Alarming News

November 4, 2009

Last night, in Maine

I’m for gay marriage. I’m specifically for gay marriage when it is passed by popular vote, like Maine tried to do, or through the legislature.  I oppose the idea of court-implemented gay marriage laws.  Many gay-marriage supporters think the best way to get what they want is to push it through the courts.  I think this leads to backlash like in California and almost certain loss.

Like abortion, gay marriage just isn’t one of my top issues (I always bought the whole “the personal is political.”).  But for those to whom it is, I think they need to do a much better job in articulating why gay marriage should be a reality.  Spokespeople like Meghan McCain, who think calling the other side “haters” is going to do the trick, just set the movement back.  No one is going to change their mind if they’re being insulted.  It’s not rocket science.  It also won’t work to paint opponents as rightwing extremists.  As California, Oregon and Maine have shown us in the last few years, a state can be solidly blue and yet oppose gay marriage.  Making a case for it, instead of just attacking its opponents, is the way to go on gay marriage.

Next, the arguments for gay marriage need to improve.  As I noted right there in my first line, I’m for gay marriage.  But it’s a reality that if gay marriage passes then polygamists will want their right to marry too.  I’m not making this up, it’s already happening.  It’s happening in Canada where they already have gay marriage and it’s happening here despite the fact that we don’t.  When I mention the polygamist “slippery slope”, I get attacked as anti-gay.  It’s just absurd.  Gay-marriage activists need to be able to answer the obvious arguments and not just dismiss them.  It has to either be “so what, let the polygamists marry too” or some argument which will prove that they won’t.  Personally, I don’t care.  Let consenting adults do whatever they want, and that includes polygamy.  But don’t pretend it won’t happen.  It will.  It is.  Address it or lose.

Finally, and I know this one is the hardest, the pro-gay marriage side has to stop seeing the anti-gay-marriage side as “anti-gay”.  I know the thinking is to think hate is driving the anti-gay-marriage side but very often it is just tradition.  People don’t like change.  And the impulse of saying “well, too bad” doesn’t exactly seem to be working.

These are my thoughts on what the gay-marriage movement should do to win.  Whether they will do any of it remains to be seen but clearly the strategy needs to change.  I hope the activists see that.

Posted by Karol at 04:51 PM |

I agree strongly on all counts. The manichean response is so counterproductive. The problem is that many people seem to find deep emotional satisfaction in denouncing large numbers of people as bigots.

Posted by: Andrew Hazlett at November 4, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Get the state out of endorsing “marriage,” period. Let the churches do that. States can, instead, provide contracts to any two individuals who choose to establish a household together, granting to them the privileges and tax consequences married people have. Man/woman, man/man, two spinster sisters who are concerned about property inheritance when one passes… why not?

I mean, why isn’t it just that easy?

Posted by: BG at November 4, 2009 at 5:09 pm

BG, people don’t like small change, like allowing gay people to marry, you think they’re going to be ok with scrapping the entire marriage-sanctioning system? Doubt it. I agree with you in theory, obviously, totally don’t think it’s doable or even worth discussing in practice.

Posted by: Karol at November 4, 2009 at 5:16 pm

I agree with everything you’ve written here. I think many of the people opposed to gay marriage because of tradition, oppose use of the word marriage to describe the union between a man/man, woman/woman. They don’t see men and women as interchangeable and would prefer just not calling that union “marriage”. Maybe pushing for civil unions would be the best route? Polls show support on both sides of the political aisle for civil unions. I think they would garner a ton more support if they calmy discussed the civil rights violations involved in denying same sex couples the same benefits as married couples. The resolution would be civil unions.
With regards to keeping govt out of marriage, I definitely don’t agree. I am completely against big government, but I see a great benefit in govt promoting marriage/civil unions etc. I guess I would compare it to govt providing education for all. It benefits society as a whole.

Posted by: Marcia at November 4, 2009 at 7:01 pm

This all sounds fine and dandy while you’re able to marry the person you love.

I personally feel it’s the verbiage that is killing us. We need to take the power away from anyone that uses religion in this argument. This has nothing to do with religion. This is a civil rights case. Civil. *Civil Marriage* The second someone uses religion to back any argument regarding laws in this country, they should be removed from the podium, plain and simple.

Posted by: Vincent at November 4, 2009 at 7:28 pm

From the podium, fine, but you’re not going to remove them from the voting booth and minimizing their opinions isn’t working. And again, the losses in CA, ME and OR aren’t about religion, I don’t think any of those can be described as very religious states, but about tradition.

Posted by: Karol at November 4, 2009 at 7:31 pm

The second someone uses religion to back any argument regarding laws in this country, they should be removed from the podium, plain and simple.

Oh please. I’ve never heard a religious person (a Christian, at any rate) say “that guy doesn’t have the right to speak because his argument isn’t grounded in God’s laws.” Why don’t you extend them the same courtesy?

Posted by: Eric at November 4, 2009 at 7:56 pm

While I agree with this argument it is nonetheless true that at least some opponents of gay marriage are bigots, and those people should be called such.

Posted by: Dave at November 4, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Dave, perhaps “some” are. But the pro-gay-marriage folks aren’t really differentiating who they are calling “haters”.

Posted by: Karol at November 4, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Quakers recognise gay marriage, so where is their religious freedom?
I agree this is probably one for the courts and not for referenda. Would Race rights have come into force due to a referendum in the 1960’s? I’m not sure.

Posted by: bryan at November 4, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Very rational comments, unlike the activists who go on blood thirty rages when their cause loses. (see California after Prop 8 was passed.) It is amazing to see that the very activists who support this cause are the most intolerant in the discussion. It is quite easy and it is playbook 101 to paint some fringe elements on the right and then accuse all who oppose as having that belief. I do not support the cause but I have known and am friends with men and women who are gay. This Gavin Newsome “it’s coming whether you like it or not” approach will alienate more than it will attract. Besides, the voting group that put Prop 8 over the top in Cali were black voters. I suppose they are all right wing hate mongers.

Posted by: Rick at November 4, 2009 at 11:00 pm

The courts have no business deciding this issue. There’s no constitutional basis.

Posted by: Eric at November 4, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Using hate to describe opponents is lazy. Someone can have a completely different point of view about an issue without hating you. Someone can agree with you on some issues and still hate you. Agreement and hatred are not exclusive of one another. Disagreement and hatred are not synonymous.

Karol made a good point that once laws regarding marriage (1 male and 1 female, not related any closer than a certain degree, etc) are struck down by courts then it won’t just mean Dave and Steve can get married. People will hire lawyers and argue for a thousand other variations of marriage. Where does the line get drawn. If we have no line, does that mean brothers and sisters, mom and son, etc, etc, etc. People will say the slippery slope argument is BS. However, history has shown that lawyers will take any case and stretch any opening.

Bottom line is this like many issues is not as cut and dry as some supporters would claim.

Posted by: Largebill at November 5, 2009 at 12:12 am

A married couple fits into our existing framework of dealing with many of the legal issues that arise regarding marriage. For instance, a spouse can make certain medical decisions if his/her partner is unable to do so. How is that going to work in a poly-marriage if the other spouses can’t agree?

Posted by: Peter Hoh at November 5, 2009 at 1:01 am

There were places in the USA 50 years ago where a woman could not marry a man if they were different colours. Couldn’t whatever brought that change about be applied?

Posted by: bryan at November 5, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Well, there’s the sort of pure, philosophical side of things, and the practical side.

Just from looking at it with pure logic, I don’t see why supporters of gay marriage should have to also come up with arguments against polygamy. There are either rational reasons to keep polygamy illegal, or there aren’t. If someone is really worried about polygamy becoming legal due to the legalization of gay marriage, they should be able to criticize polygamy on its own merits, give some reasons besides “it’s all just arbitrary anyway, and if we let gay marriage slide it’ll release the floodgates”. Or “people we dislike will use those arguments”, even though it won’t necessarily work for them. People can make whatever arguments they want.

From a practical side, yeah, I can see that there should be a response to the slippery slope argument. I can’t think of a good bumper-sticker slogan. I have joked about “this is all because of miscegenation laws being struck down, once they let blacks start marrying whites, next they’ll let a man marry a man…” If we’re just discussing the practicality of it, wouldn’t it be better to just give gay people the ability to marry, as opposed to risking a rights fight? In other words, giving gay people the ability to marry wouldn’t open up arguments for polygamy, since it would be a simple matter of public policy, as opposed to a matter of court precedent.

(There’s also the matter of demographics. I don’t endorse judicial activism, but let’s face facts, gay marriage is going to happen eventually, either by popular vote or judicial fiat. If polygamy is the thing that’s keeping people up at nights, they’re better off drawing the line in the sand there instead of at gay marriage.)

Posted by: dorkafork at November 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm

When marriage means anything, it means nothing.

Posted by: likwidshoe at November 15, 2009 at 10:50 pm

[...] the side of gay marriage and just aren’t speak volumes as to the popularity of this issue.  I would again tell gay-marriage activists to make the case FOR it instead of just bashing those who oppose it) [...]

Posted by: I can’t count either, but this is ridiculous at December 3, 2009 at 10:49 pm
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