Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year's Reprise

You can't beat a winning combination: a boy and his dog, peanut butter and jelly, and a fruit and his fly.

Yes, Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin will be ringing in the new year on CNN again. Just to remind those of you who didn't catch last year's hilarity, check it out below:

Key moments:

2:40—Kathy: Is [Britney Spears] still hot to guys? Anderson: I, well, uh...

4:55—Newsbabe holds up pic of Anderson's face on a popcicle stick, alluding to this magazine cover:

Check your local listings for all the fabulosity!

Update: and they didn't disappoint. Check out this little gem:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Black Gay is Beautiful*

It's been a while since I watched this, but I couldn't let Jon Stewart's takedown of Mike Huckabee go by without comment:

Specifically, I want to talk about the colloquy starting around 3:40 of the clip, where Jon Stewart says:

Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality . . . talk about a lifestyle choice! That is absolutely a choice. That is absolutely a choice. Gay people don't choose to be gay.

On one hand, Jon's absolutely right. Being attracted to someone of the same sex is not a choice. However, I find the statement "it's not a choice" to be profoundly disempowering. The statement is a plea for mercy rather than a demand for respect. It implies that gays would be straight if they could, but they can't, so you should take pity on them. I think that this post makes the argument better than I can:

The case for/against gay marriage is hung-up on this idea of choice—i.e. we should frown on gay marriage because it's a deviant lifestyle. Or we shouldn't frown on it because it isn't a lifestyle, it's a biological fact. This is where the comparisons with race come in. But I always hated this argument. Whenever people say, "You should not discriminate against people because they didn't chose to be black," I hear the mild tones of wild liberal condescension.

Implicit in that logic is a kind of judgment, the notion that if I could choose, I obviously would choose to be white. But what if I just like being black? What if I could choose and would still choose black? Ditto for homosexuality. So what if you do choose to be gay? I understand that a lot of the science says you don't, but why do we accept this implicit idea that heterosexuality is, necessarily, what everyone would chose?

I'm not trying to minimize the bias and trauma that must come from being out, but a basic extension of humanity, a belief that those who aren't like me actually are like me, says that to be gay has to be more than coping with living beneath the boot of the ignorant. It's always about more than getting your ass kicked, no? What if you actually love the "more than?" What if it is who you are and what you choose?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that it isn't important to educate the public that orientation is an inborn characteristic. I think that people who realize the immutability of orientation are more likely to support gay rights. However, as true empowerment, sexual orientation must be viewed through a different prism than just whether it's a choice or not. Rather, the question is whether one's identity, choice or not, is worthy of respect. In that way, orientation needs to be viewed as religion is viewed. Religion is subject to heightened scrutiny by the legal system not because it is immutable, but rather because it is an integral part of one's identity and "it is not appropriate to require a person to repudiate or change his or her sexual orientation in order to avoid discriminatory treatment." In other words, even if it were a choice, it would be a legitimate choice to make.

* This is not to say that Black isn't beautiful--it is.

Monday, December 29, 2008

No matter how good your Christmas presents are...

They will never match these. My personal favorite:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Strauss v. Horton, part IV: Why Footnote Four still matters

In a previous post, I asserted that while a fundamental right could be abrogated by constitutional initiative, a constitutional initiative that seeks to legislate against a suspect class would not be valid. I provided little explanation and said all would be explained on Friday. Well, it's Friday, and here's your explanation.

The test for determining whether a constitutional initiative is valid is whether it alters the fundamental structures of government. This not only refers to the allocation of powers between the branches of government and the allocation of powers between federal and state government (to the extent that state constitutional law can determine that—see Raven v. Deukmejian), but also the fundamental principles of republican government. One of these principles is that there should be protection of the rights of the minority against the majority. This protection is necessary to protect the integrity of the democratic process. Its foundational nature is expressed in footnote four of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Carolene Products Co. (footnotes omitted):

There may be narrower scope for operation of the presumption of constitutionality when legislation appears on its face to be within a specific prohibition of the Constitution, such as those of the first ten amendments, which are deemed equally specific when held to be embraced within the Fourteenth.

It is unnecessary to consider now whether legislation which restricts those political processes which can ordinarily be expected to bring about repeal of undesirable legislation is to be subjected to more exacting judicial scrutiny under the general prohibitions of the Fourteenth Amendment than are most other types of legislation.

Nor need we enquire whether similar considerations enter into the review of statutes directed at particular religious or racial minorities: whether prejudice against discrete and insular minorities may be a special condition, which tends seriously to curtail the operation of those political processes ordinarily to be relied upon to protect minorities, and which may call for a correspondingly more searching judicial inquiry.

This footnote set the standard for heightened scrutiny of government legislation in the modern judiciary. The Court identifies three subjects of heightened scrutiny: substantive Constitutional rights, restrictions on the political process, and class legislation dealing with race, religion, or "discrete and insular" minorities that do not have the power to protect themselves through regular political processes. The difference between fundamental rights and suspect class status is the difference between the first paragraph and the third paragraph of Footnote Four. Constitutional rights are the people's substantive guarantees of freedom against oppressive legislation. They apply equally to all people. The Court gave these rights special status because of their inclusion within the Constitution. Suspect class status, on the other hand, is a protection not of a substantive rights, but the very integrity of the political system itself. Professor Jack Balkin explains:

According to the logic of the footnote, certain groups are shut out of the democratic process, relegated to the periphery. They are, to use Professor Brilmayer's expression, "insider-outsiders"—persons subject to the power of the political community yet excluded from participation within it . . . . Stone's very choice of words in the third paragraph—"discreteness and insularity"—connote the sense of being closed off from the political process, and (from a less sympathetic standpoint) excluded as impurities that are falsely believed to threaten a homogeneous body politic. Because the majority seeks to keep itself pure, it excludes the pariah from the political bargaining table, banishes the scapegoat to the periphery.

When a court declares a group to be a suspect class, it isn't saying that the class deserves more substantive rights than another class. Rather the court acknowledges that this is a group entitled to higher procedural protection in the political process. Because this class has outsider status based on their perceived otherness rather than any concrete evidence of relevant difference, they are vulnerable to legislation against them and lack political power to protect their rights through the political process. Therefore, any attempt to legislate against them as a class is subject to a more rigorous procedure: a showing of a compelling government objective and that the legislation is narrowly tailored to accomplish that objective.

Suspect class status is a procedural protection designed to protect the functioning of our republican system of government. Any attempt to legislate against a suspect class by means of constitutional initiative would amount to a change in the fundamental structure of government, and would be invalid.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Because it's Christmas

No substantive post today. Instead, enjoy these videos, compiled courtesy of Andrew Sullivan:

A classic to start things out:

Just in case you hadn't had enough sugar this Christmas:

When I was growing up I heard rumors about this, but I never really believed it existed.

Your daily LOLcat:

And because no video montage would be complete without him:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The name says it all:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Strauss v. Horton, part III: Oregon Trail Edition

A lawsuit is very much like a game—there are players, referees, rules, tactics, strategies, and rewards. It appears from The State's brief in Strauss v. Horton,1 the case determining the validity of Prop 8, that their game of choice is Oregon Trail. rather than go for an argument that is established by text and case law, the State has decided to blaze a new path.

The State's analysis of the validity of Prop 8 begins with the question of whether Prop 8 constitutes a revision of the California Constitution. It correctly articulates the standard for a revision as whether the provision "can be characterized as a change in the fundamental structure or foundational powers of California Government" (p. 28). It then undertakes a thorough and useful analysis of the relevant case law and concludes that Prop 8 is not a revision. The State gives two reasons for that conclusion: first, it argues that there is ample precedent for overturning fundamental rights through the initiative process. Second, the State argues that to rule that provisions against suspect classes are not subject to the initiative process would require the court to look outside of the four corners of the provision to determine its validity. It states that "If a court is confronted with an initiative addressing a right not yet deemed fundamental or a classification not yet deemed suspect, that court would find it extremely difficult to prevent the electorate from voting on the initiative or to invalidate the initiative post-election." (pp. 44-45). The court, therefore, would be limited under Petitioners' theory to those rights and suspect classes that are clearly defined by prior case law. The State concludes that "such a rule raises the possibility that the judiciary might appear to insulate its rulings from the initiative process by deeming certain rights as fundamental or certain classifications as suspect rather than deciding constitutional questions on narrower grounds." (p. 45).

The first argument is true, for what it's worth. I have never found the fundamental rights argument all that convincing in the first place. Fundamental rights are extrapolated from Constitutional common law, and just as legislation can amend the common law, so constitutional amendments should be able to amend constitutional common law.

The State's second argument is very sophisticated, but ultimately wrong. Limiting the court to suspect classes that are already declared is not a flaw in Petitioners' argument—it's the basis of the argument. As I mentioned earlier, the question on a revision is whether there is a change in the fundamental structure of the government. The relationship between government and the people is a part of that fundamental structure. While amending the constitution to legislate against a suspect class is a fundamental change in the structure of government,2 there can be no change in the government's relationship with a class of people if legislation against that class is not already constitutionally suspect. In other words, you can't take away something that a person never had in the first place.3

Additionally, the argument that Petitioners' test would lead to the "appearance" of making rulings on broader grounds than necessary strikes me as disingenuous. This is not a real legal argument; it is a political one. However, what the argument likely means is that the Petitioners' test incentivizes broader constitutional holdings. Again, this is a feature, not a bug. Judicial minimalism is not constitutionally required, and in many circumstances, it is undesirable because it leaves the state of constitutional law unsettled. To the extent that the State is right (and I think that the effect would be marginal at best), this seems like it encourages the Court to actually interpret the state constitution and provide guidance to lower courts.

The State continues in its analysis by looking at the question of separation of powers. The state concludes as I did that the only reason that separation of powers would matter is as a means of determining whether prop 8 constitutes a revision, and that it isn't a very good argument. But this analysis is what makes their final argument so puzzling. The State spends 25 pages arguing that even if Proposition 8 is an amendment, that the court should strike it down because it abrogates fundamental rights without a compelling interest. In the next 25 pages of argument, nowhere does the state give any textual basis for the court's authority to strike down an amendment to the constitution on those grounds. Rather, it argues that rights protected by Article 1 of the California Constitution have a privileged status and were intended to be inalienable by the framers. Further, the initiative process was not intended to apply to article 1 rights. As a result, the court should only allow an amendment to article 1 protections when that amendment would survive strict scrutiny.

This test is as unsupported by existing case law and the text of the constitution as it is unnecessarily confusing. It would be the legal equivalent of traveling from Los Angeles to San Fransisco by going through Denver, if there were no roads connecting Los Angeles and Denver. First, the idea that there are extratextual limits on how a constitution can be amended goes against the principle of separation of powers and constitutional government. This interpretation would give the court not only the power to interpret the constitution, but also to prevent the people or the legislative branch from amending that document. It also implies that the courts have access to a higher, unwritten and unamendable law that supercedes the constitution, an unacceptable conclusion. Because the constitution is the supreme law of the state, the only legitimate restrictions on the amendment process are procedural. Procedures must be within the text and must be clearly expressed.

The State's argument is doubly mystifying because all of its arguments fit so well onto the amendment/revision framework. The very fact that the revision/amendment distinction exists is evidence that the framers wanted some changes to be subject to more than a majority vote. That the framers described Article 1 rights as inalienable is also evidence of their special status. Therefore, it would make sense to argue that these provisions, read in tandem, require restrictions to article 1 rights to go through the revision process rather than the amendment process. Rather than argue the application and extension of a clearly established procedure for overturning prop 8, the State decided to play their own version of Oregon Trail. It shouldn't be surprised when their argument dies of cholera.


1. I covered the Petitioner's argument here and discussed some of the political pressures regarding the decision here.

2. But didn't I just say that fundamental rights could be changed by initiative? The distinction is something that requires its own post. Tune in on Friday.

3. Am I saying that if Prop 8 was enacted before in re Marriage Cases that it would have been legitimate under the California constitution? Yes, I am.

Monday, December 22, 2008

If you need a last-minute Christmas gift

...I can't help. However, if you want to be irresistible for your New Year's Eve party, you have two options:

A: Hamburger-scented body spray (not kidding, click the link and prepare to be horrified); or

Urban Humanity. Check out their clothing designs for your next night out. A few examples:

Friday, December 19, 2008

If only in my dreams...

Just a reminder to keep the troops in your thoughts and prayers this holiday season.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Here I sit, broken hearted...

While i was Christmas shopping, I noticed something that I hadn't seen in a while: bathroom graffiti.

This would be no big thing for most people, but I hadn't seen any for quite a while. BYU naturally erased any graffiti that appeared on bathroom walls immediately. However, when I was doing my undergrad, I had the opportunity to see many a stall covered with graffiti. From classic poems to offers of goods and services to political debates, bathroom stalls were always a source of entertainment and fascination to me.

Apparently I'm not the only one. Latrinalia (apparently bathroom graffiti has a technical name—who knew?) has been studied by anthropologists and archaeologists. apparently graffiti has been found in restrooms in Pompeii, and the content of that graffiti was basically the same as it is now. In fact, the Romans used to revere Venus Cloacina as goddess of the Roman sewers—prayers to her were in the form of rhymed verses.

I had a college professor who, only half-jokingly, said that bathroom graffiti was a cradle of true democracy. He likened it to the graffiti on the Berlin Wall--a place where vulgar and lofty ideas are displayed side by side, and the censor's paintbrush only provides a fresh canvas. I'm not sure about all of that. I just find myself entertained by statements that have later been altered by subsequent users in a series of ever funnier edits. I wonder whether anyone has actually called the phone number carved into the plastic of the toilet paper dispenser. And I take solace in the fact that even though most poets write in blank or free verse, the shithouse poet will make sure that his poems rhyme properly.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


If you're like me, you don't have time to see every movie that comes out. So it's nice that I can read the abridged version of Twilight so I can converse with the cool kids.

Some highlights:

Hey, where did you go? Because you are exceedingly mean to me, I find myself attracted to you.

Sounds like textbook daddy issues, you fat cow.


You have a bright career as a stripper ahead of you.

* * *

Wow, you guys are so close. What keeps this family together so well?

Funny you should ask. Let me tell you about Count Joseph Von Smith. One day a vampire named Moronula appeared to him and told him to find these golden stakes buried in a coffin...

* * *

So, the next generation of young women are currently flocking to see a female lead starring in a movie by a female director based on a bestselling book by a female author, and in this movie the main character wants to become completely submissive and self-sacrificing for a male.

I love you. Put a baby in me.

For more abridged screenplays of your favorite movies, click here (the Indiana Jones script is really good).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Footnote 11 for the 21st century?

In law school, became intimately acquainted with footnotes: reading them, writing them, and editing them. This post is about one footnote that changed the course of American History. The U.S. Supreme Court's opinion on Brown v. Board of Education includes the following:

To separate [black schoolchildren] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. The effect of this separation on their educational opportunities was well stated by a finding in the Kansas case by a court which nevertheless felt compelled to rule against the Negro plaintiffs:

"Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system."

Whatever may have been the extent of psychological knowledge at the time of Plessy v. Ferguson, this finding is amply supported by modern authority.11

This footnote referred to the work of Kenneth and Mamie Clark in their famous doll studies:

With his wife, Clark continued the investigations into the effects of discrimination on black schoolchildren. One of their major tools was a test that involved showing the children four dolls that were identical in every respect except skin color. Two of the dolls were white; two were painted brown. After determining at the outset that the children correctly identified which doll was white and which represented a black person, the Clarks gave several instructions, including requests that the children hand over the doll they "like best," "like to play with" and is a "nice color." Other questions were variations on which doll "looks bad."

They . . . found that the black children, even those as young as 3, clearly favored the white dolls and rejected the brown ones . . . . Clark said he not only was surprised by the degree of self-rejection black youngsters exhibited but also deeply moved. "Some of these children, particularly in the North, were reduced to crying when presented with the dolls and asked to identify with them," he told Kluger. "They looked at me as if I were the devil for putting them in this predicament. Let me tell you, it was a traumatic experience for me as well."

This study had a large effect on the Court. As much as separate but equal seemed tenable in theory, studies showed that separate was not equal in practice.

Fast forward 60 or 70 years. I have previously explained why civil unions and domestic partnerships constitute separate but equal status for same-sex couples, and why this status perpetuates a second-class status. A report (.pdf) released by a New Jersey commission has found that civil unions, even when given equivalent legal status with marriage, "has failed to fulfill its promise of equality." The whole report is worth a read, but let me outline some of the problems that the commission has found with civil unions:

Spousal Benefits

Companies that create their own insurance plan are governed by federal law rather than state law. Since federal law does not recognize same-sex unions of any kind, these companies are not required to offer health benefits to the partners of gay employees. "[C]ompanies covered by ERISA, which comprise an estimated 50 percent of all companies in New Jersey, have an option, rather than a requirement, to offer equal benefits under the state’s Civil Union Act. Many companies are not exercising that option, even if State law, as is the case in New Jersey, provides that spouses and civil union partners are entitled to identical treatment." This differential treatment is common in states with civil unions such as New Jersey and Vermont.

However, Massachusetts has a much lower incidence of companies refusing to cover same-sex partners, notwithstanding the fact that these companies are under no more obligation to cover same-sex partners than those in New Jersey. The difference, the commission concludes is that

employers also understand that without the term "civil union" or "domestic partner" to hide behind, if they don't give equal benefits to employees in same-sex marriages, these employers would have to come forth with the real excuse for discrimination. Employers would have to acknowledge that they are discriminating against their employees because they are lesbian or gay . . . . Therefore, the existence of ERISA makes it all the more important to change the nomenclature of civil unions to marriage. As we've seen time and again in Massachusetts, the word "marriage" has great persuasive weight in getting companies to offer benefits notwithstanding ERISA.

Emergency and Medical Care

The general public is largely unaware of the rights and responsibilities surrounding civil unions. This creates impediments to exercising spousal rights and privileges as authorized by law.

A common theme in the testimony gathered by the Commission was that while marriage is universally recognized by the public, civil union status must be explained repeatedly to employers, doctors, nurses, insurers, teachers, soccer coaches, emergency room personnel and the children of civil union partners . . . . [The commission heard testimony] regarding medical personnel, school officials and government workers who denied access and decision-making authority to civil union partners, either initially or completely, because of a lack of understanding of the rights that flow from civil unions. Many witnesses said they would not have encountered the same level of resistance, or no resistance at all, had they been able to identify themselves as married.

In general, the public understanding seems to be that civil unions are not marriage, and from that they infer that rights and responsibilities must be different as well.

The Poor and Children

The disparity in treatment between married couples and civilly united couples affects the poor disproportionately. These are the people who can't afford to have legal documents drafted for them, and who can least afford the denial of health insurance.

Children of same-sex couples are also acutely aware that their parents' status is less than that of their peers:

An attorney and partner in a small law firm in Springfield testified about a family discussion in which his partner’s young nephew, to whom he is godfather, asked his mom: "If you and daddy are married and Uncle Timmy and Aunt Nancy are married and Aunt Debby and Uncle Bruce are married, why can't Uncle Bob and Uncle Chris get married?" Lucas' mother told him "Because it's against the law." Lucas' reply was, "Does that mean they're criminals, mommy?"

While this study is ongoing, it appears from the data gathered so far that the public perception of civil unions for same-sex couples is that they are not equal to marriage, and so they act accordingly. This is not surprising from a common-sense perspective. We intuitively expect things with different names to be different, and we will assume they are different until thoroughly convinced otherwise. Calling a same-sex union a civil union or domestic partnership is a signal to the general public that the government is being forced to give rights against to gay citizens against its will, and so will not fully embrace them like they would with "normal" citizens. As the commission noted, "relatives, medical caregivers, and individuals in positions of authority take cues from the government's decision to place same-sex couples outside of the institution of marriage." Segregation of same-sex couples out of marriage, while symbolic in nature, has substantive effects on the equal treatment of gay citizens.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Check this out:

Bradley Ralko has more here:

To clarify just a bit, according to Cooper, there was nothing illegal going on the bait house, just two evergreen trees and some grow lamps. There was no probable cause. So a couple of questions come up. First, how did the cops get turned on to the house in the first place? Cooper suspects they were using thermal imaging equipment to detect the grow lamps, a practice the Supreme Court has said is illegal. The second question is, what probable cause did the police put on the affidavit to get a judge to sign off on a search warrant? If there was nothing illegal going on in the house, it's difficult to conceive of a scenario where either the police or one of their informants didn't lie to get a warrant.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I have the deepest respect for law enforcement. My brother's a cop and my roommate is a prosecutor. Rooting out the use of illegal tactics and corrupt police officers preserves and protects the moral authority that law enforcement needs to be effective.

As much as I hate § 1983 suits, this is one that I wish I could assist on.

Friday, December 12, 2008

If you haven't watched it yet

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Proposition 8: The Musical.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What Is Traditional Marriage?

A point often made by those opposing same-sex marriage is that they are supporting "traditional marriage." This phrase is at once ideologically weighty and so vague as to be meaningless. The term implies that marriage has existed unchanged throughout time. However, a look at history tells us that marriage has evolved throughout the centuries in response to other changes in society.

For most of recorded history, the institution of marriage was not primarily about love, or about the union of a husband and wife, or even about the rearing of children. Rather, marriage was primarily an economic union used to unite families and to create a work force. In primitive hunter-gatherer societies where survival depended on the cooperative effort of a large group, marriage tended to be a way of forging alliances between bands and extending cooperation and sharing resources beyond the immediate group. As technology improved, societies were able to obtain surplus resources and become more sedentary. This, in turn, encouraged the development of complex rules of organizing society, including the private ownership of property. Marriage was no longer viewed as a way of pooling resources, but as a way of consolidating them. With such high stakes, the emotional preferences of the individuals entering the marriage were not viewed as important concerns, and those without property were often not viewed as eligible for marriage.

This conception of marriage survived throughout the ancient and medieval eras. A major shift in the economic and ideological foundations of society created a corresponding shift in what marriage meant. The Eighteenth century saw the rise of the market economy and its attendant intellectual revolution, the Enlightenment. The rise of wage labor made young people less dependent on their families and their property, allowing them to be more independent in their decisionmaking. This independence allowed children to break free from tradition and make their own life choices, including what trade to engage in and whom to marry.

The ideological shift toward individual rights changed people’s expectation about relationships as well. As philosophers such as Locke were rejecting the divine right of kings, women questioned the absolute rule of husbands, instead arguing that "marital order should be based on love and reason, not on a husband’s arbitrary will."1 The change in society was summed up by John Stuart Mill:

What is the peculiar character of the modern world—the difference which chiefly distinguishes modern institutions, modern social ideas, modern life itself, from those of times long past? It is, that human beings are no longer born to their place in life, and chained down by an inexorable bond to the place they are born to, but are free to employ their faculties, and such favourable chances as offer, to achieve the lot which may appear to them most desirable.2

As the Enlightenment largely discounted marriage as an institution based on extended family property networks, further economic and cultural shifts changed the purpose and meaning of marriage as an institution. As the industrial revolution shifted the means of production from agriculture to manufacturing, it changed the incentives for bearing and rearing children. Children were traditionally laborers, working on the farm from as early as age four. However, "[a]s people flooded from rural villages to cities, an uninterrupted flow of children stopped being a labor boon and became a poverty guarantee."3 Child labor laws further recast children as economic liabilities rather than labor assets.

The economic need to limit childbirth created a demand for, and the removal of the stigma against, birth control. The decoupling of marriage and childbirth changed the nature of marriage by making women more independent economically as well as focusing more attention on the intimate bond between couple rather than the duties of care for children. Sex within marriage had become an end in itself—"the attainment of that spiritual, mental, and bodily unity with the person beloved."4

Another economic change was the ability of women to make a living independent of men. While the market revolution of the Enlightenment made children less dependent on their parents, it also created an economy where women were financially dependent on a breadwinner husband who worked for wages outside of the home. However, household labor was a full-time job vital to the survival of the family. This interdependence did not create equality between the partners. Because men's economic contribution to the family resulted in cash, women were effectively denied entry into the public cash economy. This situation existed through the 1950s.

However, as mass production technology became more efficient, it became cheaper for families to buy many products rather than produce them at home. Also as labor-saving devices became widely available to consumers, homemaking no longer became a full-time job. Wives began to look for personal fulfillment outside of housework, including looking for employment. Meanwhile, single people could begin to get by without a homemaker at home.

Meanwhile, the booming economy of the 1950s fell into recession between 1973 and 1986, with real wages falling, job security decreasing, and housing prices rising. It became increasingly harder for men to support a family on just one income, and so women began to enter the job market, even those who were content with a domestic life. Dual-worker households naturally saw increased conflict about how to divide domestic labor. This period of job insecurity and negotiated labor helped shift attitudes away from traditional roles of husband and wife to more individualized arrangements.

This experience with market labor also made women more financially independent and more likely to leave an unsatisfactory marriage. The ability to survive on one’s own has also made women more reluctant to enter into a marriage unless their prospective husband has both the economic prospects and the emotional dependability to make pooling their resources worthwhile.5

In sum, when talking about "traditional marriage," it is important to understand that an egalitarian love marriage is not traditional by any sense of the word. Economic forces have changed marriage from an institution focused on wealth and survival to one that is largely centered around choice and love. Property, children, and a male breadwinner are no longer essential to make a marriage work. This frees individuals to focus on more emotional preferences such as emotional compatibility, and insist on equality between spouses. I'm guessing that most defenders of traditional marriage are not looking for a return to the "good old days" of coverture, dowries, and agrarian economics. With that in mind, what is so great about traditional marriage?



2. JOHN STUART MILL, THE SUBJECTION OF WOMEN 15 (1869) (Everyman’s Library 1992).


4. Id. at 84.

5. The source material for this essay comes from COONTZ, supra note 1, and GRAFF, supra note 3.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

There is no new thing under the sun...

The first documented LOLcat, published in 1905:

Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
-- Ecclesiastes 1:9-10.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Happy Holidays

December is upon us again, and that means another month of faux-outrage about people opting for a more ecumenical holiday greeting. This "debate" has been exposed for the fraud that it is so many times that I won't attempt to reinvent the wheel. Rather, I want to use it as a jumping-off point for something that's been on my mind lately.

This is a card that my grandfather sent my grandmother in the early 1920s. My mom gave me a copy of this card a few years ago, along with the rest of my grandparents' love letters. As you can see, my grandfather did not get it from exotic locale; he was in central Utah at the time. Yet the card refers to God as "Allah." I have no idea whether it was vogue in those days to use foreign and poetic names for God, but I could never imagine finding a card with a message like that in Hallmark now.

I brought up my grandparents' card to illustrate the point that our choice of words can become an intensely political act. During WWII, patriotism changed the name of a patty of ground beef from a hamburger to a salisbury steak. Who can forget the menu change at the eatery of the U.S. Capitol during the run-up to the Iraq War--would you like freedom fries with that? In both of these examples, words that had lost all ties with their etymological origins were yoked with those meanings again to serve a political end. While using Allah to refer to God was no big deal in central Utah in the 1920s, the same word now bears a lot more political baggage.

The political end of War on Christmas is similar to the other examples I've given. Christmas has become an inclusive holiday. To quote one of my former professors, "Merry Christmas" usually means "Merry Gift-Purchasing, Gift-Giving, and Gift-Receiving Holiday When We Also Watch the Detroit Lions, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Aloha Bowl on TV after unwrapping presents and eating fattening food." By insisting that retailers use Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings, the generals in the war on Christmas are trying to remove the secular meaning of the word. Now when someone says "Merry Christmas," they want the meaning to be "Merry Commemoration of the Birth of God Incarnate Was Crucified for Sins of the World and Rose from the Dead on the Third Day." In other words, the word Christmas is being used to communicate Christian dominance rather than Christian love.

In spite of this, I will continue to say "Merry Christmas," though perhaps with an occasional "Happy Holidays" thrown in for good measure. I choose to do this because I believe that when people hear "Merry Christmas," they don't think of shopping or the birth of God, but rather many would hear "Merry season where we make an extra effort to be kind and recognize that we're all people worthy of respect and love." Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Schadenfreude for your Monday...

This one is for my roommate Mitch, who has to deal with people like this on a daily basis:

Make sure you watch this video until the very end--the real payoff of this video comes in the last ten seconds.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Our Inspired Constitution

Some of you have heard the hubbub about whether Hillary Clinton is barred from being Secretary of State under the Enoulments Clause of the Constitution (if you haven't, check here, here, and here). Most people seem to agree that cutting the pay of the person in question solves the problem, and I find the question generally unimportant and the requirement to be poorly drafted and stupid. However, my opinion changed when I learned this:

It appears that every presidential administration after that of Richard Nixon has deemed the Saxbe fix sufficient with the sole exception of the Reagan administration. President Reagan's Department of Justice, in a still-unreleased OLC opinion, concluded that nominating Senator Orin Hatch to the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Powell's resignation would be unconstitutional even if the salary of the office were to be reduced. The seat that might otherwise have gone to Senator Hatch instead went to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The hand of Providence is upon us--God bless the Constitution!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Blast from the Past

Just in case you were worried that my posts from Carolyn's blog were lost to the sands of time, they're not.

A Note on Policy Debates
Religious Freedom
Religious Freedom Part II
All This Fuss Over One Word?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bathrooms v. Fountains, or, when is separate equal?

Previously, I made the argument that the main issue in Proposition 8 was whether "marriage" was used to describe same-sex unions. I argued that the purpose of reserving the word marriage for opposite-sex couples was to signal, by law, that the state views same-sex unions as less than opposite-sex unions. Some have questioned my argument, saying that just because domestic partnerships and marriage differed in name, it did not follow that one was better than the other. They were right; my argument is not self-evident. Let me explain my point.

Let's start with a premise: The purpose of proposition is symbolic segregation. Under California law, the legal union of an opposite-sex couple is marriage.1 The union of a same-sex couple is called a domestic partnership, regardless of the fact that the same rights and responsibilities adhere to a domestic partnership as a marriage. The difference is a word; and therefore, the only function of the difference is communicative: the state is trying to communicate something by calling one union by one name and one union by another name.

Symbolic segregation has a long history in the United States when it comes to race. Jim Crow laws mandated that Blacks and Whites use separate drinking fountains, sit in separate railroad cars, and go to separate schools. This practice was held to be Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson.2 In this case, the Court held that laws that mandate separate accommodations are Constitutional as long as they are substantively equal. The Court reasoned that civil and political equality were satisfied by substantively equal accommodations. The only reason to declare segregation unconstitutional would be to force social equality, an interest that the Court ruled that the Constitution did not protect and that law was powerless to enforce.

In defending the Separate but Equal Doctrine, the Court made much the same argument as some people make today: separation does not imply inferiority:

We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.3

Of course, Separate but Equal was struck down in Brown v. Board of Education.4 The Court held in that case that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. In making that decision, the Court analyzed the effect that the segregation has on the people who were segregated:

To separate [black schoolchildren] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone . . . . Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to retard the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racially integrated school system.5

Of course, not all segregation is invidious. Separate restrooms for men and women is a type of segregation, yet one that few would argue implies the inferiority of either women or men. The question then is whether domestic partnerships are more like water fountains or bathrooms.

The first factor to consider in analyzing whether segregation implies inferiority is whether there is a legitimate purpose to the segregation for both segregated groups. Separate bathrooms protects privacy interests and safety, both important concerns. Single-sex education also performs a legitimate educational function. Jim Crow laws, on the other hand, did not validate any governmental interest, and to the extent that it benefited one group, it was at the expense of the other group. In the case of domestic partnerships, while marriage is a legitimate state interest, it is not at all clear why excluding same-sex couples from the word marriage while giving them the rights and responsibilities of marriage validates some important governmental interest. Also, any benefit realized by straight couples comes at the expense of gay couples.

Second, whether a separation implies inferiority can be informed by the reciprocity of the separation. With bathrooms, it is expected that neither sex will enter the accommodations of the other sex's restroom. The reciprocity is equal. This was not so in Jim Crow. Justice Harlan, dissenting in Plessy, explains:

It as said in argument that the statute of Louisiana does not discriminate against either race, but prescribes a rule applicable alike to white and colored citizens. But this argument does not meet the difficulty. Everyone knows that the statute in question had its origin in the purpose not so much to exclude white persons from railroad cars occupied by blacks as to exclude colored people from coaches occupied by or assigned to white persons. Railroad corporations of Louisiana did not make discrimination among whites in the matter of accommodation for travelers. The thing to accomplish was, under the guise of giving equal accommodation for whites and blacks, to compel the latter to keep to themselves while traveling in railroad passenger coaches. No one would be so wanting in candor a to assert the contrary.6

California law implies that domestic partnerships are water fountain-esque. Marriage is available for all straight couples and no gay couples. Domestic partnerships are available to all gay couples and straight couples when one party is over 62.7 There is no push to keep straights out of domestic partnerships; Prop. 8 was about keeping gays out of marriage.

Finally, it's worth asking whether marriage and domestic partnerships could ever be equal. While the two terms may mean the same thing legally, marriage is a sociological institution with real cultural meaning. Domestic partnerships are a sterile legal instrument that does not convey any social status. Think of it in these terms:

Yesterday I called a woman's spouse her boyfriend. She says, correcting me, "He’s my husband." "Oh," I say, "I no longer recognize marriage." The impact is obvious. I tried it on a man who has been in a relationship for years, "How's your longtime companion, Jill?" "She’s my wife!" "Yeah, well, my beliefs don’t recognize marriage."

Fun. And instant, eyebrow-raising recognition. Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. In a moment they feel what it's like to have their relationship downgraded, and to have a much taken-for-granted right called into question because of another's beliefs.

Just replace the words husband, wife, spouse, or fiancé with boyfriend, girlfriend, special friend, or longtime companion. There is a reason we needed stronger words for more serious relationships. We know it; now they can see it.

While it is not self-evident that reserving the word marriage for straight couples implied that gay couples were inferior, the evidence shows that the general intent of this law is to send a message of exclusivity that has no legal function, is not reciprocal, and has deep cultural meaning. Given this evidence, I would be hard pressed to say that separate was equal in this context.

1. Cal. Fam. C. § 297.5.

2. 163 U.S. 537 (1896).

3. Id. at 551.

4. 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

5. Id. at 494.

6. Plessy, 163 U.S. at 556-57.

7. Cal. Fam. Code § 297(b).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"As far as I'm concerned, that is the end of the matter. Thank you."

Yet another hilarious example of life imitating art:

Compare and contrast:

Vicar went to hospital with potato stuck in bottom

The clergyman, in his 50s, told nurses he had been hanging curtains when he fell backwards on to his kitchen table. He happened to be nude at the time of the mishap, said the vicar, who insisted he had not been playing a sex game. The vicar had to undergo a delicate operation to extract the vegetable, one of a range of odd items medics in Sheffield have had to remove from people's backsides or genitals.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Staring into the Abyss

Anyone who cares about winning the war on terror should read this article. Key passage:

I personally conducted more than 300 interrogations, and I supervised more than 1,000. The methods my team used are not classified . . . , but the way we used them was, I like to think, unique. We got to know our enemies, we learned to negotiate with them, and we adapted criminal investigative techniques to our work . . . . It worked. Our efforts started a chain of successes that ultimately led to Zarqawi . . . . We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, "I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate."

The target of jihadist terrorism against the West is not our population but our values. Here's what I wrote in 2007, in response to a book that blamed liberalism for 9/11:

D'Souza is right. Islamic terrorists hate America because of what we allow: liberated women, freedom of speech, homosexuals, and freedom of religion. In other words, our freedom. And if we give up our freedom, the terrorists have won.

Ultimately, the war on terror is an ideological struggle, just like the Cold War before it. We won the cold war because we had better ideas, and we will win this war in the same way. However, there are those who sympathize with the terrorists' ideology, who would create a theocratic state of their own. They too hate liberated women, freedom of speech, homosexuals, and freedom of religion. And while they do not blow up buildings, they pose as serious threat to the American way of life as do Islamists.

So, be American. Be a working woman. Hold hands with your significant other in public. Read a banned book. Preach your religion. Get into a passionate debate. And make sure you respect everyone else's right to do the same.

The humane treatment of prisoners is one of those liberal values that makes us who we are as Americans. There is more and more evidence that liberal values are not outdated but really do work to ensure security and liberty.