January 25, 2013
By Jacob Combs
The Supreme Court briefs filed in support of DOMA and Proposition 8 this week misleadingly cite a 2002 child development study in an attempt to imply that opposite-sex parents are better for children than same-sex parents, according to the D.C.-area nonprofit group that conducted the study.
Chris Johnson of the Washington Blade reports today that Carol Emig, the president Child Trends, which describes itself as a “nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that studies children at all stages of development,” told the paper that the organization feels “dismay” at seeing its work “mischaracterized by some opponents of same-sex marriage.”
The 2002 study, called “Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children and What Can We Do About It?”, was cited in briefs filed with the Supreme Court in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases this week.
In the DOMA case, Windsor v. USA, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) of the House of Representatives, in a brief commissioned by House Republican leadership and penned in part by conservative legal star Paul Clement, pointed to the Child Trends study as evidence that DOMA promotes responsible childrearing:
“[W]hen both biological parents want to raise their child, the law has long recognized a distinct preference for the child to be raised by those biological parents…. And this bedrock assumption is grounded in common sense and human experience: biological parents have a genetic stake in the success of their children that no one else does” (47).
In the Prop 8 brief, written by Andrew Pugno and Charles Cooper, the lead attorneys for ProtectMarriage.com, which sponsored the 2008 California constitutional amendment that repealed same-sex couples’ marriage rights, the Child Trends study is described as “a leading survey of social science research” that supports the contention the Prop 8 encourages responsible procreation:
“Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes than do children in intact families headed by two biological parents. Parental divorce is also linked to a range of poorer academic and behavioral outcomes among children. There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents” (37).
As Child Trends’s Emig told the Blade, “The Child Trends brief in question summarizes research conducted in 2002, when same-sex parents were not identified in large national surveys Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn from this research about the well-being of children raised by same-sex parents.” In addition, Emig said that the group has “pointed this out repeatedly” to anti-gay groups who have cited the study in the past.
The fact that the attorneys defending DOMA and Prop 8 feel the need to misleadingly employ the Child Trends study in their briefs demonstrates the simple fact that there is no substantial body of evidence that shows same-sex couples are less fitting as parents than opposite-sex couples are. While opponents of marriage equality can argue as loud and as long as they want that society has a stake in encouraging the formation of strong, committed families for the sake of children, they distort the facts when they extend this argument to contend that government bans on equal marriage rights benefit children.