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Alabama Defends Marriage Ban With ‘Largely Unbelievable’ Expert

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DAVE MARTIN
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DAVE MARTIN

There are still same-sex marriage lawsuits playing out in several states, and state officials are parading some of the same tired claims that have failed elsewhere. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) is the latest to rely upon biased experts to defend refusing same-sex couples the right to marry.

In his latest brief, Strange cites the research of both Mark Regnerus and Loren Marks. Regnerus’ study claiming that children of same-sex couples have poorer outcomes has been largely debunked, which is perhaps why Strange relies more on Marks, who he has also retained as an expert witness. Marks emphasizes that none of the studies that have found positive results for children of same-sex couples are valid simply because they utilized convenience samples to find the families they studied.

“Dr. Marks concludes that the field is too new and the studies too limited to make broad empirical conclusions,” Strange wrote. “This is yet another reason why courts should defer to the States. It is reasonable for a State to conclude that the social science is inconclusive at least, and therefore to be hesitant to change the definition of an institution that has formed the bedrock of civilization for centuries.”

In his attached testimony, Marks explains that he “cannot offer a high confidence, data-based ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response” to whether the children of same-sex couples fare as well as different sex couples. “The available data,” he concludes, “which are drawn primarily from small convenience samples, are insufficient to support a strong generalizable claim either way.”

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But Marks, like Regnerus, has also had his claims disavowed — in court. Judge Bernard Friedman, a Reagan appointee, had the opportunity to hear testimony from both Regnerus and Marks and two other anti-gay experts when considering a challenge to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage. He concluded that “Marks’s testimony is largely unbelievable,” because he and other researchers all “failed to concede the importance of ‘convenience sampling’ as a social science tool.” Marks and Regnerus, he wrote, “represent a fringe viewpoint that is rejected by the vast majority of their colleagues across a variety of social science fields,” pointing out that there is no “credible evidence showing that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than those raised by heterosexual couples.”

Strange’s primary argument otherwise is that Alabama’s man-woman definition of marriage doesn’t discriminate against same-sex couples because it’s focused on child-rearing. Invoking a slippery slope, he complains that the suing same-sex couples “do not explain why… marriage must involve sexual intimacy, why it must be limited to two loving, committed people, or why indeed they must be committed.” This ignores, of course, that there are over 1,300 same-sex couples in Alabama already raising children. In fact, in Alabama, an estimated 27 percent of same-sex families include children, higher than in most other states.

Alabama may end up being one of the last states where marriage equality arrives, but it won’t be because the state’s arguments against same-sex couples marrying are any stronger than any other states’.