Same-sex marriage: Good for gays, bad for children

Posted: May 04, 2004 12:00 AM

Of all the arguments against same-sex marriage, the most immediately compelling is that it is hurts children. If children have a right to anything, it is to begin life with a mother and father.

Death, divorce, abandonment, a single parent's mistakes -- any one of these deprives children of a mother or father. But only same-sex marriage would legally ensure that children are deprived from birth of either a mother or a father.

Why, then, doesn't a child's right to begin life with a mother and father have any impact on the millions of people who either advocate same-sex marriage or can't make up their minds on the issue?

Among gay activists the reason is narcissism. Though gays already have the right to raise children without an opposite-sex parent and the right to adopt children, gay activists want society to enshrine one-sex parenting with its highest seal of approval -- marriage. For gay activists, the fact that a child does best with a good mother and good father is of no significance (or worse, denied). All that matters is what is good for gays.

And what about the heterosexuals who support same-sex marriage? They ignore the issue of its effects on children because they either do not want to confront the issue or because they are so intimidated by the liberation trinity -- "equality," "rights" and "tolerance" -- that even children's welfare becomes a non-issue.

Advocates of same-sex marriage have, therefore, many good reasons not to talk about issue of children. Even the most passionate advocate does not argue that it is better for a child to have two mothers and no father or two mothers and no father.

But, the same-sex marriage advocates will respond, while children may not be better off, they will be just as well off, with two fathers and no mother or two mothers and no father.

This claim, however, is dishonest. So dishonest that it leads to a certain cognitive dissonance among many of those who make it. On the one hand, they don't really believe that mothers (or fathers) are useless, and they do not wish to lie. On the other hand, they know that they have to say that a mother and father are no better for children than two same-sex parents or they will lose the public's support for same-sex marriage. Were they to admit the obvious truth -- that same-sex marriage means that society will legally and deliberately deprive increasing numbers of children of either a mother or a father -- few Americans would support the legal redefinition of marriage and family.

So, same-sex marriage advocates now argue that children do not do better with a mother and a father.

To buttress this absurdity, they repeatedly ask, "Where are the studies" that prove that children do better with a father and a mother? Not only are there no such studies, they claim, but in fact, "studies show" that that children raised with parents of the same sex do just as well as children raised by a father and a mother.

But this claim, too, is dishonest.

As Professor Don Browning of the University of Chicago recently wrote in The New York Times, "We know next to nothing" about the effects of same-sex parenting on children.

"The body of sociological knowledge about same-sex parenting," he and his co-author wrote, "is scant at best. ... There are no rigorous, large-scale studies on the effect of same-sex marriage on the couples' children.

"Steven Nock, a leading scholar of marriage at the University of Virginia, wrote in March 2001 after a thorough review that every study on this question 'contained at least one fatal flaw' and 'not a single one was conducted according to generally accepted standards of scientific research.'"

So the statement that "studies show" that children don't do better with a mother and father is as factually mendacious as it is morally repugnant. Why then are so many fooled by it? Because "studies show" has become the refuge of those who do not wish to think. I hear this lack of thought regularly from college educated callers to my radio show who refuse to think an issue through, or to make a moral judgment, without first having seen what "studies show."

But does anyone who thinks, rather than awaits "studies" to affirm their biases, really believe that a mother is useless if a child has two fathers, or that a father is unnecessary if a child has two mothers? The idea that men and women do not have entirely distinctive contributions to make to the rearing of a child is so absurd that it is frightening that many well educated -- and only the well educated -- believe it.

There are many powerful arguments against same-sex marriage, and in subsequent columns I will offer them. But if you have to offer only one, know that those who push for same-sex marriage base their case on something factually indefensible -- that children do not benefit from having a father and a mother; and on something morally indefensible -- ignoring what is best for children.