Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for August, 2011

Dolly’s family

Timothy Kincaid

August 2nd, 2011

It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to name an amusement park after yourself. It take a boatload of charm and goodwill to get away with it. And Dolly Parton has both, in spades.

Along with an entertainment career including top-five country hits in each of the past five decades, half a dozen movies, more than 3000 songs, a themepark complex, a production company, the title of Queen of Country Music, and the respect of most everyone who’s ever worked with her.

Dolly also has a long history of supporting the gay community ranging from simple statements of inclusion (“they accept me and I accept them“) to endorsement of issues, projects with LGBT themes, support for AIDS causes, and perhaps most importantly to being the voice of comfort and love to gay kids growing up in the Bible Belt.

So when I heard that a lesbian couple accused a themepark owned by Parton of being insensitive to gay couples, I dismissed it as a misunderstanding.

On July 9, Olivier Odom and Jennifer Tipton attended Dollywood Splash Country with two children. But the ticket agent requested that Odem turn her shirt inside out so that the slogan “Marriage is so gay” not offend other customers. He noted that Dollywood is a “family park”.

And the Dollywood complex does have a “family” dress code which restricts slogans:

To preserve our family atmosphere proper clothing is required including shirts and shoes (sandals or flip-flops are acceptable). Clothing with offensive words and/or pictures will not be permitted inside the park. Guests may not wear character type costumes on park.

For decades, the word “family” has been utilized as code for “no gays allowed.” Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, American Family Institute, Family Values Coalition, and a host of other “family organizations” have all used the slur “anti-family” to tell the world that LGBT people are not only unwholesome and dangerous but an enemy of home, hearth, and protection of children. And even secular use such as “family programming” or “family counseling” has at times defined family in ways that exclude LGBT people.

Which makes Dolly Parton’s response to the issue even more interesting:

I am truly sorry for the hurt or embarrassment regarding the gay and lesbian t-shirt incident at Dollywood’s Splash Country recently. Everyone knows of my personal support of the gay and lesbian community. Dollywood is a family park and all families are welcome. I am looking further into the incident and hope and believe it was more policy than insensitivity. I am very sorry it happened at all.

This is the appropriate response: owning responsibility, reassuring the community, and promising further review. A well crafted apology.

But there in the middle is a seemingly innocuous sentence that sets an entire industry of anti-gay activism on its ear. Lesbian couples are not welcomed as some exception to the family image, but because the Dollywood definition of “family park” already welcomes them. This is a revolutionary statement for Bible Belt mentality.

Dollywood is careful that it’s image is not like some amusement parks which seem to cater to vulgarity and crassness. No, Dollywood is a safe place designed for the family. It’s wholesome and unoffensive and protective of the innocence of children, so naturally it’s where gay families belong. Because gay people are part of what Dolly calls “family“.

And this casual presumption of inclusion in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is what makes Dolly Parton a particularly effective ally and a truly wonderful person.

A Good Man Tries and Fails

Rob Tisinai

December 16th, 2010

Ron Sider is a prominent evangelical Christian who opposes marriage equality.  He doesn’t seem to be a hateful bigot at all.  I never sense that he was murmuring perverts, perverts, perverts as he typed his recent article, “Bearing Better Witness.”  He’s shown me two things with that piece: First, a reminder that some people who promote discrimination are decent, well-meaning human beings.  And second, even their best-intentioned arguments can’t withstand scrutiny.

Sider begins by arguing there are secular reasons for opposing marriage equality:

Even a state such as ours, which does not use the law to promote or discourage particular religious beliefs, nevertheless has a huge stake in marriage. It is not simply a religious issue. The law is a moral teacher. Most people assume that if something is legal, it is moral—or at least not immoral. What is legal soon will become normal.

That’s both untrue and dangerous.

Really, most people would brand something like self-serving deceit as immoral.  Even a trivial selfish lie betrays someone’s trust.  But while some lies are illegal — fraud, libel, slander, perjury, and the like — most everyday lies are not.   Sorry, I got caught in traffic.  Or, I wasn’t flirting with him. Or, I don’t know who ate the last piece of pie (that one’s egregious in the extreme!).

In fact, you can create a whole catalog of immoral-but-not-illegal acts: Read the rest of this entry »

Judge Blocks Arizona’s Termination of Domestic Partner Benefits

Jim Burroway

July 24th, 2010

Among the first policy changes pushed by Arizona’s legislature as soon as Republican Janet Brewer succeeded Janet Napolitano (D) as governor was to pass House Bill 2013, which changed the definition of “dependent” to specifically exclude domestic partners and adopted children of gay individuals, effectively ending insurance coverage for the families of gay state employees. This move came despite denials from Arizona’s Prop 102 promoters that they would seek to remove domestic partner benefits if the amendment banning same-sex marriage was added to the constitution. Prop 102 was approved by Arizona voters in 2008.

This week, U.S. District Judge John Sedwick granted a temporary injunction against the state of Arizona from implementing the new law:

“Because employees involved in same-sex partnerships do not have the same right to marry as their heterosexual counterparts, Section O has the effect of completely barring lesbians and gays from receiving family benefits,” Sedwick wrote. “Consequently, the spousal limitation in Section O burdens state employees with same-sex domestic partners more than state employees with opposite-sex domestic partners.”

Sedwick dismissed the state’s argument that exempting gay employees would make the benefits program “much easier to administer” and that “scarce funds for employee benefits are better spent on employees and dependents as defined in the new statute.”

Gov. Brewer claims that the state cannot afford to provide domestic partner benefits. But the annual cost of domestic partner benefits make up only about $3 million, or less than one-half of one percent of the $625 million spent on benefits for all employees. The elimination of domestic partner benefits would affect more straight families than gay. Gay and lesbian couples are believed to comprise a small fraction of the 893 domestic partners who have signed up with the state. The injunction against the elimination of domestic partner benefits applies only to families of gay- and lesbian-led employees because, as Judge Sedwick noted, heterosexual couples have the option of marrying.

Tennessee appeals court slaps down anti-gay activist judge – again

Timothy Kincaid

June 30th, 2010

It’s hard to think of a definition of “activist judge” that would not have Chancellor George Ellis of the 28th Judicial District in West Tennessee as Exhibit A.

In May 2008, Angel Chandler and her ex-husband Joseph Barker went before the judge to modify their parenting plan. But Ellis didn’t like that Angel was living with her female partner of nine years and decided that he was going to do a little legislating from the bench.

Now the 28th judicial district in Tennessee has Local Rule 23, whereby agreements have a “paramour clause,” a decision that denies custody or even visitation rights to parents who allow an unmarried partner to stay overnight. But this can be overridden by a court, something that Ellis decided he wasn’t going to do.

Now this is not the case of a judge siding with the straight parent; her ex-husband (who has remarried) didn’t ask for the clause or object to its removal. And it wasn’t over-reliance on a hostile child services worker; reports showed no harm to the children. This was simply the case of a judge going against the wishes of the parents and the children and the advice of the psychologist, and taking it upon himself to disrupt the life of this family out of his own personal biases and bigotries.

Angel’s and her partner moved into two halves of a duplex so they could live near each other but apart while they appealed the decision, but soon found the double households to be prohibitively expensive. But fortunately they won their appeal, with the court reminding Ellis that the state law requires the primary consideration for custody arrangements be what’s in the best interest of the children.

Well, Ellis didn’t need no stinkin’ law to do what he wanted to do, so he insisted that the paramour clause remain in place until he could have a hearing. Well in March of this year he had his hearing at which time he decided – without any evidence as support – that it was in the best interest of the children that Chandler and her partner be forced to live apart in order for her to have her kids visit. (Citizen Times)

“A paramour overnight, abuse of alcohol and abuse of drugs are clearly common sense understanding that children can be adversely affected by such exposure….”

(There is no mention of there actually having been abuse of alcohol or drugs, Ellis just sort of threw that in there for comparison. Ya know: alcohol, drug, lesbians – all just obviously not in the kids’ best interest to be around these things.)

So back to the court they went. And this time the appeals court was not amused that Chancellor Ellis had decided to impose his agenda over that of the law.

“The record is devoid of any evidence whatsoever to support the finding that a paramour provision is in the best interests of the children. In fact, the record contains evidence demonstrating that a paramour provision is contrary to the best interests of the children,” the court wrote.

So far I’ve been unable to locate any mention of this story by the usual crowd of anti-gay ranters. I guess their definition of “activist judge” is one who disagrees with them.

Gary and Tony Have a Baby

Jim Burroway

June 24th, 2010

Tonight’s episode of Soledad O’Brien’s In America will feature a special called “Gary and Tony Have a Baby.” The special follows Gary Spino and Tony Brown as they form a family through surrogacy. It will air tonight at 8 pm EDT. Check your local listings for details.

YouTube Preview Image

Study: Children of Lesbian Parents May Be Better Off Than Their Peers

Jim Burroway

June 7th, 2010

That’s the conclusion of researchers who followed a group of families headed by Lesbian couples for twenty-four years. This month, the journal Pediatrics, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, posted online the latest installment of the long-running longitudinal study which recruited and followed the children of 154 prospective lesbian mothers who joined the study between 1986 and 1992. The parents were recruited as they were about to start a family via artificial insemination. They agreed to answer questions about their children’s development, social skills, academic performance and behavior at five follow-up times as the children passed specific age milestones.

In four earlier published reports, the study team, led by the University of California, San Francisco’s Dr. Nanette Gartrell, published updates for the parents and their children. As five-year-olds, 87% of the children related well to their peers, but that 18% had experienced homophobia from their peers or teachers. When the children reached the age of ten, the study team found that the prevalence of physical and sexual abuse in this sample was lower than national norms, and in all other measures their development was comparable to children raised ni heterosexual families. Fifty-seven percent of the children were out to their peers, and 43% experienced homophobia.

In this latest report, the study’s authors report on how the children were doing as seventeen-year-olds, always a difficult age for familes. The authors report:

According to their mothers’ reports, the 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts in Achenbach’s normative sample of American youth. Within the lesbian family sample, no Child Behavior Checklist differences were found among adolescent offspring who were conceived by known, as-yet-unknown, and permanently unknown donors or between offspring whose mothers were still together and offspring whose mothers had separated.

Dr. Gartrell told Time magazine:

“We simply expected to find no difference in psychological adjustment between adolescents reared in lesbian families and the normative sample of age-matched controls,” says Gartrell. “I was surprised to find that on some measures we found higher levels of [psychological] competency and lower levels of behavioral problems. It wasn’t something I anticipated.”

There are, of course, several limitations to this study, limitations which are virtually universal to social science research. The study is based on a convenience sample which may not be representative of all children born to lesbian-headed households. Also, the nature of this study specifically excludes children born to earlier heterosexual families who were later raised by their lesbian mothers following divorce or death of a husband.

This study is one of the very few to suggest more positive outcomes than children from heterosexual families, a claim that would require more research before it could be regarded as anything more than an outlier.  But it’s easy to imagine one reason for this surprising finding. These parents were recruited because they were about to undergo artificial insemination. This means that in every case, these children were brought into the world because they were wanted and planned for. None of them are the product of a drunken tryst in the back seat of a Chevy. These mothers had to investigate options, invest money, and really want to become mothers. This alone can account for the difference.

Opponents to gay equality often warn that children raised in gay or lesbian households are allegedly harmed by the experience. This study joins about 200 others which, to date, have found no significant negative outcomes. If their argument had any hint of validity, you would think that at least a few peer-reviewed studies would support it. But so far, none of them looking specifically at gay- or lesbian-led families have. I guess opponents to LGBT equality will have to keep on looking.

Exodus Co-Founder: We Were Abandoned When We Left Exodus

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

May 25th, 2010

Leading up to now we’ve had videos discussing Michael’s fear of the gay community and fears about what would happen if he left Exodus.

Today Michael talks about what actually happened when he finally did renounce Exodus and came out as a gay man.  What did Michael’s church do? What did his relatives do? What did his wife do? What did his fellow leaders at Exodus do?

One person in Michael’s life even graphically warned him of the flames of hell that await him.

Lastly Michael closes with a warning that even today people still fear the consequences and rejection when they try to leave Exodus.

(transcript after the jump)

Read the rest of this entry »

Exodus Co-Founder: I Regret Teaching That Gayness Is The Result Of Bad Parenting

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

May 18th, 2010

Yesterday we looked at Michael’s regret for teaching the idea that if you worked hard enough in an ex-gay program you would be changed.

Today Michael shares his other regret, teaching that bad parenting causes a person to be gay.  Michael talks about the division in families that can cause and his own process of later reclaiming the belief his father was actually loving, giving, encouraging and self-sacrificial.

(transcript below the jump)

Read the rest of this entry »

Exodus Co-Founder: Getting Married As A Leap Of Faith

A multi-part video interview series with Michael Bussee, co-founder of Exodus International turned critic.

Daniel Gonzales

April 26th, 2010

Ex-gay Mike Haley showing off pictures of his wife and family while speaking at the Love Won Out ex-gay conference. Love Won Out is primarily attended by Christians who are unable to accept a gay friend of family member and wishes they would enter an ex-gay program. The message Mike's photos send is, "there's still hope for your gay loved one to turn straight and get married."

Some people in the ex-gay movement become so deeply involved they make the drastic step of getting married.  Michael Bussee took that step and talks today about his inner conflict in doing so.  Michael recognized he wasn’t a heterosexual when he got married but chose to anyway because he believed God would reward him with heterosexuality if he truly committed himself to God and took his vows as a leap of faith.

Once married Michael found himself in an uncomfortable position as a role model at Exodus and privately tried to discourage his own clients from marrying.

Lastly Michael talks about the damage caused by using marriage as proof of change and the collateral damage that occurs when mixed orientation (ex-gay) marriages come to an end.

(transcript after the jump)

Read the rest of this entry »

Lisa Miller is now officially a fugitive

Timothy Kincaid

February 23rd, 2010
Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

Isabella Miller-Jenkins and Lisa Miller. Both are reported missing.

On January 1, Miller was to meet Janet Jenkins, with whom her civil union has been terminated, to turn over custody of their daughter Isabella. A court in Vermont, where they were civilly united and where they resided together, had ordered visitation rights to Jenkins and, after years of refusal by Miller, determined that the only way to keep both mothers in Isabella’s life was to reassign primary custody to Jenkins. But Miller went into hiding and hasn’t been seen by her neighbors since September, and the last public communication from Miller was in December, when she passed a message to her supporters though ex-gay leader Debbie Thurman.

Last Tuesday, Judge Harrison of Bedford County Virginia’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court chose not to issue an arrest warrant for Lisa Miller. He determined that it could not be proven that Miller was aware of the court order to transfer custody, so he would reward her disrespect for the judicial system by refusing to press criminal charges against her. He scheduled another hearing for May 19.

It is clear that Miller is fully aware of her responsibility to turn over Isabella and to think otherwise requires an amazing suspension of disbelief. The story been covered by newspapers nationwide, and Miller was still in communication with her supporters after the November 20 order was announced. But Miller’s friends swore that they don’t know where she is and the judge chose to give credence to their testimony (I’ll let you decide for yourself whether the reputation of conservative Christians encourages you to trust them or to immediately assume that they are lying through their teeth).

In January, Judge Cohen, the Vermont judge who has been involved with the custody since the breakup, gave Miller’s supporters an additional 30 days to convince her to follow the law. Miller did not show up, so Judge Cohen has now found her in contempt. (WaPo)

Family Court Judge William Cohen found Lisa Miller of Forest, Va., in contempt of court during a hearing Tuesday and issued the arrest warrant.

Considering the entrenched homophobia in Virginia and the political power of Thomas Road Baptist Church, I am not hopeful that the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department will do much to recover Isabella. However, unless I am mistaken, this arrest warrant would allow bounty hunters and private investigators to initiate steps to rescue Isabella from a life on the run with the fugitive Lisa Miller.

Valentine’s Question: could you give it all up?

Timothy Kincaid

February 12th, 2010
    And after all the boys and the girls that we’ve been through,
    Would you give it all up, could you give it all up, if I promise boy to you?

    – Lady Gaga, Speechless

valentineThis Sunday is St. Valentine’s Day, a time for romance and love. And, perhaps, a time to reflect on the value of your relationship.

In a recent post, we analyzed the claims made about how half of gay marriages are not monogamous and found that the sample was not adequate to tell us anything whatsoever about gay marriages. But it did engender a lengthy and heated discussion about the prevalence of monogamy in the community. And various positions were argued from the perspective of the experiences of those opining.

As we saw, while the readership at Box Turtle Bulletin is very diverse, many readers experienced a very emotional connection to the commentary. Several shared their own relationship structure.

Which got me wondering: is your own perspective on monogamy set in stone? If your beloved came to you on Sunday and asked you to change your agreement, how flexible could you be?

If you strongly believe that an open relationship is healthier and that outside sexual release keeps you stronger, could you give it all up to please the one you love? And if you think that a relationship built on monogamy and fidelity is sacred and smart, how would you react to your Valentine if they expressed a desire, or even a need, to have extra-relationship experiences?

(Please be courteous to others and as respectful of their choices as you wish them to be of yours.)

No, the SF study did NOT illustrate that half of gay marriages are “open”

Timothy Kincaid

February 10th, 2010

One of the primary purposes of Box Turtle Bulletin is analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric. And perhaps the largest component of that is to review “studies” that relay astonishing “facts” about gay people and to determine whether they have any basis in fact.

Sometimes these are efforts conducted by anti-gay activists seeking to support their presumptions, but more often it is misrepresentation of legitimate work. One such misrepresentation has been making the rounds purporting to show that gay couples reject monogamy.

For several years, Sean Beougher and Colleen Hoff of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University have been looking sexual agreements among gay men. This interest was generated by incidences of HIV transmission within relationships and a desire to understand how sexual agreements relate to this phenomenon.

But analysis of investment of couples into agreements and how that correlates with adherence (which impacts transmission within relationships) doesn’t make sexy headlines. So when the New York Times’ Scott James reported on this study, he decided to talk about something else entirely:

Many Successful Gay Marriages Share an Open Secret

A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.

New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.

The sensational (but as I’ll illustrate, flatly untrue) statement that monogamy is not a central feature for many gay relationships is exciting and sure to elicit conversation. But it just wasn’t defamatory enough for those who wish to portray gay people as sex-crazed and incapable of commitment.

Conservative NewsMax reported:

Study: Gay Marriage Involves More Outside Relationships

A federally-funded study by San Francisco State University that followed 556 local male couples for three years found that half “have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners,” according to The New York Times.

On its website, the Center describes the importance in conducting the study as revolving around the fact that “gay and bisexual men in relationships engage in substantially higher rates of unprotected” homosexual activity than do “single men with their casual partners.”

A commentary on GetReligion.org took the opportunity to say

I’m not sure if the description of the study’s findings is written up as well as it could be. If 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their primary relationship with the knowledge and approval of their partners, that’s an utterly fascinating, and newsworthy statistic. Still, I’m curious about the remaining half. What percentage of those surveyed have sex outside of their primary relationship but don’t have the knowledge and/or the approval of their partners? It seems like a key piece of information.

Certainly there’s at least one person in the world who thinks that sex with multiple partners is not the key to a successful marriage, right? And I’m not just talking about advocates of traditional marriage vows, or advocates of spousal fidelity.

The bottom line, though, is that this study breaks news. Really interesting and important news.

And even gay sites got on board with this notion with Edge Magazine running the headline, Surprise! Lots of Gay Marriages Are ’Open’, and Dan Savage declaring Half of All Gay Couples Non-Monogamous (though Edge did note some caveats).

But those who delight in denouncing the hedonistic sex-driven homosexuals and their non-monogamous marriages share a problem with those gays who may champion the abandonment of the heteronormative demands of conformity and spearhead the evolution of marriage: this study tells us nothing whatsoever about gay marriage and little about monogamy within gay relationships as a whole.

In order for a study to report on the characteristics of a population, it must be representative of that population. If a study selects a convenience sample rather than a statistically valid sample, the non-representative demographics of the sample cannot be presented as a “finding”.

For example, if I went to Dodger Stadium, i might find a sample which was useful to tell me whether Dodger fans think Dodger Dogs taste better than garlic fries, but I could not claim that my sample proves that 80% of all baseball fans support the Dodgers. That is simply a non-representative demographic of my sample, not a finding of my study.

So to see if this study supported the claim that half of gay marriages are open (non-monogamous), I contacted the study authors and obtained previously published information that reveals the sample methodology. I do not have all of the data on which the final study is to be reported, but the sampling methodology was consistent.

Let’s look at how the sample for this study was constructed and how that differs from the population as a whole.

Definition of relationship:

To be eligible participants had to have been at least 18 years old, have been in a their current relationship for at least 3 months, have knowledge of their own and their partner’s HIV status, be fluent in English, and be residents of the San Francisco Bay Area.

All were men. Contrary to James’ breathless reporting (and the example with which he started his article) the researchers said nothing about lesbian relationships. They were excluded.

The study was conducted in several phases and the details of each is not available, but the sampling methods were consistent. The breakout for Study 2 found that only 13% of participants identified as being married (perhaps the 2004 San Francisco variety) and only a third had made any sort of public commitment.

It is ludicrous to suggest that a study which includes three month long relationships without any public commitment is informative about marriage. The average length of the relationships was 7 years (more or less) but the median length was about three years earlier (half of the relationships were less than 4 years in length), suggesting that there were a few very long relationships and many much shorter ones.

The way this study has been reported, it has been suggested that gay relationships are more likely to be open than straight relationships, but no comparison was made and I’m not aware of any study that looked at the level of fidelity in three-month-old heterosexual relationship and pretended that they were representative of straights as a whole.

As the research was not applied separately by relationship structure or length, this study says nothing about gay marriage or even domestic partnerships. And any use of the results which makes (or even implies) a comparison to straight relationships is bogus and irresponsible.

Location and social perspective of the population sampled:

It must be emphasized that gay men living in the San Francisco Bay Area are not representative of gay men as a whole. In fact, it would be difficult to identify a group of gay men less representative of the US gay population.

Significant factors in the consideration of monogamy surely must include attitudes about sexuality and whether one’s general approach is more conservative or liberal overall. Additionally, the perspectives of the community in which one lives most certainly effect the values that one adopts.

While I cannot point to a study and state with certainty that those who view themselves as “conservative” are more likely or less likely to value monogamy, I can state that selecting only participants from the SF area sharply skews the sample towards those who identify as “liberal” and significantly under-represents a sizable segment of the gay community.

The means of reaching participants:

Active and passive recruitment strategies were implemented in community settings. Field research staff reached potential participants either by handing out study postcards or placing flyers and postcards in gay-identified social venues such as bars, clubs, and cafes, as well as in community health and HIV and AIDS service organizations and by placing advertisements in gay-oriented publications, Web sites, and listserves.

Recruitment materials contained text describing the study as “one which examines important relationship dynamics associated with HIV.” Recruitment strategies were designed to produce a diverse sample in terms of race or ethnicity as well as serostatus.

Recruitment in bars and clubs and on listserves skews the sample towards those who are actively seeking sexual connections. While some gay people go to bars solely for social interaction, monogamous couples that do not regularly go to bars or look at Craigslist were far less likely to hear of this study.

Additionally, this study was more likely to attract those who were interested in how relationship dynamics impact HIV transmission. I think it is a reasonable assumption that, on average, couples committed to monogamy might not have the same interest level as those who have open relationships.

The demographics of the sample:

For two of the studies, 41% of the participants were HIV positive (Study 3 had 32%). While this may be advantageous to a study which seeks to look at sexual agreements, it is not representative of the population of San Francisco, and has almost no reflection of the gay male population at large. Only about 12% of gay men in the United States are infected with HIV.

While this is undoubtedly useful for looking at variances of agreement structure among sero-concordant and discordant couples, claiming a blended rate of monogamy as though it were reflective of the community would be bad science.

This study found that couples which were both HIV negative were far more likely to establish monogamy than those in which one or both parties were positive. So by significantly over-representing HIV positive participants, the percentage who embrace monogamy were skewed downward.

About half of the sample had a bachelors degree (more than 20% had a post-graduate degree). Yet only about 43% were employed full time, with another 10-12% employed part time and 9-12% self employed. I don’t know whether there is a correlation between employment and valuing monogamy, but I think that we can all agree that 35% unemployment is not reflective of gay men as a whole, especially in the mid 2000’s when the participants were questioned.

About half of the men made less than $30,000 per year, with only a quarter making over $60,000. The average salary for San Francisco Bay Area jobs is about $65,000 and it is absurd to assume that gay men make, on average, less than half of their heterosexual counterparts.

I do not have adequate research at hand to correlate gay male monogamy (or fidelity) with employment or economic position. However, I believe that social position can influence relationship structure so it is a reasonable assumption that a study which is skewed towards a lower economic status may not accurately reflect the extent to which gay male couples as a whole value monogamy.

Conclusion:

The Gay Couples Study does reveal valuable information about the formation of sexual agreements among gay couples. For example, it reveals that gay men are almost universally talk about monogamy and fidelity and define the rules of their relationship. This seems true regardless of the structure, length, or investment into the relationship. And research into breached agreements and how it impacts HIV transmission is essential to targeting prevention efforts.

But in my opinion, Scott James’ statement that “New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area” may be among the most irresponsible reporting I’ve ever seen. The study says nothing whatsoever about lesbians and it tells us little about “just how common open relationships are” among anyone. It’s pure sensationalism and shoddy journalism.

But the real culprits are those who saw this study and decided that it says something about, for example, gay couples marrying in Iowa or New Hampshire. This was either lazy response or a deliberate attempt to fraudulently demonize gay couples for political gain.

In short, those reporting on this study got it wrong. If there is any story here, it would be that a study of San Francisco bay area gay male couples, a sample which was highly skewed to include many participants who are less likely to value monogamy and which defined “couples” to include those who have been dating as little as three months, still found that half of them set monogamy as the agreement for their relationship.

Janet Jenkins tells her story on Nightline

Timothy Kincaid

January 29th, 2010

Janet Jenkins went on Nightline last night to tell her story and appeal to the public to help her find her daughter.

“My goal has never been to separate Isabella from her other mother, Lisa,” said Jenkins. “I just want what is best for our child, and that is to know both of her parents.”

Lisa Miller given 30 more days in hiding before arrest warrant

Timothy Kincaid

January 22nd, 2010

From the Washington Post:

A judge is giving a Virginia woman at the center of a lesbian custody dispute 30 days to appear in court with her 7-year-old daughter or face possible arrest.

Despite all the accusations of judicial activism from the supporters of Lisa Miller, Judge Cohen has been, to my way of thinking, extremely generous in giving Miller chance after chance after chance to simply conform to the custody to which she agreed. And even though it is clear that Miller is actively thwarting the will of the court, he generously gives her more time.

Of course those who see the world in terms of good (Miller) and evil (militant radical deviant homosexualist bloggers like me) will continue to denounce Cohen as a tool of Satan and see this continued generosity as a sign of the miraculous hand of God.

Dvorak on Miller-Jenkins

Timothy Kincaid

January 7th, 2010

In an article in the Washington Post, Petula Dvorak gets props for the best quote yet on Lisa Miller’s kidnapping of Isabella Miller-Jenkins. Well, actually, the two best quotes:

Miller told Newsweek two years ago that letting Isabella live with Jenkins would be like giving her child to the milkman.

Well, yeah — if you lived with the milkman, made love to him, bought a house with him, entered a civil union with him at a quaint resort blanketed in snow and bedecked with greenery, sat through fertility treatments that he helped pay for, let him catch the baby as you pushed and shared midnight burping and diaper duties — it would be just like giving your child to the milkman.

and my favorite:

Miller’s legal team said in court that a move to Vermont, with a new school and new friends, would be disruptive for a 7-year-old.

And going into hiding isn’t?

Older Posts