Sunday, June 7, 2009

Gay Marriage and Claremont College Professors' Comments

Professor Ken Miller of CMC is quoted in The Berkeley Daily Planet about gay marriage. Here is the essential paragraphs.
Kenneth P. Miller, associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, recently published an article, “The Democratic Coalition’s Religious Divide: Why California Voters Supported Obama but Not Same-Sex Marriage,” that describes the electoral politics that drove the vote on Prop. 8. Miller said same-sex marriage proponents will need to make inroads with the Christian community in California if they are to produce a different outcome in 2010 or 2012.

“They need to persuade those Christian voters that extending marriage rights to the gay community is consistent with their religious beliefs, not undermining them,” he said. “There are a lot of strong Christian arguments for and against gay marriage.”
I agree one-hundred percent with the notion that gays should try to persuade Christians and not use the bench to legislate what they want. It seems to have worked well in New Hampshire and Vermont, why wouldn't it have worked in California? It would have saved us a lot of fighting.
As you know, I have some very heterodox views on gay marriage. I don't think that there's a right to marriage and that the state has a right to limit it, but I think that if gays really wanted to win this issue, they would couch it in a "any-two-people-living-under-the-same-roof" get the same economic benefits of marriage. If this were to happen, you'd suddenly have a lot of heterosexual couples, siblings, business partners, etc. brought in to support it. Who doesn't want a lower tax burden? Such an effort would unite gays with a whole host of different constituents. (They might even pick up a few votes from girlfriends who want their boyfriends to move in wit them.)
I think the philosophy that allows gay couples to adopt children and then robs those children's parents of the tax benefits of marriage is fundamentally flawed.
As it put in May of last year,
As a pro-life, non-religious Republican, I feel that if we are going to be the party of life, we must also be the party that allows adoptions for it must be so that having a parent is better than having no parent at all. Put simply, it must be better to be raised by a gay couple than to drown at the bottom of a Chinese well [. . .]
I suspect, though that the homosexual left which is controling this issue, wants to use the marriage issue to mainstream homosexuality, which tactically is a fool's errand. You can't use the power of the state to force people to accept something that they think is aberrant and dangerous without causing a tremendous amount of social strife. Witness all the fighting over abortion.
And so, I'm grateful to see gays and their activist allies trying to make some economic arguments in favor of homosexual marriage. Careful students of history know from reading Akhil Reed Amar's masterful book, America's Constitution: A Biography that the reason women got the right to vote wasn't the Suffragettes, but the laws of supply and demand. Here's what Amar writes around page 425 or so,

In 1869-70, Wyoming Territory broke new ground by according women equal rights with men to vote and hold office. Twenty years later, Wyoming entered the union as the first woman-suffrage state. Colorado, Utah, and Idaho soon followed suit. An overly simple yet relatively robust explanation for these developments is that women were an especially rare and precious resource in the West. Under the laws of supply and demand, where women were exceptionally scarce, men had to work that much harder to attract and keep them. By letting women vote with their hands, perhaps Western men hoped that women would vote with their feet—and head West. . . .

Data from the 1890 census provide some support for this admittedly crude theory. For every hundred native-born Wyoming males, there were only 58 native-born females. No other state had so pronounced a gender imbalance. Colorado and Idaho were the fifth and sixth most imbalanced states overall in 1890. The other early woman-suffrage state, Utah, had a somewhat higher percentage of women (thanks to its early experience with polygamy), but even Utah had only 88 native-born females for every hundred native-born males, ranking it 11th among the 45 states in the mid-1890s. Also, the second, third, fourth, and seventh most imbalanced states—Montana, Washington, Nevada, and Oregon—would all embrace woman suffrage in the early 1910s, several years ahead of most sister states. In all these places, men voting to extend the suffrage to women had little reason to fear that males might anytime soon be outvoted en masse by females. [Emphasis mine.]

Amar continues, discussing the women's rights movement in the British Empire and explains, fairly convincingly that New Zealand, of all places with its high gender disparity, was the first state to allow women to vote. You can read more about Amar's findings here.

Moving now to the question of the gays, there might be something to Amar's findings that could have a serious implication. Notice how the states --either through the Courts or through the legislature -- have legalized gay marriage have tended to be in the educated, more secular Northeast. These states tend to be more office park than industrial park and so, office politics tend to be more common and so, they are probably more likely to come across gays in their day to day life. In job markets that depend upon intellectual skillsets, it'll be tough for states to discriminate against gays because they need the labor.

Apparently, many legislators are coming to this realization, according to an article in Newsweek. They see gay marriage as a potential revenue stream for their states and so they want to legalize it to prop up their dwindling coffers. But are they right to?

...some economists urge caution in looking for same-sex wedding profits—in particular citing a kind of "first-mover advantage" that benefits states with early gay-marriage laws. (After similar laws were passed in neighboring states Vermont and Maine, New Hampshire became the latest state to legalize same-sex marriage on Wednesday, but the state might not gain as much as did Massachusetts, which has become a destination for gay couples from other states.)

"If you're the 50th state to allow [same-sex] weddings, you're not going to get as much of a bump as the first state," says Michael Steinberger, an assistant professor of economics at Pomona College who worked with the Williams Institute on the Massachusetts study. "There's going to be a bump, but it cannot be as big."

Still, I have a hard time buying it for several reasons.

1) Wouldn't the benefits of taxing gays as single people be higher over a life time than the simple one hit in sales tax that a gay marriage may yield? This might be an example of tax money starved pols looking for a quick hit, rather than long-term finances. Are we surprised?

I suppose that here the states are getting the best of both worlds. On the one hand, gays get taxed as individuals for federal income tax, which is much higher than state income tax anyways and on the other side, states get the benefits of higher consumption around the marriages.

2) I think the study misses a key variable: divorce rates. Most research indicates that gay couples get divorced at much higher rates than straight couples. Is revenue gained from marriage higher than the lost costs of tying up divorce courts?

3) I'd like to see evidence that gay marriage leads to a higher adoption rate, which in turn, would lead more child welfare and less money spent there.

I think more research needs to be done, but I applaud the efforts to make things more empirical and less emotional.


Heavy said...

I have to say I agree completely with a vast majority of your expressed views however, this I completely disagree with. Your view that conservatives should embrace same sex marriage is upsetting to me. History is on my side as well as it shows us that states have always had a right to discern what the definition of marriage is, and as such some states allow close cousins to marry and others do not. The liberals use of the judiciary system to circumvent democratic process is the only reason we have a minority of states that allow same sex marriage. The fact is a majority of Americans believe marriage should only occur between a man and a woman, and not between partner A and B. Yet even if the majority of Americans were not on my side I would espouse the same beliefs because I do not believe in following popular opinion, as it has the cruel habit of shifting, and espouse concrete beliefs. As Mark Steyn said "Discussing moral relativism with a moral relativist is akin to playing tennis with someone who claims your ace is just a moral construct!'s a denial of reality."