A few weeks ago, I received a mass email from Eugene Delgaudio, who is apparently the president of some very important organization or something. “Dear fellow American,” Delgaudio began,

The Radical Homosexuals claim you and other pro-family Americans actually now support same-sex marriage, special job preferences for homosexuals and promotion of the homosexual lifestyle in schools.

Is it true? What do you say?

As one might guess, these lines serve as a the preamble to a tirade against Radical Homosexuals, The Homosexual Lobby, and Leftist Thought Control. And as one might also guess, all of these frightening terms go tantalizingly undefined throughout the proceedings, as does their comforting, besieged antithesis, Pro-Family values.

Putting aside that spooky, enigmatic language, the argument at hand seems to be that an organized cadre of gay people, relying on the indulgence of an increasingly secular United States, wants to (1) create anti-discrimination laws (possibly modeled after Affirmative Action) for gay employees and job applicants, (2) secure marriage and adoption rights for gay couples nationwide, and (3) include gay sex in public schools’ sexual education programs. As one might assume, these nefarious goals threaten to undermine Pro-Family values, or something.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I disagree strongly with the idea that gay marriage somehow undermines traditional marriage, or that gay adoption is somehow bad for children. There is very little reliable, empirical evidence to suggest (much less prove) the innate superiority of heterosexual coupling when it comes to raising children, and there is in fact some recent and well-publicized evidence to the contrary.

Further, the whole idea of “teaching gay sex” is a bit confusing. We can reasonably and usefully say that vaginal intercourse (of the sort that involves a penis rather than a sex toy) is a straight sex-act, insofar as gay couples are physically incapable of performing it. There are, however, no gay sex-acts–no sex-acts that only gay couples can perform, or that are intrinsically different when performed by gay couples (or by dozens of people at once, for that matter). There is no significant physiological difference, for example, between a man performing oral sex on a man, and a woman performing oral sex on a man. If children and adolescents are to understand the mechanics of sex, then they will inevitably have to understand that, with one notable exception, no sex-act is inherently any gayer than any other.

And as for affirmative action, I would argue that discriminatory hiring practices are bad, and that frivolous lawsuits are also bad, and that we need to work to eliminate both. None of which has the slightest thing to do with family values, sexual orientation, or political affiliation.

All of that being said, I’m not going to brush off the so-called Pro-Family values argument just because it feels a tad antique and silly. Immediately dismissing something because it’s traditional is exactly as absurd as immediately accepting something because it’s traditional. I’m not interested in doing away with the wisdom of previous generations, any more than I’m interested in assuming that everything previous generations thought or did was wise. (The Sermon on the Mount? Exceptionally wise. The Children’s Crusade? Surreally unwise).

So, what is the actual argument against gay marriage, and so on?

I’m sure you’ve been wondering just what the American Morality Survey contains. In short, the American Morality Survey is a perfect example of why polls are, generally speaking, bullshit–and further, of how concepts like family and morality can become buzz-words, devoid of descriptive and ethical content. It is a Rosetta Stone of disingenuous, fear-mongering misinformation. It is an immensely instructive object lesson in the mass production of useless data, and wherever one stands on the issue of gay rights, one has a vested interest in recognizing this sort of demagoguery when one sees it.

Here are the poll’s five questions, with some comments on each. Keep in mind that, on the survey form, “No” is selected by default for each of these.

1. Should homosexuals receive special job rights and force businesses, schools, churches and even daycares to hire and advance homosexuals or face prosecution and multimillion-dollar lawsuits?

As I have said earlier, the goal of Affirmative Action is to eliminate discrimination, not to promote it. If the latter happens, then the specific policy in question has failed, but that does not invalidate the idea itself. In its strange phrasing, this question disavows the fact that straight people currently receive “special job rights,” in the same way that so many arguments against Affirmative Action disavow white male privilege.

2. Do you support the use of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to fund homosexual “art”, so called AIDS-awareness programs and homosexual research grants that are frequently funneled to political advocacy?

Buried deep in that diatribe is the kernel of a half-decent point: Some AIDS charities do still frame AIDS as a gay disease, and that is a grave mistake. But if the government is going to fund any art (a separate issue), then it is more or less inevitable that some of the artists will be gay, and that some of the art will be activist in nature. And as for research grants being used to advocate a particular political ideology, that problem is hardly limited to any one branch of research, or to any one political project. Any research grant that says “Prove that heterosexual marriage is the best thing for children,” or “prove that heterosexual marriage is not the best thing for children,” rather than “let’s figure out the actual effect of heterosexual marriage on children” is bad research, plain and simple.

3. Should homosexuality be promoted in school as a healthy lifestyle choice, while information about the life threatening consequences are ignored?

Are there really sex education course that do not mention sexually transmitted infections? And for that matter, are there sexually transmitted infections that are transmitted through homosexual sex-acts, but not through heterosexual sex-acts? And for that matter, is there even such a thing as a homosexual sex-act?

4. Do you support same-sex “marriage” for homosexuals or “marriage-like” rights, like homosexuals being able to adopt children and raise them in their “lifestyle”?

The main issue here is the “condescending tone” and “seething, prejudicial contempt” implied by the “frivolous quotation marks.” No one is actually being quoted here, you’ll note.

5. Should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn traditional marriage between one man and one woman?

Again, this language is biased in the extreme: We’re overturning traditional marriage, not granting equal rights. And since the Supreme Court has never ruled on this issue, to grant queer Americans the right to marry would not be to “overturn” anything, legally speaking.

So, fellow American, my answer to all of these questions is: That’s a really stupid question, designed to flatter me if I agree with the person who wrote the question, and trap me into a compromising position if I do not. Which is really the answer to almost every question in almost every poll, if we’re being honest.

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