Attack or Defense: Gay Marriage and the Culture Wars

Today the president came out in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Immediately upon the president’s announcement, Democrats characterized his position as an election year ploy to raise a divisive issue. As always, my interest focuses on the strategic aspects of this battle in the cultural war. Despite the popular aphorism that the best defense is a good offense, Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that defensive positions are always inherently stronger than offensive ones. The question is: is the president’s support of a constitutional amendment a defensive action or a offensive ones. Supporter of gay marriage characterize an amendment as an attack on gay rights, but who is attacking what? Putting the battle in Sun Tzu’s concept of positioning clarifies matters confused by verbal smoke screens (the fog of cultural war). To define attack and defense, Sun Tzu simple asks, who wants to change positions? The person initiating the change is, by definition, the attacker. The decisions by the court in Massachusetts and by the major of San Francisco were aggressive attacks on the status quo, which has, since history began, defined marriage in law as a union between a man and a woman. If these actions had been allowed to stand unchallenged, a position change would have occurred. The new status quo would have been established. This is what the proponents of gay marriage—better defined as the opponents of traditional marriage—desired: to assume the power of a defensive position. However, the attack on marriage has triggered an active defense. The new position has not been accepted as fait accompli. Given an active defense, Sun Tzu's strategy teaches that the forces of attack, that is, the forces of change, must have five times the power of defending forces (power is a combination of both numbers, momentum, and focus). Gay proponents simply do not have this type of power. to counter this, they will try to caste their view as a defense of the constitution. But will anyone, even a gullible and sympathetic media accept the idea that the constitution, as it was originally written and interpreted for over two hundred years, defined marriage as same sex union? What is really being defended here is the power of judges to interpret the constitution in any way they choose. Since Clinton’s parsing the meaning of “is,” it has become increasingly clear that the clear intent of the law is increasingly at the mercy of those who are willing to change the meaning of words. Unlike the constitution, this new fluidity of words is not yet an established position, except, of course, among politicians.