Author archives: Peter Sprigg

We know from the social science that children do best with a mom and a dad.”-TRUE

by Peter Sprigg

October 17, 2014

On Sunday, October 12, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins appeared on Fox News Sunday to debate the redefinition of marriage with Ted Olson, a prominent Republican attorney and advocate of giving civil marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

At one point in the discussion, Olson began to argue that we should redefine marriage because it would benefit children who are being raised by same-sex couples. Perkins replied, “We know from the social science that children do best with a mom and a dad.”

Within hours, the “fact-checking” website PolitiFact posted an analysis of the statement—and rated it “False.”

Unfortunately, the PolitiFact article itself gets a failing grade.

That is, unless they think the non-partisan, non-profit research group Child Trends was also telling a “falsehood” when they reported, “An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.”

Presumably, they also think it was “false” when the anti-poverty group the Center for Law and Social Policy reported, “Research indicates that, on average, children who grow up in families with both their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage are better off in a number of ways than children who grow up in single-, step- or cohabiting-parent households. Compared to children who are raised by their married parents, children in other family types are more likely to achieve lower levels of education, to become teen parents, and to experience health, behavior, and mental health problems.”

And I guess they would also rate as “false” the statement by the Institute for American Values, which declared (as one of its “fundamental conclusions” about “what current social science evidence reveals about marriage in our social system”), “The intact, biological, married family remains the gold standard for family life in the United States, insofar as children are most likely to thrive—economically, socially, and psychologically—in this family form.”

I suppose PolitiFact would also say it was false when the American College of Pediatricians said that “the family structure which leads to optimal child development is the family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.” The ACP added details:

A growing and increasingly sophisticated body of research indicates that children with married parents (both a mother and a father) have more healthful measures of:

  • thriving as infants
  • physical and mental health
  • educational attainment
  • protection from poverty
  • protection from antisocial behavior
  • protection from physical abuse


The PolitiFact article put much emphasis on “peer-reviewed” literature. Are they actually suggesting that the conclusions of every single one of the sources cited in the following passage (adapted from my book Outrage) are “false”?

Children raised by opposite-sex married parents experience lower rates of many social pathologies, including:

  • premarital childbearing (Kristin A. Moore, “Nonmarital School-Age Motherhood: Family, Individual, and School Characteristics,” Journal of Adolescent Research 13, October 1998: 433-457);
  • illicit drug use (John P. Hoffman and Robert A. Johnson, “A National Portrait of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 60, August 1998: 633-645);
  • arrest (Chris Coughlin and Samuel Vucinich, “Family Experience in Preadolescence and the Development of Male Delinquency,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58, May 1996: 491-501);
  • health, emotional, or behavioral problems (Deborah A. Dawson, “Family Structure and Children’s Health and Well-Being: Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey on Child Health,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 53, August 1991: 573-584);
  • poverty (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, America’s Children: Key Indicators of Well-Being 2001, Washington, D.C., p. 14);
  • or school failure or expulsion (Dawson, op.cit.).

PolitiFact must also not trust federal government survey research—such as that published just a few months ago which said, “Children in nonparental care were 2.7 times as likely as children living with two biological parents to have had at least one adverse experience, and more than 2 times as likely as children living with one biological parent and about 30 times as likely as children living with two biological parents to have had four or more adverse experiences.” (Note that if you turn this around, it is saying that “children living with two biological parents” are at least fifteen times less likely “to have had four or more adverse experiences” than children in any other living situation with which they were compared.)

Finally, the Mapping America series produced by FRC’s own Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) has documented (based primarily on federal government survey data) literally dozens of outcome measures for which, on average, children raised in an intact married family do better than those in other family structures.

There are certainly other things PolitiFact could have said to put Perkins’ comment in perspective. They might legitimately have pointed out, for example, that relatively few studies have been conducted to date which makes direct comparisons between children raised by their married, biological mother and father and children raised by same-sex couples. While it is certainly true, not false, that there is a large and robust body of social science evidence indicating that “children do best with a mom and a dad,” as Perkins indicated, most of the studies involved in that body of research compared children raised by their married, biological mother and father with children raised in alternate family structures such as single-parent, divorced, or step-parent households—but did not include direct comparisons with the (relatively tiny) population of children raised by same-sex couples.

For example, the New Family Structures Study spearheaded by sociologist Mark Regnerus resulted in dramatic (and statistically powerful) results demonstrating the strong advantage held by the “intact biological family” over numerous other family forms. However—as Regnerus made clear from the beginning—even his comparison with “gay fathers” or “lesbian mothers” was only based on the adult respondents having said that at some point between birth and age 18, their father or mother had a same-sex romantic relationship. It was not a comparison with children raised by same-sex couples living and raising the children together (of which very few could be found, even in Regnerus’ large sample).

A key illustration of how the PolitiFact article lacked objectivity is that its description of the Regnerus research sounds as though it were simply cut and pasted from the talking points of “gay” bloggers. It is true that his research was sharply criticized in a variety of quarters—that is to be expected, given that academia is now dominated by liberal elites who are unwilling to tolerate the slightest dissent from the pro-homosexual orthodoxy. It is also true that among his fellow sociologists who distanced themselves from the study were members of the sociology department at his own university, the University of Texas.

However, it is false to say (as PolitiFact did) that the university itself “denounced” Regnerus’ research. On the contrary, the university conducted a full investigation of charges brought by a “gay” blogger who uses the pen name “Scott Rose,” and concluded, “Professor Regnerus did not commit scientific misconduct… . None of the allegations of scientific misconduct put forth by Mr. Rose were substantiated …” The New Family Structures Study continues to be hosted by the Population Research Center within the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin.

The journal which published two Regnerus articles based on the New Family Structures Study, Social Science Research, also published extensive critiques of his work. Its editor designated a sharp critic of Regnerus, Darren Sherkat, to conduct an “audit” of the publication process. Since PolitiFact was dismissive of a book-length scholarly work because it was not subject to “peer review” like academic journal articles, it is worth noting what Sherkat said about peer review of Regnerus’ work: “Five of the reviewers are very regular, reliable SSR reviewers, and all six were notable scholars. Indeed, the three scholars who are not publicly conservative can be accurately described as social science superstars.” Most importantly, as editor James D. Wright points out, “all reviewers of both papers agreed that the papers warranted publication. The unanimity of reviewer opinion is notable in this case and is also fairly unusual.” A more thorough description of the Regnerus study can be found here, and a more detailed analysis of its actual findings can be found here.

One early study which did make a direct, couples-to-couples comparison was a 1996 study by an Australian sociologist who compared children raised by heterosexual married couples, heterosexual cohabiting couples, and homosexual cohabiting couples. It found that the children of heterosexual married couples did the best, and children of homosexual couples the worst, in nine of the thirteen academic and social categories measured.

More recently, studies based on U.S. and Canadian census data have allowed couples-to-couples comparisons using much larger sample sizes, but with respect to only a single outcome measure. Canadian economist Douglas W. Allen and two co-authors analyzed data from the 2000 census in the United States and reported, “Compared with traditional married households, we find that children being raised by same-sex couples are 35% less likely to make normal progress through school.” Another study by Allen using the 2006 Canada census found, “Children living with gay and lesbian families [i.e., a “same-sex married or common law couple”] in 2006 were about 65% as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families.”

Advocates for homosexual parenting and the redefinition of marriage sometimes argue (as PolitiFact did in a similar article challenging a Ralph Reed comment in April 2014), “What studies really show is that children are better off with two parents. Those studies do not focus on gender.” This statement by PolitiFact is clearly false. Most of the studies cited above focused on the presence of two biological parents—which by definition includes both the mother and the father. At best, same-sex couples resemble a step-parent situation, in which at most one of the caregivers is the biological parent of the child. The Child Trends publication cited above noted:

Children growing up with stepparents also have lower levels of well-being than children growing up with biological parents. Thus, it is not simply the presence of two parents, as some have assumed, but the presence of two biological parents that seems to support children’s development.”

(Note: FRC believes that adopted children also benefit from the gender complementarity in parenting provided by an adoptive mother and father. However, the bulk of the research has focused specifically on households headed by the married, biological mother and father.)

On the other hand, the research that has been done specifically on children raised by same-sex couples has usually compared them only to children of “heterosexual” parents—including single-parent or divorced households—rather than comparing them directly to children raised by their married, biological mother and father (the “intact biological family,” as Regnerus refers to it).

The Center for Law and Social Policy report, cited above, summarized the implications of this succinctly:

Children of gay or lesbian parents do not look different from their counterparts raised in heterosexual divorced families regarding school performance, behavior problems, emotional problems, early pregnancy, or difficulties finding employment. However, … children of divorce are at higher risk for many of these problems than children of married parents [emphasis added].

The PolitiFact article seemed to be devoted to debunking things that Tony Perkins did not say, rather than what he actually did say. If Perkins had said, “We know from the social science that children do better with a mom and a dad than with two moms or two dads,” PolitiFact might legitimately have challenged it—not because it is “false,” but because there is insufficient research on that direct comparison to assert we can “know” it as a social science certainty.

If Perkins had said, “We know from the social science that children do better with heterosexual parents than with homosexual parents,” then PolitiFact might also have challenged that—again, not because it is “false,” but because family dysfunction among heterosexuals (such as out-of-wedlock births, divorce, and cohabiting parents) is clearly harmful to children as well.

However, Perkins was clear, precise—and accurate—in what he did say, that “children do best with a mom and a dad.”

If, though, the social science research has not provided us with true, apples-to-apples comparisons between children raised by same-sex couples and children raised by their mother and father, was it legitimate for Tony Perkins to bring this truth about the general parenting research into a debate specifically about same-sex “marriage?”

I believe it was, because of the significant difference in quality and quantity between the two bodies of research at issue. As indicated by the summary statements quoted above, the research showing that children raised by their married biological mother and father do better than any other family structure with which they have been compared is extensive, methodologically sound, and convincing.

On the other hand, the research focused specifically on children raised by same-sex couples, most of which has been reported as showing that they do just as well or show “no differences” in comparison with children raised by “heterosexual parents,” suffers from serious methodological flaws.

Much of it has relied on small, non-random “convenience samples”—obtained, for example, by advertising in “gay” media. These samples may not be truly representative of the population of same-sex couples raising children. Parents whose children have significant problems may be less likely to volunteer, and parents who do volunteer may have an incentive (including a political one, knowing the significance of the research in public debates) to downplay any problems their children have (many such studies rely on the parent’s own report of child well-being).

In addition, arguments touting the large number of published studies supporting the “no differences” claim are misleading, because many of those studies are based on a single data set, from the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS). The NLLFS website lists 21 publications which have been directly based on this study, and five more related to it.

A 149-page book published in 2001 did a detailed analysis of the homosexual parenting research up to that point. The result was:

We conclude that the methods used in these studies are so flawed that these studies prove nothing. Therefore, they should not be used in legal cases to make any argument about ‘homosexual vs. heterosexual’ parenting. Their claims have no basis.”

A similar analysis was conducted by researcher Loren Marks and published in the same 2012 issue of Social Science Research as the first Regnerus article. Marks analyzes the 59 previous studies cited in a 2005 policy brief on homosexual parents by the American Psychological Association (APA). Marks debunks the APA’s claim that “[n]ot a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.” Marks also points out that only four of the 59 studies cited by the APA even met the APA’s own standards by “provid[ing] evidence of statistical power.” As Marks so carefully documents, “[N]ot 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.”

So, the research supposedly showing “no differences” between children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by heterosexuals (remember, they are not usually compared with children raised by their own mother and father) is simply unreliable. The research showing that children do best when raised by their own, married, biological mother and father, when compared with numerous other family structures, is robust and clear-cut.

Essentially, homosexual activists (and PolitiFact) are claiming that children raised by homosexual couples are, remarkably, the lone exception to the overwhelming social science research consensus regarding the optimal family structure for children.

We rate their claim, “Highly Implausible.”

Supremes Dodge Most Important Issue Before Them — Marriage

by Peter Sprigg

October 6, 2014

The Supreme Court has declined to take up any of the pending same-sex “marriage” cases before them.

There is bad news and good news in this decision. The bad news is that these states have been denied the opportunity to defend their legitimate power to define marriage before the Supreme Court. The good news is that the Supreme Court does not seem to be as eager as many people assumed to issue a “Roe v. Wade“-type decision redefining marriage.

This decision reflects cowardice on the part of the Supreme Court. People on both sides of the marriage debate agree that the constitutional issues that have been raised should be addressed by the highest court in the land. The Court is right to fear a backlash if they impose a redefinition of marriage on all fifty states; but they are wrong to just let the lower courts do their dirty work for them.

The decision is baffling on several levels. It is hard to understand why the Court heard the case (Hollingsworth v. Perry) challenging California’s Proposition 8 in 2013 (then declined to rule on the merits because of standing issues), but is refusing much clearer cases now. Some say they are waiting for “circuit split” on the issue, but one already exists — the Eighth Circuit upheld Nebraska’s marriage amendment in 2006 (Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning). Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s own “dismissal for want of a substantial federal question” of a same-sex “marriage” case out of Minnesota in 1972 (Baker v. Nelson) remains binding precedent until the Supreme Court itself explicitly overrules it.

Everyone needs to be reminded that the question of whether redefining marriage is good public policy is separate from the question of whether the Constitution of the United States mandates such a redefinition. Even those who favor redefining marriage should understand that such a radical social change is more likely to be accepted if it is adopted through the democratic process, rather than imposed from on high by a court.

One thing is clear — anyone who claims to know what the Supreme Court is thinking is wrong.

Judge Posner Ignores the Obvious: Kids Care More about a Mom and Dad than about a Government Certificate

by Peter Sprigg

September 8, 2014

Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has been doing a great job at National Review Online debunking Judge Richard Posner’s opinion striking down the Indiana and Wisconsin marriage laws for a panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on September 4 (see here, here, here, and here).

I will note here just one thing that jumped out at me in both the oral arguments and the opinion. Judge Posner makes the following argument (pp. 22-23 of the opinion):

Consider now the emotional comfort that having married parents is likely to provide to children adopted by same-sex couples. Suppose such a child comes home from school one day and reports to his parents that all his classmates have a mom and a dad, while he has two moms (or two dads, as the case may be). Children, being natural conformists, tend to be upset upon discovering that they’re not in step with their peers. If a child’s same-sex parents are married, however, the parents can tell the child truthfully that an adult is permitted to marry a person of the opposite sex, or if the adult prefers as some do a person of his or her own sex, but that either way the parents are married and therefore the child can feel secure in being the child of a married couple. Conversely, imagine the parents having to tell their child that same-sex couples can’t marry, and so the child is not the child of a married couple, unlike his classmates.

Judge Posner’s set-up of this hypothetical situation sounds like a demonstration of how same-sex “marriage” could harm children raised by same-sex couples:

Suppose such a child comes home from school one day and reports to his parents that all his classmates have a mom and a dad, while he has two moms (or two dads, as the case may be). Children, being natural conformists, tend to be upset upon discovering that they’re not in step with their peers.

Perhaps it is a function of his long judicial career, but Judge Posner seems to think that it is entirely the law which will determine whether such a child experiences “comfort” or distress from such a situation. If the law says that the two women or two men raising the child cannot be “married,” the child will experience distress. But if the law says that the two women or two men raising the child are “married,” then they will experience “emotional comfort,” presumably from the knowledge that their family is just like that of their friends.

Except, even in Judge Posner’s own framing of the situation, it is not the absence of a marriage certificate that makes the children feel different from his peers. It is that “all his classmates have a mom and a dad, while he has two moms (or two dads, as the case may be).” If the child’s “two moms” or “two dads” are permitted to “marry” — well, “all his classmates” will still have “a mom and a dad,” while the child in question will still be “not in step with [his] peers” because he will still not have a mom and a dad!

Judge Posner is naïve in the extreme if he thinks that such a child would care more about whether his caregivers have a certificate from the government than about whether his family includes something as fundamental on a human level as a mother and a father.

Men and women make babies, and same-sex couples do not.”

by Peter Sprigg

September 2, 2014

On August 26, 2014, a three-judge panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in Chicago in cases challenging the marriage laws of two states, Indiana and Wisconsin.

I have already written a detailed blog post outlining highlights of the arguments and my reactions to them. However, I thought it would be worth sharing some more extended excerpts of the argument in defense of a one-man-one-woman definition of marriage. Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher outlined (and Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson endorsed) the core constitutional argument — that marriage exists as a public institution primarily to promote responsible procreation.

At oral arguments, the attorneys are frequently interrupted by the judges, so the following quotes are taken from a variety of points during the argument. The quotes are my own transcription from the audio which the court posted here.

Thomas Fisher:                                                     

If we don’t have marriage, what is the issue we’re dealing with? We’re dealing with widespread heterosexual activity that creates babies. There has to be a mechanism to deal with that. The mechanism is, let’s channel potentially procreative couples into relationships that are durable and longstanding and will remain together for the sake of the child… .

The question is, “What can we do to nudge heterosexual couples, who may produce children, to plan for this — to plan for the consequences and appreciate the consequences of sexual behavior?” Those consequences don’t arise with same-sex couples… . .

 … [A]ll this is a reflection of biology. It’s simply that men and women make babies, and same-sex couples do not… .

We have to have a mechanism for dealing with those babies, and marriage is that mechanism.

Truth Matters in Ex-Gay Debate

by Peter Sprigg

August 29, 2014

[Note: A condensed version of this post appeared at The Christian Post on August 28, 2014 under the title, “Ex-Gay Therapy Debate: The Truth Matters.”]

The fact that some people change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual (some spontaneously as a developmental change, some through religious counseling, and some through professional therapy) is a big problem for the homosexual movement. It seriously undermines the myth that people are “born gay and can’t change” This myth is essential to making the public believe that disapproval of (or even failure to actively affirm and celebrate) men choosing to have sex with men and women choosing to have sex with women is exactly as loathsome as “discrimination” based on race.

The organized ex-gay movement is small and poorly-funded, but it poses such an existential threat to pro-homosexual mythology that homosexual activists have mounted a furious assault upon it. The principal form this assault has taken is the introduction of laws that would ban any and all “sexual orientation change efforts” (or “SOCE”) with minors by licensed mental health providers. This idea was pioneered in California where they originally wanted a ban across the board regardless of age. However, it was concluded that this shocking violation of a long-time ethical principle of client autonomy might be too much to take, so the ban was limited to minors on the grounds of “protecting” children. Such laws have been adopted already in California and New Jersey, but similar bills died in more than a dozen other states over the last year or so.

As noted, “protection of minors” has been a key selling point in the legislatures that have considered these bills, and the threatened loss of licensing has been the legal stick employed. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a wealthy, left-wing, anti-Christian political advocacy group that was linked to domestic terrorism in federal court, has executed a pincer movement in New Jersey by suing SOCE providers, including unlicensed counselors who work with adults, charging “fraud” under that state’s consumer protection laws.

Most “sexual reorientation therapy” today consists of “talk therapy” — a client simply talking with a counselor about his or her feelings, experiences, relationships with parents and peers, etc. Some therapists add other positive techniques that have been validated in a variety of contexts — not just SOCE.

However, to generate opposition to SOCE, its opponents have reached back decades to techniques some therapists once used called “aversion therapy” — attempting to associate homosexual feelings with some sort of negative stimuli. No one has been able to identify a single therapist actually practicing today who uses “aversive” techniques in SOCE — but that hasn’t stopped homosexual activists from pretending that they do.

In a hearing before the New Jersey legislature, one witness in support of the ban was a young person who is a male-to-female transgender and goes by the name Brielle Goldani. Christopher Doyle is ex-gay, a therapist himself, and a founder of the ex-gay advocacy group Voice of the Voiceless. He was also present at the March 18, 2013 hearing, and described Goldani’s testimony in a piece for WorldNetDaily the following week:

QUOTE

Twice a week I was hooked up to electrodes on my hands,” she said. “I, a child, was shocked repeatedly by people who had my parent’s permission to torture me.” Goldani, now 29, claims that she had no rights when her parents sent her away as a male teenager. She claims that the torture occurred at conversion camp called True Directions. “This is nothing more than legalized child abuse,” claimed Goldani at the hearing.

Having attended and testified at the hearing myself, I was shocked and horrified to hear about such abuse… . So I tracked down Goldani and talked to her on the phone to find out more information.

Goldani claims that an Assemblies of God Church in Columbus, Ohio, ran the True Directions conversion therapy camp:

There were 12 boys, and 12 girls. The first Sunday I was there, I was forced to sit in their church service, which was nothing but hate speech. Then, on Monday, the heavier therapy began. We were forced to masturbate to heterosexual images and soft-core pornography, such as Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. Twice a week, my hands were hooked up to electrodes for two hours at a time while we were shown positive images such as a nuclear family, a female with children, a male construction worker and a female receptionist. I was also subjected to forced IV injections twice a week for two hours each while being made to watch negative images of what they didn’t approve of. … The injections made me vomit uncontrollably. Every Friday and Saturday evening, we were forced to go on ‘flirting dates’ where a camp counselor coached us on how to talk to the opposite sex romantically. … We were also given uniforms to wear, black pants and white shirts for boys, black skirts and white blouses for girls.”

END QUOTE

Doyle wrote in his article, “As a former homosexual and practitioner of Sexual Orientation Change Effort (SOCE) therapy, I had never heard of such inhumane treatment, except from anti-ex-gay activists who often claim that SOCE employs such barbaric methods.” So he did further research to see if he could verify any of Goldani’s account.

The Assemblies of God in Ohio denied that any such camp existed, or that they had ever participated in such activities. The state government of Ohio could find no record that a camp named “True Directions” had ever existed there. Goldani claimed that her family’s church in New Jersey had paid for him to go to the camp for a month and a half, but the pastor of the church scoffed at the idea that they would ever have done such a thing.

Doyle did find one reference to a “gay conversion camp” called “True Directions,” though. It was part of the plot of a fictional 1999 movie called But I’m a Cheerleader, which starred drag queen RuPaul. It would be hard to conclude anything other than that Goldani took the plot of this far-fetched movie, and tried to pass it off as her own life story.

The latest debate over the issue occurred on June 27 at a committee hearing on a bill similar to the California and New Jersey measures that has been introduced in the District of Columbia. You can read my account of the hearing on the Family Research Council Blog, and my testimony on the FRC website.

One of the witnesses at that hearing who testified in support of the proposed ban was Dr. Gregory Jones, who introduced himself as a “gay identified” licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in “Affirmative LGBTQ Mental Health.”

In his testimony, Jones included this quote from a recent article on the SOCE bans that appeared on Time magazine’s website on June 23, 2014:

QUOTE

Sam Brinton says that his father first tried physical abuse to rid his young son of homosexual feelings. When that didn’t work, Brinton’s parents turned to something called reparative therapy. Some of the memories are hazy more than 10 years later, but Brinton does remember the tactics the counselor used. There was talk therapy, about how God disapproved, and there was aversion therapy, during which pictures of men touching men would be accompanied by the application of heat or ice. “It was pretty much mental torture,” Brinton says. “To this day, I still have light pain when I shake hands with another male.”

END QUOTE

I had seen the Time article — and it, in turn rang a bell. The name of Sam Brinton had first come to my attention the week before that, when a piece appeared in Politico that was authored by John Paulk. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, John and his wife Anne were former homosexuals who worked for Focus on the Family promoting the ex-gay message. In 2003, they fled the spotlight to move to Oregon, where John opened a catering business.

John Paulk has now renounced his ex-gay advocacy and, apparently, returned to homosexuality. (Anne Paulk, his now-estranged wife remains active in the ex-gay movement.)

A sidebar article accompanied John Paulk’s piece in Politico: “Gay-Conversion Therapy: How It Works (Or Doesn’t),” By Elizabeth F. Ralph.

It included this:

QUOTE

Electroconvulsive Therapy

One former patient described his course of electroconvulsive therapy, in use today, as “The Month of Hell.” The treatment, he told the Huffington Post, “consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I’d be electrocuted.”

END QUOTE

This refers to Samuel Brinton, a Kansas State student whose story was reported almost three years ago in the Huffington Post:

QUOTE [emphasis added]

I grew up as the son of Southern Baptist missionaries and without knowing what the word “gay” was (we just called them abominations) I asked my father why I was feeling attracted to my best friend, Dale. I don’t remember the second punch but I do remember waking up in the emergency room for the third time asking the doctors not to send me back and telling them that I had not fallen down the stairs again. When “punching the gay out” didn’t work we moved to conversion therapy. Being told I had AIDS and was going to die if the government found me was only the beginning. I would be strapped down with blocks of ice or heating pads placed on my hands while pictures of men holding hands were shown. The conversion ended when I told my parents I was straight to stop the electrocution by needles in my fingers while gay sex acts where shown to me. When I would later come back out to them for a second time I was told never to walk back in that house if I wanted to walk out alive.

I tell you the story of my conversion therapy not for dramatic effect but to explain why I do what I do. I cannot let another child go through that torture because their parents think this is the only way to have a normal child.

END QUOTE

Brinton received an award from “Campus Pride,” the college LGBT group, for sharing his horror story of therapy. This report was so shocking that even some pro-“gay” media tried to verify this report — and couldn’t.

Even Wayne Besen, the most rabid “anti-ex-gay” activist, refused to use his story because it remains unverified. Here’s the full statement Besen posted in the comments section of the Queerty article which questioned Brinton’s story.

QUOTE [emphasis added]

Wayne Besen

Samuel came forward and told a story presumably in an effort to help others. There are groups like mine who would be thrilled to use his example to demonstrate the harm caused by “ex-gay” therapy. We live for real life examples like this.

However, until he provides more information to verify his experience, he makes it impossible for us to use him as an example. Indeed, it would be grossly irresponsible for us to do so.

If a group like mine puts out or promotes a story that turns out to be exaggerated or fake, the religious right would rake us through the coals and by extension the entire LGBT community. This would cast an ominous shadow on all of the legitimate ex-ex-gay testimonies that have helped so many people come out of the closet.

So, for the sake of the movement he is trying to help — it is critical that Sam reveal exactly who the therapist was that tortured him. He could do this publicly or privately, but we need more information before we can use his narrative.

We very much hope he will provide enough information so we can help people by sharing his compelling story.

Sincerely,

Wayne Besen

Truth Wins Out

Oct 11, 2011 at 8:51 pm

END QUOTE

Here is part of Brinton’s reply to Besen:

QUOTE

I was indirectly in contact with Wayne and although I know he wants me to send the information of the therapist that is simply not an option. Counselor after counselor has seen me revert to near suicidal tendencies when I try to dig deep into the memories of that time and I simply don’t have his name. I can picture him clear as day in my nightmares but his name is not there. The movement can’t use me I guess.

I have no problem with people not believing my story. It is not for me to try to prove. I don’t want to be the poster-child of the anti-conversion therapy movement since graduate school at MIT is plenty tough as it is.

. . .

Oct 14, 2011 at 2:11 am

END QUOTE

Brinton’s memory does not seem to have gotten any better since 2011, since Time reports “Some of the memories are hazy more than 10 years later.” And he seems to have dropped the claim that he was electrocuted as part of his therapy (or perhaps even Time thought that strained credulity). Yet what even Wayne Besen said would be “grossly irresponsible” (using Brinton as an example), Time is perfectly willing to do, thus making Brinton exactly what he coyly claimed he didn’t want to be — “the poster-child of the anti-conversion therapy movement.”

Critics of Natural Marriage Remain in Search of Legal Rationale in 7th Circuit Arguments

by Peter Sprigg

August 28, 2014

I regard it as absurd, you say it’s self-evident.”

That caustic remark — one of many — from Judge Richard Posner, during the August 26 oral arguments regarding Indiana and Wisconsin marriage laws, perhaps encapsulated the gulf between those seeking to retain the natural definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman and those seeking to redefine it for the purpose of affirming homosexual relationships.

Posner, a 75-year-old Reagan appointee, directed his quip at Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher, who was defending his state’s law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a set of cases under the heading Baskin v. Bogan. The court also heard arguments regarding Wisconsin’s marriage amendment in the case of Wolf v. Walker. District courts in both cases ruled the state marriage laws unconstitutional earlier this year. (Oral arguments in the cases can be heard online at the links above.)

Mr. Fisher was right. The case for defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman is (or at least should be) self-evident. It is self-evident that opposite-sex and same-sex sexual relationships are not the same — the former can result in natural procreation, and the latter never can. That fact, in turn, makes it self-evident that society has a greater interest in both encouraging and regulating opposite-sex relationships (which it does through the institution of marriage) than same-sex ones.

Nevertheless, the homosexual movement has succeeded in draping a curtain over these self-evident truths by misdirection involving not the rule, but exceptions — namely, opposite-sex couples who do not procreate and same-sex couples who do raise children. The specific point which Judge Posner considered “absurd” was the idea (posed by Posner himself) that a sterile, elderly opposite-sex couple could in any way be a “model” for a younger couple forming a family.

Posner dominated the arguments in both cases, offering by far the most questions and comments of any of the three judges — at least when defenders of natural marriage were attempting to make their case. While it is customary for judges in such settings to seize control of the discussion rather than simply allow the attorneys free rein, for most of the arguments, Posner was pushing a single point of his own, arguing rather than asking questions, and often not even allowing time for a single sentence in reply.

Posner’s single-minded obsession was the presumed plight of children who are being raised by same-sex couples. When the state argued that marriage addresses the uniquely heterosexual problem of accidental or unintended procreation, Posner asked, “Now, isn’t it true most unintended children are put up for adoption?” (Fisher answered, correctly, “I think many times single mothers care for them.”) Posner seemed to assume that most children raised by homosexuals are adopted from this pool of “unintended” children — painting a picture of homosexual couples heroically rescuing children abandoned by their heterosexual parents. (In reality, most children being raised by homosexuals or same-sex couples are the biological child of one partner, conceived in a previous heterosexual relationship and now forcibly separated from one biological parent by the other.) Posner’s own “self-evident” truth — apparently heavily influenced by a brief filed by the pro-homosexual Family Equality Council — was that such children would be helped by their same-sex “parents” having access to the legal benefits of marriage. His question was, who would be harmed by that (or, alternatively, who benefits from the current law which prevents such same-sex “parents” from marrying)?

There are good answers to this question — see, for example, my FRC booklet, The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex “Marriage.” Unfortunately, attorneys for the states seemed unprepared — or reluctant — to offer examples of such potential harms, suggesting only that we cannot know with certainty what the consequences would be. That aside, however, the kind of cost-benefit analysis Judge Posner was proposing is a fundamentally legislative task — not a judicial one. Whether costs outweigh benefits may help determine if a particular policy is wise — but it is not sufficient to determine if a policy is constitutional, or should be struck down by the courts.

Another judge in the three-judge panel, 57-year-old David Hamilton (appointed to a District Court position by Clinton and to the Appeals Court by Obama), was also skeptical of the state’s arguments. Hamilton, however, was far more measured in tone than Posner — and more balanced, asking challenging questions of the plaintiffs’ attorneys as well. Having warned each attorney that while they want to emphasize their strong points, the judges want to probe their weak ones, Hamilton pressed those backing the redefinition of marriage about one of Fisher’s arguments for Indiana — namely, “The position put forth by the plaintiffs in this case admit[s] of no limiting principle.”

In other words, as many have pointed out, the arguments put forth in support of same-sex “marriage” — such as “equality” and the freedom to marry whom you choose — could be equally applied to other types of unions, including polygamous or incestuous ones. That challenge was also pressed by the third judge, 65-year-old Ann Claire Williams (appointed by Reagan to a District Court and by Clinton to the Appeals Court). Even Posner, by far the most skeptical of “traditional” marriage, piled on in the polygamy discussion, asking, “How many people do you have a fundamental right to marry at one time? Just one? … I don’t understand — where do you draw the line?”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs mostly avoided the question or struggled to find an answer, with Ken Falk of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana falling back on his own form of “self-evident” truth, referring to “my mathematical diagram of marriage” in declaring that “if you have two people in it, regardless of their sexes … it’s going to look like marriage. If you have three or four people, it’s not going to look like marriage.” (Of course, for most of history, if it didn’t have a man and a woman, it didn’t “look like marriage.”)

Another Achilles’ heel for the marriage redefinition movement, despite a string of federal court victories since last year’s Supreme Court decision requiring federal recognition of same-sex unions that are legally recognized by states, is that no consensus has emerged about the legal or constitutional reasoning for declaring a “right” to same-sex “marriage.” The Supreme Court has said that the “liberty” interests protected by the “due process” clause of the 14th Amendment include a “fundamental right to marry,” which some courts have asserted also encompasses the right to marry a person of the same sex. However, the 7th Circuit judges seemed skeptical of that approach, with Hamilton saying, “Finding a federal right to marry that is undefined is a pretty problematic concept for substantive due process.” Even Posner was skeptical on this point, saying, “I think when you talk about fundamental rights … you get into a morass, right?”

Judge Hamilton asserted that “you’ve got a much stronger equal protection theory.” The problem for those seeking to overturn the marriage laws under “equal protection” is that most laws are presumed constitutional under the lenient “rational basis” test, which requires only that there be some conceivable “rational basis” for the classification in the law. Hamilton, therefore, raised the possibility that the differential treatment of same-sex couples might trigger “heightened scrutiny,” which places a heavier burden of proof upon the state to defend the law. “If we look strictly at the text,” Hamilton said, “what the statute does is classify based on sex… . So that would seem to point us in the direction of heightened scrutiny.”

Most courts, however, have viewed the “classification” as being based on sexual orientation rather than sex, and even attorney James Esseks of the ACLU, arguing in the Wisconsin case, admitted that 7th Circuit precedent does not apply heightened scrutiny for sexual orientation. (In reality, the “classification” in the marriage laws is based on “gender complementarity,” which is different from either of the other theories.) On the “heightened scrutiny” theory, Posner parted ways with Hamilton, declaring, “I don’t get any help from phrases like heightened scrutiny.” Posner, perhaps oblivious to what he was saying, even touched the third rail of debates over homosexuality by appearing to compare homosexuals to pedophiles and treat pedophilia as a “sexual orientation”:

If you were dealing with pedophiles, you wouldn’t say … any regulation of pedophiles was subject to heightened scrutiny because it’s an innate sexual orientation… . We don’t think of those terms when we’re dealing with all sorts of sexual compulsions, right? We just say, “This is obviously very harmful to other people.” So it’s illegal, even though these people can’t help it in many cases.

One thing that was disappointing in the oral arguments (in addition to Judge Posner’s vitriolic hostility to natural marriage) was the relatively weak defense offered by attorneys for the states. By focusing narrowly on the issue of accidental procreation (the one public concern that is absolutely unique to opposite-sex relationships), Indiana’s Fisher omitted broader state interests in encouraging procreation in general, and in encouraging the raising of children by both their mother and father. (Indeed, one of Judge Hamilton’s first statements to him was, “I would think that the state’s interest is equal regardless of whether the children are intended or unintended.”).

Assistant Attorney General Timothy Samuelson’s defense of Wisconsin’s law was even more vague, as he drew mockery from the judges for his reliance on “tradition” and “experience” as justifications for the one-man-one-woman definition. He was given little opportunity to develop a more technical argument he proposed regarding the difference between “negative” rights (such as protection from employment discrimination) and “positive” rights (such as access to the legal benefits of marriage). At one point, he said, “We defer to Mr. Fisher’s arguments [in the Indiana case] … [M]arriage provides a mechanism for tying unplanned children to their biological parents.” At another, he referred the judges to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent in last year’s case striking down the federal definition of marriage (Alito had cited the increase in divorce rates following the adoption of no-fault divorce as an example of how changes in marriage laws can lead to unforeseen negative consequences).

In neither case did the state’s attorneys make assertions as to actual harms that might result from redefining marriage — forcing Judge Hamilton to raise the issue by mentioning friend-of-the-court briefs by pro-family professor Helen Alvare (who argues, “Redefining marriage in a way that de-links sex, marriage and children threatens to harm the most vulnerable Americans and exacerbate the ‘marriage gap’ responsible for increasing levels of social inequality in America”) and by authors Robert George, Sherif Girgis, and Ryan Anderson (who argue, “Redefining marriage would not extend its stabilizing norms, but undermine them across society.”) Fisher merely affirmed the state’s position is that they “can win without making that argument.”

Although all three judges seemed skeptical of the states codifying only natural marriage between a man and a woman, it remains unclear what argument will win in the 7th Circuit, given the lack of consensus on any constitutional rationale for striking those laws down, and the lack of a “limiting principle” to be placed upon such a redefinition of marriage.

Robin Williams, Rehab, and Reorientation

by Peter Sprigg

August 18, 2014

Robin Williams, the brilliantly talented comedian and actor, was found dead in his California home on August 11, the victim of an apparent suicide.

News coverage of his death reviewed his eclectic career, from the 1970’s TV hit Mork and Mindy to his Oscar for Good Will Hunting.

However, the media also reviewed his long history of drug and alcohol abuse. That began during his early days of television stardom. Williams reportedly gave up cocaine and alcohol, though, after his friend John Belushi died of an overdose and Williams became a father.

Williams spoke candidly about his addictions in a 2010 interview with the British newspaper The Guardian while on a publicity tour for his film World’s Greatest Dad (in which, ironically, he played a writer who fakes a suicide note and journal and attributes them to his late son).

Apparently, Williams quit alcohol and drugs cold turkey in the early ‘80’s, without any professional therapeutic intervention. He reported that he stayed sober for twenty years, but then began drinking again while working on location in a remote town in Alaska. After three years of drinking, a “family intervention” persuaded Williams to enter “rehab” (residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation) at the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center near Newberg, Oregon, where he stayed for two months. After that, Williams told The Guardian, he continued to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous every week.

Then just last month, news broke that Williams had again returned to rehab, this time at a Hazelden center in Minnesota. A spokesman for Williams said that he had not relapsed into substance abuse, but was “simply taking the opportunity to fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment [to sobriety], of which he remains extremely proud.” That was on July 1 — but six weeks later, he was dead.

In the wake of Williams’ suicide, many TV commentators and friends of the late star talked about the challenges of mental illness (Williams suffered from depression), addictions — and rehab. I saw comedian Andy Dick say, “I’ve been to rehab seventeen times.”

In light of this history, I have only one question for socially liberal political activists — why aren’t you trying to outlaw rehab?

I ask the question because such activists are trying to ban a form of mental health treatment — not drug and alcohol rehabilitation, but “sexual orientation change efforts” (“SOCE”), also known as “sexual reorientation therapy.” Such therapy involves assisting people with unwanted same-sex attractions to overcome them.

Why would someone want to change their sexual orientation? Some such individuals are simply disillusioned by their experiences in homosexual relationships. Some have legitimate concern about the well-documented health problems associated with homosexual conduct (especially among men), such as high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, of which HIV/AIDS is only one example. Others may seek help in conforming their behavior and lifestyle to the teaching of the religious faith to which they are committed. Some may aspire to a traditional family life, raising children in a home with both their mother and father present.

Whatever the motivation, there are those who have simply made a choice to walk away from the homosexual lifestyle, without clinical help — much like how Robin Williams simply stopped using drugs and alcohol in the 1980’s. Others have sought professional help, perhaps at the urging of family members, in the form of “sexual reorientation therapy” — much like when Williams entered a formal alcohol rehab program in 2006. Whether simply through personal development, religious counseling, or with the help of a licensed or unlicensed counselor, thousands (if not millions) of people have experienced significant changes in one or more of the elements of their sexual orientation (attractions, behavior, or self-identification).

Homosexual groups, however, have successfully pressured professional organizations such as the American Psychological Association to discourage such therapy. More recently, following an example set in California, legislators in several states have introduced bills to forbid licensed mental health counselors from engaging in SOCE with minors at all. Meanwhile in New Jersey (which already passed such a ban), the Southern Poverty Law Center has sued even unlicensed SOCE providers, charging them with “consumer fraud.”

Critics of reorientation therapy make two charges — that it is ineffective, and that it is harmful. But they support these charges only by holding such therapies to a standard of “effectiveness” and “safety” that is impossible for any mental health treatment to meet.

Some (but not all) clients of reorientation therapy testify to a complete transformation from homosexual to heterosexual, experiencing a change in their identity, behavior, and attractions. Others may change their identity, control their behavior, and begin to experience heterosexual attractions, but still experience occasional homosexual attractions as well. Still others may change identity and behavior, but continue to struggle with primarily homosexual attractions. Some clients change little with respect to their sexuality, but still find the therapy beneficial in exploring their feelings, family dynamics, etc. Some may seem to achieve significant changes for a period of time, but then suffer relapse. And finally, a few may simply experience little substantial change.

This range of outcomes is no different from any other form of mental health treatment — such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Yet critics of reorientation therapy claim that “it doesn’t work” because the proportion of clients who achieve complete transformation on a permanent basis is less than 100%. Can rehab live up to this standard?

There is actually no scientific evidence that reorientation therapy is more harmful than helpful. There are, however, anecdotal accounts of people who claim they found it harmful, or who had negative experiences after such therapy, such as depression or even suicide. However, mere chronological correlation is not scientific proof of causation — any more than Robin Williams’ suicide was “caused” by his recent return to rehab.

The real reason why homosexual activists object to reorientation therapy has nothing to do with science or mental health. Instead, it has everything to do with politics and ideology. If it is tolerable for some people to try to change from “gay” to straight — and for others to help them with the process — that might imply that it is tolerable to believe that there is something wrong with homosexuality itself. For ideological reasons, that is a belief that homosexual activists want stamped out at all costs.

If we were to apply the same standards to drug and alcohol rehabilitation that the homosexual activists want to apply to reorientation therapy, why not ban rehab? After all, since some people go to rehab and still suffer relapses afterwards, rehab is clearly “ineffective.” Robin Williams actually went to rehab, and shortly thereafter took his own life. Does that not clearly indicate that rehab is not only ineffective, but downright harmful? In addition, there are surely people who consume alcohol or use illicit drugs but are still able to function and make productive contributions to society — so there is obviously nothing inherently wrong with alcohol or drugs. Allowing people who struggle with their alcohol or drug use to seek professional help to discontinue them implies there is something wrong with them — thus reinforcing the unfair social stigma which attaches to people who use alcohol and drugs. And surely “family intervention” to force someone into rehab is a violation of their personal autonomy. In light of all these concerns, how can we allow the fraud of “rehab” to continue?

This kind of reasoning, of course, would be clearly absurd. There is no kind of mental health counseling that can guarantee it will substantially change the lives of 100% of its clients for the better. Those who do experience improvement may still struggle with temptation (hence the weekly AA meetings for support). Even among those who succeed in rehab, there can be no guarantee that none of them will, at some time in the future, relapse into the problems which caused them to enter treatment in the first place. Furthermore, the fact that a negative outcome (like suicide) follows a treatment like rehab chronologically does not mean that the treatment caused the negative outcome. It is far more likely that an underlying pathology (in Robin Williams’ case, depression) was the cause of both his substance abuse (which led him to rehab) and his suicide.

It would be absurd to ban rehab because it doesn’t work for everyone; doesn’t work 100% by eliminating all temptation; isn’t always permanent; is sometimes undertaken because of family pressure; or because bad things may happen afterwards. It would be equally absurd to ban rehab in order to protect the self-esteem of people who do not consider their alcohol or drug use to be a problem.

But the argument that we should ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) is equally absurd — because it relies on all the same fallacious arguments.

Is There a Federal Constitutional “Right” to Same-Sex “Marriage?” The Supreme Court Answered that Question Already — in 1972

by Peter Sprigg

August 5, 2014

Have you ever heard of the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case called Baker v. Nelson?

If so, you are probably a lawyer, or (like me) a person who regularly reads briefs and court decisions on the issue of redefining “marriage” to include homosexual couples.

If you have never heard of this case, you can be forgiven — even if you regularly read news stories about the movement for the same-sex redefinition of marriage.

However, Baker v. Nelson is an important precedent on this issue. It was the very first case in which anyone ever asserted that the Constitution of the United States protects the right to legally “marry” a person of the same sex. In Baker, a male couple sued a county clerk in Minnesota for denying them a marriage license in May 1970. The case made its way to the Supreme Court of Minnesota — which, on October 15, 1971, issued a ruling declaring that the state’s marriage law did not permit a same-sex couple to “marry,” and that it “does not offend … the United States Constitution.”

The case was appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court — which at the time, was required to accept all such appeals (this is no longer true). The Supreme Court issued its ruling on the case on October 10, 1972, declaring (in full): “Appeal from Sup. Ct. Minn. dismissed for want of substantial federal question.”

The dismissal of the appeal “for want of [a] substantial federal question” meant that the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision against same-sex “marriage” to stand.

Hundreds of times a year, the Supreme Court allows lower court decisions to stand as the final ruling in that particular case when it “denies a writ of certiorari” (or “denies cert” for short). Such denials do not imply that the Supreme Court necessarily agrees with the decision or its reasoning, and they do not set binding precedent for future cases.

However, a “dismissal for want of a substantial federal question” is not just a refusal to hear the case, the way that a denial of a writ of certiorari is. Such a summary dismissal is considered to be both a decision on the merits and a binding precedent. The Supreme Court explained this in a 1975 decision, Hicks v. Miranda. I have omitted citations and quotation marks in the following, but the Court affirmed this view of summary dismissals:

Votes to affirm summarily, and to dismiss for want of a substantial federal question, it hardly needs comment, are votes on the merits of a case … . [U]nless and until the Supreme Court should instruct otherwise, inferior federal courts had best adhere to the view that, if the Court has branded a question as unsubstantial, it remains so except when doctrinal developments indicate otherwise … . [T]he lower courts are bound by summary decisions by this Court until such time as the Court informs [them] that [they] are not.”

Unfortunately, the “inferior federal courts” have not been acknowledging the binding precedent of Baker — at least, not since the Supreme Court’s decision in June 2013 (United States v. Windsor) striking down the one-man-one-woman definition of marriage in the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Judges in the recent federal cases have asserted that “doctrinal developments” (both with regard to the treatment of sexual orientation and of marriage under the law and Supreme Court precedent) have made Baker no longer binding.

Although the Windsor case is widely cited as the decisive case tipping the balance in favor of a federal constitutional right to same-sex “marriage,” it actually addressed a much narrower issue. DOMA effectively denied federal recognition even to same-sex “marriages” that were legal in the eyes of a State, and it was this “unusual deviation from the usual tradition of recognizing and accepting state definitions of marriage” that was deemed offensive to the Constitution. On the other hand, state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman are not an “unusual deviation from the usual tradition” — they are the usual tradition.

Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion made clear that Windsor was about “persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State” (emphasis added). The penultimate sentence of the opinion states specifically, “This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.”

Implicit in this caveat is that the “opinion and its holding” do not apply to same-sex relationships that have not been deemed to be legal “marriages” by any State. As Hicks v. Miranda said, “[T]he lower courts are bound by summary decisions by this Court until such time as the Court informs [them] that [they] are not.” This would suggest that the summary decision in Baker remains binding (at least on the lower courts), since even in Windsor, the Supreme Court has never “informed [them] that [it] is not.”

Some people may argue that the absence of a written opinion explaining its reasoning limits the precedential value of Baker. However, while the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the case in a scant twelve words, the same is not true of the Minnesota Supreme Court. They issued a written opinion over a thousand words long, succinctly but clearly explaining the weakness of the plaintiffs’ case.

Although the written opinion was from a state court, the plaintiffs’ primary claims (and the Minnesota Supreme Court’s opinion) dealt primarily with federal constitutional issues. The assertions made by the plaintiffs — relating to the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment — are virtually the same as those being made in the cases working their way through the federal courts today.

Therefore, it is worth reading the Minnesota Supreme Court decision in Baker v. Nelson. An honest judge with integrity could just as easily release it again today.

The version below is edited for clarity by removing legal citations (except the one for Baker itself) and by turning all footnotes into end notes, as well as by adding limited explanatory material. The full text of the decision can be found various places online, including here.

Richard John BAKER, et al., Appellants,

v.

Gerald NELSON, Clerk of Hennepin County District Court, Respondent

No. 43009

Supreme Court of Minnesota,

Oct. 15, 1971

191 N.W.2d 185; 291 Minn. 310

OPINION

[C. DONALD] PETERSON, Justice. [for a unanimous 7-judge court]

The questions for decision are whether a marriage of two persons of the same sex is authorized by state statutes and, if not, whether state authorization is constitutionally compelled.

Petitioners, Richard John Baker and James Michael McConnell, both adult male persons, made application to respondent, Gerald R. Nelson, clerk of Hennepin County District Court, for a marriage license, pursuant to [Minnesota’s marriage law]. Respondent declined to issue the license on the sole ground that petitioners were of the same sex, it being undisputed that there were otherwise no statutory impediments to a heterosexual marriage by either petitioner.

The trial court, quashing an alternative writ of mandamus, ruled that respondent was not required to issue a marriage license to petitioners and specifically directed that a marriage license not be issued to them. This appeal is from those orders. We affirm.

1. Petitioners contend, first, that the absence of an express statutory prohibition against same-sex marriages evinces a legislative intent to authorize such marriages. We think, however, that a sensible reading of the statute discloses a contrary intent.

[The Minnesota statute] which governs “marriage,” employs that term as one of common usage, meaning the state of union between persons of the opposite sex.[1] It is unrealistic to think that the original draftsmen of our marriage statutes, which date from territorial days, would have used the term in any different sense. The term is of contemporary significance as well, for the present statute is replete with words of heterosexual import such as “husband and wife” and “bride and groom” (the latter words inserted by [another statute]).

We hold, therefore, that [the Minnesota marriage law] does not authorize marriage between persons of the same sex and that such marriages are accordingly prohibited.

2. Petitioners contend, second, that [the Minnesota marriage law], so interpreted, is unconstitutional. There is a dual aspect to this contention: The prohibition of a same-sex marriage denies petitioners a fundamental right guaranteed by the Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution, arguably made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment, and petitioners are deprived of liberty and property without due process and are denied the equal protection of the laws, both guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.[2]

These constitutional challenges have in common the assertion that the right to marry without regard to the sex of the parties is a fundamental right of all persons and that restricting marriage to only couples of the opposite sex is irrational and invidiously discriminatory. We are not independently persuaded by these contentions and do not find support for them in any decisions of the United States Supreme Court

The institution of marriage as a union man and woman, uniquely involving the procreation and rearing of children within a family, is as old as the book of Genesis. Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, [U.S. Supreme Court] (1942), which invalidated Oklahoma’s Habitual Criminal Sterilization Act on equal protection grounds, stated in part: “Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.” This historic institution manifestly is more deeply founded than the asserted contemporary concept of marriage and societal interests for which petitioners contend. The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is not a charter for restructuring it by judicial legislation.

Griswold v. Connecticut, [U.S. Supreme Court] (1965), upon which petitioners rely, does not support a contrary conclusion. A Connecticut criminal statute prohibiting the use of contraceptives by married couples was held invalid, as violating the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The basic premise of that decision, however, was that the state, having authorized marriage, was without power to intrude upon the right of privacy inherent in the marital relationship. Mr. Justice Douglas, author of the majority opinion, wrote that this criminal statute “operates directly on an intimate relation of husband and wife,” and that the very idea of its enforcement by police search of “the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives … is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship.” In a separate opinion for three justices, Mr. Justice Goldberg similarly abhorred this state disruption of “the traditional relation of the family—a relation as old and as fundamental as our entire civilization.”[3]

The equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, like the due process clause, is not offended by the state’s classification of persons authorized to marry. There is no irrational or invidious discrimination. Petitioners note that the state does not impose upon heterosexual married couples a condition that they have a proved capacity or declared willingness to procreate, posing a rhetorical demand that this court must read such condition into the statute if same-sex marriages are to be prohibited. Even assuming that such a condition would be neither unrealistic nor offensive under the Griswold rationale, the classification is no more than theoretically imperfect. We are reminded, however, that “abstract symmetry” is not demanded by the Fourteenth Amendment.[4]

Loving v. Virginia, [U.S. Supreme Court] (1967), upon which petitioners additionally rely, does not militate against this conclusion. Virginia’s antimiscegenation statute, prohibiting interracial marriages, was invalidated solely on the grounds of its patent racial discrimination. As Mr. Chief Justice Warren wrote for the court:

Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, [U.S. Supreme Court] (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, [U.S. Supreme Court] (1888). To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations.”[5]

Loving does indicate that not all state restrictions upon the right to marry are beyond reach of the Fourteenth Amendment. But in commonsense and in a constitutional sense, there is a clear distinction between a marital restriction based merely upon race and one based upon the fundamental difference in sex.

We hold, therefore, that [the Minnesota marriage law] does not offend the First, Eighth, Ninth, or Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

Affirmed.



[1] Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (1966) p. 1384 gives this primary meaning to marriage: “1 a: the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife.”

Black, Law Dictionary (4 ed.) p. 1123 states this definition: “Marriage *** is the civil status, condition, or relation of one man and one woman united in law for life, for the discharge to each other and the community of the duties legally incumbent on those whose association is founded on the distinction of sex.”

[2] We dismiss without discussion petitioners’ additional contentions that the statute contravenes the First Amendment and Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

[3] The difference between the majority opinion of Mr. Justice Douglas and the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Goldberg was that the latter wrote extensively concerning this right of marital privacy as one preserved to the individual by the Ninth Amendment. He stopped short, however, of an implication that the Ninth Amendment was made applicable against the states by the Fourteenth Amendment.

[4] See, Patsone V. Pennsylvania, [U.S. Supreme Court] (1914). As stated in Tigner v.Texas, [U.S. Supreme Court] (1940), and reiterated in Skinner v. Oklahoma ex rel. Williamson, [U.S. Supreme Court], “[t]he Constitution does not require things which are different in fact or opinion to be treated in law as though they were the same.”

[5] See, also, McLaughlin V. Florida, [U.S. Supreme Court] (1964), in which the United States Supreme Court, for precisely the same reason of classification based only upon race, struck down a Florida criminal statute which proscribed and punished habitual cohabitation only if one of an unmarried couple was white and the other black.

Is Living Together the Same as Marriage? The Latest Research

by Peter Sprigg

July 3, 2014

A growing number of couples are living together in sexual relationships without bothering to marry. Are these relationships essentially the same as marriages? Research over the decades has shown significant differences in these two household forms, and the latest report from the National Center for Health Statistics continues that trend.

Here, verbatim, are the “Key findings” in a new report, “Marriage, Cohabitation, and Men’s Use of Preventive Health Care Services.”

QUOTE

Key findings

Data from the National Health Interview Survey, 2011-2012

  • Among men aged 18–64, those who were married were more likely than cohabiting men and other not-married men to have had a health care visit in the past 12 months.
  • Marriage was associated with greater likelihood of a health care visit for both younger and older men, and for men with health insurance.
  • Among those for whom blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes screenings are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, married men were more likely than cohabiting men to have received these clinical preventive services in the past 12 months.
  • Cohabiting men were less likely than other not-married men to have had a health care visit, cholesterol check, or diabetes screening.

END QUOTE

The take-away? Men, the next time your wives nag you to go to the doctor — be thankful!

Strong Opposition to DC Ex-Gay Therapy Ban Voiced at Hearing

by Peter Sprigg

July 1, 2014

On Friday, June 27, it was my privilege to join a number of former homosexuals and other “everstraight” allies like me in testifying against a bill to ban sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) for minors in the District of Columbia.

The politically correct mental health establishment turned out in force, with representatives of a variety of professional organizations voicing support for the bill, which would actually function by denying licensing as a mental health provider to anyone who helps minors overcome unwanted same-sex attractions. And all but one of the thirteen members of DC’s City Council has co-sponsored Bill 20-501, so it might seem as though the bill would be sure to pass.

Advocates of the measure who assumed it was on a fast track may have to think again after Friday’s hearing, though. Although defenders of therapeutic freedom were in the minority, we did bring forward eleven strong witnesses — eight of whom are themselves ex-gays, therapists, or clients who are currently in the change process. It takes great courage for such people to “out” themselves as ex-gay, given that typical reactions rage from skepticism to incredulity to outright vilification. Few things can challenge the unfounded conviction that “people are born gay and can never change” better than a face-to-face encounter with someone who has changed.

In contrast to the eight first-person testimonies against the bill, bill supporters had only one witness who claimed to have personally experienced (unsuccessful) reorientation therapy — Sam Wolfe of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a wealthy leftist political organization best known for slandering conservative organizations as “hate groups.” (Floyd Corkins, who came to Family Research Council headquarters on August 15, 2012 intent on mass murder and shot and seriously wounded my colleague Leo Johnson, told the FBI that he chose FRC and other targets by looking at the “hate map” on the SPLC website.)

Wolfe reported going “undercover” at a seminar sponsored by the International Healing Foundation — whose director, ex-gay Christopher Doyle, was in the audience as a witness against the bill. (Later in the hearing, Wolfe was scolded to his face by an ex-gay witness, Chuck, for having violated confidences by writing publicly about private and personal conversations he had with him at the conference.)

Encouraging, in a back-handed sort of way, was the apparent disinterest of the DC Council members in this topic. The Committee on Health has five members, but only the chairman, Yvette Alexander, was present for the whole hearing. Even the sponsor of the bill, Mary Cheh, failed to make an appearance — not even to give a three-minute testimony like the rest of us (Cheh is not a member of the Health Committee, and she did have a staffer present to monitor the entire hearing.) It appeared one other member sent a staffer for only part of the hearing. Local media also ignored the hearing with only the “gay” media and a crew from CBN News showing up.

The only other actual Councilmember to show up at all was the openly “gay” David Catania, who is currently an Independent candidate waging a long-shot campaign for mayor. Catania only stayed for about ten minutes, but that was plenty of time for him to make a negative impression.

One point that many advocates made is that SOCE is based on the premise that homosexuality is a mental illness — a position that was abandoned by the American Psychiatric Association in 1973, in response to a campaign of intellectual terrorism undertaken by a small but zealous band of homosexual activists within the organization. Strictly speaking, however, this claim by SOCE critics is untrue. The more fundamental premise of SOCE is the undeniable and observable fact that some people who experience same-sex attractions experience them as something unwanted.

Therefore, no premise is needed to justify SOCE beyond the long-established ethical principle in counseling that the client — not the therapist — has the right to establish the goals for therapy.

While none of the witnesses against the proposed ban claimed that all homosexuals are mentally ill, Councilman Catania did not hesitate to declare that all of us — therapy clients and straight allies alike — are mentally ill.

Those with same-sex attractions who seek sexual reorientation therapy to overcome those attractions are, according to Catania (who is not a mental health professional), suffering from the “illness” of “internalized hatred,” a condition which causes them to “deny who they are” and “seek to be something they are not.”

Heterosexuals who support the freedom of homosexuals to choose to seek change, on the other hand, suffer from the “illness” of “internalized superiority.” This condition causes them to believe “they are superior to us who are LGBTQ.” In a remarkable display of unqualified psychotherapy of people he has never met, Catania declared, “If you take that superiority away from them, what is left? An emptiness, a void, a profound sadness.”

The low point of Catania’s shameful performance, however, came when he decided to browbeat one of the youngest witnesses at the hearing, a man in his mid-20’s named Nathan who is a current client of IHF. Nathan did not claim to be “cured” of homosexuality, admitting honestly that he is a “work in progress.” Catania wanted to know if Nathan felt “shame, guilty, inadequacy, and inferiority as a teenager, and asked, “What other than self-hate makes you want to change?”

Catania appeared to be fishing for an answer related to religion, family shaming, or a belief that homosexuality is a mental illness, in order to mount an attack. Nathan, however, did not take the bait, insisting calmly that “personal dissatisfaction with two years in the gay lifestyle” was the only reason he made the free choice to seek therapy. At one point Christopher Doyle of IHF became so disgusted that he interrupted Catania’s interrogation saying, “I find this whole line of questioning offensive;” whereupon Catania snapped, “We ask the questions!” Catania left shortly thereafter, without asking any questions of any of the professional therapists opposing the bill.

Chairman Alexander is a co-sponsor of the therapy ban, but in her questioning of the witnesses she betrayed such a naïve ignorance of the entire subject that she ended up playing devil’s advocate toward both sides. For example, the bill bars SOCE for anyone under age 18, but Alexander asked more than once how that could be squared with the fact that the legal “age of consent” for sexual relations is only 16. Advocates of the bill stammered to find an answer. She also reacted to the testimony by several of the ex-gay witnesses that they had been sexually abused as children, voicing the politically incorrect speculation that for those people, at least, homosexuality might not be biologically determined.

David Pickup, an ex-gay who is a licensed therapist, spoke of having been sexually abused at the age of five, and warned that the bill would make it illegal to help a heterosexual boy reduce homosexual feelings perpetrated by sexual abuse. This left the mental health representatives who support the bill scrambling to explain that it would not prevent therapy for sexual abuse, while failing to explain how the therapist would dance around the question of whether such abuse contributed to same-sex attractions.

In my own testimony, I focused on research by the nation’s leading expert on homosexual teenagers showing how fluid teen sexuality can be. In one major survey, of the adolescent boys who identified themselves as exclusively homosexual one year, only 11% continued to identify as exclusively homosexual just one year later, and nearly half had become exclusively heterosexual.

During questioning, I also had the opportunity to clarify some misunderstood points about SOCE. One involved the terminology itself — “sexual orientation change efforts” is the broadest term, including religious interventions as well as professional therapy; “sexual reorientation therapy” is a general term for a variety of therapies; and “reparative therapy” is actually a particular therapeutic approach (most closely associated with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi). “Reparative therapy,” in turn, is not based on the theory that homosexuals are “broken” and must be “repaired,” as most assume. It is based instead on a belief that homosexuality itself is a “reparative” drive which springs from other underlying hurts. If those underlying issues (not directly related to “sexual orientation”) can be relieved by other means in therapy, then the “need” for homosexuality goes away, and with it the same-sex attractions.

I also emphasized how unprecedented it is until now for any form of mental health treatment to be forbidden by law merely because of the goal toward which the treatment is directed (as opposed to the particular technique). This is a direct violation of the ethical principle of the client’s autonomy to determine the goal of therapy.

Notwithstanding the large number of co-sponsors for the DC bill, it is to be hoped that the strong showing by opponents of the measure will lead it to die a quiet death — like in most of the other states where such bills have been introduced in the last year.

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