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.