A Highly Dishonest Debate

My friend Justin Schieber took part in a debate this weekend against a local pastor, Andy Parker, about same-sex marriage. I went to it expecting to hear some bad arguments from Parker — what else do they have? — but they were even worse than I expected, and far more dishonest.

Each of the debaters got 20 minutes to give a pre-written speech, then each had a 10 minute rebuttal, a 10 minute cross examination and a 5 minute closing argument. The debate was at a church, so Justin offered a conservative defense of same-sex marriage. He pointed out that even if you have a moral objection to same-sex marriage based on the Bible, that is no reason to think that view should be codified into law. After all, there are innumerable things that the Bible considers immoral that we do not ban (blasphemy, fornication, adultery, worshiping other gods, etc).

He began by arguing that marriage is a very good thing for society in nearly every way. It stabilizes society, provides security for children and much more. And that, he argued, is exactly why we should allow gay couples to get married. Despite that argument, and without actually answering it, Parker got up and spent several minutes extolling the virtues of marriage. This is pretty standard rhetoric from the Christian right, of course. Never mind that there is no causal link between same-sex marriage and damage to straight marriages.

Maybe the strangest argument he made was that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states (the topic of the debate was “should same-sex marriage be made legal?), it just isn’t recognized by the government. But you can still get married, he said. But then during the Q&A he said that everyone knows what we mean when we say that it should be made legal, it means that the government will recognize it as legal. Well yes, it does, which made his earlier argument very disingenuous.

He also tried to argued that “redefining” marriage would destroy it because marriage, by definition, is between a man and a woman. And he used several terrible analogies, including saying that you can’t redefine a circle as a square…without destroying it? Uh, no. Terrible argument. But that’s pretty much all he had, of course.

Lots of blather about how children are better off being raised by a mom and a dad. Justin pointed out that the studies on this are about the problems of single parenting, where parents are generally worse off financially, don’t have as much to spend with the kids, and so forth. And that this was, in fact, an argument in favor of same-sex marriage. After all, they already have children. Marriage is good for the children of gay parents for all the same reasons they’re good for the children of straight parents.

Perhaps the most head-scratching moment for me was when he was talking about the Civil Rights Act and adding sexual orientation to it (which had nothing to do with the debate topic, actually). In a truly weird argument, he said things like this: If we add sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act, who would get what rights? What about a LUG (Lesbian Until Graduation)? Would they get rights until they graduate and then stop getting them? What about bisexuals, would they get half as many rights or twice as many rights? What about people who stop being gay, do they stop getting rights?

Seriously, he said those things. First of all, what a bizarre conception of rights. Does he think they’re a fungible thing that can be measured? That person A gets 10 pounds of rights and person B gets 20 pounds? The Civil Rights Act protects against discrimination in hiring, housing and public accommodation. That’s it. If we added sexual orientation to the CRA, it would be illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of their orientation. Period. Just stupid, stupid questions.

And of course, one could ask equally stupid questions about Civil Rights Act protections that already exist. The CRA says you can’t discriminate on the basis of religion. So what about a Christian who becomes an atheist? Do they stop getting rights? What about someone who converts from Judaism to Christianity. Do they get half as many rights or twice as many rights? No. They all have exactly the same right at all times, the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of religion. The mind boggles at the notion that Parker thought he was making a serious argument here.

But the real dishonesty came when the subject of Loving v Virginia came up. He acted as if he was just appalled that anyone would dare compare sexual orientation with race, which is irrelevant to the argument at hand. But then he said several times that Loving only recognized the right to interracial marriage because it was based entirely on a right to procreate. He insisted that he had read the decision and that this was the entire basis of it. Justin denied that but Parker repeated himself multiple times.

Parker was lying, either about reading the case or in his claim about it being based on procreation. You can read the full ruling here. You will not find the word “procreation” anywhere in it, of “children” for that matter. Neither the law being challenged or the ruling itself had anything to do with procreation. It was illegal to marry someone of another race regardless of whether one had children. So either he didn’t read it, he’s too stupid to understand it, or he was lying about what it said.

In his 5 minute closing, Parker did nothing but preach. I mean a literal sermon, about how we all need to follow Jesus or we’ll burn in hell. It was, I suppose, an appropriate way for him to close because, despite his pretense, his opposition is really just a religious objection.

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  • John Pieret

    It was, I suppose, an appropriate way for him to close because, despite his pretense, his opposition is really just a religious objection.

    And, of course, you don’t have the freedom of religion to disagree with his religion because that’s “discrimination” against his flavor of Christianity.

  • gopiballava

    If we redefined the circle to include squares, I am quite confident that screw vendors for example would not suddenly start making square threaded screws because they were confused about what shape they were supposed to be. We would have no trouble coming up with appropriate terminology. Something like “sharp circles” to refer to squares.

    Maybe he’s afraid that somebody will propose to him, and when they say “will you marry me” they really meant “will you gaymarry me”, and he’ll be gaymarried without even realizing it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/set.v.kouwenhoven Set Kouwenhoven

    Did Schieber at least get paid for the debate? If so, did he accept payment in cash or rights?

  • eric

    If we add sexual orientation to the Civil Rights Act, who would get what rights? What about a LUG (Lesbian Until Graduation)? Would they get rights until they graduate and then stop getting them? What about bisexuals, would they get half as many rights or twice as many rights? What about people who stop being gay, do they stop getting rights?

    Hate to burst his bubble, but if that happened, even straight people would get gay rights (gasp!). Which is to say: if you applied for a job, and the employer turned you down because they thought you were gay, you’d be protected regardless of your orientation. Doesn’t matter whether you had gay sex daily, one day in college, or never; what matters is that the employer tried to discriminate based on perceived orientation.

  • doublereed

    Yea, the civil rights act doesn’t say “you can’t discriminate against black people.” It says “you can’t discriminate based on race.”

    Like, if we added sexual orientation to the CRA, it would protect heterosexuals from heterophobia. The only reason this sounds so silly is because heterophobia is super-duper rare.

  • Taz

    The more people like Parker try to make their case, the more the average person sees there’s nothing there.

    (The shape of a circle depends on the metric. If the distance from the origin to the point (x,y) is defined as max(|x|, |y|), then a circle is square.)

  • anubisprime

    despite his pretense, his opposition is really just a religious objection

    By extension it can be assumed with ample justification that despite the anti’s pretence, their opposition is and always has been a religious one.

    They dress it up in the utter banality of various colours, forms and threats …but at the base of every single moan, jeebus lurks like a rancid stench.

  • abb3w

    @0, Ed Brayton

    You can read the full ruling here. You will not find the word “procreation” anywhere in it, or “children” for that matter.

    You will, however, find in the Loving case a citation to Skinner v Oklahoma (the main precedent which led to the ruling), which includes the lines “We are dealing here with legislation which involves one of the basic civil rights of man. Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.” Which is probably where he gets the notion.

    Contrariwise, as Ed notes — Loving did not mention procreation, leaving marriage considered by the court “as one of the basic civil rights of man” not only when in association to procreation but de re. Which Parker wouldn’t like; and would likely point to the ruling (and SCOTUS rejection of appeal) of Baker v Nelson as supporting his thesis, with the potential for procreation being the main candidate for the “clear distinction between a marital restriction based merely upon race and one based upon the fundamental difference in sex“.

  • Ryan Jean

    Maybe the strangest argument he made was that same-sex marriage was legal in all 50 states (the topic of the debate was “should same-sex marriage be made legal?), it just isn’t recognized by the government. But you can still get married, he said. But then during the Q&A he said that everyone knows what we mean when we say that it should be made legal, it means that the government will recognize it as legal. Well yes, it does, which made his earlier argument very disingenuous.

    The overturning of DOMA’s federal recognition ban means that it is legally recognized federally while at the same time not necessarily legally recognized in the state in which the married couple live.

    This could potentially make at least some sense of that one section from Parker’s mostly incoherent ramblings…

  • imthegenieicandoanything

    Xians have nothing – just the pretense to themselves of having pride – and this gypsy dildo is a classic Xian:

    “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose

    You’re invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal

    How does it feel, how does it feel?

    To be on your own

    With no direction home, like a complete unknown

    Like a rolling stone”

  • donkensler

    Actually, Ed, blasphemy and adultery are illegal in Michigan (Michigan Compiled Laws cites provided on request). Now, I’m sure there have been no prosecutions under either of these laws in decades, and if there were the laws would surely be tossed aside, but they’re still on the books.

    An interesting sidenote, the second place finisher in the Rep primary for governor in 10, Mike Cox, is an admitted felon, since he admitted to having committed adultery. And said felon (yes, adultery is a felony in MI) was the Attorney General of the state at the time.

  • Daniel Schealler

    Never mind that there is no causal link between same-sex marriage and damage to straight marriages.

    To my knowledge there is no valid causal link.

    But I am aware of at least one invalid causal link.

    1) Assume that many people in Christian heterosexual marriages are closeted homosexuals.

    2) Assume that they are only in heterosexual marriages out of social and religious obligation.

    In that scenario, if same-sex marriage becomes legal and socially approved, then it is very likely that people in those heterosexual marriages will either leave to form homosexual marriages OR that homosexual men and women will not enter into heterosexual marriages in the first place.

    In that sense, the number of same-sex marriages would drop.

    I think that’s a highly bogus line of reasoning… But I also think that it would be a good thing that gay men and women wouldn’t feel obligated to force themselves into heterosexual marriages for the sake of conformity.

    And that wouldn’t necessarily be a ‘harm’ to heterosexual marriages unless we had a very alarmist and knee-jerk reaction to the number of heterosexual marriages dropping slightly, as if the raw numbers are more important than the quality of those marriages.

    But there is kind of, sort of a link there, if you squint right.

    That’s the only way I can make sense of the ‘homosexual marriage harms heterosexual marriage’ angle.

  • samgardner

    I find it a little hard to call him disingenuous, when it’s clear his real problem is that he’s too stupid to put thoughts together in sequence.

  • eric

    @12:

    In that sense, the number of same-sex marriages would drop.

    I know this is not your argument, you’re just posing a hypothetical. This post is just FYI.

    The Netherlands has had gay marriage since 2001 and hasbeen collecting statistics on the numbers of both types of marriages the whole time. I wasn’t able to find year-by-year records for the whole period, but here are some records for 2010-2012 as well as at earlier 10-year marks.

    It doesn’t look like gay marriage has caused any statistically significant drop in straight marriage, but the situation is complicated by the fact that there has been a 40-year decline in marriage overall, with the biggest drop occurrring in the ’70s. What we can probably say is (1) there has been no statistically significant drop in straight marriage between 2010-2012, and (2) the drop in straight marriages between 2000 and 2010 (i.e. when gay marriage went from illegal to legal) is not any bigger than prior drops seen in the ’50s, ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s.

    Its also interesting that the rate of gay marriage has stablized in the Netherlands at around 1.8% of total marriages. No lesson or point, I just find that a fun factoid.

  • lofgren

    He also tried to argued that “redefining” marriage would destroy it because marriage, by definition, is between a man and a woman. And he used several terrible analogies, including saying that you can’t redefine a circle as a square…without destroying it? Uh, no. Terrible argument. But that’s pretty much all he had, of course.

    This is a really, really, really dangerous line of reasoning for a Christian to pursue. The obvious difference between “marriage” and “a circle” is that a circle is a thing that exists whether we have a name for it or not, whereas marriage is a human construct and the word can mean anything we damn well please. The reason this a dangerous line of reasoning is that anybody who spends too much time pondering it will probably start to notice that religion resembles one of these things a hell of a lot more than the other.