posner’s same-sex marriage ruling

The Seventh Circuit appeals court ruling on Indiana and Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage bans is out, and is of interest for several reasons. It is absolutely dispositive — really no ambiguity at all. It rests on Richard Posner and colleagues’ “law and economics” paradigm instead of the more traditional rights paradigm. And finally, it is written so clearly, and with significant humor, as to be a pleasure to read. I’ll paste in some of my favorite passages below the fold.

I’ve also got a question for law-and-society and social movements people. The question is this: the legal trend toward same-sex marriage, even in hostile environments, seems nearly a juggernaut. What explains this enormous change over the course of a very short time, in the context of a legal regime that is understood to be, in a certain sense, timeless? In other words, all the materials were available for the court to find this, say, 30 years ago, but that would have been unthinkable. This seems, also, to contradict the main finding of a political science classic, The Hollow Hope, which argued that courts rarely lead social change.

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asa council decides on gender categories

Remember how the ASA was trying to decide how to expand its gender categories? Since then, the ASA Committee on the Status of LGBT Persons in Sociology has been holding conversations, doing research on how other organizations do it, and thinking through what schema will best capture the sociological categories that are meaningful to people. They came up with the following proposal, which ASA Council voted on and passed at their meeting this week:

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what should asa’s gender categories be?

Cross-posted on Social (In)queery.

The ASA is trying to respond to a request from its members to expand the options for gender on its membership form. Right now, the choices are female, male, and prefer not to answer. There is no category that acknowledges transgender members at all, but creating a new category scheme is not as easy as it might seem. For example transsexual people and transgender people have not always appreciated being lumped into the same category. Some people reject gender categories altogether and might prefer a “none” or some other less alienating gender-non-specific category.

These gender categories are important for a number of reasons. First, by having exclusive gender schemes, the ASA is not acknowledging its trans members. Second, it is a missed opportunity to collect data on the size of the trans membership in the ASA. Third, gender categories are communicative; they tell members who may not be aware that transgender sociologists work among their ranks. Finally, it is important to get the gender categories right because they are teaching sociologists what the “appropriate” categories to use are, setting an important example for us as we design survey questions , courses, departments, etc.

The ASA staff have brought the matter to the Committee on the Status of LGBT Persons in Sociology, but there wasn’t consensus there. They propose (and are planning to implement), the following scheme: Continue reading “what should asa’s gender categories be?”

mary mcintosh

Mary McIntosh, author of “The Homosexual Role,” among other things, has passed away. This piece is of course one of the foundational works of a sociology of sexuality. It always struck me as such a brave work, as it applies general sociological concepts to a topic that, at the time, was so strikingly marginalized and “owned” so completely by psychology. Of course, it wasn’t written independently of a fledgling lesbian and gay movement; Mary McIntosh was a feminist and an lesbian activist. Still, it is a piece that reminds me of how powerful sociological concepts can be in re-imagining what we think we know.

Here is an excerpt from Ken Plummer’s memorial:

Mary was a serious intellectual and a passionate activist. A strong, caring, quiet presence – she also had a very strong sense of fun and always ready for a dance and a laugh.  I missed her greatly when she left Essex; the department could never be quite the same for me. And now she leaves a gaping hole in the world. But she will be loved in remembrance.

I won’t get a chance to meet her, but she certainly has left her mark on me.

same-sex marriage support increases in all age groups

This story in the NY times is a pleasant read among all the bad news in the digital papers these days. It shows that recent data reveal an interesting trend–support for same-sex marriage among all age cohorts:

[Between 2009 and 2012], according to Pew, support among baby boomers (ages 48 to 66) has grown to 41 percent from 32 percent; among seniors (over age 67) to 33 percent from 23 percent; among Generation X (ages 32 to 47) to 51 percent from 41 percent; and among millennials (ages 18 to 31) to 64 percent from 51 percent.

As Shamus and others have remarked, this is a very dramatic shift, which is very unusual for public opinion. Cohort turnover, rather than changed minds, explains most changes in opinion over time, but this issue is different.

I have done some work that shows a similar trend in attitudes toward homosexuality–attitudes changing in all age cohorts, in addition to generational turnover–and the story today reminds me of that time I was just fiddling around with those World Values Survey data. This was way back in time when the blogosphere was young: 2005. I didn’t really trust myself to do data analysis, and I checked in with Jeremy Freese to get some help with how to interpret the data. He asked me the million-dollar question (which I still have, thanks to gmail): Continue reading “same-sex marriage support increases in all age groups”

the witch hunt and inquisition meme

Per Smith first alerted us to the emergence of a new meme in the debate over Mark Regnerus’s article: the “witch hunt and inquisition” meme, apparently first posted by George Yancey and roundly debunked before Yancey moved on to other pursuits. Christian Smith also advanced the claim, first in a set of vitriolic emails sent to various scholars and now in a breathless j’accuse in the Chronicle charging that the only reason for the critiques was sociology’s “progressive orthodoxy.”

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bad science not about same-sex parenting

There’s lots to say about the recent article by Mark Regnerus on outcomes of adults who remember a parent having had a same-sex relationship and the other articles and commentaries surrounding it in the journal, and much has already been said. The bottom line is that this is bad science, it is not about same-sex or gay parenting, and strong but circumstantial evidence suggests its main reason for being is to provide ammunition to right-wing activists against LGBT rights. In this (long!) post I offer my evaluation of the scientific merit of the paper as well as the politics surrounding the papers’ funding, publication, spin, and evaluation.

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