In the summer of 2008, the American Family Association’s Christian news outlet, OneNewsNow, experienced an Olympic fail: The group’s automated system for republishing news articles – through a strict policy of replacing the word gay with the word homosexual – hit a glitch when it posted a story about a world class sprinter named Tyson Gay on its website.
The story’s altered headline: “Tyson Homosexual was a blur in blue, sprinting 100 meters faster than anyone ever has.”
On its surface the AFA’s faux pas appears insignificant. After all, the article went on to assert, “Homosexual dominated the competition,” and included several interesting details related to how Mr. Homosexual “kept pumping those legs all the way through the finish line.” But bloggers quickly took to the Internet to expose the AFA’s strategy to classify, symbolize, and dehumanize gay and lesbian relationships by working to sexualize those relationships in the eyes of onlookers.
The AFA realized a need to manipulate colloquial speech and diligently manage their vernacular to capitalize on the visceral response the word homosexual evoked from their target audience. The arranged marriage of sex andhomosexual was an attempt to turn the tide of a rapidly growing acceptance of gay couples. By refuting any notion that those relationships were anything more than degenerate and filthy, social conservatives could cast any desire for same-sex couples to wed as nothing more than an attempt to pervert the institution of marriage.
In the four years since Tyson Homosexual qualified for the Beijing Olympics, the AFA’s approach has failed so miserably that during last week’s oral arguments about gay marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t waste a moment debating whether gay and lesbian couples were right or wrong. Or, if those relationships were as good as those of opposite sex couples. There really wasn’t even a debate about whether or not a basic inequality exists because of the federal government’s position to deny the same rights and responsibilities of marriage to all married couples.
The questions from the Justices were technical, but simple and straightforward: Are these the right circumstances; is this the proper method; and is it the right time to integrate gays and lesbians into marriage? The Court pretty much sidestepped all discussions had at the state level during the ballot initiatives, referenda and legislative actions of the past 20 years. Why? The arguments peddled to electorates, state-by-state, weren’t brought up because they were thoroughly discredited on their merits at each of the lower courts.
You can’t build an argument on a fictitious foundation and then wonder why no one wants to assign any weight to your words. The reason people’s views on marriage equality are changing is because we aren’t facing the wrinkle in the fabric of society some would have us believe.
If you get your way by manipulating the people in a system, you end up in a system where the people who once supported you may realize they’ve been manipulated. When pressed or challenged on their views, and unable to justify the arguments fed to them, they’ll lose faith and bail.
Upon thoughtful reflection, more people are finding it nobler to jump from a sinking ship of discrimination than to go down defending it. Chief Justice Roberts pointed out, “political leaders are falling all over themselves” to endorse same-sex marriage, and those political leaders are citing the real stories of their own families and constituents to do so.
Soon we will look back and realize it took two decades to undo what was done in 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed, and when we do, it won’t be the oral arguments made in a courtroom that caused our see-change. It will have been the legitimacy of the oral arguments we ascribe among ourselves that’ll have moved us to focus on our families.