Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Silenced Majority: What Most People REALLY Believe About Gay Marriage

Blinded By The Muzzle Flash Of Public Opinion?
A new Wonkblog post tells us that gay marriage opponents believe they are members of a silent majority:

According to a new survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, only 41 percent of Americans oppose allowing same-sex couples to marry. But that same 41 percent has a highly skewed perception of where the rest of the country stands: nearly two-thirds of same-sex marriage opponents erroneously think most Americans agree with them. And only two in 10 same-sex marriage opponents realize that the majority of Americans support marriage equality.
The blog post finds this part of "epistemic closure" where all your input comes from your side presenting a skewed vision of reality where Obama has sold all the gold in Fort Knox to aliens to finance the Ummah. Well, it's certainly possible this is what's going on. What are some other options?

How About Some Evidence?
The problem with the epistemic closure argument isn't that "it's not happening"--to a degree it's certainly happening. The problem is: it's happening to all of us. Meaning it's happening to you too. Meaning ... it's happening to ME. Now we all think we're well informed--but so do all those dopes who don't understand that gay marriage? It's time has come.

So what might they be thinking?

1. Gay Marriage Is Rejected At The Ballot Box Time And Time Again (Until It Isn't)
If you ask an opponent of same-sex marriage what the nation thinks of it, they'll tell you that no matter what Code Pink says, when it's on the ballot? It gets voted down. Even in places like Maine, California, and, erm ... Europe.

2. America Is Still Pretty Religious ... And You Know What Religion Says ...
If you ask around you might not find too many people who are deeply religious (or, maybe, everyone you know is)--but that's your bubble. When you compare America to other western nations? It's still God, Guns, and Glory:
In that same link? We find that Americans are less accepting of gays than other Western nations. So there!

3. Most Americans Agree With ME Anyway
The context of this issue isn't just about how everyone across a spectrum feels, of course, it's about the clash between the rights of one to express their religious beliefs and the rights of gay people to access services (such as bakeries for wedding cakes, eh?). So here's a question for you (assuming you are liberal): Should a gay, liberal Universal Unitarian baker be forced to bake a wedding cake for the Westboro Baptist Church that says God Hates Fags and Will Burn Them For All Eternity on it?

If that made you think for a moment it means you weren't paying attention for the last three weeks. The deal is this: if you phrase the question as to whether a pastor (or such) should be forced to perform a marriage he doesn't agree with, the thinking is that most people will say no. I suspect most people will say no.

If you ask if gay people should be denied a wedding cake, maybe people will answer differently--but for the people at the tip-of-the-spear in the culture debate the question is clearly the first one. Maybe liberals agree that the Westboro church guys should get to exercise their free speech--but making someone inscribe a hate-message against themselves seems over the top.

It's also about gay people getting to lead their lives by themselves vs. forcing you to participate in their gayness. The religious people see, not without some merit (maybe a lot of merit, but The Omnivore hopes you will at least give them some), the forcing of photographers and bakers to participate in weddings as problematic--not for accepting lifestyles in general--but performing the kind of creative work for a wedding that is distinct from, for example, selling someone light-bulbs.

Thinking that more people agree with that perspective isn't necessarily wrong.

The Religious Freedom Laws
Religious people who are looking at what's going on with the religious freedom laws are getting mental 'whiplash' as they try to square what the laws actually say with the way the public debate is going. What am I talking about? This:
Don't Deny You Saw It On Facebook!

The problem that religious conservatives are having is that the law doesn't really do anything like that--even to gay people--even for lunch counters. The law (we'll use Arizona's SB 1062 as an example although others are similar) doesn't (a) mention gays at all, (b) doesn't provide specific court-based protections that would grant a win to bakery owners trying not to bake cakes for gay people, and (c) doesn't even apply to lunch counters (probably). From The Weekly Standard:
"But nothing in the amendment would say who wins in either of these cases," the scholars wrote in a letter to Arizona governor Jan Brewer (emphasis in original). They explained that RFRA commands a balancing test that allows judges to make decisions on a case-by-case basis: "The person invoking RFRA would still have to prove that he had a sincere religious belief and that state or local government was imposing a substantial burden on his exercise of that religious belief. And the government, or the person on the other side of the lawsuit, could still show that compliance with the law was necessary to serve a compelling government interest."
In other words, the law allowed people to bring issues to court--but you'd have to show that seriously serving gays at your lunch counter was against your religion (unlikely) and that the government had no compelling interest in making you serve gays at your lunch counter.

Even then, it allowed the judge to rule on a case-by-case basis.

In other words: this wasn't that much of a law.

So That Law Should Have Passed?
Not so fast. That question isn't the right one: I don't know if a gay Universal Unitarian pastor should be forced to put hate-speech on a cake he's baking for a Westboro hate-wedding. But the point isn't some goofy hypothetical. The point is that what the law says it's about and what it's really about are two separate things.

Governor Jan Brewer didn't veto the law because she didn't understand it. She didn't veto the law because she's a crypto-gay liberal. She vetoed the law because the National Football League, which is doing it's darndest to attract or at least placate, female viewers (and, uhm, the young) was going to pull out and, like the Titanic sinking, was going to create a giant economic sucking sound that was going to mean millions and millions of dollars leaving Arizona.

The reason she vetoed it had nothing to do with the particular of the bill and everything to do with the optics of it.

So she essentially caved in to bullying, right?

Funny you should bring that up.

Anti-Bullying Laws and Free Speech
Back in 2012 some people in Tennessee, seeing as the state had passed some anti-bullying laws, sought an exception on religious grounds: they wanted to allow speech condemning homosexual activity--which was presently forbidden.

The laws (as I understand them) work like this: the blanket legislation makes schools accountable for hate-speech lobbed by their students--but then (some) conservatives feel that the laws don't permit some children (Christians) to express certain points of view (that you will not be saved if you are gay) and disallow "politically incorrect words" (fag?).

So--so fine, okay: kids getting bullied are bad, right? But if your rule doesn't allow, like, I don't know? Christian prayer? That's bad too--isn't it?

Okay--except ... except ... Why this?
School administrators who may desire to suppress a student’s unpopular or politically incorrect views could deem that student’s expression of such views to be “creating a hostile educational environment.” To clarify that the expression of unpopular or politically incorrect words do not by themselves constitute bullying, this bill adds a provision clarifying that this phrase “shall not be construed to include discomfort and unpleasantness that can accompany the expression of a viewpoint or belief that is unpopular, not shared by other students, or not shared by teachers or school officials.”
If you didn't read all that, the problem they found with the original bill was that its blanket prevention of creating a hostile environment didn't acknowledge that using "politically incorrect words" by itself didn't constitute bullying. While they don't say what 'politically incorrect' word(s) they are referring to here, I suppose we can guess. I mean, part and parcel of stating a political / religious free-speech opinion is being able to use an offensive word, isn't it?

A 'fag' is just a small bundle of sticks, innit? Or, if you're in England, it's a cigarette. God Hates Cigarettes. Especially pansy-ass British ones. AMIRITE?

See, the problem here is that no one really believes that a significant number of people who want to call gay people politically incorrect terms and explain to them, in a public high school, that the path to salvation lies in praying-away-the-gehy (uh, huh) aren't bullying.

I'll concede that there are probably more than a handful of well-meaning good-hearted people who are just trying to help but then you have to concede that, if you have ever observed a high school student for more than, say, the Planck Time Constant, there will be a much larger number of them motivated to use the "loophole" to bully.

If you can't concede that you aren't coming to the conversation with any kind of intellectual integrity.

In other words, what the legislation was technically about (providing clarification for religious 1st-Amendment style free-speech and ONLY that) wasn't what it was really about (allowing Conservative kids to tell gay students they were hellbound).

So back to Jan Brewer ...

The Medium Is The Message
The bill SB 1062 didn't kick gays off the lunch-counter--but the fact that the bill passed in AZ is, of course, all you have to know about it. These are red-state bills--not blue-state bills--and while the bill may not mention homosexuals by specific demographic--we all know what it's for.

The people who believe that the "vast majority" of America believe the way they do aren't necessarily wrong--the problem is that the way they are phrasing "the question" is very, very different from the way "most of America" is phrasing the question. Specifically: while the bill itself just provided some facilitation for people like the New Mexico photographer or the baker in Colorado who got forced into gay-marriage commerce, the real issue is that these bills represent salvos in the culture war.

This is a culture war that, for better or worse already sees gay rights as the racial issues of our time. While the bill emphatically did not create a 'Jim Crow' style environment, its passage leaves open the question as to whether its proponents would if they could.

While most people responding to the Pew study above probably (hopefully) wouldn't, the passage of that bill creates reasonable doubt.

That's why Brewer vetoed it: she could see which side the NFL and business wanted to come down on--the side of the future of the economy (young voters) and powerful economic blocs (women).


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I know you're just engaging in some Dave Barry-type hyperbole, but dude! You know you can't observe anything in 5.4E-44 seconds. Serial!

    That said, young people (hell, people in general) sure can be a bunch of rule-gaming meanies.

    I know, I know.

    -- Ω

    1. I considered misspelling it 'Plank' just for you ;)

      -The Omnivore

    2. I bet you did, you wicked person you. But even you can't make fun of something by pretending to be the object of your own ridicule, so there.

      Some things just. Aren't. Done!

      -- Ω