Creating Evidence-Based Arguments

Ready to make a human rights argument?

Maybe it’s a comment on another blog, or a traditional letter to the editor, or a posting you are making on your own blog or website . . . or some type of presentation.

Best bet is to keep in mind what folks call the Rule of Three. Choose which part of an argument works best for you.  Use all three  when you can . . . but since that could get very long in one post or one 3-minute presentation, consider then breaking the argument into three  posts or having others who are making presentations cover the aspects you are not.

1. Argue from the Facts of whatever case you might be discussing — what has happened to a particular LGBT person, for example, and why that should be considered unfair . . . or why a different outcome would have been better not only for the individual but for whatever group is involved (the school? the company? the nation?) Get your facts right. There’s no faster way to have an argument destroyed than by having the facts wrong.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be dispassionate. Often, an explanation of the facts of a situation is exactly where both emotion and logic work best together.

2. Argue from a Universal Principle  that you think your audience already believes in or should believe in — such as one of the universal rights of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of gender and sex. Those are already supported in the several different international covenants linked from this website. Take a look at those covenants.

Universal Principles also include the different  “burdens of proof” that a strong judicial system should insist be met when either the legislative or executive branches violates LGBT rights. Take a look below at an explanation of three possible burdens of proof as used in the American judicial system.

Rational basis review  (also called minimal scrutiny of the government action that you think violates a human right)

Substantial Basis Review (also called intermediate or heightened scrutiny of the government action you think violates a human right)

Compelling Basis Review  (also called strict scrutiny of the government action you think violates a human right)  

While the terms may vary around the world, what is universal  is that when the “burden of proof” is very low, the government will almost always win. Human rights activists usually need to remind their audiences that the government should have “substantial” or “compelling” reasons for its actions against LGBT citizens — not merely “rational reasons” for such actions. (Of course, in some nations, we might be happy to just get some “rational reasons” required!)

Often, deciding the burden of proof will determine whether an anti-LGBT policy will get overturned . . . or determine how effectively a positive LGBT policy will get implemented without being sidetracked by opponents.

Finally, a very important near-universal principle that is not especially dealt with in law but is certainly important to LGBT folks everywhere is a very simple one that has spread throughout the world since the 20th century: the principle of romance and of an adult being able to love who YOU love — rather than being coerced to surrender your body to someone you do not love.

3. Argue from Precedents, which is quite often what will be most persuasive legally, especially in systems inherited from colonial Western nations or in cultures heavily influenced by previous bouts of colonialism.

If you are working with a judicial system, precedents mean previously decided cases where either the facts of the case or the principles used to decide that case can be cited as support for your own argument.

Cultural or historical examples work too, which is one reason we need to be actively publishing stories of our own history and our own local LGBT experience and knowledge.  It’s true that often LGBT folks find themselves the butt of traditions that are used to justify  continued discrimination or, in particular, coerced marriages. That’s when strong assertions of the damage done by those traditions need to be made — usually by making arguments from the facts and arguments from other contrary universal principles (above).

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Advocating LGBT justice and equality