Welcome to “frequently asked questions” about the Vermont Marriage Advisory Council and our efforts to ensure that in the debate that has begun in Vermont over whether to legalize genderless marriage Vermonters will be comprehensive, balanced, fair and factual.
What is the Vermont Marriage Advisory Council (VMAC)?
VMAC was created by concerned Vermont citizens to ensure that the good people of Vermont get full, factual, and complete information to help them decide whether we should legalize genderless marriage in our state.
Is VMAC affiliated with any political party or religious denomination?
No. VMAC is non-partisan and non-religiously based. While we have people of differing parties and religious persuasions among our members and supporters, we are first and foremost a diverse group of Vermonters concerned about the future of Vermont, our children, and our country. Click here to see the current make up of the Executive Committee of VMAC.
Why specifically was VMAC created?
In August, 2007, the Democratic leadership of the legislature announced the creation of the “Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection” to hold hearings around the state, ostensibly to determine how Vermonters feel about legalizing genderless marriage and to file a report on their findings with the legislature in April, 2008. The problem is that instead of trying to balance the commission with people on both sides of the issue, the ten member commission was obviously stacked with members who already favored legalizing genderless marriage – a point well noted in two Vermont news articles referenced on our home page.
Pro-family leaders and groups in Vermont announced that they would boycott the commission’s hearings as a way to protest this bias and to prevent the commission or its report from having undue credibility with Vermonters. Even the Vermont media recognized the clear bias of the commission.
In an effort to answer this intense criticism, these Democratic legislative leaders were forced to add an eleventh commissioner, a former state legislator who had voted against civil unions. But, this was merely a token gesture, too little and too late.
The bias of the commission became even more apparent when, at the behest of future members of VMAC, Professor Monte Stewart spoke at the Vermont Law School amidst three other law professors. Professor Stewart’s testimony was met with argument and insult, rather than openness and deference. Indeed, one commission member openly called Professor Stewart, an internationally renowned scholar of marital law, “myopic”. The commission member was Vermont Senator John Campbell (see video). Such remarks were eventually met with a mild rebuke from Tom Little, the commission chair, who reminded his fellow commissioners that they were there “to listen, not to argue.”
As it became increasingly clear that the commission’s report would simply be “window dressing” to advance the goal of legalizing same sex marriage in Vermont, concerned Vermonters came together and organized VMAC. Our objective is to ensure that the debate in Vermont on this critical issue will be balanced, comprehensive, factual and legitimate (please visit our resources page to sample some downloadable reports from the social sciences).
How will VMAC work to make the debate over legalizing genderless marriage balanced, comprehensive, factual and legitimate?
In a variety of ways.
Primarily, we will be doing everything we can to be sure that those who advocate such a major social change as legalizing genderless marriage bear the burden of showing that this change will not be harmful to society as a whole and to the majority of Vermonters. (Click here for a brief discussion of why they MUST bear this burden of proof and not those who want to preserve traditional marriage).
We will work to accomplish this objective in a number of ways. For example, on this Web site we have posted some of the best research and analysis that demonstrates the critical importance of preserving marriage as only the union of a man and a woman. We will be posting more resource material in the future.
VMAC will also sponsor a series of “Marriage Matters Forums” which will bring in nationally and internationally recognized experts on the importance of marriage to present Vermonters with the facts and explain what the likely impacts would be if we were to legalize genderless marriage. (Click here to see more information on these forums).
We will be sending out periodic updates to Vermonters on important developments in this debate over marriage. Click here to sign up for these alerts.
Among other things, we will also be filing a report on marriage with the people of Vermont laying out the case for preserving traditional marriage.
Aren’t there plenty of studies which show that gay marriage and gay parenting are just as good as heterosexual?
Although there are numerous studies on this topic, there have been well demonstrated flaws in either the structure of the studies, or the size of the study pools. Indeed, after reviewing several hundred studies on same-sex parenting, Professor Steven Nock, a respected sociologist at the University of Virginia, stated that every one “contained at least one fatal flaw of design or execution” and “not a single one of those studies was conducted according to general accepted scientific standards of research” [emphasis added]
Thirty years ago, researchers believed that family structure was much less important than family economics. As data has accumulated over that time, however, researchers are increasingly understanding the unique and important contributions a father and a mother each make to the child’s development. Indeed, the debate on the benefits of intact marriage is over in the mainstream research community. For example, in a review of all 266 scholarly articles published on family structure in the premier Journal of Marriage and Family between 1977 and 2002, Dr. Norval Glenn and Thomas Sylvester found “an apparent majority of scholars have come to believe that family structure matters, and matters to an important extent, for children. This widespread agreement has emerged, in large part, because scholars have amassed a wealth of data on the subject, and the data support such concern” (see link).
These same researchers warn that “some of the arguments, rhetorical devices, and modes of data interpretation” used by those researchers who argue that family structure is unimportant “are so unconventional and contrary to accepted ‘ best practices’ that ideological bias is the only reasonable explanation for them.”
There are widely recognized, serious problems with these same-sex parenting studies often referenced. No national sample data sets exist for such research. Dr. Fagan (see bio) offered to help the gay community generate them along with the needed oversampling of gay couple households with children, but the gay community responds with silence.
We also note that the 2006 French Parliamentary Commission on the Family and the Rights of Children examined these studies and found “the lack of objectivity in this area is blatant” (Commission report, p. 88). Based on the needs of children (as opposed to adults) it subsequently recommended against legalizing same-sex marriage or allowing same-sex adoption.
Courts here and abroad have also rejected the usefulness of these small studies. After reviewing extensive expert witness testimony in the Zappone same-sex marriage case on both sides of the claim of no significant differences for children, the Irish High Court was “not convinced that such firm conclusions can be drawn as to the welfare of children at this point in time” (Decision, p. 117). U.S. federal courts similarly found this research unpersuasive in their decision to rejecting the legal challenge to Florida’s law prohibiting same-sex adoption.
Dr. Linda Waite, internationally recognized expert on marriage and family structure and expert witness in the Irish case, counseled that “No one should pay any attention to studies that are poorly done. They are just some stories, they really are not science” (Decision, p. 37).
As Dr. Fagan and Prof. Stewart both noted in our recent forum, the onus is on those advocating genderless marriage (and all that it entails) to provide accepted, solid research of sufficient scale proving that it provides at least the same social goods as traditional marriage and no appreciable harm. To date, this has not happened.
I’m a married heterosexual. How could gay marriage hurt my marriage?
The short answer is that it won’t directly affect your marriage. But it will directly and profoundly impact the social goods provided by traditional man/woman marriage.
Consider that marriage is a vital social institution which provides well demonstrated social benefits (goods) which are so important to society that our culture protects them through force of law. Such institutions are defined, without exception, by a web of widely shared public meanings. The law holds no power to “open” marriage to “include” homosexual couples, but it does have the power to suppress the nearly universally shared public meaning of a union between a man and a woman through the force of law. In Canada, for example, the enacting of recent same-sex marriage laws required sweeping changes to existing law, including erasing the legal concept of “natural parent” and replacing it with the term “legal parent.” Similar changes have taken place in Spain, where the terms “mother” and “father” have been removed from birth certificates – replaced with the terms “Progenitor A” and “Progenitor B.” In short, marriage is either the union of a man and a woman, or it is the union of any two people. A society can have traditional, man/woman marriage (and the social goods that it provides), or it can have genderless marriage. It cannot have both.
Money is an excellent analogy and testimony to this fact. Suppose, for a moment, that Vermont decided that it would print and circulate its own currency to be distributed alongside the U.S. dollar. Vermont businesses would be forced, by law, to accept the new Vermont currency, which would create a whole set of fiscal complexities and difficulties not found under a single, unified, nationwide currency. Such a move would, of course, have profound effect on Vermont’s economic institutions, until one currency, by force of law, would become the standard - thereby replacing the other.
This is precisely what will happen to the standard “currency” of traditional marriage if Vermont adopts genderless marriage: it will be completely superseded through force of law, thereby reducing the unique social goods it provides.
Isn’t same-sex marriage really about equality?
The debate surrounding same-sex, or genderless marriage is invariably framed as one of equality. But is it really equal? Let’s look at just a few, simple facts.
By their very nature, same-sex unions cannot be considered “equal” with heterosexual marriages, in a direct sense, especially in regards to parenting. Why?
Let’s start with the obvious: two mothers or two fathers acting as parents cannot be “equal” to a biological mother and a father in the most direct sense, no matter how sincere the intent of the same-sex couple. There are only two ways in which same-sex couples can function as parents: they must use Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) to conceive a child (with gay males requiring a surrogate mother/egg donor, and lesbians requiring artificial insemination/sperm donor), or one or both parents must adopt a child from either a previous relationship or some other source. Either way, one or more of the following conditions always apply to same-sex parenting:
1) The child is deprived of a mother (e.g. two gay males) or a father (e.g. two lesbians); this is a permanent, irreversible situation for the child in the case of ART conception. The child is therefore deprived of either a parent of the opposite sex, or of the same sex. Either situation unnecessarily jeopardizes the child’s future potential; a fact well demonstrated in social science data.
2) In the case of ART conception, the child is deliberately deprived of any knowledge of one half of their biological origins (since almost all sperm and egg banks guarantee anonymity to donors) and a mother or a father.
3) Since same-sex parents cannot both be the biological parents, the family structure is very similar to a step-parent situation, but with one very important difference: Such a family structure is also missing the inherent complementary balance between male and female (i.e. two mothers or two fathers). There exists a further inherent parallel with step-families: rejection. Almost all same-sex parented families demonstrate rejection of one biological parent by the other, often accompanied by rejection of the child by one or more biological parents (go here for details). Again, regardless of good intentions, step-families consistently show child outcomes less favorable than married, biological parents. We suggest a careful reading of some of the resource materials which address child outcomes in alternative, or non-traditional family forms.
Such situations stand in stark conflict with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Children, which demands, “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by … courts of law … or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration," including "as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents." To date, the vast majority of legal and legislative discussion has focused on the desires of the adults, with virtual silence on the rights and welfare of the children involved.
Ask yourself: would you wish to be deprived of your mother or father?
Whether one can argue for “equality” in a civil rights sense is outside the scope of our discussion, but such simple truths beg the question - which is more important: the well being of children and society, or the claims of “equality” based on sexual behavior which may come only at the expense of children and society?
Can any true civil right be derived at someone else’s expense?
Look, it’s been six years since civil unions, and the sky hasn’t fallen yet. Why not allow gay marriage?
In truth, six years is not nearly enough time to fully assess a major cultural shift such as same-sex unions. This is especially true with issues which directly affect family structure, as the changes will not be truly felt until the next generations begin to mature. That being said, however, it is noteworthy that some societal indicators have changed very rapidly with the advent of cultural shifts of the same order as genderless marriage. When the dramatic cultural changes of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s swept into place, ushering in a rapid decline in the number and stability of marriages, a whole host of social pathologies took root which we can now see clearly today. In the short period between 1960 and 1981:
- The overall crime rate quadrupled (Vermont rapes increased forty-fold)
- Divorce rates doubled
- Drug use went off the charts
- Gonorrhea infections tripled
- Teenage pregnancies increased five-fold
- Abortion became legal and accepted: 10.5 million babies had been aborted (now approaching 50 million)
- Single female parent households increased 2 ˝ times
- Education went into freefall:
- SAT Total Scores dropped 80 points
- Indexed Per-Pupil spending quadrupled
- Top school problems went from talking in class to rape.
- The U.S. went from the best school system in the industrialized world to among the worst. With our education performance exceeded by countries like Korea and Spain, in 1987 Japan decided that there was nothing in the U.S. education system worthy of emulation.
- Federal spending on welfare programs increased ten-fold, and increased by that amount again by 2000
- The United States went from being the world’s largest creditor to the world’s largest debtor nation.
- The age of AIDS had begun.
There were likely other factors involved in these dramatics shifts (such as no-fault divorce), but family structure remains at the epicenter of this still unfolding catastrophe. Sociologist Paul R. Amato speculates that, if family structure was as strong today as it was in 1970:
- 643,000 fewer children each year would fail a grade at school
- 1,040,000 fewer children each year would be suspended from school
- 531,000 fewer children each year would need psychotherapy
- 453,000 fewer children each year would be involved in violence
- 515,000 fewer children each year would be cigarette smokers
- 179,000 fewer children each year would consider suicide
- 71,000 fewer children each year would attempt suicide
Source: Paul R. Amato, “The Impact of Family Formation Change on the Cognitive, Social,and Emotional Well-Being of the Next Generation,” The Future of Children, Fall 2005, excerpted from Family Structures and Children’s Educational Outcomes.
Ask yourself: when the 1960’s champions of sexual freedom were struggling against what they viewed as “oppressive” norms and traditions, do you think they understood what they were about to unleash?
We are not necessarily saying that enacting genderless marriage will have such horrific impact as previously mentioned, but in truth, no one really knows what lies down that path. Without real study (which has not yet occurred), such legislation would be nothing short of a gamble with our future, and our children’s future.
Isn’t Vermont denying benefits to gays if they can’t marry?
In truth, NO. It has been stated repeatedly by legislators and law professors that by enacting civil unions, Vermont has provided its gay population every conceivable legal benefit available at the state level. Any remaining benefits to heterosexual married couples come from the federal level, and are therefore beyond the scope of Vermont legislation.
This point was expressed with crystal clarity at the Vermont Law School in November, 2007, when Law Professor Greg Johnson spoke before the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection. A gay scholar and advocate, Professor Johnson was asked, “In terms of legal benefits, protections, rights and obligations, what does a marriage license deliver that a civil union license does not?”
His answer should give all same-sex marriage advocates pause: “I’m an openly gay scholar, I’m a gay rights advocate, I support opening up marriage to same sex couples. Yet my answer to your first question is that marriage licenses would deliver no more rights than a civil union license. Legally, civil union is exactly the same, and completely equal to marriage.”
Any claims that Vermont gays will receive further benefits in shifting from civil unions to marriage are nothing more than propaganda.
Isn’t VMAC just another homophobic organization?
NO. Please notice that, throughout our website and the materials presented, one will find no materials speaking about homosexuality. The focus of VMAC is entirely on marriage as a government sanctioned institution, family structure and child welfare, and the prevailing social science data pertaining to these areas of focus.
But denying marriage to gays is discrimination, right?
To answer this question, let’s step back a little, and look to long standing restrictions on marriage which have repeatedly stood up to Constitutional scrutiny..
Every state in the U.S. has restrictions on who may marry. The most obvious restriction is on consanguine couples (i.e. close relatives). Although these laws vary somewhat from state to state, no state will allow relatives closer than first cousins to marry (most states prohibit this marriage as well).
What is the basis for such restrictions? The greater good: especially that of children.
It has been long known that consanguine relationships have a tendency to produce children with a higher incidence of birth defects and other handicaps. In fact, the rate of birth defects in the general population is around 3 percent, whereas that of consanguine relationships is around 8 percent - a five percent increase. Despite the fact that not all consanguine marriages would produce children, and despite the fact that not all children born of such marriages would be afflicted with a birth defect, every state in the union places legal, constitutional restrictions on marriage for the common benefit and for the protection of children. Individually, such couples may be loving, caring, and capable parents, but this does not change the fact that, on average, such relationships pose an inherent risk to society that prohibits them from being legally recognized and sanctioned.
A similar restriction applies to the number of marital applicants. Again, every state in the union places restrictions on the number of marital partners: two. Although there is a Biblical basis for this restriction, there also exists real public interest and concern for children raised in large, polygamous marriages, as well as other logistical concerns. This is why no Western nation currently sanctions the legal formation of such marriages.
This leads us to an interesting truth. If same-sex couples have the “right” to marry, what then of bisexuals? Since their stated sexual orientation is an attraction to both sexes, would they not also have the “right” to two spouses - one of each sex? And if bisexuals then have the “right” to marry, what of those increasingly vocal individuals who claim polyamorous sexual orientation (i.e. attraction to multiple partners of either sex)? Where would one finally draw a bold line of definition? Wouldn’t this inevitable progression eventually lead to the dissolution of the present institution of marriage entirely?
As with consanguine couples, individual same-sex couples may be loving, caring, and capable parents, but, the inescapable truth is that such marriages would deny a child of either a mother or a father. The prevention of such obvious infringement of the rights and interests of children would therefore justifiably create a valid and pressing public interest in disallowing such marriages. Therefore, to bar same-sex marriage is no more “discriminatory” than to disallow consanguine or polygamous marriage
But isn’t denying marriage to gays the same as denying gays their civil rights?
Here is a simple truth that flies in the face of such claims. True civil rights can never come at the expense of the rights of another human being. Freedom of assembly, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion - these are all true civil rights which do not come at anyone else’s expense.
What then, of same-sex marriage? It can only come at the expense of the bonding right of the child to her mother and father. Can there be any greater infringement of basic human rights?
Same-sex marriage is NOT a civil right. To argue in the affirmative is to willingly reject the obvious.
.What about the children of gay parents? Wouldn’t marriage benefit them?
All of Vermont’s children are valued and should be provided with all that the law can promise, but it has been repeatedly emphasized by law professors and legislators that there are no further legal benefits that Vermont can provide to gays or their children which is not already provided by civil unions. The only additional benefit which marriage can provide to children of same-sex partners at the state level is the title of “marriage,” which some advocates argue would benefit the children of gays, mostly in the form of greater acceptance among the general population (a proposal we find somewhat doubtful). Even if one believes that children of gays will gain this slight benefit from changing civil unions to marriage, this necessarily begs the question: at what cost?
To help answer this question, let’s review some demographics furnished by a 2007 report by the Williams Institute drawing on U.S. Census data. According to the 2006 census, Vermont’s population was 623,908, with about 133,516 children under 18 (21.4%). According to the Williams report, an estimated 24,000 Vermonters are gay, with only an estimated 643 Vermont children living in same-sex households (of which 235 are adopted). This means that less than half of one percent of Vermont’s child population lives in a same-sex household.
Let’s reestablish what should be obvious: marriage is the most fundamental, influential and formative societal structure; despite some decline, most children are still conceived and raised within a marriage (66.8% today, compared to 89.3% in 1970 - see chart). Children are indelibly shaped by marriage or the lack of it, and our future society is shaped by them. The result is that all other institutions are heavily influenced by the fruits - or thorns - of marriage. As noted by David Blankenhorn, the baseline institution of the intact marriage of a child’s biological parents provides a unique intersection of the three primary influences: biological, social, and legal. No other family structure can provide all three to all family members, which is why the law has recognized, protected and nurtured traditional marriage for centuries.
As previously stated, less than one half of one percent of Vermont’s children live in a same-sex family. Although it is possible that this very small number of individuals would benefit slightly from same-sex marriage, it would require the complete redefinition of marriage, which would weaken its widespread benefits to society and children. To accomplish this arguably small benefit, our society must replace the legally protected ideal which is the foundational unit of a loving, married mother and a father for every child (and its unique intersection of biological, social, and legal influences) with the greatly diluted concept of a contractual “marriage” of any two persons. In so doing, Vermont would be sending the unmistakable message that it no longer believes that every child deserves a legally recognized mother and father.
Law Professor Monte Stewart sums up the hidden costs of this radical proposal:
“Same-sex marriage would require us in both law and culture to deny the double origin of the child. I can hardly imagine a more serious violation. It would require us to change or ignore our basic human rights documents, which announce clearly, and for vitally important reasons, that every child has a birthright to her own two natural parents. It would require us, legally and formally, to withdraw marriage’s greatest promise to the child - the promise that, insofar as society can make it possible, I will be loved and raised by the father and mother who made me.”
We cannot, and should not, discard the worth and dignity of Vermont’s 643 children of gays. But it would be incredibly unjust and unwise to throw away our society’s most precious promise to all of Vermont’s children, present, and future.