Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The ADF has put out a white paper (PDF file) on gay marriage amendments around the country, which shows their fanatical obsession with gay sex in big, bright colors. The white paper would make a terrific test case for a class in political rhetoric, examining how language is used to poison the well in a political debate. I’ll give some examples. They begin by citing completely irrelevant studies. For instance, they cite a statement from the Georgia Supreme Court Commission on Children, Marriage and Family Law. That statement concludes:

Research clearly indicates that family structure matters for children. “Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risk of poor outcomes . . . . There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.”


This is an argument for gay marriage, not against it. There are hundreds of thousands of children currently being raised by gay parents. All of these studies indicate that a child raised by two people in a stable relationship, with all the financial and legal protections that come with it, is statistically better off than those raised by a single parent with transient relationships. Those children are not going to magically disappear, nor are they going to be taken away from their parents and given to heterosexual couples (even the ADF isn’t foolish enough to call for that).

So, since they’re going to be raised by gay parents anyway, would you rather have them raised in a situation where their parents are in a committed relationship with all the legal and financial protections – protections that are vital to the well-being of the children involved – or would you rather they be raised by a single parent in a series of temporary relationships? That is precisely the logic behind encouraging marriage between hetersosexual couples, and if that logic works then it works the same way here.

And the only reason the ADF and other groups don’t recognize that is because, in their minds, there is no such thing as a committed, stable gay relationship. As far as they’re concerned, all gay people are willful sinners choosing to engage in sin and they could just as easily choose not to. Informed people, of course, know that this is utter nonsense. But for the anti-gay right, the notion that gays could have a committed, monogamous relationship just like straights do, and the notion that they can be good parents, is simply outside their ability to comprehend. These people are evil sinners and that’s all that matters.

As far as the anti-gay right is concerned, being gay only means one thing – anal sex. And that ridiculous obsession with gay sex permeates this entire white paper. For example, they make the argument that states can still provide benefits to unmarried people as long as those benefits are based on something other than the existence of a committed relationship.

These amendments only prohibit domestic partners from receiving benefits if public entities are too stingy (or too worried about making a politically-correct “statement”) to provide benefits equally to adult dependents who are not the sex partners of their unmarried employees…

To reiterate, ADF does not oppose granting benefits to unmarried people, so long as they are granted in a manner that does not endorse sexual conduct outside of marriage and so long as the definition of marriage is not undermined.

But the granting of benefits to non-married but committed relationships is hardly based on who is having sex with whom. Does the ADF think that when someone signs up their partner to get insurance benefits from their company that they have to fill out a form that says, “Yes, I agree that I’m having sex with thiis person”? Of course not. They may agree that they are in a committed relationship with them, that they are partners of some sort, but sex has nothing to do with it.

Here’s how ridiculous this is. Companies provide benefits to married spouses all the time. Would the ADF think it accurate to say that those benefits are given because the spouse is the sex partner of the employee? Of course they wouldn’t. They would call that dishonest and empty rhetoric. And it would be. But so is their statement above. The granting of such benefits has nothing at all to do with sex, they have to do with recruiting and retaining talented people. And if someone with a partner, straight or gay or any other kind, and they have a choice between working for a company or agency that provides health and pension benefits for their partner and one that doesn’t, they’re naturally going to choose the former. That’s why so many employers choose to offer such benefits, but these laws make it illegal to do that for all government agencies and, in some cases (like the new Virginia amendment), even for private employers to do it.

Another rhetorical trick that they use is labelling those who disagree with them in misleading ways. For instance:

Political special interests shouldn’t trump what’s clearly in the best interests of families and children, yet marriage itself is under assault by special interest activists.

This is typical political rhetoric, labelling your opponents as “special” interests. As opposed to what, exactly? Why is an organization that favors gay marriage any more a “special interest group” than an organization that opposes gay marriage? Both are groups of citizens advocating a position. But of course, political partisans want to sell the notion that the other side is different from you. They’re “special interests” – you know, evil lobbyists and such – while we’re just good folks trying to stand up for God and apple pie. That’s dishonest rhetoric.

Comments

  1. #1 steve s
    October 22, 2006

    “To reiterate, ADF does not oppose granting benefits to unmarried people, so long as they are granted in a manner that does not endorse sexual conduct outside of marriage and so long as the definition of marriage is not undermined.”

    This endorsing business is nonsense. Does teaching fire safety endorse fires?

  2. #2 Rob Knop
    October 22, 2006

    This morning, I realized that there may be a completely different tactic that we should be using.

    We should be saying: Wouldn’t you rather have gay men get married to other gay men? Otherwise, if that’s not allowed, your daughter may get stuck with one. Is that what you want?

  3. #3 raindogzilla
    October 22, 2006

    While the divorce rate hovers around fifty percent, while a couple can exchange drunken vows before an Elvis impersonator, while spectacles like “Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire” draw an audience, there’s just not much sanctity left in marriage to be “threatened” by two men or two women getting hitched.

  4. #4 Chance
    October 22, 2006

    It should be mentioned that there are now more than a few studies that show none of the situations mentioned above i.e. ‘Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships’ have any long term affect on the children that is statistically significant.

    There appears to be a leveling off as the kids mature and many ‘stepfamilies’ are stronger than the original unit. It’s far from cut and dried and appears to have more to do with finances than family structure.

    And who has more income than most on average. Gays.

  5. #5 Julia
    October 22, 2006

    And who has more income than most on average. Gays.

    I didn’t know that. Chance, do you have a source for that information?

  6. #6 Chance
    October 22, 2006

    I don’t have any first hand but someone should be able to provide some links to the information somewhere. I remember reading in several places that homosexuals have generally more educaton and higher incomes than your run of the mill heterosexual. I could be repeating falsehoods but I don’t think so.

  7. #7 Rob Knop
    October 22, 2006

    I would be very dubious of any study that showed that gays have more income than most because of a few sampling biases that I can come up with off of the top of my head.

    The most obvious one is the less well-off, less educated, highly religious power base of today’s conservative politicians you can find in the South (and, really, in places everywhere). The stigma of admitting that you are gay there is going to be much greater than it is if you are living in or near a city, and if you regularly interact with a cosmopolitan and diverse range of people (races, ages, background, viewpoints, etc.). I suspect that just as poor black people will (in general) suffer more from the effects of discrimination than well-off black people, poor gay people are likewise (in general) going to be less comfortable coming out of the closet than well-off gay people.

  8. #8 Roger
    October 22, 2006

    Chance is repeating one of the urban legends. That story about gays having more money has been debunked time and time again. The original source seems to have been a survey of readers of a particular magazine oriented towards gays with money. It was a survey designed to show advertisers why they should buy space. Do I have the sources handy as I type this? No. And I’m not going to spend my time looking up the original ad and all of the permutations of this false legend.

  9. #9 Chance
    October 22, 2006

    Like I said I may be repeating falsehoods although Roger I must say I haven’t read anything about gays having more money being debunked time and time again.

    I would tend to agree with Rob about a sampling bias but I haven’t read any debunking anywhere on this issue.

    But all this is rather beside the point. I think one could make a rather strong case that gay marriage would entail a stronger financial pairing if for no other fact than men tend to outearn women. So 2 men are better than one in this debate.

  10. #10 SharonB
    October 22, 2006

    “…nor are they going to be taken away from their parents and given to heterosexual couples (even the ADF isn’t foolish enough to call for that).”

    Ed, don’t be so sure on that. It is the logical endpoint to the re-establishment of sodomy laws. In addition, some of these groups have made the statement that children being in the custody of a gay parent is “child abuse.” The ADF, itself frequently intervenes in an attempt to prevent a gay parent from having custody (and in some cases, even visitation!) in divorce cases.

    The term “sex partner” is an ADF slam on GLBT relationships. They frequently use it to say that the only think keeping same-sex attracted couples together is the sex. They thereby reduce the sum of the relationship to a physical act of sex.

    They are a disgusting ind disingenuous group. I cannot believe they perpetuate the charade that they are a Christian organization.

  11. #11 raj
    October 22, 2006

    Roger is correct that the original story of the “gays having higher incomes” story came from survey instigated by a gay magazine (the Advocate, I believe it was) that was intended to show that its readership (and prospective readership) had higher incomes, for use in marketing to prospective advertisers. I believe that was in the late 1980s.

    I’ve only seen one debunking of the canard that gays, generally, have higher incomes, and that was within the last few years. So I’m not sure that the canard has been debunked over and over. Indeed, the more recent survey showed that gay men on average have slightly lower incomes than straight men, and that lesbians have noticeably lower incomes than straight women.

  12. #12 Ed Brayton
    October 22, 2006

    Sharon-

    I don’t doubt that lots of religious righters would like nothing more than to take children away from gay parents and lock them up. But that horse is already out of the barn and it’s now outside the pale of discussion. No serious group is going to suggest that at this point. Which is good, that’s progress of a sort.

  13. #13 CPT_Doom
    October 22, 2006

    Whatever the actual surveys of gay and lesbian incomes say (and I believe raj is right on this one), there is still a case to make for the financial security of gay parents. Simply put, gay and lesbian people do not have children by accident, at least not after they come out and leave any heterosexual marriages they may have entered. When gay and lesbian couples decide to have children, whether through insemination/surrogacy or adoption, they have come to their decision after a lot of thought and planning. Neither of those routes is cheap, so they are likely to have better financial stability than a random heterosexual couple. All of this bodes well for the successful rearing of children.

    And, of course, the ADF also ignores the research that has been done to date on gay and lesbian parents, which find no real differences between them and those raised by straights. The only significant differences are a greated tendency of the children of gays and lesbians to choose non-gender stereotypical jobs, and for those same children to be more likely to acknowledge same-sex affairs or fantasies, although they are not more likely to be in an adult same-sex relationship.

  14. #14 Tulle
    October 22, 2006

    Well, Ed you have more faith than I do. I live in fear that if anything happens to my husband that Florida will take our kids away. You see they are his biological kids, and in Florida it is illeagal for a gay person to adopt. So if he dies what is going to happen? Because of these hateful Christians I can’t imagine a good outcome

  15. #15 Prup aka Jim Benton
    October 23, 2006

    Anecdotes are not proof, but I know of one man who was raised by lesbian parents, in Suburban New Jersey in the ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ 50s. His parents were in a committed relationship that lasted over thirty years, and only ended when one partner died. Despite the fact that his natural mother had some serious mental problems, including an amphetamine addiction (which she cured herself of, ‘cold turkey’ when she realized her partner had grown so sick she would have to be able to respond to a crisis at any hour and couldn’t afford the crashing from the dexedrine) and they had serious money problems, I will say, unconditionally, that, of the ten people I have known best over the years, he was less negatively affected by his parents, and better raised than any of the others, most of whom were seriously psychologically affected by their (heterosexual) parents. Of course, my circle of close friends, lovers, and my wife are hardly typical, but we tend to forget how many people wind up in years of therapy because of their parents.

    Admittedly, I might be somewhat biased. Because the person I described was myself.

  16. #16 Russell Claus
    October 23, 2006

    I once told my father-in-law that he should run for Senator on the “Orphanages for Jesus” platform where we run a Gestapo type organization to swing in through windows and raid houses of gay families and stick their kids in good-wholesome, Christian run orphanages. This was in response to him mentioning that yes children are better off without parents than having gay ones.

    I’m not even gay, but I was actually prepared to be punched over the matter, but he seemed more shocked than anything that I spoke to him like that. Realizing that nobody had ever stood up to him before, i followed that up by asking, “Do you find me a threat simply by bringing up these opinions?” Mind you, his two sons (my brothers-in-law ages 11 and 16) were in the room at the time and I was actually talking to them probably more that my father-in-law…and he actually admitted that no, I was not a threat. Goddamn it felt awesome to smack somebody on their ass intellectually.

    Additionally, I personally feel morally obligated to stand up for gay rights because minds are best changed from a neutral party. It is much, much, much easier to ignore or demonize a gay arguing for gay rights. But when you have a heterosexual person, one who is close to the person you are arguing with at that, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify your bigotry. Well if Russell is married and has kids and he doesn’t feel threatened by gays, why do I? I’ve asked many people that same question over the last three or four years and I have yet to be given a response that didn’t (a) involve buggering children, (b) sex with animals, or (c) the sanctity, the SANCTITY of marriage. Given the divorce rates amongst evangelicals I’m not entirely certain what that means.

    Russell Claus

  17. #17 Randi Schimnosky
    October 23, 2006

    Thanks for sticking up for us, Russell

  18. #18 Randi Schimnosky
    October 23, 2006

    Thanks for sticking up for us, Russell.

  19. #19 Ed Brayton
    October 23, 2006

    Russell-

    An interesting perspective, one I’ve never considered. As a straight man, I stand up for gay rights simply out of moral obligation. I just cannot, in good conscience, deny to the many gay people I know and care about what I take for granted for myself. But I think you’re right to point out that another benefit of that is that perhaps some people are more likely to listen to us on that question than they are to listen to someone who is gay. But when it comes to discussing this sort of thing with people, change is long term. Their reasons for opposing gay rights are entire non-rational. Over time, as they just get more used to the idea, as they encounter more and more gay people, the animus and fear just kind of fades away. And we can help contribute to that a little bit at a time.

  20. #20 SharonB
    October 23, 2006

    Thanks, Russell Claus. I believe!

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