Last Friday, I explored some of the flaws in some equality opponents’ argument that lowing same-sex marriages will further weaken heterosexual marriages. I think it’s equally important to understand why it’s important to actually tackle this argument despite the fact that it’s not quite as commonplace as (more overtly) religious arguments against same sex marriage. It’s importance is best understood in light of some equality opponents’ attempt to rebrand themselves as “defenders of traditional marriage.”
You see, some anti-equality organizations have figured out that being openly identifiable as anti-gay casts them in a bad light. The National Organization for Marriage explains this with surprising candor on their “Talking Points” page:
Extensive and repeated polling agrees that the single most effective message is:“Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose, ?they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”
This allows people to express support for tolerance while opposing gay marriage. Some modify it to “People have a right to live as they choose, they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”
Language to avoid at all costs: “Ban same-sex marriage.” Our base loves this wording. So do supporters of SSM. They know it causes us to lose about ten percentage points in polls. Don’t use it. Say we’re against “redefining marriage” or in favor or “marriage as the union of husband and wife” NEVER “banning same-sex marriage.”
They go on to explain that it’s important to stress that they defend traditional marriage no the grounds that, in their opinion, the best families have a man, a woman, and children. Their desire is to prove that they are for this rather than against gay people having equal protections and rights.
However, there is a slight problem with this. You will not find a single press release on NOM’s site that isn’t about stopping, banning, or repealing same sex marriage. You will not find any press releases about them doing anything to improve the state of marriage, the rights of married couples, or providing support for struggling families. You will not find Maggie Gallagher or Brian Brown teaching a workshop on how spouses, parents, and children can develop better communication skills, create a safer environment for honest discussion, or deal with troubling issues like peer pressure, substance abuse, or domestic violence. The only thing NOM wants to do to “protect” marriage is keep QUILTBAG people from enjoying its benefits. As such, their claims about “protecting marriage” are already flimsy at best.
Challenging the idea that same sex marriages would destroy “traditional marriage” – or that “saving traditional marriage” is the burden of QUILTBAG people in the first place – serves to drive the final nail into that coffin. When organizations like NOM can no longer fool anyone into thinking that they’re doing anything productive to protect “traditional” families, they will have to admit that yes, they really are just about stopping QUILTBAG people from enjoying the same rights and protections as their favored “in-crowd.”
Or they’ll have to come up with a new lie.