Utah’s Novel Argument: Banning Same-Sex Marriage Encourages ‘Diversity’ In Parenting


Utah's newly appointed Attorney General, Sean Reyes

Utah’s newly appointed Attorney General, Sean Reyes

The state of Utah is continuing to defend its ban on same-sex marriage, even though hundreds of couples married before Monday’s stay by the Supreme Court. Their new strategy in the appeals process is to focus on the supposed superiority of opposite-sex parenting, citing the fraudulent anti-gay claims of researchers Mark Regnerus, Loren Marks, and Douglas Allen, as well irrelevant studies by David Popenoe and the non-profit Child Trends, conflating “fatherless” families with same-sex parenting though the research does not address the latter whatsoever.

In a reply brief filed Monday morning before the Supreme Court’s stay, the Utah Attorney General’s office offered a novel new variation on this hackneyed tactic. If including both genders in schools is valuable to an educational experience, the brief argues, the same should be true of parenting:

Although they attempt to address the first proposition — i.e., that children generally do better in various ways when raised by a mother and father, at least one of whom (or preferably both) is a biological parent — Respondents attack a straw man: They mischaracterize this point as an argument that “same-sex parents are inferior to opposite-sex parents.” That is not the point: The State does not contend that the individual parents in same-sex couples are somehow “inferior” as parents to the individual parents who are involved in married, mother-father parenting. The point, rather, is that the combination of male and female parents is likely to draw from the strengths of both genders in ways that cannot occur with any combination of two men or two women, and that this gendered, mother-father parenting model provides important benefits to children.

That this would be so is hardly surprising. Society has long recognized that diversity in education brings a host of benefits to students. If that is true in education, why not in parenting? At a minimum, the State and its people could rationally conclude that gender diversity — i.e., complementarity — in parenting is likely to be beneficial to children. And the State and its people could therefore rationally decide to encourage such diversity by limiting the coveted status of “marriage” to man-woman unions.

This pro-“diversity” spin demonstrates how the state is trying to sugarcoat its anti-gay animus. The legal team makes it clear that they do not believe that same-sex parents are inferior, but then a sentence later they argue that opposite-sex parents might nonetheless still be superior. This “complementarity” argument is easily debunked, and the research clearly shows that there is no unique benefit to having parents of any particular gender combination. Plus, an argument for diversity just as effectively supports the notion that Utah benefits from a more diverse pool of parents.

Moreover, the oxymoronic logic employed by the state is moot. As Judge Robert Shelby outlined in his thorough opinion, this case is about marriage — not adoption or surrogacy. Thousands of same-sex couples in Utah are already raising children, a matter that is not impacted by whether or not their unions are legally recognized. The state can cite all the fraudulent and misleading research about parenting that it wishes, but it won’t impact whether its laws unconstitutionally infringe on the right of people with same-sex orientations to marry the person of their choice.