What Marriage Equality Supporters are Up Against

Last night, while surfing through Jeremy Hooper’s Good As You blog, I came across a video of a young woman, which she titled Why Did It Become Hateful to Support Marriage, shown below.  Please watch this video before continuing to read.

The young woman is named Anna Maria Hoffman.  She is a conservative writer and vlogger who was an intern at the Family Research Council.  According to her profile on Counter Cultured, she is “very passionate about social issues.”  While I find no fault in being passionate about things you believe in, a lot of what she believes, at least on the issue of marriage equality, is based upon shoddy logic, a failure to look at the issue critically from both sides, and on half-truths and outright lies which have been pedaled to her by groups like FRC.

So, now lets get into the video.  She starts by noting how supporting gay marriage is “cool” these days and how not supporting it is considered uncool.  She posits this issue as comparable to some sort of high school popularity contest.  She makes it seem as though people who support marriage equality do so in order to be popular, which is completely inaccurate.  She doesn’t seem to be able to grasp that people have well-formed arguments in support of marriage equality and support it because they believe it is, objectively, the right thing to do.  She also doesn’t seem to be aware of the numerous ways LGBT people have been discriminated against throughout the history of the United States.  Her trivialization of this issue, referring to it as a popularity contest, is highly offensive, and shows a flagrant disregard for the real issue at hand.

Next, she goes into how who don’t support marriage equality are called “homophobic, hateful, heteronormative” and “bigot”.  This type of commentary has been used countless amounts of times before by groups like FRC and NOM.  They say and do things which are bigoted and offensive and then have the audacity to complain about being called names.  They try to play the victim when they are the ones trying to deny same-sex couples access to rights opposite-sex couples have.  They know this ploy distracts from the real issue at hand and attempts to make them look innocent when they really aren’t.  This “we’ll be called names” strategy says a lot about people who do not support marriage equality.  By using this strategy in her video, Hoffman shows to her audience that she is more concerned about being labeled homophobic and hateful than about whether or not her words and actions are homophobic and hateful.  This type of thought process is incredibly narcissistic and shows a complete lack of concern for LGBT people as well as people who do not share her views.

(On somewhat of a side note, the way she uses the term “heteronormative” in this video makes it clear she has no idea about what heteronormative means.  Although she admits she just “learned” about the term, she quickly dismisses it as “weird.”  Displaying willful ignorance is not exactly the best way to put yourself in a good light.)

So, now, in a completely predictable fashion, Hoffman complains about how it doesn’t make sense that people call her name just because she is “supporting marriage”.  This goes back to the “play the victim” card I have explained before.  Additionally, using the phrase “supporting marriage” is highly disingenuous for many reasons.  (Please refer to this post for a more detailed explanation of why it is disingenuous).  To put it simply (for this post), denying same-sex couples access to a marriage license is not the same as supporting marriage, and it is inaccurate to think otherwise.

Hoffman then goes into a list of the problems that marriage has, in general, in the United States today.  Although most of these issues are legitimate issues that could use some work, none of them have anything to do with same-sex couples gaining access to a marriage license.  Same-sex couples having access to a marriage license does not cause people to get divorced, nor does it contribute to the rise of absent fathers, or single mothers.  Hoffman conflates these issues, as many others before her have, blaming the mere existence of gay people and same-sex couples for the problems opposite-sex couples have.  This constitutes bad logic and the connections she makes have no basis in reality.

Finally, Hoffman finishes by restating how she is trying to “support marriage”, how every child wants and needs a mom and dad who are married to each other, and how people need to “stop the hate.”  As with the rest of the video, she is rehashing old talking points which have been used by numerous groups opposed to marriage equality.  The only one point I haven’t really touched on is the idea of children needing a mother and father who are married.  Since this issue needs a large amount of explanation, I will be speaking about how that argument is fatuous and not reality-based in a later post.  Finally, her call to “stop the hate” is just one final display of the general narcissism that many who don’t support marriage equality possess.

Overall, Hoffman’s video is nothing new.  Still, I felt the need to post about it.  This video shows us a lot about the anti-marriage equality base in general and the thought processes which contribute to it.  Most importantly, it shows how people at the top of anti-gay groups, such as FRC and NOM, package issues, and what their supporters are made to think.  Those people know they have to hide their actual animus towards LGBT people in these pre-packaged talking points which are very carefully worded to sound relatively harmless and nice.  The people on top systematically lie to people like Hoffman, getting them to believe their lies and to not think about these issues with a critical lens that includes both sides of an argument.  Perhaps, Hoffman is, in fact, a victim; however, it is not at the hands of gay people, but rather, the people she has been answering to.  If it wasn’t for them, she would not be posting videos like this one, which are full of inaccuracies, allowing a host of internet-users to view her as ignorant, uninformed, and stupid.

Since Hoffman is still young, I do have some hopes for her.  I hope one day, she can rise above the narcissistic thought processes she was taught by groups like NOM and FRC.  I hope one day she will realize the work she has done has not been in the business of protecting families, but solely in the business of denying same-sex couples access to rights opposite-sex couples have.   I hope one day, she will see how homophobic, hateful, and bigoted her words and actions really are.  I hope she can have that moment of reflection where she eschews her bigotry and comes to a realization of how wrong she was and how nothing she had previously said was substantiated by facts or reality.  I hope she breaks off the blinders that were placed on her.

That’s all for now.  Until next time, folks, “If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

On “redefining marriage”

Many anti-marriage equality proponents speak about how allowing same-sex couples access to a marriage license constitutes a redefinition of marriage.  I suppose they are right about this point, but not in the way they are thinking.  They use terms like “radical” to describe what is happening.  Others have said that marriage is “under attack”.  I realize these people use these terms in order to drum up fear and money out of their followers, but  the use of these terms to describe what is happening is so patently ridiculous, it almost defies logic.

In order to put their words into proper perspective, let’s return to my original, simple argument for marriage equality.  Of course, this means we are focusing solely on the marriage license.  When states allow same-sex couples to have access to a marriage license, the marriage license is changed.  In the spots where the couples put their names, the marriage license will use the term “spouse” rather than “husband” and “wife”.  That is the only thing that is changed on the marriage license.  Everything else remains:  the rights aren’t changed, the responsibilities aren’t changed, the tax status of married couples aren’t changed.  There is only one aspect of the marriage license which is changed, and it has to do with semantics, and not actual substance.

The ridiculousness of their use of the terms” radical” and “attack” does not stop with just the marriage license.  When they talk about “changing the definition of marriage,” they are positing that there is one definition of marriage which everybody should subscribe to.  This does not reflect reality.  There is no one, true definition of marriage, no matter what you believe any deity decrees.  Since every married couple contains a unique combination of people, every marriage is defined in a different way, based upon the shared values of the couple.  Some couples make their marriage about serving a deity, some make it about adopting a large number of children, some make it about travelling the world together and not having any children.  Each of these definitions of marriage are equally legitimate.  In terms of the state, after the couple gets a marriage license, the state does not care what they do with it afterwards.  There are no laws mandating what civilly married people are supposed to do, and there is no way the state could regulate what they do.

Anti-marriage equality proponents’ views on marriage are so myopic that they should not be considered to be legitimate.  To them, marriage is defined by a biological male and a biological female joined together, and not too much else (note: many anti-marriage equality proponents speak about the production of children when they speak about a biological male and a biological female joining together, but I will go into the fallacies of that argument in another blog post).  I find it ironic how the speak about marriage being “unique” when they desire for every married couple to find their myopic mold of what it is supposed to be.  Their talk of marriage being redefined is not rooted in reality and should not be treated that way.

That’s all for now.   Until next time, folks, “If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

How People who Don’t Support Marriage Equality Misuse the Word “Protect”

There are entirely too many anti-gay groups which claim they are trying to “protect” or “preserve” marriage by making sure same-sex couples are denied access to a civil marriage license.  Their reasoning for protecting marriage, as they call it, is just as inane as describing their work as “protection” or “preservation” of some sort, but I’ll go into how their reasons don’t hold any actual merits in subsequent posts.  Here, I am just focusing on how ridiculous it is that these people use the word “protect.”

It is pretty common knowledge that people use words like protect and preserve to mean saving something from a negative occurrence or its total demise.  With this as our working definition, let’s consider how the issue of marriage equality relates to it.  For this, let’s refer to my very simple argument from my last post (a very simple argument for a very simple issue).  To reiterate, those who are for marriage equality are for allowing same-sex couples access to a civil marriage license, which is a right opposite-sex couples already have.  The end result is that both same-sex and opposite-sex couples have access to a civil marriage license.  To put it another way, let’s say opposite-sex couples are represented by one candle and same-sex couples are represented by another.  The opposite-sex couples’ candle is lit because they have access to civil marriage licenses in all jurisdictions throughout the United States.  The same-sex couples’ candle is not lit because they do not have that same access.  The act of allowing same-sex couples access to a marriage license is basically the same as lighting the unlit candle with the fire of the lit one.  So, the end result is two flames; the original one burning with the same heat and intensity as it did originally.

When same-sex couples are granted access to a civil marriage license in all jurisdictions in the United States, opposite-sex couples will, in no way, be stopped from obtaining one.  There is no reason to believe that opposite-sex couples will obtain civil marriage licenses in lower rates than what the rate was before same-sex couples were allowed access to a marriage license.  The marriage license will remain the same as it was originally.

Since none of the rights and privileges contained within the marriage license are being changed, it is not experiencing anything negative, nor is it experiencing its ultimate demise. Therefore, there is no reason to use the words “protect” or “preserve” when taking about denying same-sex couples access to a marriage license.  The people who fight against marriage equality are protecting nothing; their work hurts same-sex couples and does nothing for opposite-sex couples.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

Marriage Equality: What Should be One of the Simplest Issues of Our Day, but Somehow Isn’t

Since we will see the Supreme Court weigh in on the constitutionality of Prop 8 and DOMA at the end of next month, I feel I need to speak on the matter.  Although I am glad about the advances that have been made recently regarding marriage equality, a lot of me feels like screaming, “Come on!  This is really that difficult?”  To me, marriage equality should be a no-brainer.  In an ideal world, this issue would be resolved in 5 minutes and then we can talk about something else.  But, we don’t live in an ideal world, hence why I am writing this post, and will be writing subsequent posts.  This post will focus on how I believe supporters of marriage equality are not presenting the argument for marriage equality in the most effective way they can, and how to make the argument more effective.  Subsequent posts will focus on how the anti-marriage equality side of this debate doesn’t have a real argument, and how (you guessed it!) they misuse words.

So this post: How proponents of marriage equality could present their argument in a more effective way.

I have watched entire too many “debates” on this issue on different television networks.  They all say the same thing: Pro: Marriage is about two people loving each other coming together.  Anti:  Marriage is about procreation.  Pro: Gay couples have children.  Anti:  Children need a mom and dad, churches, blah, blah blah….  Nothing ever gets resolved and no one’s minds are ever changed.  I supposed this is done for the ratings, and not for advancing anything, but that’s another issue in itself.

So, let’s put this issue in it’s proper focus.  Let’s take all emotion out of both sides of the issue.  After we do that, we are left with the central issue at hand:  Whether or not same-sex couples should have access to a civil marriage license.  Now, we start by explaining what a marriage license is: a contract which affords couples certain rights, many in the form of tax reductions and other benefits.  A couple can have access to a marriage license by going into city hall with two witnesses, going up to the clerk, asking for the license, and paying the fee (of course, there are probably differences with this process depending on jurisdiction).  That’s it.

This is why I don’t like the argument that has arisen over this issue.  Most of the topics both sides bring up are irrelevant.  Churches are irrelevant.  The “public understanding of marriage” is irrelevant.  Children are irrelevant.  Hell, even love is irrelevant.  It’s completely legal for two people who just met to get a marriage license and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.  It doesn’t matter if they even see each other after getting the license.  I realize most people don’t do that, but nothing is stopping anyone from doing so.

In short, the marriage equality issue is somewhat like an onion.  Both have many soft layers that can easily be pulled off and thrown away, leaving a small core.  Looking at the small core, the issue is incredibly simple and clear.  One type of couple has access to a contract that another type of couple does not have access to.  The reason why I support marriage equality is just as simple:  I don’t see any legal reason against it.

My final point:  if supporters of marriage equality framed the issue in terms of the marriage license, they win.  When groups like the National Organization for Marriage talk about Catholic charities closing down because they lost their tax exempt status, they should ask “How does denying same sex couples access to a marriage license do anything to stop this issue from happening?”  They won’t have an answer, because there is no substance to their argument, and because that issue concerns anti-discrimination laws, not marriage licenses.

I will have much more on the fallacies of the arguments people make against marriage equality in future posts.  Until then, folks, “If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

The misuse of functioning labels

When someone is diagnosed with a cognitive disability, it is often the case that they will be given a “high-functioning” or a “low-functioning” label.  These labels are given, in a large part, based upon how well a person can speak.  The assumption is that, if a person cannot speak, they cannot do other things which are more challenging than speaking.  This isn’t always the case.

The premise of this post almost completely mirrors my previous post on the term “non-verbal.” A person gets a negative label.  Low expectations are placed on the person.  The person meets those expectations and does not go any farther when they might be able to.  The process is the same for someone labelled “low functioning” and someone labelled “non-verbal”.

I propose we get rid of functioning labels.  Without functioning labels, a person with a cognitive disability will be viewed as an individual with his/her/zir own set of abilities and disabilities.  When a case worker gets their case file, they do not start with assumptions of what the person can or cannot do.  Often times, a person’s set of abilities is not completely linear.  For example, a person could be an accomplished playwright, yet not be able to tie their shoes or speak.  Or, another person may not be able to do simple addition or subtraction, but can do calculus.  Once again, the discovery of these abilities can only be discovered through presuming competence from the start.

I know this post was somewhat redundant to the last one, but it needed to be said.  Until next time, folks, “If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

The misuse of the term “non-verbal”

In the autism world, it is often the case that autistic people who can’t speak are called “non-verbal.”  It create the assumption that autistics who do not speak are incapable of understanding or using language.  This assumption is not true in many cases, perhaps the majority of them.  So, now for Towanda declaration #3.

Towanda Declaration #3:  Non-speaking does not necessarily mean non-verbal.

The only thing I can really compare this distinction to is the distinction between squares and rectangles.  It is probably known by most that a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not necessarily a square.  Rectangles have four 90 degree angles and 2 pairs of sides that are of equal length and are parallel with each other.  Squares have these properties as well; however, all four sides of the square are of equal length as well.

With the square and rectangle distinction made, we can now explore the distinction between non-speaking and non-verbal.  Non-speaking people do not speak.  Non-verbal people have this quality as well; however, non-verbal people are also incapable of understanding or using language.

So, why is this distinction so important?  All to often, when an autistic person can not speak, it is assumed that they can not understand or use language.  When this assumption is made, the person is given very low expectations.  They may never be taught how to read or write or add.  They are put in centers where they are only taught basic skills and never really learn anything.  On the other hand, when a person is assumed to be non-speaking, that person will be taught how to read, write, and add using facilitated and augmentative communication.  The person is given the potential to learn and grow.  That person is given the dignity of being allowed to learn and grow.

There are many examples of non-speaking autistics who use facilitated or augmentative communication devices to express themselves.  Some of these people run blogs, some have written novels and plays, and some are in college or have college degrees.  There is no way that these people can be considered “non-verbal.”  At the same time, people who do not use these devices are not necessarily “non-verbal” either.  My 17 year old cousin is autistic and does not speak.  However, he can respond to prompts and understands everything someone is saying.  When he responds to a prompt, he is showing understanding of language and he is using the language that was spoken to respond appropriately.  He is “verbal”, despite what many say about him; he is just non-speaking.

When considering an autistic person who does not speak, it is better to start with the assumption that the person is non-speaking instead of non-verbal.  With this model, the person starts with the bar of expectation set high.  The person may not reach it, but that’s fine; that bar can be set lower to meet the person’s needs.  On the other hand, if the person is considered non-verbal, the bar is set lower.  The person may reach the bar, but there is no expectation for them reaching any higher, even if they have the potential to do so.  For more information about this concept, check out Anne Donnelan’s “Least Dangerous Assumption” model.

Until next time, folks, “If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”