Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Same-sex marriage debate

1  Making the Same-Sex Case. By Ken Mehlman
Legalizing marriage for gay couples will cultivate community stability and foster family values.The Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2012, on page A17

They say demography is destiny, and in American politics destiny has belonged to those who best aligned their core beliefs with the rapidly changing and ever-improving citizenry.

Conservatives—and I count myself as one—succeed when we attract new supporters to timeless traditions. The Republican Party's loss in this month's presidential election resulted partly from a failure to embrace some of America's fastest-growing constituencies. One area of significant change is in attitudes toward legal equality for gay Americans.

Some misperceive the issue of marriage equality as exclusively progressive. Yet what could be more conservative than support for more freedom and less government? And what freedom is more basic than the right to marry the person you love? Smaller, less intrusive government surely includes an individual deciding whom to marry. Allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples will cultivate community stability, encourage fidelity and commitment, and foster family values.

Same-sex couples today lack the estate-tax protections, Social Security spousal benefits, and joint-filing options available to heterosexual couples. This can mean the difference between staying in the family home or losing it when a partner dies. In 29 states, individuals can be fired based on their sexual orientation. Conservatives believe that individuals should be judged at work based on performance, so shouldn't we fix this?

Conservatives don't need to change core convictions to embrace the growing support for equal rights for gay Americans. It is sufficient to recognize the inherent conservatism in citizens' desire to marry, to be judged on their work, and not to be singled out for higher taxes or bullying at school. These objectives can be achieved while also protecting religious liberty, as demonstrated by states enacting civil marriage with exemptions for religious institutions.

To help Republicans appreciate this changing environment, I helped establish Project Right Side, which commissioned leading GOP polling firm Target Point to survey 16,000 voters over the past year, over-sampling Republican and swing voters in battleground states, including 2,000 such voters on Election Night. Thanks to this and other polling, we know that:

• A majority of Americans favor civil marriage for same-sex couples. Election Day exit polls showed that Americans support marriage equality by 49% to 46%. Majorities of voters in Maine (53%-47%), Maryland (52%-48%), and Washington state (52%-48%) legalized same-sex marriage at the polls, and a majority in Minnesota (51%-49%) voted down a ban on same-sex marriage.

Walter Olson of the Cato Institute analyzed the Maryland data and found majority support for marriage equality in strong GOP precincts that voted for Mitt Romney. Our Election Night exit poll of 2,000 voters in battleground states (of whom 32% were Republican, 36% Democratic and 32% independent) showed a majority opposing the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996: 62% believe that if states recognize same-sex marriage, the federal government should grant same-sex couples the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

• These trends are growing quickly and across all demographics. According to Jan van Lohuizen, a former pollster for President George W. Bush, public support for civil-marriage rights for same-sex couples increased by 1% each year from 1993 through 2009, and by 5% per year in 2010 and 2011. Other polls over the past year show majority support for civil marriage among African-Americans (51%, according to Edison Research), Hispanics (52%, according to Pew) and voters between the ages of 18 and 39 (66%, according to the Washington Post/ABC News). The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows a 41% increase in support among Republicans over the past three years, to 31% from 22%.

• The marriage-equality issue is more important to supporters than to opponents. While this election focused on the economy, President Obama's support for marriage equality was a positive motivator for nearly three out of four Obama voters in battleground states, according to exit polls. Almost half of his voters (45%) said it made them "much more" likely to support him. Only 35% of Romney supporters said that the former governor's opposition made them "much more" likely to support him.

• A majority of independents favor marriage equality. Project Right Side's survey found that 58% of independents in target states support allowing gay couples to marry, with 22% calling it a very high or somewhat high priority. Eighty percent of independents agree that "the government should stay out of the private lives of adults, including gays and lesbians."

• Republicans are increasingly supportive of legal protections for gay Americans. Of the 7,000 Republicans we surveyed, 73% support employment nondiscrimination protections for gays and lesbians, 61% support safe-schools protections (such as those signed into law by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie) and 46% support allowing same-sex couples to jointly file tax returns.

• Voters under 45 strongly favor marriage equality. In our Election Night survey, 60% of such voters said that the law should recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriage. This is consistent with the shares of younger voters who, according to exit polls, supported marriage equality in Maine (60%) and Washington state (58%).

These trends are accelerating, not going away. And I hope and trust that they will accelerate even faster as conservatives, and all Americans who cherish freedom, commitment and stability, support equal rights under the law for all citizens.

Mr. Mehlman, a businessman in New York, served as chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2005-07. More polling information can be found at

2  The Wisdom of Upholding Tradition. By
There is a reason why conjugal unions have been distinguished from all others since antiquity.
The Wall Street Journal, November 21, 2012, on page A17

The U.S. Supreme Court decides next week whether to hear challenges to laws defining marriage as the conjugal union of a man and a woman. It does so after two different electoral outcomes. In May, North Carolinians voted to amend their state constitution to protect the conjugal definition of marriage, a definition that 41 states retain. But on Nov. 6, voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state endorsed a revisionist view of marriage as the union of any two adults.

How should the Supreme Court decide? How should voters?

We can't move one inch toward an answer simply by appealing to equality. Every marriage policy draws lines, leaving out some types of relationships. Equality forbids arbitrary line-drawing. But we cannot know which lines are arbitrary without answering two questions: What is marriage, and why does it matter for policy?

The conjugal and revisionist views are two rival answers; neither is morally neutral. Each is supported by some religious and secular worldviews but rejected by others. Nothing in the Constitution bans or favors either. The Supreme Court therefore has no basis to impose either view of marriage. So voters must decide: Which view is right?

As we argue in our book "What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense," marriage is a uniquely comprehensive union. It involves a union of hearts and minds; but also—and distinctively—a bodily union made possible by sexual-reproductive complementarity. Hence marriage is inherently extended and enriched by procreation and family life and objectively calls for similarly all-encompassing commitment, permanent and exclusive.

In short, marriage unites a man and woman holistically—emotionally and bodily, in acts of conjugal love and in the children such love brings forth—for the whole of life.

These insights require no particular theology. Ancient thinkers untouched by Judaism or Christianity—including Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Musonius Rufus, Xenophanes and Plutarch—also distinguished conjugal unions from all others. Nor did animus against any group produce this conclusion, which arose everywhere quite apart from debates about same-sex unions. The conjugal view best fits our social practices and judgments about what marriage is.

After all, if two men can marry, or two women, then what sets marriage apart from other bonds must be emotional intensity or priority. But nothing about emotional union requires it to be permanent. Or limited to two. Or sexual, much less sexually exclusive. Or inherently oriented to family life and shaped by its demands. Yet as most people see, bonds that lack these features aren't marriages.

Far from being "slippery slope" predictions, these points show that the revisionist view gets marriage wrong: It conflates marriage and companionship, an obviously broader category. That conflation has consequences. Marriage law shapes behavior by promoting a vision of what marriage is and requires. Redefinition will deepen the social distortion of marriage—and consequent harms—begun by policies such as "no-fault" divorce. As marital norms make less sense, adherence to them erodes.

Conservative scaremongering? No. Same-sex marriage activist Victoria Brownworth, like other candid revisionists, says that redefinition "almost certainly will weaken the institution of marriage," and she welcomes that result.

Yet weakening marital norms will hurt children and spouses, especially the poorest. Rewriting the parenting ideal will also undermine in our mores and practice the special value of biological mothers and fathers. By marking support for the conjugal view as bigotry, it will curb freedoms of religion and conscience. Redefinition will do all this in the name of a basic error about what marriage is.

Some bonds remain unrecognized, and some people unmarried, under any marriage policy. If simply sharing a home creates certain needs, we can and should meet them outside civil marriage.

Moreover, if we reject the revisionist's bare equation of marriage with companionship—and the equation of marriage licenses with all-purpose personal approval—we'll see that conjugal marriage laws deprive no one of companionship or its joys, and mark no one as less worthy of fulfillment. (Indeed, using marriage law to express social inclusion might further marginalize whoever remains single.)

True compassion means extending authentic community to everyone, especially the marginalized, while using marriage law for the social goal that it serves best: to ensure that children know the committed love of the mother and father whose union brought them into being. Indeed, only that goal justifies regulating such intimate bonds in the first place.

Just as compassion for those attracted to the same sex doesn't require redefining marriage, neither does preserving the conjugal view mean blaming them for its erosion. What separated the various goods that conjugal marriage joins—sex, commitment, family life—was a sexual revolution among opposite-sex partners, with harmful rises in extramarital sex and nonmarital childbearing, pornography and easy divorce.

Only when sex and marriage were seen mainly as means to emotional satisfaction and expression did a more thorough and explicit redefinition of marriage become thinkable—for the first time in human history. The current debate just confronts us with the choice to entrench these trends—or to begin reversing them.

That debate certainly isn't about legalizing (or criminalizing) anything. In all 50 states, two men or women may have a wedding and share a life. Their employers and religious communities may recognize their unions. At issue here is whether government will effectively coerce other actors in the public square to do the same.

Also at issue is government expansion. Marital norms serve children, spouses, and hence our whole economy, especially the poor. Family breakdown thrusts the state into roles for which it is ill-suited: provider and discipliner to the orphaned and neglected, and arbiter of custody and paternity disputes.

For all these reasons, conservatives would be ill-advised to abandon support for conjugal marriage even if it hadn't won more support than Mitt Romney in every state where marriage was on the ballot.

They certainly shouldn't be duped into surrender by the circular argument that they've already lost. The ash-heap of history is filled with "inevitabilities." Conservatives—triumphant against once-unstoppable social tides like Marxism—should know this best. "History" has no mind. The future isn't fixed. It's chosen. The Supreme Court should let the people choose; and we should choose marriage, conjugal marriage.

Mr. Girgis is a Yale law student and doctoral student in philosophy at Princeton. Mr. Anderson is a fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Mr. George is professor of jurisprudence at Princeton and a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. Their book, "What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense," will be published in December by Encounter Books.

Basel III complexity: Third round of clarifications

Basel III counterparty credit risk - Frequently asked questions (update of FAQs published in July 2012)

November 2012
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has received a number of interpretation questions related to the December 2010 publication of the Basel III regulatory frameworks for capital and liquidity and the 13 January 2011 press release on the loss absorbency of capital at the point of non-viability.

Today's publication sets out the third set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that relate to counterparty credit risk, including the default counterparty credit risk charge, the credit valuation adjustment (CVA) capital charge and asset value correlations. FAQs that have been added since the publication of the second version of this document in July 2012 are shaded yellow.
These FAQs aim to promote consistent global implementation of Basel III.  
Translations in German, Spanish, French and Italian will be published soon