Why Logic Won't Win the Marriage Debate

Now that Gov. Gregoire has thrown her weight behind the effort to redefine marriage,you're going to want to know what it is that you can do about it. And when people like us ask you to make phone calls, visit your legislator, or write emails, you may feel like you're an inadequate messenger and ultimately decide to do nothing.


If that is you, I want to convince you that you have what it takes to make a huge difference. In this world, caring is far more important than being brilliant, though, of course, many of you are both.


Here is why.


On both sides of the marriage issue are legislators who hold their position as a matter of principle. They have radically different worldviews, but they are totally convinced of the moral rightness of their position and not likely to change. Other legislators may hold their position as a matter of political necessity. Either way, they aren't going to change their position.


However, those legislators who are undecided will not ultimately be making a policy decision. That's why your logic and sound policy arguments aren't ultimately going to win the day. That is also why you don't have to be a professional debater or policy wonk to make a huge impact.   Ultimately, they will be making a political decision based on what they determined to be in their best political interest.


Their political decision could be that they want to please legislative leadership which will allow them to get or retain a chairmanship or give them access to needed campaign funds that will be available if they do what they're told. Or, more fundamentally, it could be that they have decided they need to take a certain position in order not to offend their constituents and lose their job in their next election.


Regardless, for those of you tormented by how to frame the argument in your email or phone call, remember that it is neither your prose nor your unimpeachable logic that is going to make the difference.


The greatest impact will be made if you are able to convince your legislator that the risk of a particular action (like voting to redefine marriage) is politically too dangerous. In order to do that, you simply need to have a lot of people who agree with you taking action. And that is done through large numbers of personal visits, personal phone calls, and emails to elected officials.


So don't sweat the small stuff. It is most effective to spend your time on a two sentence email summarizing your position or making a two minute phone call to the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and spend the rest of your time encouraging your friends to do the same. It is less effective to spend a sleepless night trying to anticipate every imaginable counterargument your legislator will have to the 14 pages of genius you've just put together.


If logic ultimately mattered in this debate, we wouldn't be having it. So relieve yourself of the burden of being the one whose arguments will turn the tide. If we make an impact, it will be our collective voice that does so.


If you have any time to invest in this effort (and we hope you do) don't write a thesis on the subject. Take contact cards for the legislative hotline to your next Bible study, or mom's group, or church service you attend. Or take a moment to send this link to your friends, family, or church or share it on Facebook so they can quickly and easily email each of their legislators about this subject. Share with them the importance of everyone doing something simple.


The key to influencing individual legislators who are persuadable is to make them believe the political cost to one course of action is higher than the political cost of the other. When thousands of people care enough to contact their legislators about an issue, they assume those same thousands of people care enough to vote on that issue as well. And putting yourself on the wrong side of thousands of motivated constituents is bad for business.


So, my friends, to paraphrase the creator...be fruitful and multiply.


Posted by Cindy Deresch on January 9, 2012
Thank you Joseph for an informative message and helpful tools to do what is right. We must let our voices be heard.
Posted by Dolores Bruner on January 9, 2012
I did it. I sent a six word e-mail message to both of my state reps, and state senator.
Posted by sheila lundberg on January 6, 2012
I'm fairly easy going, but this is one thing I have to stand on. Please for the sake and future of our children please do not legalize gay marriage. We have failed in sooo many areas because we think that life without conflict it better. In this case it wont be! please as a mother and resident of Wa. don't do this!
Posted by David Harrison on January 6, 2012
I believe that everyone who believes in traditional marriage i.e. between a man and woman, should express outrage at the governor's proposal especially since the gays already have protection.
Posted by Don Jameson on January 5, 2012
A helpful article and good advice. Our persausion is with numbers.
Posted by Bill Fowler on January 5, 2012
Another insightful piece, Joseph. I did want to make you aware of the fact the form letter has several repeat phrases in it, so everyone should be careful not to simply add their name and send it. They need to make those corrections or perhaps you guys can if you get this post. Thanks for all you're doing to preserve the traditional family here in Washington State!
Posted by Tanya on January 5, 2012
Excellent thoughts that should propel us all to contact our legislators!!!!
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