Brief Remarks on Bigotry

Doug Mataconis looks to the definition of a bigot to show that the word does not accurately characterize all opponents of same-sex marriage.  He is correct. Bigotry involves obstinate devotion to one’s hatred and intolerance of members of a group.  It’s focused on people.

If I were to say that the State has an interest in upholding the institution of life-long monogamous relationships ordered toward procreation, I would be speaking of an institution, of a convention, and not directly of people, so the statement itself, taken on its own, would not be bigoted.  Of course, saying such a thing and working to institutionalize it in public policy affects people, the lives they live and want to live, the families they have and want to have, so there are grounds on which you could call this particular opposition to same-sex marriage bigoted.

If my reason for seeking enshrinement of this meaning of marriage in law were to arise from hatred and intolerance of gay people and same-sex couples, the, yes, you could justly accuse me of bigotry.  However, if my reasoning were to do with, say, a belief or conclusion that marriage as defined this way is better overall for society, and were to be free of hatred and intolerance, then my opposition would not be bigoted.

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is a freelance writer who blogs about culture, philosophy, politics, postmodernism, and religion. He is a contributor to the group Catholic blog Vox Nova. Kyle lives with his wife, son, and daughter in North Texas. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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121 Responses

  1. Ryan Noonan says:

    This has always struck me as distinction without a difference.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      How so? Whether my views on marriage are full or free of hatred seems a pretty big difference.

      • Ryan Noonan says:

        Sorry. My use of that term was somewhat inexact. What I mean is there’s no such thing as opposition to same-sex marriage that isn’t motivated by distaste for the fact that the people involved are gay. Maybe what I wanted was “contradiction in terms”.

        • Tom Van Dyke says:

          I’m bigoted against abortion, I admit it. Call me pisher.

          The “b” word is complete sophistry in this discussion: anyone who opposes gay marriage [or abortion] is quite aware of what they’re opposing, so there is no “unreasonable” ignorance in play. Neither is there animus against the persons involved; everybody’s familiar with “hate the sin love the sinner.”

          You got yr Rev. Fred ‘God Hates Fags’ Phelps, but I betcha most gay marriage opponents hate that jerk, not gay people.

          • b-psycho says:

            Ignorance? No. I’m willing to accept that people can know about a trait of others and not like it, people are entitled to their tastes.

            But there is, and can’t help but be, an element of un-reason, as faith by definition isn’t based on logical proof. That someone has an aversion to same-sex relationships due to their religious beliefs means exactly what it is, that their aversion is due to their religious beliefs, nothing less but also nothing more. Were I to ask someone with that belief “why?”, it wouldn’t even be from the same playing field, since my own view comes from asking myself what reason I have to give a fish.

            As for Ratzinger, his point of view there sounds like it veers to blaming gays for what virulently anti-gay folks do to them. I’m actually surprised you’d cite it since you’re nowhere near that type. Imagine if I were to back up a point of mine by quoting an actual “bomb-throwing anarchist”…

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Pls reread, Mr. Psycho. The distinction between person and conduct, between sin and sinner [if we must] is key here.

            As for the definition of a bigot as “person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices,” that door swings both ways in the gay marriage debate and is for practical purposes useless. And since “obstinate” and “intolerant” are pejoratives, even our mutually-agreed upon heroes like Mr. Lincoln cannot survive such rhetorical brutality.

            As for your judgment [is it fair to say rejection?] of religious faith, there is an entire line of reason called “natural law,” which argues that reason and revelation agree, since both are truth and truth cannot contradict truth. America was founded on the concept of natural law if not explicitly Biblical principles, and the philosophy traces back to at least Aristotle. [See Plato’s featured appearance in Romer v. Evans.]


            Which is a long way of saying that although there are many persons of faith who aren’t cool with gay issues, and although they can articulate their positions only in terms of the Bible, they would agree with the “natural law” arguments via reason for their position.

            The old “Adam and Steve” cliche works just as fine as shorthand for the natural law argument as it does for the scriptural one, that the differences between the genders are real and necessary, and not fungible as though they are just social constructs. It is on the basis of gender distinctions per mothers and fathers that is the legitimate heart of the opposition to gay marriage, not the sexual conduct part.

            Indeed in your own words elsewhere

            This is why my response tends to be “no, the state does not have an interest, not a legitimate one anyway”

            a principled agreement is that the state has no compelling interest in sodomy [banning it], only in the type of sex that makes babies [formalizing it as marriage so the baby has both parents to raise it, a theoretical plus for the baby by all statistical measures].

            As a matter of policy, one might argue that gay marriage will be good for society, but that proposition is not self-evident at this time. [Nor is it self-evident it would be bad.]

            Kyle’s argument is this:

            If my reason for seeking enshrinement of this meaning of marriage in law were to arise from hatred and intolerance of gay people and same-sex couples, the, yes, you could justly accuse me of bigotry. However, if my reasoning were to do with, say, a belief or conclusion that marriage as defined this way is better overall for society, and were to be free of hatred and intolerance, then my opposition would not be bigoted..

            We can stipulate that some people oppose gay marriage for “unreasonable” [read: religious] reasons. Some oppose it for emotional reasons. And so forth.

            Many people agree with your political opinions for unreasonable, emotional reasons, but this has absolutely nothing to do with the value and validity of your positions, which we assume for the sake of argument and felicitude are all reasonable and philosophically disinterested.

            All the idiots, sophists and h8ers who agree with you don’t make you the slightest bit wrong. And some folks might have valid reasons but that can’t articulate them very well doesn’t mean they’re wrong. And sometimes the human heart has perfectly valid stuff in it that the mind just can’t put into words.

            This is where I kind of fall off with the literalists and those who place their faith in pure reason, but that’s another story. Truth is more than our poor ability to put it into words.

          • Ryan Noonan says:

            The distinction between sin and sinner is the real sophistry here. But you manifestly don’t know what the word means, so this is pointless.

            Your constant recourse to “natural law” is pure question-begging. One day you might actually argue for a position instead of simply asserting the conclusion as your premise, but I won’t hold my breath.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            The argument is not that the “natural law” position is true, only that it’s valid and reasonable, and not the product of mere ignorance and “bigotry.”

            And of course drawing a distinction between the person and his conduct is key here, and is no sophistry.

            What I mean is there’s no such thing as opposition to same-sex marriage that isn’t motivated by distaste for the fact that the people involved are gay.

            Ok. There’s not really much that can be discussed about this unprovable [and wrong] assertion. You’ve had your say, dropped your H-bomb, scorched the earth. Peace.

          • James Hanley says:

            Neither is there animus against the persons involved; everybody’s familiar with “hate the sin love the sinner.”

            My experience growing up in a conservative evangelical church and attending its college was that these words were often little more than a magic incantation, a way of persuading oneself that you don’t really hate the sinner, a persuasion that was necessary because it was in fact untrue.

            That does not apply to everyone, and I categorically do not suggest it applies to TVD. But it applies to a great number of Christians I have known.

          • Jaybird says:

            My problem is that the legal system is not able to bestow a status of “really married” on anybody. All it can do is provide a handful of legal protections to a couple of people.

            The question of “gay marriage” is not one of whether gay dudes can “really” get married but whether this handful of legal protections should apply to their relationship. “But they can sign contracts providing the same protections!”

            *GOOD*. So we agree that their relationship should not have these protections withheld from them. Swell. Wonderful. Let’s eat.

            When the time comes for them to be judged by God, I’m sure he’ll really tear into them.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Jaybird, use “accorded” instead of “withheld” and you have the other side of the issue. He who controls the words and framing of a debate usually wins, whoever plants their flag first.

            And again, these things usually leave the children out of it, and the con- side submits marriage is more about children than the sexual pleasure of the adults. Is it good for the children? To answer “no” or merely “we don’t know” is bigotry only in the eyes of those who tolerate no disagreement, who declare any opposition to be unreasonable, ignorant, blahblah woofwoof.

            To return to the OP.

          • Morat20 says:

            I’m curious how that squares with the reality that a number of Christian denominations happily marry gays, whether or not the government grants a marriage license. And some have done so for quite some time.

            I’m sure you can claim they’re wrong, theologically, to do so. But they’ll say the same about you. So that gets us nowhere.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            If that’s @ me, Mr. Morat, I really don’t take sides in these intramural Protestant squabbles. They represent only 1/3 of Christianity, and with 30,000 sects, any scorecard is obsolete as soon as it’s printed.

            If & when I do address these things, it’s at arm’s length, and in far less adversarial fora.

          • James Hanley says:

            the con- side submits marriage is more about children than the sexual pleasure of the adults.

            Oh, snap, the guy who says, “He who controls the words and framing of a debate usually wins, whoever plants their flag first,” tries to frame SSM as being just about teh gays’ sexual pleasure.

            At least he tipped us off to what he was about to do!

          • Jaybird says:

            Tom, marriage is about sexual pleasure in the same way that True Romance was an Elvis movie.

            Technically true, but it leaves out a whole bunch of other stuff.

            Insofar as marriage is like running a small non-profit, I think that the state has an interest in giving blessings to little stable couples. This is a case of giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s.

            If you and God wish to maintain that the gays aren’t *really* married, that’s cool. Feel free to withhold the whole “really” thing from them. I’m just talking about stuff like wills, hospital visitations, and tax rates.

            God can mete out justice for mocking what He made clear to us in His word after we die.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Jaybird, I’m not making a religious argument. You got the wrong guy. However, I do believe the Constitution allows people to vote their religious beliefs.

            Somewhere folks here got the impression I’m arguing against gay marriage. What I’m saying is that the arguments against gay marriage are valid, and disagree with efforts to dismiss them as mere bigotry.

            And I’ve also been saying, but it seems to have gone unnoticed, is that the arguments in favor of gay marriage are also valid. So let’s take a breath and a step back, and if there’s nothing else, I’ve had my say. Cooperstown is “excluding” me only in an insensible sense of the word.

          • Glyph says:

            I just want to chime and note that True Romance is also the best Tarantino movie.

            Technically true, but leaves out the fact that he didn’t direct.

            I just love True Romance.

          • Jaybird says:

            Tom, I *AM* making a religious argument. I think that the religions that allow gays to get married should not have the free exercise thereof abridged.

          • Morat20 says:

            But Tom, if you say government can’t recognize same-sex marriage, you have government interfering in religion.

            To one: Your criteria to marry two people is correct — but to the other, “your criteria to marry two people is incorrect”.

            Why is government validating one over the other? There are times and places where government can and does interfere with religion, but those (rightly) have very high barriers.

            Which leaves two choices: Government shouldn’t validate ANY marriages, or all of them — unless they violate one of those ‘high barrier’ reasons. Since the former is a non-starter….

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Mr. Morat, for the nth time, I’m not making a religious argument. I am saying that the state has no interest in “coupling” for its own sake, only the “couplings” that make babies.

            That the state does not test for fertility is a courtesy, and an exception, and it is bad logic to reason from the exceptions to the rule, that just because the state makes exceptions, there should be no rule.

          • Jaybird says:

            Non-religiously, I am saying that if the state has an interest with long-term monogamousish pairings whether or not The Children are produced.

            Religiously, I’m saying that religious marriages are overwhelmingly recognized and religious marriages between any two people ought to have the same handful of legal protections from the state’s intrusion as two differently sexed people would… because at the church that I drive past and tell Maribou that we should go there every once in a while before I think about how they’re likely to have tubes of tofu instead of, like, actual potlucks on Wednesday night, two adults who want to be equally yoked to each other are not only allowed but encouraged to marry and be On In God.

            And if they say that two dudes are joined together, I don’t feel like I have the competence to try to asunder them.

            And, as such, I think that it’d be a good thing for them to, you know, visit each other in the hospital without fear of a capricious person denying entry.

          • Chris says:

            the con- side submits marriage is more about children than the sexual pleasure of the adults.

            And here we find the game being given away.

          • Chris says:

            By the way, I’d suggest that those who argue that sex before marriage is a sin are the only people who think that marriage is about the sexual pleasure of adults. For the rest of us, marriage and sexual pleasure are orthogonal at best (hell, I’ve frequently been told they’re antithetical).

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            JB, the theology is “one flesh,” which maps to the “making babies” outside religion. As for hospital visits, etc., I don’t recall a lot of opposition to “civil unions” which accorded a lot of that stuff. Seems like a quaint term and obsolete concept about now, but was called the top of the slippery slope back in the day.

          • Jaybird says:

            Not at the Unitarian Church. They’re all “fusion of souls” and pouring two cups of sand into a common container.

            Which, sure, is hippie dippy touchy feely bullcrap.

            It’s less obviously bullcrap than the stuff that other religions are doing here in town, though. It’s certainly not bullcrap to the point where I think I need to pass laws saying that the religions that do this hippie dippy crap aren’t real religions and thus aren’t really having their first amendment rights violated when we start prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

          • Don Zeko says:

            You don’t recall a lot of opposition to civil unions? Well that’s a relief. For a minute there I thought that in fact most anti-Gay marriage ballot initiatives banned non-marriage substitutes as well.

          • Morat20 says:

            Which brings up the question of exactly what country Tom lives in, because it’s not America.

            Or else he’s got a real memory problem.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Civil unions is a different discussion but an interesting one. Mr. Zeko. It seems to me they do not have a parenting-child-family dimension, and so many of the arguments here do not apply.

            On the slippery slope front, however,


            the half-a-loaf civil unions are just one more form of anti-gay discrimination!

            So now marriage which was believed and taken for granted was between one man and one woman as the norm is being challenged as a discriminatory issue. In Judge Walker’s defense of same-sex marriage, his premises included that people who oppose same-sex marriages should be branded as bigots or he alluded to the language.

            Yesterday, on August 4th, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, Vaughn Walker, overturned Proposition 8, California’s voter-initiated ban on same-sex marriages. Judge Walker ruled the ban unconstitutional, saying that it “places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians.” Proposition 8, approved by voters during the Obama election, outlawed same-sex marriage but allow civil unions for same-sex couples. While California has been quite progressive within the history of the gay rights movement in America, the passage of Proposition 8 was a large step backwards for both the state and the country.

            So basically, the “civil unions” discussion is moot. Half-a-loaf and the slippery slope.

          • Jaybird says:

            One of the reasons I support gay marriage is because I do not see it as a slippery slope issue.

            I see it as clawing it’s way back up the slippery slope from the sloughs where marriage slid to in the hands of the boomers.

          • Don Zeko says:

            My understanding of that ruling was that Judge Walker went out of his way to limit it so that gay marriage would become legal in California, but not in the rest of the 9th circuit. That meant a ruling which held that basically, you don’t have to allow gay marriage, but once you do you can’t take it away. Still, what’s slippery about the slope is that Gay Marriage opponents are dying, changing their minds, or finding something else to get worked up about, not the logic of this or that legal position.

          • MikeSchilling says:

            For the rest of us, marriage and sexual pleasure are orthogonal at best (hell, I’ve frequently been told they’re antithetical).

            Which is why no one should favor gay marriage as much as the people who oppose gay sex.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Don, civil unions are inherently discriminatory per Judge Walker:

            “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.”

            “The availability of domestic partnership does not provide gays and lesbians with a status equivalent to marriage because the cultural meaning of marriage and its associated benefits are intentionally withheld from same-sex couples in domestic partnerships.”

            Italics are Walker’s. This is not about hospital visits. It’s about using the power of the state to change society, its culture, and its norms*.

            And most SSM supporters admit, damn right we are. Which is fine, but let’s just be clear about what’s going on here.

          • Fnord says:

            Mr. Van Dyke, there’s an argument that points out the “separate but equal” rarely works out to be equal in practice. That you can’t fully separate the cultural issues from the hospital visitation issues, because when it comes down to it, people are in charge of deciding hospital visitations, and “that’s my husband/wife” has rhetorical weight that “that’s my civil partner” doesn’t, because of the aforementioned cultural issues, and having to argue legalities when you want to visit your civil partner in the hospital is not equal.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Right, Fnord. Civil unions sit atop the slippery slope: you do not find them an acceptable solution. In fact, what started as a humane accommodation Judge Walker finds to be an unconstitutional insult.

          • sam wilkinson says:

            What’s humane about saying, “You’re not worth the same legal recognition as straight people.” And when were civil unions being supported by the people now against gay marriage?

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            Prop 8 itself for one, Sam, cited elsewhere in the thread.

            Without dismissing this thread’s ongoing nature

            I’m afraid you have, and are not up to speed. But things are getting a little ragged now, so perhaps we should call a close to a mostly exc discussion, and to all a good night.

      • GordonHide says:

        @Kyle Cupp
        If you transgress against your fellow man it matters not that your motives were pure. Your victim still suffers.

        Motives are important to judges and detectives. To the rest of us they might trigger forgiveness. To the victims of discrimination they mean little. It’s what you do that really counts not what you think.

  2. MikeSchilling says:

    If you were to say that there’s one correct way for people to live their lives, and you want to use whatever power you can amass to push everyone into that mold whether it fits them or not, would you be a bigot? Let’s ask Merriam-Webster:

    person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

    Clause 1 says “Yes”.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      The problem with limiting the meaning of bigotry to the first clause is that bigotry becomes synonymous with really, really opinionated.

      • MikeSchilling says:

        To me, that’s more or less what “bigoted” means — narrow-minded beyond all reason. For obvious historical reasons, in the U.S. a particular form of bigotry became the most common referent. The same thing happend with “prejudice”, which is a perfectly good description of the belief that art history majors must be too dumb to understand science.

        • Anne says:

          Amen! I had to pass O-chem to get into graduate school for an Art History major. so there!

          • MikeSchilling says:

            Bravo. (I was a math major, so I had no lab science requirement at all. And a good thing too.)

  3. Rodak says:

    Why don’t we discuss the definition with reference to Catholic-Protestant interaction?

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      Itching for a fight? 😉

    • Jaybird says:

      Maribou recently told me a “Canada in a nutshell” story by quoting someone who said:

      “My gramma there supports gay marriage, but she’d be scandalized if Catholics started marrying Protestants.”

      • greginak says:

        Great joke from Emo Phillips:

        Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

        He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

        He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

        Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

        • Rodak says:

          Yes, there is that.

        • MikeSchilling says:

          You know the joke about the Irishman who learned that during bad times his fiancee had had to make ends meet by becoming a lady of the evening. He swore he could never forgive such a thing until he realized she wasn’t saying she’d been a “Protestant.”

  4. Burt Likko says:

    However, if my reasoning were to do with, say, a belief or conclusion that marriage as defined this way is better overall for society, and were to be free of hatred and intolerance, then my opposition would not be bigoted.

    But given that bigotry itself has become socially unacceptable, the bigot is likely to mask his hatred and intolerance behind a veil of good-faith concern for society and its institutions. Opponents of interracial marriage frequently posted that some of their best friends were members of other ethnic groups, and their concern was that the children of such marriages would not be able to find acceptance in society since they wouldn’t know where they fit in. So in considering X’s opposition to same-sex marriage, how are we to know X’s stated concern for social institutions and the general welfare is sincere, as opposed to when it is merely a fa&#231ade?

    • Burt Likko says:

      Damn, that’s the second time in as many hours that my editing on this sub-blog has been poor. The last word of my comment ought to be “façade,” as in “facade” with the funny little squiggle down below the “c”.

    • MikeSchilling says:

      By checking for missing semicolons.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      So in considering X’s opposition to same-sex marriage, how are we to know X’s stated concern for social institutions and the general welfare is sincere, as opposed to when it is merely a façade?

      Good question. Hermeneutically-suspicious ol’ me says you can’t, not with certainty, not even if X refers to oneself. You have to do the best you can with the signs that are present and the arguments that are made.

    • Will Truman says:

      We don’t know. Should we therefore assume that it is always the case? It seems to me that, the more the argument is motivated by bigotry, the less other arguments they’re going to have. So it’s a built-in advantage for other side if you’re steering clear of the bigotry/counterbigotry arguments. Not always, but often.

    • DensityDuck says:

      Yes, it’s well-known that the worst kind of bigots are the ones who never express their bigotry in thought, word, or deed.

  5. Rodak says:

    On the question of rationales for opposition to same sex marriage, in order to express your opinion that same-sex marriage is injurious to the greater good of society in a non-bigoted way, you would need to be prepared to prove that assertion. If you can’t prove it, then you don’t have objective criteria and your opinion must therefore be subjective loathing cloaked in a faux disinterestedness.

    • Kyle Cupp says:

      You’d at least have to make an honest argument for it. Just because I’m unskilled at proving something doesn’t mean I’m a bigot. And just because I can make a sound argument doesn’t mean I’m not a bigot.

      • Rodak says:

        If you don’t have the data before you voice the opinion, then it is emotional/bigoted, necessarily.

        • Trumwill says:

          In which case, pretty much everybody’s guilty. Nobody fact-checks every argument before they make it. (Beyond which, I’d say over half of the fact-gathering we do is based on supporting the conclusion we’ve already come to.) (Which, I guess, is an emotional/bigoted view since it’s based on my suspicions and the figure I suggest hasn’t been proven, though confirmation bias is reasonably well-known.)

          • Rodak says:

            Yes, I think that pretty much everybody is guilty. My conclusion would be that if you can’t prove what you think to be the case to actually be the case, then hold your peace and don’t state your case.

  6. b-psycho says:

    If I were to say that the State has an interest…

    To quote Jamie Hyneman, “well, there’s your problem!”

    Ok, I’m not saying it’s specifically “your” problem, rather that IMO it’s the real problem in general: State claims interest, decides certain behaviors further said interest, then attempts to force people to some degree to abide by it. People who have different ideas about that interest then fight over control of the state, like those scenes in action movies where two people are struggling for control of a pistol.
    This is why my response tends to be “no, the state does not have an interest, not a legitimate one anyway”.

    • Rod says:

      I’d ask you to consider that whether or not the state has a legitimate interest in the institution of marriage, individuals have a legitimate interest in the state having an interest in marriage. A lot of libertarians seem to think that a marriage is essentially just a civil contract between two adults and as such nobody’s business but their own. But that’s wrong; a marriage is actually a civil contract between the parties that are marrying and the rest of society as a whole.

      A better analogy than a business contract would be a land title. It’s not sufficient for the purposes of the landowner to merely “know in his heart” that a parcel of land is his property. The rest of society needs to acknowledge that claim for it to have any practical meaning. The same is true of marriage. I can know in my heart that the love of my life is my chosen mate, but it’s really helpful if society acknowledges that this person is no longer just an unrelated adult–a friend, essentially–but actually my closest legal relative, my next of kin.

      • b-psycho says:

        If they disagree with your relationship before getting married, they’re probably going to still disagree with it after.

        BTW: the state does not = society.

  7. Kolohe says:

    If I were to say that the State has an interest in upholding the institution of life-long monogamous relationships ordered toward procreation, I would be speaking of an institution, of a convention, and not directly of people, so the statement itself, taken on its own, would not be bigoted.

    This is true. But allowing the Gaize to get Mahwwied, as the Impressive Clergyman would say, does not undermine that interest nor that institution nor that goal.

    That’s where the bigotry comes in.

    • Jaybird says:

      This is the number one thing that bugs me about a fraction of the pro-traditional marriage folks’ argument. When they say that gays getting married would weaken the institution… I can’t help but wonder how… and if, say, gay marriages in Canada are weaking their marriages and, if so, what we should do about it.

      And, if not, why not?

  8. CK MacLeod says:

    It ought to become easier for those on the inclusionist side to consider exclusionary arguments, and those making them, as they gain confidence that the issue is no longer in doubt. In the meantime, the motivation of anyone making the argument for exclusion in any implicitly political context will be attacked on the basis of assumed consequences – i.e., encouragement of homophobia – that the exclusionist will be seen to have unjustifiably discounted, thus qualifying as objectively bigoted, regardless of subjective state, conscious intention, or self-image.

    • Tom Van Dyke says:

      CK, betcha could do that in one sentence, in English. 😉

    • DensityDuck says:

      In other words, “you look like the picture I have in my head of what a bigot is, therefore you’re a bigot”.

      • CK MacLeod says:

        No, “the picture” is what’s largely irrelevant. The relevant facts, including to whom the word and the condition it names will be attached, are provided by the actual state of the political struggle. At this moment, advocating for the exclusion of same sex couples from the civil institution of marriage entails encouragement of bigotry. To side with the exclusionists is to say that this encouragement of bigotry is worth it – presumably as against some greater harm. So, Mr. Cupp and others may not see themselves as bigots, but they will be taken as dishonest or negligent if they do not acknowledge that they are on the same side as bigots, and that their victory would, whatever else it is, be taken as a victory for bigotry, even amidst whatever denunciations or disavowals of homophobic intentions or beliefs.

        • Ryan Noonan says:

          In his defense, I believe “Mr. Cupp” favors the gay matrimony (that’s a weird pair of words together).

          • Kyle Cupp says:

            Well, I didn’t eat at Chick-fil-A today. My take on the question of gay marriage is either convoluted or nuanced, depending on how you look at it. I’ll leave it to others to say whether it’s bigoted. On the one hand, good Catholic that I am, I define marriage in accordance with the meaning professed by my religion; on the other hand, I recognize that my understanding of marriage is not enshrined in the law. Civilly, marriage is little more than a contract that can mean whatever each couple wants it to mean. Couples can obtain a marriage license without having any love for one another, any intention of committing for life, any openness to procreation or engaging in the kind of act that leads to procreation, any interest in sacrificing for the good of the other, etc. In other words, civil marriage does not have the definitive aspects I associate with the institution. Marriage as I define it and marriage as civil society defines it are already two different things, divorced, so to speak, even though there is some overlap. This difference is relevant because the policy debate over the meaning of marriage is about the latter, not the former. And here we have the key obstacle exclusionists face: the current legal meaning of marriage does not support their desired exclusion. Simply asserting that civil marriage is man-woman begs the question. Same-sex couples, meanwhile, want equal treatment under the law, which, you know, duh. Of course they do.

          • Kazzy says:

            No Chick-fil-A… but did you eat a gay Oreo?

            Now I’m curious if polishing off a Chick-fil-A lunch with a couple Oreos will explode your stomach. I MAY just spend all weekend trying to find out… The 10 pounds I add will not be in vain!

          • Kyle Cupp says:

            No. I spent my day dwelling on the eating habits of zombies.

          • Kazzy says:

            I saw. And hate you for it. Zombies are #1 on my list of irrational fears. I’d rather not say more…

          • Anne says:

            Kazzy, what about Zombie Clowns?

          • MikeSchilling says:

            Well, I didn’t eat at Chick-fil-A today

            Is that what the kids are calling it?

        • Tom Van Dyke says:

          Sophistic, CK, since “inclusion” requires changing the very definition of marriage and its eligibility rules to make inclusion even possible.

          One could say I’m being “excluded” from Cooperstown, but you’d have to go to college to believe something that stupid.

          • Ryan Noonan says:

            You are being excluded from Cooperstown. What an oddly defensive response.

            Also, do please note that reference to the “definition of marriage” is question-begging and is, at best, no better than sophistry.

          • CK MacLeod says:

            “I tell ’em the truth, and they think it’s sophistic” – Trumanikos

            Not sure how you could include someone previously excluded according to “the rules” or the “definition” – “very” and otherwise – without changing the rules or definition of inclusion/exclusion. It’s a value-neutral concept, unless you have bias on principle regarding inclusion/exclusion, other things being equal. Since we do more or less have precisely that bias in America, toward inclusion and novelty and free to be you and me as Marlo Thomas said in Federalist 11, you have a problem in the presence of committed advocacy on both sides. In other words, Mr. Baseball, tie goes to the runners… except it’s not a tie, or even close, because of the bigots, the real ones, the ones with blood on their hands. We don’t even need to go to the re-plays (we may just change the channel).

          • Ryan Noonan says:

            This is, I think, the first time I’ve ever said this, but “inclusion and novelty and free to be you and me as Marlo Thomas said in Federalist 11” has compelled me:

            Space awesome.

          • James Hanley says:

            reference to the “definition of marriage” is question-begging

            This can’t be repeated too many times.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            CK, “Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”—A. Lincoln*

            Of course a “redefinition” is required an eligibility requirements changed or else we wouldn’t be having this conversation. marriage has always [to date] been correlated with making babies.

            As for “value-neutral” concepts, that there are two genders is a fact. That they are not fungible is a reasonable argument. Further, when it comes to politics and social science, I dispute the very concept of “value neutrality.” It’s a fiction, a cover for shtupping one’s values on society by claiming what are only value judgments to be facts. It’s a reasonable socio-political argument that all sexual contact is created equal, but it’s far from a “value-free” fact.

            And the Cooperstown analogy is quite powerful; it’s not surprising there’s no effective rebuttal.

      • CK MacLeod says:

        I shouldn’t have included the blogger, simply on the basis of his post, with the exclusionists, but the question of disqualifying negligence would still apply to those simply advocating for the space to advocate (as it would to those advocating for the space to advocate for the space to advocate, and so on), if obviously with less force.

  9. Rodak says:

    You are a bigot if attempt to force– or would attempt to force if you thought it possible to succeed in so doing–your unsubstantiated, fundamentally emotionally based beliefs on the lifestyle, or the human dignity of another person or group of persons, so as to make them conform to your views, or to be forced out of your society.
    Therefore, unless you can prove that gay marriage will actually harm society at large, rather than just offend the sensibilities of yourself and certain others, you are a bigot if you oppose it.

  10. Nob Akimoto says:

    Any definition of intolerance in a societal context would also include one where you’re unwilling or unable to conceive of consequences to those different from you as being worthy of equal consideration. Making an emotional judgment that the “definition of marriage is better for society” has that consequence, whether or not you want to admit it.

    • Will Truman says:

      What if you consider the consequences of something, but come to the conclusion that it’s best for society overall even if it is bad for a small percentage of it?

      • MikeSchilling says:

        Then you have to decide whether you’re going to walk away from Omelas.

      • GordonHide says:

        @Will Truman
        “What if you consider the consequences of something, but come to the conclusion that it’s best for society overall even if it is bad for a small percentage of it?”

        Then we should presumably kill off all those who have no chance of contributing to society again so they will not be an economic drain on the productive?

  11. hazemyth says:

    “…and were to be free of hatred and intolerance…”

    Perhaps this strays outside of the definition of bigotry that you are proposing but I would think it useful to also address ignorance — particularly that ignorance that arguably stems from a general, cultural intolerance.

  12. CK MacLeod says:

    TVD, I wasn’t claiming that the entire question was “value-neutral.” You might have noted that immediately upon observing that, in the abstract, inclusion and exclusion are neutral concepts, I pointed out that in American political-culture they tend very much not to be. As for the place of an institutional form for the ordered-toward-procreative union of a man and a woman, what used to be known simply as “marriage,” in what America may be becoming, or fading into, that’s a much more complex discussion.

    • Tom Van Dyke says:

      “exclusion” = bad. Sounds mean, and a bit sad. Like not getting picked when they choose sides, odd man out.

      “inclusion” = good. Nice. Values. Good is better than bad.

      As for the place of an institutional form for the ordered-toward-procreative union of a man and a woman, what used to be known simply as “marriage,” in what America may be becoming…

      Exactly. But this requires actively changing it, overturning the state laws [37!] defining man-woman*, changing what was so obvious for 1000s of years it didn’t need such codification. That’s all I was saying. Geez, it’s so frigging exhausting sometimes.


      • James Hanley says:

        “a” man and “a” woman–1,00os of years? There might be something a tad off with your history, eh?

        And then there’s that whole procreation bugaboo, what with some married heteros choosing not to have children (or many fewer than their ancestors would have), and some married homos making choices about procreation that they wouldn’t have made if single.

        No wonder it’s so exhausting for you. Juggling historical and logical errors so as to keep the whole crumbling edifice afloat can’t be easy.

        • Tom Van Dyke says:

          It’s valid to change it, CK, let’s just admit it’s a change, is all. BTW, polygamous marriages are still the marriage of one man and one woman. The wives are not married to each other.

          • James Hanley says:

            No, polygamy is when one man is married to multiple women; when a man has multiple marriage partners. (Technically, polygyny, of course, to head off anyone ready to point that out.) Wiki defines polygamy as “a marriage which includes more than two partners.” Merriam-Webster defines it as a “marriage in which a spouse of either sex may have more than one mate at the same time.”

            Let’s not play word games. I think it’s the type of thing you object to frequently. So of course it’s valid to change the definition; in fact it’s practically a tradition to change the definition. But there’s no way to coherently argue that the definition hasn’t changed for thousands of years.

            For the record, I know you’re not anti-gay, and I know you’re not a barricades-storming opponent of SSM. I’m not implying you are.

          • Kazzy says:

            It’s a change from the definition that has been arrived at over only the past couple centuries, now the millenia often claimed. Is that fair?

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            A man’s wives aren’t married to each other.

            Wiki defines polygamy as “a marriage which includes more than two partners.”

            Wiki? Who am I to disagree? Peace, CK, I’m out. Thx for the exchange.

            So of course it’s valid to change the definition.

            In the spirit of Charlie Brown and the football, I’ll reply that that has been stipulated all along, James. But it is a change, thus the “redefinition of marriage” argument is valid.

            Governments can do anything they want. If the Roman Senate could make Augustus a god, surely we can marry a husband to a husband, call a tail a leg.

            When the Ministry of Love requires me to acknowledge that two and two make five, I shall say, of course! And if I am an entirely good citizen, I shall even believe it.

          • James Hanley says:

            TVD, Wiki and Merriam-Webster. Versus….whatta you got on your side besides mere assertion again?

            And the issue is not whether it’s a change in definition. I fully agree it is. The issue is whether someone who claims the definition of marriage hasn’t changed in thousands of years is a little bit misguided or is simply pulling our legs. Because let’s face it, “an arrangement a man may have with multiple women simultaneously” and “an arrangement a man may have with only one woman at a time” are not exactly identically defined institutions. Nor is “an institution which may not be dissolved until the death of one or the other partner” identical to “an institution in which the partners can voluntarily choose to leave prior to death, with or without the consent of the other partner.” There are other redefinitions, of course, as you know quite well.

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            The definition for 1000s of years always necessitated both male and female, not any random 2 humans, because not any random 2 humans can create a baby. I’m glad we have some agreement in there somewhere about change and redefinition. Peace, out.

          • Jaybird says:

            The Pill changed everything, Tom. Making Babies has been divorced from coupling.

            This already happened.

          • Kazzy says:

            So some changes are fine, but as soon as the change involves gay, we must protect the definition? Why?

          • Tom Van Dyke says:

            JB, that’s what they said when the French invented oral sex in 1317.

            As for “coupling” as you use it, the state has no compelling interest in it one way or the other.

            Kazzy, if you have something to say, just say it. Drop the question marks. You and I are not having a dialogue.

          • Ryan Noonan says:

            The state has no compelling interest in coupling, but marriage is about creating children? This is making my head hurt.

          • Jaybird says:

            Dinner at a Tapas place every once in a while is a treat, but you wouldn’t want to go there every day.

            In any case, there is very much a difference between the discovery of appetizers and the creation of Olestra.

            Sometimes things are different even if people say they are.

  13. CK MacLeod says:

    Oh, and I have no idea why you think Cooperstown is an “powerful” analogy in need of rebuttal. If strong advocacy develops for your inclusion in the HoF, then it’ll be a challenge for the opponents to get the rest of us to care. For now, you are passively and functionally “excluded,” along with most of the rest of us, but, since most of us are not Pete Rose, no one notices.

    • Tom Van Dyke says:

      I’m glad the Cooperstown analogy passes muster then, CK. It’s just a reductio ad absurdum on the use of “exclusion.”

      And by all means, I’m ineligible for Cooperstown unless they change the eligibility rules. But they could change ’em and that would be that—the Basketball Hall of Fame requires only “significant contribution to the game of basketball.”

      [It’s a damn disgrace Barack Obama hasn’t been inducted yet, but any day now, I’m sure. If he’s good enough for Nobel, he’s good enough for Naismith.]

      Chicago has a Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, and although you don’t have to be gay to get in, they do put “Friend of the Community” next to your name, which is kind of an asterisk.

  14. sam wilkinson says:

    I disagree, if for no other reason than you’re having your cake (in the form of restricted access to marriage) and eating it to (by insisting you should pay no cost for your position, like the belief that what you’re doing is inherently designed to exclude the group you’re insisting that you don’t have any animosity toward).

    • sam wilkinson says:

      And incidentally, if you really believe straight marriage matters, then you’d advocate for anything to strengthen it: criminalized adultery, outlawed divorce, no second marriages, no marriages for the impotent or willfully childless, whatever. That gay marriage opponents don’t tend to do this sort of advocacy makes it seem as though the issue is the gays, not the marriages.

      • Jaybird says:

        “If you really believed X, you’d also do Y. Since you don’t also do Y, I don’t think you really believe X.”

        Dude, you wouldn’t believe the pushback I get on this argument when I point it out to Warmists.

        • Sam says:

          I have no idea what a Warmist is; I assume it has something to do with climate change?

          Anyway, I think if somebody simultaneously wants us to believe that their opposition to gay marriage has nothing to do with a personal animosity toward gays, they owe more than simply making that claim. I’m not going to believe that somebody cares deeply about the strength of American marriage if their solution to marriage’s problems are the exclusion of gays. Why? Because gays currently are excluded, and American marriage statistics suck. So if we keep them excluded, marriage will get better? None of that follows.

          When we get away from the easiest, most obvious explanation, more than the claims of one side are going to be necessary as evidence.

          To put that another way, if I came out and said, “Christians are terrible at being married to one another, so no Christians marriages should not be recognized!” would you think I was making a statistical argument based solely upon my desire for the foundation of marriage to be strengthened, or would you think, “There’s a guy who has an issue with Christians.”

          • Jaybird says:

            “You know a tree by its fruit.”

            Dude, I was agreeing with you.

          • Sam Wilkinson says:

            Okay. I don’t know. I don’t know what a Warmist is, so I was pivoting off that. My apologies.

            However, to everybody that does disagree with me, the above holds as a response.

          • Jaybird says:

            A warmist is someone who publically talks about the moral importance of global warming but goes on to discuss the marginal amount of mitigation that a lifestyle change on their own part would be negligible to the point where they really shouldn’t have to do anything until everybody is forced to do it, thus allowing them the moral stature that comes with being on the right side while allowing them to maintain the lifestyle that they claim they believe is responsible for great harm.

            You know. People who claim to believe X but if they really believed X, they’d also Y?


          • Jaybird says:

            But, to be perfectly honest, when I think about criminalized adultery, outlawed divorce, no second marriages, no marriages for the impotent or willfully childless, or other policies, I think that laws stating such things would do more to damage marriage than not having them.

            I don’t know that adultery is a criminal, as opposed to civil, matter. There are a lot of reasons that divorce should be allowed even by people who think that it ought to be a sacred institution (and it manifestly *NOT* being a sacred institution in any given example is a danged good reason to allow divorce), I had a vasectomy when I got married and I think that someone pushing for a law that said that Maribou and I couldn’t be married would be putting their nose in yet another place it didn’t belong and the fact that they also opposed gay marriage would mitigate none of that, and so on…

            Personally, I see their hypocrisy as socially beneficial in this case when compared to consistency. I wish more people were hypocritical than consistent when we’re discussing whether they are consistent about something that is none of their beeswax.

          • Sam Wilkinson says:

            I think that all of those things would be bad too. However, if you think that something is wrong with the institution right now, surely you’d argue for change, and some of the obvious changes would involve changing the way in which marriage works within the state.

            From my perspective, adding gays into the marriage mix isn’t going to damage the institution at all; if anything, their inclusion will strengthen it, if only because one of the many things that can divide us will disappear. We’ll find other reasons to disagree, of course, but having the same relationships treated differently by the state won’t be one of them.

  15. CK MacLeod says:

    The state’s interest in marriage, and specifically in the sexual habits of the people, goes far beyond any of the factors noted so far. That’s because the state wouldn’t exist without the people continuing to re-produce themselves, which is a moral and economic as well as sexual activity. How those people-made people are raised and educated will not merely determine but actually constitute the state in the full sense of the term – i.e., not just the government and public administration, but the entirety of the culture- or nation-state – – embracing all realms of life. You might even say the question is more properly “How much interest do the people – i.e., the nation-state – physically and morally constituted by sexual reproduction, the family, and society, have in the civil-administrative state?” That is in fact very much the way that both sides, at least those invested in the issue, see it: They want the civil state to be, and they intuit that it is and ought to be, the reflection and embodiment, and also the instrument, of the more fundamental and broader ethos that they tend, as people do, to see as self-evidently valid. When they cease doing so in large enough numbers, then civil society itself may enter into crisis – though I’m not assuming either that that’s taking place; that, if it is taking place, it’s a result of gay marriage; or that, if it is taking place and gay marriage is at minimum a symptom and possibly a contributing factor, that it’s a bad thing.

  16. Chris says:

    What’s interesting is that, if the state has a compelling interest to promote marriage because it is a more efficient system of child rearing (reproduction and child rearing are separable, and if the state only has an interest in promoting reproduction, marriage is an incredibly inefficient way of going about it), then it would seem that any group of people that is legally able to raise children should be legally able to marry, shouldn’t it?

  17. Sam says:

    Without dismissing this thread’s ongoing nature, is there ultimately any middle ground between people who are supportive of gay marriage and people whose only response boils down to, “Ick! Gay people! And sex! Double ick!”

    Maybe that’s dismissive. But when we’re busy arguing about what marriage really means, there’s no argument to be won, because marriage will always mean whatever the topic isn’t. If marriage means kids and gay marriage supporters point out that the impotent are allowed to marry, then marriage means tradition, and if gay marriage supporters point out that tradition once allowed for polygamy, then marriage means the bedrock of society, and gay marriage supporters point out that nothing is currently being done to shore up the strength of the institution, then marriage means kids again and we start all over. It’s an unwinnable shell game on the personal level.

    What matters is the larger, impersonal level, and in that regard, gay marriage opponents are losing ground everywhere, albeit very, very slowly.

  18. GordonHide says:

    Kyle it seems to me that when push comes to shove what we have here is an attempt to control the use of an English language word by restricting its meaning. This is a bad idea. One of the great things about English is it is generally free to evolve and become even more useful.

    If you believe the government should recognise those marriages which include the possibility of procreation as something special in some way there is no difficulty in them doing so without commandeering exclusive use of the word marriage.