Ken Connor of the Family Research Council today describes his support base as “fellow defenders of family, faith and freedom around the country.”

Divorce rates reported by the Census Bureau and Barna Research Group tell a different story.

It’s a widely reported fact: Among all states, divorce rates are highest in the Bible Belt. Among the reasons cited by think tanks and conservative clergy are:

  • poor educational system;
  • low incomes; and
  • young adults pressured into marriage at too early an age.

Divorce rates are far lower in the Northeast and West, where public schools are better-run and -supported, incomes are higher, and adults (women, especially) do not marry until they are mature and well-established as individuals.

Some clergy want to require marriage counseling of all prospective couples, but they encounter opposition or frequent lack of cooperation. Others want schools to teach maturing youth vital skills in adult life and responsibility, interpersonal communication, and conflict resolution, but they are opposed by “family values” advocates who want values-oriented education confined to the home and church –where such coaching simply never happens.

Young adults instead enter marriage with little understanding of how to communicate with one’s spouse, how to resolve conflicts, how to balance work and home responsibilities, and no sense of mutual sexual responsibilities.

But Connor does not mention any of this in his Atlanta newspaper op-ed column.

Without substantiation, he cites “attacks on the
family due to a domestic partner benefits measure recently
introduced by a county commissioner there.”

After misquoting the commissioner, Connor says:

In truth, lifelong marriage
between one man and one woman remains very relevant to the
physical and mental health and the material productivity of
both adults and the children they raise.

Connor offers no evidence that health and productivity are based on the gender of those getting married.

All the social
science research shows that legally married couples and
their children do better than those living in any other
family structure.

This is a good argument for supporting gay marriage and opposing domestic partnership, as many authors at the Independent Gay Forum do.

It’s also in the interest of employers
that marriage be privileged. For example, men with a
lifelong commitment to a wife exhibit a stronger commitment
to their work as well, and are therefore more productive.

Here, the assumption is that the man works and the woman — well, we don’t know what she does. Again, no evidence is provided to support the notion that commitment to work is related to worker’s sexual orientation.

In fact, the diversity movement among major employers has documented something quite different: Employers that maintain pro-diversity programs say workers are most productive when the integrity of their private lives is respected or affirmed. Workers are least productive when compelled to marry hastily or to cope with marital difficulties without needed marriage skills. (DiversityInc. magazine is an excellent resource on diversity programs in corporate hiring.)

Connor continues:

Cohabiting relationships, on the other hand, are inherently
unstable — transient, hard to define and marred by sexual
unfaithfulness. Partly as a result of that instability,
cohabiting couples have higher rates of illness than
married ones.

Nice guesses, but again, Connor offers no evidence. I would “guess” from divorce rates in the Bible Belt, however, that marital unfaithfulness is just as common in antigay environments as in gay-tolerant ones.

Increasing the number of high-risk
individuals in the insurance pool drives up the average
premium for everyone. WellPoint, a major insurer, found in
a 2001 study of small employers in California that health
insurance costs for same-sex couples were 17.1 percent
higher than for opposite-sex couples.

Connor misstates the high-risk populations of concern to insurers. He also overlooks the discrepancy between the WellPoint study — which is cited by just one organization online, a social-conservative think tank (PDF document) — and several other studies of larger worker populations (HRC, NLGJA, Google) showing that the difference in costs is between zero and 3 percent. The discrepancy is worth serious examination.

Ultimately, though,
the debate over domestic partner benefits is not about
economics. It’s about a small but noisy band of homosexual
activists who desire not only tolerance, but the
affirmation, celebration, subsidization and solemnization
of their unhealthy and unnatural relationships. Domestic
partner benefits are only an incremental step toward their
ultimate goal–winning society’s social and legal
affirmation through the institution of civil marriage
itself. Marriage needs no redefinition and can tolerate no
counterfeits–including domestic partnerships.”

Ultimately, then, economic research does not matter much to the Family Research Council. What matters is FRC’s foregone conclusion. An associate of mine notes that a Gallup Poll last month found a near-majority of American people favoring legal recognition of gay couples. Connor asserts that the support for legal recognition is “small,” and that gays are unhealthy and unnatural, no matter what our eyes, ears and hearts tell us each time we meet a gay friend for lunch or a ball game.

And so Connor opposes gay monogamy, even as he ignores the root causes of divorce.

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