On Saturday and again today the president made his case for a constitutional amendment defining marriage. If opponents of the amendment were serious about debating this important issue, they would have offered thoughtful rebuttals taking issue with his arguments. They could thus have turned the occasion of the President’s public statement into an opportunity to advance their own cause — promoting gay marriage.
Leaders of gay organizations have, however, attacked the president (in rather childish terms) and ignored his arguments. Instead of contributing to the debate on gay marriage, they have provided more rhetoric for the burgeoning files of Bush-hatred. And won few converts to their cause. Despite some recent sensible actions, on this issue, the ostensibly Republican gay group, Log Cabin, has shown itself to be no different from the left-of-center gay activists.
All have used language which further poisons political discourse on gay issues.
In a statement filled with hysterical language (at odds with his recent statement on anti-gay actions in Moscow), Matt Foreman, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) called the president’s action an “immoral attack on gay people, our families and fundamental humanity.” Geez, the president may be wrong on this one, but all he’s doing is offering his opinion on an important social issue. And while his solution may be the wrong one, his remarks did not include any attack on gay people or their families.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights campaign (HRC) who seems to have made it a priority for his organization to avoid debate of gay marriage, called the president “out of touch.” His statement on the president’s address was similarly inflammatory, faulting the president for using his radio address “to divide us as nation” (as if no president had previously addressed a divisive issue in his radio address) and for suggesting he has failed to “lay out an agenda to address the challenges facing our country.” But, I guess to Joe Solmonese the failure to lay out an agenda to his liking means the failure to lay out an agenda altogether.
It seems that on the issue of gay marriage, an issue which is indeed controversial, all Joe can do is call the president’s position divisive while failing to put forward an agenda on the topic which might unite the nation.
In a longer piece which Bruce wisely posted on this blog, Log Cabin President Patrick Guerriero also seems to prefer name-calling to serious discussion. The tone of his open letter to the president hardly seems that of one Republican writing to another. He lectures the president, calling his stand an “insult” as well as “offensive and unworthy of the office of the Presidency”! Great way to engage someone with whom you disagree!. Seems he’s been taking lessons from some of those who comment to our blog.
While Patrick notes the president’s call for “civility and decency,” he calls the president’s expression of an opinion “intolerant and uncivil.” Yup, just like Joe, if someone expresses an opinion he doesn’t like, Patrick calls him names. Finally, he accuses the president of desecrating the White House! This is mean-spirited juvenile, name-calling plain and simple. It shows that, again, like Joe, Patrick would rather attack the president than take issue with his arguments. In short, in his letter to the president, Patrick Guerriero is neither civil nor decent.
This letter, full of venom and vitriol, but devoid of ideas or argument is not the type of letter a Republican would write. Indeed, it’s not even the type of letter a civil Democratic opponent of a Republican president would write.
The Stonewall Democrats’ response seems tame by contrast.
The president made two statements on the topic. In both, he reaffirmed his position by defending the institution of marriage as it has existed for millennia. In neither did he attack gay people, yet he has advocated an amendment which, in the unlikely event that it is ratified, would both prevent our society’s understanding of marriage from evolving while similarly preventing Americans from reaching a consensus on gay marriage.
Let me repeat; the president is wrong on this one. But, in gaining a public audience for a topic so important to gay and lesbian Americans, he has given advocates of gay marriage an opportunity to take issue with his points and articulate a positive case for gay marriage. Alas, that activists have preferred insults to ideas.
It appears they believe vitriol is the only way to address those who disagree with them.
In his remarks today, the president focused on taking “the issue away from the courts and put[ting] it directly before the American people.” It seems he should instead be proposing an amendment that read something like this, “The elected legislatures — or the people of the several states — shall determine qualifications for marriage in their respective states.”
In words similar to those in his radio address on Saturday, the president today articulated the standard social conservative defense of traditional marriage — and so provided an opportunity for advocates of gay marriage to correct misunderstandings these gay-marriage opponents might have about same-sex unions. He said:
For ages, in every culture, human beings have understood that marriage is critical to the well-being of families. And because families pass along values and shape character, marriage is also critical to the health of society. Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure.
This seems to be the crux of the president’s opposition to gay marriage. So now that he has made this point, it behooves advocates of gay marriage to show how gay marriage could promote the well-being of society. And to show how gay families can pass along values and shape the character of our children. They need to make clear that changing marriage from a union between individuals of different sexes to a union of two individuals would not undermine family structure.
Too many social conservatives assume that gay people are not serious about family and values. They think we wish to get married while continuing to sleep around and otherwise lead a licentious lifestyle. And hurling insults at those articulating such views will do little to correct their misunderstandings. If anything the tone of these statements will only serve to ratify the narrow views many social conservatives have about gay people, particularly their views of advocates of gay marriage.
The president, in two different statements, civilly made his case for a constitutional amendment defining marriage. He made two basic points, (1) that an amendment was necessary so the people, not the courts, could decide this important issue; (2) that changing the definition of marriage would undermine this ancient institution.
Advocates of gay marriage should be taking issue with these two points.
As I have been saying even before I began blogging, while marriage has always been a union between two individuals of different genders, society’s understanding of that institution has evolved over time. Perhaps now, it will evolve to include same-sex unions. Those who advocate such a significant social change should be prepared to face opposition from advocates of the status quo and should not reduce the opponent’s arguments to hate-filled epithets. If they’re serious about changing this institution, then they should be eager to articulate the reasons for the change.
Unfortunately, too many advocates of gay marriage have chosen to insult those defending the status quo and are so bypassing an opportunity for serious debate. No wonder in state after state, citizens vote for referenda affirming the traditional definition of marriage.
The returns migh be different if advocates of gay marriage made a better case for changing this ancient institution.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
UPDATE: Chalk the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) as another gay organization descending into the left-wing gutter to attack the president for his support of what it calls “The Federal Marriage Amendment.” In a letter e-mailed today to its mailing list, Executive Director, Kate Kendell, proves herself to be part of the angry left, so angry that she calls a vibrant economy “sinking” and calls our health and education “system” failing. Yep, it’s all about how showing how bad things are in George W. Bush’s America.
She calls the president and Republican leaders “unconscionable” for focusing attention on this “divisive amendment.” Um, Kate, don’t you realize that this issue is itself a divisive one in this country? And many on the right, indeed, many in the middle might accuse gay groups of being divisive for pushing gay marriage — or, as all too many activists have done, by bypassing the people and their elected representatives and forcing the issue through the courts.
Gay marriage is, alas, a divisive issue in America today. But, there’s nothing wrong with divisive issues. (Ending slavery was such an issue in the mid-19th century.) Kate Kendell’s angry accusations won’t do much to heal that gap, indeed, they only serve to exacerbate it. Her rhetoric is far more divisive than that of the president.
Those who promote — and engage in — civil debate on this divisive topic are, by the very tone of their arguments, are attempting to make this divisive issue less so. While we may not succeed, we are at least trying to promote a serious debate on a controversial topic.
It’s too bad that Kate Kendell, like the other gay leaders, has cast her lot with those whose angry rhetoric only serves to poison the debate and exacerbate divisions in our society on this issue of paramount importance to our community.
(Interesting side-note: a search for “Mary Cheney” on the NCLR web-site yielded this response: “Your search for Mary Cheney did not return any matches (677 documents were searched): No documents were found.” It’s clear that this group might better be styled, the National Center for Liberal Lesbians as they ignore the prominent conservative lesbian. As Kate’s comment on the sinking economy shows, she’s pretty focused on painting the president in a bad light. So, a positive portrayal of his Vice President might undermine her dark portrait of the president.)