May 24, 2011

Whoever Frames the Marriage Debate Will Win

It is said that whoever frames the issue wins the debate.  One of the main reasons why the proponents of same-sex “marriage” are winning the debate in America is because they have been successful in doing this.  The language that is used can determine how people think about an issue. 
For example, even using the term “gay marriage” puts the debate in the favor of those who want to redefine marriage.  In the past, the term would have been considered an oxymoron--like round triangles.  The only way to have round triangles is to redefine “round” or “triangles.”  In the same way, the only way to have gay marriage is to redefine the longstanding meaning of marriage.  Whenever we say "same-sex marriage" we are already redefining marriage just to allow the idea.

Gallup has reported that in 2011, for the first time, a majority of American (53%) believe same-sex marriage should be recognized as valid.  This is up from 44% a year ago.  This certainly shows a rapidly changing attitude in our society concerning marriage.  However, I think that much of this is due to the language that is used and the way the debate is being framed.  Look at the question being asked in this poll:
“Do you think marriages between same-sex couples should or should not be recognized by the law as valid, with the same rights as traditional marriages?"
The question itself already redefines marriage in order to allow the idea of same-sex marriage.  It subtly assumes that the union of two same-sex persons already fits within the definition of marriage.  I wonder what the poll results would be if the question being asked was: “Do you believe marriage should be redefined to now include unions besides those of one man and one woman?”  Even though our cultural attitudes are shifting, I think the poll results would be significantly different and the majority would still not be in favor of redefining marriage. 
Wording affects attitudes.  For example, National Organization for Marriage stresses the need to avoid the phrase “ban same-sex marriage” at all costs.  When this phrase is used in polls it gives a ten point advantage to same-sex advocates.  It forces the people who are opposed to this into the negative roll of “denying” or “banning” people from their supposed rights.  No one wants to be the villain.  In addition, I believe it also subtly gives up ground by already viewing same-sex marriage a legitimate concept rather than an oxymoron. 
We need to learn to use language effectively.  We must learn to use short, clear statements that make sense and stick.  For example: “Marriage is about bringing together a man and a woman so that children can have a mother and a father.”  Even a passing statement like this can have a lasting influence.  Most people are not going to read a book on this issue but hundreds of people may read your facebook post or your tweet. 
According to National Organization for Marriage extensive polling shows that the single most effective short message is:
"Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose, they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us."
They explain that this statement allows people to express tolerance while opposing a redefinition of marriage.  Obviously the first line has to be taken in context since none of us are absolutely free before the state or God.  If you think that the first line may be misunderstood, a modified version could simply be:  “One group does not have the right to redefine marriage for all of us.”
Our cultural concept of marriage is critically important for our country and for our children.  We need to speak the truth with courage and skill.


  1. What do Christians have to gain by trying to impose biblical law on nonbelievers?

  2. Marriage is not just a religion institution. Marriage is a human institution that was given by God. Marriage is a great benefit to society. The main public purpose of marriage is to ensure that kids grow up with their own moms and dads. Marriage serves a profound public purpose and that is why the state has a reason to regulate and recognize it.

  3. I guess I just am pessimistic about it, since so many things are legal that are against God's law, and it is a losing battle it seems like.


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