News of the Day

obamaThe President of the United States thinks that gay marriage should be legal. So do I. But I have two coments:

First, I am dismayed by the notion that anyone’s vote might be swayed by this issue, in either direction.

As I said earlier in the week, I do understand why this is an issue of major importance in some people’s lives. But the number of people affected, and the magnitude of the effects, are still meager compared to the effects of, say, trade or immigration policy. What ever happened to perspective?

Of course, Bryan Caplan will tell you that voters are systematically irrational in any event, so it might be just as well that they’re basing their votes on things that don’t matter very much, as opposed to basing their votes on things that really matter and getting them wrong. But it’s still disheartening to think about.

Second, I am dismayed by the President’s suggestion that he came to this viewpoint through observation of “incredibly committed monogamous” same-sex relationships among his staffers — suggesting (though not outright asserting) that monogamy ought to be somehow relevant to the legal status of one’s marriage. And here I’d thought the whole point of this gay marriage thing was that the way people have sex is not properly a concern of the legal authorities. If he’s continuing to deny this principle, then the President remains philosophically on the same side of this divide as Family Research Council.

I’ll go one step further: Any gay marriage activist who has taken the principled stand that people’s sex lives should be irrelevant to the legal status of their marriages, and who now embraces the president’s position, is, I think, engaged in some pretty serious hypocrisy. Because the President’s message to that gay marriage activist is not “You were right all along”. Instead it’s “I still think your position is wrong, but I’m going to give you what you want anyway.” I understand being joyful about getting what you want, but to follow that up with “Hooray, now the President’s on our side!” — when the President in fact continues to deny the primary principle on which you staked your claim — is pretty much equivalent to saying “I never really cared about the principle in the first place, as long as I got what I wanted.”


75 Responses to “News of the Day”

  1. 1 1 Vald

    First off, I doubt that anyone’s vote WILL be swayed by this announcement. Anyone for whom same-sex marriage was a top priority was already going to be voting for the president because, whatever his beliefs, he was sure to do better for the issue than a possible President Romney. On the other hand, anyone for whom opposing same-sex marriage is a top priority was already not going to be voting for the president because of his stance on so many other LGBT issue. If anything, I think the only practical of this statement on the campaign and the election will be to energize a base of support that was, of late, somewhat disappointed in the president’s unwillingness to speak out in support of same-sex marriage.
    I also want to add that you are not the only one that thinks that this should not be THE issue of the election. There are plenty on the left (myself included) that find this to be a relatively insignificant issue compared with a wide variety of other causes. Granted, you would probably disagree with most of the causes that I and others on the left think are more important, but my point is more to say that there are many on the left who do not think this should take priority over other more pressing issues. Unfortunately, those arguing for focus on more pressing issues (on the left and the right) are going to be drowned out in the next few days by the (seemingly requisite?) screams of praise and dismay.
    As for your second point, I think you miss what many (certainly not all) of the most prominent gay marriage activists are arguing for, which is essentially a right to heteronormalized, monogamous, “white picket fence” gay marriage. In that sense, what the president has said is exactly what they want him to say, and they should be as pleased as they are acting.
    With that said, I completely agree with you that it is hypocritical, but really that’s just a function of the overwhelming hypocrisy of the mainstream movement for gay marriage. The problem is that most of these activists aren’t attempting to actually change anything, they are attempting to fit gay marriage into the already existing institution of American marriage, which requires (at least in theory) monogamy.

    Steven: One a side note, I was wondering if you think it is irrational for people who are in same-sex relationships, and could derive benefit from the legalization of same-sex marriages, to prioritize this issue? Or when you talk about “the voters” are you talking about the voting population at large, which would not, obviously, benefit personally from this decision?

  2. 2 2 Andrew

    I don’t think your second point really holds. All of politics is by nature coalitional. People support policies for different reasons. In particular, people can support gay marriage for “conservative” reasons (promoting commitment, monogamy, stability) or “liberal” reasons (equality before the law) or “radical” reasons (overthrowing heteronormativity). You have to take what you can get.

    Similarly, in the 19th century, white people could be abolitionists for different reasons – economic selfishness (white workers wanting to get rid of unpaid labor), radical racial equality, etc. By your reasoning, radical abolitionists should have been unhappy with Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation because it was partly motivated by military exigencies, or unhappy with the Republican Party because a significant part of its “Free Labor” ideology was a racist desire to *exclude* blacks from the territories.

  3. 3 3 Harold

    “Any gay marriage activist who has taken the principled stand that people’s sex lives should be irrelevant to the legal status of their marriages,”

    Is this actually anyones primary position? It may be a part of it, but more important would be one’s gender should not affect the State’s treatment of you etc.

  4. 4 4 Nick

    I think people wont look through the veil of ignorance on this one.

    Rather than looking at marginal effects they will say (like I would) that “so what if I get a few hundred bucks better off economically” as “my friend XYZ can now get married and thats priceless for somethign I value very little (their vote)”

    This may be a much larger issue than you would think Steven, especially for younger people (like myself) who remain fairly apathetic (OWS aside) re: economic issues and see this as the key social issue of our time.

  5. 5 5 Andy

    I think the point of the second argument is not that gay people who desire a “white picket fence” marriage are hypocrits, in fact, these people SHOULD say the president now agrees with them. The issue is that one of the arguments against gay marriage is that they can be seen as being less prone to monogamy and therefore should not be allowed to wed. These people do still not have the president on their side and therefore should not claim that this is now the case. Please correct me if I’m wrong here Steve.

  6. 6 6 Nickolaus

    Why is everyone pretending (especially in the news media) that this wasn’t his position all along? He’s a politician who lied to get votes. Big shocker.

  7. 7 7 JohnE

    “…the whole point of this gay marriage thing was that the way people have sex is not properly a concern of the legal authorities.”

    So anyone taking this position should also be in favor of allowing incestuous marriages, no?

  8. 8 8 RPLong

    There are two kinds of people in the world:

    * Those who take a principled stance,


    * Those who just want to get their own way.

    That is to say, I agree with Prof. Landsburg, but I think his point is a bit of a lost cause. The ugly truth of politics is that for the most part, people just want to get theirs and then rub it in the faces of those who didn’t want them to have it. It is a baffling level of animosity. No talk of principles and ethics will ever overcome it.

    And it’s not just gay marriage, it’s everything. This is why you can’t shrink the welfare state: because people want to get theirs, period. They are not interested in how their interests cost other people money and utility. All they care about is getting theirs.

    Liberty cannot exist in that kind of environment. There’s almost no point in even talking about it under these conditions. The only benefit to doing so is just keeping the ideas alive until such time as some future generation is ready to think about ethics again from some other standpoint than rationalization and getting free stuff.

  9. 9 9 CC

    I just wanted to point out that in practical terms nothing has changed. The prez still supports DOMA, i.e. he thinks it’s fine for states to outlaw gay marriage and it’s fine for those states to refuse to recognize gay couples who got married in other states. So in terms of policy, his position is unchanged (and identical to Romney’s).

    Not sure why everyone in the media (and facebook) is eating this story up.

  10. 10 10 Brian G

    The expected gains in social welfare for a second term of Obama’s presidency have increased (or decreased, depending on your point of view). This issue may be small potatoes, but on the margin, why should it not sway some people’s votes, even when it is put in perspective?

  11. 11 11 Chas Phillips

    This is the second time in a week that you have referenced trade and immigration policies as significant issues for the electorate in 2012. If President Obama is elected and achieves significant gains in Congress, immigration policy will be comprehensively overhauled. Romney will not focus on immigration. Both candidates make the same threats toward, and criticisms of, China, but it will be impossible in November to cast a vote that will influence the propagation of free trade: both candidates view trade as a political matter, not a key determinate of US prosperity. While you see trade and immigration policies as much more significant than same-sex marriage, I see immigration and trade as secondary issues at best; the restoration of economic freedom is the issue around which my deliberations will be made and contributions determined.

    Your posts on the subject of same sex marriage make you appear a bit snobbish, perhaps inadvertently so. It appears that you believe American voters do not have the ability to know what is important in the big picture, but this is probably good because they vote on the basis of extraneous issues anyway (and they would screw up if they voted in a more informed fashion). Pretty condescending–does the Academy know better?

    You assert that the number of people affected by same sex marriage is meager compared to the influence of other, more important issues. I am not as sure about this as you are: do changes in the culture impact the citizenry in ways not thoroughly analyzed and understood? Choice, same sex marriage, euthanasia, legalization of drugs, secularization may be the markers of an enlightened society; on the other hand, the supporters of these practices may also share a preference for big government, intervention and “social justice”. Small constituencies can change the culture disproportionately, often for the better but frequently for worse.

  12. 12 12 Tony N

    The ‘they’re plenty monogamous’ line was irrelevant—like most of what the man says—and not suggestive of any principled objection. I think it was filler, a positive and inoffensive observation that helps explain his “evolution.” After all, he also said he’d consulted his daughters on the matter. Really? C’mon.

    That said, I wish it were the basis of his opposition. It’s terribly weak. If a predisposition to infidelity is disqualifying, then men *period* shouldn’t be allowed to wed. Indeed, by that logic the only people suitable for marriage are lesbians. (Kinda hot, actually).

  13. 13 13 Floccina

    So should anyone be allowed to marry anyone without regard to sex at all. I.e. should a person be allowed to marry a much younger friend just to force his employer to provide survivor benefits.

  14. 14 14 khodge

    “Whatever happened to perspective?”
    I think the most telling comment on this was an old Ann Landers column that was supposed to have drawn one of the largest reponse: Which way to hang the toilette paper.

    There are good sociological reasons for government to want to encourage marriage: for the sake of the children but, of course, the arguments being presented are about sex and not about procreation.

  15. 15 15 Doctor Memory

    “I’ll go one step further: Any gay marriage activist who has taken the principled stand that people’s sex lives should be irrelevant to the legal status of their marriages, and who now embraces the president’s position, is, I think, engaged in some pretty serious hypocrisy.”

    Don’t be deliberately obtuse. Is the president proposing that same-sex marriages should have some additional legal enforcement of monogamy that mixed-gender marriages do not? Is he proposing re-criminalizing adultery alongside of (or even before) legalizing gay marriage? No? Neither of those things? Then his personal endorsement of monogamy is a good reason for me to not marry him (Michelle will, no doubt, be relieved), but not any sort of reason at all for me to shun his endorsement.

    (The fact that said endorsement was tepid, loophole-ridden, and delivered about four years overdue, however…)

  16. 16 16 Harold

    “should a person be allowed to marry a much younger friend just to force his employer to provide survivor benefits.”

    I assume there are controls on legal marriage, if the partners are only undertaking it to gain financial benefit, I think it would not be permitted. However, if both partners declared that their marriage was because of love, it would be difficult to prove otherwise. These issues crop up more often in immigration cases.

  17. 17 17 Doctor Memory

    Chas: I admire your optimism about immigration reform under a hypothetical second Obama administration and (even more hypothetical) Democrat-controlled congress. But it will not happen — neither in Obama’s second term nor in any other administration in our lifetimes — and I will happily wager hard currency on that statement.

  18. 18 18 val

    @CC curious as to why you think the president supports DOMA. The Justice Department refused to defend it early last year.

  19. 19 19 Andy B

    Steve, I don’t understand how you are dismayed that anyone’s vote might be swayed by this issue. If I thought that a candidates’ position on any issue, no matter it’s relative importance, was based solely on outright discrimination and nothing else, then I may not want to see that candidate hold office for the obvious reasons. I’m not saying that is the case here. But if it were, it could certainly sway my and perhaps many others vote.

  20. 20 20 Doctor Memory

    Floccina: “I.e. should a person be allowed to marry a much younger friend just to force his employer to provide survivor benefits.”

    It will apparently surprise you to find out that this is already 100% legal right now (provided that your much younger friend is of the other gender) and happens presumably more than occasionally. Society, as far as we have determined, has failed to collapse.

  21. 21 21 Vald

    Same-sex marriage is NOT the key social issue of our time. Or, rather, it should not be the key social issue of our time.

    You are correct that nothing has changed, but you misunderstand the president’s position. He does not support DOMA, and has supported the repeal of DOMA since his first campaign. Just over one year ago, he ordered the justice department to stop defending DOMA against legal challenges, although until the law is actually declared unconstitutional he will continue to enforce it. He has also been finding and authorizing a variety of workarounds to solve some of the more immediately harmful effects the law. Whether such an approach is lawful or advisable is certainly a HUGE question, but the president certainly does not support DOMA.
    His position on whether states recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states is basically at odds with itself because of his position on DOMA. According to his statement yesterday, he does support the right of states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages, but a repeal of DOMA would at least make such a right legally questionable. I can’t imagine that Obama and his advisers do not recognize this. My guess is that they are just hoping that the social conservatives won’t notice, or else that it won’t matter if they do.

    I think you have Steven’s position about right, but I don’t think the snobbishness is inadvertent.

  22. 22 22 Neil

    Obama does not want to give Romney, the Mormon, the opportunity to go one step further and advocate polygamy. :)

  23. 23 23 Roger

    Principled stand? You’ve got to be kidding. Gay activists want same-sex marriage because most of the population consider them to be perverts, and changing marriage law is a tool for forcing the public to accept their lifestyles. Obama has disappointed his core supporters in many ways, and needed to do something to get them excited again.

  24. 24 24 Ken B

    @Tony N: I confess I’m disappointed. You suggest negative incentives for gay men and positive ones for gay women. All this time spent on an econ blog and you still don’t get supply and demand?


  25. 25 25 vald


    Why is it impossible for you to believe that activists for gay marriage are taking a principled stand? Or lets not even talk about activists, why is it impossible for you to believe that gay men and lesbians in committed relationships want to be married for any reason other than as a “tool for forcing the public to accept their lifestyles”?

    Second, of course Obama needed to do something to excite his supporters again. I don’t think that anyone is claiming that this is not a political calculation. Romney’s decision to state his opposition to same-sex marriage was also a political calculation. The men are running for the presidency of the United States, I think its fair to assume that just about anything either man does between now and the election in November will be a politically calculated decision. That doesn’t mean that his supporters shouldn’t be happy that he expressed his support.

    Finally, what on earth makes you think that “most of the population considers [us] to be perverts”? Last I checked, the country is more or less divided on whether same-sex marriage should be legal (weighing against legalizing same-sex marriage). I know plenty of people who are opposed to same-sex marriage on a variety of grounds who do not consider gay men and lesbians to be perverts. Obviously this is a very rough calculation, but I think saying that “most” people consider gay men and lesbians to be perverts is overstating your case. Maybe you need to start talking to some people who aren’t close-minded bigots?

  26. 26 26 Jimbino

    Wrong Steve. The benefits accorded married people and denied to singles and gay couples are a very big deal. Just one example: Every day, foreigners gain green cards and permanent residency in Amerika by virtue of marrying an Amerikan. This right is not extended to either singles or gays, and is a very big deal for the two parties involved, one of whom is a voter.

    It annoys me no end that I’d have to marry a European or Brazilian to gain the right to spend more than three months per year in their countries on an ongoing basis, and the Europeans and Brazilians confront the same problem here. Whether you own a home in the country is irrelevant: you have to marry to get in. Once in, you can start importing your children, parents and other relatives–a right denied to gay couples and singles!

  27. 27 27 Tony N

    Ken B,

    Touché :)

  28. 28 28 Roger

    @vald: Most Americans still oppose same-sex marriage. Just look at election results. And many (or most) of those who support same-sex marriage think that it is perverted. That may include Obama and Biden themselves.

    I don’t doubt that same-sex couples may have other reasons for getting married. As Jimbino points out, immigration fraud may be a reason. But if you listen to gay activists, the main thing they want is to force the public to accept their lifestyles.

  29. 29 29 CC

    @ Vald: “According to his statement yesterday, he does support the right of states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages,”

    In other words, he supports DOMA. What did I miss?

  30. 30 30 vald


    I accept that a majority of Americans still oppose same-sex marriage, I wasn’t attempting to deny that. What I am contesting was that most people think of gay men and lesbians as perverts. That is not my experience, but then again, I live in the northeast and do attempt to avoid people who consider gays to be perverts. I tend to enjoy my time more with people who don’t think that I’m systematically attempting to destroy the fabric of society.

    As for your bit about “immigration fraud,” yes, I imagine that some people do want to get married to commit immigration fraud, but I highly doubt that it has anything to do with gay marriage. If you already want to commit immigration fraud, wouldn’t it be significantly easier for a gay person to go and find a friend of the opposite gender to marry, instead of fighting a decades long struggle to legalize same-sex marriage and convince Congress to overturn DOMA and recognize that marriage? I tend to think that if you’re going to commit fraud, you’d pick the easiest and least conspicuous way possible.

    You are looking too closely for logic. Essentially, where the president seems to stand is that DOMA should be overturned, states should give same-sex couples the right to marry, and that states should not be required to recognize such marriages. Obviously those pieces don’t all fit together very well, but no one ever said that political positions were ever entirely logical (particularly during campaign season). In my opinion, what is more problematic about DOMA is that the federal government does not recognize legally performed same-sex marriages, which effects a whole host of rights from immigration to taxation. The president DOES wholly support the federal *recognition* of marriages, even if he does not believe that the federal government should be required to *perform* such marriages. Again, you can try to fit logic into all of that if you want, but, in my opinion, not every element of that is entirely consistent (and I would be willing to bet that the administration knows it).

  31. 31 31 Ken B

    “In other words, he supports DOMA. What did I miss?”

    That doggone it he deserves credit for opposing DOMA even though he doesn’t.


  32. 32 32 Ken B

    Vald: ” What I am contesting was that most people think of gay men and lesbians as perverts.”

    I think Vald is right here. I think a lot of people disapprove, and feel a strong distaste, but the kind of licenced animus that ‘pervert’ — or ‘prevert’– implies really is out of fashion. I think anyone who uses ‘pervert’ for gays in a public form will get push-back, and end up on the defensive. People don’t see it remotely like pederasty any more.

  33. 33 33 Jimbino


    To your point regarding marriage as “immigration fraud,” the INS has a concept of “sham marriage,one that folks enter into solely to gain immigration rights.

    Consideration of the whole idea of “sham marriage” brings the problems of marriage into focus. What is a sham marriage? Presumably it is a legal marriage entered into to secure immigration rights for one of the partners that has none of the hallmarks of a “real” marriage.

    But what are these hallmarks of “real” marriage? Love, Sex, Cohabitation, Kids, Religious Mandate? Every one of those is lacking in many marriages and all are lacking in some. Indeed, sham marriage is not a theory used by the IRS to disallow exemptions and deductions, nor by hospitals to deny visitation rights, etc. Grounds for nullifying an otherwise legal marriage between heterosexuals has always been limited to fraud, duress or bigamy or, perhaps, capacity (mental, age) and consanguinity.

    It’s time we fixed our Constitution to get government out of all interpersonal relationships. Singles too deserve equal rights. Immigration should depend on merit or sponsorship, not “family reunification.” Friends and distant relationships should count as much as close family.

    While we’re at it, we could eliminate from all laws and regulations of the land any and all references to the sex of any person, as has already been done for race.

  34. 34 34 Roger

    @KenB: Yes, publicly calling homosexuals perverts is out of fashion. But 50% of the USA population says that homosexual relations are always wrong.

    Obama has contradicted himself about DOMA. He first supported DOMA in the courts, then opposed it. Yesterday he said that he wants the states to decide for the themselves, but that is the core of DOMA.

    @Vald: Those committing the immigration fraud won’t be the gay activists who spent decades lobbying for acceptance. It will be the foreign opportunists who want to become citizens after the USA has same-sex marriage. And if you go around calling people “close-minded bigots” just because they disagree with you, then it is no wonder that you are out-of-touch about common views.

  35. 35 35 vald


    I understand the concept. I was contesting Roger’s point.


    The core of DOMA is not that states can decide for themselves. The core of DOMA is that the federal government will not recognize same-sex marriages performed by the states. An ancillary effect of that is that states are allowed to choose whether to perform such marriages and to recognize such marriages, and are not required to recognize such marriages under the supremacy clause of the Constitution. The contradictions are many, but not nearly as dire as you want to make them seem.

    And there are already “foreign opportunists who want to become citizens,” I do not understand why allowing same-sex marriage would alter this in any way, or, as you seem to want to imply, open the floodgates for more people to take advantage of the system. I also don’t think that is a good enough reason to forbid same-sex marriage, although I’m sure you have a wide variety of other reasons.

    And I called you a close-minded bigot because you called me a pervert (well, ok, you called all gays perverts, but being included in that group, I took it rather personally). I thought it added a bit of balance.

  36. 36 36 Tony N

    A guy being sued by 27 states on 10th amendment grounds suddenly discovers federalism.


  37. 37 37 vald


    Also, why is believing that gay sex is not perverted, and that same-sex marriage is not perverted not a principled stand? You may disagree with the principle, but why does disagreeing with you automatically mean that one is unprincipled?

  38. 38 38 Doctor Memory

    Roger: there’s something singularly depressing and mealy-mouthed about your appeal to the silent majority here. “Most people” (unnamed, uncounted, gestured at in the abstract) think that gays are perverts? “Publicly calling homosexuals perverts is out of fashion?” (Who, precisely, is, was or would be doing that calling left of course unspecified.) How sad.

    Never mind the question-begging: we all now agree on what “perversion” is and that it is bad? I must have missed that memo.

    Eschew the passive voice, claim your own opinions and take your lumps (should any be in the offing) like a (presumably non-perverted) man, eh?

  39. 39 39 Todd

    It seems to me that despite their oppositional rhetoric, the policies we get from both sides of the political spectrum are virtually indistinguishable on the more significant issues like trade and immigration. So why not vote on a social issue like gay marriage? I would contend that a politician is slightly more likely to fulfill promises on relatively minor issues than on the big ones. If you’re somehow convinced that voting is worth the effort, this seems as reasonable an issue as any to vote on.

  40. 40 40 Roger

    @Vald: Steve is arguing that Obama took an unprinciple stand. I agree, but for other reasons. There are other people who do have principled stands on this issue.

    @Doctor Memory: No, we do not all agree on perversion. I was responding to Steve’s post about the stands of Obama and the gay activists. If you think that I am wrong about public opinion, then go ahead and post the evidence.

  41. 41 41 vald


    So there are people who have a principled stand on the issue, but not “gay activists”? Do ANY gay activists have a principled stand in your opinion? If yes, why can we not just assume that Steven was talking about only the principled ones?

    Steven was talking, very specifically, to “gay marriage activists who has taken the principled stand that people’s sex lives should be irrelevant to the legal status of their marriages.” You are scoffing the very idea that such people have principles. Why does that not mean that you don’t believe such a principled activist can exist?

    If “gay activists” are not the principled ones on this issue, then who are?

    It seems to me that you are obfuscating the issue and trying to change directions when confronted with questions that demand you actually defend your arguments.

  42. 42 42 Martin-2

    Chas Phillips – “It appears that you believe American voters do not have the ability to know what is important in the big picture…”

    It certainly does sound snobbish, but in “Myth of the Rational Voter” Bryan Caplan argues extensively for the positions Steven expressed in that paragraph. Right or wrong, Caplan has put in the work and deserves more attention before being passed off as a snob.

  43. 43 43 Ken


    Anyone for whom same-sex marriage was a top priority was already going to be voting for the president because, whatever his beliefs

    Ever heard of the uber-Bush supporter Andrew Sullivan? He’s not so much anymore. You can go read his blog, but after being a solid supporter of Bush, especially on the Afghan and Iraq wars, he melted down after Bush announced his support of a constitutional amendment because he thought DOMA constitutionally vulnerable.

    There are a shocking number of people for whom the legalization of gay marriage and abortion are the only issues that matter.

  44. 44 44 Roger

    @Vald: I don’t know why you keep addressing your comments to me. Steve’s original claimed “some pretty serious hypocrisy”.

  45. 45 45 Martin-2

    So let’s say I’m impressed by Obama’s revelation but on vastly broader issues both candidates are equally unappealing to me. Is my best strategy as a voter to go with Obama since he’s marginally preferable, or to withhold my vote to signal that neither candidate impressed me? Could the latter do more for my cause?

  46. 46 46 vald


    Steven called a specific subset of activists hypocritical. If you read my first post this thread (the first post on the thread), you will see that I agree with Steven’s position in that regard.

    You are the person on this thread who scoffed at the idea that these activists have any principled stand. It is THAT claim that I am hoping you will expand upon. It seems to me, from your complete unwillingness to even recognize my questions, that you either cannot or will not answer my question. In case my last post was so unclear to you: What supporters of gay marriage do you think have a principled stand if not the gay activists to whom Steven SPECIFICALLY refers?

    While this announcement might sway a few people’s opinions, I still don’t think it will have much of an impact on the electorate. Obviously there are some people who will be changing their opinion after this announcement, but I don’t think that their numbers are significant enough to be of much concern to a nation-wide election.

    If this was the core issue on which you were basing your vote, you should have already been voting for the president. Of the two viable contenders in the race, Romney was NEVER going to be supporting same-sex marriage, and Obama was already showing limited support for the idea before yesterday. I’m also not aware of any third-party fringe candidates running on a same-sex marriage platform, but if there was one, I guess that the President might draw some of their support.

  47. 47 47 CC

    @vald: “@CC
    You are looking too closely for logic. Essentially, where the president seems to stand is that DOMA should be overturned, states should give same-sex couples the right to marry, and that states should not be required to recognize such marriages.”

    OMG…. I cannot believe you are trying to find some fine distinction here. He might *say* he opposes DOMA, but by your own admission he supports what the law says.

    I think that means he supports DOMA.

  48. 48 48 Roger

    @Vald: If you have some info contrary to what I said, go ahead and post it.

  49. 49 49 Drew

    “And here I’d thought the whole point of this gay marriage thing was that the way people have sex is not properly a concern of the legal authorities.”

    That’s a perfectly reasonable view, but I’m not sure it’s really one that most people consider “the whole point” of this issue. A lot of the vocal opposition against gay marriage really does seem to come from the idea that marriage is a powerful social institution that’s central to social stability, and the government is the legal arbiter of that institution. And many of the powerful arguments for gay marriage have been made on the basis that it will continue to play that role: that in fact gay families will enhance the institution rather than watering it down (Jon Rauch’s book in particular).

    Do I agree with that line of reasoning? Yes and no: I don’t think that it’s the governments proper role to play social engineer. I think governments should simply offer, to everyone, civil unions that are basically bundles of legal contracts and leave the lobbying for particular social institutions (including whether or not to call them “marriage”) to private organizations like churches or individuals. But I think that’s largely still a minority view, and I don’t think it’s wrong or hypocritical to make a case that appeals to the concerns of people who think the government will continue play that role: by pointing out that in liberalizing marriage, the institution they care about, and society as a whole, will still be better off.

    As a side note: I know gay people who are vehemently opposed to gay marriage because they are opposed to marriage period. And I know gay people who really do just want access to the white picket fence arrangement, and lionize marriage as much as any priest. Interestingly, the breakdown on these two views seems to have little to do with liberal or conservative political views.

  50. 50 50 vald


    If he supports DOMA, then why has he stopped defending DOMA before the courts? His actions and his words are at odds, yes, but I think that reflects more on the schizophrenia of the political world, and the president’s attempts to stake out a position for himself that seems the least politically vulnerable. His various positions are contradictory, yes, but given that I’m more interested in his actions, which certainly lean in the direction of overturning DOMA.

    I don’t think its so much that he *says* he opposes DOMA, but that he *says* that he supports the state’s right to determine marriage that is more suspect given his actual actions. But then again, he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth on the issue, so I could be completely wrong.


    Shall I interpret your response to mean that you do not think a principled stance in favor of gay marriage is possible?

    What kind of proof would you like me to provide that supporters of same-sex marriage can take a principled stand? First off, I would argue that promoting tolerance (or, as you call it “forcing the public to accept their lifestyles”) is a principled stand. Just because you disagree with it does not make the opinion unprincipled. There are plenty of people who argue in favor of allowing same-sex marriage to promote stability in relationships. There are many who argue in favor of same-sex marriage on the grounds that it is unfair that committed relationships between same-sex couples are treated as inferior to heterosexual couples. I could provide you dozens of examples of this if you really needed me to, but with amount of press this issue has gotten in the last day, you can just google it yourself I would think, since just about everyone who cares in the slightest about the issue has been making statements.
    For just one example, go look at the Human Rights Campaign website. They have plenty of literature on why the organization supports same-sex marriage. A few of the reasons they list:
    - providing a social safety net for the children of same-sex couples
    - simple fairness
    - social security benefits, health insurance, estate tax and inheritance benefits, family leave, etc.
    Do you consider these principles, or not?

    If you need me to get even more specific, just let me know.

  51. 51 51 Mike H

    Just some information to ignore or discuss…..:

    In Australia, discrimination on the basis of sexual preference is illegal. However, marriage is defined as “between a man and a woman”. These are points of legislation, not constitutional law.

    The apparent contradiction is resolved by the fact that the government also recognises “de facto” relationships, including same-sex relationships, for the sake of immigration law, family and other welfare payments, tax law, etc, etc, etc. Marriage is not a necessity to obtain any specific benefit (or incur any specific responsibility) – one merely needs to be in a long-standing committed relationship.

    So marriage makes no practical difference under Australian law. Nonetheless, there is a push to repeal the marriage act and allow civil unions of same-sex couples (while respecting the right of a marriage celebrant to not conduct the ceremony for such a couple).

    But why? Inquiring minds want to know.

  52. 52 52 Eric Nilsson

    This is not about politics, so it may not fit here, but if the replenishment level for human beings drops below a certain number what are the effects on a country’s economy?

    How many women produce testosterone? How many men produce estrogen or progesterone? Assuming monogamous marriages (as with all mixed sex marriages), how many children can be produced through same-sex coupling? Not every marriage between man and woman produces children, but the materials are in place; can the same be said for same-sex marriage?

    Another thing to consider is the future President of the United States. Article II, Section I of the US Constitution states “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.” Suppose Louise Brown were born of American parents in a US hospital under the same conditions as her actual birth in England; would she be considered “natural-born?”

    Lastly, will there be a time when those married in the current definition of marriage sue to be recognized by those married in the inevitable political definition of marriage?

  53. 53 53 Harold

    “No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President” Does that mean you have to be at least 258 years old to be president?

    Clearly, Louise Brown would today be considered natural born, and I am pretty sure when she was born also.

    Views might have changed. The witches told MacBeth “for none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth”. MacDuff kills MacBeth without contradicting the prophecy because he was “from his mother’s womb / Untimely ripped” – presumably a cesarian, and thus not “of woman born”. These days the witches would not have got away with such a prediction.

    Immigration is a complete red herring. No-one in their right mind would set up a “sham” same sex marriage when a “sham” different sex marriage would attract much less scrutiny.

    As regards DOMA, it is possible to support everything it sdays, and still be against DOMA as a way of doing it. I am not suggesting this is Obama’s position.

    Marriage has been with us a long time, and the purpose has changed. If we were to start from scratch, what sort of marriage would we have, and on what principles would it be based?

  54. 54 54 Martin-2

    Eric Nilsson – “Not every marriage between man and woman produces children, but the materials are in place; can the same be said for same-sex marriage?”

    Yes, the same materials are in place. Artificial insemination and surrogate motherhood.

    “how many children can be produced through same-sex coupling”

    Ramses II had about 80 children if I remember correctly, but he also wasn’t monogamous. The maximum number of children two people can produce together in their lifetimes isn’t a very meaningful figure in this discussion. Also, homosexuals usually don’t have children even when they’re not married to each other. But if gay marriage were realized then more homosexuals would probably produce children by the above methods.

    “Lastly, will there be a time when those married in the current definition of marriage sue to be recognized by those married in the inevitable political definition of marriage?”

    We are already discussing marriage in it’s purely political definition. You won’t find the current US federal marriage contract in the Bible.

  55. 55 55 Tony N


    Exactly. As if sanctioning same-sex marriage will suddenly increase the number of homosexuals in the U.S. and thus impact fertility rates. Either that or unmarried homosexuals are currently reproducing via some mysterious mechanism that disappears upon entering into wedlock.

  56. 56 56 iceman

    Rational ignorance is not about “snobbishness”, but actually quite the opposite: recognizing that people wisely allocate their precious time to things that produce clear results for them. In our personal economic decisions — including giving to *charity* — we receive corresponding returns in utility or results for our money and effort. If I give a can of food that’s one person who gets a can of food. In contrast, every dollar I give or door I knock for a politician at best has a negligible effect, and if they lose there’s arguably no return at all (unless you assign some value to their having at least spread ‘awareness’ of an issue). And I can spend hours studying the nuances of social security reform, only to be canceled out by some guy who pulled the other lever because he was offered a sandwich and a shuttle ride to the polls…because his vote counts just as much as mine.

    Of course anyone who visits this blog presumably derives some entertainment value from talking about these issues, but most of us would best recognize that’s pretty much all it is. In that respect it doesn’t surprise me at all that people tend to latch onto smaller, more tractable issues that resonate with them for personal reasons, and especially personal scandals involving the candidates. Or why we allegedly spend more on potato chips than our political process.

  57. 57 57 Roger

    @Harold: Of course there will be immigration fraud. Same-sex marriage may get more scrutiny, but as long as it is easy to gain by doing that, people will do it. There are many worse problems with same-sex marriage, but immigration fraud is one of them.

    @Vald: Are you trying to convince me that some gays want same-sex marriage in order to force others to pay them some financial benefits? I concede. Some do.

  58. 58 58 vald


    I don’t even know why I kept up this discussion so long, but even more than that I do not understand why you cannot directly answer a very simple question. Since I’m not going to get a more direct answer from you, I’m going to take all of your obfuscation to mean that you do not believe that gays and lesbians can ever have a principled stand on this issue (unless, of course, they support your side of the issue). If gays want the right to marry, in your opinion, its not that we find the current system unfair, or that we think there would be benefits (economic, social, etc.) to the legalization of gay marriage. Its just that we want to game the system, or convince the world to accept our “lifestyle,” or to get other people to pay for financial benefits. You appear to find it inconceivable that there could even BE legitimate reasons to support same-sex marriage.

    So yes, to go all the way back to my first comment, I do think you are a close-minded bigot. Not because you oppose same-sex marriage, but because you refuse to even consider the idea that those on other side of the issue (or at least the “gay activists” on the other side) have legitimate reasons (economic, moral, ethical, whatever) for supporting same-sex marriage. You might disagree with these reasons, but to assume that EVERY SINGLE ONE of them is simply a cover for some nefarious purpose IS extremely close-minded.

  59. 59 59 vald

    And as for what I was trying to get at with the examples I provided in my previous post (before your comment), I was attempting to provide examples of what some people find to be the unfair differentiation between heterosexual couples and same-sex couples. The rights and protections that come with being legally married. Same-sex couples have households, and most support same-sex marriage in order to have the same protections as different-sex couples who also have families who they want to be able to visit in the hospital, provide health insurance for, etc.

  60. 60 60 Roger

    @Vald: I am ignoring your name-calling. I conceded that there are gay activists who push for same-sex marriage because of the benefits that such couples would receive, financial and otherwise. You yourself made such arguments. So you are not really disputing anything that I have said. Just calling me names.

  61. 61 61 Vald


    And you seem to be deliberately ignoring my increasingly direct questions, so I shall try asking from another angle.

    You seem to be arguing that gay activists support the idea of same-sex marriage because, and ONLY because, of the financial benefits, or to convince others to accept our “lifestyle.” Fine. If I were to accept that, why can I not say the same about opponents of same-sex marriage? Why should it not seem equally obvious to me that anti-gay activists are only in it to deny to other families the benefits that they receive? Tony Perkins is married (I believe)…therefore should I not assume that his opposition to same-sex marriage is based solely on his unprincipled greed because he doesn’t want, for example, same-sex couples to get tax benefits that could make his taxes go up?

    I don’t entirely understand what evidence you want me to provide you with, because anything I argue is a principled stand you look at cynically as only a rouse and a mask of true intentions. If one side is completely unprincipled, why does the other side get to have all the principles?

  62. 62 62 Eric Nilsson

    Chris Fitzsimon, in his editorial about same-sex marriage titled “The morning after and the morning after that” (URL:–ar-2273334/) writes:”It is not shocking that the majority voted to take rights away from a minority. That’s what fearful, manipulated, misinformed majorities may do if given the chance.” I may be wrong, but that seems to be the case in every democratic election, that one party (the majority) wins at the expense of the losing party (the minority).

    If the questions is that traditional marriage advocates wish to deny same-sex marriage advocates the same benefits, especially with taxes, this can be done by rewriting the tax code to restore the so-called “marriage penalty.” This was onerous when my wife and I married a while back and really won’t solve anything by its restoration; but if it makes a group feel good, then let the majority have its way (until the majority changes its views).

  63. 63 63 Vald

    @Eric Nilsson

    What happened in North Carolina is not what happens after every democratic election. Yes, the majority wins at the expense of the losing party…that is the nature of an election. In most elections, however, what happens is that the ideology of the winning party takes precedence over that of the losing party, and a few years later the party out of power has a chance to return to power. Whats lost is the ability to control policy, steer the direction of your jurisdiction, etc. A few politicians will also, inevitably, lose their jobs.

    What happened in North Carolina was far more than the will of the majority taking precedence over the ideology of the minority. The effect of Amendment 1 was to annul all of the domestic partnerships previously recognized by the state of North Carolina. It was more than just losing power over the government that you might regain sometime in the future. Whether you agree with it or not, you should at least recognize that real PEOPLE will be affected, not just policy. Real people will lose their health insurance, lose any tax benefits, etc. I don’t care if you think that partners in same-sex couples should be allowed to have these benefits or not, but I would expect you to at least grant these people the dignity of recognizing that losing these benefits is far more substantial than just losing an election.

  64. 64 64 Roger

    @Vald: I don’t know whether Tony Perkins is married or not. If you want the reasons for his opinions, then I suggest that you ask him, or google him. There are single people who oppose same-sex marriage. I do not expect you to explain your opinions any further.

  65. 65 65 Ken B

    @Vald: I think you are missing one of Roger’s point. He is arguing I take it something like this: gay marriage advocates do not just want the same legal and fiduciary arrangements implied by marriage, since they can have those via civil unions. They also want the implied approval and legitimation conferred by the word ‘marriage’. (Whatever libertarians my fantasize, ‘marriage’ does confer approval in society.)

    I think he is wrong in his premise, as marriage has a lot of common and case law, hard to replicate via statues on civil unions, but that’s not an argument I hear much. I think Roger is right about why many gay advocates insist on the word ‘marriage’, and certainly the most well-known single issue advocate for it, Andrew Sullivan, has been explicit on that score. It’s also a reason I favour gay marriage: I think independent families are a good thing.

  66. 66 66 Vald

    @Ken B

    Thank you. If this is what Roger is arguing then I did completely miss that, probably because, unlike you, he used incendiary and downright awful language to say exactly the same thing.

    I don’t think that this is why he was obfuscating, though. I just think he is either unable or unwilling to consider the issue from another point of view.

    This is also not all that he was arguing. When confronted with some of the benefits that same-sex couples might gain, he could only see this in “game the system” terms, not in terms of ideology at all. When asked why this could not apply to the other side of the debate, he somehow declared that he could not impose ideas upon others on his side of the debate.

  67. 67 67 Vald

    For those who still care, CBS has a new poll out. The sample size is small (too small in my opinion to mean anything at all), but at least this poll is from a non-partisan new organization. Overall 38% of respondents polled last week support same-sex marriage, 24% support civil unions, 33% oppose any legal recognition.

  68. 68 68 David Wallin

    @Vald: The sample size is small (too small in my opinion to mean anything at all)

    If the sample size is too small to mean anything at all (i.e., to all conclusions of statistical significance), then why report the study at all? Just out of curiosity, is your problem with sample sized based on mathematical calculation (the back of an envelope is fine) or just some gut feeling on how large such samples need to be?

  69. 69 69 nobody.really

    As if sanctioning same-sex marriage will suddenly increase the number of homosexuals in the U.S. and thus impact fertility rates. Either that or unmarried homosexuals are currently reproducing via some mysterious mechanism that disappears upon entering into wedlock.

    Well, I’m aware of the mechanism by which heterosexual couples reproduce. And yes, that mechanism mysteriously disappears after wedlock. Alas.

  70. 70 70 Vald


    I reported on it mostly to contrast the extremely biased study posted by Roger (way above) that claims just about 50% of the United States population thinks that “sexual relations between two adults of the same sex” is always wrong. I don’t think either study is terribly valid. Roger’s is based on a style of questions biased towards people who find something wrong with homosexuality. As for the study I posted, I don’t see how 615 people can be well representative of the various subgroups noted, particularly when they don’t even tell the real numbers for these subgroups. I will admit, I’m just generally skeptical of politically oriented nationwide polling unless the number of participants is huge, simply because the numbers are so easy to skew (intentionally or unintentionally, and especially when they don’t tell us where any of the participants are from). I will admit I’m not well versed in statistics, which is why I prefer more information so that I can try to understand the numbers for myself.

  71. 71 71 Ken B

    Vald: “I don’t see how 615 people can be well representative of the various subgroups noted, particularly when they don’t even tell the real numbers for these subgroups. I will admit, I’m just generally skeptical of politically oriented nationwide polling unless the number of participants is huge, simply because the numbers are so easy to skew (intentionally or unintentionally, and especially when they don’t tell us where any of the participants are from). ”

    Bigger is better of course but 615 is adequate, the error bars will be narrower with say 1000. Your other points are well taken though. It is easy to juice a poll, even a very large one, with non-random sampling or careful poll construction.

  72. 72 72 David Wallin


    I here regular criticism of poll results because they only sample, say, a thousand out of 300+ million Americans. One learns early on is statistics than you can draw conclusions from a small proportion of large populations. So, when I hear that criticism, I suspect statistical naiveté or intent to smokescreen. Sadly, many of those who know stats seem to fail to remember (if they ever knew) the assumptions necessary. Ken B mentioned two violations of the assumptions (non-random sampling and “careful” poll construction—I call it biased). Ironically “Dewey defeats Truman” is often cited as a weakness of polling in general, as opposed to a design flaw (non-random sampling).

    Designing questionnaires is not my area of study, but I read a lot of them as part of a committee assignment. I am amazed at how frequently pollsters can define available answers in a way that makes it impossible for me to answer. As one who thinks gays should have the same rights as straights, that non-married couples (triples, etc.) should have the same rights as married couples, and marriage should bestow no benefit that comes at a cost to the non-married, there is never a box to check in these polls that matches my thoughts.

  73. 73 73 Vald

    I will readily admit my statistical naivete. I mostly commented to deflect any criticism from Roger that I was citing a biased poll (even though he most certainly did). If this poll is more legitimate than I implied, then I think that’s wonderful.

  74. 74 74 Ken B

    @Vald: Most polls are juiced to get a desired result. I have a poll proving this.

  75. 75 75 Mcampbell

    I don’t personally know Mr. Obama, and what he says matters to me primarily because of its real-life consequences for policy (in this case, his words move forward the cause of civil rights). The president’s reasoning with which he justifies his policy is not to my liking because it has some small real-world consequences (reinforcing the norm of government officials claiming to base policy on citizens’ sexual habits). But I think we should in general, not give politicians a very hard time for presenting pandering rationales when they come around to our positions. If we are hard on Obama for this sort of thing, it will be harder for politicians to change their minds ever.

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