Caution: Now entering a fact- and logic-free zone

I’ve heard some strange arguments against marriage equality, but the latest from Iowa Family Policy Center President Chuck Hurley is a doozy. Reacting to a new report on HIV and syphilis rates among gay and bisexual men, Hurley asserted,

“The Iowa Legislature outlawed smoking [in some public places] in an effort to improve health and reduce the medical costs that are often passed on to the state,” Hurley said. “The secondhand impacts of certain homosexual acts are arguably more destructive, and potentially more costly to society than smoking.” […]

“Iowa lawmakers need to pay attention to hard facts and not be persuaded by emotion laden half-truths,” he said. “Because of their unwillingness to correct the error of last April’s Iowa Supreme Court opinion, the Iowa Legislature is responsible for sanctioning activities that will lead to dramatically higher rates of HIV and syphilis in Iowa.”

Where to begin? Smoking increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and various respiratory ailments, causing an estimated 438,000 preventable deaths every year nationwide. In Iowa, smoking directly causes an estimated 4,400 deaths each year, and secondhand smoke claims another 440 lives. Smoking causes about $1 billion in health care costs every year in Iowa, of which about $301 million is covered by Medicaid.

AIDS is a serious health threat in the U.S., but not on the same scale as smoking. AIDS has caused fewer than 20,000 deaths nationwide per year in the past decade. The total number of AIDS deaths in this country since the epidemic began is estimated at just under 600,000. I was unable to find statistics showing how many Iowans have died of AIDS, but according to this report for the Iowa Department of Public Health, 114 Iowans were diagnosed with HIV in 2005, and 79 Iowans were diagnosed with AIDS the same year. The numbers may have increased somewhat since then, but AIDS is nowhere near as “destructive” and “costly” to Iowans as smoking. Iowa’s syphilis rate is far below the national average, and none of the states with the highest syphilis rates permit same-sex marriages. If Iowa legislators want to influence the syphilis rate, they should focus on providing adequate funding levels for STD testing and ensuring that young people have access to medically accurate sex education.

Hurley’s argument is not only fact-free, but also illogical on several levels. He seems to think that allowing same-gender couples to get married is going to encourage many more Iowans to experiment with gay sex. Do you know anyone who decided to become gay because they knew they’d be able to get married? Has homosexual activity diminished in New York and New Jersey since those states’ legislatures declined to legalize same-sex marriage? Did California’s Proposition 8 reduce the number of gays and lesbians having sex there?

If Hurley is worried about promiscuity and sexually-transmitted diseases, he should be happy to see gay couples settle down and get married.

Contrary to the strange fantasies of the Iowa Family Policy Center crowd, the Iowa Supreme Court didn’t make the sky fall last April. Fortunately, most Iowans understand that our state legislators have more important things to do than overturn same-sex marriage rights. They also sense that giving legal recognition to the relationships of committed same-sex couples does no harm to other people. More than 90 percent of respondents in a statewide poll conducted last September said gay marriage had caused “no real change” in their lives.

Hurley’s position on gay marriage is more coherent than, say, Terry Branstad’s, but it’s also more detached from reality. Maybe his latest comments aren’t the worst argument ever against gay marriage, but they are certainly a contender.

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World AIDS Day open thread

Today is the 20th World AIDS Day. President George W. Bush marked the occasion:

When the administration launched the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief in 2003, the goal was to support 2 million people with lifesaving anti-retroviral treatment in five years.

“I’m pleased to announce that we have exceeded that goal early,” said Bush, standing with first lady Laura Bush on the North Lawn of the White House, which was decorated with a giant red ribbon to mark the occasion. “The American people through PEPFAR are supporting lifesaving treatment for more than 2 million people around the world.”

Pregnant women who are HIV-positive should be aware that there are ways to reduce the risk of passing the virus on to your child.

Daily Kos user sfbob posted this reflection on having lived with AIDS for 28 years while losing more than 160 “friends, neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances” to the disease.

Daily Kos user rserven put up this thread where many people are sharing their AIDS stories.

The Iowa Department of Public Health’s HIV/AIDS program information is here.

The Iowa Center for AIDS Resources and Education (ICARE) has a website here:

 Who We Are

ICARE is a non-profit AIDS organization with staff and volunteers who provide comprehensive practical, emotional, and financial support to persons living with HIV/AIDS, their partners, families, friends and others concerned about HIV or AIDS in a safe, accepting and non-judgmental atmosphere.

What Is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is an infection that disables the human immune systems ability to fight infections and overcome illnesses. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

Our Mission

ICARE’s mission is to enrich the quality of life for persons living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Through the distribution of information and services, we aim to foster the self-empowerment necessary to live productively and positively in the face of HIV/AIDS.

Our Approach

ICARE offers a client-centered, holistic service approach that actively involves the client and family in the service delivery process. All services are free and confidential.

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McCain doesn't know whether condoms prevent the spread of AIDS

John McCain somehow manages to maintain an image as a moderate, even as he panders to the right wing of the Republican Party.

Watch him try to evade the question of whether using condoms can prevent the spread of AIDS:

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

  Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

  Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

  Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

  Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

  Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

  Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

  Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”

Make sure your Republican and independent friends know that McCain supports George Bush’s policies on contraception.

By the way, “Coburn” refers to Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, one of the most nutty and mean-spirited Republican members of Congress. Also, he’s not above citing junk science to back up his political views.

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