This is a guest post by readers Heather and Rod.
Along with their respective partners, both attended a recent “Marriage Symposium” (PDF) sponsored by the Illinois Family Institute and Patriots United — undercover, on my behalf.
Their reports are below, with Heather in regular font and Rod in red font.
When I heard that the Illinois Family Institute and Patriots United were going to host a Marriage Symposium I was excited to go check it out. I knew that I would likely disagree with what the speakers had to say, but I wanted to see if my notions were accurate. What I heard throughout the evening came with little surprise.
We arrived about 10 minutes before the event began, but we heard on our way in that they were going to start late because there weren’t enough people in attendance yet. My husband and I made our way around the room picking up any free literature that was available. As we were doing this, more people shuffled in.
I counted approximately 58 people, not including the speakers, in attendance. The audience was largely white, consisting of middle-aged and older couples. There were a few single men in attendance, and one African-American couple. There were also two politicians there mingling before the event. One approached us, but then didn’t introduce himself once he found out we’re from DeKalb and thus not in his district.
Steph and I arrived just before the start of the event. We joined a group of about 50 people who were mostly 40- and 50-somethings rounded out by a handful of seniors. I did see one female who appeared to be in her thirties, but otherwise, this event (which was open to the public) didn’t attract any young adults… other than Heather and her husband who gave us a low-key wave and smile
Before the meeting began, local politicians were gathering up signatures for the upcoming election and free reading material was laid out on a few tables to the side.
About 20 minutes after our arrival, David Smith, IFI’s Executive Director, opened with prayer and introduced the evening’s agenda — that homosexuality was a threat to the institution of marriage. He understood the resistance to keep marriage defined as one man and one woman and said that the liberals were trying to “shut us up.”
The first speaker was Dr. Michael Brown, a reformed drug addict and author of A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been. He began his lecture by saying that he was going to address Biblical, theological, and social issues. He discussed the poor moral state of America, and contended that “homosexual activism” was one cause of it. Dr. Brown continued that we must “reach out and resist” — reach out with compassion, and resist activism with courage. Then he explained the Biblical and theological reasons why it’s dangerous to “re-define marriage.”
He told a story of a young man from Sudan who was caught fornicating with a goat.
Due to local laws (and in an attempt to humiliate this man), he had to marry the goat. He also told a similar story of a man in Malaysia who was caught copulating with a cow… and the story of a woman with a mental disorder who’s been married to the Berlin Wall for 29 years.
He brought the point back around in support of his view that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman, not man and animal or man and object. If we expanded the definition, he said, why not include incest, polygamy, or polyamory? Why does it have to be just two people? Dr. Brown argued that in Genesis 1, God created man and woman in His image and it was this foundation on which the rest of Scripture was based. When a man and woman came together, there was a full representation of God along with “unique biological compatibility with the ability to procreate and emotional complementarity.”
According to Dr. Brown, the end goal of gay activism is an assault on gender where gender itself becomes the enemy.
He went on by posing the question: Do we want government more or less involved in our lives? Why did the government even care about the issue of marriage? According to Brown, the government gets involved because the state conveys benefits on marriage and marriage conveys benefits on the state. Strength in community is founded upon healthy marriages and families, so when this breaks down, so did society. Only in a male/female marriage could society grow with future generations and posterity.
Brown made the point that homosexual parents were greedy because they were knowingly depriving their child of a mother or a father. A boy who is raised by two moms will be feminized, and a girl who is raised by two moms will be masculinized. He also stated that for these children, statistically, “there [was] a much greater chance of promiscuity and breaking sexual boundaries, even [using] promiscuousness to prove they’re not gay.”
Didn’t the Bible also support slavery, though? Dr. Brown addressed that issue, too. He stated, “In the past, the church has supported slavery; in the past, the church has supported segregation; in the past, the church has supported oppression and suppression.” He suggested that through the abuse and misuse of Scripture, the slave trade was born. It was the abuse and misuse of Scripture that related to these civil rights issues, though, and (clearly) the issue of marriage was not a civil rights issue because the union between man and woman is the absolute foundation of the Scripture. (Got all that?) He wanted us to remember the numerous places in the Scripture that praised women, and that the spread of the Gospel in ancient times occurred because it was so liberating to women. There is not a single negative word about women in the Scripture. There is not a syllable in the Scripture that supports slavery, segregation, or oppression, and there are no positive words in Scripture supporting homosexuality.
Were people born gay? Dr. Brown didn’t believe that at all. He pointed out that traits like skin color and gender are immutable, but not homosexuality. There was no “gay gene” because the scientists have not discovered it — even if they had, being born a certain way was not an excuse for a particular type of sinful behavior. He reiterated that there was no comparison to the civil rights movement here at all (no matter what gay activists said).
Dr. Brown also pointed out that the “full image of God [was] one man and one woman,” not two men or two women. Did that mean God had two genders? I only remember “Him” being referred to as a male…
I also found it ironic that, on the table, was a pamphlet titled “77 Non-Religious Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage” (PDF).
You would think that a dozen reasons might be enough, but if we have all these secular reasons, why did we need Dr. Brown’s religious reasons?
Dr. Brown is very aware that people who support marriage equality will ask, “What’s wrong with two consenting adults loving each other?” His response was, “How about two brothers?” He also noted that this was a good question to ask if you wanted to see liberals stammer. [Cue audience laughter]
Actually, I think that’s a fair question. We know that there are laws about marrying someone in your bloodline, but why does the law exist? Two brothers don’t stand a chance at getting each other pregnant. That rules out congenital birth defects. Aside from that, though, what if it was a male and female relative, like Lot and his daughters from Genesis? Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt for looking over her shoulder, but Lot receives no punishment from God for getting drunk and having sex with his offspring… twice.
Dr. Brown said that the best way to raise children was with a man and a woman. With any other scenario, you could tell that something was missing.
Of the homosexual couples and single parents that I know, I don’t notice that their children are deficient in anything. They’re well-mannered and literate and they play nice with other children. To hint that this “missing” product somehow manifests itself into children is an insult to both the parents and their children.
The next speaker of the night was Austin Nimocks, a senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund. He began his lecture with a slew of statistics all of which seemed to blend together and lose meaning. He argued that gay marriage was the biggest challenge to religious freedom in the United States. Through the use of a few numbers, he relayed the message that equal protection did not apply to homosexuals since only 0.55% of households were same-sex and that, of a sample of 1500 “Middle Americans,” an overwhelming 62% of them defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
He hoped that Minnesota and North Carolina would become the 33rd and 34th states to affirm marriage. He also discussed the recent passing of Civil Unions in Illinois. He contended that this was having an overall negative effect on the state because of the inability of religious charities to operate within the State without denying their fundamental beliefs. He equated the closing of Catholic Charities adoption agencies with an “imposition of state theology.”
Just like Dr. Brown, Nimocks also argued for the “natural” state of marriage. It was “natural” for a man to marry a woman. They could procreate, they have “natural” compatibility, and society depended on this form of marriage to supply the next generation of people.
Overall, Nimocks was comfortable behind the microphone, but he wasn’t engaging at all. His lecture was probably the most dry of the bunch. He liked his statistics, but only a handful were backed up by any credible reference.
Nimocks was partly right that procreation between a man and a woman is the “natural” method for making babies, but it’s not the gender of the parents that matters when it comes to the child’s development. It’s the quality of mentorship. Procreation isn’t necessarily a primary motive for getting married, either.
Nimocks views marriage equality as an “attack on gender in society and gender roles.” I think the idea of “gender roles” is passé, anyway. In these days it’s common for two parents to work or share domestic chores.
The final speaker of the night was Laurie Higgins, the Director of School Advocacy & Cultural Analysis for the Illinois Family Institute. She started her lecture by stating her agreement with the previous speakers. She argued that the “end game” of gay activists was to silence conservatives and that they were using anti-bullying programs as a means of silencing “our views,” as they viewed Christians beliefs as “creating a climate of bias.” She also warned against using the term “sexual orientation,” and said that this term had no place in our laws or schools because it implied “biological determinism.”
Higgins continued with an ad populum argument that, in the “latest polls,” only 1.7% of the population identified as homosexual… as opposed to the 10% that most people believe. (As if that should change how we perceive gay people?) She said conservatives face two “special problems” with the national issues of homosexuality and same-sex marriage: Cowardice and Ignorance.
What is homosexuality? She argued that there were two categories of the existential human condition: race and biological gender, both immutable. We could not draw any behavioral or moral implications from these traits. On the other hand, there were subjective feelings such as homosexuality, incest, and polygamy. These traits were actively chosen by the individual, according to her. Even if there was a scientific basis for them (like a gay gene), science told us nothing about moral “good.” Because homosexuality is something people choose, it is also up to us to decide which of our “myriad of impulses” should be acted upon and which should not.
Higgins pointed out that gay activists often related their struggles to racism, but she felt that racism was not analogous to opposing same-sex marriage because race was an immutable trait and homosexuality was not.
Just like Dr. Brown, Laurie Higgins argued for the right of children to be raised in a household with both a mother and a father. Marriage between a man and a woman was fundamental to a healthy society. It is a natural pairing because men and women can procreate and have biological, sexual, and emotional complementarity. She stated that since gay couples are “sterile by design,” they obviously do not fit the requirements for marriage. While acknowledging that homosexuals can love and be loved, they cannot provide for children what a traditional mother and father can provide for them.
Higgins finished her lecture by pointing out that marriage was a pre-political institution and, therefore, not a civil right. She urged everyone to talk to friends, family, neighbors, government representatives, and church leaders about opposing same-sex marriage as it has a clear detrimental effect on society.
Higgins urged the group to refrain from using the terms “sexual orientation” and “gay” because it’s beginning to normalize homosexuality and it’s empowering gays.
Glad to know it’s working.
She then attributed the low numbers of support for her agenda to “cowardice and lack of knowledge.”
I don’t think that’s why. I think it’s because people are becoming more tolerant to harmless acts that lack any influence on their household. She warned that some people would say something similar to that, but contended that it still contributed to the breakdown of society as a whole. There was no tangible evidence offered of how society is failing or will fail.
I wasn’t surprised to hear the usual slippery slope arguments and anecdotes from her. Higgins reiterated some comments from Dr. Brown about marrying goats and pedophilia.
Neither example is analogous to marriage equality which supports rights for consenting adults. Children are not wise enough to make such a decision (as opposed to adults) and a goat is certainly not a consenting party.
So did the event achieve its goals? I’m honestly not sure what the point was… Everyone there seemed to agree with every point made, evidenced by the affirmative head shaking that was happening during the lectures. It really was as if they were preaching to the choir, so to speak. There were some calls for activism and plugs to buy books.
I think that the people there are so affirmed by their religious beliefs that they really think they are making the right decisions. They are willing to stand up for what they believe in, and I’m not sure that any amount of evidence would be able to sway their opinions. I believe them when they say they don’t harbor ill feelings toward individual gay people, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they “love” gay people. They really believe that all gay people make an active decision to be gay, and so they hold out hope that some may eventually be “reformed.”
The only thing that really surprised me was the point Laurie Higgins made that hate crime laws and bullying rules only served to promote the gay agenda. I had no idea that people would be opposed to laws and rules that I feel are clearly necessary. I learned a lot about their opinions and the arguments they used to support them. I can now also put a face on the ultra-conservatives. They were more personable than I expected, and there is definitely a real human side to these people, but I can’t help but feel sorry for these people who are so entrenched in their Christianity that they will never be able to understand an opposing viewpoint.
There were a lot of other societal issues surrounding the anti-gay rhetoric which were criticized by the speakers — things like the Dakota Ary incident, incest, homosexual children’s books, and the comparison of Body Integrity Identity Disorder (formerly Amputee Identity Disorder) to gender surgeries.
Higgins also railed against the exploitation of children for homosexuality by relating a story about a boy who was forced to go on stage with a pink and purple tutu. She’s right on that point. I agree that children should not be encouraged to promote a political agenda which is beyond their natural capacity to reason.
Of course, from the extreme right, all of these things are in the same boat since they consider LGBT to be a type of perversion or illness. That’s all beside the point. The motive of the LGBT community is for marriage rights and not any of this string of comparisons that were used to stir emotions of the audience.
I’m glad we attended the meeting. It was an unpleasant, but necessary reminder of the Far Right’s mission to keep religion an influencing component of secular law. Yes, there were some rough remarks, but that’s to be expected when a person holds a different worldview. From observing the disposition of the speakers, it appears that those of us who support marriage equality are on the right track. We are making progress regardless of what they say.
After the event, I asked my wife what she thought of it. She said she was “glad to see the age of the people” in the crowd as well as how “few people actually came.” I completely agree with her.