The opposition goes silent
June 20th, 2013
However, I think that a shift has occurred that is not well measured by polls. I believe that the nation has changed its views on who bears the burden of proof. This is, in many ways, a more important shift than merely those who favor or oppose same-sex marriage; it’s a shift in how the debate is conducted.
Until recently, there has been an understanding that many Americans opposed same-sex marriage, and that their objections would be voiced with conviction. Whether one agreed or disagreed, it was not considered to be outside of reasonable debate that a politician would hold their head high and declare that they “support traditional marriage” with more than a hint of “and you should too”.
And those who championed equality didn’t get off so lightly. We were expected to defend our position, to explain just why it is that our demands were justified or our ‘change in the rules’ is needed. We had the burden of proof. We started from a defensive position.
But now it is those who oppose equality that must explain themselves. Where once “I support the traditional definition of marriage” was sufficient, now even those who also fear including same-sex couples are not content with such a limited explanation. Now the trite phrase is issued – if at all – with more of an air of defensiveness than with a presumption that surely all reasonable people agree.
Other issues which divide the nation are strongly debated. And the public doesn’t think any less about those who strongly support or oppose positions on immigration, gun legislation, tax policy, or even Obamacare. You may disagree, but while your opponent is “wrong”, they are not “vile”.
But it seems to me that we have entered a phase in which one can be “not ready” or “not convinced” or “not yet evolved” on the issue of marriage equality. That’s simply opinion. But to be actively opposed suggests a character flaw, something with a whiff of nastiness and maybe even vile. The public – right and left – seem to have decided that you can support gay marriage or you can not support gay marriage, but you can’t oppose gay marriage any longer.
So more and more, those who can safely be assumed to favor heterosexual superiority simply choose to say nothing. Instead of defending their God-given moral view, they announce their support for states’ rights, defer to the wisdom of the courts, or just change the subject.
Politician after politician, those most skilled at detecting the currents of the populace, have suddenly found that they just aren’t all that worked up about the issue. Even George W. Bush, the man most tied to the campaign against equality, decided that he just doesn’t have an opinion anymore.
And today we have another good example.
The Palm Beach Post has an article about activists in Florida beginning a campaign to change minds in that state towards an eventual referendum to reverse their constitutional ban on marriage equality. It’s a nice article, but the most interesting paragraph is this:
Republican Gov. Rick Scott is staying out of the argument, however. Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz noted that voters put the ban in the constitution before he was governor and that he is focused on other issues.
Translated out of politician speak, Scott said, “My view on marriage is… ummm… look a squirrel.”