I’m Wrong Again and Happily So

I thought Obama was going to keep his distance on same-sex marriage through November.

I was wrong.

I’m at the airport and catching up on this as it develops; when I’m done I’ll possibly check in with further thoughts. But for now, I’ll just say: Good for him. Glad he came out.

132 thoughts on “I’m Wrong Again and Happily So

  1. I am pretty sure you were right, actually. You just failed to account for what a bumbling boob Joe Biden is.

  2. There’s a great #futurebidengaffes hashtag on twitter right now

    “I support Marijuana legalization” #futurebidengaffes

    is one of my favorites

  3. Biden may occasionally be a bumbling boob, but in this case, he was right to say what he did and if it provided the kick in the ass Obama needed to make his position clear, then all the better. I’m glad Obama finally stated his opinion on legalized gay marriage point blank, though.

  4. Good for him for finally doing something liberal.

    Also, this was the Fox Nation headline (since edited): “OBAMA FLIP FLOPS, DECLARES WAR ON MARRIAGE”. Classy.

  5. I don’t think that Obama was shamed or otherwise forced into this position because of what Biden said. I don’t know if Biden was a trial balloon or they just played a round of Texas Hold ‘Em to decide who would go first, but this was planned.

    I’m glad. I always figured that “evolving views” was code for “Yes, of course I fucking support gay marriage”. Perhaps I’m wrong and his views genuinely were evolving or perhaps he decided that this is a good way to get passionate support in the election, but either way it’s a good thing.

  6. He stated that he evolved to this understanding over time and with the support of his daughters. Because even kids these days can figure out all that matters is love. A dad that listens to his kids and can grow is a damn good example.

  7. With Obama, I’ve decided that words and actions have fuck-all to do with one another.

  8. I hope he doesn’t just back peddle now. I am glad Biden opened his mouth. Sometimes someone honestly needs to just shoot off their mouth instead of going Bzyantine-Machiavelli all the fucking time. Biden may come across uncultured…but hey, I get weary of the euphemistic attempts to find a way to be on every side at once. In my universe, perhaps fence sitters would be first against the wall.

  9. Depending on the specific poll, things have improved enough that the public is about 50/50 on this issue. Independents are somewhat higher than that, and Dems significantly higher (including a relatively small but vocally – and financially — supportive subset).

    “There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them.”

    That said, I’m thrilled.

  10. So he is a democrat? Was starting to wonder.
    I believe this might be one of those issues where, the more the conservative pundits slam him on it, the more his base will rally. Seriously, if I was a producer for fox and friends, I’d pretend this never happened. Attacking him on this will mean votes in the bank. Count on it.

  11. Seriously, if I was a producer for fox and friends, I’d pretend this never happened.

    Yes. This. This hacks of the conservative base who’d never vote for him. Appeals to the liberal base who were wobbling. The only group that this could be a problem with are black christian Americans, and I suspect the question is would they really not vote for Obama over this?

  12. Good for him.

    Now let’s see some actions to back up the words.

    (Speaking from Texas)

  13. I have two thoughts on this

    1) It’s about freaking time.
    2) he must really be confident about kicking Romney’s ass this fall.

  14. Heard Andrew Sullivan on NPR saying that he teared up watching Obama say he supported same-sex marriage. So did I. There really is something powerful about having the President acknowledge your rights, even if it has little real political meaning. The symbolism is intensely heartwarming.

  15. The polls have spoken. He’s statistically tied nationally with Romney. In the “big three” states he needs to win he’s either statistically tied or substantially behind Romney. He’s given up on the center and at tracking cross-over converts. Now he’s just focused on maximizing the turn-out from his far-left extremist base. Thus he panders to their every whim like gay marriage.

    He should have realized these things a year after his inauguration when he went from a bipartisan centrist to a bitter, far-left extremist in his rhetoric. But the man never was that smart.

    Note, I support gay marriage. But that’s about the only thing Obama and I agree on, which is why I’m supporting Romney.

  16. I respect him intensely for this. But the majority of that respect is conditional on seeing actions to back up the words. That aside, this is still a landmark day. I am very happy.

  17. I’m seeing a lot of people saying that they’re thrilled about Obama’s words but are waiting to see if he follows them with action. You mean actions like these:

    -The President signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” allowing gay men and women to serve openly in our armed forces.
    -The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act allows the Department of Justice to prosecute crimes motivated by a person’s gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. The Act was the first federal civil rights legislation to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
    -For the first time, hospital visitation rights and decision-making rights are available to same-sex couples at Medicaid or Medicare-assisted hospitals.

    Honestly, it’s like unless Obama personally orders the National Guard out to force churches to gay-marry people then he doesn’t really care about gay rights.

  18. Oh yeah, Obama also told the Justice Department to stop defending DOMA in federal court. That was also a big one.

  19. There are a lot of people who care more about being anti-gay – but there is nothing the president could do to get their votes anyway.

  20. @VincentN
    You give some very fair points. Can’t argue that one bit. The main thing I and possibly others really want to see is federal legislation on the issue of gay marriage. Though I do understand that this would be quite the dust up. And it isn’t that I think he doesn’t care about gay rights, it’s just that I really wanted far more progressive social legislative attempts from him then he has put out. Maybe that is unfair of me, that’s possible. But it is what I wanted.
    Still, point well made and taken.

  21. Given that I just moved my S.O. from FL up here to live with me this past weekend, this is like the best wedding present I could get in a state that has a constitutional ammendment against gay marriage. Well done, Mr. President. I <3 Obama so much today. I may not live to see it legal in all 50 states, but By God, my partner's kids will.

  22. If scorpius could come up with evidence of even 5 major issues where Obama diverges from a majority or plurality of Americans across recent consolidated polling, I’d be shocked. I’ll even give him a head start with health care, although that’s the bill; almost every part of it gets support if presented individually.

  23. @zephi42:

    That’s a fair desire to have. I just think that between healthcare, the economy, two wars, and other national-level issues it’s amazing how much effort he has dedicated to gay rights. Much more than past presidents have. There’s a website you might be interested in: http://www.equalitygiving.org/Accomplishments-by-the-Administration-and-Congress-on-LGBT-Equality

    Maybe there will be a push for federal legislation for gay marriage if Obama gets re-elected but that’s unlikely unless there are enough people in Congress at that time who would be in favor of that.

  24. And it isn’t that I think he doesn’t care about gay rights, it’s just that I really wanted far more progressive social legislative attempts from him then he has put out. Maybe that is unfair of me, that’s possible. But it is what I wanted.

    He’s the executive, not a legislator, separation of powers and all that. FWIW, he’s said that he would sign repeal of DOMA and other anti-gay legislation if it made it to his desk. Sadly, the parliamentary rules of Congress (especially the Senate) make that pretty much impossible for the next 4 years at best.

  25. @zephia42
    with GOP majorities in congress that’s not a battle can win at the moment. What he has done through his office and now spoken openly about is HUGE compared to anything from our OvalOffice so far.

    Kudos to the President.

  26. I understand that the battle would be just about unwinnable, but the tiny shouty romantic in me still wants to see them attempted. Though again, I understand there is little room for romance in politics.

  27. The cynic in me thinks it’s a political maneuver ( a brilliant recovery of an unforced error on behalf of Biden) but on the flip side I’m happy to see the leader of the liberal side of the political spectrum finally embrace the views of the majority of his supporters (and a good chunk of the opposition, too!).

    Good on you Mr. President!

  28. Well I applaud the president for taking a politically risky position and one I happen to agree with. He gets a few points off for his uncharacteristic nod to federalism to soften the blow. But still, I’ll tip my hat

  29. rickm:
    Realistically with the kamikaze GOP senators he’d need a majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate to get anything substantial done.

  30. Sorry, scorpius, but a lot of us centrists don’t see civil rights as a whim, and are happy to support a man who supports the rights of LGBT folk.

  31. @Greg:

    I actually agree with you that Obama’s record on civil liberties in the war on drugs and in the national security context could be better. But while we’re on this subject, I’ve always found the rap against Obama for not closing Gitmo to be incredibly unfair. It’s a great laugh line for late-night comedians but it completely ignores the role that Congress had, with the support of both parties, in making it impossible for the president to either close Gitmo or get its occupants tried in civilian courts. It’s fair to go after the president for his actions with drone attacks and whatnot but not for Gitmo.

    Anyway, my actual point that you appeared to have ignored was that Obama doesn’t need to prove his support of his gay rights because his record in that arena is already pretty good.

  32. In the “big three” states he needs to win he’s either statistically tied or substantially behind Romney.

    As was said elsewhere, you are entitled to your own opinions but not facts.

    Obama is tied nationally in the RCP tracking average, which interests me. But he’s looking at a pretty solid lead in Ohio at the moment +5 in the RCP tracker… He’s up 7 in Pennsylvania. If I remember the electoral college maths correctly he needs the Kerry states plus Ohio to win. He’s basically tied at +3 in Virginia, which looks distorted, if I’m any judge by a small number of polls and a significant +5 Romney from March…

    Given the public statements on how he’d have dealt with the care industry from Mr Romney and his track record in business, which really hasn’t had much of an airing yet, I don’t see him carrying the rust belt. Assuming the West Coast and the North East remain a lock for Obama, it’ll look a LOT like 2004, except it will be republicans waking up on Wednesday morning wondering what the hell happened.

  33. Daveon,

    Those state polls seem pretty iffy to me. Many are old, most are of registered voters, and the likely voter screens being used right now are pretty lame (i.e. “are you likely to vote?”) and do a poor job of capturing intensity. Rasmussen tracking is probably the best for national numbers, and that has been a toss-up, trending Romney after the most recent economic data.

    If you want to consider Obama the favorite, go ahead, but I think a better reading of the data is “toss up”. I doubt SSM will move the needle much. If the economy continues to sputter like it did last month, then Obama will have a very difficult time convincing voters he deserves four more years. Conversely, if the economy bounces back to 250k jobs per month, he’ll probably eek out a win, in which case he’ll face a Republican House and, best case, a 50/50 Senate.

    As for SSM, it seems like Obama’s position is “personally for it, it’s a state issue”. While that is actually my position, I’m not sure how much that helps him with any group. Political partisans on both sides assumed he favored SSM and was dissembling for political purposes. Casual observers may consider this a change, but I doubt many casual observers get too fired up over this issue. I suppose it helps with his donors, so maybe, if not a plus, then quelling a minor revolt.

    It seems like an eternity to November.

  34. VincentN well said. This looks like an interesting election season coming up. :)

  35. 1) State polls don’t matter at this point, and probably won’t start to matter until Oct. 2) Rasmussen is consistently GOP leaning and consistently wrong. If Rasmussen shows a “virtual tie” then it’s probably Obama by 4-5%. 3) The incumbent is (almost always) the favorite. Barring something really bad like LBJ or Watergate.

    And the President’s position does matter as it will be very difficult for the next Democratic candidate to go back on this issue. Though you’re right it may not matter as much in 2012.

  36. Question on states rights issue on gay marriage: It is really ethical for the Majority to decided the civil rights of the Minority? If so how is that not out and out oppression?

  37. @ZBBMcFate
    Obama’s position is NOT that it’s a states issue. His position was that he thought civil unions would be enough, but now realizes that he supports gay marriage fully.

    I wouldn’t normally object but the quote “personally for it, it’s a state issue” always reads to me like, “I’m fine with gay marrige, and if whole states decide to be bigots that’s okay.”

  38. MyName

    Gallup has tacked fairly closely to Rasmussen, so I’m not sure where your data for “Republican leaning” come from. Rasmussen uses (i believe) a fluctuating partisan weighting that I believe is more realistic than what I have seen from some others, which have had D/R splits similar to the 2008 election. 2012 may not be a republican wave year like 2010, but I believe voter ID will be closer to 2010 than 2008.

    As far as incumbents being the favorite, there is not much you can say from the small sample of the post-JFK TV era, but there is not a lot of comfort for either side in what data we do have. Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and GW Bush on one side, LBJ, Ford, Carter, and GHW Bush on the other.

    And I agree, the President’s statement is not meaningless in the broader sense, just minimally so wrt the 2012 election.

  39. ricknm505,

    I did directly hear what he said, so my info is 2nd hand. My understanding was that he was not proposing any new Executive branch action. If I am wrong, I apologize.

  40. “Gallup has tacked fairly closely to Rasmussen, so I’m not sure where your data for “Republican leaning” come from. Rasmussen uses (i believe) a fluctuating partisan weighting that I believe is more realistic than what I have seen from some others, which have had D/R splits similar to the 2008 election. 2012 may not be a republican wave year like 2010, but I believe voter ID will be closer to 2010 than 2008.”

    Probably general statements from Nate Silver, where Rasmussen diverges further from the election and hews more closely to results as it gets closer to election time.

  41. ZBBM, Rasmussen often leans Republican:

    http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/04/rasmussen-polls-were-biased-and-inaccurate-quinnipiac-surveyusa-performed-strongly/

    Not always, and they were actually pretty good on the 2008 presidential. (They usually display more bias in smaller/more local races. All kinds of theories on why that might be.) But there’s reason to at the least give their numbers a second look, especially if they diverge from other polls.

  42. Jon,

    I’d point out that bias and inaccuracy are different things. I admit my impression of Rasmussen was mostly formed in 2008. The 2010 data you link are consistent with a Republican “wave” that crested before the election, but still ended up with a large R win. You’ll note that 7 of 8 polling firms over-estimated Republican votes by an average of close to 2%, making Rasmussen an outlier, but by about 2% versus the mean.

    My overall point is, I think, supported by the current Gallup and Rasmussen numbers, which show a Romney popular vote lead at the edges of the margin of error and do not support an Obama cakewalk.

  43. zephi42 @9:42
    “Is is really ethical for the Majority to decide the civil rights of the Minority? If so how is that not out and out oppression?”
    On many a thread here at John’s Whatever blog these very questions have been extensively debated. Most contributors here come down on the side of “no, you either have a civil right or you don’t. If you do, no majority has the right to take it away from you in some election or referendum. And if they try, the Federal court judges should vacate the majority vote.” At least, that is my summary of much of what I’ve seen typed here at Whatever. So what do we get from this view? Anytime a subgroup of our population feels oppressed and that they are treated as second-class citizens, we go through an agonizing process of trying to convince the majority to change their thinking. When they do, all gets better. Current example? The gay rights movement of the past three decades. My it has been messy. But slowly and surely the gay rights movement will prevail. The majority is changing their thinking. In the not too distant future the gay rights movement goals will have been achieved nationwide, and Americans will wonder what the fuss was all about. Why did anyone want to deny to gay people civil rights enjoyed by non-gay people?

  44. @ VincentN

    Honestly, it’s like unless Obama personally orders the National Guard out to force churches to gay-marry people then he doesn’t really care about gay rights.

    I’m quite confident the president supports equal protection of LGBT persons under the law in prinsiple. But DADT should’ve been repealed 2 years ago and he also promised he’d tell the DoJ to stop prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries, so I’m skeptical he can or will make good on a similar promise regarding DOMA. Much is expected of the man or woman who sits in the Big Chair and I have no problem demanding more. Personality politics can take a short walk off a long pier, as far as I’m concerned. I want results and lots of ‘em, most especially regarding the civil liberty promises he built his campaign around.

  45. Personality politics can take a short walk off a long pier, as far as I’m concerned.

    Bah! Long walk off a short pier, obviously. Time for bed.

  46. @Gulliver. i find it hilarious that people keep beating Obama for not signing an executive order repealing DADT. If a president does that, the next president in can just do the reverse. as has been pointed out earlier in the thread, the only way to keep it repealed for a good long while, if not forever, is to have the legislature pass it. between the republican stunts on seating Al Franken, Teddy Kennedy passing away, and the constant fillibustering, the Democrats only had 6 months to do any kind of legislative work. The president and the party has done a lot for the country despite the every attempt to gum up the works by the Republican party in order to blame president and the democrats for chaos.

    Give credit where credit is due. It was a hand that was well played, despite the occasional error. If a republican had been in power, you would have gotten none of what you got. And remember, Obama is undoing the damage done to gay rights that was inflicted in part by Clinton who tried to run a centrist presidency. If Romney comes to power, he has already stated he will undo everything. And his statement today is that he will only accept civil unions that is a lesser form of marriage with regards to rights. What the hell does that mean? other then he will pander to his right wing base and eliminate what rights gay people may have

  47. In my opinion, this is nothing more than hand-waving and rhetoric designed to do 3 things; fire up his liberal base in order to drive them to the polls in November, distract voters from his piss-poor handling of the economy and gain control of the media narrative. Romney would be best served by simply ignoring this issue and focusing on what’s wrong with the economy and Obama’s failed stewardship of it.

    As a fiscal/foreign policy conservative living in Bluest Vermont, I generally don’t give a crap about what people do in the privacy of their bedroom, much less on whom is marrying whom. My only concern is the health of the institution of marriage. You want gay marriage? Fine, but let’s let make it harder to divorce; get rid of no-fault divorce and try to discourage out of wedlock births and cohabitation before getting married.

  48. Glad he said it…but in the end, since it’s a state controlled issue, does it really matter all that much? Too bad he had to use Biden as the crash test dummy.

  49. Sometimes I despair:
    Biden said what he actually believes; so we bash him for it. Next week’s topic: why aren’t there more straight-talking politicians and how are we going to reform these clowns and “their” corrupt institutions?

    Obama decides to fess up to supporting gay marriage. Oh he’s only being honest to get money. He’s telling his base he supports their position to (shock) get their vote and to make sure they vote in November to elect a person who will actually support what they believe in, the horror. If he really believed in gay marriage, he’d use his super-powers to bypass the Constitution and enact laws on issues that belongs to state legislatures and courts. At the very least he’d use those powers to de-enact a law passed by Congress, since he inconveniently doesn’t have a legislative majority just this second.

    A sitting President just said gay people deserve the same civil rights as everyone else. That’s a win. It’s not the final game, but it’s a win. Enjoy it. If things go badly, it could be 10 or 20 years before there’s another one this big.

    My brand of cynicism: it indicates to me that Obama does not believe the job situation will improve enough to sail him into office in an apathetic election against a dull opponent, who increaingly looks dumber and floppier than I would have believed. So Obama will need turnout from his people. The issue may also rev up Republican turnout. Obama is pretty smart at this kind of thing. I imagine he ran the political calculus and decided he needs his own base active more than he needs to depress his opponent’s base. So he is going to have to be a Democrat and actually stand for stuff, which to be fair, I think he honestly believes in. Despite the process that led here, I think that is a good thing in general. I think all the candidates should do this; so we have, I know it’s crazy, an informed choice and a direction for the country at a hard time. (The Republicans should have picked someone who could wholehearedly represent either the radical right or the sober conservative, instead of an empty suit.) I would be happier if the process was better and the outlook was more hopeful, but this is the hand that’s been dealt. If Obama could go do this on a few other issues, then I would at least have the hope that springs from someone actually representing my America.

    Of course, if Obama looses, then people will say, whew! don’t try that again.

  50. @Gulliver, with regard to DoJ not defending DOMA, that isn’t something that is pending, it has already happened. As in, the Attorney General advised the court that in the pending cases where the government was defending DOMA, the Department of Justice was (at the direct instruction of the President) dropping their defense of the law specifically because they believed it was unconstitutional.

    The House Republicans have retained former Solicitor General Paul Clement (who’s original firm, King & Spalding dropped the case when they started feeling the heat) at Bancroft to step in.

  51. Christopher Shaffer:

    What do you mean by “cohabitation”? Are you suggesting couples should be discouraged from living together before their married. If so that’s a pretty ridiculous suggestion, what better way to find out whether or not you want to marry someone than actually living with them first?

  52. @ DC Spartan:

    I suspect it wasn’t the heat that caused them to drop the case. It was looking at the case and realizing that there’s not much to go on. As the DOJ realized, all the stupid defenses of DOMA have been tried, and there aren’t any smart ones.

  53. the only thing surprising about it is that Obama’s balls descended a bit to make the annoucement. I still think this is not a major issues in which to base one’s choice of president and I still think Obama is a failure. Single issue voters (gay marriage, abortion, religion, taxes, etc) are rather shallow.

  54. In my opinion, this is nothing more than hand-waving and rhetoric designed to do 3 things; fire up his liberal base in order to drive them to the polls in November

    Holy crap guys, a politician is trying to get re-elected! In an election year! Stop the presses! I guess Romney’s taking principled positions, if you count being on at least two sides of every issue.

    distract voters from his piss-poor handling of the economy

    Really? You actually believe that people are going to ignore the economy for 6 months? If that’s the case, Obama’s a wizard and you’ve got a lot more to worry about.

    and gain control of the media narrative.

    Wait, first he’s trying to distract voters, now he wants to gain their attention? Make up your mind.

    Romney would be best served by simply ignoring this issue and focusing on what’s wrong with the economy and Obama’s failed stewardship of it.

    I, for one welcome the ads pointing out that he’s also the guy who led his state to a stunning 47th in job creation and 49th in employment retention.

  55. @Bearpaw – no, it was the heat. Clement (the actual attorney of record) stayed on the case, leaving the firm over it. I’m not saying that DOMA has a strong footing; in my view it does not
    But K&S definitely dropped out over the outcry. IIRC, Coca -cola, a major player in Atlanta where they’re based, was integral in getting them to drop.

  56. This is rank hypocracy – how does the President reconcile his support of gay marriage with his Islamic faith?

    (It makes me sad that I feed the need to point out that the above is sarcasm.)

  57. It’s 2012 for god’s sake. Why are we still debating this?? It should be a no brainer. Opponents cite that it destroys the sanctity of marriage when this statistic can be quoted-

    The divorce rate in America for first marriage, vs second or third marriage
    50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according
    to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri.

  58. Christopher Shaffer:

    “As a fiscal/foreign policy conservative living in Bluest Vermont, I generally don’t give a crap about what people do in the privacy of their bedroom, much less on whom is marrying whom. ”

    Well that’s great you don’t care who is doing whom in bedroom gymnastics, but here’s the thing – if you’re straight, you get to ignore the fact that what you’re doing in the bedroom isn’t being used as an excuse to enshrine bigotry against you and deny you the same rights and protections enjoyed by everyone else. The unfortunate fact is that gay people don’t have that luxury since what they do in the bedroom is being used as a reason to deny them their civil rights.

    “You want gay marriage? Fine, but let’s let make it harder to divorce and get rid of no-fault divorce”

    Because people should be forced to remain in a loveless marriage that’s no longer working, or be given even more obstacles to getting out of a marriage that’s turned toxic and abusive (because that’s totally easy to do these days, right?), because it’s the institution of marriage that’s important, not the individuals involved, right? What makes you the arbiter of what’s an acceptable reason to get divorced or not?

    “and try to discourage out of wedlock births”

    Because having children while single or unmarried is totally going to harm the children. And no one in their right mind would ever want to have a child without being married first, right? Way to discriminate against non-traditional families.

    “and cohabitation before getting married.”

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Right. Because going into a marriage with NO idea how you and your partner’s relationship works when you’re actually sharing the same space day in and day out and having to cope with the pressures of shared expenses and differing career tracks is an awesome idea. Not everyone needs to live together before getting married, but cohabitation works quite nicely for others.

    The point is, people are not “one size fits all” and definitely not “your specific idea of morality, relationships and marriage fits all.”

  59. Christopher Shaffer is right that people who claim to be about ‘the sanctity of marriage’ and ‘God’s view of marriage’ absolutely should be trying to severely limit or ban divorce. Problem is, that’s a loser issue, as most of your theoretical base has been divorced and/or certainly doesn’t want to foreclose their options. Gay-bashing, however, is still a good way to fund a career and a think tank.

    Of course, getting rid of no-fault divorce would be an idiotic cause. But a principled one.

  60. President Obama’s “evolved” position forced Romney to take a position more radical than that of Dick Cheney (who supports Gay Marriage, and is proud of his lesbian daughter) and George W. Bush, (who supports Gay Civil Unions). On the other hand, it makes it harder for Obama to criticize Romeny’s “evolving” positions. My son told me about an Astroturf movement urging Catholics and Evangelical Christians to pray rather than to vote.

  61. For those who want Obama to take action to enforce marriage rights across the country: there is no constitutional basis for such an action. I wish he could, but he can’t. The only federal authority that could make marriage a right for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, would be the Supreme Court, ruling that the 14th amendment’s promise of equal protection of the laws actually applies. The Supreme Court might have the opportunity to do this if the litigation over California’s Proposition 8 is taken up.

    The only thing I can think of that Obama could do right now would be to sign an executive order making discrimination against gays and lesbians in federal contracting illegal. He recently declined to do that, saying it should be a matter for legislation rather than executive order. He’s right about that, for reasons expressed upthread: if it’s a matter for executive order only, another president can simply rescind the order upon taking office. I’d still like him to do it, regardless, but I understand his reasoning.

  62. My only concern is the health of the institution of marriage. You want gay marriage? Fine, but let’s let make it harder to divorce; get rid of no-fault divorce and try to discourage out of wedlock births and cohabitation before getting married.

    Can we start with any sort of proof that any of these things actually add to the health of the institution of marriage? As opposed to making people stay in miserable or abusive marriages or shackling them to teenage stupidity for the remainder of their time in this mortal coil? Or are you primarily concerned with appearances and statistics and less with actual marriages and people?

  63. You know, while Obama deserves kudos for this, whatever his motives. But major kudos go to all the folks who helped him “evolve” on this issue.

  64. Regarding my views on no-fault divorce and cohabitation, I’m not trying to imply that people should stay in loveless or abusive marriages. What i’m suggesting is that we move away from a system that encourages divorce by allowing the party instigating the divorce to not have a tangible reason for divorce, like adultery, physical/emotional abuse or abandonment, etc

    I’m not suggesting that people can discover that years in their marriage, they have nothing in common or don’t see eye to eye on what is important in the relationship and therefore it is better to end the marriage and move on, but I feel that some of the people filing for divorce use the no-fault provision as cover for their real reasons for divorce, like boredom or desire to get involved with somebody else they find more attractive, etc. If they want to file for divorce because of these issues, that’s their perogative, but they should at least have the balls to admit in divorce proceedings those issues.

    Cohabitation, in my mind, is not a good platform to rest a good marriage, simply because, from a guy’s point of view, cohabitation gives guys what they want (sex and somebody to split the bills with) without actually having to legally commit to that person they are living with. There are exceptions, but in my experience as a guy, most of my male friends who cohabitated with girlfriends never ended up tying the knot with that person. I’m 35 and getting for the first and (hopefully) only time to my fiancee, whom I’ve dated for 7 years without living with her. I think its perfectly feasible and better for the health of a relationship to not live together if at all possible before getting married.

    It is my opinion that some of the above commenters who ridicule the notion of discouraging no-fault divorce and cohabitation are of the “If it feels good, do it and worry about the consequences later” mindset. Marriage, in my mind, is a responsibility that takes alot of work and dedication, not a right. Call me old fashioned or a dinosaur, I simply think society today looks at marriage as a right and not as a institutional pillar that, treated respectfully and thoughtfully, supports and nutures a healthy and stable society.

  65. @zephi42: “Question on states rights issue on gay marriage: It is really ethical for the Majority to decided the civil rights of the Minority? If so how is that not out and out oppression?”

    If you really want to twist your noodle, ask yourself that question using religious liberties as the civil rights in question — keeping in mind that Christians are not the only ones to use Leviticus as theological restrictions against gay marriage.

  66. Obama “evolved” on this issue?

    He supported SSM when he ran for state office in 1996; he abandoned it when it became inconvenient for his Senate and Presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. He’ll abandon it again if and when it becomes politically expedient for him to do so. And at that time he’ll provide a compelling, deeply personal rationale for why his views have once again “evolved”.

    That said, from a political perspective, now was the right time for him to revert to his 1996 position. It gets him a necessary boost in his campaign contributions today, but by November it will have been forgotten, so he can still hope for a large turnout from black Catholics who want to vote for him but who are anti-gay.

  67. Also, this was the Fox Nation headline (since edited): “OBAMA FLIP FLOPS, DECLARES WAR ON MARRIAGE”. Classy.

    How in the name of God do you declare war on marriage — nuke a bridezilla and start burning wedding planners on giant pyres of hideous bridesmaid’s gowns? Not for the first time, I’m left wondering how you parody Fox News when it’s already done it all for you.

  68. Christopher, I don’t think you understand that (in the US) a divorce is a lawsuit. And by “having a tangible reason”, what you mean is “force the injured person to prove, in a court of law, to a judge, that it is more likely than not that they have a tangible reason.” Do you really think it helps the institution of marrige to tell an abused husband “Sorry, you can’t leave the first time your wife throws a chair at you; we need you to gather evidence of your abuse or you’re stuck with her?” Do you think it will discourage frivolous divorce to tell the wife of a serial adulterer “No, it’s not enough to quietly end the marriage to avoid embarassing your children; you need to pay a private detective to get pictures of your husband with prostitutes, otherwise, too bad?”

    We used to have that system, you know. It didn’t work very well. There’s a reason that the hoary old mystery-novel plot of “we need to kill my husband/wife because he/she won’t give me a divorce!” is an anachronism.

    Being eager to paint anyone who disagrees with you as irreverent and uninterested in supporting marriage doesn’t make you “old-fashioned” or “a dinosaur” – terms which, of course, you don’t mean as insults, but in sarcasm – it makes you dishonest and ignorant. If you really cannot understand that there is any reason to support no-fault divorce other than being a libertine, then bluntly, you either don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t care to, or both.

  69. Chris: ” I’m not trying to imply that people should stay in loveless or abusive marriages. What i’m suggesting is that we move away from a system that encourages divorce by allowing the party instigating the divorce to not have a tangible reason for divorce”

    Because love is… tangible?

    You don’t want people to stay in a loveless marriage, but you think they should stay married unless they have some tangible reason??? What sort of tangible test do you run to determine that a marriage is loveless? EKG of the heart?

    Wow.

  70. “Cohabitation, in my mind, is not a good platform to rest a good marriage, simply because, from a guy’s point of view, cohabitation gives guys what they want (sex and somebody to split the bills with) without actually having to legally commit to that person they are living with.”

    Citation needed, please. Not all men focus primarily on getting sex out of a relationship. This premise rests on the frustratingly cliched, sexist assumption that what men want most out of a relationship with women is sex and that women are willing to trade sex for security, which itself rests on outdated notions about gender essentialism.

    Also, it assumes that naturally what everyone wants out of cohabitation *IS* marriage and that in couples who live together without being married, it must be due to the man not committing and the woman being disappointed. Plenty of couples are happy to cohabit together in a long-term, committed relationship without being married. Also, getting married isn’t always immediately easy – there are plenty of reasons a couple who would like to get married can’t. I can’t imagine why you would want to make it more difficult for people who are already committed to each other to live together if they’re already planning to get married but are prevented by various circumstances just because you think unmarried couples shouldn’t live together.

    ” I’m 35 and getting for the first and (hopefully) only time to my fiancee, whom I’ve dated for 7 years without living with her. I think its perfectly feasible and better for the health of a relationship to not live together if at all possible before getting married.”

    I offer my sincere congratulations and the wish that this is indeed the marriage that will last for your lifetime. I myself have been with my husband for a pretty damn awesome 10 years total (married for 5 this summer). We moved in together after dating for about a year and a half, for various reasons – it made financial sense, it cut down on the time we spent commuting from one place to another, and although we both expressed the desire for our relationship to result in marriage, we both preferred to see how well we could actually work together sharing living space, finances and all the little and big considerations and compromises that come with cohabitation, before making the leap to marriage. In short, we cohabited together for several years before getting married *because we believed very deeply in marriage as a (hopefully) lifetime commitment and did not want to make that commitment until we were sure.*

    Apparently not cohabiting before marriage works for you (and I have a couple of close friends who also did not cohabit before marriage and are quite happy in their marriages as well). Cohabiting for myself and my husband, however, worked quite well, as it has for many, many couples we know who are enjoying long and happy marriages. So while I am glad that your choice seems to work for you, I would please ask that you consider how much YOUR experience is creating a bias in this issue. Note that I have not once said that not cohabiting before getting married is bad for a marriage, even though that is not the path that worked for me. You, however, are not exchanging the same courtesy.

  71. @Christopher: Cohabitation, in my mind, is not a good platform to rest a good marriage, simply because, from a guy’s point of view, cohabitation gives guys what they want (sex and somebody to split the bills with) without actually having to legally commit to that person they are living with.

    I think my wife was pretty happy with the idea of easily available sex and someone to split the bills too.

    Honestly, I’m trying hard to think of a couple that I know well that did not cohabitate before marriage. I think that for every single wedding I’ve ever attended (including my own) the couple were actively engaged in cohabitage (I’m pretty sure that my parents lived together before getting married, but I’d rather not think about that too hard). Not all of those marriages survived, it’s true, but that’s hardly unusual.

    It is true that you don’t necessarily marry the person with whom you are living, but that’s really not very different from saying that you don’t necessarily marry every serious bf/gf you have.

    I’m not saying that living together before marriage is a great idea for everyone and guarantees wedded bliss (because it isn’t and it doesn’t), but it’s worked out pretty well for nearly everyone I know.

  72. @DC Spartan – it wasn’t that King & Spalding started “feeling the heat”. It was that Clement agreed to take the case without fully vetting it with the firm first. King & Spalding was very hesitant to represent his client because a) it would piss off their other clients and b) because there were a lot of questionable provisions in the agreement. For example, what if K&S had a gay paralegal? Would he be forbidden from criticizing DOMA because the firm was fighting to preserve it for their client?

    The speed with which Clement jumped to another, less progressive firm makes me personally suspicious that he was either planning the move well ahead of the DOMA flap, or that the new firm simply offered him a lot more money. I don’t have any inside information that this is the case, mind.

  73. “It is my opinion that some of the above commenters who ridicule the notion of discouraging no-fault divorce and cohabitation are of the “If it feels good, do it and worry about the consequences later” mindset. Marriage, in my mind, is a responsibility that takes alot of work and dedication, not a right. Call me old fashioned or a dinosaur, I simply think society today looks at marriage as a right and not as a institutional pillar that, treated respectfully and thoughtfully, supports and nutures a healthy and stable society.”

    Because if we’re ok with divorce and cohabitation before marriage, clearly we’re not taking it seriously enough for you. You do realize how condescending and insulting that sounds right? Support for no-fault divorce and cohabitation before marriage can also come from a place in which one DEEPLY RESPECTS THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE. As I said in my previous comment, my husband and I cohabited because we respect how much of a commitment marriage is and did not want to go into it with a cavalier attitude. Because we know how much work and dedication goes into a marriage, because we believe that marriage supports and nurtures a healthy and stable society, we lived together first to reasonably make sure we were going to work before getting married.

    Divorce can similarly be a boon to the institution of marriage – because it is something that one should treat respectfully and thoughtfully, it’s not something that should be maintained just for its own sake if the people involved no longer respect or love each other enough to be married. Whether it’s no-fault divorce or divorce for whatever other reason, you have no right to judge what is and is not a “good reason” for a divorce to occur, nor do you have any right to assume people who get divorced did not think about the consequences of marriage, did not respect it and/or did not put work and dedication into an ultimately failed marriage.

    You are making insulting assumptions about people based on the fact that they approach marriage in a different way than you. Please stop and reconsider.

    Also, I think that it’s worth pointing out that it’s partly because marriage is “a institutional pillar that, treated respectfully and thoughtfully, supports and nurtures a healthy and stable society” that gay couples WANT to be married – they belong to the same culture as heterosexual people, they’ve absorbed the same cultural messages telling us that marriage is a wonderful institution that people should desire to be a part of. Why shouldn’t loving gay couples wish to participate in and have their partnerships contribute to this lauded institution?

  74. Christorpher: I’m somewhat curious what you mean by cohabitation. Does this mean maintaining separate residences, but beds are frequently shared? Is this meant to be a euphemism for no sex? If someone stayed over three nights a week, and then three nights a week at the other’s place does that count as not cohabitating since each party has their own space?

  75. From over at Balloon Juice, “It just occurred to me that not only is President Obama the first President to support gay marriage, he is also the first Muslim world leader to come out in support of gay marriage.”

  76. Whether it’s no-fault divorce or divorce for whatever other reason

    “No-fault” does not mean “for no reason”. No-fault divorce means that the person seeking the divorce does not have to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there is a specific reason (such as adultery) that the marriage should be ended.

    So if A finds out that his wife, B, has been consorting with women of low moral character every time she goes on a business trip, he can divorce her without having to offer evidence in court of her adultery. He can just get a divorce from her. In the absence of “no-fault divorce”, A would need to gather photographs, receipts, witness statements, or other evidence to prove that B was screwing around and thus caused the end of the marriage. Of course, B would also have the opportunity to contest A’s proof. And if B were careful enough to cover her tracks, A might be stuck with her.

    Also, c’mon, the position that this is some kind of horse trade where “we” only get same-sex marriage if “they” get to end no-fault divorce is asinine.

  77. the position that this is some kind of horse trade where “we” only get same-sex marriage if “they” get to end no-fault divorce is asinine.

    I was thinking the same thing. I’m not sure why Christopher thinks one has anything to do with the other.

    Does he think people seeking same-sex marriage will balk, as in “Oh, well, if I have to stay married then nevermind”?

    Is he suggesting that we should “strengthen” marriage in some other way when approving same-sex marriage, implying that same-sex marriage “weakens” the institution.

    Or is he tangentially tying in a pet cause of his own, and thus changing the subject?

  78. Mythago,

    I think in your haste and eagerness to disagree with me, you completely skipped over the second paragraph of my reply;

    “I’m not suggesting that people can discover that years in their marriage, they have nothing in common or don’t see eye to eye on what is important in the relationship and therefore it is better to end the marriage and move on, but I feel that some of the people filing for divorce use the no-fault provision as cover for their real reasons for divorce, like boredom or desire to get involved with somebody else they find more attractive, etc. If they want to file for divorce because of these issues, that’s their perogative, but they should at least have the balls to admit in divorce proceedings those issues.”

    There is nothing in there that suggests I want to make it nigh impossible for people who have spouses who abuse them or cheat on them to divorce their spouse. I believe that most states now allow for abused/cheated spouses to make a simple presentation of fact to a judge, who can then grant the divorce without allowing the other party to contest the divorce or otherwise drag out the proceedings. Nor am I against a couple that mutually agrees to get divorced after trying to make the marriage work and finding that their marriage is no longer functional.

    What I do think needs to be changed is the provision in no-fault divorce law that prevents an avenue for contesting the divorce in cases where there are no allegations of abuse/cheating or mutual agreement that the marriage is irretrievably broken. I think that aspect of no fault divorce cheapens the marriage contract and the institution of marriage. My feeling is that those who leave a marriage simply because they are bored with their spouse or because they want to hook up with somebody they find more attractive, wealthier, etc need to be held to a higher standard in explaining why they should be granted a divorce. If they have to suffer embarrassment and mortification of what people think of them because their reasons for leaving their spouse are vain,superficial and self-serving, then maybe in the future they might ask themselves if they are getting married for the right reasons.

  79. “I think that aspect of no fault divorce cheapens the marriage contract and the institution of marriage.”

    And I think that making it harder for people who want to get divorced for whatever reason isn’t going to do anything to prevent people from getting divorced if they really want to, so why throw up that barrier to begin with? Frankly, making people stay in marriages just because their reasons for wanting a divorce don’t measure up to your personal standards cheapens the institution of marriage by making it a cage, not to mention it’s just plain cruel.

    “My feeling is that those who leave a marriage simply because they are bored with their spouse or because they want to hook up with somebody they find more attractive, wealthier, etc need to be held to a higher standard in explaining why they should be granted a divorce. If they have to suffer embarrassment and mortification of what people think of them because their reasons for leaving their spouse are vain,superficial and self-serving, then maybe in the future they might ask themselves if they are getting married for the right reasons.”

    Again, who made you arbiter of what’s an acceptable reason to get a divorce or not? You’re perfectly within your rights to think that divorce because one partner is tired sexually of the relationship is petty and superficial, but saying that because you feel that way, that’s the standard that should be applied to ALL divorces is just plain self-centered.

  80. @ OtherBill; to me, cohabitation means living together 24/7 with no agreement or timeline on marriage. And it isn’t a euphemism is for no sex with your partner. Otherwise, I’d be going to hell in a hand basket :P My fiancee currently lives in another state and I’ve flown out to stay with her for awhile and vice versa.

    Like I argued in my previous post, my feeling is that we as a society are gravitating towards a view of marriage where it is a right, not a responsibility that takes a lot of work and effort. My view is we are moving towards a direction where monogamy and commitment in a relationship, be it heterosexual or homosexual, isn’t as valued as it should be. I simply feel that the effort involved in dissolving a marriage that is not abusive or mutually agreed to be broken is easier than going through bankruptcy is quite telling.

  81. @Christopher, indeed I read your second paragraph, which does not salvage your argument. I thought my reply to you addressed it in context, but I’ll be happy to discuss it specifically.

    If A has been bored with B for years, under a fault-based scheme should he be required to get up and say “Your Honor, officially the reason I’m divorcing B is that she had a fling – but really, I’m just relieved to have an excuse to dump her?” Under a no-fault scheme, do you really think it helps children to hear their father announce, in open court, that he’s leaving their mother for somebody younger and hotter? Your belief that this will shame such people seems awfully wishful. It does nothing to the shameless, or to those who think that their reasons were justifiable (“I wouldn’t have run off with the pool boy if he’d bothered to keep up his appearance”), and it also completely ignores the was in which people tell themselves that THIS time, things will be different. Other than a warm, fuzzy feeling at the idea of potential public shaming, with no thought to what it does to the other spouse or the children involved?

    A divorce is a lawsuit. That means the other party can contest it; it’s just less likely to be successful when the grounds are something like ‘the objects of the marriage are irretrievably broken’.

    I believe that most states now allow for abused/cheated spouses to make a simple presentation of fact to a judge, who can then grant the divorce without allowing the other party to contest the divorce or otherwise drag out the proceedings.

    On what do you base this belief, please? You’re claiming that “most states” permit fault-based divorce where one party can file for divorce, allege some evidence of abuse, and the other spouse is not allowed to argue against it? I believe that either you are gravely mistaken, or that what you are describing is in fact no-fault divorce where the divorcing spouse seeks a protective order.

  82. Christopher: If you were in a marriage and your wife turned into a vain, superficial self serving woman seeking a divorce so she could glom on to someone more starbound or starborn…why would you want to stay in this marriage?

    What you’re saying is that if the marriage is working for one person, the other is obligated to accept public shame for being so self serving as to not appreciate the marriage is still working for the one being divorced. This seems like a lose/lose situation to me.

  83. @ The Pint, is the institution of marriage stronger or meaningless when you can walk out of a marriage for superficial reasons? Is it really a stronger institution when you can easily dissolve a marriage to chase after a trophy wife, etc?

  84. Christopher Shaffer:
    Who really gives a crap whether the “institution” of marriage is strong?

    You’re giving us philosophy, not reason.

  85. @ Other Bill; I’m not saying that could happen (knock on wood) but one of the reasons we’ve waited so long was to get to know each other really well.

  86. Christopher: “I think that aspect of no fault divorce cheapens the marriage contract”

    “Cheapen”? Oh good lord.

    I feel compelled to point out that no where in any of your posts do you refer to any sort of actual statistical data about the causes of divorce, the divorce rates where “no fault” is available and where it is not, or anything of any measurable objective value.

    In other words, “cheapen” is cover for “because I don’t like this” rather than for something like “because this can be shown to make matters worse”.

  87. And it isn’t a euphemism is for no sex with your partner. Otherwise, I’d be going to hell in a hand basket :P

    You do realize that, just as you believe that cohabitation is a poor platform on which to rest a marriage, many people strongly believe that premarital sex is a poor platform on which to rest a marriage? As you yourself point out, cohabitation means getting sex and sharing bills without the commitment. With premarital sex, you’re doing one better, aren’t you? You’re getting the sex, but you’re not having to assume anyone else’s financial obligations. It seems very strange to draw the line of Marriage Is Srs Busness right outside your own toes, and to call anyone else outside the line a libertine who thinks marriage is disposable.

    I realize we’re getting on quite a tangent here, but coming full circle, the people who are claiming to be about “preserving marriage” and “traditional marriage” are in fact not doing so. They’re going after an entirely orthogonal issue (same-sex couples) that affects a very small number of marriages at all, rather than spending millions of dollars and uncounted work hours on restoring fault-based divorce, or strengthening family support services (private, if you don’t like government getting involved), or making it more difficult to get married in the first place.

    I am not the first person who suspects that social conservatives go after same-sex couples for the same reason Dillinger robbed banks.

  88. Christopher: Just to be clear, I wasn’t intending any commentary on your actual marriage. Just pointing out that should hypothetical you find yourself in the position you describe, you necessarily won’t have seen it coming. And at that point, marriage is a lose/lose proposition.

  89. I’m kind of wondering how the Institution of Marriage is threatened by divorce as well. No one else’s marriage is weakened by the ending of another.

  90. I really do wonder if marriage is cheapened by no-fault divorces, verses the steaming mess of locking miserable people together. I took the option of a no-fault divorce because there really didn’t seem much of a point in drawing it out into a ‘she was a vain, superficious, cheating bitch’ fight in court. I mean really? Did we cheapen marriage? At all?

  91. I believe you are conflating the institution of marriage with the participants. It’s like saying scientific discoveries are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. The uses to which they are put may be beneficial or poor; just as the discovery of nuclear power gave us both atomic weapons and nuclear power reactors, a celebrity marriage that is shorter than a mortgage rate lock has and should have no effect on a marriage entered into “discreetly, soberly, advisedly, and with God’s blessing” (last part optional). If a same sex marriage has a bad effect on a ‘conventional’ marriage, maybe the person with the threatened marriage should be reevaluating that bond.

  92. @Ron, the theory is that people won’t take marriage seriously if they don’t have to crawl across broken glass to get out of one. This also dovetails neatly with the abundant use of words like “casual” and “frivolous” to describe behavior occurring outside of one’s own comfort zone.

    Some of us think it cheapens marriage to make it an institution that people only participate in because they can’t get out of it. That’s like saying high-school students value algebra because it’s not an elective.

    And while I certainly don’t believe Christopher holds this view, it does seem odd that many people who complain about same-sex couples devaluing marriage have never given a thought to what those folks will do if they can’t marry.

  93. @ Christopher – I think Other Bill said it just fine: “If you were in a marriage and your wife turned into a vain, superficial self serving woman seeking a divorce so she could glom on to someone more starbound or starborn…why would you want to stay in this marriage?

    What you’re saying is that if the marriage is working for one person, the other is obligated to accept public shame for being so self serving as to not appreciate the marriage is still working for the one being divorced. This seems like a lose/lose situation to me.”

    Divorce is what allows marriages that are no longer working to be dissolved. It’s a release valve that ultimately allows for the marriages that remain to be marriages based on the principles you’re claiming to value: love and commitment. Forcing people to stay married any longer than they wish to be is what ultimately cheapens the institution because it turns marriage from a mutually-agreed upon, loving commitment into a cage. I heartily agree with Ron Mitchell’s statement: “No one else’s marriage is weakened by the ending of another.” If a marriage can be so easily weakened merely due to the availability of divorce, then it wasn’t a particularly strong marriage to begin with.

    And you’re still exhibiting the belief that people who get divorced are doing so because they’re “not taking marriage as seriously,” which might apply to some people who get divorced, but certainly not all, and it’s insulting toward people who did take their marriages seriously and for whom divorce was not the desired outcome of a commitment made in good faith and who worked hard to fix whatever the problem was before opting for a divorce.

    “Like I argued in my previous post, my feeling is that we as a society are gravitating towards a view of marriage where it is a right, not a responsibility that takes a lot of work and effort.”

    The two are not mutually exclusive. Marriage *is* a right that should be available to all who wish to utilize it and it *is* a responsibility that can take work and effort.

    “My view is we are moving towards a direction where monogamy and commitment in a relationship, be it heterosexual or homosexual, isn’t as valued as it should be.”

    If you’re lamenting that monogamy and commitment are no longer being put on a pedestal as the only valid forms of relationships that mutually consenting adults can engage in, then I really don’t know what to say to you other than I’m sorry your perception of the myriad forms that adults can be in committed, loving relationships is so limited.

    “I simply feel that the effort involved in dissolving a marriage that is not abusive or mutually agreed to be broken is easier than going through bankruptcy is quite telling.”

    And I think it’s quite telling that you’re not including pre-marital sex in your list of things that are “weakening the institution of marriage”, seeing as how you’ve admitted that’s one activity you’ve had no problem with.

    As others have noted, I have seen nothing from you other than personal philosophical stances waxing nostalgically for the “good old days” when “marriage was taken more seriously” about why divorce should be made more difficult, and cohabitation discouraged (you seem to have dropped the “less children out of wedlock” line, so I hope that at least you’re considering that single parent/unmarried parent families aren’t something to be lamented). You have given no proof that cohabitation or divorce “cheapens” marriage beyond pearl-clutching sentiments over the fact that not everyone has approached marriage via the same route as yourself. Your whole argument amounts to “Why should we have lifeguards at a swimming pool? Won’t that encourage people to not develop their ability to swim sufficiently because they know they’ll be rescued if they falter? Better to take the guards away – that’ll make sure people learn how to swim before they get in the water and then they’ll take it more seriously.”

  94. Oh I know Mythago. I was being a bit dim for sarcastic effect. I recognize the taste of the koolaid and the shape of the box people tried to put my thoughts in when I was a kid. I broke out of it as I got older. But some folks embrace it and judge others by it.
    Christopher –
    Ther are lots of reasons people get divorced. There are lots of reasons people do anything. Ascribing generalized shallow motives to people’s behavior does not strengthen your position. Divorce only affects the parties involved. The divorce rate doesn’t make it any more or less likely that any other marriage will end.
    You say living together is detrimental to marriage. Not any more or less than not living together. You suggest that men only want regular sex from a relationship. You don’t seem to, so why tar tje rest of us with that brush. I won’t deny there are men like that. But they also seem to like as many partners as possible. I’m not even going to say there aren’t men who haven’t moved in with a eoman just for regular sex. But are you starting to see the problem with generalization?
    People are varied and messy and wonderful and occasionally shitty to each other and different and lots of other things, but ultimately beautiful. Our differences make us this way, and should be embraced not decried by fear of those differences. And to bring this back to topic, I’m glad Obama came out and affirmed what we all knew he believed. I wish more politicians would.

  95. Ahhh, but you have to admit the subject is a nice little diversion from the very real failures of obama.

  96. whatever indeed: Yes. And at the present burn rate, Obama need only take another 100 ground breaking positions to keep everyone sufficiently distracted until the election. He’s got you right where he wants you.

  97. Mythago: As you yourself point out, cohabitation means getting sex and sharing bills without the commitment.

    I rarely disagree with you, but feel compelled to note that cohabitation does not require sex, nor a lack of commitment. My husband and I moved in together about two years before we got married. We had decided long ago to marry, but per my religious beliefs our cohabiting relationship was that of roommates, separate bedrooms and all. (Our wedding gift to ourselves was a bed that would actually hold us both, which the house did not previously have.) This wasn’t without its comical aspects; when he told his parents he was buying a house and I’d be moving in as a mortgage helper, they were concerned that he was asking me to contribute too much to the mortgage cost, as I might decide it was too expensive and move out. They didn’t want to acknowledge that we were in a serious relationship, you see, and that as such I had significant incentives besides the financial one to stay where I was.

    I know that we’re outside of the norm in this regard, just wanted to put it out there. Christopher makes it clear that while he equates cohabitation with sex and sharing bills and disapproves of it, but considers it acceptable to avail himself of the free sex; we availed ourselves of the sharing expenses but sex was not an option. Apparently it’s the sharing expenses part that is the threat to marriage, in his view. I’ll be sure to inform my husband.

    (Yes, I know, he also “explained” to Other Bill that cohabitation = no intention to marry, or no specific timeline on marriage. Probably if his original comment had been limited to that rather than the assumed corollaries this subthread would have been shorter.)

  98. I am trying to think of a single person I know who got married, who would have NOT gotten married because divorce laws were different. I can’t think of any.

    This “Let’s make divorce painful” is nothing but the same thinking used to justify corporeal punishment. If we would just stop coddlying those damn criminals, then they’d stop being criminals. Cut off the hands of thieves. Stone the adulterers. hang murderers and horse thieves.

    It is offered as “logic”, but is really nothing more than the “sounds like a good idea to me, why bother researching actual real world data”.

    Because the data shows this is garbage logic.

  99. Robin, I actually agree with you. Definitely, we need to discourage would-be cohabiters from living together, and instead encourage them restrict their activity to fornication! Clearly, no man will buy the cow when he can pay half of the mortgage on the barn.

  100. @Christopher: You “…don’t give a crap about what people do in the privacy of their bedroom, much less on whom is marrying whom…” But you don’t want people cohabiting before they’re married, or getting divorce without proving to you that they have “tangible” reasons for doing so.

    Wow. Imagine how extreme you’d be if you actually gave a crap.

  101. Um, where does this leave the hundreds of college students who find people they like and can trust to cough up rent on a regular basis to share a house? I can guarantee that a. not all of them sleep together or intend to get married and b. there are a lot of co-ed households around university campuses. Mine was, and none of my SOs lived in the same house as I did.

  102. Mythago, LOL. I knew you’d have a better and funnier way to put it than my grammatically-flawed version. (“while…, but…”, argh. Preview didn’t help.)

  103. All kudos to Obama for being the first sitting President of the United States to openly support same-sex marriage. Kudos also to those who helped him evolve. Kudos to those of you who agree. And kudos to those who helped you evolve, too.

    (If you were simply born with your political opinions, you get NO kudos, because you really didn’t do anything, did you, you lucky dog?)

  104. The reasons against cohabitation from Shaffer are laughable and based only on religious beliefs and/or old fashioned sentiment. If two people care about each other and want to live together they shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of nonsense, regardless of whether they are splitting the bills, planning to get married, or having crazy sinful unmarried sex all day long. There is no better way to truly get to know someone than living with them.

  105. There’s an old “studies show” factoid about people who cohabit before marriage being much more likely to divorce, which sometimes gets used to claim that cohabiting first will kill your marriage. My impression is that this correlation has not held up, adjusted for obvious confounding factors like the cohabiters having divorced before, etc.

  106. Wouldn’t it make more sense defend marriage to make it harder to frivolously get married than to make it harder to get divorced? I’m thinking of something like a traditional gantlet, where the participants to be run between two lines of heavily armed people, all of whom do their best to cripple or kill the would-be spouses – in the old days this would involve clubs but in keeping with the American venue I advocate moving up to Browning M1917s or rows of MOABs – on the grounds that if, say, there was a 90 to 100% chance of serious injury or death I am certain only those who are completely serious about marriage would ever try such a thing.

    Alternatively, some sort of rigorous testing system such as was used in the Chinese Imperial examinations; if it is set up so that only 5% or so of applicants pass, we can be certain only the elite will have access to marriage, protecting it from being sullied by inferior sorts of people.

  107. Also it occurs to me many marriages whose existance undermines the dignity of marriage are allowed to persist because for some reason the decision to remain married is left up to the spouses rather than some dispassionate representative of society in general. I suggest regular examininations by some appropriate authority to show why a marriage should be allowed to continue. The TSA has lots of experience dealing with the public but there’s a lot to be said for having this handled by the IRS, since marriage affects tax returns.

    (Torn between manditory divorce or the death penalty. I have to lean towards the second as the first would only inflate divorce stats for the US and nobody wants that).

  108. James that isn’t even a slippery slope. That’s throwing marriage off a cliff. It’s so rife with potential corruption that I wouldn’t be surprised to see some legislator propose it someday. Can’t you just see the trails of dust from the parents racing to bribe the officials so their kids don’t make “a huge mistake.”
    Well done with the morning chuckles James.

  109. If I have to render the US a radioactive, lifeless wasteland to protect the institution of marriage there, it is a sacrifice I am willing to have Americans make.

  110. TheMadLibrarian, since most jurisdictions don’t recognize common law marriage, and since even when they did, they only recognized it if the members held themselves out as married, the “college roommate” scenario isn’t actually a problem.

  111. Just dropped in to say I literally LedOL at Other Bill’s: “And at the present burn rate, Obama need only take another 100 ground breaking positions to keep everyone sufficiently distracted until the election. He’s got you right where he wants you.”

    I’m glad I caught it because usually when these kinds of threads get this long, I just skip ahead to mythago’s comments.

  112. Scorpius: I’m sorry? Did you just say that Barack Obama, the current US president who is, ideologically-speaking, generally to the right of Ronald Reagan, turned into a “bitter, far-left extremist”? When did this happen? I must have been ill that day.

    Christopher Shaffer: I’ve been cohabiting with my partner now for fifteen years. He and I have remained together through two interstate re-locations (across Australia), numerous episodes of moving house, good financial times, bad financial times, sickness, health, better, worse, and for all I know we may well still be together when death finally gets a word in edgeways. We’re regarded as being effectively married by Australian law (have been for the last eight years or thereabouts). But neither of us have seen any need to actually go through the whole fuss and bother of a marriage.

    I’ll be honest – I chose not to get married because I don’t want to wind up having to divorce. One of the neat little psychological quirks that both he and I share is that we don’t like being boxed in. I’m perfectly happy living with him as a common-law spouse because I know that should I get sufficiently irritated and fed up, I can always leave. He’s happy living with me because I’m not attempting to tie him down in the one spot. We don’t have kids (mutual choice) and we still maintain our finances separately. We still love one another, and we still choose to remain with each other. In many ways, we renew our nonexistent vows each time we decide not to “go home to mother”.

    I should point out – my mother’s paternal grandparents never divorced (they were Christadelphian, their faith wouldn’t allow it). But my great-grandmother lived with one of their adult sons at one end of the country town they inhabited, while my great-grandfather lived with another of their adult sons up at the other end of town. According to Mum, the explanation was that while he loved his wife, he couldn’t live with her. (Which didn’t do much for my opinion of marriage, either – it’s one of the factors in my choosing to remain unmarried).

  113. Some folks really ought to get out of the basement and meet some REAL bitter, far-left extremists.

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