The evidence shows that gay marriage is equal to or better than traditional marriage, according to a Federal Court judge. But what sort of evidence?
In one sense, Judge Walker can’t
be blamed for his decision since he was provided a great deal of inaccurate and
incomplete information through the trial process. I hope that future amicus
briefs will be able to correct those deficiencies.
It’s not that heterosexuals think
their marriages are superior per se but that heterosexual marriage has
vulnerabilities that are not found in same-sex relationships. Kurdek (2008)
found that gay/lesbian couples reported greater levels of happiness over time
than did heterosexual couples, especially the latter who had children. Kurdek
admitted that gender conflicts would be expected to be more prevalent in
heterosexual relationships. There are also more risks in heterosexual
relationships in terms of unwanted pregnancies or struggles over fertility
At the same time that
heterosexual relationships inherently entertain higher risks, they also provide
society with a very important product – biological children who are genetically
related to both of their parents, which tends to be correlated with taking
better care of children (unrelated boyfriends, for example, often abuse their
girlfriend’s biological children).
As an example of the bad
information provided to the court, it is clear that lesbian parents have far
less stable same-sex relationships than do heterosexual parents, even when the
lesbian parents have advantages in terms of higher education or income (Schumm,
2009). The court was told that lesbian relationships are just as stable as
heterosexual relationships, which may be true but only for persons who are not
parents. The court may not have been told about the high rates, on the order of
50 percent within three years, of extramarital affairs engaged in by gay men in
civil unions or marriages (Schumm, 2009).
The court was probably told that
lesbian and gay parents are not more likely to have non-heterosexual children,
which my research shows is false (Schumm, in press). The court was probably
told that the children of lesbian and gay parents are doing just as well as the
children of heterosexual parents. What is overlooked is that there is a great
deal of cherry-picking going on, pitting highly educated, high income gay or
lesbian parents against less educated, lower income heterosexual parents. I
have yet to see any study control for education and for per capita household
income before making comparisons between the two types of parents.
For example, Patterson and her
colleagues (Farr, Forssell, & Patterson, 2010) recently published an
article claiming that gay and lesbian parents of adopted children were
parenting just as well as heterosexual adoptive parents. I tried to submit a
rejoinder to that journal but the editor told me that his journal doesn’t
accept any letters to the editor or
criticisms of their published reports. Now there’s a great ploy – send your
papers to outlets where you know in advance that your research, once published,
will escape any criticism no matter how flawed your article might be!
However, in Patterson’s report,
the gay father households had an average income of US$190,000 compared to
$150,000 for heterosexual households and probably had fewer children. Neither
level of household income represents anything close to what the average parent,
heterosexual or non-heterosexual, must manage economically. For example, my
base pay at the University after working here for over 30 years is less than
$83,000, though I earn more by teaching overtime and getting occasional summer
research money. With that, I have had to support my wife and seven children
over years, including many years which involved much less income. And most
people would consider me quite advantaged economically compared to the average
household. And yet, our per capita household income would be almost trivial
compared to that of the subjects who participated in Patterson’s research.
Patterson presented data from the
“teachers” of the three-year-old children but the “teachers” were mostly
daycare providers being paid by the parents. Now, why would anyone expect such
an employee to run down the children in their care by describing them as
psychologically troubled? Furthermore, there were no measures of social
desirability used that could have been used to statistically control for any
tendencies to overrate their children’s levels of psychological adjustment.
These types of flaws are
widespread in research on gay and lesbian parenting but whether Judge Walker
apprehended these issues, or even was provided clear evidence about them, is
Judge Walker was correct in that
legal marriage does provide many benefits for legally married couples. Clearly,
legally married gay or lesbian couples would be helped from such benefits. But,
in my view, it’s just like universal healthcare. Sure, if free healthcare were
provided to all residents of a nation, that would seem a great help. But
someone has to pay the bill, surely some more than others. You end up with an
equality of outcome but an inequality of input.
It’s easy enough to establish an
apparent equality of outcomes for different types of couples, but if their
inputs in terms of risks are unequal and their contributions to society in
terms of jointly biological children are unequal, have you really established an
equality or actually an inequality? That is why I have argued (Schumm, 2009)
that making same-sex relationships socially and morally equivalent to
heterosexual relationships creates an injustice rather than correcting one.
Dr Walter Schumm is a Professor of Family Studies
in the School of Family Studies and Human Services at Kansas State University.
He has published over 250 scholarly articles and book chapters and is co-editor
of the Sourcebook of Family Theories and Methods: A Contextual Approach
(Plenum, 1993; Springer, 2009). He is a retired colonel in the US Army Reserve,
a former brigade and battalion commander. His views may not reflect the
positions of Kansas State University or the US Department of Defense.
H., Forssell, S. L., & Patterson, C. J. (2010) Parenting and child
development in adoptive families: Does
parental sexual orientation matter? Applied
Developmental Science, 14(3),
L. A. (2008). Change in relationship quality for partners from lesbian, gay
male, and heterosexual couples. Journal
of Family Psychology, 22,
W. R. (in press). Children of homosexuals more apt to be homosexuals? A reply
to Morrison and to Cameron based on an examination of multiple
sources of data. Journal of Biosocial Science.
W. R. (2009). Gay marriage and injustice. The
Therapist, 21(3), 95-96.