Monday, October 22, 2012


Do you remember the character of Frau Farbissina in the Austin Powers series of comedy films? She was the "attack and defense specialist" for Dr. Evil and the mother of their son Scott Evil. She was also hilariously known for screaming out her German-accented orders: "Bring in the FemBOTS!", "Fire the laSAR!", "Open the TANK!" Particular emphasis was always placed on the last syllable, so that it was shouted the loudest. In one scene, when her adult son tells her how he'd always been told he'd been a test tube baby, she responds: "Lies. ALL LIES!".

Frau Farbissina's screaming of this particular phrase came to mind recently when I saw the latest ad from Minnesota for Marriage - the main group supporting a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.

There are all types of lies, of course: bald-faced lies, 'little white lies,' lies of omission, twisted or convoluted lies. What they all have in common is the intent to mislead. The latest ad from Minnesota for Marriage is constructed of convoluted lies – lies that mislead by purposely complicating and confusing the issue. In this specific case, unnecessary and irrelevant information is assigned to an unrelated statement grounded in fact.

"When same-sex marriage has been imposed elsewhere," the ad declares, "it has not been live and let live. People who believe marriage is one man and one woman have faced consequences."

The reality of civil marriage rights for same-sex couples in certain U.S. states is a fact. Yet the so-called "consequences" cited by Minnesota for Marriage are irrelevant to this fact.

Two Minnesota media outlets, WCCO and Minnesota Public Radio News, have examined the claims made by Minnesota for Marriage, and found them "misleading" and "deceptive." Polite ways, I'd contend, of saying "Lies, ALL LIES!"

Here's what MPR News has to say about the various "consequences" of same-sex marriage cited by Minnesota for Marriage.

"Small businesses fined."

Minnesota for Marriage is referring to the Wildflower Inn in Vermont, where gay marriage was legalized in 2009. Lesbian couple Katherine Baker and Ming-Lien Linsley wanted to get married there, but were told the inn would not host same-sex ceremonies.

Baker and Linsley sued, claiming the inn violated the state's Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Act, which prevents hotels from discriminating against patrons based on their sexual orientation. Ultimately, the inn had to pay the Vermont Human Rights Commission $10,000 and put $20,000 in a charitable trust.

University of Vermont law professor Greg Johnson specializes in sexual orientation and law, and said that the suit could have been brought regardless of whether or not same-sex marriage is legal. Johnson also said there have been no similar cases in Vermont since same-sex marriage was legalized.

"It's not as if small businesses up and down the state are being fined," Johnson said.

"Individuals fired"

The ad refers to a Toronto-based sports broadcaster Damian Goddard who was fired a day after he tweeted about a hockey-player's support of same-sex marriage.

According to ESPN, Goddard wrote that he "completely and whole-heartedly" backed another hockey agent's "support for the traditional and TRUE meaning of marriage."

Goddard's employer said that it already planned to let him go, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail.

"Charities closed down"

This claim involves the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., which is still open.

The group decided to shut down its public adoption program after Washington D.C. made same-sex marriage legal because it felt it could not comply with the new law, which requires religious groups that serve the general public [and receive government funding] to recognize same-sex marriages, without compromising its religious beliefs, according to the Archdiocese.

The D.C. Catholic Charities continues a private adoption program using its own money.

"Churches sued."

In Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, a married gay couple is suing the Diocese of Worcester for dropping a real estate deal.

The couple said the Diocese backed out because it was worried gay marriages would be held on the property. The church says the deal fell through because of concerns about the couple's finances.

But as in Vermont, the Massachusetts couple could sue regardless of whether same-sex marriage is legal there because they are claiming Diocese violated a general Massachusetts law that prevents discrimination based on sexual orientation, said real Massachusetts estate lawyer Richard Vetstein.

"Same-sex marriage taught to young children in elementary school and parents have no legal right to be notified or to take their children out of class that day."

Earlier this year, [MPR] said a similar claim is misleading.

Some Massachusetts schools are teaching kids about same-sex marriage in their diversity curriculum, which is part of a statewide curriculum framework created in 1993. But the state doesn't mandate certain lessons or books be taught, and there is no statewide requirement that schools teach about same-sex marriage.

Rather, curriculum decisions are made by individual schools, and some have incorporated same-sex marriage into their diversity lessons, including the Lexington School district, which was involved in a 2006 lawsuit brought by several parents. A federal court ultimately rejected the case.

10/30/12 UPDATES:
Marriage Amendment Supporters Make False Claims About Catholic (October 23, 2012).
Minnesota for Marriage Ad Borrows Dubious Claims from Other States' Campaigns – Beth Hawkins (MinnPost, October 25, 2012).
Will Minnesota TV Stations Reject False Minnesota for Marriage Ads? – Andy Birkey (, October 26, 2012).
Checking the Latest Ad in the Minnesota Marriage DebateKARE 11 News (October 26, 2012).
David Parker, the Man Behind Frank Schubert's Deceptive Multi-State Anti-Equality Ad – Scott Wooledge (HuffPost Gay Voices, October 30, 2012).

Recommended Off-site Links:
Telling the Truth: Fact Checking the Marriage Amendment – Minnesotans United for All Families (October 2012).
Marriage Amendment Ad Misleads – Catharine Richert (Minnesota Public Radio, October 19, 2012).
Reality Check: Amendment Ad Makes Questionable Claims – Pat Kessler (WCCO, October 18, 2012).
Before Banning Gay Marriage, Criminalizing Homosexuality Was Family Council’s Cause Celebre – Andy Birkey (The Minnesota Independent, October 4, 2012).
Marriage Amendment Supporters Apologize for Hitler References – Baird Helgeson (Star Tribune, October 22, 2012).
Addressing the Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage Offered by the Catholic Bishops of Washington StateThe Progressive Catholic Voice (September 6, 2012).
Catholic Bishops Use Freedom of Religion to Justify HomophobiaEideard (December 29, 2011).
Religious Persecution? – Bob Felton (Civil Commotion, December 29, 2011).
How to Determine If Your Religious Liberty is Being Threatened in Just 10 Quick Questions – Rev. Emily C. Heath (HuffPost Religion, September 5, 2012).
What is "Marriage Itself"? – Paula Ruddy (The Progressive Catholic Voice, September 30, 2011).
Catholic Q&A on the Minnesota 'Marriage Amendment' – Michael Bayly and Florence Steichen (Sensus Fidelium, August 7, 2012).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Doug Mataconis on the Bishops, Religious Freedom, and Living in a Civil Society
Quote of the Day – September 6, 2012
Responding to Whiny Catholic Bishops Who Cry 'Victim'
Persecuted 'Enemies of the State'? Or Just Sore Losers?
What Part of Jesus' Invitation to "Be Not Afraid" Don't the Bishops Get?
Marriage: "Part of What is Best in Human Nature"
Lisa Cressman's Concise, Reasonable Answers to Marriage Equality Questions

Image: Mindy Sterling as Frau Farbissina.

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