Secular Right | Reality & Reason

May/09

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Regional differences in attitudes toward gay marriage

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It looks like both Maine & New Hampshire will be taking steps toward recognizing gay marriage. If that happens only Rhode Island in New England will not recognize gay marriage. It also looks like there will be movement in New York. Clearly there’s a regional bias here; but I thought it would be nice to quantify it. The GSS has the “MARHOMO” variable for 1988, 2004, 2006 and 2008. I limited it to 2006 and 2008 as attitudes didn’t differ between these years, and split it by the Census regions. Results below.

gssregion1

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33 comments

  • Rob · May 6, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    I’m new here, so maybe I’m stepping into the middle of a conversation, but can someone please tell me what is the exact wording of the statement for which we are measuring degrees of agreement?

    Thanks, I’m much obliged.

  • Author comment by David Hume · May 7, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    “Do you agree or disagree?: Homosexual couples should
    have the right to marry one another.”

  • Jamie O'Neill · May 8, 2009 at 8:16 am

    As you’re new here, Rob, I’ll give you the debate in full.

    It started with Derb providing secular arguments against same-sex marriage, viz: we don’t want it; not having it is not akin to slavery; the near prospect of Manchester United tripping down the slippery aisle to marry a polygamous pony; it’s too clever for dumb people; there’s a gene for homophobia; gays don’t really want it.

    The comments thread rebutted.

    Derb then told everybody they weren’t conservatives. He then said that the state has a right to tell everybody the race of the person to marry.

    The comments thread found this oddly contradictory.

    Then Andrew Stuttaford said he thought ssm might be a Good Thing.

    The comments thread agreed.

    Then Davy Hume piped up and told us that things change, sometimes more than once.

    The comments thread, having nothing better to do, argued with Dr Troost about something entirely different – as it usually has to with him.

    Then Derb returned with some random thoughts, viz: conservatives think like me; conservatives don’t think like me. He also bemoaned the loss, inter allia, of monotheism and sumptuary codes in a neo-paleolithic age. Then he outed some king of Sweden and animadverted on the future of comedy.

    The comments thread did its best to make sense of this.

    Just when we thought it was over, Heather MacDonald entered the fray with a neat new syllogism: Blacks don’t like marriage; Blacks don’t like gays; therefore gays mustn’t marry.

    The comments thread, strange to say, found one or two holes in this argument.

    Last of all, Davy Hume drew us a nice coloured-in chart.

    So there you are, bang up to date, on the Great Secular Right SSM Debate.

  • kurt9 · May 8, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Yeah, that’s a good summation of the SSM debate in here.

    The chart definitely illustrates the conservative and liberal parts of the country. The interesting part is the “mountain” states, which as almost as high acceptance of SSM as New England, despite being known as anti-tax, anti-big government. This suggests that the mountain states really do represent the “libertarian” part of the U.S. as the south represents traditional conservative.

    On the other hand, the pollsters may have been lazy and polled only the people living in the Denver/Boulder region, which is known to be as liberal as Seattle.

  • Jon Jon · May 8, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    If conservatism is anything, it is a disposition in favor of established institutions and a presumption against needless change if, for no other reason, there is always the prospect of unintended consequences. Marriage as an institution reserved for two, non-related people of the opposite sex qualifies as an established institution — an institution for which the state has a keen interest because it is the main source of a positive externality without which the society over which the state governs would swiftly come to an end: well adjusted children.

    Looking at the evidence available across geography and back through time, it is likely that the human condition allows for more than one point of equilibrium when it comes to the structuring of the family. Nature seems to have a preference for polygamy, for instance. Glancing over the divorce statistics and the rise of the single parent “household”, the institution of monogamous marriage that has supported if not promoted Western Civilization seems to be at a fragile moment. It may not take much to push the ecology over into a new equilibrium that will not sustain the other institutions of Western Civilization that we know and love. Science seems to find less purchase in the soil of polygamy, for instance.

    Why take the risk? What benefit do same sex marriages offer that would offset the risk? Moral self congratulation? Hospital visitation rights? Why bother?

  • JohnC · May 9, 2009 at 1:01 am

    @Jon Jon “If conservatism is anything, it is a disposition in favor of established institutions and a presumption against needless change if, for no other reason, there is always the prospect of unintended consequences.”
    So for a conservative to oppose marriage equality, they would need to show that the change is “needless”, would in some way adversely affect the institution of marriage, and would create some unintended consequence that would be clearly more damaging than the social ill the change in intended to remedy.

    Heather at least attempted the last of these, but with little success. Handwaving about the future of Western civilization and rhetorically asking “why take the risk” hardly seem to meet your own critieria.

  • Jon Jon · May 9, 2009 at 1:25 am

    The proposition that conservatives have the burden of persuasion when it comes to ~opposition~ to changing fundamental institutions is absurd.

  • JohnC · May 9, 2009 at 1:48 am

    @Jon Jon “The proposition that conservatives have the burden of persuasion when it comes to ~opposition~ to changing fundamental institutions is absurd.”

    Not in a democracy, where everyone has a burden of persuasion if they wish their view to prevail. And having established your own criteria, it is surely unreasonable to then claim that you are under no obligation to establish that your position meets them.

    As a practical political matter, marriage equality is happening; it is the status quo in Massachusetts, for instance, so the shoe is perhaps on the other foot.

  • Jon Jon · May 9, 2009 at 2:03 am

    1. Same sex marriage is not an established institution – not evening Massachusetts.

    2. I am under no obligation to abide by some absurd misreading of conservatism.

    3. Not all ideas are equal, not even in a democracy. Some institutions, such as monogamous marriage between two non-related adults of the opposite sex, get presumption. Others, such as same sex marriage, don’t.

  • JohnC · May 9, 2009 at 2:12 am

    Argument by assertion is hardly convincing. Let’s cycle back to 1967 and rephrase your rendition of the conservative position: “Some institutions, such as monogamous marriage between two non-related adults of the opposite sex and the same race, get presumption.”

    You are indeed under no obligation to do anything at all, but it seems a little pointless to engage in a discussion when you are not even prepared to support your position on the terms that you, yourself outlined.

  • Jon Jon · May 9, 2009 at 2:40 am

    Inter-racial marriage has a far longer pedigree than the laws against them. And yes, the people who sough to overturn those laws had the burden of persuasion.

  • JohnC · May 9, 2009 at 2:57 am

    @Jon Jon “Inter-racial marriage has a far longer pedigree than the laws against them.”
    Not in the United States, indeed the reverse is the case. And the struggle surrounding those laws placed a burden on both sides to argue their cases — in the public square, through legislative bodies, and before the courts.

    Mind you, if you feel disinclined to provide rational arguments in support of your opinions, that’s okay too. Just don’t expect to be taken seriously.

  • Jon Jon · May 9, 2009 at 3:43 am

    Recollect the marriage of Pocahontas to John Rolfe. Inter-racial marriage has a far longer pedigree than the laws against them. Most colonies had no laws against it. Indeed, most states had no laws against it in 1967. In point of fact, the burden of persuasion was more heavily on the shoulders of those who sought to overturn the laws against miscegenation. If you think you will see institutionalization of same sex marriage without the need to persuade people to change their minds, good luck.

  • JohnC · May 9, 2009 at 4:35 am

    @Jon Jon “Inter-racial marriage has a far longer pedigree than the laws against them. Most colonies had no laws against it. Indeed, most states had no laws against it in 1967.”

    You may want to refresh your memory. Laws against inter-racial marriage appeared wherever blacks appeared in any number, starting in 1664 in relation to slaves and servants. When “free blacks” appeared in any number, anti-miscegenation laws in their modern form appeared, starting with Virginia in 1691 and Maryland the following year. From then on, wherever there were blacks in any number, these laws were enacted. (Hence the Dakotas, for instance, did not legislate until 1909.) Eleven states repealed their laws as a result of civil war, but re-enacted them after reconstruction.

    It was not until the aftermath of World War II that California began the modern repeal of these laws (which were actively enforced in three-quarters of all States) with Perez v Sanchez.

  • Jon Jon · May 9, 2009 at 4:46 am

    None of which contradicts what has been said. In point of fact, the burden of persuasion was more heavily on the shoulders of those who sought to overturn the laws against miscegenation. If you think you will see institutionalization of same sex marriage without the need to persuade people to change their minds, good luck.

  • JohnC · May 9, 2009 at 5:01 am

    @Jon Jon
    Sorry, but do you have reading disability? When I say “everyone has a burden of persuasion if they wish their view to prevail”, is there some ambiguity about the term “everyone”. My point was that “everyone” includes you and others who think that the role of conservatism is simply a brake on change.

  • Jon Jon · May 9, 2009 at 5:25 am

    The playing field is not a level one. Never has been. Never will be.

    So far we have seen nothing worthwhile in the Arguments in Favor of Same Sex Marriage ledger.

    One could make the case that SSM is a good idea on public health grounds, that SSM reduces gay promiscuity, and that reductions in gay promiscuity lead to reductions in sexually transmitted diseases. Does it? Gay marriages have been declared legal in certain jurisdictions. Have STDs declined in those areas? The fact that activists do not circulate reports of reductions suggests it does not, although I am willing to entertain evidence to the contrary.

  • JohnC · May 9, 2009 at 6:09 am

    @Jon Jon
    “So far we have seen nothing worthwhile in the Arguments in Favor of Same Sex Marriage ledger.”
    You may wish to review the several hundred posts in the preceding threads, and though I cannot recall anything about STDs there is plenty of other meaty discussion.

    I don’t know about playing fields, but the political momentum clearly lies with marriage equality, and the one thing everyone here seems to agree on is that there is an inevitability about a successful outcome, in which case conservatives are probably best off dismounting from the high horse of religious objection and participating constructively in the process (as Andrew suggested).

  • Jon Jon · May 9, 2009 at 6:22 am

    I don’t know about playing fields, but the political momentum clearly lies with marriage equality

    World opinion is against it. Most Americans are against it. Not even most Californians favor it. And young people tend to change their minds after they have children.

  • john · May 9, 2009 at 7:21 am

    “…And yes, the people who sought to overturn those laws [on interracial marriage] had the burden of persuasion.” So in other words, anti-interracial marriage laws were perfectly fine from a conservative viewpoint. As a participant in an interracial marriage, I think this statement tells me all I need to know of the regressive authoritarian nature of conservatism as it is currently expressed.
    People who favor SSM do not want to overthrow OSM which is indeed an established tradition. Just want to extend the concept to another 1% of the population. Allowing one does not negate the other.

  • Carlo · May 9, 2009 at 7:28 am

    @Jon Jon
    Normally I prefer to argue this issue from the perspective of rights: specifically the right to marriage and the right to equal treatment under the law. But this is an interesting enough line of argument that I’m willing to play it your way.

    “Marriage as an institution reserved for two, non-related people of the opposite sex qualifies as an established institution — an institution for which the state has a keen interest because it is the main source of a positive externality without which the society over which the state governs would swiftly come to an end: well adjusted children.”

    Ah, but same-sex couples can now produce and raise well-adjusted children as well. (Not to mention, opposite-sex couples produce a great many poorly-adjusted children, and often no children at all).

    “Looking at the evidence available across geography and back through time, it is likely that the human condition allows for more than one point of equilibrium when it comes to the structuring of the family. Nature seems to have a preference for polygamy, for instance. Glancing over the divorce statistics and the rise of the single parent “household”, the institution of monogamous marriage that has supported if not promoted Western Civilization seems to be at a fragile moment. It may not take much to push the ecology over into a new equilibrium that will not sustain the other institutions of Western Civilization that we know and love. Science seems to find less purchase in the soil of polygamy, for instance.”

    By this reasoning, you seem to believe that SSM results in widespread polygamous marriage among heterosexuals. Does it? Gay marriages have been declared legal in certain jurisdictions. Has polygamy increased in those areas? The fact that anti-SSM activists do not circulate reports of increases suggests it does not, although I am willing to entertain evidence to the contrary.

  • Carlo · May 9, 2009 at 7:41 am

    @Jon Jon
    In fact, if you think of multiple marriages and divorces as a form of serial polygamy, then the evidence suggests the opposite. Massachusetts, where SSM has been legal for a while now, has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country.

  • Jon Jon · May 9, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Like it or not, the people who sought to overturn those laws on inter-racial marriage had the burden of persuasion. Reality is what hits you in the nose when you walk around with your eyes closed. If you think the playing field is even, good luck. If you think you will see institutionalization of same sex marriage without the need to persuade people to change their minds, don’t hold your breath.

    People who favor SSM do not want to overthrow OSM which is indeed an established tradition. Just want to extend the concept to another 1% of the population. Allowing one does not negate the other.

    Good intentions and $5 can buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

  • Jon Jon · May 9, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Massachusetts, where SSM has been legal for a while now, has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country.

    The divorce rates in Massachusetts have been the lowest in the country for more than a decade. And the divorce rate in Massachusetts has actually gone up since same sex marriage has become legal — reversing a decade long downward trend and putting the state at odds with a nationwide downward trend.

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/mardiv.htm#state_tables

  • Caledonian · May 9, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

  • Carlo · May 9, 2009 at 9:33 am

    @Caledonian
    Actually his argument is a fair one. He isn’t claiming that SSM in MA caused an increase in the divorce rate (at least I hope not), he’s merely refuting my claim that the data is inconsistent with that hypothesis.

    But what I can’t find at the link he posted, or anywhere on the internet for that matter, is evidence of the claim that the divorce rate in MA is in fact increasing. I found tables for provisional number of divorces per state, but not the divorce rate per 1000 residents. A little help, anyone?

  • Caledonian · May 9, 2009 at 10:25 am

    My point is that even if the divorce rate is increasing, that means very little if we can’t show that there’s a causative link from SSM to the divorce rate.

    If sunspots have been increasing lately, should we blame them on SSM?

  • Jon Jon · May 9, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Click on the link. Look on the page under “Detailed State Tables”. Click on the link that says “divorce”.

    Or just go straight to this .PDF file:

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvss/Divorce%20Rates%2090%2095%20and%2099-07.pdf

    Recollect that the Goodridge decision came down in ’04.

  • JohnC · May 9, 2009 at 11:15 am

    @Jon Jon “World opinion is against it. Most Americans are against it.”
    I doubt there is meaningfully such as beast as world opinion, but the direction of change in the developed world, including the US, is pretty clear, and its speed has taken even supporters by surprise. That’s not to say there won’t be setbacks, but my reading of the tea leaves suggests proponents of marriage equality are entitled to believe that theirs is a cause whose time has come. And many conservatives who are in opposition seem to agree.

  • JohnC · May 9, 2009 at 11:28 am

    @Jon Jon
    On divorce, I would not expect to be able see any meaninful change in rates, since my position is that marriage equality will have zero effect on heterosexual marriage. The Massachusetts numbers actually do not tell us anything useful, as expected.

  • Punditarian · May 10, 2009 at 10:12 am

    To return to the subject that is graphically displayed in this post, it looks as if the New England states, the Delaware valley, and the Pacific northwest exhibit the strongest support for redefining marriage to include same-sex pairings, with the most resistance in the south.

    This pattern broadly recapitulates the history of the settlement of the Atlantic colonies as described by David Hackett Fisher in “Albion’s Seed.”

    Those discussants who have not yet had the pleasure of studying this extremely interesting treatise are in for a real treat: go get it! Let me summarize one aspect of the analysis.

    The North American colonies were settled by four very distinct waves of immigration from Great Britain. New England was settled in the 1630s by Puritans from East Anglia. The tidewater of Maryland & Virginia and the Carolinas were settled by high chuch Anglican cavaliers from Wessex and Mercia in the 1650s. The Delaware valley was settled by Quakers from north central England and Methodists from Wales in the last quarter of the XVIIth century, and the western hills of Virginia, along with Kentucky, were settled by evangelical Christians from the lands bordering the Irish Sea (the borderlands and Northern Ireland).

    Hackett Fisher shows how each of these waves of immigration represented distinctive populations with distinctive traditions. Importantly, immigrants from other countries to the Atlantic colonies and the United States have tended to assimilate the specific sub-culture into which they moved, rather than to a generic “American” culture.

    The four major region sub-cultures are distinctive in many respects. For the purpose of this discussion, it may be germane to note that the marriage practices of the four English sub-cultures differed widely.

    To the Puritans, marriage was a secular contract into which the parties entered in the presence of secular magistrates, at home. The banns were read in Church, but the actual marriage ceremony was a secular contract executed in the home. The Quaker tradition was somewhat similar, since Quaker religious practices were and remain remarkably austere, with the absence of a formal clergy.

    It is not surprising therefore that New England and the Delaware valley would be the regions most hospitable to the radical re-definition of marriage which is now proposed.

    In contrast, the cavalier Anglicans who settled the tidewater, and the Evangelical borderers who from the Scotch-Irish backbone of the hill country, were devout Christians for whom marriage was a religious sacrament.

    It should therefore be no surprise that the traditional culture of the South is the least hospitable to the radical re-definition of marriage that New England’s elites are welcoming.

    The Pacific northwest is interesting. I am not familiar with the details of its settlement. But I would bet you a chocolate milkshake that it was largely settled by New Englanders.

  • Chairm · May 19, 2009 at 8:09 am

    In a previous thread, Carlo kindly replied to my request for a plainly stated core meaning of SSM. The comments are closed in that previous discussion so I will respond to Carlos at my own blogsite (rather than hopping from thread to thread on this blogiste).

    Core Meaning of SSM
    http://opine-editorials.blogspot.com/2009/05/core-meaning-of-ssm.html

  • Chairm · May 19, 2009 at 8:16 am

    In a previous thread, Carlo kindly replied to my request for a plainly stated core meaning of SSM. The comments are closed in that previous discussion so I will respond to Carlo at my own blogsite (rather than hopping from thread to thread on this blogsite).

    Click on my name to be linked to the “Core Meaning of SSM”

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