The gayest election night ever

Tuesday night was generally seen as a victorious one for gay and lesbian people across the nation: The reelection of Barack Obama, the first sitting president to endorse full marriage equality; the historic election of lesbian Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate; the defeat of anti-gay legislation. But even more gay was the coverage itself.

I watched the returns in a room full of gay people, ready to pop the bubbly cork as soon as Obama was called by one of the news channels (we were swimming in champagne by 10:15 p.m.). We flipped among the channels to see who had different predictions up. And we got to hear Rachel Maddow on MSNBC announce Barack Obama was the president still.

Lesbian.

Then we watched as Anderson Cooper oversaw coverage on CNN.

Gay.

And we logged onto Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog from the New York Times to check updates.

Silver’s also gay.

All of these people are out and proud and given principal responsibilities for overseeing election coverage for their media organizations. And so far as I noticed, none of them (or their fellows on TV in the cases of Maddow and Cooper) so much as hinted at their sexual orientation during their election night coverage. Because that was irrelevant to their reporting. (Compare that to the folks on Fox News, who acted as if the vote was a rebuke of Christian heterosexuality.)

We’ve reached a special plateau when the most respected newsmen in the country get to report on popular votes about gay folks and be on the side of the majority. The excitement wasn’t just at the ballot box Tuesday night. It was right up there on the screen.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

For what it’s worth, Texas voters might not have banned marriage AND civil unions in 2012

Nearly six years ago, Texas voters approved Proposition 2 — a constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions — by a three-fourths majority. But if the measure appeared on the ballot in 2012, it would be “favored to receive” a majority of only 52.5 percent, according to an analysis from The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEighty blog, by statistician Nate Silver.

Texas is one of only 15 states where bans on both same-sex marriage and civil unions would still be favored to pass in 2012, Silver concludes, and the measures would be “very likely” to pass in only two states — Alabama and Mississippi. But those numbers go up for a constitutional amendment banning only same-sex marriage and not civil unions — which would pass in Texas by an estimated majority of 59.5 percent.

Of course, the problem with Texas’ constitutional amendment is that it’s already on the books. To repeal it would require a two-thirds majority of the Legislature, in addition to a simple majority of voters. Which is why most believe same-sex relationships will be recognized here only after the U.S. Supreme Court declares the amendment unconstitutional.

In related news, Mark Reed-Walkup, who recently won the right to have his same-sex marriage published under Weddings in The Dallas Morning News, has launched a Twitter handle @tx4m, based on the hashtag used in New York leading up to last month’s marriage equality vote. Reed-Walkup has also launched a Facebook page called Texans for Marriage Equality.

—  John Wright

Divorce rates higher in states with amendments banning gay marriage

From FiveThirtyEight.com
From FiveThirtyEight.com

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight has an interesting little post up today suggesting that states with constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage are more likely to have higher divorce rates. Silver uses statistics from the CDC to show that from 2003 until 2008, states with no constitutional ban on same-sex marriage experienced an average 8 percent decrease in divorce rates. Meanwhile, states that have enacted constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage saw an average 1 percent increase in divorce rates over that time. Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, has the lowest divorce rate in the nation, followed by Rhode Island, New Mexico and Maine — three states that don’t have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.  The seven states with the largest increase in the divorce rate during the five-year period all have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. Texas is somewhat of an exception to the rule. Despite a 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Texas saw a 3.6 percent drop in its divorce rate from 2003 to 2008. Silver concludes as follows:

The differences are highly statistically significant. Nevertheless, they do not necessarily imply causation. The decision to ban same-sex marriage does not occur randomly throughout the states, but instead is strongly correlated with other factors, such as religiosity and political ideology, which we have made no attempt to account for. Nor do we know in which way the causal arrow might point. It could be that voters who have more marital problems of their own are more inclined to deny the right of marriage to same-sex couples.

There is, however, probably now enough data on this subject to engage in more sophisticated longitudinal studies on this subject (more sophisticated than I have engaged in here), which might produce more robust conclusions. Although only Massachusetts has affirmed gay marriage for any length of time, the difference between the states which have banned it constitutionally versus statutorily may be worth examining, as the former represents a significantly more confident assertion about the nature of state-sanctioned marriage. At the very least, I would be surprised if there were any statistical evidence that interpreting the right of marriage to apply to same-sex couples would be injurious to heterosexual couples in any material way.

—  John Wright