The WaPo has a puff piece up on “Ryan T. Anderson, the conservative movement’s fresh-faced, millennial, Ivy League-educated spokesman against same-sex marriage.” And that is a direct quote.
If you read the article, The right finds a fresh voice on same-sex marriage, you’ll be treated to some embarrassing and lavish tongue-bathing, but also some amazingly façile arguments that anyone who has spent any time with Jesuits would understand: Marriage should not be extended to same-sex couples because the definition of marriage is open only to a man and a woman.
We used to call it the fencing-in strategy, which was essentially declaring a closed set and then not allowing any outside factors into the set. “If we all agree that God has a plan, then no matter what happens it is part of that plan.” But if we don’t agree with the basic premise, then the argument is shot to hell.
It works amazingly well at first blush, when the wunderkind says:
“Gays and lesbians undoubtedly have been discriminated against,” Anderson says. “But marriage is not part of that discrimination.”
You see, it cannot be discrimination because gay couples were never part of marriage to begin with; except that it always was discrimination, if you don’t agree with the basic premise.
The way this argument worked back in my day was usually with a little bit of a history lesson, almost always positioned as “let’s look at how we got to where we are today,” and if you agree or don’t add information into the premise, you might as well give up now. Because, when you object later, you will be told, “but we all agreed that..”
But then he does bring an new touch to the old technique:
“This is the question I will close with: If you do assume marriage equality of the same-sex couple, on what basis do you deny marriage equality for the same-sex throuple?”
Heads turn. People whisper. No one seems sure what a throuple is.
He explains, not for the first or last time that day, that a throuple is three same-sex people who might want to marry. The New York Post reported on one in Indonesia, he says. Likewise, he talks about the “wed-lease,” an idea he say was “floated” by The Washington Post. He later clarifies that it was an op-ed from a Florida lawyer who proposed, instead of “wedlock” meant to last forever, renewable five-year marriage contracts.
So after he has fenced everyone in with an argument based on defining everything by his own terms, he concludes by doing an O. Henry stunt supplying us with a surprise ending, introducing something outside the fence he so elaborately built.
It probably is good theater, but it is a cheap trick and not a good argument.