Utah Distances Itself From Anti-Gay Study


Mark Regnerus

Mark Regnerus

On Thursday, the state of Utah will argue that the 10th Circuit should uphold its ban on same-sex couples marrying, but before entering the courtroom, state officials distanced themselves from one of their previous arguments. According to a letter submitted Wednesday, Utah will no longer cite Mark Regnerus’ study or its fraudulent claims that children raised by parents in same-sex relationships do not fare as well:

First, we wish to emphasize the very limited relevance to this case of the comparison addressed by Professor Regnerus. As the State’s briefing makes clear, the State’s principal concern is the potential long-term impact of a redefinition of marriage on the children of heterosexual parents. The debate over man-woman versus same-sex parenting has little if any bearing on that issue, given that being raised in a same-sex household would normally not be one of the alternatives available to children of heterosexual parents.

Second, on the limited issue addressed by the Regnerus study, the State wishes to be clear about what that study (in the State’s view) does and does not establish. The Regnerus study did not examine as its sole focus the outcomes of children raised in same-sex households but, because of sample limitations inherent in the field of study at this point, examined primarily children who acknowledged having a parent who had engaged in a same-sex relationship. Thus, the Regnerus study cannot be viewed as conclusively establishing that raising a child in a same-sex household produces outcomes that are inferior to those produced by man-woman parenting arrangements.

Just last month, a federal judge overturning Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage directly addressed the claims made by Regnerus after he spent a full day on the stand during the trial. Judge Bernard Friedman described his testimony as “entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration,” referring to Regnerus and other conservative scholars as representing “a fringe viewpoint that is rejected by the vast majority of their colleagues across a variety of social science fields.” It seems Utah hopes to avoid similar embarrassment in its case.

During the district court trial, Utah cited Regnerus to suggest that the debate on same-sex parenting was inconclusive and thus should not be trusted. Judge Robert Shelby dismissed that argument, making essentially the same point Utah concedes in this letter: promoting parenting by different-sex couples has no connection to banning same-sex couples from marrying.

In appeals briefs, Utah officials have indeed focused more on different-sex parenting. For example, they have argued that banning same-sex marriage promotes “diversity” in parenting and helps protect birth rates from declining. Still, they have also continued to argue that same-sex parenting would be a threat to children’s well-being.

By focusing so much on the state’s “powerful interest in parenting by heterosexuals,” Utah’s briefings have actually attempted to paint heterosexuality as superior instead of homosexuality as inferior — arguably, a distinction without a difference. Still, none of these arguments actually explain how preventing gay, lesbian, and bi people from marrying or accessing legal protections for their families actually has any impact on the commitment straight people make to their families.