EJ Graff sums up my views on gay marriage

Its rare that I read something by an author I’m only passingly familiar with and think, “wow, that sums up my views on the issue almost exactly.”  Thus, really pleased to come across this EJ Graff essay on gay marriage which almost perfectly captures my views on that matter (and I’d never actually bother to write something this long– so all the better).  Here’s some of the key points:

First, the policy. Marriage is a state issueIt always has been, under the Tenth Amendment. Each state writes its own laws of marriage and divorce—who can marry and divorce, and on what terms. Fourteen-year-olds, with parental permission? First cousinsWaiting period, either to tie or untie the knot? Divorcing because of irreconcilable differences or mental cruelty? Depends where you live, and in what decade. You may think that’s appalling, and that your idea of appropriate marriage should be imposed on every American, but well, so does the conservative American Family Association. That’s the system. And I like this system. We’re not really one country, folks. The people in Jones Hollow, Kentucky, where my stepmother is from, have one marriage culture; the Satmars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have another; and none of those would approve of the marriage culture in Marin County, California…

Getting South Carolina, Texas, Ohio, and Vermont to agree on how to define and run marriage? Ha. On same-sex marriage, most states just aren’t there yet. 

Here’s the truth: If we had national marriage laws, I would not be married right now…

Let’s be honest, folks: Same-sex marriage is a very recent new idea. We’re not talking about interracial marriage, which was possible until states banned it as part of a comprehensive post-civil-war regime to impose slave-like status on blacks in every way but outright ownership…

Allowing two women or two men to marry is a much more recent development. As I’ve written elsewhere, it really is a radical feminist idea, based on social developments between 1850 and 1950 that utterly transformed the West’s marriage laws and philosophies. Before about 1750, marriage was a gendered division of labor—someone needed to butcher the meat while someone kept the books, cleaned the shop, and fed the apprentices. Together they made children, who were necessary labor, and had explicit jobs: herding the geese, or tending the fire, or being sent off at 14 to care for someone else’s children and sweep their floors while saving up money to become a mistress someday.

Capitalism turned all that around. As each individual was freed to make her own living, independent of her spouse, Western marriage got redefined as a system of love and equal partnership. (How it works in individual marriages is beyond my scope for today; I’m talking about law and social philosophy.) Same-sex couples can and should belong in that system. (For more, see my book What Is Marriage For?)

But getting people there requires time…

More tactically, it would be terrible for Obama to talk about imposing same-sex marriage on states. The backlash would be horrifying—not just against same-sex marriage but against the imperiousness of the overeducated coastal elites. I get a little impatient with liberal straight folks who think that Doing The Right Thing is enough. I know I’m overcautious–I come from a different time–but there are still a lot of people who think it’s disgusting to be queer, or even if they don’t, just aren’t there yet on opening marriage’s doors. Those minds are more likely to open one at a time than if they feel their being dictated to by overeducated know-it-alls with no common sense…

A lot has been made of the fact that when Loving v. Virginia was issued in 1967, most Americans were oppsoed to interracial marriage. But their laws weren’t. The California Supreme Court had ruled the same way 19 years earlier, inPerez v. Sharp, 1948. Most states had already dismantled their interracial marriage bans, leaving only 17 on the books in 1967. Loving was earth-shatteringly important–and it made it possible for my aunt and uncle to travel in the south, if they wanted to–but it was a mop-up operation.

There are still 30 states with constitutional amendments restricting marriage to male and female. Let’s undo some of those before asking for a federal fiat imposing a foreign marriage ideology on the regular folk…

Law and culture change in tandem. The president’s statement helps change the culture. (Check out ThinkProgress’s assembly of newspapers’ front pages, day after his announcement, and tell me his statement is too little to have an effect.) The administration’s actions are helping to change the law.

Alright, that’s about as long an excerpt as I ever do, but rarely do I find something so extensive that I would happily with I had written myself.  So, there you go– my views on the politics of gay marriage.  Thanks, EJ Graff.

Photo of the day

From The Big Picture, Russia and former Soviet Republics marked Victory Day for the WWII Victory over the Nazis.   Two of these stand out for me, so I’m going with two today:

Russia’s newly inaugurated President Vladimir Putin (center) poses for a photo with World War II veterans at the Red Square in Moscow on May 9 the during Victory Day parade. Thousands of Russian soldiers marched today alongside nuclear capable missiles to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. (AFP/Getty Images)

Apparently, Stalin still has his fans in Georgia

A World War II veteran holds a portrait of Josef Stalin during a Victory Day celebration in Tbilisi, Georgia on May 9. (Shakh Aivazov/Associated Press)

Romney the bully

There seems to be an emerging narrative– that strikes me as spot on– that we certainly should not hold Romeny responsible for his actions as a teenager (but, damn, despite the stuff I regret I sure cannot imagine forcibly cutting off someone’s hair while classmates hold him down– that’s mean).  But, his response to this as a fully grown man is basically morally bankrupt.  NYT’s Charles Blow put it as nicely as anything I’ve read so far:

In an interview with Fox Radio on Thursday, Romney laughed as he said that he didn’t remember the incident, although he acknowledged that “back in high school, you know, I, I did some dumb things. And if anybody was hurt by that or offended, obviously I apologize.” He continued, “I participated in a lot of hijinks and pranks during high school, and some might have gone too far. And, for that, I apologize.”

There is so much wrong with Romney’s response that I hardly know where to start.

But let’s start here: If the haircutting incident happened as described, it’s not a prank or hijinks or even simple bullying. It’s an assault.

Second, honorable men don’t chuckle at cruelty.

Third, if it happened, Romney’s explanation that he doesn’t remember it doesn’t ring true. It is a searing account in the telling and would have been even more so in the doing. How could such a thing simply melt into the milieu of other misbehavior? How could the screams of his classmate not echo even now?

Fourth, “if someone was hurt or offended, I apologize” isn’t a real apology. Even if no one felt hurt or offended, if you feel that you have done something wrong, you can apologize on that basis alone. Remorse is a sufficient motivator. Absolution is a sufficient objective. Whether the person who was wronged requests it is separate.

Lastly, this would have been an amazing teaching moment about the impact of bullying if Romney had seized it. That is what a real leader would have done. That is what we would expect any adult to do.

Yep, yep, yep, yep, and yep.  What kind of human being comes up with this sorry “apology” in response to something like this.  Simply unacceptable.  Why couldn’t he just say that it was a horrible thing and he deeply regrets it.  Even if he were lying, it is an eminently more respectable and appropriate way to address this.  Now, honestly, if a Democratic presidential candidate had done this, I’d be disappointed as hell in him, but I’d still vote for him so it’s not like I think somebody should change their vote on this.

I think it would be wrong to judge the 18 year old Mitt Romney for this, but for the 65 year-old Mitt, this is a moral failure on many levels.

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