When the Arguments of the Best and the Brightest are Mediocre and Dim

Rob Tisinai

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 maybepage 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.


April 11th, 2014

denied the fundamental equality and dignity of all human beings and forcibly segregated citizens

I am delighted the word segregate and segregation are being used because THEY are segregationists. They want to segregate you out in the law, keep you apart separate from other citizens, not physically but under the law. It is the segregation of your rights under the law, it is segregating you from participating in all the State Benefits that straight people get. It’s segregation from rights and recognition by your government. They are simply segregationists.

I’m very happy to see Rob point this out and use this very important Civil rights word.


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.”

When I read that, I went, “huh, he’s an idiot.”


Mary in Austin

April 11th, 2014

The same conservatives who founded Heritage defended racial segregation on states’ rights and free association grounds. (Some of these well-educated, heartless fools and their fans still do, although rarely outside their own constipated little circles.) I marvel that they dare to speak in public about anyone’s civil rights.

vergil arma

April 11th, 2014

as you point out, it is in fact the essence of gender discrimination if the law allows angelina the possibility of marrying brad, while denying tony the same possibility (of marrying brad) by reason of his gender.


April 11th, 2014

Can we now expect John Corvino to stop ‘debating’ him?

Richard Rush

April 11th, 2014

I read that entire piece that Rob linked to: http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1880&context=law_faculty_scholarship

To note one thing, I counted use of the word “intrinsic” (or a derivation) at least forty times without any substantiation whatsoever.

It’s a hyper-intellectualized snow-job, which is Robert George’s specialty.

Rob Tisinai

April 11th, 2014

I read that entire piece that Rob linked to

Oh my god, I’m so sorry.


April 11th, 2014

I only got as far as the next page. 318 talks about “orgasm-inducing broccoli,” which is either the best hypothetical food ever or the most frightening, not sure which.


April 11th, 2014

318 talks about “orgasm-inducing broccoli,” which is either the best hypothetical food ever or the most frightening, not sure which.

That was in the boring version of The Matrix Reloaded.

Jim Burroway

April 11th, 2014


In case you might have noticed, your comment disappeared for about 10 minutes. I accidentally marked it as spam when I was clearing away real spam and was a little too quick on the draw. Sorry about that.

Carry on.


April 12th, 2014

Jim: No prob!

That “gay marriage is gender discrimination” article is something else. I just can’t stop reading it. I love how it turns into an argument against all adoption, egg/sperm donation, and surrogacy, ever.


April 12th, 2014

I just ran across a passage by Joseph Campbell that I think illuminates the whole controversy:

“Getting a perspective on our sexual relationships lets us know that they are not biologically grounded, they are culturally grounded. And our culture is not a fixed thing. Right now it’s in a process of transformation. There’s no reason why we should regard ourselves as committed to this system or that.”

It’s not just that Anderson, et al., are trying to enforce a particular view of marriage; it’s that they are desperately trying to hold on to a set of cultural assumptions that, in spite of their protestations, have never been universal and are not all that firmly grounded in the biology of human behavior.

As for Anderson’s reasoning ability, have you read any of the briefs submitted by those “defending” marriage in any of the marriage cases? It’s not just him — it’s a whole set of not very solidly grounded assumptions coupled with an almost total lack of awareness — or a complete dismissal — of the culture at large.


April 12th, 2014

“That was in the boring version of The Matrix Reloaded.”

Was there another version?


April 12th, 2014

Oh, and I forgot the kind of logical gymnastics best suited to examinations of the number of angels dancing on the heads of pins.


April 12th, 2014

I think he’d also allow masturbation if he knew it would temporarily remove all sexual desires from the mind so it can be(and i quote him) “effortlessly integrated with larger projects (such as concentrated thinking)”.


April 12th, 2014

And plus, does anyone doubt that he’s gay? What else would account for the obsession? Same goes for George, Girgis, Peters. etc.

In the words of Daffy Duck, “It is to laugh!”

Ben M

April 12th, 2014

katz – re: argument against all adoption, etc.

Most of their arguments and studies they use against us can just as easily be used against single parents, step families, adopted families, etc. I’ve been reading a lot on the NFSS and the backgrounds of players (thanks to Becker’s lawsuit) and I do think many oppose (on a deep level) all family structures outside of married biomom/biodad, but who would take someone seriously if the said that we should ban heterosexual remarriage.

Ben in Oakland

April 12th, 2014

I read page 317 and 318. What a load of gobbledygook! Basically, it assumes universal human norms, and universal biological exigencies, and all boils down to “do what we tell you!”

.it reminded me of nothing so much as the sociology writing of Erving Goffman. Whatever truths Goffman might have been stating were lost in the sheer pedantry and boredom of how he stated it.

Mark F.

April 12th, 2014

No, I don’t think all, or even most, homophobes are gay. What evidence do you have for that? Many people are genuinely repulsed by gays. Sure, some fraction are repulsed that they have same sex attraction. But lets not start silly myths of our own.

Mark F.

April 12th, 2014

Actually, there is a lot of evidence that genetics has a lot more to do with adult outcomes than shared environments. So, it wouldn’t surprise me if troubled adopted kids (who might be more likely to be adopted by gay couples)had worse outcomes than kids raised by their biological parents. But that wouldn’t prove a thing about gays being worse parents.

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