American Sociological Association

ASA Amicus Brief Supports Suit to Overturn Virginia’s Gay Marriage Ban

Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Continue to Misrepresent Social Science Research

The American Sociological Association (ASA) filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit today supporting the fight to overturn Virginia’s gay marriage ban and continuing its now 14-month effort to highlight the overwhelming body of social science research that confirms “children fare just as well” when raised by same-sex or heterosexual parents. The Fourth Circuit is scheduled to consider the lawsuit challenging the ban in the near future.

“The amicus brief reflects the ASA’s ongoing commitment to ensuring that U.S. courts considering lawsuits to legalize gay marriage know that social science research shows parents’ sexual orientation has no bearing on their children’s well-being,” said ASA Executive Officer Sally T. Hillsman. “The claim that same-sex parents produce less positive child outcomes than heterosexual parents is contrary to the scientific data, and the ASA will continue to publicize the facts” 

This is the fourth time in the past 14 months that the ASA has backed challenges to same-sex marriage bans through amicus briefs. In March 2014, the ASA filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that addressed gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma. In October 2013, the ASA submitted a brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit regarding same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Hawaii. Similarly, in February 2013, the ASA weighed in with the U.S. Supreme Court on Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which banned among other things federal recognition of valid same-sex marriages.

“For as long as is necessary, we will continue to provide the courts with the clear social science research consensus that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by heterosexual parents,” Hillsman said. “We will also continue to correct the record when gay marriage opponents misinterpret or misrepresent social science research to support their position, which unfortunately happens all too frequently.”

Same-sex marriage opponents often misinterpret or misrepresent social science research, claiming it indicates children with gay parents have worse outcomes than those with heterosexual parents. In particular, same-sex marriage opponents regularly mischaracterize research by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin.

“The Regnerus papers, among other sources gay marriage opponents continue to invoke, provide no basis for their arguments because that research does not directly examine the well-being of children raised by same-sex parents,” Hillsman said. “These analyses, therefore, do not undermine the social science research consensus and do not establish a scientific basis for gay marriage bans.”

Rather, social science research suggests same-sex marriage may be beneficial for children. “I have said this before, but it bears repeating: The research supports the conclusion that the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples has the potential to improve child well-being insofar as the institution of marriage may provide social and legal support to families and enhance family stability — all of which are key drivers of positive child outcomes,” Hillsman said.   

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.

 “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,” says the ASA amicus brief for the Fourth Circuit. “Unsubstantiated fears regarding same-sex parents do not overcome these facts and provide no justification for upholding” Virginia’s gay marriage ban.  

Wendy Diane 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 of New York City has served as counsel to the ASA on all its briefs pertaining to same-sex marriage.


About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.

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