Thursday, February 21, 2008

Gay marriage:The Australian Christian Lobby on Lateline

Lateline last night had some reporting on same sex marriage and civil unions last night as the ACT government once again presses ahead with its plan to introduce civil unions in that Territory. Jim Wallace from the Australian Christian Lobby was on, arguing that gay people did not deserve to be married because their relationships did not compare to heterosexual relationships in the slightest.

As so frequently happens from people opposing homosexuality, he spouted a lot of incredibly precise-sounding statistics, not a single one of which can be readily verified by anyone ("Various studies show that..." was the phrasing he used to avoid anyone noting his dearth of real evidence,if I recall correctly). I have from time to time managed to track down some of these wayward statistics to find that they are distorted, misunderstood, and one occasion outright made up (and yes, I can provide sources for that accusation if asked). Other people have also tried to expose this deceptive practice, but it's hard going. For one, most people are statistically illiterate. For too many people, numbers that sound exact, references that appear voluminous and charts that look professionally created count for far more than statistics that are actually accurate. For another, even when the actual reality is presented, it's all too easy for people to ignore the evidence by discrediting the person presenting the evidence on the basis that they're a homosexual who "has an agenda".

I've tried to track down the sources for Wallace's scientific-seeming numbers, with very little success. I've only found one. It's a statistic that occurs relatively frequently in anti-gay propaganda. Anti-gay activist frequently claim that a study in Holland showed that homosexual relationships only last an average of 18 months. The usual tactic when quoting the study is to then compare this to a study which grotesquely overinflates the average duration of heterosexual marriages (note: not heterosexual relationships, heterosexual marriages. I leave it to the reader to figure out why any such comparison between homosexual relationships and only those heterosexual relationships that are heterosexual marriages is inherently dishonest). Jim Wallace in this case spouted the unsourced statistic that Australian marriages last an average of 33 years. I can't find that one at all, unfortunately.

The "Dutch study" in question, though, is called "The contribution of steady and casual partnerships to the incidence of HIV infection among homosexual men in Amsterdam", and is available online. Jim Wallace of Box Turtle Bulletin has already done a fairly good job of demolishing the idea that this is a representative sample of homosexual couples:
We have a study population that was heavily weighted with HIV/AIDS patients, excluded monogamous participants, was predominantly urban, and under the age of thirty. While this population was good for the purposes of the study, it was in no way representative of Amsterdam’s gay men, let alone gay men anywhere else.

Perversely, Wallace went even further than most anti-gay activists in his denunciation. He didn't just say homosexual relationships only last an average of eighteen months, he said homosexual marriages only last an average of eighteen months. From the Lateline transcript last night
JIM WALLACE: And our experience is, that where homosexuals are given marriage, for instance as in Holland, that the average length or duration of those relationships has been eighteen months between two gay men. Now that's not marriage.

The study he's misrepresenting had absolutely nothing to say about homosexual marriages in the Netherlands whatsoever. Why does he think he can get away with such dishonesty? It appears to me that the depressing answer is: because he can. Anti-gay activists spout too many lies, and it takes too long to explain why they're lies, to ever be able to effectively catch them all.

There are reasonable questions to go into here about not just gay marriage but marriage itself - whether longevity is necessarily the best measure of a relationship's quality, whether marriage has any effect on the longevity of a relationship, whether this kind of collectivist reasoning about "average duration of a relationship" for a part of the population is a valid reason to deny relationship recognition to all members of that part of the population, including those who fall outside the average - but it is impossible to reach those points of argument when the debate is forever being poisoned by so-called Christians who see nothing wrong with basing their entire worldview about homosexual people and homosexual relationships on a foundation of lies.

1 comment:

Nerdiah said...

Glad to see someone else noticed him lying about the duration of gay marriages. I'd hate to think these jerks could get away with it.