I Do Not Think Rational Means What They Think It Means

Rob Tisinai

May 30th, 2012

Minnesota for Marriage (M4M) is pushing for a state marriage amendment with a series of short videos. They’ve used a number of tactics, including deceit, but their latest effort is like an arrow that doesn’t even try to find the target.

The video claims to deal with this question:

Is it true that Minnesota’s marriage law has no rational basis and only exists because of moral animosity toward gays and lesbians?

The clip starts off with a nice, logic-free ad hominem attack on Judge Vaughn Walker, who struck down California’s Prop 8. Then it continues:

Minnesota’s marriage law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, just as the law in 44 other states, is not only rational, but is profoundly in the common good. It is motivated by a sincere and well-placed interest in ensuring that children born of the sexual union of men and women are known by and cared for by their own parents. Children need a mother and a father. Marriage is society’s way of channeling potentially procreative relationships between men and women into intact families that are the ideal environment for children. So this is not about animosity toward gays and lesbians; it’s about promoting healthy families.

Did you see what isn’t there? Look again — it still isn’t there. Nowhere in this statement does M4M explain why same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

This video makes a case for allowing a man and woman to marry, especially for allowing a child’s mother and father to marry. That’s all. It establishes why some couples should be able to marry — without addressing why other couples should not.

But Minnesota’s proposed marriage amendment doesn’t affect the right of opposite-sex couples to marry — and further, nobody I know is threatening that right — so the video’s argument is irrelevant. This amendment is all about keeping same-sex couples (and, I suppose, groups of more than two) from marrying, but the video offers no justification for that at all. Perhaps you can extend its reasoning and come up with something, but the people who spent time and money taping this didn’t bother.

The video stumbles its way into perfect irony. If you claim you’re going to prove a rational basis for your policy, and then offer an argument that ignores the policy altogether, you might as well shout to world, “We have no rational basis for what we do!”

* Meanwhile, M4M could use this video’s rationale to promote marriage between a sexually-involved brother and sister/mother and  son/ father and daughter. And they still haven’t explained why marriage has to be just one man and just one woman. Really, M4M needs to work harder on its irrationales before committing them to video.


May 30th, 2012

They act is if gay couples are somehow stealing straight couples’ children.


May 30th, 2012

The rational basis for marriage equality has nothing to do with what kinds of families are formed, what kinds of commitments are involved, or, for that matter, whether or not the two people love each other.

Marriage laws define marriage as a civil contract between two people. Some state laws say this contract can be entered into only by two people of opposite gender. All marriage laws have other restrictions on who can enter into the contract, such as age.

What other civil contract is restricted by gender? Two men can enter into a business partnership. Two women can enter into a real estate contract. When I bought my car, the contract was signed by two men, me and the dealer representative. Most if not all laws limiting women from entering into contracts have been repealed or overturned by the courts.

On a rational basis, there is no reason to prevent two persons of the same gender from entering into the civil contract of marriage just as they are allowed to enter into other civil contracts.

Although my state’s marriage laws (one man/one woman) allow that failure to consummate the marriage within one year can be grounds for annulment, they do not require a married couple to have children.

Consistency in the child-bearing / child-raising argument demands support of laws that demand married couples bear children and prohibit them from divorcing as long as the children are minors. They make no such arguments or demands.


May 30th, 2012

And yet, RIGHT OVER THE NORTHERN BORDER of Minnesota, gays are getting married.

Just how insular are Americans, anyway? Don’t bother, the rest of us already know…


May 30th, 2012

It also doesn’t address the 40% of children born without the benefit of their parents being married, so marriage is apparently superfluous to procreation.

David in Houston

May 30th, 2012

This is the same warped logic that NOM uses. Children have a right to a mommy and daddy. Of course, they always fail to mention that procreation has never been a requirement to getting married; and, yes, it doesn’t make any kind of argument as to why gay couples shouldn’t be able to marry.


May 31st, 2012

@David in Houston. And marriage has never been a requirement to be able to procreate. Neither a marriage license or a wedding ritual magically activates our biological processes.


May 31st, 2012

It would be a lot funnier if their side didn’t pull this exact same thing *all the time* and pretty much always get away with it.

Timothy Kincaid

May 31st, 2012

It’s inconceivable.


May 31st, 2012

What’s more, defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman does *nothing whatsoever* to insure that children have a mother and a father, for the reasons David and jpeckjr have stated. Children will still be born to unmarried parents. Married parents will still get divorced.

There is no logical connection between the “marriage” amendment and the declared goal of making sure all children have a mother and father. If that’s not irrational, I don’t know what is.


May 31st, 2012

The reason the argument wins elections is that it (1) promotes a cultural ideal that even multiply-divorced straights carry in their minds, and (2) it sparks fear among many people that their marriage does not meet that ideal. Public policy issues are decided on emotions more often than on rationality.


May 31st, 2012

It’s propaganda. It’s not about logic or making sense nor even NOM’s core position. It’s designed to make people feel justified when they’re being prejudiced. It’s about eliciting an emotional response; specifically: “Them mean ‘ole gays made me feel bad for denying them equality but I AM justified!”

Fight fire with fire. We don’t have to produce our own baseless-propaganda-designed-to-illicit-an-emotional-response, but we ought to at least call them on their BS. And… I think we could tug on a few emotional strings while we’re at it… perhaps point out the fact that they’ve had to make over 21 mind-warping videos to explain & justify their position while ours rests on one word…


May 31st, 2012

@Blake: The thing is, we could actually appeal to emotions and remain legitimate. Imagine a commercial that shows two couples, one mixed-sex and the other same-sex. One person from each couple is lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to various machines. The second person in the mixed-sex couple walks in, receives a hug from the nurse, and goes to sit by zir spouse and hold zir hand.

Then show the other person in the same-sex couple approach the room, get stopped by a doctor, asked who zie is, and being told zie cannot see zir partner because they are not legally related. Have the partner walk away with tears in his eyes and through voiceover and/or subtitles, end with the message: “Marriage Equality: Because it affects real people.”

Timothy Kincaid

May 31st, 2012


I like it. Perhaps this as companion:

Man in suit in office says: “where’s Beverly? We need to go over this proposal.”

Receptionist: she had to take time off. It’s Parent Teacher Day.

Man: I know. But my wife went. Couldn’t Susan go instead? She’s the one who makes them do their homework anyway.

Receptionist: No. Not after that vote. According to the school Susan is a complete stranger and has no rights at all.

Man make a frustrated expression.

VoiceOver: inequality hurts all of us

(okay, not as good as yours, but a message I think we should also send)

Priya Lynn

May 31st, 2012

That’d be a great commercial Jarred. Perhaps you could send the idea to some of the organizations that fight the anti-marriage amendments.


May 31st, 2012

Better yet, have partner A’s children be denied visitation of a dying parent bc of inequality. In the case of the heterosexual couple, the children do get to visit. Focus in on the children (tears) “why can’t i visit mommy?”
cut to “it affects real people.”



May 31st, 2012

Timothy: I like yours as well. I actually envision a series of commercials of this sort, to be honest. Things that encourage people to look at the real effects of Marriage (In)Equality and think about the people whose lives they are voting on.

Priya: I may just do that. I’m really enamored of this idea.


May 31st, 2012

I think their point is something like this: “marriage is a promotion of sorts. If there is marriage equality, it will be like promoting same-sex marriage, which they think is at least not as healthy as opp-sex marriage.”

Maybe they feel that anything is supported = promotion. Like um… tax-free religious institutions?

Anyone care to clarify? Thanks!

Priya Lynn

May 31st, 2012

Ian, I think that’s to at least a degree the underlying “logic” to the silly arguments they come up with.

Donny D.

June 2nd, 2012

Steve wrote,

They act is if gay couples are somehow stealing straight couples’ children.

I think I’ve seen that assertion made by the anti-gays, never with any kind of follow up or support.

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