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Thursday, May 20, 2004

Battle Gay Marriage - The Challenger - Second Rebuttal

You know, it's not enough that my opponent barely took this debate seriously enough to answer the topic in more than one-word answers. When he did decide to answer, he cut and pasted most of a post he wrote nearly three months ago to serve as his opening argument. He gussied it up a bit by calling me a segregationist and when I chafed (and wouldn't you?) he responded by saying that I wasn't a segregationist, merely that I was exactly like one.

That's the sort of serious thought and consideration I'm learning to expect from him in this debate. I expected better considering the valuable assistance he's gotten in the comment sections of our posts thus far. He might have done better cutting and pasting from those instead of what he's foisting on us now.

It's unfortunate for us that when he does get around to attempting a rebuttal, he has all sorts of problems with basic facts, reading what I've written, and keeping glaring fallacies out of his arguments.

1) He falsely represents my "equal protection" argument regarding Brown.

Here is a quote: "For example, the Challenger gets even simple facts, like the reasoning behind the Goodridge [sic] decision, incorrect".

But at no point in either of my posts did I say that.

Here is what I said:

But, I can almost hear him asking as he leafs through his "My First Pop-Up Book on Constitutional Rights", what about Brown? What about "separate but equal"? Well, I'm glad he brought it up. If you look into the court decision, you'll find the court brought to bear a very powerful principle: that the law has to treat everyone equally. Period.

I'm not a teacher, like my opponent, but I do know the difference between "a" and "the". I said, and I'll repeat that the court used the reasoning that the law must treat everyone equally in the Brown decision. But don't take my word for it. Use IBDem's words.

The majority of the majority held instead "that the Massachusetts Constitution 'affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals,' and 'forbids the creation of second-class citizens.'" Specifically, the justices felt that prohibiting marriage was a violation of due process, in addition to equal protection...[Emphasis Mine - J]

2) He doesn't seem to understand the meaning of the word "untouchable".

His quote:

There are no "untouchable individuals" in this democracy. Every justice on the Massachusetts SJC is appointed by an official directly elected by the people of that state.

Pray, tell, how can someone appointed to a position for life not be considered "untouchable"? That is, as far as my dictionaries go, as close to a definition of the word as you're ever going to find. It could be that the section of his dictionary must have been torn out or something, since I've shown in my First Rebuttal and here that he also does not know the meaning of the word "untenable" either. It appears there was no companion "My First Pop-Up Book of Words that Begin with the Letter 'U'".

3) He does not apparently understand the democratic process.

His quote:

My mind is still trying to wrap itself around how, exactly, amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage would not leave "people [. . .] at a loss to change the decision, [leaving] no productive reason to have a real debate." A court decision, whether by the Massachusetts SJC (in Goodridge [sic]) or the US Supreme Court (in Roe and others on abortion) is always subject to change...

...The Challenger would have us believe that once we pass an amendment to preserve the status quo, we can talk and talk all we want."

Well, yes, that it exactly what I want you to believe because it is true. During the ratification process there must be debates about the subject in every single state leading up to several votes on the issue. If the amendment is passed, it is subject to recall by the same process of debate and vote by the people of this country as it took to pass it in the first place.

On the other hand, a court decision involves the presentation of a case by a few lawyers and deliberations by a few people. Overturning such a decision involves the same number of few people who may elect not to even hear the case.

Which one of these seems more in line with the democratic process to you? I, personally, prefer the option that involves debate and voting by all of us and the option to do it again later if we want then the one that closes useful debate and leaves the decision in the hands of a bucket full of people.

4) His dismissal of the Kurtz and Heritage studies contains a serious fallacy.

Now, I'm no lawyer and I had a real tough time with Google today, so I couldn't find the term for the fallacy I wanted. I call it "Don't hate the player; Hate the game". What my opponent does is playa-hating not seen since Stella went out looking for her groove.

Here's my favorite ally in the argument, my opponent....again:

two sources he cites--the Heritage Foundation and Kurtz--are among the leaders in the social conservative movement in this country. They have an agenda that they do not even attempt to mask. But I will address the substance of their arguments...

So I waited eagerly for him to do this. And I waited. I waited some more. I went and got a sandwich. I came back and refreshed my browser because, hey, maybe he posted a Special Bonus Rebuttal Fresh with Substance Addressing (mmmm....dressing).

But no. Here's what I found.

Having read Kurtz's testimony, and other Kurtz writings the Challenger links to, I have a hard time taking the study seriously, as Kurtz was espousing the very same conclusions long before he finished his study.


Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt that he'd been working on his Scandinavia study for three years and already had evidence to make that assertion in 2001, we still must be skeptical; in the same opinion piece just cited, he writes that "people who imbibe the ethos of courtship can't help but feel that there's something not quite right about the idea of a homosexual marriage." Whether or not there is real harm to the "institution" of marriage, Kurtz will argue against gay marriage because there's "something not quite right" about it!

So his first attempt to "address the substance" appears to be that Kurtz already had an opinion and did a study to back it up. He...and stick with me, folks, this is a real zinger...found evidence to back up something he already believed was true!

Whoa! Hold everything! Stop the presses! You're telling me that a scientist (and Kurtz is a sociologist) believed something was true, then proved it? I may just keel over and die! Nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of science. Ever.

Ever, ever?

Ever, ev....wait. No. That's wrong. It appears that science is just chock full of people who believed something was true, then went out and proved it. How about Percival Lowell's predicting Pluto? How about Heinrich Schleimann discovering Troy? How about the discovery of nearly every single subatomic particle we've found?

But back to my opponent.

...we still must be skeptical...

Must we? Let's see why we must.

...in the same opinion piece just cited, he writes that "people who imbibe the ethos of courtship can't help but feel that there's something not quite right about the idea of a homosexual marriage." Whether or not there is real harm to the "institution" of marriage, Kurtz will argue against gay marriage because there's "something not quite right" about it!

No, as he has said in article after article, he argues against it because he has measurable evidence that gay marriage is a causative factor in marital decline and out-of-wedlock births.

But eventually, my opponent does get to an attempt to address the substance of Kurtz' argument. It is this:

The Scandinavian countries Kurtz cites in his studies all implemented civil unions, for hetero- and homosexual couples, before moving to full gay marriage. That established a sense of equality regarding CUs--both gay and straight couples had access to this option...The only state in this country with a CU law is Vermont, and it has denied potential CU status to heterosexual couples. In other words, only gays have CUs, and only straights have marriages. If CUs were not necessary--i.e., gay marriage becomes a reality--then there is no concern, first of all, about second-class citizenship (I refer you back to my drinking-fountain analogy), but, more importantly, no impetus for heterosexual couples to opt for anything other than marriage--indeed, no choice at all in the matter.

Now what I think he is saying here (and others have said in the comments) is that because CUs were an option, it's no surprise that heterosexual couples weren't getting married because they had another easier option. If marriage were the only option, then everyone would choose marriage.

Except that my opponent has forgotten one option that remains - cohabitation without marriage. And that is the one that more and more couples in Scandinavia are taking. Kurtz addressed this, and the show of cause in addressing one of his critics:

According to Spedale, Scandinavian gay marriage is a product of "increasing respect for diverse family structures." Sure. But doesn't gay marriage then breed further acceptance of "diverse family structures" — like the parental cohabitation of which Spedale is so enamored? Apparently so, since Spedale himself keeps saying that the approval of gay marriage has garnered ever increasing public support for the idea of family change.

Spedale argues that Scandinavian gay marriage has made society take marriage more seriously. Gay couples marry very late, says Spedale. With social pressure for marriage gone, gays only marry when they are absolutely sure they've found their life partners. That stance, says Spedale, has probably increased respect for marriage in Scandinavia.

But what Spedale is really describing is reinforcement of the mentality at the root of marital decline. The problem with Scandinavian marriage is that parents aren't pressured to marry. Instead, parents wait until long after their children are born to decide if they've found their permanent life partners (and often break up before then). Despite his denials, Spedale is actually saying that gay marriage both flows from — and contributes to — this ethos of weakened marriage. And that is exactly my causal point.

Which leads to IBDem's next problem - the Heritage Foundation study.

His problem is that the foundation is a conservative group and didn't do original research but got their facts and compiled them to make their point. By that logic, though, you should probably ignore his Opening Argument and First Rebuttal since he also has an agenda and didn't do "original research". For that matter, you can pretty much throw my posts out the window, too. And the ones form the last debate also. Hell, you might as well ignore every debater who has not done an original statistical study for their debate! But of course, that's ridiculous.

My problem with my opponent is that never bothers to challenge the statistics. He can't say that they were improperly applied or that important data was left out of them. All he has is another playa-hater moment. He does take a Mr. Burns' like feeble swipe at my conclusion, though. Let's put his anecdotal evidence aside as he suggests, first. We all know anecdotal evidence can not be used to prove a case. There will always be an exception to a rule, right? Besides, his anecdotes don't actually address the point I made originally.

He writes:

If working-poor mothers had better access to quality childcare and public schools, would it be true that "Development Problems Are Less Common in Two-Parent Families" or "Children in Intact Married Families Are Less Likely to Repeat a Grade"? If working-poor mothers had better access to quality health care, would it be true that "Non-Married Women Account for 80% of All Abortions," or "Adolescents Are Less Healthy in Broken Families"? And here's one chart that just gets a big "duh," though a solution is not so easy as tuning up our health-care and child-care systems: "Married Families Have Higher Incomes." Perhaps income is the better correlation than family status, then. Need I remind anyone of the glass ceiling? Finally, absolutely none of the Heritage Foundation's work here directly relates to gay marriage.

All of these may, taken in isolation, be completely true (but might not be also). Each of these charts further proves the point. Pick a chart, any chart, and you'll see that a child in a traditional family is likely to be better off than one who is not. Take them together and they are devastating. Where are you more likely to find a poor child? In a non-traditional family. Where are you more likely to find a child addicted to drugs, in trouble at school, in jail? Non traditional families. Where are you more likely to find a child in poverty? A non-traditional family. Might this change in the future? It's possible. But it's true in the here and now - when we are considering doing something that has already put multitudes of children into the family situations that we see are bad for them here. Indeed, as Kurtz notes the damage is being seen similarly in Sweden.

Despite the reluctance of Scandinavian social scientists to study the consequences of family dissolution for children, we do have an excellent study that followed the life experiences of all children born in Stockholm in 1953. (Not coincidentally, the research was conducted by a British scholar, Duncan W.G. Timms.) That study found that regardless of income or social status, parental breakup had negative effects on children's mental health. Boys living with single, separated, or divorced mothers had particularly high rates of impairment in adolescence. An important 2003 study by Gunilla Ringbäck Weitoft, et al. found that children of single parents in Sweden have more than double the rates of mortality, severe morbidity, and injury of children in two parent households. This held true after controlling for a wide range of demographic and socioeconomic circumstances.

My opponent promised to address the substance of the arguments the study and charts presented, but he did not. In fact, he barely tried.

5) He seems a bit wobbly on how to compare statistics.

Okay, let's go back to the charts a moment. I promise I'll be brief on this. The charts show a series of percentages out of a total number of children. We're all familiar with this sort of thing. My opponent, though, goes to the Netherlands for his attempted refutation. He says that, "...head to head against where we are now in child mortality, infant mortality, teen pregnancy, adolescent drug abuse, (also here), child abuse--you name it, the Netherlands ranks better than the U.S. If anything, these data show that with a greater acceptance of gay marriages and partnerships, we might be better!"

And he accused me Kurtz of comparing apples and oranges? You might see where I'm going with this, but I'll make it explicit. He's attacking my percentages with total numbers. That just doesn't work. he ought to be ashamed for trying.

6) He's "arbitrary and capricious" while accusing me of being so then misses some more facts.

Remember this quote from the Goodrich case?

...[t]he Massachusetts Constitution requires, at a minimum, that the exercise of the State's regulatory authority not be "arbitrary or capricious"...

Well, that's what he's accusing me of doing here.

But he's the one that's doing so.

Let's compare a couple quotes. Here's one of mine, "The law is pretty clear: you can't marry someone of the same sex. There is no separation here. Everyone is prohibited equally; no one is given preference."

And here's one of his, "Well, the Challenger is right that I would be willing to deny marriage rights in the cases he lists above--and many more Rick Sanctorum could think of (point of personal privilege: the Challenger slammed David Crosby and Melissa Ethridge in his Opening Argument; this just seems fair payback to me)--for the same reasons that these unions have been prohibited previously: inherently unequal partnerships, lack of consent, and others."

So which of these seems to you to be "arbitrary and capricious? It looks to me that my opponent is willing to draw all sorts of lines about who can and can't get married and use all sorts of reasons to do so - cutting across gender lines, age lines, numbers of partner lines, you name it!

But perhaps we'll cut him some slack. he was making a point here about my "slippery slope" argument.

So, what about that? Where are the polyamorists? Where are the folks who are trying to dismantle the institution of marriage and make that slope even more slippery? My opponent believes without a doubt that "they just aren't there".

Well Dr. Warren Throckmorton has found a trio in Utah suing to have their polyamorous marriage granted.

Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian says "[o]ur role is to be progressive, to push the envelope, so that more pragmatic groups can come in behind and get more from the space we’ve created. And later in the same interview says "...we’re also hopeful that we create different ways in which people can form relationships and families that don’t come with all the baggage and the downsides of marriage."

Danish sociologists Wehner, Kambskard, and Abrahamson say "Marriage is no longer a precondition for settling a family--neither legally nor normatively. . . . What defines and makes the foundation of the Danish family can be said to have moved from marriage to parenthood."

Stephen Clark, the legal director of the Utah ACLU, has said, "Talking to Utah's polygamists is like talking to gays and lesbians who really want the right to live their lives."

David Chambers of the University of Michigan Law School is quoted as saying, "[W]e should respect the...claims made against the hegemony of the two-person unit".

Not only are they there, they're trying to give us a shove down that slope.

Far from being a rebuttal, my opponent has crafted a lengthy list of falsehoods, misstatements about what I've written, and personal attacks disguised as reasonable debate. At the beginning of his First Rebuttal he apologizes for the length of his post.

He should have apologized for more than that. Much more. I'm not saying his rebuttal is complete garbage, just that it's "merely analogous to one".


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