2:11 am

Actually, I want to emphasize something. When Roy talks about the the power to define bigotry, this is the context, from a transcript of the video:

“Three weeks ago I was on the television and I said that I believed that people who actively campaign for gay people to be treated less or differently are, in my gay opinion, homophobic. Some people, people who actively campaign for gay people to be treated less under the law took great exception at this characterisation and threatened legal action against me and RTÉ. RTÉ, in its wisdom, decided incredibly quickly to hand over a huge sum of money to make it go away. I haven’t been so lucky.

“And for the last three weeks I have been lectured by heterosexual people about what homophobia is and who should be allowed identify it. Straight people – ministers, senators, lawyers, journalists – have lined up to tell me what homophobia is and what I am allowed to feel oppressed by. People who have never experienced homophobia in their lives, people who have never checked themselves at a pedestrian crossing, have told me that unless I am being thrown in prison or herded onto a cattle train, then it is not homophobia.

“So now Irish gay people find ourselves in a ludicrous situation where not only are we not allowed to say publicly what we feel oppressed by, we are not even allowed to think it because our definition has been disallowed by our betters.

“And for the last three weeks I have been denounced from the floor of parliament to newspaper columns to the seething morass of internet commentary for ‘hate speech’ because I dared to use the word ‘homophobia’. And a jumped-up queer like me should know that the word ‘homophobia’ is no longer available to gay people. Which is a spectacular and neat Orwellian trick because now it turns out that gay people are not the victims of homophobia – homophobes are.”

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roy belmont 03.12.14 at 2:23 am

Doh. It’s not that real bigotry doesn’t exist. It is not always inaccurate to call it out.
It’s that the use of the term gets prioritized mainly by power.
And in this thread it was used wholesale to silence some serious statements and opinions, not always mine, or even mostly. “Let them both make a case for their positions” my ass.
The amount of idiotic dreck necessary to wade through here is amazing. But it’s started to be fun again, now that I got that Mengele thing coughed out.
Which was done to point out that placing scientific bigotry safely in the past is deceptive and dangerous. As though all that’s necessary now is to beat down those drooling fundamentalists and take our rightful places at the Eloi banquet table.
Sort of like how 12 Years A Slave is being used to gloss over the insidious systemic present-day racism of Hollywood and reassure its credulous naive customer base that the bad old days are over.
Not only are you full of shit about what I’m saying half the time but you’re full of shit about my motives for saying it too.
There’s something about getting lectured at by portentous fools persons that I’m starting to find agreeable though, even confirming.
I don’t know why. It shouldn’t be.

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roy belmont 03.12.14 at 2:31 am

The plight of Irish queers in their efforts to bring witness and counteract oppression is as emotionally touching as any other instance of testimony by unfairly victimized people. But it doesn’t say or do anything about the underlying causes.
And in your use of that testimony here, it’s serving to silence debate.
Not there. Here.
That person’s use of “bigotry” or “homophobia” is situational, and likely accurate in that situation.
I could pull from memory hair-curling instances of bigotry in action. It doesn’t say a damned thing about what’s causing that bigotry, or what to do about it. It just intensifies the emotional pitch of the discussion to incoherent shrieking.

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Consumatopia 03.12.14 at 2:54 am

Doh.

Yeah, it is pretty fucking embarassing how you’ve repeatedly tried to silence people by defining who does and doesn’t get to define homophobia. People you define as “powerful”: Panti posting a video, us posting blog comments just like you–not allowed to define bigotry. People who are “marginal”–other people posting blog comments that you like–are allowed to define what bigotry is.

You’re doing it right now! It would be a lot funnier if it wasn’t so sick.

And in this thread it was used wholesale to silence

Pointing out homophobia is not silencing. It’s attempted silencing when you declare who is and isn’t allowed to call out homophobia. If someone thinks homophobia has been called unjustly, let them explain way. Let both sides make a case for their positions. If an amoral piece of nothing like Roy tries to silence either side, as is his gross habit, let him and his threats are both full of it. Let the record show that Roy has eviscerated absolutely no one, promises to the contrary notwithstanding.

Note, any other replies I make to you are just going to point out your repeated attempts to police who gets to define homophobia–if you’ll even allow anyone to use the word at all. (And for the record, I’m not defining homophobia–I think Panti’s definition is great. If you don’t think Panti is allowed to define it, fuck you very much.)

Not only are you full of shit about what I’m saying half the time

It’s not everyone else’s fault, Roy.

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The Temporary Name 03.12.14 at 2:56 am

Not only are you full of shit about what I’m saying half the time but you’re full of shit about my motives for saying it too.

Let me guess: you’re here to preen like a prose-poem peacock?

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Consumatopia 03.12.14 at 3:01 am

But it doesn’t say or do anything about the underlying causes.

Did you watch the whole video? It took a pretty good stab at it.

It’s not silencing debate for me to point out how absolutely disgusting it is for you silence debate–by defining who does and doesn’t get to use the word “homophobia”–in the context of that video. I mean, that’s not some random transcript I pulled from nowhere–that’s from the video in the OP you are posting comments under! Don’t talk about my “use of that testimony here”–the testimony was already here, waiting for you to press play for close to a week now.

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Consumatopia 03.12.14 at 3:32 am

Oh, heck, I’ll do it for you

But it doesn’t say or do anything about the underlying causes.

“I do, it is true, believe that almost all of you are probably homophobes. But I’m a homophobe. It would be incredible if we weren’t. To grow up in a society that is overwhelmingly homophobic and to escape unscathed would be miraculous. So I don’t hate you because you are homophobic. I actually admire you. I admire you because most of you are only a bit homophobic. Which all things considered is pretty good going.”

“But I do sometimes hate myself. I hate myself because I f*cking check myself while standing at pedestrian crossings. And sometimes I hate you for doing that to me.

“But not right now. Right now, I like you all very much for giving me a few moments of your time. And I thank you for it.”

That doesn’t seem too bad, does it? Does it completely describe the underlying causes or give us a fully formed program for What is to Be Done? No, but it gets us closer than anything you managed to say in all of your posts. Part of the reason I have no patience with you, Roy, is that your posts seem so off-key in light of that video. Like the OP and Rory O’Neill’s speech didn’t exist, and we’re all just here fighting about Teh Gays “because you can always get a game”, as Davies said.

Of course I contributed to that a whole lot, and now I’m finished. I can’t top what Panti Bliss said, and you sure as heck can’t either, so if you insist that I have to be silencing someone, I guess I better silence myself.

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mattski 03.12.14 at 3:39 am

*Great Internet Train Wrecks*

Read this thread, watch roy’s ego drag poor roy through an epic humiliation.

There’s something about getting lectured at by portentous fools persons that I’m starting to find agreeable though, even confirming.

Pain Body.

480

Collin Street 03.12.14 at 3:43 am

Bah.

If Roy were writing his watery discharge about transformers continuity or batman, noone would bat an eyelid if I called him plainly disturbed.

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Ze Kraggash 03.12.14 at 8:25 am

That makes bigotry more understandable—being a homophobe in the US in 1975 is a lot more understandable than in 2014, just as being a racist in 1875 is more understandable in 1975 etc.

If this is included in the definition of bigotry – holding a mainstream view supported by science, religion, and other authoritative social institutions today, that will be deemed despicable a hundred years from now – then yes, it’s bigotry. But that also means that all of us including the unpleasantly sanctimonious loudmouths in this thread are, in all likelihood, despicable bigots. Being human is being a bigot, or as Christians say: we are all sinners. Have you been to a Zoo? Have you passed by a homeless? Has someone ever served you food in a restaurant, only because she needed money to survive? And you believe it’s okay? 100 years from now you’ll be judged a savage and a bigot. Also, marriage itself, as we know it, will probably be long gone and forgotten.

I would think, if you want to preserve the negative connotation you need to define bigotry as an outdated intolerant attitude.

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Niall McAuley 03.12.14 at 9:25 am

Ze Kraggash writes: But that also means that all of us including the unpleasantly sanctimonious loudmouths in this thread are, in all likelihood, despicable bigots.

Panti stated that in the video right at the top of this thread:
I do, it is true, believe that almost all of you are probably homophobes. But I’m a homophobe. It would be incredible if we weren’t. To grow up in a society that is overwhelmingly homophobic and to escape unscathed would be miraculous.

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nishijima 03.12.14 at 2:06 pm

It seems to me like a lot of ‘confusion’ could be saved if the language around rights accorded or denied on the basis of sexuality were cleaned up a bit.

Like, if someone were to refer to a law or practice as ‘racist’, then that might mean that it was determined, framed or carried out by people who hate or dislike or hold unpleasant views about groups of people defined on the basis of ‘race’. But it might not — it might just be intended to flag up that the law/practice/whatever is discriminatory on a ‘racial’ basis. Regardless, I don’t think we’d object to someone who promoted, supported or introduced the law/practice being called ‘racist’. (Huh, though maybe we might object to them being presumed to be ‘a racist’, I dunno.)

But discussions around according equal rights on the basis of sexuality have to operate with the term ‘homophobic’, which seems to impute a mental state or set of attitudes. Maybe we need to try to expand it out? (Because I don’t think ‘sexualitism’ is gonna take off, or that ‘hetoronormativist!!!’ is gonna carry the correct degree of condemnation.)

As to Roy’s argument that people are going to be ‘bought off’ by same-sex marriage: I just don’t see that, I guess. I don’t think that 12 Years a Slave has led to many people buying into the idea of a ‘post-racial America’ who were a) not bought in already, or b) the kinds of people who are unlikely to be doing anything useful to advance the cause of non-white Americans anyway. ‘How far we’ve come’ is just something a not-very-bright person might say in an op-ed piece. (But perhaps not a substantially more hackneyed op-ed piece one than the one that argues about how dangerous it is to applaud an individualised story about slavery with a happy ending, because actually there’s still racism in America, would you believe.)

I mean, if you wanna go all the way and make a “no war but the class war”-type argument then that’s something else entirely, but the same-sex marriage debate cuts across class lines anyway (it’s not like we have two different working class groups who would otherwise be allied representing the frog and the tarantula or whatever it was), and it just seems odd to draw up the identity politics drawbridge HERE and say ‘no more!!!!!’ It’s a pretty fundamental issue, I think, and, you know, non-class identities are important to people too…

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The Temporary Name 03.12.14 at 5:57 pm

Panti stated that in the video right at the top of this thread

And speaking as a sanctimonious loudmouth I have acknowledged that I have received correction, and no doubt I will receive more in the future. I hope not to be a crybaby about it.

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etseq 03.12.14 at 7:23 pm

Wow – this thread has got to be nearing a record for concern trolling…I know that phrase will trigger several more pages of vituperative comments so have at it…:)

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