“Better” requires a “worse”

Some people don’t seem to think through the implications of what they’re saying. Take Maggie Gallagher. Now I understand why she’s saying what she’s saying–anti-marriage-equality folks are trying to make their message more palatable by showing that they don’t have anything against same-sex couples, just that they think their way is better.

Ultimately, though, they can’t.

“It is possible to affirm an ideal without stigmatizing the alternatives — to affirm in the positive without pushing the negative.”

The problem with the new spin people like Gallagher are trying to put on being pro-“traditional”-marriage is that it always comes down to placing opposite-sex relationships as being better than same-sex relationships. It’s relational–the idea isn’t that same-sex relationships are bad, just that opposite-sex ones are better. And when you’re making it relational, there’s no way to push the positive of one without putting a negative connotation on the other. If “traditional” marriage is better, than “non-traditional” marriage has to be, if not bad, at least worse. This is implicit in the messaging, and they can push the positive aspects all they want but they will never be able to avoid the negative messages about non-straight couples and the stigma they create because it’s inherent to the message.

It would be one thing if they were simply trying to say that they thought opposite-sex relationships were good–being in one myself, there’s no way I could argue–because it doesn’t carry the implicit meaning that same-sex relationships are bad (though, to be fair, most people who bother with saying the former DO mean the latter). It’s possible for multiple options to be good. But once you start using words like “ideal” you’ve created a scenario where anything else is at least somewhat negative, and human beings tend to be bad at understanding that “not ideal” isn’t the same as “bad”. So no, Gallagher, you cannot affirm the positive without pushing the negative, because as long as you’re placing one thing as “better” you will equally be saying that any alternative is “worse”. And it’s that last part that people are upset about.


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