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Posts for March, 2008

Now An Entire Association of Anthropologists Disagrees With Stanton

Jim Burroway

March 7th, 2008

Focus On the Family’s Glenn Stanton has really stepped into it this time. In Monday’s CitizenLink, he claimed that there’s a “clear consensus” among anthropologists that “A family is a unit that draws from the two types of humanity, male and female.”

But as we quickly learned, anthropologists vehemently disagree on what Stanton claims they agree on. The University of California at Irvine’s Anthropology Chair Bill Maurer and Associate Professor Tom Boellstorff reviewed ten thousand years of human existence and concluded:

[T]here is not now, and there never has been, one single definition of marriage. Marriage may be universal; but what counts as marriage is not.

And Dr. Patrick M. Chapman, anthropologist and author of the upcoming book “Thou Shalt Not Love”: What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays wrote to Box Turtle Bulletin with this:

… [A]pproximately 75 percent of the world’s cultures view polygamy as the preferred form of marriage. Furthermore, anthropologists document that cultures on every continent, excluding Antarctica, have accepted and recognized same-sex marriages.

Now comes word that the entire American Anthropological Association has joined the act with this letter to Focus On the Family (Emphasis in the original):

Dear Sir:

My name is Damon Dozier, and I am the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Director of Public Affairs. In this capacity, I am responsible for the Association’s full range of government relations, media relations, and international affairs programs. Founded in 1902, the AAA—11,000 members strong—is the world’s largest organization of men and women interested in anthropology. Its purposes are to encourage research, promote the public understanding of anthropology, and foster the use of anthropological information in addressing human problems.

I write to address the gross misrepresentation of the position of the anthropological community on gay marriage in your March 3, 2008 Citizen Link press release, “Anthropologists Agree on Traditional Definition of Marriage.” In the release, Glenn Stanton, an employee of your organization who does not identify himself as an anthropologist, asserts that “a family is a unit that draws from the two types of humanity, male and female.”

In point of fact, the AAA Executive Board issued in 2004, the following statement in response to President Bush’s proposal for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage:

The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

I am alarmed and dismayed at this example of irresponsible journalism and deliberate misrepresentation of the anthropological community. In the future it is my hope that your organization will accurately and honestly convey and communicate the views and interests of the AAA, its 11,000 members, and the social science community at large.

Damon Dozier
Director of Public Affairs
American Anthropological Association
2200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600
Arlington, VA 22201
703.528.1902
ddozier@aaanet.org

You can read the full AAA Statement on Marriage and the Family here.

See also:
Now An Entire Association of Anthropologists Disagrees With Stanton
Another Real Anthropologist Speaks About Marriage
Focus’ Glenn T. Stanton Speaks For Anthropologists