NOTE: This is the first column in a series of columns related to National Marriage Week, Feb. 7-14, 2013.
Those who remember the old version of the SAT might recall the analogy section: “This is to that as that is to this.”
The SAT no longer requires students to demonstrate aptitude in reasoning through this vital cognitive exercise—unfortunate because so many Americans find it difficult to recognize false analogies. And no group has exploited this deficiency more than politicians.
Adam Cohen observed in a 2005 New York Times piece: “Intentionally misleading comparisons are becoming the dominant mode of public discourse. The ability to tell true analogies from false ones has never been more important.” But judging from the current political rhetoric used by advocates seeking to redefine marriage for the culture, misleading comparisons predominate the discourse.
A recent, flagrant example of a national figure putting forth false analogies to advance a political objective is President Obama’s second inaugural address.
The president said, “We the people declare today that the most evident of truths that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall…. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.”
Peppering his rhetoric with the self-evident truth that all persons are created equal, the president mixed two false analogies into his recipe in an attempt to flavor same-sex marriage as a civil rights matter.
First, he compared African Americans who struggled for racial equality with the current activists running the political campaign to redefine marriage. That comparison reveals a photo-shopped picture of history to an America the president was elected to lead, not mislead.
Civil rights marchers were met with batons, fire hoses, tear gas, and nooses; so-called pride parades are met with Fortune 500 corporate sponsorship. African Americans were systematically dehumanized and isolated; homosexual activists, in contrast, are lionized by every powerful cultural institution and center of wealth in America. The civil rights battle was a move up from under, won with blood; the campaign to redefine marriage is a product of the elites in entertainment, government, and the Ivory Tower.
In his second false analogy, the president assumes that, because romantic love is involved, same-sex relationships have the same implications as do opposite-sex relationships for society and must, therefore, be treated exactly the same. This comparison is not a weapon of politicians alone. Same-sex marriage activists and their attorneys have employed it not only in their Hollywood-run PR campaign, but in their legal arguments as well—which have now reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
They argue that marriage is primarily about romantic commitment and mutual economic interests and that same-sex and opposite-sex couples are the same in this way, and thus they are the same in every other relevant way.
But anyone who’s ever gotten “The Talk” from their parents is aware of the obvious: a fundamental difference exists between the sexual union of a man and a woman and that of two men or two women. So the analogy fails because it ignores that the two relationships drastically differ concerning the most important civil purpose of marriage: promoting the creation and raising of children by their natural mother and father—a social good without equal.
The mature truth that men and women procreate and same-sex couples don’t is not a mean-spirited criticism; it’s a fact rooted in biology that doesn’t violate any principle of equality known to human reasoning or American law. Equality means that you must treat things that are the same the same. But when you treat two things that are different differently, you behave rationally. No principle of equality is offended.
Ah, but the false analogy is so useful to those who wield it. For the purpose of redefining marriage by judicial fiat, it is indispensible. Without the false analogy, attackers of marriage protection laws have no case.
Government has recognized marriage for the entire history of Western Civilization for two reasons: The first is to acknowledge the blessing of children and increase each future child’s likelihood that he or she will be brought up in a home legally bound to his or her mother and father. The second is to reduce the threat of epidemic-level, taxpayer-crushing, out-of-wedlock births. Same-sex relationships have no bearing on these well-known reasons for preserving marriage, humanity’s only reliable life-giving and society-sustaining union.
Another comparison that fails: likening marriage amendments to abominable laws that once prevented white and black people from marrying. Racist laws kept men and women apart. Marriage laws bring men and women together to keep society thriving. The shade of someone’s skin is irrelevant to marriage, but the sex of the partners is essential to the definition and the societal function of marriage.
Inspiring people to think through these issues is much better than allowing them to unwittingly adopt simplistic, superficial talking points created by Rob Reiner’s PR guy. And at the Supreme Court, we should hope that the proper analogy prevails—that men and women are as indispensible to marriage as logic is to sound public policy.