David Barton: ‘I Don’t Need Religion or a Bible’ to Oppose Marriage Equality… Just Phony Stats!

Evangelical pseudo-historian David Barton is the latest big-name conservative to get all worked up over the country’s growing acceptance of marriage equality, but he says he doesn’t even need God to back up his anti-gay stance.

Trust me. I’m Christian.

This week on his radio program, WallBuilders, Barton claimed that “homosexual marriage” has proven to be a flop in the 12 nations where it’s legal. (Actually, it’s 13 countries — with France being the most recent country to legalize same-sex marriage, and Uruguay and New Zealand having same-sex marriage laws going into effect later this year.)

Misrepresenting a ten-year-old study, Barton said:

I don’t need religion or a Bible to prove that homosexual marriage is not a good deal for a country. We have now twelve nations who have adopted homosexual marriage; they have stats.

Jesus did give us a good admonition in Matthew 7 that you can judge a tree by its fruits, so if I take the nations that have homosexual marriage and I look at them, I say okay, in those nations where you have homosexuals allowed to marry, only two percent of homosexuals do marry. So even though they want homosexual marriage, 98% of homosexuals don’t marry when they [can] get it and the average homosexual marriage lasts eighteen months and involves eight extra-marital partners.

Now by what stretch of the imagination would you consider that to be a marriage?

(The audio clip from the original program is available here via Right Wing Watch.)

Never mind that Barton deliberately invoked the Bible to justify judging other people, just seconds after saying he didn’t need faith to back up his point of view. Nope — the bigger problem here is that the study he’s citing actually has nothing to do with same-sex marriage whatsoever.

The “Dutch study,” as it’s colloquially called, was published in the medical journal AIDS in May of 2003. When it started making waves years ago, Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway picked the study apart piece by piece. Even that level of scrutiny should have been unnecessary: the study was not about same-sex marriage, but about documenting the transmission of HIV infections among gay men in Amsterdam. The research wrapped up a full two years before marriage equality was even legalized in the Netherlands, so it literally has nothing to do with marriage equality.

Misguided conservatives like Barton tend to refer to the Dutch study to perpetuate a number of myths about LGBT people, specifically gay men, but Burroway proved them all wrong way back in 2006 and again in 2008. First, regarding the idea that this study represents relationships between married gay men:

This study was not about homosexual relationships. The authors are mostly doctors and epidemiologists — they study how diseases are passed along from one person to the next. Their research article presented a mathematical model that was intended to predict how HIV and AIDS would spread among gay men. If a couple is monogamous, then by definition they would not be contributing to the spread of HIV and AIDS. Monogamous couples were simply irrelevant to the study, which is why they were explicitly excluded.

Next, the claim that gay relationships only last an average of a year and a half. Again, monogamous couples were excluded. And the study didn’t ask if couples were married (marriage equality wasn’t legal yet, after all) — it asked only if couples were in a “steady relationship,” which is hard to define and certainly isn’t on the same level as a marriage.

If legally recognized marriage had been an option for these couples (and if the researchers had been interested in studying only married gay men), they would have had a consistent standard for excluding those couples who were merely dating, or even those who were living together but who didn’t want to get married. That would have been the only valid way to compared married gay couples to married straight ones. You would have weeded out those who don’t want to marry, or who weren’t at that stage in their relationships where they felt ready to be married. After all, not all straight couples in “[serious] relationships” are married. By including couples in short-term relationships as well as those who don’t want to be married, the average length of relationships is significantly lowered.

And finally, regarding the absurd statistic about having eight extramarital partners:

The authors quoted that average in their study, but they never tried to claim that it was true for gay men as a whole. Because the study excluded monogamous couples, the stated average would naturally be excessively high. What’s more, we don’t know how much this average was skewed because we don’t know how many monogamous couples were excluded.

Once again, Burroway destroyed conservatives’ misuse of this study seven years ago — but it’s still the best Barton could do.

The moral of the story is that there aren’t any arguments left against marriage equality besides those rooted in religion — and even those are neither valid nor effective. Extreme right-wingers have been making more enemies than friends in the political system lately (Texas, anyone?) and more and more Christians of all denominations have been stepping forward to say they can be both faithful and supportive of marriage equality. Loving Jesus doesn’t justify opposing equal rights and most Americans know it.

The result? Lost, confused conservatives resort to twisting the results of irrelevant studies in order to try to prove their point. We can only hope people have stopped listening to them.

About Camille Beredjick

Camille is a twentysomething working in the LGBT nonprofit industry. She runs an LGBT news blog at gaywrites.org.


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