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Gay Marriage Takes a Turn: The Beginning of a Scientific Answer to a Moral Question

A lesbian couple from Detroit recently made headlines by suing the state of Michigan for
the right to marry and co-adopted each others legal children. The two women from a Detroit
suburb, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, are both nurses who have each adopted special needs
children. They live together and raise all the children equally. At the start of the lawsuit in 2012,
they simply wanted to ability to co-adopt each others children. Otherwise, in the event one of
them passed, the surviving parent would have no legal claim over the children and likely lose
them to the state. Since the underlying cause for this issue is the gay marriage ban in place in
Michigan, they were advised to challenge that as well. This case has turned into a battle over the
social and family impacts of gay marriage, with an emphasis on research.
1
But at the heart of it
are two competent, caring women who adopted the type of children for which many people
cannot or do not want to care.
Gays and lesbians are not being given the same rights as heterosexuals. Sexual
orientation should be irrelevant to rights, yet in most places equivalents of The Defense of
Marriage Act still reign. This is because Christianity is the dominant religion in the United States
and especially among lawmakers.
2
Many, however not all, Christians interpret the Bible as
saying homosexuality is a sin, and therefore they believe gays should not have the right to
marriage. People who believe this commonly argue that gay marriage should not be legal
because it ruins the sanctity of marriage. They also argue that the children of gay parents will
be negatively affected.

1
Erik Eckholm, In Gay Marriage Suit, a Battle Over Research, New York Times, March 7,
2014, <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/us/in-gay-marriage-suit-a-battle-over-research.html?_r=0>
2
Nones on the Rise. Pew Forum, October 9, 2012,
<http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/<; The Religious Affiliation of Each Member
of Congress, Pew Forum, January 3, 2013, http://www.pewforum.org/files/2012/11/113-congress-relig-
affil.pdf
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Even scholars are using science to back their anti-gay ideals, such as Dr. Mark Regnerus,
a professor from the sociology department at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Regnerus
was a witness in the case described previously who was called to testify on behalf of the state of
Michigan against gay marriage. Before his testimony, UT gave a disclaimer that his words were
his own opinions, his conclusion was fundamentally flawed, and neither one reflects the views of
the department or university.
3

One might often hear that marriage is between one man and one woman and allowing
gay marriage destroys the sanctity of marriage. These claims imply same-sex couples are
inherently different from opposite sex couples. Lawrence Kurdek, one of the worlds leading
social science researchers on lesbian and gay committed relationship, examined this idea in a
study using empirical data about variables known to be relevant to relationship quality and
stability. He found gay and lesbian couples were equivalent in psychological adjustment,
personality traits, relationship styles, and conflict resolution to similar heterosexual couples. The
only category he studied where they were found inferior to heterosexual couples is social support
from family members.
4
This is to be expected as homosexuality is not universally accepted, so
they were bound to lack some support from their family. While this study does not conclude that
their relationships operate within similar social contexts, it does imply that the relationship itself
operates in a similar manner. If same-sex relationships function as well as opposite sex ones,
what is the difference? If the relationships are the same, then the marriages are also the same.
Based on this study, the definition of marriage argument becomes invalid.

3
Erik Eckholm, In Gay Marriage Suit, a Battle Over Research, New York Times, March 7,
2014, <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/us/in-gay-marriage-suit-a-battle-over-research.html?_r=0>
4
Lawrence A. Kurdek, Are Gay and Lesbian Cohabiting Couples Really Different from
Heterosexual Married Couples? Vol. 66, No. 4 (2004): 880-900, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3600164
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Furthermore, if their relationships are the same, then there is no basis to believe that
having homosexual parents will do detriment to a childs development. Yet those against gay
marriage assert this argument, specifically by saying it will negatively influence childrens
sociosexual development. They believe that homosexuality is essentially contagious to children,
or the children might find the lifestyle attractive from being in such close contact. Brian Miller
looked directly into this claim by closely examining a group of gay fathers, who realized their
sexuality after having a wife and children, and their children. Of the fifty-eight children of gay
fathers who were old enough to assert their sexuality, only four were gay. One father interviewed
said My straight parents failed to make me straight, so theres no reason to believe Id succeed
in doing the reverse with [my son] even if I wanted to.
5
There is no evidence or logic to believe
having gay parents will increase the childs likelihood of being gay.
Furthering this argument, there is no evidence that gay parents are less competent than
straight parents. However, the advantage to gay marriage is that children are never an accident.
Whether a child is conceived via science or adopted, the likelihood of having a stable home with
sufficient care is increased, due to that fact alone. It is impossible to adopt a child that you did
not want or anticipate having; therefore all children of gay parents are more likely to have a
caring, secure home. Also, couples whose relationships are not as strong would not go through
all the effort have a child. While scholarship on the subject is lacking, one could then conclude
that the chances the child would have to deal with divorce, which is well-documented as
emotionally harmful to children, is drastically lower. This is not to say gays cannot be inefficient
parents; they are still human. However, it is less likely for those kinds of people to seek children.

5
Brian Miller, Gay Fathers and Their Children, The Family Coordinator, Vol. 28, No. 4,
(1979): 544-52, doi: 10.2307/583517

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What becomes evident from scholarly research about the details of gay relationships and
their effects on children is that there is not nearly enough conclusive evidence on the subject.
While there are studies that show that anti-gay science is not sound, these studies are not
necessarily representative either. However, another piece to consider is the necessity of this
subject to begin with. The argument about competence as parents has never been seen in a civil
rights case before. Kenneth Mogill, a lawyer for the lesbian couple in Michigan, pointed out,
No other group in society is required to establish its parenting competence before being granted
the right to marry.
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Homosexuals are equivalent to heterosexuals. Their relationships function the same way.
There is no evidence of disparity in the effects of parenting between gays and heterosexuals.
Additionally, some gay people like April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse simply want to do right by
their children. The government impedes them.



6
Erik Eckholm, In Gay Marriage Suit, a Battle Over Research, New York Times, March 7,
2014, <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/us/in-gay-marriage-suit-a-battle-over-research.html?_r=0>