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Fact Checking the Family “Research” Council Straw Man Argument

Jason Cianciotto

March 13th, 2010

In response to a Washington Post article about the economic benefits of same-sex marriage in DC, the Family Research Council (FRC) provides a classic example of how right-wing organizations manipulate data and statistics to suit their anti-LGBT positions.

Here’s the quote:

When same-sex weddings kicked off in D.C. yesterday, the city wasn’t seeing anything but dollar signs. In an absurd article in today’s Washington Post, reporters tried to argue that counterfeit marriage could be the economic salvation of the city’s economy. In a region with 12% unemployment, local officials claim that redefining marriage “will create 700 jobs and contribute $52.2 million over three years to the local economy.”

Not so fast, says FRC. The last census counted 3,678 same-sex partner homes in D.C. Assuming that number has stayed roughly the same, then the 150 who applied for marriage licenses yesterday would amount to a whopping four percent of the local homosexual population–hardly the stuff of economic recovery. For the Post’s $52.2 million projection to come true, all 3,678 of those D.C. couples would have to get married and spend over $14,000 per wedding. (I don’t know about you, but my wife and I spent a LOT less!) These “marriages” (which have yet to meet financial expectations in other states) may make a fast buck in the short term, but they will do nothing but drain the economy down the road. Consider the massive health care expenses incurred by taxpayers every year to cope with the diseases spread by homosexual behavior. According to the Kaiser Foundation, federal funding grew to more than $18 billion in 2004 to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Over half of all U.S. infections are in men having sex with men! That means taxpayers spend roughly $10 billion a year treating the diseases caused by a behavior celebrated in same-sex “marriage.” So much for economic development!

Not so fast FRC.

Yes, according to the Washington, DC Census Snapshot published by the Williams Institute, there are an estimated 3,678 same-sex couple households in the district, and the Associate Press did report that 150 same-sex couples applied for licenses on the first day same-sex marriage became legal there. This is about all that is factually correct in FRC’s statement.

FRC’s claim that the 150 couples represent “four percent of the local homosexual population” is a classic manipulation used by the religious right and discredited “researchers” like Paul Cameron. They take an estimate of one portion of a minority population and pretend that it is generalizeable to the population as a whole. In this case, the number of same-sex couple households willing to self-identify in the Census is not equivalent to the total population of lesbian, gay, or bisexual DC residents, which according to the Williams Institute is approximately 33,000.

Even more importantly, it is laughable for FRC to base its argument on the number of couples who applied for licenses on the first day. The Washington Post article references another Williams Institute report, which estimates that 2,000 same-sex couple in DC would marry over the next three years. In addition, another 12,500 couples are expected to come from out of state to get married. This is a more complete picture of the estimates used to create the projection of 700 new jobs and $52.2 million in revenue, but FRC simply ignores this information.

Where to begin with FRC’s last argument about same-sex marriage being a long-term drain on the economy because of “diseases spread by homosexual behavior?”

We could cite CDC data on transmission rates caused by “heterosexual behavior.” We could also estimate federal funding spent on prevention efforts that address the damage caused by social, and familial environments created by FRC. As they say, so much for economic development!

However, it would be a waste of time to feed into FRC’s “straw man” arguments.

They have no interest in examining real facts. Nor do they see the folly in their position against allowing same-sex couples access to an institution that fosters monogamy as well as mutual caring and support. As so many articles and special reports on Box Turtle Bulletin have illustrated, there is no place for scientifically supported facts in the anti-gay playbook.

Comments

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lurker
March 13th, 2010 | LINK

I think one of the most egregious falsehoods above is: “Taxpayers spend roughly $10 billion a year treating the diseases caused by a behavior celebrated in same-sex “marriage.””

Diseases are caused by microorganisms and genes, NOT by “behaviors” . . . particularly not “behaviors” between married people.

That harkens back to the good old days before germ theory, when everyone knew that diseases were just caused by “bad” people getting what they deserved.

Michael
March 13th, 2010 | LINK

The Family Research Council is a joke. They provide funky numbers for stupid people.

Peace

Tara TASW
March 14th, 2010 | LINK

150 couples in one day. Assuming the clerk’s office was open for 8 hours, they were cranking out a marriage license every 3 minutes, which is about as many as they could reasonably squeeze in.

But watch: 6 months from now they’ll be circulating this same meme that “only 150 couples married,” without mentioning that we’re talking about a single day here.

Tara TASW
March 14th, 2010 | LINK

The FRC’s nonsense here is a fine example of Cameron Rule #1 (named for guess who), which is:

Peaople are more easily suckered by crap with numbers in it than by garden-variety crap.

Regan DuCasse
March 14th, 2010 | LINK

Taxpayers spend a great deal more for the diseases AND CHILDBEARING of heterosexuals.
Welfare, for able bodied young people tends to extend over THEIR lifetimes and that of their children. Several generations of the same family on welfare is not unheard of.

To say nothing of children abandoned to foster care or CPS. There are hundreds of thousands of children in the foster system. Each of which, is overwhelmed, understaffed and underfunded. Most of these children ‘age out’, into more dependency through incarceration or welfare. They NEVER are adopted or find a stable, PERMANENT loving family.

For each child institutionalized, on welfare or requiring medical care for chronic illness or permanent disability, the burden to taxpayers runs in the TRILLIONS.

There are generous and competent gay adults out there who not only pay taxes to ease ALL our burdens, but who take in these very abandoned children and therefore OFF of state dependency.

I wonder how many black abandoned children Tony Perkins has living with HIM?

No credit where it’s due is in the mindset of the anti gay either.
Perkins is one of many who like to tell and continue the BIGGEST LIE that gays and lesbians are a drain on taxpayers.

Even if it’s IMPOSSIBLE for that to happen through marriage equality, service in the military or Boy Scouts or any number of other organized systems of social responsibility, they’ll keep telling that lie forever.

What’s truly frightening is the wet brained people who BELIEVE it, and then demand to put the lives this lie affects up to popular vote.

Why should ANYONE want people THIS STUPID AND FEARFUL to be in charge of ANYTHING?

Timothy Kincaid
March 14th, 2010 | LINK

“treating the diseases caused by a behavior celebrated in same-sex “marriage.” ”

sure… except that marriage trends people towards monogamy not away from it and creates a support system that encourages more responsible behavior. Marriage adds many benefits and among them are more responsible behavior and less risk taking.

It may be simplistic to say it, but it’s true: more marriage equals less HIV.

Only a hateful liar would oppose that which makes the world a healthier place simply because it benefits someone they don’t like.

Ben in Oakland
March 14th, 2010 | LINK

My father always used to tell a joke, the punchline of which was “I may be crazy but I’m not stupid.”

This fits Perky to a T-bag. When he seriously makes such obviously stupid comments, it is important to look at the subtext. The devil is always in the subtext. Herein follows a translation:

“See how those homosexuals are. Marriage is not really important to them at all. They don’t even want it!!!It is all about advancing their evil agenda and forcing the rest of us good and moral people to support their sodomolicious ways, which are really awful, because see how diseased they are? And really NASTY diseases, too, the kind you and I don’t get.

“And also, their not going to spend all their sodomolicious dollars– look how rich they are– helping YOUR family out– my wife and I didn’t have all those sodomolicous odllars to spend on our REAL wedding.

He’s preaching to the choir.

Hunter
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

“Nor do they see the folly in their position against allowing same-sex couples access to an institution that fosters monogamy as well as mutual caring and support.”

The FRC has no interest in fostering monogamy among gays, and even less in fostering mutual caring and support. That much should be obvious. And even if we were all monogamous from the onset of puberty, they’d lie about it anyway.

Ben
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

Okay, this article is just silly. After reading this, am I supposed to see some kind of malfaesence on the part FRC? I read through it a few times and I just can’t see where the fib is. This is typical BTB nonsense.

And Lurker: Diseases are caused by microorganisms and genes, NOT by “behaviors” . . . particularly not “behaviors” between married people.

Oh man…are you really that ignorant? So when an HIV positive man infects another man by way of sodomy, you’re trying to tell me that the sodomy had nothing to do with it? It was the virus’s fault!

Oh, and Timothey Kincaid, you silly, silly goose. You can’t be monongamous without a marriage license? Can’t you just practice monogamy because you want to? Do you have to FORCE other people, aginst their will and by government edict, to validate your bizarre and unnatual relationship?

DN
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

You’re exactly right about how it’s ridiculous that they’re drawing an argument from the number of applications on the first day.

I’ve got a personal stake in this number, as I’d have loved to have gotten our application the first day – alas, I live in Arizona and the partner is in DC and we’re not going to get married until we both live there.

Timothy Kincaid
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

Ben,

I assure you that no one is looking for your validation. Not me, not Britney Spears, not the serial murderer who has the right to marry even though he’s living on death row. No one. I dare say that not one living soul is looking to you for validation for their marriage. Not one.

But I do demand equal treatment under the law from my government.

And my point was not, of course, that monogamy requires a license. Rather, that marriage and all of the social and community assumptions that come with it encourage sexual responsibility. Or, at least, heterosexuals sure seem to think so. (“Ain’t no ring on MY finger”)

If you’re wondering about the “fib” (what the rest of the world considers an outright lie), it is the bogus math that FRC engages in. The majority of marriages in the capital are likely to come from nearby states – especially Maryland, in which they will be valid – but FRC pretends to not know this in order to deceive.

But you already know that. I’m just taking away your opportunity to fake ignorance.

Ben in Oakland
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

And ben– from another ben:

“So when an HIV positive man infects another man by way of sodomy, you’re trying to tell me that the sodomy had nothing to do with it? It was the virus’s fault!”

shall I rephrase that for you?

So when an HIV positive man infects a woman by way of ‘natural heterosexual intercourse’, you’re trying to tell me that the natural heterosexual intercourse had nothing to do with it? It was the virus’s fault!

I think that is what you would say.

“Do you have to FORCE other people, aginst their will and by government edict, to validate your bizarre and unnatual relationship?”

Honey, you are not being forced to do a thing. I could care less whether you validate it, approve of it, or anything. It isn’t about YOU.

b
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

what I REALLY can’t get over is that second-to-last statement in the FRC response, “…taxpayers spend roughly $10 billion a year treating the diseases caused by a behavior celebrated in same-sex ‘marriage’.”

That statement there really shows what they think of gay people, or anyone in a loving same-sex relationship. I mean do y’all see what kind of tone is betrayed in those words, “diseases caused by a behavior in same-sex marriage”??? It’s downright UGLY and just plain DISRESPECTFUL, and I think in that statement it definitely shows their obsession with gay sex and what little regard they truly hold for us, despite their arguments that they “love” us. Doesn’t get much more lovin’ than that :p.

I don’t know why they do it…wait scrap that, I think I do. All of this naysaying and bloated moral grandstanding against LGBT individuals-the FRC and all the other anti-LGBT movement are doing this because it’s EASY. When one has this fear and revulsion taught to her/him & has it stuck with the stamp of religious belief, one need only think of the physical discomfort brought on by the unpleasantness of what s/he “knows” about LGBT people and then the naysaying just flows. It’s easy to give in to fear, plain and simple. What breaks my heart is when LGBT individuals have the misfortune to be born and raised in environments where this fear is drummed into them all throughout their lives. Even in 2010, WITHOUT being in such environments of shame it can still be tough to stay true to you as an LGBT person, but TO actually come from that, I can’t even imagine that pain, that suffering.

But I’m rambling so sorry for the mouthful. Let’s just keep fighting the good fight. Thank you.

Lymis
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

“treating the diseases caused by a behavior celebrated in same-sex “marriage.” ”

Yeah, and prostitution is taking money for a behavior celebrated in opposite-sex marriage. Does it follow that opposite sex marriage should be outlawed?

Jason D
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

“Oh man…are you really that ignorant? So when an HIV positive man infects another man by way of sodomy, you’re trying to tell me that the sodomy had nothing to do with it? It was the virus’s fault!”

Hardly a scientific or factual, or even logical look at the situation.

Thousands of women are infected every year with HPV through heterosexual intercourse. That does not mean heterosexual intercourse is the problem. The problem is that people aren’t taking precautions or don’t know their status. Quite frankly, ALL SEX is risky to some degree or another.

Do you have to FORCE other people, aginst their will and by government edict, to validate your bizarre and unnatual relationship?

Nothing is being forced upon you. However if you want to talk about force, heterosexuality, or the assumption of heterosexuality is forced upon LGBT folks every day. A school prom in Mississippi has been cancelled because the school board felt it was their duty to force heterosexuality upon a student, and when she refused, they cancelled the prom.

If straight people can’t live and let live that’s their own issue. We don’t demand you give up anything.

jeff
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

“…and spend over $14,000 per wedding. (I don’t know about you, but my wife and I spent a LOT less!)”

Was your reception a tailgate party? (And I guess wedding dresses that aren’t white may be cheaper.)

Leo
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

“treating the diseases caused by a behavior celebrated in same-sex “marriage.”

So all those heterosexual marriages I’ve attended over the years were really nothing but celebrations of a behavior—specifically vaginal intercourse?

All of that talk about love and commitment, in sickness or health, richer or poorer and until death due you part stuff was really just a cover? What really was being celebrated was the insertion of a penis in a vagina? Now that I know I may think twice before attending anymore of these things.

lurker
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

“Oh man…are you really that ignorant? So when an HIV positive man infects another man by way of sodomy, you’re trying to tell me that the sodomy had nothing to do with it? It was the virus’s fault!”

Many HIV-positive men have never had sex with a man. Many men who HAVE had sex with men are HIV negative. Many women and children are HIV positive.

Of course unprotected sexual contact of any kind – outside of a closed sexual relationship between HIV-negative partners – increases a person’s risk of acquiring HIV. However, the cause of AIDS is a virus, not sexual activity.

(and no, I’m not ignorant on this subject. I used to co-teach a course called “The Biology of AIDS” for undergratuates at a University of California campus and probably have much more knowledge about this issue than you – although my knowledge is a bit outdated.)

lurker
March 15th, 2010 | LINK

(where “sexual activity” = anal, oral, or vaginal sex) . . . but is this getting too technical for you, ben?

David
March 17th, 2010 | LINK

“So when an HIV positive man infects another man by way of sodomy, you’re trying to tell me that the sodomy had nothing to do with it? It was the virus’s fault! ”

Ben, world-wide the overwhelming majority of all cases of HIV/AIDS were transmitted by heterosexual intercourse, the overwhelming majority of all people infected with HIV/AIDS are heterosexual. The clustering of HIV/AIDS in gay men in the U.S. and Europe is essentially a statistical fluke that reflects the institution of prejudice, rather than any physiological increase in risk.

On the subject of the abuse, misuse and failure of statistics, the following link is interesting: http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/57091/title/Odds_Are%2C_Its_Wrong

It’s science’s dirtiest secret: The “scientific method” of testing hypotheses by statistical analysis stands on a flimsy foundation. Statistical tests are supposed to guide scientists in judging whether an experimental result reflects some real effect or is merely a random fluke, but the standard methods mix mutually inconsistent philosophies and offer no meaningful basis for making such decisions. Even when performed correctly, statistical tests are widely misunderstood and frequently misinterpreted. As a result, countless conclusions in the scientific literature are erroneous, and tests of medical dangers or treatments are often contradictory and confusing.

Replicating a result helps establish its validity more securely, but the common tactic of combining numerous studies into one analysis, while sound in principle, is seldom conducted properly in practice.

Experts in the math of probability and statistics are well aware of these problems and have for decades expressed concern about them in major journals. Over the years, hundreds of published papers have warned that science’s love affair with statistics has spawned countless illegitimate findings. In fact, if you believe what you read in the scientific literature, you shouldn’t believe what you read in the scientific literature.

“There is increasing concern,” declared epidemiologist John Ioannidis in a highly cited 2005 paper in PLoS Medicine, “that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims.”

This applies even more strongly to recent releases from the CDC. Just because someone has generated statistics about something, doesn’t mean that they have any clue what they are talking about.

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