Divorced on Election Day

Steve Clemons was married on August 18th and “divorced” on November 5th, thanks to the same California voters who overwhelmingly gave their 55 Electoral votes to Barack Obama narrowly passing Proposition 8 and overturning same-sex marriage in that state.  He wonders,

[H]ow could people who helped deliver this man to the White House also spit on my decision to enter into marriage with someone I have been with for 17 years? Europe has embraced adjustments in marriage easily and in a socially healthy way, and yet we still stoke embers of nativism and fundamentalism in this country. Barack Obama’s voice was used on anti-gay marriage robocalls to African-American and Hispanic voters in California. To my knowledge, he didn’t ask for his voice not to be used.

I think intolerance is what undermines the glue of a nation, stirring up fear and violence at home and in wars abroad. We have a lot of intolerant Americans who helped elect George W. Bush twice to the White House, and now we have many other intolerant Americans who have come into their civic responsibilities as voters and have tainted the hope that people like my partner and I have for a better and more just nation that recognizes our relationship in the ways it should be recognized.

Political coalitions are built on complex motives and neither party has a monopoly on tolerance.   The fact of the matter is that gay marriage doesn’t enjoy anything like majority support yet, in even more liberal states like California, and imposing it by judicial fiat almost certainly creates a backlash, transforming people who merely think gay marriage a bad idea into outraged activists.

The Steve Clemonses and Andrew Sullivans of the world, though, are why we’ll inevitably come to view same sex marriage in the same way as interracial marriage, where even most who are uneasy at the idea agree that it should be permitted.   Both have been in longtime, committed relationships with the same partner while leading extraordinarily productive lives.   It’s difficult to justify denying them the same rights and legitimacy as we extend to the likes of Britney Spears, Liz Taylor, and Michael Jackson.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sgt. York says:

    Tolerance is is virtue of a man with no convictions.

    When the standard is changed from a biological one to “whomever we love,” it opens a Pandora’s box of problems.

    The 4 people featured on Penn and Teller’s “Bull*hit” that vow to get married as soon as the standard is changed.

    The woman who promised to go to the homeless shelter and marry them all [“I love them all, who are you to say?”] so they can have health insurance from Sun Micro {the company she works for.]

    People in other countries who have married their pets.

    Additionally, throwing off centuries of well developed social constricts for the popular movement of the moment isn’t necessarily the wisest thing to do.

    And using Europe as a justification?
    Sorry, no, I wish to emulate Europe in no way, thank you.

    Respectfully disagreeing…
    Mike

  2. PD Shaw says:

    Europe has embraced adjustments in marriage easily and in a socially healthy way, and yet we still stoke embers of nativism and fundamentalism in this country.

    Only Spain, Netherlands, Holland and Norway recognize same sex marriage. Many European countries recognize civil unions, which is what California did until gay-rights activists tried to overturn it.

    Maybe there is something unhealthy in the forum Americans choose to debate this issue?

  3. Mithras says:

    Interracial marriage was also banned by a court decision. Desegregation was achieved partly by courts enforcing the constitution. Yet these changes took. Anyway, reactionaries will react whether change is sought through the courts or through the legislature.

    It is certainly true that in the Proposition 8 case movement conservatism did a good job of marketing its brand of religiously-inspired hatred to people who otherwise vote Democratic. But don’t draw some sort of false equivalence between the parties on intolerance. Fear of others is a pillar of Republican political strategy.

  4. Steve Plunk says:

    Didn’t the voters of California make their will known previously only to have it tossed aside by arrogant elected officials? So this legality of gay marriage was a gamble taken by gay rights organizations and government. The people did not so much force Clemons to divorce as they returned the law back to where they left it. Clemons and others forced gay marriage upon a citizenry that didn’t want it.

    There are Republicans like myself who don’t fear these people or any others but we have an understanding of he value of traditions and norms in our society. Painting those who supported Prop 8 as hateful and ignorant will not advance the goals being sought.

  5. Michael P says:

    Steve,
    Do you at least support civil unions, then? Because nothing is more normal or traditional than treating everyone the same under the law.

  6. legion says:

    When the standard is changed from a biological one to “whomever we love,” it opens a Pandora’s box of problems.

    Egads! How dare people want to marry, spend their lives, and raise a family with someone they actually love, rather than someone to whom they are simply biologically attracted!

    It appears, Sgt York, that your issue is not so much with homosexual marriage, but with the lowered (or at least different) standard for the use of the term “love” in the examples you cite. And it doesn’t take a very close look around to see that _that_ is hardly a problem unique to any gender association.

    If you really believe that two 17-year-old kids getting hitched because they think they have to to have sex, and winding up in a loveless, abusive relationship for decades, is somehow better for society (or anyone for that matter) than someone like Steve Clemons settling down with someone he’s loved for 17 years, then I have to call bullshit on the reasons you list for disagreeing.

  7. sam says:

    Clemons and others forced gay marriage upon a citizenry that didn’t want it.

    At the end of the day, it’s none of the citizenry’s goddamn business. IMO, the state should just get out of the marriage business altogether.

  8. anjin-san says:

    In my mind this is simply a case of equal protection under the law. (of course, decency fits in there somewhere).

    My marriage and manhood are in no way threatened by gay marriage. Happiness in not in such great supply in the world that we can use the force of law do deny people the opportunity to pursue it simply because they are different from us.

  9. Bithead says:

    Those who tolerate *everything*, stand for *nothing*

    What do YOU stand for? …

  10. Ben says:

    There are Republicans like myself who don't fear these people or any others but we have an understanding of he value of traditions and norms in our society.

    There have been many hateful and ignorant practices that were "traditions and norms" for thousands of years, which have been done away with now. Using that explanation as an excuse to deny rights to a segment of the population IS hateful and ignorant

  11. Michael says:

    Didn’t the voters of California make their will known previously only to have it tossed aside by arrogant elected officials?

    You’re familiar with the difference between Democracy and Liberty, aren’t you Steve?

    There are Republicans like myself who don’t fear these people or any others but we have an understanding of he value of traditions and norms in our society.

    Slavery was once a “tradition and norm” in our country, would you accept it’s existance today if the majority of voters in a state decided to bring it back?

  12. Bithead says:

    You’re familiar with the difference between Democracy and Liberty, aren’t you Steve?

    And do YOU understand the difference between Liberty and Anarchy?

  13. Michael says:

    And do YOU understand the difference between Liberty and Anarchy?

    Yes.

  14. Everybody put the matches away, the number of strawmen being built in this thread make it a tinderbox.

  15. Triumph says:

    The Steve Clemonses and Andrew Sullivans of the world, though, are why we’ll inevitably come to view same sex marriage in the same way as interracial marriage, where even most who are uneasy at the idea agree that it should be permitted.

    The problem with Larry Craig-style marriages is that it degrades the institution of marriage and puts ALL marriage under the threat of dissolving.

    In fact right after they started marrying the gays in San Fran, I had a couple of affairs on my spouse, started spending a bunch of money on prostitutes, and started neglecting our kids.

    Eventually, the old ball and chain kicked me out and our kids became delinquents, the spouse had to move in with the in-laws, and my drinking has gotten out of control.

    Had the San Fran gays not married, my own marriage would never have broken up.

    In fact, after election day, my spouse’s lawyer contacted my lawyer and we agreed to have a meeting if the courts uphold Prop 8. We are hoping that if it is held up, marriage will become a healthy institution again and we can get back to our normal lives.

    If it hadn’t been for those San Fran gays, my life would be in order right now–instead, I am a drunken, philandering scoundrel.

  16. anjin-san says:

    And do YOU understand the difference between Liberty and Anarchy?

    Yea Bit, if you are not allowed to keep your boot firmly planted on the backs of people who are not exactly like you, there will be anarchy…

  17. charles johnson says:

    The Steve Clemonses and Andrew Sullivans of the world, though, are why we’ll inevitably come to view same sex marriage in the same way as interracial marriage, where even most who are uneasy at the idea agree that it should be permitted. Both have been in longtime, committed relationships with the same partner while leading extraordinarily productive lives. It’s difficult to justify denying them the same rights and legitimacy as we extend to the likes of Britney Spears, Liz Taylor, and Michael Jackson.

    You’re overlooking the fact that Andrew Sullivan and Steve Clemons probably caused the marital disasters experienced by Britney Spears, Liz Taylor, etc. I have it on good authority from the GOP that gays can somehow destroy traditional marriage. I don’t know how they do it, perhaps with special ray guns, but you really shouldn’t overlook the possibility that Britney and Liz etc would probably still be in stable, responsible marriages if it weren’t for the cursed homosexuals and their agenda.

  18. Anderson says:

    What do YOU stand for?

    Telling committed couples how they can live their lives, even though it affects me not at all.

    Isn’t that right, Bitsy?

    Changing the subject, I despise people with the false courage to “stand for something” that costs them not one whit, but makes other people miserable, to no worthwhile end. They are malevolent little thugs who deserve only contempt.

  19. mrbill says:

    Isnt “marriage” a religious connotation and specific…? Cant gays get the trappings of being “married” such as medical , legal actions etc without forcing a church to go against its internal teachings and beliefs..

    Can they go to the civil side and get the partner etc. route..?

    I was thinking the church groups were upset with using the “marriage” phrase etc.

  20. Greg Ransom says:

    Guessing you must have the same argument in favor of polygamy.

    Have you spent more that 15 seconds thinking about this issue?

  21. Michael says:

    Cant gays get the trappings of being “married” such as medical , legal actions etc without forcing a church to go against its internal teachings and beliefs..

    Can they go to the civil side and get the partner etc. route..?

    Not in Florida, we just passed a law that would prevent gays from having anything that even resembles marriage. Heck, it even keeps unmarried heterosexual couples from getting those benefits.

  22. Michael says:

    I was thinking the church groups were upset with using the “marriage” phrase etc.

    No, they’re upset because the courts are letting “other” couples have all the benefits of their exclusive club, and that makes them feel less special.

  23. Houston says:

    This thread is a perfect microcosm of why gay marriage may never be accepted in our country. Half the posts consist of logical, reasonable arguments, and the other half are full of invective, anger and profanity.

    Until leftists can learn to make logical, persuasive points without resorting to insults, they may never get win this debate.

    And comparing gay marriage to slavery is not a persuasive argument.

  24. Sgt. York says:

    Egads! How dare people want to marry, spend their lives, and raise a family with someone they actually love, rather than someone to whom they are simply biologically attracted!

    Like a typical liberal you miss the point.
    The point is that if the standard is changed from biology [note, I did not mention the concept of attraction in relation to biology] to “whatever we love” we wind up removing highly beneficial limits.

    Should 4 people be allowed to be married? How about 6? 8? 12? 42?

    Again, how about the woman who promised to marry an entire homeless shelter?

    Can you propose a constitutional legal structure to prevent these forseen unintended consequences? The best Constitutional lawyers I’ve spoken with say “No.” So, as you do not know me, stop assailing my unknown [to you] motives.

    It appears, Sgt York, that your issue is not so much with homosexual marriage, but with the lowered (or at least different) standard for the use of the term “love” in the examples you cite. And it doesn’t take a very close look around to see that _that_ is hardly a problem unique to any gender association.

    No, the problem is exactly as described: The change from a solid, definable standard to a nebulous one. Nebulous legal standards are the bane of a society trying to live by the rule of law.

    There are other reasons, but these will do for now

    If you really believe that two 17-year-old kids getting hitched because they think they have to to have sex, and winding up in a loveless, abusive relationship for decades, is somehow better for society (or anyone for that matter) than someone like Steve Clemons settling down with someone he’s loved for 17 years, then I have to call bullshit on the reasons you list for disagreeing.

    Do I mention children? Where do I advocate the marriage of 17 year old children?

    Really, you embarass yourself.

  25. Michael says:

    Until leftists can learn to make logical, persuasive points without resorting to insults, they may never get win this debate.

    How do you make a logical argument against a premise that is inherently illogical? Liberty, Emancipation, Civil Rights, nobody made logical argument in support of those, because the opposing view was not based on logic, it was based on passion and prejudice.

  26. Michael says:

    The point is that if the standard is changed from biology [note, I did not mention the concept of attraction in relation to biology] to “whatever we love” we wind up removing highly beneficial limits.

    What beneficial limits?

    Should 4 people be allowed to be married? How about 6? 8? 12? 42?

    Why not?

    Again, how about the woman who promised to marry an entire homeless shelter?

    How about her? If she wants to do that, let her. If Sun wants to limit health benefits they are free to. My employer pays for me, I pay for the rest of my family.

    No, the problem is exactly as described: The change from a solid, definable standard to a nebulous one. Nebulous legal standards are the bane of a society trying to live by the rule of law.

    What is nebulous about the change from “One man and one woman” to “Two adults”?

    Do I mention children? Where do I advocate the marriage of 17 year old children?

    17 year olds are already allowed to marry.

  27. Michael says:

    Until leftists can learn to make logical, persuasive points without resorting to insults, they may never get win this debate.

    You want a logical reason, consider this: Prop 8 sets a precedent that if the majority of your community disagrees with your marital relationship, they have the authority to annul it without your consent.

  28. Sgt. York says:

    “Why not?”

    Wow…
    You can’t really be this….Ok, I’m not going to insult you.

    Do you really think Sun will be legally allowed to limit benefits?

    There have been a number of lawsuits, some successful, to force employers to provide same sex benefits.

    Heck, the Catholic Church has already been forced by a Court in California to provide contraceptives to employees?

    Do you really think Sun’s attempt to limit benefits will withstand the first court challenge?

    I tell you a number of attorneys will argue the precedent already exists.

    You don’t understand the Pandora’s box this will open? Really? …Really?

    “Two adults?”
    You still don’t get it? Really…Really?

    Can you propose a constitutional legal structure to prevent “three adults?” [these forseen unintended consequences?] “Four adults” “6,8 12,42?”

    Answer this question.

    The best Constitutional lawyers I’ve spoken with say “No.”

    Think beyond 5 minutes.

    It would be an economic tsunami. Among other problems.

    But no one seems to understand this.

    Again, where do I mention children?

  29. Sgt. York says:

    “You want a logical reason, consider this: Prop 8 sets a precedent that if the majority of your community disagrees with your marital relationship, they have the authority to annul it without your consent.”

    Nonsense. It says that a single judge or group of judges will not write law.

    “How do you make a logical argument against a premise that is inherently illogical? Liberty, Emancipation, Civil Rights, nobody made logical argument in support of those, because the opposing view was not based on logic, it was based on passion and prejudice.”

    Now you are showing your true colors: people on the other side of the argument are “prejudiced” and “illogical.”

    Stereotype much?

    Civil rights? Emancipation? Liberty?
    I see, only for those whom you deem “logical.”

    The civil rights of others, property rights, the will of the people: these are all irrelevant as they don’t serve your purpose for this argument.

    I’ve got news for you: Gays people already have the same right as straights.
    They can marry a person of the opposite sex. They have equal rights.

    What they want is a new right, but don’t wish to look at the unintended consequences.

  30. Michael says:

    Wow…
    You can’t really be this….Ok, I’m not going to insult you.

    I know polygamy is taboo, but give me a reason why it’s bad.

    Do you really think Sun will be legally allowed to limit benefits?

    They already do.

    You don’t understand the Pandora’s box this will open? Really? …Really?

    Yes, people will be rampantly marrying the people they want to marry. It will be horrible.

    “Two adults?”
    You still don’t get it? Really…Really?

    Can you propose a constitutional legal structure to prevent “three adults?” [these forseen unintended consequences?] “Four adults” “6,8 12,42?”

    You just make it an exclusive contract, someone who enters into one can not legally enter into another, without terminating the first. Exclusivity in contract law is hardly a new concept.

    Now you are showing your true colors: people on the other side of the argument are “prejudiced” and “illogical.”

    I never said the people were prejudiced or illogical, I said the ideas were.

    Civil rights? Emancipation? Liberty?
    I see, only for those whom you deem “logical.”

    So me someone who made an argument for any of the three based on logic and reason, and I will retract my statement.

    I’ve got news for you: Gays people already have the same right as straights.
    They can marry a person of the opposite sex. They have equal rights.

    And Blacks had water fountains too. You’re just re-hashing an old argument, and you don’t even realize it.

  31. Sgt. York says:

    I’m sorry, but you are not educated enough in the law for me to spend any more time continuing this argument.

    Please pick up the WSJ editorial page on a regular basis to understand my arguments.

    Thank you for your time and comments.

    I hope you had a nice holiday, and hope your and yours are seen well throughout the ensuing New Years.
    Best,
    Mike

  32. Michael says:

    I’m sorry, but you are not educated enough in the law for me to spend any more time continuing this argument.

    Well isn’t that convenient.

  33. Sgt. York says:

    “Can you propose a constitutional legal structure to prevent “three adults?” [these forseen unintended consequences?] “Four adults” “6,8 12,42?”

    You just make it an exclusive contract, someone who enters into one can not legally enter into another, without terminating the first. Exclusivity in contract law is hardly a new concept.”

    Your response clearly [very clearly] illustrates you do not understand my question. Your response isn’t remotely close to an understanding of first year law, much less anything at a higher level.

    I’m not trying to be insulting; I just don’t wish to spend the next two hours giving you a lesson is basic Constitutional law.

    I was hoping you’d be able handle that type of discussion.

    It’s no problem that you have little or no legal training. I’m just not going to take my Saturday afternoon to give it to you.

    I’m just not going to devote the time.

    My ethical responsibility to continue the debate and justify and defend my positions does not require me devoting my time to bring you up to speed. You have no such claim on my time.

    Find a Constitutional lawyer, and ask him about what I mean.

    Respectfully,
    Mike

  34. James M. says:

    Here’s my problem marriage is a religious institution which has been inter-twined with the government. I say convert all current marriages to civil unions and from here on only civil unions allowed. If you are a religious person then have a marriage at your church separate from the civil union. This not only takes care of the legal aspects but the religious ones. You see if you disagree with this proposal then the real reason you want same sex marriage is to force the Christians to accept homosexuality and then you are impeding on their rights.

  35. anjin-san says:

    Please pick up the WSJ editorial page on a regular basis to understand my arguments.

    Which is a fancy way of saying “I let the gang at Fox do my thinking for me”…

  36. Michael says:

    Your response clearly [very clearly] illustrates you do not understand my question. Your response isn’t remotely close to an understanding of first year law, much less anything at a higher level.

    Great, so was I wrong, or are you just concerned that I’m not using a lawyerly tone?

    It’s no problem that you have little or no legal training. I’m just not going to take my Saturday afternoon to give it to you.

    After 5 posts, it’s a little late to be making that decision, don’t you think?

    My ethical responsibility to continue the debate and justify and defend my positions does not require me devoting my time to bring you up to speed. You have no such claim on my time.

    And yet you keep posting. Don’t worry, I don’t blame your ethics.

  37. Michael says:

    You see if you disagree with this proposal then the real reason you want same sex marriage is to force the Christians to accept homosexuality and then you are impeding on their rights.

    You will find that most of the opposition to your idea will come from the religious institutions, and not the homosexual community.

  38. Michael says:

    Which is a fancy way of saying “I let the gang at Fox do my thinking for me”…

    No, it’s a fancy way of saying “My facts are based on other people’s opinions, not necessarily facts”. Using an editorial as a reference of fact is worse than using Wikipedia.

  39. dutchmarbel says:

    Only Spain, Netherlands, Holland and Norway recognize same sex marriage.

    Holland is to the Netherlands what England is to the UK. You probabely mean Belgium.

    I think adults who love each other should be able to marry. I wouldn’t have a problem if there were more than two either, as long as it wouldn’t give them unfair advantages (i.e. 5 people, each entitled to a widowerspension). People who live together can allready have what we call a samenlevingscontract, just like people who don’t have a sexual relationship (i.e. two elder siblings living together), so they can formalize the rights they have (take over rent, being responsible for mortgage payments, divide furniture when seperate, etc.).

    As long as everybody is a consenting adult and it doesn’t cost me money, why would it matter to me? If I want to critisize other people’s relationships there are plenty of heterosexual ones that wouldn’t fit my standard for “proper marriage”.

    Why would other people be entitled to decide whom you want to marry, unless it is to protect a weaker party (like a minor)? When are people allowed to hamper other people’s rights to enter a formal relationship?

  40. Sgt. York says:

    So be it.

    You are so ignorant as to not be worth my time.

    Simple enough for you?

    Bye bye now.

  41. Michael says:

    You are so ignorant as to not be worth my time.

    But evidently telling me that I’m not worth your time is worth your time, as you keep coming back here to do so.

    So, for the record, you time is worth less than repeated petty insults, but more than civilized discourse. I can only imagine what things you find to spend so much of it on.

    Simple enough for you?

    Yeah, I got that you’re insulting me. The fact that I’m not offended doesn’t mean I didn’t understand, it just means that I didn’t care.

  42. anjin-san says:

    Michael,

    I would not burn a lot of daylight on York. Scratch a homophobe and you will generally find latency. Perhaps one day he will come to grips with what he is really afraid of.

  43. The other James says:

    I’m just shocked to visit a conservative blog and see James attending to logic and reason. Wow. Maybe there is hope in the blogosphere yet. Thank You. I had lost a lot of faith in reason ever showing it’s face in this country,

  44. legion says:

    Wow. And I thought Yorkie had said all he had to say!

    Like a typical liberal you miss the point.

    And like a typical bigot, you change the subject when you fall flat defending your position.

    The point is that if the standard is changed from biology [note, I did not mention the concept of attraction in relation to biology] to “whatever we love” we wind up removing highly beneficial limits.

    Um, if it’s not about attraction, what exactly do you mean by “biology”? Same-sex attraction and long-term relationships are readily seen in a number of species besides humans. Or is “marriage” just limited, in your mind, to a structure for giving birth to new children? You want a law school essay test, Yorkie? defend that definition against an infertile couple, or for people too old to have more children. Why should they be allowed to marry?

    Your original complaint against gay marriage seemed to be something about

    When the standard is changed from a biological one to “whomever we love,”

    and then somehow drifted into Con Law, so exactly what “biological standard” do you have for marriage? If it’s not based on either “two people who love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together” (which is the actual subject being debated) or “any number of people, animals, and inanimate objects living under some sort of magical legal contract that give them ‘new rights'” (which appears to be what your fevered brain has turned Prop 8 into), how would you define it?

    No, the problem is exactly as described: The change from a solid, definable standard to a nebulous one. Nebulous legal standards are the bane of a society trying to live by the rule of law.

    What exactly is more nebulous about “two adults” versus “a man and a woman”? What exactly is the purpose of defining marriage under law at all?

    Should 4 people be allowed to be married? How about 6? 8? 12? 42?

    Again, how about the woman who promised to marry an entire homeless shelter?

    Can you propose a constitutional legal structure to prevent these forseen unintended consequences?

    Um, you either haven’t been talking to very good lawyers or (I suspect) you’ve been biasing the questions you ask them and leading them to your own conclusion. If you want an actual useful legal statement, begin with something like this: How is marriage different from any other legal contract? Ask you lawyer friends _that_, and then come back.

    Again I say: if marriage is defined by law at all, there’s no rational reason it can’t be defined as “two adults” over “man and woman” if enough people feel it should change. If the people don’t feel that change, or one to “an entire homeless shelter”, is acceptable, then they won’t change the law.

  45. dutchmarbel says:

    Same-sex attraction and long-term relationships are readily seen in a number of species besides humans. Or is “marriage” just limited, in your mind, to a structure for giving birth to new children?

    Homosexual marriages often want kids too, even in the animal kingdom.