I’m very pleased that the Supreme Court narrowly found a Constitutional right to marry. But I’m also with Jonathan Chait in thinking, “The Supreme Court’s decision affirming marriage equality hastens what was already a fait accompli.” It is a great day, but the only thing that makes it notable is that the Supreme Court isn’t decades behind public opinion. What I do think is kind of stupendous is that the decision came today, the day before San Francisco Pride. What a great coincidence that is! But not all people are celebrating.
Yesterday evening, the Associated Press reported, Gay Couples Wed on Historic Day as Conservatives Resist. Apparently, when the decision came down, a lot of LGBT couples across the country rushed to courthouses to get married. It’s sweet really. As a typically straight guy who never had to think of marriage as anything special, it’s nice to see people running towards it even as I have run screaming from it twice. And in many cases, these eager LGBT couples were treated with the openness and joy that the occasion deserves. For example, the article mentioned one couple in Louisville, Kentucky who were greeted by the mayor with a bottle of champagne. We have a word for that here in the Bay Area: class.
But in Pike County, Alabama, Probate Judge Wes Allen has decided that he’s just not going to issue any marriage licenses at all. Think about the irony of this. For decades, conservatives have been telling us that if LGBT couples get the right to marry, it will destroy the institution of marriage. I never imagined that same sex marriage opponents meant that destruction would come in this form: that there would be no more opposite sex marriages because the opponents would stop allowing them out of pure spite.
There does seem to be something wrong with conservatives. They just can’t let things go. When it came to Jim Crow, it was going to destroy “white culture.” But it didn’t. And this is going to destroy “straight marriage” and “the family.” It’s all so ridiculous! But I do understand where it comes from. I remember when I was younger, I would get mad about something. And I was right about it — it was a righteous anger. And so I wanted to hang onto it. But it took so much energy! Eventually, I just learned to let things go. I also learned that often when I thought I was righteous, I actually wasn’t.
Look at Judge Pike above. That picture was taken a few years ago. He’s 39 years old right now: too young to be that bigoted and too old to act so childishly. I really don’t get it. Even if you feel that same sex marriage is wrong, don’t you have a duty to, you know, do your job? There are parts of every job that aren’t pleasant. The loophole that Pike has found is certainly not one that his God is going to approve of. So what is he really doing but putting off the day when he will have to go along, and in the mean time looking like a real jerk. And he’s not alone.
Although the result was expected on a rational level, today’s ruling is still viscerally shocking for any LGBT citizen who grew up in the US, or their family members and close friends. It’s almost hard to believe that same-sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states. Just consider how embedded, pervasive and recent anti-gay sentiment has been in the fabric of American life…
It’s breathtaking to consider the amount of courage and human suffering that led to today’s decision. In the late 1940s, Harry Hay created the Mattachine Society, which combined highly progressive politics with a campaign for gay rights in an indescribably hostile and oppressive climate. The Stonewall Riot of 1968, driven by outrage over endless police harassment, was led by the most marginalized members of the community, and sparked the modern LGBT movement. In the late 1980s and 1990s, ACT UP — driven primarily by sick gay men and their lesbian allies — pioneered political activism with a union of defiance, dissent, and shrewd expertise and strategizing that unquestionably saved countless lives around the world and emboldened an entire generation of gay people (passively attending ACT UP meetings at Cooper Union during my law schools years was incredibly formative).
The experience of being gay in the US has long been one of intense stigma, condemnation and exclusion; for many, it was worse than that. The tragically conclusive empirical data on the highly disproportionate suicide rates for gay adolescents, by itself, tells much of that story. To witness the arrival of full-scale legal equality is something many never expected to see in their lifetime, and now that it has happened, still seems surreal.
Today’s Court Ruling, Though Expected, is Still Shocking – Especially for Those Who Grew Up LGBT in the US
Was Brian Beutler right when he explained, Why Conservatives Should Praise God for the Supreme Court’s Gay Marriage Decision? His argument is pretty standard. The decision allowing same sex marriage across the country has saved the Republicans from themselves. He compared it to Brown v Board of Education. He noted, “If a different Supreme Court hadn’t helped end the civil rights debate, a big segment of the country would’ve remained separate-but-equal fanatics for years and years, and driven their elected officials into that dead end with them.” He’s right about this, of course. In another couple of years, same sex marriage is going to have 80% approval and it helps the Republicans a lot to not have to talk about it.
But there is a bigger point here: conservatives are always on the trailing end of history. And the Republican Party has set up a system where they have to use these ancillary issues in order to further their primary goal of enriching the already rich and empowering the already powerful. And they really do get stuck in their own traps. But it is hard to feel sorry for them because issues like same sex marriage serve them well for a long time. And they would be lost without them.
The more important point is that, as same sex marriage becomes a thing of the past, they will simply find new things to stand against. This is Corey Robin’s very definition of conservatism: being against liberation movements. The point is always and forever that whoever are in charge at any given time are the right people to be in charge. So we always will hear things from conservatives like, “Well certainly Jim Crow was bad, but that’s all a thing of the past!” Whatever it is that people are asking for now must be resisted because freedom is a limited quantity. In fact, that’s been quite explicit in the same sex marriage debate where it was bizarrely claimed that it would harm heterosexual marriage — like there is some law of conservation of marriage.
And let’s not forget that the ultimate fall back for conservatives is the poor. LGBT rights has always been a sideshow. The true popular power of the Republican Party has been its veiled (and not so veiled) attacks on African Americans and Latinos as the moocher class. This has the advantage of being fairly straightforward. It really goes along with what conservatives believe: the rich are rich because they are better and the poor are poor because they suck. This was, by the way, one of the primary arguments for chattel slavery. Not much has changed.
So I think that Beutler is basically correct: for the Republican Party, the legalization of same sex marriage is helpful. There will, of course, continue to be culture warriors like Mike Huckabee who will pander to that consistent 20% of the population that hates everyone and everything. But mostly, the party will abandon it. But it will continue on with its usual bigotry. And it will find new things to demagogue against. Cheer up Republicans, the dream is not dead!
Hans Noel via Jonathan Bernstein explained an issue that a lot of people have no doubt found puzzling, The Flag Was No Fluke. The question at hand is why did the murders at the Emanuel AME Church end in political action about the Confederate flag and not the more obvious gun control. I’ll tell you what I had assumed: everyone is tired of gun control.
After Sandy Hook, even the smallest changes to our gun laws were out of the question. To even talk about them, we were told, was to politicize the tragedy — as though telling people not to talk about guns is a less political act. So it isn’t surprising that for a lot of liberals, it doesn’t make sense to start talking about guns when even many Democrats will be against doing even the smallest things.
What Noel highlighted was that the gun control movement and the African American community are two constituencies of the Democratic Party. But the African American community is far more important. The truth is that although most Democrats would like to see more reasonable gun laws, it is at the top of the list for very few. So when the Charleston massacre happened, and there were two possible responses, the Democrats followed with the stronger and better organized group.
The Confederate flag has been a big issue for activists for decades. I don’t consider racism to be one of my core issues and yet I’ve written about the Confederate flag obsessively over the last five years. It isn’t personally offensive to me the way it is to many African Americans. But it is such an obvious offense. I’m sure there are a lot of white liberals like me, but who haven’t given the issue much thought. And when it was brought up in such a barbaric way, it’s clear, “Get rid of that flag!”
The other side, of course, is that there are people in the Republican Party who have long wanted to get rid of the flag. It is not welcoming to African Americans, or for that matter, anyone except for those who fetishize the flag. And those people are already big Republican boosters. It goes back to Lee Atwater’s idea that racist appeals have to be made more subtle over time. Well, the Confederate flag ain’t subtle.
We’ll see how far this goes. I’d like to get rid of it completely. Clearly, it should be scrubbed from state grounds and courthouses. But I’d like to see more. I would like to see the display of the Confederate flag be treated with the same public distaste as the display of the Nazi flag. But we can start with the Confederate flag at the South Carolina capital.
Kiss Me, Kate first appeared on Broadway in 1948. It’s a musical with a lot of great songs by Cole Porter. But it is a modern version of one of Shakespeare’s more troublesome plays, The Taming of the Shrew. I understand: for thousands of years, people have enjoyed seeing uppity women get put in their place. But it’s pretty tired by now. In fact, at the end of Shrew, Kate makes a big speech about how women should always obey their husbands. Now days, the play is edited to make it more palatable. But in its place in Kiss Me, Kate, is the truly vile “I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple.” Maybe modern productions present the song ironically. I don’t know. But really: “So hold your temper, wife, and meekly put; your hand ‘neath the sole of your husband’s foot”?!
But the big song from the play is “Too Darn Hot.” And it is too darned hot. In the play, it is sung by the men at the opening of the second act. In the film, it is done by Lois — Bianca in Shrew. You know, the obedient and vapid female in all of Shakespeare’s comedies. But that doesn’t mean in 1953 she couldn’t also be a sexpot:
On this day, two years ago, NASA launched the Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS). It was created to study the sun’s chromosphere. And it has a single device on it: an ultraviolet imaging spectrometer. It takes a picture every second. And the pictures have a spatial resolution of 0.3 arcseconds. That’s about 1/6,000 the diameter of the sun.
But the really cool thing about ISIS is that it is in sun-synchronous orbit. That means that it is orbiting the earth from pole to pole. But it precesses at a rate of once per year. Thus, the satellite is always pointing at the sun! I had never even heard of such a thing before. I’ll tell you, those astronomers are very clever!
The results from IRIS are pretty technical. All I can really say is that the sun’s chromosphere appears to have a much more complex structure than previously thought. And different parts quite close together can have drastically different temperatures and pressures. I’m sure it will help us understand better how the sun releases its energy.
The IRIS mission length was supposed to be two years and it is now two years. But you know how NASA is. They are like Scotty from Star Trek, always providing bad estimates so they can look like miracle workers. Although in the case of NASA engineers, they really do seem to work miracles once projects are underway.
Happy birthday IRIS!