Michigan Religious Conservatives Rely On Regnerus To Oppose Marriage Equality


Michigan Family Forum Marriage BookThe Michigan Family Forum, an evangelical Christian group, and the Michigan Catholic Conference have both filed amicus briefs defending Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and adoption against a same-sex couple’s suit. Both briefs rely on the infamously fraudulent study by Mark Regnerus, which claimed that children raised by gays and lesbians do not fare as well.

The Michigan Catholic Conference eagerly boasted the benefits of marriage for children, but claimed that it only applies to children of opposite-sex couples:

Encouraging procreation within the confines of marriage serves other legitimate state interests of promoting economic stability and decreasing the need for government assistance. The bonds of marriage promote stable relationships that are beneficial not only to husband, wife, and child, but also to the state and its resources. Research shows that, as compared to other environments, a child raised by a traditional married family is significantly less likely to be dependent on public assistance than a child raised in other settings. Mark Regnerus, How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study, Social Science Research 41 (2012) (data reveals that a child born to a traditional family is significantly less likely to be unemployed, currently on public assistance, or have received public assistance while growing up).

This could easily read as an argument for marriage equality, but of course it’s not meant to. This claim exemplifies the primary flaw in Regnerus’ research: his comparison between children in gay broken homes and children in straight intact homes.

The Michigan Family Forum similarly relied on many studies that only examined the experiences of children raised by single parents to draw conclusions about children raised by two parents of one sex. Also citing Regnerus, the brief suggests that none of the studies on same-sex parenting are valid because they’re small:

Decades of study on various parenting structures yield the near uniform conclusion that a biological mother and father provide optimal child outcomes. [Regnerus citation.] So the claim that another parenting relationship produces child outcomes just as good as (or even better than) intact biological parents is a surprising proposition, to say the least, and one that must be rigorously tested (and until then, viewed with healthy suspicion).

The brief goes on to regurgitate a synopsis of Regnerus’ entire study.

Both groups rely on circular reasoning in these briefs. They claim there’s not enough data about the children of same-sex couples, but they also claim that same-sex couples should be deprived of marriage and adoption rights, negating the possibility such research could ever be collected. The key void in their arguments is that same-sex couples are already raising children.

The lesbian couple that has filed suit, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, are already raising three children, all of whom have special needs. These two moms are not legally protected to care for their children together; each of the children is only legally connected to one of their moms. Michigan’s law does nothing to prevent this family structure from existing, but it does prevent such families from accessing the same benefits and protections as other families.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) deny that the state’s laws do anything to deprive same-sex families of any rights. Still, it’s impossible to look at DeBoer and Rowse’s family and not see that their children are very much denied the same protections as other children. It was a key point that Justice Kennedy made when ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act: a law like DOMA “humiliates” the children of same-sex couples by treating them as less than.

Religious conservatives in Michigan are thus arguing against the protection of children and against the values of marriage. Theirs is an argument based purely on preserving heterosexual supremacy.

(HT: Kathleen Perrin.)