Various Direct Links

11 February 2012

Repudiation: NJ Family Policy Council - on Preserving Marriage

As the politics to enact marriage equality in New Jersey heat up, the New Jersey Family Policy Council (NJFPC) has prepared an eight page document, Preserving Marriage and Protecting Children in New Jersey.  The document includes a set of "talking points" that I will disprove.
Question: Homosexuals are born that way. Don’t they deserve our tolerance and understanding?
Answer: First, there is no proof that homosexuals are born that way (see p. 3, “It’s not a civil rights issue”). Second, homosexual activists are not seeking our tolerance, they are seeking to radically change the definition of marriage and impose their views on the rest of society by changing the laws of the land (see p. 3, “Why Should the Rights of Marriage Be Reserved?”).
Regarding the born that way question, it is the wrong question.  Please pardon me for repeating some of what I put in a post two months ago. While there is no definitive "gay gene", the medical community has strong opinions on the origin and nature of sexuality.  Here is an extended quote from that article:

What Causes Sexual Orientation?
The causes of sexual orientation and homosexuality are unknown.  Studies have suggested both genetic and non-genetic factors.  Sexual attraction (whether gay or straight), in fact, might have several origins including genetic factors for some people, environmental factors for others, or some combinations of these factors for yet others.  Most mental health professionals believe that sexual orientation is determined for most people early in life, or even before birth, and therefore is not chosen.  No particular pattern or style of parenting has been shown to cause homosexuality.

Can Homosexuality Be Changed?
The desire to change sexual orientation often is drive more by social stigma or religious concerns than by medical or mental health concerns.  Some homosexual people are able to change their sexual behavior (albeit with great difficulty).  A change in behavior, however, is only one aspect of homosexuality and does not imply that sexual orientation has changed, particularly if desire remains.
Most psychiatrists have come to the conclusion that sexual orientation is not likely to change through any form of mental health treatment.  Efforts to try to force an individual to change his or her orientation are very likely to be unsuccessful and in the end can seriously damage the self-esteem of people who fail.  Most psychiatrists therefore encourage their homosexual patients to come to terms with homosexuality and to accept themselves as they are.
To the second point, no one is seeking to redefine marriage.  We are seeking to expand the definition of marriage.  The reference to page 3 of the full document includes a quote from someone claiming that there is an intent to "radically alter an archaic institution".  But that simply isn't the case.  If my partner and I wed, there is no change to any heterosexual marriage.  They also go to slippery slope arguments, same sex marriage will lead to polygamy.  Nope, that is a completely separate issue.  Polygamy as a consequence of marriage equality was struck down by Canadian courts last year.
Question: Aren’t homosexuals entitled to equal rights? They are citizens too. Shouldn’t we recognize that they are entitled to certain benefits?
Answer: Homosexuals do not meet the constitutional criteria in current law to receive the benefits of marriage (see p. 3, “Why Should the Rights of Marriage Be Reserved?” and subheadings).
Their argument from page 3 is that:
The New Jersey Constitution (Article 1, paragraph 1), protects against the unequal treatment of those who should be treated alike. Homosexuals are not only prevented from marrying because they do not meet the criteria of one man and one woman, but because their demands require a redefinition of marriage based on self-interest. Such a redefinition would create a precedent for any group to make demands and redefine well-established policy for self-serving reasons.
As citizens of the United States, residents of New Jersey should be treated alike without regard to their sexuality.  This does not require a redefinition of marriage, but the removal of an exclusion to marriage.  The reasons to include gays and lesbians in the definition of marriage are exactly the same as those for including straights.  From the first page of this document:
Marriage as we have known it for thousands of years “contributes to the physical, emotional and economic health of men, women and children, and thus to the nation as a whole.”
Spouses reap many benefits from marriage, compared to those who are single, divorced or cohabiting. They are happier, physically and mentally healthier, live longer, enjoy greater sexual satisfaction, show greater labor force productivity and are better off financially.
Marriage is also central to raising children. The children of married parents tend to develop in a more healthy way, both personally and in their interaction with society than children of divorced or single parents.
Why should gays and lesbians be excluded from these benefits for themselves and by extension for all of society?
Question: I don’t think homosexuals can do any worse with marriage. Heterosexuals have already made a mess of it.
Answer: The two-parent family isn’t perfect, and while many have broken apart over the last 30 years, that is no reason to encourage further erosion by experimenting with yet another type of family (see p. 2, “Preeminence is necessary to the continued viability of marriage”).
Families with gay and lesbian parents are already real.  What the NJFPC calls experimenting has been happening for quite some time.  For some of the reality, both in terms of data on gay parents and on the outcomes for their children, see my post on the All Children Matter Report.  The short version is that the children do as well with gay parents as with straight parents.  What matters is the parents themselves and the legal protections for their families.
Question: Just because your religious beliefs dictate that homosexual acts are sinful, what gives you the right to impose those beliefs on the rest of society?
Answer: First, all societal laws are based on the beliefs and decisions of elected government leaders. As voting citizens, each of us (including clergy, and all those in any house of worship) has a right to be represented by our government and to have our views reflected in law.
Second, if people of faith do not stand against legislation to legalize homosexual unions, our right to free speech on this issue could be taken away. In Canada and Sweden it is now a “hate” crime to criticize homosexuality, punishable by fines and jail time. In Sweden a pastor was arrested at his church and jailed for 30 days for preaching from Romans 1.1 Unless such a law was written to exempt religious institutions, pastors could be forced by the courts to recognize and even perform same-sex unions.
First, we are talking about human rights and civil rights.  The Founding Fathers of the United States recognized that a minority should not be subject to the will of the majority.  This was made clear in Federalist Paper #10.

Second, each religion should be allowed to determine its own rites and not have them dictated by the state.  If a religion wants to limit marriage within its congregants, that is reasonable.  What is not reasonable is that religion forcing other religions to accept the same limitations.

For the record, I disagree with the Swedes.  I believe that clergy should be allowed to preach whatever they want, no matter how hateful, within their sanctuaries.  The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is appropriate and needs to work in both directions, protecting religions from the state and protecting the state from religions.  Your religion is not allowed to trump my religion.
Question: I don’t think the Bible teaches that homosexual behavior is wrong.
Answer: Read Romans 1:18-32, Leviticus 20:13, and I Corinthians 6:9-11. In fact, the five major world religions — Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism — all recognize and uphold the natural, heterosexual understanding of marriage, and teach that homosexual behavior is not natural.
No.  This is a misrepresentation of several of these religions.  Buddhism is not a single belief system and there are numerous opinions about sexuality within Buddhism.  While Orthodox Judaism rejects homosexuality outright, the majority of Jewish institutions are either tolerant or embracing homosexuals and even marriage equality.

Last October I gathers a list of links to religious organizations that welcome homosexuals.
Question: Doesn’t God tell us to love everyone?
Answer: It would not be a loving act to withhold the truth from someone, especially from someone who is living a life that is detrimental to their physical and emotional health.
In fact, living as what you are is healthy.  It is the bigotry of the NJFPC and others opposed to equality that is unhealthy for members of the LGBTQ Community.  As documented by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the social environment matters.
Question: We are a religious organization. I don’t think we should be involved in political affairs. Our main mission is to preach the gospel.
Answer: While your main mission is to preach the gospel, God tells us to be not only the light, but also the “salt” in society. Marriage is a sacred union, a divine reflection of Christ and the church. Speaking out in support of preserving the sacred institution of marriage is congruent with the foundational purpose of spreading the gospel.
If the government endorsed same-sex relationships, the full force of the government, bound to enforce the law, would necessarily be brought against the church. People of faith would no longer be able to speak out publicly against homosexuality without being charged with a hate crime. They would be subject to hiring requirements. Taxpayers’ children would be indoctrinated to reject the religious teaching of their parents.
NJFPC is conflating civil marriage and a religious sacrament.  We allow those heterosexuals who are atheists to enjoy civil marriage ... no reference to God at all.

Why is there a need to "speak out publicly against homosexuality"?  If you want to do this in your church, that should be your right.  You have no right to impose your religion on the rest of society.

Regarding "indoctrination" of children, that is what you are doing with your religion.  Go ahead and do so, but do not inflict this on the rest of society.
Question: Will our tax status be in jeopardy if we mobilize our congregation to engage in the battle to preserve marriage?
Answer: While government restrictions do impose certain limitations, churches and pastors can still speak out on the moral issues of our day. They can influence legislation, initiatives, ballot questions and the like. According to the Internal Revenue Code, pastors and churches may engage in activities designed to influence legislation as long as the total sum of these activities does not reflect a “substantial part” of their church’s overall activity in a given year. The IRS has not defined “substantial” but court rulings have held that expenditures of less than 5 percent of a 501(c)(3) organization’s time and finances devoted toward activities intended to influence legislation were not substantial and therefore permissible.
Personally, I would like to see a greater wall between church and state.
Question: Why wouldn’t you want to provide equal treatment to homosexual couples by providing them with the benefits that come from marriage?
Answer: Homosexuality is not marriage, and therefore there is no reason to believe that by supporting their unions, I, as an employer would benefit as I do from promoting traditional marriage in my policies (see pages 1-2, “Why the Preeminence of Traditional Marriage Must Be Preserved). In fact, the cost of insurance for my business would go up, and perhaps be disproportionately higher based on the health risks associated with homosexual behavior (see p. 6, “Implications for Businesses”).
Major corporations have found that it is good for their bottom line to welcome gays and lesbians.  The recent flak over JCPenney hiring Ellen Degeneres as their spokesperson is a good example.  Groups like One Million Moms complained.  Here is the e-mail that JCPenney is using for their response (the blue font was their choice):
As we focus on being in sync with the rhythm of our customers' lives and operating in a 'Fair and Square' manner that is rooted in integrity, simplicity and respect, we couldn't think of a better partner than Ellen DeGeneres. We are extremely proud to have her on our team.
Denying homosexuals insurance increases the costs for the rest of society and harms the health of those individuals who are denied.  NJFPC complains of health risks which they would exacerbate by denial of insurance coverage.

Interestingly, the "Implications for Businesses" on page 6 of their document includes an argument that I would use for marriage equality:
Employees in lasting marriages are generally happier and healthier than employees who are divorced, cohabiting or unpartnered. Corporations have a financial interest in promoting traditional marriage as opposed to other types of relationships.
I have struck out one word and now it makes complete sense.
Question: Many argue that homosexuals are a civil minority class in need of “equal” protection. Why wouldn’t you want to see them receive equal benefits?
Answer: There is no proof that homosexuals are born that way, therefore they should remain subject to the same lawful restrictions as everyone else regarding marriage. In addition, the New Jersey Constitution does not expressly recognize a “right to marry.” Although the decision to marry raises a privacy interest that is protected under the Constitution, it is subject to reasonable state regulation. No demand supersedes “the general welfare,” therefore legislators are entitled to lawfully define marriage for the protection and benefit of society and children (see p. 3, “It’s not a civil rights issue”).
I discussed the "born that way" question near the top of this post.  Gays are asking for the same restrictions of consensual age and other conditions extant, only dropping the restriction to marriage of the couple being of opposite gender.

"The protection and benefit of society and children" is a good argument for marriage equality.  The argument from page 3 that hasn't been discussed is:
Rather, government defines marriage between one man and one woman because it has a paramount interest in preserving the integrity of that relationship. Society gives benefits to marriage because marriage benefits society.
There is no rationale provided for treasuring heterosexual marriage to the exclusion of homosexual marriage.  The benefits for the couples are the same.  The benefit to society, having stable families with greater home ownership and health, is the same.
Question: Why shouldn’t government endorse homosexual relationships and validate them in law?
Answer: First, for health reasons — it would give a signal to society and young people that homosexual acts were acceptable, thereby endorsing their practice. Second, it would diminish marriage and marriage rates would decrease. This is not good for adults, children or the state (see p. 5,“Redefining Marriage: What Will It Cost Us?”).
The implication of this answer is that sexuality is a choice.  Let's look at a question and answer from a Facts Sheet prepared by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the National School Psychologists, the American Psychological Association, and the American Pediatric Association.
What causes Homosexuality/Heterosexuality/Bisexuality?
No one knows what causes heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality. Homosexuality was once thought to be the result of troubled family dynamics or faulty psychological development. Those assumptions are now understood to have been based on misinformation and prejudice. Currently there is a renewed interest in searching for biological etiologies for homosexuality. However, to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality. Similarly, no specific psychosocial or family dynamic cause for homosexuality has been identified, including histories of childhood sexual abuse. Sexual abuse does not appear to be more prevalent in children who grow up to identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, than in children who identify as heterosexual.
Is It Possible To Change One’s Sexual Orientation (“Reparative Therapy”)?
There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of “reparative therapy” as a treatment to change one’s sexual orientation, nor is it included in the APA’s Task Force Report, Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders. More importantly, altering sexual orientation is not an appropriate goal of psychiatric treatment. Some may seek conversion to heterosexuality because of the difficulties that they encounter as a member of a stigmatized group. Clinical experience indicates that those who have integrated their sexual orientation into a positive sense of self - function at a healthier psychological level than those who have not.
“Gay affirmative psychotherapy” may be helpful in the coming out process, fostering a positive psychological development and overcoming the effects of stigmatization. A position statement adopted by the Board in December 1998 said:
The American Psychiatric Association opposes any psychiatric treatment, such as “reparative” or “conversion” therapy, which is based upon the assumption that homosexuality per se is a mental disorder, or based upon a prior assumption that the patient should change his/ her homosexual orientation.”
Is Sexual Orientation A Choice?
No. Sexual orientation emerges for most people in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. And some people report trying very hard over many years to change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual with no success. For these reasons, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation for most people to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.
Next, it is not true that marriage suffers under marriage equality.  Divorce rates are lower in those states that have enacted marriage equality.  If the NJFPC is really concerned about the health and welfare of adults and children, then they should embrace marriage equality.

No comments:

Post a Comment

No longer open for freely commenting.