The Idiocy of Making Men from Straw

Rob Tisinai

August 11th, 2011

The National Organization “for” Marriage is upset with us again. According Jennifer Roback Morse (NOM’s resident big-brain), we’re guilty of intimidation though breathing.


No, seriously.

Morse writes in her article, Intelligent Replies to Idiotic Comments, Part 2, (Gasp!!!):

“But same sex couples already have children!” This is not, strictly speaking, an idiotic comment, since it is a statement of fact.  However, I want to call your attention to the exasperated gasp (EG for short) that usually accompanies this comment.  The EG is designed to intimidate the listener into believing that some deeply important conclusion follows instantly and obviously from the observation that same sex couples already have children in their homes.  The Exasperated Gasp is supposed to convey that the whole issue is a done deal, and we shouldn’t offer any resistance to further social change.

And again, at the end,

The true statement, But same sex couples already have children!” accompanied by an Exasperated Gasp, is either an intimidation tactic, or another idiotic comment.  Take your pick.

Have you noticed a shift in NOM’s rhetoric? As their public support dwindles, they’re now casting themselves as the bullied victims of power-mad gays out to strip them of their basic rights.

And apparently we’ve gotten so good we can do it with a single breath.

I do have to point one thing out (because it may be confusing). Her warning that we breathe while exasperated is intended to be her intelligent reply to our idiotic respiration. Whoa.

Morse continues:

Let’s examine this. What exactly is it that supposedly follows automatically and obviously [from the true statement that same sex couples already have children]?

She offers several possibilities, some merely straw men, some genuinely offensive.

Same sex couples should be encouraged to have more children. No, that doesn’t follow.  You’d have to make an argument to support that conclusion.

She’s right, it doesn’t follow. But when did we ever say it does. The fact is, same-sex couples already have children! Those children exist, will continue to exist, and would benefit from marriage rights bestowed on their parents. Whether same-sexers should be encouraged to have more kids or not is entirely beside the point — the point being that these children exist.

So that’s a straw man. Next?

Same sex couples will continue to have more children, no matter what the law does or doesn’t do. No, that doesn’t follow either. As a matter of fact, the law can, if it chooses, make it quite difficult for same sex couples to share parenting rights.

In the first place, it doesn’t matter that much, because these children already exist. And same-sexers will continue to have kids and raise them. Even if the law can “make it quite difficult for same sex couples to share parenting rights” (nice veiled threat there, Jennifer, and the “quite” adds a great James-Bond-villain flavor, circa 1967 — I can see you sitting in a huge chair stroking a white kitty saying, We can make it quite difficult to share parenting rights, Mr. Bond), the law will have a hard time keeping us from sharing parenting responsibilities. We’d just have to do so without the legal protections put in place to safeguard the child, things like the child’s access to both parents’ healthcare plans.

That makes this a factually incorrect straw man offering a repugnant veiled threat. Next?

Same sex couples have children the same way opposite sex couples do.

I don’t know anyone who says this, or even hopes to convey it through an Exasperated Gasp. We do say that same sex couples can raise children the same way opposite sex couples do, which is a different point entirely

Straw man. Next?

Same sex couples should be allowed to marry so “their” children can have all the benefits of marriage.

STOP!  I can’t handle the scare quotes around “their.”  This is one of NOM’s most despicable and frequent insinuations: that adoptive parents aren’t a child’s real parents. And I truly don’t get it. Morse herself has adopted a child and I can’t believe she introduces the kid by saying, This is “my” child, complete with air quotes on the my.

Anyway, this is not a straw man. If our offensive exhalations mean to signify anything, it’s that children of same sex parents deserve the protections of marriage. What is Morse’s intelligent reply?

No, this doesn’t follow either.  This assumes that the “marriage” of a same sex couple will work in the same way as the marriage of a man and a woman. This is highly doubtful. We already know that in terms of economic behavior, male couples are different from female couples, and both are different from married couples. We also know that separation rates (ie divorces) are different for male couples and for female couples and both are different (higher, like way higher) than for married couples.  We have no reason to assume that  same sex “marriage” will function in the same way, and convey all the same benefits to children, as natural, conjugal marriage does.

So many things wrong here,  I’ll have to number them.

  1. Dr. Morse, please explain how these (unspecified) economic differences will lead to differences in the way marriages function, especially as they relate to parenting. It’s not enough to toss out “highly doubtful” and pretend you’ve said something real.
  1. “We already know that in terms of economic behavior, male couples are different from female couples, and both are different from married couples.” Well that’s easy: let all these couples become married couples, and those (unspecified) difference will disappear! Wait, too glib? Sorry, Dr. Morse, but if your argument is glib, it’s tough to give any other kind of reply.
  1. “We also know that separation rates (ie divorces)…” No, you can’t get away with that. An unmarried couple separating is not the same as a married couple divorcing. Straight people themselves generally enter and end a number of relationships before finally marrying. More to the point, though: Morse’s own rhetoric stresses the importance of a strong “marriage culture” for keeping a child’s parents together. She can’t deny that culture to same-sex couples and then blame them for not staying together — not if she want usto take your ideology seriously.
  1. The whole line of reasoning based on “separation rates” is ugly. I’ve dealt with this before. Morse introduced it last May with a Gary Gates study on these rates. Here’s the thing: this same study says that both partners being African-American is negatively correlated with staying together. Or both partners being Asian/Pacific Islander. Or the couple being interracial.  Yet I’m sure Morse would never conclude that “there is no reason to believe” that interracial marriage, or marriage between African-Americans, or between Asians, would function the same as marriage between two white people. Surely she would denounce such a conclusion. So why is she so eager to say it about gays?

I’m sorry. I have to stop now. I let slip a few Exasperated Gasps as I typed this piece, and I wouldn’t want such intimidating idiocy to violate Morse’s right to share her intelligent replies. I could only continue if I stopped breathing altogether, and Morse surely wouldn’t want that.

Priya Lynn

August 11th, 2011

I posted the following to the National Organization Against Marriage’s blog. Its in moderation, I’d be shocked if they let it through, lol:

“Anna said “Ssm creates the condition for children to be deliberately, by law(!) not unforeseen circumstance, to be deprived of either a mother or father.”.

Your “logic” is fatally flawed. It is no deprivation to have two fathers or two mothers rather than a father and a mother. Decades of research have shown children of same sex couples do just as well, if not better than children of heterosexual couples:

Now people opposed to marriage like to claim decades of social science research shows children do best with a father and mother and frequently list research ostensibly to support that claim. The problem is the research they list never compares same sex parents to opposite sex parents, it compares opposite sex parents to single parents. Don’t fall for this common dishonesty amongst marriage opponents, read what the American Psychological association says about same sex parents – having two fathers or two mothers is no deprivation.”


August 11th, 2011

Thanks, Rob.
This is hilarious, but also “their” rhetoric is quite difficult to swallow. EG.


August 11th, 2011

I truly pity “her” child and hope that s/he is able to get away from Ms. Morse ASAP.


August 11th, 2011

Thanks, Rob, for introducing me to Jennifer Roback Morse. I mean that seriously. I had never heard of her and I like to know who is out there providing intellectual support for anti-gay organizations.


August 12th, 2011


I think you meant “intellectual” support



August 12th, 2011

@MattNYC: I see your point, but, no, I didn’t accidently leave out the quotation marks. Dr. Morse’s academic credentials are actually pretty impressive. I do not doubt she has a first-class mind.

Her work is intended to provide intellectual heft to NOM, although it is clear she is mostly parroting the views of the Roman Catholic Church in non-religious, academic language.

Mostly, what she is demonstrating is that first-class minds can be wrong.

Terence Weldon

August 15th, 2011

Great analysis. Apart from the obvious difference of marital glue between the male couples Morse refers to, and the married heterosexual couples, an important difference contributing to the greater instability of gay relationships, is the pressure that comes from public prejudice and homophobia.

In the animal world, same sex couples are commonplace, and homophobia does not exist. True like-for-like comparisons are possible, and the evidence from numerous studies is that same sex couples are as long-lasting as their mixed sex counterparts – see, for instances, the recent reports of research into zebra finches, and the discussion of Morse’s nonsense at A Lesson in Couple Stability From Homosexual Zebra Finches 

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