Katherine Kersten's Many Fallacies

Katherine Kersten's Many Fallacies July 19, 2010
Katherine Kersten, MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley

Katherine Kersten is the often-mocked conservative columnist at the Minneapolis StarTribune.  Often mocked because her columns regularly sound like she’s Michelle Bachman’s a-little-bit-less-stupid big sister.  Mainly, she touts reactionary talking points and far-fetched anecdotes as her arguments.

Yesterday, her column was so cloddish that I thought I’d break it down, paragraph-by-paragraph.  She wrote about same sex marriage and the death of all that’s holy.

Is same-sex marriage just over the horizon in Minnesota? Many say yes. A suit to legalize it has been filed in Hennepin County, and a slew of bills on the subject were introduced in the last legislative session. All the Democratic candidates for governor — along with Independent Tom Horner — endorse gay marriage.

Yes, indeed, same sex marriage will likely be legalized in Minnesota rather soon.  Why?  Because most people are coming around to the realization that it is not only harmless, but actually good for the stability of society.

At the national level, a federal judge in Massachusetts recently ruled unconstitutional the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. Any day now, a federal judge in California is expected to strike down Proposition 8, which was endorsed in 2008 by California voters and defined marriage as a male-female institution in the state’s constitution.

Same-sex marriage supporters assure us that redefining marriage is no big deal. “How will my same-sex marriage hurt you?” they ask, expecting the answer to be “it doesn’t.”

Don’t believe it.

Same-sex marriage would transform American law and social life. That’s because it’s grounded in a radical idea: that male-female marriage, an institution rooted in human biology and intended to create the best setting to beget and raise children, is just irrational bigotry.

Here’s where KK really hits her stride.  Same sex marriage is about as “radical” an idea as miscegenation, another form of marriage that KK would have likely opposed just a few decades ago.  Really, what’s become clear as notions of family have evolved — and evolved they have over the past 10,000 years — is that “American law and social life” are always transforming.  That’s what happens as time goes on.  Institutions change, reform, and transform.

I mean, seriously, does she not understand that if our ideas of sexuality and equality hadn’t evolved, she wouldn’t be a columnist for a major daily newspaper!  There are plenty of places on this planet that KK could move that steadfastly uphold the kind of marriage she desires, and she can move there today.  But I don’t think they’ll publish her essays.

And on the final sentence in that paragraph, let’s remove the dependent clause and see what she’s really saying:

“male-female marriage…is just irrational bigotry”

I know a few GLBT persons, and many allies, and I don’t know one who thinks that male-female marriage is bigotry.  I mean, seriously, how does an editor even let that sentence stay in her column?

The implications of this revolutionary notion are far-reaching, and many are unforeseeable. But one thing is certain: If adopted, it will put government on a collision course with religious institutions and believers, and it’s a sure bet government will win.

No such think will happen.  See below.

Male-female marriage is a foundational tenet of all the major world religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. If gay marriage becomes government policy, people who believe that kids need both a mother and a father will be treated with the contempt formerly reserved for racial bigots.

First of all, most of the major world religions — including the three she cites — are based on a very different version of hetero-marriage: it’s called polygamy.  And I can’t imagine that’s what she’s advocating.  Secondly, she has absolutely no basis for claiming that those who opt for hetero-based family systems will be treated with contempt in society.  Regarding her parallel to racism, the fact is that while most people in America believe in equality among races and ethnicities, most also choose to live, work, and go to school with those who look like them.  In other words, societies tend to find equilibriums on contentious issues like race and sexuality.

If you think I’m exaggerating, listen to Mark Dayton, who may be Minnesota’s next governor. In 2004, he told a crowd of gay-rights activists that people who support a constitutional amendment to protect male-female marriage are “the forces of bigotry and hatred” who “spew hatred and inhumanity,” according to the Star Tribune.

If you’ve got to go back to 2004 to get a quote you don’t like from a full-time politician, well, I don’t think you’ve got much to work with.

Today, we’re already seeing the implications of this view play out:

•If gay marriage becomes law, churches and religiously affiliated organizations may be denied tax exemption, on grounds that their beliefs are “contrary to public policy.” The threat is “credible” and “palpable,” according to Robin Wilson, a law professor at Washington and Lee University. In New Jersey, for example, a Methodist ministry had to fight government officials to defend its tax exemption for a facility after declining to allow two lesbian couples to use it for civil union ceremonies.

Not going to happen.  Every state in which same sex legislation has passed has included language that exempts religious organizations from financial penalties for maintaining hetero-normativity; and if they didn’t have that language, they have since added it.

•Some faith-based charities may have to stop providing social services. Catholic Charities in Boston — which specialized in adoptions involving hard-to-place kids — had to give up adoption after gay marriage began in Massachusetts. Religiously affiliated hospitals, rehabilitation centers and homeless shelters that get government contracts or deal with Medicaid and Medicare may be similarly threatened.

Some faith-based charities may have to stop…  Thanks for the qualifiers, KK.

•Public employees may be disciplined or dismissed if they refuse to approve of homosexual acts. Recently, for example, a professor who taught Catholic theology at the University of Illinois was fired after a student accused him of hate speech. The professor had written in an e-mail that Catholic theology teaches that “sexual acts are only appropriate for people who are complementary, not the same,” and had said he agrees with this view.

For one thing, the University of Illinois is currently reviewing its firing of Kenneth Howell (and I’m sure if he’s reinstated, KK will write a column commending the university for its tolerance of conservative opinions).  For another, he wasn’t a professor of Catholic theology but an adjunct lecturer in the religion department.  And for yet another, he wrote a lot more in the email than KK reports.

•In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Christian Legal Society at the University of California, Hastings, College of the Law could be denied status as a registered student group because it holds that the only rightful form of sex is between a man and woman within marriage — a view that violates the school’s nondiscrimination policy on sexual orientation. The ruling may sound the death-knell for orthodox Christian, Jewish and Muslim campus groups.

Oh, puhleeze.  This SCOTUS decision has been much debated and has yet to be fully fleshed out.  But no one of sound mind has suggested that Campus Crusade and InterVarsity groups start packing their bags and leaving campus.

•Small-business owners could be liable under discrimination laws if they decline to provide goods or services in contexts that violate their beliefs — providing wedding photography at a same-sex marriage, for example. Boards that license professionals, including psychologists and social workers, may require approval of same-sex marriage for licensure or admission to professional schools.

Again, KK peppers her paragraph with conditional — could, may, might.  The rest of us will appeal to common sense and reply, won’t.

In California in 2008, we saw what’s in store for traditional-marriage supporters who stand up for their beliefs. Same-sex marriage activists there vandalized property, targeted jobs and defaced houses of worship. Here in the Twin Cities, leaders of the recent Gay Pride celebration also refused to tolerate dissent. They went to court in an unsuccessful attempt to bar a lone Christian evangelist from handing out Bibles in the public park where their event took place.

Let’s use her same reasoning in another context: Last year we saw what happened to Jews who dare to frequent a house of worship. Christian activists vandalized their property and defaced their houses of worship with the Nazi sign of the swastika. The sinful actions of the few, of course, do not reflect the normative actions of the many.

In its early years, the gay-rights movement marched under the banner of tolerance. No more. Activists are demanding conformance with and approval of their agenda, and are punishing those who dare to disagree.

No, KK, no one is “punishing those to dare to disagree.”  What same sex marriage advocates are asking for is protection under the law.  We’re asking for the same financial incentives afforded to heterosexual couples.  It’s not going to destroy hetero-marriage; it’ll simply be the next step in the many millennia development and evolution of how human beings mate and express love toward one another.

Hey, that’s kind of interesting.  In all of Kersten’s columns about the importance of hetero-marriage, I don’t read her talking about love.  Yet when I hear my GLBT friends talking about their desire to marry, that word comes up a lot.  That’s something to ponder.

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