On today's episode of Radio Times we were treated to a rare gift, an honest right-winger debating an articulate liberal. State Senator John Eichelberger was kind enough to be honest about his bigotry, and Daylin Leach was kind enough to meticulously eviscerate him.
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I will give my notes on the debate itself (listen to it! It is beautiful) before giving my own thoughts.
Near the beginning Eichelberger argues that marriage must be preserved because there are “tens of thousands of studies” showing that the second the one man one woman dynamic is the best model, and that the second you tinker with it children suffer. He then proceeds to cite the liberalization of divorce laws as proof positive of this point (how he makes this connection I do not know). Senator Leach responds that “there aren't that many studies” and that he has “every study done on same sex marriage” in front of him. He adds that none of them say what Eichelberger claims they say and offers to read them. Eichelberger declines to have them read. Later in the interview, Leach goes on to say that “actually some of them show that children in same sex relationships are often better adjusted than their peers whose parents have divorced and remarried”
At the 29th Minute Eichelberger gets asked what benefit to society he would accept as proof that same sex couples after stuttering and groping around for 5 or 10 seconds, he says that LGBT couples would have to show that they could set a “good example for society” which he has previously said that they could not do by definition. Leach asks “what do you think is a better example to society. A monogamous relationship, or a bachelor society.” Eichelberger wants to “relegate them to living a bachelor lifestyle”. Earlier Leach hit him hard on his 'support' for marriage.
Eichelberger says that he has “scientifically shown” standards, and that there are studies which show 1 man 1 woman is the best model. Leach hits him hard “you repeatedly cite studies. You don't give their names because they don't exist. I have researched this.” Then Leach says that “there are health and child rearing benefits . . . you say that there are none. These are benefits.”
Leach then discusses that “marriage is marriage because it is marriage” is the argument Eichelberger is making. He says “that's like saying abortion is legal because it is legal; it is a tautology, but it is not an argument”. Obviously this must have peeved the 'values conservative' Eichelberger who is pro-life. It must really suck to be a right-winger and have that thrown at you, even if you do deserve it. They then go to a commercial. After they return a call is taken from Jim from Allentown. Jim says that there is a “misunderstanding” because “heterosexuals [means homosexuals] are trying to say that their marriage is the same as ours”. He then says that “for gay people to say that their marriage is the same as ours . . . It's just not true.”
Leach responds by saying “this isn't an argument, it is a statement of personal discomfort. . . Those same arguments were made against interracial marriage years ago. Those are not arguments. There is nothing behind that. I'm against it because I'm against it is not a reason.”
The next caller is Matt from South Philadelphia who asks why marriage is a privilege for anybody at all. He says that everyone who can't benefit society can get married (ie, felons) while gay people cannot. Eichelberger says that “it's not discriminatory, that's why” before railing against the “activist court system”. He says that Daylin Leach is offensive to “black leaders” and that “five ten years from now it'll be polygamy and marrying younger and younger or whatever. You need to bar the door.” Leach finishes him off. He says that perhaps Eichelberger thinks that the court that decided Loving v. Virginia was an “activist court” too. Something which Eichelberger gets upset about.
Eichelberger then tries to conflate polygamy with pedophilia as a response to Leach. He fails. Leach says Eichelberger's argument is “a red herring and irrelevent”.
The next caller says that people are leaving because of the laws. Young gay educated people are leaving she says. She says that we need a good tax base because of brain drain. Leach agrees and says that there are definite benefits. He has stats, 100 million/year Mass gets extra, and each State Sen. district has at least 9,000 people in it.
The host then cites the APA study which says that there is no scientific evidence for the claim that Eichelberger is making. Eichelberger says he could show 10 studies that say it. Daylin Leach says “can you name one of them today?”, and Eichelberger again declines to name one (because they do not exist!). Eichelberger says that we would “encourage that” Leach says “what are we encouraging”and Eichelberger can't answer. Leach says that sexual identity is “fundamental to who you are”. Eichelberger then says that it is a lifestyle orientation and Daylin Leach asks him when he made the pro-con choice to be straight. He says that it wasn't his thought process. Eichelberger says that there is no evidence of Leach's point, Leach responds back with a nice challenge to “ask yourself if you made the choice”.
Then a caller named Tom from Glenside says that “people don't choose to have cancer” and that “marriage is for procreation”. Daylin Leach brings up the elderly and infertile people and says that “it is ironic to me that the caller would celebrate the marriage to people who can't have children but wouldn't celebrate the marriage of two gay people”. The caller says that gay people can't have children. Daylin Leach says that 37% of Households don't live under the caller's model and the Eichelberger says that we shouldn't reward gay people. Leach says that “equality will come” and that when we talked about giving it to every other group it was tough, but it eventually came.
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I thought that Leach did an excellent job, and it was especially gratifying to see him call out Eichelberger each time he said something dubious or cited a study that did not exist. The reality in Pennsylvania is that Leach's bill doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of going anywhere, but if he keeps fighting on this we might just be able to wear resistance in the state down. It won't be easy, but I think that Leach has put together a rather potent set of talking points. While the National Democrats might be giving us the finger, it is important to remember that there are some on the state level who deserve our support.
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