Control the marriage message

The movement to promote same-sex marriage has been very active and very successful. The movement to promote and protect traditional marriage laws has been very active, and seemingly less successful. What’s the truth?

That’s the key question, actually, and fewer people asking means more power to influence public opinion.

Take this front page story in the New York Times just over 24 hours after same-sex marriage was legalized by the state legislature.

The story of how same-sex marriage became legal in New York is about shifting public sentiment and individual lawmakers moved by emotional appeals from gay couples who wish to be wed.

But, behind the scenes, it was really about a Republican Party reckoning with a profoundly changing power dynamic, where Wall Street donors and gay-rights advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than a Roman Catholic hierarchy and an ineffective opposition.

On the first part of that…”shifting public sentiment” wasn’t quite reported that way when the issue was abortion and the polls began to inch over the fifty percent mark. As far as the emotional appeals that struck lawmakers, the overlooked fact is that they’re selective. Lawmakers who voted that way ignored a great number of emotional appeals from all sorts of people who called for the defense of marriage as it has traditionally been known and upheld by the states in history.

As for the “profoundly changing power dynamic”, have gay rights advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than the Roman Catholic church? And has the opposition to gay marriage been ineffective? Just saying that on the front page of the Times doesn’t make it so (and it isn’t), but since perception becomes reality, let’s check the perception. Or spin.

The Catholic hierarchy has been very present and active in the marriage movement. Especially NY Archbishop Timothy Dolan. After the vote, the bishops released this statement on the USCCB website, written by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, one of the most involved bishops in the marriage debate:

“Marriage, the union of a man and a woman, forms the foundation of social well-being by promoting love and respect between the two most fundamental representatives of the human community,” he said. “The institution of marriage also affirms the vital and unique importance to children of receiving care from both their mother and father together.  Making marriage law indifferent to the absence of either sex creates an institutional and cultural crisis with generational ramifications yet to be seen. To eliminate marriage’s very essence – its essence as the union of husband and wife – from its legal definition is to ignore not only basic anthropology and biology but also the purpose of law generally. Law is meant to uphold the common good, not undermine it. Now, New York’s government will be forced to ignore that children have a basic right to be raised by their mother and father together. Also, as demonstrated in other states where marriage redefinition has occurred, officials there will be in a position to retaliate against those who continue to uphold these basic truths.  This is a mark of a profoundly unjust law.”

It was not inevitable, as big media have suggested or predicted for months now.

Yes, it is true that six states have imposed a new definition of marriage on their citizens. But let’s take a step back and look at the big picture.

In the 31 states where voters have been given the choice to redefine marriage — we have won every time. Next November, Minnesota voters have the opportunity to become the 32nd state and North Carolina may not be far behind.

And what about those six states already with same-sex marriage?

Voters in Iowa last year threw out three of their state Supreme Court judges that had decreed same-sex marriage. The Iowa State House has since strongly voted in support of a marriage amendment, and if Republicans can regain the State Senate, they likely will call for a vote in that chamber.

And in New Hampshire, politicians who supported so-called same-sex ‘marriage’ were booted out of office last November. As we write, significant efforts are already underway to oust the turncoat Republicans in New York that switched sides and voted for this new law.

This year too, voter pressure stopped efforts to re-define marriage in both Rhode Island and Maryland.

Friday’s vote in New York may in fact represent the high water mark in the effort to redefine marriage in the United States.

Really? That may be a tough sell. But Thomas Peters says essentially the same thing. Because in an odd sort of way, defeats like this galvanize the Catholic and Christian populace. If only people found such inspiration in time to have changed the outcome to this point…

I’m heartened by the outpouring of commentary in the wake of New York’s move to legalize gay “marriage.” Truly, I am. It means that Catholics care about marriage and are distressed when they see it under attack (as they should).

But the sudden uptick in volume of Catholic voices talking about the threat to marriage represented by its redefinition in New York confuses me, for this reason: we could have stopped it…

Catholic commentary follows mainstream media commentary. The number of headlines earned by a victory for gay marriage far outweighs (I would bet by a ratio of at least 10-to-1) the number of stories written about gay marriage defeats. So a part of this phenomenon is due to Catholics sensing a major shift has happened in the fight to protect marriage only when the media signals us a shift has happened — and the media is careful to only signal such shifts when they like where they think they see things headed…

And yet, instead of trumpeting the victories in these first two states when they happened, far more ink has been spilt by Catholic voices bemoaning the final result in New York.

There’s a reason for this: Catholic commentary follows mainstream media commentary. The number of headlines earned by a victory for gay marriage far outweighs (I would bet by a ratio of at least 10-to-1) the number of stories written about gay marriage defeats. So a part of this phenomenon is due to Catholics sensing a major shift has happened in the fight to protect marriage only when the media signals us a shift has happened — and the media is careful to only signal such shifts when they like where they think they see things headed.

Control the message.

But there are things to do immediately, as Peters points out in that post. One of them is to get familiar with the debate points, and be ready to engage them.

Two out of the final points he makes are key right now:

As you begin to think about the November 2012 elections, get into the habit now of evaluating candidates and issues in terms of how they impact marriage and the family.

Pray for those who fight to protect marriage and family and work to learn more about why marriage is only between one man and one woman for good reasons.

I talked with Thomas on radio Tuesday, and we agreed that this debate must be engaged on the basis of reason, by informed people, with respect for all viewpoints. Let’s debate these ideas and their merit and consequences, truthfully. And give voice to the people. Backroom deals by politicians demean the process.

Marriage changed “radically and forever”

Let’s look at the state of the union…

There are those who define and defend marriage as an institution, and a sacred one, between one man and one woman. Individual states have had a vested interest over the years in upholding  that definition. But those who have redefined marriage and mobilized a movement to change the nation’s laws governing it have won a big victory in New York.

Late Friday night, in an eleventh-hour vote on the issue, the Republican-led Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

The Democratic-led state Assembly had already signed off on the bill, so after the Senate vote, the only remaining piece of business required to turn the bill into law was for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign it. He did so just before midnight, making the Empire State the sixth state to legalize same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. (Same-sex marriage is also legal in Washington, D.C.)

WSJ has a bunch of links to other articles there, including the interesting snips from Reuters:

When New York became the sixth and by far the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, following a grueling overtime session in the state Legislature on Friday, it immediately transformed the national debate over the issue, legal experts said.

With a population over 19 million — more than the combined population of the five states that currently allow gay marriage, plus the District of Columbia, where it is also legal — New York is poised to provide the most complete picture yet of the legal, social and economic consequences of gay marriage.

Which is to say this is a huge social experiment.

If a significant portion of those couples choose to marry, it could provide a wealth of new information about the practical economic effects of such legislation, from employment and retirement benefits to divorce rates and wedding and tourism industries, said New York Law School professor Arthur Leonard.

Added Leonard: “It becomes less of an experiment the more information we have.”

But how information is handled is another thing. Truths about marriage are relative for some, absolute for others, which is why these social battles have been so passionately engaged. The difference is very revealing in the different reactions.

 The Catholic Church:

Within minutes of the result…the following statement was released by the New York bishops, who provided the measure’s lead institutional opposition:

The passage by the Legislature of a bill to alter radically and forever humanity’s historic understanding of marriage leaves us deeply disappointed and troubled.

We strongly uphold the Catholic Church’s clear teaching that we always treat our homosexual brothers and sisters with respect, dignity and love. But we just as strongly affirm that marriage is the joining of one man and one woman in a lifelong, loving union that is open to children, ordered for the good of those children and the spouses themselves. This definition cannot change, though we realize that our beliefs about the nature of marriage will continue to be ridiculed, and that some will even now attempt to enact government sanctions against churches and religious organizations that preach these timeless truths.

We worry that both marriage and the family will be undermined by this tragic presumption of government in passing this legislation that attempts to redefine these cornerstones of civilization.

Our society must regain what it appears to have lost – a true understanding of the meaning and the place of marriage, as revealed by God, grounded in nature, and respected by America’s foundational principles.

Meanwhile, at the Gay Pride Parade

Two days after the State Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage, participants in New York’s 42nd annual gay pride parade on Sunday came to shout, dance, cheer, strut, hug and shed tears of joy, knowing that on July 24, when the law takes effect, the season for tears will begin in earnest.

It was a noisy, and jubilant, day in the West Village.

Much of the cheering was aimed at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, who made legalization of same-sex marriage a part of his election campaign and then led the fight for its approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.

It’s a social moral issue, fundamentally human. But ultimately political. Every time this was put to a vote by the people, all 33 times, the people voted to uphold laws that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The politicians they elected decided otherwise.