23 June 2006

The Costs of War: The Haditha Massacre Controversy

By Mark Patterson, Guest Contributor

I am proud to carry a distinction that few Americans ever do. I am a combat veteran. Having served in Iraq during the initial phases of its invasion, I feel I know something about the horrors and costs of war. I have experienced the loss of fellow Marines and soldiers to enemy bullets, as well as to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. War is a savage and brutal endeavor; one in which we paradoxically witness the best attributes of humanity such as selflessness, courage and resolve along with the unfortunate manifestation of the potential for barbarism within each of us. I am not proud to be a combat veteran because I have killed the enemy or because I subscribe to some sort of self-satisfying notion of machismo or heroism. I am proud to be a combat veteran because when those first bullets flew by my head, I proved to myself that I am willing to fight and die for an ideal. That ideal is the Constitution of the United States. It is an ideal which all members of the military take an oath to defend against all “enemies foreign and domestic.”

I am also proud to be a combat veteran because I know that the United States Military is the most honorable, noble and professional military in the world. Throughout my entire experience as a United States Marine Infantryman, I was taught to honor principles of just warfare. I learned a warrior’s code that one never intentionally kills or harms noncombatants.

I began following the news of the Haditha Massacre when it was first reported by the Arab and European press. I have continued to read the reports, study the evidence, and examine the fallout of the alleged events of Nov. 19 2005. Although I respect the time honored judicial tradition that the accused Marines are innocent until proven guilty, I believe the facts demonstrate the unfortunate reality that a crime was indeed committed. Whether it was intentional murder, “execution style,” as alleged by Iraqi witnesses and human rights groups, or merely “negligent homicide," the reality is that someone failed to do their duty and they should be punished.

I find the thought that any Marine representing the United States of America could degrade his title, service, and country by murdering innocent people to be morally repugnant, inexcusable and thoroughly depressing. However, we can’t rewrite the past. What happened that day cannot be reversed, but as a country we must ensure that it is not repeated. It is our duty as citizens of this country to hold our servicemen and women to a higher standard then our enemies.

Amidst the politicization of this war by both the Right and the Left I am disappointed to see the events of Haditha being manipulated for political gain. The Left would have us believe that Haditha is merely the tip of the Iceberg, that similar massacres have occurred all over Iraq. Some go so far as to portray American soldiers and Marines as trigger-happy thugs. This is completely untrue. The Right seems content to criticize anyone who even mentions the possibility that the accused Marines are in fact guilty of being, in the words of Sean Hannity, “un-American.” The political polarization in this country is a tragedy in its own right. The controversy surrounding Haditha and the war at large is representative of what I believe is a population of citizens too far removed from the realities of war. No, Mr. Hannity, it is not “un-American” to wonder if our Marines are capable of war crimes and no, Mr. Hannity, having concerns that our military could have committed war crimes does not help terrorists. However, ignoring it and covering it up does.

For the liberal critics who like to spin every event into some sort of “I told you so” moment against the war in Iraq, I would ask, what they have done to constructively support the success of the mission despite criticizing it? Where is their objective analysis of positive progress in Iraq? What is their alternative? Criticism without constructive proposals is not criticism, it is whining.

Finally, I would ask any young man who reads this to search his own heart and ask himself “why aren’t I in the military?” Despite record high enlistment bonuses, incredible benefits and incentives, an ever growing number of young American men are not willing to serve their country. I know that most of the men and women in our armed forces are of superb character. I also know that some are not. Now more than ever, our military needs intelligent, capable, and patriotic men and women in its ranks. If these Marines did indeed commit such a horrible crime, perhaps it would not have occurred if they had better leadership or Marines by their side who exercised moral restraint.

In the end, our military represents our nation in all facets, both the good and the bad. We have to face reality. As citizens we must be willing to hold our armed forces accountable when they let us down. It is our duty as citizens to constantly honor the sacrifice of those who serve in ways that go beyond the ubiquitous yellow-ribbon. There are few things more indicative of a true democracy than an all volunteer military force. Who will join if we cease to respect those willing to serve?

To those afraid to criticize the administration or military, I say that nothing is more patriotic then holding your leaders and military accountable. For those who criticize unfairly or incorrectly I ask, “what have you done to make things better?"

[Editor's Note: Mr. Patterson was in one of the first Marine battalions to enter Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom]

21 June 2006

The "Constitutional" Right to Privacy and Gay Marriage

By Carrie Chapman, Legal Expert and Guest Contributor

In light of the recent Senate vote against the amendment banning gay marriage, it may be useful to understand the actions of the legislative branch by examining the line of authority upon which the judicial branch has based its seemingly pro-gay marriage position.

Over the last century the Supreme Court has developed an idea that the Constitution, and more specifically the Bill of Rights, contains by implication a “right to privacy.” This right to privacy precludes the government from infringing upon certain private areas of the lives of its citizens; it was explicitly recognized by the Court in the case Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). Justice Douglas wrote,
Previous cases suggest that the specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras, formed by emanations from those guarantees that give them substance. Various guarantees create zones of privacy, such as the First Amendment right of association, the Third Amendment prohibition against quartering soldiers in a home, the Fourth Amendment right to be secure in one's person, house, papers, and effects, the Fifth Amendment right to not surrender anything to one's detriment, and the Ninth Amendment right to not deny or disparage any right retained by the people. These cases press for recognition of the penumbral rights of privacy and repose.
Douglas argues these amendments preclude the government from entering upon specific areas of the lives of its citizens (home, association, rights retained to the people), creating a “penumbra [i.e. mist] of rights” that has formed the basis for every substantive due process case since. Douglas assumes the Constitution prevents the government from taking certain actions by law to regulate the private lives of citizens. So, when the Supreme Court now makes a decision concerning a citizen’s treatment under the law, they consider the citizens “right to privacy” – that area of an individual’s life which should be free from state regulation.

The Supreme Court cases leading up to the proclamation of the existence of a constitutional right to privacy may seem harmless enough, and were decisions that most of us would agree are in line with our moral and political understanding. Meyers v. Nebraska (1925) held that parents may decide for themselves if and when their children may learn a foreign language, based upon a fundamental liberty interest individuals have in the family unit. A parent’s right to control the method of their child’s education was recognized by the Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925), where the court decided that parents could not be forced to send their children to public schools instead of private schools, and that parents have a fundamental liberty in deciding what happens to their children. Meyer and Pierce are rulings most of us could agree on, but subtly begin the right to privacy argument.

Other cases concerning sex and sexuality provide more solid building blocks for the argument supporting the legalization of gay marriage. In the 1942 case Skinner v. Oklahoma, an Oklahoma law which enforced sterilization of repeat criminal offenders (for any repeat felon, even if the felony was merely robbery) was struck down under the theory that all people have a fundamental right to procreation. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) tackled laws which prevented open access to contraceptive items and information, with the court striking down those laws on the precedent that people are able to make decisions about their families and procreation (see Skinner, Meyers, and Pierce). In 1973 the infamous Roe v. Wade case legalized abortion, with the Court holding that the woman had a “right to privacy” in her first trimester to abort a child.

Why does this matter? First of all, there is no explicit “right to privacy” delineated in the text of the Constitution. Justice Hugo Black wrote in the Griswold vs. Connecticut opinion, "'Privacy' is a broad, abstract and ambiguous concept." Citizens against gay marriage must push their own definition of privacy; while you may agree that the government should not interfere with the privacy of citizens to engage in interracial marriage, the state DOES have an interest in procreation. Economist Steven Leavitt, who conceives a controversial abortion-crime theory (controversial for those on both sides of the abortion fence) stated that “few people will listen when the subject is abortion,” and I would argue that many of us will not listen when the equally controversial subject of gay marriage and gay rights arises. Listening to the arguments of those who are proponents of gay rights will help us formulate meaningful counter-attacks for the public policy reasoning behind the extension of right to privacy to gay marriage.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2000 in Williams v. Pryor that the Alabama legislature operated within its rights when it banned sales of “sex toys,” holding that citizens do not necessarily have any right to buy them. The dissents in all of the aforementioned line of right to privacy cases, and the below gay rights cases, provide policy reasons that those against gay marriage should be promoting in their community and to their elected representatives.

Gay Rights and the Law
I have tried to include the most important gay rights legislation that have lead up to the gay marriage debate, including a counter argument in a following parenthetical.

Sodomy statutes
In the 2003 case of Lawrence v. Texas, the US Supreme Court overruled a 1986 case that upheld the conviction of two gay men for violating sodomy laws. As the crime involved consensual conduct in the bedroom of one of the men's homes, the Court in Lawrence held that making private sexual conduct a crime was a violation of due process. (Pro-sodomy statute argument: the state may well express interest in private sexual conduct when that private sexual conduct will result in less children being born to further the interests of the state)

Equal protection
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Colorado state constitutional amendment that would preclude all legislation that would prohibit discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation. The Court said that the state constitutional amendment was motivated by animus to a particular class of people and thus, under equal-protection analysis, the amendment was not rationally related to legitimate state interests. (Pro-amendment argument: the Colorado amendment was intended to prevent homosexuals from getting special treatment under the law simply because of their sexual orientation.)

The Supreme Court of Massachusetts in 2003 held in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that same-sex couples have a right to marry under the state constitution's principles of individual liberty and equality. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Vermont held that same-sex couples do not necessarily have a right to marry, but they do have a right under the state constitution to the same benefits and protections as different-sex couples who marry. In 1993, the Supreme Court of Hawaii held that prohibiting same-sex marriage might be sex discrimination under the state constitution; following that decision Hawaii amended its constitution to allow the legislature "to reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples.” The dissent of the Hawaii case, written by Judge Heen, finds that the purpose of the marriage law is "to promote and protect propagation." Appellate courts in six other states, including Arizona, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington have held that prohibitions of same-sex marriages were constitutional under different principles, including due process and equal protection. In the landmark Massachusetts Goodridge case, the dissent penned by three justices stated that the decision of whether to allow same-sex couples to marry should be made by the legislature, not the courts.

One of my law professors loves to reiterate that “there is no pancake so thin that it does not have two sides.” To understand your opponent’s argument allows you to work on the flaws in your own. So, although I do not support gay marriage, I concede that gay rights proponents have a good argument: laws that infringe upon the private rights of others means a restriction of privacy for all. But, to counter that argument, aren’t ALL laws essentially a restriction of our privacy, of our “right to choose”? And can’t legislation be created that allows the government to only infringe on very specific areas of life? I choose to follow the laws of this country and give up some of my freedom when I drive, by following (or relatively following) the speed limit; I choose to give the freedom to drive at whatever speed I like because it will best benefit myself and society to abide by those rules – there will be less death, and I value my life and the lives of others.

With gay marriage, I choose to limit the definition of marriage to the union of a man and a woman, not because I do not value the right to choose to marry, or the right for men and women of different races to marry, but because I am willing to give up my right to a homosexual marriage because I think a marriage between a man and woman will best benefit society – life is created.

Major public policy decisions – like what to do with criminals or abortion--come down to that: life and death. What we should do about gay marriage should not be simplified to the legal argument that limiting the privacy of one recognizes the privacy of all. The societal and biological implications that allowing gay marriage would have on our society is the debate we should be having and is the debate the silent majority in Congress and the United States at large is too cowardly to engage.

Judge Cordy in the dissent of the Massachusetts Goodridge case makes these arguments succinctly. He argued that the state’s interest in heterosexual marriage are not irrational, noting that marriage has always been understood as the appropriate situation for procreation and child rearing as sexual intercourse between men and women can result in conception; sexual relationships other than heterosexual ones cannot result in procreation. Judge Cordy also noted that marriage has successfully advanced this interest throughout time and the relevant social science research comparing children raised by same-sex couples is small, methodologically flawed, and tentative. Therefore, states may rationally decide that marriage should not be redefined to include same-sex couples.

For further reading on the subject, may I suggest the following law review article citations - I’m happy to access these articles for you and email them to you:
30 Fam. L.Q. 339
64 Alb. L. Rev. 889
19 Berkeley Women's L.J. 19
2 Ave Maria L. Rev. 153

20 June 2006

Burn Rubber Not Your Soul

By Morgan Habedank, Guest Contributor

Before broaching the main topic of discussion for today, I feel the need to express my support for the US Soccer Team. The draw with Italy was gritty and showed that they had heart. Something I had seriously questioned after the Czech Republic debacle. I just have one question. How does FIFA allow an official who has been previously suspended for officiating inconsistencies to officiate in the World Cup? Especially when that official was ineligible for the previous World Cup due to the aforementioned suspension. One would assume that FIFA would ensure that officiating would not tarnish their flagship event. If I were running the World Cup it would be a top priority. It appears that I am not alone in this due to the strong statements regarding the poor officiating made by the great Beckenbauer in the German media. Congratulations on the draw and for the record, I am now a fan of Italy. Let’s hope they can destroy the Czech Republic and that the US can take care of business against a very strong Ghana side.

Historically, the CG Animation arena has been dominated by Pixar and DreamWorks Animation. DreamWorks produced the most successful animated title of all time in Shrek (Shrek 2 is number 7 on the list of All-time World Box Office Leaders and Shrek is 48). However, DreamWorks has had a few missteps, the most notable of which is Shark Tale. Pixar on the other hand has yet to have a box office blunder. Many attribute the success of Pixar to their cutting edge technology and visually stunning product. However, I believe that it goes much deeper than that. What made Toy Story memorable? The ground breaking CG? The high profile voices? I would argue that the success of Toy Story was due to the way Woody and Buzz Lightyear came to life. This was due to the quality of the story being told and the excellent character development. Without those elements, Toy Story would just be another Anastasia - visually stunning for its time but ultimately heartless and therefore not memorable.

It was with these high expectations that I went to see the final Pixar offering on opening night. I went in expecting to be stunned visually and sucked in to the story emotionally. However, John Lasseter finally let me down. It appears that Pixar finally fell victim to the X3 trap where studios think that a flawed or weak story can be overcome by star power or special effects. Cars, while visually stunning, completely dropped the ball in the areas of character development and story. Throughout the show I was consistently amazed by what I was seeing yet not once did I feel true emotion. I was never able to identify with any of the shallow and cliché characters. I kept waiting to get “sucked in” and it never happened. I just kept waiting for Michael J. Fox to pop up on screen and demand residuals from Pixar for his Doc Hollywood character. I thought that John Lasseter was bullet proof but it appears that I was mistaken.

So it is with a little trepidation that I await the release of Miami Vice. Michael Mann has yet to disappoint but you never know when you have Colin Farrell in the mix. Hopefully Mann will stay true to his roots and not sacrifice story and character development for explosions and car chases. Hopefully he will follow the JJ Abrams format and produce the next MI3. Hopefully he will suck me in.

10 June 2006

Jason Munns: Next Great BYU QB

We first watched Jason Munns play as a Sophomore the Fall of 2004. We recall having a conversation with our brother Matt where we discussed the possibility of having him play for BYU. After returning home from school the following Spring, we remember reading about future recruits and being frustrated by the lack of attention to Washington Preps on Cougarboard, Cougarfan, and Total Blue Sports and wondering why none of them made mention of Munns. So we wrote an email to TBS. Here's the shortened version:
18 May 2005


I am a BYU student and stalwart fan. Currently attending my high school
alma mater is a QB--JasonMunns--who needs to be brought to the
attention of BYU coaches. The high school he attends (Southridge, in Kennewick WA) is in the highest classification in Washington State and comes from the league
that has won 5 of the last 7 state titles. As a Sophomore (in case you
missed it, AS A SOPHOMORE!) he threw for nearly 2300 yards throwing 31
td's and just 10 interceptions. He had a 55.2 % completion rate and a
passing efficiency of 155. Showing his all around athletic ability he was
selected to the all-area basketball team. Remember the name I mentioned before--Jason Munns. This season he will be a Junior. His numbers are at least as good as the senior QB they recruited from the UT school and this kid is a sophomore. Do a simple google search on him and you will see what I mean--he is the real deal.

Jake Lybbert
We don't think we had any idea how prescient that missive would be. Credit TBS for their quick response. Here's Talo Steves' response:
27 May 2005


I spoke to Jason Munss [sic] yesterday and will be doing an article on him soon. Also the information that you've given me will be sent to BYU coaches as well. Good job on this and please let me know if you hear of any other LDS prospects in the Tri-Cities area in Washington. This could be a very good thing you've done.

Talo K Steves
Managing Editor
TBS then ran this article (subscription required), which as far as we know was the first published (digitally or otherwise) information about Munns as a prep recruit. At the time of the article it seemed Jason was more interested in Utah. And who can blame him? They were just coming off a season in which they went to and won a major bowl and had the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft in Alex Smith. That type of performance is pretty persuasive for potential recruits.

Munns went on to have a great junior year (free subscription required), throwing 26 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions and leading his team, the Southridge Suns to the #1 ranking in Washington 4A--the state's highest classification. We wrote about him and the Suns here and here. After the college season was over and signing day passed, the recruiting for '07 began. Most reports had Jason interested in WSU, UW, or Utah. We didn't really think he had a snowball's chance of choosing BYU. And then Jason attended BYU's Junior Day and the spring scrimmage. According to this article at TBS (again, subscription required) he began to see all that BYU had to offer.

As our friend Morgan and brother Matt often point out, BYU's facilities can match those of any program in the country. Our coaching staff is great, with Brandon Doman particularly effective in recruiting Munns. But the academic and spiritual offerings at BYU are incredible. It helps that Munns had recently taken a visit to WSU at Pullman. We've visited Pullman several times--and hope never to go there again. It is small wonder that WSU is known for its drinking as there is little else to do. With WSU, Pullman and Martin stadium as a foil, BYU, Provo, and Lavell Edwards Stadium must have looked like football heaven (it is, isn't it?). So, to Bill Doba and all the folks at WSU: thanks for the recruiting help.

Almost exactly a year later TBS ran this article about Munns and teammate Travis "Moose" Mattair. It seemed to us that Munns was trying to recruit Moose to play for BYU. After reading his quotes, last Sunday's announcement that he would sign a letter of intent to play for BYU was not a complete shock.

Anybody who reads reports about future BYU recruits also loves to watch their video highlights. As far as I know, no links have been provided to these highlights of Jason Munns and the Southridge Suns (free SportsTri-Cities enrollment/subscription required). Simply click on any game involving Southridge and you will be provided with a list highlights.

We love it when we're right, and it's even better when we can so obviously prove how right we are. And it may only be a recruiting battle, but it sure is nice to beat Utah.

Figuratively drunk, as we are, with this recent good fortune, we feel to make another statement we hope proves as prophetical as the first: Jason Munns will be the next great BYU QB

08 June 2006

More on Marriage

Yesterday the U.S. Senate cloture vote (effectively the vote to vote) on the Marriage Protection Amendment failed 49-48. The good news is, this isn't the first time such an amendment has come before the Senate, and it certainly wont be the last.

Critiques of the MPA run the gamut: some are fatuous (the so called "conservative case" for same-sex marriage, a chimera) , others quixotic (all you need is love!), many take a mysogamic tone (for example Judith Stacey, professor of sociology at NYU, who hopes that the understanding of marriage will break down completely), while still others are just flat ignorant (it wont directly affect my marriage!).

The gay lobby then works its puppet-master magic on Ted Kennedy and others, who cast MPA advocates as "bigots, radical, and narrow minded." This, despite the fact that six in 10 Americans oppose gay marriage, and according to the latest Gallup poll, a majority of whom also support a constitutional amendment to protect marriage.

As Dennis Prager explains, the liberal view of Republicans and conservatives holds that they are either "phonies or bad." That they could sincerely oppose redefining "the most important social structure of society...is inconceivable." Those who oppose are labeled bigots. He further explains that the inability of liberals to understand conservatives' views on marriage as anything more than bigotry or pandering is "part of a narcissism that characterizes much of the left." They are narcissistic in that they are unable to see the world through another persons eyes. Perhaps the most offensive example of this narcissistic world-view is liberals application of the word "radical" to religious or social conservatives.
To describe as "radical" those who wish to preserve the man-woman-based definition of marriage known to every civilization is to stand the word on its head. It is beyond intellectually dishonest--it is mendacity--to describe those who favor preserving the definition of marriage as "radical" rather than to so describe those who wish to change the gender-based definition of marriage for the first time in history. Even if you support same-sex marriage, you should at least have the honesty to admit that it is you who favors something radical.
But this is just another way for liberals and same-sex advocates to marginalize the issue and its advocates. It's right up there with "gas prices" as a favored way of "putting things in the proper perspective." Which is what type of perspective exactly? That gas prices are somehow more important than marriage?

There exists a certain idealistic libertarian strain that insists that the "right" to marriage is ingrained in the Constitution. William F. Buckley Jr. and Sheldon Kinsel point out that this isn't a civil rights issue at all. From Mr. Kinsel,
Society is not required to let anyone who wants to marry to do so, particularly if that would be harmful. To protect itself, society must and does impose significant restrictions on marriage, including those having to do with blood relationship and age. If there is any issue of rights at stake, it is only the legitimate right of society to protect a vital social institution. In this light, it is also clear that doing so certainly is not "writing discrimination into the Constitution," as the advocates frequently charge.
Additionally, efforts to associate the fight for same sex marriage to the Civil Rights movement has drawn the ire of some members of the gay community, to say nothing of the response from the African American community. The link to the women's suffrage movement is also specious. The monumental gain of that movement was the vote. Gays are allowed to vote, are they not?

The ignorant continue to sit on the sideline because they don't think court-imposed same-sex marriage will affect them while others are afraid of imposing their religious or moral values. Fine. Ignore the religious or moral aspect. The social imperative alone is enough to make rejection of same-sex marriage the only rational course.

To understand the impact of same-sex marriage on society we refer you to two important sources. The first is a body of work from a group of scholars associated with the Witherspoon Institute (hat tip: Morgan). Though the temptation to do the 30 minute Google search remains, I suggest taking the time to read the entire work.

It examines various societal threats to marriage and the threat of same-sex marriage in particular. Historians, political scientists, law professors, economists, sociologists, psychiatrists and psychologists, anthropologists, public policy experts--even professors of philosophy!--all sign off on a document that draws on extensive social scientific studies. Refer specifically to Section III, Evidence from the Social and Biological Sciences, heading "Four Threats to Marriage," sub point "Same-Sex Marriage." See also Section IV, Analysis from Political and Moral Philosophy: The Intrinsic Goods of Marriage. The evidence is there.

Among other things, they find that children reared by same-sex parents will have problems with everything from identity, sexuality, and attachments to kin. Same-sex marriage undercuts the idea of procreation being intrinsically connected to marriage and the idea that children need both a mother and father--thus "further weakening the societal norm that men should take responsibility for the children they beget." It also erodes marital norms of sexual fidelity. Their strongest appeal comes in the final section, reproduced here:
But marriage cannot survive or flourish when the ideal of marriage is eviscerated. Radically different understandings of marriage, when given legal status, threaten to create a culture in which it is no longer possible for men and women to understand the unique goods that marriage embodies: the fidelity between men and women, united as potential mothers and fathers, bound to the children that the marital union might produce.

The law has a crucial place in sustaining this deeper understanding of marriage and its myriad human goods. The law is a teacher, instructing the young either that marriage is a reality in which people can choose to participate but whose contours individuals cannot remake at will, or teaching the young that marriage is a mere convention, so malleable that individuals, couples, or groups can choose to make of it whatever suits their desires, interests, or subjective goals of the moment.

The marriage culture cannot flourish in a society whose primary institutions--universities, courts, legislatures, religious institutions--not only fail to defend marriage but actually undermine it both conceptually and in practice. The young will never learn what it means to get married and stay married, to live in fidelity to the spouse they choose and the children they must care for, if the social world in which they come of age treats marriage as fungible or insignificant.
Marriage is essential to society and provides economic utility far better than any second best alternative. According to their research, any breakdown in the familial unit will inevitably lead to increases in all problems associated with the breakdown of the family--well-documented in the families of minorities (father absent), single parent homes, and foster care.

There remains a group who call for a sort of same-sex marriage trial to be experimented in several states. The social science referred to by the study above cites only research from the United States and must make assumptions about the probable impact of codified same-sex marriage. "The End of Marriage in Scandinavia" by Stanley Kurtz answers what he calls the "key empirical question" of the gay marriage debate--"will same sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage?" Where the social scientists above had no empirical data from the U.S. on which to test their theories, Mr. Kurtz is able to go to Scandinavia, where same-sex marriages have been the norm since as early as 1989 (Denmark).

Recently, gay marriage advocates Andrew Sullivan (journalist) and William Eskridge Jr. (Yale law professor) reported on an unpublished study by Darren Spedale. Their conclusions based on this study held that the introduction of same-sex marriage in Scandinavia had a positive impact on marriage, reversing the trend toward cohabitation, divorce, and single-parent families. That it was unpublished is significant because it means that the study has not gone through several levels of peer review. Prior to publication in a given discipline's journal, several professors in a that field typically review the study/paper. Once it has been cleared by the reviewers and cleaned of any errors in technique, analysis, grammar, etc. it is then published where its contents are debated for a number of years as the theories and assumptions begin to take shape. Mr. Spedale's study jumped both of those stages and went straight to the "accepted as fact" stage by the mainstream media.

As Mr. Kurtz points out, "the half-page statistical analysis of heterosexual marriage in Darren Spedale's unpublished paper doesn't begin to get at the truth about the decline of marriage in Scandinavia during the nineties." How quickly same-sex marriage advocates will seize on convenient, if spurious research to support their claims.

With marriage so weak in Scandinavia, examination of demographic shifts must focus on the out-of-wedlock birthrate and the family dissolution rate. He explains the reason behind this:
cohabitating couples with children break up at two to three times the rate of married parents. So rising rates of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock birth stand as proxy for rising rates of family dissolution.
During the nineties--the period that same-sex marriage was supposed to have stabilized marriage as an institution--Norway's out-of-wedlock birthrate rose from 39-50 percent, Sweden's from 47 to 55 percent. "As out-of-wedlock childbearing pushes beyond 50 percent, it is reaching the toughest areas of cultural resistance." This has resulted in marriage becoming a minority phenomenon in turn causing it to lose the "critical mass required to have a socially normative force." In sum, marriage in Scandinavia has experienced a deep decline and "children [shoulder] the burden of rising rates of family dissolution." Mr. Kurtz cites gay marriage as the "mainspring" of the decline because of its obvious tendency to separate marriage from parenthood.

What exactly does this mean for the children, now forced to shoulder the burden of their parents decisions of convenience? A study of all children born in Stockholm in 1953 showed that parental breakup negatively impacted children's mental health. Another study done in 2003 discovered that children in single parent homes in Sweden "have more than double the rates of mortality, severe morbidity, and injury of children in two parent households."

Returning to the link between gay marriage, and the separation between marriage and parenthood, Mr. Kurtz states that,
as rising out-of-wedlock birthrates disassociate heterosexual marriage from parenting, gay marriage becomes conceivable. If marriage is only about a relationship between two people, and it is not intrinsically connected to parenthood, why shouldn't same-sex couples be allowed to marry? It follows that once marriage is redefined to accommodate same-sex couples, that change cannot help but lock in and reinforce the very cultural separation between marriage and parenthood that makes gay marriage conceivable to begin with.

We see this process at work in the radical separation of marriage and parenthood that swept across Scandinavia in the nineties. If Scandinavian out-of-wedlock birthrates had not already been high in the late eighties, gay marriage would have been far more difficult to imagine. More than a decade into post-gay marriage Scandinavia, out-of-wedlock birthrates have passed 50 percent, and the effective end of marriage as a protective shield for children has become thinkable. Gay marriage hasn't blocked the separation of marriage and parenthood; it has advanced it.
Once gay marriage was established in the Scandinavian countries, it "symbollically ratified" the passing of the link between marriage and parenthood. Gay marriage became one of the major factors leading to further increases in cohabitation, out-of-wedlock birthrates, and early divorce. The overall symbolic message of gay marriage and civil unions has been that "most any nontraditional family is just fine" and in this way, "individual choice trumps family form."

Henning Bech, one of Scandinavia's most prominent gay thinkers, completely dismisses as "implausible" the idea that gay marriage promotes monogamy as suggested by the aforementioned "conservative case." According to Rune Halvorsen, a Norwegian sociologist, "many of Norway's gays imposed self-censorship during the marriage debate, so as to hide their opposition to marriage itself." The goal for gays in Scandinavia was not marriage but social approval for homosexuality.

The result in Sweden is startling. Swedes marry less and have more children out-of-wedlock than any other industrialized nation.

It should come as no surprise that in America, the younger generation is more likely to favor gay marriage than their parents. This is related to another fact: "less than half of America's twentysomethings consider it wrong to bear children outside marriage." Though cohabitation is increasing in the United States, it has still not reached levels found in Europe. America's situation is similar to Norway before the advent of gay marriage. Religiosity is strong, out of marriage birthrate remains relatively low, while the majority opposes gay marriage. The similarities don't end there.
If, as in Norway, gay marriage were imposed here by a socially liberal cultural elite, it would likely speed us on the way toward the classic Nordic pattern of less frequent marriage, more frequent out-of-wedlock birth, and skyrocketing family dissolution.
Were this to occur in America, it would result in rising rates of middle class family dissolution, continued separation of marriage from parenthood, and expansion of the American welfare state.

Typically this blog believes in leaving decisions like these to the states to decide separately, but judicial activism and the empirical effects of state-by-state loosening of divorce laws demands a different course of action. Plus, it's not as though such an amendment would have the same effect on democratically established state law as say, Roe v. Wade. Where Roe v. Wade overturned laws banning or partially banning abortion in a large number of states, such an amendment would only serve to affirm statutes established in 26 states and what citizens of 19 states have enshrined in their state constitutions.

Civil unions are not the great middle ground solution, put forward by "moderates." Scandinavian registered partnerships are exactly similar to Vermont-style civil unions. Mr. Kurtz has clearly shown that the "lesson of the Scandinavian experience is that even de facto same-sex marriage undermines marriage." And this would be the result of civil-unions as the laws and limitations distinguishing them from marriage as such would begin to be repealed.

Mr. Kurtz also speaks to the supposed link between Civil Rights and gay marriage.
The Scandinavian example also proves that gay marriage is not interracial marriage in a new guise. The miscegenation analogy was never convincing. There are plenty of reasons to think that, in contrast to race, sexual orientation will have profound effects on marriage. But with Scandinavia, we are well beyond the realm of even educated speculation. The post-gay marriage changes in the Scandinavian family are significant. This is not like the fantasy about interracial birth defects.
America cannot afford to experiment with same-sex marriage. What's more, doesn't need to. Scandinavia has already run the test and given us the important data. Same-sex marriage does not encourage marriage, it erodes the family. The breakdown of the family leads to a loss of goods associated with marriage and an increase in all the sorts of problems we read about in the newspaper everyday. Rising crime rates (including violent crime), illiteracy, drug use, increased incidence of high school drop-out, depression--all become more likely for children raised outside of the traditional family.

06 June 2006

In Defense of Marriage

As a professor of philosophy, Jeffrey Nielsen ought to know a straw-man argument when he sees it. What's more, he ought to know better than to use one. Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints did not "speak out against" homosexual marriage or homosexuality. If anything the teachings of the church speak of loving acceptance and understanding of people who struggle with this tendency. However, this acceptance and understanding does not extend to granting homosexuals the privilege of marriage. In addition, the express purpose of the Constitutional Amendment currently before the U.S. Senate is not to prohibit homosexual marriage, it is to define and protect marriage between husband and wife. Though subtle and seemingly semantic, these are fundamental differences.

Marriage between a man and wife and their family unit is the basic foundation of successful society. To protect such a relationship does not deny rights to which homosexuals are constitutionally entitled--at least not according to our reading of that text--Equal Protection Clause quibbling aside. Nor is there anything in the Lockean Declaration that suggests that "life, liberty, property (pursuit of happiness) necessarily means that all should have the opportunity to marry.

Despite what some tortured couples may say, marriage is a privilege. In liberal-democracies it is the right of the majority to decide how those privleges are disbursed. That is the beauty of the Constitutional amendment process. Furthermore, wanting to protect traditional marriage does not make one a bigot. Calling those who oppose gay marriage bigots is just another logical fallacy Mr. Nielsen may be familiar with--ad homonym.

We love reading the logical fallacy in Op-Ed pieces like the one authored by Mr. Nielsen. Following his moral rationalization of criticizing the church, he launches into a scientific explanation of homosexuality, as though defining it in those terms requires automatic recognition of their "right" to marriage. We do not doubt that gay marriage may be a product of biology. That it may be so does not make it any more "natural" than schizophrenia, congenital heart disease, or depression.

Mr. Nielsen continues by vaguely mentioning and summarily dismissing every argument in defense of traditional marriage. Tradition is bad because historically we descriminated against African Americans and women. Yet marriage is hardly a superstitious tradition. It is the first and foundational relationship of the whole of Judeo-Christian theology. Lest you forget or insist on repeating the tired '60's era mantra that 'one cannot legislate morality,' Western democracy--especially our system of laws--is founded on Judeo-Christian principles. And it doesn't end there. Marriage cuts across culture, religion, and history. Every major religion and successful society was founded on the basic familial unit--mother, father, children. This Amendment no more tells homosexuals they can't be married than nature tells them they can't procreate. The nature and purpose of the family is two-fold: to produce offspring and provide for their care and upbringing. That homosexuals cannot do the former is beyond debate, though the latter is not, despite Mr. Nielsen's protests.

Changes (mutations, really) that alter the very definition of marriage are an attack on the institution itself. Homosexual marriage is not the only assault on marriage, but it is an important battleground. It (marriage) is one of the last few refuges in a society assailed by rampant relativism. Today we are asked to give legal legitimacy to relationships between members of the same sex. Relativism demands that we take the sometimes fallacious threat of a "slippery slope" seriously. Tomorrow, most assuredly, we will be asked to give legitimacy to relationships between minors and adults because it is their "right." They will argue, as they do with homosexual marriage, that some are born with a biological attraction and affection that should not be illegal. They will cite scholarly journals to back up their arguments. This is a development that would be opposed by a vast majority in today's society. We would be willing to bet that homosexual marriage is a development that would have been opposed by a vast majority of society some 30 years ago. The trend is clear.

Mr. Nielsen is clearly ignorant of the relgious underpinnings of our laws and the Constitution. If the law is religiously or otherwise inspired and is passed by a vast majority of the House and Senate and then again by a vast majority of state legislatures, does that make it a "dangerous rejection of our Founding Fathers' wise insight," or simply democracy at work?

Attempts by Mr. Nielsen to distract from the real issue by trying to find hypocrisy in early church teachings about polygamy is also misguided. Polygamy is fundamentally different from homosexual marriage in that it provides for the fulfillment of the basic responsbilities of marriage as outlined above. This is not to be misinterpreted as an endorsement of polygamy, but polygamy does allow for procreation and provides for the care and upbringing of children. Besides, LDS history is hardly the only example of polygamous relations. Polygamy is one of those things that cuts across nearly every culture, religion, and history. Just because the church has it in its historical roots does not preclude its members from opining on the morality or legality of homosexual marriage or keep its leaders from making prophetic pronouncements.

As a history student who has read and studied church history extensively, we absolutely disagree with Mr. Nielsen's statements about the church's supposedly less than candid treatment of its history. Perhaps they are more coddled over there in the philosophy department or (more likely) perhaps Mr. Nielsen was too lazy to do more than the 30 minute Google search he suggests his readers make, either way, the church and BYU have made available more documents relating to the history of the church than any one individual could review in a lifetime. Or maybe he missed renowned Columbia professor Richard Bushman's recent biography of Joseph Smith? Dr. Bushman is no lightweight. We take comfort from the fact that those who know the most about the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are still faithful members--people like recently retired University of Utah history professor, Davis Bitton. The underlying theme these scholars stress is that they don't have a testimony of church history, they have a testimony of the Gospel.

Mr. Nielsen's diatribe is the just the latest in the genre of writing from supposed intellectuals who think they know more than Church leadership or their faithful, 'simpleminded' followers. As our father told us today, having a PhD at the end of your name does not make you intelligent.