Archives – December, 2011
By Adam Bink
There have been plenty of “year in review” pieces posted already so I won’t go back into it. The only numbers I’ll mention are 4 million (actually, closer to 5 now) and 150,000, which are approximately the number of pageviews and comments here at Prop8TrialTracker.com. And, for the 2nd year in a row, we’re the #1 result on Google for the Prop 8 trial. Thanks to everyone for making it so!
As for New Year’s, I’m just hanging out with some friends here in town — wherever there’s champagne.
What are your best memories of 2011, and your plans for the holiday?
By Adam Bink
Over at Salon.com, Linda Hirshman posts her meta assessment of why LGBT equality came so far in 2011 and the prior years: people starting making a moral case for equality, and the rest of America started accepting it. See what you think of her take:
Same sex marriage is a classic example of what political scientists call “morality politics”: “a fundamental, first-principled conflict with the values embodied in some aspect of a morality policy.” In a lot of politics, Americans are willing to hold their noses and tolerate people they disapprove of or to change their positions based on evidence from the material world. But in morality politics, voters have their first principles and don’t want compromise-inclined elites confusing them with stuff like social science data about harm.
So issues of morality politics surface disproportionately in the context of direct democracy. Hawaii voters overturned their Supreme Court’s decision recognizing same sex marriage in a referendum while the ink was still wet on the decision. The Hawaii decision generated a federal law refusing to recognize any such rogue development, and a similar decision from Massachusetts in 2003 was met with a tsunami of state referendums forbidding such shenanigans in their states in 2004. Gay marriage activists were not going to win that battle by arguing that anything between consenting adults in private is nobody’s business.
How did they do it? They did it – and this is the lesson that the gay revolution holds for any progressive movement – not by asking for “tolerance.” They didn’t ask people to accept gay marriage by holding their moral noses. Rather, they set out to change change people’s minds about what is moral.
Moral relationships are not about what sexual positions or organs are involved, the movement argued, no matter what the Bible said (or didn’t say) and no matter what Queen Victoria thought. Against the impermeable wall of religious sexual morality, the gay marriage movement fired the armament of other measures of morality. Sexual relationships are about relationships. What is the content of a moral relationship with another human being?
The gay marriage movement told the stories of its courtships, invoking the ancient Platonic idea of love as the recognition of the goodness in the other person.
Genora Dancel and Ninia Baehr, the original plaintiffs in the Hawaii case, had a nine-hour first date. They told the stories of their caring, invoking the morality of the strong helping the weak and making a world you yourself would want to live in.
Ron Wallen, 77 years old, told a panel of the U.S. Senate, which was considering repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, about his four years in hell nursing his partner of 58 years through fatal leukemia. “And as rotten as those four years were,” Wallen testified, “they were made ever so much easier because we had each other for comfort and love.” Slowly, story by story, the gay marriage movement began to remake the conversation about morality.
It was an uphill battle. For too long in America the subject of morality has been collapsed into sexual morality. For most of Western history, morality had richer content. Morality meant proper conduct regarding wealth, just as one example. In the Old Testament, people were taught to leave some of their harvest behind in the fields as charity. The Greek virtues included the virtue of “temperance,” “liberality” and “magnificence” – all counseling moderation in the relationship to money and physical pleasure. The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant asked his followers to imagine they were living in a world in which everyone behaved as they did. The English utilitarians, horrified by the inequalities of the first Industrial Revolution, suggested that the millionaire’s millionth dollar did not mean as much to him as the same dollar meant to a poor man.
But as inequality rose, moral debates about economic justice fell until only sex was left as a subject for moral conversation. Worse, in response to the sexual revolution of the ’60s, moral sex was defined by a snapshot of the 19th century Protestant, monogamous, heterosexual, reproductive family. Same-sex sex was the definition of the immoral. Except for those uppity women wanting to abort their “babies,” it dominated the field. With the arrival of religious activists into U.S. politics in the ’70s, this religiously defined sexual morality was promoted as a proper subject for politics.
Gay activists reversed this trend. Asserting their claim to marriage, gay activists told the predominantly straight world that there are more ways to think about morality than the Evangelical Christian morality of Victorian sexuality. And they were persuasive. When conservative lawyer Ted Olson, former solicitor general under President Bush, explained why he sued to establish gay marriage as a constitutional right, he invoked the essentials of the activists’ argument: “We believe that a conservative value is stable relationships and stable community and loving individuals coming together and forming a basis that is a building block of our society, which includes marriage.”
In this, as in so many things, the gay community were early adopters of the only strategy that beats the resurgent religious right: fight morality with morality. Once the category of morality was opened, every kind of debate became possible — and so did victory. It arrived in 2011.
By Adam Bink
It’s been another great year at Prop8TrialTracker.com, with great comments, great traffic, and a stellar community of vibrant discussion and action. And it’s been another exciting year in the trial, too.
P8TT, which is sponsored by the Courage Campaign Institute, has always been a labor of love. It’s never been something that really pays for itself in terms of how much time we spend on it. That’s why we need your support to keep it going. Consider:
- Jacob, our writing intern, and I blog each day, every day, 365 days a year so you can have fresh and interesting content to read. That costs time, a lot of it, for both of us.
- Rick, Arisha, Ana and others drop what they are doing to buy a flight or get in their car to go to the courthouse in San Francisco and sit for hours at a time typing away transcripts of the hearings in the Prop 8 trial. That costs money (for travel) and time.
- We aren’t just the same old site anymore — we’ve made improvements. Starting in the middle of 2011, we were finally able to bring on a full-time technical team to respond to site glitches and bugs, including when you have log-in or commenting problems. We did so because we believe the #1 site on the web with for covering the trial, with thousands and thousands of visitors each month, deserves a top-flight team. According to the recent user survey, 93% of you rated their performance at an 8/10 or above, so it looks like they’re doing a good job. That costs money for their retainer.
- Also starting in 2011, we now have Quick Hits for the first time, so users like you can post content that is just as visible as what’s post in the main section on the front page. We now have a second daily writer, Jacob Combs, to help with coverage of the trials — and he’s doing it without pay (your contribution will help so we can change that). We also have a set of community guidelines to clear up confusion on what the rules of the road are in the comments. We also now have a “where things stand with the Prop 8 trial” to meet the #1 most requested new feature here: an easy-to-understand, one-stop-shopping place to find out what’s going on with the trial. We just permanently linked to it in the banner at the very top of the site so you and new people here can always find it. All of that costs time and money for tech development and writing.
- Not to forget, while our mission has and always will remain the Prop 8 trial, we’ve expanded to cover the DOMA trials, repeal of DOMA in Congress, marriage equality fights around the states, National Organization for Marriage and their goings-on, and other issues. All of that costs time.
- Lastly, we’re doing our very best to bring you the best coverage of the Prop 8 trial. With the help of you in the comments, we cover every motion, every hearing, every brief. We get exclusive takes on the latest developments from LGBT equality’s legal minds like NCLR’s Shannon Minter and Chris Stoll, along with Lambda Legal’s Jon Davidson, and post it here. We track down the latest developments on Prop 8, whether it’s a poll, a report, a new boycott, a new play, a new lawsuit borne out of the trial. It’s what makes us the #1 search result for “Prop 8 trial” on Google, and we want to keep it that way, but all of that costs time, too.
If those reasons weren’t good enough, I have a few more to try on for size (and tell you why this is timely):
- All contributions made to Courage Campaign Institute, the sponsor of P8TT, before the ball drops on the night of December 31st will count as tax deductions come April.
- All donors who contribute before the ball drop are entered into our drawing for one brand new iPad 2 (so you can read the blog on the road!) and one of three $100 gift certificates to a 100% pro-equality business, as rated by HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. That could go towards a flight on United Airlines, a new pair of Levi’s jeans, a stay at a Kimpton hotel, a bunch of new books or a Nook from Barnes & Noble — there are close to 200 different businesses for you to spend where you like. So you have four chances to win a prize.
So please, if you like what you read here, take a moment to chip in so we can keep P8TT what it is and meet all the expenses I listed above. You’ll get a tax deduction, have a shot at winning a great prize, and help bring about full equality faster in our country.