October 17, 2006

A "profoundly offensive" statement by Condoleezza Rice.

She referred to the mother of a gay man's partner as his mother in law:
Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council, says the secretary's comments were "profoundly offensive" and fly in the face of the Bush administration's endorsement of a federal marriage protection amendment, though that backing be less than enthusiastic.

"We have to face the fact that putting a homosexual in charge of AIDS policy is a bit like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse," says Sprigg. "But even beyond that, the deferential treatment that was given not only to him but his partner and his partner's family by the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is very distressing."
Hmmm... I thought the word had gone out that opponents of same sex marriage were supposed to deny any hostility to gay people.

More here:
"In the world of protocol, verbal miscues are anathema," the Family Research Council said in a message to conservatives.

"The question arises, what guidelines do the State Department and White House follow? Neither federal law (the Defense of Marriage Act) nor District of Columbia law recognizes a marriage between Dr. Dybul and his partner, and 'mother in law' is therefore both linguistically (and possibly legally) improper and morally provocative.

"Why did Secretary Rice deploy the term in the presence of the First Lady? We've written to ask her, and we'll let you know what we hear," said FRC President Tony Perkins.

In reporting on the swearing in ceremony last week, USA Today said the "celebratory moment for a gay couple was emblematic of the political identity crisis facing the Republican Party."
Is this a "political identity crisis," that must be worked through? I think Condoleezza Rice and President Bush think they can be entirely warm and supportive to gay people and still take the position that marriage is a special man-and-woman tradition. But there are lots of people on both sides of the question who view that position as impossibly contradictory.

73 comments:

Brent said...

Let's be real. "in-law" is fully understood today to be a term that relates to marriage. You of all people, Ann, know that it has legal ramifications (visitation, inheritance, tax, et al).

If a state's political process desires to grant certain rights to couples that are contained in marriage and yet stop short of granting or legislating "marriage", the term "in-law" will still not come into literal play.

It is not a sign of disrespect towards someone who is gay to refrain from applying politically correct misnomers to them.

Ann Althouse said...

Brent: I disagree. Those who oppose state-sanctioned same-sex marriage often say that gay people can still get married, that churches are free to marry them and so forth. The term "in-law" does seem to refer to the legal recognition of a marriage, which is odd and actually a little offensive. What is the religious term for the relationship you have with your spouse's parents?

MadisonMan said...

I wonder what Peter Sprigg would have had Condi call the partner's Mom. It reads like their Traditional Values are to denigrate gays whenever possible.

The question becomes for Republicans: On which side do you stand: with Condi's respectful one (You have to think she asked how to refer to the partner's Mom) or elsewhere? The link notes that the Far Right's honesty here is very refreshing. It would be even more refreshing to hear a Republican with national office ambitions to rebuke them.

Balfegor said...

Condoleezza Rice and President Bush think they can be entirely warm and supportive to gay people and still take the position that marriage is a special man-and-woman tradition. But there are lots of people on both sides of the question who view that position as impossibly contradictory.

And I suppose politely recognising all of a Saudi prince's numerous wives as a "wife," and their mothers as "mother-in-law" would conflict with our criminal penalties for polygamy. Well sure. But politeness is one thing, and the law is another.

The point about "in-law" is kind of interesting, though. I wonder how the term came about (e.g. is the law there necessarily secular? Not, say, ecclesiastic or canon law?). Other languages even have special terms for "mother-in-law," like Japanese, which calls them shuutome (姑). And I kind of wonder how those came about too.

That also reminds me of the so-called "mother-in-law languages" .

Brent said...

Ann: I seem to miss your point.

My point has nothing to do with state-sanctioned vs. church-sanctioned.

If the gay relationship is sanctioned by the state as marriage, then the term "in-law" would be widely understood to apply to those relationships as well as in current marriage relationships. That does not mean everyone would like it, only that it would be widely understood and make its way into regular usage.

My first post referred to the term "in-law". It did not mean that "in-law" type relationships cannot be covered under same-sex couple rights legislation. The mother coming into the hospital to see her son's partner may be granted visitation rights because of her relationship. but it will be a very long time, if ever - because of its confusing change of centuries long usage - before the term "in-law" gains regular usage in those cases.

In current states with partnership laws, the term husband, wife, and spouse are not mandated or even commonly used. The New York Times carries stories on gay "weddings". But even there one does not find the term "in-law" used (unless it's Massachusetts) to describe the relationships.

It's not discriminatory, Ann - it's about confusion, and wishing it different under the guise of "compassion" won't make it so until
it is legally recognized as marriage.

It's not my choice - it's simply recognizing the culture. Short of legal recognition of marriage, "in-law" ain't happenin'.

George said...

"Political language," wrote George Orwell, "is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."

The website of the Family Research Council does a reasonably good job of not using the word 'gay' when discussing homosexual issues. The Bolsheviks ('Majority Party') weren't the biggest political group in Russia, and China isn't a people's republic.

If you control the terms used in a debate, you are well down the road to winning your case.

The Secretary of State should no more have said what she did than should Minneapolis allow Muslim cabbies to dictate which fares they will or will not pick up. Similarly, neither should the British allow a veiled woman to teach in a public school.

Exactly what are our government's rules of diplomatic etiquette governing such situations?

Pogo said...

Re: "they can be entirely warm and supportive to gay people and still take the position that marriage is a special man-and-woman tradition"

This is a no-brainer to those who agree with SSM, but not to opponents. The underlying issue remains accepting SSM precepts, and "marriage" includes all of the terminology associated with it. I fully understand how the term "mother-in-law" when applied to anything but a traditional marriage comes to devalue the term and then blur the lines.

Of course, that is the precise intent of co-opting the terminology.

What do you call your partner's mother? "This is Stephen's mom" might work.

The Drill SGT said...

What is the religious term for the relationship you have with your spouse's parents?


Family

Joseph Hovsep said...

My partner and I had a wedding ceremony supported by our families and friends, but we are not legally married. I'm careful about the language I use to refer to our status and avoid using the term "married" unless I explain the situation (e.g., "married in the eyes of our families and friends"). I appreciate the respect that Rice displayed by normalizing the gay relationship of her colleague (subordinate?) and I'm sure it meant a lot to him, but in a way I also relate to the FRC guy's logic. I don't tell people I'm married because (1) it can be perceived as dishonest since if I say yes, most people will assume I am legally married and married to a partner of the opposite sex and (2) if the law doesn't grant us the benefits of marriage then I don't want people to assume that we are receiving those benefits. You can dismiss it as semantics and it partly is, but there is a principle underlying it that matters to me: if society doesn't want to treat my "marriage" as equal to straight friends' marriages then I don't want people to whitewash the different treatment and pretend we are the same when it is politically or socially convenient to do so.

I've actually thought about how to refer to my partner's parents and whether using "in-laws" implicates my concerns about language. The trouble is, I can't think of an alternative that sums up the idea of in-laws so concisely, so I use it.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

The evangelical right ... has it wrong. I'm an evangelical Christian and will enthusiastically discuss apologetics with anyone, but clearly 'gay' marriage is a symptom of the destruction of marriage, not the cause.

Heterosexuals have done a really good job of wrecking marriage all on their own. The social pathologies within the church are as bad (or worse) than outside it.

Homosexuals are at most a couple of percent of the population -- see, for example, the StatisticsCanada studies (which are excellent), or the small numbers who apply for corporate 'domestic partner' benefits. They do not threaten marriage.

American dating customs are a far greater threat, because you ingrain the habit that when things get tough you break up.

Marriage is hard. Love is not a feeling, it's a verb. Until the church starts doing an effective job of helping heterosexuals understand what's required for a lasting marriage I don't want to hear folks like the FRC prattling on about homosexuals.

Jesus himself said "Don't worry about the speck in your neighbor's eye and ignore the plank in your own." The plank in evangelical Christianity's eye is that divorce, pornography, sexual abuse, and adultery are present at identical (or higher) levels than in society at large.

A faith that makes no functional difference in the lives of its adherents doesn't really have much to offer others. It has lost its 'salt' and Jesus said.

Ms. Rice's faith seems profound, sincere, and genuinely biblical. To criticize for using a common descriptive turn of phrase is just plain petty.

Ann Althouse said...

Brent: Even if the term is inaccurate, the reaction to Rice's use of it is ugly.

Old Dad said...

Flash: Our political discourse is insane.

It seems likely that the Sec. State was merely being polite, perhaps, diplomatic. That's her job--diplomacy I mean.

Still, she might just as easily have said "(partner's name)'s mother," or perhaps, "so is the old battle axe still busting your chops?"

Sloanasaurus said...

I have to agree with Althouse, while I think state sanctioned gay-marriage is probably a bad idea (although I support civil unions), the use of the term mother-in-law has little to do with it. It really sounds like an overreaction by over sensitized people on the gay marriage issue. It reminds me of Bush hatred - where people hate Bush so much they are willing to stick a knife in their gut rather than admit to agreeing with something that Bush does.

Equally on the otherside are accusations by the left that people who do not support gay marriage are biggots. That is even more offensive to me.

Pogo said...

Bart,
You are correct about the symptom/cause issue and SSM.

Can you understand why some people might consider accepting SSM as simply giving marriage a final and fatal shove?

Me? I am opposed to SSM. Rice's comments are a minor issue at best. But I think SSM is inevitable, as is the eventual decline of marriage itself. We'll become much like Europe if so.

The news from there hasn't been very good lately.

Freder Frederson said...

Can you understand why some people might consider accepting SSM as simply giving marriage a final and fatal shove?

No, it makes no sense at all. It is actually counterintuitive.

Pogo said...

Re: "No, it makes no sense at all. It is actually counterintuitive."

Coming from Freder, I'll take that as proof positive I am correct.

Shanna said...

The Secretary of State should no more have said what she did than should Minneapolis allow Muslim cabbies to dictate which fares they will or will not pick up.
Isn’t this a bit ridiculous? OK, so some people don’t like the idea of gay people getting married under the law. Fine. But if they want to live as a married couple and their friends want to refer to Bob’s “husband” and talk about mother-in-law’s it shouldn’t matter. Term’s like Mother in law are useful for quickly conveying the most accurate information and isn’t that what language is for.

I agree with Ann. This is a gross overreaction to Rice's comments.

I fully understand how the term "mother-in-law" when applied to anything but a traditional marriage comes to devalue the term
I don’t know that you could “devalue” the term any more than it already has been by stories like Cinderella and every comedian ever.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Ann Althouse: Even if the term is inaccurate, the reaction to Rice's use of it is ugly.

That's a bit unfair. I think Brent is right that the usage is jarringly inaccurate. The perception is probably that her usage of such a term was purposeful and political. And so the response was purposeful and political.

Perhaps she misspoke. But that is unlikely. Don't you remember that story awhile back about her calibrating her outfits and timing her arrivals to make a big splash on her diplomatic tour?

Pogo said...

Re: "I don’t know that you could “devalue” the term any more than it already has..."

If the term is indeed of so little value, why the interest in claiming it for use in SSM? Ann said it was being "warm and supportive". You seem to think it a term for mockery or irony.

Which is it?

Shanna said...

Which is it?
Both? Or my finance professor's favorite answer, "it depends". You can use it warmly and you can use it degradingly but I certainly don't think it would be hard to give it any worse of a reputation.

Shanna said...

I certainly don't think it would be hard to give it any worse of a reputation.
That's turned around, it would be hard. Mother-in-law's get a bad rap, you know.

That's what I get for typing in the middle of a phone call.

Seven Machos said...

The Family Research Council? Come on, Ann. Why not make a post about what the "God Hates Fags" crowd thinks, too?

The 70 percent of people who appear to oppose same-sex marriage has largely never heard of the Family Reserach Council.

Freder Frederson said...

Both? Or my finance professor's favorite answer, "it depends".

Ain't that the truth! When referring to the mother of my first wife, it is certainly derogatory. When referring to my current wife's mother, it is a term of endearment and respect ;)

Freder Frederson said...

I have to agree with Althouse, while I think state sanctioned gay-marriage is probably a bad idea (although I support civil unions)

So other than the semantics, what is the difference between a "civil union" and a "marriage"? Would a mother-in-law become a mother-in-union? Do we have to invent new words for all the other relatives that you acquire as a result of marriage.

What do you call the spouse of your sister-in-law anyway? I don't think he is your brother-in-law? Isn't "in-law" only reserved for blood relatives of your spouse, not their spouses? I have always wondered about that.

peter hoh said...

Bart Hall, I'm in agreement that SSM is a consequence of the redefinition of marriage that has already happened. When Rudy G. can marry his affair partner and not incur the wrath of the "defenders of traditional marriage," then it's clear that marriage is not what it used to be.

reader_iam said...

Hm. I think I'd refer to people's extended families (however they define that) however they'd prefer in personal and social situations.

I have gay friends in long-term relationships who do refer to each other's families as "in-laws," and I guess I've always taken it just to be a verbal shortcut to indicate a relationship that incorporates the idea of extended-family-via-a-choice. I say "I guess" because I never really gave it any thought (though obviously it turns out that I've noticed it).

I have straight friends in long-term "living together" relationships who do the same.

I also have divorced straight friends who maintain decent relationships with their ex's families and still refer to them as "in-laws." Again, I'm assuming it's a verbal shortcut to capture a situation without going into a detailed explanation?

This is an interesting discussion, about assumptions and other issues.

And now that I think about it, I refer to my various in-laws in in-law ways, but I've never actually thought about the "In Law" (legal) aspect of my relationship with them, per se.

With my husband, yes--primarily because at one point, early on, he suggested the possibility of living together and setting up a contract of obligations in lieu of formal civil marriage (his issue had to do with taxes, not me personally).

But I guess I don't feel anymore legally tied to his family given that we did marry than if we hadn't.

Now, emotionally, that's another thing. They're family--the in-law part of the extended web.

All that said, I'd defer to the preference of people who don't have the choice I did--though I'd hope they wouldn't overreact if the motivation is indeed manners.

And I'll certainly watch what I say, personally.

Hm.

doc-t said...

We have to face the fact that putting a homosexual in charge of AIDS policy is a bit like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse," says Sprigg..

The term, "WHAT?" springs to mind...

Is he REALLY suggesting that a gay person can't be objective???

Does that not suggest that a heterosexual person can't look at a gay issues without being angry, abrasive, and unfair???

and while Aids strikes the homosexual community for the most part I think it's unfair for him to consider it a "gay issue", which i assume he does from his comment...

reader_iam said...

What do you call the spouse of your sister-in-law anyway?

Personally, I refer to the spouses of my sisters-in-law as "in-laws." Guess that makes me internally consistent in my lack of precision in the use of "in-law" generically to denote "his side of the family."

Cedarford said...

Agree with Ann. Too many people play Gotcha!

Shanna - Term’s like Mother in law are useful for quickly conveying the most accurate information and isn’t that what language is for.

Agree with that. Certain terms are familiar. No one doubted who Rice was referencing even though the term can be anally dissected as "not precisely accurate".

In everyday life, language is wonderfully flexible because it does not have to be precise to convey meaning or intent - it can be modified with other signals such as body language, tone of speech, or facial expression to mean something else entirely. Even in written language, it is about halfway through elementary school when kids discover it encompasses "double meanings"...

And many words or phrases have entirely different etymological meanings than the originating use.

Our concept of "It's my turn in the barrel" meaning an upcoming, unavoidable, likely unpleasant experience - is a more banal expression than the phrase coiners of the British Royal Navy intended.

As for mother-in-law, a friend who is unmarried but with the same gal for over a decade refers to his "mother in law" in conversations without a second thought and goes fishing and golfing with his "brother in law" frequently.

reader_iam said...

Oh, and Sprigg's manifestly a--jerk.

Freder Frederson said...

The 70 percent of people who appear to oppose same-sex marriage has largely never heard of the Family Reserach Council.

But the reason 70% of people (which is the upper limit of disapproval even in southern states) oppose same-sex marriage is because of the machinations and the end-of-civilization rhetoric of organizations like the FRC. The have a profound impact on Republican politics and are hardly a fringe group like Fred Phelps.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Seven, the Family Research Council is not a fringe group. Its leaders have come straight out of Republican administrations and have high public profiles. James Dobson is a founding board member. FRC is no more a fringe group than the gay rights organization Human Rights Campaign.

Pogo said...

Re: "But the reason [X]% of people ...oppose same-sex marriage is because of the machinations and the end-of-civilization rhetoric of..."

That is, people who oppose SSM are just stupid, gullible, easily led, credulous, etc. They couldn't possibly hold a principled, considered opinion, the same one that the vast majority of of gays held until the past 10 years. Nope. It's them Birchers.

Freder, in contrast is enlightened.

MadisonMan said...

That is, people who oppose SSM are just stupid, gullible, easily led, credulous, etc.

To be fair, Freder's comment could be interpreted to mean that only some of the 70% hold their opinion because to the FRC machinations. FRC work has been successful in boosting the percentage to 70%, in other words. It remains unclear what the percentage would have been had the FRC not lobbied.

andthenblammo! said...

I don't refer to my wife's mother as 'mother-in-law' myself; when her name gets mentioned, I just content myself with crossing one index finger over the other and making frantic warding-off motions. Especially after I found out that referring to her as 'Battleaxe Galactica' wasn't adding to our connubial bliss....

Shanna said...

What do you call the spouse of your sister-in-law anyway? I don't think he is your brother-in-law?

Your brother? :)

Seriously, do you refer to your brother's wife's sisters as sister in laws? We don't do that in my family. I can never figure out what to call my aunt's sister.

George said...

Shanna--

Your contention is that the term as applied is "the most accurate information." That is merely the starting point for the debate, not its resolution.

It is not "ridiculous" to be very concerned about every single word that comes from the lips of senior American officials.

Words, particularly in the mouths of diplomats, have meaning, oftentimes coded, and great influence, both here and abroad.

Perhaps Sec. Rice's statement was part of a calculated effort to win a few stray votes from wavering Democrats. Could be.

Joseph Hovsep said...

George--and/or perhaps FRC's statement was part of a calculated effort by FRC to start discrediting a potential GOP presidential candidate who it deems insufficiently socially conservative.

John Whiteside said...

I'd love to hear a suggested alternative to "in-law" from those who have a problem with its use. Or are we not supposed to have words to describe our relationships with family members?

Freder Frederson said...

To be fair, Freder's comment could be interpreted to mean that only some of the 70% hold their opinion because to the FRC machinations.

Of course that's what I meant, and I daresay Pogo knows it. But I am used to him mischaracterizing my posts to make me appear more extreme and intolerant than I am. So I generally just ignore his retorts unless he completely gets my post wrong (which is so often I am sure it is deliberate).

MadisonMan said...

My Aunt's brother, I call him my Aunt's brother. Generally, I actually use his name, however. And most of my in-laws or extended in-laws are referred to by name as well. That simplifies things. If I talk to someone who can't keep track, I'll clarify the relationship, but generally, just knowing they are extended family is good enough for a casual conversation.

Michael Farris said...

"The 70 percent of people who appear to oppose same-sex marriage has largely never heard of the Family Reserach Council."

In other words, they're very badly informed. Yes, I agree fully.

Shanna said...

MadisonMan, my aunt's sister used to work in the same office with me so people were always asking how we were related. It's somewhat convoluted, when you try to tell them she's my "mother's brother's wife's sister".

Obviously when talking with her I say her name :)

Leland said...

Freder wrote: "So other than the semantics, what is the difference between a "civil union" and a "marriage"? Would a mother-in-law become a mother-in-union? Do we have to invent new words for all the other relatives that you acquire as a result of marriage."

My wife's mother is my "in-law" in terms of the law of the land which is controlled by the state. If a couple is joined in a civil-union, then by law, they'll have a legal relationship.

The Drill Sgt said it best: What is the religious term for the relationship you have with your spouse's parents?
Family

Joan said...

Short of legal recognition of marriage, "in-law" ain't happenin'.

That's ridiculous. Couples who are living together use the term "in law" to refer to their partner's parents all the time. The first time I heard it, several years ago, it sounded odd to me -- but then I realized it was just verbal shorthand.

It is possible to be warm and gracious to homosexuals while at the same time being against gay marriage. I think this reaction to Condi's use of the term is despicable, as is that whole "fox in the hen house" analogy.

chuck b. said...

"I think Condoleezza Rice and President Bush think they can be entirely warm and supportive to gay people and still take the position that marriage is a special man-and-woman tradition. But there are lots of people on both sides of the question who view that position as impossibly contradictory."

I think it's contradictory unless Rice and Bush want to push for a civil unions. If they won't at least do that, they're not being supportive. At best, they're being civil.

Seven Machos said...

The left-liberals here are unbelievable. If only the majority of unwashed idiots knew more. If only they could be as enlightened and as intelligent as we are.

And, clearly, the lobbying of the Family Research Council has had a huge impact. Just take Wisconsin. Everybody knows the Family Research Council is huge in Wisconsin. Huge! And take African-Americans, who appear to be as a group solidly opposed to gay marriage. Clearly, James Dobson and his FRC machinations have worked on this group of people who otherwise don't usually vote in lockstep with tbat great Republican standardbearer, James Dobson.

Dave said...

"'mother in law' is therefore both linguistically (and possibly legally) improper and morally provocative."

Are they serious? "Mother in law" is "morally provocative"?

Thank god I'm no longer married. Marriage is a sham perpetrated by the sentimental and Hallmark. If gays want it, have at it.

As to the comment, earlier, that "marriage is work": what does it pay, then?

Pogo said...

Re: "But I am used to him mischaracterizing my posts to make me appear more extreme and intolerant than I am."

Actually, Freder, you don't need my assistance to appear extreme and intolerant at all.

You wrote what you wrote. MadisonMan gave you a kind interpretation given the actual text. He deserves your thanks for being a generous editor.

The Jerk said...

This is the Justice Sunday crowd. Being outraged when they say something stupid and insane is like being outraged at a dog for pissing in public. Unfortunately they're fairly influential in today's GOP.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Seven, dude, you're displaying quite the inferiority complex. The "unbelievable" liberals merely contradicted your unfounded and untrue suggestions that FRC is a "God Hates Fags" fringe group unrepresentative of opponents of same sex marriage and uninfluential on the social conservative movement. In fact, FRC and James Dobson are widely respected among social conservatives. The extent to which their rhetoric drives social conservatives' opinions is debatable, but that is certainly what they are trying to do, and they would probably not be so well financed and supported if they were not at least somewhat effective. The same can be said of liberal organs like the Humans Rights Campaign or ACLU, which both reflect and reinforce liberal opinions.

Revenant said...

Hmmm... I thought the word had gone out that opponents of same sex marriage were supposed to deny any hostility to gay people.

Judging from opinion polls, around two-thirds of gay marriage opponents also dislike gay people. The remaining third or so are just reluctant to fiddle with social institutions.

Anyway, kudos to Condi for showing respect to a married couple.

Seven Machos said...

Yewah, Joseph. That's the Family Research Council. The conservative ACLU. Who could dispute that?

Palladian said...

Am I the only one who thinks that "Peter Sprigg" is a hilariously Dickensian name? Probably an apt description as well.

Kirk Parker said...

MadisonMan,

"It remains unclear what the percentage would have been had the FRC not lobbied."

68%. Glad to be of service! :-)

downtownlad said...

I think Condoleezza Rice and President Bush think they can be entirely warm and supportive to gay people and still take the position that marriage is a special man-and-woman tradition. - Ann

Since when has Bush been warm and supportive to gay people? Heck - Bush has not even uttered the word gay EVEN ONCE in a speech during his entire Presidency!!!

Perhaps when he supported imprisoning gay people in 1994????

Condoleeza Rice has been silent on this issue until now, so we never really knew her position on gays. Now we do. And she's not a bigot. And there goes her chances of getting the Republican nomination in 2008 too. I'm sure she's been scolded by the White House for this statement.

Bush is a raving anti-gay bigot. He has blamed gays for anything that is wrong with society and his allies have said that gays will cause the destruction of civilization itself. And he regularly meets with the most disgusting homophobes, including the Family Research Council. We know which side he's on. The side of the bigots.

Chris said...

Actually, downtownlad needs to do more research in the library downtown.

Bush came out in support of the concept of Civil Unions in the aftermath of the collapse of the Gay Marriage Amendment. Rice has always been supportive of Civil Unions, at least, and has been on record in that regard.

hdhouse said...

For a supposedly bright and innocuous person she does seem to bring a highlighter to her underlying stupidity.

downtownlad said...

Bush came out in support of the concept of Civil Unions in the aftermath of the collapse of the Gay Marriage Amendment. Rice has always been supportive of Civil Unions, at least, and has been on record in that regard.

Actually Chris - YOU are the one who should be doing research, because you are flat out wrong.

Bush has NEVER come out in favor of civil unions. Never. And please try and find a statement where he says that he does. Because you'll be looking for a while. He did say something to the effect that states are free to pass civil union laws if they so choose. But he never said he supported that choice. And he doesn't of course, which is why he favors state laws that ban them. And he's too freaking dumb to realize that the FMA would have outlawed even that possibility (states passing their own civil union laws)

Don't argue with the Downtown Lad. You will only get burned.

Ann Althouse said...

Palladian said..."Am I the only one who thinks that "Peter Sprigg" is a hilariously Dickensian name? Probably an apt description as well."

I sure did, and I had to hold myself back from making a wisecrack in the post.

downtownlad said...

I will say this does make me more likely to support Condi for President though. Maybe she should run as an independent, now that she has zero chance of running as a Republican.

Revenant said...

Since when has Bush been warm and supportive to gay people? Heck - Bush has not even uttered the word gay EVEN ONCE in a speech during his entire Presidency!!!

He has also never once used the word "straight" in a speech, in its sexual-orientation sense. Does that mean he doesn't like straight people, or does it perhaps mean he doesn't publically discuss sexual orientation?

Bush has NEVER come out in favor of civil unions. Never. And please try and find a statement where he says that he does.

"I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement" - George Bush on ABC News, October 26, 2004. In the same interview he replied to the statement "the Republican Party opposes civil unions" by saying "well, I don't". Obviously he doesn't advertise this fact, since (a) he's never going to get the gay vote anyway because he's a Republican and (b) he might lose some of the conservative Christian vote if he called attention to his position. But the record is clear; he has no problem with either homosexual relationships or with civil unions, although he believes that both marriage and adoption should by for hetero couples only.

If nothing else, the fact that he's appointed openly gay people to public office in spite of the fact that (a) most social conservatives hate the idea and (b) he's NEVER going to get the gay vote, suggests that he's got no problem at all with homosexuals as individuals.

And he's too freaking dumb to realize that the FMA would have outlawed even that possibility

The 2004 version of the amendment reads:

1) Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.
2) Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.

Nothing in that prevents civil unions from being enacted by law at the state or federal level. The 2002 version of the amendment would have, though.

downtownlad said...

Revenant - What do you call it when people deliberately take a quote out of context? Is it lie? I think so.

Not to say that you are lying - but I will let other people draw their own conclusions.

Revenant said that Bush said - "I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement."

So what did Bush really say? He said the following: "I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so."

Kind of a significant part of the statement to leave off, don't you think? Like I said - he has never come out in favor of civil unions.

You also say that "he's never going to get the gay vote anyway because he's a Republican." Well I voted for him 2000. But no way I was going to vote for him in 2004 after he declared war on gay people. So you're wrong if you think he hasn't lost votes over this.

And the FMA certainly does ban civil unions. You really think a Scalia wouldn't say that civil unions are substantially similar to marriage, and thus voided by the first part of the amendment? If not - you are delusional.

tjl said...

"I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so."

DTL thinks the added phrase substantially changes the meaning of Bush's statement. Whether it does is open to reasonable disagreement. Disagreeing with DTL does not make Revenant a liar. DTL has adopted that special "lie" usage deployed in so many prior threads by Freder Frederson .

downtownlad said...

Actually tjl - anyone with a minimal understanding of the English language would realize that the later phrase changes the context of the statement.

If Bush truly supports civil unions, as you imply, then it should be very easy to find another supporting statement from him.

Alas - none exists. So instead - Revenant has to take a quote out of context to imply that he does. Does that make him a liar? As I said - I will let other people draw their own conclusions. At a minimum - it is dishonest. Revenant knew the real quote - and deliberately chopped the latter part off.

tjl said...

"If Bush truly supports civil unions, as you imply ... '

I commented that it was possible to disagree about the effect of the additional phrase. Thanks to my minimal understanding of the English language, I don't see the implication that you do. In any case, I don't know whether Bush supports civil unions or detests the very idea. He's been remarkably opaque on the subject, which is why it's possible to disagree about the meaning of his statement.

downtownlad said...

He's actually had some very public statements that he opposes them.

Like, for example, the fact that he favored every constitutional amendment at the state level which explicityly banned civil unions.

Take for example the Missouri Amendment. John Kerry supported that FMA until he found out that it not only banned gay marriage, but it banned civil unions as well. John Kerry then came out against that amendment. Bush slammed Kerry for that stance. So That clearly implies that Bush is adamantly against civil unions.

You can call that opaque. But that's because you're straight, and it doesn't really affect you if gay couples in Missouri have just lost their health insurance.

Edward said...

The best evidence of George W. Bush’s homophobia is the following:

1) He has never renounced his support for sodomy laws. He had repeated opportunities when he was governor of Texas and when he ran for president the first time to state his opinion about anti-gay sodomy laws. He was questioned on this subject repeatedly by journalists, and he always publicly supported these laws.

The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court later struck down state sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas in no way changes Bush’s consistent public support for these laws, which are some of the most homophobic laws conceivable. It is likely that Bush cares so little about the legal status of gay people that he has made no attempt whatsoever to re-think his earlier support of sodomy laws in light of Lawrence or any other more recent developments in the area of gay equality.

2) Bush has never met with any gay organization since becoming president. There is no more monumental political action to take than to actively support a constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments are the ultimate political and legal step to take in our system of government. No one can deny this, just like no one can deny that the gay community will be directly and significantly affected by the FMA, if it were ever enacted.

Yet Bush has never bothered to meet, not even privately, with a gay group to discuss its views of the FMA.

3) Neither Bush nor any other member of his administration has ever publicly criticized the worst statements of homophobia of his most extreme supporters. Many of Bush’s evangelical supporters have extremely bigoted opinions about gay people, and yet no member of the Bush administration has ever dared to publicly challenge their bigotry. I’m talking about really prominent evangelicals, like Robertson, Dobson, Falwell, and Perkins.

One of them could call for jailing all gays, segregating gays in certain communities or denying gays employment in all the major professions, and the Bush administration would probably still seek out the support of these evangelical leaders and refer to them as friends of the GOP.

The slightest bit of racism would lead Bush and his appointees to rebuke any Republican, not matter how prominent or loyal. Yet someone can advocate the most outrageously homophobic views and still be considered a good Republican by this administration.

4) Bush has never even used the word gay or homosexual once since becoming president. Revenant can make all the excuses he wants for Bush’s failure in this area, but nothing shows a more callous disregard for a minority group than refusing even to discuss it directly in public.

Yes, in a single interview, Bush once said something that vaguely sounded like support for gay partnerships, but his words sounded much more supportive than they actually were. Bush certainly wasn’t expressing support for Vermont-style civil unions. His administration has never taken the slightest step to help enact such laws, and his administration and his Republican base are full of people determined to stop any legal recognition whatsoever of gay partnerships.

In reality, Bush was probably just speaking carelessly and without thinking in this interview, as he occasionally does. He was also probably just saying anything to make himself appear “reasonable,” given that his support for a U.S. constitutional amendment on marriage is such a drastic step.

Revenant said...

He said the following: "I don't think we should deny people rights to a civil union, a legal arrangement, if that's what a state chooses to do so." Kind of a significant part of the statement to leave off, don't you think?

As I consider the belief that states should be allowed to enact civil unions to be "support for civil unions", no, I don't think it is a significant part of the statement.

You also say that "he's never going to get the gay vote anyway because he's a Republican." Well I voted for him 2000.

The phrase "get the gay vote" means "win the support of a large majority of gays". That you voted for him is irrelevant -- three-quarters of gay voters preferred Gore. The handful of gay votes he lost by speaking in favor of the gay marriage amendment was dwarfed by the Christian votes he'd have lost if he hadn't.

And the FMA certainly does ban civil unions. You really think a Scalia wouldn't say that civil unions are substantially similar to marriage, and thus voided by the first part of the amendment?

Equating "Scalia would misread the law as banning gay civil unions" with "the law bans gay civil unions" is, of course, silly. Particularly since at least seven of the other eight justices wouldn't read it that way.

Kev said...

"MadisonMan, my aunt's sister used to work in the same office with me so people were always asking how we were related. It's somewhat convoluted, when you try to tell them she's my "mother's brother's wife's sister"."

That's a good one.

I had a great time earlier in the year when I got to introduce one of my friends to my brother-in-law's brother-in-law's brother. (That means that his brother is the husband of my sister's husband's sister. Heh.) Needless to say, I call him by his name when talking with him as well.

Revenant said...

Yet Bush has never bothered to meet, not even privately, with a gay group to discuss its views of the FMA.

What, exactly, would have been the point? "Thanks for coming by to reiterate the arguments I've already heard a thousand times. I still don't agree with any of them. What's that? You say you're against the amendment? Thanks for coming by to tell me that, I'd never have figured it out on my own..."

Neither Bush nor any other member of his administration has ever publicly criticized the worst statements of homophobia of his most extreme supporters.

That is flat-out wrong. For example, here is an example of Ari Fleischer expressing the President's strong condemnation of Jerry Thacker's description of AIDS as "a gay plague".

nothing shows a more callous disregard for a minority group than refusing even to discuss it directly in public

Nothing? So, for example, never talking about black people is worse than saying "man, I wish someone would shoot all these niggers"? Interesting. Has it crossed your mind that a Christian conservative might point to Bush's failure to ever directly say anything bad about gays as proof that he *isn't* anti-gay? This guy, for example?

Seriously, now -- gays are outnumbered by strong homophobes by a factor of around ten to one. Among conservatives it is probably more like fifty to one. Do you think for a minute that Bush would hesitate to speak openly against homosexuality if he really felt that way about it? *Why* would he be reluctant to do so? Especially now, when he's a lame duck who will never run for public office again, who is being abandoned by social conservatives due to his perceived fecklessness on morals issues?

The rational explanation is that Bush is not homophobic, but as a high-profile politician in a strongly homophobic political party is not about to advertise that fact. He can be faulted for his lack of a "Sister Souljah" moment on this point, but that's about it.

tjl said...

DTL inists,

"You can call that opaque. But that's because you're straight, and it doesn't really affect you if gay couples in Missouri have just lost their health insurance."

Actually, DTL, I love opera, go to the gym seven days a week, and have a little terrier named Blanche -- in other words, I'm gay gay gay, and I still disagree with you. Don't get me started on identity-politics groupthink. Nothing irritates me more than the PC concept that all gay people must think exactly alike on all issues.

Revenant's last post is most likely correct. Bush himself doesn't seem to be a homophobe, but he is unwilling to antagonize social conservatives who are.

Nothing would please me more than to see Rudy Giuliani as the next Republican presidential nominee. The famous photo of Rudy in drag, sure to reappear prominently during his campaign, would equally annoy the bigoted social conservatives and the lockstep PC types like DTL. Two oxen gored for the price of one!

Chris said...

Sorry, DTL, you got smoked, big time. I pointed out that Bush came out in favor of Civil Unions, someone else provided a quote, you screamed "context" (the last refuge of the intellectual three card monte dealer), and you have yet to prove me wrong. Here's why.

Bush believes, in reality, that it should be a state issue. The only reason why he went the FMA route in the first place was pressure from the Base who were alarmed at the Judge Shopping Route taken by the HRC in Massachussetts in the runup to the 2004 Cycle. Bush didn't want to be a gay basher at all, indeed, the tapes that were revealed of conversations that took place in 1999 show him as opposed to gay bashing on the part of Dr. Dobson and that crowd.

Saying that "Bush is a Homophobe" does not make it so. Most Republicans, especially those who believe in judicial restraint, understand the marriage issue to be like abortion: best handled at the State level by a vote of the people. The only reason why Bush went the FMA route was because of pressure from the base to gin up support for "protecting marriage".

And here's a secret that Democrats won't tell you. The only reason why the Human Rights Campaign brought the Gay case in MA in the first place was because they understood the political effect it would have in alienating gays and lesbians from the Republican Party. One thing you can always count on the HRC to be is a loyal stooge of the Democratic Party.