Scientists counter Bush view Families varied, say anthropologists/ Bush win, anti-gay amendments bring sadness not regrets in SF

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Wed Nov 03 2004 - 20:54:35 EST

This would have interested the Marx of the ethnological notebooks, no?

Scientists counter Bush view
Families varied, say anthropologists
- Charles Burress, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, February 27, 2004

The primary organization representing American anthropologists
criticized President Bush's proposed constitutional ban on same-sex
marriage Thursday and gave a failing grade to the president's
understanding of human cultures.

"The results of more than a century of anthropological research on
households, kinship relationships and families, across cultures and
through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either
civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an
exclusively heterosexual institution," said the executive board of
the 11,000-member American Anthropological Association.

Bush has cast the union between male and female as the only proper
form of marriage, or what he called in his State of the Union address
"one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our

American anthropologists say he's wrong.

"Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast
array of family types, including families built upon same-sex
partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies," the
association's statement said, adding that the executive board
"strongly opposes a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to
heterosexual couples."

The statement was proposed by Dan Segal, a professor of anthropology
and history from Pitzer College in Claremont (Los Angeles County),
who called Bush's conception of the history of marriage "patently

"If he were to take even the first semester of anthropology, he would
know that's not true," said Segal, a member of the anthropological
association's Executive Committee.

Ghita Levine, communications director for the association, said the
issue struck a nerve in the profession.

"They feel strongly about it because they are the people who study
the culture through time and across the world," she said. "They are
the people who know what cultures consist of."

Segal pointed to "sanctified same-sex unions in the fourth century in
Christianity" and to the Greeks and Romans applying the concept of
marriage to same-sex couples, not to mention the Native American
berdache tradition in which males married males.

UC Berkeley anthropologist Laura Nader, an expert in anthropology and
the law who played no role in drawing up the association's statement,
called it a "correct assessment."

Nader, who is an association member, said Bush's proposal "serves the
views of the religious right, and that has to do with getting votes."

E-mail Charles Burress at

Page A - 19
2004 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback | FAQ
        Return to regular view
Bush win, anti-gay amendments bring sadness not regrets in SF
- LISA LEFF, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, November 3, 2004

(11-03) 17:30 PST SAN FRANCISCO (AP) --

On the day after voters in 11 states delivered a resounding rebuke to
the concept of gay marriage, the liberal city that helped make
same-sex unions an election year issue assessed the role its
exuberant, two-month wedding march may have played in President
Bush's re-election.

Some analysts credited San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to
let gay couples marry here without a court's blessing with inspiring
the anti-gay amendments that gave the president's conservative base a
reason to go to the polls in crucial battleground states like Ohio.

"It gives them a position to rally around," said Sen. Dianne
Feinstein, D-Calif. "That whole issue (gay marriage) has been too
much, too fast, too soon. People aren't ready for it."

Others, meanwhile, disputed that Newsom's actions in February --
three months before Massachusetts started allowing gays and lesbians
to wed under an order from the state's highest court -- were a
significant factor in Bush's victory.

"We did not see a backlash yesterday in those 11 states so much as
revealed in vote form an existing prejudice which was used in an
inflammatory fashion for political gain," said Assemblyman Mark Leno,
chairman of California Legislature's Lesbian Gay Bisexual and
Transgender Caucus.

Leno, D-San Francisco, is scheduled to introduce legislation in
December that would legalize marriage for gay couples in California.
A dozen same-sex couples and the city of San Francisco, meanwhile,
have sued the state to overturn its laws limiting marriage to a man
and a woman.

Newsom, who cited Bush's call in January for a federal anti-gay
marriage amendment as motivating his decision to open City Hall to
same-sex nuptials, took the offensive Wednesday when he was asked
whether he had second-thoughts about his timing.

"I find it pretty repugnant in a day and age where we are all
students of history that people would question, based upon strong
beliefs, someone or somebody that at least stands up," he said.

The 37-year-old Democrat then suggested that if political observers
wanted a scapegoat for Bush's win, they would be better off looking
to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who campaigned for the
president in Ohio last week, or Osama bin Laden's latest taped
missive to the American people.

In exit polls conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media
Research and Mitofsky International, moral values was cited as the
top issue in the presidential vote in exit polls, just ahead of the
economy and terrorism. No issue tapped into the moral unease of
voters more than the gay marriage issue, and the placement of the gay
marriage issue on the ballot in state elections helped keep the issue
in voters minds.

The polls showed that 35 percent of the respondents support civil
unions but not marriage for gay couples, and they backed Bush 52 to
47 percent. A slightly bigger group, 37 percent, said same-sex
couples should get no legal recognition. That group supported Bush by
70 percent to 29 percent, according to the polls.

But in a post-mortem released Wednesday on the 11 state
constitutional amendments preserving marriage for a man and a woman,
the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, rejected the idea that using
same-sex marriage to turn out evangelical Christians was a decisive
factor for Bush in the three swing states where the issue was on the

The New York-based gay rights group noted that the president's
Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry, fared better in Oregon and Ohio
than Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic nominee in 2000, did four
years ago, and tied Gore's performance in Michigan.

While activists struggled to put the best face possible on the
disappointing outcome by stressing that San Francisco's experiment
had put a human face on same-sex marriage and bred support for
granting gay couples rights that stop short of legal matrimony, they
also noted soberly that the matter is a lot less clear-cut outside
the city.

"It is a legitimate question to examine whether some of the tactics
that we have used have played a role in promoting a bigger backlash,"
said Lorri Jean, executive director of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.
"We didn't have control over what Gavin Newsom did, but we totally
supported it. ... Would there have been a smarter, more strategic
way? I don't know."

2004 Associated Press

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Thu Nov 04 2004 - 00:00:01 EST