Gay Marriage and Guilt by Association
People who worry about the effects of "undefining" marriage to satisfy the LGBT movement must spend a little time thinking about how to deal with the question below:
"How dare you conspire with homophobes?"
The sentence above is thrown at me quite often. Usually it comes from people who want gay marriage legalized but who cannot respond to my complex arguments in favor of civil unions and against gay marriage. (Many of these arguments are available here.)
My arguments address (1) the long-term impact of same-sex parenting on children and (2) the global impact of replacing male-female lovemaking with commercial contracts based on surrogacy, insemination, and adoption on demand.
Numbers 1 and 2 above are tough issues to dismiss glibly or paper over with platitudes. So the most effective retort against me is "how dare you conspire with homophobes?," as if the social context of the argument is all that counts, and the content of the debate doesn't matter.
Over the last three weeks, I've gotten slammed with guilt-by-association arguments.
My crime is not that I have ever voiced anything homophobic, because I haven't, but rather that I am chummy with people in the National Organization for Marriage, delivered a talk to a French group whose president was once accused of denying the French homosexual Holocaust, spoke at the French "manif pour tous" against homosexual marriage and adoption, and just did an interview with Sandy Rios of the American Family Association about same-sex marriage.
I have been tempted, as so many of us have, to fall into the guilt-by-association game. Then one starts apologizing for allies or else "distancing" from sources of support. It is important not to react to guilt-by-association attacks in this way.
First, we must be clear in our own minds about the proportionality of what our supposedly shameful allies have done versus what we are fighting against. Take the AFA. Yes, it is true that some people at the AFA have made some strong statements against homosexuality that I cannot defend. But those were statements, nothing more. They didn't do the kind of damage that gay parents will do to children and others, if pro-gay geneticists run around manufacturing children with sperm banks, surrogacy contracts, and human trafficking deals in some modern-day Blade Runner, Gattaca, or Stepford Wives adaptation. I ask people who attack me, "Why shouldn't I look past an ally's regrettable statements if that ally is helping me defend children, vulnerable poor women, and society at large from a trade in human chattel? Do I really care if Person X used the word 'unnatural' to describe sodomy in 1999?"
Second, we need to do everything we can to force adversaries to respond to our arguments or concede that they are avoiding them. I can offer a few pointers. Ask questions as soon as you have an opening to do so in the conversation, and pose the questions so they convey information outright. For instance: "Given that the United Nations has recognized a right of children to be bonded to their father and mother whenever possible, why haven't gay marriage proponents made assurances that they will not start promoting same-sex parenting arrangements that undermine this sacred right?"
Also, repetition and confidence can be powerful tools. Don't beat around the bush. Say "that's off-topic," "please answer my question," and "do you have an answer to what I posed to you?" Form a repertoire of adjectives to describe truthfully the caliber of arguments they are presenting: "specious," "spurious," "superficial," "oversimplified," "sentimental," and "undeveloped." I have found that whoever can name the other side's weaknesses without getting unprofessional and nasty gains ground. Most importantly, you may force the other side to admit they don't have a response to your argument -- and there is a slight chance that people listening might be impressed by such an admission.