20090415

One proposal for marriage: the money strategy

(one of my letters to the editor on Salon.com.)

Fairness - exactly the approach we need (are you listening, HRC?)

[Read the article: Gay marriage in the Heartland]

Fairness, as Hamlet_d points out, seems part of the cultural makeup of level-headed Midwesterners. (Would that it were true of my own home state of Kansas.)

And it's a specific type of fairness that needs to be part of whatever calculated moves our PR firms choose to employ in the coming races to get civil rights everywhere else.

Research on "cheater detection modules" of the mind (postulated to exist by evolutionary psychologists) may lend some insight. Such work suggests that when a logic problem is difficult for a person to solve, it's made far easier by re-framing it as a game to catch people taking more than their share.

The marriage rights struggle could stand a little infusion of this knowledge. I say that marriage rights need to be about tax breaks that the federal government is cheating me out of.

Does Jane Hetero Farmer in Topeka give a hoot about whether I can get in line at city hall? Probably not. But does the implicit unfairness of laws that tax some people more than others resonate any more strongly? (Discounts on gym memberships, insurance coverage, property rights?) Yes, money is one thing that should strike a chord with people who ... well, who are rather accustomed to striking us.

I hope HRC - and anyone else who's going to craft a message in time for other elections - are listening to all possibilities. Acceptance is important, obviously; but we've got to win votes however we can.