The Same-Sex Mariage Debate Is Too Vicious, And Here's What We Need To Do About It
My husband couldn't get over the light and breezy coverage of Ryan Lochte's mother saying her son has one-night stands. She said this on national television and the media covered it but seemed to have no problem with it. My husband said he feels like up is down. Why, he wonders, do the media revile an athlete like Tim Tebow for attempting to be virtuous but celebrate Lochte for announcing he's not?
One of the things that was so striking about the Million Mouth March (as Jon Stewart called the Chick-fil-A "eat-in") was that it showed that many people strongly believe in things that the media ignore or deliberately hide. They are sick of government overreach and violations of free speech. They are sick of being bullied about same-sex marriage. And they are sick of having traditional values mocked and denigrated. (And, yes, maybe they just like perfectly fried chicken sandwiches.)
The media routinely characterize belief that marriage is sacred -- and that it's a conjugal union, that it should not be dissolved, that it is a blessing if it includes children -- as homophobic or bigoted or retrograde or unloving.
And while that characterization and bullying has been remarkably effective at pushing public opinion in favor of same-sex marriage, at what cost I wonder? This week has been very difficult for activists who support same-sex marriage. Here are three examples:
A mainstream media reporter published on his public Facebook page all sorts of things. Typical stuff -- his hatred for Mitt Romney. His strong support of Barack Obama. His belief that the HHS mandate is no big deal. His hatred for Chick-fil-A. But then it turned out that he was covering the Chick-fil-A eat-in for his paper. He put on Facebook that he'd never felt as much like an alien in his country as he did that day. He claimed he saw things that differed greatly from other reports around the country. He claimed that people were racist, homophobic and speaking ill of immigrants (but that when he asked for their names, they conveniently declined). He went on to mock the protesters for taking "such a brave stand ... eating a [expletive] sandwich." The comment thread to his post is full of people mocking rednecks and Christians and FoxNews. They plot how to physically attack Chick-fil-A locations, etc.
His editor got wind of the very public meltdown and reprimanded him.
Or what about the bully who went after a Chick-fil-A drive-thru worker and then, inexplicably, posted his boorish behavior on the internet for all to see? His employer also reprimanded him. Actually, his employer fired him. He was an executive at the company and had reflected poorly on it.
When I wrote about my experience at Chick-fil-A and media coverage of same, many of my readers expressed dismay that the media could cover it as anything other than bigoted jerks who seethe with hatred for their fellow man. To them it was self-evident. Take this note from a leftist site that a reader posted to show me how awful I was. A lesbian in Tucson drove by an insanely crowded Chick-fil-A and recorded the following reaction:
My reaction surprised me. It felt like all those people—young men in pickup trucks, moms with kids, older couples—were stepping on my chest. It felt like hidden bigotry had come out to make itself known. It felt like hatred and rejection. It felt like go home, you’re not wanted here. My response was visceral. My gut ached, a sob caught in my throat, and my eyes welled up with tears. I couldn’t drive away fast enough. And I’m not a person who cries easily, at least not usually, but I cried all the way home. Just those couple of minutes of seeing how many people are anti-gay, anti-me, hurt more than I could have ever expected.
All of these stories sadden me, even if I can find errors with the thinking or behavior of each of them. Each, in their own way, clearly indicate confusion about who their fellow Americans are and what they believe.
But I place most of the blame the media and the cultural elite.
If it is true that believing marriage is the conjugal union of one man and one wife is bigoted, the equivalent to the most vile racists of the past centuries, then it makes sense to react in the way the reporter, the recently fired corporate executive and the lesbian passer-by did.
If the idea that marriage is the conjugal union of man and wife is bigotry -- and the mainstream media and the cultural elite have pounded this view non-stop for years (here's the latest example of the accompanying holier-than-thou pietism with which the view is pushed) -- then you should respond by tormenting drive-thru workers who are part of the bigotry-industrial complex. You should speak ill of people who hold this view on Facebook. Often! You should feel like eating a chicken sandwich was about people putting their boot on your chest.
The thing is, though, that it's not. And the media and the cultural elite have been lying. And they have gotten us to a place where people are unable to just be civil to each other (one Ricochet member mentioned he recently got kicked out of his fantasy football league for supporting Chick-fil-A).
When I first began covering this issue -- back when California was deciding Prop. 8 -- I was shocked to learn that what the media had told me was wrong. When I interviewed people who supported Prop. 8, I found that they were eminently calm and reasonable. Their arguments did take a while to learn, but they were able to be learned.
These people explained why marriage law exists and what it is designed to protect. They explained why they viewed a change to those laws as seriously misguided. They pointed out some of the logical conclusions to changing the definition of marriage.
Now, you may agree or disagree with what they have to say (and to learn more about what they say, I think this paper is easy to read and digest), but it's not bigotry. And it is a scurrilous indefensible charge to say otherwise.
If our country is to work through these debates about what marriage is and what it should be, we simply must devote ourselves to listening to arguments and thinking things through. It is impossible to do that when we dismiss supporters of traditional marriage as bigots.
It is time to start talking about what marriage is without charging people with bigotry. Some people believe that marriage is the conjugal union of a man and woman who make permanent and exclusive commitment to each other, based on their gender differences and built around conjugal acts -- those acts that naturally lead to reproduction and unite them as a reproductive unit. Other people believe that marriage is the union of two people of any sex who commit to romantically love and care for each other and share domestic burdens.
Marriage law built on either view will have consequences that are far-reaching. We probably haven't even touched the surface of what those consequences might be. And we will never be able to think these things through rationally and calmly if we denounce one or the other view as unfit for public discussion.
Many of us are tired of cultural battles. Unfortunately, tiring of them doesn't do much to help us resolve them. So when we discuss these things, and we must, let's discuss them in a spirit of love and charity. And let's encourage others to do likewise.
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