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.

  • C Peterson

    All issues of data misinterpretation aside, there’s still no point to be made here against same-sex marriage. So what if only 2% of homosexuals actually want to marry? Since it doesn’t hurt anybody else, what possible reason is there to prevent it? There are all sorts of harmless things that only a tiny fraction of the entire society engage in, and those things are not typically banned.

    2% of the population utilizing any service that costs nothing to provide doesn’t mean that service is a “flop”.

    • Mario Strada

      I agree, even in the lies there is nothing illegal or inherently repulsive (at least for normal people).

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      here’s an example: I’m sure that fewer than 2% of Americans have printing presses. should we eliminate the freedom of the press then?

      • The Other Weirdo

        Anybody with a typewriter or a computer and a printer has a printing press. Anybody with Internet access doesn’t even need that much. Still not an argument for eliminating freedom of press. :)

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          No it’s not. Another: just because I’m not speaking right now, doesn’t mean I won’t need freedom of speech at some other time. They’ve been pulling this for along time though. Gay people are about 3% of the population (numbers vary wildly depending on how you word the question so as to include bisexuals or not). Because if there aren’t that many people in a minority group they don’t have any rights? That’s the line of thinking they are following.

  • Spuddie

    Since when has David Barton said something with any relation to an actual fact?

    The guy makes his living lying about history. Now he is lying about statistics. Calling him a compulsive liar would be an insult to the reputation of those with the psychological condition.

  • Silent Service

    Wow, Bartion renews his efforts to prove that he’s not just a compulsive liar. He’s an outright evil sack of crap.

  • suzeb1964

    David Barton is the consummate self-loathing homosexual. He sets off my gay-dar every time he opens his mouth.

    • Spuddie

      I always got a rank opportunist vibe from him. Someone who will say anything which will make him some money.

  • eric

    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?

    Paging Newt Gingrich…David Barton is asking you a question.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Trust me. I’m Christian. That’s what the caption says.

    To be Christian is to be deluded and also to try to delude as many others as possible. Thus I trust he is a liar.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      For people always wanting to put up monuments to the 10 commandments everywhere, they sure do play fast and loose with the “bearing false witness” one.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Funny how you never see Joe Klein fact checking David Barton.

    • Regina Carol Moore

      Joe Klein doesn’t know how to fact check.

  • Regina Carol Moore

    Everyone who is in his target audience will not care how correct his statistics are. Deluded people want to believe anything that promotes their hateful views. The truth only gets in their way.

  • Verimius

    Since nothing Barton says about the study is true, he does indeed have to go back to using religion or the bible. Not that that would be any more effective.

  • more compost

    Ol’ Dave jest ain’t too big on them facts there, is he?

  • Gus Snarp

    I think the universe would implode if Barton said something that was true.

    • RobMcCune

      Not something we need to worry about, whenever the faint urge to do so comes up it’s rejected by every fiber of his being.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    I am not married. I have no plans to marry in the near future. That does not mean I want to give up any right to marry in the future. So what if 98% of gays (source: he made it up) choose not to marry. That 2% that did needs the legal recognition of their marriage. This is the kind of “logic” and outright lies that characterize anti-gay bigotry.

  • decathelite

    I am pretty sure that some percentage of married straight couples do not stay married for more than 18 months and some engage in polyamorous behavior and have multiple sexual partners. Are those heterosexual marriages any less legal than monogamous couples who stay married their whole lives? No. A marriage is a marriage is a marriage.

  • Kerry

    Camille, since when did David give a fig about accuracy. He is playing to his audience. I have dealt with his inaccurate account of American history on many occasions. He has no sense of right and wrong….just winning. You know, the ends justify the means. If he needs to stretch the truth, obfuscate or lie for the good of the Gospel, then he will do just that. He is a pathetic little wisp of a man.

    I am surprised his study is current as of 2003…I should think he could find one from back in the ’80′s before much was known about AIDS to quote from!

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The bigots have lost their “culture war.” It’s now a complete rout, and they huddle in pairs in caves to rest during their retreat in the face of the accelerating advance of progressive social change. There they tell each other increasingly absurd lies about their opponents’ faults and flaws, and increasingly desperate fantasies about how they’ll eventually prevail, especially when Daddy comes home again. They would be pitiable, except when one considers how they have profited from causing so much suffering to people who never did them any harm.

    I think the recent SCOTUS decisions on Prop 8 and DOMA will be seen in history as analogous to the Battle of Midway.

    • Ibis3

      They haven’t lost yet. They’re winning on the abortion rights front.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    Death row inmates won the right to marry- in federal court. I wonder what percentage of death row inmates have actually gotten married.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    At this moment right now, I would argue that 99% of heterosexuals are not in the active process of getting married. Therefor, I would propose that we eliminate this right completely.

  • phantomreader42

    Barton using lies debunked seven years ago is actually an improvement from his usual approach of repeating lies debunked TWO HUNDRED THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS AGO.

    • Spuddie

      It just means he takes the rest of the world for even bigger fools than originally thought.

      He probably figured the primary sources for his historical lies were not the easiest things to come across so there were only academics and the annoyed to call him on the bullshit.

      Now he is just getting brazen in what he will lie about. I guess having legions of theocratic nabobs repeating your crap emboldens people.

  • UWIR

    While I see the value in pointing out the error in his claims, I think that implicitly accepting his underlying logic that “homosexuals are more promiscuous, so we shouldn’t let them get married” is a mistake. The fact that homosexuals are more promiscuous is an argument in favor of SSM. His argument is like saying that black people have really high illiteracy rates, so we shouldn’t let them go to school. Until homosexuals and their relationships receive the same respect as heterosexuals, and an entire generation is raised in such a society, refusing to take the assertion “any elevated levels of dysfunction among homosexuals is due to social factors rather than inherent properties of homosexuals” as a viable hypothesis can only be explained by bigotry.

  • Ryan Hite

    Where did he get his “facts” from? Clearly he is opposing it on religious grounds.

  • Miss_Beara

    Facts? He don’t need no stinkin’ facts. He is a Christian. They make things up as they go along.

  • Greg G.

    Let me guess: Were the 2% who were married in a heterosexual marriage?

    Isn’t it a requirement that historians have a reading comprehension above the grammar school level?

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    I actually use the boxturtle post when people bring up the dutch study in argument. It is really amazing how people distort the study to fit their political agenda.

    “and involves eight extra-marital partners.”

    Even if that were true, which it is not, what is the big deal? People can love someone while still having sex with others. You are equating love with sex and that is pointless and nonsensical. If they want an open relationship and both of it are ok with it then it shouldn’t matter to you. In this case I am talking about those situations where both agree to open relationship and not someone cheating on their partner.

  • John_in_Vegas

    …another self-loathing closeted homosexual. When are these guys gonna die out?

  • Beth

    There is a local guy who frequently post about wallbuilders on the news paper message boards. I have myself a good laugh.

  • the moother

    Dunno what this guy is on about…, since the gays here have started to marry each other there have been plenty more happy people and children and, oh yes, lots and lots of parties…

  • Secular Planet

    So his argument is that not enough gays are getting married? Really?

  • Robster

    That David Barton must be a fake. He’s too thin to be a real American. Give the man a burger stat! (Then send him back to school).

  • h2ocean

    Can we all agree 20+ years from now that when an atheist and a Christian are debating, and the religious person claims that saying Christianity was against homosexuality and that actually Christianity was on the forefront of the gay rights movement (as is often proclaimed regarding the civil rights movement in the 60′s, abolishing slavery, etc.), we remember stuff like this and call them out on it? I wasn’t alive back in the 60′s or during slavery, but I have been an adult over the past 10+ years watching the gay rights movement gain momentum, and have seen religion drag its heels.


    As a ‘historian’ David Barton is like a ‘doctor’ who never went to medical school. Barton lacks the requisite education to teach American history at the grade school level. He may as well call himself an astronaut. He is, of course, preaching to the choir whose only criteria is being told what they want to hear.