Rhetorical Strategy in the Marriage Debate: People vs. an Institution

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Theodore Shoebat recently contacted thirteen gay or pro-gay bakers and asked them to bake a pro-traditional marriage cake with the words, “Gay Marriage Is Wrong” on it. He writes, “Each one denied us service, and even used deviant insults and obscenities against us. One baker even said that she would make me a cookie with a large phallus on it.”

It was a nice try at making a point, and surely it seems to reveal something, but even Christians have raised doubts as to the wisdom of the approach. A man and woman’s wedding cake should be about their wedding. To expect it to do something else like this seems offensive even with respect to their own marriage; which confuses the experiment too much to allow clear-cut conclusions to be drawn from it. It leaves some wiggle room for alternate explanations, and in this case, “some” wiggle room is a lot.

Rhetorical strategy in the marriage debate

Still the experiment provides an excellent illustration of the rhetorical asymmetry between the pro-natural marriage position and the pro-gay “marriage” view. What I mean by asymmetry is that the communication and persuasion challenges faced by either side of this issue are really quite different. In this article I will first analyze that rhetorical asymmetry, and then offer advice as to how natural marriage proponents should take it into account.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell:

Every gay marriage wedding cake, no matter how it’s decorated, says the man-woman-only view of marriage is wrong; but it takes special effort to make a man and woman’s wedding cake communicate that gay marriage is wrong.

That’s just symbolic of the problem, of course. Let me explain now what it symbolizes.

Rhetorical strategy: people vs. an abstraction

The marriage debate takes place on two levels, micro and macro. There is each couple wanting to marry, and there is the overall institution of marriage. Same-sex “marriage” proponents are attacking an institution and defending couples’ desires to marry. Natural marriage proponents are defending an institution and standing in the way of gay couples’ desire to marry.

Natural-marriage proponents seek to disrupt two real people’s desires, hopes, and felt needs. Same-sex marriage proponents seek to disrupt the historic institution of marriage.

So it’s defending couples or defending an institution. Rhetorically and persuasive, those who defend the  couples have the natural advantage.

Natural-marriage proponents are cast (falsely, I think) as hating gays, and that’s real rhetorical trouble, whether it’s true or not. Suppose same-sex marriage advocates hate the man-woman-only view of marriage, though, and suppose their hatred for it is real. So what? Institutions aren’t people. They’re abstractions. How much trouble can a person get into for hating an abstraction?

Institutions matter to people, and yet…

Make no mistake: institutions matter. They matter to people. Marriage matters to children. It matters to communities and whole societies, all of which are made up of people. It’s not that the natural marriage position has no impact on people, it’s that it’s harder to take a picture of those people. It’s harder to demonstrate how important marriage is to them—even though it is.

Rhetorical strategy in the central issues

So then, from a rhetorical perspective, which of these plays better in the media?

The couple pointedly looking their debate opponent in the eye, and saying, “You don’t want us to marry and experience the same kind of joys you experience in marriage. You must hate us to feel that way!

or

The natural marriage proponent pointedly looking the gay or lesbian couple in the eye, and saying, “You’re tearing down the central institution that holds society together!”

And what about this one, also from natural-marriage proponents?

“Gay marriage is morally wrong.”

There’s not much persuasive pull there, even if it’s true (which it is). Over the past few generations, right and wrong have become seen as abstractions themselves, dependent on institutions, authority structures, and “society” or “culture,” whatever that might be.

So when manwoman-only proponents stand up against same-sex marriage advocates, often we’re seen as representing abstract institutions, while they’re representing flesh-and-blood people.

What works trumps what’s right (strategically, that is)

Notice now how none of what I’ve said so far has anything to do with whether one side or the other is more nearly right. Gay “marriage” doesn’t have to be right to win rhetorically. It has the strength of battlefield position and firepower. Armies with superior strategic positions don’t always have the superior moral position. Granted, some people hold to the theory that right and wrong depend on who wins. That would be an awkward position for gay-rights advocates to adopt: if right and wrong depended on who was holding the power, then when they started their campaign decades ago, they were wrong.

I won’t dwell on that absurdity, though, because I don’t accept the power premise on which it’s based. When gay rights advocacy kicked in back in the late 60s and 70s, it was either right or wrong in itself, regardless of where it stood in relation to the culture’s power structures.

And my point here again is that it didn’t have to be right in order to win. That goes a long way toward explaining how it has been winning of late.

Real strategy: To be both effective and right

We natural marriage proponents, then, are fighting this battle from a difficult rhetorical position. We ask gay bakers to make cakes for us that express our position, just as gays have asked some of us to back cakes that express their position. Their request comes across as rhetorically natural, ours is clumsy and awkward. That’s not Theodore Shoebat’s fault. It’s inherent in the structure of the debate.

So what do we do in light of that?

First, we need to do our homework, and understand the reasons for our position. If you don’t know why you stand for a natural marriage viewpoint, then I have trouble myself understanding why you would hold to it, even though I think you’re right. We do ourselves no favors by encouraging people to join our side thoughtlessly. I have several books I would recommend. (The last one there has to do with godly, loving ways of interacting with those we disagree with.) I’ll have a book of my own out on these topics in a few months.

This isn’t just about rhetoric after all. I’m all for effectiveness, but only with integrity. If I had to choose, I’d rather be morally right than be the winner of this debate. Better yet, I’d like to be right and also effective. Going on, therefore:

Second, we need to identify the other side’s rhetorical weakness. The clearest one to me is gay-rights advocates’ dependence on dehumanizing rhetoric. When defending their own position they can present a positive, sympathetic face. When they attack opposing views they resort far too often to prejudice, stereotyping, and labeling.

There are some strange contradictions in their position as well, and on these they are quite vulnerable. I’ll name three examples:

  • When they cast disagreement as hatred, for example, they label themselves as haters, for they disagree with us as much as we do with them.
  • Their central talking point, “marriage equality,” is one they themselves don’t really believe in.
  • They call for major legal differentiations between same-sex friends who are having sex and those who are not, thus encouraging governmental oversight of sexual relationships—while also crying out, “Get the government out of my bedroom!”

Third, we need to be wiser about finding points of rhetorical symmetry (I have also written on this previously.) I applaud Theodore Shoebat’s attempt to show gay bakers’ discriminatory attitudes toward Christians, except I’m not sure he really did that. He asked bakers to make cakes introducing an attacking, negative message into an otherwise positive and joyful celebration, which bakers could easily have rejected just on the grounds that it was weird! (They didn’t have to be as offensive as they were in their answers, though. There was more going on there than what I’m very charitably trying to offer them credit for.)

No, we should be asking gays to make cakes and cater events (conferences or seminars, perhaps) celebrating the positive value of what stand for: the institution of marriage for a man and a woman only. If they refuse, then that’s clearly discriminating, without much room to wiggle out of the charge.

Fourth, we need to put real faces on our position–adult children of same-sex couples, for example.

Fifth, even though it’s an uphill battle, we need to continue to explain and defend moral truth.

Finally and most importantly, we need to bear in mind that there is a spiritual asymmetry here as well. This whole article has been about rhetorical situations and strategy, but there are deep spiritual reasons to stand for natural marriage, and spiritual ways to do so: with love, with the truth, with prayer, never forgetting that Jesus Christ is at the center of all reality, including our lives and lives of those with whom we are debating.

A postscript on “hate”

I just re-read what I wrote about asking gay bakers to serve events like conferences or seminars where we celebrate the true value of man-woman-only marriage. I thought, Who would do that? It would be a rude, thoughtless, gesture, possibly even a hatred-inciting gesture.

Then I thought, Before Theodore Shoebat’s experiment, no one ever seems to have thought of doing anything so thoughtlessly rude, except for the gays who asked conservatives to make cakes for their celebrations. 

And then I thought about the reported responses the conservatives gave: respectful, offering advice on other places people could be served, and compared it to what Theodore Shoebat reportedly heard in response to his request (above).

And then I thought, Why do they accuse us of being the haters?

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49 Responses to “ Rhetorical Strategy in the Marriage Debate: People vs. an Institution ”

  1. Gays don’t wish to attack the institution of marriage, they wish to embrace it it. They see it as a good thing.

    It is immoral to prevent gay couples from marrying because they are gay. Many religious and non-religious people are coming to share that view. That is, I believe, why the anti-gay marriage people are on the losing side.

  2. To “embrace” an institution by altering its core principles, membership standards, and meaning, is to attack it. If this were any other institution we were talking about, you would agree in a split second. To deny that here is to partake of double-think. Boa constrictors embrace, too.

    (Your second paragraph is a repeat of widely known beliefs, already part of the discussion, more clearly articulated elsewhere and also responded to elsewhere, so for my part I’m content to leave that part of it elsewhere.)

  3. “Notice now how none of what I’ve said so far has anything to do with whether one side or the other is more nearly right.”

    Except it does. Throughout the article, you put “marriage” in scare quotes when talking about same-sex marriage, implicitly indicating that it’s not *really* marriage. The problem is that, once again, you’re misunderstanding the nature of the debate; this time, in two ways.

    First, my “side” doesn’t care at all about your prescriptivist definitions of marriage. You can have them. We’re over here discussing a legal issue in court. If you want to counter our arguments, you need to supply legal arguments of your own. In court. File an amicus brief or something. Do what you’d do if this was a debate about taxation laws.

    Your second error has to do with the bakers – that’s actually an entirely separate debate. Whether a Christian baker has to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding is a matter of public accomodation law, not marriage law. You can even find people who are in favor of same-sex marriage, but against public accomodation (usually of a libertarian persuasion). And again, this is a legal matter.

    But finally: even though you disagree, maybe you should just concede the issue. It’s really not that important; it’s not like abortion, where your view is that human persons are being murdered – I can understand continued opposition to that, even though I disagree. But the Netherlands are fine. Canada is fine. Massachusetts is fine. Every place in the world that’s legalized same-sex marriage is not worse off because of it. The sky isn’t falling. Society isn’t crumbling. No one is actually being harmed. Straight people aren’t refusing to marry. Kids aren’t growing up dysfunctional. People are just going about their lives like they always have.

  4. SF,

    This is a legal and also a public policy and also a public relations and also a public perceptions matter. If your side were only filing amicus briefs, I wouldn’t laugh at your recommendation that we stick to filing amicus briefs. As it is, though, your suggestion is hilarious. So is your description of the nature of the debate.

    I can neither see nor imagine where you find me making that supposed second mistake with the bakers in this post.

    We’re not conceding because we don’t believe everything is just fine. You do. We don’t.

  5. I’ll grant you your point about the quotes, though they’re not scare quotes. They’re intended to communicate that some people call it “marriage,” but that I’m not one of them.

    So yes, to that extent what I wrote in the first part of the article does have that much connection to an opinion on which side is right. It doesn’t have any substantive impact on what I was trying to communicate there, however.

    I doubt it comes as any surprise to you, anyway, that the intended audience of this piece comprises people who share my view on marriage. No one needed my quotes around “marriage” to discern that, did they?

  6. Ok. Well if you’re not interested in making legal arguments, then you’ve already lost. Good news for me. 😛

  7. That’s funny too. I didn’t say that, did I?

    But it depends on who you mean by “you.” If you mean me, personally, then no, I’m not interested in filing amicus briefs, bringing suit, or whatever. I’ll leave that to those who have the legal standing and know-how. They’re doing it quite regularly, I assure you. I’m concentrating on the part where I can make a contribution, whatever that may be.

  8. To “embrace” an institution by altering its core principles, membership standards, and meaning, is to attack it.

    But gay marriage is not altering its real core principles, etc. etc. It is embracing them.

    You are under the mistaken impression that you can dictate to others what those core principles are based on your personal beliefs. Many religious and non-religious people don’t agree with your personal beliefs.

    You’ve lost the moral (and the legal) battle here.

  9. But finally: even though you disagree, maybe you should just concede the issue. It’s really not that important

    Even though we are in agreement in this issue, I don’t share your view that this is not important.

    All moral issues are important. It is immoral to try and prevent gay people from marrying each other. This is not just a legal issue.

  10. Hal @8:

    🙂

    You’re not exactly getting the point.

    To “embrace” an institution by declaring all its core ideals invalid, except those that you agree with, is also also to attack it.

    You are under the mistaken impression that gay-rights advocates can dictate the invalidation of centuries of practice by billions of people.

    We’ve “lost the moral battle” among those who think that morality is determined by the effective exercise of power, which is to say, we haven’t lost an actual moral battle.

  11. The text of Mark 10:6–9 would be much better to put on a cake for those wanting to make a positive statement about heterosexual marriage. Just bear in mind that it acts as a hypocrisy amplifier if the couple ever decides to divorce.

    Speaking of divorce, if society hadn’t slid from a position where divorce was an extreme measure to a point where divorce is basically routine, I think it’s unlikely that we’d be having this argument about gay marriage now. Not wanting to derail the discussion, but what if “marriage” were a one-time-only thing: i.e. you can “get married” once and only once, beyond which, if you divorce, you can choose to live with someone, but it isn’t “marriage” (because you had your chance at that and blew it) — it’s just “partnership” or “civil union” or whatever. That might serve at least to imbue marriage with some of the preciousness that it’s lost. It would also be somewhat in line with what Jesus says in Mark 10:11-12 — remarriage is adultery.

  12. Hi Tom,

    “Here’s the problem in a nutshell:

    Every gay marriage wedding cake, no matter how it’s decorated, says the man-woman-only view of marriage is wrong; but it takes special effort to make a man and woman’s wedding cake communicate that gay marriage is wrong.”

    You only used the word only (as in man-woman-only) in the first phrase, so the comparison is unfair. You could have said in the second part,

    “… it takes a species effort to make a man-woman-only wedding cake …”

    But this is an imaginary item. And if it was real it would communicate the message with no special effort, so your point would be invalid. Alternatively you could have said in the first part,

    “Every gay marriage wedding cake, no matter how it’s decorated, says the man-woman view of marriage is wrong;”

    And this is incorrect. No gay marriage wedding cake makes any kind of statement of a heterosexual marriage.

    “That’s just symbolic of the problem, of course. ”

    I agree that your distortion of the example is symbolic of the problem.

    “To “embrace” an institution by altering its core principles, membership standards, and meaning, is to attack it. If this were any other institution we were talking about, you would agree in a split second.”

    Do you think giving women the vote was an attack on democracy? Do you think allowing them to own land, companies and other assets was an attack on the economy? Do you think allowing them to run for office was an attack on the political institution? The argument that gay marriage is an attack on an historical institution is a bad one. The rules of historical institutions change all the time. Or the institutions that refuse to adapt go extinct. If you want to make the argument that gay marriage is bad for society then by all means make your case. “It’s tradition!” does not help you.

    Sincerely
    Shane

  13. Shane the more I read your comment the more I think you’re trying to tell me I should have said what I actually did say. I was trying to make the point that there’s an unfair comparison there. All the alternatives you suggest and then reject happen to be alternatives that I would have rejected had I thought of them, for the same reasons you say.

    It still remains the case that when a same-sex couple gets married, they are rejecting the man-woman-only view of marriage (and so, symbolically, is their cake). They’re specifically rejecting the man-woman-only view, as you seem to recognize, and which I was trying to say. So I’m not sure what you’re objecting to.

    I do not think giving women the right to vote was an attack on democracy. Any other questions?

    I was not making an argument from tradition here, as you seem to think. I was making an argument from identity and principles. When someone from outside proposes to “embrace” an institution by fundamentally changing its identity and its principles, that’s generally considered an attack on that institution.

  14. I was not making an argument from tradition here, as you seem to think. I was making an argument from identity and principles.

    Apparently this “identity and principles” is based on a traditional view of marriage. So it amounts to an argument from tradition.

    When someone from outside proposes to “embrace” an institution by fundamentally changing its identity and its principles, that’s generally considered an attack on that institution.

    You are failing to realize that others don’t agree with your understanding of what marriage is and its core principles.

    Aside from that, what has been destroyed? Straight couples are still equally free to marry. The religious and non-religious traditions can still be followed by those choosing to marry.

    We’ve “lost the moral battle” among those who think that morality is determined by the effective exercise of power, which is to say, we haven’t lost an actual moral battle.

    You have it backwards. When enough people realize that something is immoral then they have the power to fight against it. This effective power is dependent on the moral decision in this case. The more people come to the realization that there is nothing wrong or evil in gay marriage the stronger the political power to prevent others from enforcing their opposing moral view in the public sphere.

  15. Hal, I realize other people don’t agree with me on what marriage’s core principles should be. You’re not realizing that the same-sex marriage movement is changing its core principles anyway. This is uncontroversial. Marriage in 1950 had certain core principles, none of which included same-sex couples. Marriage in 2000 had certain core principles, none of which (save for a bare minority of opinions) included same-sex couples. Your “embrace” involves invalidating core principles of marriage.

    Sure, we disagree on what its core principles should be, but that hasn’t been the topic of discussion.

    This is not an argument from tradition, and your saying it is doesn’t actually make it so. Yes, it’s an argument from history, because when one speaks of changing core principles, one is automatically implying a change from a past circumstance to a later one. The fact that the past circumstance is past does not, however, entail that there is nothing to that circumstance except tradition. To say it’s an argument from tradition is to imply that it’s an argument from no other principles except for tradition, which is simply (again) to invalidate an institution’s prior identity based on your current values.

    What has been destroyed? That’s a very large question that I don’t have time to answer here. It doesn’t necessarily bear on the “embrace” question anyway.

    Your answer on the moral issue: I can see how you would say that, but recall that I had raised the power question in response to your statement that we had “lost” on the moral question. What is your evidence that we’ve lost? As far as I can tell, it’s your numerical advantage; hence my statement that it was a power issue.

  16. @Hal Friederichs:

    Apparently this “identity and principles” is based on a traditional view of marriage. So it amounts to an argument from tradition.

    What a jaw-droppingly stupid argument.

    You are failing to realize that others don’t agree with your understanding of what marriage is and its core principles.

    You are failing to realize that *we* do not agree with *your* understanding of what marriage is.

    Aside from that, what has been destroyed? Straight couples are still equally free to marry. The religious and non-religious traditions can still be followed by those choosing to marry.

    After making jaw-droppingly stupid arguments, do you really think your feigned ignorance means anything?

    The more people come to the realization that there is nothing wrong or evil in gay marriage the stronger the political power to prevent others from enforcing their opposing moral view in the public sphere.

    The idea here seems to be:

    (1) There is nothing “wrong or evil in gay marriage”.

    Because Mr. Hal Friederichs says so, it must be so. Right. As usual, the cluelessness, both historical and philosophical, of the SSM proponents is so vast and abundant, that one has to gently and patiently educate them on the implications of their *own* positions. Grant for the sake of argument that Mr. Hal Friederichs is correct. This would mean that the *whole* of Humanity would have been wrong on a *core* moral principle for 99.999% of its History. Which seems to imply that Humanity is simply incapable, as a matter of principle, of reaching sound moral conclusions; which implies that whatever moral conclusions that Mr. Hal Friederichs himself reaches are themselves suspicious, since he is a human being (last we heard) and human being’s moral reasoning is essentially flawed.

    (2) Then it comes the appeal to power of the majority.

    As if matters of truth were decided by popular vote. The way of sophists and demagogues.

  17. Even if Hal was right (and to be upfront, he is not) that pointing out that embracing same sex “marriage” entails a change in the institution is merely an argument from tradition. It seems to me that it would also likewise be true that to embrace same sex “marriage” as the new way of doing marriage is just another argument from tradition. The only difference is between past tradition and a new tradition. So, again, even if Hal is right (and he is not), he is still wrong. His argument defeats itself.

  18. “But gay marriage is not altering its real core principles, etc. etc. It is embracing them.”

    Maybe if gay marriage proponents are really so interested in embracing the core principles of marriage, they could help to embrace the core principles of permanence, fidelity and procreation by abolishing no-fault divorce, making adultery a legally actionable offence, and establishing inability to conceive as a grounds for annulment.

    In the real world, meanwhile, I think we all know that, if any of the above proposals were ever seriously mooted, the loudest yelps of opposition would come from those who are currently raising the rafters in favour of gay marriage. Embracing the core principles my backside.

    “First, my “side” doesn’t care at all about your prescriptivist definitions of marriage. You can have them.”

    Clearly you do care, which is why you’re so eager to force everybody into line.

    Unless what you actually mean is “We don’t care what you think, as long as you never, ever let your thoughts inform your actions.” By which logic, I suppose, the North Korean government doesn’t care what its citizens think of their Dear Leader.

  19. Oh, okay, thanks for clarifying. For a minute there I thought that maybe you thought that gay people had a different sense of morality than straight people.

  20. OS,
    Sarcasm aside, if there can be a gay marriage, why can’t there also be a gay morality? What are the principles upon which one is a legitimate institution, and the other is not?

  21. Tom, there are plenty of gay people and people who are supportive of gays and gay marriage who believe in a transcendent morality. Their understanding of what that transcendent morality is is just different from yours.

    SteveK, morality is an institution? It’s late and my mind is not at its best, but I don’t think we would want morality to be an institution…isn’t morality outside all institutions? Supersede them? Allow us to question them and hold them accountable? I don’t think morality is supposed to be contained or containable in any kind of institution…

  22. OS:
    in·sti·tu·tion

    2a: a significant practice, relationship, or organization in a society or culture

    Of course, I agree with what you are saying about morality, but then I have objective principles on my side – the same objective principles that render marriage a fixed entity.

  23. Sorry, SteveK, don’t see how the definition sheds any light. Still think the usefulness of morality depends on it being outside and separate from our practices, relationships, and organizations.

  24. “Canada is fine. Massachusetts is fine. Every place in the world that’s legalized same-sex marriage is not worse off because of it. The sky isn’t falling. Society isn’t crumbling. No one is actually being harmed.”

    Uhhh, not fine. Through the Trojan horse of “anti-bullying”, gay lifestyle is now being rammed into the schools and sold as a positive, normal life choice. They’re not asking for “No Bullying (of any kind) Clubs” they’re pushing for “gay/straight alliances” in order to promote the gay side to kids in schools.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/alberta/what-you-need-to-know-about-bill-10-and-alberta-gay-students-rights/article21964421/

  25. http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2014/11/the_zerosum_game_we_dont_want.html

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/12/17/marquette-university-tells-employees-opposition-to-same-sex-marriage-could-be-unlawful-harassment/

    http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/11/24/marquette-university-student-silenced-over-anti-same-sex-marriage-views/

    The above links all concern the same story about a Marquette student who was told by his GTA that it would not be appropriate in her class to defend the man-woman view of marriage. Following that, a tenured professor at the school has been put on probation for blogging about the situation. From what I understand, it may be considered harassment at the school for a person to ever speak in defense of the man-woman view of marriage.

    This might be the best real world example of our opponent’s use of what I am thinking is (for them) an intrinsic defeater to our position. To them for a person to offer up a philosophical argument for the man/woman view is not acceptable because the ‘rights of lgbt people are simply not debatable’.

    If anyone has thoughts about a rhetorical strategy to deal with this I am all ears. I am afraid this may be the position we find ourselves more and more often. It seems to me that when encountering people who hold this extreme of a position that any debating will just dig the hole deeper. After all, if it is inherently a moral wrong to philosophically argue for our man/woman marriage position, it would follow that it is wrong to argue for the space to argue for this position (i.e. it would be wrong to even attempt to explain why it is not wrong to argue for the man/woman view).

  26. What is your evidence that we’ve lost? As far as I can tell, it’s your numerical advantage; hence my statement that it was a power issue.

    And I’ll simply reiterate that the power is a result of the moral victory.

    People are coming to the realization that homosexulaity is not wrong or evil just as at one time they came to a realization that enslaving other humans is wrong.

  27. (1) There is nothing “wrong or evil in gay marriage”.

    Because Mr. Hal Friederichs says so, it must be so.

    No. I could be mistaken.

    So could you.

    That is the nature of moral problems. We have no absolute way of determining the truth or falsity of any particular moral position. People usually have different reasons for holding any particular moral position.

  28. @Hal Friederichs:

    We have no absolute way of determining the truth or falsity of any particular moral position.

    We don’t? So when you loudmouth in a snotty authoritative tone that Homossexuality is not “wrong” or “evil” you are just venting frustration on us blameless lot, is it?

    People usually have different reasons for holding any particular moral position.

    That indeed they do; why is this important is anybody’s guess. But there are also people that hold certain moral positions for absolutely no reason at all, no ratio, no raison d’être. Seemingly; like you.

  29. Thus refuting your own position in #33. Almost funny.

    How so?
    Unless one recognizes the possibility that they hold an immoral position they cannot be persuaded to change their moral views. At one time I thought homosexuality was morally wrong. I’ve since come to realize how mistaken that view is.

    And why spend so much time blogging over moral issues if you don’t believe that others can change their views?

  30. http://www.kentucky.com/2014/12/09/3584806/hands-on-originals-appeals-ruling.html

    A t-shirt printing business in Kentucky has been found guilty of discrimination for not printing t-shirts for an LGBT pride festival. Hands on Originals simply did not want to print t-shirts with a message they disagree with. I think the type of strategy that Mr. Shoebat employed with asking bakeries actually works with respect to t-shirt printers.

    A printer that refused to print shirts that had a pro-marriage message would be “discriminatory” in the exact same way that Hands on Originals has bee found to be.

    I have also thought that, simply to test the system, two (straight) men or women should seek out the services of a wedding vendor (photographer, baker, caterer, etc) for their “wedding” and sue the first one that denies them because they do not do same sex “weddings”. Maybe it would not change any laws, but at least it would be really awkward for people who argue that such a thing discriminates against LGBT people.

  31. Hi all,

    I hope everyone had as tremendous a Christmas as I did, surrounded by friends, family and loved ones. I wish you all the very best for 2015 and beyond.

    “Shane the more I read your comment the more I think you’re trying to tell me I should have said what I actually did say. I was trying to make the point that there’s an unfair comparison there. All the alternatives you suggest and then reject happen to be alternatives that I would have rejected had I thought of them, for the same reasons you say.

    It still remains the case that when a same-sex couple gets married, they are rejecting the man-woman-only view of marriage (and so, symbolically, is their cake). They’re specifically rejecting the man-woman-only view, as you seem to recognize, and which I was trying to say. So I’m not sure what you’re objecting to.”

    The objection is that your judicious use of the word “only” is an unfair comparison between the two scenarios. A third wording has occurred to me which might make my point clearer:

    “Every gay marriage wedding cake, no matter how it’s decorated, says the man-woman-only view of marriage is wrong; and every man and woman’s wedding cake, no matter how it’s decorated, says the gay-only view of marriage is wrong.”

    But no-one thinks marriage should be a gay-only institution either. I cannot think of a way of to make the sentence even handed, that also illustrates the truth of the scenarios because the people for man-woman-only marriages are trying to be restrictive and the people for gay marriages are trying to be inclusive.

    It’s harder to show that a cake for heterosexual couple means the couple ONLY believes in opposite sex marriage? It is obvious that that people trying to be restrictive need to be more specific in their messages. An interracial wedding cake is going to be easier to make than one reflecting the value that people should only marry their own “kind”. Do you think that’s symbolic of some problem as well?

    “I do not think giving women the right to vote was an attack on democracy. Any other questions?”

    Why was it not an attack on democracy as it was an obvious attempt to alter its “membership standards” based purely on gender? Alternatively if you believe that altering membership standards of an institution, based purely on gender alone, does not “alter the institutions core principles and meaning”, then why can this argument not be made for allowing same sex marriage?

    Cheers
    Shane

  32. Happy new year to you, Shane.

    The best reading I can make of the first part of your comment just now is this: you see a rhetorical asymmetry in the marriage debate. That was my point in the OP, so I’m content to leave it at that.

    Democracy’s voting standards are not essentially tied to gender, as marriage essentially is. One situation is based in what was before and still remains essentially true about male and female. The other is based in what we now know to be what philosophers categorize as “accidents” of womanhood: aspects of womanhood that are neither essential to nor definitive of womanhood. More importantly, of course, they are “accidents” that have turned out in fact not only to be non-essential but not even true.

    There is no inconsistency there at all.

  33. Hi Tom,

    Yes, beliefs concerning aspects of women were discovered to be false. So what are the essential truths of male and female as they relate to the core principles and meaning of marriage? Men and women both have the elements/ability/temperament needed to be a successful partner in a marriage. The argument against same sex marriage must be that men and/or woman need a member of the opposite gender to be able to fulfil their role as a spouse and uphold the core principles. This seems to me to be another old belief that is not even true.

    Cheers
    Shane

  34. Sarcasm aside, if there can be a gay marriage, why can’t there also be a gay morality?

    @ Steve K, I would imagine on the same basis as Liz Feldman said, “It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage. Or as I like to call it: marriage. You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. I parked my car; I didn’t gay park it.”

    Which gets right back to the nub of the matter – marriage, from a sacramental point of view, is a union between a man and a woman. It is incapable of being a union between two people of the same sex.

    Funnily enough, over here in the UK, we have had for some years Civil Partnerships, which allow same sex couples to form a union which is, to all practical and legal intents and purposes, a marriage. The restriction of these partnerships to same sex couples is now being challenged by heterosexual couples who don’t want to marry, but wish to be civil partners.

  35. Since this “experiment” some of these bakers have come out defending their position, 1 saying that they told Shoebat they would make the cake with a place for him to make the inscription, and another that they would not make that cake or a cake that said something to the effect Of “God Sucks.” Either way, they don’t think, and I agree, that they weren’t being discriminatory because they would make the cake without the message. The purchaser could inscribe whatever they wanted later.

    An analog would have been to request a Communion or Confirmation or even a wedding cake. And, I guarantee that a gay (or Jewish or whatever) baker would not have a problem. And, what is the difference between a gay wedding cake and a straight wedding cake? There is typically no inscription on a wedding cake. If there is it is a set of names. Why couldn’t a baker, regardless of religion, make a cake and say, let the consumer add the topper or inscription, as one of the bakers in this test suggested?

  36. Of course the court has already rejected Shoebat’s argument. From Judge Robert Spencer’s decision in the Colorado case:

    https://www.aclu.org/sites/def

    There is no doubt that decorating a wedding cake involves considerable skill and artistry. However, the finished product does not necessarily qualify as “speech,” as would saluting a flag, marching in a parade, or displaying a motto
    .
    United States v. O’Brien,
    391 U.S. 367, 376 (1968) (“We cannot accept the view that an apparently limitless variety of conduct can be labeled ‘speech’ whenever the person engaging in the conduct intends thereby to express an idea.”)6

    The undisputed evidence is that Phillips categorically refused to prepare a cake for Complainants’ same-sex wedding before there was any discussion about what that cake would look like. Phillips was not asked to apply any message or symbol to the cake, or to construct the cake in any fashion that could be reasonably understood as advocating same-sex marriage. After being refused, Complainants immediately left the shop.
    For all Phillips knew at the time, Complainants might have wanted a nondescript cake that would have been suitable for consumption at any wedding. Therefore, Respondents’ claim that they refused to provide a cake because it would convey a message supporting same-sex marriage is specious.

    The act of preparing a cake is simply not“speech” warranting First Amendment protection.

    and later…

    Respondents argue that if they are compelled to make a cake for a same-sex wedding then a black baker could not refuse to make a cake bearing a white supremacist message for a member of the Aryan Nation; and an Islamic baker could not refuse to make a cake denigrating the Koran for the Westboro Baptist Church.

    However, neither of these fanciful hypothetical situations proves Respondents’ point In both cases it is the explicit, unmistakable, offensive message that the bakers are asked to put on the cake that gives rise to the bakers’ free speech right to refuse. That, however, is not the case here, where Respondents refused to bake any cake for Complainants regardless of what was written on it or what it looked like. Respondents have no free speech right to refuse because they were only asked to bake a cake, not make a speech.

    A baker baking a cake is not engaging in a speech act or a religious act. It’s a business transaction.

  37. And then I thought, Why do they accuse us of being the haters?

    I found this blog post (see my link below) incredibly insightful/helpful on this question. It helped move me from my thinking that “Christians are really just good, decent people and it is wrong to call them bigots [due to SSM]” to thinking, “Christians are good, decent people, who happen to be bigots [due to SSM].”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/06/11/you-cant-deny-people-their-rights-and-be-nice-about-it/

  38. Thanks for sharing, Philmonomer.

    Your opinion is based on the assumption that we’re denying civil rights to gays. If we were, then I agree we’d be bigots for it. But that’s the issue in question, isn’t it? If you assume the conclusion (we’re denying civil rights) then you can also assume we’re bigots, and you can also look back and realize there’s a circular argument going on when you assume the conclusion.

    You’re calling Christians bigots. That’s ironic. You’ve stereotyped us based on our group membership.

    I’d enjoy it if we could get a cup of coffee together sometime, and you could get to know me and I you; and then after we talked for an hour or two, you could decide whether you think I’m a hater, a bigot or whatever. Unless and until we did that, however, you’re drawing conclusions about me when you don’t actually know me. You’re stereotyping.

    Do you believe in stereotyping, Philmonomer?

  39. Your opinion is based on the assumption that we’re denying civil rights to gays. If we were, then I agree we’d be bigots for it. But that’s the issue in question, isn’t it? If you assume the conclusion (we’re denying civil rights) then you can also assume we’re bigots, and you can also look back and realize there’s a circular argument going on when you assume the conclusion.

    I don’t actually disagree with any of this. Yes, my position is based on the fact that I believe you are denying civil rights to gays.

    You’re calling Christians bigots. That’s ironic. You’ve stereotyped us based on our group membership.

    Huh? I’m not sure I see the “group membership” as the basis for the stereotype. It is the position (held by the group) (Anti-SSM) that I see as bigoted.

    I’d enjoy it if we could get a cup of coffee together sometime, and you could get to know me and I you; and then after we talked for an hour or two, you could decide whether you think I’m a hater, a bigot or whatever.

    I’d love a cup of coffee too. By all accounts on your blog here, you seem to be a fascinating person. You are probably also not any sort of hater, or whatever, in person (or at all). But I think you hold a bigoted position. (BTW, I probably hold some too. That would be some fascinating self-reflection. 🙂 Also, you can get into semantics pretty easily–what exactly, is bigotry?)

    Unless and until we did that, however, you’re drawing conclusions about me when you don’t actually know me. You’re stereotyping.

    Well, I’ve seen from the blog that you are against SSM. That’s what I am referring to. (And yes, I’ve been loose with “holds a bigoted position” versus “is a bigot.” I am using them interchangeably, and that probably isn’t fair.)

    Do you believe in stereotyping, Philmonomer?

    If I meet a conservative evangelical Christian, I stereotype them. If I meet a progressive evangelical Christian, I stereotype them. I don’t think I/we can do otherwise (it’s innate). But I try to always be open to being wrong.