Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Maryland Court of Appeals is hearing arguments today in the case of Conaway v. Deane, a suit claiming a right to gay marriage. Jim Burroway emailed me with a link to his analysis of a brief filed by the Family Research Council. Jim does a terrific job of analyzing how the FRC cherry picks and distorts social science research on gay relationships. He points out their shameless misuse of various studies. I’ll post some examples below the fold:

The FRC then, in my own favorite fit of misrepresentation, turns to Maria Xiridou’s study5 (the famous “Dutch Study”) to claim that “A recent study of male same-sex relationships in the Netherlands found that men with steady partners have on average eight casual sex partners a year.” Later in the brief, the FRC says, “The recent Dutch study found that the average ‘steady relationship’ – which was not even monogamous – lasted 1.5 years.”

These statements are downright fraudulent. As I demonstrated in What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples, this study was not about same-sex relationships. It was about the sexual practices of nonmonogamous men with AIDS. Everyone over the age of thirty was excluded from the study, everyone who was HIV-negative was excluded (unless he was a partner of someone HIV-positive), and, most importantly, all monogamous couples were excluded!

When you exclude monogamous couples from a study, it should come as no surprise that the non-monogamous couples you are studying are, well, not monogamous. And when you exclude everyone over the age of thirty from a study, you will not find many long-lasting relationships – it’s nearly impossible to celebrate a silver anniversary while in your twenties. And when “steady relationship” is undefined such that it can include someone who has been “going steady” for a few weeks, it’s hardly an apples-to-apples comparison to the married heterosexual couples the FRC described in the beginning.

That’s pretty bad. The FRC brief cites 5 studies. None use representative samples. Only one is recent and that one excludes all of the very people the FRC is trying to claim don’t exist. As Burroway notes, this isn’t just dishonest, it’s fraud and borderline perjury. But Burroway also points out that even if the studies showed what they claim, they have no relevance to the legal issue:

But behind all of this rhetoric about group statistics and averages is a notion that runs completely contrary to our understanding of individual standing under the law. No man or woman is judged under the law according to the behaviors of group statistics. No married man is judged guilty of adultery by the actions of other men. No woman is judged to be an unfit mother by the actions of other mothers.

The idea that any given couple should be denied the right to marry because others may behave according to norms that we do not find acceptable is an illegitimate standard. Otherwise, there would be a number of racial, ethnic and economically disadvantaged groups who would find their rights imperiled. The FRC’s brief is un-American in that regard. And as for the fraudulent claims that they made to the court, the FRC’s brief represents an example of false witness. That is not only un-American; it is un-Christian.

Quite right.


  1. #1 John McKay
    December 4, 2006

    Wow. If so fine and upstanding an organization as the Family Research Council cherry picks and distorts research, how can we trust anybody? [/gratuitous sarcasm]

  2. #2 MJ Memphis
    December 4, 2006

    So, by the same logic: fundamentalist Christians, as a group, have a higher rate of failed marriages than other groups; therefore, fundamentalist Christians should not be permitted to marry.

  3. #3 llDayo
    December 5, 2006

    By their logic, if I did a study looking for the percentage of fundamentalist christians who attend Fred Phelps’s church who picket funerals of military personnel I can apply that as the actual percentage to ALL fundies? I don’t think they’d be too happy about that.

  4. #4 Prup aka Jim Benton
    December 5, 2006

    For those who are interested, the oral arguments were webcast:
    (It’s #44)
    For the legal junkies among us, and there are plenty of us, it is a fascinating hour to listen to.
    One thing I found particularly fascinating was the argument that the state made that, since there are a number of openly gay “legislative powerhouses’ and there are a number of gay rights activists who have been successful in getting gay-positive legislation enacted, gays cannot be considered ‘politically powerless’ and therefore should not be considered as a ‘protected category.’
    The plaintiffs replied
    a) that political powerlessness has never been considered a necessity for holding a group a ‘protected category’ and
    b) of the three laws pointed to that were passed in the last session, two were vetoed by Gov. Ehrlich.

    Worth checking out.

  5. #5 Bill Snedden
    December 6, 2006

    This outrageous display of dishonesty, all too common for the FRC, is disgusting and disgraceful. Why is it that the MSM doesn’t seem to give these egregious events wider coverage? Here is an organization that deliberately and regularly engages in the dissemination of fraudulent information for no purpose other than to harm those with whom they disagree and at the same time lays claim to some type of superior moral standard. Is that not newsworthy?

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