The American Sociological Association (ASA) filed an amicus curiae brief in March, 2015 with the Supreme Court of the United States in the same-sex marriage cases pending before the court. The ASA’s brief highlights the social science consensus that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by different-sex parents.
Currently, more than 200,000 children in the U.S. live with same-sex parents, and the Supreme Court is scheduled to rule this summer whether marriage equality is mandated by the Constitution. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia currently recognize this type of marriage, and nearly 72 percent of the U.S. population lives in a place where marriage equality is the law.
“Decades of methodologically sound social science research, including multiple nationally representative studies and expert evidence introduced in courts around the country, confirm that positive child wellbeing is the product of stability in the relationship between the two parents, stability in the relationship between the parents and the child, and sufficient parental socioeconomic resources,” the brief explains. “The wellbeing of children does not depend on the sex or sexual orientation of their parents.”
Same-sex marriage opponents in the U.S. and around the world often misinterpret or misrepresent social science research, claiming it indicates that children with same-sex parents have worse outcomes than children with different-sex parents. In particular, opponents of same-sex marriage regularly mischaracterize research by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, and have more recently begun misconstruing the work of Paul Sullins, a sociologist at the Catholic University of America, to bolster their arguments against same-sex marriage.
“We have been very active on this issue because we could not in good conscience stand by and allow same-sex marriage opponents to conduct a public campaign that distorts social science research findings in an effort to deny people the right to marry,” said ASA Executive Officer Sally T. Hillsman. “The scientific evidence clearly shows that same-sex parents are equally as capable of raising well-adjusted children as different-sex parents, and the courts, as well as the public, should be clear on this fact before making judgments on same-sex marriage.”
Many of the studies cited by opponents of same-sex marriage actually demonstrate that enabling same-sex couples to marry may be beneficial for children. “The social science consensus is that having stable family environments and parents with the ability to provide for them financially are integral to children’s wellbeing,” Hillsman said. “So, it follows that we should not exclude children living with same-sex parents from the additional stability and economic security that marriage can provide.”
The ASA’s efforts to highlight the scientific consensus regarding children of same-sex parents to courts considering challenges to same-sex marriage bans began in February 2013 when the association weighed in on Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which, among other things, banned federal recognition of valid same-sex marriages. Since that time, the ASA has filed briefs in various U.S. Courts of Appeals, one state supreme court, and La Corte Constitucional de Colombia, which is the highest court in Colombia that considers constitutional issues.
“When the social science evidence is exhaustively examined — which the ASA has done — the facts demonstrate that children fare just as well when raised by same-sex parents as when raised by different-sex parents,” the new brief states. “Unsubstantiated fears about children of same-sex parents do not overcome these facts and do not justify upholding the [same-sex] [m]arriage [b]ans.”
Founded in 1905, the ASA has more than 13,000 members and a long history of presenting the consensus research findings of sociologists to American courts for their use in evaluating evidence and legal issues.
Wendy Manning, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Center for Family & Demographic Research, and Co-Director of the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, led the ASA’s examination of the social science research. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP has served as counsel to the ASA on its briefs pertaining to same-sex marriage.