As an ardent supporter of equal rights, I was both frustrated by the guest speakers at Monday's event and disappointed by many of the protestors in attendance.

The argument put forth by Mr. Heath, while well-worded, was fundamentally flawed. No matter how carefully he put it, the keystone of his argument was that he felt that gay, bisexual, and transgender employees were not discriminated against enough to warrant legislation prohibiting such discrimination in the state of Maine. He did not cite any statistics, reports, studies, or anything concrete to support this highly unstable premise.

The reason he did not do this is very simple: there is no concrete way to prove that gays, bisexuals, and transgender people are not discriminated against in employment. Who would provide objective evidence disproving claims of discrimination? The employers? Other gay/bi/trans employees who don't feel discriminated against?

No single employer or employee can speak to the practices or experiences of every other employer or employee in the state. Mr. Heath could not have cited any legitimate sources to corroborate his speculation because no such sources exist.

In addition to the faults of this specific argument, Mr. Heath's defense of the larger argument against same-sex marriage also rested on a shaky foundation. When stripped to its bare bones, his argument against same-sex marriage was supported by two very unstable pillars.

The first pillar is tradition: the idea that marriage ought to be an exclusively heterosexual union because it's always been that way, historically. Well, any student of logic will tell you that the premise that something is "right" because it's "always been done that way" is downright silly.

History does not dictate what is "right." Our society proved that when we acknowledged that it is wrong to discriminate against people based on skin color (Civil Rights Act, 1964, 1991), gender (19th Amendment, 1919), religious belief (First Amendment, 1789), and other external qualities. Hell, we proved that when we let go of the idea of a geocentric universe (1604, Galileo's proof of a heliocentric universe).

The second pillar is faith: the idea that marriage ought to be an exclusively heterosexual union because the Bible says so. Because it is against the rules of a free and just democracy to legislate faith-based opinion, this premise cannot overwhelm legal rationale. Yet it seemed that the only response Mr. Heath and his guest could conjure was to give an absurdly off-topic and hypocritical history lesson on how the Baptists were the original champions of secularized government.

So, the guests' arguments had holes. Big ones. But instead of approaching Mr. Heath's talk as a golden opportunity to dissect his argument intellectually and challenge him with carefully crafted questions concerning the stability of his premises, the majority of the activist contingent of Monday's audience chose to ask questions originating from emotional reactions to what Mr. Heath's argument stood for.

Many questions were poorly articulated, desultorily delivered, and indirect, making it easy for the speakers to avoid direct (or even relevant) responses. Some were embarrassingly easy to dismiss. Somebody actually asked, "Do you think gays are human beings?" What did the person who lobbed this one to Mr. Heath expect him to respond? "No, I don't think gays are human beings... try to disprove that!"

There were two or three questions that were articulate and direct enough to shed light through the seams. But on the whole, the activist crowd handled the Q&A portion of the event in a way that reflected anti-intellectualism, premeditated hostility, and a chaotic lack of respect for opinions different from their own. Ironically, they managed to make Mr. Heath look like the guardian of reason.

I would suggest that for future events, my fellow liberals keep this in mind: people's minds are rarely changed by loud and disrespectful opponents. Persuasion is an art mastered by champions of reason, not volume.