Monday, June 27, 2005

More holes than the plot of a Saturday morning cartoon

The Arizona Republic printed two op-ed pieces about the Arizona marriage initiative in yesterday's paper, one for the amendment initiative and one opposed to it. I want to address the one in favor of the amendment here because, to put it bluntly, the cartoons my kids watch have fewer plot holes than the holes in the arguments presented by writer Lynn Stanley.

The opposition claims this is a Republican issue, but Gov. Janet Napolitano, the state's leading Democrat, has publicly expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage.

Uh, I'm on the opposition, and I'm a Republican. Steve May, who wrote the "con" editorial that appeared in the same paper, also a Republican. We're not saying this is a Republican issue, because it isn't. It is about playing politics, though, with those on the far right specifically pushing this issue for 2006 instead of 2005 because Gov. Napolitano will be up for re-election in 2006.

Also, while Gov. Napolitano may have expressed opposition to same-sex marriage, she certainly has not expressed support for this amendment, which goes well beyond defining marriage. The implication that she is in favor of this is disingenuous at best.

This amendment will receive wide support from members of all political parties and all ethnic and religious groups.

It will also receive wide condemnation from members of all political parties and all ethnic and religious groups.

Despite the majority's desire to retain the traditional definition of marriage, activist judges continue to block the will of the people.

Ah, the old "Activist Judges" refrain. I have to wonder if the people who like to use this made-up term have ever taken a high school government class. The process in question is called "judicial review" and it was established by our founding fathers as one of the checks and balances over the three branches of government. James Madison wrote eloquently about it in his Federalist Paper #10:

Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends of public and private faith, and of public and personal liberty, that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.

Mr. Madison's words, not mine. An interested and overbearing majority deciding to negate the "rules of justice" and the rights of a minority is a bad thing. Hence judicial review.

Back to the editorial:

With Scandinavia as our example, we know that a redefinition of marriage negatively affects the culture. Wherever marriage is devalued by sanctioning same-sex relationships, the majority of children are born out of wedlock. Same-sex marriage sends a message that the definition of marriage doesn't matter, that gender doesn't matter, and moms or dads are irrelevant.

Huh? Can we have some specifics here about Scandinavia? And what kind of twisted logic gets us from more people getting married, which is what same-sex marriage would allow, to more kids being born out of wedlock? Seems to me more kids would have their families legitimized if their parents were allowed to marry.

Studies prove that children do best when they live with a mother and father. Same-sex marriage is a social experiment, and we do not yet know how it will affect children.

So which is it? Do studies prove that children do best with opposite-sex parents or is it an unproved social experiment? It can't both be proven and unproven.

I know of no studies that say children are better off with two opposite-sex parents than two same-sex parents. There have been studies that show children are better off with two opposite-sex parents than single parents, but as same-sex parents weren't addressed, then no conclusion can be drawn from this study about opposite-sex parents vs. same-sex parents. I know of studies that showed that children did just as well with same-sex parents as with opposite-sex parents. The methodology of these studies has since been called into question, but that doesn't mean the opposite conclusion is true, it just means that we still don't know the answer to the question. So of the two contradictory statements Ms. Stanley made above, the second one is the correct one. It is an unproven social experiment. Let me name some others. Desegregation. Giving women the right to vote. Ending slavery. A representative government ruled by elected officials and not a king. All untested social experiments of their time, so I don't see how that is necessarily a bad thing.

No compassionate society would intentionally deny a child a mother or a father, a benefit that has repeatedly been proved to be in his or her best interest. If we validate and promote same-sex marriage - and consequently, same-sex parenting - we send a message that we care less about the children than we do about the desires of same-sex couples.

Again, not been proven. And if you want to talk about promoting the political agenda of adults over the needs of children, lets talk about the kids who will lose health care benefits if this amendment passes. Let's talk about kids who get ripped away from one parent because the other one dies and the living parent has no legal custody even though she's raised this child from birth. Let's be clear here: children will be hurt if this amendment passes. Full stop.

Spouses and children are already covered by benefit plans, and the amendment doesn't prohibit the Legislature from creating a reciprocal beneficiary scheme for anyone else. There are default rules for unmarried persons who choose to undertake legal obligations for one another. The amendment does not prevent same-sex couples from giving anyone they want the right to make hospital visitations or medical decisions, or to receive beneficiary status on insurance policies, wills, etc. All of us can create and cancel contracts to cover these issues at any time.

Excuse me, but this is the most blatant amount of excrement in the entire editorial. The amendment very specifically prohibits any "political subdivisions" of the state (ie: local governments) from recognizing any "legal status for unmarried persons ...that is similar to that of marriage." That means the contracts she so blithely says can be used to protect hospital visitation, etc., which already can be challenged in court by unsupportive family members, could easily be challenged even further by claiming they represent a "legal status for unmarried persons that is similar to that of marriage." If Ms. Stanley and the other supporters of this initiative really didn't want to negatively impact the rights she mentions above, they would have limited their initiative to defining marriage as between one man and one woman only, but instead they went after domestic partnerships and benefits that already exist in several cities. Anyone who thinks they can vote yes on this amendment and still be supporting hospital visitations, medical decisions, beneficiary status on wills, etc., is kidding themselves. Challenges of exactly this nature are occurring in states like Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky, which have this exact type of "marriage plus" amendment.

Let me give an example. I am a married stay-home mom with three children. My husband works full-time and supports the family financially, and also provides medical coverage for the whole family through his work. Now let's say that my husband was not the biological father of my children. Let's say further that we'd just met a week ago and were married yesterday. Simply by virtue of that one act, signing a marriage license, my children and I would be eligible for the same benefits through his work. I could still be a stay-home mom and we would all get health care coverage and no one could challenge that.

Now let's say instead that I am a lesbian and my partner works for Pima County. Under current domestic partnership policy, me and my three biological children are eligible for the same kinds of benefits described above. Now let's fast-forward to November 2006. The amendment has just passed and Pima County can no longer offer domestic partnership benefits. Now my children and I are uninsured, unless I get a job. I am forced to choose between working so I can get medical benefits for myself and my children and staying home to raise them. Is that a choice we really want to force on parents? Is that a choice a conservative Christian really would want a parent to have to make?

Whether conservative Christians like it or not, same-sex families already exist. Denying them rights won't make them go away and won't stop people from "sinning." All it will do is hurt families and hurt children.


At 3:18 PM, Blogger Jess said...

Excellent counterpoints. You may have read the NYT Magazine article about gay-hating activists and their "internal logic." Your counterpoints are logical; the points made in that _Republic_ ed are just not thought out--like most of what comes from CAP--weak appeals to the status quo and hypocritical "values." Howard Dean, tho' a fiery figure, says to love your neighbor as yourself, and you can't control who your neighbor is. --ADAM

At 4:07 PM, Blogger ChesapeakeBlue said...

Nice post. I love folks who get something like this amendment passed, and then argue that it doesn't really mean anything, anyway.

The natural result of this type of amendment (no rights similar to marriage) will be to water down the definition of "marriage" into meaninglessness. For example, you can eliminate inheritance rules based on marriage, and come up with neutral definitions applicable to everybody, and avoid the amendment. Then, however, you have made "marriage" that much less an actual relevant status. Eventually, "marriage" would mean nothing. Good thing they saved it!

At 4:15 PM, Blogger mosaic sue said...

It is possible that Lynn Stanley used James Dobson, Focus on the Family leader, as a source for the sketchy Scandanavia example.

Dr. Dobson has been using incorrect statistics concerning Norway's out-of-wedlock birth, abortion, and divorce rates in speeches for nearly a decade. Because government data on these things are kept and reported openly, and becuase Dr. Dobson continues to use the false numbers in speeches directly addressing the topic of gay marriage, one wonders if he is using the age-old persuasion technique of telling a lie long enough until people believe it to be true.

He uses the bogus Norway statistics to "prove" that country's liberal views on same-sex relationships have led to runaway abortion rates, the destruction of male/female marriage (i.e. divorce), and a devaluation of birth within marriage.

Logic aside (as I agree with you that these statistics cannot be used in any sort of cause-effect way), here are some interesting and verifiable statistics:

In 2001, Arizona, with a population of 2.7 million, had 37,221 out-of-wedlock births. Norway, with a population of 4.5 million, had 28,515.

Between 2001 and 2003, Norway had 31,515 divorces. Arizona, 71,206.

In 2000, Norway had 14,655 abortions. Arizona, 17,940.

Norway source of data:

Arizona sources of data:
1996 and 2000: Finer LB and Henshaw SH, Abortion incidence and services in the United States in 2000, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2003, 35(1):6-15.

I think it is time that we demand honesty and integrity in the news, even in editorials, regardless of the position taken. We have become such a nation of liars and too-lazy-to-verify-sources slackers to the point that I personally believe very little of what I read.


At 6:55 AM, Blogger Knitress said...

Another possible source for the Scandanavian reference is Stanley Kurtz, who's a Hoover Institution fellow. He's published on this at the Weekly Standard: and

Andrew Sullivan's posted a fair bit in response to Kurtz's argument. and

Darren Spedale and William Eskridge have done some research on Kurtz's claims:

Can you tell that I'm interested in this one? ::grin::

My basic take here is that Kurtz is going too quickly from correlation to causation. Lots of factors are affecting the structure of family life in Scandinavia. Many of them -- for example, the existence of a very substantial set of government funded benefits that reduce the benefits to marriage for things like health benefits --don't exist in the U.S.

The change in family composition in those countries has little to do with granting legal rights for registered partnerships to homosexual couples.

And the person who wrote the op-ed seems to be repeating canned statements rather than reading the original sources on this.

At 7:32 AM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

And the person who wrote the op-ed seems to be repeating canned statements rather than reading the original sources on this.

Oh, this is absolutely the case. I have all of the talking points from Focus on the Family and the Center for Arizona Policy, and this stuff is all pretty much direct regurgitation from them. The only thing new here is the most egregious misrepresentation, and that's that this initiative won't affect things like hospital visitation and private contracts, wills, etc.


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