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Monday, May 14th, 2012 08:48 am
I was busy reading through a lovely little article on the ABC this morning about a group of doctors who have submitted a statement to the Senate enquiry into marriage equality here in Australia. The position of this group of doctors (about 150 in all, one of whom is a member of the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) is that "marriage between a man and a woman is the "basis for a healthy society"."

Their contention is that ""It's well proven that children who grow up with a mother and a father in a biological mother-and-father family do better than children who don't have the opportunity to grow up in that kind of family,"

Now, my immediate thought when faced with this was along the following lines:

Show me the research - This is always my response to ninety percent of these sorts of statements in news articles. I want to see the studies these people are pulling their quotes from, and actually figure out whether their justification is accurate.

I also want to know things like: how many subjects were involved in the study (a small study group isn't readily generalisable into the entire population without one hell of a lot of statistical justification); which factors were controlled for (for example, in the case of comparing health statuses among children growing up in a "traditional"[1] heterosexual household environment versus children growing up in non-heterosexual household environments, are you controlling for something as simple as family income?); what type of study it was (you're asserting a causal relationship here - being in a non-heterosexual household environment directly causes poor health outcomes in children; if this is the case, you'd better not be getting your information from correlational studies, because all they can show is a connection between factor A and factor B, not a causal relationship between the two); where did the study take place (cultural factors can and do influence results); when did the study take place (the past is a different country, and you can expect cultural change effects there as well); and finally, what were the researchers expecting to find when they did the study (is this just a case of confirmation biases run riot)?

As it turns out, the ABC had included a copy of the submission at the bottom of the page (thanks, scribd) and I had a brief look at that. They have lots of lovely big footnotes full of links and references... to media articles. There are two footnotes which appear to point to actual research. The first was done by an eminent professor in the Faculty of Law at Sydney University (on behalf of the Australian Christian Lobby... who can hardly be said to be a disinterested party here) and is about the way that parenting outcomes can be improved overall. The second is a study reported in 2003 on data gathered in 1995, it was done in the USA[3] and it was mainly done looking at step-families - there's no mention in the study of the sexual alignment of the parents or step-parents.

Or in other words, the research, they has not done it. Instead, they've gone cherry-picking through the available research to find stuff which appears to support their position. Given their position is effectively that legalising same-sex marriage will lead to "normalisation" of homosexual behaviour with dire health results (pointing to a survey from the US again... see my footnote 3 for further details of why I think this isn't really applicable); it'll mean that parents aren't allowed to withdraw their children from education to prevent their learning about homosexuality (oh the horror); it'll mean they're not allowed to say that "homosexuality is evil, mmmkay" without being corrected (hate-speech laws); people won't be able to feel superior because they're married and those nasty homos aren't (oh gods, how terrible, your snobbery it is vanish); and adoption agencies would face further pressure to let homosexual people adopt (which would, of course, lead to the end of the world as we know it).

Really, if you get past the first page of their submission, it's just the same sort of small-minded, socially-conservative idiocy that you'd expect from the Christian (Always) Right - "Don't Do It Because We Don't Like It; Our God Says This Is EEEEVUL!!!"[4]. It's a bit disappointing that 150 doctors hold these views, but then again, so long as they don't let their views get in the way of their practice, I've no problems with that. They're entitled to hold opinions as private citizens. It's when they try to use their position as doctors to force those opinions on the rest of the population that I have problems.

[1] I have scare quotes there deliberately. The single-couple-and-kids household model has only been "traditional" since approximately the end of the second world war at the absolute earliest[2], and even there, it's more "traditional" in countries like Australia where there's been a lot of immigration and migration splitting up families than it is in a lot of the immigration source nations, for example.
[2] Which means, in turn, that the results really aren't in on the consequences of being raised in such an environment in the long term. Although one could point to the correlation between the growth of single-generation households and the rising incidence of mental illness diagnosis, and ask some rather pointed questions about whether there's a causal link.
[3] I would strongly argue that a study of health consequences and risks in the USA is NOT applicable to any country which doesn't have a USA-style health system. Which is, unfortunately, the majority of industrialised, democratic, highly-educated, and particularly English-speaking cultures in the world. There are also some very serious legal and cultural differences overall between the USA and Australia - I really doubt that research done in the US can be correctly generalised to Australia.
[4] Actually, Christ didn't have a damn thing to say about homosexuality (he had a fair amount to say about divorce, but nothing about homosexuality). Paul had a lot to say, but (and I can't believe I have to point this out here) Paul wasn't Christ. Maybe there needs to be a new label - Christianity (where you primarily follow the teachings of Christ) and Pauline Christianity (where you primarily follow all the rules Paul set around the teachings of Christ).
Monday, May 14th, 2012 01:51 pm (UTC)
Why "Pauline Christianity" when one could just say "Paulianity" (or "paulinanity" even)?
elf: Many Americans have all the virtues of civilized people (American virtues)
[personal profile] elf
Monday, May 14th, 2012 02:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Single-couple-and-kids households:

I consider the "nuclear family" to be another form of toxic nuclear waste of the 20th century.

I am endlessly fascinated (and annoyed, and often disgusted) at the increasingly complex "logic" strings used to justify continued bigotry and discrimination against LGBT people. "We are doctors, and we read a lot about how icky same-sex marriage is, and WE think same-sex marriage are icky, ergo, doctors are against same-sex marriages, and you know if doctors are against something that's because it's unhealthy."

I haven't directly seen, "I knew a gay guy once, and he was a creep, and nobody should marry a creep, so I'm against gay marriage"--but I'm entirely sure it's out there.