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Saturday 23 August 2014


Marriage Equality: Anticlimax

Posted in: Comment
By Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 27th December 2012

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So, what did Family First and other Christian Right organisations actually have to say in their submissions against the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill? There is less than meets the eye here.

(I've omitted Right to Life and the New Zealand Catholic Bishops as those have already been mentioned in earlier columns).

Much of the material consists of secondary source citations, as one might expect from an organisation whose ratio of media release stockpiling far exceeds its use of even allied research reports from international kindred Christian Right pressure groups. Anecdotal comments also made up a substantial proportion of the submission.

Predictably, Grant Illingworth and Ian Bassett's legal opinions were cited extensively, but little response was made to David Ryken and Associates contrasting legal opinion that conservative religious institutions would not be 'compelled' to hold 'conservative Christian same-sex wedding ceremonies' against their belief, conscience or doctrine.

Moreover, there are archaic comments from long-defunct early seventies LGBT organisations, which do not represent mainstream LGBT community opinion today, especially regarding polyamory and age of consent. While polyamory is a valid relationship option given that it does not share the malignant child sexual abuse and spousal violence evident within patriarchal polygamy, it will probably be ten to fifteen years before there is a polyamorist spousal rights movement. Even then, that will only occur if bisexuals, lesbians, gay men and polyamorist straights form lobby organisations, engage in family structure and spousal time duration research, and mount legal challenges to monogamy-only marital law. That hasn't even happened in post-equality societies like Scandinavia, the Netherlands or Canada, as yet.

And moreover, why cite the Council of Families in America on straight divorce when what is under debate here is marriage equality?

There is quite evident subterfuge going on here insofar as citing the "American College of Pediatricians" goes. This is a conservative US Christian breakaway group from the more mainstream American Academy of Pediatrics, which supports marriage equality and same-sex parenting, due to the overwhelming amount of supportive research documentation from the fields of pediatrics and developmental psychology.

The other main feature of this document is mention of Loren Marks. Really, Family First should have known better than to cite this submission from a known US Christian Right-allied figure, whose 'critique' of orthodox, mainstream scientific research on same-sex parenting foundered during Proposition 8 hearings within California when Marks admitted that he had never actually read any of the affirmative same-sex parenting papers from mainstream child health, welfare and development journals. Given that his Social Science Research paper is essentially no different from his California State Assembly submission, questions must be asked about Social Science Research's affiliation in this context, related to the publication of such pieces near the recent November 2012 US Presidential and Congressional elections.

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This is quite pathetic really, especially given the time that Family First had to prepare for the parliamentary submission process beforehand. Nothing new is in here, apart from an attack on mainstream and orthodox attacks on LGBT youth suicide research. It all seems very derivative and quite unconvincing.

Meanwhile, the Society for Promotion of Community Standards raised its decaying head above its coffin and scrawled a quite derivative submission, taking most of its cues from Family First. No surprise there. Why don't the two organisations just merge?

Most of its submission consisted of references to Weekly Standard conservative pundit Stanley Kurtz's claim that marriage equality would provide a 'slippery slope' to other forms of relationship recognition, such as polygamy and polyamory. Hasn't happened in Canada, has it? Despite attacking adoption reform as well, SPCS neglected to provide any references from pediatrics or developmental psychology about why this should be the case.

The Anglican Diocese of Nelson (a fundamentalist diocese of that otherwise liberal denomination) claimed that Ian Bassett's legal opinion was somehow authoritative. Even given that David Ryken and Associates provided an opposing legal opinion, which stated that religious institutions wouldn't be 'compelled' to hold hypothetical conservative religious wedding ceremonies?

Another conservative Anglican submission, from Whangaparoa Anglican Church, explicitly cited the conservative Catholic 'natural law' piece from Messrs George, Anderson and Girgis as a justification for opposing marriage equality. It also cited a Witherspoon Institute 'natural law' position paper against marriage equality and (predictably) the flawed Regnerus study, as did the Reformed Church of Masterton.

(At which point faith/state separation and religious pluralism arguments come into play on our side of the debate.)

The Catholic Women's League predominantly consists of elderly and conservative laywomen within that denomination. Despite the absence of the 'exgay' group Exodus Ministries Auckland from this debate at all thus far, they maintained that sexual orientation was readily alterable, as well as taking Family First's cue and asserting that the Regnerus attack on same-sex parenting was a 'reliable' document. Wrong. As we now know, several leading US child health, welfare and development professionals dissociated themselves from it within a recent amicus curiae submission to a US court case (see below).

Speaking of conservative Catholics, Family Life International's submission consisted of mere assertions. Granted, it wasn't the only anti-equality submission to do that. So those from Breakthrough Church Auckland, Hutt City Church and the Stream of Life Church, as well as Samoan, Korean and Chinese Pentecostal churches.

I was somewhat surprised to see that the Maxim Institute had also filed a submission (available on its webpage), as that organisation now usually concentrates on educational, welfare and tax policy, to the near-exclusion of social conservative concerns. It may well come to regret this turn of events, given that it has solidly reasserted its religious social conservative credentials.

Again, it seemed to take most of its cues from Family First, as well as its own past, citing the Anderson, George and Girgis natural law dogma case against marriage equality, despite its lack of firm empirical data. It also cited a law review article from Lynn Wardle, a conservative Mormon past visitor to these shores and contributor to Cutting Edge, former Maxim Institute CEO Bruce Logan's social conservative journal from the days when the Institute was the Education Development Foundation. As with other submitters above, it made reference to the Regnerus 'study', albeit from a secondary source (the US National Review, a fiscal and social conservative magazine). There were minimal New Zealand references, other than that to Quilter v Attorney General [1995], before the Court of Appeal and Ian Bassett's legal opinion. Again, it showed no consciousness that David Ryken and Associates had produced a rebuttal to that.

All in all, this is quite a limp and anticlimatic series of submissions. Honestly, I did except better from our opponents than these.

Recommended:

Zack Ford: "Clues that the Publication of the Antigay Parenting Study Were Politically Calculated" Think Progress: 25.06.2012: http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/06/25/506062/clues-that-publication-of-the-anti-gay-parenting-study-were-politically-calculated/?mobile=nc

Scott Rose: "Authors of Disreputable Antigay Studies Triggered Growing Numbers of Critics, Rapidly Widening Scandal" New Civil Rights Movement: 25.06.2012: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/authors-of-disreputable-anti-gay-rights-studies-triggered-growing-numbers-of-critics-rapidly-widening-scandal/politics/2012/06/25/42133

Regnerus Rebuttal: http://tinyurl.com/7g55hzt

Not Recommended:

Family First: http://www.familyfirst.org.nz

Society for Promotion of Community Standards: http://www.spcs.org.nz

Family Life International: http://www.fli.org.nz

Maxim Institute: http://www.maxim.org.nz


Politics and religion commentator Craig Young - 27th December 2012

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