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Family Impact Summit: A Lesbian Shows Peter Sprigg How To Debate

Jim Burroway

September 24th, 2007

It was last Saturday afternoon, and I had already endured nearly two full days of the Family Impact Summit in Tampa. You can imagine what kind of a mood I was in by then. And as I sat down to enjoy another dose of verbal gay-bashing at a town hall meeting called “Defending Marriage: What’s At Stake?” I overheard two people behind me talking about a small protest by gay activists that was taking place outside.

“Do you think any of them will try to come in here?” the older one asked.

“Nah. They won’t bother because they know they won’t be able to find anyone to have sex with afterwards,” sneered the other.

“Hah! So true!”

Nice crowd. These were the kind of people whose company I enjoyed for most of the weekend.

L-R: Rena Lindevalsen, Peter Sprigg, John Stemberger, Dale O’Leary

Only about 120 people took their seats in the sanctuary for the main even that afternoon. This session was conducted by four B-list speakers: Rena Lindevaldsen, law professor at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and associate director of the Center for Constitutional Litigation and Policy; Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council; John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council which is collecting signatures to put a gay marriage ban on the Florida ballot; and Dale O’Leary, a speaker and author who bills herself as an expert on the “lies” of the gay rights movement.

And when they began their panel, we heard about a two more hours of lies from the anti-gay movement.

I won’t get into all of them here – it would take a book to do it and they aren’t anything you haven’t heard before. But it mostly went like this: we’re all prone to mental illnesses and physical diseases, we’ve all been abused as children, we’re all substance abusers, and we don’t really want marriage because we don’t want it to interfere with our promiscuity. Dale O’Leary put it this way:

And so I think we need to understand is that the desire to live in a nice little cottage with a dog and two children and all the things we think of as parents is not their goal. That is their P.R.

But at least she was nice enough to note, “The fact is, they love the children they acquire.” But after detailing the supposedly horrible childhoods these “acquired” children endure, she concluded, “Nobody should be in the business of making tragedies.”

After the panelists had their say (after about an hour of this, I might add), the “town hall meeting” was finally opened up to questions from the floor. And the second questioner, a brave young woman wearing a red tee-shirt, was a stunner:

Hi. My names is Cathy James and I would like to challenge all of the individuals here listening today to really take a look at some of the rationale and some of the comments that speakers have given in regard to things such as …why government gets involved with personal relationships, that is, for the procreation of children. I think as most of the attorneys will tell you, that civil marriage was created for one purpose only, and that was property and how to divide property.

And so I am a lesbian, I live in the Riverview area with my partner of thirteen years and our son who is seven. And I go to work Monday through Friday and attend church weekly, I volunteer at the school, I volunteer at the homeowners association. And what I have a hard time understanding is why you are interested in keeping a legal framework from us in being able to handle the same things as heterosexual couples and such things as visitation, and hospital…. And how to divide our property in the same way, and how to parent our child?

The stunned silence was amazing. John Stemberger thanked her for coming and tried to stammer out an answer. He said that some forms of discrimination are perfectly legitimate (“home ownership benefits society in the way renters do not.”) and ended by saying, “marriage uniquely benefits society in the way same sex couples do not.” But Cathy remained calm and firm:

But in what way? What’s the difference in the benefit? How does your marriage benefit society more than my relationship with my same gender partner does not?

Peter Sprigg jumped in to assert that “without question” the best family structure was headed by a man and a woman. But Cathy persisted:

…But now you’re devaluing, what, over fifty percent of the children who live with one parent or that one parent as died or that they’re divorced and now they’re just living with one parent. You’re devaluing them and that’s not fair.

By now the panel was speechless, leaving Peter Sprigg to stumble around trying to get his footing. “Each person’s relationship choices serves as an example to the rest of society… and if that example becomes more widespread, more people will make the same choice, more children will suffer.”

So you’re saying a man and a woman in a marriage are valued higher than single people? They’re valued higher than…

Sprigg cut her off and instead of relying on his own outwitted wits, he decided to read from David Blankenhorn’s book, The Future of Marriage. And as he read, his voice rose, becoming more strident, more angry, more sharp with each word. “I would be rich if I had a nickel for every time someone who knows almost nothing about marriage has told me that historically marriage was all about property. That is nonsense!” But as he continued to spit out the words, it slowly dawned on him that Blankenhorn was talking about dowries and gifts to the bride’s family – which had nothing do with Cathy’s questions.

Clearly Sprigg is a man who doesn’t like having his reputation as an “expert” challenged. And it became obvious that he wasn’t up to this particular challenge. But he kept reading, vainly looking for the rescue that he was sure he’d find in Blankenhorn’s book. But it wasn’t there. He finally gave up and Cathy graciously thanked all of the panelists for their time.

For the two and a half days of the summit so-called “experts,” one after another, paraded from one stage to another convincing everyone who would listen that homosexuals would be the downfall of society. The solution? “Ordered Liberty Under God” went the oft-repeated battle cry.

But one brave woman burst through the bluster and showed that the emperors had no clothes. It was a wonderful moment, and for me the greatest highlight of the whole conference.

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Relationship » Family Impact Summmit: A Lesbian Shows Peter Sprigg How To Debate
September 24th, 2007 | LINK

[…] TVWeek Author wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptHow does your marriage benefit society more than my relationship with my same gender partner does not? Peter Sprigg jumped in to assert that “without question” the best family structure was headed by a man and a woman. … […]

grantdale
September 24th, 2007 | LINK

You can imagine what kind of a mood I was in by then.

Zonked, and seriously looking around for a large glass of “mummy’s medicine”???

But thanks from us for putting yourself through those days — some fascinating observations that I doubt will reach the readers of CitizenLink.

Must say… have also noticed how ballistic these people go when challenged on their self-proclaimed expertise.

It seems more than just a matter of keeping their jobs — many seen to have an awful lot of ego invested in it, and a barely concealed burning desire to say nasty things in public and gay men and lesbians.

Will look forward to your summary etc.

(and a big cheer for Cathy — brave enough to stand up, and tough enough not to put up with any of their nonsense. Must have bought a lump to your throat Jim.)

Bruce Wilson
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

Thank you very much for writing this !

It’s a wonderful account of personal bravery and lucidity in the assertion of human rights. I’d add that the wholesale demonization of the Islamic world is another staple of Christian right conferences and has grown perhaps more prominent even than gay bashing.

For example, at the CUFI 2007 DC conference, I heard one speaker, Bridgette Gabriel, declare of Muslims and Arabs, her voice rising to a sharp pitch, They Have No SOULS !”. At the October 2006 “Voter Values” conference hosted in DC by the Family Research Council, I heard Bill Bennett suggest that Fallujah should have simply been leveled “like Hiroshima” for the killing of 4 Blackwater mercenaries.

Also at the 2007 CUFI conference, Max Blumethal called out CUFI founder John Hagee for blaming Jews themselves for the Holocaust.

There’s strength, I have come to believe, in calling out such hate speech along a broad spectrum – whenever and wherever it is found.

Thanks again.

Best,
BW

Jason
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

Kudos to you and a big shout out to Cathy for standing up, speaking up, and remaining calm and collected.

Emily K
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

Cathy, if you’re out there, and you come across this, you are now one of my personal heroes.

Josephine Snow
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

Dear Cathy James,

Thank you for your lucid comments — I have to think basic and rational talk like yours will have affected somebody there.

And thank you for working hard everyday as a good neighbor and mom. I know that the gay parents in my town are their own best evidence for the basic claim of equal rights.

Ryan
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

Civil Marriage was created for one purpose only…property and how to divide property? Does that make sense?

If two parties are worried about how their joint property will be divided upon their death or in the event that they just simply don’t want their property held jointly any longer, does marriage seem like the best way to determine who will get what property? It seems like a will or a contract would be a better fit than a marriage agreement, does it not?

It seems like there must be some additional motivations involved for the government to offer and people to bind themselves to a marriage agreement than property.

Randi Schimnosky
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

This comment by Peter Sprigg summed up the bankruptcy of their position:

“Each person’s relationship choices serves as an example to the rest of society… and if that example becomes more widespread, more people will make the same choice, more children will suffer.”

The idea that heterosexuals are going to be convinced to become gay merely by seeing gay couples is laughable. Is Peter that insecure in his sexual orientation that he believes he’d become gay from seeing that example?!

homer
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

The more I read about these so-called “experts,” the more I wonder what drives them. The need to be superior in some way to someone else? The recognition? The money, if there is any, in being a speaker? Political power?

It doesn’t make sense to me why someone would waste their life on an issue that will have absolutely no effect on their lives. The most rational explanation is that these people are the ones suffering from a mental illness- homophobia.

Jim Burroway
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

Ryan,

Civil Marriage was created for one purpose only…property and how to divide property? Does that make sense?

For centuries, including the early part of American history, governments didn’t get involved with marriage. That was entirely the church’s domain. Government only began to care who was legally married (hence the “civil” part of civil marriage) when questions arose as to who was responsible for what, and that mainly involved property and taxes, primarily when marriages ended either through death, abandonment, or later, divorce.

Zeke
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

As for the couple, you bet we were in there. Sorry though, it wasn’t for the perverted reason you thought. And such comments in a house of worship no less, now who’s the ones fixated on sex and should be ashamed of themselves?

Cathy, I’ve always been in awe of your courage, tenacity and ability to educate others. As difficult it was to hold you down while the panel spewed their deception, lies and misinformation. But, when the time came to untie you, you took the head hate mongers on and left them speechless. My dear friend, you did more to educate the people attending this seminar than any member of the panel ever could. But most importantly, you did it with eloquence and respect. Know how much you did for our community to feel proud and gave the people atending the seminar some food for thought.

Thank you Cathy James for standing up for us.

Big Hugs
Zeke

Pandagon :: Exposing the moral bankruptcy of the unraveling professional ‘family values’ crowd :: September :: 2007
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

[…] Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin was there as she brilliantly framed her questions to the panel. Hi. My names is Cathy James and I […]

Emproph
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

Randi Schimnosky: “The idea that heterosexuals are going to be convinced to become gay merely by seeing gay couples is laughable. Is Peter that insecure in his sexual orientation that he believes he’d become gay from seeing that example?!”

Randi, I was whining about this on Soulforce a while back and someone put it into a perspective that seemed to make a lot more sense. So for what it’s worth:

novaseeker: “I think what they mean is that they are afraid that if there are positive GLBT role models out and present in the community/neighborhood, this may (1) encourage young people who are GLBT to accept themselves (which Dobson et al do not want, because they think it is a sickness) and thereby get “recruited into the gay ‘lifestyle'”, and (2) encourage younger people who are not GLBT to be more tolerant of GLBT people, and thereby get “recruited into the ‘gay worldview’ of ‘tolerance’, ‘inclusion’, etc.”. In other words, they are afraid that the presence of us in that context will deter their ability to pour their own hate and prejudice into their minds of their children, and will instead “recruit” their children into a more accepting perspective … which of course will lead to the end of cilvilization as we know it.”

TlalocW
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

I’ve noticed that when someone like Cathy confronts one of these religiously insane gasbags – and I mean the kind who try to put on the front of being professional, not the Fred Phelps type – they’re suddenly out of their element because they expect to, literally, be preaching to the choir. The fact that the guy reading the book was becoming louder and louder tells me that just underneath the surface, they really just want to yell out, “God hates fags!” with the rest of their cruder brethren but can’t for fear of being perceived as crazy as well as losing the argument. Of course, they also didn’t have the intelligence to come up with any kind of coherent response so they lost anyway.

I only stood and watched... at Left Side Out
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

[…] came across this amazing first hand report of the “Family Impact Summit” (from the inside) and was overjoyed at the chutzpah and […]

Couples » Family Impact Summmit: A Lesbian Shows Peter Sprigg How To Debate
September 25th, 2007 | LINK

[…] xspwactjl73 wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptAnd what I have a hard time understanding is why you are interested in keeping a legal framework from us in being able to handle the same things as heterosexual couples and such things as visitation, and hospital… … […]

Christofacist Idiot Watch Update! Take That! Edition
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

[…] usually quote tons of text from another site, but you just need to read this account (courtesy of Box Turtle Bulletin) of  the panel of Godidiots getting an earful and stumbling horribly, when confronted with a […]

Kimberly Boshears
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

Great Job Kathy,

I love to hear that these so called experts, could not combat your statements with an adequate answer.

Thank God, for Heros such as yourself.

My partner and I are lucky to be a part of this wonderful group.

Timothy Kincaid
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

Randi and Emproph,

you make good points.

But remember that a segment of the anti-gay population still see homosexuality similarly to alcoholism or drug addiction. They think it’s an addiction. They believe that people become exposed, try it, and get hooked.

Randi Schimnosky
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

Yes Timothy, I’ve frequently encountered that idea as well. What makes it equally silly is the fact that strong sexual desires appear before any sexual experience takes place. I find it amazing or perhaps simply disingenous that so many heterosexuals can know that in their experience the desires appeared before any sexual experience and then somehow suggest that this isn’t true for gays as well.

Randi Schimnosky
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

In other words Timothy, do they honestly believe that they, as someone with strong opposite sex attractions and an aversion to same sex sex tried gay sex that they’d become addicted to it? I seriously doubt it.

Timothy Kincaid
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

Randi,

I think they see it like drug addiction. They know – being good moral people and all – that THEY would never do drugs and get addicted. But weak people might.

And they know – being good moral people and all – that THEY would never try gay sex and become addicted. But weak people might.

Hey, I didn’t say it’s logical… but they like believing it. It allows them to be both condeming and condescending.

Ben in oakland
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

Randi–they do believe it. That’s what the whole recruitment thing is about, as well as we-can’t-discuss-it-because-people-will-turn-gay. On the one hand, they claim that gay sex is disgusting, abnormal, perverted, against god’s will and law, sick, perverted, against nature’s plan, painful, raunchy, perverted (did i say that already?), sinful,horrible, perverted, a sure sign of mental illness and child molestation, blah blah blah. then, on the other hand, it is so alluring, attractive, exciting and, well, FUN(!) that if you are even exposed to the idea, let alone try it even just once, you will be hopelessly addicted and never be able to stop without expensive reparation therapy and big donations to Jeebus.

Randi Schimnosky
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

I’m not buying it guys. I don’t believe that people like Peter Sprigg or others are sincere when they suggest being gay is catchy or like an addiction. I think any argument that sounds superficially plausible to them is a useful tool in the war on gays. Deep inside they know it doesn’t make any sense and their afraid to dwell on it because at some level they know its absurd and that thinking about it too much will expose that absurdity even to themselves. At best its willful blindness, at worst outright deception

Ben in oakland
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

Randi– that, too. I think you find it all, in vairous amounts. Deception and stupidity often go hand in hand– the easiest person to deceive is yourself

Jason
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

let’s not forget that our current D.A.R.E. society tends to view any recreational drug user as an addict.
Somehow it’s possible for someone to go out every friday night, get drunk, blow off some steam, have some non-violent and just plain silly fun and not be an “alcholic”. However someone who has a similar experience with a less lethal drug (marijuana) is a drug-addicted pot head.

Somehow, you can enjoy alcohol on a continuum from “social drinker” all the way up to “serious partier” before you reach “alcoholism” but any recreational drug use, no matter how small, no matter how infrequent or sporadic, makes you a “drug addict”.

And thus, they link homosexuality with addiction.

They seem to not understand that the only real difference between pot and alcohol is that one is legal and the other is not. Use of either can be recreational and safe.

So I find it hilarious when someone suggests that being gay is like being an alcholic. By that analogy, someone is just being TOO GAY! If it’s possible for people to drink and not be addicts, then it would follow that it’s possible to be gay and not be a raging homo-holic!

Randi Schimnosky
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

Good point Jason. Next time I hear someone tell me being gay is like being an alcoholic I’ll ask them if everyone who drinks the slightest amount is an alcoholic.

Wide Spectrum
September 26th, 2007 | LINK

Brave Lesbian at Family Impact Summit…

The Family Impact Summit was held in Tampa, FL from the 20 to 22 of September. This conference, sponsored by such noble and logical institutions as the Family Research Council and the Abstinence Cl……

Emproph
September 27th, 2007 | LINK

Jason: “So I find it hilarious when someone suggests that being gay is like being an alcholic. By that analogy, someone is just being TOO GAY! If it’s possible for people to drink and not be addicts, then it would follow that it’s possible to be gay and not be a raging homo-holic!”

Yes but we’re fighting for the right to marry our partners, which would then make the analogy apt.

Our partner would be considered our drug of choice, and since our love isn’t real, and it’s all about our addiction to homo-sex, then our relationships (assuming they’re monogamous) would be considered nothing more than confining our “promiscuity” to one person.

Well now that that’s settled…

Jason
September 27th, 2007 | LINK

Emproph,
Good point, but I think the analogy becomes even more ridiculous when people are treated as “drugs”, don’t you think?

Family Pride’s Blog » exclusive: infamous Florida lesbian mom speaks out… again!
October 8th, 2007 | LINK

[…] want to thank David for asking me to comment on my experience at the Family Impact Summit.  Jim Burroway from Box Turtle Bulletin pretty much summed up the interaction I had with the panelists so I would like to tell you about the press conference and a few comments […]

Michelle
March 11th, 2008 | LINK

Hi all,

I just kind of stumbled across this site, in a search of Sprigg’s name-I was in an organization he used to be in, so I was curious.

As a pretty conservative Christian, I have to admit that most of the gay debate/information I’ve heard has come from one side-that of the conservative Christian angle. Looking at my own motives honestly, I think I was coming at it from an angle of having had a bad experience.

One thing that I think has been woefully forgotten by many bible-reading Christians (or at least people who say they are) has been the respectful, compassionate attitude that Christ Himself had toward people-particularly the ones that society as a whole had rejected. His harshest critiques were saved for the religious leaders.

I can’t say for sure what Jesus would have done, but I wonder if it might have been similar to what that lady did-go up to the mic and put the leaders on the spot? And one thing I’m pretty sure He would do is choose to go to lunch with her, rather than the speakers…

Just rambling thoughts from a random Christian, for what they’re worth.

Timothy Kincaid
March 11th, 2008 | LINK

Michelle,

Thank you for stopping by. Please continue to keep your eyes and ears, and more importantly heart, open in this ongoing discussion.

Jason D
March 11th, 2008 | LINK

Michelle, Good points, all of them. Please stick around and favor us with more “rambling thoughts”.
They seem to come from a solid place of love.

Being Amber Rhea » Blog Archive » links for 2008-03-21
March 21st, 2008 | LINK

[…] Box Turtle Bulletin » Family Impact Summit: A Lesbian Shows Peter Sprigg How To Debate “But one brave woman burst through the bluster and showed that the emperors had no clothes. It was a wonderful moment, and for me the greatest highlight of the whole conference.” This is so awesome. (tags: rights politics gay lgbt law debate marriage) […]

Byrdeye
March 24th, 2008 | LINK

Uh, it’s a proven fact that single-mom homes produce more disadvantaged children – whose parenting burdens then fall upon taxpayers (see African-America where 70% of babies got no daddy):

“children who grow up with their married parents do better on a wide variety of measures, that means family structure is playing an important role in the rise of inequality and the decline of immobility. Worse, because the children of single mothers are more likely to become single parents themselves, the marriage gap is self-perpetuating.

As for children, no one really had much to say about the effect of this radical transformation on them, or if they did, they implied that since the nuclear family was such a hot house of patriarchal dysfunction, the kids might be better off too. It’s mind-boggling to read what passed for social science research on the family throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. For those decades family researchers either ignored the question of family structure entirely

early 1990’s that social scientists designed more serious studies and began to reach a consensus that kids do better on average with married parents”

But these are for hetero-married couples. I don’t think there’s data for homo couples yet, although it does strike me as unnatural.

Timothy Kincaid
March 24th, 2008 | LINK

Birdeye,

Uh, it’s a proven fact that single-mom homes produce more disadvantaged children

Which is of absolutely no relevance whatsoever when we are talking about two-parent homes.

We do know that single-parent homes are more difficult for children. And while it was not the case in every situation, I agree with you that there have been too many instances in which heterosexual couples were too lazy, too proud, too selfish, or too obstinate to work out their differences and chose instead to disadvantage their children.

But what we are talking about is taking a two parent family and instead of helping nurture that family, anti-gays are doing anything they can to make it more difficult for that family to survive intact – solely because the parents are the same sex. That’s not only stupid and contradictory to their stated goals, but it is also cruel.

I don’t think there’s data for homo couples yet, although it does strike me as unnatural.

What strikes me as unnatural are people who base their opinions on nothing at all whatsoever… but still think that their opinion is valid and worth sharing with others.

Brave Lesbian at Family Impact Summit
June 15th, 2008 | LINK

[…] the “experts” (adam & eve is how it all began and the earth is 5,000 years old). Box Turtle Bulletin reports that the woman wiped the floor with the loonies. Click here for the complete […]

Wendie
December 19th, 2009 | LINK

I’ve been trying to figure out why there needs to be a law on the books that allow gays to marry. In searching the US Constitution, I’ve found nothing that says a marriage must consist of 2 opposite-sex people. It does mention the age of consent, but neither race nor sexual requirements. So if there is nothing in the Constitution that forbids same-sex marriages, what makes it illegal? Why do we have to create a specific law that extends the rights of marriage to people who should already have that right under the laws of the land? Why hasn’t anyone challenged these votings? The state of Maine voted to allow same-sex marriages. At the last election, those opposed spent $10 MILLION to overturn that law. Much to my disappointment, they won. But, shouldn’t it be unconstitutional to requre a law to be in place before two consenting adults can marry? And wouldn’t that $10 MILLION have been put to far better use elsewhere? A man should not be allowed to marry his favorite sheep. But as long as you are of the same species, it shouldn’t be anyone’s business.

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