Bluestem had some errands to do in Montevideo Saturday and so joined about 75 other people at the Minnesota For Marriage (M4M) road show rally in the parking lot of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
Judging from media reports last weekend, yesterday’s spiels from the in-state talent that M4M had packed on the wrappered RV were pretty much the standard arguments the group makes.
A different out-of-state expert graced the wooden soapbox Saturday: Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the National Organization for Marriage’s Ruth Institute and a Senior Fellow in Economics at Michigan’s Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which promotes a certain sort of dissenting Catholic classical liberalism (touting faith and the free market).
Morse was flown in from San Diego, California’s second largest city and the eighth largest in the United States, to tell citizens in Chippewa County, Minnesota (population 12,135) that we should so not let our fellow Minnesotans living in the metro areas push us around (since she used the plural, Bluestem assumes she also meant the fleshpots of Cook, St. Louis, Blue Earth, Nicollet, Olmsted, Rice, and Winona Counties as well as the scary Twin Cities where most of the state’s residents live).
Along the way, Morse tried relating to her audience by making references to hunting and livestocking farming, while weaving in an anti-divorce, anti-choice, and anti-equality message that predicted the end of marriage entirely if we let cuteboys have it. Her central assertion? Reciting Maggie Gallagher’s claim that the “chief public purpose of marriage” was the production and regulation of offspring, Morse also insisted that the only argument that supporters of the freedom to marry made was that folks like her are bigots who are mean to cute boys in love.
And that’s where the hunting earphones came in. Morse suggested that anti-freedom advocates silence the voices of their opponents by putting on metaphorical electronic ear protection to filter out those who don’t agree with them:
. . .I was told that there might be a few hunters in an area like this and so I brought my ear protectors. I’m not a hunter myself. Do you guys have these sort of ear protectors? They’re very snazzy. You can turn they on and they block out the noise, they block out a big loud noise like when you shoot your gun, it blocks out–you guys know what I’m talking about here?
Good, good, good. People in San Diego have no idea what I’m talking about. But I can hear you because I’ve turned up the volume on my little headset here. You can hear what you want, but you block out the noise.
Now why would I wear earprotectors to a marriage rally? Because there’s a lot of noise in the marriage debate. You know what I’m talking about? Everytime somebody says, “You’re a bigot,” that’s just noise. That is just noise. That is designed to keep you–when somebody says that, what happens? You go Ohh! . . .you suddenly immediately recoil, just like the shotgun going off in your ear.
So you have to do something to stop the noise, so you can think. And the people on the other side are very deliberate and intentional from keeping the subject away from the subject. Instead of the subject being, “What is marriage and why do we need it?,” the subject is, “What’s wrong with you guys that you’re so mean to us and that you’re on the wrong side of history?” That’s what they want to talk about.
Did we mention she isn’t from Minnesota? Bluestem also suspects that Morse never attended the Ozarks Famous Writers School, or she’d never have pulled out a howler of an analogy like that one.
It’s fascinating how much folks like Morse talk about the word “bigot.” Early on in the drive to defeat the amendment to restrict the freedom to marry, Bluestem’s friend (and Thug in Pastels blogger) Javier Morillo-Alicea, a Minnesotans United for All Families board member, explained how the use of the word wasn’t particularly helpful or descriptive, since while many people might be uncomfortable with the notion of marriage equality, that discomfort does not a bigot make.
Recognizing that, Minnesotans United picked a strategy of starting a conversation about marriage. Like we said, the nice big city expert lady isn’t from around here, so here’s a refresher course in what that discussion looked like, from the Minnesota Public Radio report, EIGHTEEN MONTHS TO HISTORY: How the Minnesota marriage amendment was defeated — money, passion, allies:
In interviews before and after Tuesday’s results were known, key participants focused on these factors:
• Allies: From its beginning, Minnesotans United for All Families sought to build a diverse, nonpartisan coalition. It avoided confrontation and steered clear of blunt words like “bigotry” and “discrimination.”
• Faith: Although the side pushing the marriage amendment enjoyed substantial support from Catholic and evangelical churches, opponents of the amendment actively recruited help from other faith communities. Several organizers put it this way: “We refused to cede the religious ground.”
• Money: Minnesotans United raised more than $12 million for the drive to defeat the amendment. The campaign dwarfed its opposition, both in the dollars raised and in the number of donors named.
• Time: Opponents of the marriage amendment had a full year and a half to organize and mobilize their supporters. In fact, they had longer than that, because the effort to ban same-sex marriage had made no secret of its existence ahead of time.
That’s what Morse wants to filter out, and it illustrates why Morse’s faux-folksie analogy about electronic ear protection misses the mark. Bluestem’s editor loves shooting, and so knows that the voices of those around you aren’t the shotgun blasts the ear protection gear filter out. It’s your own gun firing that’s likely to deafen you.
Indeed, Morse seems only able to hear her own thoughts and not the discussion in Minnesota.
Could Morse be a bigot? Bluestem would argue that her bigotry or lack thereof is immaterial to the debate. Fairness, respect and equal treatment are positive public virtues, and the case for the freedom to marry is made on this positive basis. It’s not a repayment for insult and injury, like a tort claim, or a rebuke to Morse’s personal cruelties, but rather an acknowledgement of full citizenship and fairness toward all citizens to acknowledge the claims of gay men and lesbians to marry the people they love.
As for the “essential public purpose of marriage,” Morse can pretend that the conversation hasn’t happened, as did Maggie Gallagher, with whom the phrase is most frequently associated online. But as The American Prospect’s E.J. Graff wrote in What’s the “Chief Purpose” of Marriage?:
. . . same-sex couples are following, not leading, the variety of changes in marriage’s public meaning that were made by capitalism between 1850 and 1970—the time span between Anthony Comstock’s anti-obscenity crusade and the paired Supreme Court decisions of Griswold and Eisenstadt. In addition, I would not agree that the most important of these changes in marriage law and public philosophy is snipping the link between sex and babies; that’s just one of them. Some of the other changes include formal gender equality, which was won by the mid-1970s; and divorce with remarriage, which implies that marriage is for love rather than being a lifetime sex-and-labor contract, and therefore unbreakable. You believe that adding same-sex couples to marriage is what really snips the link between sex and babies. I don’t.
Later in the video below, Morse condemns divorce and reproductive choice, while going so far as to claim the freedom to marry will eliminate the institution entirely. It’s one big plot or something.
Morse also tried to get folksy with a coy, nearly sniggering suggestion about rural and metro people having different understandings about where babies come from:
Every known society has something like marriage that attaches mothers and fathers to their children and one another. Now as soon as you see that that is the public purpose, the essential public purpose of marriage, then you can see right away that a same sex couple is different from an opposite sex couple with respect to that purpose. Can everybody see that?
It’s basic biology. And I’m sure out here in a farm community, you all know how this works with the men and the women [she moves her hands back and forth while the audience guffaws] that stuff. Back in the metro area….ehhhhh, maybe not so clear on that, but out here, you all know how this works.
Bluestem suspects that Morse hasn’t been to a modern livestock farm anytime recently to make that assertion–since sows and cows are artificially inseminated–or that she knows much about “the metro” either. Perhaps Rod Hamilton could give her a tour of a boar stud farm and farrowing unit if she wants to bring this up; as Harpers contributor Nathaniel Johnson wrote, it’s a Swine of the Times in rural America.
Morse code: no stranger to controversy
One friend suggested that it might be a sign of M4M’s desperation that it flew Morse in. Her most recent turn in the headlines was an almost Kluwesque turn, when the Chicago Bears and former linebacker Brian Urlacher ran from a Morse fundraising effort. The Chicago Tribune reported in the early April 2013 article, Urlacher, Bears reject link to group opposing same-sex-marriage:
The Bears and former linebacker Brian Urlacher denied any involvement Wednesday with the Ruth Institute — an affiliate of the National Organization For Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage — after an online promotion for the institute stated a clear involvement of the team. . . .
In an advertisement for its June gala at an upcoming conference, the California-based group stated, “For now, you should know that we have two fabulous raffle items from the Chicago Bears Organization (and a huge THANK YOU to the Bears for supporting our message).”
Below the statement are images of an autographed Urlacher jersey and an autographed black-and-white photo of deceased Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton.
“I sign a lot of stuff for charity and I don’t always know where it goes,” Urlacher told the Tribune. “If I would have known it was for this cause, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Payton’s older brother Eddie Payton said he did not know of any memorabilia regarding his brother used to support an anti-gay marriage group.
“This is the first I’ve heard of it,” said Payton, a former NFL kick returner. “Walter treated everybody equal. … Only Walter could speak for himself, but it’s a touchy subject. It should be a non-subject.”
The Bears issued a statement, saying “The two items featured in The Ruth Institute gala invitation were personal donations to (President) Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse. Neither was a club donation, nor do they represent the team’s view on any social issues. Any remarks stating otherwise are false.”
Reached by phone Wednesday afternoon, Morse initially declined comment. But her website later dropped all references to the Bears at the team’s request, and Morse issued a statement: “The Ruth Institute is not working with the Chicago Bears organization or any of its players past or present to promote our upcoming auction. The memorabilia we are auctioning off was acquired by me personally, not through the team or players. We understand that the Chicago Bears organization takes no position on social issues, and we regret any confusion we may have caused on this point.” . . .
The Commentator Accountability Project, GLAAD’s online resource, lists a number of statements where Morse has expressed interesting opinions. A sampling:
— Says that “the parallels” between Nazi Germany and contemporary America “are really quite chilling” and what happened in Nazi Germany “is happening to us.” (0:18-0:35)
— Says being gay is a “completely shameless activity.” (0:20-0:27)
— Refers to gays as both people who “suffer from same-sex attraction” and “struggle with same-sex attraction” (51:14-51:20)
— Asks of marriage equality advocates: “Is there anything the advocates of same sex marriage are not willing to do, any value they are unwilling to destry [sic], in order to get their way?“
She also appears to have once kept a blog, although no entry has been made since 2009.
Here’s the video of Morse from Saturday’s rally:
Photo: Morse in Montevideo, tweeted by M4M. After watching the event, I wrote Andrew Falk, my state representative and asked him to vote “yes” on the Clark bill to legalize the freedom to marry for all loving adult couples. (Video: Shot by Sally Jo Sorensen. Please credit Bluestem Prairie.)