Social & Domestic Issues

Sen. Franken Appeals to .00001% in Hearings on ‘No Respect for Marriage Act’

Charging politicians with “politicizing” is kind of like accusing a pitcher of pitching.  That’s just what they do, right?  True, but some things are too important to our nation’s future to abuse for the purpose of grandstanding.

Alliance Defense Fund Senior Legal Counsel Austin Nimocks testified July 20 in favor of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, was one of those exercises in playing politics with an issue that demands serious and sober consideration.

Not only do 62% of Americans maintain that marriage should be defined only as the union of husband and wife, and not only have Americans in 31 of 31 states that have voted on marriage affirmed this definition of marriage by around 62% at the ballot box, but DOMA was passed by 84% of Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton.

As noted legal commentator Ed Whelan pointed out at the hearing:  “It is worth noting that of the eight current members of this committee who voted on DOMA in 1996, seven voted for DOMA.  Those seven include Chairman [Patrick] Leahy and Senators [Herb] Kohl, [Chuck] Schumer and [Dick] Durbin (the latter two of whom voted for DOMA as members of the House).  Among the many other prominent Democratic senators who voted for DOMA in 1996 were Vice President Joseph Biden, Tom Daschle, Chris Dodd, Tom Harkin, Frank Lautenberg, Carl Levin, Joe Lieberman, Barbara Mikulski, Patty Murray, Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller, Paul Sarbanes and Paul Wellstone.”

This list of supporters of DOMA suffices by itself to refute the empty revisionist claim that DOMA somehow embodies an irrational bigotry against same-sex couples.  Nor should anyone who voted for DOMA have any reason to be surprised by the entirely foreseeable consequences that it has had.

Nonetheless, despite voting for DOMA in 1996, Leahy said July 20, “The march toward equality must continue until all individuals and all families are both protected and respected, equally, under our laws.  DOMA has served to create a tier of second-class families.  This runs counter to the values upon which America was founded.  Sadly, the effect of DOMA goes well beyond the harm to a family’s dignity.”

Presumably, “the values upon which America was founded” have changed since the late ’90s.

The Left likely loved that, but what really set the left-wing blogosphere abuzz was Sen. Al Franken’s supposed “takedown” of Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery.  When Tom cited a 2010 study that concluded that children do best when raised in a home with their own married biological or adoptive parents, defined as a “nuclear family,” Franken pounced with his “question”:

“I checked the study out.  And I would like to enter into the record, if I may, it actually doesn’t say what you said it says.  It says that nuclear families—not opposite-sex married families—are associated with those positive outcomes.  Isn’t it true, Mr. Minnery, that a married same-sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite?

“The study defines a nuclear family as one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family.  And I frankly don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways.”

POLITICO promptly parroted the senator’s line, citing the study’s author:

“Sen. Franken is right,” the lead author of the study told POLITICO.  The survey did not exclude same-sex couples, said Debra Blackwell, nor did it exclude them from the “nuclear family” category, provided their family met the study’s definition.”

Yes.  Franken was “right” that the study did not purposely exclude same-sex cohabitants.  So is it really true then that “Franken Destroys Focus on the Family Witness, Exposes Misuse of HHS Study?”  Not even close.

Kathleen Gilbert from LifeSiteNews checks out some truths that Franken must have found inconvenient to study:  “Franken seems to have forgotten that as of 2007, the end date of the study’s data, there was only one state in the union with gay ‘marriage.’  According to UCLA’s Williams Institute, Massachusetts in 2008 had 13,285 homosexual ‘marriages.’  This would put the 2007 national total at even less—let’s say 13,000.”

Meanwhile, there were around 59 million total married households in America at the same time, putting same-sex ‘marriage’ households at 0.0002% of all the ‘nuclear households’ theoretically considered by the Health and Human Services Department study.  Ouch.  And Gilbert is actually being charitable with her calculations.

The San Francisco Examiner revealed in June that very few same-sex couples have brought children into their homes:

“The 2010 census data—which for the first time allowed gay couples to identify themselves as a family—revealed that San Francisco has 7,530 gay male couples living together, but of those, just 332—or 4.4%—have children.  Of The City’s 2,754 lesbian couples, 525 have children—about 19%.”

Those figures are far lower than the statewide averages.  Of the 64,625 gay male couples in California, about 18% of them had children.  About 32% of the 60,891 lesbian couples across the state have children.

While this may defy stereotypes, it is consistent with prior research, UCLA demographer Gary Gates said.  That research showed that about 80% of the children raised in same-sex households come from prior heterosexual relationships, while less than 20% come from adoption, fostering or surrogacy.

A typical situation might be a gay man who had a child with a woman early in life, but now is raising that child with a male partner.  (Because sexual preference is “immutable,” you know … but I digress.)

It’s a pretty good bet that California 2011 tracks Massachusetts 2007 pretty closely.  So let’s assume that a quarter of same-sex married couples had children in the house in 2007.  The number of “nuclear” same-sex households would be a smoking .00005% of all households during the last year of the study.  But wait, there’s more … I mean less.  If 80% of those “family structures” do not fall into the study’s defined “nuclear family,” we’re descending to quark depth, probably about .00001%.

So when Minnery said that he assumed that “nuclear family” meant Mom, Dad and kids, he was somewhere around 99.99999% right.  Or, one might say that the good senator was 99.99999% wrong, and should reconsider the weight of Minnery’s principled science.  And he should, as it turns out that the senator was 100% wrong.  Remember Blackwell, the study’s author to whom POLITICO appealed on Franken’s behalf?  The Alliance Defence Fund also reached out to Blackwell, who told us:  “The National Health Interview Survey, the data source for the study, does not contain questions that systematically identify same-sex couples, so they can’t be identified in any reliable way.  I have no idea how many same-sex [married or unmarried] couples with children were included in my analysis, but the numbers were likely small.  I wish I could report findings regarding their families, but that’s just not possible with these data.”

So yes, they wouldn’t have been excluded from any group studied—groups with good and bad outcomes for children.  But it doesn’t really matter because there are good odds that not one same-sex “nuclear” household was even included in the study.  The truth is the study says absolutely nothing that supports same-sex parenting, but plenty about true nuclear family households—Mom, Dad and their own children.

Perhaps Franken should study a bit harder before loosing an ad hominem attack that scored points with the Left, but skewered the truth and deprived his fellow senators (and the American public) of a fair hearing about how our nation will treat the foundational building block of human civilization.  Certainly, marriage deserves at least that much respect from Congress.  And speaking of respect, if you’re reading this Sen. Franken, you might lead with an apology the next time Mr. Minnery appears before your committee.

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