When the Arguments of the Best and the Brightest are Mediocre and Dim
April 11th, 2014
Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation is one of the most active, best funded, and intellectually respectable opponents of marriage equality.
Of course, that’s a very low bar. To see just how poor his arguments are, look at the reasoning from this anti-gay wunderkind, as he tries to show why opposition to same-sex marriage is nothing like opposition to interracial marriage:
Bans on interracial marriage and Jim Crow laws, by contrast, were aspects of a much larger insidious movement that denied the fundamental equality and dignity of all human beings and forcibly segregated citizens. When these interracial marriage bans first arose in the American colonies, they were inconsistent not only with the common law inherited from England, but also with the customs of prior world history, which had not banned interracial marriage. These bans were based not on reason, but on prejudiced ideas about race that emerged in the modern period and that refused to regard all human beings as equal. This led to revisionist, unreasonable conclusions about marriage policy. Thinking that marriage has anything at all to do with race is unreasonable, and as a historical matter, few great thinkers ever suggested that it did.
Well, thanks, Ryan, because except for that historical bit (and maybe not even that), you’ve managed to demonstrate that these bans are exactly parallel. You’ve made it so easy to adapt your statement to this:
Bans on same-sex marriage are aspects of a much larger insidious movement that denied the fundamental equality and dignity of all human beings and forcibly segregated citizens into two groups: those who can marry their committed life-long partners and those who cannot. These bans are based not on reason, but on prejudiced ideas about gays and lesbians that refuse to regard all human beings as equal. This has led to unreasonable conclusions about marriage policy. Thinking that marriage must be segregated by gender is unreasonable.
Now, Ryan may object that his reasons for opposing same-sex marriage aren’t dehumanizing. After all, he might say, I co-wrote a whole book against same-sex marriage without ever calling gays icky. Mmmm…perhaps. But that book is based on a view of sexuality and morality that does thoroughly dehumanize gay people and our relationships, and is in fact so convoluted that its proponents have literally had to address the question of — and I’m not making this up! — whether it’s immoral to chew sugarless gum (the answer is maybe — page 317).
But all that’s irrelevant, because no bans came about because of voters’ nuanced understanding of the convoluted intricacies of Catholic natural law theory. No, these bans happened because voters were told that gays are selfish, defective, immoral dangers to children whose lives are built around lust, never love. That’s why the bans exist, and that, Ryan, is why your reasoning leads to the opposite of your conclusion.
This might not daunt Ryan, though, because he would spy the last sentence in my adaptation (“Thinking that marriage must be segregated by gender is unreasonable”), leap on it with a victorious cry, and proclaim:
In the name of equality, same-sex marriage seeks to codify gender discrimination!
Yes, he really believes that supporters of marriage equality are the segregationists.
Those aren’t his words up there in bold, but they are (verbatim) a position he has quoted and promoted. By this reasoning, laws allowing you to marry a spouse of the same race seek to codify racial discrimination. And laws that allow you to marry a spouse of the same religion? They codify religious discrimination. In reality, of course, it ought to be clear that laws allowing the government to dictate the gender of your spouse are the laws that codify gender discrimination.
I doubt Ryan will ever see that, though, and homophobia is the reason why. I don’t think homophobia requires frothing expressions of hatred. Mere disapproval is enough as long as that sentiment robs you of the ability to think rationally about homosexuality. We call it a phobia because it’s a psychological problem. We call it a psychological problem because it’s hard to understand why otherwise intelligent people make such ludicrous errors of logic. Such as…well, such as not recognizing your arguments achieve the opposite of what you intend, or that allowing people to choose the gender of their spouse is the same as legally-mandated gender discrimination.
Actually, it’s not quite right to say Ryan is irrational because he’s homophobic. That’s tautological, like a doctor saying you’ve got a rash because you have dermatitis. Frankly, I don’t know why Ryan is homophobic, why his ability to reason disappears when he thinks about homosexuality. I just know that it does. If the leadership of our opposition is passing from a rabid Brian Brown of NOM to a gentle and reasonable Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, and if this is an example of a reasonable Ryan Anderson, then I think we have little to fear.