New York Times columnist David Brooks talks with Diane about what he sees happening inside Washington and around the country and why he thinks President Trump represents the wrong answer to the right question.
Polls show that about half of Americans approve of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. But among Republicans, that percentage drops sharply. This week a public rift in the family of former Vice President Dick Cheney thrust the issue onto the front page again. One of Cheney’s daughters is married to a woman. The other, Liz Cheney, is running for office on the Republican ticket in Wyoming. On national TV over the over the weekend, Liz Cheney said she believes in the traditional definition of marriage. That puts her in line with most other Republicans –- but not most other Americans. Diane and her guests discuss changing perspectives on same-sex marriage.
- Jonathan Rauch senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; author of "Denial: My 25 Years Without a Soul" and "Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America."
- Michael Dimock director, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
- Maggie Gallagher American Principles Project and co-author of "Debating Same-Sex Marriage."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. A growing number of Americans support same-sex marriage. Today half the general public approves of allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally tie the knot. There's also growing support among Republicans, but much more slowly. Some analysts say the issue is causing a rift not only in the family of former Vice President Dick Cheney but in the Republican Party.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me to talk about American attitudes towards same-sex marriage: Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution, Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, and Maggie Gallagher of the American Principles Project. I know many of you will want to weigh in. The phones are open for your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And thanks to all of you for being here.
MR. JONATHAN RAUCHThank you.
MR. MICHAEL DIMOCKThanks for having us.
MS. MAGGIE GALLAGHERGreat to be here.
REHMGood to see you. And, Jonathan Rauch, let me start with you. Seems to me that this has erupted into a very, very public spat that perhaps is going on in many private families. What's your view?
RAUCHWell, I think that's right. A lot of people, particularly on the cultural right, find themselves torn between principled or religious objections to gay marriage and the fact that the people that they know and love, friends, family members, are coming out, getting married. And they wish those people well. And that's become a real dividing line both within the families and within the Republican Party.
REHMHow do you see it, Michael Dimock, both within the general public and within the Republican Party?
DIMOCKYes. Well, I think our survey earlier this year found about half of Americans say they have a close friend or family members who's gay or lesbian. About a third say they know somebody who's raising children as a gay or lesbian couple. This has become a widespread experience. And I think that that is shaping the way people look at the issue more and more as society becomes more integrated in that regard.
REHMWhy do you think that this particular exchange got so much attention?
DIMOCKWell, there's a lot of discussion in the Republican Party, strategically right now, about how it should handle gay marriage. A decade ago it was sort of a straight-forward issue. There was broad opposition to gay marriage, extremely deep opposition within the party. Today that has moved a little bit more. Most Republicans do oppose gay marriage, but as you look at younger Republicans, as you look towards independents that Republicans might want to appeal to, that issue is no longer as straight-forward. And I think this raises these questions about where the Republican Party should be headed.
REHMAnd, Maggie Gallagher, where do you see this debate, had it not been for the fact that Liz Cheney is running for office in Wyoming?
GALLAGHERWell, you know, the Cheney family is a very close family, and I don't believe they would have this spat in public, except for the fact that it's good for both of the sisters. It gives Mary a chance to air her deeply held, passionate, moral convictions, and advance the ball for gay marriage.
GALLAGHERAnd it helps Liz Cheney get elected senator in the state of Wyoming because -- well, it's not widely known, but a group that I am familiar with, The American Principles Fund, ran $140,000 -- which is a large ad buy in a small state like Wyoming -- quoting Liz Cheney endorsing benefits for gay couples and opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment, and that moved her favorable-unfavorables among likely primary voters from something like 41-24 to -- it flipped it.
GALLAGHERThirty-nine percent now view her unfavorably and only 24 percent favorably in the latest commissioned poll. So I don't know. Call me a skeptic, but somehow a -- the Cheney family's been in the public eye a long time, and I don't doubt that they have the emotions that they're saying. I'm not saying they're not telling the truth, but I don't think the sisters would have done this, except that it's kind of a win-win for the family as a whole.
REHMJonathan Rauch, what do you think about that?
RAUCHWell, I think, as a political matter, it's plausible, that there is a little bit of orchestration going on, but I still think the broader point is true, that what we're seeing here is a reflection of the fact that 10 years ago same-sex marriage was an issue that united Republicans and divided Democrats. And Democrats had to run away from it. Ten years on, today, it's an issue that unites Democrats and divides Republicans, and Republicans are running away from it.
REHMSo do you buy into the idea that Liz Cheney said what she said on Fox News with Chris Wallace deliberately because she had lost support in Wyoming in her run against Mike Enzi?
RAUCHWell, I wouldn't feel qualified to talk specifically about what she did, what's going on in her mind, but the Republican base is still firmly against gay marriage, for the most part. And that means that if you want to win the nomination in a conservative state, you're going to have to be against it. Of course, the issue becomes, what does that do for you in general elections, especially in swing states?
GALLAGHERI don't think there's a large number of voters who are voting on gay marriage in either direction, frankly. I think the problem that Republican elites perceive, the consulting class perceives, is that if you oppose gay marriage, the press will hound you on it. You'll have to talk about that, and it will interfere with getting your other messages out.
GALLAGHERAnd I think the response to that among Republicans has been what they think is a brilliant secret strategy, which we have recently dubbed the truce strategy, right -- T-R-U-C-E -- in honor of Gov. Mitch Daniels, which is you keep all your positions on what you say are important moral issues. And then you never talk about them, and you try to change the subject as much as possible. And this is really an ineffective political strategy, but it is what the Republican Party is doing now. That's the governing wisdom.
REHMHow many states now have laws on the books allowing same-sex marriage?
GALLAGHERI should know that. I think it's 14. Jon?
REHMFourteen, 15, maybe 16?
RAUCHI think it's 14, including District of Columbia, but Illinois and Hawaii, maybe New Mexico before the end of the year. So it's a little hard to keep up. I lose count.
REHMMichael, what are the factors behind growing support of same-sex marriage?
DIMOCKYeah. It's been a remarkable shift in polling over the past decade, from about 2-to-1 opposition to a little bit over 50/50 in support of gay marriage in support of gay marriage in most polls today, some higher, some about 50 percent to 45 percent. The shift, I think, can best be seen as reflecting two dynamics. One is generational. We have a younger generation that's broadly accepting of homosexuality as a principle and gay marriage as a particular legal element. And as that generation becomes a larger share of the electorate, its impact grows.
DIMOCKBut on top of that you are seeing changing minds. In a survey we did earlier this year, 14 percent of Americans said they now support gay marriage, but they didn't used to. And that compounds the situation. It adds to the speed of that dynamic over the past 10 years or so. And the main reason they offer for why their minds have changed is that they know people who are gay or lesbian, that their experiences have affected the way they think about the issue.
REHMJonathan, what about Supreme Court's decision on DOMA? How has that changed the debate?
RAUCHYeah, for listeners who may not know, DOMA -- that was the Defense of Marriage Act, which said that the federal government would not recognize state same-sex marriages, and the Supreme Court threw it out a little while ago. And that has clearly given renewed impetus to the efforts in courts to try to get the Supreme Court to recognize gay marriage.
RAUCHAnd for gay and lesbian Americans, it's just been extremely important to have the federal government recognize our unions. Without that, there is so much we're missing. So it's very hard to overstate the impact of that decision on gay people's lives and wellbeing.
REHMSo how have the lives of gay people changed since the Supreme Court ruling?
DIMOCKWell, many ways. One, which is not so fun, is that my husband and I have to prepare five tax returns. Don't even ask. The tax issues are messy. But the positives are -- I'll give you just one, but it's very important. There are lots of gay couples where, until this happened, they were forced to live outside of the country because one of the spouses could not get a visa to come in the United States. Now, of course, if you're straight and married, your husband or wife can live here. Well, we now have that, too, and that is reuniting our families. And that has ended one of the biggest heartbreaks of being gay in America.
REHMMaggie, I assume -- though I don't know this for certain. What is your stance on gay marriage?
GALLAGHEROh, I founded the National Organization for Marriage. I'm usually described as one of the leading opponents of same-sex marriage. Thank you for asking, though.
REHMLeading opponents, and can you tell us why?
GALLAGHERWell, yeah, because I don't -- if the only effect of gay marriage were that some nice people got some benefits and felt better about their lives, I think it would be a good thing. But I actually do think it's a -- we're making it a foundational decision about what marriage is and what it's for. And the historic understanding of marriage is that it's rooted in the reality we need to bring together male and female, mother and father, to make and raise the next generation.
GALLAGHERAnd as we disconnect marriage from that idea, which is happening broadly, not just because of gay marriage, but as we disconnect marriage and children and instead focus on marriage as a kind of romantic, intimate, loving, caretaking relationship for adults, I think we're going to hurt a lot of children.
GALLAGHERAnd I like to -- I tell Jonathan all the time, I really hope I'm wrong about this 'cause I believe the Supreme Court last summer just announced it has five votes for gay marriage as soon as it can get a case back with proper standing. And the gay legal establishment is now busy filing cases in as many places as they can. So I think they agree with me. So we'll have to figure out how to support marriage, protecting children, while the law is disconnecting it. That's the problem for me.
REHMMaggie Gallagher, she's a fellow at the American Principles Project, co-author of "Debating Same-Sex Marriage." Short break. When we come back, we'll talk further and take your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about, of course, the ongoing debate over gay marriage that erupted over the weekend when Wyoming candidate Liz Cheney said on Fox News that she was very much against gay marriage, even though her sister Mary is gay and is married. She has children. And the debate is ongoing most especially, as I said, because Liz Cheney is running for public office.
REHMMaggie Gallagher, I want to go back to you. You talked about your stance against gay marriage, most especially because of children. There are some straight couples who don't have children who have simply married because they are deeply in love with each other. They want to support each other, but children's not in their future. What do you make of that?
GALLAGHERWell, first of all, I think the question that I've addressed is not the motivations. I mean, a social institution works because it takes people with a broad range of motivations. And it kind of channels them to produce certain ends that are good for them and good for society. So the structure of marriage, what it does is it says, well, we're going to live together, we're going to support each other, we're only going to have sex with each other, and if we have any children, therefore we're going to raise them together in the same home because we made a permanent commitment.
REHMIf we have children.
GALLAGHERIf we have them. And so every time a man and woman gets married, in some sense, there's one less person we have to worry about their sexual desires in life and drive for intimacy and romantic longing creating this problem of children born unexpectedly in less committed relationships, which almost never produce a mom and dad equally committed to raising them. And that is, in my view, the public function of marriage.
GALLAGHERYou know, you -- I think the extent to which we have culturally disconnected marriage from children is part of the reason why gay marriage is plausible, and it's part of the challenge for -- if we're going to have gay marriage from the Supreme Court, with how we do things -- that I think both Jonathan and I agree are important -- while accepting the premises of marriage equality.
GALLAGHERBut, you know, you probably know, too, Diane, there are many people who get married, and they say they don't want children. Most of those young couples I know who get married eventually do have children. You don't get children by planning for them. You get children if you're heterosexual or in a heterosexual relationship because your bodies merge. And sometimes that produces children as a result of planning.
GALLAGHERBut three-quarters of births -- even now with all the contraception and all the abortion, three-quarters of births are unplanned by at least one of their parents, right. So this is the typical human experience. It's not some outlier. And that may not be true for the talking classes who tend to be better at contraception as they're better at many disciplined and organized things.
REHMJonathan Rauch, what's your response to Maggie?
RAUCHWell, you know, I've been listening to and learning from Maggie now for 10 or more years, and so has the country. And what she says is a prediction which has turned out to be false, which is that if you admit gay couples into marriage, straight couples will not get married or get divorced more or abandon their kids or break up their families. And that has proved to be incorrect.
RAUCHThe biggest problem I think that opponents to gay marriage are having isn't politics or demographics. It's that they've never been able to explain in a plausible way why allowing gay couples to marry will harm straight marriages. And the answer is it won't. In fact, gay marriage is part of the movement back into marriage and back into traditional family structures. It's part of encouraging marriage by saying this is the universal norm.
RAUCHWe expect this from everybody. If you have kids, get married, gay or straight. If you don't have kids, get married, gay or straight. This is the gold standard of committed relationships. It protects the people in the relationship and their kids and their communities. So I think what's happened is a conservative revolution. People said, hey, wait a minute, this is about restoring family values.
DIMOCKYou know, from a public perspective, it's very interesting because you have a block of Americans, maybe around a third or 30 percent, who are very opposed to this in mostly unreligious grounds. So when you ask people, who say homosexuality should be discouraged in our society, they almost always describe that in religious terms, that it's just immoral, that it goes against their beliefs. You have another group, maybe a third or so, who are just down the line supportive of gay rights in almost every aspect.
DIMOCKAnd you have a big group of Americans in the middle who are torn by these very arguments. On the one hand, they see homosexuality as going against their religious beliefs and principles, what they've been taught all their lives, their views of what a traditional family is. But they also find compelling the arguments of fairness and love and commitment. And these people -- in fact, in our surveys, you find them expressing those counterviews at the same time. They have trouble juggling those things, and that's a part of the position the country is in right now, that kind of balance of people in the center.
REHMHere's an email from a gay man who says he will soon celebrate his 59 birthday. "I was born in this country," he says. "I've always been a citizen. I've always worked hard, have always paid taxes. I do not understand why I should have fewer rights than any other American or why our community should still be one of the few to be public targets of discrimination." Maggie, I wonder how you'd respond to that man.
GALLAGHERYeah, I think, first of all, obviously many, many people -- and not just gay people -- agree with that moral point of view. I don't think we have a right -- an individual personal right to change the understanding of marriage. And I don't think that the classic understanding of marriage is based on discrimination against gay people. I think that it's true that unions of husband and wife are different than unions of same sex. They're the only unions that make new life and connect children to a mother and father.
GALLAGHERAnd I believe that's the reason why government is involved in the marriage business and also why marriage is a universally human social institution. It revolves around this. And I want to take issue with Jonathan, always something to do with trepidation. But, you know, the very generation that is most pro-gay marriage, the Millennials, are also the least good at connecting marriage and children.
GALLAGHERYou're seeing a -- they're least interested and least sure they want to get married and have children. They're the least likely to say that children are important to a good marriage, although that change is happening broadly. And they are the most likely to say that all kinds of different family arrangements are a good thing.
GALLAGHERSo I don't think it's implausible that the arguments for gay marriage are about rejecting the idea there is a norm that we all have an interest in whether we marry or not, trying to get children a mother and father, that gay marriage is a rejection of that norm and you are seeing the impact, although not just of the specific -- it's not giving John and his partner, his spouse legal benefits.
GALLAGHERThat's not the change. It's the change in the understanding of marriage. I hope John is right that this is going to be completely disconnected from these terrible trends, and I honor him for trying to work on them. But I don't think it's true. There's no evidence for it.
RAUCHWell, you know, this might be a different conversation if I believe that locking gay people out of the commitments of marriage would encourage these young Millennials to get married, but that seems like a pretty peculiar thing to say. That's like saying, well, shirts were made for people with two arms. So the way to get more people to wear shirts is to ban people from one arm with wearing them.
RAUCHIf you want to restore a marriage and family ethic among Millennials -- and I agree with Maggie, it is weakening there to some extent -- I think you've got to encourage marriage. And that's the signal we're sending here. So I think this is part of the solution and one of the encouraging trends among that age group.
DIMOCKYou know, you see the distinction between rights and fairness and marriage is out there, to go back to this comment on your email. There are many Americans who think we should provide equal rights for everybody in all situations. But the issue of marriage is a touchy one for some Americans. You have about 10 or 15 percent who would support equal rights for everyone. But they hold the line on marriage a little bit, and partly for the reasons, as Maggie is saying, the notion that marriage means something different.
REHMHere is another email. This from Michael for you, Michael, saying, "To what do you attribute the change in public attitude? Is it economics?"
DIMOCKEconomics into why people support gay marriage?
DIMOCKI don't think it is. I think a big part of it is just a shift, as I said, generationally. And that generational shift goes beyond homosexuality. This is a movement not just among Millennials but even the sort of Gen-Xers that go up into their 40s now, of an embracing of diversity in so many aspects of life, whether it be cultural, ethnic, racial or sexuality. And that's a broad social change that goes far beyond the ups and downs of the economy or people's individual economic situation.
DIMOCKI think the same is true when you talk about changes among older generations, the number of boomers who say that they feel differently about the issue today than they did when they were younger. I don't think that reflects anything about their economic circumstance as much as their observations and experiences in their lives.
REHMAll right. We've got lots of callers waiting. We'll open the phones, see what our listeners have to say, first to Mary in Grand Rapids, Mich. Hi, you're on the air.
MARYHi. Thanks for taking my call.
MARYMy question or comment is, I have several children. All of them have a friend with a gay parent. And I live in a pretty conservative area in Michigan. We interact just like every other family. We're at games together. We're at barbecues together, sleepovers for big parties. And we all get along really well. But I do feel like, outside of those friends, because I am Catholic and do not support gay marriage, I'm looked upon as a hateful homophobe. My right to practice my religion is very secondary.
REHMExplain to me how your right to practice your religion is infringed upon, Mary.
MARYWell, it has not been infringed upon because in Michigan it is still not legal. But if you mention that you don't support gay marriage in a group, people will generally -- at least one person will then suppose that you therefore don't like gay people. If you are a person in other states, Catholics who say, we can't participate -- we can't rent our hall to a gay marriage or we can't do photography because of my religion, you know, in some cases, they're being sued.
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. Jonathan Rauch.
RAUCHI'm a fierce defender of religious liberty, the first principle on which this country was founded. So this caller will get a lot of support from me to looking for ways to reasonably accommodate religious people. And many states are doing that. We need to do even more of it. But that said, you know, I hear this a fair amount of the time from religious folks who say, wait a minute, I'm getting all these looks of disapproval. And people think I'm immoral or hateful.
RAUCHAnd I say, well, welcome to my world. What have you guys been telling us gay people for the last 50 years? And what is still the message from your pulpits in many cases to gay kids, that we're sick, that we need to pray to change, that there's something wrong with us. And I say, you know, in places where opinion is changing, you will be in a minority, and you'll have to stand up and defend your positions. But that's not the worst thing in the world to have to do.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And here we should point out that a Methodist pastor in Pennsylvania was just suspended after he officiated at his gay son's wedding. How does that fit into trends, Maggie?
GALLAGHERWell, the mainline Protestant Christian denominations mostly folded on all the issues of the sexual revolution. And now they're struggling on the question of incorporating homosexuality with an understanding of a Biblically-derived morality. And it's pretty clear in many places that this is a difficult thing to do. And so, you know, that's -- you're seeing Methodists who do not agree with the scriptural interpretation of their denomination.
GALLAGHERAnd you're also addressing -- they're also addressing problems of authority and order, like, who gets to decide at what level? So the minister probably knew that it was a violation of his church's law, and he decided he wanted to test that and the willingness of the denomination in defense of his son. And I guess I would say both sides of that are understandable.
GALLAGHERBut I do think that the classic -- not only the classic understanding of marriage but the classic understanding of Christianity and its teachings on sex are going to be an ongoing issue for Christians in this country. And Jonathan is right. We're going to have to get some backbone. And I would hope that others would work towards -- if we're going to have gay marriage, is this going to be a club where we equate traditional Christianity with racism and push it to the max, right?
GALLAGHERBecause you're like a bigot who's opposed to interracial marriage if you're opposed to same-sex marriage. Or are we going to figure out how to minimize the impact and accommodate as much as we can so that, you know, our listener from Michigan doesn't have to feel like she's an outlaw citizen because she has this understanding even if her government does not?
REHMMichael, what do polls tell us about religion and denominations around the country?
DIMOCKYes. Well, it's very interesting. And it is these sort of middle religions so to speak, Catholics and mainline Protestants who are really the most kind of at odds in this regard. You have a lot of Evangelical Christians who are very still fairly unified around the issue. You have more unreligious, nonreligious Americans who are very unified on the other side, and you really see that tension playing out in these groups. A majority of Protestants, a majority of Catholics now tell us that they support gay marriage.
DIMOCKBut when we say, well, does homosexuality go against your religious beliefs, the majority say, yes, it does. And you see that conflict right in their minds, again, this tension between their religious principles, not only that they were taught when they were children but that they still hold to, that they hear in church that's a part of a belief system that's very important to them, coming up against the kind of legal side but also the personal side of the issue.
REHMIsn't it fascinating to hear Pope Francis now saying, we should not concentrate quite as much on these issues of homosexuality and abortion, Jonathan?
RAUCHIt's very interesting and potentially quite significant. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. He was very clear on divorce. But you don't hear the Catholic Church carrying on a great length against divorce, even though it clearly does hurt family and children. And I think Pope Francis is moving a church -- nudging it in the same direction on marriage.
REHMJonathan Rauch, he's at the Brookings Institution, author of "Denial: My 25 Years without a Soul." Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about the explosion of attention that has come to the Cheney family because Liz Cheney who's running for office in Wyoming came out on Sunday during the Fox News program with Chris Wallace saying that she is against gay marriage. Her sister, of course, is a lesbian married to a woman, and they have children with whom apparently Liz has celebrated many holidays, enjoyed good relations. And now there's more than a little controversy about her comments.
REHMHere's an email from David, and apparently a number of emails like this: "Maggie Gallagher's inference that procreation is the basis for a marriage is insulting to every couple, tradition or same-sex, who either could not conceive or never plan to. Their love and commitment is no less important than any other couple."
GALLAGHERWell, I would say that's true. Their love and commitment is no less important than any other couple. But what I was -- and I would just say that people who -- we have a choice just like the Cheney family has a choice. We can up the extent to which we hear each other as trying to insult each other and go to the max, or we can try to love each other across important moral differences and -- even though we do it inadequately and we can be called (word?) for the ways we do it wrong.
GALLAGHERWhat I would say is -- about that is, if sex between men and women did not give rise to children, I don't think marriage would be a universal -- a virtually universal human institution. And I don't think the government would likely be involved in marriage. And I don't think there's a good reason for limiting love to two people, except maybe some practical reasons, except for this reality.
GALLAGHERAnd if you -- if we raise children who never hear that, you know, sex makes babies, society needs babies, babies need a mom and a dad 'cause that's viewed as insulting to people who can't have children -- I believe infertility is a crisis precisely because procreation is such an important human function. And I have a lot of sympathy for it.
GALLAGHERPeople who don't want to have children should not be forced to have children. Lots of people don't want to be married. They shouldn't be forced to be married. There's lots of ways to be a respected citizen. But we can't just say, well, I'm going to feel insulted if you say it's really important to bring together male and females to make and raise the next generation.
RAUCHWell, it is important to bring together males and females to raise the next generation. And, of course, letting males and males come together and females and females won't hurt that because we're talking about gay people. So it's a little bit hard to see the connection of why allowing gay marriage would put a damper on either heterosexual procreation or heterosexual marriage.
REHMCan you respond to that, Maggie?
GALLAGHERI think that if I go to Massachusetts now and I say, marriage really matters because the ideal for a child is a married mom and dad -- which is what I did for about 20 years before gay marriage was an issue, not just in Massachusetts -- that people will look at me, and they'll say, what do you mean? The law's not about that. That's not what marriage is about. Sam and Adam are just as married as Adam and Mary. And therefore marriage has nothing to do with getting moms and dads together for children.
GALLAGHERAnd it's the inability or the disagreement about whether that general foundational idea actually affects human behavior, which is what Jonathan says he can't see. So there's just gay people getting married and straight people getting married, and they're not affecting each other. Because we're going to be able to have marriage equality, the idea there's no differences between same-sex and opposite-sex couples while still pointing to an focusing on and building a marriage culture around the needs of children for a mom and a dad, we can't do it.
RAUCHDiane, yesterday -- I'm sorry, Monday, as it happens, was the 10th anniversary of the Goodrich decision in which Massachusetts Supreme Court ordered same-sex marriage. We've had 10 years with this now. And in Massachusetts, if straight marriage were to get in serious trouble or people were to stop having babies as a result of gay marriage, we would have seen it.
RAUCHIn fact, it hasn't happened. And that's one of the reasons the middle is swinging on gay marriage. These predictions that somehow straight people will stop doing what they've always done if gay people can join in have not and, in my opinion, will not come to fruition.
REHMMichael Dimock, do you see more Republicans moving closer to the idea of acceptance of gay marriage?
DIMOCKRight. There's still a dividing line between acceptance of homosexuality as a lifestyle, as an element of American society, and acceptance of marriage. And I think that really is still a major distinction for many Americans for many of the reasons we're discussing here today. You know, the trend among Republicans is there, as it is in almost every other group, when you look at the changing attitudes overtime.
DIMOCKThe divisions within the Republican Party are particularly stark, both in ideological terms. There are more moderate Republicans, less religiously oriented Republicans for whom this is either not a very important issue -- maybe that's the biggest element. It's just the level of focus they want to see on the issue -- but also more support. I think that one of the biggest differences is this generational difference. The surveying we've done this year is finding a slim majority, 54 percent of younger Republicans for the first time, telling us that they support gay marriage.
DIMOCKAnd that's sort of a trend that the party is looking at again as it looks to 2016, 2020 and where the party's headed.
REHMTo Chesapeake, Va. Hi, David.
DAVIDHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
DAVIDIt's a shame that your show -- this particular show couldn't be on for a couple of hours because you have a great panel to debate.
REHMI know I do.
DAVIDYou know, there's so much to challenge here. One -- I guess I wanted to bring up one, you know, just starting in about the Liz Cheney comment. I mean, I think her comment was very valid and honest. I mean, I've made the same comment myself. You know, gays have wanted to be accepted in family and business and all sorts of arenas. And so it seems that when you accept them and you, you know, accept them as friends or trust -- you know, the whole nine yards in a business and whatever, and, you know, you're OK with that.
DAVIDBut if you disagree with marriage, you're all of a sudden a racist. You're -- you know, they take total opposite offense to you. And it gets really out of hand. You know, one of the things that I've been following this very closely, especially with DOMA, you know, the Constitution as well as the law of nations gives the Congress the right to make those laws. And they had it right. They have a right to choose it. What our U.S. Supreme Court is doing is this changing laws and doing it politically not using rational law and precedence, you know.
DAVIDAnd I think that what's happening with the U.S. Supreme Court is they're, you know, really causing a lot of upheaval in our country, and a lot of it's based on taxes and, you know, how can the government collect more taxes and what have you. And that's a way to do it. You know, and I think that it's really causing major issues in this country. And I think a lot of people are making laws based on personal preferences and religion or whatever their political preferences are versus, you know, actual rationale and legal action.
REHMAll right. David, thanks for your call. Michael.
DAVIDSure, thank you.
DIMOCKYeah, the DOMA decision was -- the response was very divided in the American public. You had as many people roughly opposing what the Supreme Court did as supporting it. And I think it does reflect that, you know, there's a tendency for this conversation to get a little bit ahead of itself when people talk about where the country is on issues like gay marriage.
DIMOCKThere's a very strong trajectory. As we've said it's generational, it's changes. But this is still a very divided nation on this issue. And I think the question of, you know, individual's rights, whether this is just about reinforcing loving relationships versus giving people specific rights versus the meaning of marriage in society, all of those matter to people, and they draw on different considerations.
REHMHere is a tweet for Maggie. Kaitlin says, "As a child of divorce, I'd rather have grown up with two happy married gay parents than two angry divorced straight ones."
GALLAGHERWell, I don't blame her. I think, you know, divorce is extremely...
REHMI'm sure you've heard that a lot.
GALLAGHERWell, not that particularly, but I do think that it is the decline of a marriage culture that -- which gay people are not responsible for and have nothing to do with. But I spent many, many years working on the problem of divorce and unmarried childbearing.
GALLAGHERAnd I believe, from my personal experience, 10 years as an unwed mother, that even though I was a really good single mom and my son is a good person, a successful person, I think that I wasn't able to give my children what my mom and dad gave me who stayed married and in a child-centered, child-focused home despite normal human marital problems. And I think we've got to do better for our children, so I appreciate that comment. I don't know that that was the alternative, though.
RAUCHWell, I appreciate the comment, too. I'm a child of divorce, and I know very well it's a very difficult situation. And that's one of the reasons that, when I first came to arguing -- advocating gay marriage in 1995, it was from the point of view of looking for ways to strengthen the culture of marriage. And I see gay marriage as part of doing that.
REHMAll right. To St. Louis, Mo. Hi there, Don.
DONHi, how are you?
DONThanks for taking my call. I'm sitting here just so incensed and so outraged and offended by this woman from the National Organization of Marriage. I want to start off first by saying my partner and I have been together for over 20 years. We adopted a baby that was four days old in California five years ago. He's a beautiful boy. We sent our circle of friends -- we are almost the only couple who has a child, and most of our friends are heterosexual couples.
DONWhether or not they can have children, whether or not they choose to have children, that's their business. It's not Maggie's business. It's not the National Organization of Marriage's business. It's their business. I think her premise is so faulty it's laughable. To think that someone's sexuality, their orientation somehow deems them a better parent than anyone else is ridiculous. We can turn on the news any day of the week and hear about children that are beaten, children that are killed, children that are abused and neglected, many times -- most times from heterosexual parents.
DONSo sitting here for the past 20 minutes on hold listening to this woman who sounds very reasonable and rational and uses nice language and is obviously educated, is so offensive to me. And the last thing that I'll say is this also comes down to a basic issue of what I call the Gladys Kravitz Syndrome. And, if you remember, Gladys Kravitz was the nosy next door neighbor on the '60s sitcom "Bewitched."
DONThis is none of your business, Maggie. Someone else's marriage has no direct impact on your marriage. Whether you choose to get married, whether you don't has no impact, no bearing whatsoever. You're free to believe what you want and tell other people what to believe, but to imply that someone is a better parent simply due to their orientation is not only wrong, it's offensive.
REHMThank you for your comments. Maggie.
GALLAGHERI wish I could ask him -- I did ask this of a mother of a gay son at -- when I was debating at Columbia Law School. I said, can you help me here? I don't want to offend you. Is it what I'm saying or the way I'm saying it? Is there a way to say that the ideal for a child is a mother and father united in marriage without insulting your son? Because I -- and she said, no, it's not the way you're saying it. It's the thing itself that's insulting.
GALLAGHERAnd I don't know what to do about that because I think that's an idea that's too important to give up. I think it has nothing to do with whether gay people are good parents. It has to do with the reality that the overwhelming numbers of children are produced by acts of passion and that we need to idealize the mother-father family. We need to have norms around it, or it won't happen.
REHMMaggie Gallagher, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's a view from Laura in Louisville, Ky. who says, "I'm a straight pregnant woman in a long-term committed relationship. My partner and I plan to raise our child together in a loving home as well as having additional children. I'd like to hear Maggie comment about the rising number of straight couples who opt out of marriage and go on to raise happy healthy children."
GALLAGHERWell, in this country -- by the way, I wish you and especially your children well. I hope that you're right that marriage is irrelevant to the project of raising a family together. But I will tell you that, in this country, finding a stable cohabiting couple with children who last until their children are grown -- it's not quite a unicorn -- they do exist, but they're exceedingly rare.
GALLAGHERAnd the research is very clear that, you know, cohabiting couples who have a child are two to three times more likely to split up within the first three years compared to married couples. When you don't want to get married, it means something. Maybe it means you're just bigger than the whole social institution. You don't need norms. You don't -- you're -- bless you. I hope you can do it.
REHMOr maybe the norms are changing, Jonathan.
RAUCHWell, this is a point on which in some ways Maggie and I agree. Marriage is important, and part of what you need to understand, Diane, about the gay marriage movement is it comes from gay people who lived through the AIDS crisis without the legal protections and tools of caregiving of marriage. And then they lived through -- they tried to build families and then raise kids without the protections of marriage.
RAUCHSo these were people who were saying, you know what, cohabitation isn't the same. It's not good enough. Gay people have learned that the hard way, and those are the values that I think we're trying to re-inspire.
GALLAGHERJonathan and I agree on very, very much. And I do know that he -- I would say that it is not typical of most of the gay marriage advocates I debate, but it is true of some of them. And Jonathan is the most articulate of those who care not only about gay marriage as a right but marriage as a social norm. So...
REHMJonathan, talk about the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and why you don't support that.
RAUCHWell, it's not that I oppose it. I'd be perfectly happy to have Congress pass a federal law against employment discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people. But I wrote an op-ed piece recently for Time.com and said, you know what, this is no longer a top priority. We're moving into a world where, for gay people to say, we're victims, and we need government protection from getting fired from our jobs, that's no longer super relevant to our lives.
RAUCHAnd the victim narrative is beginning to wear thin, I think, with straight America as we serve in the military, as we get married, as we raise kids. As we take on all the burdens of adulthood, we're not victims anymore. We don't feel that way. We don't act that way, and I don't think we should particularly need laws that treat us that way.
REHMBrief comment, Michael.
DIMOCKYou know, we did a survey of the gay-lesbian community earlier this year. And that notion of some would call it normalization I think is really widely embraced, the idea of there are certain choices that you can make strategically or politically that almost reinforce the specialness. And to a certain extent, there's a point at which many groups who face discrimination reach where the move is toward normalization and deemphasizing the differentness. And I think that's part of this conversation.
REHMWell, I want to thank you all. It's been most interesting to hear all your views. Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, Maggie Gallagher, fellow at the American Principles Project, co-author of "Debating Same-Sex Marriage," Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution and author of "Gay Marriage: Why it's Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America," thank you all. And thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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