Shorter George Will on gay marriage: I have no evidence, so I win!

I used to like George Will, before he went crazy.  Then again, I used to be a Republican before they went crazy.  People change.  But I still got annoyed when I read George Will’s absurd commentary this week in opposition to same-sex marriage.

Will, who is on his second marriage, made two “scientific” points as to why gay marriage is a bad thing.

1. Will argued that the fact that he has no social science to back up his distate for letting gay people have as many ruined marriages as he’s had, is actually proof that gays shouldn’t be permitted to marry; and

2. That if there is any social science showing that gay marriage won’t be the ruin of hetero marriages anyway, the court should ignore it because social science was co-opted by the gays years ago.

Honestly, I read the piece, and the arguments were so absurd, I thought I was reading something written by a religious right ghost writer, it was so nonsensical, even for George Will.

Let’s walk through Will’s arguments, one by one.

1. “I have no evidence, that means I win.”

Will argues that the very lack of social science showing gay marriage to be a bad thing is proof that it just might be a bad thing.

When a federal judge asked the lawyer defending California’s ban what harm same-sex marriage would do to the state’s interests in “the procreation purpose” of heterosexual marriage, the lawyer said, “I don’t know.” This was mistakenly portrayed as a damaging admission. Both sides should acknowledge that, so far, no one can know.

George Will is asking us to prove a negative.  It’s a cute logical fallacy that people who have no argument like to make when they’re desperate.  For example, “I have no proof that you’re a pedophile, but can you prove that you never in your entire life raped a child?”  See how it works?  My lack of proof ends up being proof of the very thing I assert with no proof!  Presto, instant bigotry!

Gay marriage via Shutterstock

Gay marriage via Shutterstock

Will is admitting that there’s no proof of gay marriage causing any harm to either kids or heterosexual marriages, but he’s arguing that the onus is on us to show overwhelming proof that we won’t cause a harm that he can neither document nor explain.  If we’re going to discriminate, shouldn’t the onus be on bigots to prove that there’s a need?

Let’s face it, the anti-gay bigot argument against same-sex marriage is more than a bit odd.  If gay people marry somehow that will make George Will leave wife #2 and shack up with wife #3, or worse, lose interest in women all together and start chasing after Dick Cheney.

If George Will and religious right bigots are going to make the case that gay marriage will in essence turn George Will into a big homo, then he should at least be required to explain the mechanism by which straight people will magically turn gay, since on its face the charge is absurd.

2. Will’s second argument in his commentary is a setup to preclude the possibility of the appearance of any studies he missed that actually show gay marriage not to be a problem.  Will argues that social science has become so corrupted by “liberals” that you just can’t trust their studies any more.

Since Moynihan wrote the above in 1979, the politicization of the social sciences has become even more pronounced, particularly in matters of “lifestyle liberalism.” Hence the need for judicial wariness about social science that purports to prove propositions — e.g., that same-sex marriage is, or is not, harmful to children or society — for which therecannot yet be decisive evidence.

Bra-vo.  First Will says that the fact that he doesn’t have any studies supporting his bigotry, is proof that we don’t have any evidence to disprove what he can’t prove in the first place.  Then he says that there never can be enough evidence, because all the nonexistent evidence is, and forever shall be, tainted.

Cute.

What’s really going on here is that religious bigots have been somewhat freaked, since the Prop 8 trial back in California exposed their glaring lack of any science backing up their bizarre “gay marriage will make George Will and Newt Gingrich leave their wives” argument.  So the best they can do, when they don’t have any evidence backing up their bigotry, is try to make that utter”lack of evidence” evidence in and of itself.

Good luck with that in court.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Perceiver

    Uhh…First of all, Will doesn’t believe that “gays shouldn’t be permitted to marry”, he believes that from a legal perspective it is a state’s rights issue. Now on the social question; you don’t seem to understand how science works. Applied science does not work by applying anything that there is no evidence against, it works by applying what there is evidence FOR. If you are going to radically alter the status quo, then YOU need evidence that doing so will not have harmful effects. By analogy, on the eve of the introduction of Nuclear power, it was the obligation of nuclear scientists to do their research and to assure the public through various safety precautions that the technology as introduced WOULD NOT have harmful effects.

    Sorry kid, but in attempting to refute Will you’re over your head.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    He gives me the willies.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Yep, bow ties are man ruffles.

  • dcinsider

    Tell George Will that traditionally we locked up people with Down’s syndrome in institutions. Since that is tradition, and there is no science to support integrating these people into socitey, that his child with Down’s should be re institutionalized. After all, the shaky science that supports integration of Down’s children should be ignored, and the courts need to re-order these folks back into institutions.

    This logic works both ways.

  • Badgerite

    His last paragraph is absolute gibberish. ” If California’s law is judged by legal reasoning, rather than social science ostensibly proving that the state has no compelling interest served by banning same-sex marriage, the law may still be overturned on equal protection grounds.” It is not the plaintiff’s burden to show some kind of social science studies that ‘prove’ anything. The state, which proposes a law which differentiates treatment between similarly situated people ( those wanting to marry) has the burden and must show a good reason (compelling state interest) that justifies discriminatory treatment. All the plaintiffs have to show is discriminatory treatment and raise their hands up and ask why. The burden is on the state to say why. And if they can’t. They can’t. They seemed to have dropped the ‘slippery slope’ argument because it is, you know, ridiculous. There could be a harm we don’t yet know about and cannot therefore even articulate, let alone prove is not my idea of a ‘compelling state interest’. That is what I would call a real slippery slope. Is this the standard he thinks should be applied in all equal protection cases? There might be a harm. We don’t know what it is. But we have decided that it is alright to deny to you a basic right of life that we do not deny to others because there might be some harm, somewhere, to someone that we can’t quite perceive yet. Uh huh! Well, when those opposing gay marriage rights actually perceive a harm to anyone that they have some evidence or even just common sense reasoning to support, you let everyone know and then, and only then, can a law be passed that discriminates against similarly situated people. This is our covenant with each other. We call it the Constitution.

  • hyhybt

    That Hillary’s saying she’s in favor of gay marriage means she’s going to run for president, as the post above mine claims.

  • EdA

    A. Inexplicably to me as a layperson is the fact that very rarely do people seem to refer to the 9th Amendment, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” which makes it explicit that the rights laid out in the Bill of Rights are the MINIMUM rights we are entitled to and most certainly not the maximum ones as certain sociopaths on the Supreme Court masquerading as “conservatives” try to claim.

    B. George Will is neither stupid nor ignorant. Since he acknowledges that there is no credible social science evidence that supports legitimate opposition to marriage equality, one would have hoped (if not expected) that minimum intellectual honesty, some of which he did have in the last century, would have prompted him at worst to have written nothing.

  • Ninong

    For some reason, I immediately thought of John McCain and Newt Gingrich.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I’m not interested in putting my marriage up as a decades long scientific experiment. All my wife and I want it justice, due process, and equal protection under the law before one of us dies.

  • lynchie

    What logic is that?

  • hyhybt

    By that logic, Bill must be going to run again too, and he’s not even eligible.

  • hyhybt

    “We lost” does not mean “I’m glad we lost” or “the side that won is in the right.”

  • hyhybt

    Having marriages that might or might not expire would surely make things worse.

  • hyhybt

    Prohibition wasn’t overturned by the courts, but by constitutional amendment, the same way it was enacted. Legal arguments can’t strike down a provision of the US Constitution because it itself is the highest enforceable law of the land. It was repealed because it became obvious that the actual effect of the ban was to create worse problems.

    (One thing I haven’t quite got down is why Prohibition was *enacted* by amendment rather than by law. I don’t see anywhere in the Constitution as originally written that says it must remain legal to produce alcohol for drinking.)

  • hyhybt

    I’m not sure how you intended your post… but you’re using different measures of how long an election takes. We elect our presidents in *one* day; if you include primaries, any one location spends two days on it, the same time it took to elect the Pope.

    The two years is how long the campaigns last, and surely those interested in becoming Pope work the Catholic Church’s internal politics for many years to put themselves in a good position to be considered.

  • hyhybt

    Other than the off-putting overuse of the word “bigot,” this description is exactly right.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Which one, he’s got several.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    He went through lisp therapy with Bill Buckley.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    George Wills is the shrill mother-in-law or nanny gone bad that is enough to break up any marriage gay of straight.

  • DRoseDARs

    So “Heads, I win. Tails, you fag.” eh, George? How about you go choke on your comb-over.

  • markpat

    Am I crazy? Didn’t George Will around 2 years ago write a piece telling conservatives that the Gay Marriage Debate was over and they had lost???

  • http://www.facebook.com/eve.condon Eve Wartenberg Condon

    Massachusetts has had gay marriage for almost ten years and the sky hasn’t fallen. I lived in Massachusetts for five of those years and my parents have lived there for twelve, so I’ve been able to observe for any adverse societal affects. There haven’t been any. Let it go.

  • http://twitter.com/DanielReasor Daniel Reasor

    That he’s a dead ringer for my dear, departed paternal grandmother makes the mental picture of Wills with another man all the more uncomfortable for me.

  • Roy T.

    Just when did you “used to be a Republican” John? Under Nixon? Reagan? Just when did you find their coddle the rich, soak the poor, bloat the Pentagon, support the racists platform to your liking? You say it was before they went crazy, but best I can tell that was under Eisenhower. Just how old are you?

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Straws. Grasping. The anti-gay bigots are running out of options.

    As I said here the other day, the religious and ‘tradition’ arguments don’t hold water — and aren’t supposed to in our legal system. Legally they’ve been on shaky ground all along, given the obvious violations of equal protection and freedom of association, as well as plenty of jurisprudence saying that the right to civil marriage is fundamental. And what little science they try to use to justify opposing marriage equality rights invariably prove the opposite — that it’s good for society, for families, and for children if gay and lesbian couples are afforded the same protections available to heterosexual couples.

    So what George WIll is doing here comes as no surprise, given his decades-long animus towards gay people. He’s attempting simultaneously to claim there’s no water in the well AND to chuck some poison in it just in case there is.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yikes! I didnt’ realize that. In the future, if you see something like that, please email me. I do check the comments, but less often than I check my email – thanks for pointing that out, just corrected it!

  • Ninong

    The supporters of same-sex marriage don’t need to invoke “spurious social science” because the United States District Court overturned Proposition 8 on the grounds that it violated both the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the United States Constitution.

    It’s the supporters of Proposition 8 that tried to use spurious social science to support their arguments that same-sex marriage will destroy civilization as we know it. Their expert witness testimony was laughable. So much so that it made it that much easier for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm Judge Walker’s ruling.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Interesting, but my gut still tells me that he’s arguing this in order to undercut social science since he thinks social science might win the day next week, and pure constitutional arguments, as he calls them, won’t, thus he prefers the latter. He’s just trolling on behalf of the bigots. As for his false distinction between social science and constitutional arguments, the constitutional arguments are based on whether the state has a legitimate interest in banning gay marriage. And that legitimate interest is based on the the science, among other things. So you can’t separate the two. And in fact, I think George Will knows that. He knows the science is what underlies the determination of whether the state interest is legitimate or not, that’s why he’s arguing there’s not enough science, and in the alternative, if there is enough science, the science is bogus because it’s all PC pro-gay.

  • mirror

    “If gay marriage were legal, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from looking for the love of my life.” It’d be funny if it weren’t so depressing.

  • mirror

    Actually, it is the bigots who have been arguing social science all this time, poorly supported or supported only by social consensus now passed. George Will is now wanting to pretend that the refutations of their poorly supported or foundationless social science arguments using better supported social science is a new novel technique.

  • ldfrmc

    Agree. His big mistake is all the convolution of words and historical footnotes that end up obscuring his own ideas, his own thoughts. Better legal arguments on constitutional principles than arguing small points about “social science” evidence – that seldom points in one direction for long.

    Social science “proof” of things related to marriage can lead down a road to a demand for “scientific” proof for sexuality – gay or straight. I don’t think the attorneys against Prop 8 and DOMA are taking that “bait.”

  • Jonathan_Justice

    My introduction to George Will’s work was the back page opinion piece in Newsweek where he endorsed Anita Bryant’s attack on the rights Miami-Dade County had extended to lesbian and gay people there in 1977. His animus towards gay people is hardly new. Neither is his tendency to go with the blither. The causes of this stuff may still be hidden away some place, but the results have been stinking up the place for way too many decades.

  • Trust

    There is no reason to act based on speculation. Opponents of same-sex marriage must identify the specific problems that they imagine would arise with legalization (e.g. economic costs, child development tragedies, increased crime, measurable reductions in overall national security). It would then be possible to grant a provisional right to same-se marriage that expires after 20 years. At that time, If there is objective evidence of the predicted “dire” consequences , all same-sex marriages would be terminated. Unfortunately, given the “soft” nature of social science, opponents might complain that the results are still inconclusive. The best solution would be to set up a series of randomized controls. While most states would allow marriage for all, 4 (randomly selected) states would convert all marriages to civil unions (with no access to federal marriage benefits), 4 states would maintain the status quo, 4 states would invalidate and ban heterosexual marriage, and 4 states would allow marriage for everyone but members of the clergy.

  • Ninong

    George Will was right about one thing. Donald Trump really is a “bloviating ignoramus.” So much so that I believe he should be in a new species: Homo ignoramus microphallus.

  • nicho

    Well, the College of Cardinals elected a pope in two days, while it takes Americans two years or so to elect a president. It just goes to show you how efficient the process can be if you don’t let women participate.

  • lynchie

    Hillary Clinton came out this morning and supported Gay Marriage. Where has she been for the past 10 or more years. She must be getting to run for President. Everyone in the gay community will get requests for funding and will be told “see how liberal she is” then like Obama go on to issues her corporate masters feel are important.

  • douglas01

    George Will has become a blooming idiot.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Here’s the link to Will’s original piece.

  • http://www.facebook.com/monoceros.forth Monoceros Forth

    And he’s so erudite on the subject of baseball!

  • nicho

    This is the idiot who wrote in 1995, when Ginrich and his Klan took over the Congress, that the GOP should “put all the money for AIDS and Public Radio into the same pot and then sit back and laugh while the liberals fight oer it.”

    I would like to meet him just once – so I could spit right into his pasty, smug face.

  • Houndentenor

    Typical of someone trumpeting “family values”, no?

  • Gordon

    The only way gay marriage could threaten straight marriage is if, as Will seems to be admitting, most people are gay and only procreate because they’re forced to by societal stricture. Which seems pretty absurd to me, unless Mr. Will is finally admitting something. Otherwise, I would expect straight people will continue to get married, and gay people will get married. Would you really want to force a gay person into a straight marriage where they have to live a lie for the rest of their lives? Would you want your spouse to live a lie in your marriage? I wouldn’t. I would want that person to be honest and have every chance at happiness. To suggest otherwise is simply inhumane.

  • Houndentenor

    What the hell happened to George Will. Yes, he was always a sourpuss, but he was also a voice of reason among what passes for conservatives in our country up until the W administration. That’s when he went berserk and it happened almost immediately. The Republicans had control of everything by 2003 and he was crankier than ever. And it’s sad because the political line I quote most often is his: “So long as there are math tests there will be prayer in the public schools.” I love that because no one can prevent you from attempting to create with whatever being you believe in any time you want. They can just prevent you from making a big spectacle of it and forcing others to participate. But that George Will is gone and has been replaced by someone who has to make increasingly absurd rationalizations to convince himself (certainly this nonsense isn’t supposed to convince anyone else) that the Republicans haven’t gone off the cliff.

    This latest example is complete nonsense. What straight people are going to up and turn gay because gay people can now get married. Do people only get married because society demands it? And if so, wouldn’t that explain the high divorce rate? Maybe straight people should start working on their own marriages and stop blaming their failed relationships on gay people. Pathetic, George. Not exactly a new low. You hit bottom over 10 years ago. Just one more example of why you aren’t worth paying attention to and haven’t been for a long time.

  • Hue-Man

    So the equivalent argument at the beginning of the last century would have been: We can’t allow women to vote because we don’t have any research on the bad things that happen when women vote. But even if we had research on women voting, it would be tainted because it would be done by researchers who are in favor of women voting. Besides, if we let women vote, men might stop voting.

    Conservative fundamentals: Facts have a liberal bias and America is exceptionally exceptional so you can’t research what has happened in countries that have allowed women to vote. A number of countries have had marriage equality for more than a decade; does George Will require a century of experience of marriage equality but only if it’s in the USA? Catch-22.

    BTW, I’ve always assumed men who wore bow-ties – other than with their tux at formal events – were gay wannabes.

  • perljammer

    John, the link in your first paragraph to “George Will’s absurd commentary” actually links to a 3 year-old Americablog article that does not refer to George Will at all. Is that a mistake? It would be interesting to read Will’s piece to get the full context of what got you so annoyed.

  • Quilla

    George who?

  • rerutled

    But he has such crisp diction and brahmin accent! And the use of several adjectives!

  • GoBlue

    I used to grudgingly concede that Will is an excellent wordsmith, even if I agreed with almost nothing he wrote. Then I learned that he left his first wife, the mother of his Downs syndrome son, for a younger woman. Now IMO he has no redeeming features.

  • RobertInSF

    I just finished reading his commentary, and I think that his point may be poorly written and, in the bigger picture, different than you have interpreted…

    2 statements in his commentary make me believe he is stating that he thinks that using social sciences to bolster a claim to ensure marriage equality is dangerous to the foundation and stability of legal recognition:

    “…arguments about whether California’s ban on same-sex marriages violates the constitutional right to “equal protection of the laws,” these arguments will invoke the **intersection of law and social science**. The court should tread cautiously, if at all, on **this** dark and bloody ground.”

    “The brief is a pre-emptive refutation of **inappropriate invocations of
    spurious social science** by supporters of same-sex marriage.”

    “If California’s law is judged by legal reasoning, rather than by social
    science ostensibly proving that the state has no compelling interest
    served by banning same-sex marriage, the law may still be overturned on
    equal protection grounds. But **such a victory for gay rights, grounded on
    constitutional values**, and hence cast in the vocabulary of natural
    rights philosophy, would at least **be more stable** than one resting
    uneasily on the shiftable sand of premature social science conclusions.”

    I think what he is saying, perhaps, is that the social sciences, as prone as they are to shifts in culture are not sufficient to base an argument for marriage equality…and that any argument for it should be based on purely constitutional grounds…so as to be much more defensible in the future.

    My first thought was that the closest parallel to this situation is prohibition, which was removed, but I don’t know the background on the reasons. Was it social sciences, later “overturned” by legal arguments.

    George Will doesn’t propose any arguments from social science in his commentary, as I don’t think he is claiming any…he is stating that basing the challenge on any claims at all about social sciences is the wrong tack.

    Just my two cents.

  • stldem

    George Will is a pseudo intellectual. As he ages, it is gets harder for him to cover up that fact.

  • unclemike

    John, your link goes to an article from 2010…

  • olandp

    I haven’t listened to anything George Will has said since he proclaimed that we didn’t know what the lessons were from the Great Depression. If this is the intellectual core of the Republican Party, they are completely hollow and empty.

  • caphillprof

    If he weren’t so helpful to the corporations, Will would lose his job.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/SI-Reasoning/1031151295 SI Reasoning

    Whenever I hear someone proclaim that if gay marriage were legal then it will destroy marriage, I always assume that they are speaking for themselves.

  • rondonaghe

    This is a great counter argument to George Will’s recent piece.

  • Indigo

    If ever there was a right wing closet queen who can’t find the way out of the closet, it’s likely to be George Wills.

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