For years, opponents of marriage equality have employed the same arguments to justify against legalizing same-sex marriage for gay and lesbian couples. The bulk of these arguments were collected for a recently-erected website, Marriage for Maryland -– folks4md.com -– billed as a resource for those trying to sway Marylanders and its state delegates to vote against a law to legalize same-sex marriage. The law is expected to be reintroduced (and, according to the governor, to pass) to the Maryland General Assembly next year.
The information presented on the site, which is sponsored and produced by Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government (MCRG), is promoted as non-religious, fact-based and intended to supply same-sex marriage opponents with talking points to convert other voters, as well as elected officials. The information is distilled into 13 paragraphs to be used to generate a “personal message” to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown; Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Brian Frosh; state Senate and House leaders; and the sender’s specific district representatives.
In reality, the reasons not to support marriage equality as provided by MCRG are based on newspaper editorials and articles and videos from religious right policy groups such as the Heritage Foundation and the Knights of Columbus. A 10-part video series produced by Focus on the Family offers myriad hypotheticals and talking points but little in the way of documented evidence that supports its intended message, that same-sex marriages negatively impact straight marriages and children.
This letter, if used in its entirety, begins by instructing the state lawmakers that, “[b]y a 54 to 37 margin, Maryland voters believe that marriage should be only between a man and a woman.” The source cited is a February 2011 poll conducted by Lawrence Research, whose president, Gary Lawrence, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and worked on California’s Proposition 8 campaign, which helped ban same-sex marriage there in 2008. The Minnesota Independent, a sister publication of The American Independent, previously reported that Lawrence Research has ties to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and was paid more than $500,000 from gay marriage opponents in California between 2007 and 2008. Other public opinion polls of Marylanders' marriage views have shown different results from Lawrence’s poll, e.g., an Annapolis-based Gonzales Research poll showing that 51 percent of Maryland residents support same-sex marriage.
Other potentially misleading points presented in the letter:
"Redefining marriage impinges on freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of action. … At least one father has been jailed for insisting on his parental right to be notified when sexually objectionable material was being presented to his kindergartner."
For years anti-marriage-equality groups have used this story about David Parker, who in April 2005 was arrested for refusing to leave the principal's office at Joseph Estabrook School in Lexington, Mass., following repeated failed attempts to get the school to agree to notify him and offer a possible opt-out for his five-year-old son in the event that "homosexual curriculum" would be taught in his son's kindergarten class. The original dispute resulted after Parker's son came home from school with the book "Who's in a Family?" which is a children's book about different types of families and includes a page about a family made up of two women and their two children.
"Mothers and fathers are not interchangeable parts; studies have shown that children fare best, in all respects, when raised in a loving home with both biological parents. Same sex couples by definition deprive a child of one, if not both, biological parents. Maryland must not do this to the children."
During a recent hearing on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) chastised Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery for citing a 2010 Department of Health and Human Services study (PDF) supposedly showing that children of married gay and lesbian couples are negatively impacted in comparison to children of straight married parents. Franken pointed out the study actually stated that children thrive better with intact two-parent families, making no distinction between gay or straight parents.
Minnery actually gives the introduction for the video series promoted on MCRG's site, wherein he says: “We all need to know how to defend marriage intelligently and persuasively. ... These arguments are composed of common sense, historical fact and scientific research results, but not scriptural passages. ... [W]e’ve taken this approach because we want to reach as many people as possible, especially those who may not believe in the Bible."
Other arguments employed by MCRG:
The treasurer of MCRG, to whom this website is registered, is Dr. Ruth Jacobs, an infectious-disease specialist in Rockville, Md. In 2009, Jacobs testified at a hearing over whether the Council of the District of Columbia should legalize same-sex marriage. Jacobs had brought with her statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and told the council members, “[W]hile new HIV infections have decreased among both heterosexuals and injection drug users, the annual number of new HIV infections among men who have sex with men has been steadily increasing since the ’90s. The surgeon general has stated ‘condoms provide some protection, but anal intercourse is simply too dangerous to practice.’ … Anal sex has higher HIV transmission than vaginal sex; estimates are as high as one life-altering HIV deadly conversion for every 20 anal-sex acts.”
Her many points boiled down to the following conclusion: “The immediate action of passing same sex marriage bill 18482 is to normalize predominately homosexual activities such as anal sex and require their promotion in schools as a legal, normal activity and part of the sex education.”
In response to Jacobs’ testimony, D.C. Council Member David Catania told Jacobs that, by her logic, only lesbians in the District should be able to marry, since their HIV/AIDS prevalence rates are lower than any other sexual group. The D.C. City Council approved gay marriage in December 2009.