Back to previous post: Wow, you can do anything with DNA these days

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Yes, a little fermented curd would do the trick

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

June 15, 2007

“The triumph of time, experience, and understanding over fear and prejudice”
Posted by Avram Grumer at 01:42 AM * 150 comments

Equal marriage rights are safe in Massachusetts for at least another five years:

A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was swiftly defeated today by a joint session of the Legislature by a vote of 45 to 151, eliminating any chance of getting it on the ballot in November 2008. […]

Because fewer than 50 of the state’s 200 lawmakers supported the amendment, it will not appear on the 2008 ballot, giving gay marriage advocates a major victory in their battle with social conservatives to keep same-sex marriage legal in Massachusetts.

Opponents of gay marriage face an increasingly tough battle to win legislative approval of any future petitions to appear on a statewide ballot. The next election available to them is 2012.

(Boston.com has already hidden that article behind a subscription wall. BugMeNot worked for me. I use the Firefox extension version.)

And a shout-out for Wikipedia: I was confused about the legislative details of this story. I knew that amending the Mass constitution requires at least 50 votes in favor in two consecutive legislative sessions, and I was confused about how the first vote could have taken place in January and the second now. I checked a bunch of different news sources, no clarity. A Wikipedia entry gave me the missing info. And further news:

Currently, the legislature is considering whether to submit a proposed constitutional amendment to the voters that, if passed, would prohibit ballot initiatives dealing with the curtailment of “civil rights” or “matters of equal protection.”

Though I can easily see such an amendment opening up further cans of worms.

Anyway, it seems that one of the things changing people’s minds on this issue is just getting to know gay couples, and seeing them as people instead of some weird, demonic other. That, and lawn care:

Most moving, she said, were older constituents who first supported the amendment, but changed after meeting with gay men and lesbians.

One woman had “asked me to put it on the ballot for a vote, but since then a lovely couple moved in,” Ms. Candaras said. “She said, ‘They help me with my lawn, and if there can’t be marriage in Massachusetts, they’ll leave and they can’t help me with my lawn.’”

Comments on "The triumph of time, experience, and understanding over fear and prejudice":
#1 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 01:46 AM:

Ahh.. fear of the unknown being trumped by garden chores :)

#2 ::: L. Raymond ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:22 AM:

I'm glad MA is hanging in there. It's always heart-warming to see there are still lawmakers who believe marriage is based on love. In Washington state, those who want this basic human right have to deal with a court case that expressly said marriage is for procreation, so two people who can't have children have no business being married.

#3 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 03:25 AM:

One triumph for common sense (and lawn care). Yes, it's amazing how you can find out that those demonised "others", whether gays or whatever other minority/"not one of us", actually are, well, people.

I was somewhat concerned about the quote in the linked New York Times article:

"Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, did not indicate whether opponents would start a new petition drive, but said, “We’re not going away.”

He added, “We want to find out why votes switched and see what avenues are available to challenge those votes, perhaps in court.”"

He wants to challenge the votes of the elected representatives in court??!!

L. Raymond at #2. If marriage is only for procreation, then does that mean straight couples are going to have to take a fertility test, plus a lie detector test regarding their intentions in this regard?

#4 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 04:10 AM:

dcb, there are a series of proposed state constitutional amendments to do almost that: married couples would have to file proof of procreation within 3 years of getting married, or their marriages would be automatically dissolved, and marriages where the couples weren't capable of having children together wouldn't really be marriages. See the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance for more information.

#5 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 06:09 AM:

#2-#4: so how about a proposal to make divorce mandatory and automatic upon reaching a suitable age -- say, 60? After all, if marriage is for procreation only, then folks like Billy Graham and his [late] wife have no right to pretend to be married ...

#6 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 06:44 AM:

‘They help me with my lawn, and if there can’t be marriage in Massachusetts, they’ll leave and they can’t help me with my lawn.’

As my grandmother used to remark, "everybody puts their finger where it hurts."

She was a wise woman. And a wisewoman, but that's another pair of drawers entirely.

#7 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 08:01 AM:

#4 Todd Larason: ...married couples would have to file proof of procreation within 3 years of getting married, or their marriages would be automatically dissolved...

At first I thought this was an astonishingly stupid idea of the opponents of gay marriage, but after checking your link I see that it is an astonishingly stupid idea of the supporters of it. The purpose is to carry to an absurd conclusion the ruling of the Washington State Supreme Court, "given in July 2006, declar[ing] that a 'legitimate state interest' allows the Legislature to limit marriage to those couples able to have and raise children together."

These initiatives are amusing in an Onion-like way, but the problem with trying to make the majesty of the law look absurd is that there are plenty of ways to slice and dice said majesty such that the majority won't find blatant absurdities absurd at all. I suspect these initiatives were put together either by non-lawyers, or by lawyers who never should've been awarded their doctorates of jurisprudence.

I've been saying for quite a while now that there is only one way to achieve equal treatment under the marriage laws and that's through the sort of hard work and persuasion of the electorate we see going on in dear old Massachusetts. In spite of some obvious realities, too many of us still see the courts as Philosopher King placeholders who will surely hand down decisions of such wisdom and humanity that we will all be struck dumb with awe.

Ha. There's a laugh.

Only when the majority is persuaded that equal treatment is the right thing to do, and is persuaded to vote that way, will equal treatment be permanent. I think these too-clever-by-half initiatives put that day off into an even deeper future.

#8 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 08:19 AM:

From my own experience, I'd say fear of the unknown is a big factor. And it can get hyped up by some factions.

And I wonder, a little bit, just how much of a person's sexuality is biology, and how much cultural. How many of the loudest Kinsey-0 pundits and politicians would be a 1 0r even 2 if it wasn't for a screwed-up indoctination about morality?

Some of the scare stories I hear, they're about behaviour which would be wrong whether the relationship involved was homosexual or heterosexual.

Here in the UK, it looks as though being gay has stopped being a barrier to a political career, although being gay and stupid about it remains risky. In my lifetime, we've gone from illegality to "civil unions", and I've gone from a fear of "gay cooties" to "So what?"


#9 ::: Laurie D. T. Mann ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 08:31 AM:

Gee, under those stupid rules, that means Jim's godparents wouldn't really be married!

And what about couples who adopt? Does that mean they aren't married either?

Nuts-nuts-nuts!

I normally would rather see questions put to a ballot, but given the fear-mongering tactics the right uses around questions like this, I'm glad the legislature did what it did.

#10 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 08:47 AM:

I saw that quote in the New York Times article last night -- it made me laugh and laugh.

Amazing, how when you actually meet and befriend people of whatever sort you dislike, you find it hard to hate them anymore....

(I was in Boston both for the original vote, and for the day they began performing same-sex marriages. I've always been so happy to have been present on those occasions. Now I just wish we could have the same in North Carolina.)

#11 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 08:51 AM:

Speaking of the hard work of actually getting the votes, at Americablog.com there is a brief but incredibly moving (to me) moment-by-moment account of yesterday's Battle for Massachusetts as related by Marty Rouse, Human Rights Campaign National Field Director. You can read it here.

#12 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:02 AM:

Let me unpack my little "Proud to Be a Baystater" flag and wave it in a polite Yankee manner.

On these occasions, I also get to mention that MA also has among the lowest state rates for divorce, teenage pregnancy, and abortion.

It's really hard to point to negative =quantifiable= effects that civil marriage has had on the state, aside from a certain amount of legislative attention taking away from the business of regular governing.

We may all be going to Hell, but that's pretty hard to prove. (And is a risk that I'm entirely willing to take, and let others take.)

Maybe in five years we'll have more data -- I'm betting we'll see the continuation of favorable social trends like low divorce rates, et cetera.

PS -- Ironically, we just passed the 40th anniversary of Loving Vs. Virginia, which put the nail in the coffin of miscegenation laws.

#13 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:06 AM:

I caught up on this on Pandagon last night, and I must say I'm incredibly proud of my adopted home state. If you read the link, you'll see some of the reactionary bleating about how the standard of living will decline in Massachusetts, since "Where socialism/communism reigns, the economy/standard of living decline rapidly." Ridiculous.

#14 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:11 AM:

I am so glad that the legislature stopped the amendment from reaching referendum. The track record of gay rights subject to referendum is not good. Those opposed to equality have evolved a formula that really works for them in getting people to vote their fears rather than any sort of common sense.

OTOH, I'd like to think that part of it is that it's been three years and, guess what? Civilization has not collapsed. So maybe the fear-mongering wouldn't work as well here. But I like that I don't have to find out. (I live in MA, so this isn't an abstract matter for me. My very rights are at stake.)

Michael, in reference to #7, this whole thing started because of favorable court decisions. If it weren't for the landmark decision by the MA SJC, we wouldn't have had three years of equality for people to realize that allowing homosexuals to marry doesn't cause the end of civilization as we know it. Courts are a necessary part of the process. Civil rights movements have always involved the courts. But the courts, by themselves, aren't sufficient.

#15 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:18 AM:

Another Massachusetts resident sighing with relief here.

My wife was afraid that if the amendment did go to a referendum, then bigots would descend on Massachusetts from other states for just long enough to establish residency, register, and vote.

#16 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:19 AM:

#4 Todd Larason: ...married couples would have to file proof of procreation within 3 years of getting married, or their marriages would be automatically dissolved...

*picks jaw up from floor*

Goes reads the link.

Okay, it's an attempt at reductio ad absurdum. Phew!

Michael Weholt @ #7 : Yes. One problem is that most people are not going to read far enough or closely enough to work out what's going on.

#17 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:23 AM:

I am so glad that the legislature stopped the amendment from reaching referendum. The track record of gay rights subject to referendum is not good. Those opposed to equality have evolved a formula that really works for them in getting people to vote their fears rather than any sort of common sense.

Are you sure in this case? We're talking about Massachusetts here- how likely is it that this amendment would have passed a referendum?

#18 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:24 AM:

"The governor and house speaker have been unrelenting in fighting the natural course of advancement on the marriage amendment and the people's right to vote," Mineau said in a statement. "We will look very closely at the circumstances by which legislators switched their vote for ethics violations or improprieties."

Ethics violations for not supporting bigotry?

Someone needs to explain to this guy what "ethics" means, oh, and what "bigot" means.

#19 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:25 AM:

Connecticut is plodding along on this issue, basically ignored, as usual for the state located between the much more exciting states of NY and MA. We put in civil unions (via legislative action) awhile ago. Marriage equality is on the legislative agenda this term, but probably won't pass. I suspect it would if it came up again in another year or so, but in the meantime a court case may preempt the legislature.

I was amused in last year's gubernatorial election by the conflict on the issue in the Dem primary:

Candidate #1: "I support gay marriage!"
Candidate #2: "Well, I supported gay marriage six months before you did!"

(The Dem candidate lost to the Republican who signed the civil union law but is also holding firm against full equality. Dems have veto-proof majorities in the legislature if they can be convinced to use them.)

I'm still pleased overall with my (adopted) home state on this issue.

#20 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:30 AM:

They help me with my lawn, and if there can’t be marriage in Massachusetts, they’ll leave and they can’t help me with my lawn.’

It's disturbingly close to the illegal-immigration business...

I now have this image of pro-gay-marriage activists dispatching teams of gay gardeners around target states to mow the lawns of undecided voters.

#21 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:31 AM:

*joins Connie in waving the flag*

Also, I'd add that we had the morning after pill available over the counter before the FDA decision.

#22 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:46 AM:

The vote was also the triumph of old school hardball politics. When the legislature voted for the amendment, the governor and President of the Senate were opponents of gay marriage (Romney and Travigliani). When they voted yesterday the governor and President of the Senate were supporters (Patrick and Murray). The Speaker of the House (DiMasi) is (and was) a supporter. So, all the state's power centers and dispensers of patronage were lined up on the same side this time.

#17 Raphael: Massachusetts is not liberal about everything. I'm not sure a ban on gay marriage wouldn't have passed in a referendum.

#23 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:51 AM:

#17: Well, I did go on to say in my next paragraph that maybe the lack of civilization collapse might take some teeth out of the fearmongering. I'm still glad that I don't have to find out.
(I also hadn't thought of the "flood the state with bigots" scenario mentioned in #15.)

#18:Someone needs to explain to this guy what "ethics" means, oh, and what "bigot" means.

Yeah, that was my thought too. The amusing thing here is that Mineau, AFAIK, has absolutely no evidence. It looks like he just wants to get the innuendo out there. Whatever happened to not bearing false witness? If you're going to claim the Christian high ground, aren't you supposed to be consistent about it?

#20:I now have this image of pro-gay-marriage activists dispatching teams of gay gardeners around target states to mow the lawns of undecided voters.

You know, if that works...

Seriously, the general case is that people get over their homophobia by meeting Actual Gay People(tm) and realizing that we're just people.

I feel bad for the woman at the end of the Boston Globe article who clearly feels hurt that the amendment is now dead. But I don't feel so badly that I would give up my rights, just so she can have her moment of false security.

#22: Yup. WBUR was full of reports last night and this morning about how this shows what happens when the Governor and the legislature are on the same page about something. (This isn't always the case in MA even when they are all of the same party.)

#24 ::: Richard Scott Nokes ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:58 AM:

Teresa, I promised to try commenting over a month ago, and just haven't had anything to say. OK, so here is my comment:

"I'm unclear on how preventing people from voting is a triumph of anything EXCEPT fear and prejudice -- of the people."

I now return to the Wordhoard for my regular medieval programming.

#25 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:12 AM:

#24: Then why aren't you advocating for direct democracy? Isn't the whole notion of representative democracy an exercise in preventing people from voting?

We have voted for representatives. This is how they have voted. Why is it a triumph of fear and ignorance in this case, but not, say, in the state budget?

#26 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:28 AM:

I would say it is entirely appropriate to fear the approximately 30% of the people who continue to support arbitrary detention, torture, and the authoritarian suppression of human rights generally, especially the reproductive rights of women and the civil rights of nonChristianists.

And that it is an appropriate function of a wise legislature to keep that 30% as far away from the levers of power as might lawfully be arranged.

#27 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Richard (#24): during the last session, immediately after the vote to progress this amendment, the Constitutional Convention let another amendment die via procedural maneuver.

A number of the legislators who had been justifying their votes to advance the marriage amendment on the grounds that they had to "let the people vote" hypocritically stopped the HCA from coming up for a full vote.

It's very hard to interpret that as anything more than their using the "democracy" figleaf to cover other motives, rather than their taking a principled stand to bring amendments to the ballot.

The Constitution of Massachusetts has a number of steps that are required to amend it. If the ConCon were supposed to be a simple rubber stamp for any petition that came through, there would be no requirement for any legislative votes—let alone two of them.

#28 ::: Sternel ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:43 AM:

Michael @ #11: Thank you for that link. I, too, found that moving to read. If you excuse me, I'll be in the powder room repairing my mascara now.

#29 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:47 AM:

Joyce Durst, an opponent of same-sex marriage from Mattapan, had come the State House today to pray that the measure passed. When the amendment failed, she pulled a crumpled tissue from her pocket and began to sob.

"I'm sick," said Durst, 60. "I'm sick."

Aww. So sad. Poor little Joyce-poo is sick. Call the Waaaaahmbulance

#30 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:47 AM:

#14 JC: ...Michael, in reference to #7, this whole thing started because of favorable court decisions. If it weren't for the landmark decision by the MA SJC, we wouldn't have had three years of equality for people to realize that allowing homosexuals to marry doesn't cause the end of civilization as we know it. Courts are a necessary part of the process. Civil rights movements have always involved the courts. But the courts, by themselves, aren't sufficient.

Sure, I'm familiar with the course of events in Massachusetts and know that it started with a MA SJC decision essentially instructing the legislature to "fix the problem", IIRC.

And I'm glad for the (I think somebody said) 9,000 gay couples that have been allowed to marry in the time since then.

The point I was trying to make is that some of us still see the courts as the "three yards and a cloud of dust" ground game when what they really are, to continue my He-Stud analogy, are just the placekickers at the start of the game.

As we see from Massachusetts, it wasn't and won't be the courts who will get the job permanently done. It will be the hard work of changing the minds of the citizenry, however that has to be done.

Frankly, I'd feel safer if the referendum in MA had been held and gay marriage had survived. But I'll take a victory in the legislature. It's better, as in more secure, than a victory in the courts, which isn't to say that court victories are not important, especially to those immediately involved in the litigation at hand.

#31 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:50 AM:

In the past, some of the legislative proponents of SSM bans were soundly defeated in elections, and the supporters of this measure calmly took those votes as the will of the people.

Or, you know, not so much. The incumbent, defeated in the primary, ran a write-in campaign (not having access to Connecticut for Lieberman) and was soundly thumped. (Of course, out of state money and support for Sciortino is a sign of a "professional, well-organized effort"; the pre-printed signs and busloads of out of staters showing up at the State House to support the amendment were just grassroots efforts.)

#32 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Boston today has a clear, almost cloudless blue sky and temperatures in the high sixties. The birds are singing and the trees are a blooming green.

Clearly, God is pissed.

#33 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 11:01 AM:

Time to dust off the "Don't Blame Me, I'm from Massachusetts" buttons, clearly.

When did the Do-Over become a political strategy?

#34 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 11:14 AM:

JC - # 25 We have voted for representatives. This is how they have voted. Why is it a triumph of fear and ignorance in this case, but not, say, in the state budget?

Because the anti-gay movement used The Big Lie to tell people that a move to keep the measure off the ballot was anti-democratic, despite the fact that, were there enough elected representatives who wanted it, it would be on the ballot. This is standard procedure in MA.

The anti-gay movement consistently uses The Big Lie. Just to know what they're doing, I subscribe to the AFA action alert newsletter. Just now, they claimed that hate crimes laws would prevent pastors from speaking out against homosexuality. Which is a provable because they have anti-gay hate crimes laws in plenty of states, and no one restricts that speech.

But no one they're preaching to cares if it's a provable lie. They all 'know' that the gay agenda is real, that gay people molest children, and that we're in a secret pact with Democrats to force gay indoctrination in the schools, and shut down churches.

This is The Big Lie. One for the readers here fell for it. It's unsurprising in a crowd this big that *someone* believes that nonsense.

#35 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Graydon@#24: The trick is keeping the undesirable 30% away from the levers of power without also keeping away the other 70%, and without providing a tool which the bad guys can pick up and turn to their own uses if the good guys drop it.

For that matter, if we aren't willing to allow the reasonable (or at least not outright unreasonable) 70% access to the levers of power, exactly who are we going to trust with that access?

Given a choice between believing in the ability of the populace to make, over the long run, good or at least adequate decisions, and believing in the continued and uninterrupted availability of virtuous and incorruptible philosopher-kings and philosopher-queens . . . well, as low as my opinion of the general run of humanity can get sometimes, I'm still going to have to opt for the former.

#36 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 11:57 AM:

I just moved to Massachusetts from San Francisco, and I'm pleased to see that my newest home state voted this way. Go, new home state!

#37 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 11:58 AM:

I just moved to Massachusetts from San Francisco, and I'm pleased to see that my newest home state voted this way. Go, new home state!

#38 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 12:53 PM:

L. Raymond @2, the absurdity of that appellate decision still makes my head hurt. So far, nobody's been given standing to forbid the intentionally child free, or people too old to conceive, from marrying, but people will keep trying- I anticipate that the eventual case to get through will be one involving surviving children and intestacy, but I could be wrong.

And I would believe in the correctness of the original Thurston County Superior Court decission that it is wrong under the state's equal rights amendment to restrict marriage to hetrosexuals even if the judge wasn't related to me.

#39 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 12:56 PM:

Dave Luckett #6: What are you doing with your grandmother's drawers?

I think that this is a small but important blow for basic decency. Just under a century ago an attempt to pass a federal constitutional amendment to ban interracial marriage failed. Earlier, in the 1890s and the 19 aughties states banned interracial marriages in their own constitutions, nullifying existing marriages in the process. Only in 1967, forty years ago this week, did the Supremes finally suppress all anti-miscegenation laws, acknowledging, against the opposition of Southern Baptists, Mormons, Klansmen, White Citizens' Councils and other agents of evil that love knows no colour. It is high time to recognise that love knows know gender either.

I am particularly amused by the argument that marriage is for procreation. My wife and I have no children, nor will we have any (I do have children by an earlier marriage). Should we be compelled to divorce?

#40 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Josh Jasper #29: You have to understand that she's seeing a world and a set of values that she believed in crumble all around her, and that upsets her. If you go back to the 1950s and1960s you'll find the same kind of response from nice little-old racist ladies and gentlemen, except that their fear was that someone like my father might marry their daughters.

#41 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Another Boston.com link One lawmaker, in her own words, who changed her vote on same-sex marriage

Same gender couples have been adopting children and building families here in the Commonwealth for about twenty years. In many instances, same gendered couples have adopted children with severe challenges, children no one else wanted, and they have worked miracles with them. These children would have lived lives of despair without these families. This underscores how we cannot afford to marginalize any of our people; make anyone second-class citizens. We are all precious resources to each other, and to generations yet to come.

It *IS* about children. See?

#42 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 01:35 PM:

Josh Jasper @41, it's been about children. Out of the seven same-sex couples that brought the Goodridge suit to court, four of the couples had children.

The whole marriage-is-for-having-children line that the anti-gay side has been spouting is yet another false argument.

#43 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:07 PM:

#39 Fragano: I am particularly amused by the argument that marriage is for procreation. My wife and I have no children, nor will we have any (I do have children by an earlier marriage). Should we be compelled to divorce?

Sorry to pick on you, since other posters have brought this red herring up before, but it always annoys me when people use this argument, or counter-argument, if you will.

I think it actually unconsciously buys into anti-gay sentiment, in that in fact same-sex couples can and do have children, either the biological way or by adoption. So by saying "Ha-ha, not all heterosexual couples choose to or can have children, so there!" you by omission accept the second premise of this anti-gay syllogism:

1. Marriage is only for having children.
2. Gay people can't have children.
3. Therefore, gay people shouldn't be allowed to marry.

Both premises of the syllogism are false, not just the first.

Gay people do have children. A primary purpose of marriage is to facilitate raising children.

Anti-gay people are also against gays being allowed to adopt, so they see no issue with (2).

#44 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:11 PM:

Dave @8: I've watched my mother (who is now in her mid-70s) progress similarly on the issue of gays/gay rights and am proud to report that as of several years ago, she officially is in the "of course there should be gay marriage" camp. She said, and I quote, "how on earth could someone else's marriage affect mine? What difference does it make if gay people get married?"

Regarding "gay cooties": It's been interesting to me to watch my daughter, now in 5th grade, perform a sort of mental juggling act around this topic. On the one hand, we have discussed homosexuality and she knows that we have friends who are gay (though she doesn't know who all of them are, since one of the points I have been trying to make is that she can't tell from looking and that many of the things she thinks are markers are media-presented stereotypes). She feels that being gay is no big deal.

On the other hand, on the playground, "you're/that's gay" and its cousin, "you're gay/queer for So-and-So" are prime epithets. While these phrases are mostly used by boys and are applied to both boys and girls, I have heard my child use them, and I've called her on it every single time. And she's always tried to explain that "it's not so bad," and I haven't let her get away with that.

Her usage of these terms was worse in 4th grade than this year, in 5th. Not that she ever used them much (she's not an insult-driven kid).

However, I think we now have seen the final nail in that coffin.

DD and her two best girlfriends spend a lot of time hanging out together on the playground at recess. One of the girls is in 6th grade and the other two are 5th graders; when they wrap their arms around each other to walk side-by-side, the older girl is usually in the middle because she's the tallest.

When the girls walk around like this, the boys routinely taunt them about being queer for each other. My daughter tells me that their responses of late have been variants on "So? What's it to ya?" and "What does it matter if we are?" Which I think is pretty good.

#45 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:11 PM:

Dave @8: I've watched my mother (who is now in her mid-70s) progress similarly on the issue of gays/gay rights and am proud to report that as of several years ago, she officially is in the "of course there should be gay marriage" camp. She said, and I quote, "how on earth could someone else's marriage affect mine? What difference does it make if gay people get married?"

Regarding "gay cooties": It's been interesting to me to watch my daughter, now in 5th grade, perform a sort of mental juggling act around this topic. On the one hand, we have discussed homosexuality and she knows that we have friends who are gay (though she doesn't know who all of them are, since one of the points I have been trying to make is that she can't tell from looking and that many of the things she thinks are markers are media-presented stereotypes). She feels that being gay is no big deal.

On the other hand, on the playground, "you're/that's gay" and its cousin, "you're gay/queer for So-and-So" are prime epithets. While these phrases are mostly used by boys and are applied to both boys and girls, I have heard my child use them, and I've called her on it every single time. And she's always tried to explain that "it's not so bad," and I haven't let her get away with that.

Her usage of these terms was worse in 4th grade than this year, in 5th. Not that she ever used them much (she's not an insult-driven kid).

However, I think we now have seen the final nail in that coffin.

DD and her two best girlfriends spend a lot of time hanging out together on the playground at recess. One of the girls is in 6th grade and the other two are 5th graders; when they wrap their arms around each other to walk side-by-side, the older girl is usually in the middle because she's the tallest.

When the girls walk around like this, the boys routinely taunt them about being queer for each other. My daughter tells me that their responses of late have been variants on "So? What's it to ya?" and "What does it matter if we are?" Which I think is pretty good.

#46 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:13 PM:

Sorry about the double post! It was unintentional.

#47 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:19 PM:

DaveL #43: I see your point: I believe it to be mistaken. There is a difference between procreation and adoption. Single people, both hetero- and homosexual adopt children as well, so marriage is no more necessary for adoption than it is for procreation. The issue of children, as raised by heterosexist bigots is a red herring.

Marriage is a legally recognised relationship between consenting adults,* giving each partner rights in each other. It's origins have more to do with politics than with love.


* If the polyamorists can build enough support that 'between' could change to 'among'. I find the idea of a marriage than includes a complex of relationships and shared responsibilities fascinating, although I wouldn't be part of one myself.

#48 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Fragano Ledgister #39: So it was around 1910 that this proposed amendment failed? What was the proposal called, and what were the phrases the opponents and proponents used when talking about it? I'd like to find out more.

#49 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:30 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara #48: You might take a look here or here or here.*

0b sf: The Georgia Roddenberries are apparently related to Gene Roddenberry (I ran into a gentleman at the High Museum some months back wearing a nametag indicating that his name was Roddenberry and asked). Given Gene Roddenberry's pretty clear anti-racism this is one of the more pleasant ironies of history.**

** Another is an old acquaintance of mine, a member of the Communist Party, who is J. Edgar Hoover's cousin.

#50 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:46 PM:

#44 (and #45, jk) Melissa Singer: ...On the other hand, on the playground, "you're/that's gay" and its cousin, "you're gay/queer for So-and-So" are prime epithets. While these phrases are mostly used by boys and are applied to both boys and girls, I have heard my child use them, and I've called her on it every single time. And she's always tried to explain that "it's not so bad," and I haven't let her get away with that.

Good for you. I'm so sick of people, many of them parents of the offending children, remarkably enough, excusing this "that is so gay" thing as being more or less "benign". I always say, "Why don't you ask the 14-year old boy in the gym class there struggling with his sexual identity whether being told, 'Dude, you are so gay' is a more or less benign experience for him?"

I actually don't care about the fact of epithets so much so long as "odd-ball" kids don't get dragged into it. Naturally, "odd-ball" kids are the easiest and most common targets for them. Well, such is life, I guess. All the more reason for the *adults* to get over this "more or less benign" bullshit.

But in the end, the wisdom of the young once again trumps my irritability on this subject:

When the girls walk around like this, the boys routinely taunt them about being queer for each other. My daughter tells me that their responses of late have been variants on "So? What's it to ya?" and "What does it matter if we are?"

Good for her. It would be great if all odd-ball kids could summon the wherewithal. Not all can, of course. I guess the solution is for them to summon the manliness to no longer fear their inner girlie-boys.

(Whew, what a confusing conglomeration of gender stereotypes that was....)

#51 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 02:49 PM:

Melissa @ 44/45 -- YG has gone through the same thing at her school. And oddly, it's not the boys but the girls who do the most epithet hurling. If she comforts a friend who's upset, the few Awful Fifth Grade Girls (tm) will start saying "that's so gay!" and "you're a lesbo." The teachers, if they hear this sort of nonsense, come down on it like a ton of bricks, but they don't always hear it. And YG, who knows just how many friends we have who are gay or bi, is upset by this. It's a small school in the Mission district with a whole lot of students who are from very religious families, and I'm not sure how flexible they are at this age; interestingly, a lot of kids from the same demographic are in SG's high school are far more accepting.

Of course, since my godparents were a gay couple who were together for over forty years, this has always been a non-issue in my family (you may remember that one of them, Ed, kept introducing himself to people as "Madeleine's fairy godfather).

#52 ::: R Emrys Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 03:03 PM:

We just celebrated the third anniversary of our marriage--which was, much to our surprise and delight, legal. (We'd been planning the date for two years.) I'm thrilled that my home state is being sensible, even though I don't live there any more.

You know when I stopped being in favor of direct democracy? It was when I found out the percentage of the public that wanted to forbid interracial marriage at the time of Loving vs. Virginia: something approaching 70%. Minority rights should not be subject to majority vote.

#53 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 03:34 PM:

Greg 18: So? So the leader of the anti-equality brigade is an immature, selfish, irrational jackhole. So what? They all are.

Richard 24: If it were a referendum on amending YOUR human rights out of existence, you'd sing a different tune. One of the reasons our democracies are structured the way they are is to keep the majority from trampling the rights of the minority.

Melissa 44: Indeed, I'd call that "as good as it gets."

#54 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 03:43 PM:

As an example of how times have changed:

Doctor Who will be shown as part of Gay Pride rally in London.

It's not just that they're worried that everyone will piss off early to catch DW on TV, it's described as the "most gay-friendly show on television".

#55 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 03:59 PM:

Madeleine @51: The girls still primarily use "you're fat" and its variants as the wounding words of choice (this also does not work with dd). However, in 5th grade, they are too busy gossiping about who is "hot" (each other, boys, movie stars, etc.) and who has a boyfriend to insult each other nearly as much. It's downright creepy. DD isn't into that either, at least not that way (yet). This is of course part of why dd has been very Goth this year (as Goth as one can be at 10-11, anyway). It removes her entirely from the "hot" lists and makes her scary, which puts her in a position of power. The new image was very calculated on her part, and thoroughly abetted by me.

For all that we are in NYC, our neighborhood is fairly provincial and suburb-y. So we run into various prejudices from time to time, and I run around stamping them flat.

#56 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 04:23 PM:

"most gay-friendly show on television".

What?

#57 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 04:24 PM:

My childhood best friend moved to Massachusetts for grad school a few years ago. She and her longtime partner were just married last month. This news made me thrilled for her... and also heartsick to think of how differently it could have gone if same-sex marriage had been submitted for the voters to decide.

Michael, Madeleine, Melissa: a few months ago, my seven-year-old son used "I'm gay" as the caption of a drawing of a google-eyed, tongue-lolling fellow he'd done. I restrained myself from yelling and managed to discuss it fairly calmly with him instead (though he knew full well that anti-gay slurs were completely unwelcome in our family). Ten minutes later, he came in and asked for a permanent marker so he could black out his caption and replace it with something else. (His final choice: "I love George W. Bush.")

#58 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 04:36 PM:

Emrys, #52: Congratulations!

One of my most pleasant memories from TorCon in 2003 was a room party which was being hosted by a couple who were celebrating their (IIRC) 20th anniversary of a Worldcon wedding. The signs said that "anyone who met or married their spouse at Worldcon" was invited, but they weren't being doctrinaire about it, and a lot of warm-fuzzy stories were being exchanged. Then one of the just-married gay couples walked in, and very nearly got a standing ovation. It was a moving moment.

#59 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 04:51 PM:
You know when I stopped being in favor of direct democracy? It was when I found out the percentage of the public that wanted to forbid interracial marriage at the time of Loving vs. Virginia: something approaching 70%. Minority rights should not be subject to majority vote.

The spirit of Alexis de Tocqueville is no doubt nodding thoughtfully.

#60 ::: Graham Blake ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Sometimes it feels like a war of attrition, but it is winnable. Canada's gay marriage legislation came under threat when the Conservatives took power in the last election, but they failed in their attempt to overturn the law. The Conservatives have said the issue is closed, and I do not expect the law to be threatened in the future.

I think once people realised that this was not resulting in hedonistic gay orgies in the street, and we probably aren't facing destruction-cum-brimstone as some kind of modern Sodom, the energy has mostly gone out of the anti-gay marriage camp. I think even the most fervid anti-gay activists on this issue would be hard pressed to demonstrate how extending the right of marriage to gays has brought harm to Canada.

I am hopeful that the small gains made on this civil rights issue will not be lost in America, and that eventually further gains will come. It still continues to boggle that this is even subject to debate, but here we are.

#61 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 05:26 PM:

Spain hasn't collapsed into anarchy, either.

#62 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 06:56 PM:

There are costs to having the gay marriage ballot question other than the risk that the public will vote against it.

First, there is the literal cost - private and public money would be spend.

Second (and more importantly, IMO) is the cost of attention. There's a finite amount of news coverage on TV and in the newspaper. Gay marriage, like flag burning before it, is a noisy distraction from issues that impact people's lives.

Third, there's the impact that the anti-gay marriage propaganda is going to have on the community. Article 8 sent several ugly, ugly mailers around when Carl Sciortino was running against Vinnie Ciampa, and I have to say I'd prefer not to get them again. Article 8 seems to have mutated into Mass Resistance, and either dumped their old archives or just hidden them under bad site design.

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 06:59 PM:

RedMolly 57: Now THAT's what I call a caption!

P J 61: And it was VERY close to the brink already.

#64 ::: broundy ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 07:03 PM:

On the other hand, on the playground, "you're/that's gay" and its cousin, "you're gay/queer for So-and-So" are prime epithets.

About a decade ago, when I worked in a coffee shop alongside teenagers, there was one young man who referred to anything negative or annoying as “gay.” As in “Dude, the new work schedule is totally gay.”

He had no problems with actual gay people (like me or my boyfriend) – but it was so deeply ingrained that, even after I had explained the problems with this expression, he couldn’t stop saying it. He would just call something gay, then apologize to me every single time. “This espresso machine is so gay – sorry, Bill.” Apparently, this new formulation became habit enough that he would apologize to me even if I wasn’t there at the time.

#65 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 07:10 PM:

I had a young Hispanic friend with the same habit, broundy. He argued that 'gay' in that context didn't really mean homosexual, that it just meant lame.

So I told him that I was going to use 'hispanic' to mean lame, and that he mustn't take offense. He got the point at once; unfortunately, he then began to use 'hispanic' to mean gay...in both senses. But he DID get my point.

#66 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 07:25 PM:

#65 Xopher: ...unfortunately, he then began to use 'hispanic' to mean gay...in both senses.

That's pretty funny, actually. I admire his ability and willingness to adapt.

#67 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 07:46 PM:

Hm.

Yet what about "c*cks*cking" used as an insult or other negative term?

There are other words whose original meanings were meant to insult minorities - consider "gyp" and "welsh", for example.

#68 ::: DonBoy ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 08:04 PM:

"most gay-friendly show on television".

What?

Really. It's not even the most gay-friendly show in its own fictional universe.

I once read a statement (which, to my amazement, has no hits whatsoever on Google) to wit: "All process arguments are bllsht". (I'm fuzzy on the language policy here...) And this really comes out here. It's amazing how many anti-SSMers claim in one breath to only be upset about the subtleties of parliamentary procedure that brought us to this point....just before they start in on "abominations" and the like. Yeah, it's just about the legalisms, that's it.

#69 ::: Owlmirror ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 08:05 PM:

me @67:

Er, which is not to suggest that any such usage is OK or anything - I'm just noting the phenomenon of words that were originally insults entering the language and being used without necessarily being referents to the minorities the words were coined to insult.

I personally try to avoid any such terms, but I'm pretty sure that "gyp" as a synonym for "cheat" entered my vocabulary at a very young age - certainly before it ever occurred to me that Gypsies were real people, and that the word was derogatory towards them.

I suspect that the same may have happened/be happening with the word "gay" as used by such young persons as noted.

Thought: Does the use the word "lame" as a negative term bother those with a damaged limb?

#70 ::: Graham Blake ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 08:19 PM:

With increasing frequency, I have started to see the use of "ghey" applied to the word's usage in describing lameness, separating it from any implied association to homosexuality. I think the usage has drifted so far laterally from any meaningful association with homosexuality that it might be better to work towards finalising the divorce rather than trying to suppress its usage.

I can appreciate why the latent bigotry at the root of this usage makes people tweak. However, I am finding it harder to discern any meaningful associations between a word used to describe a person with same-sex interests, and a word frequently used to describe the tedium of poor design, poor management, or general lameness. It just doesn't track for me. I see this as being distinct from the use of such terms as "jew" or "gyp" in a derogatory sense or say, "mighty white of you" in a positive sense, where the associations to the original bigoted meaning of the terms are quite crystal clear.

#71 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:39 PM:

#70 Graham Blake: ...I think the usage has drifted so far laterally from any meaningful association with homosexuality that it might be better to work towards finalising the divorce rather than trying to suppress its usage.

I think trying to suppress usage is dumb. I'm speaking between adults here. Parents and teachers are free to make whatever point they want to make to children about a child's use of the word "gay" for "lame". And I am free to think whatever I care to think about parents and teachers who either ignore or chuckle at a child using the word in that way.

Recent efforts to ban use of the word "nigga" between consenting adults (so to speak) strike me as dumb. In the same way as above, I am free to think whatever I want to think about who people use it to mean "brother" or "homey" or whatever. I do draw conclusions about people who use certain words in certain contexts. We all do.

I think people who use the word "gay" to mean "lame" are dumb, but I wouldn't want to try to force anybody to stop using it that way.

I also think attempts to explain away this usage of the word are dumb, but it's a free country and people are free to be dumb if they want to be.

#72 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 09:55 PM:

Owlmirror, #67: And then all those phrases that came out of the economic rivalries between the British Empire and the Dutch! Dutch treat, Dutch reckoning, Dutch courage, Dutch wife, double Dutch... not to mention things like the French disease and French letters, which came out of the Anglo-French enmity. (Insults based on old ethnic conflicts are an interest of mine, can you tell?)

Graham, #70: The problem with "ghey" is that it's like the fannish usage of "ghod" to differentiate the exclamatory from the nominative use -- it only works in writing. And I don't hear the disassociation you're describing at all in America; here, it still has very strong connotations of "and being gay is Bad".

OTOH, I can't remember the last time I heard "that's mighty white of you" used in anything but a heavily-sarcastic sense. At least where I am, it seems to have acquired a flavor of, "well, don't do ME any favors!"

#73 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:12 PM:

People used to tell me that I was "really Christian" because I was a good, kind person—still am, I hasten to add, but no more Christian now than I was then. I think what they meant is what my Christian friends mean when they say that "the Spirit can move in anyone," which somehow doesn't bother me so much.

Anyway...an African American Christian never did say that to me, drat it, because I had my response all ready.

#74 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:17 PM:

dbc, Greg, etc: Mineau's theory was that legislators (who are paid moderately -- ~$50K base? for longish hours) had been offered better-paying executive-branch posts in return for switching their votes. He has a reason to be bitter; the previous senate president supported him, but quit for a private job at ~2x the salary. Or the switchers could have been promised "leadership" posts, which come with bonuses averaging $10K/yr; those bonuses helped previous house speakers reward loyalty and punish disloyalty. (Curiously, there was no punishment for the previous speaker's disloyalty in refusing to endorse his own party's candidate for governor in 1998, and even describing him as one of the "loony left".)

JC@23 (wrt "Christian high ground"): I remember reading that the 9/11 teams had special dispensation to act in ]non-Islamic[ ways (shaving, drinking, ...) so they'd blend in. From what I've seen, some breeds of Xians (especially chinos) assume they've got much broader dispensation. It's not unlike the Bush administration's theory that rights are only for "good" people while any behavior to "bad" people is justifiable.

Madeleine@33: just so. I haven't had an argument on this with anybody (which may mean I don't get around enough), but the one I've got spring-loaded starts with "Remember what happened the last time Massachusetts went opposite the rest of the U.S.?"

FfY@62: General diversion of attention was part of the issue; a specific reason to stop the amendment was to take it out of the 2008 elections.

#75 ::: L. Raymond ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:52 PM:

#7 Michael Weholt:
Only when the majority is persuaded that equal treatment is the right thing to do, and is persuaded to vote that way, will equal treatment be permanent. I think these too-clever-by-half initiatives put that day off into an even deeper future.

The problem is convincing people to look past stereotypes and see how their bigotry affects real people. A lot of people really do seem to think the main point of marriage is producing children. When they see things like WA-DOMA's initiative, they are forced to come face to face with the logical result of that opinion.

Bigots are incapable of applying their opinions beyond the particular group(s) they despise, so such people have to shown how their hatred affects their own self-interest. Sure, it may be OK to say Steve and Mark can't marry because they'll never have children, but it's so unfair to say that Margaret and John can't, just because he's sterile. If even one bigot changes his mind by seeing this connection, it's a victory.

#76 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 10:55 PM:

He wants to challenge the votes of the elected representatives in court??!!

Please remember that these people are evil asshats. They don't care about principle or the rule of law; they just want to punish the queers. If a court rules against them, they whine about "activist courts" and insist on going to the lawmakers; if the lawmakers go against them, they whine about the "will of the people" and turn to the courts; if the people vote against them, they whine that homosekshul activists* have sold the people a pack of lies, and they turn to the courts and the legislature.

re #47, the origins of marriage have zip-o to do with "consenting adults" and "love". Please remember than until a few decades ago, traditional marriage was very much welded to the old idea of Husband as Lord and wife's legal identity subsumed into his; the idea of a married woman owning her own property without her husband's permission, having credit, or having the right to refuse sexual intercourse were utterly foreign, and against millenia of tradition.

You won't hear the paleo-activists mentioning that part much. Not out loud, at least.

*from CA if you're in MA, from MA if you're in CA

#77 ::: Graham Blake ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 11:09 PM:

#71 Michael Weholt: I also think attempts to explain away this usage of the word are dumb, but it's a free country and people are free to be dumb if they want to be.

Easy now. I find the evolution of language to be an intellectual curiosity, and watching the meaning of words drift is interesting. Leaving aside for a moment the relative intellectual merits of deciding the word "gay" is a succinct term to describe lameness, I am merely raising the question of whether or not it is something that need be judged offensive, when used as an adjective describing *inanimate* objects or subjects. I don't even have a firm opinion on that. I am the first person to jump all over someone who talks about being "gypped" so I am certainly not insensitive to the undertones (or overtones) of language.

#72 Lee: The problem with "ghey" is that it's like the fannish usage of "ghod" to differentiate the exclamatory from the nominative use -- it only works in writing. And I don't hear the disassociation you're describing at all in America; here, it still has very strong connotations of "and being gay is Bad".

Those are both good points, and I guess I am proud to say I am pretty out of touch with the notion of being-gay-is-bad. Being gay is like having a longer second toe than first, and using the word gay as derogatory is starting to verge on meaningless. Perhaps my point is that meaninglessness might not be such a bad thing, if the association was so meaningless as to practically redefine the word as a homonym. That being said, I honestly haven't spent enough time on a school yard recently to know how widespread the derogatory usage of this word is used toward people instead of things these days in my neighbourhood. I may be suffering under an illusion by thinking that it is not so widespread anymore in my little corner of the world.

#78 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2007, 11:21 PM:

Owlmirror, 69: Does the use the word "lame" as a negative term bother those with a damaged limb?

Yes.

#79 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 12:01 AM:

Re: #65 Xopher

That Hispanic kid was clever, and smart, and a smart-ass, and intelligent. This makes me feel less despondent, but America needs many more kids like that. And many more adults like that.

#80 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 12:23 AM:

Don 79: Was and is. He's going to film school soon, too. Someday I'll be able to say I knew him when.

#81 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 12:33 AM:

Re: #78 Dan Layman-Kennedy

And some people who are (deaf and) dumb -- i.e. unable to speak intelligibly -- are probably offended by the common usage of "dumb". Maybe people who are stupid aren't smart enough to be offended by the common usage of that word. Perhaps we should try to encourage the use of "broken" (even though that might imply (possibly correctly and possibly not) "capable of healing or being repaired"). Actually, I think, most of this is colloquial/slang usage, which tends to have a relatively short half-life (though it's likely to be longer if it meets strong opposition from The Establishment). Mostly, I just *shrug* and try to address underlying attitudes, on the theory that words are often important, but are somes just costmetic. (Mind you, I'm not saying that this is the only, or best, approach, or that I'm always moved to use it, and what other people do is up to them.)

#82 ::: RedMolly ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 12:49 AM:

Dan, Don, et al.: is my family's use of "f#@$&n' stupid" as an epithet OK? It seems to both convey our sentiments and avoid inadvertent insult of any particular group.

We heartily encourage our 6YO and 8YO to use it, anyway. Obscenity is better than bigotry.

#83 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 12:51 AM:

Re: #80 Xopher: "Someday I'll be able to say I knew him when."

I hope so, though so many Promising Young People plateau-out. *sigh* But cinematographers can have a significant effect on the world, if they don't get too propagandistic, and there's always the possibility of becoming President (he sounds like someone I might vote for, though I don't expect to live that long).


#84 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 01:03 AM:

Fragano, my grandmother had a tendency towards gnomic utterance. Unpacked, her aphorism meant something like, "when examining any moral rule or general law, or any change thereto, the overwhelming tendency is for each person to consider their own interests first, notwithstanding any previous moral position."

Now, as an exercise for the advanced student, how would Granny Weatherwax have put it?

#85 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 01:15 AM:

Fragano, I'm in a polyfamily situation. The state of Washington would find us EEEEVIL because we got together way past childbearing interest. I AM legally married. We accreted a third, and have had to stand on our heads to make sure all parties get all benefits of owing stuff in common, being able to 'legally' visit one another/make decisions for one another in medical situations, etc.

it's a lot more complicated than getting married, because a marriage license carries a lot of assumed legal benefits that aren't really stated out in front.

We're grateful for an understanding, fannish attorney. It toiok a good gross or more of sheets of paper to make sure everyone gets taken care of in various situations, and we had to think out a great deal of stuff (powers of attorney, wills and phrasing on our property deed.

On the other hand I wouldn't have it any other way. Our third fits and we're all pretty happy with it.

#86 ::: Don Fitch ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 01:22 AM:

Re: #82: RedMolly

Oh, sure -- I use (unmodified with profanity) "stupid" and "dumb" frequently. I'd much rather use "brilliant" or "sensible", but have to work with what's there, and unfortunately.... (Present company excepted of course/,/ /m/o/s/t/l/y/.)

I was suggesting that some people are going to be offended by just about any word one uses, and this, in itself, is not a significant criterion for choice -- one needs to consider how many, and who they are... and, in this, milages vary. (But, hey, I'd probably use "gyp" if I'd already used "cheat" in the same paragraph, and I think the best writer I know who's Rom (Cali Ruchala) would do the same.)

#87 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 01:24 AM:

Dan Layman-Kennedy: What about "sinister", "churl", "bourgeois", "boor", and "villain"?

#88 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 01:50 AM:

Dave Luckett, Dan Layman-Kennedy

So if we speak better linguistically it is because we stand on the shoulders of bigots?

#89 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 02:49 AM:

Dan, #78: ...wow. Everyone who's been involved in the "political correctness" discussions that have cropped up on a couple of the other threads needs to go look at that link, because she nails one point that I think we all skirmished around but never quite articulated.

I don't use "lame" very often, and when I do, it does tend to include the connotation of "weak" or "limping along" -- for example, a poorly-constructed analogy, or a story that lacks plot. But I suppose my more-careful usage has been poisoned by the carelessness of others, so I'll work on coming up with another way to express that.

#90 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 09:08 AM:

R Emrys Gordon @ 52: "You know when I stopped being in favor of direct democracy? It was when I found out the percentage of the public that wanted to forbid interracial marriage at the time of Loving vs. Virginia: something approaching 70%. Minority rights should not be subject to majority vote."

I'm of mixed minds about that. I agree that minority rights should never be subject to majority vote, but I think that relying on the courts has seriously degraded liberals' ability to make persuasive arguments to the public. Decades of making well-crafted, intellectually rigorous arguments in court and accomplishing their goals without having to actually convince the people hasn't made liberalism's positions terribly popular. It's not enough to change the law, though that's a big part of it--you have to change what people think too. A law is no stronger than the belief behind it.

Liberals allowed a huge gap to form between what the law said and what people actually believed, a gap which conservatives have been mining quite succesfully for the last couple of decades. Had liberals and progressives been forced to build broad coalitions, I don't think that we'd be where we are today. On the other hand, who knows how long that would have taken, or how much having the laws in place has made their rightness all the more self-evident? Like I said, I'm of mixed minds.

Another thing worth keeping in mind is that, with the way the conservatives have been stacking the courts for the past few years, relying on the courts to come to the logically sound decision isn't going to be a safe bet much longer. Might not be already--see the recent "Women might regret getting abortions, so it's okay to make them illegal" ruling from the Supreme Court.

Graham Blake @ 60: "...and we probably aren't facing destruction-cum-brimstone as some kind of modern Sodom,"

That clause is a lot funnier if you think of "destruction-cum-brimstone" as containing three items instead of two.

#91 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 11:06 AM:

Dave Luckett #84: That's, alas, all too common.

#92 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 11:11 AM:

Paula Helm Murray #85: I'm glad you were able to get things to work out. It must have been pretty rough getting to that point. The key things, as far as I'm concerned, are that everybody in the arrangement is happy with it and that its stability can be maintained.

#93 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 11:14 AM:

mythago #47: Traditional marriage had a lot more to do with property and inheritance than with anything else. Love as a basis for marriage is a very recent development.

#94 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 12:21 PM:

Liberals allowed a huge gap to form between what the law said and what people actually believed, a gap which conservatives have been mining quite succesfully for the last couple of decades.

Ahem. "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it". The gap between the law and the world is not a new thing, nor has that gap always involved the law enforcing the rights of minorities against bigots.

A law is no stronger than the belief behind it.

That's only true if there's no belief in the concept of law itself. If we're heading there, I don't think you can blame liberals.

#95 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 05:05 PM:

Y'all, I hope I'm not being mistaken for speaking for anyone in particular, except for answering one specific question. I myself am somewhat ambivalent on the issue, as I'm fond of "crazy" myself, and reluctant to jump all over people who use "retarded" even though I'm uncomfortable with it. (I do occasionally make an objection to "cocksucker" on personal grounds, even though, well, it's been a while. But you have to pick your battles.)

FWIW, I think little light makes some excellent points, especially as regards the call for precision in critique. I know she's at least an occasional reader and commenter hereabouts, so perhaps she'll show up and provide further thoughts on the matter herself.

#96 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2007, 09:54 PM:

Fragano, that was kinda my point.

Decades of making well-crafted, intellectually rigorous arguments in court and accomplishing their goals without having to actually convince the people hasn't made liberalism's positions terribly popular.

Funnily, when Loving v. Virginia was handed down, most people thought interracial marriage was a bad idea, and an awful lot of people (especially in VA) thought the laws* should still prohibit interracial marriage. Nowadays few people think much of it and even fewer argue that interracial marriage should be banned.

Do you think "liberals" should have hesitated? That the courts should have refrained from following the Constitution until The People changed their minds and got enlightened?

What's really going on is that courts are supposed to enforce the laws, and follow the Constitution. Sometimes that doesn't dovetail neatly with "the people" and their bigotry. So what?


*The official name for these laws, by the way, was "anti-miscegenation laws".

#97 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 12:12 AM:

My husband works alongside of some great, raunchy-mouthed geeks who have, among other things, come up with the perfect tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating phrase to both evoke the specific flavor of critique that "That's so gay" connotes and to make fun of the absurdity and moral bankruptcy of using "gay" as an insult.

"Oh my God, that's, like, so rainbow."

#98 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 01:50 AM:

mythago @ 96: "Do you think "liberals" should have hesitated? That the courts should have refrained from following the Constitution until The People changed their minds and got enlightened?"

I'm pretty sure that's not what I said. "On the other hand, who knows how long that would have taken, or how much having the laws in place has made their rightness all the more self-evident? Like I said, I'm of mixed minds."

All I meant was that I feel there's been a tendency to battle things out in the courts instead of in the court of public opinion, rather than as well as, and I think that that tendency has been a big factor in many of the problems that liberals are having right now.

#99 ::: MWT ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 06:06 AM:

Hmm... okay, so "gay" is bad, as is "lame" and "retarded" and "crazy" and "idiot" and ... well, just about every shorthand insult is based upon highlighting the perceived negative qualities of a particular group of people. There are times, though, when I'd rather just say "omg that's so [fill-in-blank]" and get on with things, and not stop to rant out a full-fledged dissertation about exactly what I've just found offensive. That's the whole point of having shorthands. Anyone have a suggestion for a good, one-word, all-purpose word to fill in my blank with?

#100 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 07:39 AM:

#98: Given the sheer number of so-called Defense of Marriage Acts which have gone for referendum, I think it's safe to say that equal rights advocates are battling it out in the court of public opinion. We're just not doing it especially well.

The "allowing same sex marriage will make the infant baby Jesus cry and cause The End of Civilization As We Know It" argument works annoyingly well, despite making no sense. I think part of it is the persistence with which one makes the argument. For example, yesterday's ChinesePod lesson was about global warming. Someone felt the need to post a comment declaring the "lack of consensus" canard and that global warming was a conspiracy of left-wing governments on the lesson's comment thread. Usually, people talk about Chinese. (I've always wondered why one couldn't take the same evidence to show that global warming denial is a conspiracy of right-wing governments.)

About gay marriage, my current thought is that it's like green eggs and ham. People won't be convinced until they live with it, realize that the infant baby Jesus is just fine as is the civilization. It's funny to read about the woman who is now for same-sex marriage because of the nice guys who help her with her lawn. But that's what it takes, and stuff like this doesn't happen unless the law gets out ahead of the people first.

#101 ::: D. ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 09:29 AM:

#99: Personally, I like "crumby." Also "wretched," "lousy," and "ridiculous." If restricted to one syllable, one can use "bad."

The things one can do with any of those words and an appropriate grimace are limitless.

I have (again) suppressed the rant (excuse me a moment)--

I have suppressed the urge to rant about this particular matter, but it gets harder, and I am reminded that many people have insufficient vocabularies.

#102 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 09:59 AM:

MWT: If you want an all-purpose putdown term for events or ideas you dislike, try "gross" or "pointless."

If you must use a term that refers to a group of people, make sure it's one you are visibly part of.

#103 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:53 AM:

On the choice of insults -- there are times when I'm tempted to resort to the all-purpose adjectives of T.H. White's ants: Done and Not-Done.

#104 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:19 AM:

For "lame", incompetent, idiotic, stupid, arrogant, etc.:

That is so bush.
That is so shrub.
That is so rummy.
That is so wolfowitz.
That is so cheney...

Really, there is quite a list to choose from, I'm afraid.

#105 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:34 AM:

For a person, why not use "You're a right wally"? (New Oxford Dictionary of English defines a "wally" as "a silly or inept person")

Or is that too lacking in clout because it doesn't actually "highlight the perceived negative qualities of a particular group of people"?

I suppose people called Walter might object if they believe the theory that this originated as a shortened form of that name...

#106 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:38 AM:

Fungi @ 62: Second (and more importantly, IMO) is the cost of attention. There's a finite amount of news coverage on TV and in the newspaper. Gay marriage, like flag burning before it, is a noisy distraction from issues that impact people's lives.

I think there are definitely larger issues that effect all (the environment, hunger, poverty, etc.)

But right now, for good or ill, gay marriage is the number one issue for me. Postponing individuals' freedoms and rights until we can cure all societal ills doesn't work. In fact, I believe it's through securing the rights of those individuals that larger societal ills may begin to be addressed.

To say that the media coverage of gay marriage is a "distraction from issues that impact people's lives" is implying that the gay marriage issue, and coverage of it, does not. I don't think that's true.
For the last few weeks, I'd had to read the paper every morning to see if a group of strangers and lobbyists had decided that I could still marry my girlfriend, or if they'd said that everyone else in the state would have been better able to decide that for me.
I'd say that had a pretty big impact on my life.

#107 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 12:34 PM:

Cassandra - poor phrasing on my part, I apologize.

The lack of gay marriage has affected a number of people's lives in serious negative ways. Its presence? Not so much. I'm not a fan of the "we must obey the Tetragrammaton or else our magic defense shield will be destroyed" school of thought.

I do realize the contradictory impluses involved in my not minding the original lawsuit/battle and getting fairly irritated at the backlash as both ugly and a distraction. Put it down to fuzzy-headed anti-reactionaryism, I guess. Or perhaps a desire for self-proclaimed Christian activists to spend a bit more time worrying about the poor...

#108 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:22 PM:

FungiFromYuggoth: In other words, with gay marriage, just as with flag burning (though on different scales and the similarities end right about here), people should absolutely be allowed to do it, and the big kerfluffle against it gets kicked up in large part by those whose true goal is to distract people from other, far more damaging things that are going on. Right?

That's what I think, too.

#109 ::: MWT ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 02:41 PM:

#101 D.: The things one can do with any of those words and an appropriate grimace are limitless.

Heh. There's a chat channel I belong to where I can convey a wide variety of things just by how I spell "hmm."

I have suppressed the urge to rant about this particular matter, but it gets harder, and I am reminded that many people have insufficient vocabularies.

I hope you're not insinuating that I'm asking the question because you think I lack vocabulary. I'm asking because there are a number of social contexts where it becomes relevant to use a shorthand term and quickly move on. Everyone within the context knows what is meant, communication successfully occurs, and stopping to be extra articulate (or adding qualifiers like "no offense to [group of people]" for that matter) just doesn't fit. It's sort of a "when in Rome" thing.

#105 dcb: For a person, why not use "You're a right wally"? (New Oxford Dictionary of English defines a "wally" as "a silly or inept person")

Silly or inept people might object to that.

Or is that too lacking in clout because it doesn't actually "highlight the perceived negative qualities of a particular group of people"?

My question was to find a word to replace those that highlight perceived negative qualities of groups of people. :p Surely you've noticed the same thing about insulting shorthand terms? Especially since your suggestion is another one? Ever wonder why that is?

I like Michael Weholt's list. ;)

No idea yet what I'll start using. Possibly "rubbish."

#110 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 04:23 PM:

MWT @ 109

I think we have a miscommuication.

"My question was to find a word to replace those that highlight perceived negative qualities of groups of people."

People use "lame", "gay", "spaz" etc. as insulting terms for people who do something silly (or whatever), without considering how insulting that is for those who actually are lame, gay, spastic etc.

To my knowledge, there is no set of people who are "wally" - its only meaning is as in the dictionary definition I just quoted. Therefore, I think, it fits what you were looking for?

#111 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:35 PM:

Just out of curiosity, is there a perceived problem with "loony"? While it is somewhat insulting to an otherwise-inoffensive bird, that strikes me as better than being insulting to people.

#112 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 10:43 PM:

Michael Weholt (#104): I'm actually going to nominate 'to cheney' as a verb meaning 'to accidentally hit someone in the face.' I was out on a field trip with a bunch of entomologists and ecologists yesterday, and I was nervous about swinging a net over the chest-high Lyonia bush a bunch of us were standing around - I expressed my concern that I would be overly-enthusiastic and accidentally cheney someone. We decided that we should try to foster 'to cheney' as a verb in much the same spirit as 'santorum.'

#113 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:08 PM:

debcha @ 112

Some people are using it as a euphemism (well, it would normally be a euphemism) for f*ck. YMMV.

#114 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2007, 11:40 PM:

debcha 112: "It's so cold in Germany even in the summer that they eat ice cream differently, because it doesn't melt. You know how we lick all around the sides? They don't have to do that; they just monica straight down from the top."

"Development gave me the information, but it was crap, and they told everyone but me that it was crap before the meeting, which meant I was totally powelling in the meeting. I've never been so humiliated."

#115 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:04 AM:

"He didn't give a straight answer the whole meeting. He rumsfelded every single question."

"I can't believe he'd go back on his word that fast. He wolfowitzed his credibility right out of the gate."

Trying for a Rove one, but it's a verb already, curse his luck.

#116 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:41 AM:

Lee @ 111

"Loony" is short for "lunatic" so could be found offensive by those who really are insane, particularly those whose mental state is affected by the stages of the moon?

#117 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 08:55 AM:

#108 Ethan:

I think flag burning is quite different, because it's seen as a symbolic issue all around. Gay marriage has a huge impact on peoples' lives here and now, and some people really do believe it will have some kind of terrible impact on society.

Now, gay marriage is in the same category as flag burning and immigration reform in the sense that it helps split the parties' coalitions, and so it's useful as a kind of weapon for one party to use against the other. But while nothing that is done with flag burning is likely to have much real-world impact (so politicians can be pretty irresponsible with it, without doing much real harm), gay marriage and immigration reform have a big impact on peoples' lives, and are at least plausibly important in the nation's future.

#118 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:42 PM:

111 Lee and others:

An awful lot of the insults that people still end up with amount to "stupid." The irony here is that while being gay or black, say, isn't a handicap (other than getting hassled more than other people), being stupid genuinely is hard on people. Get the wrong roll of the genetic dice, and you're going to have a really hard life, just because the world's too complicated for you. (Imagine if day-to-day tasks were as challenging as, say, the hardest class you ever had in college. Filling out a job application = taking that horrible Diff EQ final that gave you nightmares.)

#119 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 01:44 PM:

#113:

Let's see....

"Hey, baby, let's go back home and Cheney."

No, no, that's not quite the image I was looking for....

#120 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:00 PM:

albatross @ 119

On the other hand, you could tell someone 'go cheney yourself'. Which seems to be the normal usage for this particular 'phemism.

#121 ::: Fiendish Writer ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 02:53 PM:

#119: dearest albatross, you have broken my brain with that image.

#122 ::: rachael ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:17 PM:

My skin is 2 feet thick by now, and hearing my own friends use gay to mean lame barely registers anymore (infrequent as it is). I remember getting very upset about it 5yrs ago, and constantly correcting people without ever seeming to get anywhere. It just tended to make them verbally uncomfortable around me, and they surely were saying it out of my presence. For some, who were not my friends, my obvious anger was something they loved to goad. So I formulated my current policy, which involves letting friends know I’m “not mad just disappointed they think so little of me” (thanks for all the guilt trips mom) and letting bullies see nothing at all. In a business setting, anything of this sort draws a raised eyebrow from me and a quick exit from whatever ignorant conversation they are conducting.

People have to change their own opinions, and the best influence you can have is to be in their lives so they have something to cue to other than a stereotype, like the lawn lady.

I think I must’ve done some good groundwork, because this topic came up with family/friends at our labor day bbq and my 7yr old nephew bust out with, “Banning gay marriage is so gay!”

#123 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:28 PM:

albatross #118:

Sometimes the world is too complicated even if you are reasonably bright. I find job applications and anything else requiring me to get my ducks in a row to be incredibly challenging. I've been heard to say on multiple occasions that the toughest part about my doctorate was the paperwork, with the crowning difficulty being that of getting five persons and an otherwise unscheduled room together simultaneously.

I think dealing with that sort of thing probably is an example of one of the many sorts of multiple intelligences. The problem is that if you haven't got that one, everyone is convinced that you really are stupid, unless faced with truly overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Now whether that is an insult, or simply a misunderstanding, is an interesting question. I just know I call myself an idiot a lot.

#124 ::: kouredios ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 03:39 PM:

I can't help but think there's a difference between refraining from calling something "gay" because there are gay people who would be offended and refraining from calling something "stupid" or a synonym thereof because there are stupid people who might be offended.

Does anyone really self-identify enough as stupid to take offense? No one truly thinks of themselves as stupid, do they?

#125 ::: broundy ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 05:40 PM:

This comic strip is totally gay.

Notes on Camp.

#127 ::: Ed Gaillard ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:22 PM:

At #104, Michael Weholt suggests:
For "lame", incompetent, idiotic, stupid, arrogant, etc.:

That is so bush.
[...]

That one has the great advantage of already being a established piece of American slang meaning "amateurish or crude". (It's a shortened form of "bush league").

I must remember to use it more often.

#128 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 06:47 PM:

JESR, #126: Ew. Just... ew. That this kind of barbarism could even happen here is sickening.

Beyond that, two questions:

1) I know that in some cases such as this one, the hospital calls in the patient's blood family (parents, siblings, etc.) to make legal decisions. That doesn't seem to have been done here. If there's no recognized family member, who gets to make those decisions?

2) Was Ms. Pond Catholic? If not, why was she being given Last Rites? Is this common practice in hospitals? I certainly wouldn't want some priest doing that to ME!

#129 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:05 PM:

In the comments thread (which, don't read it, really, unless you're in need of having your opinion of humanity lovered several notches: it includes the only permabans I've ever seen in an Oly comment thread) there's a statement from a friend that Ms. Pond was an active, practicing Catholic. Which means a stranger could see her because of her religion but her adopted children, let alone her life partner, could not.

And it saddens me most that only when the question of her becoming an organ donor was raised did her partner and children get to see her.

#130 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2007, 07:39 PM:

Albatross #117: Absolutely! That's what I meant by saying that the similarities ended there, and that the scales were very different. I just meant that The Enemy uses both issues the same way. Your Now, gay marriage is in the same category as flag burning and immigration reform in the sense that it helps split the parties' coalitions, and so it's useful as a kind of weapon for one party to use against the other is a clearer way of saying what I had meant to say.

But I do have to disagree about flag burning amendments having only minor repercussions--any restriction of first amendment rights that severe is bound to have some nasty effects.

#131 ::: MWT ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 12:46 AM:

Hmmmm.

When I first encountered the word "gay" as a word that didn't mean "homosexual" and also didn't mean "happy and frolicky", it was on Battlenet playing Starcraft. There, it refers to a "cheap"/"cheesy"/"cheating"/otherwise dishonorable tactic, or alternately an exceptionally clever tactic designed to infuriate the opponent so thoroughly that (assuming they survive the tactic) they become unable to think straight and ultimately lose the game. (How one viewed it tended to depend on whether one was using it on someone, or was the target.)

Likewise, when "stupid" or "lame" is used in that kind of context, it doesn't actually mean stupidity (or idiocy, as "wally" would imply). It's actually almost the opposite - sort of a form of "clever" except laden with negative connotations.

From there, for me anyhow, the term "gay" sort of continued to develop to encompass cleverness-with-negative-connotations in all sorts of situations other than video games. It's a little like Nelson on the Simpsons doing his "ha ha!" point-and-laugh.

So that's where we are now, when people can say "banning gay marriage is so gay!" and mean entirely different things with the first "gay" and the second. Because the word no longer means "homosexual", anymore than it refers to happy frolickingness nowadays either. Also it's everywhere. Sure, sensitive people will refrain from using it in the presence of homosexuals, but other than that I don't think it's going to get stamped out.

On the bright side, though, every generation has its slang, and sooner or later it'll fade out as younger people want to differentiate themselves from the people who came before.

#132 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 05:40 PM:

[In housecleaning hell when not at work... sigh... therefore I have been infrequently in this forum recently]

"Masschusetts the one and only" was a bumper stick from the time that all the other states voted for Tricky Dicky. "Let Teddy take Dicky for a ride," however, could use some updating....

In a choice between Tricky Dicky and Gag Order George, the thief is by far the lesser evil. Cthulu might even been preferable....

Meanwhile, there was heavy rain in MA earlier this year. Some people living along the Merrimack got flooded out. The water went rising on the Shawsheen River in the town I live in, covering over an athletic field for several days. *yawn* no permanent damage done from the flooded Shawsheen, something about "stop the greedy idiots and slime and shysters and con types from building in flood plains, and the price for flood damage goes, er, over a waterfall.

The Bible Belt seems to have been having quite a lot of disasters and such lately, a lot of them avoidable had there been somethings called "planning" and consideration and respect for other people--I noticed earlier today that USA Today reported that a third of the people in Houston have no health insurance. Of course if those people {major sarcasm here} really were interested in working hard they would have incomes and health insurance that would put them in a comfortable life situation... {end major sarcasm}.

Has Gag Order George ever done an honest worthwhile day's sober work in his entire life, I wonder, without some handler doing George-wrangling and damage mitigation and PR? Academically he seems to have never gotten anywhere except by legacy beneficence and largesse and "Gentlemen's Cs" and courses chosen for someone of mediocre academic reach to be above the flunkout level where the professor was amenable to dong the pass-the-brat-for-the-social-harmony shtick and forget about actual academic quality/competency/qualification/merit.

Gag Order George with his pickled and then evangelical extremism parrot deteriorated neurons, his kneejerk reactionary bigot shut-off-all-input-outside-his-narrowminded-closeminded-values-views, and his utter resistance of his own volition to accept anything that he doesn't want to hear, isn't about "of the people, by the people, for the people, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for anything other than his narrow values... the idea that that there are people who share their lives joyously and with commitment to one another who are not biological related who are of the same gender, and want to spend the rest of their lives bonded and recognized by society as bonded and committed to one another, is an offense to his value system...

It's an offense to my value system, that his objection he and his colleagues view as a religious and moral mandate, to same gender marriage, he regards as his right to unilaterally impose on everyone else, regardless of their creed, religion, their value system, their contributions to society and the welfare of others and the warp and weft of society....

While he was out boozing and making the streets unsafe for other people out traveling, and playing robber barons' best buddy of squeezing money from the majority to redistribute to the highly remunerated and their "wealth managers," people whose gender orientation he regards as morally offensive were out living quiet lives tyring to cope in a hostile taking-offense general society....

Garden in the Woods, the headquarters of the New England Wildflower Society, was deeded to the wildflower society by the survivor of a pair of men who lived there together for decades, turning land which had been left bare and ugly by a railroad, into a garden of native flowers.

The married same-gender couples in Massachusetts are noticeable not for sticking out, but for being seamlessly integrated into and part of the social fabric. Some have divorced, but most haven't, they go about their lives as other citizens do, and help -preserve- the social fabric and well-being, far from destabilizing anything.

The ranters against them, were ALREADY unstable to start with, looking for something to foam at the mouth at in public and hatemonger about. The ones who go on the radio and gripe would be pathetic, it's bathos, if they weren't so vile and mean-spiritedly and psychically -ugly- in their bigotry and hate and intolerance.

#133 ::: Vito Excalibur ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 08:11 PM:

Heresiarch@115:

Yes, let's go no more a-Roving
So late into the night
No more U.S. Attorney shoving
Or CIA agents brought to light.

#134 ::: the Other Paul ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 09:03 PM:

Under the heading of gay marriage, an incredibly touching story of how a Canadian man and his wife served as witnesses at the (Canadian) wedding of two American women--all thanks to Craigslist.

First post here: http://joeydevilla.com/2007/06/11/a-craigslist-wedding/#comments

A follow-up with a link to the Flickr photoset from the wedding: http://joeydevilla.com/2007/06/12/photos-from-julies-and-amandas-wedding/#comments

And a Toronto Star article about it: http://www.thestar.com/article/226074 .

#135 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:34 PM:

the Other Paul (#134): Wow. That's a lovely story, accordion and all.

Another nice feature of the Massachusetts marriage laws is that it allows anyone to be the officiant by applying to have the governor declare you an "officiant for a day" for that one wedding. Unfortunately, the lead time for this process is a few weeks, and our then-governor declared that he wouldn't take even the first step toward approving any of them for same-sex weddings until the day those became legal, so none of the first batch in May 2004 were able to take advantage of it.

#136 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2007, 10:48 PM:

Christopher 135: That feature of MA law is to make up for the fact that MA's laws on marriage solemnizations are blatantly discriminatory on the basis of religion. In order not to need a letter from the Governor, you have to be a cleric on the list of religions acceptable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

I know this because back when my clerical credential was current, I had to get a letter from the Governor to do a wedding in MA...and by the way, I also would not have needed one had I been a resident of MA. They just don't want people who are of "strange religions" coming in from out of state to do weddings.

In contrast, in New Jersey anyone who "has been entrusted by a congregation with the oversight of their spiritual affairs" qualifies. Even a credential is not required: being a coven leader was enough by itself.

So as far as who can officiate...I'm afraid I don't think Massachusetts has anything to be proud of. None of which takes away from their achievements on same-sex marriage, of course.

#137 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 09:38 AM:

Fungi @ 107: Thanks. I wish people would spend more time worrying about the poor, too--Christian or otherwise.

Ethan @ 108: ...and the big kerfluffle against it gets kicked up in large part by those whose true goal is to distract people from other, far more damaging things that are going on. Right?

It can be a distracting kerfluffle being kicked up by people that are trying to distract one from other things going on. I wouldn't always argue those things are 'more' or even 'less' important, though--it's hard to tell what's more or less important in areas like this; there's no 10-point scale you can just drop things into so you can start prioritizing. Unfortunately.

#138 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 10:21 AM:

I have been in Housecleaning Hell, and among the Stuff are newspapers dating back several years... the focus on current epherma by the media means that the news foci are close to memoryless.

That is, what was going on six months ago, year ago, three years ago, five years ago, gets dealt with by disappearing from sight, memory, and consideration. It's out of sight, out of mind, gone, disposed of, and no longer remembered/out of consideration.

The Schmuck's abominable presiding gets essentially no considered critical longitudinal analysis. Translation--GOOD analysis takes data and looks at it over an entire area, scoping out where the data is spread over, instead of taking an unquestioning instantaneously uncalibrated single sample and ignoring how representative (or not representative) the sample is, the biases involved in noticing and taking the sample, assumptions, etc.

More and more information has been -available- and more and more of it gets ignored--the latest is that one of the dumped generals, told a reporter that the general was essentially precluded from investigating up the chain of command and around regarding the Abu Ghraib atrocities. Abu Ghraib is in the past, and the millisecond memory/attention span of the media treats it as of less relevance than e.g. the Civil War, which is something that is commercially profitable and seems to be one of the iconic influences on a large percentage of the people in the Deep South.

(My view of the thing is that my ancestors weren't anywhere near this part of the world when it occurred, it does NOT have any cogent influence or relevance to my life and times other than it being an obsession on the part of/ bludgeon used by a lot of people I disapprove of and who are out to convert anyone who isn't e.g. a Southern Baptist forcibly to the faith they profess, and which obsession they are even MORE noxious. (That is, I spent a month in ROTC Summer Camp with 2/3rds of the ROTC cadets males who were majoring in ROTC-I'm-gonna-be-a-pilot and minoring in getting through college in e.g. physical education and business and other academically-lightweight-majors from places like Auburn University, University of Mississippi, University of Alabama, the Citadel, etc. The Georgis Tech and University of Florida cadets were intelligent lifeforms, most of the others were not--and their level of bigotry was breathtaking, regarding constant sneers about "Yankee dimes" and "Yankee dollars" and their attitudes towards women being not much more considerate than those of the New Texas Militia in some of Elizabeth Moon's SF (religious extremist society based on Texas extremist rightwing Christian sects and their views of what society should be).

#139 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 12:12 PM:

Paula:

The short memory thing is annoying. I keep thinking it would be useful to have some automated page or something, which gave the front page today, 1 month ago, 6 months ago, 1 year ago, 2 years ago, etc. It might put some of the news in perspective, remind people of what came before, etc.

Many news sites, such as the BBC, have links to related stories. Chasing down those links is often interesting, since you get a different take on things when you see the sequence of stories.

#140 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2007, 11:29 PM:

Xopher: You're omitting JPs.

As a point of curiosity: what would NJ say to someone who stated he represented a congregation in MA?

I wouldn't be surprised to hear that MA still has some ugly hangovers from its religious past -- but many of those hangovers have been put down. When I moved here there was a law that any church could prohibit the granting of a liquor license within X (500?) feet of its front door. The then-A.G. was required by his position to represent the state (all the way up to SCOTUS) in the suit against this law; he said afterward that he'd never been happier to lose a case.

#141 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 12:00 AM:

CHip (#140) is referring to Larkin v. Grendel's Den (459 U.S. 116, 1982).

(8-1 vote. Rehnquist dissented.)

#142 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 12:16 AM:

CHip 140: JPs? Oh, no, I was just quoting the part that was relevant to me. JPs do qualify in NJ.

And out-of-state clergy most certainly DO qualify. Happens all the time.

#143 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 12:34 AM:

Apparently the discussion of gay marriage has brought us a picture ad for a gay fitness website, as well as other GLBT links.

#144 ::: broundy ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2007, 11:31 PM:

If you liked the "Notes on Camp" comic strip (currently Sidelighted) - the artist, Alison Bechdel, is the guest of honor at the MoCCA Art Festival this weekend, at the Puck Building in Manhattan - though I think she'll only be there on Saturday, since Sunday is Gay Pride.

(I'll be at the festival too, as will miriam beetle)

#145 ::: Gerg Manoco ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2007, 02:14 PM:

Avram, stop your idiotic rambling for a change.

Gore lost. Kerry lost.

Deal with reality for once.

Enjoy your higher taxes in 2008.

#147 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Hilariously, #145 seems to be the first mention of either Gore or Kerry in this thread.

#148 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 09, 2007, 06:32 PM:

Hmm. And I think that first name, which at first I thought was a typo for "Greg," is actually pronounced with a soft g at the beginning, and a devoiced one at the end.

#149 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2007, 01:51 AM:

Xopher #148: Bwa!

#150 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: September 11, 2007, 06:52 PM:

Google found me a couple more blog comments by the Gergster, in which we discover that he's a misogynistic jerk, and that he likes the Zune.

I'm not even bothering to disemvowel him. He's just a drive-by.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.