A Nation Divided

Today our government has taken another step toward moral upheaval, or, if we think more optimistically, toward a crisis that will reshape it and its relationship toward the people it governs, potentially in a constructive manner. The government of the United States of America presents itself, in Lincoln’s immortal words, as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Its premise is that the legitimacy of government depends on the consent, and not merely the passive, but the active consent, participation, and support of the governed. Today’s Supreme Court ruling mandating same-sex marriage across the Union goes against the democratically enacted laws of a strong majority of the states, and against the constitutions of many of them. It also goes against the deeply held moral beliefs of half its population, and against the moral tradition that originally made democratic self-government possible in the West. The federal government no longer merely embodies a separation of church and state, but an opposition of church and state. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

All legitimate government requires a basis in the moral culture of its people. In this country, that moral culture, where it is strong enough to be a sustaining force for law and the common good, is overwhelmingly Christian or, more broadly, Abrahamic. The competing culture of Hollywood, of consumerism, and of unaccountable individualism that has led us to this point, where marriage is perceived as merely one more choice of two random individuals, is not capable of serving as the foundation of a functioning social order. Our moral culture today is so deeply divided that it is doubtful whether any government can maintain legitimacy in this environment. A government that overtly takes sides in this division certainly cannot.

The marginal legitimacy of our federal government has already been visible for years in legislative and budgetary gridlock, and in the falling morale of members of the military. These tendencies might well have precipitated a constitutional crisis on their own in a matter of years. Today, however, our march toward a crisis of governance has dramatically accelerated. A mandate this radical, based on so thin and insubstantial a foundation in culture and law, and on a historical perspective measured as well in months as in years, will strain this government to the breaking point. The question now is, what sort of order will replace it, and when? Will the adjustment be relatively mild, such as a renewal of federal pluralism, or will it be something more wrenching, and perhaps more decisive? How long will we live under a crumbling system, and how far will it crumble, before we put in place something truly viable?

66 comments for “A Nation Divided

  1. Uh, no. The thousands of miniscule social changes that paved the way for gay marriage have been at work for decades, gradually seeping in to the social fabric in very traditional ways. The decision today was no upheaval at all, only a rubber stamp on the existent reality.

  2. I couldn’t disagree more with the premise and conclusions of this post. This is a “crisis of governance” that will “strain this government to the breaking point.”? Seriously?

    On the contrary, today America is a more inclusive, more loving, and more Christlike place than it was yesterday. Society will not crumble, it will be invigorated and strengthened as we come together with increased love and empathy for those who are different than us. I’m sure many in the church had similar things to say after the SCOTUS legalized interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia. But history has shown that such dire predictions were hysterical folly, just as your post is today.

  3. “mandating same-sex marriage”

    Goodness, I’d better tell the wife to expect guests.

  4. This sounds a lot like the response to the end of Jim Crow, and very Skousenist, which will probably be taken as a compliment.

    “All legitimate government requires a basis in the moral culture of its people.” By moral, of course, you mean religious, and of course, you assume that moral judgements cannot be made outside of a religious bias, or, as you might phrase it, background.

    “…overwhelmingly Christian or, more broadly, Abrahamic.” Well, I guess then you would completely dismiss the very Roman (pre-Christian) attitudes that have found their way into current thinking, both politically, culturally, and religiously.

    In other words, the federal government yet again asserts the authority given to it by the U.S Constitution to allow civil rights, and the expansion of other legal protections from those rights, to apply across the board, across state lines, and be enjoyed by every citizen.

  5. DCL, you are talking about the “existent reality” of how people live, and what they accept as common sense, for one segment of the population, the blue segment. The most obvious problem with your point is that, as much as we have sealed red and blue off from each other culturally, the nation is roughly half and half. Bulldozing the moral convictions of half the population is not a recipe for social peace.

  6. Marc, you really should take a look at the dissents to this case. I am starting to feel a little sheepish at how restrained this post is, in light of them.

  7. Kind of surprised you’d say that Ben. While that may at best be true in the short term, the demographic changes were obvious for at least 20 years making these changes inevitable. While I think it would have been better if enacted democratically, the fact is for most people under 40 this was already the status quo. Because of that the people most upset are already people who will start dying within 10 years leaving a very small window for social upheaval.

    I really don’t think this is akin to even the era of 1967 – 1975 when so many changes happened. That’s because then there really were big divides even among similarly aged cohorts. Thus the moral majority pushback as well as other changes. In this case there’s surprising agreement among those under 50.

    The bigger worries are the effects of what comes next. Will society just accept this and move on? Or will some groups push for more? It’s hard to say. I doubt there will be the strong anti-religious backlash threatening say religious tax free status if they don’t accept gay marriage theologically. There are of course a minority who do think that way. And there has been a disturbing dismissal of free speech and free exercise rights when they are seen as violating new social norms. While this is the danger, I’m still not convinced it will happen. (Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t prepare for it)

  8. Evidence for my point can be found in these Pew polls. 61% of young Republicans favor gay marriage. That’s not just tolerate but favor it as a policy. It’s hard to make a long lasting red/blue divide with those demographics.

  9. I’ve read the dissents, thank you, and would that this post carried Roberts’s understated manner or Scalia’s pizzazz. None of the dissents decries the decaying moral fabric of American society mind you–instead they all focus their criticism on what they see as Kennedy’s misreading/misinterpretation of the 14th amendment.

  10. It honestly does not appear that Ben Huff has read the majority opinion before posting this. I direct you specifically to pages 24 to 28 of the slip opinion and suggest you read it before commenting further (to avoid embarrassing yourself with such histrionics).

    The selection begins on page 24 with the following:

    Of course, the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, so long as that process does not abridge fundamental rights. Last Term, a plurality of this Court reaffirmed the importance of the democratic principle in Schuette v. BAMN, 572 U. S. ___ (2014), noting the “right of citizens to debate so they can learn and decide and then, through the political process, act in concert to try to shape the course of their own times.” Id., at ___ – ___ (slip op., at 15–16). Indeed, it is most often through democracy that liberty is preserved and protected in our lives. But as Schuette also said, “[t]he freedom secured by the Constitution consists, in one of its essential dimensions, of the right of the individual not to be injured by the unlawful exercise of governmental power.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 15). Thus, when the rights of persons are violated, “the Constitution requires redress by the courts,” notwithstanding the more general value of democratic decisionmaking. Id., at ___ (slip op., at 17). This holds true even when protecting individual rights affects issues of the utmost importance and sensitivity.

    The dynamic of our constitutional system is that individuals need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right. The Nation’s courts are open to injured individuals who come to them to vindicate their own direct, personal stake in our basic charter. An individual can invoke a right to constitutional protection when he or she is harmed, even if the broader public disagrees and even if the legislature refuses to act. The idea of the Constitution “was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts.” West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U. S. 624, 638 (1943).This is why “fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” Ibid. It is of no moment whether advocates of same-sex marriage now enjoy or lack momentum in the democratic process. The issue before the Court here is the legal question whether the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry.

    The original post does not reveal any familiarity with the fundamental rights-protecting mandate of the independent judiciary in our Constitutional republic.

  11. Certainly one of the hallmarks of America’s democratic tradition is a segment of the population declaring the government’s apostasy and pronouncing its destruction at a particular moment when they disagree with federal decisions, most especially decisions that extend constitutional rights to minority groups that seemingly challenge the privileged status of others.

    Another hallmark of that same tradition is that both the government and society evolve, adapt, progress, and live on after said crisis, even until the next time such a denouncement takes place yet again.

  12. “It also goes against the deeply held moral beliefs of half its population”

    Polls have shown support for gay marriage rising steadily, and we seem to be at about 60% right now, with 36 or 37% oppose. So, splitting hairs maybe, but closer to a third than a half.

    “against the moral tradition that originally made democratic self-government possible in the West”

    Strongly disagree. This is a new jewel in the crown of our moral and democratic tradition.

    “…you are talking about…one segment of the population, the blue segment. The most obvious problem with your point is that, as much as we have sealed red and blue off from each other culturally, the nation is roughly half and half.”

    It’s not so clear cut. Last year Pew found 61% of young Republicans affirmatively support gay marriage. There’s a lot of rainbow-waving even in the red segment.

    That said, Ben, I’m truly sorry that you are taking this news so hard. I can only imagine how painful it must be to see society go one way while your heart is going another. I can empathize a little bit from the days of a president I didn’t like, and a war I hated with every fiber of my being. It’s an awful, almost physically painful alienation from one’s community and from the major institutions in it. On a human level, I wish I could comfort you, even as I object wholeheartedly to what you’ve written.

  13. It is only because of the context of today’s decision in Obergefell that it is even clear to us as readers what this original post is referring to. It might as well be a rant against Brown v. Board of Education or Loving v. Virginia. My historical reading makes me fairly confident that the denunciations of those rulings at the time they were issued were EXACTLY the same, could have been word for word. That is what our grandparents and parents thought about “forced” integration by the federal government and about the Supreme Court intervening to strike down heinous state laws prohibiting interracial marriage.

    What gives, Ben Huff?

  14. “The marginal legitimacy of our federal government has already been visible for years…” Really? I’d think that anyone, outside of Cliven Bundy, would be hard-pressed to name something with more legitimacy in America than the federal government.

  15. Great post, Ben. The future will be interesting in regards to the relationship between the people and their government. (I figured I’d be the first to react positively to your post :-)

  16. I am personally very fond of Clark Goble’s sentiments:

    If you don’t like what your unelected government officials are doing, you are free to . . . die.

  17. Trond, isn’t it beautiful that polemics like this can be so ambiguous? I’m going to save it and change a word or two when I want to score points in Sunday School. Reminds me of what Rick Perlstein wrote back in 2009 when the fear of the day was the looming implementation of death panels. Something about America being the land where the crazy tree bloom in any moment of liberal ascendency.

  18. The Washington Post’s article on Roberts’ dissent begins: “Today’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states completely undermines America’s democratic process. That’s the bold statement Chief Justice John Roberts made in his principal dissent. In one day, Roberts said, the court has basically transformed the societal institution that has held together humanity for millennia. ‘Who do we think we are?’ he said.”

    So, Ben Huff is reading this pretty much in the same vein as the Washington Post’s reporting of John Roberts dissent.

  19. JimD (19) Not sure the tie between my comments and what you wrote in italics. The country is a republic and parts of the government were always intended to be appointed indirectly rather than through direct democratic election. Originally, until the Jacksonian reforms, even the Senate was appointed and not elected. There’s an easy way to change the makeup of SCOTUS. Elect Presidents who will appoint figures you want. Conservatives, overall, have done fairly well until recently in this regard. Although the major changes that happened started with FDR stacking SCOTUS and then continued up until Reagan started appointing more conservative justices.

    In any case, this is moot as I suspect the GOP will within a few years restructure accepting all this. In a few years this decision won’t even be considered controversial.

    It’s interesting since of course religious conservatives could have started moving in the 90’s when the demographic changes started to prepare for this. They could have simply gotten the state out of the marriage business entirely. Instead they fought to maintain the state control of a narrow vision of marriage despite public opinion shifting quickly. Reading polls in the 90’s should have made clear that this day was inevitable but religious conservatives did their best to ignore it.

  20. I should add that these sorts of changes don’t turn out the way people expected. Let us remember that other changes took place quickly such that it was the GOP, not Democrats, who have managed to remove confederate flags from the south despite Democratic dominance until recently. These things shift and flow.

    It may well be that once the social conservative issues are put behind as settled that gays may find the GOP far more attractive than Democrats. It’s quite hard to say how coalitions will develop other than to note that the status quo doesn’t typically remain for long.

  21. Yes, Chief Justice Roberts provided sane, persuasive legal argument in his dissent that this should have been left to state legislatures to decide. Roberts’ reasoning and dissent is a far, far cry from the dramatic apocalypse porn at the core of this post. (By the way, Roberts’ dissent also employs the same logic as President Kevin Worthen’s excellent law review article from 2004 in the BYU Journal of Public Law on this question.)

  22. There will be lots of decisions where liberals forget all their pointing fingers and switch places with conservatives. I still remember all the hue and cry from Citizens United back in 2010. Remember when that would let corporate interests control everything? Republicans were going to dominate public office? And then Obama won reelection?

    Hyperbole seems sadly too common in politics.

  23. Clark,

    I surprised to see you act as if it would have merely been preferable if the people or their elected legislators would have been the one’s legislating. It seems like that’s something we should demand, not merely think would be better.

    I only see two options (despite the interesting historical precedents you mention): either 1) there is popular support for SSM and a judicial ruling was unnecessary – and thus quite suspicious – or 2) there isn’t popular support for SSM and the judicial ruling was undemocratic – and thus quite suspicious.

    Simply appealing to the current popularity of and/or growing support for SSM is a form of (1).

  24. The American people deserve a president like Obama. It really is that simple. Our culture has slowly, but surely been moving towards decadence for years. We now have a leader that has opened the door wider and the majority Americans are happy to enter.

    Christian are on the defensive and let’s see how enthusiastic our judges and political leaders are to protect freedom of religion. I doubt they will have near the concern and interest they did when they ushered in gay marriage.

  25. Thanks for the Fox News Update, @jared91. You do know President Obama isn’t on the Supreme Court, right?

  26. Jeff, the two options you see are clearly possibilities. You are, however, ignoring a huge number of alternative possibilities. For example, 61% of Americans may support same-sex marriage, but they may be clustered in certain states, which means that, while the majority of Americans support same-sex marriage, the majority of Texans do not.

    Or that, while the majority of Americans—in every state—support same-sex marriage, there are concentrated special interests that don’t, who wield disproportionate power in some states. (It may be, for example, that the majority of Republicans support same-sex marriage, but those who control the Republican primaries oppose it, which means that, notwithstanding popular support, there’s a chokepoint before the electorate gets a chance.)

    There may be other chokepoints in the democratic process (see, e.g., the extra requirements in South Carolina to get the Confederate flag removed).

    I mean, ultimately, you’re right: the Supreme Court is acting in an undemocratic manner. But that’s kind of the point: it’s set up in large part to protect minorities’ fundamental civil rights from the tyranny of the majority, even though the majority’s oppression of the minority should be perfectly acceptable if we value only democracy.

  27. Actually he is Owen. I don’t say that in jest. I mean that completely. He appointed enough of them for a leftist tilt that will do whatever he says. He owns them.

  28. Jettboy, I assume somebody else will be along in a second with the elementary school civics lesson you could have Googled, but: conservatives appointed the majority of the current Supreme Court. George W. Bush and the late Ronald Reagan each appointed the exact same number of justices as President Obama. Do they “own” the current court as well?

  29. Jeff (28) I think it was inevitable SSM would happen given changing social views. It was just a question of when and under what circumstances. I think though that whether you agree with them or not, the arguments for the legality of SSM under the constitution do hinge upon public understanding of those rights. And how we understand them changes. Now for someone with the jurisprudence of original intent that might not matter. But that is but one of many ways of interpreting the constitution. And, for many of them, the changing social view of SSM as shown by nearly all polls matters. So in effect while not done through the legislature (however we may wish such changes were) it still does reflect public sentiment precisely through the type of constitutional jurisprudence the majority followed.

    One problem I worry about in our country is that we don’t attempt to understand why others think the way they do. While I personally don’t find Kennedy’s argument (to the degree I understand it) persuasive, I do think that many proponents have made strong arguments. We may for various reasons ultimately disagree – usually because we reject their particular approach to exegesis. But let’s not say they are being irrational in this. (Some if not many of course don’t care about argument just results. But that’s just as true on the conservative side I think.)

    So to put things simply, I think you assume more of a disconnect between public understanding at any particular time and SCOTUS. Again for some theories of interpretation there’s more than in others. Although I notice that even the strict textualists or those following original intent seem to break from their jurisprudence when they feel strongly about an issue.

    The more interesting thing to me isn’t this decision. I honestly don’t think many were surprised by it. Rather what’s interesting is how many (cough Clinton cough) have shifted views within the last few years and make it seem like those who haven’t are dinosaurs to be ridiculed. There’s a degree of political opportunism that is quite disturbing to me.

  30. Ben, Ben, Ben…. I love you buddy and I thin you’re a genius, but you got this one wrong. Lucky for us Mormons, and for all other minorities, the constitution protects fundamental rights from majority, democratically desires decisions. This is a decision to celebrate, not decry. The constitution worked and the Supreme Court did its job.

  31. The government of the United States of America presents itself, in Lincoln’s immortal words, as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

    Have you looked at the polls recently, Ben? The Supreme Court ruling actually reflects the attitudes of the majority. Regardless, however, Supreme Court rulings shouldn’t have to be, and currently aren’t, bound to what the majority thinks. Might I ask, are you against having a judiciary branch of government?

    …unaccountable individualism that has led us to this point, where marriage is perceived as merely one more choice of two random individuals, is not capable of serving as the foundation of a functioning social order

    So marriage partners should be chosen by the parents and marriages should be arranged by them or some other outside party? Is that how you and your wife met?

    The marginal legitimacy of our federal government

    Please show us how the federal government exactly overstepped the bounds of its power in this case? I beg you.

  32. Bulldozing the moral convictions of half the population is not a recipe for social peace.

    You tell ’em, Ben. How dare those activist Supreme Court justices mandate interracial marriage on an unwelcoming public in 1967. And hey, back then, only 20 percent of Americans actually approved of marriages between blacks and whites. Sort of a far cry from the 60 percent of Americans who support gay marriage today. Does that mean that the Supreme Court judges have become less activist over time?

  33. Thanks Ben – spot on.

    To those that believe we simply move on from here to a freer society, keep dreaming. The goal has always been and still is to demonize and bankrupt any that dare speak against their cause. The same people that support gay marriage believe 30+% of the population is gay. How do you suppose this came to be? Before we even got this ruling Oregon has made clear you better not make waves or you will be out of business (Oregon Baker case). New York courts did a number on JONAH, with the judge not allowing any defense experts to testify. The Boy Scouts are now marching down the same road saying they will not be able to withstand the attacks. And just who is standing up to the bullies? Courage is in short supply. Thanks again Ben.

  34. jeff hoyt, Courage is in short supply? Because . . . ? Are you ignoring the courage of those people who are abused and rejected by both family and state for simply coming out? That didn’t take courage? I’m not arguing that, say, Ben here isn’t being courageous, but let’s not assume courage only lies on one side of the issue.

  35. #41 Oh, PUH-LEAZE!! Please give us a reference to back up your assertion that “The same people who support gay marriage believe 30+% of the population is gay. ” And JOHAH got everything it deserved. Or do you want to become a straight JOHAN volunteer and hang out naked with gay men trying to cure themselves of their gayness?

  36. It’s a small percentage of the population who are gay, so in the end it won’t be that big of a deal. The sky isn’t falling. We will survive.

  37. Why is the USA any different from Apple of the other large corporations that went in this direction years ago? Does Apple have any trouble maintaining social organization or selling it’s products in red states? Does Disney have any trouble getting red state visitors flocking to it’s theme parks.

    I do think that people opposed to this decision do face some crisis worthy choices. The issue you need to confront is whether they are willing to give up political association with those that disagree with them morally. I see little evidence that there is much alternative for them. Even I. The south the trends have been against them in Florida and Virginia. Is the military willing to give up the taxes and technology produced by the blue states?

    Are you insinuating that those whose moral sensibilities were outraged will turn the USA into a Syria or Iraq based on a lack of moral legitimacy? It is possible but I’d like more evidence from you that the red state people you refer to are willing to make any significant sacrifice economically or mititary to accomplish anything. Look at the example of the LDS church. It has both recognized the legitimacy of the federal decisions and moved politically to find common ground with those of differing moral views. That is hardly the beginnings for political separation. For the most part Americans want to be on the winning team. We are bandwagon jumpers. What is the opposing bandwagon to this ruling and who is jumping on it?

  38. It will be interesting to see how the warning in the Family Proc. will manifest itself. The calamities are already enough.

  39. Brian – courage is always in short supply. That is human nature.

    Neal – I did not think a cite was necessary, as this was widely reported. I am not good with links but survey was Gallup 5/21 of this year (my reference was related to the young demographic that has the full media and public school indoctrination). Perhaps you should do some research before you start with sarcasm. And thank you for making my point about demonization of those who do not buy into this. JONAH really deserved to not be allowed to present their case because they disagree with the gay lobby? And your gay baiting is a pretty tired tactic.

  40. you say a “strong majority of states” had democratically legislated laws against may marriage. Is that true? I thought 36 allowed it.

  41. Jeff, then why bring it up? You were arguing a certain point about courage, not that in general it’s in short supply. Let not be disingenuous.

  42. It is true that adults overestimate the percentage of the population who is gay. The Gallup poll showing that over 25% of a random sample of 1,081 adults in the US thought that 35% percent of the population is gay is here. However, my validation of jeff hoyt’s views ends here. There can be no denying that we live in a freer society as a result of the recent Supreme Court ruling. All assertions to the contrary are baseless paranoia. And whatever demonizing anti-gay marriage folks and homophobes may face today pales in comparison with the demonizing that they have heaped upon gay people for decades and decades.

  43. Brian – I was hardly being disingenuous. I was paying Ben a compliment.

    Brad – Tell that to Eich, and JONAH, and the Oregon Bakers, and to Kickstarter who was bullied into banning efforts to help them. Tell that to the people in my ward that whisper their concerns, and use euphemisms to even discuss this issue. And then you justify it. Baseless paranoia? When you have your car windows smashed in you can talk to me about baseless paranoia. How about a wager on how long before the Church’s tax exempt status is challenged for not going along with the law of the land? I didn’t think so.

  44. Brad – actually that poll reads: “U.S. adults, on average, estimate that 25% of Americans are gay or lesbian. More specifically, over half of Americans (52%) estimate that at least one in five Americans are gay or lesbian, including 35% who estimate that more than one in four are. Thirty percent put the figure at less than 15%.”

    Jeff – you need to read the poll you referenced – “The American public estimates on average that 23% of Americans are gay or lesbian..” And your apocalyptic whining and fear-mongering is an even more tiresome tactic.

  45. Neal – you need to read it. The percentage for young people that also favor gay marriage is well over the 25% that the American public in general believes. The obvious point is – how did we come to such a state of confusion? Of course I am only fear mongering, by citing examples, while you just gay bait and justify hate. I also noticed you did not have the balls to take me up on my bet offer, for the fact is my Church is high on the target list (not that I believe you care)..

  46. Jeff – get over yourself. The demonization of gay people over the centuries DWARFS any whines you may have about a radical gay or two lashing out. And no, I don’t approve of that at all.

    And you didn’t reference the percentage of people who favor gay marriage in post #41, you were talking about the percentage of the gay population. You don’t even know what you said. So get off my balls and grow your own.

  47. To be honest, gay marriage my offend one’s feelings, but the republic will not fall because of it. Citizens United will do far more damage in the long run than gay marriage ever will. I’ll admit that I find it a bit weird — in the abstract — but in the concrete, in people I know, in their children, in the strong, loving relationships I have personally witnessed, I cannot say we have moved in the wrong direction.

  48. Neal – Actually this is what I said. “The same people that support gay marriage believe 30+% of the population is gay”. My point, that everyone here seems unwilling to address, is how did we get to this point? That so many people can be so utterly wrong on this issue is hardly an accident.

    Now you claim that you do not approve of the gay bullying, but you previously said “JONAH got what they deserved”, then proceeded to gay bait.

    I am pretty comfortable with my balls, having lived through the property vandalism, threatening phone calls, media attacks, etc. for standing with the Church, without backing down.

    And I echo the call for a moderator.

  49. jeff hoyt, let’s see. On the one hand we have six million plus (assuming that the population of gays is at 2 percent) Americans being granted the right to pursue romantic relationships with people of the same gender to the full extent that straights do and increasing legal protection against discrimination by homophobic for-profit businesses. On the other hand we have a CEO pressured to step down because people didn’t like his political views (and this was not the government who pressured him, mind you), a non-profit corporation that was defrauding clients by claiming that they could change their sexual orientation, and a few homophobic bakers who think that its OK to discriminate against people because of a biological sexual orientation that they cannot control. As I said, the idea that the Supreme Court’s support of gay rights is denying people freedoms is baseless paranoia. It is akin to outrage at an anti-bullying policy enforced at a school because it denies the bullies the right to bully.

  50. Brad – Lets see. A CEO forced to resign for supporting a measure supported by the majority in his state. Do you not suppose every like thinking person can see this and is bullied into silence? A baker that you know not at all, but namecall is put out of business. Do you not suppose every business is bullied by this? Their supporters are then denied access to a public service because of their religious and freedom loving beliefs. A non-profit is somehow committing fraud (for what benefit) as determined by a judge who does not even allow for their expert testimony, and is clearly biased. Every freedom loving person should be outraged by this, but somehow you decide it is just an opportunity for gay baiting. To act as though only a few have been bullied indicates to me you have not given this any thought at all.

    I am still waiting for someone to answer my question about why Americans overestimated the gay population so incredibly. Of course I have my opinion, but I would like just one person to address this, as well as speculate about what we all know is coming regarding the Church.

  51. jeff hoyt,

    Is it the same reason people grossly overestimate the share of the us budget going to foreign countries or the distribution of income? I suspect it is because they are both ill-informed and not particularly good at math.

  52. Ben

    Your argument seems to presume that the federal government is one thing rather than several entities that balance each other in terms of power and moral suasion. Curiously, I don’t recall seeing any high status elected officials resign or say that their offices were illegitimate. Scalia, talks the talk but does he walk the walk? When Nixon abused his power at least some of the lawyers resigned. How many retirees returned their social security checks?

    Did anyone turn loose prisoners from federal prisons? How much legitimacy does a government really need to function?

    But let’s say those morally opposed to this ruling wanted to start anew. What legitimacy do they have? What political imagination binds them? Take a look at the republican presidential candidates. Do they form a coherent vision of legitimacy? There’s no there, there. those morally opposed to this may have values, but do they have any political ideas that can bind them into any kind of functioning organization? In my opinion they do not. How much would they tax themselves? Would they have a draft? Would they establish Christianity as a state religion? Would they exile or persecute mormons.

    I’d love to attempt to imagine the future you contemplate but it is philosophical and fanciful not empirical. The people you discuss can’t be a political force until they can agree with each other politically and this they most certainly cannot. They are impotent and bankrupt as a legitimacy creating movement.

    Whatever on earth do you have in mind for them to do?

  53. Martin – Thanks for taking a stab at it. Interestingly all three are politicized issues, so it stands to reason that people are misinformed in those areas. The one difference that is glaring however, is that the percentage of gays should be at least somewhat informed by personal observation. That people will believe what they are told when it is so obviously contradicted by personal experience is astounding to me. Most people lack math skills, but not to that extent. That people will suspend judgment and buy into a propaganda machine is pretty scary. I think everyone should agree with that.

  54. Yes, it’s propaganda but it is also because the actual low numbers make it hard for people to have a credible estimate, particularly when there is pretty substantial segregation of people by city and neighborhood. People likewise alternate between overestimating those that agree with them and those that disagree with them depending on feelings of fear or greed.

    I agree with you that is very odd.

  55. Jeff, you have a warped concept of freedom. You’re supporting the freedom of the oppressors to oppress and the discriminators to discriminate. All the while decrying measures that increase freedoms for over six million Americans. You don’t support freedom at all, don’t try to tell me that you do. You strain at the gnats of CEOs stepping down and bakers getting sued and swallow the camel of increased freedoms for millions upon millions of gay Americans. Whatever gay baiting (I don’t know what that is) I’m doing is far preferable to your masked gay hating.

  56. Clark, you suggest that the demographic shifts will make the undemocratic means of achieving this result unimportant in a few years. The first big problem with this logic is that it completely tosses aside any notion of due process, which ironically is the principle the five here appeal to as the basis of their judgment. These judges are completely ignoring what their actual authority and job is, and acting quite outside it (see the dissents for more analysis of this point). The opinion reads more like a papal encyclical—a piece of theology—than a legal opinion. Since the five are transparently acting outside their authority, why should anyone even obey their ruling? And if decisions like this are allowed to pass for the acts of the Supreme Court, why should anyone obey any of its future rulings? Why should any other officer in government, or private citizen, not simply follow their own judgment of what is best for the country, as these judges are doing?

    As for the importance of the demographics, you assume (a) that those shifts in opinion will continue, and (b) that the proportion of the population that remains committed to a traditional notion of marriage will soon be insignificant. But lots of people who lean leftward when they are young start to lean more to the right as they grow older, even just getting into mid-life. And the relatively rapid shift that was happening a few years back has actually slowed considerably of late. Look at a few more polls. On Roe v. Wade, the public sentiment has become quite a bit more conservative in the past decade or so, so apparently history doesn’t only march to the left. Now, suppose that only 1/3 of the population remains committed to traditional marriage in 20 years. Is that an insignificant portion of the population to alienate?

    You also are not addressing the other prong of my argument, about the cultural foundation for social order. To the extent that the culture of Hollywood, consumerism, and unaccountable individualism replaces Christianity as the primary moral culture of the country, we will have a difficult time sustaining the tough moral project of pluralistic democracy under rule of law. In principle, perhaps a non-religious culture could provide a solid foundation, but on the ground, that sort of culture has not materialized in this country. The rule of law requires either (a) extremely strong social fabric (not happening in such a pluralistic society), (b) an extremely efficient (and expensive, and probably harsh) police state, or (c) a strong sense of duty among a large portion of the population. This last is what we have to bet on if the American project is to succeed, but I don’t see it coming out of Hollywood.

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