I’m Sorry, I Can’t Understand You With That Tape Over Your Mouth

So Cindy McCain, wife of the former presidential hopeful, has decided to pose for the Anti-Anti-Gay Marriage campaign “NoH8.” The picture, similar to hundreds of others in the campaign, displays Ms. McCain, glamorously made up, heavily photoshopped, and hair wind-blown, and posed with duct tape covering her mouth and the (word? phrase? symbol?) letters and number combination”NOH8″ written on her cheek.

This has gotten a lot of buzz in the Internet world. I can’t imagine why folks are surprised; her husband has always been at least as friendly towards the subject of gay marriage as his former opponent, our current president. (By the way, interesting to note how differently these two men’s positions, which are exactly the same, were portrayed by various media outlets.) The comments in the CNN story consist of expressions of surprise and “you go girl”-type statements as if she’s doing something remarkably brave. She’s not; she, and the rest of this campaign, are doing something remarkably silly. Not because they are wrong on the issue, mind you. I don’t think that they are. But their interpretation of the issue is nothing short of stupid.

The Advocate describes this campaign thusly: “All of the subjects are photographed with duct tape over their mouths to symbolize that their voices aren’t being heard on the subject of marriage equality.” But duct tape over the mouth doesn’t symbolize voices not being heard; it symbolizes restraint from voices being used. It’s similar to the “Day of Silence” campaign, where schoolchildren are encouraged to act like spoiled brats by refusing to speak all day long, in order to “symbolically represent the [supposed] silencing of LGBT students and their supporters.”

Imagine, for a moment, that I am a Baptist preacher. I preach against the sins of alcohol. (They actually do that here in Tennessee. No, I don’t get it, either.) I even preach that the government should make drinking illegal. I buy commercials and billboards, and do everything possible to make my opinion known.

And nobody listens to me.

Oh, sure, a few people might listen to me and agree. And some (probably quite a lot of) people will make fun of me, and a few people will complain about me. But no one can say that my voice is not heard, or cannot be heard, simply because the majority of people disagree. So it goes with the gay marriage movement and other gay rights issues. They can speak; no one is preventing it. Some people simply don’t like what they have to say.

And let’s talk about the name of the campaign, the real principle of the thing: “NoH8.” Obviously, the H8 is intended to indicate “hate,” in the sense that hatred, as opposed to just the inability to get married, is what they are really striving against. Now, I know that it’s in vogue to proclaim that any opposition to your point of view is clearly the result of “hate” and to proclaim all of your opponents to be “haters,” but is this really the case? Is it really true that all, or even the majority of, opposition to gay marriage stems from “hate”?

As best as I can tell, the main reasons given for opposition to gay marriage comes down to just a few broad arguments: religious beliefs, tradition, or social concerns.

Many people believe that religion dictates that homosexuality is immoral and an affront to God. Do you hate everyone who ever does anything immoral? If you do, it must keep you pretty busy. Most religions I’m familiar with indicate that you should love the sinner, even if you think they’re wrong. The second argument is that marriage has always been between a man and a woman, so it should remain so. Again, I’m not saying it’s a good argument; you’ve got to squint pretty hard to translate that into hatred. The third argument is that gay marriage can lead to other social changes, such as kids being taught about gay issues in school without their parents’ consent (this was considered a powerful argument in the Prop 8 debate) or business owners being forced to participate in gay weddings despite their disagreements with them. Again, this is an argument about individual rights; it has nothing to do with hatred of anyone.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t some people out there who truly hate people just because they are gay. I mean, I’ve never met them, but the internet certainly indicates to me that they exist. So, of course, do KKK members, and neo-nazis, and people that want to beat up redheads. We can deal with it. But accusing your political opponent of “hate,” rather than engaging his or her actual arguments, is nothing short of lazy. It implies that you don’t have anything substantive to say. Or not say, as the case may be for the subjects of the NoH8 campaign.

Lyssa Reinders
Lyssa Reinders is a recent law school graduate and freelance writer. New Jersey born, she is now quite happily a Tennessee resident, where she works as a law clerk, assisting and advising local judges in preparation for her law career. She has a longstanding passion for debates, politics, good food, and freedom. Reach her at Lyssalovelyredhead.wordpress.com or at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @LyssaLR