Insert Comma logo
Insert Comma • A Portfolio of Leigh E. Rich
Marriage measure debated

Lundberg introduces latest attempt to ban same-sex unions

By Leigh E. Rich

Deeming it “the most significant domestic issue of the decade,” Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, announced his intentions Thursday to introduce a House concurrent resolution that would recognize marriage in the state of Colorado “only if it is between one man and one woman.”

House Democratic Caucus Chair Angie Paccione of Ft. Collins as well as reporters questioned Lundberg as to whether he truly believes that an amendment to the Colorado Constitution that would essentially ban same-sex marriage as well as same-sex civil unions trumps the state’s fiscal crisis or other pressing issues such as health care, education, jobs or poverty.

But Lundberg didn’t budge.

“Either marriage is between a man and a woman exclusively or anything goes,” he said.

Lundberg pointed to Europe—where several countries allow civil unions and Belgium and the Netherlands recognize same-sex civil marriage—and claimed that “over the course of time” it can be shown that “culture degrades significantly” when same-sex unions are allowed.

When asked to cite nonpartisan, scientific evidence to support this claim, Lundberg made vague references to research conducted in Sweden, the most widely cited of which is a 2004 demographic study by Gunnar Andersson, Turid Noack, Ane Seierstad and Harald Weedon-Fekjaer entitled “Divorce-Risk Patterns in Same-Sex ‘Marriages’ in Norway and Sweden.”

In no way does the work by Andersson and colleagues even remotely validate Lundberg’s sweeping generalization.

Instead, the researchers, who work for the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Statistics Norway and the University of Oslo, concluded that “to a large extent patterns in divorce are quite similar in same-sex and opposite-sex marriages.”

They do state that the “increasing diversity (in family patterns) is often regarded as a part of a larger cultural change, implying an increase in freedom as well as an obligation for individuals to decide how to organize their lives in an individualized society.” But they do not suggest, as Lundberg phrased it, that such “larger culture change” is a “degradation” nor the product of allowing same-sex unions.

Another item cited in the research often quoted by those against same-sex marriage, such as Stanley Kurtz of Nation Review Online and The Weekly Standard, is work by Norwegian sociologist Kari Moxness, who in the early 1990s “argued that same-sex marriages have become legalized not so much because homosexuality has become more accepted, but because marriage has become an increasingly empty institution and no longer is seen as a mandatory entrance to adult life, sexual life, and parenthood.”

Claiming that “marriage is slowly dying in Scandinavia,” Kurtz has cited Moxness as evidence for his claim that the same-sex union “already has … and has further undermined the institution” of marriage.

Others, such as Professor M.V. Lee Badgett of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, say that such data is consistently misinterpreted and misused. The trend toward a “separation of reproduction and sexuality” that Moxness has described, as London School of Economics Director Anthony Giddens demonstrates in his book The Transformation of Intimacy, “is a long-term development of the modern social order … in which women have played the major part.”

Andersson and his fellow authors also point out that same-sex unions only account for about 0.7 percent of marriages in Norway, which has allowed “registered partnerships” since 1993, and about 0.5 percent in Sweden, which has allowed them since 1995. With such low numbers, it may be spurious to claim then, as Kurtz and Lundberg do, that same-sex unions can account for any alleged “weakness” in Scandinavian marriages.

Still, Lundberg said the same-sex marriage issue is “increasing in importance” and believes that an amendment to the Colorado Constitution is the “only appropriate direction.”

Fellow Reps. Keith King and Jim Welker, both co-sponsors of the resolution, took the debate one step further.

King, R-Colorado Springs, suggested that, by affirming “traditional marriage,” “it will keep our prison systems from having problems” and “will save us money in the School Finance Act in the way we fund at-risk issues.”

Never connecting his comments to same-sex unions, King only said that individuals from single-parent or divorced homes are more likely to meet eligibility requirements for Colorado’s free lunch program and are at higher risk of being incarcerated.

Welker, R-Loveland, saying the amendment is “the right thing to do,” rhetorically asked, “Where do you draw the line?”

He then mentioned a 2003 incident where a 9-year-old girl in India “married” a stray dog and a 1975 occurrence in which a Boulder man tried to marry his horse. For the Indian girl, a member of the Santhal tribe, the marriage was a ritual used to ward off the bad omen associated with a dental disorder; for Roswell Howard, the marriage attempt was a political statement against a Boulder County clerk who had issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Paccione, who passionately spoke out against the resolution, told Welker, “Oh, come on, Jim! It’s not the same.”

Citing the state’s budget fix and access to jobs, health care and education as the central issues for lawmakers, Paccione stated, “This is not about practicing family values. Family values are not under attack.”

An evangelical Christian, she compared same-sex unions with the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

“Before 1967, interracial couples like my mother and father could not marry,” she said, deeming the two issues “not the same” but “similar.” “There was a time when we said the same thing about blacks and whites.”

Lundberg disagreed, saying the civil rights movement was about “giving equal opportunity to all people” and those who make the comparison “are completely misunderstanding the dynamics of this discussion.”

“When you shift that to marriage, now you have a big loser,” he said.

Paccione spoke of a different “slippery slope”—a blurring of the line between church and state. “I don’t want the church to tell the state to whom it can confer rights, civil rights,” she said, or a state that can interfere with the goings on of a church.

“Our focus is on protecting the rights of individuals,” she said, adding that she was “deeply offended” by King’s remarks regarding children of such unions being costs to the state. “That’s the same kind of stereotypes and prejudices we felt back in the ’60s and ’50s.”

Paccione is “hopeful” the resolution won’t get very far in the Statehouse, which would have to be passed by both the House and the Senate. If it did, it would then go to the voters, likely on the 2006 ballot. But even Lundberg admits the prospects are “dim.”

Regardless, he feels it’s important that the people of Colorado be given the opportunity to weigh in on the issue.

Sen. Ed Jones, R-Colorado Springs, originally the Senate sponsor of the resolution, was absent from Thursday’s press conference because he and Lundberg disagree over some of the resolution’s language.

Rich, L. E. (2005, April 1). Marriage measure debated: Lundberg introduces latest version of marriage amendment. The Colorado Statesman, pp. 1–2, 6

Comments are closed.