Gay marriage and the great divergence

It’s no great revelation that we live in a highly polarized country, one where neighbors can see the world in starkly different terms.

We Americans often rely on different sources of information, different leaders, different value systems, and we often lead starkly different lives.

People living in different parts of our republic have profoundly different expectations in terms of their professional potential, how much education they will receive, how long their will life, and on and on.

But rising steadily through all that heterogeneity is a new trend:  the re-emergence of starkly different public policies that set apart one state from the next.

It is now possible to live in states where a legal and safe abortion is almost impossible to find, while in the state just next door abortion services are still readily accessible.

It is now possible to live in states where as a gay person you are free to marry, with all the legal and civil rights that entails, while in the state next door your union goes unrecognized, or is even constitutionally banned.

It is now possible to live in a state where the legal rights of labor groups and unions remain robust and widely recognized, while a neighboring state has rejected the idea of collective bargaining rights.

It is now possible to live in a state where undocumented workers are largely tolerated and even accepted as a necessary component of the economy, while in the next state the laws affecting those workers (and their employers) are ferociously strict.

It is now possible to live in a state where the public education system offers an essentially conservative world view (including the suggestion that Creationism is a legitimate “science”), while in a neighboring state the education ideology remains progressive and humanistic.

We appear to be moving toward a future where some states will have adopted truly universal healthcare (Vermont is leading the way here) while other states challenge the fundamental constitutionality and philosophical appropriateness of such programs.

It may sound confrontational to put it in these terms, but I think it’s fair to say that we are evolving toward a Union where the differences between states are very nearly as stark as they were when Jim Crow existed in the South.

Many Americans, when offered jobs or opportunities in different states, will have to think long and hard about the policies and laws that shape life in other parts of the country.

If a person has a child with a handicap or developmental disability, does the new state offer adequate support and help?  What if the couple is gay and has adopted a child, or has entered into marriage?

Will they be safe, in legal terms, in their new community?

On the other hand, a person running a business in a weak-union state might have to think long and hard about the realities and complexities of opening a new branch in a part of the country where organized labor remains a powerful force.

New York state has taken us one more step along this path toward national divergence with this week’s same-sex marriage vote.  But I’m guessing that it won’t be the last step in that direction.

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24 Comments on “Gay marriage and the great divergence”

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  1. Chris says:

    Notice how the same states that were on the wrong side of slavery and Jim crow happen to all be on the same side of these new issues?

  2. Jim Bullard says:

    What strikes me is that the Republican party, which is fond of talking about keeping government out of our lives, seems to apply that only to business. When it comes to individual freedom they walk a different line, 180 degrees in the other direction. I’m not a Democrat either (have other beefs with them) but when it comes to individual freedom, the Democrats have it all over the Republicans these days.

  3. Tony Hall says:

    Re: Republicans and individual rights. The Senate Republicans brought the marriage equality bill to the floor and passed it; when the Democrats held the majority, it was defeated. Liberal Republicans are few in number and that number is diminishing, but they have as legitimate a claim to the GOP as the Tea Party and the new right. They created it, and at various times led it for more than a century.

  4. Bret4207 says:

    I believe a State should be free to do as it chooses as long as it doens’t violate the Constitution. That’s a pretty simple concept. For instance, in Vermont you can carry a pistol concealed with no permit, very few restrictions and Vermont enjoys a low crime rate. Meanwhile in NY you have to have a permit that requires a substantial cash outlay and is not a sure thing to get, you have to get a permission slip to buy the gun and severe (and illegal) restrictions are often paced on the use and carry of the gun. And NYs crime rate? Way, way higher than Vt’s. Based on that it seems NYs restrictive laws are a problem Vermont has solved. Not quite that simple, I know, but much of what Brian mentions isn’t that far removed from a similar line of reasoning. If a State see’s unions over reaching and thinks they are due for some reigning in, good for them. If a State thinks unions are the best thing since bottled beer and free on line porn, go for it. Same with gay marriage, taxes, education, jobs, regulations, auto speed limits and fees, etc, etc, etc.

    Should we really expect or want cookie cutter sameness in all 50 States? I think it’s absurd to think it should be that way.

  5. Bret4207 says:

    Chris, I haven’t checked Wikipedia or Snopes, but I’m pretty sure Minnesota was with the union.

    Jim, which individual freedoms? The Democrats seem to have no issue with The Patriot Act, with warrantless wire taps, with invasive restrictions on power usage and vehicle mileage, power generation, educational textbooks that are revisionist, with creating fewer and fewer freedoms and opportunities for Americans while bolstering the ability of criminals to enter and remain illegally in our country.

    There is little good to be found in either party or their corporate masters these days.

  6. Jim Bullard says:

    Bret, Although the Republicans in the Senate brought it up for a vote, those Republicans who voted for it have been told their political careers are pretty much over because of their vote in favor.

  7. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    This is a great opportunity for Republicans to stand up against the tide of small-mindedness that seems to have gripped the party and claim the Progressive moral high ground it once held.

    I’m not holding my breath but it could happen.

  8. Peter Hahn says:

    From a culture-war perspective I agree that states should be able to choose, although one of the things we have seen is where groups in a rapidly shrinking majority try to rush through constitutional amendments so that the otherwise rapidly approaching future will be much more difficult.

  9. Bret4207 says:

    Knuck- Why? Why should Republicans adopt a progressive mindset? Should Democrats adopt a conservative mindset? Should I call for Democrats to become pro business and anti-tax/union? I think it’s silly to ask a group to endorse what they don’t believe in.

  10. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Maybe it’s just me but I thought Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt had some pretty good ideas when it came to issues of moral relevance. I think it is silly for a great party to reject its own glorious history.

    The Democrats, on the other hand, stood for some terrible practices such as Jim Crow laws. But the party has rejected its evil past and came to embrace those good Republican ideals.

    I don’t see that there is any conflict between being pro-business and pro-union. Having a strong, well paid workforce is the basis of a good economy. If by pro-business you mean that the CEO’s and top managers should get paid enormous wages for cutting the worker’s wages and benefits I guess we disagree on what being pro-business is. In spite of an incredibly stupid ruling by the Supreme Court a corporation is not a person and the corporation as a whole should be accountable not just to the shareholders but to its workers and customers and the nation which fosters its success as well.

    I don’t understand the anti-tax comment unless you are trying to perpetuate the myth that Democrats somehow get perverse enjoyment out of raising taxes. I believe that the difference between Republicans and Democrats on that issue is in how to pay for the necessary functioning of government and which functions are necessary.

  11. Pete Klein says:

    Many of the issues mentioned above are difficult to put in one box. As a guideline I would suggest that individual rights should usually trump state rights because we are citizens of one country. I am an American first, a New Yorker second.
    Sometimes states act as though they are a country. It was this attitude that resulted in the Civil War.
    It is also interesting to note that during the Civil War, it was northern Republicans that argued for the Federal Government while it was southern Democrats who argued state rights. Talk about a flip flop since those days! But the bottom line is that we will always have that argument – states vs. the feds.

  12. Bret4207 says:

    Knuck, the right, I won’t say Republicans because the Republican party simply doesn’t exist anymore, does stick to it’s historical moral values. They just aren’t the values you want them to be! You seem to be saying they should embrace gay marriage, but the right as a whole has never been for that. Why should they change now? Because the left thinks they should?

    The left has never been pro business Knuck, com’on. The left is about limiting the owner and unlimited expectations for the worker. That just doens’t work.

    As for taxes, yes, the left/Dems do seem to treat taxes as a good thing no matter who gets hurt. Of course the so called Republicans we have these days have abandoned the idea of fiscal discipline so good luck getting them to change.

  13. Dave says:

    When it comes to historical ethics and morality, the terms republican and democrat are just about meaningless. There is no consistency to work from, as the political leanings of each have have morphed and even swapped at times.

    States have been a little more consistent, with the exception of Wisconsin just recently. (Bret, did you mean Wisconsin or Minnesota?)

    But really, in my mind, the true marker is general political leaning. Political conservatives in this country (regardless of what party they happened to inhabit at the time) have been on the wrong side of some pretty awful stuff. The majority of the really regrettable stuff in our history, as best as I can tell.

    It is not a track record I have a lot of trust in. That extreme political conservatives seem to be forcefully behind some of the current issues dividing our country (including, and especially, in Wisconsin) does not surprise me at all.

  14. Bret4207 says:

    Both were with the Union Dave, but yes, I meant Wisconsin.

    Political liberals haven’t exactly been lily white in US history.

  15. Dave says:

    No doubt Bret. Liberals have not been historically perfect.

    But I don’t expect ethical perfection from any group of people, whatever their beliefs.

    However, there is substantial ground between being lily white and the track record of conservative ideas. There is not being perfect, and then there is fighting for slavery, supporting jim crow laws, and resisting women’s suffrage, etc etc. They seem to have come down on the wrong side of most confrontations in this country that involve discrimination, and that we now look back upon with shame.

    That they land on the side of discrimination when it comes to modern issues, like gay marriage, is no surprise at all. The thinking is consistent from issue to issue. What does surprise me though, is that the similarities go unrecognized by those who hold these thoughts.

  16. hermit thrush says:

    what dave said.

  17. Pete Klein says:

    As Bob Dylan sang, “The times are a changing.” If he were to rewrite the song for today, he might sing, “The times are a changing really fast now.”
    I think the depth and speed of change frightens many. The dream of the past and want to dig in their heals to resist the change. But that won’t stop or even slow the speed of change.
    Gay marriage is a relatively minor change. Changes in the economy are much bigger. For many Americans of European decent, adjusting to being a minority in the near future will be a major change.

  18. Mervel says:

    I think it is one of the great things about our country. It provides a better form of democracy that states are given the ability to manage their own affairs. It also provides a great laboratory about what works and what does not work.

    It is the balance between the rights of states and the rights of individuals that must be preserved.

  19. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Man! I try to say something nice about Republicans and look where it gets me.
    Nobody is even willing to say “right on, Knucklehead! That Lincoln guy was an awesome dude! Teddy was one bad, stick swingin’ Republican! And how ’bout that Eisenhower guy? Kicked some Nazi butt.”

    And I’d be with them. Dwight was one bad, Nazi butt-kickin’ leader. Saved the Free World. Props, baby!

    But NOOOOOOOOOOO! If I say anything good about a Republican some of you will twist yourselves inside out to disagree with me.

  20. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Hey, that Sarah Palin really knows how to stick to her guns! I have to admit, she’s not as dumb as a lot of lefties try to make her out to be.
    Michele Bachman? A great mom and is full of spunk! Sometimes she says some goofy things, but we all make mistakes, don’t we. It would be nice to see a woman at the top of the ticket for the first time EVER for a major party, and she has some experience in Congress. She sure motivates a section of her party and that could be her ticket.
    Tim Pawlenty did a greta job in Minnesota.
    Mitt Romney! Hey, good job in Massachusetts. We understand the health-care thing; don’t apologize! And he LOOKS like a President.
    Herman Cain. He knows business and was very successful. A lot of people want to see a guy with a strong business background to help get our economy on track.
    Newt, well he probably doesn’t have much of a chance but he speaks his mind and he has lots of ideas. Gotta respect that!
    Who am I missing?

  21. Bret4207 says:

    Dave, you’re cherry picking social issues. Lets not forget the other stuff the left has done just in the last 50 years- Trillions in Great Society costs with little good to show for it, assassination of JFK, Vietnam, The Balkans, NAFTA, the Mexican Bailout followed by the devaluing of the Peso leaving us with huge debt, Bay of Pigs fiasco, numerous bailouts, the devalued dollar, taxes and regulations leading to American job losses, etc. I won’t even go into the garbage FDR did.

    I think much of this, once again, comes back to perspective. Lincoln was a man of vision, as were the Founders. He also made some gargantuan blunders, usurped power and suspended the Bill of Rights. Was it worth it to force State to remain with the Union? From the standpoint of slavery- definitely. Looking at the Constitution… eh, not so much. I can’t find anything that says “once a State, always a State”. But, my perspective would have been different back in 1860.

    Same for TR. He and William Randolph Hearst practically started the Spanish American War. He was an expansionist, a visionary, a man of honor. He was also a progressive, pushed the Federal Gov’t into places it had no right to be, was entirely convinced of the superiority of the American White Race, although he was not an open racist like Woodrow Wilson.

    There are no absolutes in this game. No pure good and evil. And today when you talk politics you almost have to specify exactly which candidate or pols you are talking about because the lines are no longer as distinct as they were once.

  22. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    All of that, Bret, and we’re STILL the greatest nation on Earth! I guess we’ll survive a little bit of gay marriage.

  23. Bret4207 says:

    Yup. we’ll survive for a while at least.

  24. Lily says:

    Betty Little is a classic hypocrite. She defends her hateful vote by invoking God and the teachings of her Catholic faith. A church which also disavows divorce and sex out of wedlock. Yet, Little herself is divorced and had a long relationship with another holier-than-thou Catholic divorcee.

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