In the News

As long as we have anything like traditional marriage, I believe that restricting it to heterosexual couples is an exceptionally bad and stupid policy, laced with unnecessary cruelty. It is not, however, an issue that is likely ever to affect my vote, because so much else dwarfs its importance. Legalizing gay marriage would make life substantially better for a few million people of the wealthiest people in the world (i.e. Americans) and is therefore a good thing, but if I’m going to pick my battles, I’ll cast my lot with, say, the tens or hundreds of millions of Third Worlders who are relegated to dire poverty by American trade and immigration restrictions. I’ll take the homophobic free trader over the protectionist crusader for sexual equality every single time.

But Mitt Romney’s muzzling of foreign policy aide Richard Grenell (followed by Grenell’s departure from the campaign) seems to me to be a far more serious issue than mere homophobia. It indicates a lack of seriousness about foreign policy (and by extension about governance generally). Top-notch expertise is rare. To exclude expert advisors because of irrelevancies like sexual orientation (and it appears from news reports that this, not his Twitter postings, was Grenell’s key disqualification) is to handicap your administration from the outset. A week ago, Mitt Romney thought Richard Grenell was the best guy for this job. Nothing relevant has changed. I conclude that Mitt Romney doesn’t terribly much care whether a key foreign policy post is filled by the best guy for the job. That attitude is potentially dangerous on a scale where the Defense of Marriage Act registers only as a blip.

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54 Responses to “In the News”


  1. 1 1 Advo

    Call me a cynic, but it seems to me a complete lack of concern with regard to governance in general is a major characteristic of the modern GOP, and certainly not only of Romney.
    “Governance” – as the GOP understands – it seems limited to rewarding campaign contributors, pandering to an increasingly irrational base with things like anti-gay hate campaigns, and abolishing or rendering ineffectual any government measures aimed at helping somebody other than campaign contributors or the top 0,3%.

    The other major GOP characteristic would be a complete denial that there is such a thing as “objective reality” (which, even in those cases where we may never know it, we can usually at least approximate). Why would the GOP care about expertise when they don’t care about science, when they ridicule and assault as “elitist” and “fraudulent” any scientific research which is inconvenient to GOP dogma? Expertise is only valuable if you are willing to listen to it when it contradicts what you want to hear.
    Does that sound like the modern GOP to you?

  2. 2 2 RPLong

    Anyone but Obomney.

  3. 3 3 Kirk

    Apparently everyone so far lives under the delusion that politicians, including Romney and Obama, are motivated by anything other than their naked self interest. The terrifying fact is that I will probably vote for Romney solely because he will be restrained by the need to earn a second term.

    Having just read the sections of Armchair Economist on voting – I will be voting despite the fact that my vote likely won’t make a difference. I look at myself as a kind of canary test. If my guy can’t motivate ME to vote, he will very likely not be able to motivate thousands of others LIKE ME to vote.

    Please do not point out the obvious circular logic of my reasoning – it’s my fantasy and I am clinging to it!

  4. 4 4 Andy

    I thought you didn’t vote anyway?

  5. 5 5 Roger

    Grenell quit. He was not fired. Romney and Obama both oppose same-sex marriage. There aren’t millions of Americans whose lives would be substantially better from same-sex marriage. Grenell has no special expertise that cannot be found easily in hundreds of others. Third Worlders are not in poverty from American policies. This post is nonsense from beginning to end.

  6. 6 6 Ken B

    I agree strongly with Steve, up to the ‘But’. I think Steve is over-reaching here. Romney’s people asked Grennell to lie low for a bit, to allow tempers to cool. I can understand their motives and I can understand why Grennell would say, hell no. I would say hell no. But Steve spins that into a lack of concern about Grennell’s expertise. It’s not; it’s clumsy people skills. Richard Grennell would not submit to the kind of thing Austen Goolsbee would. There is no grand inference here.

  7. 7 7 Scott H.

    Steve, it looks like you didn’t fully read the article you linked to. Grenell resigned even though Romney had sent high profile members of his campaign to keep him on.

    I’m not saying Grenell’s homosexuality had not become an issue, but that the Romney campaign wanted to handle the situation in a different manner than Grenell wanted to handle it.

    In my opinion this issue should be picked up and used by Romney against the anti-gay right. I can understand an argument against gay marriage that is based on the status of heterosexual marriages vis-a-vis homosexual unions. However, is the far right going to go so far as to say homosexuals have no place in society? This seems like a minority position even within the Republican party (not to mention an indefensible position). Romney could easily win this fight. It would go a long way toward keeping Republicans that don’t hate gays within the big tent.

  8. 8 8 Ken B

    Scott H: ” the Romney campaign wanted to handle the situation in a different manner than Grenell wanted to handle it.”

    At no time did Romney or his team want to dump Grennell. He’s a prickly guy, they handled him really badly — the last minute request he not talk in his own meeting is just cringe-inducingly bad people skills — and he got offended and left.

  9. 9 9 nobody.really

    Seems like marginal cost pricing to me.

    What difference does it make how good Romney’s foreign policy is — if he can’t win? As far as I understand electoral logic, every value that depends upon winning must be made subordinate to the goal of winning — at least, up to the point where the cost of winning would be greater than the cost of losing (e.g., humiliation, letting down your supporters, enduring governance by the other party, loss of employment, etc.). I surmise Romney concluded that the cost of losing Grenell’s services is less than the cost of losing the support of bigots, and less than the cost of impairing his ability to defeat Obama.

    Once upon a time, allegedly, cultural norms prevailed over market forces. That is, politicians would cooperate rather than compete (campaign) for large parts of their careers — putatively in the interest of promoting the public good — even if the politicians in question might derive greater electoral benefit by engaging in the continual campaign. But over time our government has become more “responsive.” That is, certain people have become experts at influencing public voting behavior, and have marshaled this expertise to punish even minor deviations from some position (e.g., raising taxes). Today politicians have large incentives to conform to the orthodoxy du jour, regardless of the consequences for the public good. And, as I read somewhere, people respond to incentives.

    I share Landsburg’s dismay at the loss of Grenell’s services, and what this says about the state of the Republican Party. But from what I understand of Romney’s perspective, I can’t fault his reasoning.

    Sure, I get frustrated with the cravenness of politicians, too. But I strive to direct my ire where it belongs: the incentive structure. Not sure how to fix it; greater public financing, maybe? But the problems are systemic, not particular to Romney.

  10. 10 10 Scott H.

    @ Ken B.

    Yeah, my interpretation was pretty much the same as yours. I never meant to imply that the Romney team wanted to dump Grenell. I just meant the Romney team wanted Grenell to lie low, and Grenell wouldn’t have it.

  11. 11 11 Ken B

    @Scott H: I was quoting you in approval, so my remarks were aimed at Steve. My bad, I should have been clearer.

  12. 12 12 Harold

    Romney was forced to change his mind. He appointed Grenell either because he thought he was best for the job, or that there would be some other political gain. He found out that the political losses were larger than the gains, so reversed his choice.

    Any person who has got to be presidential candidate must operate politically. I suspect that whatever their motives were at the beginning, if they do not give in to political expediency they do not progress to the top. I just presume that all choices made by these people are for political rather than any other reason.

    I would like to think that a principled individual could stick to their guns and win people over with honesty and integrity, but I doubt that it can happen at the moment. They would suffer death by sound-bite, as all their utterances were quoted out of context.

  13. 13 13 Kirk

    Andy…Did I say that? I don’t vote in primaries. I may have written it when drunk or sarcastic, but I do vote.

  14. 14 14 Ken B

    @Kirk: Drunk and sarcastic are the best ways to vote.

  15. 15 15 iceman

    Whichever candidate can explain the Peano Axioms in 30 seconds has my support.

  16. 16 16 Brian C

    @Kirk: I’m pretty sure Andy’s post was directed at Prof. Landsburg in reference to his arguments against voting in The Armchair Economist and elsewhere.

  17. 17 17 iceman

    @Roger: “Romney and Obama both oppose same-sex marriage.”

    Good point. So does Biden, and McCain, and Palin, and every other would-be candidate or VP choice that I’m aware of (at least publicly). So why do some seem to get a free pass on this ‘realpolitik’? Kinda like how a message that we were fighting the *wrong* war got an awful lot of mileage as *anti*-war. Seems like so many people so willingly get played.

    However, not so much on “Third Worlders are not in poverty from American policies”.

    Of course it’s not more important than corrupt / dictatorial politics, but protectionism certainly makes their plight worse. Doesn’t the fact that we have tariffs on underwear to protect textile workers in South Carolina (which of course just means taxing all consumers) whose standard of living is orders of magnitude higher than some dude in Bangladesh seem ridiculous and even downright cruel?

  18. 18 18 iceman

    Speaking of getting played…

    @Advo – so (only) one of our two major political parties “doesn’t care about science”? Come on, time to check yourself on the hyperbole. Are you referring to a few goofballs down in Alabama who don’t want to teach evolution?

  19. 19 19 Will A

    @ Advo:

    I vote and I have never voted for a Republican and I wouldn’t call you a cynic, I would call you partisan.

    I would call you a cynic if you said something like the primary job of a politician is to get elected and as such a politician should take what ever actions they believe are necessary to help them get elected.

    If you don’t think that Obama would seek to remove someone from his staff if it helped him get elected. I would call you very naive.

    The modern GOP politicians are doing what they feel gives them the best chance to get elected.

    Don’t get angry with the politician, get angry with their constituents. Believe me. If voters in Kentucky felt that climate change was valid and the most important issue facing them, Mitch McConnell would be talking about how we need to address climate change.

  20. 20 20 Advo

    @Iceman:
    It is not only a few goofballs in Alabama who don’t want to teach evolution. Among the candidates in the GOP primaries, for example, only Romney and Huntsman believed in the theory of evolution. The others – Perry, Gingrich, Paul, Bachmann, Santorum – were all anti-evolution and wanted creationism taught in public schools.
    But the evolution question is just the tip of the iceberg, really. You have the same issue with climate change (where the GOP claims a global conspiracy of the scientific community to bring down capitalism, I kid you not), economics (stimulus doesn’t lead to higher growth, tax cuts always increase revenues), mercury regulations, etc.

  21. 21 21 vald

    @iceman

    I assume that by “some” you are referring to Obama and Biden? I wouldn’t say that they get a free pass. Google Dustin Lance Black, he just issued a strong rebuke of the President for his failure to support same-sex marriage. As for why President Obama gets less flack for his position, that would be because while he does not support same-sex marriage, he does support workplace protections and anti-discrimination laws inclusive of LGBT people (see ENDA, DADT, etc.)

  22. 22 22 Ken

    As long as we have anything like traditional marriage, I believe that restricting it to heterosexual couples is an exceptionally bad and stupid policy, laced with unnecessary cruelty.

    Any adult who wants to live with another adult, mingle assetts, share a life, and raise children can, regardless of whether or not both adults are of different sexes. On top of this, they can even refer to each other as their spouses. Wills can be written and other (minimal) contracts making your statement “restricting [marriage] to heterosexual couples” is essentially false.

    Legalizing gay marriage would make life substantially better for a few million people of the wealthiest people in the world

    Evidence?

    Your dismissive attituds about cultural norms being minor compared to the institution of free trade is pretty surprising, considering how well thought out many of your other posts are. Free trade in a vacuum does not produce a culture of wealth production. This has been shown repeatedly throughout history. Something else changed 200 years ago in the West, parituclarly northern Europe and England. Something changed in the culture and attitudes towards businessmen and the bourgeois. Marriage plays a central role in Western culture of businessmen and bourgeois. Broken/divide homes have been shown to have a clearly bad effect on all people involved. Mutliply that by billions and the damage is catestrophic, including those billions of third worlders about whom you claim to care.

    Dismissing the central role of marriage in the West so smugly the same way many politicians smugly embrace the xenophobia through protectionism shows a stunning lack of understanding.

  23. 23 23 Ken

    Kirk,

    Apparently everyone so far lives under the delusion that politicians, including Romney and Obama, are motivated by anything other than their naked self interest.

    Of course they are motivated by things other than “naked self interest”. In fact, Romney and Obama and most politicians are acting on their principles because they truly believe those are the best ways. Both are willing to enact legislation that will hurt them personally (unless you think Obama is not aware that he is part of the 1% or that Romney is not aware that foreign trade affects his assets). Of course, many times they do act in their own self interest, as is to be expected and is in fact good most of the time. But there really cannot be any doubt that these two (as well as most others, including politicians) act based on principles, principles they see as larger than themselves.

    The fact that they are wrong some times in their convictions doesn’t change this. Bad results are almost never caused by bad intentions. They are mostly caused by good intentions.

    The problem is due to a lack of humility at what they know and can accomplished. This is compounded by a lack of humility in their critics by imputing bad intentions. Bad faith ensues on both sides then. Both sides fail to recognize the common humanity of either side and the flaws we all struggle with.

  24. 24 24 vald

    @Ken
    Don’t be a fool.

    “Any adult who wants to live with another adult, mingle assets, share a life, and raise children can, regardless of whether or not both adults are of different sexes.”

    Of course anyone can live with another adult and share a life, but the “traditional” marriage of the United States encompasses so much more than that. For one thing, a gay couple cannot mingle assets in the same way that a heterosexual couple can because a gay couple, regardless of their marital status or how they refer to each other, is required to file two federal income tax returns and pay taxes as two individuals. Employer provided health insurance, the most common way that most people receive health insurance in this country, does not have to cover a gay couple under federal law (although many states have laws mandating otherwise). Even when an employer, whether under state law or by choice, does give health insurance benefits to a same-sex spouse or partner, the partner receiving the benefits is still required to pay federal (and sometimes state) taxes on that insurance because they are not considered a part of the family (also under DOMA). Contracts, living wills, etc. between gay couples are also not always recognized. Before 2009 when the Obama administration issued orders mandating hospitals allow individuals to select who they want to be allowed in their room, hospitals were known to ban gay “spouses” (assuming they used that word) from the room and, in extreme cases, ignore powers of attorney and other signed documents vesting rights in the spouse. While some of this was illegal (ignoring power of attorney in some cases, for example) not all of it was.

    As for raising children: A lesbian couple can birth a child through artificial insemination, but adoption is most certainly not. In the United States, only the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Mane, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Florida, and Guam currently allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt children. While in most other states a single person can adopt a child and raise that child with a partner, the partner will have absolutely no legal rights, rather belying your argument.

    Also, if you want further evidence than just this that legalizing gay marriage would make life substantially better for a few million people, please let me know and I’d be happy to point you in the direction of further resources. I believe that what I have provided here should be enough to at least make you think that someone might benefit from the legalization of gay marriage.

  25. 25 25 Kirk

    @Ken:

    Really. They don’t act on naked self interest. You think Obama or Romney are acting on principles? They will only act on principles to the extent they don’t prevent thei reelection and gathering of more power for themselves. I think they actually delude themselves many times into thinking they are acting on their principles, but they’re not.

    Obama doesn’t care that he’s one of the 1%, he’s one of the “good” 1%. Just as Gore is “principled” because he supports carbon tax, and then profits to the gills by it. There’s a reason all these rich dudes talk about taxing the rich (themselves) but not one of the m-fers actually cuts a check without a tax law change.

    Even the true believers will act in their own interest. They just convince themselves that they are doing it for their principles.

    There’s a reason they say power corrupts.

  26. 26 26 Kirk
  27. 27 27 Chas Phillips

    This kind of mush is surely what President Seligman was hoping for when he yanked your chain during the Fluke contraception media frenzy. It should be clear to him, and the faculty at large, that, after your recent celebration of open marriage, and your fervent support of same sex marriage and your expression of concern about the US’s “restrictive” immigration policies in today’s blog, you are back on the team. When are you taking delivery of the Volt?

  28. 28 28 TeeJaw

    Speaking of principles, aren’t you abandoning some good ones to get yourself back onto the liberal reservation?

    Since the tradition of marriage has served human civilization so well for several millennia, and it’s current decline explains many if not most of the social problems of the present age, it is not remarkable that a sizable majority of the population is taking umbrage at the audacity of a tiny minority that seeks to fundamentally redefine marriage for their own agenda, an agenda that really has little to do with the marriage concept itself.

  29. 29 29 Jace

    Well, what good is foreign policy if you plan on warmongering anyways? You don’t need someone to inveigle other countries into espousing your policies if you plan on coercing them.

    This isn’t exactly an untoward development. . . although it still elicits consternation.

    - Jace

  30. 30 30 Roger

    @vald: Yes, it would be possible to create tax benefits for a narrow special interest group, but it would come at the expense of everyone else.

  31. 31 31 Advo

    @ Will A:

    The constituents largely respond to whatever topics the political establishment is pushing.
    The GOP establishment, unfortunately, has decided that it is a good strategy to gain votes through hate campaigns against minorities. First it was the Southern Strategy that secured the South for the GOP, now it’s the gays, the Muslims, the immigrants that are “attacking marriage”, “tearing the fabric of society”, “assaulting everything sacred”, “trying to submit the US to sharia law”, etc, etc.
    The GOP is a movement whose political campaigns routinely feature hate campaign against minorities, often front and center. Sure you can blame the constituents who respond to that, but their prejudices and petty bigotry are fueled and amplified by the media campaigns of the GOP.
    It’s understandable, of course. If you subtract the “religious values” (i.e. mysoginist, anti-sex, homophobic, anti-Islam), the “anti-immigration” and the “pro-gun” items from the GOP agenda, you are left with an economic agenda that doesn’t exactly align with the interests of the Southern blue collar workers that make up a large part of the GOP base.

  32. 32 32 Vald

    @Roger

    I greatly appreciate your ability to belittle the existence of your fellow humans by calling us a “special interest group.”

  33. 33 33 Steve Landsburg

    Vald:

    I can think of nothing more belittling than to suggest that a person belongs to no special interest groups. What could be less interesting than a person with no special interests?

  34. 34 34 Vald

    @Steven

    Obviously everyone belongs to special interest groups, and has interests that are of great concern to them. And yet, as Roger Schlafly and most Americans use the term “special interest group” it is meant to negatively imply special (read: not normal) interests that are against the interests of the population, and therefore unacceptable gaming of the system. I find that distinctly insulting. If I have misunderstood, Roger should explain it. The dictionary definition of the words special, interest, and group are entirely uninteresting to me, unless we can actually discuss what Roger meant.

    Also, considering Roger’s general opinions on the matter, let us not pretend that he meant it as anything other than a denigration.

  35. 35 35 Punning Linguist

    “As long as we have anything like traditional marriage, I believe that restricting it to heterosexual couples is an exceptionally bad and stupid policy, laced with unnecessary cruelty.”

    As a self-baptized classic liberal, I agree in theory and in sentiment. However, the advocate devil inside me would point out that heterosexual marriage was never and is not “policy” as I think you mean it. No government in the past (even the boy-loving Greeks) ever had to “defend” or legislate traditional marriage because homosexual marriage was just an absurd concept, because marriage was and is tied up in so many cultural and religious norms and contexts that don’t fit with homosexuality. Homosexual marriage has arisen today only because, for the first time in history, homosexuals want to ‘wed’ their homosexuality to those cultural and religious norms. But in so doing, they do indeed change said norms. So, while I don’t agree, I sympathize with my friends who, for equality’s sake, would like to see gay couples given all the tax and insurance benefits given married couples but don’t want to see gays usurp the term “marriage.” This is a purely symbolic issue for them, not a moral or equality issue. (Or, to put it the other way around, as I’ve heard more than one gay person say, “Why would I want to get married? I’m not religious and hate weddings.”)

    “It is not, however, an issue that is likely ever to affect my vote, because so much else dwarfs its importance.”

    I think this is the important point. It’s ridiculous that so many Republicans, who I like to think are closeted libertarians, identify as Republican because of this one hangup. They’ve made the Progressive mistake of equating liberal tolerance with loving embrace.

  36. 36 36 Roger

    @Vald: Considering that you are unable or unwilling to use ordinary dictionary meanings, there is no point in having a discussion with you. You will just claim that my words mean something different from the way that they are commonly understood.

    @Advo: Your argument makes no sense. If Romney hates gays so much, why did he hire Grenell?

  37. 37 37 Mike H

    I can think of nothing more belittling than to suggest that a person belongs to no special interest groups. What could be less interesting than a person with no special interests?

    Let’s peak up for the downtrodden, marginalised Ordinary!

  38. 38 38 Darin JOhnson

    First, it seems pretty uncharitable to attribute resistance to homosexual marriage solely to homophobia. Conservatives have made arguments against homosexual marriage based on their estimates of what the effect might be. You may not like their arguments, but shouldn’t you at least tackle them rather than simply dismissing their proponents as bigots?

    Second, where is the humility on the “pro” side? You may believe that the benefits of sanctioning homosexual marriage outweigh the costs, you may think it’s the right thing to do for moral reasons. But shouldn’t you at least consider that the law of unintended consequences is in effect? Marriage, as it is, has evolved over a very long period of time. Does that mean nothing?

    In short, I’d like to hear a supporter of recognizing homosexual marriage state whether he a) believes that the downside is overstated, and explain why, or b) agrees that there may be a significant downside, but that it is outweighed by the upside.

    Aren’t we supposed to be economists? A little cost/benefit assessment seems in order.

  39. 39 39 Advo

    @Roger:

    I don’t know what Romney thinks with regards to gays. (Actually, I don’t know what Romney REALLY thinks with regards to anything because he seems to have reversed himself on most major issues when he decided to go for the nomination)
    I don’t know why Grenell got hired in the first place – maybe it was overlooked that he was gay, maybe whoever on Romney’s staff was responsible for vetting Grenell had a different opinion on how much of a political liability his homosexuality might be than Romney or whoever advised Romney now to fire him.

  40. 40 40 Steve Landsburg

    Darin Johnson: I agree with you that it’s important to be charitable to the other side on issues like this. Megan McArdle, for example, has written eloquently about the possible unintended consequences of legalizing gay marriage, and while I haven’t found her concerns compelling, I do think they’re sincere and legitimate and ought not be dismissed out of hand.

    I’ve also heard it argued that the system as it stands is subject to gaming, with people choosing to get married or not depending on the tax consequences (which sometimes favor marriage and sometimes penalize it). Gays, because they are less likely to be planning families, are presumably more likely to engage in that kid of gaming behavior, and there’s a legitimate argument on that basis for excluding them from the system. Again, I don’t find that argument compelling, but neither do I find it reprehensible or ridiculous.

    My point in invoklng homophobia was this: Even if a candidate opposes gay marriage for no reason better than homophobia, it’s still not going to affect my vote, because the issue seems so relatively minor. That’s a far cry from saying that all opposition is homophobic.

  41. 41 41 Will A

    @ Advo:

    you are left with an economic agenda that doesn’t exactly align with the interests of the Southern blue collar workers that make up a large part of the GOP base.

    I think you meant to say Southern white blue collar workers. And which of the following Obama positions would you say are in the in the interest of Southern white blue collar workers?

    Race to the Top which provides grants for a few states based on their ability to conform to what the current administration thinks is proper.

    A health insurance law that makes the working poor spend money they don’t have on insurance so that they can get a tax refund later?

    An obsession with educational standards to have everyone race for a bachelors degree and a blindness to the fact that some industrial countries like Germany do well by sending the message that you aren’t a failure if you go into a trade.

  42. 42 42 Ken B

    Darin Johnson:” Conservatives have made arguments against homosexual marriage based on their estimates of what the effect might be.”

    Yes, but to be fair conservatives have made arguemtns FOR gay marriage. I indicated one. I think Vald, albeit I expect with a different intent, laid out a pretty good conservative argument for gay marriage: it strengthens families and treats people as responsible.

  43. 43 43 Harold

    I think that most “objective” arguments against samme sex marriage are mainly homophobia thinly disguised. There are some genuine ones, but I, like Steve, do not find them compelling.

    It is interesting what is meant by “marriage”. To me, the main thing is to obtain the legal protections etc. that marriage entails, but for some it is very important that there is no symbolic difference.

    The UK has civil partnerships, which differ very little from marriage – civil partners of male peers or knights do not receive a courtesy title such as “lady”. The ceremony must be devoid of religious content, and must not take place in a place of religion.

    Same-sex partners cannot marry, and different-sex partners cannot get a civil partnership. Same-sex marriages granted in other countries are not recognised in UK law – a couple from Canada tried to get their marriage recognised and failed.

    Some think it important that same-sex couples cannot actually “marry”. To me, it seems that most of the gains are in the practical side. If people want to use a different term for effectively the same thing, then so what?

    I would find it very interesting to see out how many different-sex couples would opt for a civil partnership, if it were possible.

  44. 44 44 iceman

    Harold – “I think that most “objective” arguments against same sex marriage are mainly homophobia thinly disguised.”

    Even if I suspected you were right, or at least suspected it were possible to establish the truth of such a statement, I’m just not sure what the purpose or contribution is of speculatively assigning ill intent. As a result, I tend to speculate that personalizing an argument, rather than addressing any potentially legitimate points it may contain at face value, is a cop-out. [I note that SL mentioned the importance of being “charitable to the other side on issues like this”, and focused on examples where he may disagree with the level of concern attached to a particular point, but nevertheless presume the motivation is “sincere and legitimate”.]

    I find your other points interesting, and remain unclear on the exact differences between civil unions and formal marriage right here in the US.

  45. 45 45 iceman

    @Vald: I guess the question is, if someone supports the other measures you mention, doesn’t drawing a line at marriage seem like playing ‘realpolitiks’ every bit as much as in the Romney example at issue here? Simply put, the prez (among others) is making the strategic calculation that disappointing you on perhaps the most important application of this ‘core value’ will not cost him your vote, while giving him a chance to pick off some other less ‘tolerant’ folks.

    IMHO the lesson is that since we can’t really know any of these people, the best we can do is look for those who take positions that most closely reflect our own values, and hope they’re doing so out of principle, but from there we’re best served just assuming they’re all playing the same game. Often when we find ourselves feeling (feigning?) outrage, it’s simply because one side is playing the game better (and doing precisely the same things the other side would if you switched the letters attached to their names). At the end of the day in my view these people reflect public opinion far more than they shape it. Certainly whenever we catch ourselves believing that one entire ‘side’ actually consists of morally superior *people*, it’s time to take an objectivity break.

  46. 46 46 Vald

    @iceman

    If I am understanding you correctly, then yes, I completely agree that the president is playing politics with the gay marriage issue, because the term marriage is something of a buzz word that he wants to enjoy. I think its entirely strategic as a way to appeal to those in the middle who agree with him on most issues, but would turn to Romney because of this one issue.

    If this doesn’t exactly answer what you were saying, could you elaborate on your comparison between the president and Romney, because I don’t know if I entirely understood the contrast you were trying to draw.

  47. 47 47 Vald

    @Iceman

    The differences between civil unions and marriage in the United States is extremely complex because the distinctions are different in every state. In some states, there are no relevant differences except in the terms used. In some states, only gay couples can become civil partners, while in others any two individuals can become civil partners. There are also, in some cases, differences related to tax incentives, inheritance laws, and insurance coverage.

  48. 48 48 Harold

    Iceman: I must say that the arguments to which I refer were not ones on this site. An example, from North Carolina’s campaign to ban same sex marriage:
    1. Gay marriage will eliminate concern for children. “Every child born into a same-sex relationship is intentionally denied the love and affection of one of her biological parents,” the coalition argues. “Under a definition of marriage that is genderless, the interests of children … [are] eliminated entirely. Only the wishes of the two adults in question matter.”

    I find it absurd that anyone would think same-sex partnerships eliminate concern for children, and can only think that it is homophobia thinly disguised.

    I said they were “mainly” thinly disguised homophobia, and that relates to the number of times I have come across them. Perhaps you are right that it is not helpful to count the huge number of bad arguments, but I do not imply that this means there are no good ones. I was not assigning ill intent, merely observing that there is a lot of homophobia out there. A homophobic response is not one of ill-intent, but a response to one’s phobia. I would not assign ill intent to an arachnaphobe who wanted to avoid spiders.

  49. 49 49 Ken B

    @Vald, Iceman: There are two important points.
    1. Most people feel that marriage carries a social stamp of approval.
    2. There is a large body of common law relating to marriage that will be hard to replicate with statutes on civil unions.

    Two of the reasons I support gay marriage btw.

  50. 50 50 Harold

    Vald: “In some states, there are no relevant differences except in the terms used” Correct me if I am wrong, but is not one huge difference that the relationship is only recognised within the state?

    This raises a question I have not considered before – are civil partnerships such as those in the UK recognised anywhere else? If not, then this is a big difference from marriage, which tends to be recognised in most countries.

  51. 51 51 iceman

    I see the prez has now come out and formally voiced support for gay marriage, while also saying it’s an issue best left to the states. I agree with him on both counts. However the fact that this position finally “evolved” still feels very calculated. Again, it seems to me how we allocate tax breaks (i.e other people’s $) is something people should probably get to vote on (unless there’s a real ‘equal protection’ issue…also if Ken B’s ‘social stamp of approval is at issue as well I suppose.] I say that b/c to the best I’ve been able to discern, the tax issues are the main difference between marriage and civil unions. The latter seem like a no-brainer e.g. equal protection, allowing people to share their *own* assets as they see fit.

    @Harold — Sorry if I misinterpreted, but I tend to equate “homophobia” with a suggestion of conscious, calculated intolerance in a way I would not assign to a fear of spiders.

  52. 52 52 Vald

    Harold:

    Not exactly. Other states do not have to recognize same-sex domestic partnerships or same-sex marriages, so really its not a difference between the two. Whether a same-sex domestic partnership or marriage is recognized by other states is entirely up to the other state. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) declares that the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages, so as it stands now the states do not have to recognize such relationships entered into in other states. Many states, however, do recognize same-sex domestic partnerships and marriages from other states (and I believe there are still some states that recognize marriages from other states as domestic partnerships within their own borders). As for the status of UK civil partnerships, I’m just not sure. I imagine it would be up to an individual country whether to recognize it or not. That’s how it works with same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships in the US.

  53. 53 53 Harold

    Vald. It does represent a significant differnce between marriage and same-sex partnerships, about which each individual state and/or country can do nothing. A marriage between a man and a woman will pretty much be honored anywhere in the world. A same sex partnership will not be. This would be the same whether or not it is called a “marriage” or not.

  54. 54 54 Vald

    Harold.

    I thought you were comparing *same-sex* marriage and other same-sex relationships. Yes, there are innumerable differences, at the moment, between heterosexual marriages and same-sex relationships, both within the United States and in the rest of the world.

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