Friday, July 18, 2008

Rebutting anti–gay marriage "sound bites"

Focus on the Family has published a set of "Helpful, debate-tested sound bites for defenders of natural marriage and the family"
that Focus on the Family has learned work best in the many public debates we have done on the issue of the same-sex family. These sound bites have also been tested by focus groups and rated very strongly.

These arguments are showing up in blogs and articles all over the internet, sometimes in modified form and sometimes even verbatim.

I was of two minds regarding whether they actually need to be rebutted. On the one hand, these arguments are so weak -- so silly, even, in some cases -- that I find it hard to believe that they can resonate with (or be "rated very strongly" by) anyone who isn't already strongly opposed to gay marriage.

OTOH, I am often surprised by how often people believe things that seem self-evidently false to me (or don't believe things that seem self-evidently true), so maybe there are some open-minded people who don't see through these "sound bites." It's also a chance for me to explain what I meant the other day when I said I have "no rational basis for my prejudices." (Plus, it's always kind of fun to expose weak arguments for what they are by tearing them to shreds.)

So here goes.

Four Key Points
1. Same-sex families always deny children either their mother or father.
2. Same-sex family is a vast, untested social experiment with children.
3. Where does it stop? How do we say "no" to group marriage?
4. Schools will be forced to teach that the homosexual family is normal. Churches will be legally pressured to perform same-sex ceremonies.

1. No more so than heterosexual divorce does.
2. The numbers are hardly "vast."
3. There's no reason it should stop with anything but the marriage of one person to one other person.
4. Schools should mind their own business and not presume to call some students' families abnormal. There will probably be various social pressures on churches, but they can hold out if they believe in what they preach.

Marriage Is Always About the Next Generation

If that's true, then shouldn't only certifiably fertile couples be allowed to wed? And shouldn't married couples who fail to have children within a certain specified period be forced to divorce? But the claim is nonsense anyway. In our society, people get married because they love each other and want to stay together for life, not because they have determined in some way that they would be ideal parents for hypothetical children.

* A loving and compassionate society always comes to the aid of motherless and fatherless families.

Stipulated (although one can therefore question whether we actually live in a "loving and compassionate society").

* A loving and compassionate society never intentionally creates motherless or fatherless families, which is exactly what every same-sex home does.

As does every heterosexual divorce. This will be a recurring theme in these "sound bites": many of these arguments are at least as suited to ideas like banning divorce and criminalizing adultery and illegitimacy as they are to same-sex marriage. The problem is that those things, unlike same-sex couples rearing children, actually do occur in "vast" numbers. It's much easier to attack a small (and until recently, despised) minority than it is to attack a large part of mainstream society. (And please note that I am not attacking people who divorce. I'm merely pointing out where the logic of these arguments immediately leads.)

* The same-sex family is not driven by the needs of children, but rather by the radical wishes of a small group of adults.

Again, this paints a false picture of the degree and the ways heterosexual families are "driven by the needs of children." Any family with children is driven by the needs of the children within the context of the relationship between the adults, and all such families must work to balance the needs of children and adults.

* No child development theory says children need two parents of the same gender, but rather that children need their mothers and fathers.

So let's outlaw divorce.

A Vast Social Experiment Inflicted on Children
* No society, at any time, has ever raised a generation of children in same-sex families.
* Same-sex “marriage” will subject generations of children to the status of lab rats in (name of debate opponent’s) vast, untested social experiment.

This is sheer hyperbole. Somewhere around 2–7 percent of the population is homosexual. Only some of them would marry. Of those who do marry, only some would choose to raise children. So describing the phenomenon of gay couples raising children as a "vast experiment" and referring to "generations of children" are little better than lies. (And, again, compare this to the genuine "vastness" of heterosexual divorce.)

But we know how the experiment will turn out:
* America has raised millions of children in fatherless families for three decades and that experiment was a stunning failure by every measure! We know how damaging it is to raise children in intentionally fatherless families. Let’s not create more child-suffering to satisfy adult desire.
Thousands of published social science, psychological and medical studies show that children living in fatherless families, on average, suffer dramatically in every important measure of well-being. These children suffer from much higher levels of physical and mental illness, educational failure, poverty, substance abuse, criminal behavior, loneliness, as well as physical and sexual abuse. Children living apart from both biological parents are eight times more likely to die of maltreatment than children living with their mother and father.

It's hard not to laugh at an argument that seems to claim that families with two fathers are "fatherless families." But aside from that, we don't know "how the experiment will turn out." The phenomenon of same-sex couples raising children is new enough that we have little data on outcomes, and what we do have has obviously been influenced by the inferior social status of gay people, including their inability to marry. It's by no means clear in any way that married gay households would be more like single-parent households than two-parent households.

How Your Same-sex Family Will Harm My Family
* If this were just about your family, there would be no real danger. But same-sex “marriage” advocates are not seeking marriage for you alone, but rather demanding me — and all of us — to radically change our understanding of family. And that will do great damage.
* Your same-sex family will teach my little boys and girls that husband/wife and mother/father are merely optional for the family and therefore, meaningless.
* And I will never allow my (grand) children to be taught that their gender doesn’t matter for the family. Their masculinity and femininity matter far too much, as does everyone’s in this auditorium.

I think what this sort of argument demonstrates more than anything is the sheer meanness of these people. They're saying to gay people, "I get to decide what a family is, and your family is not a family." Of course, they're unable to articulate any real "damage" or "harm" that will be done that will be done to their families, except that their children will be exposed to ideas that differ from their own. (Oh, the horror!)

Full Acceptance Will Be Mandatory
* My civil rights to object to homosexuality as an idea will be gone.

Nonsense. Those who oppose equal rights for gay people will eventually be metaphorically exiled to the lunatic fringe of society, but they will still have the right to express their views.

* Same-sex relationships and homes are tolerated in society today. Our nation has no existing problem where same-sex couples are evicted from their neighborhoods because of how they live. Americans tolerate such relationships.
* But this is not about mere tolerance. Instead it is about forcing everyone to fully accept these unnatural families.

It's actually about forcing the government to accept gay marriage. Just as with interracial marriage, for example, people will retain the right to be against it on an individual basis.

* Only months after legalizing same-sex “marriage” in Canada, activists there successfully passed C-250, a bill criminalizing public statements against homosexuality, punishable by up to two years in prison! Say the wrong thing; go to jail. The same will happen here.

Wrong. Unlike Canadians, Americans have a constitutional guarantee of free speech. That doesn't mean people won't face consequences for saying hateful things, but those consequences will be social, not criminal.

* Every public school in the nation would be forced to teach that same-sex “marriage” and homosexuality are perfectly normal –- Heather has Two Mommies in K-12. Pictures in text books will be changed to show same-sex couples as normal.

Since when was it the place of schools to decide which families are "normal"? They should mind their own business anyway.

* Your church will be legally pressured to perform same-sex weddings. When courts — as happened in Massachusetts — find same-sex “marriage” to be a constitutional and fundamental human right, the ACLU will successfully argue that the government is underwriting discrimination by offering tax exemptions to churches and synagogues that only honor natural marriage.

Churches will come under various pressures not to discriminate -- as they do already in regards to race, for example -- but they will not lose the right to define the religious meaning of marriage.

* Gay and lesbian people have a right to form meaningful relationships. They don’t have a right to redefine marriage for all of us.

They have as much right as anyone, if they have better legal arguments and can persuade a majority of voters to agree with them. That's called "the rule of law" and "democracy."

So there you go. Those are, apparently, top-of-the-line arguments against gay marriage. Maybe somebody else knows some better arguments, because like I said, I see in them no rational basis for prejudice against gay rights.

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