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12/10/2012

Social conservatives have done a huge disservice to reasoned marriage debate; they need to stop.

by Jeremy Hooper

Check out this snip that the Family Research Council's Ken Blackwell contributed to Townhall.com and then I'll meet you on the other side:

Married parents want to care for their own children. They usually do not want the Nanny State. Single parents and cohabiting parents are often forced to rely on government assistance.

If you want Socialism, abolish marriage. If you want "Julia" to be the future of America, vote against the civil institution of marriage. Julia, of course, was the Obama campaign team's fictional single woman target voter. Julia goes from Head Start to college, parenthood, to retirement in a seamless web of dependency on government. She decides to have a child at age 29. No man in her life is even hinted at-no husband, no father, no brother, not even a male friend or business partner. Except one. The One: Mr. Federal Government.

It's hard to understand why anyone would want to end traditional marriage. It's the HOV lane to the Welfare State. Why any conservative, libertarian, or Republican would want to advance this process is a mystery.

[Family Research Council via TownHall.com]

Okay, hi. Let's talk about this. If you were an extraterrestrial being who just stumbled upon this snip without any awareness of American "culture wars," you'd probably take a few things at face value. You'd assume that there are people out there who are trying to stop men and women from getting married. You'd likely believe that there is some force at work that is creating more single parents. Whatever the unnamed topic that the above snip is addressing, you'd surely assume that it involves some sort of tradeoff: traditional marriage of man and woman or this scary "other."

But of course the topic at hand is actually nothing more than the expansion of the freedom to marry. Blackwell's commentary is meant to decry same-sex marriage, here when that conversation is moving to this nation's highest court. When he talks about "end[ing] traditional marriage," he's quite literally suggesting that marriages like mine are what will do (or at least exacerbate) just that. The process for which he is faulting certain Republicans is the process that has led many of them to support civil equality for their LGBT neighbors. When this paid FRC employee speaks of "abolish[ing] marriage," he is laying that hyperbolic power within the ring-adorned hands of people like myself–hands that he is positioning as fists hellbent on punching through "traditional" paradigms until the America that he knows is fully decimated.

The social conservatives who traffic in this kind of rhetoric have done this nation a great (and gross) disservice. This debate, while surely still a debate no matter how it would have unfurled, could have been an honest discussion about civil marriage, the constitution, and how we confer certain rights and benefits under the state and federal laws of this land. Which is to say, it could have been the very conversation that our side has been trying to have (and to hold) from the very beginning. But social conservatives like Blackwell (and Perkins and Gallagher and Brown and LaBarbera and Limbaugh and Malkin and…) have refused to let reasoned debate about marriage interfere with their "culture warring." They have farted forth a steady parade of purple prose, with overstatement the order of the day. Thus, rather than have adult chatter about certain tangibles, we on the side of civil equality have had to scythe our way through thick layers of bullshit before even getting to the underlying discussion.

LGBT people and our supporters have had to dignify all of the indignities they have put on us. They have intentionally used war allegory (e.g. "defense of marriage"; "attack on the family"; "threaten our freedom"; "culture war") to make us seem like militants who are never about creating opportunity and always about knocking down something cherished. In turn, we have had to give intellectual credence to absurd talking points and outrageous claims that, quite frankly, are too anti-intellectual for any rational thinker to dignify. We have had to "prove" that we too love our heterosexual friends and neighbors. We have had to jump over higher bars than we would've had to clear precisely because their low bar debating style insisted on casting such deep and damning aspersions our way.

It numbs my mind, chills my spine, and sickens to my stomach to think of the millions of people who have been kept back because of a conservative commentariat that has insisted on filling column inches with such divisiveness. It will be on them forever, these years of riling up readers for the sake of their own fame, profit, and Value Voters Summit invites. But the battle scars from the war they declared on discourse has cut so many of us so damn deeply, I take little solace in my certitude over whose columns will ultimately be more persuasive. Real humans have suffered for TownHall's sins.

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