Monday, June 14, 2004

Gay Marriage in Missouri

Thatcoloredfella, in a comment on my previous entry, Missouri Gay Marriage Issue on August Ballot - Good for the World, asks a series of good questions: Other than reason you stated, are there any other benefits to Kerry and the Dems, by keeping this off the November ballot?

How do you think the campaign on this will shape up? What groups will emerge as prominent adversaries? Will money be spent? How? TV, radio, mailings...push polling?

How will the major state political players (both parties) be involved? Is the result a far gone conclusion? What side will the major papers take?

Wow, Thatcoloredfella, you expect real analysis from me? Fair enough, I suppose.

The main reason it is good that the issue will be on the August ballot is the one I stated - it is less likely to skew the November election. It is my belief that Missourians are likely to vote in favor of the amendment - my guess would be 60-40. That's just a guess, though, and it is possible that the vote could go differently. A recent unscientific poll in traditionally conservative Springfield showed that 50% opposed the amendment.

Let's face it - the average Missourian is queasy with the idea of gay marriage. By having the vote in August, though, it is possible that a huge GOTV effort by the pro-gay-marriage people could counteract what will probably be a huge GOTV effort by the less-enlightened churches and by the out-and-out homophobes.

I'm not sure how the money plays out in this campaign. The gay rights crowd has PROMO out front, but I doubt that PROMO can out-grassroots the thousands of conservative churches sprinkled through Missouri. Perhaps some enlightened individuals and organizations from outside Missouri will funnel dollars to PROMO and other organizations, but I'm not sure they'll raise enough for serious media buys.

The anti-gay people are already hard at work. I drove through mid-Missouri this weekend, and listened to AM radio. In the midst of a religious broadcast, I heard a commercial from some guy who claims to be formerly gay, and is now a proud father of one with another on the way. He claimed that he turned away from the gay "lifestyle" and that if he had been allowed to get married to a gay man, as he wanted, his life would have been ruined, but the protecting hand of the law saved him from such an awful fate. So, yeah, there will be some radio efforts on the anti-gay side, but I doubt they will gather enough money to really do much media outside of the religious broadcasters where, presumably, they will be preaching to the converted and the rare masochistic liberal riding through corn country.

While both democratic candidates for governor oppose the amendment, neither will choose to make it a central point of their candidacy. The Republicans will probably try to make it an issue, but that's another advantage of getting the vote over with in August - it will be decided before the campaign stretch starts.

I expect the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Kansas City Star to come out against the amendment, but I don't expect any other major papers to support gay rights.

As I said at the start, I am pessimistic about the chances of defeating this amendment, but Missouri voters have surprised me before. In 1999, I expected the state to pass a "concealed carry" amendment, but the voters rejected it 52-48, despite the gun lobby outspending the good guys by a margin of 4:1.

It is possible, just possible, that the majority of voters in August will refuse to enshrine discrimination in the Missouri Constitution, but, if I were forced to bet my house on the outcome, I'd say that the religious right will have its way.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A-, Dan!

Concise, detailed and well researched report. Sorry, about the barrage of questions, I'm just a stickler for details. I just have one question (right now), and one observation.

I am assuming that Missouri has already had its Presidential Primary. So, is this vote in August a special ballot? And, is the Gay Marriage question the only thing on the ballot?

My observation comes with an insightful quote from a fellow blogger pal. He quipped, that the opposition to gay marriage is like a pool of water that is a mile wide, and less than an inch deep.

Where is the huge, angry backlash of American citizens to the legalized gay marriages in Massachusetts?

Next time you see TV footage of opposing groups, make a mental note to compare the size of the competing groups.

Social Conservatives and the American Family Council are going into Black churches hoping to prey upon ignorant and prejudice attitudes, to whip up opposition and maybe convince them to vote against John Kerry, too.

Just think how big the group that opposes gay marriage, yet does not make it a priority issue, personally.

How motivated will they be to make what is usually an important and proud act of going to the polls, but this time to show their intolerance, spite or hate, and not the positive feeling of civic duty?

6/15/2004 1:23 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

You are quite correct about the depth of support for the anti-gay marriage amendment, and it is entirely possible that conservative Missouri voters will hesitate to amend the Constitution for a cause so alien to real American values. It is, after all, the right wing that wants to change the status quo here.

The August 2 ballot in Missouri will also include a measure to amend the constitution to allow "river boat gambling" at a location in the Ozarks. We will also have primary election for offices other than the presidency.

In short, there will be a lot of people urging a decent turn-out at the polls on August 3. If my prior posting seemed a little pessimistic, let me sound a note of cautious optimism now. Nobody can honeslty argue in favor of banning gay marriage without relying on religion, and there is a decent shot that the average voter will balk at putting right-wing Christianity in our Constitution.

6/15/2004 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thks, Dan. Hmmmm... I will assume that, as it is the trend everywhere, Conservatives tend to be the bigger turnout in primary elections. However, regardless of what stirring up they do, look at the most recent primary turnout for Republicans, add 10%, and thats my best bet!

I'd also compare the Democratic registration totals from the Presidential primary in 2000, against 2004. I'd be very interested how those two numbers jive before I continue drafting my strategy!

And duh!! How did I miss this one? GEPHARDT!! Missouri Icon! Party God! GAY DAUGHTER!!!

...get Terry McCauliffe on the phone!


6/15/2004 11:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan - I've got a slew of questions for you. How do you define "less-enlightened" churches? You stated in your post: "what will probably be a huge GOTV effort by the less-enlightened churches and by the out-and-out homophobes."

Is your evaluation of the enlightenment level of churches based on religious writings, history, personal revelation, or your personal mores?

I ask this question because lurking behind many of your posts seems to be a subtle implication that anyone whose religious beliefs differ from your mores is either dangerous or unenlightened or bigoted.

If there is a God (this is rhetorical - I have no doubt on this point), and if you come to know that He is real, would you be willing to follow Him if he opposed conduct that you thought was just fine? Or would you say, "I can't follow God unless He . . . ." Must God fit in a box that you have defined? Do you believe it is possible for there to be a God who would disagree with you on the issue of gay marriage?

You and I disagree on many things, but I don't think you are dangerous or stupid. To the contrary, I think your arguments and positions are generally well-reasoned, even though ultimately wrong sometimes. To refer to churches as "unenlightened" implies that you have some superior knowledge or wisdom with respect to these churches' beliefs. To characterize these churches as "traditional" or "orthodox" or "conservative" or "fundamentalist" or "evangelical" would make more sense and be less insulting if you use those terms accurately. Unless you are fully steeped in an understanding of that faith, it is presumptuous to evaluate whether the churches that agree with you are comparatively "enlightened" or "deceived" or "apostate". I wouldn't presume to evaluate the relative enlightenment of particular Muslim groups. Of course, being a Christian, I believe that my faith is the most accurate one (or else why would I believe it?) This leads to my ultimate point - on what are you basing these evaluations about how enlightened people and religious groups are? My underlying assumptions come from Christianity. And, yes, that affects my point of view on this and other issues. I don't mind putting that on the table so you can understand where I am coming from. What are your underlying assumptions?

Just my 2 cents,


6/16/2004 3:05 PM  
Blogger Dan said...


As is frequently the case, you raise great questions, and force me to refine my thoughts. For that, I thank you sincerely.

In mentioning "less-enlightened churches", I suppose I am imposing my own biases to churches, and the ones which more closely mirror my beliefs are, to my mind, more enlightened. You claim that "lurking behind many of your posts seems to be a subtle implication that anyone whose religious beliefs differ from your mores is either dangerous or unenlightened or bigoted."

I want to deny that, but I'm not sure it would be an honest denial. I will argue that I tend to view those churches with different opinions more on the level of misguided or unenlightened - not so much dangerous or bigoted, unless I have evidence justifying those beliefs.

My admission may make me sound a little intolerant, but I'm not sure it's as bad as all that. The followers of religions that disagree with me generally consider me a sinner, and they certainly consider me unenlightened and misguided. Some would consider me dangerous, bigoted, and a whole lot more.

I'll agree with you that my use of the term "less-enlightened" is a personal judgment, and may be more inflammatory than I needed use to make my point. In my defense, I was responding to a purely political issue, in an area where political short-hand is generally acceptable, and my discussion was not intended to be a ponderous exposition on the morality of same-sex marriage. I was chatting about voters, not about theology. But I could have done so without risking offense to you by using better terms (would "less-liberal" or "more-conservative" have been better?), and I wish I had done so.

The real mind-blower of a question you post, though, RM, is how far I would follow God if S/He revealed Her/Himself to me? Fascinating question, and one I haven't really thought much about before.

I mean, I guess if I really believed in a God that was telling me to oppose gay marriage, I would oppose gay marriage. I suppose that if I really believed in a God that opposed abortion, I would oppose abortion. I suppose that if I really believed in a God that told me to shoot doctors who perform abortions, I would buy ammo. I suppose that if I really believed in a God who wanted me to commit a suicide bombing, I would strap a bomb on.

RM, your question is opening some new levels of self-understanding for me. As I look back over my relationship with religion, I count as pivotal a bus trip I was taking to Colorado from St. Louis, in the company of Opus Dei representatives, when I was in high school. At the time, I was one of the most seriously religious kids I knew.

I mentioned to a friend that I had recently read "Atlas Shrugged" (an absolutely repulsive piece of pseudo-philosophical crap), and a priest overheard. He was concerned that I was reading something so far afield, and told me not to read anything in the future without his approval.

At the time, I fully believed in the Roman Catholic church - and I believed that priests were God's ambassadors. If my faith were as deep as I thought it was, I would have consented. Instead, at that moment, I knew I wasn't ever going to let that priest or anyone else restrict my freedom of thought. In short, at that moment, I elevated my personal mores and intellectual curiosity over the religion in which I had been raised. I suppose I trusted my own feelings more than I trusted my faith. And that, my friend, was the turning point.

I had never quite thought of it in these terms before. I guess, at that moment, I was Abraham, and I dropped the knife. Would you?

6/16/2004 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan -

Interesting question - if I was Abraham, would I drop the knife? Another important question is when would I lay the knife down. As you will recall, in the story God told Abraham to sacrifice his son. He went so far as to bind his son to an altar in preparation to sacrifice him. Then God told him not to kill his son, that there was a ram caught in a thicket and that he should sacrifice the ram instead. So, with respect to his son, he "put down the knife" just as you would have. Your comment suggests you would have put the knife down before finding the ram. The situation is unimagineable for me in many ways. I can't imagine raising the knife against my son - I also can't imagine knowingly disobeying God if He were directly speaking to me.

Someone once told me that if we put our faith in a person, even a good person, we will be sorely disappointed in the end. Your priest may have been afraid of different ideas and that's a shame. In the marketplace of ideas, the truth usually wins out in the end. Your priest apparently did not have confidence that this was the case or perhaps he was just too paternalistic and protective of a young mind. I wonder if things would have been different for you if that priest had engaged you in an open and spirited discussion about the book. Did you lose faith in God, or his representative?

How far should someone go when listening to God's voice? All the way, if its really God's voice! Fortunately, there is a book that provides us with some guidance on testing what we hear, so we don't go strapping on bombs.

I'd like to post some more, but I keep falling asleep. Maybe I'll finish my thought tomorrow.


6/17/2004 12:56 AM  
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