Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Move the middle on marriage with "Committment" not "Rights" language

A message from Harry Knox
Interim Executive Director
Integrity USA

"The most important lesson is that for the middle, marriage is about commitment—not rights." - Thrid Way

It’s always nice to get validation for our work. It is especially so when that validation is backed by solid data. When I saw the report  ( this week on messages that work to help the moveable middle support marriage equality, I am more convinced than ever that Integrity’s approach to advocacy for blessings of marriages for all committed couples is effective both inside and beyond the Church.

The report came from Third Way a Washington think tank that helps moderate politicians find their way to support for progressive causes. A few years ago, I worked with Third Way on efforts which lead to the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. I am proud of work I did with them and look forward to using their new research moving ahead.

One of the major findings of focus groups and polls utilized in the study was that voters who are moving toward support for marriage equality become more comfortably settled in that support when they learn that most lesbian and gay couples want to be married for the same reason their straight neighbors do – because they are committed to each other and want the world to know it. Messages that center on commitment work better with these voters than those that focus on the civil right to marry or financial benefits that derive from marriage.

For many people, it all comes down to something spiritual. Isn’t that what Integrity has been saying all along? Our work for the blessing of the church in our local parishes is driven by a desire to celebrate with our church families the love God has given us and to ask for the prayers of the people as we commit to support and care for each other come what may. Our desire for legal rights and financial protections derives from our commitments to care for our spouses -- not to make a political point.

The more we engage our neighbors in the pew to tell that story – and the more our engagement is overheard by those outside the Church – the easier our neighbors find it to give us the blessing of their support. Let’s keep at it!

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