Author archives: Peter Sprigg

Statement by Peter Sprigg

by Peter Sprigg

March 27, 2008

In an interview with Medill News Service that was posted on the Internet last week, I discussed FRCs opposition to an immigration bill that would allow foreign nationals who are the same-sex partners of American citizens to immigrate to the United States on the same basis as foreign spouses of American citizens. FRC does not believe that homosexual relationships are the equivalent of marriage, and we therefore oppose any legislation that would treat such relationships as the equivalent of marriage.

In response to a question regarding bi-national same-sex couples who are separated by an international border, I used language that trivialized the seriousness of the issue and did not communicate respect for the essential dignity of every human being as a person created in the image of God. I apologize for speaking in a way that did not reflect the standards which the Family Research Council and I embrace.

Fire Those Who Protect Child Porn Users, Not Those Who Report Them

by Peter Sprigg

March 18, 2008

The recent firing of a California librarian provides a dramatic example of how political correctness can turn both morality and common sense on its head. What did Brenda Biesterfeld do that cost her her job? When she saw a patron at the public library where she worked in Lindsay viewing illegal child pornography on a library computer, she did what any good citizen should doshe reported it to the police. They arrested him, and found more child porn on his home computer as well. But Biesterfelds reward for her good deed was a termination notice.

The Lindsay City Council and Tulare County Board of Supervisors are both looking into the incident, and the pro-family legal advocacy group Liberty Counsel has intervened on Biesterfelds behalf. One hopes that Biesterfeld will get her job backand that her porn-defending supervisors Judi Hill and Brian Lewis will lose theirs.

In fact, maybe its time to make public librarians mandatory reporters of child sexual abuseincluding child pornographyjust so that they know where their responsibility lies.

(See also Family Research Councils pamphlet Dealing With Pornography: A Practical Guide For Protecting Your Family and Your Community)

A Defining Moment for Marriage

by Peter Sprigg

February 21, 2008

[Note: On Wednesday, February 27 at 11:00 a.m., FRC will be welcoming David Blankenhorn for a lecture on his book, The Future of Marriage (Encounter Books, 2007). The lecture will also be available via live webcast at]

In 1995, David Blankenhorn made one of the most important contributions to the debates over family structure with his book Fatherless America. In it, he compiled the overwhelming social science evidence in support of the common-sense truth that children need fathers as well as mothers.

Now, after years as what he calls a Morally Anguished Fence Sitter on the issue of so-called same-sex marriage, Blankenhorn has finally followed his earlier findings to their logical conclusion by declaring that marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman. His new book, The Future of Marriage, lays out in a thorough, scholarly, yet accessible way exactly why marriage exists as a social institution, why the male-female union is intrinsic to it, and how redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would damage it.

Blankenhorn takes the reader on a fascinating tour across time and cultures, noting that the origins of marriage appear to coincide with the origins of civilization. Blankenhorn describes how in the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia, older cultures which practiced temple prostitution and sex for its own sake came to be replaced by ones (like that of the Hebrews) that recognized marriage and the social importance of fatherhood.

In contrast to such patriarchal societies are ones like the Trobriand Islands in the Pacific, which emphasize a childs descent through her mothers line. Yet even here, marriage and fathers are considered crucial for the raising of children. These two illustrationsas well as quotes from numerous anthropologistsprove that marriage has some features that are virtually universal, and that bridging the male-female divide is one such feature.

Another such feature is that marriage is about sex and procreation. To argue that marriage is not intrinsically connected to bearing and raising children as advocates of same-sex marriage routinely do, is like saying cars are not intrinsically connected to driving because those who purchase them are not required to drive them.

Advocates of same-sex marriage love to ask, What harm could it possibly do? Blankenhorn carefully answers this question by spelling out the dangers of deinstitutionalizing marriage. Marriage is a social institution, defined as a relatively stable pattern of rules and structures intended to meet basic social needs. But if the rules are intentionally violated and the structures are torn down, then the institution will cease to fulfill its social purposewhich, in the case of marriage, is to provide every child with both a mother and a father who are committed to him or her, and to each other.

Some homosexual activists, such as Jonathan Rauch, argue that allowing same-sex couples access to marriage would actually strengthen the institution. Blankenhorn thoroughly refutes that notionin part by pointing out that many of the scholars who are most hostile to the institution of marriage are also the most enthusiastic about legalizing same-sex marriage. One, Judith Stacey, is described as a determined cheerleader for divorce, unwed childbearing, and cohabitationand for same-sex marriage.

In addition to citing individual scholars, Blankenhorn also examines polling data from a number of countries to find out how attitudes toward marriage correlate with legal recognition of same-sex unions. Blankenhorn found that countries with same-sex marriage also have the weakest support for marriage as an institution.

Blankenhorn takes on the superficial analogy between banning same-sex marriage and banning interracial marriage, arguing that is actually the advocates of same-sex marriage, not the opponents, who resemble the advocates of racist anti-miscegenation laws. Both, he says, seek to recreate marriage in the name of a social goal that is fundamentally unconnected to marriage.

Although he sees adult freedom and child well-being as being goods in conflict in this debate, Blankenhorn concludes, For me, sustaining the right of the child to her two natural parents is ultimately more important than granting adults more freedom of choice. This is the core message of his book.

The Future of Marriage is carefully reasoned and thoroughly documented, but Blankenhorn is not above revealing his exasperation with the advocates of same-sex marriage and their public talking points, various of which he describes as nonsense, intellectually vacuous, and clearly preposterous.

However, Blankenhorn is not a social conservative. I count myself as a liberal, he declares. While clearly opposing the redefinition of marriage, Blankenhorn is entirely silent about the political debate over laws or constitutional amendments to protect marriage at the state or federal levels. He also says nothing about marriage counterfeits such as civil unions or domestic partnerships. Social conservatives will gag on several things he says, including his declaration, We as a society can and should accept the dignity of homosexual love.

His acceptance not only of homosexual behavior, but also of premarital sex, appears to be the one logical gap in Blankenhorns argument. For him, the link between marriage and children is clearly a two-way streetthe purpose and definition of marriage has everything to do with children, and children do best when raised by their married biological mother and father. Blankenhorn also affirms that marriage has everything to do with sexual unionbut travels only one way on that street, by failing to recognize that sex itself is best confined to the marriage of a man and a woman. Perhaps after another twelve years and in another book, he will come around on that issue as he has on same-sex marriage.

Blankenhorns lingering liberalism actually underlines the importance of his book. With the publication of The Future of Marriage, no one should ever again get away with charging that opposition to same-sex marriage is rooted in ignorance, religion, or anti-gay bigotry. For that, we owe David Blankenhorn a major debt of gratitude.

Peter Sprigg is vice president for policy at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., and the author of Outrage: How Gay Activists and Liberal Judges are Trashing Democracy to Redefine Marriage.

Republican or Democrat, Maryland Governors Are Addicted to Gambling

by Peter Sprigg

October 31, 2007

Regardless of party, recent Maryland governors have one thing in commonan addiction to gambling as a source of new state revenue. Marylands new Democratic Governor Martin OMalley has followed in the footsteps of the Republican he defeated last year, Robert Ehrlich, by calling for legalization of slot machine gambling in the state.

OMalley has apparently broken a deadlock between the House and Senate leaders with his proposal to put the issue of slots on the ballot in November of 2008.

This is modestly good news, because such referenda have a poor record at the polls. But it would be better for the legislature to reject the slots proposal immediately. On this issue, conservatives who know that gambling destroys families are united with liberals who know that gambling preys on the poor. The revenue generated by gambling is far outweighed by the social costs it imposes (see The National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling).

The 145% Myth

by Peter Sprigg

July 13, 2007

In an article on Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle and the homosexual activists who are decrying him as “homophobic”, the Miami NBC affiliate WTVJ-TV says, “An estimated 243,000 gay people live in the city of Fort Lauderdale.”

My World Almanac says the 2005 population of Fort Lauderdale was 167,380. We know the idea that homosexuals are 10% of the population is a myth, so what can we say about the claim that they are 145% of the population?

According to the Census Bureau, Fort Lauderdale does indeed have the second highest percentage of same-sex unmarried partner households of any major American city (exceeded only by San Francisco). So the mayor may really be in some political hot water. But that percentage is—2.1% (S.F. is 2.7%; nationally they are 1.0%).

Numerically, there are 1,418 (that’s one thousand four hundred eighteen) unmarried same-sex partner households in Fort Lauderdale. That would be 2,836 individuals.

I guess the other 240,000 homosexuals in Fort Lauderdale just aren’t the “marrying”—or “partnering”—kind.

Homosexuals spurn benefits of marriage

by Peter Sprigg

April 25, 2007

Fridays USA Today included an article noting that despite moves toward legalizing civil unions in states like New Hampshire and Oregon, fewer gay couples are choosing to enter civil unions or register as domestic partners (Andrea Stone, Some say civil unions dropping off, April 20). For example, in Connecticut, the number of same-sex couples who entered into civil unions in the first 15 months that they were legal was only 18% of the number of same-sex unmarried partner households counted in the 2000 census. (By contrast, 92% of opposite-sex couples who live together in Connecticut are legally married.)

The article quotes one homosexual activist as suggesting that same-sex couples are waiting for marriage. But it certainly undermines the argument that same-sex couples are being seriously harmed by lack of access to the legal and financial benefits of marriage, if 82% dont even bother to access those benefits once they are granted them under state law.

The article says that in Massachusetts, where they do have same-sex civil marriage, about 9,000 such marriages have occurred since 2004. However, it fails to note that this is barely more than half the number of cohabiting same-sex couples identified in the census (again, in contrast to heterosexuals, among whom the married outnumber the cohabiting by a ratio of more than 10 to 1). These figures constitute empirical evidence that a majority of homosexuals do not need the benefits of marriage, and relatively few even want to participate in the institution of marriage.

What they really want is the official government affirmation that homosexuality is identical to heterosexualityperiod. But by winning marriage and then not participating in it, they advance the deinstitutionalization of marriagethat is, they destroy any social norm suggesting that marriage is the preferred context for living together in a sexual relationship (even more than heterosexuals have). This is one of the ways that same-sex marriage harms the institution of marriageyes, even for heterosexuals.

See also FRC InFocus: How many benefit from same-sex marriage in Massachusetts?

Thinking About Thought Crimes: A Response to HRC

by Peter Sprigg

April 5, 2007

The Human Rights Campaign, a pro-homosexual organization, has accused the Family Research Council of lying about the issue of Thought Crimes (i.e., so-called hate crimes), under which offenders are punished once for their actions and then again for the politically incorrect thoughts they were thinking while committing the action.

HRC President Joe Solmonese says FRC is lying in saying that America doesnt have a federal hate crimes law. Actually, a recent FRC paper carefully explains that there are two federal laws related to so-called hate crimesa 1990 law which mandates the collection of statistics on them, and a 1994 law which provides for sentence enhancement (higher penalties) for existing federal offenses motivated by bias. HRC contends, however, that we have had a federal hate crimes law since 1969, citing the United States Code at 18 U.S.C. 245.

Actually, 18 U.S.C. 245 is not a hate crimes law at all. Instead, it is an extension of the civil rights laws, making it a crime to interfere with someone on account of race, color, religion, or national origin when they are engaged in certain specific activities that are protected under civil rights laws. If you look it up, this section of the code is under Chapter 13, titled “Civil Rights,” and Section 245 is titled “Federally Protected Activities.” The term “hate crime” never appears in 18 U.S.C. 245.

For example, the civil rights laws say that a person cannot be denied the right to attend public school on account of race. Therefore, if a white person beats up a black person outside a school in order to prevent him from enrolling in that school, that is a violation of 18 U.S.C. 245. This is not really a hate crimes law, because the central idea is not simply to protect victims whose assailants think certain specific thoughts about them (as in Thought Crime/hate crime laws), but to protect the exercise of certain rights under the civil rights laws (i.e., attending public school). Creating protections based on the characteristics of the victim alone (i.e., a Thought Crime or hate crime law) is much broader than simply protecting certain activitiesso much broader as to fall in a completely different category.

Solmonese is actually right in saying that H.R.1592, this years version of Thought Crimes in the U.S. House, would only create new, direct federal prosecution of cases in which someone willfully causes bodily injury or attempts to cause bodily injury because of certain characteristics of the victim. But this is an entirely new category of offense under federal law, not just an expansion of existing protected classes, as Solmonese implies.

In fact, Joe Solmonese might want to be cautious about implying that H.R. 1592 would merely add to the existing categories of protection under 18 U.S.C. 245because, contrary to his claims, 18 U.S.C. 245 actually includes penalties for “intimidation,” even in the absence of a violent act. So citing it as precedent actually reinforces the argument that federal hate crime laws could threaten free speech and freedom of religion. Take this as an example: If a white person yelled at a black person, “You’d be better off not coming to this school!” he could potentially be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 245 for “intimidation.” So does Joe Solmonese think that if a Christian views a “gay pride” parade and yells at a homosexual, “You’d be better off if you stopped engaging in homosexual sex!” she should be charged with “intimidation” and prosecuted for a hate crime?

Thats roughly what has already happened in cases brought under similar laws in Sweden, England, Canada, and even in Philadelphia. With a hodgepodge of definitions of what a hate crime is, and with even the bills leading advocate confused about what it would do, it is no wonder that many conservatives view H.R. 1592s ostensible limitation to bodily injury cases as a rather thin reed on which to rest the claim that Thought Crime laws pose no threat to freedom of speech or of religion.

What About the Other 97.8%?

by Peter Sprigg

February 28, 2007

Over the past few days, both The Washington Times and the Washington Post have run stories on HPV and the new HPV vaccine, Gardasil. The Times articles on the subject may have underplayed the risks from HPV to young women and girls. Today’s Post article, on the other hand, seems to overplay it.

The headline (“Millions In U.S. Infected With HPV: Study Finds Virus Strikes a Third of Women by Age 24”) is about the large number of women who are infected with HPV—which would seem calculated to build support for making the vaccine mandatory. But those figures refer to at least 27 strains of genital HPV. Only in paragraph four do you learn that “only 2.2% of women were carrying one of the two virus strains most likely to lead to cervical cancer”—in other words, the two cancer-related strains targeted by the vaccine.

To put this another way—vaccinating the entire population with Gardasil would not eliminate a virus that infects one quarter to one third of American women, as the headline might lead you to believe. Instead, it would only eliminate the strains that infect 2.2% of women.

Now, that 2.2% will account for 70% of cervical cancer cases, so the vaccine’s impact is very significant in relation to that disease. But the vaccine will not help the millions of other women infected with other, less deadly strains of HPV. Only abstinence will help them all.