Protect Marriage, Day 5: Screw Scientific Inquiry (And Other Tidbits)

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First, some tidbits about Protect Marriage.

It might not have any significance, but I have to point out that the Protect Marriage blog is under some odd management. There is a post stickied to the top about Monday’s temporary injunction by the Supreme Court. It’s been there all week. There was no replacement when the indefinite decision was delivered on Wednesday. It’s awkward and no longer relevant; it isn’t really even doing much for them. Also, their penultimate post from yesterday (Plaintiffs’ Witness Trend Continues) was bumped up above the post that only went up very late last night (Are We There Yet?). I checked to see if it had been tweaked in any way, but it was the same as before. Perhaps they realized how egregious the other post was and wanted to bury it a bit. Still, I find it all a bit peculiar.

I also have to mention with greatest disappointment that I was totally excluded from the “bloggers-only” update call they advertised for this evening. I had sent an email earlier in the week, and even followed up this morning with an incredibly polite voicemail. I didn’t even get a polite reply saying, “Sorry, this is only for people willing to spread our vitriol.” I was summarily ignored. I am SO curious what’s on that call. (Anybody want to set up a fake site to crosspost their spin so we can get access to these mysterious calls?)

Anyways, let’s turn now to the latest spin from Andy Pugno of Protect Marriage’s General Counsel. Only one update today, but boy is it a doozie. Today’s testimony and the tactics of the cross-examination show how clearly ignorant the defense is on all matters of scientific inquiry, research methods, and just general logic. Still, Pugno claims, “Plaintiffs Can’t Contradict Our Position.”

This morning’s session of trial found expert witness Dr. Michael Lamb, a child development psychologist put on the stand to testify for same-sex marriage, having to admit under cross examination by Prop 8 attorney David Thompson that there exists no body of substantial research that contradicts our claim that children are best raised by a married mother and father.

I want you to note two things about this opening paragraph. First, Pugno identifies (accurately) Dr. Lamb as a “child development psychologist.” That’s going to be important in a few paragraphs.

Second, note the complete fallibility of his argument: he boasts there is no proof for a negative. It does not matter whether there is any evidence actually supporting their claim that children are “best raised” by a married mother and father. It only matters if there is anything that proves that wrong. Hypothetically, the only thing that could prove that wrong is significant evidence that same-sex couples can raise children better than heterosexual couples, as opposed to just comparably.

In fact, he had to admit that the benefits known to flow to children of married parents are significantly stronger when the child has a biological connection to both parents—which is clearly something impossible for any same-sex couple to achieve.

That’s actually the complete opposite of what he did. I’ll talk more about this later in my roundup of the day, but the entire cross-examination involved the defense attorney citing a study decades older than the research Dr. Lamb was working with and trying to make the conclusion that because the conclusions are different, “science is wrong” (and yes, I’m actually quoting the attorney). Dr. Lamb pointed out that none of the studies found any significant difference between connections to adoptive parents and birth parents. Further, the defense was trying to use “fatherless” studies (which meant the father abandoned his heterosexual wife) to draw conclusions about lesbian couples (who would technically be “fatherless,” but had nothing to do with the studies they were citing).

As an adoptee myself, I took deep offense to the kinds of claims they were trying to make. I have incredibly loving parents and I don’t think of them as anything but my parents. To suggest, as Pugno reiterates here, that biological connections are “significantly stronger,” completely insults and invalidates adoptive families like mine in favor of some bizarre essentialist position that no studies reinforce.

Beyond some of his interesting opinions about adjustment of children raised by homosexual couples, it is noteworthy that Dr. Lamb based his expert testimony solely on research documents completed by others, as he has never completed a single study of his own on the subject.  Despite being offered as an expert in this case, he is not actually a clinical psychologist.  He has never treated children raised by gay couples. In fact he has never treated a patient at all.  He’s never interviewed a single child raised by gay men or lesbians, and his last interview of any child was more than 20 years ago.

Consider this: Do you have to administer therapy to be a psychologist? No. In fact, many psychologists don’t. They do this thing called “research,” where instead of regularly serving clients they “do research.” Just like other scientists, they design studies and collect data, data which then inform the work of the practicing psychologists. And as Pugno pointed out above, Dr. Lamb is a “child development psychologist.” And his specialty is meta-analysis, which means he studies ALL of the different research that is done and works to create more in-depth and solid conclusions, a synergy of knowledge if you will. I can’t imagine how that could possibly inform his expertise on—oh wait.

Get ready, because this next paragraph might be Pugno’s ultimate demise (though, not to any of his followers).

When you synthesize the hours of testimony provided this morning, two points come in to focus: the plaintiffs have done absolutely nothing to disprove the belief that the optimal social and personal outcomes of children are best achieved by being raised by their biological married parents, and that such a notion is a reasonable and rational reason for people to have voted for Prop 8.

Disprove the belief.

This is why I get frustrated with LGBT activists who are overly concerned with catering to religious communities. It is catering to religion that keeps us where we are. I write this blog to dismantle the privilege beliefs have, so that it’s not just good enough for people to believe. There has to be evidence to support.

WHERE IS THE BURDEN OF PROOF? If I say there is free ice cream and you say you don’t know of any free ice cream, that doesn’t automatically make me right. In fact, you would probably not believe there is free ice cream until you see (and receive) said free ice cream. At that point, beliefs are irrelevant, because we would know there is ice cream, and neither of us would have to believe it anymore.

If you say there are “optimal outcomes” to being raised by “biological married parents,” you have to show that there are, in fact, such outcomes. You can’t just believe it to be true. And in fact, all of Dr. Lamb’s testimony demonstrated that while having married parents is great, there is NOTHING that makes biological or heterosexual couples any better at raising kids. Thus, their argument is moot, regardless of how many times they repeat it.

Again, I will reiterate that the testimony of all the plaintiffs’ experts to this point—essentially a social policy debate—should instead be brought forward in a legislative or congressional hearing where it is the job of the legislative branch of government to make those decisions.  That is not what the courts are there for.

And to Mr. Pugno, I will suggest you open a history textbook (and do your best to overcome how bored you get). This is actually exactly what the courts are for. (Psst, that’s why you’re in court!)

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