Framing disagreement as intolerance

In 2000 the citizens of California overwhelmingly (61%) voted to affirm the traditional definition of marriage, the common definition of marriage that had prevailed since the founding of the state and the definition that has prevailed until recently in virtually every society around the world. What evolved thereafter was a live and let live solution where domestic partners had de facto civil unions and every right that the state could grant without redefining marriage. Homosexual couples, unlike blacks, prosper economically more than heterosexual couples, and the homosexual lobby is arguably the most powerful force in California politics. The California Supreme Court’s recent 4-3 decision, however, added two additional rights: the right to stigmatize or sue anyone who publicly disagreed with the new legal definition of marriage and right to sue for the new definition of marriage in other states based on the full faith and credit clause of the constitution.

Despite attempts to have it barred from the ballot, Proposition 8 allows the citizens of California the opportunity to re-establish the traditional definition of marriage. The opponents of Proposition 8, however, have defined a yes vote as a vote for intolerance and the state government and media have framed Proposition 8 in a most negative light.

Tolerance, however, runs both directions. The person who ripped off my “Democrats for Proposition 8” bumper sticker was not very tolerant. The people who have stolen Pro Prop 8 yards signs have not shown their tolerance. The people who on blogs assert that opposition to Proposition 8 can only stem from hatred and fail to acknowledge that there can be any legitimate arguments on the other side do not strike me as tolerant.

The latest tactic is to make Proposition 8 a referendum on the Mormon Church, betting that linking Prop 8 to a religious minority is a winning tactic. The tactic may work, but the Latter-day Saints are not alone in opposition Proposition 8. See, for example, this link or this one from the Orthodox Union, which seems a model of reasoned tolerance.

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  1. #1 by Danite Warrior on November 2, 2008 - 11:08 am

    Those that appose traditional marriage are attacking the LDS church which is only going to motivate the LDS population in California which has the highest concentration of LDS people except Utah. Their hateful and bigoted tactics will backfire. I am confident that every “married” gay couple in California will receive an automatic divorce come Tuesday.

  2. #2 by Cliff Lyon on November 2, 2008 - 11:11 am


    WHO “a[sic]ppose[s] traditional marriage? Show me one example please.

  3. #3 by Becky Stauffer on November 2, 2008 - 11:16 am

    Danny-boy, nobody opposes traditional marriage (as you define it). Many of us embrace it – I’ve enjoyed it twice myself! We’re just saying there are people who are unfairly left out when it comes to enjoying all the benefits of a legally and otherwise committed relationship. It’s time to rectify that.

  4. #4 by Becky Stauffer on November 2, 2008 - 11:19 am

    …the LDS population in California which has the highest concentration of LDS people except Utah. Their hateful and bigoted tactics will backfire.

    Danny, your antecedent problem in this statement was a bit funny, and yet, becomes the ironic truth.

  5. #5 by Danite Warrior on November 2, 2008 - 11:26 am

    Darn spellcheckers, to heck with em.

  6. #6 by Bart on November 2, 2008 - 11:39 am

    I oppose traditional marriage. Every man I know opposes traditional marriage but they would never tell their wives. Men simply did not evolve to be monogamous. Men cheat because we were bred to spread our seed around. Monogamy was invented to keep the natural man down. It’s only good for women so they can take half of what we worked hard for when they get sick of us or we engage in activities that nature intended for us to do.

  7. #7 by Cliff Lyon on November 2, 2008 - 11:56 am

    Bart you nailed, it with one correction. Every man opposes traditional marriage for himself, but not for other men.

    Men are polygynous in our natural state. It should also be noted that the human female reproductive tract falls into the zoological category of reproductive systems that assume the presence of competing male sperm.

    Taken all together, one can only come to the conclusion that traditional marriage is a social construct at serious odds with natural man and puts our reproductive goals (as many as possible) at a serious disadvantage.

    Paul Mero should read the Moral Animal. Heck everybody should.

  8. #8 by Cliff Lyon on November 2, 2008 - 12:25 pm

    Leo, I am surprised at you. As an expert on Constitutional law, I am surprised that you advocate for religion inspired social engineering in any constitution.

    I am frankly further surprised that you would equate your own intolerance of gay marriage with someone ripping the bumper sticker of your car…a fairly sophomoric semantic trick.

    But you have not supported your premise that support for a legal definition of traditional marriage which would promulgate clear inequality based upon sexual preference…is somehow not intolerance or religiously based.

    How then is stripping existing rights from a specific class of people NOT intolerance?

    I’ll wait.


    btw: I didn’t mean to single out the LDS church. I think everyone is clear that the LDS church is not alone in wanting to proscribe religious dogma (largely unfounded biblically) upon the rest of us.

  9. #9 by LastDays on November 2, 2008 - 12:32 pm

    “Homosexual couples, unlike blacks, prosper economically more than heterosexual couples,” Huh?

    Is this part of your argument?

    What about “the common definition of marriage that had prevailed since the founding of the state and the definition that has prevailed until recently in virtually every society around the world”

    That was the same argument the segregationist used, is it not?

  10. #10 by Troy Williams on November 2, 2008 - 3:00 pm

    Leo — I responded to this in another post — but let me clarify — I’m not interested in your tolerance. Tolerance presumes a state of rank and privilege. The white straight male hegemony gets to “tolerate” the non-white, non-straight, non-normative group, for a time. And then when it strikes his fancy, he can choose to cease tolerating on a whim. So please, keep your tolerance.

    I don’t acknowledge your social ranking over me, therefore your tolerance is irrelevant.

    The days of the white heterosexual defining what families are legitimate under the law ARE OVER! Just as whites had to give up their privilege when Jim Crow laws were struck down, you are now going to have to give up your privilege. And I know it may smart for a little bit.

    You and the Mormons no longer get to define family.


    I know, I know it’s going to be scary for some of you for awhile. But don’t worry, you’ll all be okay. I promise. You see, we queer folks are not going to try to take away your rights, nor will we try to invalidate your marriages.

    Liberty and Justice for ALL includes heterosexuals. There will be a place for you in the New Gender Order. We won’t just tolerate you — we’ll treat you as equals.

  11. #11 by Don on November 2, 2008 - 3:58 pm

    “The people who on blogs assert that opposition to Proposition 8 can only stem from hatred and fail to acknowledge that there can be any legitimate arguments on the other side do not strike me as tolerant.”

    Would you care to share any of these supposedly legitimate arguments in favor of restricting the rights and freedoms of gay people by denying them equal access to the right to marriage? Or would you rather just cry about a bumper sticker?

    Frankly, I find it disgusting that you hold up as equal levels of “intolerance” those who stole your bumper sticker or a few yard signs compared to those who wish to take rights away from an entire segment of our population. Yes, I am intolerant of those who want to arbitrarily restrict the rights, freedom and equality of others. Shouldn’t we all be so intolerant?

  12. #12 by Richard Warnick on November 2, 2008 - 4:17 pm

    If Prop 8 is a referendum on the LDS Church, whose fault is that? I read in the paper today that 4/5 of the political contributions for the Prop 8 campaign came from Mormons. I don’t know how they know that, but if that’s the widespread perception there are two possible outcomes:

    1) Prop 8 is defeated and the LDS Church is defeated with it.
    2) Prop 8 is enacted and the LDS Church bolsters its reputation for intolerance.

    Hardly seems worth the investment.

  13. #13 by Becky Stauffer on November 2, 2008 - 7:27 pm

    After watching the ad, and seeing all the publicity about the Mormon church’s involvement, I’d say the damage is already done. Those nice young men in white shirts and ties are going to find things tougher going after this. The church was a well-oiled PR machine under Hinckley – he never would have allowed such a PR faux pas to happen.

    I just learned there is a marriage definition proposition on the ballot in Arizona. Proposition 102.

  14. #14 by Leo Brown on November 3, 2008 - 6:46 am


    I don’t claim to be an expert in Constitutional Law. However, I would be surprised if our current Supreme Court agrees with your view. I would be surprised if the majority of state supreme court justices agrees with you. Until about the last decade no state supreme court agreed with you. The vote in the California Supreme Court was a narrow one (4-3) with the minority sympathizing with same sex marriage, but arguing that the majority was guilty of judicial overreach. Yet your view is that the case is so cut and dried that no reasonable person could possibly disagree with you. This is the sort of dismissal of the views of others that I find objectionable in the religious right.

    Rights are often in conflict. The California Supreme Court “stripped away” the rights of the four million and a half million voters who supported Proposition 22 to define marriage. If Proposition 8 fails there is likely to be litigation, as there has been elsewhere, attacking (“stripping away”) the parental rights and the rights of religious groups. The clear direction of the legal arguments, moreover, will be to impose via the courts California’s new definition of marriage on all the states and on the federal government, stripping away the rights of voters, legislators, and jurists in other states and at the national level.

    Nothing is Proposition 8 takes any rights away from California’s domestic partnerships, which are about as expansive as they could be without redefining marriage. No system of laws is going to please everyone, but the balance that California had prior to the recent California Supreme Court decision was closer to a live-and-let-live, go-along-get-along solution than we are likely to get if Proposition 8 fails. Tolerance is supposed to run both ways, but then again, some people aren’t interested in tolerance.

  15. #15 by Richard Warnick on November 3, 2008 - 8:58 am

    Leo– I know your last was addressed to Cliff, but as I am a conservative at heart (and very free with my opinions, as my wife points out frequently) I’d like to quote you something that I believe is “cut and dried” (emphasis added).

    Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

    Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    Lawyers and judges can argue if they want, they are paid to do that. I just think our Constitution means what it says.

  16. #16 by Troy Williams on November 3, 2008 - 9:29 am

    Leo —

    Apparently you think “tolerance” is a virtue. Tolerance often maintains power imbalance and maintains that some are less equal than others. “They” are tolerated by “We” who have more power. But ALL people are created equal in this country. Gay people are claiming the liberty that has been promised us. It’s our national birthright. And you want to deny us that freedom.

    Why are you so afraid of gay people being your equal?


  17. #17 by Cliff Lyon on November 3, 2008 - 10:08 am


    You keep saying tolerance runs both ways. Further on you say

    If Prop 8 fails there is likely to be litigation…attacking (“stripping away”) … the rights of religious groups.

    Are you suggesting everyone else should be tolerant of a Judeo-Christian statutory definition of marriage?

    Can you elaborate on what you mean “rights of religious groups” is being stripped away?

    I will defer to your legal expertise but…

    I always thought rights protect religious expression insofar as it does not tread on others.

    Mero argues there is a State interest (making more taxpayers).

    What is your argument?

    Again I ask, how is defining marriage through the lens of one genre of religion Constitutional?

  18. #18 by Kevin Owens on November 4, 2008 - 12:10 pm

    The “homophobe” name-calling simply amounts to an ad hominem attack by pro-gay pundits against those who disagree with them. It is not useful in advancing the dialog between the opposing points of view. It may let off some steam, but it’s not going to get us any closer to agreeing on just how to handle homosexuality in public life and in the law.

    Bart, I disagree with your position that “Men simply did not evolve to be monogamous.” We do indeed have a natural tendency to form monogamous pair-bonds with females. As with heterosexuality/homosexuality, the tendency of any individual man varies between one pole to the other, and the balance is different for everyone. Many of us prefer to have only one sexual partner. It is incorrect for you to assume everyone is wired the same way you are.

    I think traditional, monogamous marriage works for many or most of the population, as evidenced by its high rates of participation. It is as relevant today as it ever was. Unless we undergo a very radical evolution away from our natural tendency to form heterosexual pair-bonds, I think traditional marriage is here to stay.

    The continued existance of traditional marriage does not mean we can’t do something to address the increasingly diverse family structures in our country. But, I think we can come to some kind of agreement on the matter without having to radically redefine marriage.

    Troy, I appreciate the flair you put into your posts. They are certainly entertaining. I can practically feel your blood boiling with indignation and glee when I read them.

    Cliff, this question was directed to Leo, but I’d like a try at answering it: “How is defining marriage through the lens of one genre of religion Constitutional”?

    It is constitutional in the same way that defining anything through any particular ideaology is constitutional. The constitution allows for laws to be made according to the will of the people, as long as they do not infringe upon a set of natural rights reserved for the people and enumerated in the Bill of Rights. There is nothing in the (United States) constitution which prohibits a law for or against gay marriage.

    I don’t believe that the existance of a heterosexual marriage institution and the absense of a homosexual marriage institution violates the equal protection clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. Everyone, gay or straight, black or white, has exactly the same right to marry someone, assuming the marriage meets certain requirements (e.g., they must be adults, they can’t be brother and sister, they can’t already be in another marriage, they have to be male and female, etc.)

    I understand that the specific language of the California state constitution has been interpereted to prohibit laws against gay marriage, which is why Proposition 8 aims to amend the state constitution. But I don’t think there’s anything in the United States constitution which would prohibit a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, or between people who are at least second-cousins, or people over 16.

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