Why Logic Won't Win the Marriage Debate
by Joseph Backholm, Executive Director | January 5, 2012
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.