Monday, October 3, 2011

The Problem With the "Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance"

The National Organization for [Heterosexual] Marriage ("NOM") and professional anti-equality advocate Maggie Gallagher have a new project in the works called the "Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance" ("MarriageADA").


I'd like to be able to report that this project truly appears interested in provoking an exchange of civil dialogue about the marriage debate, but alas.

The "About" section starts promising enough:

"We recognize that marriage is an important issue, about which people of good will can and do disagree. We believe America should be a place where passionate moral disagreements about important issues such as marriage are expressed with respect, thoughtfulness and civility—and without fear.,[sic] or threats of retaliation, on both sides."


People on "both sides," if they're being honest, should be able to concede that both equality advocates and "marriage defenders" have acted aggressively, violently, and inappropriately at times with respect to the debate. And, reasonable people on "both sides" should be able to agree that people should be able to express "passionate moral disagreements" without fear of threats of physical violence.

As a point of clarification, and also illustrative of the first problem with this campaign, it's not clear what NOM means by "retaliation." In the past, "marriage defenders" have characterized legitimate, non-violent protesting and boycotts as unfair "retaliation," "censorship" and "hate." Yet, historically, non-violent protestors such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi recognized that a key component of non-violent protesting was accepting the possibility of jail time, the loss of a job, and/or the loss of business due to one's advocacy.

Many "marriage defenders," while trying to paint themselves as Gandhi-esque paragons of peace and civility, do not tend to accept these consequences of their political activity. Instead, they ask for the special right to engage in political discourse leading to the denial of other people's rights without any consequence to themselves. In fact, that seems to be the very point of this "MarriageADA" campaign.

Furthermore, and hypocritically, NOM has recently forked over money to put up gigantic billboards in New York threatening the imminent removal from office of politicians who voted in favor of marriage equality. The billboards target specific politicians and boldly exclaim, "You're next." Sure, I see the billboards as a legitimate means of advocacy, but let's call it what it is: a threat of retaliation. I guess the "MarriageADA" is okay with such threats coming from "their side."

Moving on, the very next paragraphs fall prey to the very vilification this project condemns- unfairly demonizing the "other side":

"Since Prop 8, we have grown concerned about the increasing number of reports from people whose persons, property, and/or livelihoods have been threatened because they oppose-same sex marriage.

These incidents, we have come to suspect, are not neither isolated, nor mere thuggery, but are the fruit of a very bad idea relentlessly promoted by gay marriage elites: there is no reason why marriage is the union of husband and wife, opposition to same-sex marriage is just like opposition to interracial marriage, and that “anti-equality” views are therefore the moral, legal, intellectual equivalent of the hateful dogmas of racism." [emphasis added]

The site then encourages "marriage defenders," but not LGBT people or allies, to submit their stories of having been threatened and harassed for their views about marriage.

So. Right. Okay.

Let's talk about the the very phrase "gay marriage elite." For a project extolling the virtues of civility, that one's incredibly inflammatory. It is suggestive of rich, beret-capped "leftists" twirling their mustaches while inventing a "myth" that anti-equality advocates are bigots even though, apparently, anti-equality advocates are actually perfect paragons of civility.

But, well, anyone who even tangentially follows this debate knows that that would be an incredibly dishonest portrait of the debate. People call many "marriage defenders" bigots and the equivalents of racists because many "marriage defenders" actually are bigots and the equivalents of racists.

An important step in demonstrating civility and a sincere concern about dialogue on "both sides" is to concede that hardly-controversial point, especially when many of the regular commenters at NOM's very own blog actually are bigots and the equivalent of racists.

Yet, if we're to believe this project's running narrative, it's incredibly out of line, and possibly a severe human rights violation, to acknowledge that some people oppose marriage equality because they "think anal sex is icky" and/or they just don't like gay people. (Don't forget, equality is important! But more important that that are anti-equality advocates feelings about being anti-equality advocates!)

So, while I can agree that "both sides" should be able to express their views without fear of violence, I cannot agree that "marriage defenders" are entitled to the right to demand that society treat them like special snowflakes of civility for their opposition to equality, when it's the rare "marriage defender" who actually earns that treatment. See, the best way for people to be treated as though they're civil is for them to start actually being civil.

Lastly, the cited report that this campaign relies on is the Heritage Foundation's "The Price of Prop 8" which has "documented" some of the real and imagined harms that "marriage defenders" have endured post-Prop 8.

This report, which reads more like propaganda than a scholarly study, has been widely critiqued for relying on anonymous and unsubstantiated accusations, for recounting incidents that were only questionably linked to Prop 8, and for conflating legal protesting methods and impoliteness with illegal acts of violence. Example: One John Doe received a book of the "greatest homosexual love stories of all time" while another reported receiving a phone call where he was called a "bigot." These acts were conflated with the mysterious "white powder" that was sent to a Mormon church (and that the FBI was never able to link to Prop 8).

Without acknowledging the aggression, bullying, harassment, threats of violence, and acts of actual physical violence that LGBT people regularly endure, it is difficult for me- a lesbian equality advocate- to take the project's professed concern for "both sides" seriously when it only encourages "marriage defenders" to submit their stories of fear, threats, and violence they have experienced.

This post, I suppose, was a long way of explaining why I question the sincerity of this project's purpose.

*I have intentionally not included links to the MarriageADA's website. It can be easily found with the Google.

Marinelli: NOM Sought "Crazy" Pictures of Equality Advocates

No comments: