Why “religious freedom” arguments about gay marriage fail

This November, Minnesota will vote on an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the state constitution. Reverend Mark Kuether of the Congregational United Church of Christ recently wrote an opinion piece for the Detroit Lakes Tribune, arguing that religious freedom requires legal recognition of gay marriage. Kuether says:

This amendment would tell clergy who they can and cannot marry in their congregations. Some churches and religious organizations want to recognize the relationships of committed gay and lesbian couples. Some don’t. It should be their choice. However, this amendment does the opposite. It tells religious leaders they are not allowed to marry same-sex couples. Many faiths want to decide for themselves. This amendment represents a one-size fits all government mandate on our state’s churches.

It’s easy to see why this argument is appealing: it takes the usual religious objections to legal gay marriage, and turns them on their head. Instead of claiming that legalizing same-sex marriage would curtail religious freedom, it argues that a ban on same-sex marriage is the real infringement on religious freedom. And it also points out that “religion” is not a monolithic body that’s uniformly opposed to gay marriage, as many religious opponents of gay marriage often like to pretend.

But the religious freedom argument for marriage equality is just as flawed as the religious freedom argument against marriage equality, and for precisely the same reasons. Those who argue against gay marriage on the grounds of religious freedom make the mistake of conflating civil marriage law with religious marital practices. Out of willful or genuine ignorance, they claim that the legalization of same-sex marriage would mean all churches and other religious institutions are now required to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. This is simply contrary to fact, which is plain to see in every state where same-sex marriage is legal and intolerant religions are still free to conduct only the weddings they want.

Just as with opposite-sex marriage, same-sex marriages under civil law are the kind you get at the city hall or another government office. Its legal aspects are a purely secular matter, and that legal recognition does not oblige any religion to celebrate these marriages. The recognition of opposite-sex marriages in civil law has never meant that a Catholic church is required to let just anyone get married in a cathedral, and same-sex marriage is no different. The people who make this argument don’t seem to understand that you can’t just go to any church, synagogue, mosque or temple, and demand to get married there. In other countries with official state churches whose doctrines are decided by legislators, those churches may be required to solemnize same-sex marriages, but in the United States, the government is entirely unable to tell a religion which marriages and relationships it can and cannot celebrate.

For that reason, the claim that a ban on gay marriage “tells religious leaders they are not allowed to marry same-sex couples” is likewise false. Various religious bodies, including the United Church of Christ, already choose to recognize same-sex marriages and perform same-sex wedding ceremonies as part of their faith. And if they only wanted gay, queer, and otherwise extraordinary couples to get married at their churches, they would be fully within their rights, too. Because civil marriage and religious marriage are completely separate practices, a civil ban on same-sex marriage does not prevent them from doing this.

Conversely, a certain religion’s marital practices are not and should not be used to define the civil marriage laws which apply to everyone. The Catholic church may choose to recognize as valid only those marriages which abide by their specific religious requirements, but that doesn’t mean these are the only marriages that are recognized under civil law. No religion gets to dictate our nation’s civil, secular laws, and they can’t demand that everyone be forced to live under a particular religious doctrine that they may not even believe in. Even if no religion in history approved of same-sex marriages or wanted to perform them, this would be no argument against recognizing same-sex marriages under civil law. And just as we wouldn’t let an anti-gay church define what marriage is for everyone, we also shouldn’t let a pro-gay church define what marriage is for everyone.

Respect for religious freedom does not demand that our civil law must ban all the marriages a religion bans, and allow all the marriages a religion allows. The scope of religious freedom does not extend that far. There are certain faiths that approve of many different kinds of marriages which are not recognized under civil law. Does this mean the state is required to recognize child marriages or multiple marriages just because someone’s religion does? No, just as a racist church that disapproves of interracial marriage cannot impose this rule upon the populace at large. But all of these groups already have the freedom to practice their religious marriages in accordance with their beliefs. And just as the legalization of same-sex marriage does not burden that freedom, neither does banning same-sex marriage.

The claim that legal gay marriage limits religious freedom is a complete non-starter. But so is the idea that its absence poses a similar restriction. There are already plenty of excellent points in favor of same-sex marriage, and no good ones against it so far. We don’t need to rely on arguments that proceed from the same faulty premises, so why pretend religious freedom has anything to do with it?

Why “religious freedom” arguments about gay marriage fail
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Why "religious freedom" arguments about gay marriage fail

This November, Minnesota will vote on an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the state constitution. Reverend Mark Kuether of the Congregational United Church of Christ recently wrote an opinion piece for the Detroit Lakes Tribune, arguing that religious freedom requires legal recognition of gay marriage. Kuether says:

This amendment would tell clergy who they can and cannot marry in their congregations. Some churches and religious organizations want to recognize the relationships of committed gay and lesbian couples. Some don’t. It should be their choice. However, this amendment does the opposite. It tells religious leaders they are not allowed to marry same-sex couples. Many faiths want to decide for themselves. This amendment represents a one-size fits all government mandate on our state’s churches.

It’s easy to see why this argument is appealing: it takes the usual religious objections to legal gay marriage, and turns them on their head. Instead of claiming that legalizing same-sex marriage would curtail religious freedom, it argues that a ban on same-sex marriage is the real infringement on religious freedom. And it also points out that “religion” is not a monolithic body that’s uniformly opposed to gay marriage, as many religious opponents of gay marriage often like to pretend.

But the religious freedom argument for marriage equality is just as flawed as the religious freedom argument against marriage equality, and for precisely the same reasons. Those who argue against gay marriage on the grounds of religious freedom make the mistake of conflating civil marriage law with religious marital practices. Out of willful or genuine ignorance, they claim that the legalization of same-sex marriage would mean all churches and other religious institutions are now required to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. This is simply contrary to fact, which is plain to see in every state where same-sex marriage is legal and intolerant religions are still free to conduct only the weddings they want.

Just as with opposite-sex marriage, same-sex marriages under civil law are the kind you get at the city hall or another government office. Its legal aspects are a purely secular matter, and that legal recognition does not oblige any religion to celebrate these marriages. The recognition of opposite-sex marriages in civil law has never meant that a Catholic church is required to let just anyone get married in a cathedral, and same-sex marriage is no different. The people who make this argument don’t seem to understand that you can’t just go to any church, synagogue, mosque or temple, and demand to get married there. In other countries with official state churches whose doctrines are decided by legislators, those churches may be required to solemnize same-sex marriages, but in the United States, the government is entirely unable to tell a religion which marriages and relationships it can and cannot celebrate.

For that reason, the claim that a ban on gay marriage “tells religious leaders they are not allowed to marry same-sex couples” is likewise false. Various religious bodies, including the United Church of Christ, already choose to recognize same-sex marriages and perform same-sex wedding ceremonies as part of their faith. And if they only wanted gay, queer, and otherwise extraordinary couples to get married at their churches, they would be fully within their rights, too. Because civil marriage and religious marriage are completely separate practices, a civil ban on same-sex marriage does not prevent them from doing this.

Conversely, a certain religion’s marital practices are not and should not be used to define the civil marriage laws which apply to everyone. The Catholic church may choose to recognize as valid only those marriages which abide by their specific religious requirements, but that doesn’t mean these are the only marriages that are recognized under civil law. No religion gets to dictate our nation’s civil, secular laws, and they can’t demand that everyone be forced to live under a particular religious doctrine that they may not even believe in. Even if no religion in history approved of same-sex marriages or wanted to perform them, this would be no argument against recognizing same-sex marriages under civil law. And just as we wouldn’t let an anti-gay church define what marriage is for everyone, we also shouldn’t let a pro-gay church define what marriage is for everyone.

Respect for religious freedom does not demand that our civil law must ban all the marriages a religion bans, and allow all the marriages a religion allows. The scope of religious freedom does not extend that far. There are certain faiths that approve of many different kinds of marriages which are not recognized under civil law. Does this mean the state is required to recognize child marriages or multiple marriages just because someone’s religion does? No, just as a racist church that disapproves of interracial marriage cannot impose this rule upon the populace at large. But all of these groups already have the freedom to practice their religious marriages in accordance with their beliefs. And just as the legalization of same-sex marriage does not burden that freedom, neither does banning same-sex marriage.

The claim that legal gay marriage limits religious freedom is a complete non-starter. But so is the idea that its absence poses a similar restriction. There are already plenty of excellent points in favor of same-sex marriage, and no good ones against it so far. We don’t need to rely on arguments that proceed from the same faulty premises, so why pretend religious freedom has anything to do with it?

Why "religious freedom" arguments about gay marriage fail

Which is more respectful of religious freedom?

A. Allowing military chaplains the option to perform, or refuse to perform, same-sex wedding ceremonies or any other wedding ceremonies on military bases.

B. Banning all military chaplains from performing any same-sex wedding ceremonies on bases, regardless of their beliefs or whether they may actually want to perform such ceremonies.

If you answered B, congratulations! You’re Senator Jim Inhofe:

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe hasn’t given up his resistance to the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the military or same-sex marriage.

On Tuesday, Inhofe and fellow Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi introduced a measure that would ban same-sex marriages on military bases and protect military chaplains from “pressure” to perform such ceremonies.

The two senators described the Military Religious Freedom Act as an effort to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, on the Defense Department in the wake of the December 2010 repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which ended the official ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military. …

A Defense Department directive issued last year says: “A military chaplain may participate in or officiate any private ceremony, whether on or off a military installation.”

For all of their concern about non-existent “pressure” to perform same-sex weddings, the authors of this “religious freedom” measure certainly don’t seem to mind when homophobic lawmakers legally pressure LGBT-accepting chaplains to stop doing the ceremonies they themselves wish to perform. What about their religious freedom? Or do anti-gay politicians only subscribe to the “you are free to do as we tell you” theory of freedom?

Which is more respectful of religious freedom?

What did you expect when you invited a cardinal?

For some inexplicable reason, the Democratic National Convention invited Cardinal Timothy Dolan of all people to lead the closing prayers (a pointless exercise to begin with). Dolan, who previously compared the passage of marriage equality in New York to living in North Korea, unsurprisingly used this as an opportunity to attack the pro-choice, pro-LGBT platform of the Democratic Party:

Thus do we praise you for the gift of life. Grant us the courage to defend it, life, without which no other rights are secure. We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected. …

May this land of the free never lack those brave enough to defend our basic freedoms. Renew in all our people a profound respect for religious liberty: the first, most cherished freedom bequeathed upon us at our Founding. …

Show us anew that happiness is found only in respecting the laws of nature and of nature’s God. Empower us with your grace so that we might resist the temptation to replace the moral law with idols of our own making, or to remake those institutions you have given us for the nurturing of life and community.

Whatever political calculations were behind this decision, the result was certainly off-key.

 

What did you expect when you invited a cardinal?

Let's not forget what Dinesh D'Souza said about 9/11

On a recent episode of “Secure Freedom Radio”, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza had this to say about President Obama:

It fits in this way Janet, because I think Obama is weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadis who are captured in Iraq or Afghanistan, giving them constitutional rights, wanting to close down Guantanamo or when Obama keeps taking the Palestinian position against Israel, some people think that the reason he does this is because he must be a secret Muslim himself. I think that’s wrong. But what I do think Obama thinks is he thinks, ‘look, America is the evil power occupying these poor Third World countries, so the Muslims who are fighting against America are freedom fighters, they’re like Mandela, they’re like Gandhi, they’re like Obama’s own dad fighting to push the British out of Kenya.’ He views those guys in favorable terms and he sees America, not Iran or North Korea, but America as the rogue nation that has to be pulled back.

Such accusations are especially striking in light of what D’Souza wrote in his 2007 book, The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11:

In faulting the cultural left, I am not making the absurd accusation that this group blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks were the product of this visceral rage—some of it based on legitimate concerns, some of it based on wrongful prejudice—but all of it fueled and encouraged by the cultural left. Thus without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened. …

Shortly after the fall of Baghdad, graffiti began to appear on the walls of the city and its environs. The following scrawl caught my attention. “Marriage of the same sex became legal in America. Is this, with the mafia and drugs, what you want to bring to Iraq, America? Is this the freedom you promised?” Even if the source of this statement is of little consequence, the content is revealing. It is not an objection to freedom, but to the kind of freedom associated with drug legalization and homosexual marriage. As such, it is a vital clue to the sources of Muslim rage. And here is an excerpt from a recent videotape by Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy of Bin Laden and reputed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. “The freedom we want is not the freedom to use women as a commodity to gain clients, win deals, or attract tourists; it is not the freedom of AIDS and an industry of obscenities and homosexual marriages; it is not the freedom of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.”

What these statements convey is that these Islamic radicals do not hate America because of its wealth and power; they hate America because of how Americans use that wealth and power. They do not hate us for our freedom; they hate us because of what we do with our freedom. The radical Muslims are convinced that America and Europe have become sick, demented societies that destroy religious belief, undermine traditional morality, dissolve the patriarchal family, and corrupt the innocence of children. …

There seems to be a growing belief in traditional cultures—a belief encouraged but by no means created by Islamic fundamentalism—that America is materially prosperous but culturally decadent. It is technologically sophisticated but morally depraved. As former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto puts it, “Within the Muslim world, there is a reaction against the sexual overtones that come across in American mass culture. America is viewed through this prism as an immoral society.” In his book The Crisis of Islam, Bernard Lewis rehearses what he calls the “standard litany of American offenses recited in the lands of Islam” and ends with this one: “Yet the most powerful accusation of all is the degeneracy and debauchery of the American way of life.” As these observations suggest, what angers religious Muslims is not the American Constitution but the scandalous sexual mores they see on American movies and television. What disgusts them are not free elections but the sights of hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other and taking marriage vows. The person that horrifies them the most is not John Locke but Hillary Clinton. …

We should not dismiss the Islamic or traditional critique so easily. In fact, as our own domestic and cultural debate shows, we know that many of the concerns raised by the radical Muslims are widely-shared in our own society. Indeed, many conservative and religious Americans agree with the Islamic fundamentalists that American culture has become increasingly vulgar, trivial and disgusting. I am not merely referring to the reality shows where contestants eat maggots or the talk shows where guests reveal the humiliating details of their sex lives. I am also referring to “high culture,” to liberal culture that offers itself as refined and sophisticated.

Here, for example, is a brief excerpt from Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” a play that won rave reviews and Hollywood accolades and is now routinely performed (according to its own publicity materials) in “more than 20 countries, including China and Turkey.” In the book version of the play—now sold in translation in Pakistan, India, and Egypt—Ensler offers what she terms “Vagina Occurrences”: “Glenn Close gets 2,500 people to stand up and chant the word cunt…There is now a Cunt Workshop at Wesleyan University…Roseanne performs ‘What Does Your Vagina Smell Like?” in her underwear for two thousand people…Alanis Morisette and Audra McDonald sing the cunt piece.” And so on. If all of this makes many Americans uncomfortable and embarrassed—which may be part of Ensler’s objective—one can only imagine how it is received in traditional cultures where the public recitation of such themes and language is considered a grotesque violation of manners and morals. …

Thus we have the first way in which the cultural left is responsible for 9/11. The left has produced a moral shift in American society that has resulted in a deluge of gross depravity and immorality. This deluge threatens to engulf our society and is imposing itself on the rest of the world. The Islamic radicals are now convinced that America represents the revival of pagan barbarism in the world, and 9/11 represents their ongoing battle with what they perceive to be the forces of Satan.

So, who really seems “weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadis” here? Who do you think believes “America is the evil power occupying these poor Third World countries” and sees America as “the rogue nation that has to be pulled back”? Obama, or the guy who blames The Vagina Monologues, Hillary Clinton and “hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other” for provoking attacks by Islamic extremists?

Let's not forget what Dinesh D'Souza said about 9/11

Let’s not forget what Dinesh D’Souza said about 9/11

On a recent episode of “Secure Freedom Radio”, conservative author Dinesh D’Souza had this to say about President Obama:

It fits in this way Janet, because I think Obama is weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadis who are captured in Iraq or Afghanistan, giving them constitutional rights, wanting to close down Guantanamo or when Obama keeps taking the Palestinian position against Israel, some people think that the reason he does this is because he must be a secret Muslim himself. I think that’s wrong. But what I do think Obama thinks is he thinks, ‘look, America is the evil power occupying these poor Third World countries, so the Muslims who are fighting against America are freedom fighters, they’re like Mandela, they’re like Gandhi, they’re like Obama’s own dad fighting to push the British out of Kenya.’ He views those guys in favorable terms and he sees America, not Iran or North Korea, but America as the rogue nation that has to be pulled back.

Such accusations are especially striking in light of what D’Souza wrote in his 2007 book, The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11:

In faulting the cultural left, I am not making the absurd accusation that this group blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. I am saying that the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world. The Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks were the product of this visceral rage—some of it based on legitimate concerns, some of it based on wrongful prejudice—but all of it fueled and encouraged by the cultural left. Thus without the cultural left, 9/11 would not have happened. …

Shortly after the fall of Baghdad, graffiti began to appear on the walls of the city and its environs. The following scrawl caught my attention. “Marriage of the same sex became legal in America. Is this, with the mafia and drugs, what you want to bring to Iraq, America? Is this the freedom you promised?” Even if the source of this statement is of little consequence, the content is revealing. It is not an objection to freedom, but to the kind of freedom associated with drug legalization and homosexual marriage. As such, it is a vital clue to the sources of Muslim rage. And here is an excerpt from a recent videotape by Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy of Bin Laden and reputed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. “The freedom we want is not the freedom to use women as a commodity to gain clients, win deals, or attract tourists; it is not the freedom of AIDS and an industry of obscenities and homosexual marriages; it is not the freedom of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.”

What these statements convey is that these Islamic radicals do not hate America because of its wealth and power; they hate America because of how Americans use that wealth and power. They do not hate us for our freedom; they hate us because of what we do with our freedom. The radical Muslims are convinced that America and Europe have become sick, demented societies that destroy religious belief, undermine traditional morality, dissolve the patriarchal family, and corrupt the innocence of children. …

There seems to be a growing belief in traditional cultures—a belief encouraged but by no means created by Islamic fundamentalism—that America is materially prosperous but culturally decadent. It is technologically sophisticated but morally depraved. As former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto puts it, “Within the Muslim world, there is a reaction against the sexual overtones that come across in American mass culture. America is viewed through this prism as an immoral society.” In his book The Crisis of Islam, Bernard Lewis rehearses what he calls the “standard litany of American offenses recited in the lands of Islam” and ends with this one: “Yet the most powerful accusation of all is the degeneracy and debauchery of the American way of life.” As these observations suggest, what angers religious Muslims is not the American Constitution but the scandalous sexual mores they see on American movies and television. What disgusts them are not free elections but the sights of hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other and taking marriage vows. The person that horrifies them the most is not John Locke but Hillary Clinton. …

We should not dismiss the Islamic or traditional critique so easily. In fact, as our own domestic and cultural debate shows, we know that many of the concerns raised by the radical Muslims are widely-shared in our own society. Indeed, many conservative and religious Americans agree with the Islamic fundamentalists that American culture has become increasingly vulgar, trivial and disgusting. I am not merely referring to the reality shows where contestants eat maggots or the talk shows where guests reveal the humiliating details of their sex lives. I am also referring to “high culture,” to liberal culture that offers itself as refined and sophisticated.

Here, for example, is a brief excerpt from Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues,” a play that won rave reviews and Hollywood accolades and is now routinely performed (according to its own publicity materials) in “more than 20 countries, including China and Turkey.” In the book version of the play—now sold in translation in Pakistan, India, and Egypt—Ensler offers what she terms “Vagina Occurrences”: “Glenn Close gets 2,500 people to stand up and chant the word cunt…There is now a Cunt Workshop at Wesleyan University…Roseanne performs ‘What Does Your Vagina Smell Like?” in her underwear for two thousand people…Alanis Morisette and Audra McDonald sing the cunt piece.” And so on. If all of this makes many Americans uncomfortable and embarrassed—which may be part of Ensler’s objective—one can only imagine how it is received in traditional cultures where the public recitation of such themes and language is considered a grotesque violation of manners and morals. …

Thus we have the first way in which the cultural left is responsible for 9/11. The left has produced a moral shift in American society that has resulted in a deluge of gross depravity and immorality. This deluge threatens to engulf our society and is imposing itself on the rest of the world. The Islamic radicals are now convinced that America represents the revival of pagan barbarism in the world, and 9/11 represents their ongoing battle with what they perceive to be the forces of Satan.

So, who really seems “weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadis” here? Who do you think believes “America is the evil power occupying these poor Third World countries” and sees America as “the rogue nation that has to be pulled back”? Obama, or the guy who blames The Vagina Monologues, Hillary Clinton and “hundreds of homosexuals kissing each other” for provoking attacks by Islamic extremists?

Let’s not forget what Dinesh D’Souza said about 9/11

Halfway to victory: The diminishing returns of activism

by Heather

The other day as she was reading something online, Zinnia asked me my opinion on the question of why people seem to be more supportive of LGBT activism than feminism. At first I gave the simplest answer I could think of: A cis, straight person can support the rights of LGBT people and then never, or very rarely, be personally affected by that support. They may never knowingly encounter a trans person or be invited to a same-sex wedding ceremony. If they work for a smaller company, they may never encounter an LGBT person at work. They may have none in their family.

It’s not so simple to avoid women. To support equal treatment of women is to admit that you’re a part of a system that disadvantages your mothers, sisters, daughters, and possibly significant others. If you’re a woman, it’s to admit that your fathers, brothers, sons, and possibly significant others are benefiting from a system that gives to them at your expense, and that most of them are either willfully ignoring this fact or actively maintaining the status quo. Feminism means acknowledging harsh realities about people you love. LGBT activism may or may not do the same.

Naturally, Zinnia thought this would be an excellent topic for me to discuss on my monthly contribution to her channel as her videos about LGBT activism, however abrasive, are significantly more liked than anything either she or I can say about feminism, so I spent a lot more time thinking about it. I realized my original thoughts were correct, but incomplete. While the current incarnations of feminism are regarded as either angry fringe movements, or overplayed songs of the past, it certainly had its day in the sun.

The Nineteenth Amendment, passed in 1919 guaranteeing women the right to vote, was the beginning of a century of notable advancement for women. In 1969, president Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11375 banning discrimination based on sex in federal workforce hiring decisions. 1972 brought us Title IX which entitled women to equal educational opportunities and finally ended the tyranny of enforced sex discrimination in education, and 1973 brought us the infamous Roe v. Wade, which entitled women to medical and reproductive privacy. These things did not happen with the support of only a few. These things happened with the support of a majority. Yes, at one point, the majority of the United States was identifying and voting feminist.

Currently, LGBT activism is in its heyday. Friends, we just eliminated Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Countries all over the world are legalizing gay marriage. States all over the union are… they’re… trying. President Obama is the first president of the United States to endorse gay marriage. For the first time in history, polls are showing overwhelming support for LGBT rights. The standard of care for trans people is improving with many countries in the world providing full and free access to medical transition, and even in the United States it is getting easier. Progress is being made, but we’re nowhere near done.

Employment nondiscrimination for all gender and sexual minorities needs to be enforced on the federal level. DOMA – the Defense of Marriage Act which makes it so that same-sex marriages, even in states where they are legal, are considered invalid outside of the state and are ineligible for federal benefits – is probably next on the chopping block, but it’s still there. Access to medical transition needs to be as guaranteed as access to any other valid and necessary treatment guaranteed by American health insurance companies. Laws governing the ability to change one’s legal gender status are being liberalized in many states but have fallen backwards in others. Our battle for legal equality is in full force and we’re on the winning team. Of course it’s easy to support it.

Since the civil rights movements in the 1960s, it would seem that, at least for the United States, legal equality is nearly a solved problem. Precedence has been set in the Supreme Court time and again. All we need are the right lawyers, and time. For Americans, this is a point of pride, and the majority, however slim, is happy to join us.

But what happens to equal rights movements when their battles are won? When the privileged majority declares the problem sorted and moves on to another cause du jour? When, instead of cookies and claps on the back, cis straight white men still have to hear about how people of color are overwhelmingly impoverished and imprisoned, women still can’t make a buck in spite of eager and overwhelming academic achievement, are getting raped left and right, and are slowly losing their reproductive rights, or that gender and sexual minorities are still forced into conversion therapy or homelessness?

It’s an inevitable aspect of the human condition that we cheer for the winning teams, donate to the popular charities, save the cuter animals. Legal equality is a popular fight and a solved problem, but social equality is what Americans do worst. In time, like feminism, black power, and any number of fights for real equality, LGBT activism will peter out. The work will be left to those of us affected the most, and ignored by those affected the least. We’ll scowl over statistics that show our disadvantages while the majority ignores us and wonder when it ever got to be so uncool to be LGBT.

Halfway to victory: The diminishing returns of activism

After Regnerus debacle, where are the apologies?

Now that an internal audit at Social Science Research has confirmed that Mark Regnerus’ “gay parenting” study was indeed so badly flawed it never should have survived peer review, it’s safe to say that we can move past examining the specifics of how it went wrong, and start looking at the deeper question of why so many in the media and the right wing readily accepted its conclusions with little critical scrutiny while dismissing the valid concerns raised by others. Given that their hailing of the study as a revelation about the supposed inferiority of same-sex parents was actually based on a paper that should have been immediately disqualified from publication, are they prepared to correct the record? What many of them described as a paper about “gay parenting” covered barely a handful of respondents who had lived with same-sex couples as parents for an appreciable fraction of their childhood, far too few to be representative of the true proficiency of same-sex parents. This is not merely a matter of partisan political opinion – Regnerus himself acknowledged these shortcomings. Are these reporters and activists willing to admit they were wrong?

Where is the apology from Maggie Gallagher, who wrote that the Regnerus study is “the best gay-parenting study we have to date” and shows that “the ideal for a child is a married mom and dad”, when the study’s “gay fathers” and “lesbian mothers” groups were actually packed with as many unstable families as possible?

Where is the apology from William Saletan of Slate, who decried legitimate criticism of the study’s faulty conclusions as part of a “liberal war on science”?

Where is the apology from Ed Whelan of the National Review, who described all other studies on same-sex parenting as “schlock social science” compared to the Regnerus study, and claimed that the new study discredits “the junk social science that so many proponents of same-sex marriage propagate”, even as he admitted that he doesn’t “regard Regnerus’s study as authoritatively and definitively settling much of anything”?

Where is the apology from Mona Charen, who claimed the study showed that “same-sex households provide children with the least stability”, when the study actually included hardly any actual households with same-sex parents?

Where is the apology from the Deseret News, which also erroneously claimed that the study’s results reflect “children growing up in lesbian households” – and then, ironically, called for “healthy skepticism for so-called consensus findings, especially with regard to hot-button social issues where the biases of researchers might influence design and interpretation”?

Where is the apology from Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who uncritically repeated the study’s methodological sleight-of-hand of defining a child of “homosexual parents” as having at least one parent who ever had a same-sex relationship?

Where is the apology from Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who cited the study’s clearly insufficient data to demand that gay parents should be denied custody of their children?

Where is the apology from the American College of Pediatricians, a non-authoritative anti-gay group which cited the Regnerus study in an amicus brief in a federal case against the Defense of Marriage Act and again falsely claimed that it was about “children raised by same-sex couples”?

Where is the apology from political strategist Frank Schubert, who claimed that the study’s results warrant banning same-sex marriage?

Where is the apology from Christian Smith, who glossed over the study’s flaws and instead dismissed criticism of its shortcomings as “an academic auto-da-fé” against Regnerus?

Where is the apology from the 18 social scientists who claimed that “much of the public criticism Regnerus has received is unwarranted” and misleadingly described it as a “study on same-sex parenting”? (And if you’re impressed by that number, note that 200 researchers signed a letter which raised concerns about “the academic integrity of the peer review process for this paper as well as its intellectual merit”.)

We can keep going all day. I realize not everyone has an education in social science – I certainly don’t. But the mistakes of the Regnerus study are easily understandable by the layperson, and those in the media whose job it is to report on this have an obligation to do so accurately in the course of informing the public. Here, many of them have failed, and because of their lack of diligence, they’ve unjustly impugned parents like me and my partner in the minds of millions. They are responsible for that. Does this not warrant an apology? Can they admit that they were wrong, that these criticisms of the study’s structure and conclusions were indeed valid, and that they failed to recognize this? Or do they just not do this anymore?

After Regnerus debacle, where are the apologies?

NOM demands businesses stay “neutral” on marriage, then partners with anti-gay business

Last month, the National Organization for Marriage sent a letter to some of the largest corporations in Minnesota, demanding that they not oppose the state’s proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage:

As a cultural matter that has little to do with your corporate mission to serve customers, earn profits, and provide good jobs for the people of Minnesota we would request that _____ adopt a neutral stance on the Minnesota marriage amendment. We do not request that you endorse our efforts to protect the age-old definition of what is a marriage, but only that you stay neutral and respect the conscience rights of your customers and employees who are on both sides of the issue. […]

Wading into a culture war over an issue where _____ has no business interest is to invite public backlash, much like what Starbucks is experiencing in the DumpStarbucks.com campaign, with little upside.

And just to prove how important corporate neutrality is to them, NOM themselves have now partnered with a coffee company to raise money for fighting gay marriage:

This week we are proud to roll out Jitters and Bliss Coffee as a provider of excellent coffee that can be brewed with a clean conscience any time you want at home, at the office or at your church. […]

During the month of July Jitters and Bliss is offering a 5% discount to every customer who enters the promotional code “marriage”. A small portion of each purchase made also goes to support the National Organization for Marriage as we work to educate people and corporations on the importance of marriage to our society.

Wow, it’s almost as though Jitters and Bliss has failed to “stay neutral and respect the conscience rights of their customers and employees who are on both sides of the issue” by “wading into a culture war over an issue where they have no business interest”. But not to worry – NOM assures us this still somehow constitutes neutrality:

Jitters and Bliss has not, as a corporation, taken a position in the debate over marriage. Just like every company, they have customers, employees, and vendors who hold personal views on what marriage ought to be. They are committed to honoring those views by maintaining a neutral corporate position on marriage.

There you have it: giving a portion of your proceeds to the National Organization for Marriage is ” a neutral corporate position on marriage”. Now that they’ve established this precedent, I fully expect that they will never object to any business that supports the HRC, Lambda Legal, or any other group working for marriage equality. That sounds realistic, right?

NOM demands businesses stay “neutral” on marriage, then partners with anti-gay business

NOM demands businesses stay "neutral" on marriage, then partners with anti-gay business

Last month, the National Organization for Marriage sent a letter to some of the largest corporations in Minnesota, demanding that they not oppose the state’s proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage:

As a cultural matter that has little to do with your corporate mission to serve customers, earn profits, and provide good jobs for the people of Minnesota we would request that _____ adopt a neutral stance on the Minnesota marriage amendment. We do not request that you endorse our efforts to protect the age-old definition of what is a marriage, but only that you stay neutral and respect the conscience rights of your customers and employees who are on both sides of the issue. […]

Wading into a culture war over an issue where _____ has no business interest is to invite public backlash, much like what Starbucks is experiencing in the DumpStarbucks.com campaign, with little upside.

And just to prove how important corporate neutrality is to them, NOM themselves have now partnered with a coffee company to raise money for fighting gay marriage:

This week we are proud to roll out Jitters and Bliss Coffee as a provider of excellent coffee that can be brewed with a clean conscience any time you want at home, at the office or at your church. […]

During the month of July Jitters and Bliss is offering a 5% discount to every customer who enters the promotional code “marriage”. A small portion of each purchase made also goes to support the National Organization for Marriage as we work to educate people and corporations on the importance of marriage to our society.

Wow, it’s almost as though Jitters and Bliss has failed to “stay neutral and respect the conscience rights of their customers and employees who are on both sides of the issue” by “wading into a culture war over an issue where they have no business interest”. But not to worry – NOM assures us this still somehow constitutes neutrality:

Jitters and Bliss has not, as a corporation, taken a position in the debate over marriage. Just like every company, they have customers, employees, and vendors who hold personal views on what marriage ought to be. They are committed to honoring those views by maintaining a neutral corporate position on marriage.

There you have it: giving a portion of your proceeds to the National Organization for Marriage is ” a neutral corporate position on marriage”. Now that they’ve established this precedent, I fully expect that they will never object to any business that supports the HRC, Lambda Legal, or any other group working for marriage equality. That sounds realistic, right?

NOM demands businesses stay "neutral" on marriage, then partners with anti-gay business