Idaho’s governor and attorney general are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to make same-same marriage illegal in the state, nearly four months after a federal appeals court affirmed that it was unconstitutional for Idaho to prohibit same-sex couples from getting married.
Gov. Butch Otter’s petition, filed Tuesday, said the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was wrong when it maintained that banning same-sex marriage violates couple’s equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Otter asked the Supreme Court to take up the issue once and for all, saying the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was not about discrimination against gay couples — rather, it was about the children.
“[Idaho’s] view of marriage is biologically based and primarily child-centered,” the petition reads. “And it holds that the principal (though not exclusive) purpose of marriage is to unite a child to his or her biological mother and father whenever possible, and when not possible, to a mother and father.”
“The time has come for this court to resolve a question of critical importance to the States, their citizens and especially their children: Whether the federal Constitution prohibits a State from maintaining the traditional understanding and definition of marriage as between a man and a woman,” the petition reads.
Otter’s argument against same-sex marriage, which has been legal in Idaho since the 9th Circuit’s ruling October, is that children benefit from the “salutary” effects of being raised by a heterosexual couple. The argument echos what many opponents of same-sex marriage routinely claim: that children raised by same-sex couple fare worse.
But that claim has been roundly questioned by major professional organizations, including the American Sociological Association, who have called the studies claiming to back up the thesis fatally flawed. One of the most commonly cited studies of that nature, conducted by sociologist Mark Regnerus, was found to be “bullshit” by the academic journal that originally published it. Regnerus himself admitted the study was not even about gay marriage’s impact on children — instead, it was about whether a kid’s parent ever had a same-sex relationship, regardless of how long it lasted or what role in played in parenting.
At the same time, more scientific studies have come out with the opposite conclusion: that children born to same-sex parents fare equally well and sometimes better than their counterparts. A 2007 study from Tufts University found that children born to same-sex couples did equally well, and that the social stigma against their same-sex parents — not the parents themselves — was the primary cause of stress in the household. 2010 research from Stanford University found that “children of same-sex couples are as likely to make normal progress through school as the children of most other family structures.” And just this summer, an Australian study by University of Melbourne researchers suggested that children raised by same-sex parents were actually healthier and happier than children in the general population.
None of this stands to stop Otter, whose petition said the state would continue to lay out the case for heterosexual marriage’s benefits to children. And it will do so at a cost to the state — according to the Spokesman-Review, Idaho has racked up $400,000 in legal bills from fighting the case in federal court. Otter himself has reportedly spent $100,000 on outside attorneys.