“The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.” –Friedrich Nietzsche
Yesterday, on the way back from the dentist with the kids, I heard a commercial on the radio that annoyed me greatly.
Apparently, Vermont has a same-sex marriage bill floating around in Montpelier, and the commercial was in opposition of that bill. It started out with a kid’s voice saying, “If my daddy marries another man…who will be my mommy?” Then the narrator mentioned the same-sex marriage bill, professed a popular outrage against legislators who had nothing better to do that to “mess with marriage”. The money statement was the claim that the gay marriage bill would harm existing marriages, and then the commercial ended with a kid’s voice again, saying “I want a mommy and a daddy!”
This commercial bugged me on several levels. First, there’s the blatant Argument from Emotion–the kid being concerned about daddy running off and marrying another man. That’s a ham-fisted attempt at emotional manipulation that has nothing at all to do with the facts. (In reality, the national divorce rate hovers at 50+ percent for established “straight” marriages, so his daddy is statistically far more likely to divorce his mommy and shack up with the IHOP waitress than with some leather-wearing gay biker dude.) Very few straight marriages end because one party suddenly turns gay, and the legality of gay marriage will have little to no impact on that sliver of a percentage point, statistically speaking.
(You can be sure I’ll remember that commercial the next time someone tells me with a straight face that “liberals argue from emotion instead of logic”. In truth, conservatives also fall back on the security blanket of feelings when the logic runs out on them. As a general rule, the side that has to resort to arguing from emotion has lost the argument.)
The second part that’s bothersome is the claim that someone else’s marriage threatens my own. Look, folks: if the NH State House made it legal overnight for people to enter in marriage with their poodle or their ficus plant, you know what kind of effect it would have on my own marriage? Zero. None. Zip. It would not make me love my wife even a smidgen less, it would not invalidate our marriage certificate, and it would not take the rings off our hands or nullify the vows we made when we slipped them onto each other’s fingers.
I’ve shared my opinion on gay marriage in this spot already (here and here), and my opinion is still unswayed. If anything, I’m even more resolutely in favor of it after having to listen to that hand-wringing little piece of agitprop on the radio. The government has no business being in the business of deciding who can or cannot get married. That’s a thing that needs to stay between the willing and consenting partners, their priest/rabbi/shaman/imam/minister of choice, and (if applicable) their chosen deity. Marriage licenses are a vestigial remnant of a time when the majority used the power of the government to make sure that only the properly-hued folk could get married, just like carry permits were introduced to make sure that only the properly-hued folk could defend themselves in public.
Same-sex marriage is opposed with the same arguments that were once used to oppose interracial marriages…and just like miscegenation laws, same-sex marriage bans are destined to go the way of the dodo. And before it goes extinct altogether, gay marriage prohibition will serve to show just how quickly some conservatives will abandon their principle of “states’ rights” when it comes to a hot-button issue. The next time someone puts forward a Constitutional Amendment in “defense of marriage” (like I need some spineless sack of blubber in a suit to “defend” my marriage!), imagine it’s your marriage that will be canceled or denied with the stroke of a pen.
Defending marriage by denying it some people is backwards, bone-headed, and counterproductive. If anything comes even close to devaluing marriage, it’s the fact that some people want to keep it a straights-only privilege. As a heterosexual white male, I get to ride in the front of the bus pretty much all the time, but I have no right to be proud of that fact, and I’ll gargle a bag of razor blades before I spend a penny of my money or a second of my time working to keep gays sitting in the back.