In a June 1 op-ed column in The Oregonian (Portland), Exodus board member, author and Focus on the Family associate Anne Paulk reacts to an earlier LA Times column by Max Boot. (Free subscriptions required.)

Paulk does not directly address Boot’s reasons for believing conservatives (antigays, actually) can’t win the battle against marriage for gays. Instead, Paulk simply explains that conservatives still play an important role in public policy.

It may surprise anti-ex-gay cynics when Paulk acknowledges something that James Dobson, Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas have not said publicly in a long time: Conservatives don’t have the corner on traditional values.

Paulk explains:

Even liberal-leaning soccer parents want their children to save sex for marriage. Most pro-choice Americans recognize that abortion-on-demand has gone way too far, and am I mistaken or was there a national outcry about Janet Jackson’s breast-bearing antics during the Super Bowl?

Relatively broad-minded perspectives like this are welcome, but have been quite rare among the leaders of Exodus and Focus on the Family in recent years.

Now to the topic at hand: marriage. This is not a conservative issue. If it were, how does a recent Los Angeles Times survey reveal that 72 percent of Americans oppose same-sex marriage? Additionally, 39 states have successfully defended marriage by passing defense of marriage laws.

Does this suggest that the vast majority of Americans are social conservatives? That’s absurd. The truth is, even Americans who are tolerant and sympathetic toward homosexuals aren’t willing to abandon the proven benefits of marriage between a man and woman, especially for children.

Paulk’s demographic observations do not make pleasant reading for gay tolerance advocates, but they accurately reflect recent polling nevertheless. Paulk’s factual discussion falls short in her caricature of gay parenting:

Endless studies confirm that children do best when raised in a household with a married mother and father. They enjoy better health, perform better in school, are less likely to experiment with drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. They are even less likely to become pregnant out of wedlock.

Paulk does not cite these studies, nor does she attempt to refute other recent studies that “confirm” the opposite. Instead, she cites gay male long-term couples’ tendency to tolerate occasional sexual liaisons outside the relationship — a valid concern. But she misrepresents these liaisons as an indication that the couples are doomed to fail, when in fact the occasional sexual openness may encourage relationship longevity. Meanwhile, Paulk is silent on lesbian couples’ tendency to remain monogamous.

Paulk claims that teaching tolerance in public schools “will inevitably lead to increased homosexual experimentation, even among heterosexual adolescents. … This is especially troubling in light of the fact that the life-expectancy for homosexual males is 8 to 10 years shorter than heterosexual men.” Paulk seems to be unfamiliar with proper sex education protocols. They do not encourage experimentation; on the contrary, they encourage responsible decisionmaking, weighing risks and required safety measures. Furthermore, Paulk’s life-expectancy claim is curiously unsourced and suspicious, given that even in cities with the highest HIV infection rates, a majority of gay males choose to practice abstinence, monogamy, or safer sex; do not contract HIV; and do not die any earlier than heterosexual single men. Paulk’s point seems to be that all gay men should be judged, and discriminated against, for the unhealthy behaviors of a minority when in fact the gay males who aim to live hard and die young — like their heterosexual counterparts – are exceedingly unlikely to want or seek marriage licenses.

Ultimately, Paulk’s argument boils down to this:

But the past 6,000 years have proven this: Marriage really works. And at its best, absolutely nothing compares for children.

Paulk implicitly asks her audience to accept her religious belief in a young evolution-less Earth and a literal six-day Creation story. Beyond that, she offers vague generalities about children, and by avoiding a broad and detailed discussion of child, welfare, she may actually aid a key argument in favor of marriage for gay couples: Many gay couples have children — biological or adopted — who deserve the protection afforded by lifelong marriage.

In an effort to sound tolerant, Paulk tip-toes around Exodus’ position on marriage and parenting. In February, executive director Alan Chambers accused biological and adoptive gay parents of being selfish for wanting or holding on to their children. While she withholds this information from her Portland readers, in a June 2 Exodus press release Paulk reassures conservatives that she believes tolerance for married gay couples will destroy marriage and family:

Anne shares with Exodus, “The time is now. Speak out, stand up and be counted. We can make a difference or remain silent and watch marriage and the family crumble. We who know freedom can make a big difference.” Exodus encourages all those who have found freedom from homosexuality to write letters to editors of their local papers and refute assumptive accusations that dismiss the case for traditional marriage and alternative viewpoints concerning homosexuality.

No examples are offered where same-sex-marriage advocates allegedly “dismiss” or disapprove of traditional marriage. And without explanation, Paulk and Exodus describe heterosexual-only marriage as an “alternative viewpoint” and not the status quo.

So, does the antigay movement “own” traditional values?

From the New York Times, June 4:

Religious Leaders Assail Amendment on Gay Marriage

Officials of several religious organizations, including the Presbyterian, Lutheran and Episcopal churches, sent an open letter to Congress yesterday opposing the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

“Although we have differing opinions on rights for same-sex couples, we believe the Federal Marriage Amendment reflects a fundamental disregard for individual civil rights and ignores differences among our nation’s many religious traditions,” the letter said. The United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association, which recognize same-sex marriages, also signed the letter. So did representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, the Union for Reform Judaism, the liberal Alliance of Baptists and the Quakers.

The coalition’s views on civil rights and the Constitution sound pretty traditional to me.

The open letter was organized by the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, United Church of Christ minister and head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

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