Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Marriage Equality: Simple Answers to NOM's Complicated Lies

Jeremy Hooper and Alvin McEwen have developed a number of excellent talking points in response to the misinformation and outright lies promulgated by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). McEwen (pictured at right) is the author of Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Exposing the Lies of the Anti-Gay Industry.

Much to the dismay of many Catholics, most members of the clerical caste of the Catholic Church have aligned themselves with NOM (see here and here) and are actively working to deny gay couples the rights and benefits of civil marriage.

Yet as Hooper and McEwen point out:

There is no justifiable reason to deny the gay community (and we're speaking about lgbts in a colloquial sense) the right to marry. However, what the gay community seems to be lacking is a way to break this issue down into simple, true points which demonstrates the necessity of marriage equality in spite of organizations who mobilize people (through ignorance and fear) against marriage equality. By refuting the points of one of these groups – the National Organization for Marriage – with accurate, simple information, we can not only prove the need for marriage equality but also show the basic emptiness of arguments against marriage equality.

On McEwen's blogsite, Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, the authors give permission for their talking points to be shared. And so I post them today at The Wild Reed.


As evidenced by its talking points, the National Organization for Marriage is taking a highly deceptive tone in its supposed "defense of marriage."

The idea that "marriage has to be defended" is nothing more than a cynical talking point designed to take attention away from the true issue – the lives of same-sex couples and especially the livelihood of children in same-sex households.

And it is a talking point which fuels NOM's tactic of creating division on many levels – same-sex households vs. heterosexual two-parent household, the lgbt community vs. the heterosexual community, the black community vs. the lgbt community and so on. This "divide and conquer" strategy, created via a passive/aggressive subterfuge, is designed to appeal to people's fears, jealousies, and ideas of religious superiority rather than their belief in basic fairness.

The truth of the matter is marriage is not "under attack." It has never been "under attack."

But what is under attack is truth, integrity, and basic fairness for the hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples and especially their children who seem to be nothing more than chess pieces in NOM's game of exploitation and manipulation, as evidenced by the following talking point:

NOM – "Gays and Lesbians have a right to live as they choose, they don’t have the right to redefine marriage for all of us."

Truth – Allowing gays and lesbians to marry does not "redefine marriage" for the entire country because they are not forcing heterosexuals to engage in gay marriage. It's 100% false. And the gay community don't have a right to live as they choose, per the currently unequal laws of this nation in terms of employment, housing, etc.

Unfortunately, generalizations and straw man arguments encompass more of NOM's talking points. The following are the list of said talking points, as well as logical answers which refutes them:

Answers to NOM's "Frequently Asked Questions"

NOM – 1. Are you a bigot? “Why do you want to take away people’s rights?” “Isn’t it wrong to write discrimination into the constitution?”

A: “Do you really believe people like me who believe mothers and fathers both matter to kids are like bigots and racists? I think that’s pretty offensive, don’t you? Particularly to the 60 percent of African-Americans who oppose same-sex marriage. Marriage as the union of husband and wife isn’t new; it’s not taking away anyone’s rights. It’s common sense.”

Truth – This an unfair generalization of the argument for marriage equality. However, if one was to go there, one could point to the many instances of those claiming to protect marriage making homophobic comments which belie the claim that they simply believe that "mothers and fathers matter to kids."

For example: Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization for Marriage has called homosexuality “an unfortunate thing” which represents “at a minimum, a sexual dysfunction.”

Jason McGuire of New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation (NYFRF) has compared marriage equality to child abuse.

Alveda King, a conservative African-American activist, called marriage equality "genocide."

National Organization For Marriage of Rhode Island executive director Christopher Plante called same-sex families "tragic situations" akin to families with divorced or even dead parents.

The Minnesota Family Council (who is partnering with NOM to stop marriage equality in Minnesota) recently pushed information on its web page linking the gay community to bestiality, pedophilia, and the consuming of urine and human excrement.

NOM – 2. Isn’t the ban on gay marriage like bans on interracial marriage?

A: “Bans on interracial marriage were about keeping two races apart so that one race could oppress the other. Marriage is about bringing two sexes together, so that children get the love of their own mom and a dad, and women don’t get stuck with the enormous disadvantages of parenting alone.” “Having a parent of two different races is just not the same as being deprived of your mother—or your father.”

Truth – Racists believed that interracial marriage would create genetically inferior children. Some opposing marriage equality claim that it would create conditions placing children in danger.

But neither view is backed by science. Children born from interracial relationships are not inferior. In that same vein, the majority of studies which look at children in same-sex households have found that they suffer no adverse effects.

NOM – 3. Why do we need a constitutional amendment? “Isn’t DOMA enough?”

A: “Lawsuits like the one that imposed gay marriage in Massachusetts now threaten marriage in at least 12 other states so far. We need a marriage amendment to settle the issue once and for all, so we don’t have this debate in our face every day. The people get to decide what marriage means. No-end run around the rules by activist judges or grandstanding San-Francisco-style politicians.”

Truth – Organizations like NOM favor voter referendums where they pour millions of dollars into commercials and flyers which rely on inaccurate studies or the repetition of false horror stories designed to scare people into voting against marriage equality. NOM brags about how people in states like California and Maine voted against marriage equality, but the organization always omits the part about how these voters were manipulated by fears of the "gay agenda coming for their children." NOM and other organizations opposing marriage equality are probably fearful of defending their arguments in court because as lawyer David Boies said, "the witness stand is lonely place to lie." We saw this in the 2010 Proposition 8 trial when no one from NOM testified for the California law banning gay marriage.

NOM – 4. What’s the harm from SSM? “How can Adam and Steve hurt your marriage?”

A: “Who gets harmed? The people of this state who lose our right to define marriage as the union of husband and wife, that’s who. That is just not right.”

Truth – What about the rights of same-sex couples? Also, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, 33 percent of female same-sex couple households and 22 percent of male same-sex couple households reported at least one child under eighteen living in their home and no doubt, that number has increased. And according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California, Los Angeles, Black or Latino gay couples are twice as likely as whites to be raising children. What about the rights of these families?

NOM – “If courts rule that same-sex marriage is a civil right, then, people like you and me who believe children need moms and dads will be treated like bigots and racists.”

Truth – This is a distortion. Same-sex households are not in competition with heterosexual households. Children need family environments which give them love and support.

NOM – “Religious groups like Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army may lose their tax exemptions, or be denied the use of parks and other public facilities, unless they endorse gay marriage."

Truth – No religious group (or any individual for that matter) will be forced to endorse anything. Those are just words used to scare people. And tax exemption controversies have nothing to do with marriage equality, but rather how far should religious exemptions go if religious charities demanding these exemptions are using tax dollars. For example, is it fair for Catholic Charities in Illinois to have the right not to allow gays to adopt children they care for even if these charities are receiving over $30 million in tax dollars (after all, the gay community does pay taxes).

NOM – “Public schools will teach young children that two men being intimate are just the same as a husband and wife, even when it comes to raising kids.”

Truth – This is a lie. The nonpartisan webpage Politifact found that this claim was inaccurate. In Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal, same-sex intimacy is not in the curriculum. Even those who oppose marriage equality, such as Marc Mutty – who helped lead the charge against it in Maine – said that this claim is hyperbole geared to motivate people through fear.

In reality, conversations about same-sex households probably happen already in schools amongst the students themselves. Again, according the 2000 U.S. Census, 33 percent of female same-sex couple households and 22 percent of male same-sex couple households reported at least one child under eighteen living in their home. It's safe to say that a vast number of these children attend public schools. Is it fair for them not to be able to talk about their families?

NOM – “When the idea that children need moms and dads get legally stigmatized as bigotry, the job of parents and faith communities trying to transmit a marriage culture to their kids is going to get a lot harder.”

Truth – Allowing same-sex couples to marry does not "legally stigmatize" two-parent heterosexual families as "bigotry." Same-sex couples with children are not in competition with mother/father couples. And to infer this is saying that families should be subjected to a caste system where one family is inferior to another simply because of make-up. That is un-American.

NOM – “One thing is for sure: The people of this state will lose our right to keep marriage as the union of a husband and wife. That’s not right.”

Truth – What about the rights of same-sex couples or same-sex couples and their children? Don't they have a say in this matter?

NOM – 5. Why do you want to interfere with love?

A: “Love is a great thing. But marriage isn’t just any kind of love; it’s the special love of husband and wife for each other and their children.”

Truth – Giving same-sex couples the right to marry does not interfere with anyone's marriage or the love of their children. And love in a same-sex household between partners and between parents and children is no different than in a heterosexual household. Here, NOM is trying to define love, something they often accuse gay activists/ the state of doing.

NOM – 6. What about benefits? Don’t gay couples and their kids need the benefits and protections of marriage?”

A: “If medical proxies aren’t working, let’s fix that problem. If people need health care, let’s get them health care. Don’t mess with marriage.”

Truth – It goes beyond medical proxies. Why should gay and lesbian tax-paying citizens have to jump through hoops to get the same benefits as heterosexual marriage couples? And often these extra burdens are extremely costly. Plus they are not easily recognized like the currency of marriage is. Imagine having your partner of 20 years in the hospital with a serious injury, and having to explain why, exactly, you qualify to be by his or her bedside.

NOM – “The issue isn’t benefits, it is marriage. Local folks can decide benefits. This is about the meaning of marriage, our most basic social institution for protecting children."

Truth – There have been instances in which organizations that claim to be simply "protecting marriage" have interfered with local communities deciding these issues of benefits on the claim that granting these benefits is a "backdoor way" to gain same-sex marriage. In Wisconsin, a "morality group" is trying to overturn the state law which allows gay couples to have hospital visitations. Also, marriage in itself does not protect children from abuse, neglect, etc. However, the denial of marriage rights harms children. Not only children of gay parents, but also children who have gay family members, who constantly hear how controversial their loved ones supposedly are.

NOM – 7. Isn’t divorce the real threat to marriage?

A: “High rates of divorce are one more reason we should be strengthening marriage, not conducting radical social experiments on it.”

Truth – Denying same-sex couples the right to marry does not hinder the high rate of divorce. Nor does it strengthen heterosexual marriage. Also, it's highly offensive to say loving, tax-paying couples make up a "radical social experiment."

NOM – 8. Are you saying gays cannot be good parents?

A: “Two men might each be a good father, but neither can be a mom. The ideal for children is the love of their own mom and dad. No same-sex couple can provide that.”

Truth – The ideal environment for raising a child is one that provides love and support. No one is bashing the heterosexual mom/dad dynamic by pointing out the simple fact that this dynamic is not the reality for a lot of families. Also, multiple studies demonstrate that children in same-sex households are not harmed by this environment. NOM's definition is not only offensive – it's intellectually vacant. Under NOM's definition, single mothers and fathers are just as "bad." Lastly NOM's point is very contradictory. There are many households where children are not with "their own" mom and dad, i.e. adoptive households.

NOM – 9. What about older or infertile couples? If they marry why not same-sex couples?

A: “Every man and woman who marries is capable of giving any child they create (or adopt) a mother and a father. No same-sex couple can do this. It’s apples and oranges.”

Truth – Again, not all families have a mother and a father in the household. If we base the worthiness of families based on this dynamic, how soon will it be before we start bashing single-parent households or heterosexual married couples who choose not to have children?


All in all, NOM's talking points are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. They are a perfect example of the saying – "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Furthermore, they are also strategically worded to take all onus off of what NOM, as an organization, actually does on a daily basis. NOM's talking points are also deeply offensive to many (LGBT people and supporters alike). And perhaps most of all: They do not come close to matching the reality of the world.

Talking points developed by Jeremy Hooper and Alvin McEwen. Feel free to link to or copy and paste these points.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Tips for Speaking as a Catholic in Support of Marriage Equality
A Catholic Statement of Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Responding to Bishop Tobin's Remarks on Gay Marriage
In the Struggle for Marriage Equality, MN Catholics are Making a Difference by Changing Hearts and Minds
Catholic Attitudes on Gay and Lesbian Issues: An Overview
A Message to NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality

Related Off-site Links:
NOM, Family Council Register to Begin Fundraising for Minnesota Marriage Battle – Andy Birkey (Minnesota Independent, June 1, 2011).
NOM Showing Large Scale Hypocrisy in Minnesota – Alvin McEwen (Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, June 1, 2011).
As Expected, Anti-Gay Groups Preparing Propaganda Blitz In Minnesota – Carlos Maza (EqualityMatters.org, May 25, 2011).


3puddytats said...

When Utah passed their marriage definition law as between one man and one woman a couple of years back, it was more or less designed to invalidate polygamous marriages, something that the fundamentalist LDS (Mormons)groups practice, although under the radar.

However--what happened when they passed that law they effectively locked out single folks--gay or straight-- from being foster parents--something we're in DIRE need of here--or adoption of a child through the state social program. A grandma can't even adopt her own grandchild if something happens to the child's parents.

These laws need to be considered very carefully from all angles...


Gerald said...

This "clerical caste" trope you continue to use is somewhat irritating, since many, many laity are with the Church's pastors in supporting the Church's established moral teaching.

And, of course, there are many clerics of a certain age who support your dissenting views of the Church's moral teaching.

So this inclusive laity vs. intolerant "clerical caste" dichotomy you keep promoting is not reflective of reality.