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I just glanced at the amicus brief submitted by medical & psychological groups to the Supreme Court in opposition to DOMA. They're explaining the research, which shows homosexuality is a normal phenomenon, same-sex couples have relationships essentially the same as anyone else's, and kids parented by same-sex parents do fine.

That's all well and good... but it plays into the ongoing debate of whether same-sex families are as good as others, good enough for children, etc etc etc. And people treat that debate as though, if same-sex parents turned out to be a bit worse for kids on average, that would justify policies against marriage equality, gay adoption, and so on.

Follow below the squiggly as I explain why that's bullshit.

I want to present a parallel here. Say I found some statistic that said women, on average, perform slightly worse in engineering jobs than men do.

If anyone ever tried to use this as evidence women should never be hired for engineering jobs, we'd all see they were full of it.

That's because averages don't determine one individual's ability. And it's wrong to judge someone based on a class they belong to rather than evaluating the individual. If someone woman were disqualified from a hiring process because of some statistic about women engineers, much of the country would be outraged for her. It would be diaried and rec-listed in a heartbeat. And rightfully so.

But same-sex couples face that kind of judgment all the time, and society's largely on board with it. We've got antigay advocacy groups and policymakers hunting around for any evidence opposite-sex parents are superior on average - as though that could justify policies favoring all opposite-sex couples as better parents than any same-sex couple. And then pro-gay groups say, "Oh, but the statistics don't show that at all!"

If a negative statistic were acceptable as a rational basis to favor opposite-sex couples, then it would also be rational to disqualify all women for some job, or all Black applicants, or all Ohioans. All you'd need is some statistic going that way, and it would justify any discrimination at all.

But that's silly. You can't make good judgments about individuals based on the classes they belong to, whether we're talking about gender, race, or sexual orientation. You certainly can't enact sweeping public policies on such flimsy grounds. And when the statistical differences are minute and/or contradictory - as they are around same-sex parenting - it's obvious the policies have no basis in the evidence in the first place.

A part of me wants to applaud and thank all the organizations who wrote that amicus brief. I appreciate their support and the work they put into it.

But I can't feel good that this debate is even happening. It's wrong - and illegal - to judge women as a class, or Latin@s, or Muslims, or people with disabilities. It may not be illegal (yet) to judge LGBT people, families, and parents as a class, but it's every bit as wrong. And it's high time we call that out for the bullshit it is.

Originally posted to Matt Smith on Wed Jul 11, 2012 at 04:55 PM PDT.

Also republished by LGBT Kos Community, Milk Men And Women, Invisible People, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent, excellent points! (18+ / 0-)

    ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

    by slowbutsure on Wed Jul 11, 2012 at 05:20:44 PM PDT

  •  Absolutely (15+ / 0-)

    It's all in the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.  Inequality? Wrong, wrong, wrong!

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Wed Jul 11, 2012 at 05:32:36 PM PDT

  •  As a woman engineer (29+ / 0-)

    We are disqualified a lot of times and when we are lucky enough to actually get a job, we deal with more than most would ever imagine.
    And no one, not even other women, help.
    There is not the outrage in real life that you imagine.

    We make less money than our male counterparts and face harassment on levels that I can't even begin to explain.

    We are forced to work hearing that we were only hired because of Affirmative Action, and that somehow discredits the actual work we do.
    And we are one of the firsts to be laid-off, because somehow we aren't men who support families.

    I do understand what you are saying, but using women as an example, isn't quite accurate.

    I've always believed that women, LGBT people and POC and others who are not white males should join together to fight the discrimination, but it doesn't appear as though that will ever happen in my lifetime.

    I've had bosses who were of a different race and I thought if anyone could understand my plight it would've been them, but no, they were just as bad, if not worse.

    It's complicated.

    I am retired, but believe me, things have not changed at all for women in the workplace as we still make less than men for doing the same work.

     

    •  I mostly agree (19+ / 0-)

      I agree with almost everything you've said. I never meant to suggest that sexism is over, or that women are judged fairly in the workplace. They're not.

      I just don't hear a national debate about whether women are good enough to enjoy equal protection under the law. I'm sure it happened around the time of women's suffrage - "Women just aren't good enough, smart enough to vote, and if they can vote it won't turn out well..." But these days, for the many forms sexism does exist, I don't see it existing that way.

      Like you, I've been hopeful that victims of other forms of oppression would notice the oppression I face and would fight it with me. And like you, I've been disappointed. I've also been disappointed in LGBT people who tolerate racism, sexism, etc. I think we should know better, based on our own experience of oppression.

      I want straight white men to have a problem with oppression too... but without experiencing oppression, I think they're at a disadvantage when it comes to seeing it for what it is.

      •  You should clarify one portion of your comment (6+ / 0-)
        I want straight white men to have a problem with oppression too... but without experiencing oppression, I think they're at a disadvantage when it comes to seeing it for what it is.
        Please add Christian to your rant here.

        I am white, straight, and male but being Jewish I have encountered PLENTY of discrimination!

        Never underestimate stupid. Stupid is how reTHUGlicans win!

        by Mannie on Wed Jul 11, 2012 at 06:57:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Do you have a reason for thinking he's Christian? (0+ / 0-)

          Or Gentile, or heathen, or . . .? Did you assume that if he were Jewish, he would have mentioned it? What is there about his comment that seems to signal that a Jewish person could not have posted it?

          The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

          by lotlizard on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 02:26:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  funny (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lgmcp, Panacea Paola, EdSF

          Point taken.

          I added straight, when originally she put "white men," because for me, it's my oppression as a gay man that's opened my eyes to oppression. I'm Jewish myself, despite having a goyish-sounding name - but it's been my experience as a gay man that made me aware of oppression. As a Jew, I've always had it pretty easy.

          But I'm not arguing the fact that religion, or dis/ability, or other identities also face oppression... and that a straight white man facing one of those oppressions should have an easier time understanding oppression across the board. And I know plenty of Jews face more anti-Semitism than I have.

    •  Re: women engineers, (25+ / 0-)

      I got a marine engineering degree from Cal Maritime.  What struck me about female engineering students was that where a male student could skate by as 'just average', a female student had to excell.  I am still not sure exactly why - wether it was peer pressure, biased grading, administrative obstacles, family issues, or societal preconditioning - but 'average' female students dropped out in their first or second year.  They certainly weren't any worse than their male compatriots who boozed their way through 5 years of a 4-year program, continually flirting with a 2.0, but they dropped out instead of drifting through.

      What was left, the female engineers who graduated, were universally in the top of the class.  Every year I was there, it was a female engineer who was the most respected and lauded graduate.

      The best engineer of my class - a brilliant woman who, after working as a hair-dresser on a cruise ship, decided that she should be making big bucks too, and went on to prevent at least one major catastrophe at sea before she'd even graduated - has been unable to find 'real' engineering work.  Again, I can't say it's because of her gender, but it was not lost on me that, despite my recommendation, my own employer didn't even return her phone calls about their numerous openings for marine engineers.

      On the ship I sailed with for my commercial cruise, a tanker for Seabulk, the captain confided to me "I don't think women would work out on this ship.  I don't think they'd work with this crew."  He was right, I suppose - the crew of that ship were easily the most mysoginistic jerks I've ever met.  But I had the urge - supressed due to my status as a cadet - to shout "And that's your problem, Captain, fix it!"

      Sorry, this is a bit tangential to the diary at hand, and would probably make for a good diary on it's own.  But I wanted to give my own input, as someone fortunate enough to be born a middle class white male: engineering is rough for women - and there's absolutely no reason or justification for that injustice.

    •  Katherine Kuchenbecker, professor of engineering (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FindingMyVoice

      … at the University of Pennsylvania — one of my heroines.
      http://www.seas.upenn.edu/...

      The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

      by lotlizard on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 02:20:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you. (10+ / 0-)

    We end up having to be better, perform better when the bottom line is that we have the same damn rights as anyone.

    I don't see a license required for opposite sex couples to have babies. A woman I used to work with used to tell me why do I need to educate 'jooner' (junior), that's the schools job. She even told me the story of letting the cat lick honey off 'seeners' (seniors - the dad) penis.

    OMG, and we have to be held to the highest standard why???

    I mean, I get it.. to use your comparison, women are often told to be better in everything they do in 'the man's world' because they have to beat expectations every time. I really look forward to the day when that isn't the case for women's or LGBT rights.

    May 9, 2012 - Evolution Day

    by cooper888 on Wed Jul 11, 2012 at 05:53:40 PM PDT

  •  I completely agree with you and yet (9+ / 0-)

    It appears that such overcompensation is needed in order to prove a point.

    OF COURSE heterosexual couples don't need to prove themselves worthy as parents. OF COURSE women and minorities shouldn't need to prove themselves to be "just as good" in order to win equality.

    When it comes right down to it, I long for the day when we no longer need to lead "exemplary lives" in order to assured of our rights.

  •  Great diary (6+ / 0-)

    You make some great points here. Entirely valid, I agree entirely. I'm a little bit ashamed/embarrassed that it never ocurred to me.

    Yet it's complicated. What is the alternative to counter arguments that same sex couples don't make good parents? You can evade or avoid the question. Argue that it's a qualitative measure that straight couples never have to meet. But as a practical matter, it's unlikely any of those tactics will be successful.

    What is the alternative?

    •  my 2 cents (4+ / 0-)

      If someone said we gay couples don't make good parents, I'd say, "What about people with a history of perpetrating domestic violence? Or child molestation? What are the statistics on how well they parent? And where's the movement to deny marriage to those people? How excited would you be for the government to investigate you and decide whether you deserve marriage, based on how well they expect you to parent, because you fit some statistic they don't like? I can't even imagine the government treating heterosexual people that way, for any reason. I take for granted that marriage and parenting is a personal decision, not the government's decision to make for us. And I deserve that just as much as any hetero couple."

      •  I agree with you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        puzzled

        No other group that I can think of has ever had to justify their parenting skills. Ignoring, for the moment, the difficulty of qualitatively measuring parenting skills, do we know whether blacks make good parents? Or Jews? Athiests?  Would it make any difference if studies showed, for instance, that Republicans are, on average, less successful parents? Those arguments have never (to my knowledge) ever been made. Yet it is a hurdle that gay parents have to overcome.

        The argument is compelling. Sadly, I doubt it will be pursuasive to those that wish to deny your rights to be a parent.

  •  Good point. Thank you for making it so well. nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    outragedinSF

    "Maybe this is how empires die - their citizens just don't deserve to be world leaders anymore." -Kossack Puddytat, In a Comment 18 Sept 2011

    by pixxer on Wed Jul 11, 2012 at 10:46:38 PM PDT

  •  Really cogent argument. (5+ / 0-)

    Tipped and rec'd especially for this:

    I want to present a parallel here. Say I found some statistic that said women, on average, perform slightly worse in engineering jobs than men do.

    If anyone ever tried to use this as evidence women should never be hired for engineering jobs, we'd all see they were full of it.

    That's because averages don't determine one individual's ability. And it's wrong to judge someone based on a class they belong to rather than evaluating the individual.

    It complements nicely the argument that the majority should never be able to vote on the rights of the minority.

    Thank you for a well-written diary.

    "A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future." - Leonard Bernstein

    by outragedinSF on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 12:03:55 AM PDT

  •  Matt, I'm gay, and a parent, and the way I see it, (8+ / 0-)

    this kind of research into and discussion of classes of people is academic in nature.  It evolves from social scientific methodology requiring well-defined units from which to gather data and draw conclusions with regard to research questions.  It posits the need to speak about averages so as to be able to situate data along a spectrum where outliers are clearly marked as such, thereby ensuring the solidity and applicability of the data found more toward the middle.  

    Now, it is true that this kind of academic methodology has been useful in the fight for gay parenting rights and gay rights in general, because these are scientific methodologies and logics.  And those have authority.  So having the weight of authority back up conclusions about averages, is a standard and (when helpful for making assertions about the "normalcy" of gay people) a good thing in this debate.

    I appreciate that you lament the idea that we as gay parents are somehow "almost normal." but I personally don't read too much into it and see it for what it is:  academic conceptualization and social science rhetoric that are useful for making legal arguments.  

    Where I think you really would have a case for complaining is with regard to a whole different area where in general such methodology really gets problematic for human beings.  From my perspective, where it gets problematic is in medical and pharmaceutical research, where the "average" is posited as white male adult, and every other body type is subsumed into that for the purposes of drawing conclusions.  So when drugs are developed, white adult males are taken as the average, normal kind of body on which research is done and for which the drug's applicability and effectiveness is investigated.  Same with medical equipment.  Are the smaller bodies, metabolic differences, brain differences of children (for example) taken into account in pharmaceutical and medical research?  Not in most cases where studies are being done to test effectiveness on a vast class of humans.  

    Now this, to me, is a really bizarre use of the logic of classes and averages, one with potentially detrimental results for people.

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 05:01:46 AM PDT

  •  I want to add (10+ / 0-)

    Im sick of this entire "debate" boiling down to gay couples raising children. Like no adult has any worth whatever unless they've produced offspring. I think that is utter bullshit. According to Obama, it was seeing gay PARENTS raising their children that made him realize  that they (at least those kinds of gay people) are actually real people in real relationships.

    What about all the freeks, weirdos, odd-balls marching along under that rainbow flag? Do we not count as actual human beings? What about the one's NOT in a relationship, NOT raising children (not even liking children), those in poly amorous relationships, those that are covered in tattoos and piercings, clad in leather and feathers? Are WE not human beings deserving of OUR INALIENABLE HUMAN RIGHTS?

    Yes, most LGBT people look and act "normal" (hetero? white? able-bodied?) but goddammit SOME OF US DONT and we are people TOO.

    Peace thru hemp / hemp for life!

    by Boudicia Dark on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 05:07:46 AM PDT

    •  Granted, marriage equality is only one part (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Darmok

      of the fight for full LGBTQ rights.   But it's the part that's hot right now, and it makes sense to strike while the iron is hot.   I don't WANT every single queer person to assimilate or settle down or go mainstream (though I certainly have myself).  But it seems to me that creating mainstream acceptance for the queers who do choose conventional suburban married life, in the long run can only result in greater safety and tolerance for those who do not.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 11:11:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We need to have a talk. (9+ / 0-)

    I read your post. As a man who happens to be a homosexual, I also cannot disagree with your points more vehemently. Why?

    I do statistics for a living. I work with quantifying behavior. I also pursued a BA in psychology with an emphasis on psychometrics and statistics.

    The word you use in your post as "normal," is defined as approximately natural. This is not the term used in statistical analysis which means approximately average to the population. When we say the data is "normal," we mean as in comparison to the population approximately 94-99% of the time.

    If homosexual parents raise children as equally efficient as the population parents, it does not mean that homosexual parents raise children as well as heterosexual parents. It means that the heterosexual and homosexual parents are the exact same thing -- parents. They are not a part of another group; they are the exact same group. Almost every researcher will state this very fact in their research. The press, unfortunately, loses this fact.

    Testing  minority groups against the population as a whole is crucial to demystifying and removing the cultural constitutive other so all people can be treated as part of the exact same group. Without this research, homosexuals would still be considered disordered, transgendered would be considered unnatural, and women would still be considered lesser to men.

    "Without alienation, there can be no politics" ~ Arthur Miller

    by jwalker13 on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 06:03:02 AM PDT

  •  I see what you're saying, but it's not a worry: (0+ / 0-)

    The argument is whether gays are disqualified as a class, not that there's a statistical difference.  Because the adoption process doesn't judge by class like that.   Even if more gay couples are unfit, whether a particular couple, gay or straight, is fit is based on the particular couple.  Or individual, I guess.

    SCANDAL: Bush Supreme Court nominee Roberts upholds Romney's individual mandate! Another politically motivated decision!

    by Inland on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 07:24:31 AM PDT

  •  I'm going to argue (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anonevent, Matt Smith, lgmcp

    that this battle requires both strategies.

    The reasons opponents use to restrict access to adoption for LGBT couples are specifically based on theories of what is required for parenting - quasi scientific arguments that are actually based only on religious prejudice.  The way social scientists, medical professionals and the evidence-based community to rebut these claims is to say "bullshit" and explain why LGBT couples are every bit as good and appropriate to parent as straight couples.  The language physicians and social scientists use to make this point necessarily involves averages and means, and population studies - evidence based rebuttal to religious insanity.  It's not a bad strategy, indeed a necessary one.  

    This does not negate a universal human rights strategy based on individual rights, as you articulate.

    I think both are required.  Since I tend toward the evidence-based, more social sciences perspective, my first instinct is to say "bullshit" and rebut the fundies and ignorant assholes with evidence.  But most of us are sympathetic to the argument that human beings are human beings - and they have the right to simply be treated as such.  One can use both arguments without contradiction.

    “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” Charles Darwin

    by ivorybill on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 07:44:09 AM PDT

  •  Tricky Line to Draw (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lgmcp

    In a perfect world, of course these studies would be irrelevant.  People would point out that everyone is entitled to these rights regardless whether the group to which he or she belongs performs better or worse than average.  But given that (i) many people will not be convinced by this argument and (ii) the facts support equal treatment even if the "standard" for equal treatment is evidence of equal ability, it probably makes sense to present the evidence and make these arguments.  We may eventually live in a society where such evidence is not necessary.  But until we do, we need to use whatever we have available to combat prejudice.

  •  Yes ... and no. (0+ / 0-)

    Your overall point is well made and perfectly correct:

    You can't make good judgments about individuals based on the classes they belong to, whether we're talking about gender, race, or sexual orientation. You certainly can't enact sweeping public policies on such flimsy grounds.
    However, there's a weakness in this bit:
    And when the statistical differences are minute and/or contradictory - as they are around same-sex parenting - it's obvious the policies have no basis in the evidence in the first place.
    If you don't DO the statistics, then you can't demonstrate that the statistical differences are minute.  If you can't demonstrate that a decent number of women engineers equal or outperform their male peers, then you can't fight back the forces of discrimination.  

    So yes, the rights of an individual should not rely on the worthiness of a class.   But it will still make sense for a maligned class to try to demonstrate its worthiness.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Thu Jul 12, 2012 at 11:02:15 AM PDT

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