Naming the Issue

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

En route to explaining why she regards the recent judicial reversal of Proposition 8 (aka the California Marriage Protection Act) as a Pyrrhic victory for gay rights, Helen Searles brings up the following interesting point at Spiked.

As David Fleischer has argued in the Huffington Post: "[A] comprehensive analysis of the Prop 8 campaign... shows that the only two TV ads created by the 'No to Prop 8' campaign that made voters more likely to support same-sex marriage were the only two that used the word 'gay' (none of the other 14 breathed a word about whose lives would be most affected by Prop 8) and that made clear, direct arguments on the merits. All of the rest were de-gayed, and had no impact as they offered platitudes, vagueness, unexplained endorsements, and abstract analogies." Fleischer concluded: "Same-sex marriage can't win when we don't make the case for it." [minor format edits]
Apparently, fiscal conservatives "defending" capitalism don't have a monopoly on making a good cause look like an attempt to put something over on everyone...

I can think of many specific reasons (and Searles names a few) the anti-Proposition 8 folks might have feared just going out and naming their cause, but they all boil down to a presumption that the voting public is largely closed to reason or can't be reached by what the Abolitionists called "moral suasion."

Is this because of a cynical presumption that likely pro-Proposition 8 voters are irrational bumpkins? Or is it because too many Proposition 8 opponents -- like too many fiscal conservatives -- don't really understand the philosophical basis for their cause, and therefore don't even have a cogent message?

Whatever the reason, the end result was the same: They lost a ton of the good will that their cause deserved.

-- CAV


mtnrunner2 said...

Some marriage rights advocates understand.

I heard Evan Wolfson talk on NPR and was very impressed (search for his name, it's down a bit on the page)

He came on the radio show right after pro-Bible/anti-happiness advocate Jim Campbell, whose argument was basically for mob rule (the judges were ignoring the will of millions of people).

Mr. Wolfson was a beacon of reason by comparison, making his case in terms of humanity and rational persuasion, equality of rights and the rule of law. Good stuff.

Chuck said...

Something in this issue just rubs me wrong still. The premise seems to be that gays should have the right to marriage, but the inherited premise is that government has a right to regulate marriage in the first place.

To the extent that marriage is a contract to share common property, it makes sense, but only as contractual or common law, so the courts can divide up property and responsibility of children, should the parties decide to dissolve the contract. The only role the state should have is to ask the question, are the parties of adult consenting age, which could be done by a notary public, as far as I'm concerned...

I therefore don't think this whole movement is the right direction, at all. I think the heterosexual world should be seeking to back government out of the marriage business. The "level playing field" isn't in declaring every combination of lovers a state sanctioned "marriage", but in recognizing civil unions at best, for all combinations. Civil Unions being the form the contractual law falls under.
So much time and jurisprudence has been spent on defining spousal benefits that the courts and lawyers don't want to untangle the mess and set it right at the core. It has become concrete in it's form to them, and they don't want to upset it. So they argue the only rational way to solve it is to move forward, meaning, pass additional legislation that defines what combination of lovers get state approved marriage status and which ones don't. It's similar to the so called "hate crimes" legislation, in this regard. If you're a member of a legislatively favored group, you qualify for additional justice, when you're harmed.

The mystics stand to win in removing government from defining marriages as well. If governments stick to contractual law, the mystics can define the word "marriage" in their own spiritual terms. In my mind the common ground we should be moving for is to back the government up to it's proper sphere in this regard. If I'm buying a license from the government to get "married" then I'm certainly not in control of my own choices. They are granting me license to exercise something that is already mine, when all they should be caring about is what contract is formed when two parties come to share common property.


Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for bringing up that link -- and in the precess revealing that perhaps the comment system is working correctly again.


I have no problem with calling these contracts marriages, but do agree that, in terms of the government forcing employers to provide certain benefits to people who are married (to the extent that it does) is wrong. To that extent, the pro-gay marriage movement is wrong in the same sense that hiring quotas are not the opposite of Jim Crow laws.

As for real mystics "winning," they'll never hear of it. They lose unless everybody lives by the rules of their imaginary friend.

(Should I have capitalized the last two words?)


Steve D said...

Chuck: I agree with your comment:

“I therefore don't think this whole movement is the right direction, at all. I think the heterosexual world should be seeking to back government out of the marriage business.”

The basic issue is that because of government involvement in marriage it is no longer in reality just a contract between two people. Aspects of that contract involve many others but they have no say in the marriage decision.

Anyone who wants to get married should be free to so; however they have no right to force anyone else to recognize their marriage (other than recognizing the basic reality of a common law contract).

Gus Van Horn said...


I concur. Thanks for putting it so clearly.