Well, I know how you all love to look at my gorgeous face…  So I made another video!

This time, I’m reciting a poem I wrote about our politicians voting on Marriage Equality and the Liberal/Labor stances on the issue.

Conscience: Written and spoken by me (Dylan Carmichael):
The leaders of our capital L parties, so great,
Both are straight, and so
They vote on rights they will never use in their life.
And yet, they are rights they already have.
To have and to hold the person they love in the eyes of the state,
Something to which nothing else can equate.
A right granted simply because the one they love is different to them.
A right withheld simply because homophobes hum, haw, and hem.

Concerned about causing offence, our politicians commit one instead.
Failing to stand up for those who suffer in the daylight,
After taking away some of their rights, almost a decade ago.

And to those leaders, I say
That the time has come for you make amends for your vote to pass the 2004 Marriage Act amendment.
Atoning for the moment when the conscience so necessary to grant rights today was not consulted in the process of taking them away. On that fateful day, shut out of the chambers, your conscience ignored, overridden, not given any sway.

All that we want to hear is you raising voices together. An answer to our question that will echo through the years, prompting a flood of joyous tears from those of us who just want to marry who we love. Telling our future countrymen, who will hear that this government refused to be lead by Christian fear.

We crave a government who will right past wrongs.
A government whose final answer belongs
where it will be,
Writ large on our nation’s history.


God Bless the ACL!

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5
One of many quotes from the ACL’s favourite book which gives me hope that, should Christianity be correct, the earth shall *not* fall to the Australian Christian Lobby…

To me it seems that the ACL are vile, spitting vipers who lash out at everyone who takes a different opinion to them – and it seems that they do this most harshly when the opinion is in the realm of DiGS (Diverse in Gender and Sexuality) rights and protections.

Just today the ACL have accused Kevin Rudd of creating another Stolen Generation, angering both gay and indigenous Australians with their insensitivity. Rudd’s decision to back Marriage Equality caused them to issue a vitriolic statement about children being “taken through technology from their biological parent” and Kevin Rudd creating another Stolen Generation if the law were to pass.

This makes me ask why the ACL is happy to permit any kind of IVF for any couples, since this same argument could be made for couples who use other people’s sperm or ova in order to conceive. This has already been going on, and the Technologically Stolen Generation is yet to appear…

They also say that “The so-called ‘marriage equality’ debate has been conducted by slogans without proper consideration of the consequences. Kevin Rudd is the latest to fall victim to shallow thinking on this issue.”

They’re partly correct – there has been a LOT of sloganism in this debate. I’m not going to say that all of it is from them – we have our fair share of slogans too. What I will say is that pro-marriage-equality slogans are typically respectful and generally do not vilify – though we call out homophobic behaviour when we see it. The ACL and anti-ME crowd however appear to have no such compunction – Jim Wallace’s statements in Tasmania during their State-based Same-sex Marriage debate are proof of that. They seem to fail to recognise, or perhaps don’t care about, the consequences of their position or statements for LGBTIQ Australians.

Then again, they don’t seem to understand how they’re being seen to be trivialising the travesties perpetrated against Indigenous Australians either. Maybe they just don’t understand compassion, empathy, kindness, humility, or many of the other Fruits of Christianity.

They claim that “All major Australian church denominations officially oppose same sex marriage”: actually, the Uniting Church of Australia site states that ‘Currently: “With regard to same-sex relationships the Uniting Church does not have an explicit position’… well that doesn’t seem like “official opposition” to me! It’s not outright support, but it demonstrates the falsehood of the ACL’s statement. And if they can’t be trusted for accuracy in an area where they should have some insider knowledge, how can we trust their word on anything not in their sphere of expertise?

I believe the community’s strongest weapon against the ACL from this point forth is simply to let them keep talking. The more they say, the more irrelevant and hateful they show themselves to be. By all means, we should respond to their homophobic tripe, but with calm and grace, facts and logic. Actually engaging with them directly only lends them legitimacy they don’t actually have.

Bless the ACL, for they shall write themselves out of social relevance, write themselves out of power, and given time, write themselves out of existence.

The Anti-Discrimination Bill Inquiry Report

There are a total of 12 recommendations to come out of the Senate Inquiry Report. I posted about the deficiencies I noticed in the current draft recently, and so I’m going to address the four recommendations that relate to those inadequacies.

Recommendation 1
7.20 The committee recommends that the definition of ‘gender identity’ in clause 6 of the Draft Bill be amended to read:

gender identity means the gender-related identity, appearance or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual (whether by way of medical intervention or not), with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth, and includes transsexualism and transgenderism.

Perfect! It does away with that troublesome genuine basis stuff and makes the definition more readily accessible to those who may be discriminated against for perceived gender identity difference.

Recommendation 2

7.21 The committee recommends that subclause 17(1) of the Draft Bill be amended to include ‘intersex status’ as a protected attribute. ‘Intersex’ should be defined in clause 6 of the Draft Bill as follows:

intersex means the status of having physical, hormonal or genetic features that are:

(a) neither wholly female nor wholly male; or

(b) a combination of female and male; or

(c) neither female nor male.

In my first read, I was provisionally happy with this definition. I’m not Intersex and while I haven’t had an issue with gender-diversity, the terminology is still kind of new to me. I have since noticed that this definition is verbatim the one suggested by Gina of OII. If OII suggested it, I know it’s going to be the right language. Well done OII!

Recommendation 11

7.80 The committee recommends that the Draft Bill be amended to remove exceptions allowing religious organisations to discriminate against individuals in the provision of services, where that discrimination would otherwise be unlawful. The committee considers that the Australian Government should develop specific amendments to implement this recommendation, using the approach taken in the Tasmanian Anti‑Discrimination Act 1998 as a model.

This is big. This is very big. This recommendation expands on the aged-care provisions in the Draft Bill and removes the religious exemption for people they are providing a service to…
That means that religious schools would have to accept, for example, the children of my Baptist Pastor friend even though they question his “commitment to Christianity.” They also would be unable to expel a student for being gay or pregnant.

On the very day this recommendation came out, the opposition called on Labor to rule out its implementation – not that they have any intention of supporting this bill anyway…

So reading through 11 good recommendations in a massive step forward, I was a bit thrown by the twelfth.

Recommendation 12

7.81 The committee recommends that clause 33 of the Draft Bill be amended to require that any organisation providing services to the public, and which intends to rely on the exceptions in that clause, must:

  • make publicly available a document outlining their intention to utilise the exceptions in clause 33;
  • provide a copy of that document to any prospective employees; and
  • provide access to that document, free of charge, to any other users of their service or member of the public who requests it.

What this means, dear readers, is that if you apply to work at a religious organisation, they must provide you with a copy of their discrimination policy. They’re simply obligated to tell you how they intend to mistreat you before you sign the contract. This is a step forward for transparency, I suppose. I hope that people will call out our religious providers for their policies. But unless this recommendation is fleshed out in legislation to require a clear explanation of which subsections of Section 33 the organisation intends to use and how, I expect that we’ll see a lot of policies that state that they “retain the right to discriminate on the basis of [the whole list], as outlined in Section 33 of the Bill.”

On the surface, this transparency is at least a start. It is quite sad though to think about all those people in industries like aged care which are dominated by religious groups. Those poor folks gain little from this legislation if all of the policies are as bad as each other. I’ve heard the opinion that this gives the public a chance to shame the organisation into fixing their policies… I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but religious groups are to renowned for moving with the times or even caring too much about public opinion. I think to think that they will be shamed into changing is naive unless some church groups release policies saying they do not intend to discriminate.

On this point, I would like to say thank you to UnitingJustice Australia – a social justice arm of the Uniting Church who supported the removal of blanket religious exemptions for the following: (pp58/59)

We acknowledge…that the exercise of religious freedom is subject to the regulatory norms that govern Australian society…

We do not believe that [clause 33] is necessary, in light of the need to balance the rights of the wider community with the freedoms to be afforded to religious groups…When religious bodies are provided [with] what amounts to a ‘blanket exception’, there is no incentive for that body to ensure that it does not discriminate, and no incentive to promote equality and inclusion in areas of employment and representation other than those leadership positions necessary to maintain the integrity of the religious organisation.

The Coalition dissenting report has recommended that the bill not be supported, but that:

1.35 Coalition Senators recommend that Part II of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 be amended to include identity as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex person as a protected attribute to which the Act extends.

Given they want to ensure that religious exemptions still apply, I view this second recommendations as a token statement designed to appease the GLBTIQ lobby without giving ground where it really matters.

I’m just left hoping the Greens, Independents, and other minor parties work to force the government to do the right thing with this bill, since it’s clear that neither major party will put the amendments forward…

There’s a petition being presented to the Attorney-General on Tuesday – go sign here:
Don’t forget to write to your MPs, senators, and papers on this issue.

Jimbo Wallace – warped again

Jim Wallace was on The Project (Seg 1: Headlines, 6:00) on the 16th of January to justify Prime Minister Gillard’s stance on Anti-Discrimination Legislation, specifically the blanket exemption for religious organisation.  Religious organisations will have the ability to fire unwed mothers, and gay people.

Wallace tells us that Gillard has assured the ACL that “Gillard has assured that religious institutes will still be able to discriminate based on sexuality, this means schools and hospitals will be entitled to fire/refuse to hire members of the LGBT community.” (OutInPerth, 17 Jan 2013)

Gillard’s spokespeople have neither confirmed nor denied this, simply stated that “we don’t comment on discussions with stakeholders.

It will come as no surprise to any of my readers that I consider Jim Wallace to be a vile man and a disgrace to Christians everywhere.  I also believe that he single-handedly does more damage to the reputation of Christianity than any other Australian figure (Though Cardinal Bishop Pell is close).

Aaaaaaanyway… during his interview he makes a few statements and I don’t think one of them is actually unassailable.

For those too busy to read the whole thing, there’s a “What can I do” section at the end.

Christian Values

Gorgi Coghlan: “Why should you have the right to fire a receptionist who uses IVF or a cleaner who lives with his girlfriend?”

Wallace: “When the church goes into the public square… it’s trying to demonstrate the values and ethics of Christ.”

The values and ethics of Christ.  The same Christ who spoke out so harshly against the pharisees?  The same Christ who purposely associated with the outcasts, the poor, and those who were discriminated against in Jewish society?  I have news for you Jimbo, you are in the public square, and it is you who is failing to show the values and ethics of Christ.

We don’t try to get employed by you…

Dr Andrew Rochford: “One of those wonderful values that I took away from Catholic Schooling was do unto others as you would do unto yourself … Surely you wouldn’t want to be discriminated against, so why is it OK for you guys to discriminate – against anyone?”

Wallace: “Well, I don’t think anyone is. All we’re trying to achieve is the same as every politician in Australia has, in that they’re not required, if they’re a Labor MP to actually hire someone who’s a card carrying member of the Liberal Party as their chief of staff.  And I certainly don’t try to get myself employed, and I’m not aware of any Christians trying to be employed in gay bars or gay institutions, and I would expect that the gay population should be extending that same privilege, same courtesy to Christians”

Can you just hear my head spinning?

There’s some dissection required here.  I’m going to leave the Politician statement for a moment, because they go further in depth in the next question. But there are a few flaws in that second statement.

The False Dichotomy:

Where you say things are one or the other, not both.  Wallace clearly believes that you are either gay, or Christian, but never both.  He is wrong.  In fact, The Project very recently did a story on Gay Christians, and I know quite a number of Gay Christians personally.

The Argument From Ignorance:

Also known by the saying that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” – an accusation that the church levels at atheists from time to time, so I would’ve thought Jim would have been familiar with it, but I digress – Just because Jim doesn’t personally know of any Christians trying to be employed by gay institutions, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Christians employed by gay institutions.

The biggest problem with this argument is that all it takes is one person with a single data point to refute it. For example, I know a straight Christian man who is occasionally a presenter on JOY.FM – a gay radio station.  I have a Christian friend who was on the board of Working It Out Inc, a GLBTI organisation aimed at helping people accept their sexual orientation or gender diversity.  And those are two examples I can think of in the space of five minutes without any serious brain-wracking.

The False Analogy:

This is a fallacy where you take two things that are not the same and treat them as if they are.  Wallace supplies a fantastic example by suggesting that Faith-based employers and gay institutions are the same.  They aren’t.

Christian employers are some of the largest organisations in the country – They operate nursing homes, schools, employment agencies, foster care and adoption services, emergency housing, and more, all with surprisingly little oversight on how monies given to them by the government are spent.  Gay institutions are typically small, very focussed, and subject to outcomes-based funding.

If you are considering going into aged care, for example you have almost no choice but to apply with faith-based organisations.  And the same with a lot of social services.  Show me a scenario where to work in a certain industry, you almost have to be employed by a “gay institution”.  I have a vague notion that a drag queen might find it difficult, but that’s about it…

And under the new legislation, gay institutions would not be eligible to discriminate against the Christian anyway – so is he advocating that we should be able to do so?

But we don’t know it’s not a choice…

Gorgi Coghlan: “Jim, when you talk about political affiliation… If I vote Greens, it’s because I choose to vote Greens, if I vote Liberals, it’s because I choose to vote Liberals but if I’m gay that’s not a choice, so is this really fair?”

Wallace: “Well that’s arguable because we haven’t really found a gay gene.  But without opening that up, I think the reality is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights actually protects as a fundamental freedom, freedom of religion.  And amongst that is for instance in the situation of schools the right to come together in community and educate your children in the faith.  And that involves creating the environment for that.”

We haven’t found a single “gay gene” – he is correct.  But there are links between genes for female fertility and increased incidence of homosexuality, as well as connections between finger-length and sexuality.  We also have the environment in the womb and a few other factors that have been identified as increasing the likelihood of homosexuality. The American Psychological Association says that “Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”

As for his reference to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, he is referring to Article 18.

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

Article 26 states “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Article 26 would surely be a clause under which 18.3 is invoked.  And I do not believe that Religious Schooling was what was in mind for Article 18 regardless.  “Manifesting your religion in teaching” would, I believe, refer to teachings of doctrine from the pulpit, not the teaching of a general curriculum with a Christian bent.  Wallace has combined sections 1 and 4 to come to his statement.  To ensure the freedom to come together in community is to ensure the freedom to gather as a church would gather and section 4 says that you have the right to impart to your child the values and beliefs that you want to.  I do not believe that if Jim took a case to the Human Rights Commission based on his stated interpretation, it would succeed.

The fundamental freedom to practice religion ends when you impinge on my fundamental right to not be discriminated against.

Lets not talk about the help…

Charlie Pickering: “You say lets not open up that debate about choosing sexuality, but in essence we have to, in essence you’re picking and choosing on what grounds you get to discriminate against someone when it really doesn’t matter.  I’m curious to know how a gay person working at a high school answers the phone any differently to a straight person”

Wallace: “You always reduce it to the lowest common denominator – the receptionist or the gardener, but we’re talking her more fundamentally about the teachers and what they teach the children, we’re talking about the example that they set for children in their moral lives and for a Christian school for instance, it’s a very important issue”

That could be because you’re fighting for the ability to fire receptionists, gardeners, nurses in aged care facilities as well as teachers… Tell me why your exemption isn’t just for schools, or teachers in schools if that is your concern – why keep the blanket for employment agencies, aged care facilities, and all the rest?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when you take public money to provide a service to the public, that is not an opportunity for you to proselytise and show your faith.  It’s an opportunity to exercise your gifts by doing a service for the community.  And because it’s government money, you need to provide that service for and with all sections of the public.

My overall opinion: Public money, public rules. If you want to discriminate, do it on an entirely religious dollar.

What can I do?

Finally, what you can do: The anti-discrimination legislation legislation isn’t passed yet, so there is still time to influence things like religious exemptions and protected attributes.
Don’t forget to:

Marriage Equality Amendment 2012 defeated.

Sadly, I write this article to announce that the same-sex marriage bill introduced by Labor MP Stephen Jones was defeated in the lower house this afternoon.  42 votes to 98…  The ACL issued a seriously mis-titled media release (ACL welcomes end of marriage debate) today in response.  “I would like to thank the Opposition for keeping its election promise and for all those members of Labor who, as a matter of conscience, voted to ensure that marriage remained between a man and a woman,” Mr Wallace said. “ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said it had been a long debate and he believed the vast majority of Australians were keen to move on”.  This is true.  We are keen to move on.  We want you to stop perverting democratic process and permit this bill which has majority public support to pass.  This is not the end of the marriage debate.  In fact…

Debate continues over the Marriage Equality Amendment (No 2) 2012.  I’ll be doing another highlights/lowlights article over the next couple of days…

A little more encouragingly, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi has resigned as Abbott’s personal parliamentary secretary after incredible (and justified) backlash over comments that legislating for marriage equality could lead to demands to legalise bestiality and polygamy.  The Liberal leader stated “They are views that I don’t share.  They are views that many people will find repugnant,” and that Bernardi had made “ill-disciplined comments” and “had compounded the offence by repeating the comments on radio this morning.”

The result of a conversation between Bernardi and Abbott?  Bernardi’s resignation as secretary – he still holds his Seat in the Senate.  Credit where credit is due however, Bernardi’s departure has created enough space that it requires two members to fill his shoes.

Abbott further states that “While I have consistently advocated a position that the Coalition should keep its recent election commitment to maintain marriage as a union between a man and a woman, I will not tolerate comments that are offensive to people in same-sex relationships,” and that “While the Coalition has a policy position not to support changes to the Marriage Act, the Coalition has a proud history of opposition to discrimination in any form and as Leader of the Opposition, I will not have this record undermined.”

Thanks to the Sydney Morning Herald for having the best of the Bernardi Story in one convenient place!


An in-depth look at the Regnerus study

I’ve promised you this post for a while now.  Because this seems to be a misuse of science, it’s a frustrating article to write, and the Regnereus study is a hard read… But enough with excuses!

Mark Regnerus did a study with University of Texas called the New Family Structures Study.  He recently published a paper in Social Science Research (SSR) entitled “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study.

This has been controversial for a number of reasons.

  1. It was rushed through the review process.
  2. It contradicts what every other well-designed comparative study has found
  3. It appears that the way the data was classified for sampling was manipulated in such a way as to produce bad outcomes.
  4. The funding for the study was from conservative foundations with anti-gay leanings.

Ultimately this has resulted in a letter from 205 academics, including 5 Uni of Texas faculty members, writing an open letter to Social Science Research which essentially suggests that they may now consider it a second-grade journal.

UT is also conducting an investigation into scientific misconduct by Regnerus.  This is an independent panel of UT professors who are looking into the claims that Regnerus essentially faked poor outcomes for same-sex-parented kids.

So I’m going to take these points in order… (any page references are to the page number in SSR)

1. It was rushed through the review process

The timeline is

Received on Feb 1
Revised Feb 29
Accepted March 12

The peer review policy of SSR states that their process is as follows

  1. Editor evaluates it to make sure it meets minimum criteria
  2. 2 experts are secured for peer review.  The review process typically takes 2-3 months.  “But substantially longer review times are not uncommon”.
  3. Revised manuscripts are usually returned to the initial referees upon receipt.
  4. The editor then has the final decision to include the paper.

So in this instance, it went through not one, but two iterations of the review process in about half the time it “typically” takes for a paper to be reviewed once.

This on its own is not necessarily a problem.  There may have been two appropriate reviewers available to read and review it straight away…  It’s rare, but it happens.

2. It contradicts what every other well-designed study has found

This is not specifically a problem either.  Science finds out that it was wrong in all sorts of fascinating and interesting ways, with surprising frequency…

In the introduction to Regnerus’s paper, he notes that “Since [Stacey and Biblarz’s Study in 2001] the conventional wisdom emerging from comparative studies of same-sex parenting is that there are very few differences of note in the child outcomes of gay and lesbian parents. … Moreover, a variety of possible advantages of having a lesbian couple as parents have emerged in recent studies.” (p753)

There is nothing wrong with a scientist contradicting the status quo, whatever your local quack might suggest.  The thing is, when you are overturning established theories, you need damn good evidence to suggest that you are right!  And you’d better be prepared for your studies to be picked apart – wrong presumptions in some circumstances mean that whole fields need to restart using the new theories.

Curiously, given the apparent manipulation of the data in this study, he later talks about sampling concerns in previous studies – I’d classify that as bold…

3. Misclassified data, other sample problems

The real scientific problems with this paper all stem from the sampling.

The study surveyed young adults, 18-39 (p755). For the purposes of Regnerus’s study, they were divided into a number of groups:

IBF – Intact biological family – lived with parents form 0-18 and parents are still married.

LM – Lesbian Mother – Respondent’s mother had a same sex relationship with a woman

GF – Gay Father – Respondent’s father had a same-sex relationship with a man

Adopted: Adopted by two or more strangers between birth and age 2

Divorced later: lived with parents to age 18, parents are not married at present

Stepfamily: Biological parents where Respondent’s primary custodial parent was married to a step-parent before Respondent turned 18

Single Parent: Biological parents were either never married or else divorced, and the primary custodial parent did not marry/remarry before Respondent turned 18

Others: Any other family situation, including deceased parent.

There are some definition problems here that I will address shortly, but the issue noted by the UTexas letter relates to classifications…

“Respondents might fit more than one group.  I have, however, forced their mutual exclusivity here for analytic purposes.  For example a respondent whose mother had a same-sex relationship might also qualify in [Divorced] or [Single Parent], but in this case my analytical interest is in maximising [LMs] and [GFs] so the respondent would be placed in [LMs].”  GF is the trump card here, “since [GFs] is the smallest and most difficult to locate randomly in the population”.

There were 12 respondents in the study to have both an LM and a GF – they were all represented as GF for the study.

Lets think about what this classification decision means…

The only groups not eligible for consideration as LM or GF were IBF or Adopted (since the parents in same-sex relationships were biological for LM or GF).

What this means is that the study, when looking at LMs and GFs include Divorced, Stepfamily, Single parents and Other family configurations.  We do not know if any respondents were raised exclusively by one pair of gay parents using surrogacy or a sperm donor .

Given that IBF is the control group here, what we’re doing (I would suggest almost exclusively) is comparing married people with situations where children were raised in multi-homed or single-parent situations.

This study does not compare similar relationships

And then there’s the definition problem: “had a same-sex relationship” – as far as we know there’s no requirement that this happened while the child was growing up.  it just has to have happened.  If my mother were to call up tomorrow or even 10 years from now and announce she was in a relationship with a woman, I would then be classified as a LM although my entire upbringing was in an IBF.  Or my parents might have divorced and my father taken a male lover for a fortnight – if I as a child perceive that as a relationship, he’s a GF for sure.

In short, the study’s sampling methods promote a misinterpretation of the data by comparing non-comparable relationships and drawing conclusions on the quality of gay parenting based on those comparisons. It also does not seem to draw any requirement of meaning or permanence in a same-sex relationship before qualifying participants as Gay Father or Lesbian Mother.

4. Funding sources

The Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation “are commonly known for their support of conservative causes” (p755)  Places fund studies all the time – the wages have to come from somewhere… grad students don’t just grow on trees y’know!  The funding only becomes a problem when the sample or other methodologies seem to be constructed to be biased in one direction or another – like the data in the NFSS…


The study is flawed.  This is pretty clear, and plenty of people actually qualified to pick this study apart agree with me (I’m a computer scientist, not a social scientist).  This along with the other  problems like the amazingly short review period, the funding sources, and the fact that it goes against what every other researcher has found suggest some rather odd dealings.  It seems strange that SSR reviewers who were not already sympathetic to the article would miss the errors that I and many others noticed.

Ultimately, I think Regnerus has done his reputation and that of SSR some serious damage.  In the process, they’ve produced a study the religious right will use to advocate against same-sex parenting, but which has essentially no relevance, validity, or accepted authority on the matter.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment!   I look forward to hearing from you!

Regnerus – AKA Shoddy Social Science

I’ve been slack this week; I was going to write about the Regnerus study “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships?  Findings from the New Family Structures Study”  But frankly, I haven’t had time to read it properly. (18 A4 sheets of text, single-spaced, in about 10-point font…)  Just like I haven’t had time to properly read this letter from 200 PhDs and MDs, questioning both its validity and the severe lack of peer review the study underwent prior to publishing.

I’m going to blame my slackness on two days of interviewing with The Observer. I  will be posting links to their articles when they go live, which should be tomorrow and Saturday!  So really, I’ll have produced four articles this week!  Also my poor dog, Alva, was sick, so it was a trip to the vet’s when I had intended to be reading… Anyhow, back to the story at hand!

I first came across the Regnerus study in my recent indulgence with the ACL. They used it to substantiate their claims that same-sex parenting was not in the best interests of the child.  I challenged its validity then based purely on the limited information I had about the sample at the time… but that’s another post.

I’m not a Social Scientist.  I can’t critique this study like I would a Computer Science paper.  But I am a science guy.  I can read the study and make sense of it.  And to some degree, I can poke holes.

Rather than talk about the whole paper today, I’m going to pick on one section of the Conclusion…

While it is certainly accurate to affirm that sexual orientation or parental sexual behaviour have nothing to do with the ability to be a good, effective parent, the data evaluated herein using population-based estimates drawn from a large, nationally-representative sample of young Americans suggest that it may affect the reality of family experiences among a significant number.

Loosely translated I think this says: “We’re not saying you’re bad at parenting.  Just that you’re bad parents.”  Which, when you boil it down, is awfully similar to “love the sinner, but hate the sin.”

Well, it just so happens that the first issue with the paper itself that the critique letter touched on was that the data was crap.  It was manipulated in such a way that the study could easily mistake bad outcomes from broken homes for bad outcomes from  same-sex relationships.

I love science; I’m very much a geek.  It pains me to see the scientific method twisted like this to produce results that fit the agenda of a particular interest group…  The study was designed to find fault with gay parenting, and that’s exactly what it did.  Soon, I’ll go into more detail on how this happened and how it was published in this previously well-respected journal…

Why having a family some day is important to me

The ACL, FVA, and other “Family Values” groups are all for the rollback of QLD’s Surrogacy laws, claiming it as a victory for the rights of the child.  I would argue that these groups are actually taking a very anti-family stance in their fight against GLBTI equality.  I shouldn’t need to choose between my home and the chance to raise a family – how is destabilising parents’ living situations possibly in the best interests of a child?  Shouldn’t children have the right to two loving parents who unequivocally want them?

I don’t know why other people want children.  All I know are my reasons:

The joy of new life

Bringing a child into the world is, I am told, an amazing experience.  It is a miracle unfolding into every aspect of your life, transforming you forever from mere adult to father.  From someone responsible for himself, a partner, and maybe a dog, to having an entire little human being dependent on you. It can do nothing but change you.

The shaping of the future

I believe that families are one of the basic building blocks of society.  They are where children feel safe, loved, and nurtured.  They are where values are instilled, and where the next generation of Australia is shaped. They are the place that the next generation learns what it is to be Australian.  Like all of us, I want to pass what I believe to be right and true on to the next generation.  I want to give a child a better life than I have had.  Isn’t that what most parents want for their children?

Because I have always wanted to

I shouldn’t need to explain my reasons. Straight people don’t need to.  Straight people don’t need to *have* a reason in order to have a child.  It can “just happen”. We are raised to want to raise our own families.  I love children, and one day want to raise my own with the man I one day hope to be able to marry.  I mean, isn’t that the fairy-tale ending?  Marry the handsome prince and have wonderful children together? Why am I barred from living this very simple dream?

What’s stopping me from doing this?

Nothing, from a purely technical standpoint.  I could quite reasonably go to the pub, pick up, get a girl pregnant, and 9 months later “voila! Child!”  Some states would even let my husband adopt the child.  Apart from the fact I’m not sure I could function with a woman, apart from the concern over STIs, this is clearly having sex with someone who is not my dearly beloved.  I believe in monogamous relationships.  I shouldn’t have to cheat in this day and age to raise a family.  Clearly this kind of arrangement is how the ACL, FVA, and the rest of those groups would prefer GLBTI couples to be “acquiring babies”, rather than ensuring the safety of the participants, due diligence, transparency, and supporting the commitment of monogamous same-sex couples trying to build a family.

How is what I described different to a straight guy going to the pub and knocking some girl up by accident?  Technically… it’s not.  Same basic biological processes and all.  The difference is intent.  As a gay guy with zero interest in the female body, the only way I can ever have a family is to adopt, find a surrogate, or cheat with a woman.  

My children will never be able to say they were not wanted.  They will never hear that they were an accident.  Their very existence would prove otherwise.  How is that not in the best interests of the child?

All the world’s a stage

Shakespeare said that “All the world’s a stage”, if that is true, then QLD has become A Comedy of Errors.

Maybe we should look at the lead roles in the QLD equality story in recent times.

Anna Bligh

QLD’s first female premier.  In late 2008 this woman was harshly criticised in Queensland for getting Botox.  The media was so frenzied about this that they forgot to mention Kevin Rudd was extending Same Sex couples the de-facto status to assist with equality. She leaves a legacy of forward strides in QLD GLBTI rights including the Surrogacy Act 2010 and the Civil Partnerships Act 2012.  She commissioned a study into removing the “gay panic” partial defence, and stated her intention to remove the loophole.  She and her party were ousted from power in the 2012 election by Newman and the LNP.  I can unfortunately only guess at her cosmetic surgery habits, since they’re no longer of interest to the media.  I actually thought she did a decent job as Premiers go.

Campbell Newman

A confusing character.  Mayor of Brisbane until late 2011 when he reneged on his promise never to run for state politics by running as then-unelected leader of the LNP.   Despite making statements a number of times about personally supporting Gay Marriage, within 100 days of taking office, he has scrapped civil ceremonies for Civil Partnerships, renamed them “Registered Relationships” and removed the divorce-like portion of it as well.  This at least he prepared us for somewhat, although his initial promise was that if anyone had a civil partnership when he got into power, he would leave the legislation alone.  Equally confusing are his statements on the Surrogacy Act.  Days before the election he stated he would not change the Surrogacy Act.  Less than 100 days into his rule, his Attorney-General announced that they would be removing provisions for singles, de facto couples together less than two years, and same-sex couples.  Campbell then says he didn’t know what his party members were discussing.  He’s gone from top job at one level to top job at the next with none of the hard yards in between.  I personally think this is so that he’ll do what the advisers say, rather than suggesting he has any leadership skill himself.  Other than blatant dishonesty, it’s the only way I can interpret the dissonance between what he says and what he then does.

Andrew Bleijie

Shadow Attorney-General while Bligh was in power, now Attorney-General under Newman, this is the person that I believe is the true leader of the LNP.  He is the one who is announcing changes at odds with Newman’s statements.  He has clearly pushed back at the Labor Party’s attempts to solve discrimination in our state – going so far as to defend the non-violent sexual advance (“gay panic”) partial defence.  He seems to field a lot of questions and actually seems to say more for the LNP than Campbell Newman does.  I don’t know how long it will be before this talented politician decides to overthrow Newman and rule in his own right… I think it’ll be less time than Kevin Rudd had in office.

Wendy Francis and the ACL

This charming lady is the CEO of the Australian Christian Lobby.  She spews forth vile rot about defending marriage from the gay agenda and preventing homosexual couples from “acquiring babies”.  The LNP seems to listen to her far more than her opinions deserve.  Wendy’s lobby group was recently the benefactor of a $30,000 donation from the Gloria Jeans Coffees Franchise, the reason for a current and ongoing boycott of GJs stores across the country.  I figure that when capitalist companies start playing politics, the only solution is to vote with my wallet.  I know for a fact that the views of Wendy Francis and the ACL are not representative of Australian Christians on the whole or even the majority.  Hers is a fringe voice which unfortunately has found an ear.

Alex Greenwich and Australian Marriage Equality

A real tireless worker for GLBTI rights.  Alex makes a huge contribution and is well recognised in the community for doing good work, although some disagree with his methods, claiming they are too soft.  National Convenor of Australian Marriage Equality, he and his partner believe in marriage enough to have gone overseas in order to get married.  They will be among the first same sex couples ever recognised under Australian law as “married” when the Federal legislation eventually goes through.  AME organise protests across the country where anti-gay events are occurring, and often organises rallies in support of GLBTI rights legislation where it’s being proposed.  I’m quite the fan – AME were heavily involved on the QLD stage when Labor’s Civil Partnerships bill was introduced.

Those are the names you’ll see on most stories about QLD’s gay rights backslide… Well, except for Anna Bligh, but she was important to set the scene.  Other people will come and go from these stories, and as further debates unfold I’ll give you a who’s who for each issue.  If I’ve missed anyone you think should be here, let me know so I can add them!

Proposed surrogacy laws a clear attack on LGBTI rights

According to this article (Sydney Morning Herald) It is believed that the proposed changes to the Surrogacy Act 2010 (A bill I am yet to read and cannot so far find) will not only de-regulate altruistic surrogacy, meaning that there are no legal protections for parents, but that it will criminalise it, when it is for singles, same sex couples, and de-facto couples of less than two years.  This comment does come from Cameron Dick, who was QLD Attorney-General for the Bligh Government, so it may be an overstatement.  I doubt it.

Labor’s Surrogacy Act 2010 decriminalised altruistic surrogacy – A situation where a woman does not receive “a payment, reward or other material benefit or advantage (other than the reimbursement of the birth mother’s surrogacy costs)” (Quote from Surrogacy Act 2010 Section 10 – Meaning of a commercial surrogacy agreement)  Commercial surrogacy agreements are still illegal.

So the Labor Act provides all people an avenue to have children and raise a family, regardless of gender or marital status, provided they can find someone who is willing to do it out of the goodness of their heart.

The LNP’s changes (again, according to Cameron Dick) will penalise same sex couples or singles seeking to be parents through altruistic surrogacy with a jail sentence of up to 3 years.

The Australian Christian Lobby’s Wendy Francis comments and spouts the usual drivel on Friday 22 June: “This is the right thing and is in the best interest of the child, something the state is bound to uphold under the UN Convention on the rights of the child” – At least they have the decency to comment only on the issue at hand.

Not so much FamilyVoice Queensland or the Australian Family Association, according to this Sky News Article

FamilyVoice Queensland and the Australian Family Association earlier this month said surrogacy rights for gay couples was the next battlefront, after winning changes on same-sex unions.

Isn’t enough enough?  Haven’t you queerbashed the community sufficiently, Religious Right? It’s clear that ACL and the Fundamentalist Christian Right want to return to the days when gays were not recognised, that it was illegal.  I wonder if it’s possible for a federally recognised de facto relationship to be grounds for imprisonment under a State Criminal code…

As for Newman’s pre-election promise that surrogacy laws would not be touched?

The Star Observer quotes Newman as saying:

Over the whole 12-month period of the campaign I never at any stage had had any advice on the matter because it had been dealt with back in 2010

Frankly, the mistake was not understanding what my MPs had been discussing.

You can’t tell me this doesn’t ring alarm bells.

This statement of Newman’s (Yesterday) leaves us with two interpretations:

  1. He’s telling the truth: Our premier is supposed to be able to run a state, but he can’t even make sure he’s across his own party’s policies before an election.  He obviously heard his MPs discussing this – otherwise he wouldn’t be telling us he wasn’t “understanding what [his] MPs had been discussing.”  He would have said he didn’t know it was being discussed. Or,
  2. He’s not telling the truth.  He’s been caught in a situation that is at loggerheads with statements he made mere days before the election.  The only way he can make these two situations line up is if he pleads ignorance.  He would probably have been better off using Howard’s “Non-core-promise” line.

Either way, we still couldn’t trust him, but we’d never be able to draw the conclusion that he’s either admitting that he is inept or lying to us.  (additional interpretations are welcome)