Column: No use trying to change someone’s mind on gay marriage

06/23/2011 5:37 AM |

The thing that makes political arguments so fascinating is that it’s hard to change the mind of the person you’re debating. You make your point. They make theirs. You counter. So do they. Eventually you agree to disagree, usually somewhere along party lines, and it’s over.

It’s different with almost every other talking point. Get into the classic argument over who’s a better actor, DeNiro or Pacino, and you might change your friend’s mind when you remind him of how great Pacino was in “Dog Day Afternoon.”

Sports? I can’t tell you how many times a Yankee fan friend has shut my sorry Mets fan self up with three painful words: 27 world championships.

One key difference is that political arguments tend to center not on fact, but rather opinion. And the facts that are thrown out there can be hard to grasp, or easy to spin. Ultimately, it’s nearly impossible to change a political mind that’s already made up. That’s why we’re still fighting about abortion nearly 40 years after Roe went 15 rounds in the ring with Wade.

The most heated political argument right here and now is over gay marriage.

More than seven years after Marcia Hams and Susan Shepherd walked out of City Hall in Cambridge, Mass., as the first same-sex couple in the U.S. to complete a state-sanctioned marriage application, gay New Yorkers are still fighting for the right to do the same.

As they appear to be getting closer than ever to receiving marriage equality, one thing might still stand in their way: A state Senate controlled by Republicans.

Local Senator Ken LaValle, a Republican, has already said he will not support gay marriage, just as he did when the roll was called on a similar bill in 2009. He told me back then that he didn’t believe his constituency was ready for gay marriage. His spokesman said last week that phone calls his office has received in recent weeks, brought on by an advertising campaign from a pro-gay marriage group, indicate they still aren’t.

Here’s my problem with that: People typically respond more to the things they don’t agree with than things they do.
When I write a friendly column patting someone on the back, I get less response than when I bash someone for something I don’t agree with.

So it would be my expectation that an advertising campaign urging people to contact Mr. LaValle in support of gay marriage might lead to more phone calls from others turned off by such a mailing.

That’s why I also suspect I’ll hear from more people who read this column and are opposed to gay marriage when I write that I am not.

As a resident of Mr. LaValle’s district, and someone who has voted for the man in the past, I was curious last year when he left all questions about gay marriage off an issues poll posted on his website. In the comments section of the poll, I said that disappointed me.

I also take exception to a claim by Mr. LaValle’s spokesman last week that the senator supports equality through civil unions. That’s like saying you like corned beef because you eat pastrami; they’re just not the same thing.

It’s unfathomable to me that anyone in this day and age would be opposed to two human beings who are in love with each other getting married.

Polling some friends in recent weeks I found that most friends my age support gay marriage, even some who tend to lean right.
Maybe it’s a generational thing? After all, Senator LaValle was first elected on a GOP ticket that featured Gerald Ford for president. But even then, both my parents say they support gay marriage.

Over the past week I’ve seen a lot of debate from both sides of the argument on the Times/Review Facebook pages and websites. I’ve yet to see a single person credit someone who sees things differently from them with making a good point.
I guess it’s just one of those political arguments you can’t win.

Mr. Parpan is the web editor for Times/Review Newsgoup. He can be reached at [email protected] or 631-744-0404, ext. 20.



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