Counterfeit Lifestyles: The real threat to family isn’t coming from the LGBT community

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In the Spring 2015 session of LDS General Conference, church leaders railed against “counterfeit and alternative lifestyles,” upholding marriage between a man and a woman as the one good recipe for raising a family.

This has led to backlash from individuals both inside and outside of the LGBT community and organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, who said that the comments were “disheartening and wrong, and remind us yet again that the journey to full inclusion for LGBT people — including our families and children — is not done.”

A Counterfeit Lifestyle?

But what exactly is a “counterfeit” family lifestyle? Counterfeit money is made to look like money and pass for legitimate cash. Yet it has no value and its introduction into the market can actually damage the monetary value of real money. So similarly, a counterfeit family lifestyle would be one that does more damage than good when weighed against the common parameters that designate a healthy family.

If that is the case though, then LGBT parenting fails to fit into the counterfeit category. Studies consistently show that LGBT parents raise their children just as well as straight parents. Even columns and studies that supposedly show the adverse effects of gay marriage or parenting can actually be seen as reasons why they are needed.

A real case of Fraud

So, if LGBT families aren’t counterfeit, what is? It may come as a shock to some conservative and religious people, but mixed-orientation marriages — and especially those who attempt to market them as a workable family unit — may be where the real cases of fraud lie.

Take, for instance, the TV show My Husband’s Not Gay. The show features mixed-orientation marriages that appear to be working. The husbands are supposedly attracted to men, yet making it work with straight women in an LDS marriage. Those in conservative and religious communities have been pointing to the show as proof that gay people can do fine in straight marriages.

However, the key thing missing from the show and much of the surrounding conversation is the fact that sexual orientation and sexuality are two different spectrums with very broad ranges and that these families featured are outliers — not the norm.

By the facts

In fact, the evidence suggests that mixed-orientation marriages are very likely to fail. Regardless of the study, the consensus is always this: Far more mixed-orientation marriages end in divorce and broken families than succeed.

Conversely, in addition to the fact that studies by and large continue to find no discernible difference between children raised by gay parents or straight parents, there appears to be no discernible difference in divorce rates either.

So while LDS leaders may call gay families “counterfeit” it doesn’t hold a lot of weight when looking at the numbers. And while the church hasn’t endorsed mixed-orientation marriages, they also haven’t discouraged them either. If the church truly wants to promote stable families and healthy upbringings for children they might do well to advocate for same-sex marriage and speak up on the possible danger mixed-orientation marriages can carry.

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Misplaced blame? Gay marriage not culprit for divorce, child abandonment

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Recently, The Federalist featured a column from Heather Barwick about how the gay community is hurting children. Barwick should know. She was raised by two lesbian women. In her column she explains that her mom was always gay. Still, she ended up marrying a man (Barwick’s father) because “things were different then.” When Barwick was the tender age of 2 or 3, her mom split from her father and settled down with another woman — the environment that Barwick ultimately grew up in.

Barwick describes the pain of divorce and always longing for a father figure even into adulthood — recalling how her father wasn’t around after her parents split. She explains how this pain and her admittedly cozy upbringing ultimately led her to realize that families led by gay parents weren’t good for children.

The problem is, at no point in her article does she manage to connect the two and explain why. In fact, the article could serve as a case study for how gay marriage bans can ruin families and hurt children.

Stuck in the closet

Rather than having a mother who was able to be open about who she was and raise a child in a loving, non-divorced gay household, Barwick ended up with a mother who tried to fit the mold of a straight society that proclaimed she was an abomination.

It’s no surprise that her straight marriage eventually collapsed and Barwick suffered. What Barwick doesn’t seem to realize though is that this is not a failing of the gay community. This is a failing of a society that pushed people together who never should’ve been together and forced people to betray the very fiber of their being for as long as they could.

The real problem: Divorce and child abandonment

Barwick’s experience isn’t anything exclusive to the gay community. In fact, throughout her column, everything comes back to her parents’ divorce and growing up with someone who was not her father — what she is actually detailing are the kind of feelings thousands of kids who have gone through family divorce have written about.

Barwick cites no studies to back up her claims about needing both a man and woman in the house — and even her own experiences don’t make it clear such a thing is necessary. At no point does she lend any clarity as to why a man and woman were both needed in her household beyond the fact that she felt she was missing a father — again, a common issue for many children who’ve been through a divorce (even those who end up with step-parents).

The remedy: Gay marriage?

The truth is, embracing gay parenthood and gay marriage could possibly prevent the sort of unfortunate childhood Barwick seems to have had — preventing more broken marriages and households.

If we were to base things off of personal experiences, there are thousands of kids in broken homes and thousands of adults who had a difficult time growing up who could write Barwick’s exact same column with the headline “Dear Straight Community: Your Kids Are Hurting.”

That’s why social science and psychological studies are important — they paint a clearer picture than those of subjective experiences. And right now, while there are few studies on the topic, the ones out there indicate that gay households turn out kids about as well as straight ones.

Interestingly enough, Barwick’s column could be seen as a testament to that conclusion — and possibly even be an example of why we need gay marriage.

Family vs. the world (How buzzwords can kill thoughtfulness)

Words are incredibly powerful. Even small nuances and phrases can unconsciously influence the way someone acts or thinks.

One of the recent refrains heard by religious establishments these days is some form or another of “Families are being threatened by the world.”

Us vs. Them

Without even realizing it, by using the phrase “the world” one sets themselves apart from everyone else – thereby absolving themselves of their own involvement in the world’s issues, while simultaneously propping up the idea that if everyone just did what they did it would fix everything.

This also reinforces the belief that it is unnecessary – and even counterproductive or dangerous – to let others live differently in the way that is best for them, to reach across the aisle, or to think outside the box to help tackle and solve the world’s problems.

Nevermind the fact that there are people the world over who have had families or relationships strained and complicated due to a religious dynamic (whether it be lack of religion, losing religion, or finding religion).

Family: Isn’t it about time?

That’s not to say that religions don’t have some great ideas about keeping families and community strong. Notions of togetherness such as family dinner, a day of rest from work and investing in family members are fantastic and necessary.

But even those are only good if they’re practiced, yet…

…too many people wait outside temple doors during a family member’s wedding simply because of a difference of belief.

…Sundays, a day of rest and family togetherness, are often one of the busiest days of the week – splitting up families for hours on end as they attend to different meetings and church duties. Weekdays are often a mad scramble between work/school and church activities and responsibilities with serious family time often getting pushed to the side or discarded.

…too many people have disowned or shamed family members who walk a less religious path for their own health – or have tried to coerce them into a religious way of life rather than loving them and encouraging them on the path that makes them happy.

…couples who would make great parents and want to start families, and could help alleviate the overcrowding in foster care and adoption systems, are unable to do so because they can’t legally marry or adopt children.

Us and Us

There are a lot of things that threaten families and we’re all to blame for the state of the world today. And while religion certainly holds some good ideas about how to run a family, it’s going to take a world full of different ideas, compassion and fearlessness to find solutions to the world’s problems. We can’t separate ourselves or close ourselves off in fear or prejudice.

“The law cannot make moral what God has declared immoral”: Mormon revelation past, present, and future

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LDS Church apostle Dallin H. Oaks recently said that human laws “cannot make moral what God has declared immoral.” It’s a sentiment that has been increasingly clashing with the heartfelt longing for marriage equality among a growing number of Mormon faithful.

But there are a number of things to think about concerning Oaks’ message and the way the LDS Church functions. The church has an interesting concept of revelation. Not only do they believe that church leaders receive continual revelation from God, but they also believe members can receive their own revelation from God.

One of the most prominent early Mormon leaders, Brigham Young, once stated “the greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.”

So what happens when members earnestly pray about the words Oaks has said, and the current LDS teachings against gay marriage, and don’t receive such a witness?

Well, there are some things to keep in mind.

LDS apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf stated during the church’s October 2013 General Conference that church leaders have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. Sometimes BIG ones.

As if to hit Uchtdorf’s point home, the Church also released an essay acknowledging that past church leaders were not divinely inspired on racial issues, but were simply influenced by the cultural norms of their time — noting that the church today disavows any racist remarks they made or actions they took.

Indeed, Brigham Young said of interracial relationships that “if the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.”

Yet, look how far the Church has come on interracial relationships.

So, Mormon faithful, when Dallin H. Oaks says that “the law cannot make moral what God has declared immoral,” consider what church leaders have said about themselves, the Church’s past mistakes, and what church-revelation-yet-to-come may still reveal.

And if you’re feeling torn between your faith and your heart: Go with your heart — chances are it’s the still small voice telling you how to make the LDS Church more Christlike.

Secular arguments against gay marriage (and why they don’t hold up)

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Utah has been in the spotlight recently for its stance against gay marriage. There have been arguments back and forth about definitions of marriage, child-rearing, religious freedom, etc. One article in particular has caught my eye. It’s a secular look at why gay marriage isn’t a good idea. It lists off a bunch of pro-gay-marriage arguments and tries to refute them. Many of the arguments made are the same ones the state of Utah is attempting to make.

This is my dissection of those refutations.

ARGUMENT #1: Marriage has had “consistent elements” throughout history

“All these [historic] variations still embraced the fundamental, unchanging essence of marriage. They still saw it, in general, as a public, lifelong partnership between one man and one woman for the sake of generating and raising children… Yet, even supposing the essence of marriage could change, would that mean it should?… After all, such action may not be ethical or serve the common good.”

MY TAKE: The core ideas behind marriage have changed a LOT and vary from culture to culture.

First of all, the definition of marriage has NOT just been “one woman for one man” (click picture to see larger image):

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And it’s not always been about children. Some of the earliest marriages were all about wealth, power and politics:

“The Ancient Greeks also set the very clear pattern of marrying for position, wealth and power. The idea you married because you loved someone was irrelevant – sentimentality or feelings did not come into what was a commercial transaction between families looking to advance or protect their own positions.” (Where Did the Idea of Marriage Come From?)

As for ethics, it seems unethical to hold what seems like a basic right from people and to effectively oppress their expression of love. The Supreme Court has even ruled in 1967 that marriage is “one of the basic civil rights of man.” (Gay Marriage Pro and Con Arguments #14)

ARGUMENT #2: Marriage is about reproduction

“The largest difference is that same-sex couples cannot produce children, nor ensure a child’s basic right to be raised by his mother and father. These facts alone mean we’re talking about two very different types of relationships. It’s wrong, therefore, to assume the state should necessarily treat them as if they were the same.”

MY TAKE: Marriage is about love 

Socially, people get married as an expression of love and commitment. Though it is true that oftentimes children come later, that is not always the case and “kids” are not usually the overriding factor in getting married: it’s two people’s intimate feelings towards one another. Simply: Two people in love may have a mutual desire to start a family, but WHY do they marry who they do? They marry out of love. Therefore the defining trait in the relationship is LOVE, not kids.

Legally, no governmental benefits are conferred on married people’s kids through the act of marriage. Kids do not enhance any governmental marriage benefits. The lack thereof does not remove any. Therefore it’s pretty clear to see, in the eyes of government, that kids have nothing to do with marriage.

Either way, socially or legally, marriage has only to do with the two people, not kids or anyone else. Therefore the “differences between the two types of relationships” are non-existent. So why are kids being discussed like it’s some sort of requirement?

“Same-sex marriage advocates may argue that it’s discriminatory to favor heterosexual spouses over homosexual couples. With all of the benefits flowing from marriage, this unfairly endorses one set of relationships over another. But if the state endorsed same-sex marriage, it would then be favoring gay “spouses” over unmarried heterosexual couples. The argument runs both ways and is ultimately self-defeating.”

Of course gay marriage would “favor” gay married couples over unmarried straight couples, just as it would “favor” gay married couples over unmarried gay couples. How is that any different than now — where marriage “favors” straight married couples over straight unmarried couples?

ARGUMENT #3: Straight people are better parents

“The real question here is not whether marriage should be limited, but how. To answer that, we must determine why the government even bothers with marriage. It’s not to validate two people who love each other, nice as that is. It’s because marriage between one man and one woman is likely to result in a family with children. Since the government is deeply interested in the propagation and stabilization of society, it promotes and regulates this specific type of relationship above all others.”

MY TAKE: There’s plenty of evidence that shows gay couples are just as good at raising children

Except that doesn’t appear to be the case (see #2). But even if it were, there is plenty of evidence that shows gay couples are just as family oriented and effective at parenting as straight couples. And there are plenty of gay couples who plan to have kids, whether through adoption or other means.

American Psychological Association on Children Raised by Gay and Lesbian Parents

Children raised by gay couples show good progress through school

Gay Parents Better Than Straight Parents? What Research Says

Study: Same-sex couples just as good, if not better, at parenting

(See #7 if you feel like there are studies that say otherwise)

ARGUMENT #4: Same sex marriage will destroy marriage and education and limit religious freedom

“[Gay marriage] would weaken marriage. After same-sex marriage was legislated in Spain in 2005, marriage rates plummeted. The same happened in the Netherlands. Redefining marriage obscures its meaning and purpose, thereby discouraging people from taking it seriously.”

MY TAKE: There are other factors for declining marriage rates. Fears about “indoctrination” of children or religious freedom being hampered are overblown or misplaced. 

A couple things:

1) Marriage rates in Europe are declining everywhere and have been for awhile.

2) Massachusetts, where gay marriage was legalized in 2004, has seen a 21% decline in divorce. Conversely, Lithuania, where gay-sex marriage is banned, has one of the highest divorce rates in Europe.

“Second, it would affect education and parenting.”

See #3 concerning the argument on parenting.

“After same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada, the Toronto School Board implemented a curriculum promoting homosexuality and denouncing ‘heterosexism.’ They also produced posters titled ‘Love Knows No Gender,’ which depicted both homosexual and polygamous relationships as equivalent to marriage. Despite parents’ objections, the board decreed that they had no right to remove their children from such instruction.”

I think parents should have the right to remove children from social instruction they don’t want taught. But that is a government failing, not a failing of gay marriage.

“Third, redefining marriage would threaten moral and religious liberty. This is already evident in our own country. In Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., for instance, Catholic Charities can no longer provide charitable adoption services based on new definitions of marriage. Elsewhere, Canadian Bishop Frederick Henry was investigated by the Alberta Human Rights Commission for simply explaining the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality in a newspaper column. Examples like this show how redefining marriage threatens religious freedom.”

First of all, at least some of these stories are half-truths. And again, they are great examples for limiting government, however they are not really arguments against same-sex marriage.

ARGUMENT #5: Gay marriage is a slippery slope

“When marriage revolves around procreation, it makes sense to restrict it to one man and one woman. That’s the only relationship capable of producing children. But if we redefine marriage as simply a loving, romantic union between committed adults, what principled reason would we have for rejecting polygamist or polyamorous — that is, multiple-person — relationships as marriages?”

MY TAKE: The slippery slope argument is inconsistent and can be easily dismissed with two simple words: “consenting adults.”

First of all, polygamy is perfectly capable of producing children, and far more efficiently than just one man and one woman. So what “principled reason” is there for not having polygamy if, indeed, marriage is about producing children?

For those that worry gay marriage is a slippery slope, all you need to do is keep the graphic below in mind, along with two words: “consenting adults.”

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“This isn’t just scaremongering or a hypothetical slippery slope. These aftereffects have already been observed in countries that have legalized same-sex marriage… Procreation is the main reason civil marriage is limited to two people. When sexual love replaces children as the primary purpose of marriage, restricting it to just two people no longer makes sense.”

That makes no sense. If procreation and children are the main reasons for marriage, then polygamy should be the standard.

“Sexual love” just denotes a love for sex. You can have that with one person or 20 people, whether they be straight, gay, bi, whatever. Gay people aren’t getting married for sex. They, just like plenty of straight people, can do that without a marriage ceremony.

Gay people are getting married because they love one another and want to commit to one another (and we’ve already established that marriage is about love).

ARGUMENT #6: Infertile people and the elderly can marry because they “were designed” for children, but gay people are not

“If marriage is about children, why does the state allow the first group to marry? The reason is that while we know every same-sex couple is infertile, we don’t generally know that about opposite-sex couples…”

MY TAKE: Gay people are “designed” for children — and we’ve already established they make good parents (and marriage is about love, not children, anyway)

For the record, gay people are fertile too. And while they may not reproduce naturally (usually), many gay couples have kids either through adoption or fertilization techniques. There’s plenty of unwanted children out there, and loving gay couples could actually help solve a lot of child-neglect issues we have.

Some suggest forcing every engaged couple to undergo mandatory fertility testing before marriage. Besides being prohibitively expensive, it would also be an egregious invasion of privacy… Another problem is that infertility is often misdiagnosed. Fertile couples may be wrongly denied marriage under such a scenario…”

An egregious invasion of privacy? Like the invasion of privacy over who gets to share a legally-binding commitment to another person?

It’s true that most elderly couples cannot reproduce, however, these marriages are so rare that it’s simply not worth the effort to restrict them. Also, elderly marriages still feature the right combination of man and woman needed to make children. Thus they provide a healthy model for the rest of society.”

It’s simply not worth the effort to restrict them? If you’re so eager to restrict one group of people over what you believe to be the principles of marriage, I would think you would want to apply that equally to all groups. Effort should take a backseat to keeping up with the principles of marriage — shouldn’t it?

But I see that it’s really about offering a healthy model to the rest of society. Fair enough, except see #3. Also, see #2. It’s clearly not about kids.

ARGUMENT #7: Studies on gay-parent families are skewed, but there is a study that shows gay couples make poor parents

“Several recent studies have put that claim to rest. In June, LSU scholar Loren Marks published a peer-reviewed paper in Social Science Research. It examined the 59 studies that the APA relied on for its briefing. Marks discovered that not one of the studies used a large, random, representative sample of lesbian or gay parents and their children. Several used extremely small “convenience” samples, recruiting participants through advertisements or word of mouth, and many failed to even include a control group. Furthermore, the studies did not track the children over time and were largely based on interviews with parents about the upbringing of their own children — a virtual guarantee of biased results.”

MY TAKE: Both sides have skewed studies

Okay, fair enough. Bad case study. I will admit more comprehensive studies need to be done. If you want to discount everything I said in #3, fine. But before you do…

“Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus released a comprehensive study titled ‘How Different Are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?’ His research used a large, random and national sample and its scope was unprecedented among prior work in this field. Contrary to the APA, Regnerus found that for a majority of outcomes, children raised by parents with same-sex relationships drastically underperformed children raised in a household with married, biological parents.”

Wow… talk about a bad case study. There is a HUGE problem: Regnerus compared gay unmarried couples to straight married couples (though I realize that gay married couples could be hard to come by in the U.S.). You either needs to compare gay married couples to straight married couples, or gay unmarried couples to straight unmarried couples. Otherwise, of course the results are going to be skewed.

Even Loren Marks, who is mentioned above, and other social scientists who support Regenerus’ research agree: “it is possible to interpret Regnerus’s findings as evidence for the need for legalized gay marriage, in order to support the social stability of such relationships.”

Also, Regnerus himself says his ‘Family Structures’ study wasn’t about gay parenting.

So if you’re an anti-gay-marriage advocate, and you decide to discount everything I put forth in #3 that says gay parents are just as good as straight parents, make sure you realize there aren’t any studies backing up your side of the argument either. At best, things are a wash.

ARGUMENT #8: There are reasonable anti-gay-marriage people — they are not all homophobic bigots, or even religious

To sum up: There are secular-minded people out there who have reasonable reasons for being opposed to gay marriage (specifically, these ones listed here). Gay marriage advocates love to throw out personal insults and demonize the opposition to distract from the factual case for gay marriage.

MY TAKE: It’s true, not every anti-gay-marriage advocate is a zealot or bigot. And there is a fair amount of name-calling, insults, and hate on both sides. BUT…

I can concede to this point, in as far as I believe not EVERY anti-gay-marriage person is a crazy hatemonger. But I do believe there is a lot of bigotry and homophobia, religious and otherwise in the equation — far more than is not. Not to mention a lot of people who have no problem with gay people but are opposed to gay marriage on the principle that “God says so.”

On top of that, while name-calling and insults certainly can devalue a conversation or debate, it does not devalue the valid points of an argument someone makes.

ARGUMENT #9: The Civil Rights movements and Gay Rights movement are completely different

“The suggestion here is that sex is similar to race, and therefore denying marriage for either reason is wrong. The problem, however, is that interracial marriage and same-sex marriage are significantly different.”

MY TAKE: There ARE similarities between the civil rights movement and gay-rights movement

They are the same in that both have genetic origins and can’t be changed.

“Nothing prevents interracial couples from fulfilling the basic essence of marriage — a public, lifelong relationship ordered toward procreation. Because of this, the anti-miscegenation laws of the 1960s were wrong to discriminate against interracial couples. Yet same-sex couples are not biologically ordered toward procreation and, therefore, cannot fulfill the basic requirements of marriage.”

It IS a civil right (see #1).

It’s not about children (see #2).

And even if it were, see #3.

ARGUMENT #10: Most people don’t approve of gay marriage, and even if they did, that doesn’t make it right

“If the tide is in fact turning, it’s still little more than a ripple. … Most polls show roughly two-thirds of the country wants to keep marriage as it is.”

MY TAKE: Gay marriage hasn’t been “popular” and has been a bitter battle to acceptance. Changing attitudes do not make it a fad.

Ever heard the saying about ripples becoming waves? Most polls now show the majority of Americans approve of same-sex marriage, even if by sometimes slim margins.

“Even if the tides have recently shifted, that does not make arguments in its favor any more persuasive. We don’t look to other moral issues and say, ‘Well, people are eventually going to accept it, so we might as well get in line.’ We shouldn’t do that for same-sex marriage, either.”

No, we shouldn’t. And gay-marriage supporters don’t. We support same-sex marriage because we look at the oppression and hurt being caused by an anti-gay-marriage policy and say “This is morally wrong.” We did not hop on a bandwagon because it was popular (indeed, it hasn’t been popular — and it’s been a bitter battle just to get people talking about it). We’ve dissected all the arguments anti-gay-marriage proponents have given us, from the religious to the secular, and we’ve found they do not hold water. It’s that simple.