Faced with the prospect that New York lawmakers will make gay marriage the law there this week, Christian organizations are touting new polling data that runs counter to data brought out in waves by major nationally respected firms such as Gallup over the last two years showing fast-expanding support among the U.S. population in favor of extending marriage rights to the millions of gay Americans.
Writing about the legislative battle being waged in Albany, Focus on the Family political media outlet CitizenLink cites a survey taken in May that found “62 percent of Americans support marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman.”
An outlier poll
CitizenLink reports that Public Opinion Strategies pollsters surveyed 1,500 adults around the country and that 62 percent of them agreed with the following statement: “I believe marriage should be defined ONLY as a union between one man and one woman.”
The group says 53 percent of Americans strongly agreed with the statement and only 35 percent disagreed.
But CitizenLink provides little other data on methodology. There is no list of questions asked, no tabs breaking down how various constituencies were chosen or how they answered and in what percentages.
The poll was reportedly commissioned last month by the conservative Alliance Defense Fund. The firm that conducted the survey, Public Opinion Strategies, is tied to Republican Party causes and has been linked to unethical election campaign strategies in the past. According to Raw Story, the firm was charged with violating Virginia polling disclosure laws and was accused of using push polls to influence elections in favor of Republican candidates. The firm was also reportedly tied to the 1990s “Harry and Louise” ad paid for by insurance-industry giants that sunk Clinton Administration health insurance reform proposals.
In touting new polling data that runs counter to mainstream survey data, Focus on the Family is following a pattern.
In Colorado last spring as state lawmakers considered a same-sex civil unions bill, surveys showed support for civil unions that reached into the 70 percent range. As a crucial committee vote on the bill came near, however, Christian politics group Colorado Family Action– a Focus on the Family group– delivered to Republican committee members data compiled by conservative firm Advantage Inc, which showed majorities of Coloradans opposed civil unions.
Colorado Family Action never shared the data with the press. It provided no online links to the poll nor to information on its methodology. Advantage Inc told the Colorado Independent it does not disclose work done for clients to members of the media.
A Christian nation’s laws
At CitizenLink, the Public Opinion Strategies survey results come bolstered with assertions about “universally defined ideals” of “one-man-one-woman marriage,” which a large percentage of social scientists would argue are neither culturally universal nor ideal as an arrangement for bringing up children.
“Throughout history, diverse cultures and faiths have recognized this universally defined ideal as the best way to promote healthy, natural families for the good of future generations,” CitizenLink quotes Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Brian Raum to say.
That line of argument echoes debate taking place in New York. Even as the American political right, led by GOP 2012 presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, sounds alarms against the “creeping” threat Islamic scripture might have on rights protected by U.S. law and government, lobbying against gay marriage is almost wholly and unabashedly based on the teachings of shared Christian and Jewish scripture.
Rabbis and Christian ministers and priests are roaming the halls of the New York capitol this week seeking audiences with lawmakers. And the New York Times reports that the main part of the argument against gay marriage they are advancing is that gay marriage goes against God’s wishes as revealed to Christians and Jews. In the words of one Rabbi, “the government should have no right” to impose a definition of marriage that challenges the Biblical definition.
In Albany, opponents [of gay marriage] have found it harder [than supporters have] to garner attention for their arguments — chiefly that God and natural law had established marriage as between a man and a woman and that the state should not try to change that.
“Even ultra-liberal senators should understand that the government should have no right to impose a counter-biblical definition of marriage, family and gender,” said Rabbi Noson S. Leiter, executive director of Torah Jews for Decency, a group based in Monsey, N.Y.
Yet, societies around the world and throughout history have embraced different varieties of family organization, and studies of lesbian parents in the United States, for example, demonstrate what many might refer to as a new ideal in child rearing, according to mainstream U.S. standards.
UCLA Williams Institute researchers have conducted a decades long study on families headed by lesbian parents and found that, on the U.S. standardized Child Behavior Checklist, children of lesbian moms were rated significantly higher in social, academic, and total competence, and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking and trouble-making aggressive behavior than their peers from families headed by “traditional one-man one-woman” couples.