The Outrage in Outrage
August 20, 2004
Professor Stephen Baskerville once again provides a cutting edge analysis of the changing political landscape of marriage and family. His comments in "A Primer Against Gay Marriage," (current issue of HumanEvents.org: Social Issues In the News) on Peter Sprigg's new book on same-sex marriage, Outrage, sets an otherwise rather superficial and reactionary political debate in a deeper and more realistic context.
Peter Sprigg, as Professor Baskerville points out, is Director of the Center for Marriage and Family Studies at the Family Research Council (FRC). Socially conservative groups like FRC tend to reflect partisan positions even when it requires contradicting fact and shooting themselves in the foot. Such is the case regarding the only error Professor Baskerville detected in the book; an aside on how "deadbeat dads abandon their kids."
Professor Baskerville describes the error as "an unnecessary concession that has been roundly refuted by recent research but one that extracts the marriage controversy from its larger context: government policy weakening parent-child bonds." These are crucial points. Removing analysis of policy from its policy context and relying on false information is not the road to serious scholarship – in fact it might be described as the anti-road.
Given that the error is merely an aside in what Professor Baskerville describes as "a concise, clear, and readable book that provides an excellent introduction to where we now stand on perhaps the most emotional issue on the national agenda," this may seem a quantitatively minor problem. In fact however, this anti-father political positioning blocks the possibility of serious scholarship in the area of family policy studies; in effect, making a joke of the Family Research Council's "family research."
In promoting an anti-father view, FRC promotes the entire policy and debate context that comes with it. Anti-father propaganda is categorically anti-heterosexual family propaganda, originating in feminist-homosexual lobbying campaigns. Its eventual effect, after having been adopted as platform positions by both parties and transformed into dramatically altered family policy, was to deliver a lethal injection to marriage as we knew it, which led directly to the proclamations of legitimacy for same-sex marriage. This puts FRC in the untenable position of defending both sides of the issue simultaneously; yielding superficial and reactionary political debate rather than sustainable scholarly argument.
It was the design of anti-father policy and its acceptance by the courts that changed the legal status of marriage and family from its previously recognized status as a crucial and protected fundamental social arrangement to mere "social policy." The latter defines marriage and family as an arbitrary arrangement that derives its "legitimacy" (in every sense) solely due to its recognition by the state.
Concern that the new "right" for same-sex marriage signals the possibility of new "rights" for a much greater variety of "marriage" arrangements is well-founded. The view that legitimizing same-sex marriage is the cause of the problem rather than a convulsion brought about by the lethal injection of anti-father policy is quite wrong. Given the dramatic transformation of the legal status of marriage and family that preceded same-sex marriage, judges ruling on constitutional grounds had little choice but to act as what some describe as "activists."
The plain and simple truth is that you can't defend family while waging war against fathers. This obvious, fundamental truth is reflected in constitutional decisions. One set of rules applies if family is a self-defined critical element of social structure, in which case fathers and families are protected from arbitrary manipulation by the state. Another set of rules applies if family is an arbitrary result of social and economic policy decisions like the details of welfare entitlements and tax tables. By supporting anti-father policy, FRC supports the latter view, directly contradicting its rather superficial stance in defense of marriage (as we knew it).
Professor Baskerville points out that "some who agree with Sprigg's position oppose his proffered solution, the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, which Congress recently rejected." I am already on public record, most recently in "Same-Sex Marriage Positions Untenable" (MensNewsDaily.com, July 15, 2004) as opposing the amendment. The resurrection of marriage, as we knew it, can only occur by flushing the system of the poison that is causing its death; that is, by reversing anti-father policy and restoring the legal status of marriage and family.
The price FRC must pay for a tenable pro-marriage position, is the abandonment of anti-father propaganda and support of anti-father policy. In the short term, this means choosing between partisan support for the Republican administration's anti-father policy positions and entering the deeper policy debate honestly. (Serious research does in fact refute the anti-father political position.) It's a difficult choice, but I do not see how FRC can maintain a credible image as a pro-marriage research organization while holding superficial, reactionary, and self-contradictory positions on the status and definition of marriage and family.