The majority of Americans think it best to keep civil marriage as the union of a man and a woman. But a handful of judges have overruled the reasonable judgments and will of the people and their elected representatives, claiming that animus and anti-gay bigotry underlie such conclusions.
For example, Judge Joseph Tauro, a federal district court judge in Boston, when he ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, explained that “Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification the Constitution clearly will not permit.”
In striking down traditional marriage laws, courts frequently appeal to the authority of social science. Consider the opinion of Judge Vaughn Walker. In the case that overturned California’s state marriage amendment Proposition 8, he included as a “finding of fact” that “children raised by gay or lesbian parents are as likely as children raised by heterosexual parents to be healthy, successful and well-adjusted. The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology.”
Only it isn’t accepted. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. The jury is still out. That’s the message of two new peer-reviewed articles out last week in the academic journal Social Science Research. While much attention has focused on Mark Regnerus’s New Family Structures Study (NFSS), it is important not to overlook the work of Loren Marks. Marks reviewed all 59 studies that the American Psychological Association relied on when it issued a brief in 2005 embracing the conclusion that there are “no differences” in outcomes for children from same-sex parenting and traditional moms and dads. Here’s Marks’s conclusion:
Not one of the 59 studies referenced…compares a large, random, representative sample of lesbian or gay parents and their children with a large, random, representative sample of married parents and their children. The available data, which are drawn primarily from small convenience samples, are insufficient to support a strong generalizable claim either way.
So much for a conclusion “accepted beyond serious debate.”
The Regnerus study—a large, random, and representative sample of various family structures, including parents who had gay or lesbian relationships—also challenges the conventional wisdom. Ana Samuel explains his conclusion:
Taken together, the findings of the NFSS disprove the claim that there are no differences between children raised by parents who have same-sex relationships and children raised in intact, biological, married families when it comes to the social, emotional, and relational outcomes of their children.… The “no differences” claim is therefore unsound and ought to be replaced by an acknowledgement of difference.
As DOMA and Prop 8 head to the Supreme Court next term, Matt Franck sees these studies as supporting the reasonable judgments of citizens and their representatives who have voted to retain the historic definition of marriage:
For the plainly rational basis of traditional marriage laws is strongly supported by the studies of Professors Marks and Regnerus. As the Perry case on Prop 8, and related litigation on the Defense of Marriage Act, reach the Supreme Court, the counsels of good social science can be added to the standard norms of constitutionalism to counsel against the willful judicial invention of a right to same-sex marriage.
The studies published last week are further evidence that Americans have come to the conclusion that marriage is a union of man and woman with good reason. And they provide one more reason for the Supreme Court to uphold judgments about marriage that have been expressed by the American people through the political process.