The Enemy at the Gates
dpinello at jjay.cuny.edu
dpinello at jjay.cuny.edu
Sun Oct 30 04:41:20 PST 2005
With due respect to Jerry O'Neil, the allegation that "homosexuals, on
the average, have more partners and shorter relationships than their
straight counterpart[s]" is based more on stereotype than empirical
observation. Nonetheless, this flawed argument is a shibboleth of
social conservatives' attack against same-sex marriage.
For my forthcoming book on the politics of same-sex marriage, I
conducted in-depth interviews with the leaders of the opposition to
same-sex marriage in Massachusetts and Oregon (the two states in 2004
with the most rigorous political campaigns involving the issue).
Consider this statement by Tim Nashif, a founder of the Oregon Family
Council and the head of the Beaver State's Defense of Marriage
Coalition (the group that sponsored Measure 36, the citizen initiative
banning same-sex marriage):
"Some gays don't want to get married. They understand each other,
that this particular relationship is fine, but it may last for only
two or three years, because it's the nature of their relationships.
They are not intended for a lifetime. It's not the nature of their
culture. I'm not going to say it's not the nature of everyone in
their culture. There's a diversity there. But for the most part, if
you look at the statistics, it's clear."
As an empiricist, I can't imagine what *reliable* statistics Nashif
and O'Neil's informant are referring to. First of all, empirically
based generalizations about the American lesbian and gay community are
exceptionally difficult to make, if only because it's virtually
impossible to identify the relevant population accurately.
Nonetheless, I did collect information about the duration of the
relationships among 50 married same-sex couples I interviewed for the
book. As of the dates of the interviews in 2004 and 2005, they had
been together, on average, 15.9 years. The shortest relationship was
three years; the longest, 33. The average age of the 100 gay men and
lesbians in the sample was 47.4 years. The youngest person was 30;
the oldest, 78.
Since these 50 pairs were selected as randomly as could be done under
the circumstances (the book's appendix explains the process at
length), there's no good reason to believe that the mean 15.9-year
relationship duration isn't reasonably representative of the larger
population of gay and lesbian couples who married in the United States
Thus, generalized statements such as "homosexuals, on the average,
have more partners and shorter relationships than their straight
counterpart[s]" are grounded more on myth than empirical observation.
----- Original Message -----
From: Jerry O'Neil <oneil at CenturyTel.net>
Date: Saturday, October 29, 2005 6:59 pm
Subject: Re: The enemy at the Gates
> It has been stated to me that homosexuals, on the average, have
> partners and shorter relationships than their straight
> counterpart. We
> know that sex between two men tends to spread aids and hepatitis.
> Do you
> suppose that more social conservatives might accept gay marriage
> if our
> courts were permitted to consider "marital misconduct" or "fault"
> granting divorces? If marriage is just a contract of convenience,
> would we expect it to make same sex marriages more stable then it
> heterosexual marriages? If marriage actually meant something and
> likely to keep gays out of multiple relationships then it might
> the transmission of aids and hepatitis. Wouldn't that be a good
> Jerry O'Neil
> Montana State Senate
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