Friday, March 13, 2009

Rampaging gays impregnate millions?

It is amusing to read the arguments put forth by some statist conservatives as to why equality of marriage should be denied. Maggie Gallagher has often struck me as irrational and periodically dishonest. In her most recent diatribe at National Review she basically blames a recent increase in births to unwed mothers on the gays.

She isn’t so absurd as to imply that gays are running around impregnating unwed women. But she isn’t far off.
Is it mere coincidence that this resurgence in illegitimacy happened during the five years in which gay marriage has become (not thanks to me or my choice) the most prominent marriage issue in America — and the one marriage idea endorsed by the tastemakers to the young in particular? I don't think we can ever know for sure because the cultural changes that affect sexual behavior consist of myriad inputs that social science will seldom be able to tease out. Marriage was already in crisis.
In a nutshell, yes, it probably is a coincidence. Gay marriage has been debated both during times of increased and decreased births to unwed mothers. Gallagher is pulling the old “full moon fallacy”. The theory was that the full moon caused crime waves and a study showed it to be true. The study, however, picked a period where full moons fell disproportionately during weekends. And crime tends to go up on weekends. So it measured the crime associated with weekends and not any crime associated with full moons. In fact, when controls were put into place to account for the weekends, there was no correlation between full moons and crime.

Gallagher doesn’t attempt to show any connection between the debate on gay marriage and heterosexual, unwed women getting pregnant. The closest she comes is simply saying that conservatives “believe ideas have consequences.” Apparently Ms. Gallagher is arguing that even the mere discussion of equal marriage rights will destroy the family. That is rather extreme I think. But extreme and conservative, these days, go together quite well. I wonder if she would now argue that discussion of gay marriage should be banned to preserve the family. I wouldn’t be surprised.

That is where Gallagher is simply irrational. Where she is dishonest is also clear. Ms. Gallagher, like many who oppose marriage equality, says “marriage matters for children: Mothers and fathers raising their kids together is better than the ‘all kinds of alternative family structures’ hypothesis once so trendy among elites.”

Gallagher is confusing a multiplicity of “family structures” and acting as if this proves her case against two gay people from marrying. She is correct to note that studies show that children raised by two parents are better off than children raised by one parent. But I’ve never seen a conservative anti-equality advocate cite one study that compares children raised by two same-sex parents to those raised by opposite sex parents. They dishonesty is rather devious if you think about it.

First, they find studies that show children raised by a single parent don’t do as well. Usually these are studies of children raised by single mothers. Clearly two parents are more beneficial than one. From that they change the claim to “having a Mommy and a Daddy” is important. The third step in transforming the argument is to then argue that children not having a “Mommy and Daddy” in the sense of two opposite sex parents are worse off than children who have two parents who are the same sex. In fact, the study never showed that. It didn’t even test that. They changed the actual study into what they needed.

It may be that some studies might eventually show they are right, but I have my doubts. Studies of children raised by gay parents, to date, have shown no higher levels of social problems, etc., than those raised by straight parents. But conservatives statists like Gallagher are not even trying to prove what they say. They merely claim it.

Gallagher argues that gay marriage means “many other things are more important to us than connecting mothers and fathers to their children.” Her premise is that the only justification for marriage is to breed. Having babies is the be-all and end-all of marriage. As she puts it marriage is “rooted in creation itself” and “comes from the intrinsic sacredness of bringing together male and female in the service of making the future happen.” Put aside her silly rhetoric and consider the premises. Whether or not one specific couple has children or not the future will still come. What she means by the future is not actually the future but babies. She is saying that the only reason that people should marry (and I suspect the only justification for sex itself) is to put men and women into the “service” of making babies.

Many married couples never have children and never intend to. Apparently since they are not in “service to making the future happen” they are not really married. They are not connecting children to their mother and father. But if these couples are married simply because they are committed to one another, something which benefits our culture and our society, then same-sex couples, with the same commitment, are equally as married, de facto though not de jure.

Of course, as a conservative, it seems to behove Ms. Gallagher to violate the very principles she wishes to impose, by law, on homosexual couples. Gallagher may now be an overweight, frumpy matron but she got knocked up when single. She gave birth to a child and raised him without a father. Based on her claims I assume her own son is now a wanted felon, or worse, since Gallagher failed to provide him with a father through the formative years of his life.

The entire argument about children is relatively bogus. Most gay couples do not have children so whether or not their relationship is beneficial to the children they are raising is moot—they aren’t raising any. Those same-sex couple that have children often adopted special needs children who were not wanted by other couples. The idea that children may only be reared by an ideal couple is absurd. Even if we grant Gallagher’s premise (which I don’t) that children reared by gay couples are getting second best the argument is irrelevant. The children being raised by gay couples were not kidnapped from the “ideal couple” and redistributed. They were taken from situations far less beneficial than “second best” and moved to a far better situation.

Many children being raised by same-sex parents are the biological children of one of the parents. How would Gallagher prevent this situation from developing? Would she have the state actually steal those children away from their loving parents simply because the father or mother was gay?

Gay couples will still have custody to children in many, many cases, whether or not they are married. Gallagher’s obsession to stop them from marrying will not stop them from being parents. Whether Ms. Gallagher and her theology likes it or not, people can become parents without marriage. Now Ms. Gallagher will, as an extreme social conservative, condemn raising children outside marriage as she did herself. But she is working assiduously to prevent the parents of many children from actually getting married.

Worse there are thousands of same-sex married couples in California today that do have children. Ms. Gallagher wants to use state power to forcibly divorce them. When she says that children should be raised by married parents, she means all children except those of gay parents. These children apparently don’t need the example of loving, married parents to emulate. If she really thinks these children should learn the importance of marriage then perhaps she shouldn’t be so anxious to force them to live with unmarried parents.

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