Tuesday, May 27, 2008

America solidly divided on issue of gay marriage (response to a response)

A local reader of the Tribune Star sent me this (see below) in response to my essay on gay marriage. I found this essay interesting as the writer, Mr. Turek, decides to play amateur sociologist. Just for fun, I thought I would treat it as an assignment I received from a student and share my comments back to that student. My comments will be italics and in bold

Gay Marriage: Even Liberals Know It's Bad
Frank Turek
Monday, May 26, 2008

Why not legalize same-sex marriage? Who could it possibly hurt? Children and the rest of society. That’s the conclusion of David Blankenhorn, who is anything but an anti-gay “bigot.” He is a life-long, pro-gay, liberal democrat who disagrees with the Bible’s prohibitions against homosexual behavior. Despite this, Blankenhorn makes a powerful case against Same-Sex marriage in his book, The Future of Marriage.

He writes, “Across history and cultures . . . marriage’s single most fundamental idea is that every child needs a mother and a father. Changing marriage to accommodate same-sex couples would nullify this principle in culture and in law.” This is contrary to most social history. The states' interest in marriage emerged in agricultural societies as wealth became based on land and less in "status." Indeed, poor people often didn't have to marry, it was a practice begun by the rich and more powerful in order to maintain an orderly transmission of property. Women always know who their children are, but men do not. In a situation where biological parternity cannot be ascertained, the notion of legitimate (children of legal wife) and illegitimate children (of mistress) are created. Property only flows to the legitimate children. But today, paternity is easy to ascertain. Even legitimate children are sometimes challenged by their "father." So, the importance of the marital relationship is diminished today by the primacy of biological relations. Marriage was far more about property than the 'best interests of children."
How so?

The law is a great teacher, and same sex marriage will teach future generations that marriage is not about children but about coupling. When marriage becomes nothing more than coupling, fewer people will get married to have children. You should cite some research by family sociologists who already argue that marriage is more of a lifestyle choice than a normative obligation as it was in the past. This is not new. Many people marry with no thought of children. See marriages between people who are past child bearing age or who opt to remain childless. Europe is so depopulated with children, that some governments are looking to create incentives for people/couples to have children.

So what?

People will still have children, of course, but many more of them out-of wedlock. That’s a disaster for everyone. Children will be hurt because illegitimate parents (there are no illegitimate children) often never form a family, and those that “shack up” break up at a rate two to three times that of married parents. Society will be hurt because illegitimacy starts a chain of negative effects that fall like dominoes—illegitimacy leads to poverty, crime, and higher welfare costs which lead to bigger government, higher taxes, and a slower economy. This same outcome also occurs when children are legitimate but a divorce occurs later.
Are these just the hysterical cries of an alarmist? No. We can see the connection between same-sex marriage and illegitimacy in Scandinavian countries. Norway, for example, has had de-facto same-sex marriage since the early nineties. In Nordland, the most liberal county of Norway, where they fly “gay” rainbow flags over their churches, out-of-wedlock births have soared—more than 80 percent of women giving birth for the first time, and nearly 70 percent of all children, are born out of wedlock! Across all of Norway, illegitimacy rose from 39 percent to 50 percent in the first decade of same-sex marriage. 39% was the rate before the acceptance of gay marriage? That is remarkably high. In the US, currenlty it is about 25% overall, much higher among some groups than others. What caused the original 39%? Couldn't be gay marriage, perhaps the original causes are still in effect?

Anthropologist Stanley Kurtz writes, “When we look at Nordland and Nord-Troendelag — the Vermont and Massachusetts of Norway — we are peering as far as we can into the future of marriage in a world where gay marriage is almost totally accepted. What we see is a place where marriage itself has almost totally disappeared.” He asserts that “Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable.” In liberal Scandanavia, that is probably the case. Also the cradel to grave welfare state makes it much easier to have children without the economic advantage of marriage as is found in the US. By the way, is crime and all the other social ills also occuring in Norway. No, they are not. Anthropologist Kurtz's assertion is not evidence.
But it’s not just Norway. Blankenhorn reports this same trend in other countries. International surveys show that same-sex marriage and the erosion of traditional marriage tend to go together. Traditional marriage is weakest and illegitimacy strongest wherever same-sex marriage is legal. And where would this be? The other Scandanvian countries? Holland? What other countries? Those other countries also are what we could call post-industrial countries. Perhaps that has something to do with it. Indeed, many anthropologists and sociologist have argued that an industrial and post-industrial society are more similar than the agricultural societies that we are just emerging from. "Traditional" marriage is an agricultural society phenomenon. In hunting and gathering societies, marriages are much more fluid than in agricultural societies..again, that property thing.
You might say, “Correlation doesn’t always indicate causation!” Yes, but often it does. Is there any doubt that liberalizing marriage laws impacts society for the worse? You need look no further than the last 40 years of no-fault divorce laws in the United States (family disintegration destroys lives and now costs tax payers $112 billion per year!). Tsk, tsk...didn't I teach you anything in that research methods class. In order to even begin to claim causation, three criteria must be met: 1) correlation (which we have here); 2) temporal ordering, the cause must occur prior to the effect; and 3) ruling out of spurious relationships, in other words another cauase that might be controlling both phenomenon. Unfortunately, your assertion of causation faisl the temporal ordering criteria, because, as this charts shows, the divorce rate was rising overall in the US and in California well before the Family Law Act of 1970, signed into law in September 1969 by, of all people, Ronald Reagan. While "no fault divorce" might have accerlerated the rate, it did not cause the "problem" of an increasing divorce rate. Indeed, the rate, as the chart shows, had already almost doubled from its low in 1960. Something else was going on, which also suggests that the third criteria of ruling out a spurious relationhip is at work.

No-fault divorce laws began in one state, California, and then spread to rest of the country. Those liberalized divorce laws helped change our attitudes and behaviors about the permanence of marriage. There’s no question that liberalized marriage laws will help change our attitudes and behaviors about the purpose of marriage. The law is a great teacher, and if same-sex marriage advocates have their way, children will be expelled from the lesson on marriage. Or the attitudes and behaviors had already changed and law/policy changed to follow. The chart above suggests evidence supporting the alternative view, not the one asserted by Mr. Turek or Blackenhorn.
This leads Blankenhorn to assert, “One can believe in same-sex marriage. One can believe that every child deserves a mother and a father. One cannot believe both.”

Blankenhorn is amazed how indifferent homosexual activists are about the negative effects of same-sex marriage on children. Many of them, he documents, say that marriage isn’t about children.

Well, if marriage isn’t about children, what institution is about children? And if we’re going to redefine marriage into mere coupling, then why should the state endorse same-sex marriage at all? Marriage does tie adult responsiblity to children. But nothing stops, unless it be law, gay couples from adopting children.
Contrary to what homosexual activists assume, the state doesn’t endorse marriage because people have feelings for one another. The state endorses marriage primarily because of what marriage does for children and in turn society. Society gets no benefit by redefining marriage to include homosexual relationships, only harm as the connection to illegitimacy shows. But the very future of children and a civilized society depends on stable marriages between men and women. That’s why, regardless of what you think about homosexuality, the two types of relationships should never be legally equated.

One could make this argument, but one does not have to be married to take the tax deduction for contributing to the raising of a child. So, the law, recognizes parenthood quite apart from the marital relationship. One could argue perhaps that should be changed, that one could only get their tax deductions and exemptions IF THEY WERE MARRIED, but I don't think you are trying to make that argument.

That conclusion has nothing to do with bigotry and everything to do with what’s best for children and society. Just ask pro-gay, liberal democrat David Blankenhorn. Except Mr. Blankenhorn and Mr. Turke are poor sociologists. The paper gets a C.

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