Category Archives: gay marriage

How Chick-Fil-A Shows the Right is Not Entirely “Pro-Business”

Most people probably have their opinions formed about Chick-Fil-A’s stance on gay marriage.  Despite the fact that I support gay marriage myself, I’m not going to comment on this or Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s first amendment rights.  I do want to bring up this post by the Economist about corporate social responsibility:

Matters of moral truth aside, what’s the difference between buying a little social justice with your coffee and buying a little Christian traditionalism with your chicken? There is no difference. Which speaks to my proposition that CSR, when married to norms of ethical consumption, will inevitably incite bouts of culture-war strife. CSR with honest moral content, as opposed to anodyne public-relations campaigns about “values”, is a recipe for the politicisation of production and sales. But if we also promote politicised consumption, we’re asking consumers to punish companies whose ideas about social responsibility clash with our own. Or, to put it another way, CSR that takes moral disagreement and diversity seriously—that really isn’t a way of using corporations as instruments for the enactment of progressive social change that voters can’t be convinced to support—asks companies with controversial ideas about social responsibility to screw over their owners and creditors and employees for…what?

He continues:

I’d suggest the best arena for moral disagreement is not the marketplace, but our intellectual and democratic institutions. We hash out our disagreements, as best we can, in public deliberation. The outcome of this deliberation becomes input to official policymaking, which in turn determines the rules of the game for business. Businesses then seek profits within the scope of those rules (and the consensus rules of common decency), and consumers buy the products that best satisfy their preferences. If businesses want to impose on themselves other constraints, fine. But let’s not ask them to do so. And if consumer preferences happen to range over the production chains and management philosophies behind the goods and services they buy, fine. But let’s not ask them to have such pernsickety and political preferences. Of course, this lovely, welfare-maximising arrangement will from time to time break down. For example, when we lose faith in the capacity of our public institutions to reliably translate the results of honest democratic negotiation into policy. Or when old consensus rules of common decency lose general assent.

The basic premise here lies in whether a company should take a political stance that does not affect their profit motive positively in the long-run.  Taking a stand on gay marriage will inevitably irritate some group of people that could have otherwise bought your companies product.  Supporting lower corporate tax rates or a lower minimum wage, for instance, increases a companies bottom-line in terms of maximizing profit.  However, taking a social stand on a culture war issue doesn’t help a business economically (unless they get an appreciation day out of it).

The right often talks about being “pro-business.”  Mitt Romney is running for president to supposedly save the country from turning into a European socialist nightmare (or something that sounds scary).  In the minds of many Republicans, Obamacare needs to be repealed so it doesn’t hurt businesses.  While the merits of these causes depend on your political leanings, I can’t see anything less “pro-business” than taking a stand on a social issue that gains nothing long-term for a business and only makes part of the political spectrum not want to eat at your restaurant.  The Republican Party wants to bring together social conservatives and economic conservatives, but these actions seem to be one side of the party intruding on the interests of the other, which is not good for business.

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Supporting Gay Marriage is Good for Obama

By John Stang

Like most Americans, I was pretty stunned to learn that President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage in an interview with ABC News.  The timing is surprising, his stance is not.  No one doubted Obama would end up supporting gay marriage (I always thought it was just a politically calculated move to not support it) or that he would evolve the other way against gay marriage.  Why the hold-up?  Richard Socarides at the New Yorker explains:

When I worked in the Clinton White House, in 1996, it was clear that President Clinton did not want to sign the Republican-inspired Defense of Marriage Act, which bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages, even ones recognized by states. He ended up signing it anyway, because it was the summer before his reëlection bid and his political advisers told him it would be too much of a risk to veto the bill: he would be painted as a friend of gays and lesbians in negative campaign advertising. Sixteen years later, that was the same argument President Obama’s advisers were no doubt making to him. But it is a testament to how far America has come, and to the man that Obama has become as President, that he was willing today to reject that advice and do the right thing for the country and its citizens.

Nationally, over 50% of Americans support gay marriage:

Trend: Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?

I think Obama’s support for this issue is crucial for a few reasons.  First, clearly, Americans have “evolved” on this issue over the last ten years and are now starting to accept it.  While ballot initatives have not been the most successful thing for gay activists, the courts are starting to overturn those initiatives pretty quickly.  Second, whether or not President Obama comes out the winner in November, being the first sitting president to endorse gay marriage is historic.  Today, no one can take that away from him.  Third, I think this can be a big legislative boom to reignite this issue.  If American public opinion is turning on this and the economy is weak, this could be the distracting wedge issue to save the White House for the president.  As Greg Sargent at the Washington Post writes:

I don’t know how this will play among culturally conservative swing voters who are supposedly going to be alienated by it, but I’ll tell you this much: I’m looking forward to finding out. I suspect that when Obama discovers that the political fallout isn’t as fearsome as people said it might be, he’ll ask himself why on earth he dallied so long about it.

Finally, the test of who has the wind at their back politically will come for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.  Romney has no choice, he must take a stand on this issue, which he has before, and defend it.  Currently, the GOP has been moving towards fighting the gay marriage debate at the state ballot box, where they’ve had the most success at winning, and avoiding the whole “constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage” thing.  With Obama officially coming out, pun intended, in support of same-sex marriage, that means the fight moves back to the national stage.  Will the Republicans engage in that national fight or try to keep the issue on the state level?  The country is about to find out.

Update: Since Obama’s announcement, Mitt Romney is standing his ground on the states rights argument:

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Republican Hypocrisy Watch: Freedom of Religion Edition

By Luke Brinker

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA)

You need not look any further than this past week’s Values Voters Summit, where Republican candidates highlighted their social conservative, godly credentials, to see that the American right denies that the First Amendment institutes the separation of church and state. To hear Michele Bachmann and her ilk tell it, the notion of a “wall of separation” (a phrase that stems from a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association) is a Big Lie propagated by what Bill O’Reilly calls the “secular progressives.”

So how do social conservatives square their professed adherence to the Constitution with their constant fusing of religion and politics? Liberals make the mistake of assuming social conservatives are either stupid or hypocrites, but there actually is a conservative argument that pledges fealty to the First Amendment’s religious freedom clauses while simultaneously supporting the inter-mingling of religion and public affairs. To understand where conservatives are coming from, it’s useful to consider some background.

The First Amendment’s religious freedom guarantee consists of two clauses. The free exercise clause protects the right of citizens to practice (or not practice) any faith of their choosing. Most of the controversy surrounding the free exercise clause deals with how far the government should go in accommodating those who choose to exercise a particular faith. For instance, in the 1963 case Sherbert v. Verner, the Supreme Court ruled that the government needed to demonstrate a compelling state interest before it could refuse unemployment compensation to an individual who lost her job because it conflicted with the practice of her religion.

The establishment clause is the more divisive of the two clauses. The First Amendment expressly prohibits the establishment of a state religion. Liberals and conservatives agree that this means there can’t be a national church, as in England. But they divide over whether government support for religious symbols and institutions amounts to an unconstitutional government endorsement of a specific brand of religion. (For example, does posting the Ten Commandments at the entrance to a court house effectively establish Judeo-Christianity as the state faith?) Liberals adopt the strict separationist argument that the government must maintain absolute neutrality with respect to all faiths, so things like Ten Commandments displays and public funding for religious institutions violate the establishment clause. Conservatives, on the other hand, argue that the establishment clause merely precludes the government from interfering in the affairs of religious groups. It’s perfectly fine for the government to fund “faith-based initiatives,” for example, as long as government officials aren’t telling the religious group what to believe and preach. It follows that what the framers really aimed to avoid through the establishment clause was the government telling religions what they could and couldn’t do.

But wait – for House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, a Republican from California, it’s quite acceptable for the government to dictate the behavior of clergy – when it comes to making sure they don’t perform same-sex weddings:

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Friday he’d rather see Congress fail to pass a defense authorization bill for the first time in half a century than give ground on contentious provisions that seek to direct suspected terrorists into military custody and to ban gay marriages by military chaplains.

This is apparently what happens when conservative constitutional principles conflict with right-wing bigotry against gays and lesbians.

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What Gay Marriage and Afghanistan Have in Common?

The answer to the implied question for the title of this post is the president’s unwillingness to commit to a strategy and stick with it.  Tonight, President Obama will address the nation on Afghanistan for what most anticipate to be a speech about a drawdown of troops, and maybe, a move towards counter-terrorism operations instead of counter-insurgency.  Later, the president will address a group of gay and lesbian activists in New York for a fundraiser. New York state is just one vote shy of becoming official for endorsing same sex marriage. Sadly, the president is still “evolving” on the issue.

“Evolving,” “Leading from behind,” and “Compromise” are all phrases I would use to describe the Obama administration’s over-cautious demeanor.  There is nothing wrong with making careful decision, but every issue is the same.  He needs to be a leader.  I want to challenge the president to be more like the Republican candidates for president, not in the sense that he needs to support their ideas, but he should speak with conviction and certainty on a topic.  I challenge the president to say tonight on Afghanistan “This is the way its going to happen” and leave no room for questioning.  Same thing on gay marriage, he should just come out in support of the issue – bam he’s in the history books.

I’m convinced that if the economy does not cause him to lose the 2012 election, his lack of assertiveness might.  With two strong speeches, he can change all that.  Not very often in politics does that happen.

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Gay Marriage Debate

Instead of  Morning Memo today, I have posted the arguments about California’s proposition 8 federal appeals trial.  It is long, but I hope you enjoy it!

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/videoLibrary/assets/swf/CSPANPlayer.swf?pid=296911-1

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