Election Day was a drubbing for marriage. The ballot initiatives to protect marriage lost by over 4% in Maine, Minnesota, Washington State, and Maryland. Those who support same-sex “marriage” reportedly spent over $33 million, while those who defend marriage spent just over $10 million.
Many friends have said that same-sex marriage is inevitable. It is not. I have confidence that fence-sitters will enter the fray in support of traditional marriage. As we continue to debate this issue, three important forces can shift the outcome in favor of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Consider first, public opinion; second, the methods and the message of LGBT activists; and third, reality.
Public Opinion Gives Marriage a Fighting Chance
The American public offers differing levels of assent to same-sex marriage, depending on how the survey questions are worded. Psychologically, it matters how questions are asked.
Consider these facts:
1. Data from the New Family Structures Study (NFSS) shows 24% of the young-adult population on the fence, saying they’re “not sure” when asked whether “it should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry in America.” There’s more support than antagonism, but not a majority on either side, given the nearly one-quarter who remain on the sidelines.
2. A national post-election survey conducted on Election Day by The Polling Company, Inc., showed that 60% of American voters agree that “marriage is between one man and one woman,” while only 34% disagree. Another poll two months earlier showed that 57% were in agreement.
3. After their Election Day victories, same-sex marriage advocates stated that they will continue to prioritize expanding the legal recognition of same-sex relationships as marriages through legislatures and the courts, not through public vote. This is a continuation of their past policy that avoided putting the issue up for a direct citizen vote (the ballot initiatives in Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota were initiated by supporters of traditional marriage; only Maine was their choice to repeal our side’s ballot measure of 2009). This indicates their lack of confidence in their ability to get enough votes.
4. Six New York state senators were ousted from office after they abandoned their constituents to vote in favor of same-sex marriage. Five of those senators lost their re-election bids this year, in large part due to their change of position on marriage; the sixth retired rather than face re-election.
5. “Third Day,” a Democratic organization’s own survey revealed that on a scale of 0 – 10, with 10 being the most in favor, 26% labeled themselves 9 – 10 in favor of same-sex marriage, compared to 30% who said they were 0 -1; 44% were somewhere in the middle. Only 32% said they would be glad if same-sex couples could marry; 37% said that would not be acceptable.
Despite large sums spent—as happened this November when gay activists spent a whopping $33 million—the notion that marriage is between a man and a woman continues to hold sway; and, no matter how hard activists try, it seems impossible to strip it away from the human heart of a very substantial portion of people. It is the reality of common sense deeply embedded in the human heart.
Methods and Message
Efforts by the LGBT movement to make school curricula more sympathetic to the gay agenda continue to raise concerns among parents. So much so that leaders of the LGBT movement have had to adjust. In the November 7 article in Slate, titled “How Marriage Finally Won at the Polls,” Nathaniel Frank explains how the coalition of LGBT activists working to pass gay marriage in Maine and Maryland revised their message strategy to counter the “Princess” ad prepared by Frank Schubert. Here is what Nathaniel Frank writes:
Thalia Zepatos of Freedom To Marry, who oversees the coalition’s messaging research, describes another revelation from the data. Schubert’s misleading “princess” ads implied that schools could usurp the role of parents in teaching pro-gay values, but that was wrong. As Zepatos and her team pored over the research, they watched conversations in which voters spoke among themselves and kept circling back to the same insight: Parents are the parents, and they teach their kids values at home. The challenge, Zepatos and her colleagues determined, was to reassure voters about this conclusion. Parents knew they had the control, but the Schubert ads—which in the past have killed a pro-gay lead in the polls at the last minute—made them anxious about losing it.
LGBT activists have had to go out of their way to reassure parents they are in charge of teaching values to their children, given the powerful evidence provided by Schubert, and experienced by many parents.
A 2011 Research Report issued by the Democratic think tank Third Way, and used to develop the 2012 campaign to win the state ballot initiatives, stated among its six key findings that: “It is crucial to include reaffirmation of religious liberty protections as a significant part of supporters’ message framework.” And as the public is aware, it is increasingly being proclaimed by politicians working to pass gay marriage that religious liberty protections are being provided.
But this is misleading. As Jane Robbins and Emmett McGroarty show in their Public Discourse article “Mandating Our Religious Freedom,” the current Progressive movement, of which LGBT activists are a core constituency, is clearly moving in the opposite direction. And in a more recent Public Discourse article “A War on Religion?” Bruce Hausknecht provides examples contrary to the message LGBT leaders are now using to win.
Reality: Distinguishing What Is Myth from What Is True
The Left now has the White House (for four more years), in addition to the universities, Hollywood, large portions of the media, and high-tech industry.
But can this reliance on the power of the elite institutions be sustained in the long run? Perhaps, if the majority of the people come to accept that to flourish one is to be allowed to do whatever one wants regarding sexual practices. I submit that the majority of people do not grasp that this is the message of the LGBT movement, and as they do grasp it, they will shift to the view that our sexuality has boundaries and is ordained toward something greater than whatever we want.
Don’t take it from me; take it from Dan Savage as quoted by Mark Oppenheimer’s New York Times article, “Married with Infidelities”:
Savage believes monogamy is right for many couples. But he believes that our discourse about it, and about sexuality more generally, is dishonest. Some people need more than one partner, he writes, just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them. In some marriages, talking honestly about our needs will forestall or obviate affairs; in other marriages, the conversation may lead to an affair, but with permission. In both cases, honesty is the best policy.
Social science research shows us, and a growing body of journalistic reporting reveals, that gay men are not interested in permanent monogamous relationships. Lesbians are more apt to be monogamous, but less apt to remain together long-term. One myth that LGBT activists push is that marriage is what most homosexual people want. Will the provision of marriage cause gay and lesbian Americans to enter lasting and stable relationships en masse? Unlikely. Another myth that the activists push is the “no differences” thesis: the claim that there are no differences in outcomes for children parented by heterosexual couples or homosexual couples.
The sonogram helped people see the unborn child in the womb and realize it is alive; it made a powerful case for life. Similarly, we have to expose the myths of the gay marriage movement. Several events of 2012 have brought us closer to that goal.
First, in a peer-reviewed research paper published in the prestigious journal Social Science Research, titled “Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American psychological association’s brief on lesbian and gay parenting,” Professor Loren Marks of Louisiana State University’s School of Human Ecology reviews the 59 studies referenced in the 2005 American Psychological Association brief that supported the “no differences” thesis. Marks concludes:
To restate, not one of the 59 studies referenced in the 2005 APA Brief compares a large, random, representative sample of lesbian or gay parents and their children with a large, random, representative sample of married parents and their children. The available data, which are drawn primarily from small convenience samples, are insufficient to support a strong generalizable claim either way. Such a statement would not be grounded in science.
Second, Mark Regnerus’s New Family Structures Study (NFSS) uses the second-largest nationally representative sample (ever) to measure a host of outcomes in which the adult children of intact biological families fare better than any other combination, including children raised by a mother or a father who has been in a gay or a lesbian relationship. Its results also show something striking and unexpected: only two out of 15,000 young Americans screened for the survey reported spending their entire childhood with two lesbian parents; none reported the same with two gay fathers. Children, of course, don’t fare as well when there is a lack of stability in the home.
Third, scores of people who read the Regnerus study were inspired to reveal even more about the gay subculture; and, yes, by their accounts, the Regnerus study depicts reality far better than shows like Modern Family and The New Normal. Surprised? Most of these people will remain nameless, rather than submit themselves to unwanted hostility. But expect more of them to step up as witnesses to the lies that undergird the movement for same-sex marriage. See, for example, Robert Lopez’s essay “Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View.”
Fourth, legal cases are mounting against the discrimination, harassment, and loss of jobs for people who do not support same-sex marriage. A new growth industry is the pro bono legal associations to protect freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and more recently the newly created Freedom of Conscience Fund. It is very laudable that trained professionals are stepping up to defend civil liberties; one may hope this will continue to awaken the conscience of the public.
Ultimately, the future of marriage will not be decided by our likes or our dislikes. Human suffering will periodically remind us that losing a healthy marriage culture produces all kinds of practical costs and penalties. These are measured by those social pathologies that impose a great weight on our society, such as depression, addiction, violence, and illness, as well as missed educational and economic opportunities. However you slice it, the intact biological family continues to be the best “Department of Health, Education and Welfare” when it comes to raising the next generation. Marriage is worth fighting for, even if we lose. Because remember, LGBT activists will lose too as they bring us all down. And that is a sobering thought.
This essay first appeared November 26, 2012 on Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute, and is reprinted with permission.