Monday, October 01, 2012

This is an Argument?

In the past I've tried to avoid explicitly political posts, since I really don't want to alienate either of my 2 readers.  I have a feeling this election season may force a change there.  And then every once-in-a-while you come across a post like this.  From Maggie Gallagher at the Corner:
[British researcher Charles] Lau found that cohabiting same-sex couples in Great Britain are twice as likely to break up as cohabiting opposite sex couples — and married couples (all opposite-sex in Great Britain) are at least five times more stable than same-sex couples.


This of course cannot tell us how children fare on average when they are raised by stable same-sex couples, or whether gay marriage will significantly increase stability in same-sex couples. It can tell us why Professor Mark Regnerus’s study turned up so few: They are rare.
So, let's unpack this, shall we?

First of all, without a link in the original, it's difficult to actually check the specifics of the study.  "Twice as likely to break up" could mean many things ... 5% vs 10%, or 50% vs 100%.  I doubt it's anywhere near as that extreme, but even granting (for the moment) the validity of the arguments, the absolute numbers matter here.  "Twice as likely to die in a car crash than in an airplane crash" doesn't stop people from driving, and nor should it.

Second of all ... what exactly is Gallagher trying to argue or imply here?  She cites some statistics, and then runs down a litany of what it doesn't mean.  It doesn't tell us the impact on children raised by same-sex couples (because everyone knows it's all about the children, which is why men and women over 80 aren't allowed to marry ... oh wait).  It doesn't tell us what the impact same-sex marriage would have on stability of same-sex couples.  Also true, although one can reasonably assume it would have a positive affect.  But why exactly would either of those have a bearing on whether gay marriage should be legal?  Either the stabilizing effect on same-sex couples is lower than the effect for opposite-sex, which only justifies denying it if you adopt a "you don't get as much benefit from it as we do so you can't have it at all" mindset; or it's a judgment on the underlying stability of gay relationships, and it doesn't matter what the stabilizing effects are.  In other words, they're only arguments against gay marriage if you're already working off of a premise that same-sex relationships are fundamentally inferior to opposite-sex relationships.  Is that what Gallagher's arguing here?

And thirdly, that last little comment really just comes off as snide.  "It can tell us why Professor Mark Regnerus's study turned up so few: They are rare."  Well DUH.  Same-sex marriage is illegal in the UK, so I'd expect there to be very few same-sex marriages.  And if she's referring to stable same-sex couples in general, there's a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem here.  When you keep telling a group of people, year after year, that they're undeserving of marriage and that their relationships just aren't worthy of recognition or legal protections like everyone else, OF COURSE there's going to be an aggregate effect.  How could there not be?

No comments: