These are difficult days for America’s bigots. No matter how hard they try to demonize gays, no matter how often they contend (with the help of junk science) that gay marriage will rend the fabric of civilization, most Americans refuse to heed them. Gallup now shows majority support for gay marriage – the 50 percent hurdle was crossed this spring, for the first time – and, according to another national poll, 59 percent of Americans want to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act because it denies gay spouses equal access to federal benefits.
Given the prevailing societal trend, perhaps it’s sufficient to simply ignore the reactionary efforts of prominent anti-gay groups such as the Family Research Council.
After all, the FRC, a religious-right organization based in Washington, has long been concocting scare statistics that few people ever take seriously. Back in 1994, for instance, they floated a “gay obituary” study which purported to show that gays typically have shorter life spans than straight people. Then it turned out that the shrink who authored this study, a guy named Paul Cameron, had been thrown out of the American Psychological Association; back in 1983, the APA revoked his membership, citing his “violation of the ethical principles of psychologists.” FRC has also trumpeted a study which claims that “a disproportionate percentage – 29 percent – of adult children of homosexual parents have been specifically subjected to sexual molestation by that homosexual parent.” Then it turned out that Cameron had worked up that data as well. Did I also mention that Cameron has been officially condemned by the American Sociological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association?The FRC also claims to have scientific evidence that gays are mentally ill because being gay makes them that way, and their “senior fellow for policy studies” has said publicly that all gays should face “criminal sanctions” for their private behavior.It’s easy to simply shrug off such nonsense, if only because the FRC and its allies are losing so badly. On the other hand, given the fact that the venerable Southern Poverty Law Center now classifies the FRC as a hate group, perhaps it shouldn’t get a pass. Hatred needs to be refuted.Which brings us to the delicious moment that occurred yesterday.Tom Minnery, the FRC’s “senior vice president for public policy,” showed up at a Senate hearing to oppose the growing efforts to repeal DOMA (the ’96 federal law that defines marriage as a solely heterosexual bond and denies gay spouses equal access to federal benefits). Minnery believes, of course, that two straight parents are better for kids than two gay parents – and, to prove his point, he cited a 2010 federal study which (in his telling) concluded that kids are healthier in every way if raised by straights.Wow, the federal Department of Health and Human Services has statistically concluded that kids are better off with straight parents? That would indeed be a news story.The problem was, that’s not what the federal study said. Minnery got it wrong (big surprise!) – and then he got publicly thrashed. There is justice in the world after all.The thrashing was delivered by Al Franken, who, in the tradition of most rookie senators, has been fairly quiet thus far. Not so yesterday. The exchange was priceless.Franken: “Mr. Minnery, on page 8 of your written testimony, you write, ‘Children living with their own biological and/or adoptive mothers and fathers are generally healthier and happier, have better access to health care, less likely to suffer mild to severe emotional problems, do better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared to children in any other family form.’ You cite a Department of Health and Human Services study, that I have right here, from December 2010, to support this conclusion. I checked the study out. And I would like to enter it into the record. And it actually doesn’t say what you said it says. It says that nuclear families – not opposite-sex married families – are associated with those positive outcomes. Isn’t it true, Mr. Minnery, that a married same-sex couple who has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a ‘nuclear family’ in the study that you cite?”Minnery: “I would think that the study, when it cites nuclear families, would mean a family headed by a husband and wife.”Franken: “It doesn’t. (Audience laughter.) The study defines nuclear family as ‘one or more children living with two parents‘ who are married to each other, and who are each biological or adoptive parents of all the children in the family. And I frankly don’t know how we can trust the rest of your testimony, if you are reading studies this way.”There it is. The federal study didn’t distinguish between gay and straight parental couples; as one of the study’s authors pointed out yesterday, gays were not excluded from the definition of “nuclear families.” The FRC’s ambassador did that on his own. Minnery saw the phrase “nuclear families,” and simply gave it his own faith-based twist. He “would think” that the term meant “a family headed by a husband and wife,” because that’s what he wanted to think.The anti-gay groups are becoming increasingly isolated as the culture moves on, which is why their routine distortions rarely warrant much attention. But how refreshing it was to see their tactics exposed, if only for one brief and shining moment.——-Speaking of political isolation, the anti-tax House Republican absolutists are being increasingly marginalized by the day. According to the newly-released bipartisan Wall Street Journal-NBC News survey (conducted jointly by Democratic pollster Peter Hart and Republican pollster Bill McInturff), 68 percent of independents want the Republicans to compromise in the interests of forging a budget deficit-reduction deal. More broadly, 62 percent of Americans say that Republicans should leave their bunker and agree to raise some taxes as part of a deal.Unfortunately, 58 percent of tea-party supporters want the Republicans to reject that kind of deal. The fringe is still running the show.
Meanwhile, my Thursday newspaper column has more on the stateside impact of Murdoch.