Thursday, January 19, 2012

Shall We Talk About the Marriage Amendment?

How do we talk about the marriage amendment with people who might disagree? Below are some notes taken by a colleague of ours in the inter-faith movement to defeat the amendment. Liz O. is a Quaker in Minneapolis, and shares these insightful notes from a presentation given by Mark Oster, a professer at the University of St. Thomas Law School. They are worth our study:

Stop talking to one another (the choir); go to people we disagree with and talk to them in a civil manner, in the appropriate place. HERE ARE 5 IDEAS ON HOW TO APPROACH THESE CIVIL, PERSUASIVE CONVERSATIONS:

+ Be brave enough to talk with conflicted people and with people who disagree with you. They probably are among our work colleagues, our neighbors, our fellow-worshipers. Yes, the issue of marriage/of the amendment comes up... if you raise it!

+ Don't start with anger. Anger is valuable but not when you are advocating for a point, person, position, etc. Anger doesn't change anyone's mind! Anger ≠ Advocacy. The rally-chant "Racist, Sexist, Anti-Gay/Born-Again Christians, go away!" doesn't make for social change and doesn't change anyone.

+ Start with common interest and values. Picture you and the person you are speaking with as being part of a conversation that metaphorically draws a circle around you both.
Also, visualize standing where the other person is, side by side, facing in the same direction; then begin walking together to the destination we're moving toward.

+ Affirm the positive, shared elements, then work from there. Example: "Both of us value children in stable families. Gay men and lesbians already have kids and are raising children, that's a fact. Given that, wouldn't those kids do better by having the stability that marriage brings?"
Another example, related to religious people and others who are against abortion: "Gays and lesbians adopt many kids who have special needs or who are older. So gay and lesbian couples are helping address abortion, an issue you care deeply about."
Be realistic: No one will say, "You're right, I'm a bigot."

+ Leave the interaction on a positive note; change topics if you have to! Remember: People change their minds over time. And we never know who is listening or when it is that something will click. So ask about their plans for the weekend, or their family, or a hobby you know they are engaged in.

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