Wednesday, August 15, 2007

And Another Thing: Married Bliss

By Carole Taylor

You may have heard of this little outfit up in Washington, DC, called the Family Research Council. The FRC is the lead attack pack of anti-gay, right-wing fundamentalist folks who have planted their flag on the shores of Christian family values and claimed it as their territory. Like many other unfriendly takeovers, the land was already occupied, but never mind, they have a flag, it's theirs.

They define family values as being essentially one father, one mother, some children or at least weekly good faith (!) efforts toward same. Whatever happens within that family unit may or may not have value, but according to the FRC, there can be NO value (or values) within any other sort of family. We don't know if their research has brought them to include grandparents or the widowed or infertile in their definition of family. Oh, and by the way, most of what they have to say on any given day has nothing to do with families or values like love and loyalty and truth, what one would think might qualify as a family value. Instead what they have to say is basically "Burn the faggots!!" We take up so much of their time that they have little left over for the people they say they support.

We don't know why research is part if their name, since theirs is not an academic institution, affiliated with neither university nor scientific organization. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that during the little potluck gathering at which this group spanked itself into being, the participants saw the need not to say exactly what their mission was, not to be specific about what they actually do (in contrast to, say, the Gay and Lesbian Task Force—not much doubt who these folks are) but instead opted for emotional impact only. The word ‘family’ usually brings out all sorts of emotions. No doubt the FRC thought it would create a sort of Normal Rockwellian bit of fuzziness and warmth in their intended audience. (“Ooooh….they're about faaaaaamilies. *I* have a family. They must be doing something good for m family. How generous, how kind, how concerned….”)

And then the FRC needed credibility--say with groups like Congress, whose members always want to have hearings and find supporting data about this or that, prior to voting the way they want to vote anyway. Thus cometh the ‘research’ part. Sounds academic. And serious. Not frivolous or, say, bigoted. Not too many reputable academicians I know would put much credence in any of the ‘research’ this bunch says it has done, but then that's not the point. But they couldn't very well call themselves the Burn the Faggots with Propaganda and Lies Council. Yet what they spend most of their energy and hot air on is in attempting to wipe gays and lesbians, and others who question gender and gender roles, off the visible map of the country. I suppose they would allow us to exist, against their better judgement, but they don't want us telling anyone we’re here, and they certainly don't want anyone with legal authority telling any of them that they have to rent to one of us. Among other things.

So now you know who they are, if you didn't already. In a nutshell (why is that such an appropriate term…) their other primary stated purpose is to require straight people to create families and to prevent us from doing the same. In pursuit of these parallel goals, they promote the institution of marriage. They think everybody ought to get married. Their latest press release is all about promoting marriage. Seems marriage has fallen on hard times lately, and straight people aren't doing such a bang up job of it of late. You'd think they'd keep this information about these rampant failures to themselves, given that they want everyone to believe that the marriage bus still runs. That it is is such a preferable means of getting to heaven, it still has no tires flat or in the dirt.

The FRC sends out missives from time to time to the rest of the country to let good Americans know just exactly how much trouble we're all in and that they have the research to prove it. The headline of this latest bit of supposedly scientific data, issued in the form of a press release, screams that "MARRIAGE IS A MUST -- COHABITANTS WHO MARRY MORE LIKELY TO DIVORCE. "

A less than coherent headline, but read it twice and you'll get the drift. MARRY OR BURN would have been a clearer way of putting it.

When I was in graduate school, legitimate research was not normally made public through press releases, but I doubt many of the FRC's folks went to graduate school. Why bother with advanced study when all you really need to know how to do is crank out a good logical fallacy or two?

The press release (no longer available online) begins thusly: --A Census Bureau report released today shows cohabitation in the US has increased more than 72 percent from 1990 to 2000. The number of single-parent households grew 25 percent during the last decade. "This alarming trend in family structure is a cultural mandate that marriage must be promoted for the well-being of Americans," said Bridget Maher, Family Research Council policy analyst. "We need to discourage people from living together outside of marriage and encourage them to have children within marriage," said Maher. "FRC is working with a broad coalition of policy makers, legislators, scholars and organizations to promote marriage education, to encourage states to strengthen marriage and to include more pro-marriage policies in the welfare reform bill."--

Makes you feel better already knowing they're awake and on the job

But I suspect an ulterior motive from the FRC. For one thing, single women having children might lead to things like single women making independent decisions, an activity long known to dig ferret holes under the foundations of patriarchal rule. Also not stated in these supposed statistics is the possibility that one reason single-parent households may have increased a bit is that lesbians and gay men are the heads of those households. Gay folks can't be married to their partners legally, so on a census report, these people show up as single parents.

And a "cultural mandate to promote marriage." Hmmm. Have I missed another meeting? Hasn't every society for the entire breadth of recorded history promoted and even required marriage? Hasn't 5,000 years of badgering and punishment and threat of death been sufficient to make us all see their reasoning? Apparently not. Thus, in this administrative and moral vacuum, the Family Research Council has sprung to remind us of our duties to humankind. Oh. Sorry. Mankind.

The FRC further states in this same press release that "studies show married couples are less likely to divorce. Couples who cohabited first have a forty-six percent greater risk of breaking up once married." Uh…no, dipstick. Actually married couples are the ONLY couples likely to divorce, you forking morons. And forty-six percent greater than what? There's already a fifty percent divorce rate for straight folks. Forty-six percent more than that? I'm confused.

“Marriages last longer. Fifty percent of cohabiting unions last one year or less. Only one in ten last more than five years.” And fifty percent of the marriages lasting more than one year or more than five years end in divorce. What's yer point, Gracie?

“Married couples are happier. Couples who live together before marriage experience greater marital instability, poorer communication in marriage, and have a greater acceptance of divorce.” Happier than who? Happier than what? How did they measure this happiness and poor communication, anyway? And what is their source for all this happiness data? The FRC and other similar organizations are fond of saying “studies show…” this and that, but don't busy themselves with quoting who supposedly found all this out or how. I've yet to see research from the FRC show up in a professional journal, but picky, picky, picky.

But let's just say for the sake of argument that marriage IS better for all of us. Then why is the FRC and the rest of their ilk so opposed to gays and lesbians marrying? Wouldn't gay people reap the same benefits they claim for straight married people if we had legal sanction as well?

That's the horrid thing about logic: It just insists on being consistent. Whoda thunk that it would be the Family Research Council, rabid anti-gay bigots that they are, who would make the case for us that we should have the God-given right to marry the person we love and form stable unions in support of children, honor and country.

I may have to send them some money.

Or not.

Carole Taylor holds a masters degree and most of a doctorate, which she used as a university administrator for much too long by all accounts. She has been a commercial artist, a journalist, a grants writer, a house cleaner and a Renaissance woman. She also wrote a fantastic must-read novel, called
"A Third Story".
You can email her here.

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