Winning Back the Votes of the “Barbarians”

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has made some pretty bold statements in the past about homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  She has claimed that homosexuality causes “personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement.”  Her husband Marcus Bachmann has even referred to homosexuals as “barbarians” who need to be “disciplined.” (  Despite these past comments, Bachmann and her husband are supposedly going to clarify their opinions on homosexuality in the October 31 edition of People Magazine.  It is believed that they will still admit that they oppose same-sex marriage, but they do not mind if people choose to be gay.

Michele and Marcus Bachmann

Brokeback Mountain "Barbarians"

Being that Bachmann is a Republican, I’m not at all surprised that she opposes same-sex marriage.  However, in U.S. politics today, many voters are easily influenced by hot button issues, and most Americans aren’t afraid to vote with the opposite party.  I think this is why Bachmann is trying to alleviate the stance that she has previously taken on homosexuality because she risks turning away moderate voters, or even Republicans who happen to support homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  Regardless of her intentions, it seems very plausible that with the 2012 elections in mind, this is simply a sham to win back some votes.

Bachmann’s stance on homosexuality reminds me a lot of Shklar’s notion of citizenship as standing.  In my opinion, Bachmann is singling out gays and lesbians and excluding them from the rest of Americans.  Despite her recent claims, she has made it clear in the past that she is against homosexuality on all accounts.  Bachmann is labeling homosexuals as others, those who fall outside the realm of what should be accepted in society.  Bachmann isn’t the only one who labels gays and lesbians.  Many people, both inside and outside of politics, hold this stigma towards homosexuals.  To me, that makes these “others” fall outside the realm of citizens as standing because they are viewed as “different.”  Anyone who isn’t accepted for who they are by everyone in society loses this citizenship as standing because they are viewed as being inferior.

Bachmann makes it clear that homosexuals do not possess citizenship as standing.

This stigma towards homosexuals in general is certainly one way they’re excluded from citizenship as standing.  However, the legal aspects of same-sex marriage also raise the question of whether or not Shklar would believe that homosexuals have citizenship as standing.  We talk about the right to vote, the right to earn, the right to an education, but what about the right to marriage?  Very few states actually allow same-sex marriage.  In “What the Black Man Wants,” Douglass argues for liberty, justice, and equality for all men, so doesn’t this include the right to marry who one chooses?  I’m certainly not trying to argue that same-sex marriage should be legalized in all states, but rather I’m claiming that by denying homosexuals the right to marriage and perceiving them as being different, queer, or outsiders, they have lost their citizenship as standing.

About Courtney M

University of Michigan undergraduate student
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8 Responses to Winning Back the Votes of the “Barbarians”

  1. zacha90 says:

    The concept of the “other” is so prominent in political theory, and Shklar adds another layer to this discussion with her concept of standing. I believe that they are being denied standing as equal citizens when they are denied the right to marry. They are being deprived of the right to contract for no other reason than there sexual preference. This has to do with morality politics.

    One aspect that almost always crops up when discussing inclusion or exclusion is morality or “fitness” for certain rights, such as voting or marriage. The “moral” reasons for preventing Gay marriage derive from a romanticized historical view of marriage. Wiped from what “traditional marriage” means are things such as dowries which America would now view as antiquated or ludicrous. The “correct, moral” definition is now one man and woman merely because people feel that way. They feel it’s “right”. In time, I believe this will shift toward equality because people feel the inclusion is “right”.

    When we look at voting for minorities, we see morality’s dictation of rights. While on paper blacks and other groups could vote, there was the moral idea of white superiority that allowed institutions to disenfranchise others because there was no moral outrage. It wasn’t until the morality shifted away from this view of white superiority that equal rights began to be enforced.

    Inclusion, whether we like it or not, seems to be granted from the changing morality of the hegemony. With each day, the change is favoring gay marriage and one day the “issue” will cease to exist, a historical relic.

  2. stephmfarr says:

    This post was a wonderful current example of Shklar’s notion of citizenship as standing, and how when particular rights are denied, citizenship is all but forfeited. With gay marriage still illegal in most states, homosexuals are certainly among the excluded. In being denied the right to marry, they are denied equality, and therefore their standing in society is compromised. This post framed the issue of gay rights very well within the themes of our class discussion.

  3. John Lee says:

    I think this is an original and intriguing post. While the notion of citizenship as standing according to Shklar in strict terms only includes voting and the right to earn, I would agree that the denial of marriage rights to gays and lesbians does indeed constitute the denial of full citizenship to this sizable minority. One of Shklar’s primary focuses is on the concept of the “other” in democratic societies and, as things stand now, gay men and women, perhaps more than any other minority, are regarded as this “other.” Fortunately, social mores are changing rapidly and this problem will likely be remedied in the near future.

  4. eskylis says:

    Fortunately for the more moderate 90% of the country, candidates like Bachman will rarely face realistic bids for seats in congress due to the Median voter Theorem, or Black’s Theorem. ( Basically this stipulates that candidates targeting the median voter will beat their more extreme opponents because extremists, though potentially even more favorable than a more moderate candidate for many voters, will rarely have the support of such favorable voters because these voters recognize that the extreme (and their preferred) candidate is not elect able. So as much as a voter may like a Bachman or a Ron Paul, they will rarely have a realistic shot. (Sharon Angle came pretty close!)

    This post does an excellent job of highlighting considerations of homosexual standing in the community. We talked in class about unemployed, retired, and stay-at-home moms, but homosexuals never came up. This observation would appear to be spot-on, however. Even though homosexuals are capable of earning and voting on equal grounds (Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act), it is not altogether clear that they have equal standing with the rest of their similarly qualified compatriots. Though this is an issue, it would also appear that the trend of political thought over the last several decades is moving towards the left. Again, though minorities have equal standing in the law, it is not entirely clear that they have equal standing as citizens; we as the leaders of tomorrow have an obligation to shape this trend towards an all inclusive definition of citizenship.

    Furthermore, it may be that fighting for equal standing may be the sort of justified violence that we talked about in discussion. As it is, what began at Stonewall has not matured yet, and it is up to us to do something about it.

  5. jason5brown says:

    It is worrisome to see some “serious” candidates from the Republican party with positions that seem to exclude groups of people. During the first Republican debate, Herman Cain explicitly stated that he would not hire an individual who considers themselves Muslim because , “there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government.” I do not know if I believe that the choice of whom one marries should be included in the definition of citizenship, however I do think that part of citizenship as standing is having the freedom of choice and equal chance of mobility. By having these supposedly educated political leaders publicly excluding groups of citizens does violate some of the criteria that Douglass discusses in his “What the Black Man Wants.” He argues that everyone should be entitled to elevation and if you allow the black man freedom, and “untie his hands, he will live.” When some of our political leaders openly criticize groups of people for having a certain sexual orientation or having certain religious beliefs, they are figuratively tying the hands of these groups, and prohibiting true citizenship as standing in Douglass’ view.

  6. jtgilb says:

    I think that this is a great post that is extremely relevant-I’ve been following the 2012 republican presidential candidates and Michelle Bachmann is one that seems to get massive attention for her barbaric views on gay marriage, along with a string of other issues that have become hot button issues. Regarding this issue-in context of Shklar-I think you do a great job of drawing parallels here. To me, it would be obvious to consider homosexuals citizens-they earn, they contribute to their community, they have the ability to vote and they work just like any other citizen. However I think this brings me back to my on the edge of the circle issue (see my harry potter post). Gay individuals-if marriage is prohibited in their residential state-are not allotted the same rights as other individuals-for example, if unmarried because marriage is illegal in their state, partners are not entitled to certain insurance or health benefits that a spouse would usually be entitled to. I think that this is wrong I think that Shklar would agree-these individuals have paid their dues to society-they have done their part in terms of contribution and I think if they have all of these rights, they cannot be denied the right to marry not only because it is wrong, but because it interferes with other rights that citizens are guaranteed. I think Shklar would agree that the ability to marry, much like voting, is something that all citizens are entitled to.

  7. arullis says:

    I think that this post is a great way to look at a modern issue and apply it to Shklar. The issue with same sex marriage has been very relevant especially with New York just making same sex marriage legal. I agree with the first comment and how this deals with standing according to Shklar. Homosexuals are being denied a basic right that is given to many other citizens. It is interesting to look at this issue and how it affects citizenship and standing. Also, we can see how standing does play a role in citizenship. These people are considered the other yet they still have citizenship and many of them do earn. The two most important aspects to citizenship according to Shklar are obtained by homosexuals but they are still clearly lower in standing.

  8. aazilli7 says:

    I definitely have to agree with you that people like Michelle Bachmann seek ostracize the homosexual community in a very blatant fashion; however, I would disagree with you that the stance of individuals radical enough to claim homosexuals to be “barbarian” is enough to impede on the availability of citizenship to the homosexual community. I personally don’t think anyone is taking Michelle Bachmann seriously or, at the very least, is taking her views on homosexuality seriously. Some people may be focused on the semantics of marriage and figure that it does not include room for homosexuality, but I do not think this outcasts the LGBT community to an extent where they lose their standing as citizens. The availability of their core rights remains untouched, it is just the issue of marriage that is a sticking point. I will not say that this isn’t unfair to them, but I am willing to say their citizenship is far from at stake here.

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