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Reply to George: XII. The Dishonest Truth about Same-Sex Parenting

Rob Tisinai

March 24th, 2011

[This post is part of a series analyzing Robert George's widely-read article, "What is Marriage", which appeared on pages 245-286 of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. You can view all posts in the series here.]

Pages 257-259 and 262-263: In which George — well, read for yourself. Any summary I write sounds incredibly harsh.

Deceitful honesty

You can lie by telling the truth. You can oversleep, race to work, and burst late into a meeting with an apologetic, “My kid was throwing up.” You just neglect to say this happened last week and has nothing to do with why you’re late today.

You’ve spoken the truth and told a lie. My parents taught me it’s not what you say or don’t say. It’s whether you intend to deceive. You don’t get to shrug off your lie with a disingenuous, “It’s not my fault if they drew the wrong conclusion.”

That’s exactly what happens in this section and it troubles me.  Our mid-level opponents often use studies to denounce same-sex parenting — without  mentioning these studies have nothing to do with same-sex parenting. It’s profoundly disturbing when a respected intellect and Princeton professor like Robert George does it.

Essentially, though, in what follows you’ll see him burst in the room and tell us his kid was throwing up. And he’ll never mention that he really just overslept.

Another of George’s harms to society

George worries that legalizing same-sex marriage would undermine:

the idea that the union of husband and wife is (as a rule and ideal) the most appropriate environment for the bearing and rearing of children — an ideal whose values strongly corroborated by the best available social science.

He footnotes this assertion about opposite-sex married parents. That footnote, however, just refers us back 5 pages to his own parenting discussion earlier in the paper, which I previously skipped and promised to come back to.

I hated this section before and I hate it now. It fails a basic test of intellectual honesty, a failure I’ve seen over and over in our opponents. In that section, George writes:

Given the marital relationship’s natural orientation to children, it is not surprising that, according to the best available sociological evidence, children fare best on virtually every indicator of wellbeing when reared by their wedded biological parents. Studies that control for other relevant factors, including poverty and even genetics, suggest that children reared in intact homes fare best on the following indices: [educational achievement, emotional health, and familial and sexual development].

George sins by omission.

What’s the problem? He makes a sneaky switch here. He opens by talking about “wedded biological parents.” His evidence, though, is about “children raised in intact homes.”

You see, these carefully-chosen studies almost always compare kids raised by their wedded biological parents to kids whose parents have divorced — kids who are being raised in single family homes or by a step-parent. For instance, George quotes a study from a “left-leaning research institution”:

[I]t is not simply the presence of two parents, . . . but the presence of two biological parents that seems to support children’s development.

Wow, even a left-leaning institution endorses both biological parents as the ideal!  But wait. Those brackets around the first letter suggest he picked up his quote mid-sentence. Here’s a fuller version:

Divorce is linked to academic and behavior problems among children, including depression, antisocial behavior, impulsive/hyperactive behavior, and school behavior problems. Mental health problems linked to marital disruption have also been identified among young adults.

Children growing up with stepparents also have lower levels of well-being than children growing up with biological parents. Thus, it is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seems to support children’s development.

So this left-leaning institution has compared coupled bio-parents to…divorced parents.  And step-parents.  Do you see what’s not there?  Adoptive parents — same-sex or opposite sex.

Funny what happens appears when you don’t chop up the quote.  George also writes:

Recent literature reviews conducted by the Brookings Institution, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and the Institute for American Values corroborate the importance of intact households for children

There it is again — the importance of “intact households.”

Adoptive parents are not stepparents.

This matters.  The world includes more than just married bio-parents, single parents, and step-parents. Adoptive parents exist, too — adoptive parents who provide permanent “intact households.” And  research indicates that children are much better safer with adoptive parents than with steppparents, so take all that steppparent research and throw it out the window. Research is also out there suggesting that adoptive parents invest more resources and spend more time with their kids than married bio-parents. In fact, during the Prop 8 trial, we heard this exchange between attorney David Boise and the expert witness against marriage equality, David Blankenhorn:

Boise: In fact, the studies show that all other things being equal, two adoptive parents raising a child from birth will do as well as two biological parents raising a child from birth, correct?

Blankenhorn: No, sir, that’s incorrect.

Boise: Well, sir —

Blankenhorn: May I say another word on that, please?

Boies: You will have an opportunity on redirect.

Blankenhorn: Okay. It was a clarifying thing and actually supports something you just said. The studies show that adoptive parents, because of the rigorous screening process that they undertake before becoming adoptive parents, actually on some outcomes outstrip the biological parents in terms of providing protective care for their children.

Yep.  In some way adoptive parents can be better than coupled bio-parents.

George is hiding essential information from his readers. He hasn’t established that married bio-parents are the ideal — merely that they tend to be better than fractured homes. That’s not a relevant comparison.  Here’s a list of things he might have fruitfully compared:

  • Kids raised from infancy in intact bio-parent homes vs. same-sex adoptive homes.
  • Kids raised from infancy in intact opposite-sexer adoptive homes vs. same-sexer adoptive homes.
  • Kids adopted later in life and raised in intact opposite-sexer adoptive homes vs. same-sexer adoptive homes.

But no, none of that. He offers no evidence about same-sex parenting at all.

George betrays his most loyal readers.

In fact, if you dig deeper into George’s own primary source you find this:

First, no one can definitively say at this point how children are affected by being reared by same-sex couples. The current research on children reared by them is inconclusive and underdeveloped—we do not yet have any large, long-term, longitudinal studies that can tell us much about how children are affected by being raised in a same-sex household. Yet the larger empirical literature on child well-being suggests that the two sexes bring different talents to the parenting enterprise, and that children benefit from growing up with both biological parents. This strongly suggests that children reared by same-sex parents will experience greater difficulties with their identity, sexuality, attachments to kin, and marital prospects as adults, among other things. But until more research is available, the jury is still out.

Now the American Psychological Association would disagree. But even if you look at nothing but George’s best source, putting aside what it claims is “suggested” and sticking to actual evidence, the most he can assert is that “the best available social science research” has not been able to establish the superiority of either situation. But George glides over that.

You can see why this is troubling. I’ve encountered this evidentiary sleight of hand from less reputable opponents, from talking heads who make good money spreading bigotry and hate, but I don’t expect it from a man of his reputation. How can he damn same-sex parenting with studies that don’t look at same-sex parents? How can just…skip that little fact in his presentation? It’s a betrayal, not just of his own integrity, but of the readers who admire him and count on him for truth.

I’m sure Robert George has an answer for this. He must.

I just wish I knew what it was.

Next: George argues marriage equality is a threat to religious freedom.

Comments

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Sarah
March 24th, 2011 | LINK

I agree 100% that a kid with parents who love him/her is far better off than a kid with parents who don’t. Any kid whose relationship with one or both biological parent is going to feel abandoned at some point in his/her life, regardless of the truth of the situation. And kids who live with his/her biological parents (who love him/her and each other) are bound to do better than kids with any major issues in their past, so I can see the comparison to be made here. Any kid who has any form of abandonment in their past (by either or both of their biological parents) are liable to have it hit them at some point in their lives, regardless of the fact of their present. Things happen to kids and it sucks. This data could be used as well to point out that kids of same sex parents are “less well-adjusted” than kids whose biological parents are both in their lives and still in love, so by that yardstick I can see a little validity to this argument. However the world is far from ideal and kids do get abandoned, sometimes by one and sometimes by both of their parents, and I have yet to see any data that convinces me that amongst kids who have trauma/abandonment in their history that same sex parentage isn’t just as effective as opposite sex parentage. Yes, sure, the ideal is that the family is made and never broken in any way and that the kid’s mommy and daddy love them very much and that they also love each other for ever and ever, but that is rare these days and most kids don’t even expect that kind of ideal for themselves. I guess my point is that comparing children from the old-fashioned “Leave it to Beaver” family model to kids who have had some kind of parental issue is apples and oranges in the same sex/opposite sex family debate. What’s more appropriate are kids from same sex families and kids from opposite sex families in an adoptive situation. That’s a far more fair and appropriate comparison.

Ben in Oakland
March 24th, 2011 | LINK

Rob– i don’t have any time to write today. This section riles me up. It’s all crocodile tears and far more dishonesty than you give him credit for.

His OTHER omission is this: in california alone, there are 70,000 children (according to Ca. supreme Court) being raised by gay parents.

Is he proposing that those children should be taken away from their parents? Sent back to the orphanages? Returned to the drug addicts that abandoned them? Sent back to China or Korea or some third world hellhole?

If he is, then he advocates ripping funcioning families apart, taking children form security to isecurity. whatsamatter, Georgie? Are the orphanages just not full up enough for you?

If not, then it doesn’t really matter about who is better for the kids. Because those people have children who deserve the protection that having married parents will give them.

further disingenuousness, to put it mildly. He is going to have a hard time explaining how all those children of heterosexuals intact marriages ended up as drunks, psychopaths, mass murderers, in prison, rapist, child molesters, therive, and congressmen. Obviously, merely being a man and a woman in a marriage guarantees nothing.

But this is the quote that lays bare exactly how deep his animus is. He no longfers gets (not that he ever did) a pass on the “I’m jus defending the family and thinking of the kids” competition.

I’m surprised you missed it.

“This strongly suggests that children reared by same-sex parents will experience greater difficulties with their identity, sexuality, attachments to kin, and marital prospects as adults, among other things.”

George and the anti-ex-gay industry that he shills for are, shall we say, INSTRUMENTAL in creating this world that he condemns gay people to.

If i didn’t have work i must do today or face the Righteous Husband’s Wrath, I’d be off in a new york minute on this,.

Ben in Oakland
March 24th, 2011 | LINK

sammit, I left something out.

Their own go-to guy, David blankenhorn, admitted in his Prop. 8 testimony that marriage would benefit the children and families of gay people.

you can just cut and paste this paragraph and insert it into any of my paragraphs above.

occono
March 24th, 2011 | LINK

Is anybody emailing these posts to him or to Olsen and Boies?

Jonathan Justice
March 24th, 2011 | LINK

While I do understand the stance you take, I do not for a minute suppose that Professor George gives a fig for his ordinary readers’ intellectual integrity. The article is one of those Roman Court speeches to be made in the basilica and intended to give the cover of ostensible legitimacy to the exercise of social and political clout by those who hire Cicero or Robert George.

His problem, of course, is that the case may actually end up getting decided on its merits while he and is oh-so-delicate secret donors at NOM get taken out with the trash. He would like to take as many dear readers along with him as possible to cushion his otherwise uncomfortable resting place. They would be well advised to let him rot on his own.

tavdy79
March 24th, 2011 | LINK

How can he damn same-sex parenting with studies that don’t look at same-sex parents? How can just…skip that little fact in his presentation?

This is the same technique used by Dr. Paul Cameron, a man now widely recognised as a fraud, but who was once a highly regarded expert on homosexuality – in no small part due to his background in psychology.

David in Houston
March 24th, 2011 | LINK

He’s using the same non-applicable research that NOM and the FRC use. That speaks volumes. I think this really points out how desperate George is to prove his argument. He goes on and on about the benefits of opposite-sex parenting. All the while, inferring that same-sex couples are inferior. He does all of this without a shred of proof to back up his claim.

The fact of the matter is, there are over 20 million children being raised in single-parent families. I don’t hear George saying that those children should be taken away and placed in homes that have a mom and a dad. With all things being equal, how can he possibly argue that a two-parent same-sex family is a worse situation than a one-parent straight family? Even a child knows that two parents are better than one.

Amicus
March 24th, 2011 | LINK

Timely, because I’m actually thinking/writing about this right now in terms of moral philosophy, but trying to drop that discussion smack into the legal framework for marriage, so that, when the discussion shifts to talking about norms the limits of the reach of the law, of the moral coercive force of the law, are prominently juxtaposed.

Not an easy task.

I do have to say that this bit on norms is not trivial, because, even after the PIV stuff is dispensed with, this still warrants argumentation.

Here’s some stuff to share, maybe for discussion here.

Take just these “relationships”, all nongay:
1. Married couple, “faithful”
2. Non-married couple, “faithful”
3. Single, chaste
4. Single, glorious slut
5. Something wild [just to test the limits of reason, see below]

What distinguishes these, in expressly *moral* terms, in ways that interest the state, vis-a-vis public marriage contract?

If you choose one dimension, childrearing outcomes, does that say something about parenting or something about marriage as a social institution or something about the kind of parents who choose marriage?

What do you compare? Do you compare the ideal from each class? Or, do you compare ‘overall and in the long run’?

What does is mean to compare empirical outcomes? Does it mean one is better or that one is morally superior? [I'm especially torn on this one...]

What comparisons are illicit and does that consideration play a role? What if we compared jewish marriages to Italian (non-jewish) marriages.

If the final answer is that it is really tough, then is George right that leads to an “eventuality” that no kind of arrangement be proposed as an ideal (p. 263) or as Maggie forecasts that marriage will cease to be? Is it really true that we wouldn’t be able to teach anything or anything much if there isn’t single ideal, one ring to rule them all (pun intended)?

Last, and this might turn out to be my favorite, is the selection of an uncontested ideal among these better thought of as a faith belief, than something we can prove by reason alone, which might only be able to show which are directly harmful or in contravention of our other ideals, and, thereby, not permitted?

I think I have most of the questions, but not all the answers yet!

Amicus
March 24th, 2011 | LINK

uh, better:

“so that, when the discussion shifts to talking about norms, the limits of the reach of the law (the moral, justifiably coercive force of the law), are prominently juxtaposed.”

Remember, this is the area of the law in which the proof required is often the thinnest (rational basis), but the stakes, as the authors admit, are presented as the highest. Odd juxtaposition that. What does THAT tell us about the underlying nature of the problem/question, I wonder?

Amicus
March 24th, 2011 | LINK

blech! I should write this stuff in a processor, rather than type in the box.

Better: “What if we compared jewish, non-Italian marriages to Italian, non-jewish marriages.”

CPT_Doom
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

Yet the larger empirical literature on child well-being suggests that the two sexes bring different talents to the parenting enterprise, and that children benefit from growing up with both biological parents.

This is yet another line of absolute bunk. I was a psych major in college, and remember nothing in the literature that indicated the gender of the parents has any impact on the talents they bring to a parenting situation. This is the whole “Moms are nuturing, while Dads encourage independence” crap that FRC has been peddling for years.

Does George cite any empirical research indicating that 1) women all parent the same and men all parent the same or that 2) those parenting styles are required for healthy child development? I am going to guess no, because the ideas are false. We all know of parents that meet the strict gender roles favored by George and his fellow travellers, yet have raised horribly damaged kids, and we all know of the opposite circumstance – “nontraditional” families who have raised amazingly well-grounded and productive kids.

That is the real weakness of George’s arguments – we don’t evaluate families based on aggregate data, we evaluate families (whether for adoption or through social services or in our own everyday interactions with various families we know) based on the actions, skills and talents of the individuals raising the children. Thus my aunt and uncle, who fit the ideal George wants to promote, but were nonetheless alcoholics, raised a family of rehab graduates, with two children shortening their lives because of drug/alcohol issues. Meanwhile my divorced uncle and his first wife have three children who lived through a really messy parental break-up, but have managed to build productive homes and families (to be honest, one of the boys recently got divorced, but that was a direct result of a stroke he suffered several years ago that changed his personality).

For George to argue that we should evaluate the benefit of families only on their aggregate success rates means he is arguing that poorer and younger parents, whose children also tend to have tougher times, should be deprived of the right to raise children and build families.

Regan DuCasse
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

This is why I keep saying that it seems that essentially, those that oppose marriage equality still believe that the ROLE of gender is still in play and can be legislated.
That is to say, they seem to think that men ONLY do certain things and women only do certain things. And that’s when their argument gets reduced to sexual organs and their function.

Physical gender isn’t always constant either. And there is nothing in the law that can make it more rigid.
And because gender is no longer a function of discrimination IN A MARRIAGE, making it a function of marriage is regressive.

Similarly, sexual orientation is no guarantee of the quality you’ll bring to a relationship or parenting.
I always say too, it’s obvious that GOOD parenting isn’t a talent bestowed on a GROUP. Not even on women, actually.
It’s an INDIVIDUAL talent, with one’s orientation being neutral to it.

I hope SCOTUS gets that. Because the way that the laws are written where PROGRESS has been made, there isn’t any purpose in discriminating against gay people that has any basis in nature OR social history and reality.

Amicus
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

lunchtime!

From Prop8 trial, Day 5:

[the foundations of good parents, of good family outcomes]

1. The quality of the relationship that children have with their parents and those that come after them. Large body of evidence that children do best with loving parents and do worse without.

2. The quality of the relationship between the parents or other significant adults. Kids do better when parents are happy with each other than not.

3. The availability of adequate economic and social resources.

A footnote on 3: hard to express this, but the ‘minimal optimal household size’ in our economy is dual-income. If you don’t have that, on average, you are at a competitive disadvantage. So, if you study single parents, I’d suspect a huge part of the variance has to do with economics, but I think it might be hard to isolate _specific_ factors like drug abuse risk or truency or whatever to “economic factors”, rather than the other two.

@Regan

Assume that “they” aren’t so dopey that they don’t understand that their line isn’t _somewhat_ arbitrary.

What they are then implying, without saying it, is:

“We don’t believe that you can (a) either show us distinctions among all these other things (that we don’t want) or (b) if you can, you still can’t get a “rational consensus” with enough force to do what it needs to do in society. Your failure on either score will put us on the path to lowest common denominator, which is ‘anything goes’. If you think you can disagree, show us how.”

Of course, this is all mixed up in irrational fears and strange religiosities, but that’s it in a nutshell, so far as I can tell/share my understanding.

I happen to think they are wrong, but it is still a challenge to show it.

Timothy Kincaid
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

Ben,

You are correct. The issue is not “what family structure is most ideal for children” (though George doesn’t win on that point either).

The real question is “what available family structure is most ideal for these children?”

Surely it would be better to be raised as the heir to the throne of England than most other family structures. But that is not a valid argument for denying all non-royal families the right to marry.

And you also caught his heterosexist presumptions:

“This strongly suggests that children reared by same-sex parents will experience greater difficulties with their identity, sexuality, attachments to kin, and marital prospects as adults, among other things.”

What he is saying here – and if you read the basis for this claim it is clear – is that children reared by same-sex parents are more likely consider whether they have a non-heterosexual orientation (identity), to readily accept their sexual orientation if it turns out not to be heterosexual (sexuality), experience rejection by hetero relatives (attachment to kin), and be the victim of his campaign to harm their lives (marital prospects as adults).

Look, jerk, it’s only a “problem” with identity because you are working as hard as you can to make it one.

Timothy Kincaid
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

George’s argument in a nutshell, Children of same-sex couples have fewer advantages in life, so the appropriate response is to punish them for by taking away more advantages.

And that is some kinda crazy.

Ben in Oakland
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

It’s not some kind o’ crazy.

I think it is the hombigotry kind o’ crazy.

Darina
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

*half-growling through her teeth* My stepfather did just fine raising me although he never formally adopted me, thankyouverymuch Mr. George.

Darina
March 25th, 2011 | LINK

Sorry, this touched a painful spot. And I know that my stepfather is in effect my adoptive father and not just somebody who married my mother.

But still… should my mother have been forbidden to remarry after my her first husband’s death because nobody could be her already existing children’s BIOLOGICAL father anymore?

Amicus
March 26th, 2011 | LINK

Ben wrote:

those people have children who deserve the protection that having married parents will give them

I’m curious whether people believe, as this implies, that, if you are going to have kids, you should get married.

Dan Savage’s book, which I have not read, is entitled “The Commitment”. Is that telling or are the contents dispelling?

Amicus
March 26th, 2011 | LINK

Here’s a succinct formulation of George’s argument (I had to do this to think clearly about a reply):

He claims that because nongay sex is moral and ‘naturally oriented to kids’ that implies that it *should* be favored over other relationship types.

He could have stopped there (logically/philosophically), but he doesn’t.

He goes primarily for confirming evidence ‘from the social sciences’ (“corroborative”). (What he might need is disconfirming evidence, but leave that aside, for now…).

He claims at least two things.

1. Support from the social sciences is dispositive, just in the sense of ‘overall’. He says “it is not individuals as such who are singled out…”. [Perhaps he is aware he is going to get accused of making moral judgments on individuals, a lesson hard won from experience? Who knows?]

2. There is no disconfirming evidence, because gays just haven’t been studied.

Then we come along.

We observe that the ‘social sciences’ do not support ‘relationship forms’, per se, but three factors:

1. Quality (overall functioning) of parent-child relationship
2. Quality (non-conflict) of parent-parent relationship
3. Economic resources (which may condition a relationship form, since most, but not all, single parents are at a disadvantage to the dual-income now required in our market economy)

And his reply is going to be:

1. “Parents” is radical, both ‘in principle’ (return to his basic argument about what is ‘natural’) and in practice (opens the door of horrors for gays and nongays, not just a line to gay parents)
2. Something from bioethics
3. Is unworkable or undesireable from a normative perspective, e.g. “teaches that mothers and fathers aren’t important”.
4. Just looking at social sciences ( even though he did it, himself), is not going to give the kind of (morally) conclusive answers that we (presumably) need, because (a) we can’t agree what to conclude from them and (b) it might commit us to stuff we might think is weird and outlandish. So, although it might be an interesting (empirical) critique, it is not an acceptable, stand-alone reply.

Then there is the counter-counter-reply:

Assume GGA are correctly argued (which concedes a lot). We’d better just go ahead and declare “Gay is Good” and get along with it, already, with the moral responsibilities and freedoms pertaining thereto… This is the “New Traditionalist” view.

Amicus
March 26th, 2011 | LINK

ooops, I skipped a bit in the “then we come along’ section. Should have included Rob’s clip from Blankenhorn that some evidence is actually in support of gay forms, indirectly.

Regan DuCasse
March 26th, 2011 | LINK

Certainly the consensus to maintain Jim Crow and not allow mixed marriages was the quality of life “mongrel children” were conjectured to have.

The assertions by racists, isn’t any different than those of George or any other anti gay person. The racists were ‘protecting’ children from being mongrels, therefore, won’t be subjected to prejudice, pariah status or physical and mental defect.

Also of course, denying all the while that they were the very captains of the social stigma a mixed child would confront.
Despite all that, our nation has had many mixed children of distinction.

Try as they might to say it’s the protection of children that’s the impetus for systemic bigotry, it’s an age old tactic to divert from the main issue.
Only the target minority has changed.
And those who employ this tactic like to deny there is anything well worn to it, or that it applies as well to blacks and other people of color as it does to gays and lesbians.

I really, REALLY hate being treated like I’m stupid. Which is essentially happens in discussions on gay lives. I get treated as if I’m an idiot. Even if I mention that I’m a black woman, old enough to remember what Jim Crow or it’s legacy was like and what the Civil Rights Movement meant to my family.
I mean YOUNGER WHITE PEOPLE (who couldn’t POSSIBLY know) will deny what I know to my face.

Part of the denying what gay people know of themselves and their lives, type arrogance.
Supremacist values, are what they are. They don’t change. And they aren’t GOOD.
And have never been good for individuals, a society or nation.
We can’t bring THAT home enough.

Amicus
March 26th, 2011 | LINK

At the risk of overposting (again), I have to point out just how *thoroughly* at odds George is with Maggie Gallagher.

Mags seems to suggest that the social concept of marriage is the solution to a problem. Specifically, it is the solution to out of wedlock births, historically and currently. She seems to glide between “fatherless” and “cohabitating couples” with analytical abandon, in a cutsie utilitarian position she calls “sex makes babies” (article with the same name).

In a reader-startling moment of
élan, she uses this tacitly to rule out all gay couples. Basically, gays aren’t part of the problem, so they aren’t part of the solution. Or, if they were in the solution, somehow she wouldn’t be able to, (a), discourage fragmented families and, (b), encourage women not to get knocked up without a marriage vow (whether they are cohabitating or not).

Yes, you read that right. *boggle*

Then there is this, which, taken with George, gives the gays the razzle-dazzle, the one-two, from consequentialist and nonconsequentialist alike:

In the U.S., people have always been able to marry without a religious ceremony. But the legal structure of marriage is deeply influenced by our specific religious traditions about marriage. Which of these conceptions are we allowed to keep and which must be discarded as unduly religious? Monogamy? Mutual fidelity? Primacy of husband and wife over other relationships? None of these are human universals. They are the products of a specific marriage tradition deeply rooted in religious ideas.

Aaaand, scene.

Timothy Kincaid
March 26th, 2011 | LINK

Darina,

I’m sure some will think, “Oh Darina, don’t be dramatic. No one is trying to stop remarriage.”

They would be wrong.

At the moment there is no campaign specifically addressed at blocking someone like your mother from marrying someone like your stepfather. Directly, anyway.

But we have to recall that battle over gay marriage isn’t about whether same-sex couples should marry any more than World War II was over who controlled Iwo Jima.

Our battle is a smaller part of a greater war: the war over the extent to which certain religious institutions will influence or control social and civil life.

And you had better believe that if they found a time or place in which they thought they could ban “the type of marriages that Jesus banned” (ie second marriage for divorced people) they would do so. Remember the whole covenant marriage movement? That was a step – publicly declared – in the direction of banning divorce.

And while they may not try to ban a widow from remarrying, I can imagine all sorts of “Bible based” laws which would define (dictate) the rights and obligations in ways that were hardly in your family’s best interest.

Amicus
March 27th, 2011 | LINK

I wanted to clarify my comment about “The Commitment” above.

Part of the hope of exploring a new dialectic is to get away from the old yes/no fight over “gay”.

What’s in mind is to transform moralizers like Maggie G and self-described marriage nuts, like David Blankenhorn, into a new generation of “conservatives” not at war over gay, but in ways that are familiar.

The new Maggies and the new Davids will be telling gays, “marriage is good for you, dahlings”, “go, have some kids, do something important – for you, for England, nothing is stopping you”. That is, the same thing they are telling nongays, right now.

Saying these things to gays just echoes familiar tensions in society already.

Clearly, there are those on *both* sides who hate – hate, Hate! – those “tensions”, but throw a dog a bone, already. This is how one restores balances to the force, a healthy tension, and stops the rancor over “gay” as a yes/no issue, an unhealthy tension.

Agreed?

Darina
March 28th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy, I’m not American, and I admit that I had to google “covenant marriage movement”. Not that I was very surprised with what I found on their site – a foreigner I am, but I’ve already learned to recognize certain patterns.

It’s not that the (aggressively atheistic) communist regime that we had in Bulgaria when I was growing up approved of divorces – far from it, but at least it didn’t try to make them absolutely impossible.

I feel I was indeed too dramatic, but that insistence on “biological parents” always makes me cringe because it’s very personal for me. I don’t really expect such people to try to stop a widow from remarrying, but I do wonder if that’s one scenario that logically follows from the “biological parents or nothing” argument – and then what on earth should be done with children whose biological parents are both dead?

But now let’s return to the article itself: what about statin bluntly that allowing same-sex couples to adopt doesn’t mean stealing children from happily married opposite-sex couples? Those children who live with their happily married biological parents just aren’t on offer for adoption.

Timothy Kincaid
March 28th, 2011 | LINK

But now let’s return to the article itself: what about stating bluntly that allowing same-sex couples to adopt doesn’t mean stealing children from happily married opposite-sex couples? Those children who live with their happily married biological parents just aren’t on offer for adoption.

I keep reading this just for the pure pleasure of it. Blunt, obvious, and beautiful.

Bruce Garrett
March 28th, 2011 | LINK

I’ve encountered this evidentiary sleight of hand from less reputable opponents, from talking heads who make good money spreading bigotry and hate, but I don’t expect it from a man of his reputation.

Well now you know. Hate does not share power. It will eventually overrule every shred of morality and dignity, any sense of personal honor within a person. It is rust to the soul. Prejudices of various kinds can test a reputation, but over the years I have watched this one in particular, this mindless hatred toward homosexuals, drag a lot of otherwise decent people right into the gutter and you get the impression that many of them, seeing what it is doing to them, don’t really care. At some point the war against the hated other becomes all that matters.

George knows he still has the regard of his fellows in the anti-gay industrial complex and that will be enough. He doesn’t have to care what anyone else thinks, and probably is incapable of caring now anyway. Hate rots people from within. You can safely doubt he cares one whit you saw through his deceptions there, or that he regards your calling him out on it as anything other then evidence that you are not the trustworthy one…trustworthiness being simply where you stand in the culture war, and how much of your personal dignity and honor you are willing to sacrifice to it, and not a warning that he’s falling into an abyss. He doesn’t care.

Amicus
March 29th, 2011 | LINK

Ben wrote:

Obviously, merely being a man and a woman in a marriage guarantees nothing.

They are going to come back with
a1. gays can be “drunks, psychopaths, mass murderers, in prison, rapist, child molesters, thieves, and congressmen” too.

b1. putative right of a child to a mother and father

c1. we would lose the ability at law to teach that mothers and fathers are important

Thus, it’s likely we need more arguments.

first pass:

a2. “other things” are not equal, so mother-father is not sufficient to an ordinal or fractional ranking, i.e. a fully compelling interest, even in the ideal.

b2. if this right were enforced uniformly, rather than targeting gays, it suggests a world in which divorce/marriage laws are radically altered (divorce forbidden & marriage compelled in the presence of children – n.b. @theo and arguments in self-interest).

c2. in the ‘real world’, the desire for ‘children of your own’ is not under threat, in the least – quite to the contrary, so the prudential urgency is slim, in terms of relationship-forms (it’s more an issue – a compelling interest – for nongay, “Fatherless America”).

Even so, gay marriage would not commit the law to teach anything beyond private, married parents. Thus, lesbians living on a commune in Oneida choosing to raise only sons with group (not individual) parenting, don’t get “lawful sanction” because they aren’t married. And, marrying two gay people doesn’t give a moral right for a giant, group marriage anymore than marrying two nongay people does.

Questions, comments, dirty remarks – all welcomed…!

Donny D.
March 30th, 2011 | LINK

But we have to recall that battle over gay marriage isn’t about whether same-sex couples should marry any more than World War II was over who controlled Iwo Jima.

Our battle is a smaller part of a greater war: the war over the extent to which certain religious institutions will influence or control social and civil life.

I don’t see this as an either-or proposition. There are plenty of straight people, including many Californians, who don’t care much or at all about religion but who are uncomfortable with gay marriage. It was this group of voters that the later pro-Prop 8 TV ads targeted.

Anti-gay people tend to be intense in their feelings when push comes to shove. As often as we and our issues are presented as secondary in importance by pretty much every element of our political culture, for the main participants in the struggle over gay-related issues this mostly isn’t true.

On this subject, there’s some interesting stuff in unChristian, a fundamentalist book that looks at how non-fundamentalists, especially younger ones, see fundamentalists. In the chapter about fundamentalist homophobia, Kinnaman and Lyons talk about fundies who think, and bluntly assert, that homosexuality is the worst sin, and the most important “issue” today.

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