What do American political scientists, Voltaire, and gay couples have in common?

The American Political Science Association wrote me (and every other member) today, inviting feedback on two new proposals for selecting sites for the APSA Annual Meeting. The goal of both proposals is to help push for same sex unions through the collective economic might of the organization.

Proposal 1
In locating its meetings, APSA would presume that states with Constitutional restrictions on rights afforded recognized same-sex unions and partnerships may create an unwelcoming environment for our members in cities where we might meet. We would notify authorities at all levels that these conditions make it difficult for us to site our meeting in these states. APSA would closely examine practices on a case by case basis in cities within these states to assess whether demonstrated positive local practices or other Association goals warrant holding our conferences there.

Proposal 2
APSA will not hold conferences in any state that, by law, severely restricts the recognition of domestic relationships legally recognized in other jurisdictions.

(If the second proposal is accepted, they will even consider canceling the New Orleans conference planned for 2012.)

I happen to support same sex marriage. I also happen to think that my children will look back upon the struggle for equal treatment of gay couples in the same light as we do the civil rights and suffrage movements: inevitable, important, and not fast enough.

Even so, I have to wonder why APSA has chosen to ride this particular issue. A truly participatory process would have let association members discuss a multitude of ways to wield their collective economic and political might. Why not gerrymandering or electronic voting machines, black imprisonment levels or health care, gun laws or evolution lessons? They’ve narrowed down the list with nary an explanation.

The issue to focus on is a function of two criteria: what is most pressing, and what can we most effectively influence. Same sex marriage might meet both criteria, but it is far from obvious.

Also, I’m puzzled by the absence of a third option–no action on same sex unions–for those who don’t agree. I may not support that opinion, but I’m willing to allow someone to express it. One would think that an association of political scientists would not have to reminded of Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Once again I am fretting over big principles in very small issues. In the end though, APSA’s proponents of same sex rights have managed to make a noble cause look like a minority hijacking. Fumbles like this slow down the path of progress, not speed it up.

If, like me, you spend too much time nagging about very small points, then you will enjoy viewing the APSA Council statement and submitting feedback:

1. Go to www.apsanet.org

2. Log in to the website (“MyAPSA”)

3. Go to the “APSA Meeting Siting” area and click on the link to the siting website.

Now, I what the American Economic Association is thinking of doing?

3 thoughts on “What do American political scientists, Voltaire, and gay couples have in common?

  1. So, Chris, if this meeting had taken place a century ago and the policy issue was women’s suffrage, you would have argued in favor of including the “I do not support women’s rights to vote” as an option? In my opinion, it makes sense to say that we are beyond the question of whether or not such basic human rights (as violated by the American government) are good or bad. The question is: what are we going to do about it. And I applaud the APSA for their willingness to take a stand.
    Although I have little hope that it is going to help, given the christian fundamentalism that is ruling the US…

  2. Sorry Oj, I strongly support same sex marriage and I am neither I am a Christian fundamentalist nor an American (I am German), but your comment sounds to me as fundamentalist as some Christians can be. Because one can hardly argue with your position given that same sex marriage for you is a basic human right beyond question. That is what one calls fundamentalism. And by the way it is not the American government that is violating this right, but individual states. And Christian fundamentalism ruling the US, well that is ludicrous given a much more complex reality.

  3. yeah, I saw that too and it made me cringe. I’m a HUGE supporter of gay marriage, I was very short of putting up a Zapatero poster in my apartment when he pushed through the Spanish version of the law –
    but this is just terrible on so many levels.
    a) it won’t have a political effect, if it makes any news it will cause a culture war type backlash.
    b) as Chris notes, there may actually be bigger issues in the current US than gay marriage.
    c) it somehow suggests that a lot of the other stuff going on in the US is a-OK. I mean, if we’re going to do this let’s do it right and stop having meetings in no-universal health care, patriot-act, death-penalty, gun-toating, finger-print-and-other-data-from-visitors-mining
    US and hold all future APSA meetings in Canada, Spain, Denmark, or the Netherlands.