The 16 year old girl in the linked video below, who challenges Michelle Bachmann, didn’t realize the faulty logic in Bachmann’s argument against same sex marriage. Bachmann says that the government protects the equal rights of all people. The girl asks why gay people do not have the right to enter into a same sex marriage.
Bachmann’s answer is because that is what the law says. Then Bachmann implies that allowing same sex marriage counter to the law would be granting special privileges to one particular group. Therefore equal rights under the law would not be guaranteed.
Bachmann’s logic is ok in a formal sense, but there is an underlying premise that is faulty. She is not acknowledging that the 16 year old girl is asking the question to a standing lawmaker who is seeking a higher office in the government. The law Bachmann is referring to is simply a law that was created by legislators. As such, Bachmann’s answer is simply diversionary.
Bachmann’s trick is to abuse the notion of equal rights for all by appealing to fairness in not granting special privilege. Whereas, the special privilege she is talking about is only special because it takes back a restriction of rights imposed by the arbitrary law that defines marriage as a contract only allowed between certain groups of people.
In short, the law already restricts rights for certain groups of individuals. What Bachmann calls special privilege is really the simple restoration of rights that were taken away by the law.
Our founding fathers, fleeing from oppressive regimes, created a bold experiment by founding our government on the basic premise that it is the citizens who have God given rights at the outset. Then the citizens grant certain powers to the government to restrict the rights of citizens in those situations where the citizens need protection from each other. The assumption underlying our system in regard to the rights of citizens and their government is declared in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ;”
– Declaration of Independence [emphasis my own]
In other words, our government is allowed to restrict our god given rights as citizens only when the ciitizens allow the creation of laws that do so. We give the government permission to restrict our rights where we think it is necessary. So a law that restricts the definition of marriage to only opposite sex partners, is only their by our consent.
So the next question from the girl could have been, “As a legislator and potentially the next President of the United States, do you support the law that restricts the rights for marriage to only opposite sex partners, or do you support removing that restrictive law and restoring equal rights to everyone?”
At this point, Bachmann would have to justify her personal reasons why she supports a law that defines marriage in a manner that restricts the rights of certain groups of people. Bachmann would either have to fall back on the religious principles that might be peculiar to her faith tradition, or popular sentiment.
In both cases, she loses, because fortunately we don’t make our laws to satisfy tenets in the doctrine of one particular religious group. And popular sentiment is in favor of not restricting same sex marriage. Even if popular sentiment was not in favor of same sex marriage, our system of government favors rights over the restriction of rights.
So whenever we feel the need to restrict rights through law, there better be a really compelling need for that. We outlaw murder, for example. But is same sex marriage equivalent to murder? Or is it simply because some people find it “icky”?. We had laws as recently as the 1960s against interracial marriage because some thought it was icky. If the icky factor is the reason, then another principle of our constitution comes into play. That is the principle of “Majority rule, but minority rights”.
We favor the rights of the minority over the wishes of the majority unless there is a real compelling reason to restrict rights. Murder is a compelling reason. Icky is not a compelling reason.
The only thing Bachmann has left in this case is an appeal to her own personal bigotry.