The “best argument” against marriage equality is demeaning, doesn’t hold water

So, the National Organization for Marriage has a new web commercial out, in which they compare Steve Jobs to Big Brother because Apple censored NOM’s iPhone app. It’s really silly, and ignores the reality that while the right to free speech means you can say anything you want, it doesn’t mean that Apple is legally required to sell your discriminatory views to its consumers. Also, the commercial is laughably over-dramatic.

While it’s easy to giggle at this totally ridiculous commercial, it’s important to remember that NOM has some pretty serious brains running its operation. One of those brains is Robert George, a professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton and the chairman of NOM.

Recently, legal scholar Kenji Yoshino analyzed what he calls the best argument against gay marriage – it’s an argument constructed and championed by George. George, who Yoshino calls “a conservative heavyweight in debates over same-sex marriage,” has published a new article that lays out a two-pronged argument against allowing gays and lesbians to marry. In “What is Marriage,” published in The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, George declares that same-sex marriage is wrong because it cannot result in children the way “real marriage” does, comparing same-sex marriage to, in Yoshino’s words, “a recreational activity more like tennis than like marriage.”

Offensive, right? George also compares procreative married couples to “winning” baseball teams and non-procreative ones to “losing” teams. And he suggests that parents who conceive using reproductive technologies like egg or sperm donation aren’t really the parents of their children, since according to him, “children … can have only two parents—a biological mother and father.”

Robert George is a very intelligent, remarkably learned man. His co-authors, one of them a Princeton graduate and current Rhodes Scholar, are clearly not unintelligent either. It’s disappointing to see such brilliant intellects being used in the service of discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. I dearly look forward to the day when George, his co-authors, and all opponents of marriage equality will be recognized for what they are, which is on the wrong side of civil rights and on the wrong side of history.

Of course, George would say that he’s not discriminating – he’s simply defending the sanctity of “real” (World Series-winning) marriage, which would be demeaned and devalued if gays and lesbians were allowed to tie the knot. But as Yoshino notes, the argument that “real” marriages are the ones that produce offspring and that adoption and reproductively-assisted parenting can never be “real” parenting backfires. It doesn’t defend the institution of marriage at all. “In its broad and unforgiving sweep,” writes Yoshino,” this argument is self-destructively over-inclusive. It succeeds only in diminishing the institution of marriage itself.

This is bigotry and prejudice disguised as intellectualism and cloaked in terrible sports analogies. And it’s purportedly the best they’ve got. It’s hateful, but it’s also hackery. It doesn’t hold water. As hurtful and infuriating as these kinds of arguments are, the fact that they fall apart under scrutiny ought to give us some hope. If comparing Steve Jobs to Big Brother and comparing making babies to playing baseball really is the best NOM has got, I don’t expect they’ll be around to spread their hate, or their genuinely awful analogies, for much longer.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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