Craig: gay marriage is “really odd” because “homosexuals typically don’t have lasting partnerships”

Dear William Lane Craig: fuck you you fucking fuck.

Backstory: I’ve started following William Lane Craig on Twitter. I long ago decided not to read most of the new stuff he puts out, but hey why not. Mostly I’ve ignored the stuff I see from him in my Twitter feed, but when I saw him tweet a link regarding gay marriage, I knew I had to check it out.

I didn’t know quite what to expect. I knew Craig had been guilty of promoting anti-gay pseudoscience in the past, but I expected him to be more on the defensive now that a majority of Americans support marriage equality. But no. Instead, Craig just repeats a number of old lies about gays and lesbians:

The odd thing about this is that homosexuals typically don’t have lasting partnerships or relationships. Dr. Thomas Schmidt, in his book Straight & Narrow says that only 8% of homosexual men, and 7% of homosexual women, ever have relationships lasting longer than 3 years. He says, “the number of homosexual men,” and I’m quoting now, “who experience anything like life-long fidelity becomes statistically speaking almost meaningless. Promiscuity among homosexual men is not a mere stereotype, and it is not merely the majority experience, it is virtually the only experience. Life-long faithfulness is almost non-existent in the homosexual experience.

So what is this desire to be married to each other when they don’t really stay together? Well, despite the rhetoric about gay marriage and the need for equal rights, and so forth, if you actually talk to homosexual activists about this, what I think you’ll discover is that what the real agenda is is not obtaining the right to marry, rather the agenda is to deconstruct marriage itself, so that it is no longer by its very nature a union of one man and one woman. I remember talking with one homosexual activist who told me that, “Gay marriage is old hat now. That’s not the interesting thing.” She said, “What I think is really unjust is marriage period altogether the institution of marriage is unjust.”

By turning marriage into a socially constructed reality that doesn’t have a nature, marriage can then be whatever you want it to be. Not just the union of a man and another man, but also even two men and a woman–three partners in marriage. Or it could be a man and a child. Or maybe even a man and his dog, if he feels close enough to his pet to want to marry it. The point is that it just becomes anything that you want it to be. The goal here, the real agenda, is to undermine marriage as an institution by deconstructing it. And since marriage is the most important institution shaping civilized society, those who value our society and that institution, I think, need to be stalwart in our defense of marriage as having an inherent nature of being a union between one man and one woman.

I’ve debunked Thomas Schmidt’s book here. As for the “homosexual activist” who supposedly said all marriage is unjust, I’d believe the story if it were anybody but Craig telling it. Given Craig’s history of lying about his opponents, I confess I’m suspicious. Even assuming he was telling the truth, he isn’t trying very hard to find out the views of those “homosexual activists” if he thinks she speaks for the majority.

And of course, even people with more radical views on marriage don’t literally want marriage to be “whatever you want it to be” when that includes parties who obviously can’t consent to sex. That’s just a vicious slander. (Not long ago, I saw a really great infographic for explaining gay marriage ≠ people marrying their pets to homophobes. Anyone know what I’m talking about?)

[Edited to add & clarify: of course most gay relationships, like most straight relationships, don't last a lifetime. But the idea that lifetime, or at least long-term-hopefully-for-life relationships are so rare among gay people that it's totally baffling why they'd want to get married, is a lie.]

I’ve previously argued that given Craig’s history of lying about his opponents, anyone who debates him should insist on speaking first so they can get their message out before Craig has a chance to lie about them. But now I’m going to go further and say no one should share a stage with this bigot at all.

I wouldn’t say that if it were merely that Craig is an anti-gay bigot. Rather, I say that because he’s a bigot who, when he’s clearly losing the argument, instead of putting his energy into pretending his position isn’t bigoted, doubles down on spreading lies about a minority that is just now gaining full legal equality.

  • Robert

    So do you dispute the claim that a vast majority of homosexual never have life long relationships?

    Group X has long been allowed to join an institution by making promises of life long commitment. Now 50% of those commitments are already being broken, and group Y wants to be allowed to join the institution too. Group Y has a terrible track record of making the kind of life long commitment required of the institution. Would that not be a valid concern?

    Policy debates should not appear one sided. http://lesswrong.com/lw/gz/policy_debates_should_not_appear_onesided/

    • Chris Hallquist

      “So do you dispute the claim that a vast majority of homosexual never have life long relationships?”

      Certainly not to the degree Schmidt claims.

      (Though yes, you can come at it from the other angle and point out straight divorce rate, etc.)

    • Kevin

      “Now 50% of those commitments are already being broken, and group Y wants to be allowed to join the institution too. Group Y has a terrible track record of making the kind of life long commitment required of the institution. Would that not be a valid concern?”

      Who are you talking about when you say group Y? I can only presume you mean every homosexual. But guess what? Not every homosexual will get married, just like how not every heterosexual person gets married. So, out of the heterosexual couples that want to get married, how many will keep that commitment? Who knows, we simply won’t have the data until we make that a reality. I find it more than a little disingenuous to compare these two statistics.

      Out of all heterosexual couples, how many get married and stay married for the long term? I couldn’t find any data on that, but it’s going to be even less than your %50 figure. Given that heterosexuals have a terrible track record of making the life long commitment required, shouldn’t we just as well not allow heterosexuals marry as well? If not, what’s the cut-off for having a terrible track record? And do you think that it’s just to discriminate based on stereotypes like this? As in, if we find that people who collect stamps, are police officers, etc., tend to not have long-term relationships, can we deny them marriage rights as well?

      Also, I wonder if you would use this argument against African-American marriages and inter-racial marriages? After all, they are much more likely to divorce than the average, and over %40 have never married at all, double the rate compared to white people. I can only presume that the divorce rate was significantly worse during the early 1900′s, and I so wish I had the data to prove it. However, there was data on the number of marriages and only about a fifth were married in the years immediately following its legality. Should we conclude that marriage isn’t for African-Americans? After all, they didn’t seem to be that interested in it in the first place, and they can’t make the commitment necessary. Wouldn’t that be a valid concern?

      But let’s go into some factors into why Y has a poor track record of long-term relationships. Note: I’ll just assume this is the case, even though I couldn’t find any studies other than the Family Research Council backing it up, which is about as reliable as Fox News and there is data showing the complete opposite. Let’s start with asking how many of those surveyed are even out of the closet. That’s right, some people wouldn’t even be able to be in a relationship without fear of retaliation simply for being homosexual, let alone a long-term one. If they are semi-out, they may face societal and familial harassment, which is cited as putting on a strain on relationships. Another cited problem is the lack of clarity in relationship status, which could easily be solved by granting marriage rights. I have little sympathy for bigots who harass people and then use the results of that as a basis for discriminating against them when they caused the problem in the first place. That’s where my concern lies.

      • Kevin

        My bad, the Family Research Council doesn’t back up Craig’s claim. They simply say that only %50 of homosexuals who are currently in relationships have been in that relationship for at least 3 years, which would contradict Craig’s claim. However, this even falls short of other studies. There is the study by the University of Vermont who did a study following up on same-sex relationships who attained civil unions at the 3 year mark (using married couples and non-civil union same-sex partners as control groups) and they found that about %96 were still together, compared with 97% of heterosexual marriages and 91% of same-sex couples that weren’t in a civil union. Note: there was no significant difference between same-sex couples in civil unions and the opposite sex couples who were married, but there was a significant difference between the group that didn’t get civil unions.

        Source: http://ts-si.org/files/Same-SexCouplesFollowupdev441102.pdf

      • Robert

        Kevin, I could nitpick, but we mostly agree. Can you think of any reason (however small) for keeping marriage between male and female?

        For the record, I’m pretty convinced that gay marriage will be legalized, and I’ll be happy to see that happen.

        • Kevin

          “Kevin, I could nitpick, but we mostly agree. Can you think of any reason (however small) for keeping marriage between male and female?”

          No. Every reason I can think of requires facts that are demonstrably false (e.g. same-sex couples are less adequate parents), are pure speculation (e.g. same-sex marriages would cause the birthrate to decline), or can be applied to legal forms of marriage (e.g. definitions & interracial marriage). I agree with Chris that this appears to be a situation where the other side has no good arguments. Saying that this is a form of argument of soldiers appears to be the fallacy of false compromise. Can you think of any reason for teaching creationism in place of evolution in science classes? Do you think that scientists are wrong when they paint the debate as entirely in their favor? These aren’t complicated issues, they are indeed fairly simple, but as it often is with religion, when something contradicts it, no matter how apparent and solid the conclusion is, religion will fight tooth and nail to deny it. This is what we see in the evolution ‘debate’ and this is what we see in the gay marriage debate.

          Let’s go through the article you linked to:

          “Collecting a deceased spouse’s social security, claiming an extra tax exemption for a spouse, and having the right to be covered under a spouse’s health insurance policy are just a few examples of the costly benefits associated with marriage. In a sense, a married couple receives a subsidy. Why? Because a marriage between two unrelated heterosexuals is likely to result in a family with children, and propagation of society is a compelling state interest.”

          Last time I checked, receiving spousal benefits is not dependent on having children, and that is a fairly easy thing to check (and would certainly be cost-effective), which begs the question of why don’t they do it, unless of course it’s not for that reason. In what world is he living in where collecting a deceased spouse’s social security (by the way, also easy to check for children and cost-effective to do so) about creating an incentive to create children? Did he even think this through? Let me say that again, when one of the partners dies, the benefits are given because it creates an incentive to propagate. How is that supposed to work? Nonetheless, how are these incentives anyway? They simply provide an incentive to get married, not produce children. If they were an incentive to produce children, then you would wait until after a child was produced to give benefits (which would also save costs in the meantime). With that being said, I fail to see how these benefits are simply for the benefit of children in the first place (you get tax breaks specifically for dependents anyway, so there’s your compelling state interest at work), and even if they are, same-sex couples have the opportunity to adopt, which will be addressed next.

          “However, there is ample evidence (see, for example, David Popenoe’s Life Without Father) that children need both a male and female parent for proper development.”

          “A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children’s optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unitthan by the particular structural form it takes.”
          Source: American Society of Pediatrics (http://www.cga.ct.gov/jud/old/SameSexMarriage/AmAcPed-TechReport.pdf)

          The studies I’ve seen either report a slight positive for same-sex parenting (due to the lack of unexpected children) or they compare same-sex relationships to heterosexual marriages, which as we’ve seen above is not a good comparison. I haven’t read his book, but from the excerpts that the opposition has taken out to use for their position indicate that he was in favor of some fairly stereotypical gender roles. As in, men teach a child how to be independent for the long-term while the woman cares for the child’s immediate needs. There really isn’t anything specific to the sex of the partners, just different roles that need to be fulfilled, which could just as easily be done by same-sex couples. His repeated reference to ‘father’ appears to be simply the person who fulfills this role, who traditionally has been male, but this stereotype has outlived its utility. He might as well just say that a home needs a father to be the bread winner, despite the fact that stay-at-home dads are currently becoming more acceptable as workplace equality progresses; you just need a breadwinner, it’s doesn’t depend on the sex. Also, too much theorizing without enough data (in this case, no data) makes me skeptical.

          “Advocates of gay marriage claim gay couples need marriage in order to have hospital visitation and inheritance rights, but they can easily obtain these rights by writing a living will and having each partner designate the other as trustee and heir.”

          Which is why we have situations like this: “Ms. Langbehn was denied visiting rights in 2007 by a Florida hospital. Although Ms. Langbehn had power of attorney and she and Ms. Pond were parents to four children they had adopted, the hospital refused for eight hours to allow her and the children to see Ms. Pond, her partner for 18 years. Ms. Pond died as Ms. Langbehn tried in vain to get to her side.”

          This is what needs to happen in order for same-sex couples to get the same rights as married couples in this area. This is what needed to happen in order for Obama to enact an executive order that forced hospitals (that accept Medicare and Medicaid) to change their visitation and decision-making rights of same-sex couples. By the way, the hospital won the lawsuit that Ms. Langbehn filed against them. Apparently, having power of attorney is too complicated for a hospital to understand and is no way to guarantee your rights when it conflicts with their policy of family only.

          “The only benefits of marriage from which homosexual couples are restricted are those that are costly to the state and society.”

          To name one counter-example off the top of my head: spousal confidentiality. But for good measure, let’s add in joint taxes, conjugal visits, and immigration. Even if you can get the same benefits, it sometimes becomes more efficient, such as if you want to change your name, normally you have to appear in court, but if you get married, you simply sign a different name on your marriage license. Also, I fail to see why they shouldn’t be able to receive damages in civil suits for things like loss of consortium. I don’t think any lawyer in their right mind would say that is “for the children.” Also, as benefits for partners are not designed specifically for children, I don’t think that it would be just to deny them those benefits in the first place.

          “When married persons care more about themselves than their responsibilities to their children and society, they become more willing to abandon these responsibilities, leading to broken homes, a plummeting birthrate, and countless other social pathologies that have become rampant over the last 40 years.”

          So, if we let gay people marry, this will presumably get worse? I’m not really sure how gay people are supposed to influence the frequency heterosexuals have sex, break up, or change how other couples define their relationship. Perhaps you could explain this to me in detail. Then he associates an increase of social disorders to a particular phenomenon that he hasn’t and may not be able to measure and that may or may not explain the thing he wants to describe. This is the epitome of poor analysis. This is even fuzzier than Freakonomics and those guys don’t even take themselves seriously. Also, possible explanations are just a Google search away. Just search “US birthrate” and this is the third hit is “Behind the falling US birthrate: too much student debt to afford kids?” Not to mention that the birthrate naturally drops as countries become more educated (e.g. sex education) and developed.

    • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

      I think “Policy arguments should not appear one-sided” is generally true, but is a useless gadfly argument. If a policy argument looks one-sided, that only indicates that we are biased, and rejecting one or more arguments that we should not be rejecting. It does not mean that we are wrong to reject any particular argument. Furthermore, it’s always possible that this one particular policy argument is an exception to the rule (because we have no idea how general the rule is).

      You might as well cite evidence showing that people have confirmation bias. I know I have confirmation bias. But this knowledge isn’t directly helpful without knowing what particular beliefs I have that are caused only by confirmation bias.

      • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

        Additionally:
        If you’re looking for good arguments against same-sex marriage (or any other policy you support) just because you believe that some good arguments must exist, who is to say that this mindset is actually effective for finding good arguments? It just seems like you’re trying to fill a quota of counter-arguments. Maybe this just leads you to find “good” counter-arguments that actually aren’t very good.

  • Peter

    > Group Y has a terrible track record of making the kind of life long commitment required of the institution.

    Says who? I would really like to see a citation for these claims. Wh3en you have an institution like marriage that has very well kept records on who enters it and who leaves it, it’s very easy to get accurate data on how long these relationships and arrangments last.

    Who is keeping detailed, accurate records of the length of time couples who do NOT get married stay together. (Hetero and homosexual couples.) Can you find me a study done on relationship length that has methodology that will provide the quality of data that marriage records provide?

    • Kevin

      http://ts-si.org/files/Same-SexCouplesFollowupdev441102.pdf

      Studied same-sex civil unions with non-civil union same-sex relationships and married heterosexual couples and compared them at the beginning and 3 year mark. The number terminating the relationship between the civil union couples and the marriage couples were not statistically significant. However, the same-sex relationships that were not in a civil union did terminate at a statistically significant higher rate, although not at the rate that Craig suggests, which should surprise nobody. This is the only study I could find from a university on the subject, so that’s what I would prioritize first.

    • Robert

      >> Says who? I would really like to see a citation for these claims.

      Says Thomas Schmidt I suppose. IF that were true, would you count it as a reason to stop same sex marriages? I’m not asking if it would be the only reason to consider, the strongest reason of all, or the real reason that motivates Christians. I’m just asking if it’s allowed to be a reason at all.

      http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Arguments_as_soldiers

      • Chris Hallquist

        Re: arguments as soldiers: from the fact that you should not automatically support all arguments on your side and attack all arguments on the enemy side, it does not follow that there won’t sometimes be cases where there truly are no good arguments on one side.

  • MNb

    “Says who?”
    And if it were the case, so what? Was my (totally straight) marriage worthless because it lasted only 13 years? Despite a rather painful divorce I totally disagree with this religiously inspired non-sequitur.

    • Robert

      It wasn’t religiously inspired. I’m an atheist.
      I’m also open to criticism about it. The larger point was that policy debates should not appear one sided.

      • Chris Hallquist

        While it may be the case that most policies have both pros and cons, gay marriage seems like a pretty good counterexample to “policy debates should not appear one-sided” as a universal claim.

        • Robert

          http://tech.mit.edu/V124/N5/kolasinski.5c.html

          It’s surprising that you can’t find a single “good” argument on the other side.

          • ACN

            I was surprised. I made it nearly to the end of the piece and nary a sign of a half-baked slippery slope argument. Lots of desperate fearing for the fertility, which is a non-issue, and usually a dog-whistle for some sort of “demographic change”, if you catch my drift.

            And then I got to the last paragraph. Apparently that was his pièce de résistance.

          • DSimon

            Kolanski’s argument seems to be defeated by the fact that married gay couples are more likely to be able to provide stable homes for adopted children than unmarried gay couples.

            Additionally, I’ll agree partially with Kolanski that marriage benefits are at least partially a way for the government to support child care, but that does not apply to all marriage benefits; some, such as hospital visitation and inheritance rights, are there to assist with the marriage relationship itself.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I remember talking with one homosexual activist who told me that…

    What a pity he doesn’t have that on tape, and can’t even remember the name of that activist.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    I could believe that some queer activist said that, based on my experience with queer activists. However, I would not trust WLC, even if he were honest, to paraphrase the position accurately.

    It comes from liberationist schools of thought (as opposed to assimilationist). Rather than trying to join the status quo (eg equal access to marriage, the army, etc.) it tries to overturn the status quo (eg eliminate the privilege of married people over non-married people). I have some sympathy for this position, especially since I hang out a lot with asexuals, most of whom don’t benefit from marriage.

    A lot of queer activists also believe that currently there is excessive focus on marriage equality. It’s where all the money seems to go, and a lot of straight people seem to think it’s the primary issue. But in my mind, ENDA is a bigger issue, bullying is a bigger issue, de facto economic and health inequality are bigger issues. In that sense, marriage equality is old hat, and it’s a travesty that we don’t even have that.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    From a skeptical perspective, WLC is making a fallacious of slippery slope argument. He’s arguing that even if marriage equality is not intrinsically bad, it will lead us, as free agents, to choose further things that are intrinsically bad (eg man and child, man and dog). But if they’re intrinsically bad, why would we choose them? If we would choose them, in what sense are they bad?

    The argument is disingenuous, because obviously WLC himself would not choose these intrinsically bad things. It’s like when Scalia argued in Lawrence v Texas that without sodomy laws, there would be no reason to have laws against same-sex marriage. Clearly Scalia no longer accepts the validity of his own argument. Why should we?

  • Patrick

    The proper comparison isn’t gay relationships to straight marriage, it’s gay relationships to straight relationships.

    I’ve been with my wife for 11 years, if you count by relationship. But my average is under 3 years, because before that were relationships of 6 months, 2 weeks, and again 2 weeks. High school will do that to you.

    • Kevin

      “says that only 8% of homosexual men, and 7% of homosexual women, ever have relationships lasting longer than 3 years.”

      They’re counting by the longest relationship. However, I can’t find anything to back that up, even organizations that are advocating against same-sex marriages put the figure as higher.

      • Ray

        If you follow Chris’s link to his debunking of Thomas Schmidt’s book in the original post, you’ll see that the sample from that study was primarily recruited from gay bars and bathhouses. I suspect you’d find pretty much the same pattern if you recruited heterosexuals from single’s bars and adult-friend-finder.

  • elitistb

    I don’t understand why those claims are even relevant to the issue at hand. Is an estimate of the dedication between the two to be married somehow taken into account for heterosexual couples at this time?

  • http://blog.debitage.net Stentor

    There actually are a fair number of more radical LGBTQ activists who do see marriage as inherently unjust and want to deconstruct/get rid of the institution entirely. They’re hardly the majority, but they are out there. For example, one of my friends posted this to Facebook just the other day as a response to the red-equals-sign-profile-picture meme: http://uxxr.tumblr.com/post/46346307066 — their argument (which I’ve heard plenty before) was that same-sex marriage is a privileged assimilationist cause that we shouldn’t waste time on because we should be focused on more radical change. Here’s an angry response from one activist to others making these sorts of arguments: http://ozyfrantz.com/2013/01/23/pro-equal-marriage-is-not-a-fucking-privileged-position/

  • http://www.skepticink.com/notung Notung

    None of Craig’s data, true or false (I suspect false) matters.

    So what if one activist doesn’t respect marriage? I don’t particularly respect heterosexual marriage (as a hetero myself). It doesn’t mean that all heterosexuals don’t respect marriage.

    So what if homosexual relationships are shorter in practice (and once again, I’m n0t agreeing that this is the case)? First, that could be because there’s no gay marriage – so perhaps it’s an argument FOR gay marriage. Second, it’s no reason to deny those who DO want a long-lasting gay relationship the right to marry.

    They’re just terrible arguments by Craig.

    • Chris Hallquist

      I think you’re failing to see how extreme Craig’s claims are here. He’s not just claiming that gay relationships tend to be shorter. He’s claiming lasting gay relationships basically don’t exist, therefore gay rights activists must not really want to get married and must have a secret agenda like paving the way for man-boy marriage.

      • http://www.skepticink.com/notung Notung

        Yep – when I said they’re ‘just’ terrible arguments from Craig I didn’t mean to imply that that’s all it is, a bad argument not worth worrying about. They’re terrible arguments (qua arguments) AND bigoted, conspiratorial garbage deserving of contempt.

      • MNb

        Thanks for repeating – I only now have become fully aware how morally retarded this man is. Of course I have met the gays are pedophiles accusation before; I just had not realized Craig used it too.

  • 8DX

    Wowz, didn’t know Craig was actually another proponent of the “man-on-boy, man-on-dog” bigotry. Since “William” can already be used to refer to penis, this kind of necessitates redefining “craig” to mean “badly lubricated buttplug with specks of blood on the tip”, or add to “lane” the meaning “v. to lane somebody: to forcibly (but consensually) penetrate with a wooden object”.

    When one spews so much santorum Bill, the result is always going to be messy.

  • Kevin Gamble

    68% of Americas most notorious serial killers were homosexuals. Let’s take Robert Berdella for example, he gouged out one of his victims eyes just to “see what would happen.”

    • Ophis

      “68% of Americas most notorious serial killers were homosexuals.”

      I am bewildered that anyone could write this and not attempt to provide some kind of source for that information.

      • Kevin Gamble

        I actually wrote a paper on it, it’s not that complicated to find the resources.

        • Ophis

          Then presumably it’s not that complicated to give a link or a reference to the paper you wrote, or to give any information at all about the data used.

    • Kris

      …..So?

      68% of the most notorious serial killers (An interesting claim, because “Most notorious” has not been defined here) have been gay, therefore gay people shouldn’t be allowed to marry? What a non-sequitor.

      And of course, serial killers make up a tiny percentage of the world, 68% of all serial killers (Not just the poorly defined “Most notorious”) would still only be a small number, when compared with the tens of millions of homosexuals we’ve got a percentage correlation of less than 1%.

      Basically your argument is bad and you should feel bad.

  • Jambi Bey

    Ya know, as a deconverted atheist (really a pragmatic epistemological agnostic), I really tried to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. But, Jesus, homophobia AND genocide (among others)? Makes ME want to curse. It’s obscene. “Morally retarded” is utterly apropos. Being a gay deconverted atheist, I find it alarming that an apologist for the most powerful religion in America would on one hand slander gay folks, and on the other hand justify genocide. Now what could go wrong with that combination of beliefs?

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