Federal Judge Bernard Friedman, a Reagan appointee, delivered a major victory for equality late Friday afternoon by striking down Michigan’s law forbidding same-sex marriage and second-parent adoption. The decision is absolutely devastating to the anti-equality side in every possible way, including shredding Scott Regnerus and his laughable study.
The Court finds Regnerus’s testimony entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration…
Additionally, the NFSS is flawed on its face, as it purported to study “a large, random sample of American young adults (ages 18-39) who were raised in different types of family arrangements” (emphasis added), but in fact it did not study this at all, as Regnerus equated being raised by a same-sex couple with having ever lived with a parent who had a “romantic relationship with someone of the same sex” for any length of time. Whatever Regnerus may have found in this “study,” he certainly cannot purport to have undertaken a scholarly research effort to compare the outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples with those of children raised by heterosexual couples. It is no wonder that the NFSS has been widely and severely criticized by other scholars, and that Regnerus’s own sociology department at the University of Texas has distanced itself from the NFSS in particular and Dr. Regnerus’s views in general and reaffirmed the aforementioned APA position statement.
The judge also pointed out the obvious, that good outcomes for children is a function of good parenting skills, not gender or sexual orientation, quoting expert witness Brodzinsky:
It’s not the gender of the parent that’s the key. It’s the quality of parenting that’s being offered by whoever is there, husband or wife, two women, two men, a single parent, as long as the factors that we listed . . . are present: good mental health, good parent-child relationships, what we call an authoritative parenting style, which is warmth, stimulation, structure, and the availability of resources. Then we’re going to have a child who is much more likely to be healthy.
And he pointed out that the state’s justifications are not borne out by their own actions:
Second, the optimal child-rearing justification for the MMA is belied by the state’s own marriage requirements. The prerequisites for obtaining a marriage license under Michigan law do not include the ability to have children, a requirement to raise them in any particular family structure, or the prospect of achieving certain “outcomes” for children. By the same token, the state does not allow for the annulment of a marriage once a couple discovers it cannot conceive, or if the family structure changes, or if the couple’s children do poorly in school.
Third, contrary to the state defendants’ contentions, the MMA actually fosters the potential for childhood destabilization. For instance, in this particular case should either of the plaintiffs die or become incapacitated, the surviving non-legal parent would have no authority under Michigan law to make legal decisions on behalf of the surviving children without resorting to a prolonged and complicated guardianship proceeding. And in the event that a state court were to award guardianship of the surviving children to the non-legal parent, the guardianship
would have to be renewed annually and would remain susceptible to the challenge of an interested party at any time. This, as Brodzinsky testified, places such children in a legally precarious situation and deprives them of “social capital.”
Fourth, the state defendants’ position suffers from a glaring inconsistency. Even assuming that children raised by same-sex couples fare worse than children raised by heterosexual married couples, the state defendants fail to explain why Michigan law does not similarly exclude certain classes of heterosexual couples from marrying whose children persistently have had “sub-optimal” developmental outcomes. According to Rosenfeld’s study, children raised by suburban residents academically outperformed those children raised by rural and urban residents. Likewise, “middle class and poor families are ‘sub-optimal’ compared to well-off families, and couples with less formal education are “sub-optimal” compared to couples with more formal education.” A child’s racial background is another predictive indicator of future success, as the study showed that “the probability of making good progress through school is greater in the U.S. for children of Asian descent than for children of all other racial groups.” Taking the state defendants’ position to its logical conclusion, the empirical evidence at hand should require that only rich, educated, suburban-dwelling, married Asians may marry, to the exclusion of all other heterosexual couples. Obviously the state has not adopted this policy and with good reason. The absurdity of such a requirement is self-evident. Optimal academic outcomes for children cannot logically dictate which groups may marry.
And just as important, none of the arguments for why gay people can’t get married are ever applied to straight people. If it’s really about good outcomes for children, shouldn’t a person’s fitness to be a parent be the primary consideration when granting a marriage license? It isn’t, of course.
Even today, the State of Michigan does not make fertility or the desire to have children a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license. As defendant Lisa Brown testified, Michigan county clerks are not authorized to consider a couple’s stability, criminal record, ability to procreate, parenting skills, or the potential future outcomes of their children before issuing a marriage license. County clerks may only evaluate the age and
residency of the license applicants and whether either of the applicants is currently married.
The Court finds Brown to be highly credible and gives her testimony great weight. She testified convincingly that county clerks in Michigan must issue a marriage license to any couple who meet the sparse statutory requirements concerning age, residency, and single status. Clerks do not inquire about whether applicants intend to raise children, whether they possess good parenting skills, or whether they have a criminal record.
This is a very important point. The state was claiming that letting gay people get married is worse for children and the judge pointed out that we have indisputable evidence of a whole range of traits that are terrible for children that clerks not only don’t ask about but can’t ask about when issuing a marriage license. No one asks a straight couple seeking to get married whether they’ve been previously divorced, whether they’re alcoholics, whether they’ve cheated on someone before, whether they’re educated, whether they can support children financially, whether they’ve got convictions for violent felonies. You can be a repeat child molester and not only will that not prevent you from getting a marriage license, but the clerk can’t even inquire about it. But if the couple is gay, even if they don’t have any children or ever plan to have them, we obviously have to prevent that — you know, for the good of the children.
All of these arguments fail because they’re pretextual, not honest. They’re the arguments they’re forced to make because they can’t make their real argument, which is “EWWWWW, gay people are icky!” The judge refused to issue a stay of his ruling and the AG asked the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to issue one. Some county clerks are opening on Saturday to issue licenses and perform weddings. That stay will be granted, it’s just a question of when. You can read the full ruling here.