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Sunday, March 26, 2006

 
Deathknell for Antigay Bigotry? Americans are adjusting much faster than almost anyone could have predicted to the arrival of gay marriage, and that has serious implications for the future of the Republican Party. The Associated Press reported yesterday:

The public backlash over gay marriage has receded since a controversial decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2003 to legalize those marriages stirred strong opposition, says a poll released Wednesday [3/22/06].

Gay marriage remains a divisive issue, with 51 percent opposing it, the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found. But almost two-thirds, 63 percent, opposed gay marriage in February 2004. * * *

The number of people who say they strongly oppose gay marriage has dropped from 42 percent in early 2004 to 28 percent now. Strong opposition has dropped sharply among senior citizens and Republicans.

People are now evenly split on allowing adoptions by gay couples and six in 10 now favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military.

Uh oh.
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The Republican Party is counting on fury over gay adoption to turn out their base this November and win re-election for a Republican majority in both houses of Congress. They have placed initiatives against gay adoption on the ballot in a number of key states, hoping that they can distract the poor people of those states who have been screwed-over by Republican policies into voting against their own interests because the Republicans will protect them from them damned faggots! It might still work, this November. But how long can Republicans keep the poor white trash of the South from realizing that Republican policies are destroying them?
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The greatness of the United States is showing. The fundamental decency and devotion of the American people to "the pursuit of happiness" is winning out over fearmongers' trying to control behavior they don't approve of by making extravagant claims that letting people be themselves will somehow destroy our civilization. But their alarums and excursions are proving increasingly useless. People are realizing that the terrible things they were told would happen if faggots weren't kept down just aren't happening. The "homosexual agenda" isn't destroying the Nation. The sun did not explode when Massachusetts legalized gay marriage.
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The working slogan of this country is neither "E Pluribus Unum" nor "In God We Trust". It is "Live and Let Live".
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The Republican Party is on the wrong side of history, and history is moving fast. Consider that figure of people strongly opposed to gay marriage. It dropped by 14 points in two years! Two years! 14 points on a base of 42% is exactly 1/3, in two years! To put that in even starker context, the 28% that remains is only twice the 14 point drop in two years. Moreover, the drop in total opposition was 12 points in two years, to the edge of becoming a minority stance, just 51%. In two years! It took far longer than that to get gay men to favor gay marriage!
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Reforming marriage laws was one of the stances that my organization, Homosexuals Intransigent!, took very early (by February 1972), and we were criticized, if not even condemned, for being "hetero-imitative". The libertines in our crowd proclaimed that "sexual liberation" meant we must not be tied down to a single partner, because "monogamy is unnatural". Is any form of marriage, then, natural? Or is only sex with whomever one is attracted to biologically normal?
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Well, all societies are dominated by men, and all societies have marriage. Ergo marriage could not be unnatural, could it?
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What about polygamy? "Monogamy with exceptions" (affairs, "cheating")?
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Polygamy is common in past human history, but so is monogamy. After all, the sex ratio in the human species is too close to permit everyone to have more than one wife (and we are, for all practical purposes, talking about polygyny (more than one wife) when we speak of polygamy, because polyandry (formalized permission of a woman to have more than one husband) is practically unheard of.
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An essay on monogamy among animals and its implications for people appears on the website of San Antonio's Trinity University. In "Deflating the Myth of Monogamy", David P. Barash, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington, discusses monogamy in the sense of sexual exclusivity.
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Hilites (emphasis added):

[M]ales tend to follow a "mixed reproductive strategy," whereby they establish a mateship with a designated female (and perhaps assist in nest building, territorial defense, care of the young, and so forth insofar as those activities increase their reproductive success) while also making themselves available for E.P.C.'s ["extra-pair copulations", that is, adulterous couplings] with other females, whom they will not assist.

To be sure, males can be expected to be at least minimally discriminating, because there may be costs associated with too much sexual gallivanting: A careless Lothario might be attacked, for example, by an outraged "husband." Or, while seeking his own E.P.C.'s, a philanderer might be cuckolded by other males having similar designs on his mate, unavoidably left unguarded. * * *

For some species, notably certain lizards and insects, there appears to be a payoff in increasing the genetic diversity of one's offspring by copulating with multiple partners. For some birds, there may be an immediate benefit – such as being fed by one's lover. In many cases, the payoff appears to be more indirect, via genetic benefits accruing to the "out-of-wedlock" offspring. By mating with males who are especially fit and/or who possess secondary sexual traits that are particularly appealing to other females, would-be mothers apparently can increase the fitness as well as the eventual sexual attractiveness of their offspring. ...

The anthropologist Sarah Hrdy [sic; Czech for "proud"; her husband's surname] has suggested that among primates in particular, females solicit E.P.C.'s in order to buy a kind of tolerance from their extra-pair sexual partners: Males of many species (including langurs, chimpanzees, and certain macaques) often kill offspring they have not fathered. By copulating with males from outside the troop, females could well be bribing them to avoid such violence toward offspring that might be their own. * * * [This leaves unanswered the question of how a male animal can know which are his offspring and which not. I suspect, in part from the behavior of my cat Leo, that he can actually smell it.]

Social conservatives like to point out what they see as threats to "family values." But they don't have the slightest idea how great that real threat is, or where it comes from. Monogamy is definitely under siege, not by government, declining morals, or some vast homosexual conspiracy -- but by our own evolutionary biology. Infants have their infancy. And adults? Adultery. * * *

... before the cultural homogenization that came with Western colonialism, more than three-quarters of all human societies were polygynous.

But it's one thing to conclude that our biology favors polygyny, and quite another to decide that most people, most of the time, were either keepers or members of harems. The likelihood is that only a few succeeded at polygyny, just as only a small proportion of females were chosen (or coerced). The great majority of people -- of both sexes – undoubtedly practiced monogamy, at least its social variety. * * *

In response to surveys, 25 to 50 percent of American men report having had at least one episode of extramarital sex. The numbers for women are perhaps a bit lower, but in the same ballpark. * * *

There is no question about [sexual] monogamy's being natural. It isn't. But at the same time, there is no reason to conclude that adultery is unavoidable, or that it is good. "Smallpox is natural," wrote Ogden Nash. "Vaccine ain't." Animals, most likely, can't help "doing what comes naturally." But humans can. A strong case can even be made that we are never so human as when we behave contrary to our natural inclinations, those most in tune with our biological impulses.

In a gay couple, the natural disposition of males to look around is doubled, but there is still an aspiration to faithfulness, at least emotional.

A 1994 study in The Advocate, the largest national gay and lesbian magazine, reported that 52% of the gay male couples described themselves as being monogamous ("The 1994 Advocate Survey of Sexuality and Relationships: The Men," The Advocate, August 23, 1994, pp.*nbsp;16-24). * * *

In the 1994 Advocate study, the huge majority of gay couples say that sex outside the relationship is the most difficult problem they face -- 85% of the respondents in the study reported that this topic had caused their biggest fights.

It's not easy to be faithful, even when the risks of losing an enormously important emotional relationship would seem to make the prize not worth the gamble.
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Merely "tying the knot" does not really bind people, and society has had to exert itself mightily to stop people from having sex outside the bounds of matrimony. In the United States, we gave up that fite, as regards heterosexual marriage, decades ago and recognized that if people wanted out of a marriage (usually to pursue a sexual relationship with someone else, either already known or speculative for the future), they would find a way. We decided that "Divorce, American-Style" shouldn't be Marcello Mastroianni's Divorce, Italian Style (murder), nor the prior American style of divorce, filled with recriminations, private detectives, and adultery real and faked.
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The first no-fault divorce law was, oddly, signed in 1969 by Ronald Reagan when he was governor of California. The last was South Dakota's, in 1985.
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Conservative social critics have recently tried to mount a great crusade to abolish no-fault divorce, claiming it has caused this country to go to hell in a handbasket, cheapen marriage, and subvert the family. Note that these are some of the same grounds used to oppose gay marriage. But all 50 states abolished fault-divorce, because the mess that prior laws produced was awful. Tho many social observers are concerned that reformed divorce laws have indeed produced more broken marriages than the old laws, which is surely true, there is no chance that reactionaries will be able to saddle us with laws we abolished decades ago.
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There is likewise very little chance that Massachusetts will repeal gay marriage. Quite the contrary, it seems certain that now that high anxiety about same-sex marriage has subsided, Americans will relax and see legalization of gay marriage as the next step in our progress as a Nation toward "liberty and justice for all".
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(This is a copy of the bulk of the March 24, 2006 entry in my political blog.)



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