Michael Medved has argued at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) conference and in print (almost four years ago) that it’s a “liberal lie” that states have “banned” gay marriage.
Now that you’re done laughing, here’s the argument in print (at TownHall.com):
1. “Proposition 8 was a mean-spirited ban on gay marriage.”
TRUTH:Proposition 8 banned nothing. The ubiquitous headlines describing this voter-mandated change in the California constitution as a “gay marriage ban” amount to the worst example of journalistic malpractice in recent years. The entire proposition consisted of only fourteen words: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” This simple statement imposes no restrictions and issues no commands regarding the behavior of private citizens: it merely demands a change in the actions of government. Proposition 8 did nothing to interfere with gay couples in registering for state-recognized civil unions, participating in church or civil ceremonies consecrating their love, forming life-time commitments, raising children, or concluding comprehensive contractual arrangements to share all aspects of life and property. The proposition simply says that government will not get involved in any of these private or public processes by calling such relationships a marriage.
The “only” in those 14 words has the effect of a “ban.” I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader to figure out (it’s not hard).
This reminds me of a debate about whether certain universities’ bans on homosexual behavior were “discriminatory.” People argued, with a straight face so I imagine, that they were not, because such places didn’t ban homosexual behavior per se, but rather all extra-marital sexual activity.
If one is fancy enough with words, distinctions like these can be made. But they’re really just disingenuous cover for something else.
The fun part about this move, however, is this: should you call them out on their too-subtle-by-half distinction, they’ll accuse you of distorting their position, as Medved (and the defenders of gay faculty bans) have done: note how Medved elaborates on the “journalistic distortion” of that characterization.
Sadly, for people like Medved, you don’t have exclusive control over the interpretation of your arguments; more importantly, you don’t own words and you don’t determine the rules of implication.