Status of sudies on same-sex marriage (SSM) as of 2004:
Nobody knew, 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 are not applicable here, because they compare
families with opposite-sex parents to single-parent families, not with those headed by
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 can provide.
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 do not study families over a sufficiently long interval, and/or
They demonstrate bias on the part of the researchers.
In 2003, according to Dr. Anne-Marie Ambert, of The Vanier
Institute of the Family in Ottawa, Canada: "...there are no large-scale
studies of the life of..." same-sex couples with children. 1 Although there are many such couples who have lived in a
committed relationship for many decades, it is only recently that researchers
have begun to study them. She commented that her paper: "...utilizes
research material from 1990 on because the social conditions affecting lesbigay
families evolved considerably after 1990; thus, studies from the 1970s and 1980s
may not be quite as relevant as more recent ones."
1996: Evaluation of same-sex parenting by a Hawaiian
SSM was evaluated by the Circuit Court of
Hawaii. The court had been asked by the Hawaii Supreme Court to determine
if the state had a compelling interest in banning
same-sex marriages. All of the expert witnesses, both for the plaintiffs and the defense said that
and lesbian couples are as fit as parents and as loving as opposite sex couples.
In 1997, Judge Kevin Chang of the Circuit Court ruled that the state had no such
compelling interest. He determined that:
There certainly is a benefit to children which comes from being raised by
their mother and father in an intact and relatively stress-free home. However,
there is a diversity in the structure and configuration of families" today, including single
parents, divorced parents, stepparents, adoptive parents and gay and lesbian parents. "The
evidence presented by [the] plaintiffs and defendant establishes that the single most
important factor in the development of a happy, healthy and well-adjusted child is the
nurturing relationship between parent and child."
He ruled that:
The State did not prove its major contention that, all things being
equal, a child is best raised by his/her biological parents or a married man
The state did not prove that same-sex marriages would adversely affect
the development of their children.
The most important factor for child development is the nurturing
relationship between a parent and a child.
Sexual orientation of parents is not an indication of parental fitness.
Gays and lesbians, as well as opposite sex couples, can be fit and
loving parents. 2
Year 2003: Evaluation of same-sex parenting by a
About a decade later, not much had changed. No longitudinal, reliable study
of same-sex parents had yet been published. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its ruling Goodridge vs.
Department of Public Health. This is the decision that legalized same-sex
marriage in the state. Both the plaintiffs and defendants cited studies of
same-sex parenting. However, there were still no reliable definitive,
studies to determine whether children in families led by same-sex couples
fare any better or worse than children in families led by opposite-sex couples.
Justice Sosman disagreed with the legalization of SSM. She
wrote, in part:
"Based on our own philosophy of child rearing, and
on our observations of the children being raised by same-sex couples to whom
we are personally close, we may be of the view that what matters to children
is not the gender, or sexual orientation, or even the number of the adults
who raise them, but rather whether those adults provide the children with a
nurturing, stable, safe, consistent, and supportive environment in which to
mature. Same-sex couples can provide their children with the requisite
nurturing, stable, safe, consistent, and supportive environment in which to
mature, just as opposite-sex couples do."
"Conspicuously absent from the court's opinion
today is any acknowledgment that the attempts at scientific study of the
ramifications of raising children in same-sex couple households are
themselves in their infancy and have so far produced inconclusive and
conflicting results. Notwithstanding our belief that gender and sexual
orientation of parents should not matter to the success of the child rearing
venture, studies to date reveal that there are still some observable
differences between children raised by opposite-sex couples and children
raised by same-sex couples...Interpretation of the data gathered by those
studies then becomes clouded by the personal and political beliefs of the
investigators, both as to whether the differences identified are positive or
negative, and as to the untested explanations of what might account for
those differences. (This is hardly the first time in history that the
ostensible steel of the scientific method has melted and buckled under the
intense heat of political and religious passions.) Even in the absence of
bias or political agenda behind the various studies of children raised by
same-sex couples, the most neutral and strict application of scientific
principles to this field would be constrained by the limited period of
observation that has been available. Gay and lesbian couples living together
openly, and official recognition of them as their children's sole parents,
comprise a very recent phenomenon, and the recency of that phenomenon has
not yet permitted any study of how those children fare as adults and at best
minimal study of how they fare during their adolescent years. The
Legislature can rationally view the state of the scientific evidence as
unsettled on the critical question it now faces: Are families headed by
same- sex parents equally successful in rearing children from infancy to
adulthood as families headed by parents of opposite sexes? Our belief that
children raised by same-sex couples should fare the same as children raised
in traditional families is just that: a passionately held but utterly
untested belief. The Legislature is not required to share that belief but
may, as the creator of the institution of civil marriage, wish to see the
proof before making a fundamental alteration to that institution....." 3
Justice C.J. Marshall agreed with the majority who were in
favor of legalizing SSM, and wrote, in part:
"No one disputes that the plaintiff couples are families, that many are
parents, and that the children they are raising, like all children, need and
should have the fullest opportunity to grow up in a secure, protected family
unit. Similarly, no one disputes that, under the rubric of marriage, the
State provides a cornucopia of substantial benefits to married parents and
their children. The preferential treatment of civil marriage reflects the
Legislature's conclusion that marriage 'is the foremost setting for the
education and socialization of children' precisely because it 'encourages
parents to remain committed to each other and to their children as they
"In this case, we are confronted with an entire, sizeable class of
parents raising children who have absolutely no access to civil marriage and
its protections because they are forbidden from procuring a marriage
license. It cannot be rational under our laws, and indeed it is not
permitted, to penalize children by depriving them of State benefits because
the State disapproves of their parents' sexual orientation." 3
Justice J. Cordy also
disagreed with the legalization of SSM, and wrote, in part:
"We must assume that the Legislature:
might conclude that the institution of civil
marriage has successfully and continually provided this structure over
might consider and credit studies that document
negative consequences that too often follow children either born outside
of marriage or raised in households lacking either a father or a mother
figure,...and scholarly commentary contending that children and families
develop best when mothers and fathers are partners in their parenting;
would be familiar with many recent studies that
support the proposition that children raised
in intact families headed by same-sex couples fare as well on many
measures as children raised in similar families headed by
support the proposition that children
of same-sex couples fare worse on some measures...
or reveal notable differences
between the two groups of children that warrant further
"We must also assume that the Legislature would be
aware of the critiques of the methodologies used in virtually all of the
comparative studies of children raised in these different environments,
the sampling populations are not
that the observation periods are too limited
that the empirical data are unreliable, and
that the hypotheses are too infused with
political or agenda driven bias." 3
Justice C.J. Marshall, who wrote for the majority of the court in support
SSM, criticized Justice Cordy's conclusion, writing:
The question that is being debated is not whether children should be
raised by same-sex parents. It is whether same-sex parents should be allowed to
marry, or whether they must simply live together -- perhaps with children --
under a status less than marriage, with reduced
recognition and support by the state.
SSM would benefit children in a same-sex led family.
Justice C.J. Marshall of the Massachusetts Supreme
Judicial Court, composing the majority decision, wrote:
"Without question, civil marriage enhances the
'welfare of the community.' It is a 'social institution of the highest
importance.' French v. McAnarney, supra. Civil marriage anchors an
ordered society by encouraging stable relationships over transient ones. It
is central to the way the Commonwealth identifies individuals, provides for
the orderly distribution of property, ensures that children and adults are
cared for and supported whenever possible from private rather than public
funds, and tracks important epidemiological and demographic data.....Where a
married couple has children, their children are also directly or indirectly,
but no less auspiciously, the recipients of the special legal and economic
protections obtained by civil marriage.....marital children reap a measure
of family stability and economic security based on their parents' legally
privileged status that is largely inaccessible, or not as readily
accessible, to non-marital children. Some of these benefits are social, such
as the enhanced approval that still attends the status of being a marital
child. Others are material, such as the greater ease of access to
family-based State and Federal benefits that attend the presumptions of
one's parentage." 3
The ruling in Goodridge vs.
Department of Public Health noted hundreds of benefits given to married
couples by the state of Massachusetts which were not available to same-sex couples before 2004-MAY when they became able to marry. Many of
the benefits from marriage have a positive effect on their children, either directly or
Some would argue that when a state allows SSM, the public
will gradually become more accepting of homosexual orientation and behavior.
They will agree with professional mental health associations and recognize it as
a normal, natural, unchosen and unchangeable sexual orientation for a minority
of adults. This will reduce levels of discrimination, hatred, and oppression
against gays and lesbians, and reduce the levels of ridicule that their children
receive from fellow students.
Dr. Anne-Marie Ambert comments that:
who have children often create a network of fictive kin or 'chosen' family
(friends, former partners, and willing relatives) for social and emotional
support as well as to offer their children suitable adult role models of the
other sex. This support network may be entirely gay but generally represents a
This arrangement gives children many additional role models
in their life, that children in families led by opposite-sex couples may not
Some of the plaintiffs in the case experienced harm to themselves or
their children because they lacked the protection of a civil marriage.
example, Hillary and Julie Goodridge alleged that, when Julie gave birth to
their daughter (whom Hillary subsequently coadopted) during a delivery that
required the infant's transfer to neonatal intensive care, Hillary 'had
difficulty gaining access to Julie and their newborn daughter at the hospital';
Gary Chalmers and Richard Linnell alleged that 'Gary pays for a family health
insurance policy at work which covers only him and their daughter because
Massachusetts law does not consider Rich to be a 'dependent.' This means that
their household must purchase a separate individual policy of health insurance
for Rich at considerable expense.... Gary has a pension plan at work, but under
state law, because he is a municipal employee, that plan does not allow him the
same range of options in providing for his beneficiary that a married spouse has
and thus he cannot provide the same security to his family that a married person
could if he should predecease Rich." These and similar problems will not
recur, as the plaintiffs are now married. 5
Possible negative effects of SSM on the children:
Many religious and social conservatives disagree completely with essentially all professional
mental health organizations and believe that homosexuality is abnormal,
unnatural, chosen and changeable. Most disapprove of equal rights for gays and
lesbians, including the right to marry the individual
that they love. Many believe that homosexual behavior is hated by God. If these beliefs are true, then
one might argue:
Children raised in families led by same-sex parents would be continually
exposed to homosexuality. They may choose to become gay or lesbian
at a higher rate than those raised by a father and mother.
Men and women have very different personalities, brain structure,
talents, etc. They are designed to fit into very different roles within the family. In order
for children to be properly socialized, they need to be brought up by both a
father and a mother. The long range effects on children who
are brought up by two women or two men are unknown and can only be speculated
God may punish same-sex parents by sending illness or other misfortune into their lives. This might adversely affect the children in
God may also punish the nation as a
whole if SSM is legalized. That would harm all children in the nation.
Children of same-sex couples will be exposed to a great deal of ridicule
and hatred by their fellow students. This could negatively affect their
Past changes in the family law have had unexpected adverse effects on society.
"Legislative actions taken in the 1950's and 1960's in
areas as widely arrayed as domestic relations law and welfare legislation
have had significant unintended adverse consequences in subsequent decades
including the dramatic increase in children born out of wedlock, and the
destabilization of the institution of marriage." 6 No-fault divorce has been credited by some as causing a drastic increase
in marital breakdown and subsequent divorce. In a similar manner, legislative
change which legalilzes SSM
might have drastic, long-term, negative results to society that are not currently
The desire to marry and settle down with a companion for life
is very strong in some adults. So is the desire to have children. If we do
not allow SSM, then at least some homosexuals may well be motivated to marry a person of
the opposite sex, to leave the homosexual lifestyle, and to become an ex-gay or
Same-sex marriage would weaken the institution of
marriage by creating a counterfeit version of marriage. This will harm the entire population, including children.
Some studies show that the incidence of violence
between same-sex couples is higher than that between opposite-sex couples. This may
also be true of same-sex couples in loving, committed relationships. If so,
then children are bound to be harmed by the presence of violence in the home.
The availability of SSM may encourage more adults to
divorce their opposite-sex spouse and marry a person of the same sex.
Divorce is known to have at least a temporary negative effect on children. So
they would be harmed by their parents' divorce.
Some studies on SSM:
The following studies were cited in the Goodridge
vs. Department of Public Health decision by Justice J. Cordy
disagreed with the legalization of SSM:
H.B. Biller & J.L. Kimpton, "The Father and
the School-Aged Child, in The Role of The Father in Child Development,"
143 (3d ed.1997); H.B. Biller, "Fathers and Families: Paternal
Factors in Child Development," 1-3 (1993); Lynne Marie Kohm, "The
Homosexual "Union": Should Gay and Lesbian Partnerships be Granted the
Same Status as Marriage?, 22 J. Contemp. L. 51, 61 & nn.53, 54
(1996) These studies show that the most stable family for children to
grow up in is that led by a father and a mother.
Patterson, "Family Relationships of Lesbians
and Gay Men," 62 J. Marriage & Family. 1052, 1060, 1064-1065 (2000).
This study concludes that there are no significant differences in personal
children of same-sex parents and children of heterosexual parents.
Cameron, "Homosexual Parents," 31
Adolescence 757, 770-774 (1996). This paper concluded that the results
of a limited study are consonant with notion that children raised by
homosexuals experience higher levels of emotional disturbance and
Stacey, "Does the Sexual Orientation of
Parents Matter?," 66 Amer. Soc. Rev. 159, 172, 176-179 (2001). This
study finds significant statistical differences in parenting practices,
gender roles, sexual behavior but notes that heterosexism and political
implications have distorted research.
Coleman, "Reinvestigating Remarriage: Another
Decade of Progress," 62 J. Marriage & Fam. 1288 (2000). It concludes
that future studies of the impact of divorce and remarriage on children
should focus on "nontraditional" stepfamilies, particularly same-sex
couples with children, because the impact of such arrangements have been
overlooked in other studies. 3
The following studies were cited in Dr. Anne-Marie Ambert's
paper. She concluded that children of lesbian mothers "...show few
differences from other children...whatever differences exist stem largely from
the social stigma attached to homosexuality and consequent social rejection
outside the home."
F. Tasker and S. Golombok, "Adults raised as children in lesbian families." American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 65, 2-3-215, (1995). This study
compared young adults raised in a single-parent lesbian family with
others who were raised by their heterosexual mother and a step father.
Children raised by a lesbian mother had a better relationship with both their mother and father.
J. Laird, "Lesbian and gay families," in F. Walsh, Ed., "Normal
family processes" (2nd ed, Pages 282-328), Guilford Press, (1993).
C.J. Patterson, "Family relationships of lesbians and gay men" Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62,
Pages 1052-1069. This and the previous study found that
children of same-sex parent families "do not seem to grow up
disadvantaged emotionally and may even possess certain strengths of
character such as tolerance, empathy, and contentment."
DeAngelis, "A new generation of issues for LGBT clients," Monitor on Psychology, 33, 2002-FEB. This
study found that some adolescents: "...feel embarrassed
by their parents' homosexuality."
R.W. Chan et al., "Psychosocial adjustment among children conceived via
donor insemination by lesbian and heterosexual mothers," Child Development, 69, Pages 443-457,
(1998). This study reported that, among the largely upper-middle-class mothers
studied, there was no difference in children's adaptation and development
when they were about seven years old. The study compared homosexual and
heterosexual mothers, some of whom were in couples and some who were singles.
No definite conclusions can be drawn as of 2004-OCT because of the lack of
reliable, longitudinal data based on well designed studies. However, it appears
as if the advantages or disadvantages, for those children who live in families
led by same-sex couples, are relatively minor. Otherwise one would expect that
major and consistent results would emerge from the existing published studies,
in spite of their deficiencies.
Hopefully, properly designed, long-term studies will eventually be made, and
an accurate measure of effects on children of being raised by same-sex couples
will be found -- whether those effects are positive or negative. However, that
will still leave unanswered questions, such as whether the effects are intrinsic
to the sexual orientation of the child's parent(s), or whether they are induced
by the atmosphere of hatred, discrimination, and oppression that these families
must live with.
The question remains open whether denial of marriage to same-sex couples and
their children is warranted in order to prevent any disadvantage to their
children which may be uncovered in the future. Maintaining the status quo is
guaranteed to harm some children by depriving them of government support, health
care, various protections, etc.
"Unofficial Synopsis Prepared by the Reporter of
Decisions: Hillary GOODRIDGE & others [FN1] vs. DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH &
another. [FN2] SJC-08860," The Massachusetts Court System, at: http://www.mass.gov/ and http://www.socialaw.com/