Zack Ford of the Center for American Progress has what is probably the best set of answers to the arguments against marriage equality I’ve ever seen compiled in one place. He put it together in response to the new book by Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation, which attempts, and fails, to make a coherent non-religious case against same-sex marriage. He starts with Anderson’s claims about the purpose of marriage:
“Government promotes marriage to make men and women responsible to each other and to any children they might have,” he writes, clarifying that the stability of the spousal relationship is only important for the sake of the children’s well-being. He later explicitly admits that the state’s “only reason for its recognition of marriage” is “the responsible procreation and care of children.” In sum, “Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father.”
Anderson thus tasks himself with convincing the reader that the traditional wedding vows — “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” as Roman Catholics like Anderson recite — get marriage wrong. These vows espouse a distinct and familiar vision of marriage that encompasses sexual intimacy (“to have and to hold”), perpetuity (“from this day forward,” “until death do us part”), mutual financial obligation (“for richer, for poorer”), and an obligation to serve as caregivers for one another (“in sickness and in health”). He rejects this vision because it doesn’t mention caring for children, which is the only purpose of marriage in his framework. It is in making that case that he indeed gets “twisted up in knots,” and the contradictions — and rejections of same-sex couples — become apparent.
The Anderson-Girgis-George definition of what marriage should be dictates monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence, but at no point does Anderson explain how same-sex couples are less likely to achieve all three, except to assert, “Those norms are based on sexual complementarity.” He makes the point that same-sex relationships have been found to be less stable in some studies, but ignores the context that society is just beginning to recover from a history of anti-gay stigma, plus the fact that it only just lifted the ban on the very institution that he says promotes that stability.
Instead, Anderson relies on slippery slope warnings about polyamory, “monogamish” and open relationships, and short-termed “wedlease” marriages to show the deterioration of his marriage ideal. Of course, none of those are uniquely relevant to the issue of same-sex marriage. They may indeed be growing in popularity, and there may even be legal questions to consider in the future concerning these other kinds of relationships, but they are entirely different issues not informed by sexual orientation.
Parenting arguments also expose one of Anderson’s most obvious contradictions. When discussing the impact of divorce, he highlights research that shows that divorce does damage to children that no other experience — not even committed stepparents — can fully remedy. “It’s not just about two incomes or the attention of two people,” he explains. “As a general rule, divorce and remarriage provides a setting that is little better for children than divorce alone. Even when you get a second income and second parent back in the family through remarriage, children tend to be no better off than if the divorced parent had not remarried.” With that context in mind, Anderson proceeds to completely ignore the role divorce played in all of the studies and narratives he uses to claim negative outcomes for the children of same-sex couples.
He lauds, for example, the research of Mark Regnerus, Douglas Allen, and Donald Paul Sullins, all of whom produced studies purporting negative outcomes of same-sex parenting, outcomes only derived by conflating the experiences of children whose parents’ divorced or by not controlling for family structure in the first place. He dismisses most of the studies that actually address committed same-sex families as being too small and rejects four studies that meet his standard, accusing them of having coding and interpretative errors. Incidentally, all four contradicted his narrative against same-sex parenting.
Anderson also props up the stories of Robert Oscar Lopez, Katy Faust, and the other now-adult “poster children” who claim to have had negative experiences with same-sex parenting, even though divorce was a part of every single one of their narratives. It is the only time he acknowledges the children of same-sex couples, ignoring the hundreds of thousands of children that are having completely typical and loving upbringings. As far as Anderson is concerned, the experience of children raised by same-sex couples can only be described by data and anecdotes about children impacted by divorce, because, of course, that’s the only way he can portray their experiences as negative.
That has always been the problem with the endless claims about studies showing children do better in two-parent families, that they are always comparing them to single-parent families that were formed as a result of divorce. They never compare them to committed gay couples raising children because all of the studies that have done so disprove their argument. Divorce is the real problem, statistically, when it comes to the best outcomes for children, and up to this point divorces have been exclusively heterosexual, so you certainly can’t blame that one on gay people.