The Sociology of Gay Marriage and Children

A Response to Justice Antonin Scalia


I was camping for a few days and unable to blog, but upon returning from vacation and getting caught up on current events the first thing to really catch my attention was Justice Scalia’s claim that there was “considerable disagreement” among sociologists with regard to the harm done to the children of same-sex couples.

If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must — you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s -there’s considerable disagreement among – among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a — in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not.


Perhaps Justice Scalia should have read the amicus brief filed by the American Sociological Association for the very case he was hearing, Hollingsworth v. Perry. The brief states clearly and unambiguously, “When the social science evidence is exhaustively examined—which the ASA has done—the facts demonstrate that children fare just as well when raised by same-sex parents.” The brief declared that this is the “the clear and consistent consensus in the social science profession.”


This statement is a confirmation of the same position taken by the American Psychological Association in 2004. “There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation (Armesto, 2002; Patterson, 2000; Tasker & Golombok, 1997). On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.”


That’s not to claim that there are no differential effects of same-sex parenting as compared to heterosexual parenting. Research published in the American Sociological Review by Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz indicates that there are differences between children of same-sex couples distinct from children of traditional marriages. Such differences include a greater lesser likelihood to embrace sex and gender stereotypes, and higher toleration of sex and gender differences. These differences include “greater capacity to express feelings [and] more empathy for social diversity. Hardly harmful side effects in themselves.


Any negative consequences of same-sex parenting, are mostly related to the stigma associated with homosexuality rather than the real nature of same-sex marriages in and of themselves. “Because lesbigay parents do not enjoy the same rights, respect, and recognition as heterosexual parents, their children contend with the burdens of vicarious social stigma.” The research predicts that, with greater acceptance of same-sex relationships, this stigma should “wither away.”


Intriguingly, Stacey and Biblarz predict that “Granting legal rights and respect to gay parents and their children should lessen the stigma that they now suffer and might reduce the high rates of depression and suicide reported among closeted gay youth living with heterosexual parents.”


Every day I read or watch examples of people like Justice Scalia making completely false social science claims to validate their own prejudices. When public officials do this, they make the assumption that the general public, or perhaps “their” public, will not fact check them.




1 Comment

  1. I was re-reading this post and noticed that in the paragraph beginning “That’s not to claim…” I wrote “Such differences include greater likelihood to embrace sex and gender stereotypes.” That should read, “greater likelihood to ‘reject’ gender stereotypes.” Sorry. Long night.


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