American Sociological Association

ASA Amicus Brief Supports Suits to Overturn Utah, Oklahoma Gay Marriage Bans

Association Won’t Allow Gay Marriage Opponents to Misrepresent Research

The American Sociological Association (ASA) filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit today supporting the fight to overturn gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma and continuing its now 13-month effort to highlight the overwhelming body of social science research that confirms “children fare just as well” when same-sex or heterosexual parents raise them. The 10th Circuit is scheduled to consider the lawsuits challenging the bans in the next several months.

“Our latest amicus brief is part of the ASA’s ongoing effort to ensure that U.S. courts considering lawsuits to legalize gay marriage understand 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 simply unsupported.” 

This is the third time in the past 13 months that the ASA has backed challenges to same-sex marriage bans through amicus briefs. In October, the ASA filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that addressed gay 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.

“As the same-sex marriage debate continues in courtrooms across the country, the ASA will continue to emphasize 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. “In addition, we will continue to correct the record when gay marriage opponents misinterpret or misrepresent social science research to support their position.”

Same-sex marriage opponents, including those defending the gay marriage bans in Utah and Oklahoma, 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 frequently misportray research by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin.

“As I have stated before—and as I will continue to state—the Regnerus papers and other sources gay marriage opponents often rely on provide no basis for their arguments because this research does not directly examine the well-being of children raised by same-sex parents,” Hillsman said. “Therefore, these analyses do not undermine the social science research consensus and do not establish a legitimate basis for gay marriage bans.”

Rather than proving same-sex marriage is a bad thing for children, social science research actually suggests the opposite. “I want to reemphasize that 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 10th Circuit. “Unsubstantiated fears regarding same-sex parents do not overcome these facts and do not justify upholding the Utah and Oklahoma marriage bans.”  

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 ASA’s examination of the social science research. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP of New York City served as counsel to the ASA on its briefs for the 10th Circuit, the Ninth Circuit, and the Supreme Court.


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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