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Two Interesting Pieces on Gay Rights

April 12, 2009

Fivethirtyeight.com has a couple of really interesting posts this week on gay rights issues.  First, Nate Silver delves into (and responds to Michael Goldfarb’s take) on the issues surrounding the D.C. city council’s unanimous initial vote to recognize out of “state” gay marriages.  For those of you outside the District, the DC government exists at the “pleasure” of the Congress.  This means that at any time Congress could dismiss DC’s government.  It also means that the Constitution allows Congress to overturn legislation passed by the DC government, or even pass any other legislation (like removing exisiting gun control).  A lot of people see the DC city council’s move to recognize gay marriages as a way to both do the right thing and to highlight DC’s lack of self-governance for those outside of the city.  Essentially, Goldfarb sees this as a great opportunity for Republicans to be defenders of “traditional” marriage and Silver argues that a majority of the nation does believe in the states rights position that the Republican party loves to dismiss when it comes to marriage equality.

What’s important for our discussion is that there appears to be a decent fraction of the public that might not want gay marriage in their states, but respects the rights of other states to decide for themselves on the issue, particularly when those decisions are reached via electoral rather than judicial means. There was notably little outcry in conservative circles, certainly, when Vermont’s legislature voted yesterday to override a gubernatorial veto and permit gay marriage in the Green Mountain State.

Silver also points out the fact that the majority of Americans did not support the Federal Marriage Amendment.  I think regardless of who is right, the response from Congress if DC moves forward on this path will be a fascinating simply to see what side members of Congress choose.

Also on fivethirtyeight.com this week, Andrew Gelman has an interesting piece that looks at how Americans respond to different ways of framing gay rights and specifically anti-discrimination legislation.

Our hypothesis goes as follows: when survey respondents are asked about antidiscrimination laws, they consider the widely-held American view that discrimination is a bad thing, so there should be a law against it. They are unlikely to put themselves in the position of an employer who might want to discriminate, and so are not likely to oppose an anti-discrimination law. But when asked about gay teachers, they identify with parents and students, and might feel that having a gay teacher is a risk they’d rather not take.


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