Sunday, March 23, 2014

As Michigan Judge Allows Gay Marriage, Good To Remember Alaskans Who Sowed Seeds 20 Years Ago

A federal judge struck down Michigan's ban on gay marriage.  As most breathing Americans know, this is just one more in a string of such decisions in states including Utah, Texas, and Kentucky, and following the US Supreme Court decision last year.

In light of this, it's useful to remember that Gene Dugan and Jay Brause, an Anchorage couple then, sued the State of Alaska over this same issue back in 1994.

From Religious Tolerance:
"The plaintiffs asked that the existing Marriage Code be declared unconstitutional because it violates two rights guaranteed by the Alaska constitution: their rights to privacy (their right to be let alone) and their rights of equal protection. Wagstaff pointed out that there are over 100 state statutes that provide rights and protections to married couples which are not available to homosexuals who live together in a permanent partnership. The Alaska Constitution forbids gender-based discrimination, yet is withholding privileges from Brause and Dugan solely because of they are both male."

From Superior Court judge Peter Michalski's ruling:
"It is the duty of the court to do more than merely assume that marriage is only, and must only be, what most are familiar with. In some parts of our nation mere acceptance of the familiar would have left segregation in place. In light of Brause and Dugan's challenge to the constitutionality of the relevant statutes, this court cannot defer to the legislature or familiar notions when addressing this issue." He ruled that "marriage, i.e., the recognition of one's choice of a life partner, is a fundamental right. The state must therefore have a compelling interest that supports its decision to refuse to recognize the exercise of this fundamental right by those who choose same-sex partners rather than opposite-sex partners."
This was not the first such ruling in the US.  Hawaiian courts had also found no reason to ban same-sex marriage.  Thus the last two states admitted into the union, were the first to recognize same sex marriage.  But it wasn't to last.  In Hawaii and in Alaska constitutional amendments limiting marriage to one man and one woman passed and in both states the courts bowed to the new constitutional language.

Alaska's a small state and people tend to know each other.  I've met a lot of people that I write about.  In the case of Brause and Dugan and Judge Michalski, I should say that I know them well enough that I've eaten dinner at their homes.  But that doesn't change the facts that Alaska was on the forefront of attempting to legalize same-sex marriage.  What's different is inside the brains of the American public, including the judges who are ruling. 

In a recent post a commenter challenged my trying to understand the thinking of people with whom I disagree.  This shift in the way people think about same-sex marriage is, for me, evidence that such theoretical speculation pays off.  But, of course, it also needs a lot of other. more action-oriented strategies by many different people. Minds have changed radically in the last 20 years. 

I would note that Jay and Gene couldn't wait for Alaska to change and moved to the UK where they could get married.  And Jay, using the more formal version of his name, Jacob, is a regular and thoughtful commenter on this blog.

I know that each positive court decision helps salve the wounds they received in their battle, which seemed so Quixotic at the time.  They know that their fight in Alaska did help set the groundwork for the victories in recent years.  And it's one of those quirks of life I find so amazing, that they can walk around London (or wherever they happen to be) without anyone knowing the historic role they have played.  But you can read about it in detail at Religious Tolerance.  Judge Michalski is now retired, but he too, can rest easy, knowing that he made a decision back in the dark ages, that would eventually be recognized as the right decision.  And then there's former Sen. Lyda Greene who helped keep Alaska in the dark ages by sponsoring the Constitutional Amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

You can read Judge Michalski's decision here.

Note:  Since I drafted this yesterday and slept on it before posting, 300 couples have married in Michigan before a Federal judge put a stay on further marriages pending appeal. 


  1. There's little data which describes a shift in the way people think about same sex marriage that is not primarily correlated to the simple result of a generational shift in the populace.

    The older generation hasn't markedly changed their opinions on the issue, they've just been replaced by a younger, more reasoned majority.

    I might add that among the majority of the older people who are against gay marriage, most formed their conclusions based on utterly false premises. Despite years of effort to re-educate this subset of the population, there's been no substantive change in their opinions.

    This subset of the population has not responded to reason, they have not changed their opinions, regardless of having their premises repeatedly proven false and baseless.

    I didn't challenge your desire to attempt to understand those you differ with, I did ask that you investigate your assumptions about how you were going about it, and how often you thought you might appreciably alter the perceptions of those you differ with whose perceptions are based wholly on false premises.

    Those who choose to delude themselves are rarely able to admit to their inability to view reality, rarer still are those who if they do admit to their delusion, will then consciously renounce their previous delusions. As is evident, most continue abiding by their delusions as if nothing ever happened.

    1. Perhaps we differ in that I think there's more than hard core for and hard core against. There are a lot in the middle who just haven't thought about it and can be persuaded by whomever they are exposed to.
      The older folks today, were young once. At that time, not only was same-sex marriage inconceivable to most Americans, the idea of homosexuality was too. I dare say that Judge Michalski went through a change of world view on this over his lifetime, and some of the judges who have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage were conservative Republicans. As was half the legal team that took the issue to the Supreme Court. I'm not expecting to change the hard core opposed - though I don't think that's impossible. But I'm trying to offer a way of thinking about things for those who aren't committed one way or the other.
      But your challenges do make me think harder about what I'm doing, how to articulate it, and whether it's the most useful path. In part, though, I think we do best to follow the paths we're best at.


  2. All along I've pointedly referenced those whose opinions are based on false premises, re the subject at hand.

    I wasn't speaking to ' a lot in the middle who just haven't thought about it'. They aren't the subjects. The deluded are the crux of the question.

    The chances you may enlighten those who haven't thought a lot about some subject are much better than the chance you'll bring any enlightenment to those who are deluded and choose to remain deluded.

    That remains true no matter if these hypothetical subjects are for or against any given issue. In all cases, if the opinions, both for and against, aren't based on a shared reality, if they aren't grounded in reality, there's little chance for any reasoned debate.

    In short, you can't reason with the unreasoning. There's no availing to logic with the illogical.

    The worst thing you can do is to in any way legitimize the illegitimate. It's a dire mistake to allow those who are deluded imagine they deserve a seat at the table. It's a mistake to attempt to in any way validate what's invalid to begin with.

    Why does the mainstream press present so many social issues as if all courses of possible action have some sort of equal equivalency? It's because they've made the mistake to engage with the insane as if they weren't. It's a grave blunder.

  3. Ok, let’s review a bit.

    Steve sees the possibility higher reasoning can change the conversation. In his years as a university professor, he has seen it. I believe he’s admitted it fails to do so, too.

    I know emotions can change the relationship. I have years being witness to emotions changing the debate welcoming LGBT people into the human family. I have seen persistent love transform years of resistance, of 'idiotic' dismissal and rejection between loved ones and friends into something fully human. I have also seen it fail.

    So this is what troubles me with Mr Blow: would I be the only one who might conclude he believes nothing changes thinking or feeling with those considered lost to our magnificent reason? Idiots remain idiots, enemies eternally enemies -- as they are people prohibited from seeing their error?

    I admit lacking shared realities is a problem, that conflict can be intractable bordering on senselessness. Yet the crux of our problem here doesn't rest with Blow's interlocutors' view of what or who can change; it rests in the presumption of what Mr Blow calls idiocy being somehow immutable. Logically, Steve and I only need prove the exception to this rule to prove it wrong-minded if not wrong-spirited.

    But then, as I resist this delusional idiot argument as a grand misread of conflict’s cause and effect, then I might very well be an idiot in the fashion of Mr Dyson.

    But name-calling has never been warmly received in this blog, and I would enjoy returning to more constructive reference to our adversaries, particularly if I am to become one.

  4. Now, to Steve's post.

    Eugene and I are proud to have been part of the re-introduction of marriage as a social justice issue in the United States. We are so pleased with our legal team and Judge Michalski's February surprise in 1998.

    It might sound incredibly presumptive, but we knew from the day we decided to take this on in July 1986, with little hope of ultimate success, that this was an effort to take a civil and human rights struggle to the world. We understood that power of love to change the human heart.

    There is so much unknown about the early efforts, the thinking of those litigants who stood up. We know as time and again, in one book, thesis, dissertation, or journal article after another, scholars and pundits write of our case, our thinking, without consulting us.

    They make the mistake that we were attorneys' tools -- a good set of facts. No, we sought pro bono counsel; we were not case-hunted. As I write this in London, in a country where marriage equality and same-sex marriages begin 29 March, it has been extremely rewarding to see how history is written.

    If some breathe their last breath contented and grateful for their children, or the war they fought in or the lives they helped, we know we shall share that last joy because we loved each enough to dare the world we were family, in every legal, cutural and difficult meaning of the word.

    Be well.

  5. Nothing does change the thinking of the willfully delusional, unless it's that very rare instance when they decide to throw off their delusions in favor of reality.

    Those who base their conclusions on false premises, and especially those who know they base their conclusions on false premises, aren't to be taken seriously if one cares to remain within the bounds of a reality based dialogue.

    Proving one exception, or even several exceptions, doesn't disprove the rule. The willfully delusional, in almost all cases, choose to remain willfully delusional.

    In those cases, to achieve conflict resolution either means one cedes to delusion or one has encountered that rare occasion when the deluded throws off their willful delusions in favor of reality. I've maintained that those instances are very rare indeed.

    It is unfortunate, but there it is, it's palpably and conspicuously evident.

  6. Bid me whatever you wish, but as long as you don't actually address what I say, perhaps your comments are reflective of something other than your misconceptions.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.