Report on a Gay Marriage Debate

I went to Ferris State University to watch my friend Justin Schieber participate in a debate over same-sex marriage against David Kallman, a Christian right attorney here in Michigan who has fought tooth and nail against LGBT equality not only in marriage cases but in anti-discrimination cases as well. This is a report on how it went.

Justin went first and he made a conservative argument for same-sex marriage. Noting that marriage provides a wide range of protections and benefits for children, he argued that those protections and benefits apply just as well to the children of gay parents as they do to the children of straight parents. He was careful to explain that there is a difference between religious marriage and civil marriage, saying that churches should be entirely free to perform or refuse to perform any marriage they like, but that the civil institution of marriage should be available equally. He also did some preemptive responses to arguments he figured were going to be made by Kallman.

Kallman’s constructive was rather odd. There were actually very few substantive arguments made. Here a few of the claims he made in his first speech:

1.All religions recognize marriage as between a man and a woman. He even said that Islam recognizes that, while many sects of Islam are highly polygamous. Seems he defeated his own argument.

2. Websters defines marriage as both a legal and religious commitment. Not sure why he thinks this is relevant.

3. The link between marriage and the welfare of children is good for society. Yes, that’s exactly what Justin said. He does not try to explain why this applies only to families headed by straight people.

4. Slippery slope. The redefinition of marriage will not be limited to same-sex marriage, it will lead to legalizing polygamy and marriage between adults and children. He cites Gloria Steinem and someone else as supporting the latter, but doesn’t actually quote them. Then he cites NAMBLA as wanting adult-child marriages. At this point, I wanted to scream.

5. He cites irrelevant social science that children do best “with both biological parents in a conflict-free marriage.” Duh. He claims that there are “hundreds of studies” that show this. But not a single one of those studies compared intact straight families and intact gay families, they all compared intact straight families with broken straight families (divorce, death, etc). This is standard Christian right rhetoric, but the studies simply do not speak to the relevant question or make the relevant analysis.

Next came cross examinations and Justin did a good job of asking him questions that set up later arguments. For instance, he asked Kallman if not allowing gay people to get married is going to lead them to not form couples, to break up existing couples, to not form families or to stop being gay. He said no, of course. This then set up Justin’s argument in rebuttal that all of the arguments about whether gay families are good or bad is irrelevant to the question of whether they should be allowed to get married because they’re still going to form couples and still going to raise children. The only question is whether those families will benefit from the protections given to married couples and the benefits that accrue to their children.

The rebuttals were kind of scattershot on both parts because they didn’t have any prep time built into the format. Prep time is very important because it allows the debaters to take a few minutes before their rebuttal to plan out what they’re going to say, to structure the speech and have a list of the arguments they want to address.

It was in the Q&A that things got most interesting, especially when they get to going back and forth on the slippery slope argument. Justin pointed out that while he doesn’t have any moral problem with polygamy, it’s a far more difficult thing to legalize than same-sex marriage. The change is easy to go from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage, it’s just a slight change of wording. But polygamy raises all kinds of difficult pragmatic problems. How does the inheritance work? Which spouse gets to make medical decisions if the one partner is incapacitated? Do they all have parental rights over children they aren’t actually related to? There are so many practical problems to overcome and so many changes to the law required that the slippery slope argument just doesn’t work very well.

And that’s when Kallman again claimed that it won’t be just polygamy, it will also be adult-child marriage and he actually claimed that all the major gay rights groups endorse and support NAMBLA. Justin asked him to name one and he couldn’t. He referred back to a Harvard Law Review article on the subject from 2011, which he claimed had a list of quotes from those groups proving that they supported NAMBLA. I initially tried to search for the article but nothing showed up. Then I remembered he mentioned a brief he filed in the marriage cases and figured he might cite it, so I looked it up. It was actually the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. You can read it here.

Guess what? It doesn’t even mention NAMBLA. Not once. I can’t find anywhere that it even mentions the idea of adult-child relationships. It mentions polygamy, incest, bestiality and other possible slippery slopes, but not adult-child relationships. It looks like Kallman just plain lied through his teeth.

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  • colnago80

    It looks like Kallman just plain lied through his teeth.

    What else is new. That what the born agains do as a matter of course. This is just another example of the Gish gallop.

  • Chiroptera
  • John Pieret

    It mentions polygamy, incest, bestiality and other possible slippery slopes, but not adult-child relationships. It looks like Kallman just plain lied through his teeth.

    The conflation of all “bad” things. It’s a tenet of wingnut Christianity … all bad thing are equally bad so, if that article didn’t mention NAMBLA by name, it might just as well have done so because it mentioned polygamy, incest, and bestiality, which are just as bad.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    The change is easy to go from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage…

    No it isn’t! After gay so-called “marriage” “passed” here, those of us in Traditional Marriages were forced to change sexes. Worse, thanks to typical Big Government bungling, both my wife and I changed. Pah!

  • Hoosier X

    After gay so-called “marriage” “passed” here, those of us in Traditional Marriages were forced to change sexes.

    I expect we’ll be seeing this as an argument against marriage equality. (But don’t expect to get any credit as they aren’t really into “supporting their argument” with “citations” or “quotes.”

  • raven

    All religions recognize marriage as between a man and a woman.

    This isn’t even true.

    No it isn’t.

    Biblical marriage is between a man and however many women he can round up and however many sex slaves he can buy.

    Polygamy is accepted in Islam, Buddhism, traditional tribal religions, and the various Mormon schismatic cults.

  • zenlike

    Even IF a major gay rights group supported NAMBLA, so fucking what? What does this have to do with SSM?

    Just like any other bigot, David Kallman doesn’t actually have any arguments, just lies.

  • scienceavenger

    5. He cites irrelevant social science that children do best “with both biological parents in a conflict-free marriage.” … Kallman if not allowing gay people to get married is going to lead them to not form couples, to break up existing couples, to not form families or to stop being gay.

    What he needed to ask was whether allowing gay people to get married is going to cause children to be removed from, or break up, conflict-free biological-parent marriages. If so, how? If not, then what relevance does this social science have? This is the giant logic gap in every one of these arguments involving children.

  • jd142

    We here in Iowa have had SSM for about 6 years now. So far no wrath of any gods. If anything, things have been calmer; we’ve had fewer tornadoes for a start and fewer 100+ days in the summer. Oklahoma has been getting hit horribly by tornadoes lately, and we know their thoughts on SSM.

    I see nothing wrong with Polygamy. The medical decision question is no different than when a spouse fights with in-laws over their partner/child’s care, or when exes get into fights. It is messy of course, but it usually ends up with a court deciding in the best interest of the person in question. Given the number of potential polyamorous households, the problem is minor.

    Child custody would be no different than when a 2 parent couple divorces and both remarry. Sometimes the step-parent adopts the children, sometimes not. Yes, it can get messy when a surviving step-parent fights a surviving biological/pre-divorce parent for custody. A problem with a polyamorous household would not be much worse; someone would be appointed to represent the best interests of the child.

    A lot of the questions could be solved if each person on the poly marriage license selected one person in the marriage as a primary.

    When Iowa made SSM legal, I was told that hordes of lesbians would come into our bedroom and try to seduce my wife. And I would be attacked by roving bands of young, svelte gay men trying to get all up in my business. Needless to say, my wife and I have been very disappointed that none of that has come to pass.

  • scienceavenger

    Christ, let’s try that again.

    5. He cites irrelevant social science that children do best “with both biological parents in a conflict-free marriage.” … he asked Kallman if not allowing gay people to get married is going to lead them to not form couples, to break up existing couples, to not form families or to stop being gay.

    What he needed to ask was whether allowing gay people to get married is going to cause children to be removed from, or break up, conflict-free biological-parent marriages. If so, how? If not, then what relevance does this social science have? This is the giant logic gap in every one of these arguments involving children.

  • Lady Mondegreen

    @MO

    After gay so-called “marriage” “passed” here, those of us in Traditional Marriages were forced to change sexes. Worse, thanks to typical Big Government bungling, both my wife and I changed. Pah!

    Uh oh. That means you’re still in a heterosexual marriage. And that means…

    …Do I hear the sound of jackboots doing a double-time march choreographed by Tommy Tune?

    Modus, we hardly knew ye.

  • colnago80

    Re Zenlike @ #7

    This is called guilt by association, a favorite tactic of the right wingers. A perfect example of this tactic was employed by Tricky Dick Nixon in his first campaign for Congress in 1946. He said that his opponent had voted more then 300 times the same way as an alleged Comsymp from New York, Vito Marcantonio.

    What ole Tricky failed to mention was then in some 80% of those votes, he was voting with the majority in the House.

  • colnago80

    Re Zenlike @ #17

    Tricky had a close friend named Murray Chotiner who was actually the “brains” behind this smear tactic. In every race that Tricky ran in California, his opponent always somewhere along the line was accused of having Communist sympathies. In the 1964 gubernatorial race against current Governor Jerry Brown’s father Edmund, who was the incumbent, bumper sticks asking the question, “Is Brown pink?” were much in evidence.

  • StevoR

    Report on a Gay Marriage Debate

    (Emphasis added.)

    Good report Ed.

    Meanwhile I think* that The Gay Marriage Debate is pretty much all over bar the shouting. Of which the Repubs and Teablaggards are doing more and more shrilly and ineffectually. More and more people and states and nations are recognising that equal marriage is a good thing and worthwhile. It already sounds like the old interracial marriage debate.

    * Based on the lack of obvious lack of real anti- arguments as illustrated here and the decline in homophobia esp. in the Western world.

  • Nemo

    The desired standard, for advocates of marriage equality, is very simple and easy to understand: consent. Can both parties legally consent to marriage?

    So, polygamy: Probably, yes, eventually. But adult-child marriage: Never. And bestial marriage: Never. The slippery slope just doesn’t lead to those destinations at all, because there can never be legal consent by both parties. That’s all there is to it.

    (Incest is trickier. I have a hard time imagining a situation in which such a relationship is not, on some level, coercive. The same is true in practice for many polygamous relationships, although it’s at least theoretically possible for it not to be.)

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    2. Websters defines marriage as both a legal and religious commitment. Not sure why he thinks this is relevant.

    I suspect what he’s saying here is that marriage is one institution that is religious and legal at the same time. Therefore the religious restrictions on who can and can’t get married must be part of the legal restrictions. Although, citing a dictionary as authority for this is weak.

  • whheydt

    Re: SteveR @ #14…

    *Some* Republicans. There was an article on Slate a few months ago suggesting that the “Establishment” Republicans want SCOTUS to decide in favor of marriage equality in order to get the issue behind them so they can drop it from consideration on the 2016 election cycle, thereby getting rid of an issue that will cost them votes without alienating their base. They can just explain that their hands are tied and they can’t do anything about the issue…so sorry.

    And, of course, we all know that within 20 years, the Republicans will be claiming that Marriage Equality was their idea right from the start.