Why gay marriage opponents have lost

The Washington Post’s conservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin, has an interesting theory as to why opponents of gay marriage have lost the debate: They’re arguing religion.

[G]ay marriage opponents have lost the argument with the public and the courts because what was once a matter of defending social consensus has evolved into a plea for enforcement of one set of religious norms in a diverse society. Without evidence of harm to others, there is no constitutionally acceptable reason to preserve the distinction.

Now, to some degree, the argument also boils down to “majority rule.”

marriage-oregon-largeThe majority didn’t like gay marriage, so it was easy to argue against. When the public finds something icky, you don’t need a terribly good argument to beat it back.

But now that a majority of the public supports the right of gays to marry, the vaunted Republican hate groups, like the Family Research Council, are forced to come up with actual arguments that can pass legal, political and social muster, and they can’t.

All they have left is their religion, and their religion says gays are icky. Yet some religions don’t say that. And regardless of there being a disagreement among religions on the matter, courts aren’t really big on making religion into law (unless it’s religion we all agree on, then get a bit flaky at times). But we all don’t agree on this one, and a majority of us no longer agree with religion on it either.

So yet again, changing social mores are leading to changing legal and political mores.

In the end, prejudice loses because the over-judgemental emperor has no clothes. And while no one cared about that fact when the majority thought gays were abnormal, now that society has finally come around, gay marriage opponents simply look small-minded, backwards and mean.

At the beginning they had no real arguments, in part because they didn’t need them. And now, they don’t exist.

And that’s why they lost.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • UncleBucky

    I have always thought that Marriage was the general term (civil, if you wish), but Matrimony was the religious term (OK, I’m a Catholic by upbringing)… Also the ceremony and event was always called a “Wedding”. These are English words, but I wonder how the two notions of marriage are dealt with lingusitically in other cultures or other languages.

    We know that the contract is public and is civil. It can be officiated by many different roles, Justice of the Peace, Ship’s Captain, Minister, Priest, Rabbi, etc. (I simply don’t know at this writing, the names of those in the USA), who can officiate at such a public ceremony and sign the papers that go to the county, city or state.

    It seems to me that marriage had been associated TOO MUCH with “Christian” venues. We had to go through legitimizing (as far as that goes) the marriage and divorce mills in Reno, Nevada, as well as marriages in places OTHER THAN churches to wrest away the shape of marriage ceremonies from ministers, pastors and priests. Even the words said had come from the Book of Common Prayer (English) to the many sects and cults that purport to be “Christian” anymore. Who has recently seen a marriage scene in a Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Tao, etc. wedding in a mainstream movie? Well, maybe in a Jewish setting, but not many of the others.

    In Soviet and similar settings there were Wedding Palaces, totally separated from any possible religious contexts. You HAD to get married there and THEN go to the church or synagogue. And I think that in some Latin American countries, marriage is BOTH civil and religious, with two events having to be done. I am not sure, but I think so.

    Ah, I read Stev84’s post, who says the same thing with more certitude. There. We need to adapt our marriage practice to that of European or South American law.

    More distinction must be made there to separate civil from religious events.

  • UncleBucky

    Let’s not close the offices that were needed for equal marriage. Turn instead to other equality and worker rights with the same energy and enthusiasm. Not even a breath between one and te other.

    Haters can drag their heels in every venue… We can push harder, we are the People.

  • UncleBucky

    Well, this is about same-sex “marriage”. Which is necessary, but only a starting point. But we have further to go in the area of marriage. So now, we can get married in 32 states as well as DC and some other places. Not to mention in many other Nations. But can gay or lesbian couples be served in any of the myriads of products and services as themselves, not just as “me and my friend”?

    So next, things get a little more complex. There have recently been a few ads showing gay couples, gay parents, and so on in the mainstream media. Just as the gradual emergence of African-American, Latino and Asian people in ads and the media, LGBT people will slowly emerge into the mainstream market, not just in LGBT-centric publications, channels and websites. We buy toothpaste, dish detergent, coffee and all the rest, too. And advertising will reach out to us, too. And people won’t tear out the page, change the channel or leave the site simply because of an ad to someone different from them.

    Sure there will be stereotypes in the work of advertisers, but soon these ads won’t be able to be told apart from the ads of the mainstream, just as with the ads on Telemundo, Univision, and Spanish speaking networks here and abroad and the ads featuring African-American families. Soap is soap, ya know?

    I look forward to seeing the “new” ads on Fox. Let the bagguers heads explode on seeing them on Fox! Hahahaha! Follow the money, follow the money…

  • barada

    Opponents of Gay Marriage had their chance in California Court to “Prove the harm done by Gay marriage”. They couldn’t do it. Couldn’t even manage a coherent response.
    The war was lost for the haters then and there, IMO.

    Now, it’s just a case of catching-up to reality.

    Haters will always drag their heels, but in this case that just prolongs their sense of defeat.

    I only wish we could make such progress on economic equality/worker rights as well.

    Maybe someday…

  • I hadn’t realized the practice was that widespread.

    As for American confusion on civil versus religious marriage, too many Americans are confused about the difference between church and state, period.

  • Stev84

    It’s standard in most of continental Europe and in other countries (like in South America) that were inspired by French civil law. Napoleon spread those ideas very far during his wars.

    You get legally married at city hall and everything else is optional. It’s infinitely more sensible and practical than the silly American practice of only getting a license from the government and then having clergy act in a legal capacity during the wedding. As a result many Americans are confused about the difference between civil and religious marriage. Not so elsewhere.

    Britain has something of a hybrid system where you can get legally
    married by government officiants, but clergy of certain religions can
    also perform legal weddings.

  • mark_in_toronto

    “In the end, prejudice loses . . .”
    Kinda says it all.
    And yes . . . this IS fun.

  • slideguy

    Nicely put, John. And if they’ve lost Jennifer Rubin, it’s over.

  • FLL

    Everywhere where there’s an online anti-gay rant, a “Donation” button is never far away. Case in point: Brian Brown.

  • jomicur

    The fact that preacher-men keep getting caught in gay sex scandals doesn’t help their cause much, either. Like this most recent one: http://www.alternet.org/ohio-pastor-forced-vasectomies-abortions-because-kids-divert-money-away-church-report If I ever find myself in need of a good, godly, evangelical handjob, I know where to go.

  • It’s been a little slower in this part of the country, the southwest. Still, it’s getting better.

  • Besides which, the modifier is necessary for the sake of clarity and differentiation. We don’t say, “Loving v. Virginia legalized marriage.” It legalized interracial marriage and overturned all the remaining bans against it.

    Yes, those couples now just have “a marriage.” But if one is going to say anything about how those people would’ve been banned from having “a marriage” before, an adjective is necessary.

    We can say “marriage equality” if we already know we’re talking about gay couples. We can say “same sex marriage” (with or without the hyphen). But you’re totally in the right on this: When MOST people want to read something about “marriages and marriage rights between gay and lesbian couples” they type “gay marriage” into the Google search bar because it’s the fastest and shortest way to qualify WHICH kinds of marriages we’re talking about.

    In fact, just yesterday, I typed “gay marriage map” into Google so I could see what the current map looked like.

  • My first marriage (hetero-style) was officiated by the mayor of the village in which I lived. We had the religious part in a Unitarian church rented for the evening, then before the reception drove over to his house to fill out the paperwork.

  • Purity of Essence, baby.

  • Gay superhighway…. mmm….

  • It also makes no sense putting a title on the story that says “Why marriage opponents have lost.” Somebody is opposed to the institution of marriage?

    Folks will note that my stories intentionally use gay marriage, then mention weddings, then say nuptials, then talk about marriages of gay couples, and other permutations, which are a nod to this “marriage” concept, while also being a nod to the great Google Gods (and clarity) :)

    A lot of forethought goes into good writing :)

  • Yes, well, I could simply write that the Supreme Court legalized marriage in Nevada and Idaho last week, but 99% of the people seeing that via Google and on social media would scratch their head, as they thought “marriage” was already legal in America.

    I’m all for the logic. I’m not for writing stories that make no sense. I’m also not a fan of writing my stories in a way that ensures no google traffic, which refusing to use “gay marriage” would do. The money is gone. Progressive blogging is dead. And I don’t plan on sticking a knife through its heart on the way out the door :) Love ya, but already gave this much thought years ago.

    And in any case, we already won. So the name change is esoteric at this point, IMHO.

  • I’m enjoying myself immensely :)

  • dcinsider

    Seriously, how much fun is this?

  • Indigo

    For your entertainment: Florida State Attorney General Pam Bondi demands that the Florida “High Court” rule on same sex marriage because the United State Supreme Court returned the question to the individual states: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/sfl-bondi-wants-floridas-high-court-to-settle-samesex-marriage-issue-20141013-story.html

    Did you catch that? She’s saying that SCOTUS is not touching the issue because it’s a States’ Rights matter. For your further amusement, she claims she’s following both the US Consititution and the Florida State Constitution by taking that route.

  • As I understand it, that’s the practice in France.

  • I also agree, with the same “but” that Mike has pointed out below, as one who habitually uses “same-sex marriage” when referring to specific instances, and “marriage” for general use (as in “Brian Brown and other anti-marriage voices.”)

    And a footnote: several district and circuit court opinions have noted that the Supreme Court has assiduously avoided limiting the the right to marriage — there is no right to interracial marriage, no right to deadbeat dad marriage, no right to convict marriage, although cases have been brought in those areas. There is just a right to marriage, so legally, you’re absolutely correct. And that’s why the arguments against finding a right to “homosexual marriage” or any other variation are so much BS — that’s not the issue at all. The issue is whether the government can justify excluding a particular class from marriage. So far in the case of same-sex couples, it can’t, and never will be able to.

  • I’m not at all sure about the “hybrid” part. If that’s so, it’s only because throughout most of human history the sacred and secular have been thoroughly intertwined, although looking back at some of the historical accounts, it appears that before the rise of Christianity, benefit of the priesthood was optional. And even after Christianity came to dominate Europe, it was the upper classes that had priests performing the ceremonies — the lower classes mostly didn’t bother. (My candidate for best definition of marriage is from Joseph Campbell: “Marriage is the recognition by the community of the establishment of a new household.” Which leads to this scenario: Couple: “Hey, everybody, we’ve decided to get married!” Villagers: “OK, congratulations! Paaarty!!” And they build them a house. And afterward, they go over to the church so the priest can write it down in the book after he’d sobered up, since he was probably the only one who could write.)

    I don’t see any need to start generating new terms and multiple ceremonies. As others have pointed out, religious marriages without that state-issued license are not valid under law. And any priest, minister, rabbi, etc., who performs a legally recognized marriage does so as an agent of the state, not as an independent actor. I see no problem with that; the problem arises when some “religious” figures claim that the state is acting as an agent of the church. (And frankly, who would bother to have a church wedding without a license?)

  • KaylaHepperate

    I’ve be­en ma­king $80/hour working freelance jo­bs over the internet. Before this i was without a job for 7 months but last month my pa­yche­ck with big f­at bo­nus was $11000 just wo­rking on the la­ptop for a few hours. Here’s what i have been doing>INTERNET BASED BUSINESS

  • judybrowni

    Over at Pandagon, Amanda has got your back, John.

    Gay marriage opponents reduced to blabbering incoherently:
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/10/gay-marriage-opponents-reduced-to-blabbering-incoherently/comments/

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    All very good ideas. You may want to send an email to John.

  • robintyler

    Religious ‘marriages’ are called Holly Unions, Jane. Marriage is a license granted to 2 non-related adult people who sign a formal document which is recognized by the government. I do understand wanting people to respond to the blog, Mike, but then we should put ‘gay’ in quotes and explain why it is not. People need to be educated on this. It is not a ‘special’ right. It is a ‘civil right’ which is why we are winning in courts all over the country. Is there ‘black marriage’ or chinese marriage? etc. It is just marriage-between same-sex couples.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    My pastor wanted to have a two step marriage. The civil marriage would take place outside of the church, and the religious ceremony would occur in the church.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    I agree, but ……. there has to be a but. John did explain it once, because others and myself were saying what you are saying. The blog depends on getting people to this site. Many people get here by googling certain words, and “gay marriage” is often the way they google it. “Marriage equality” would be better, but that is not what they google. John can definitely explain this better than I can.

  • robintyler

    John, ‘gay marriage’ is what our opponents called our wanting marriage equality so that it would be considered a ‘special right.’ Well, there is no gay driver’s license, no ‘gay’ birth certificate, no ‘gay’
    death certificate and no ‘gay marriage’ certificate. There is just marriage, a civil right and a contract provided by the State (not religious institutions) and recognized by the Federal Government. To keep calling it ‘gay’ marriage is to use the language of those who were trying to stop it. It is just -marriage.

  • ISIS is bringing Ebola across the border into Texas and committing voter fraud to force everyone into abortions! Oh yeah, and fluoridated water is mind control.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    People in Minnesota have become use to males saying husband and females saying wife. Although my husband passed away before we could have a civil marriage, he was definitely my husband. Five years have passed, and I will have a new husband in January.

  • And Ebola-carrying ferriners.

  • I’m working on a post that’ll hopefully look into exactly this angle. :-)

  • I’m actually looking forward to the day when I can simply say “my wife”, without any additional explanations needed or having to clarify, “No, I’m not male, in case my name didn’t make it obvious.”

  • By law, the government does not recognize any purely religious marriage (at least not any conducted within the U.S.) Everywhere, you have to go apply for a license first. The only legal authority granted to church clergy is the right to sign their name as having officiated. Their status, however, is identical to any judge, empowered elected official, county clerk, or designated temporary ‘deputy’ (which is how someone can be married by their best friend or some relative, for example).

    The problem, as ever, is these fundamentalist religious folks who want to impose their rules on non-believers.

  • JaneE

    Marriage has been a hybrid between civil and religious status for centuries. Civil marriage alters your status with regard to another person in ways that are codified in law, tax and inheritance laws for example. Religious marriage does the same thing, only to the extent that the state recognizes the religious ritual as creating a civil marriage. The state doesn’t and shouldn’t care if your marriage was “sanctified” by religious ritual or not.

    Maybe we should use marriage for civil marriage and “sanctified marriage” for a marriage by religious ritual ceremony. Any two responsible adults could enter a marriage, but a sanctified marriage could be more restrictive, if the church or religion required it. I would prefer that the state not recognize a sanctified marriage at all and require a civil ceremony to enter a marriage. If you wanted your union sanctified by your religion, have a ritual recognized only by your religion.

  • Many have already switched (back) to abortion.

  • What they had was fear-mongering and enough gay people are out now that most Americans know someone gay, often someone they like very much. It’s easy enough to demonize people who are separate from the rest of society as semi-closeted gays were forced to be, but the horrible accusations they make against gay people just don’t work when people have a friend, relative or coworker who is gay who is nothing at all like the strawman the socons try to make us out to be. And as that stopped working the rhetoric got meaner and the public support for bigotry began to shrink even more. This fight was one by the gay people who came out to family, friends and colleagues and by the anti-gay bigots who showed how nasty they really are. The gay rights advocates take far too much credit for the success on this issue. At best their ads and campaigns were muddled and ineffective. (See: Prop 8)

  • Don Chandler

    Another reality making slippery slope arguments moot is that in no state or country where same-sex marriage has passed has there been any impetus to allow cousins to marry or polygamy…or even marriage to one’s pet! Slippery Slope arguments don’t even come up in the court anymore. Did they ever? It’s more of a propaganda ploy ….ofc, that is what this thread is about but it ain’t working anymore.

  • AnitaMann

    Best part will be seeing the term “gay marriage” fall into the dustbin of history with other outdated phrases like “information superhighway,” in favor of simply, marriage.

  • 2karmanot

    bingo!

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Rubin starts at the Olson/Perkins debate. One point that I felt Olson could have made regarding the “slippery slope” which doesn’t get made enough is that the examples typically used in support — people marrying cousins or multiple partners — are still in force for gay couples. They’re not part of a slippery slope, they’re apples and oranges.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    What it sounds like Rubin is saying is that gay marriage opponents never had a winning argument, period, but it didn’t matter because people generally agreed with them. Once our society’s majority view shifted they were put in the position of having to defend something they’d never had a good argument for defending. Yes they’re arguing religion but what else do they have? That’s the only argument that has some veneer of government protection.

  • nicho

    The anti-marriage leaders didn’t lose. Their goal always was to suck as much money out of the pockets of the Sheeple as they could while the gravy train was still rolling. It wasn’t so much about marriage. They have lined their pockets handsomely on this issue. Now, they will just find another bogeyman to frighten the Sheeple into “fighting” with their dollars.

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