Opponents of Same-Sex Marriage Take Bad-for-Children Argument to Court

2/24/14
 
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from The New York Times,
2/22/14:

As they reel from a succession of defeats in courtrooms and legislatures, opponents of same-sex marriage have a new chance this week to play one of their most emotional and, they hope, potent cards: the claim that having parents of the same sex is bad for children.

In a federal court in Detroit starting Tuesday, in the first trial of its kind in years, the social science research on family structure and child progress will be openly debated, with expert testimony and cross-examination, offering an unusual public dissection of the methods of sociology and the intersection of science and politics.

Scholars testifying in defense of Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage aim to sow doubt about the wisdom of change. They brandish a few sharply disputed recent studies — the fruits of a concerted and expensive effort by conservatives to sponsor research by sympathetic scholars — to suggest that children of same-sex couples do not fare as well as those raised by married heterosexuals.

That view will be challenged in court by longtime scholars in the field, backed by major professional organizations, who call those studies fatally flawed. These scholars will describe a near consensus that, other factors like income and stability being equal, children of same-sex couples do just as well as those of heterosexual couples.

“The overwhelming evidence so far is that there’s not much difference between children raised by heterosexual or same-sex parents,” Andrew J. Cherlin, a prominent sociologist of family issues at Johns Hopkins University who is not involved in the case, said in an interview.

The last time these issues were debated in a federal court, in California nearly four years ago, social science opponents of same-sex marriage underwent withering challenges in pretrial depositions and did not even appear in court.

This time, four social science researchers, all of whom attended at least one of the Heritage Foundation meetings and went on to publish new reports, are scheduled to testify in favor of Michigan’s ban.

The most prominent is Dr. Regnerus. His study, published in 2012, was condemned by leading social scientists as misleading and irrelevant, but some conservatives call it the best of its kind and continue to cite it in speeches and court cases.

In other recent cases, judges were content to read the evidence in written briefs. But Judge Bernard A. Friedman of Federal District Court in Detroit ruled that a trial was needed to determine whether the state had any legitimate reasons to discriminate.

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