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NOM Exposed is a campaign-style operation that tracks and challenges the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage as it tries to influence elections and legislative campaigns across the country.

NOMsense, plain and simple (-minded)

September 29, 2010

By Rob Tisinai

NOM has filed an amicus brief with the 9th Circuit arguing for Prop 8. They call it “dynamite.” I call it a mess. I’ll leave the legal analysis to the lawyers, but I have to point out some of the worst bits of logic or my head will explode (hey, maybe that’s why it’s “dynamite”).

One bit made me especially crazy. NOM has a section titled:

Evidence from Massachusetts also suggests a weakening in the marriage culture following implementation of same-sex marriage.

I perked up because I haven’t heard of any ill-effects in Massachusetts. What could it be? Two things actually: misleading statistics and circular reasoning.

Misleading statistics

First, NOM relies on a claim made by the Prop 8 side:

Indeed, the Massachusetts data relied upon by the district court shows that both the divorce rate and the marriage rate actually changed for the worse from 2004 to 2007.

Really? Let’s graph the data.


  • We do see a tiny uptick in the divorce rate from 2004-2007. But 2008 and 2009 give us the lowest rates of the decade! All this data was available when they filed this brief on September 17, so why didn’t they use it?
  • We see a decline in marriage rates from 2004-2007, but (unlike the divorce rates), these numbers are within recent historical norms.

Frankly, based on these numbers, it’s hard to say ending marriage discrimination helped or hurt the “marriage culture” in Massachusetts. So what’s NOM’s other strategy?

Circular reasoning

This one’s an amazing lapse in logic. NOM provides this as evidence of harm:

In 2009, amicus curiae National Organization for Marriage commissioned a survey in Massachusetts of attitudes about marriage five years into that state’s experiment with same-sex marriage. The survey found that ?in the five years since gay marriage became a reality in Massachusetts, support for the idea that the ideal is a married mother and father dropped from 84 percent to 76 percent.

Do you see the circle?


Actually, here’s a much better spin on NOM’s survey:

In states where residents have first-hand experience with married same-sex parents, the population becomes more accepting of same-sex parents. Ignorance and second-hand knowledge help opponents of same-sex parenting, while direct contact and personal experience favor proponents.

Now, to be fair, NOM does try to make an argument that a married mom and dad are the ideal, but they do so by using another form of dishonesty.

Misusing research

NOM’s brief quotes a researcher:

[F]amily structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two-biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes. . . . There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.

As usual, there’s something missing in this litany of sub-optimal family structures: parents who adopt a child at birth. But NOM has long been willing to throw adoptive parents under the bus in order to keep gays in their place. They also claim research shows married biological parents are better than same-sex parents, using research that didn’t even look at same-sex parents. That’s a nice lead-in to the last bunch of errors I’ll look at.

Straw men and non-sequiturs

Actually, the title above isn’t strong enough to capture the essence of NOM’s brief. It’s more like a straw army marching in random directions. For instance:

The trial court rejected this first view [of marriage], asserting that procreation has never been a purpose of marriage because elderly people and infertile people have always been allowed to marry.

Really? Actually, really no. The judge didn’t claim procreation has never been a purpose of marriage, merely that it is not the sole or necessary purpose.

Here’s another one:

Reasonable people may believe that marriage promotes the state’s interest in encouraging children to be born to a mother and father who are committed both to one another and to the children their union may create.

Oooh, that one’s slick. Who’s going to say they want to discourage such a thing? We all want a child’s parents to be committed to each other. But if my mom were still alive, she’d stand up like a Mama Grizzly between NOM and my adopted brother and state in clear terms of frightening authority that a child’s real parents may not be the biological parents. So if NOM truly wanted to strengthen the commitment between parents, they’d be eager for same-sex parents to marry.

And this:

If two men are a marriage, then marriage is clearly, and in a new public way, no longer about procreation, no longer about natural parenthood, and no longer about connecting mothers and fathers to children.

Some version of “natural parent” appears three times in the brief, and “natural family” is in there twice. “Natural” is a great term: it feels so, well, natural. And of course the opposite would be “unnatural,” as in, I don’t know, “unnatural acts.” If you’re seeking out loaded words, “natural” is near the top of your list. Plus, it allows you to avoid terms with clear meaning, like “biological” and “adoptive.” That’s crucial for NOM, because we all know biological parents can be crap while adoptive parents can be a godsend.

I’d also like to point out that we can take NOM’s logic and rewrite their quote like this:

If a childless couple is allowed to adopt a baby, then marriage is clearly, and in a new public way, no longer about procreation, no longer about natural parenthood, and no longer about connecting mothers and fathers to their natural children.

And nobody’s buying that taco.

Actually NOM is obsessed with procreation. So much so that they act like nothing about children matters except procreation. Think that’s extreme? Check this out:

If same-sex unions are deemed just the same as unions of husband and wife, it becomes difficult to see how marriage could have any public relationship to its great historic task of producing families in which the mother and father who make the baby raise the baby in love together. This court will have declared that marriage is not about children; rather it is primarily about adult interests, with no particular relationship to children at all.

No particular relationship to children at all? They’re saying that if a married couple (of any sort) didn’t “make” the baby they’re raising, then their marriage has nothing to do with children. I can’t wrap my head around that.

Also notice that NOM doesn’t bother to argue that same-sex marriage will disconnect marriage from child-rearing; they merely say “it becomes difficult to see” how it wouldn’t. That’s not an argument; it’s just a confession of blindness.

Lord, lord, lord. Misleading statistics, circular reasoning, misused research, straw men, and non sequiturs. This isn’t a legal brief, it’s a horror show from Freshman English.