Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family declared March 3 that there is a “clear consensus” among anthropologists that “a family is a unit that draws from the two types of humanity, male and female.” Focus suggested that anthropologists are opposed to gay marriage, falsely stated that anthropologists agree that “traditional” marriage is best, and claimed that gay people are trying to change the definition of marriage “because they say the traditional definition is irrational and bigoted.”
After Box Turtle Bulletin contacted several anthropologists, the American Anthropological Association wrote directly to Focus to correct Focus’ false statements:
My name is Damon Dozier, and I am the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Director of Public Affairs. In this capacity, I am responsible for the Association’ full range of government relations, media relations, and international affairs programs. Founded in 1902, the AAA — 11,000 members strong — is the world’ largest organization of men and women interested in anthropology. Its purposes are to encourage research, promote the public understanding of anthropology, and foster the use of anthropological information in addressing human problems.
I write to address the gross misrepresentation of the position of the anthropological community on gay marriage in your March 3, 2008 Citizen Link press release, “Anthropologists Agree on Traditional Definition of Marriage.” In the release, Glenn Stanton, an employee of your organization who does not identify himself as an anthropologist, asserts that “a family is a unit that draws from the two types of humanity, male and female.”
In point of fact, the AAA Executive Board issued in 2004, the following statement in response to President Bush’ proposal for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage:
The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.
I am alarmed and dismayed at this example of irresponsible journalism and deliberate misrepresentation of the anthropological community. In the future it is my hope that your organization will accurately and honestly convey and communicate the views and interests of the AAA, its 11,000 members, and the social science community at large.
Director of Public Affairs
American Anthropological Association
2200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 600
Arlington, VA 22201
Box Turtle Bulletin has collected statements from three other anthropologists refuting Focus on the Family’s claims.