General Question

iamthemob's avatar

What do people think of Peter, Paul and Mary's cease-and-desist letter asking the National Organization for Marriage to stop using their song?

Asked by iamthemob (17159points) August 28th, 2010

I was wondering what people thought about this response…whether they feel it is appropriate in tone, whether more needed to be done, etc. It would be great to hear people on both sides of the marriage-equality issue. The letter can be found here if you haven’t read it:

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

49 Answers

marinelife's avatar

I think that their letter is exactly what I would have expected of them,

I think the organization has a nerve continuing to use the song.

iamthemob's avatar

What do you mean, what you would have expected of them?

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I thought it was…. refreshing. I’m not sure if that is the right word, but it was just one of those things that gave me a little flicker of hope that the world is headed in the right direction.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

I am pleased with the letter. P, P, & M are taking a stand, and I applaud them.

Kayak8's avatar

First of all, Mary died, so it is P and P making the statement. I couldn’t agree with them more! I am a musician with political leanings and if someone used one of my songs in opposition to my beliefs, I would sue the crap out of them!

lillycoyote's avatar

It’s disgusting for them to use any version of this song at all

This land was made for you and me!
This land is your land, this land is my land

It was made for you and me but not for anyone else, not for anyone that isn’t heterosexual?

Good for them, for Peter, Paul and Mary (R.I.P.)

SeventhSense's avatar

If it’s against their position (which is in support of same sex unions) it makes perfect sense. It’s like Anton Lavey and the Church of Satan using “Onward Christian Soldiers” as their theme song. It doesn’t make sense and just another example NOM and others like them to try to weasel a grassroots support from some ignorant people. Maybe some in the middle might say, “Hey if PM&M support them maybe there’s something there”. It’s all about the perverse way the right will spin a thing and create confusion. I think they should sue them for 100 million dollars for libel.

ETpro's avatar

I think Peter Yarrow’s letter showed remarkable restraint given the twisted claims of the organization using hos work without permission or compensation. Good for him.

It seems as if every group of bigots in the nation is now claoking themselves in the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, claiming that he was one of them and that his dream of equality and their dream of special privileged for themselves only are one and the same dream. What a nightmare.

Trillian's avatar

@iamthemob I believe @marinelife was making a positive affirmation of her expectations of the remainder of PP&M. She believes that they are fair minded advocates as stated in their letter and she had expectations of them that they met.
For the record, I think it was an arrogant presumption of these peole to use this song, as if it supports their stance. I hate that “So there on you! :P” attitude of people like this.

truecomedian's avatar

National Organization for Marriage? Would that have to include gay marriage by proxy. Did I use the word “proxy” correctly. Is it anything like the PMRC?

SeventhSense's avatar

They do not advocate same sex marriages

MacBean's avatar

@truecomedian “National Organization for Marriage as Defined by Various Types of Bigot” didn’t fit on the letterhead as nicely so they shortened it.

Seek's avatar

Reminds me of the issue with Heart, and the McCain/Palin campaign continuing to use “Barracuda” despite cease-and-desist letters asking them not to.


One joke column printed this admittedly fake, but hilarious anyway, “letter” to McCain.

Hey, Righties – if you need theme music, get your own damn followers to write it – that is, if you can find any creative folk among your ranks.

Nullo's avatar

It’s as respectful as most legalese, but I’m sorry to learn that Peter, Paul, and Mary have taken the wrong side of the issue.
I also think that the website that you linked reeks of the most astonishing levels of bias.
And who the heck plays “This Land is Your Land” at anything, anyway? NOM could have picked a better song.

lillycoyote's avatar

Or maybe they had to shorted their name from The National Organization For the 50% of Heterosexual Marriages That Don’t Fail and End in Divorce.

ETpro's avatar

@Nullo So folks who favor equal treatment under the law reek of bias, but thise who wish to establish special rules only for their types, that nobody else can enjoy are unbiased. It sounds as if you may be one of the writers for this NOM group.

Coloma's avatar

Plagerism is plagerism.

SeventhSense's avatar

I don’t think it’s actually plagiarism. I believe anyone can use a song as long as they pay a royalty.

Nullo's avatar

@ETpro No, the way that the site’s content is written makes it reek of bias. It was written for its own particular audience, so I suppose that it makes sense, but man, does it reek!

@lillycoyote Funny thing about that: I found an article that points to cohabitation as being a major cause of the high divorce rate.

I should have said it earlier, so I’ll say it now: NOM really should have seen about getting permission to use the song before using it.

filmfann's avatar

In the past, Bruce Springsteen has done the same thing (I think it was Born In The USA being played at Bush41 rallies, but it might have been Reagan).

It’s their damn song. They should have the right to say what it represents.

SeventhSense's avatar

I could do a version of Stairway to Heaven and sell it at flea markets as long as a I paid them. I believe it’s 20 cents on the dollar?

ETpro's avatar

@Nullo I think the NOM claiming itself as a champion of equality while working to preserve inequality reeks of bias.

I have no problem with people who believe that marriage should remain as it has been since the foundation fo the US for moral reasons. I disagree, but they certainly have a right to their opinion. But to cloak yourself in the mantle of crusaders for fairness when you are fighting for unfairness is wrong. Likewise, to crusade against same-sex marriage using a pack of lies is wrong. It undermines any credibility the organization might claim as a champion of morality, because twisting the truth, lying and demonizing other people are not morally acceptable things to do.

Ron_C's avatar

I agree with the request for cease and desist. I cannot why people deem it necessary to interfere with the private lives of others. I think that gay couples had just as right to be as miserable or as happy as the rest of us. I find it especially distressing that a partner has no visitation or medical proxy rights if their partner is sick. That, to me is an inhuman policy.

If every gay couple got married tomorrow it would not affect our marriage in the slightest except for the wedding presents we might have to buy. Other than that is is none of my business.

Nullo's avatar

@ETpro After poking around the NOM page, I think I see where they get their “equality” angle:

“Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose, they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”
“Do we want to teach the next generation that one-half of humanity—either mothers or fathers—are dispensable, unimportant? Children are confused enough right now with sexual messages. Let’s not confuse them further.”

Less-subtle forms of bias include language and word choice, since they readily indicate which side the writer has taken in the issue. I based my accusation of bias on such terms as “outrageous claim,” as well as the use of such word-smithing as “marriage equality.”
The NOM page is certainly biased, but in a manner that is less stylistically offensive.
Compare the old Pravda to the New York Times, for an extreme version of the same kind of clash.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Nullo Cause and correlation are not the same thing. I don’t think that article provides any evidince that cohabitation is a cause of divorce. And NOM believes that “Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose” unless, apparently, they choose get married.

LostInParadise's avatar

I am in agreement with those who applaud the letter. However, the song is in the public domain and although PPM and Woody Guthrie never intended for the song to be used in this twisted way, NOM unfortunately has the right to use it. The song has a vaguely patriotic air to it and can be used by those who divide the country between us and them, where the division can be any suitable bigoted division. It could, for example, be used by those who are strongly opposed to immigration.

ETpro's avatar

@Nullo. I have heard it all before. First it was, “blacks have every right to live as they choose.” They just need to sit at their own lunch counters and go to their own beach (they only had one really crappy one in all of Virginia Beach when I was growing up under apartheid) and they need to use their own “separate but equal” everything. Separate but equal is not equal. If we’re equal, why must there be a separation? If we’ve equal, how do we even decide how to separate? That is nothing but Jim Crow all over again, just aimed at a new minority.

The drive against marriage inequality had to destroy the miscegenation laws first. Those laws were exactly like the existing DOM Act.

lillycoyote's avatar

@LostInParadise The song may or not be in public domain but this Peter, Paul and Mary performance/recording of it, any particular performance/recording of it, is not. Someone owns the rights to this Peter, Paul and Mary performance/recording of This Land is Your Land. I am assuming it is some entity that gives Peter and Paul, so to speak, the right to send a demand letter regarding it.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Now, now, childrean. Play nice!

Listen… as far as I’m concerned, there is little enough of happiness in this sad, old world. If someone wants to marry another human being ( regardless of race, sex or what have you ) they should be allowed to do so. I see no harm done to either the tradition of marriage or to the male/female relationships already covered by marriage.

SeventhSense's avatar

Some things never change but resistance is futile. Life is progressive.

iamthemob's avatar

@LostInParadise : Is the song in the public domain? I believe that materials don’t fall into the public domain until 70+ years after the death of the author (although it seems that the song was recorded in 1962 which means it may fall into a strange copyright expiration window: I really do like the letter myself…it never assumes a legal right to prevent the NOM from playing the song…but states that they clearly have the opposite message from the organization.

I also think the tone is even, and if people on all sides of the issue would try to address each other rationally, the debate might be productive.

@Nullo: I’ll admit that it was a speedily chosen link. However, I do doubt that any site linking out to the letter would have not demonstrated some form of bias considering that it is such a hot-button issue.

I don’t believe, however, that bias expressed in a more stylistically satisfying manner is the less dangerous form (which you seem to imply). The more subtle bias is, the more effective it is as propaganda.

I also don’t see how allowing same-sex marriage would send the message that either mothers or fathers are dispensable. First, it assumes that the purpose of marriage is procreation, which, of course, it cannot legally be. Second, it assumes that children would be raised without any sort of opposite-sex influence. Indeed, there is a potentially broader support base if the mother/father (whatever the case may be) continues to be a part of the child’s life. The nuclear family is actually kind of a modern western structure…it’s arguable that keeping multiple generations in a single household would be more stable (e.g., in a one income household, the loss of one income is devastating; if there are grandparents, children, and grandchildren, it is more likely that the loss of one of the incomes could be covered by one of the other members). It seems to be one of those “methinks the lady doth protest too much” scenarios.

@ETpro: DOMA and the state laws against miscegenation were indeed similar. However, what I think is actually strikingly different about the two situations is that DOMA was a federal law supporting one side of the issue. In the Loving v. Virginia timeline, the federal government refrained from establishing any sort of standard regarding mixed-race marriages, preferring to leave the definition of marriage to the states, which constitutionally had the right to regulate their family laws. DOMA, as recently stated in the D. Mass. case declaring section 3 of the DOMA unconstitutional, violates the states reserved right to determine their family law as is reserved to them in the 10th amendment. So, oddly, DOMA represents the exact opposite government reaction.

MacBean's avatar

From here:
Perhaps the greatest irony of the traditional marriage argument is that it seeks to preserve a singular tradition that has, in fact, never existed at any point in history.

Because, honestly, which traditional definition of marriage do we want our Constitution to protect?

…The one from Book of Genesis when family values meant multiple wives and concubines?
...Or the marriages of the Middle Ages when women were traded like cattle and weddings were too bawdy for church?
...Since this is America, should we preserve marriage as it existed in 1776 when arranged marriages were still commonplace?
...Or the traditions of 1850 when California became a state and marriage was customarily between one man and one woman-or-girl of age 11 and up?
...Or are we really seeking to protect a more modern vision of traditional marriage, say from the 1950s when it was illegal for whites to wed blacks or Hispanics?
...Or the traditional marriage of the late 1960s when couples were routinely excommunicated for marrying outside their faith?

No, the truth of the matter is, that we’re trying to preserve traditional marriage the way it “was and always has been” during a very narrow period in the late 70s / early 80s – just before most of us found out that gays even existed: Between one man and one woman of legal age and willing consent. Regardless of race or religion (within reason). Plus the chicken dance and the birdseed. Those are okay.

But there’s something profoundly disturbing about amending the Constitution to define anything about the 1970s as “the way God intended it.”

ETpro's avatar

@iamthemob Excellent point about what we have given up in moving from what was truly more traditional, extended families, to today’s nuclear family. This Great Recession would have gone much easier and resolved more quickly if more of us still lived on the family spread.

@MacBean Beautifully put. Way GA!

lillycoyote's avatar

@CaptainHarley Agreed, absolutely. That is the humane and decent argument that Christians should listen to. There is little enough happiness in the world and if two people can find each other, love each other, make a life together, raise children however they make or connect with them, build a family and fill a house with love and all the things that being a family means…. who the hell has any right to deny that to anyone?

iamthemob's avatar

@Nullo – although I obviously disagree with you, by the way, I’m thrilled that you’ve provided a contrary viewpoint. Thanks!

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
LostInParadise's avatar

I think there is a need to pass a law at the federal level that defines marriage as a union between two people There are actions taken by the federal government, such as income tax filing, that is based on marital status, so it is time that we come to grips with what is meant by marriage. Since traditionally, marriage is between a man and a woman, if we are to extend the concept then there should be a law that lays out just what we mean by marriage. It would also make it possible to extend the definition at some future time. For example, why should polygamy not be allowed, if the parties enter into on their own volition?

iamthemob's avatar

YES @LostInParadise ! This is pretty much what I’ve felt all along. The legal rights, benefits, and risks are those associated with domestic members in a civil union. As far as I’m concerned, the government should allow this bundle of rights to be contracted between any number of individuals with the capability to enter into a civil contract who demonstrate an intention to bind their lives together AND who live in the same household. Take sex out of it, take religion out of it. Such a system would avoid the injustices like that in Britain (linked below):

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Definitely a restrained letter in light of the beliefs of the two parties. I would’ve gotten out the hammer and hammered ‘em in the morning, hammered ‘em in the evening, I’d hammer out freedom, then I’d hammer out some justice—from the redwood forests to the New York island.. Then I’d kick back and puff the magic dragon for prop 19.

Brian1946's avatar


“Then I’d kick back and puff the magic dragon for prop 19.”

It would be great If each puff counted as an absentee vote. ;-)

CaptainHarley's avatar


That’s an incedible story. If something like that happened here in the US, there would be an outcry from East Podunk to the halls of Congress! What surprises me is that they are getting no support from the GLB community. I would think that they, of all people, would identify with the sisters’ plight.

CaptainHarley's avatar


It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if someone has already tried it! LOL!

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@Brian1946 Yeah. An optional hookah voting device hooked up via satellite. 1 puff for no, two for yes. It might be the answer to poor voter turnout.

iamthemob's avatar


I was mystified by that too…I believe that the motivation came from the position that “we want to show that our relationships are equal to heterosexual ones, and grouping them in with just any type of family relationship diminishes that.” However, this was the PERFECT opportunity to do some consensus building, and they shot themselves in the foot. When I read that, I was actually really ashamed.

CaptainHarley's avatar


Indeed it was and ndeed they did.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@iamthemob & @CaptainHarley

The original article cited is from August 2006. Soon after, the sisters lost the case. In April, 2008, they lost their appeal .

The case eventually hinged on the over-riding issue of whether or not individual EU states have discretion as to enforcing their own tax laws under the EU charter. The answer was yes, and the British tax code was upheld.

Interestingly, this was actually a small victory for EU Libertarians, and a huge loss for British Libertarians and others who disagree with this aspect of the British tax code. So, it goes back to the British courts, if they will hear it. The oldest sister is now 92, if she is still alive.

I can’t determine from the available internet sources if the LBGT Rights orgs ever stood up for these two. If they didn’t, you guys are right, it was a missed opportunity to show solidarity and compassion for the individual rights of all British citizens. Sad.

iamthemob's avatar


Thank you so much…that was an incredible update. That result is almost amusing (the EU and Brit Libertarians having opposite experiences). Although I’m about enforcing what should be fundamental rights, I’m more comfortable generally when large-scale, federal-type governments back off…

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

@iamthemob My sentiments exactly.

Strauss's avatar

Here’s the copyright info, according to Wikipedia.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther