Arguments For: Equal rights for all families
Contrary to these arguments are supporters of same sex marriages who argue that anti-discrimination laws did not go far enough in creating equality among different sexual orientations. By not allowing gay men and women to enter same sex marriages the government is denying them rights given to heterosexual couples. Even in states which allow same sex marriages, discrimination will not be eliminated until the federal government acknowledges those marriages.
The lack of federal acknowledgment is discriminatory because it prevents married gay men and women from having the 1,138 federal rights given to heterosexual marriages including:
- Social Security benefits upon death, disability or retirement of spouse, as well as benefits for minor children.
- Family and Medical Leave protections to care for a new child or sick/ injured family member.
- Workers’ Compensation protections for the family of a worker injured on the job.
- Access to COBRA insurance benefits so the family doesn’t lose health insurance when one spouse is laid off.
- Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) protections such as the ability to leave a pension, other than Social Security, to your spouse.
- Exemptions from penalties on IRA and pension rollovers.
- Exemptions from estate taxes when a spouse dies.
- Exemptions from federal income taxes on spouse’s health insurance.
- The right to visit a sick or injured loved one, have a say in life and death matters during hospitalization 11
Even state level civil unions fail to recreate these rights to any extent because there is no state level equivalent. Social Security benefits, tax exemptions, shared property rights, and decision making/ visitation rights during hospitalization are real consequences of federally recognized marriage. These inequalities affect the quality of life of same sex families by preventing children and spouses from having access to extended healthcare insurance provided by the other spouse’s employment, a right protected for heterosexual marriages.
Supporters of same sex marriage also emphasize the role of children in marriage.
One argument made in response to the lack of biological validity in same sex marriages is that there are currently over 400,000 children in the foster care system as of September 30th, 2011 12 . Most states give preference to married couples and 68% of adoptions in the Federal Fiscal Year between October 1st and September 30th, 2011 were done by married couples 13.
Despite the overcrowding in our foster care system only ten states facilitate adoptions by same sex couples and four states explicitly ban same sex couples from adopting 14. Because marriage functions as the basis of the family institution (which aims at raising children) and the government’s role is to invest in that function (through tax breaks and other benefits) supporters of same sex marriage encourage adoption rights as an investment in the safety and welfare of our children and refute arguments that same sex parenting is detrimental in any way.
The Regnerus Study
An understanding of research methods explains the results found by Regnerus conflicts with the established views of same sex parenting. Most research has found no statistically significant differences between children raised in same sex homes and those raised in male-female homes when controlling for confounding variables like divorced parents and family income 15 .
Regnerus and Marks argue that previous research failed to attain large representative samples 16, 17. The entirety of Marks’ research, an analysis of the methodology of previous research, argued that the main flaw in the field of same sex parenting is the small size of the samples acquired. Because of this failure – sample generalizability is crucial to respected research – they posit that the findings of previous research are bias and inconclusive.
Critics of Regnerus’ study of 3,000 participants point out the very errors in his research which he was trying to resolve in the existing research, that is, having an unrepresentative sample. Granted 3,000 participants is a large sample. However, in this sample only 175 participants reported having a mother who had at one point engaged in a same sex relationship and only 73 participants responding the same for their father 18 . Of the total 3,000 participants, only 2 were raised by a same sex couple.
This sample that is upheld by the opposition of same sex marriage as the only large and representative sample in the field is smaller than many previous studies which had stronger methodology and sampling techniques 19 . Regnerus, the researcher of the controversial study, admits that his study is faulted by not controlling for many confounding variables like divorce when studying the effects of different parenting styles. This does not mean that his findings should be thrown out, like how many opponents argue that the literature of research supporting same sex parenting should be thrown out. It just means that the study should be understood in terms of its limitations. Every correlational study has some methodological limitation in the fact that it cannot make statements on causality but that does not nullify its findings.
Marriage creates a more stable environment for children.
Children are being raised in same sex families regardless of the legalization of same sex marriage. According to the U.S. Census in 2000, 96% of counties across the U.S. have same sex homeowners with children 10.
Patterson’s review of psychological and social research on same sex parenting concluded that studies have consistently shown that there is no significant effect of same sex parenting on the psychological development, wellbeing, or happiness of the children 21. The bulk of research comparing same sex parenting with male-female parenting in combination with the research finding that marriage creates a stable environment for children to grow up in supports the argument for the legalization of same sex marriages.
Same sex marriage as a policy is an issue of civil rights. Many of the criticisms against same sex marriage are either significant points of view which currently lack empirical support or are dramatic untruths given at similar points in history when questions of civil rights are brought to public policy. Credible scrutiny of same sex marriage includes research into the effects of raising children in a same sex household. Embarrassing arguments, some of which are described below, tend to echo those against interracial marriage, integration of schools, and the eradication of sodomy laws.
These types of absurdist and fallacious arguments have no place in discussing the legalization of same sex marriage.
One of the most common fallacies used by opponents of same sex marriage leads us down a slippery slope of non-related consequences. These types of arguments are the ones which repeat allegations against allowing interracial marriages. I used the similarities with interracial marriages because they are both civil rights issues but more so because the arguments against them are so parallel. In the case of Loving v. the State of Virginia, the assistant attorney general R. D. McIlwaine III made the argument in 1967 supporting miscegenation laws using the same fallacies used to support banning same sex marriage:
It is clear, from the most recent available evidence on the psycho-sociological aspect of this question that intermarried families are subjected to much greater pressures and problems than are those of the intramarried, and that the State’s prohibition of racial intermarriage, for this reason, stands on the same footing as the prohibition of polygamous marriage, or incestuous marriage 22.
The same argument has been made this year against same sex marriage by presidential candidates like Rick Santorum 23 and religious leaders like Cardinal Philippe Barbarin 24 . The problem with these statements is that they are unsubstantiated and are meant to create false associations between unhealthy relationships like incest and healthy relationships which have been shown to be psychological sound like interracial marriage and same sex marriage. Incest, polygamy, bestiality, pedophilia, etc. are ultimately red herrings in the discussion of same sex marriage but unfortunately remain a standing point of the opposition.
A worry of same sex opponents is the effect of same sex parenting on children, a warranted topic of investigation as it has already been established that one aim of marriage is to create a family institution through which children are raised. However, reviews of the literature of psychological studies 25 have shown that the volume of research cannot show an association between same sex parenting and damage to the children’s psychological well being.
The little research which shows significant associations 27 both lacks representative samples and fails to control for confounding variables like income and divorce. Still the argument is made, as it was in the past, that untraditional marriages are detrimental to the wellbeing of children raised in such a marriage. McIlwaine again argues that:
The problems which the child of an interracial marriage faces are those which no child can come through without damage to himself… It is not infrequent that the children of intermarried parents are referred to, not merely as the children of intermarried parents, but as the “victims” of intermarried parents, and as the “martyrs” of intermarried parents. 28 Page 22
As history shows, the Supreme Court did not agree with these allegations in terms of marriage. In fact, the Court ruled that marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man” 29 and is essential to the pursuit of happiness. Because of this civil unions even if they were developed on a federal level with equal rights and statuses cannot act in the place of marriages. Separation of terms is inherently unequal and marriage as a basic civil right necessitates inclusion for same sex couples.
Despite state-by-state acts and ballot initiatives to legalize same sex marriage, many supporters disagree with these policies on the basis that civil rights should never be subject to popular vote or denied to some on a state-by-state basis. The New York Supreme Court made this point in their recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act 30. Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs stated that “Homosexuals are not in a position to adequately protect themselves from the discriminatory wishes of the majoritarian public” 31 . In this way, the LGBT fight for equality mirrors the history of minority groups throughout American history.
Recognition of the rights of LGBT Americans and people around the world is slowly increasing.
However people are still being attacked, jailed, and humiliated because of something as intrinsic as love and attraction. Please check out the other sections of this series to see what you can do to support marriage equality – The Issue with Same-sex Marriage and Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage.