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Same-Sex Marriage and the Countermobilization Myth

[ 10 ] November 15, 2012 |

I have a mini-review up of Michael Klarman’s fine new book on same-sex marriage and backlash. Despite my longtime skepticism about the focus on countermobilization and litigation and Klarman’s greater sympathy for the argument, I largely agree with Klarman’s bottom line. The key, as always, is to remember that politics is about conflict, and to wait until consensus has been achieved to advance social change generally means waiting forever:

The ultimate lesson of same-sex-marriage litigation is that politics is about conflict and that while it’s important to be mindful of backlash, it’s also a mistake to let it discourage any potentially successful strategy (including litigation). There’s no painless way of altering a status quo that many people are committed to, and short-term countermobilization does not ensure defeat in the long run. The success of the LBGT-rights movement is a testament to this fact.

Anyway, much more at the link.


Comments (10)

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  1. Barry says:

    A comment here, since I don’t have an account there:

    The Court’s famous reversal of show-trial convictions in the Scottsboro Boys case was ultimately unable to prevent several innocent young men from being jailed for decades, and Brown v. Board of Education produced virtually no desegregation in the Deep South until Congress passed the Civil Rights Act ten years later. I”

    Ten years is an eyeblink in the history of slavery and ‘post’ slavery in this country. This is a system which was well-established by the time that the Founding Fathers’ fathers were infants. This country was largely built upon that system.

    • sharculese says:

      I think the point is that in the context of the civil rights movement, there’s a lot of evidence that litigation by itself was never enough to secure rights. It’s not that it was soooo loooong between Brown and serious gains in the Deep South, just that Brown’s status as a watershed moment is sometimes exaggerated.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Right. It’s not that Brown didn’t matter, it’s just that it matters in a different (and lesser) way than many people assume.

      • DrDick says:

        Very true and, while Brown was decided in 1954, the schools in my hometown in Oklahoma were not desegregated for 8 years, when I was ten. I caused a minor racial incident at the age of 5 when I started to drink from the wrong water fountain in the bus station, much to my parents’ mortification. When I was in high school, the oil company my father worked for was looking to hire a black engineer, but he turned them down because nobody would sell to him in my professional class neighborhood.

        • rea says:

          In 1973, my parents had their home for sale in the Oklahoma City suburbs–the (almost all white) Putnam City school district. A young black professional couple were shown the house by a realtor. A cross was burned on the lawn that night.

          • DrDick says:

            Something similar happened in this case in 1966.

          • Malaclypse says:

            In 1994, I was living in a duplex in Watertown, MA. The landlady was an elderly woman living on the first floor, and she decided the day had come to sell the house and move to assisted living.

            The first couple show up to see the property. After they leave, I get a phone call from the landlady.

            Evil Old Lady (EOL): I’m so sorry about that.

            Me (thinking her apology is about the rather rude lack of notice I was given before people walked through my apartment): No problem. Hopefully next time they will call ahead.

            EOL: What are you talking about?

            Me: You promised me I would get called before people see the place.

            EOL: I’m not talking about that! Didn’t you see those people?

            Me: Not sure what you mean.

            EOL: They were black!

            Me: [stunned silence]

            EOL: I’ve lived here since The War, and there has never been a black person live on this street! I will not sell my house to someone black!

            Me: There are … laws … [general shock]

            EOL: Nobody can make me sell to someone I don’t want! I’m calling the realtor, now! [hangs up]

            And those two were the last minorities that saw the property. And none of my three calls to Billy Weld’s MCAD, all of which went straight to voicemail, ever got returned.

            The past is not another country – it isn’t even really the past.

  2. Joe says:

    Change involves various institutions and the courts have usually been involved somehow, even if not as directly as some might like or fear.

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