Apr 182008
This entry is part 4 of 35 in the series Gay Marriage

At the end of March, Nadine Smith, Co-Chair of Fairness for All Families, took on John Stemberger of Florida Family Council at the Orlando Tiger Bay Club for debate on the Amendment 2, the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment. Basically, he got his ass handed to him by Ms. Smith, but I don’t think she was aggressive enough.

The event was videotaped, and posted on Youtube in four parts. There are other versions of the debate as well, including one between Mr. Stemberger and the other heterosexual Co-Chair of Fairness for All Families at the Tallahassee Tiger Bay Club. The two sets are essentially the same. I’m going to use the Orlando recording and provide a separate commentary on each of four videos. 

We’ll start with Stemberger’s opening remarks. He opens by saying that the debate is about:

“…a relatively small group of people who want to fundamentally redefine a basic human institution that has served us since the beginning of time, and force that definition on the rest of society primarily through a branch of government (meaning the judiciary) that is not appropriate for doing such an action.”

Oh where to begin. How about right up front here when he tries to minimize the number of gay people in Florida…”it’s just a small little teeny tiny group of people, so it’s OK to hurt them. It doesn’t hurt the vast majority of people.”

He talks about marriage being an institution that has served us since the beginning of time. Well, sorry you slept through your history classes John, but that just wouldn’t be true. People initially lived a communal lifestyle (in the caves).

He should probably read the Bible he likes to thump in some other interviews I’ve seen. It often talks about marriage not being between one man and one woman, but between one man and as many women as he can afford. Also, if he’s going to rely on the Biblical definition of marriage, I’d remind you that in biblical times, women were treated as a possession…property owned by a man.

John Boswell was head of the History Department at Yale University when, in 1994, he wrote, Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, in which he argues that even before the 13th century the “Adelphopoiia” liturgy was, for centuries, used as a public liturgy to celebrate erotic relationships between people of the same sex.

I once had a judge tell me that, “An activist judge is one that rules against you.” They love to go after “activist judges” on this, and talk about how a judge can change the law with the stroke of a pen. Well, only if there is a legal finding that the law is unconstitutional…and aren’t we glad we have that “check and balance,” at least what’s left of it. So, he saying he’s afraid that the current situation could be found unconstitutional, so rather than eliminating a law that might be unconstitutional, let’s change the Constitution.

The next point this goober goes on to make, and is made by everyone that pushes through these lame amendments, is all about “the children.” Stemberger claims that by creating same sex marriages (already made illegal in Florida by four (count ’em, four) separate laws), we simultaneously create same sex families, and this exposes children to a “vast, untested social experiment.” Stemberger says:

“Kids need a mom and dad. All the social science studies…thousands of them, tell us that when kids have a mom and dad all the social maladies go down, and where a mom or dad is absent, the opposite it true and all the social maladies….are higher.”

First, we can immediately see the political expediency of making this argument. It’s always easy to appeal to the idea of “protecting our children.” And of course we all anecdotally believe that children with two parents will do better, so it appears to be a winning argument. The issue is that the comparison is wrong. Recent studies show that children in two parent homosexual families do just as well developmentally as children in two parent heterosexual families. Certainly, the studies show that in single parent families, children don’t do as well, but that has nothing to do with a particular gender being absent.

Lay and I don’t have children, but we have his nephews over to spend the night from time-to-time, and I don’t see how single parents do it. Children need and want a lot of attention, and there’s no way that a single parent can provide all that is needed. So I concede Stemberger’s point here…when one parent is missing, children can’t do as well…but his amendment does nothing to address that issue.

Then that seems to end his opening argument. You see, what they know is that they can’t argue specific points about how “marriage” is somehow damaged by allowing gay people to marry, so they try to make it about “protecting children” which I’m sure has tested better in the focus groups. And who wouldn’t want to protect children? The problem is, this amendment not only does not do that. It might, in fact, hurt some families.

He concludes his opening remarks by quoting the first gay couple married in Massachusetts as saying they have an open relationship. I don’t know if it’s an honest quote, but I’m pretty sure I could go find more than one heterosexual couple who would admit to having an open relationship. Would he apply that position to all heterosexual marriages just because a few take that position?

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