Sunday, April 22, 2012

Minnesota Marriage Minute video response

For those of you not aware, this November in Minnesota there will be a question on the ballot for voters to answer:
"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?"
If approved, the Minnesota Constitution would be amended to include the following in Article XIII:
Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.
Leaving the question blank counts as a "No."

Now, it's already illegal in Minnesota to marry a same-sex partner. Supporters of the amendment have pushed this Constitutional amendment to prevent lawsuits from overturning the current law, and to prevent the legislature from changing the law, as happened in New York last year. It's a preemptive strike. The group Minnesota for Marriage has been campaigning to see the amendment passed, and one of the things they do is post YouTube videos called "Minnesota Marriage Minute" videos that lay their case out in short little segments. I'm going to address some of those videos in this and future posts. I won't address them all, because some are simply informative, like the first video that lays out basically what I just said. I'm also not going to necessarily address them in the order they were given.

First up, let's look at Episode 5. 

In this video, they ask "What is the common good of marriage?" The answer they give is:
"Well, marriage serves a vital and universal societal purpose to channel biological drive and sexual passion that might otherwise become socially destructive into enduring family units that have the best opportunity to ensure the care and education of any children produced by that drive and passion."
Kalley Yanta, the host, follows that up with a quote that she says is from the Supreme Court,
"marriage is '. . . fundamental to the very existence and survival of the [human] race'"
but doesn't cite which case. My own search indicates it may have come from the decision in Loving v. Virginia (1967), in which the court overturned a conviction of miscegenation (interracial marriage), and with it, declared all anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional. The part that Yanta seems to be quoting says:

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.
Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888). To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.
So, yes, the Supreme Court has said that marriage is fundamental to humanity's existence. It also said that it's essential to the pursuit of happiness by free men, and that the freedom to marry or not cannot be infringed by the State. They were speaking of race, of course, but I don't find it much of a stretch to apply to same statements to same-sex attraction. But I guess that's what we're arguing about, isn't it?

Let's look more at what Yanta says. A little later on, she gets into defending the idea that children do best in a marriage between their biological parents.
"The overwhelming body of social science evidence establishes that children do best when raised by their married [biological] mother and father"
Except, that's wrong. The consensus of the scientific community is that there is no evidence to suggest that being raised by a homosexual parent, or two same-sex parents,  is detrimental to children's well-being (yes, that link is from Wikipedia; follow the citations). It's true that the data is not as good as one might like, but every study to date, despite the problems they have with sample size and other things, points to children doing just fine when raised by same-sex parents, even when compared to children of heterosexual parents. It is true that children of divorced parents tend to have more issues, and possibly children of single parents, but that is not an argument against same-sex parents. A couple other links for you to peruse: Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents: A Review of the Literature, and a Google Scholar search for "children of gay parents."

Yanta then goes on to say:
"No matter ones view of homosexual marriage, it is undeniable that every child born into a same-sex relationship is intentionally denied the love and affection of one of her biological parents."
But that alone is not enough to deny parents the right to marry the person they love. Interestingly, that same argument could be applied to arguing against giving unwanted children up for adoption, or sperm banks for couples in which the father is infertile, or surrogacy in cases where the woman in a hetero relationship is infertile. In each case, a child is intentionally denied the love and affection of at least on biological parent. Is Minnesota for Marriage going to argue that these are bad things?

Look again at the what they call the common good of marriage:
"Well, marriage serves a vital and universal societal purpose to channel biological drive and sexual passion that might otherwise become socially destructive into enduring family units that have the best opportunity to ensure the care and education of any children produced by that drive and passion."
Other than sexual passion, it's unclear what other biological drive Yanta and the Minnesota for [Straight] Marriage group is referring to here, but I'm going to guess 'procreation' based on the context of the whole video. Certainly that's a position I've seen before when looking at arguments against same-sex marriage. It's definitely true that many gay people have desires for children, and raising a family. Same-sex attraction doesn't change that aspect of human nature. But given that there's no evidence that being raised by same-sex parents is detrimental to children, how is it that same-sex parents could not do this equally well when compared to heterosexual parents? Indeed, it would appear they're already doing it well.

And yes, for now I'm ignoring whether that's actually a good definition of the common good of marriage, or not.

So, what are your thoughts on this video?


  1. Oh yeah - at some point I was hoping that my husband (who is adopted) didn't hear that video in the background - as it would have offended him. It offends me, as a married woman who had fertility issues and, at one point, was planning on adoption. I have many friends who have adopted - including a gay couple who adopted five children from a relative who is unfit to parent (but not unfit to have several biological children). Using statistics they way there are in this video is just vile. It denies the dignity of a human being to be treated as an individual - not judged on averages and bell-curves. Whether we are talking about race, sex, or orientation - this tactic is the tactic of bigots. Sociology is descriptive of trends in a society - it is not intended to be inflicted on individuals as an area-affect weapon.

  2. I'm not even sure that's the worst use of statistics they engage in throughout the series. Although, how much worse can it get than a flat out falsehood?