California, here I come!

On the west coast: Today, CA Supreme Court says that domestic partnerships laws for same-sex couple are not good enough. Ruling demands marriage laws be put in place which means Cali will become the second state in nation to offer same-sex marriage by year's end. More from LA Times here.

On the east coast: PA State Senate almost passes a same-sex marriage ban to state constitution. Only withdraws because of committee assignment in the house. Danger still lurks.

Even if the original Gay Liberation movement of the early 70's (which like its friends in Black Power and Feminist movements was trying to blow the lid off the white male patriarchy) would have thought this a hollow victory because of its assimilation-oriented tilt, I can't help but be happy for Cali LGBT folks.

Same-sex marriage won't solve all of my community's problems at all (universal or expanded access to healthcare for all--see below--would help just as many of us, if not more), but it's still a step in the right direction. And California's victory is definitely the cause of one of those "tell me why I live in Philadelphia again" moments.

Great photo

Wow. I know how the woman on the left feels.

Civil Rights finally going in the right direction somewhere, especially our most populous state, is good news everywhere, even as the Forces of Evil and Intolerance plot their next reactionary move here. More reason for people of conscience to stand up for equality.

Two down, forty-eight to go. Obama-Era Optimism lives.


that was exactly the comment I was about to type! I started tearing up like that woman, looking at the picture.

Unbelievably wonderful news

And even the Republican Governator doesn't want to overturn it.

Marriage isn't for everyone, and radicalism with respect to what's often an oppressive, assimilating culture is always an option. But ultimately, the vast majority of us, gay and straight, don't really want to be radicals. We just want to love each other and raise our families and be afforded the same dignity and respect as everyone else. And that means the right to marry.

Short of mass transcontinental migration, if Philadelphia's looking to be annexed by another state, why not become East California (instead of New Jersey West)? Gays could get married, Philadelphia's new public university could be part of the UC system, and we could talk endlessly about how different Northern and Southern and Eastern California are. It would be marvelous.

yes and no

sure, I want those rights...but I don't want them through marriage. Ideally, I want them through some set of legal structures that values all families (not just couple-oriented ones) and doesn't mix church with state. Radical means going to the roots - so if take a radical approach to something, you think the problem is in the essence of the institution and you want to address the whole situation, not just work within the given framework and make a few changes. So I don't see it so much as an individual's choice to "be a radical" or not. it's just where you see the problem and how you decide to address it.

that said, I am excited about California. marriage is a legal institution (albeit one I take issue with), and leaving folks out is not okay.

I know what it means

I need not a lecture on political attitudes, but thanks anyway.


Ideally, I want them through

Ideally, I want them through some set of legal structures that values all families (not just couple-oriented ones) and doesn't mix church with state.

There are other legal structures with regard to families. There are laws addressing parent-child relationships and adoption and custody, etc. I am not aware of any need for any legal changes addressing single-parent families. I don't care much one way or the other with regards to polygamous families. What legal structure do you ideally want?

I do not think that marriage is intertwined with church and state (in spite of the religious right's efforts to lay claim to marriage (and ethics and patriotism, etc.)). If my world knowledge is close to right, essentially the same ideas of marriage exists in many, many non-judeo-christian cultures. Additionally, until recently, most marriages in Europe were legally recognized common-law marriages that arose though cohabitation rather than through religious blessing.

Radicalism often gets things done

Perhaps if the citizenry had more radical attitudes than liberal ones, the government would still be its representative instead of its master.


Radicalism's uses

Radicalism has a definite purpose even in the most moderate of societies. The way I see history, change works something like this:

1) Some people choose a radical idea as their own. Such radical ideas in the past have been abolition of slavery, womens' suffrage, and civil rights.

2) The radical groups make enough noise about their ideas that some people in the bored majority begin to take notice.

3) Eventually, enough people in the bored majority agree with the radicals that the radicals' idea is no longer radical: it becomes the new status quo.


I Concur

Your comments, Zorro, put the icing on mine.


Liberal democracy is OK by me

Individual rights, freedom of the press, one person one vote don't get their props enough if you ask me.

That said, go CA.

MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.

I am not sure

'one person one vote' is really functioning particularly well, but that's another conversation.

Also, for the record, I would def support PA being part of the California public university system. Someone work on that before I have babies and they apply to colleges please. Tim, weren't you like starting a new public college in Phila? Make it happen.

Well one of the things about liberal democracy

is that it would be nice to actually achieve it first before we start knocking it down. But thats just my opinion.

MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.

The CA public university system of your memories, maybe

Unfortunately, the California public university system is a shadow of its former self. All my friends who teach in it complain constantly about shrinking salaries and research support, overcrowded campuses, lack of financial aid, and a physical plant that is deteriorating. Years of crazy budgeting have dramatically reduced funding for the system.

BTW, a general truth about higher education is that reputation is usually based on what the state of things twenty years ago. Whenever someone tells that, say, University X has a great English department, ask them why they think that. If they have a reason at all, it is usually based on the presence of a couple of famous writers / academics who, if they are still alive, are now out to pasture emereti.

And it takes a lot to displace the reputation of a university / academic department. That explains that unending popularity of Brown University among high school seniors, which arose for no apparent reason in the 1970s and continues to this day.

California Dreamin'

Since we're talking about the fictitious possibility of Philadelphia being a discontinuous part of the state of California, I think it goes without saying that we're likewise talking about the idealized UC system of history/the mind.

I know when I was in high school in MI, a school's reputation was largely based on how well their football team did that year. That and a National Merit Scholarship explains why I applied to Florida State, and flirted with attending Northwestern (they went to the Rose Bowl that year.) But geez, Marc, what's your beef with Brown?

Why Brown?

Why is it one of the hardest schools to get into? Because of beautiful, downtown Providence? Because of the school color? I just am just perplexed by academic fads in general and this one in particular.

In the academic fields I familiar with, there have got to be forty good schools with better departments, judging by what's published there. I've never heard a long list of great teachers at the school?

When I applied to college in the mid-70s, Brown was popular because, at a time when requirement were common, it had even fewer requirements than even the school I went to, Wesleyan. (We had the "seven distribution suggestions" as Wesleyan and you could meet the science suggestion, if you wanted to, by taking Absurd Theater and Modern Physics.) I see no good reason why Brown's popularity has continued. Not that it is a bad school. But, why Brown?

Actually Providence is not a bad town now. (Shows you what a really good, unified and thoroughly corrupt political machine can accomplish.) I was there a couple of years ago for the first time since 1977, when I went to see a band called Talking Heads at risd. My daughter was with me, loved it and wanted to pick up an application. She was in 7th grade at the time and was upset when we told her she would have to wait.

So if Brown and the UC system are over

then who's under? And you can't say Temple, that's just cheating.


Trash talkin' my alma mater (UC SANTA CRUZ). Actually I've heard the same.
MrLuigi, my cat, actually only types half as badly as I do.

Gays As "Whipping Boys" This Cycle...

I'm putting it at 80% odds that gays will be out of the equation this election cycle unlike the scapegoat we were in 2004 which turned Ohio in the red column.

- McCain has remained mostly mute on stump speeches about changing Don't Ask/Don't Tell to Don't Ask/Don't Care whereas Rove's pundits couldn't go a day without mentioning gays.
- Most of the country has already amended state constitutions to define legal marriage as between a male and a female.
- "The Mississippi Debacle" is showing that the projected loss of 20 GOP US House members, is real. Gays aren't going to bring out enough hillbillies to offset the hemorrhaging.
- Resentment against the President is at the level highest ever, and we are in an election cycle. Trying to use gays as a wedge issue like it was used in 2004 won't work. Republicans who are pissed off at the Administration but were snookered in by DOMA are not likely to fall for this tactic again. Fool me once...

Oh, I forgot the biggest reason:

Who cares about gays when the gas for your diesel pickup is $4.50 a gallon and you're not too sure how long you might hold on to your job.

Mixed Feelings

Yes it is wonderful that gays can marry in California.

But, as I've said here before, this issue seems to me to be a lot like the abortion issue. And just as we would have been better off winning the right to abortion legislatively not through the courts, I would like to win gay marriage legislatively not through the courts. That is the best way to insure that we have a political process that really changes hearts and minds; that the political energy on the issue comes from the left not the right; and that the right wing can't say that gay marriage was forced upon them by unelected judges.

If the California court decision is overturned by a referendum--and the Times today says that that is likely--I don't see how that helps us in the long run. In five to ten years, I supect we could have won gay marriage in the California legislature. An anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment could make that much harder.

Note: as always, anything I write here is my own opinion, not that of my employer or any of the political organizations with which I am associated.

although I think that one of

although I think that one of the things that made the biggest differences in MA was when same-sex couples started getting married and oh my god the world didn't end. The reality of it happening affected public opinion and the opinions of legislators.

We've been through this before, Marc

Since I know you are interested in this issue, you might want to look at my former professor's just-released book, Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy. I only read the introduction, as he presented it at a conference I put on, but it comes to some interesting findings, and is based on extensive empirical research on public response to 'hot button' court rulings.

For those who might not want to read the whole book

A quick synopsis?

The introduction is on my home computer

but maybe I can dig it up and upload it. The case-specific findings are interesting. From the Columbia press release I linked:

Persily said that while the general perception might be that Supreme Court decisions either cause controversy, with Roe v. Wade being a prime example, or lead to change in public opinion, as was the case with Brown v. Board of Education, in fact most Supreme Court decisions have neither result.

“For the most part the Supreme Court decisions have no effect on public opinion,” Persily said.

Still, Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy shows that a small number of cases can have significant impact on public opinion, and in a variety of ways. As Persily writes in the book’s introduction, “The most polarizing controversies of today’s politics often find a home in the courtroom as well as in the legislative chamber or candidate debate.”

Some decisions, such as Roe v. Wade, polarize by setting two extreme sides off into a public battle. Some decisions set off a public backlash, such as the Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a Texas state law banning consensual sex between gay adults and led to an intense national debate over gay marriage.

And some cases can cause an initial backlash, as Brown v. Board of Education did in the South, but can also lead to general change in attitudes and public opinion over time. “The same court decision might lead to a short-term backlash, medium-term polarization, and long-term legitimation. We recognize that the effect of a court decision,” Persily writes in the book’s introduction, “may be felt more over the long term than in the few years following the decision.”

The book grew out of the authors’ examination of the public opinion backlash in the wake of Lawrence and the Massachusetts high court’s invalidation of that state’s ban on same sex marriage. Persily said he and his co-authors wanted to compare that reaction to the public response in other high profile culture war cases, but that no volume compiled the relevant public opinion data.

They pulled polling data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, the Pew Research Center, the General Social Survey, Gallup polling data, polls by news organizations, and the American National Election Studies.


You could have just told me: "follow the link, dufus."

Interesting. And it will be interesting to see what grows out of the California decision. Another arrow in the quiver of the "activist judge" crowd? Or possibly a way that over time as exemplified by Brown vs. Board of Ed, or as suggested above, through increased awareness as people have wider experiences over time that same-sex marriage is actually completely irrelevant to the stability of cross-gender marriage, this decision will actually move us closer to more enlightened legislative outcomes.

Thanks, I'll look at it

Just looking at the blurb, it strikes me that there are two issues: First, does Supreme Court action change public opinion. My guess would be that it your teacher is probably right: it does so only at the margins. As Mr. Dooley put it long ago, the Supreme Court follows the election returns.

But I would think that Supreme Court decisions do affect political activity. Roe energized the right wing anti-abortion movement and deenergized the left wing pro-choice movement. That is, I believe, indisputable. A political friend who worked for NOW in 1968 has told me her own story about how her fears about this were realized soon after Roe.

Brown energized the civil rights movement and, as my professor Hubert O'Gorman pointed out in the sixties, made it possible for whites to discover, especially in the South, that most of them opposed segregation. Up until then, the majority of whites in the south opposed integration, but assumed that they were in the minority. It became possible to talk about the issue in the South in broader circles after Brown, and that had an effect on the willingness of people to take action in favor of integration.

And, by the way, I think my initial post was behind the times. According to the NY Times, Governor Arnold has vetoed a bill legalizing gay marriage which, I presume means that such a bill has ALREADY been enacted by the California legislature. That, as far as I am concerned, is even better news than the CA Supreme Court decision. Make that ten years until the PA General Assembly enacts a gay marriage bill.

And maybe I'll get a footnote somewhere as the first candidate for State Representative in Pennsylvania to endorse gay marriage and to promise to introduce a bill to that effect.

Au contraire

I would note that the California legislature twice passed gay marriage/civil union laws, which Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed, arguing that the issue should be decided by the Supreme Court -- presumably because he wanted to pass the buck, since he's said he won't support the referendum or other efforts to upend the decision. So no legislative illegitimacy, no claims of a forced hand, and a decision that specifies exactly why the Constitution of the state of California and the subsequent case law demands marraige equality.

New Jersey likewise passed a civil unions bill, and their Supreme Court determined precisely what was constitutionally necessary and sufficient in such a law -- in that case, full legal equality, but not necessarily the title of marriage.

In general, I would say that the legislative and judicial approaches are not either-or; in both of these cases, they (formally) worked, in concert, exactly the way they are supposed to.

I would note that the

I would note that the California legislature twice passed gay marriage/civil union laws, which Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed, arguing that the issue should be decided by the Supreme Court . . . .

In general, I share Marc's view. However, Schwarzenegger's actions complicate things. I'm not an expert in California constitutional law (and only skimmed the court opinions), but it seems like Schwarzenegger's views are incorrect. As the chief executive, he should sign or veto the legislation that is passed by the legislature. I don't see how he should be able to delegate this duty to the judiciary. Since the legislature did pass gay marriage twice, I think the public cannot argue that gay marriage in California is "undemocratic" and is only the result of the "activist judiciary."

If the California court decision is overturned by a referendum--and the Times today says that that is likely--I don't see how that helps us in the long run.

I'm not sure how likely gay marriage is to be overturned by constitutional amendment referendum, but I do not think the decision hurt the cause for gay marriage. The prediction for a constitutional amendment is probably based on old data. A non-constitutional referendum passing an anti-gay-marriage law was 8 years ago. Attitudes probably changed. Additionally, the Republican governator has indicated that he will oppose (or at least not support) a constitutional amendment. The promised back-lashes within Massachusetts and New Jersey never occurred; gay marriage is still the law of Massachusetts and gay unions is still law of New Jersey. (Ignore DOMA for now.)

The 4-3 decision in favor of gay marriage is probably better than a 4-3 decision against. In the present scenario, we have the following situation: The legislature passed laws creating gay marriage twice, the governator vetoed them saying that it should be up to the state Supreme Court, the Court creates gay marriage, gay marriage opponents probably get an amendment on the ballot, and voters decide whether to amend the constitution without the support of the Republican governator.

In the scenario we would have otherwise, the situation would be as follows: The legislature passed laws creating gay marriage twice, the governator vetoed them saying that it should be up to the state Supreme Court, the Court finds no right to gay marriage, the governator would probably veto further legislation since he thought it was up to the Supreme Court and they did not do it, gay marriage advocates would then be faced with the task of overriding a veto or amending the constitution.

I think that in the short term and the long term, gay marriage advocates are not worse off with the present scenario.

As I final note, I think that no dissenting opinion expressed opposition to gay marriage, only opposed enacting it through the judiciary. In fact, one of the dissents start as follows: "In my view, Californians should allow our gay and lesbian neighbors to call their unions marriages."

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