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Photo by Ted Eytan; flickr creative commons.

President Trump recently declared that Obamacare is “essentially dead” after the House of Representatives passed legislation to replace existing health care policy. While members of the Senate are uncertain about the future of the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) — which could ultimately result in as many as 24 million people losing their health insurance and those with pre-existing conditions facing increasing health coverage costs — a growing number of Americans, especially women, are sure that the legislation will be bad for their health, if enacted.

On the same day that the House passed the Republican-backed plan, for example, a friend of mine revealed on social media that she had gotten her yearly mammogram and physical examination. She posted that the preventative care did not cost anything under her current employer benefit plan, but would have been prohibitively expensive without insurance coverage, a problem faced by many women across the United States. For instance, the American Cancer Society reports that in 2013 38% of uninsured women had a mammogram in the last two years, while 70% of those with insurance did the same. These disparities are certainly alarming, but the problem is likely to worsen under the proposed AHCA.

Breast care screenings are currently protected under the Affordable Care Act’s Essential Health Benefits, which also covers birth control, as well as pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care. The proposed legislation supported by House Republicans and Donald Trump would allow individual states to eliminate or significantly reduce essential benefits for individuals seeking to purchase health insurance on the open market.

Furthermore, the current version of the AHCA would enable individual states to seek waivers, permitting insurance companies to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions, when they purchase policies on the open market. Making health insurance exorbitantly expensive could have devastating results for women, like those with a past breast cancer diagnosis, who are at risk of facing recurrence. Over 40,000 women already die each year from breast cancer in our country, with African-American women being disproportionately represented among these deaths.

Such disparities draw attention to the connection between inequality and health, patterns long documented by sociologists. Recent work by David R. Williams and his colleagues, for instance, examines how racism and class inequality help to explain why the breast cancer mortality rate in 2012 was 42% higher for Black women than for white women. Limiting affordable access to health care — which the AHCA would most surely do — would exacerbate these inequalities, and further jeopardize the health and lives of the most socially and economically vulnerable among us.

Certainly, everyone who must purchase insurance in the private market, particularly those with pre-existing conditions stand to lose under the AHCA. But women are especially at risk. Their voices have been largely excluded from discussion regarding health care reform, as demonstrated by the photograph of Donald Trump, surrounded by eight male staff members in January, signing the “global gag order,” which restricted women’s reproductive rights worldwide. Or as illustrated by the photo tweeted  by Vice-President Pence in March, showing him and the President, with over twenty male politicians, discussing possible changes to Essential Health Benefits, changes which could restrict birth control coverage, in addition to pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care. And now, as all 13 Senators slated to work on revisions to the AHCA are men.

Women cannot afford to be silent about this legislation. None of us can. The AHCA is bad for our health and lives.

Jacqueline Clark, PhD is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Ripon College. Her research interests include inequalities, the sociology of health and illness, and the sociology of jobs, work, and organizations.

A few months ago Lisa wrote about bulletin boards posted in New York City that racialize the abortion debate by presenting it as a particular danger to African American children. The new anti-abortion film Gates of Hell takes this racialization a step further, presenting a future world in which the Black Power movement has begun a domestic terrorist movement against providers of abortion services for what they see as genocide against African Americans. Here’s the trailer, sent in by Dolores R.:

Partial transcript available at Feministing.

The official description, from the film’s website:

Black power. Abortion. Terrorism. “Prophetic fiction”. Three years in the making, “Gates of Hell” is a documentary from the year 2016 that chronicles the crimes of a band of domestic terrorists known as the Zulu 9. Finnish filmmaker Ani Juva travels to the United States to better understand the mysterious black power assassins, the bizarre eugenics conspiracy theory that drove them to commit extreme acts of violence and how America’s political landscape was transformed forever. Blending real history and real public figures with a fictitious (yet plausible) future, it is safe to say that you have never seen a film like “Gates of Hell”.

As yet, the film doesn’t have a distributor; they have an online call for funding to help screen the film. The production company behind it, Illuminati Pictures, is headed by Molotov Mitchell, a contributor to popular conservative website World Net Daily, which posted a promotional video about the movie.

In her earlier post, Lisa questions the apparent concern for African Americans expressed in this framing of the abortion debate, pointing out that in some cases they seem to blame Black women for having abortions and totally ignore the structural factors at play. In a similar vein, this anti-abortion film, while ostensibly sympathetic to the idea of African Americans fighting what they see as genocide, draws on the stereotype of African American men as particularly violent and willing to kill, even while presenting them as possibly justified in this case.

And over at Feministing, Vanessa pointed out that we might question Molotov Mitchell’s genuine concern for oppressed groups given a video he appeared in back in 2009 supported Uganda’s anti-gay bill, which allowed the death penalty for repeat offenders:

As Lisa pointed out, there are very good reasons to be concerned about African American women’s reproductive freedom and the structural inequalities that might push them into making decisions about whether or not to end a pregnancy regardless of their personal preferences. But some of these anti-abortion messages presenting abortion as genocide seem to use racialization as a convenient tool that has little to do with more widespread concern about racial (or other forms of) inequality, discrimination, and even violence more broadly.

In the wake of two rounds of racially-charged anti-abortion campaigns: “Black Children are an Endangered Species” and “The Most Dangerous Place for an African-American is in the Womb.” These campaigns are built around the fact that pregnant black women are more likely to have abortions than pregnant white women.  The one getting attention at the moment, sent in by Laura E., is a set of billboards from That’s Abortion in the South Side of Chicago:

I’ve said this before, and it’s being said elsewhere, but I think it deserves to be said again, and strongly.

Many women have abortions because they cannot afford to raise a(nother) child.  They would bring the fetus to term if only they weren’t all-but-crushed under the burdens of under-served neighborhoods, shitty public education, a dearth of jobs that pay a living wage, a criminal justice system that strips inner cities of husbands and fathers, a lack of health care, and stingy, penalizing, and humiliating social services (when they can get them).  So telling black women that they are bad; telling them that they are killing their race alongside their babies, is twisting a knife that already penetrates deep in the black community.

Not to mention the fact that as soon as those poor women have children, they’re demonized for irresponsibly bringing babies into the world that they cannot support.  It’s called a double bind; damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  And no they cannot “wait until they’re in a better place financially” or “not have sex until they can afford to raise a child” because many, many women will never be in such a place in their entire lives.  And they can’t just “practice responsible contraception” because half of all pregnancies are unintended, at least a third among even the most well-educated and resource-rich women.  So pregnancies will and do happen, even to people who don’t want or can’t have a child.

If pro-life groups want to stop abortion, they need to stop accusing black women of moral bankruptcy and start putting those billboards up across from the Capital Building.  What black women need isn’t an ethics lesson, they need resources.  They need those very same people who tsk tsk them to stand up for them, to fight for a living wage, investments in their schools and communities, protection instead of criminalization, more available and better subsidized child care, and guaranteed parental leave benefits for all (it’s not a fantasy).  If black women had those things, then they might feel like that had a choice to keep their baby, just as they have a choice to abort their fetus.

It’s not the parents who fail to care-about-the-children in America, it’s a government and it’s citizens that allow 1 in 5 to languish in poverty.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Last year I wrote about a series of billboards in Atlanta that re-framed the abortion debate as a race issue. The billboards featured a child’s face and read “Black Children are an Endangered Species.” A new billboard, in the same theme, has appeared in New York City and was sent in by Kristy H. and Kelly.  Featuring a young girl, it reads: “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb”:

Three points:

(1) People without economic resources —  including, disproportionately, black women — are more likely to end pregnancies in abortion. This is not a trivial matter; many women in the U.S. have abortions because they can’t afford (more) children.  It’s terribly saddening to think that some women abort children they want.  And some members of the Black community do argue that this is a form of genocide.

(2) This ad, however, doesn’t come across to me as sympathetic to Black women.  The language in the ad leaves the aborting woman unstated, but still culpable.  She is simultaneously reduced to a womb and accused of placing her child in danger (of being a murderer?).  As Michael Shaw at BagNewsNotes suggests, this ad appears to happily trigger our thoughts of Black people and Black spaces as violent.  Is this ad appealing to the Black community?  Or is it appealing to stereotypes about Black people as a strategic move in the anti-abortion debate?

(3) Finally, as I wrote in my previous post, and on a different note, the message illustrates something very interesting about social movements and framing.

The fact that abortion is highly politicized in the United States, deeply connected to feminism (but not race or class movements), and framed as a specifically-gendered contest between “life” and “choice” seems natural to most Americans. Indeed, it’s hard for many Americans to imagine a world in which the procedure is less politicized or debated differently.  But the politics of abortion in the U.S. is not the only kind of abortion politics that could exist… [see, for example, Shaping Abortion Discourse].  So, whether you agree or disagree with the claims in these billboards, they nicely jolt us out of our acceptance of abortion politics as is.  How might thinking about abortion as a race issue or a class issue change the debate?

Source: Gawker.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Emily D., Jeff S., and Dmitriy T.M. have all sent in links to a series of billboards, recently put up in Atlanta, that suggest that abortion is a form of genocide against African Americans:

We’ve posted before on the argument that abortion should be made illegal because it is used disproportionately against the children of Black mothers.  There are good reasons to both credit and discredit this argument, but I’d like to point out something a bit different.

The fact that abortion is highly politicized in the United States, deeply connected to feminism (but not race or class movements), and framed as a contest between “life” and “choice” seems natural to most Americans. Indeed, it’s hard for many Americans to imagine a world in which the procedure is less politicized or debated differently.  But the politics of abortion in the U.S. is not the only kind of abortion politics that could exist.  Myra Marx Ferree‘s award-winning book comparing abortion politics in the U.S. and Germany, Shaping Abortion Discourse, is a great example (with Gamson, Gerhards, and Rucht).

So, whether you agree or disagree with the claims in these billboards, they nicely jolt us out of our acceptance of abortion politics as is.  How might thinking about abortion as a race issue or a class issue change the debate?

NEW! (Mar. ’10): Dmitriy T.M. let us know about this billboard in Poland, sponsored by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, that connects abortion to Hitler (found at Opposing Views). The text reads, “Abortion for Polish women introduced by Hitler on March 9, 1943.” It was put up in time for International Women’s Day on March 8th.

I’m putting it after the jump–it has images of bloody fetuses and might not be safe for some workplaces.


p.j. sent in this radio clip from Howard Stern’s show. Some guy (not associated with Stern’s show, from what I can tell) went to Harlem to ask people if they supported Barack Obama. He would then present some of McCain’s proposed policies but say they were Obama’s and ask people if they agreed with the stance. People overwhelmingly agreed with McCain’s proposals when they were told the proposals were Obama’s. The guy hints that this is because Black people are voting for Obama simply because he’s Black.

Now, I’m sure that in some cases that’s true, just as it’s true that some White people are voting for McCain just because he’s White (hi, Mom!). And the lack of basic knowledge about the stances of the two candidates makes my head hurt.

But I suspect that if you did a similar experiment with other groups of voters, you would find a similar tendency–that is, I think lots of groups choose their prefered candidate based on all types of factors and may not have a thorough (or even vague) understanding of any specific policies. I am sure you could tell my grandma that *anything* was a Bush policy and she would say she supported it. I find it highly unlikely that this is something unique about Black voters, or even Obama supporters more generally. I would be willing to be that a decent portion of the electorate isn’t highly knowledgeable about the candidates’ stances and, once they’ve chosen a candidate (which might be because of race, but just as well might be because of the that they’re from, party affiliation, or that whole thing about being someone voters could “have a beer with”), would support whatever policy they were told the candidate supported. You can read that as voters being uneducated or stupid, but you could also see it as a rational reaction to the complexity of many issues: as a voter, you choose the candidate (or party) you believe in general has an outlook that will lead to the best decisions about public policy, and you assume that that candidate’s policies are probably preferable to what the other side would offer.

The other thing to keep in mind, which may be difficult for those of us who are political geeks and news junkies to really comprehend, is that not everyone is familiar with what phrases like “pro-choice” or “pro-life” mean. If you don’t care about politics that much, or about abortion as an issue, then those terms may be meaningless. I could be wrong here, but I bet my mom wouldn’t have a clear, immediate knowledge of which side of the issue each term refers to. So it’s possible that some of the individuals saying they liked Obama for being “pro-life” may not have even interpreted the phrase in relation to abortion.

This could be useful for a discussion of how things are attributed to race if non-White people are involved. On the way to work I was listening to a call-in show and a woman called in and identified herself as African American. She said that people keep thinking she’s voting for Obama just because he’s Black, but that they’re missing the important factor: she’s voting for him because he’s a Democrat, and she’d vote for a White Democrat over a Black Republican without hesitation. While I’m sure some of the people in the radio clip were loyal to Obama because of race, it’s also possible that some are just die-hard Democrats who vote for the Democratic candidate no matter what. I’m not saying that’s a good way to pick a candidate, just that the automatic assumption that African Americans who support Obama but don’t seem highly knowledgeable about his agenda are voting simply based on race might be inaccurate.

Thanks, p.j.!

Originally posted at Race, Politics, Justice.

A few days after Donald Trump won the electoral votes for president, some people started suggesting that pro-immigrant people in the US wear safety pins in emulation of the movement in Britain after Brexit to signal support for immigrants. A social media debate quickly ensued about what this might mean, some asserting that the safety pin meant that an immigrant could view one as a “safe” White person, some ridiculing the exercise as a “feel-good” effort by Whites to distance themselves from the White nationalist vote, some interpreting its meaning as “I don’t agree with Trump.” (This latter interpretation was offered by both pro- and anti-Trump people.)


My entirely unsystematic observations were that it was African Americans who were mostly negative and White liberals (like me) who were trying to figure out what the “meaning” of the pin would turn out to be. I’m not sure what immigrants thought about safety pins, although I know they are generally frightened by the election results.

Through a neighborhood email newsletter I learned that a family in the area received a racist hate letter using the N-word after the election and that a resident who is also a minister ordered a bunch of yard signs that say “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in English, Spanish and Arabic. I bought one and will put it in my yard. I really don’t know how this action will be viewed by actual immigrants.

There are some non-Muslim women who have taken to wearing scarves as a symbol of solidarity with Muslims (one story circulating talks about attacks on a non-Muslim woman who was wearing a scarf due to hair loss from cancer treatment), an action that has received (so far as I know) little endorsement from Muslims and some responses that say that this subtracts from the religious symbolism of wearing hijab. After Trayvon Martin was killed, many Black people put up pictures of themselves in a hoodie with “I am Trayvon Martin,” but also often objected when Whites did the same, because the point was that a White person in a hoodie was not treated the same.

In the 1990s, Madison had a flurry of protests and counter-protests in which out-of-town anti-gay protesters were picketing pro-gay churches. Many Madison residents, including me, put up yard signs distributed primarily through churches that said “Madison supports its gays and lesbians.” About the same time, the KKK came through, and we also put up “Let your Light Shine, Fight Racism” signs in our yards. (I recall having both in my yard in the same winter.) Also in the 1990s, many of us wore rainbow ribbons (I kept mine pinned to my purse so I didn’t have to remember to put it on), again as a symbol of support for gays and lesbians. During the first Gulf War, Madison’s lawns often featured either anti-war signs or “support our troops” signs or, often, both. Earlier this year, after a lot of Black Lives Matter protests here as well as around the country, in addition to the relatively small number of yard signs or flags supporting BLM, some streets blossomed the “Support our Police” yard signs. And, of course, yard signs are a staple of political campaigns, most Decembers see a flurry of “Keep Christ in Christmas” yard signs, and Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer pennants fly all around town on particular weekends.

So how should we think about these visible symbols and the varying reactions they elicit?

Let’s begin with the obvious. Symbols are symbols, and displaying a symbol is not the same thing as showing up for a protest or taking other active steps to pursue social policies you believe in. Wearing or displaying some sort of symbol of support for a minority is not the same thing as being a minority, nor will the symbol necessarily be interpreted by others in the way it is meant. This does not make symbols meaningless. They are visible symbols of adherence to some cause or belief system and, as such, open the wearer to reactions from others. But, as symbols, they are subject to multiple interpretations and their meaning varies with context. So those displaying symbols and those viewing others’ displays of symbols need to do interpretive work to understand the symbol and to assess the consequences of displaying it.

If you display or wear a symbol that you are sure others around you will approve of, you have little to lose from the symbol and something to gain. Signaling support for a cause the majority supports signals your affiliation with the majority. Supporting a beleaguered minority in a context where the majority is at least tolerant is also a low-cost gesture. When I displayed pro-gay ribbons and yard signs, I had no expectation of negative reaction, and I doubt any other straight person in Madison did either.

But that does not mean it was meaningless. Gays and lesbians I knew personally were feeling attacked and the visible support was meaningful to them. The signs and ribbons were passed out at church by people I knew. In that context, I could either display the symbol or not display it but, either way, my action would be interpreted as having meaning. I felt the same way about this latest “welcome neighbor” sign. When confronted with the question, I could either put up a sign or not put up a sign, but either choice carried meaning. I know of at least some instances in the 1990s in which gay and lesbian people stated that the signs made them feel supported and better about living in Madison. Of course, you can “do” support without yard signs or ribbons. After 9/11, Christian churches and Jewish congregations reached out to Muslim congregations (and Muslim congregations for their parts held open houses) and Muslims generally felt supported in Madison, even without yard signs or ribbons.

In places where the symbol is low cost, one can justly be suspected of displaying the symbol just to go along with the majority or as a low cost way of feeling good about a problem you don’t plan to do anything more about.

The same yard signs and ribbons (or safety pins) in some areas would not be safe gestures but would open up a person to verbal or physical assaults, or worse. Whites who visibly supported Blacks in the old rural South or Chicago’s segregated White neighborhoods in the 1950s were violently attacked and had their houses bombed. Displaying pro-gay symbols in areas dominated by conservative Christians in the 1990s could lead to hostile interactions. Even displaying the wrong sports team colors can get you hurt in some contexts.

Displaying a symbol where you know you are an opinion minority, and especially where it opens you to attack, is a very different gesture than where it is safe. In these contexts, it is an act of dissent. It is especially meaningful to dissent visibly in contexts where a dangerous segment of the majority feels empowered to commit violence against minorities. In these contexts, the symbol does not necessarily mean “I am a safe person” but “I am willing to draw the attention of dangerous people” or “not everybody supports those people.” If the intent is actually to shelter minorities from violence, the goal usually is to get as many people as possible to wear the symbol of dissent, to signal to those who intend violence that they cannot act with impunity and cannot count on community support.

Conversely, yard signs and other symbols are sometimes used by majorities to coerce compliance or intimidate minorities. Pro-police, pro-KKK, anti-gay, anti-immigrant symbols and yard signs signal to minorities that they are not safe in the area. When you know that you are in an area where your views are contested, your visible symbol chooses sides.

Another dimension is the clarity or ambiguity of a symbol. This also is contextual. In the US today, it is not quite clear what a safety pin is supposed to signal. Does it merely signal opposition to violent attacks on minorities, or does it also signal opposition to deportations and registries? Can I assume that a safety pin wearer supports DACA and keeping DACA students in the US?  Does a safety pin also mean the wearer supports Black Lives Matter? Expanded immigration policies? Or is it merely a signal that one voted Democratic and is vaguely against “hate”? Or that the person voted for Trump (or Stein?) and wants to disguise the fact in a liberal area? In the late 1960s during the anti-war movement I once tied a white scarf to the sleeve of my dark jacket when biking at night across campus so I could be seen. Several people stopped and asked me what my white scarf “meant.” Was it a new anti-war symbol? If so, they did not want to be late to adopt.

But non-verbal symbols can come to have very clear meanings. In Britain, the safety pin has a clear meaning, from what I’ve read, although its meaning in the US is not clear. In the US, a spray-painted swastika can be safely assumed to be the work of neo-Nazis meant to intimidate minorities and not a Hindu religious symbol. Text is often clearer: The phrase “let your light shine, oppose racism” is hopefully a clearer symbol that merely lighting a candle in your window in December, and “Madison supports its gays and lesbians” is also relatively clear. The latest sign about being happy my neighbors are here, written in Spanish and Arabic, also conveys pretty clear meaning in its language choices as well as its content, although could be criticized for its ambiguity about racism (as the impetus for the signs was a hate letter that used the N-word) and immigration policy (as the sign does not mention your document status).

The ambiguity of a symbol can make signaling one’s actual opinions complex. This is a Christian-majority country and there is a strong politicized Christian movement that is affiliated with White nationalism and/or strong anti-abortion sentiments and/or hostility to gays, lesbians, transgender and other sexual minorities and/or hatred of Muslims or, possibly, Jews. This makes any overt Christian symbol (a cross, a crucifix, a “keep Christ in Christmas” yard sign) an ambiguous symbol that is likely to be interpreted both by non-Christians and also Christians one does not know as a symbol of adherence to the Christian Right or at least Republicanism. Muslim women have a similar problem, as their hijab is often interpreted as symbolizing things other than what they think it symbolizes.

The minister who organized the welcome neighbor signs in Madison told reporters that part of his motivation was that as a White Evangelical Christian, he wanted to distance himself from White Evangelical Christians who are advocating messages that he considers hateful. In the 1990s, pro-gay churches similarly sought to distance themselves from the association of Christianity with anti-gay movements.

But even text symbols can “mean” something other than what the user thinks it meant. I interpret the pro-police yard signs in Madison as “meaning” opposition to Black Lives Matter, as I interpret “Blue Lives Matter” to have a similar meaning. I make this interpretation because there were no pro-police signs in Madison before Black Lives Matter, because the only contextual factor that could be construed as anti-police would be Black Lives Matter, and because the last time pro-police signs and bumper stickers were common it was the “Support Your Local Police” bumper sticker campaign launched by the far-right John Birch Society in 1963. In fact, a quick Google search reveals that the JBS has revived this campaign and there is now a movement among police to spread this slogan as opposition to federal attempts to supervise and rein in the excesses of local police. It could be that someone who put up that sign lives next door to a police officer and couldn’t say no when asked to put it up, despite the person’s private support for Black Lives Matter and concern about racial disparities in Madison. But the “meaning” of the sign still encodes opposition to BLM, regardless of private motives. Likewise, some of my neighbors referred to pro-Trump yard signs in the area as evidence of “hate,” a characterization which other neighbors objected to.

Symbols have to be collective to have any meaning at all, and that is why they tend to have a fad-like character and are typically promulgated and distributed by organizations. That is also why people may contest the meaning of symbols. They are superficial and elusive conveyors of meaning. There are no clear guidelines about when to display symbols and how they will be interpreted. But the use of symbols to convey one’s identity and stance with respect to important issues is an important part of how people come to perceive the opinions of those around them. And that is important.

Pamela Oliver, PhD is a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her specialty is collective action and social movements and, since 1999, she has been working intensely on the issue of racial disparities in criminal justice. You can follow her at Race, Politics, Justice.

Cross-posted at Montclair SocioBlog.

It can take a while to find the right word.  But a mot juste may be crucial for framing a political issue. If you like the idea of men being able to marry men, and women women, what should you call the new laws that would allow that?

The trouble with “gay marriage” and even “same-sex marriage” is that these terms suggest – especially to conservatives – some kind of special treatment for the minority.  It’s as though gays are getting a marriage law just for them.

At last, the gay marriage forces seem to have come up with a term that invokes not special treatment but a widely-held American value that’s for everyone – equality.  A bill in  New Jersey has been in the news this week, mostly because Gov. Christie says he will veto it.  The bill is a “marriage equality” law.

The governor is in a bit of a squeeze.  As a Republican with ambitions beyond New Jersey’s borders, he can’t very well be for gay marriage.  But if his opponents can frame the matter their way, he now has to come out against equality.  Which is why the governor continues to refer to the issue as “same-sex marriage.”*

It’s like “abortion rights” or even “women’s rights.” A phrase like that might rally women to your cause, but if you want broader support, you need a flag that every American can salute.  I’m not familiar with the history of abortion rights so I don’t know how it happened, but those who want to keep abortion legal have managed to frame the issue as one of freedom to choose.   They have been so successful that the media routinely refer to their side as “pro-choice.”   To oppose them is to oppose both freedom and individual choice, principles which occupy a high place in the pantheon of American values.

It’s not clear that the “marriage equality” movement has been similarly successful, at least not yet.  I did a quick Lexis-Nexis search sampling the last week of the months January and July going back to 2007.  I looked for three terms: “same-sex marriage,” “gay marriage,” and “marriage equality.”

The general trend for all three is upwards as more legislatures consider bills, with big jumps when a vote becomes big news – that blip in July 2011 is the New York State vote.  But the graph can’t quite show how “marriage equality” has risen from obscurity.  That first data point, July 2007, is a 4.  Four mentions of “marriage equality” while the other terms had 25 and 50 times that many.  As of last week, “gay” and “same sex” still outnumber “equality,” but the score is not nearly so lopsided.

Here is a graph of the ratio of “equality” to each of the other two terms.  From nearly 1 : 20 (one “marriage equality” for every 20 “gay marriages”) the ratio has increased to 1 : 3 and even higher when the discussion gets active.

If the movement is successful, that upward trend should continue.  When you hear Fox News referring to “marriage equality laws,” you’ll know it’s game over.


* Christie is usually politically adept, but he’s stumbling on this one.  He referred to a gay legislator as “numb nuts” (literally, that might not necessarily be a liability for a politician caught in a squeeze).   Christie also said that he’s vetoing the bill so that the matter can be put on the ballot as a referendum – you know, like what should have happened with civil rights in the South.  

I think people would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South.

Several critics, including Numb Nuts, responded that, yes, Southern whites would have been happy to have civil rights left up to the majority.  African Americans not so much.  (If you’re looking for an illustration of Tocqueville’s “tyranny of the majority,” the post-Reconstruction South might be a good place to start.)  The analogy is obvious – race : 1962 :: sexual orientation : 2012 – even if it was not the message the governor intended.