Saturday, May 12, 2012

Evolution on Gay Marriage

President Obama completed what he described as the evolution of his position on same-sex marriage.  He has long supported civil rights for homosexuals.  In the 2008 election he supported civil unions as the state equivalent of marriage, reserving the term "marriage" for religious unions.

This has been my position, too.

However, I also see that it is hard for most people to hold on to a living sense of the difference between the law of the state and the order of the church.  Ironically, it is Southern Baptists who seem to have the hardest time with this distinction - even though when they were a sect being persecuted by the state church, Baptists pioneered the church/state wall.  In the recent North Carolina vote outlawing all non-marital sexual unions, the victors said that the Bible recognizes only a marriage of a man and a woman, and therefore the state of North Carolina should do the same.  They didn't even know they were overthrowing the church/state wall that they themselves had promoted to protect the church.

I think President Obama had a genuine change of heart sometime in the past few months, as he said.  But I also think the timing of President Obama's announcement of his support for same-sex marriage was affected by the North Carolina vote.  It has been clear for some time that the constitutional amendment was going to pass. This outcome would not have changed if he had announced his support of same-sex marriage before the vote.   But I also think the recent series of the statements supporting same-sex marriage by Vice President Biden and other cabinet officers was part of a planned roll-out of the president's new position. 

I think the success of legal gay marriage all over the United States is now inevitable.  I think the pace will be quick in half the country, slow in the other half - that is, in my half. But the demographic writing is on the wall - the younger generation not only supports same-sex marriage, they don't understand why the old people are against it.  And this is true of young Republicans, even young religious Republicans, just as it is of most young people.


pete said...

This seems to be the first case in which evolution was prompted be an election...
It is evolution if a Democrat changes his mind and flip flopping when a Republicans does.
When Romney carries his dog on the roof it's cruel but when Obama eats dog it's not.
Such is centrism today.

pauline n said...

Couldn't everyone be wrong?

Gruntled said...

Pauline - could you elaborate?

Merle said...

It is nice to see Obama's true colors. Won't help him him though. He is done.

Sister Edith said...

It was interesting to re-read your earlier post. I'm wondering about your position today.

Andrew Cherlin, in his family sociology textbook Public and Private Families, used to write about the "public" family as an institution for the good of society (circa the 2nd or 3rd edition) and noted that this view of marriage and family for the public good was being replaced by an individualized view.

I haven't seen that textbook for a while, but the description for the now 6th edition (same title) says of that "public family" that it deals "with broader societal issues, such as raising the next generation, and the care of the elderly." The family-as-institution, as something that carries out work that society needs for its well-being and which can't be done by some other organization, seems to have faded from sight.

Many of the issues that we have around family - not only same-sex marriage but also divorce, abortion, and others - have at their core the question "why should my happiness be compromised because of ..." The reverse question, "Why should ... be compromised just so I can do what I think will maximize my happiness?" is barely even something we can ask.

That inversion of our value system to a self-centered one is, I think, the reason why so many (and most of the younger generation, who have not known an other-centered value-system) will find no solid argument with which to oppose same-sex marriage. Within that value system, there is no stance that would work.

Fake Drudge said...

"they were overthrowing the church/state wall"

Heh, that's one way to look at it I guess. But from here in Carolina, it looks like we put a fresh coat of paint on a wall that's stood since the beginning of time. We want it to last, you see.

Bo in OH said...

It is mind-boggling to me that one can be labeled as right wing, even reactionary, for defining marriage in a way that it has been defined across cultures and across millenia. Using the rhetoric of gay marriage, there is no logical reason to confine the definition to monogamy. Is that not de facto discrimination against bi-sexuals? Unfortunately, a subtle, centrist position of advocacy for civil rights without re-defining basic cultural institutions is derided and drowned out by the extremists who are enjoying their moment of power in our current divisive climate. For all of the hoopla from left and right surrounding Obama's statement, what is lost is the fact that he was expressing his opinion, nothing more. His statement actually changes nothing. He does not have the sole power to change the definition of marriage. Such a change occurs over time, not by fiat; I think that such a change is a very clumsy way to approach civil rights for homosexual people, and is rife with unintended consequences...

Optimist said...

"they don't understand why old people are against it" you say. I'm not certain all "old people" who are against it, can articulate why they are against it, except that they make religious arguments or say that is the way it had always been.

Segregation, Slavery, Women as property without voting rights or event the right to own property if she was married and Divorce only for cause were also all "the way it's always been" realities in our not so distant past.

I think it is good that the country is moving toward gay marriage. And I would argue that civil unions did not offer "90% of the loaf". Right to inherit, right to visit your loved one in the hospital, right to spousal privilege in court, right to share in federal tax benefits, right to share health insurance, right to share custody of children, share retirement benefits, right to hold certain survivorship rights in property, right to MOVE to another state and more are not offered in civil unions or even state recognized gay marriage, yet. In order for the economic and legal rights that heterosexual couples take for granted to be shared by committed gay couples, gay marriage must be recognized on a national level.

And any and all arguments "against gay marriage" are arguments that certain families should be afforded less rights than others because of the gender of the people involved.