“The last chance to preserve marriage in Oregon,” reads the brochure. What, are they outlawing it or just forcing everybody to get divorced? “Seven facts you must know,” or Seven bogus arguments you must read. Here we go….
Oregon ballot measure 36, for those who don’t know, would define marriage as between a man and a woman, effectively barring gay marriages from taking place in the state. Specifically, this constitutional amendment reads:
It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage.
This likely seems perfectly reasonable unless you happen to be gay. Then it’s a pretty big downer. If we presume to be on the side of individual freedomâ€”a questionable presumption to be sure during this age of the Patriot Act and John Ashcroftâ€”one would expect the Yes on 36 coalition to present seven very persuasive arguments as to why the rights of gay and lesbian citizens should be thus curtailed. One would be disappointed.
1. Measure 36 affirms what most people thought was already in our state constitution. It is embarrassing to even call this an argument. What “most people” did or did not think has, of course, no relevance whatsoever to whether the initiative being advanced is worthy of passage.
2. Oregon law is very clear: Marriage is between one man and one woman. Obviously Oregon law is not clear or there would be no need for a constitutional amendment such as this one. Further, the clarity of Oregon law leaves untouched the question of whether the law itself is good or not.
3. Four Multnomah County commissioners used secret backroom tactics to skirt Oregon’s marriage laws. I’m sorry to say this is utterly true in my estimation, and the four commissioners, far from helping the gay rights movement, have probably set it back decades. Nonetheless, this has nothing to do with the merits of ballot measure 36.
4. Children do best with a mom & dad. Using unnamed and uncited “research,” a questionable case is made for differently sexed couples being best for raising kids. Interestingly, no mention is made of studies which show kids raised by gay and lesbian couples tend to do fine as well. (Two supportive parents are what is important; gender difference is helpful but not significant.) Nonetheless, this again is a separate issue from whether or not gay marriage should be barred.
5. 40 states already have laws similar to measure 36. The ad populum fallacy rears its head. Obviously, the popularity of a law says nothing about its merits.
6. Preserving marriage is not discrimination. This seems a like an appeal to tradition (another type of fallacy), which it is, but it’s also flat out wrong. Barring consenting, adult homosexual couples from uniting in marriage is discrimination. The question is whether or not it’s proper discrimination. So far the evidence that it is is lacking.
7. Over 244,000 Oregonians respond to preserve marriage The text here rightly states: “…more than 244,000 voters signed petitions to place Measure 36 on the ballot. It was the most signatures ever collected. And it was also done in record time.” This, alas, portends the passage of Measure 36, but again advancing the ad populum fallacy says nothing to justify its passage.
In the end, then, we are left with no reasons whatsoever why Measure 36 should become law, and, if we believe in individual freedom, no reasons why gay marriage should not be allowed. The sad news is that Measure 36 will pass overwhelmingly. The good news is that younger generations have no idea what prompts this incredible level of intolerance towards gays and lesbians and someday will politically refute the bankrupt idea that marriage need be limited to heterosexuals.