Just over two years ago, when Congress was yet again considering amending the federal constitution to define marriage, I faulted gay groups upset that we were even debating this amendment (e.g. here).Â It’s not that I supported the amendment, it’s that I welcomed the debate.
I think it serves us well to have a serious conversation on the meaning of marriage and whether we should extend its benefits and responsibilities to same-sex couples.Â Given the record of debates over past such initiatives, I had (alas) no illusions that the current campaign in on Proposition 8 would allow for such a conversation, a serious debate on the merits of gay marriage.
Proponents of the initiative (i.,e opponents of gay marriage) warn of a parade of horribles should it fail.Â Opponents have failed to make the case why gay marriage is a good thing for society.Â At best, they’ve succeeded in making the case for treating same-sex couples the same as we treat different-sex couples.
And now, some of those opponents have, instead of challenging the arguments of their adversaries on the initiative, taken to intimidating them.Â The DailyKos has encouraged readers to scrutinize those who have donated to the “Yes” campaign in order to smear them publicly.Â Yeah, that’s a good way to make a positive case for gay marriage.
As one proponent of 8 put it, â€œIt is more than a little frightening how much the Left is so much enamored with the tactic of attacking the messenger rather than engaging the substantive issues” (via Hugh Hewitt).
This is not to say that all opponents of Prop 8 are engaged in smearing its supporters, but their tactics are redolent of the rhetoric I hear all around me, how initiative proponents are mean-spirited, hateful and bigotted.Â It would be nice if some prominent opponent of 8 would denounce the angry rhetoric on our side, calling it counterproductive and demand instead a serious debate on the issue.
Don’t hold your breath.Â All too many gay marriage advocates see the institution a right without being able to articulate its importance.
Many opponents of gay marriage, however, do understand the social benefits of the institution.Â Instead of calling them mean-spirited, shouldn’t we join them in their defense of marriage, using that defense as a basis for extending its benefits to gay people?
It’s unfortunate that all too many opponents of Proposition 8 would rather smear the initiative’s advocates than engage them.Â Such an engagement might help them better articulate their own understanding of marriage.Â It may even strengthen their support of the institution.
Yet, I have to wonder why all too many gay marriage advocates so want to shun this debate, one of the most important conversations on social issues of our time.Â And one which directly impacts our lives.