Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Utah's grand defender, Gene Schaerr, via Witherspoon

Gene Schaerr
Gene Schaerr
The bottom line is that this is bullshit.

Remember Gene Schaerr? Schaerr used to be the chair of Winston & Strawn’s appellate and critical motions practice. He was a heavy hitter with a major international law firm which, by the way, has a 100% HRC corporate equality index rating. Schaerr left the firm in January of 2014 to join Utah's defense of its same-sex marriage ban (Kitchen v. Herbert). In an email to staff Schaerr wrote that he was fulfilling a “religious duty … in the state where my church is headquartered.”

Ridicule finds people who make intellectually dishonest arguments. Today we see further that Mormons are very good at parroting conservative Catholic talking points opposing marriage equality. Schaerr's post on Witherspoon Institute's blog is titled “Redefining Marriage Would Put Kids of Heterosexuals At Risk.” My immediate reaction – before reading a word of the polemic – is that religion can cause some very smart people to become spectacularly stupid. Schaerr's summary reads:
The metamorphosis of marriage from a gendered to a genderless institution would send the message that society no longer needs men to bond to women to form well-functioning families or to raise happy, well-adjusted children. That would be bad news for children of heterosexuals on the margins: the poor, the relatively uneducated, the irreligious, and others who are susceptible to cultural messages promoting casual or uncommitted sex.
Characterizing this as “gendered to a genderless” is absurd. Schaerr would have us believe that the entire institution of marriage is changed. The reality is that marriage equality simply enables (a comparatively few) same-sex couples to marry which provides them and their children with legal recognition, its benefits and responsibilities. This “gendered to genderless” nonsense was first conceived, I think, by Robby George as part of the attempt to demonstrate that same-sex marriage is somehow responsible for the behavior of heterosexuals based on data of his own aggregation.

Then the idea that marriage equality “sends a message” other than its intended purpose is equally absurd. The notion of a “message” is an important element for supporters of marriage discrimination to assert that same-sex marriage has some mystical effect on heterosexuals. A phenomenon that cannot be demonstrated to occur in any state that recognizes same-sex marriage. In other words, it is an intellectually dishonest construct.

Therefore the claim that marriage equality promotes “casual or uncommitted sex” is simply preposterous. Utterly devoid of reason. Gay people are not radioactive. Our very existence as married couples does not cause straight people to alter who or when they marry or who they have sex with or whether that sex  is procreative or recreational or how and when they divorce or how many children they produce.

But it gets worse:

Citing an amicus brief Schaerr claims that “a forced redefinition of marriage would produce at least a 5 percent reduction in heterosexual marriage rates. That would result in an increase of nearly 1.3 million never-married women, and an increase of nearly 600,000 functionally fatherless children.”

Schaerr was the attorney of record on the cited brief so he is essentially citing flawed logic of his own design. In the brief they repeat the claim, for example, that Massachusetts marriage rates have declined “markedly” since same-sex marriage was recognized. They make the same claims about Iowa, Vermont and Connecticut. Marriage rates have declined slightly in these states. However, the rates closely track the national trend which is more likely to be related to things like the economy. Nevertheless, these states have some of the lowest divorce rates in the country,

All of the data, with convenient sortable columns, is here. Combining this with educational attainment data I can esoterically support just about any theory that I want to support including the fact that our more educated citizens wait before they selectively marry in lower percentages that result in fewer divorces. “Eureka!” Right? Moreover, according to the 2012 data, Utah's divorce rate is 65% greater than Massachusetts. It is higher than the divorce rates in Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont (the states used to “support” Schaerr's conclusions in the amicus brief that he cited).

Again, there is no rational or logical argument to support the assertion that same-sex marriage affects opposite-sex marriage in any way whatsoever.

After presuming end-of-world consequences, Schaerr does admit, to his credit:
Of course, correlation is not causation. But correlation in harmony with theoretical predictions, past experience, and other causal analysis (see the Netherlands study), gives cause for grave concern.
Except that all of this “analysis” is based upon selective observation to correlate to what Schaerr admits are “theoretical predictions.” In other words, Schaerr is writing an essay to support religious teachings citing theoretical predictions based upon a tenuous correlation which is derived from selective observation designed to support those same religious teachings.

The bottom line is that this is bullshit.

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