Friday, May 27, 2005


May 17 was a milestone: the one-year anniversary of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. The media marked the occasion by spotlighting some of the 6,000 gay and lesbian couples who got married here during the past 12 months, and if there was a common theme that ran through all the interviews and profiles, it was the joy of the newlyweds. Hundreds of same-sex couples converged on Boston Common to celebrate the anniversary on Tuesday, and in the large group photo that appeared in The Boston Globe the next morning, virtually every face is wreathed in smiles. If I were a supporter of same-sex marriage, I would congratulate the delighted couples on their anniversary and wish them continued happiness.

But I am an opponent of same-sex marriage. That being the case, my message to the couples is: Congratulations on your anniversary, and may you enjoy continued happiness. I mention my sincere good wishes only because so many supporters of same-sex marriage think that anyone who disagrees with them must be an ignorant bigot. Time and again, I have been told that my views on marriage are morally equivalent to the views of a segregationist on race, or a Nazi on Jews. It is remarkable: Express the conviction that marriage should mean what it has always meant -- the union of male and female -- and you are likely to be told that you are peddling hate.

Of all the motifs that get played and replayed in the marriage debate, this one is the worst. For two reasons: First, because it is untrue. Marriage was not created to hurt homosexuals or enshrine bigotry in law. It did not become a universal human institution as an expression of animus. The core of marriage has always and everywhere been the pairing of a man and a woman because no other arrangement can do what marriage does: produce the next generation, bind men to the women who bear their children, and give boys and girls the mothers and fathers they need.

The second reason that the ''only-a-hater-could-oppose-gay-marriage" meme is so objectionable is its destructiveness. It breeds resentment between parties who should be seeking common ground. It causes pain to gays and lesbians by encouraging them to believe that they are hated by most of their fellow citizens. And it promotes the poisonous idea that those who defend the traditional definition of marriage are moral cripples.

If the price of opposing unisex marriage is to be labeled a homophobe, many opponents will keep their opinions to themselves. The New York Times reported a few years ago on three scholars -- ''respected Protestant theologians well known for their work on religion and ethics" -- who had been asked to take part in a TV program on same-sex unions and the church. These were not hardliners -- one of the scholars, for instance, endorsed civil unions -- but they shared the belief that Christian clergy should not bless homosexual marriage. All three refused to go on the air, afraid of being ''pegged as antigay and anti-compassion." They wouldn't let the Times identify them by name; one worried openly about his family, which he said had ''felt the heat" for his previous statements.

Yes -- if your goal is to silence an opponent, playing the hate card can be an effective tactic. But it is illiberal and crude, unworthy of people who style themselves ''progressive."

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The gender of your children may depend on your choice of job, say researchers. While those who opt for caring careers such as nursing or teaching are more likely to have girls, people who go into a profession such as accountancy or engineering stand a far greater chance of having boys. The theory, outlined in a report by the London School of Economics, may help couples predict whether they are fated to have only girls - or boys. The study may also reinforce some stereotypes of the sexual division of jobs. The researchers came up with their conclusions after studying the careers and families of 3,000 people from various professions.

The report, published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, links maleness to "systemising" jobs such as engineering which require precise and detached judgment. Femininity, by contrast, is more linked in the study to work that requires "empathising" and human understanding. Satoshi Kanazawa, the LSE academic who led the research, explained last week that in the general population, roughly 105 boys are produced for every 100 girls. But according to his calculations, among engineers and other "systemisers", the ratio is 140 boys for every 100 girls, and nurses have 135 daughters for every 100 sons.

Kanazawa said that a physicist and a mathematician would be the most likely pairing to produce a boy, while it would be worth betting that a therapist and a chat-show host would have a girl. The study lists insurance executives, architects and management consultants as being among systemising occupations, while empathising jobs include dieticians, careers advisers and those who work with children. Kanazawa, along with other experts, is unsure exactly why the effect should occur.

John Manning, a specialist in evolutionary psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, said the findings could be due to the effect of testosterone in the womb. Manning said: "High testosterone levels before conception cause a slight excess of sons, but we don't know why." There was evidence that children of systemiser parents encountered more testosterone in the womb than the children of empathiser parents, and were thus more likely to be male. A study published in 2002 by the University of Auckland, found that assertive women had a higher chance of having a son because of their testosterone levels - indicated by long ring fingers. Meanwhile, Copenhagen researchers have found that smokers are more likely to have girls than boys. ....

Among the famous who appear to fit the thesis as empathisers are Bob Geldof, the Live Aid organiser, who has three girls and no sons, and Bruce Willis, the actor, who also has three daughters.

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