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Why Prop 8 Won: TV Commercials Based on Reason, not Fear

By Angelo Matera

Posted 11/20/08 at 4:24 AM

To understand why Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that banned gay marriage, won in California, watch the campaign’s TV commercials at the What Is Prop 8? website. Not only were they well-made, featuring a multi-ethnic cross-section of very normal, quasi-hip, young to middle-age Californians, the commercials were models of serious, rational political argument. While anti-Prop 8 commercials resorted to showing Mormon missionaries conducting Gestapo-like home invasions of same-sex households, the “Yes on 8” commercials went out of their way to calmly explain both sides of the debate, and present gays and lesbians in a positive light. When was the last time you saw that in American politics? How about never.

The commercial I featured here isn’t typical, but it caught my attention because it’s so amazingly emo (the music is great). It also takes the time to clarify what tolerance really means, and that opposition to gay marriage has nothing to do with hatred or bigotry towards gays and lesbians (or even about rights, since domestic partnerships in California confer all the rights of marriage). The issue is about preserving society’s right to say that there is a transcendent purpose to marriage, based on the objective reality that through the complementary sexual union of human persons created male and female, life and families are created.

The TV ads convincingly argue that society can’t be neutral on marriage. Either marriage is transcendent—built into reality—or it’s not. It’s one vision or the other. Whichever vision prevails, is the norm for all, enforced in schools, in the workplace, in the public square.

If that’s so, is it fair for the particular views of the 4 percent of society that identify as gay to prevail over the 96% who aren’t gay? Does that make sense? Is that what’s best for the common good? I wonder whether even a majority of gays believes that would be wise. Elton John is one high profile gay man who says he doesn’t need marriage; he‘s perfectly happy with civil unions. I’m sure there are more.

What’s shocking is how utterly intolerant the liberal establishment is towards mainstream America on this issue. State after state has passed gay marriage bans, and still, there is not one liberal who will publicly allow for the possibility that opposition to gay marriage can be motivated by anything other than hatred, bigotry or ignorance.

The worst example of this intolerance was the embarrassing six-minute video rant delivered after the election by the insufferably cloying Keith Olbermann of MSNBC. You can watch it here, but be warned: it’s irrational. smug, stupid, insulting and nauseating. The man is a moron. I’m very anti-war and pro-social justice, but give me Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter before Olbermann any day. Based on that video alone, he deserves to receive the label he so smugly awards to others on his show: “The worst person in the world.”

Olbermann is what Flannery O’Connor had in mind when she warned of tenderness leading to the Gulag.