Last Wednesday, Spiders for Life held a display that consisted of several features that the group has become associated with in recent years – large displays, various brochures and flyers.
However, this time their event was not confined to their pro-life stance. A flyer entitled “The Best Future Starts with a Mom and Dad” was mixed in with their usual anti-abortion messages. This flyer has gained attention around campus for its shocking and at times insulting anti-same sex marriage arguments. Amongst these arguments is the usual slippery-slope claim that allowing same sex couples to marry on the basis that they love each other will “open the door to all other loving relationships” – a claim that we generally interpret as an allusion to common anti-gay arguments that equal rights would lead to the legalization of bestiality and polygamy. Some people take such arguments even further. For example, likely Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson claimed that “no group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [a pedophile advocacy group], be they people who believe in bestiality -- it doesn't matter what they are, they don't get to change the definition [of marriage]. We hope it is unnecessary to point out, but legalizing marriage between consenting adults obviously will not lead to the legalization of sexually assaulting animals or children (who cannot give consent).
A more disappointing argument in the flyer was that opposition to same-sex marriage could not be bigoted because 70% of African-Americans had voted against it in California in 2008. Apparently the creators of the flyer are under the impression that 1. Popular opinion defines peoples’ rights – if enough people oppose gay marriage it cannot be bigoted 2. That one election in California seven years ago is a legitimate basis for denying gay marriage and 3. That any stance that manages to get the support of one minority group cannot possibly be bigoted against a different minority group. For the record, a Gallup poll conducted in 2013 found that a majority of non-whites (the category was not broken down any more specifically) as well as the majority of whites supported same sex marriage.
Conversations with several members of Spiders for Life, including some of their leadership, seem to indicate that they did not know they were handing out a flyer that addressed same-sex marriage. However, they are still responsible for passing it out.
Not only is the flyer unfair and illogical, it was created in a way that was intentionally misleading. The flyer cites the National Health & Social Life Survey to estimate that less than three percent of men, and less than one and a half percent of women, are LGBT. Upon conducting basic fact-checking, we found that this study is from 1992. More recent studies are readily available online and give significantly higher estimates of the percentage of the population that is LGBT. It is difficult to imagine that this 23 year old survey was chosen by chance.
Given all of these logical and factual errors, Spiders for Life is not only at fault for not knowing what they were disseminating to fellow students, but also for not fact-checking their material. Given inaccuracies in previous flyers (including the repeatedly debunked claim that abortion is linked to mental health issues) this is not a onetime occurrence. We would encourage SFL not only to take responsibility for passing out materials that were not fact-checked, but also to correct their pattern of handing out misleading and disproven information.
While the University of Richmond Young Democrats fully respect and support Freedom of Speech, we also feel that the Spiders for Life organization should take responsibility for their actions. They have full freedom to pass out their anti-abortion literature, and yes, even anti-same sex marriage literature. However, they have a responsibility to our student body to do some basic fact-checking. In the ongoing quest to make information available to students so that they may make well-informed decisions and develop thoughtful opinions, we feel it extremely important that all information be accounted for and fact-checked. We also lament how hurtful this flyer has been to many students on campus. The fact that the flyer advocates unfair laws perpetuates a climate of discrimination that LGBT people have had to deal with throughout their lives. The University of Richmond Young Democrats strongly supports legal and social equality for members of the LGBT community.
In this instance, we felt it was most appropriate to focus on only this particular flyer due to the recent controversy. In the future we may address such a topic again if their organization continues to disseminate false information.
Contact Young Democrats president Billy Moncure at firstname.lastname@example.org