Political Animal


April 01, 2013 11:23 AM Crumbling Pillars of Discrimination

By Ed Kilgore

One reason support for laws prohibiting same-sex marriage is crumbling is that supporters of discrimination have chosen a particularly poor argument on its behalf: that marriage equality will contribute to the decline of “traditional marriage” once the connection between marriage and procreation has been severed.

Aside from the rather obvious common-sense absurdity of heterosexuals refusing to tie the knot because they no longer have a monopoly on the institution, and all the cases where straight folk get married without the expectation of procreation, there’s this large data point noted yesterday by Kevin Drum:

[S]upport for gay marriage is lowest in precisely the groups that have abandoned traditional marriage in the largest numbers. If the procreation argument were really affecting marriage rates, you’d expect to see the biggest impact in the groups where this argument is most commonly advanced, and in the groups that most strongly support gay marriage. Instead we’ve seen the opposite.

With that argument decimated, resistance to marriage equality pretty much comes down to the “fear of change” factor, which is diminished every time a state (or a nation) legalizes same-sex marriage and the sky does not fall, and the “ick! factor” which leads people to view LGBT folk as “unnatural” up to the moment when they discover a loved or respected friend or family member is gay.

Some conservative evangelicals and Santorum-style “traditionalist” Catholics aren’t much affected by the growing normalization of same-sex marriage because they view it as just another example of a mainstream “secularist” culture that’s plunging the whole world hellwards. In other words, they are beginning to marginalize themselves into a counter-culture. And some old folk continue to look past LGBT friends and relatives, or deny they exist.

But by and large, the various pillars of the anti-equality majority that looked so formidable a few years ago are collapsing all around us, and it’s no wonder loud-and-proud advocates of discrimination are going all Spenglerian in their desperation and despair.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on April 01, 2013 11:41 AM:

    Today, the people who protest against gay rights, and gay marriage, are the children and grandchildren of the people who didn't want the military to be desegregated, and African-Americans to get equal voting rights, and inter-racial marriage to be approved, and women to gain more rights.

    All of these would cause our America to become like Sodom and Gamorrah.
    All of these would end the country as we know it.

    Fortunately, it seems as if more than just a trifling amount of their great-grandchildren have decided that sexual orientation isn't that big a deal.

    And that probably scares them more than anything - that those younger than they are, aren't as fearful and hateful.
    They wanted to pass on their ignorance, fear, hatred, and bigotry, along with their genes.

  • Mimikatz on April 01, 2013 11:54 AM:

    Douthat's column was nonsensical. As Kevin Drum pointed out, the decline in marriage has economic reasons--younger men, especially black men, can't find jobs that would support a family, while younger women can, making them economically independent. The advocates of traditional marriage should support jobs programs and an end to the war on drugs to give lower class men a chance to form families.

    Instead, support for traditional marriage is highest among post-menopausal women and older men, who are suffering an epidemic of ED (if the volume of ads for Viagra and Cialis on sports programs is any indication), precisely those groups who can't procreate, at least not without technological help.

  • elisabeth on April 01, 2013 12:11 PM:

    I worry that the majorities who tell pollsters they support marriage equality will not, in the privacy of the voting booth, actually VOTE for marriage equality. Many people don't want to look intolerant, but that "ick" factor you mention may prevent them from actually supporting marriage equality. There's little self-interest in supporting marriage equality, unless, like those republicans who have indicated support, there are family members involved. At the same time, there's not really an self-interest in not supporting marriage equality. For example: here in Iowa, the courts brought marriage equality to the state. I doubt that the voters would have voted it in. BUT neither are ordinary voters out in public agitating for any challenge to the law. Yes, immediately after the decision three judges were voted out, but in this last election another judge that was part of the decision was retained, partly I think because anti-equality folks weren't able to make a direct connection between the judge and homosexuality.

  • gratuitous on April 01, 2013 12:34 PM:

    I've been working on equality issues for a little more than 20 years, and yes, the opposition is collapsing. Whanging away at their façade, it seemed as solid and unyielding as ever, but I suspected that behind the scenes, its support was falling away. Naively, I thought it would take 10-15 years, but I was off by about seven years, more's the pity.

    Now, with such luminaries as Rush Limbaugh and others conceding that once again the forces of repression have lost, it will be instructive to see who hangs on to the bitter end, as well as who shrugs and says, "Oh well, it never was that big a deal." Both factions need and deserve a good smacking around. The number of folks being apologetic for their narrow-mindedness will be extremely small for quite some time to come.

    This whole marriage equality kerfuffle started because it seemed like an easy win, and for several years, it was. Money could be raised, candidates elected, and the repressives could enjoy bullying weak and isolated minorities. But what was a dalliance to gain political advantage for one side was an existential battle for the other, and as Dan Savage observed, this battle wasn't going to be over until we say it's over, and it's not over until we win.

  • Rick B on April 01, 2013 12:47 PM:

    According to the sociologist Ernest Gellner there is a massive cultural difference between urban industrialized and post-industrial societies and rural societies based on agricultural economics. The rural societies are class based and highly patriarchial, while urban societies require a work force motivated by social equality, economic and social mobility and the work force his highly productive based largely on mass public education.

    The population growth in the U.S. since 1940 has been entirely in the large cities. Our political class is still based largely in more rural areas and our Constitution gives rural voters an advantage over urban votes (fear of "the Mob" by the founding fathers.)

    One result of this massive cultural change is that unequal patriarchal marriage in the small town and rural style is dying, along with the top-down controlled rural evangelical religion that supports it.

    Gay marriage is not the cause of the changes in the way marriage is lived today, it's one result of the industrial and post-industrial life style. It's required for a highly mobile and educated work force, one that cannot depend on working in the family business and learning the job OJT.

    Remember, politicians learn their power sources young and use them all through their career. The guys currently in office learned in a much less industrialized world and remain in office because the national and state constitutions all give voter preference to rural voters.

    The gerrymandering that leaves John Boehner in 'control' of the House of Representatives (and in charge of a bunch of panicked culturally rural and southern tea baggers who hate social change) is proof of the way our Presidential system does not do a good job of dealing with social changes.

  • mb on April 01, 2013 12:59 PM:

    RE: the “ick! factor”

    Imagining most heterosexual couples in mid-copulation is icky. Odd how so many are able to ignore the gritty sexual side of their heterosexual acquaintances, while focusing on it when confronted by a homosexual couple. If "being comfortable imagining you and your partner having sex" was the standard for permitting marriage, very few would qualify.

  • Mimikatz on April 01, 2013 1:23 PM:

    Why did your moderator not publish my comment? I assume it was not the observation that declining rates of marriage among lower class people was largely economic, because women have become able to be economically independent when men have had more trouble finding jobs. So it must have been the observation that the biggest group opposing gay marriage are too old (women) or infirm (men, based on prevalence of ads on sports programs) to procreate. Neither point supports Douthat's vapid piece.

    [it wasn't the moderator, it was the automatic spam filter which snagged your comment because you used the names of two drugs commonly advertised in spam comments. reposted - mod.]

  • boatboy_srq on April 01, 2013 1:28 PM:

    @mb: Teh Secks has always had an "ick!" factor associated with it among the FundiEvangelicals. See The Scarlet Letter if you think this is in any way a new concept.

    What fascinates me is the increasingly broad range of hetero relationships the Reichwing is willing to throw under the bus in order to keep the full whinge going on SSM. The current list (thank you Sue Everhart) now includes infertile couples, couples who marry for economic advantages, couples who marry for citizenship advantages, and couples seeking to improve their healthcare. That wipes out over half the hetero marriages I know. If SSM were such an evil then preventing it wouldn't trample so many marriages the Reichwing would otherwise consider "good.

  • smartalek on April 01, 2013 1:49 PM:

    Rick B, that was excellent, thank you; same to Mimikatz, with extra points for snark -- accurate snark (the finest kind).
    I really wish somebody would point out that there's a level of hypocrisy in the antis' stances that far exceeds even their usual superhuman levels thereof:
    If their concern were really with "the well-being of teh childrens," they'd be pushing (as a tiny fraction of them actually are) to outlaw divorce, which puts at least a full order of magnitude more kids out of cisgendered 2-parent families than same-sex-marriage ever will.
    I thought Justice Ginsburg might be heading there with her comment about marriage over 55, but sadly, it was not to be.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on April 01, 2013 2:13 PM:

    I will also add that the lingering resistance to gay marriage also has to do with the fact that the anti-gay forces already know whose company their about to join: the witch hunters, slave masters, the KKK, the Nazis, and a whole lot of other bigoted human rights criminals who have been (rightly) demonized by history. For all their hard work, they know that history will not be kind to them.

    They can say "ick" all they want right now. But the generations to come will say more than "ick" when they look at the bigotry from the anti-gay crowd.

  • Rick B on April 02, 2013 12:25 AM:

    @smartalek - Thank you.

    My interest is in the shift in culture between the agricultural rural economy and the industrial economy. I've watched it happen in Texas since 1961 when I entered college. The Texas economy then was nearly half agricultural, and most of the rest was oil related. Oil companies do not seem to create a powerful middle class where they dominate. It's my opinion that they are too hierarchical and the money is all controlled by top executives and stockholders.

    But the population of Texas has risen from 9,579,677 to 25,145,561. ALL of that increase has been in the five large cities! All of those cities voted for Obama except Fort Worth, which was split nearly 50 - 50.

    Houston as a lesbian Mayor. Dallas - the city so conservative they were happy at JFK's assassination - last year reelected a lesbian woman Sheriff. Austin is famous for being Southern California in Texas. San Antonio and El Paso are also Democratic cities. But Texas also has the largest rural population of any state in the U.S. and the Constitution gives advantages to rural voters. They gerrymandered the state in 2004 so they control statewide offices.

    Texas is about 10 to 20 years behind California in getting rid of the conservatives. The South and Midwest are also strongly rural and hate the modern urban culture.

    We are fighting a culture war between Digby's two tribes. Liberals are winning, so the conservatives are panicking and doing everything they can to slow down social change - and also to prevent economic improvement since that will elect more progressives. Democrats and progressives do not feel the same urgency so intensity of feeling goes with the conservatives.

  • Rick B on April 02, 2013 12:29 AM:

    The population figures above were 1950 and 2010. Thought I'd said that.