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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) in Kentucky.

Part 2: Circa 1995 to 2014:
A brief look at 25 years of arguments used by
conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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same-sex marriage logo An argument based on: "every child deserves a mother and a father" not 2 fathers or 2 mothers:

In 2004, we reported on this web site the results of scientific studies into the parenting skills of same-sex parents that had been made up to that date:

"Nobody knows, with accuracy, how children raised in families headed by same-sex parents fare in comparison with children who live in families led by opposite-sex couples.

  • Those opposed to same-sex marriage (SSM) often point to studies which show that children raised in families headed by a father and mother fare much better, both in childhood and later as adults. But further examination shows that most of these studies were not applicable, because they  compared families with opposite-sex parents to single-parent families, not with those headed by two same-sex parents. Of course, many -- perhaps most -- children in single-parent families will be disadvantaged because of poverty, and the lack of a second parent to give the children more care and attention than one parent is capable of providing.

  • Those who advocate same-sex marriage often point to studies which show that children raised in two-parent families do well, regardless of whether the parents are of the same sex or opposite sex. But most of these studies are deeply flawed because:
    • They involve self-selected subjects, and/or

    • They did not study families over a sufficiently long interval, and/or

    • They demonstrated bias on the part of the researchers."

To which we might add that the sample sizes involved in all or essentially all studies were small. Thus an accurate understanding of how well parents of the same sex raise children had been impossible to obtain.

Those who believe that children raised by a mother and father do best often quote the 2012 Regnerus study at the University of Texas. 4 Its title is: "The New Family Structures Study (NFSS)," and was based on sampling about 3,000 families. The authors concluded that same-sex parents were very inferior at raising children. This study has been quoted in many -- probably most -- of the 70 lawsuits related to same-sex marriage that have been filed in the 12 months since mid 2013 in over 30 states. However, the Regnerus study has been criticized because it is based on a sample size of only 2 children who were actually raised by same-sex parents for their entire childhood. 3 According to Zack Ford writing at Think Progress:

"... almost all of the rest were the product of 'failed heterosexual unions' who happened to have had a parent who at some point had a 'romantic relationship with someone of the same sex'." 6

Thus, no really meaningful information can be extracted from this study concerning the ability of same-sex parents to raise children. However, the study might be helpful to understand difficulties faced by children who had been raised by a mother and father and who experienced a breakup of their parents caused by one of their parents having had an affair with a member of the same sex.

According to the Regnerus Fallout web site

"The intention of Mark's research review was to slam the American Psychological Association’s [APA] position that same-sex parenting is not harmful to children and to take down 30 years of scientific research showing that having gay or lesbian parents does not predispose children for negative sociological outcomes. Marks blasted most of the 59 studies cited by the APA for involving small, convenience sampling (where subjects are selected by the researcher because they are close at hand or otherwise easy to access), -– among other criticisms. The problem with these studies, Marks argued, was that most of them were not large, random, or population-based. 3

The study has been repudiated by the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas -- Mark Regnerus'' employer. 2 It has also been "condemned by the American Sociological Association." 5

Fortunately, an apparently unbiased Australian study at the University of Melbourne in Australia was published in mid-2014. It involved a large and balanced sample of families. It compared 315 families led by same-sex parents with a similar number of families headed by opposite-sex parents. They showed that children raised by same-sex couples are slightly ''healthier and happier" than those raised in a family headed by a woman and a man. 5

Dr. Simon Crouch, the lead researcher, commented:

"... it seems that same-sex-parent families and the children in them are getting along well, and this has positive impacts on child health. ... Previous research has suggested that parenting roles and work roles, and home roles within same-sex parenting families are more equitably distributed when compared to heterosexual families. ... So what this means is that people take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into those gender stereotypes, which is mum staying home and looking after the kids and dad going out to earn money. What this leads to is a more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and wellbeing. ... Within these families, stigma is a problem and stigma is experienced in many ways within society. For these families it might be something as simple as a letter coming home from school addressed to Mr and Mrs, which wouldn't be appropriate for these families, but it can be more overt and damaging such as bullying in the playground. We also see a lot of negative rhetoric spoken about same-sex parent families and this has a negative impact on child health in this context." 8

Family Voice Australia is a non profit, conservative Christian advocacy organization. Although they believe that "Governments ... must treat all people equally and justly," they believe that "God established marriage as the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life." 9 Roslyn Phillips, a research officer at Family Voice Australia, casts doubt on the accuracy of the study. She said:

You've got to look beyond studies like these to what happens when the child reaches adulthood, and that's the only time with independent assessment you can really say what's gone on with the parenting and then ask them how they're going in all sorts of ways, I think that would be a more relevant study." 8

Hopefully, this study design will be replicated in the U.S. some day soon.

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An argument based on the belief that legalizing same-sex marriage will cause a precipitous drop in the birth rate:

During early 2014, outside attorneys hired by the State of Kentucky proposed a remarkable new argument against same-sex marriage during testimony in the federal Western Kentucky District Court. It asserts that where a state legalizes same-sex marriages, the birth rate takes a sudden plunge. This in turn endangers the economy of the state.

Outside lawyers hired by the Government of Kentucky noted that only "man-woman" couples can naturally procreate" and that the state has a legitimate interest in encouraging procreation in order to maintain stable birth rates which will lead to "long-term economic stability." In order to support their claims, the lawyers noted that the U.S. states with the highest birth rates all banned same-sex marriage whereas the states with the lowest birth rates all allowed same-sex marriage.

However, that finding is essentially meaningless, because there are massive economic, cultural, social, religious, educational, and other differences among the 50 states. For example, comparing Vermont with Mississippi: Vermont legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. Mississippi does not permit same-sex couples to marry. Vermont has a low birth rate of; Mississippi has a high birth rate. Thus there is a correlation between birth rate and the legalization of same-sex marriage. But correlation does not necessarily prove a cause and effect relationship. Consider also differences between the two states in: religiosity, educational attainment, average income, average age at first marriage, various cultural factors, etc. The difference in birth rate may well be caused by some combination of factors unrelated to same-sex marriage. It shows that the argument is not valid.

The only way in which a cause and effect relationship between the legalization of same-sex marriage in a state and a subsequent fall in the birth rate would be to study whether a states' birth rate increases, decreases or remains the same during the years after SSMs are legalized in comparison to birth rate changes over the same time interval nationally. Such a comparison is needed because birth rates are known to vary due to economic conditions. We have attempted such a study for a few states.

In his ruling in Love v. Beshear, Senior U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn II was not impressed with the state's main argument against allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Judge Heyburn wrote:

"The Court will begin with Defendant’s only asserted justification for Kentucky’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage: “encouraging, promoting, and supporting the formation of relationships that have the natural ability to procreate.” Perhaps recognizing that procreation- based arguments have not succeeded in this Court ... nor any other court post-Windsor, Defendant adds a disingenuous twist to the argument: traditional marriages contribute to a stable birth rate which, in turn, ensures the state’s long-term economic stability.

These arguments are not those of serious people. Though it seems almost unnecessary to explain, here are the reasons why. Even assuming the state has a legitimate interest in promoting procreation, the Court fails to see, and Defendant never explains, how the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage does not change the number of heterosexual couples who choose to get married, the number who choose to have children, or the number of children they have." 1

Judge Heyburn referred to a recent case: Bishop v. United States ex rel. Holder (962 F. Supp. 2d 1252, 1291 (N.D. Okla. 2014)

“Marriage is incentivized for naturally procreative couples to precisely the same extent regardless of whether same-sex couples (or other non-procreative couples) are included.”).

He continued:

"The Court finds no rational relation between the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the Commonwealth’s asserted interest in promoting naturally procreative marriages. ... The state’s attempts to connect the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage to its interest in economic stability and in 'ensuring humanity’s continued existence' are at best illogical and even bewildering. These arguments fail for the precise reasons that Defendant’s procreation argument fails. ... Numerous courts have repeatedly debunked all other reasons for enacting such laws. The Court can think of no other conceivable legitimate reason for Kentucky’s laws excluding same-sex couples from marriage." 1

Related essay: Opposition to SSM, based on the belief that marriage equality causes the birth rate to decrease, and threaten the states' economies

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Judge John G. Heyburn II, "Memorandum Opinion and Order," Federal District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, 2014-JUL-01, at: http://www.scribd.com/
  2. Zack Ford, "Mark Regnerus’ Own Sociology Department Calls His Anti-Gay Conclusions ‘Fundamentally Flawed',"Think Progress, 2014-MAR-04, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  3. ""The Regnerus Fallout," The Human Rights Campaign, at: http://www.regnerusfallout.org/
  4. Mark Regnerus, Abstract, "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study," Social Science Research, Vopl. 41, #4, 2012-JUL, Pages 752-770. Access to the full article costs U.S. $35.95!
  5. Judd Legum, Major New Study Finds Kids Raised By Same-Sex Couples Are "'Healthier And Happier''," Think Progress, 2014-JUL-05, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  6. Zack Ford, "Michigan Officials Will Defend Discrimination With Showcase Of Gay Parenting Pseudoscience," Think Progress, 2013-NOV-18, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  7. "Videos," The Regnerus Fallout," 2013-OCT-23, at: http://www.regnerusfallout.org/
  8. "Children raised by same-sex couples healthier and happier, research suggests," Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), 2015-JUL-05, at: http://www.abc.net.au/
  9. "About Us - Beliefs," Family Voice Australia, 2014, at: http://www.fava.org.au/

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How you may have arrived here:

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM sub-menu > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2014-JUL-10
Latest update: 2014-AUG-12
Author: B.A. Robinson
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