Scalia and Sociological Evidence

During the oral argument on the Prop 8 case, Justice Scalia trotted out the tired old “gosh, this same-sex marriage stuff is so new that we have no idea what effect it will have” argument and he claimed that this was a matter of some controversy among sociologists.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Cooper, let me — let me give you one — one concrete thing. I don’t know why you don’t mention some concrete things. If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must — you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s – there’s considerable disagreement among — among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a — in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some States do not — do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.

There is “considerable disagreement” about this among sociologists in the same way there is “considerable disagreement” over the age of the earth among geologists — yes, you can find a small handful of people with PhDs who continue to claim the opposite, but they are motivated solely by their a priori religious commitments and their arguments and “studies” are bad to the point of being utterly laughable.

We now have dozens of studies on this issue and they are nearly unanimous in concluding that the children of gay parents are no different than the children of straight parents in any meaningful way. The one study that suggests otherwise, the Regnerus study that came out last year, had a methodology so clearly at odds with any reasonable protocol that it was withdrawn by the journal it was published in. It did not compare stable homes headed by straight people with stable homes headed by gay people, it compared stable heterosexual households to families with a whole range of damaging factors, most obviously divorce.

The American Academy of Pediatrics just a week ago released a statement in support of marriage equality and noted some 80 studies on the subject that conclude otherwise:

A great deal of scientific research documents there is no cause-and-effect relationship between parents’ sexual orientation and children’s well-being, according to the AAP policy. In fact, many studies attest to the normal development of children of same-gender couples when the child is wanted, the parents have a commitment to shared parenting, and the parents have strong social and economic support. Critical factors that affect the normal development and mental health of children are parental stress, economic and social stability, community resources, discrimination, and children’s exposure to toxic stressors at home or in their communities — not the sexual orientation of their parents.

According to the policy statement, the AAP “supports pediatricians advocating for public policies that help all children and their parents, regardless of sexual orientation, build and maintain strong, stable, and healthy families that are able to meet the needs of their children.”

But Scalia isn’t really saying this because he believes it, but only because it gives a thin veneer of objectivity to his prejudices. That’s the same reason why creationists talk about the tiny handful of real scientists who reject evolution.


  1. doublereed says

    That’s Scalia’s whole shtick. Hiding behind the veneer of objectivity to mask his blatant biases. Hell, you can argue that’s what all of the “Originalism” stuff is.

  2. gshelley says

    I know that a judge’s question’s will often show their biases and how they feel, but surely saying “Here’s a great argument for your position, why haven’t you being using it?” is going a little far away from even a pretense of being impartial.

  3. says

    Never mind your elitist “studies.” I know that once those gay people get our innocent, Christian children into their homo lairs, it’s all about recruiting them into their deviant lifestyle and indoctrinating them in the gay agenda. They probably also teach them disco dancing to boot. It ain’t natural.

  4. dingojack says

    Shorter Scalia: ‘teach the controversy’*.
    * in actuality, the non-controversy

    PS:sqlrob – in his case – scat of the male bovine kind (a lesser known Spielberg movie)

  5. Abby Normal says

    Of some relevance, here’s a statement issued by The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association in 2004.

    The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

    The Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association strongly opposes a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

  6. says

    If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, you must — you must permit adoption by same-sex couples

    Besides the other issues, is this even true? It’s not like all married couple can adopt.

  7. Randomfactor says

    Besides the other issues, is this even true?

    Might be. If you grant that the question is whether you can keep married couples from adopting JUST BECAUSE they’re gay, and the court rules that teh ghey deserve an “intermediate scrutiny” stance, you may not be able to discriminate unfairly anymore, dagnabbit.

  8. David C Brayton says

    What does this imply? Say there was a showed that married opposite-sex couples that were uneducated (or poor, alcohol consumers, diabetics, redheads, take your pick) made worse parents (as measured by the same standards in the studies Scalia cited).

    Could Congress limited the ability of such married couples to have and/or children?

  9. cptdoom says

    @ David C Brayton – that’s a huge point – we don’t base individual liberties on sociological studies. We know, from sociology, for instance, that poor parents, whether married or not, will tend to have children with worse outcomes than parents with higher incomes. However, we do not use that as a reason to limit civil rights by income or put roadblocks in the way of poor couples to getting married. That’s because data also show us that there are poor parents whose children do just fine, as do at least some children of single parents, divorced parents, etc. We also know that people like Zach Wahls, who so eloquently defended his two moms at the Iowa legislature, exist, so we know that at least some same-sex couples are able to produce healthy, productive, well-adjusted children. Because family structure is not determinative as to family outcome, it cannot and should not be used to limit the rights of individuals.

  10. says

    Even if if same-sex couples were somehow worse parents than different-sex couples, this doesn’t make sense. It’s not like adoption is a seller’s market. These married queerfolk wouldn’t be adoptign kids that would have otherwise gotten a mother and a father. They’d be adopting kids that otherwise wouldn’t have adopted or would have gotten single parents. Scalia’s remarks would only make sense if there were a shortage of adoptable children and it’s quite the opposite.

  11. says

    …we don’t base individual liberties on sociological studies.

    Sometimes we do. In this case, sociological studies refute any “rational basis” arguments in favor of banning same-sex marriages or adoptions. And in the case of school segregation, Thurgood Marshall’s case against “separate but equal” included studies that showed harm done to certain people’s self-image and their image of others who looked like them.

    Sometimes, sociological studies can show harm done to certain people, and that in turn can be used to show that those people’s rights were violated, or that a certain policy or law had unequal effects.

  12. says

    The eldest of the nine Scalia offspring, Ann, was arrested about five years ago for driving under the influence and child endangerment. Not to pick on her, but Scalia once said of having a large family:

    In a big family the first child is kind of like the first pancake. If it’s not perfect, that’s okay, there are a lot more coming along.”

    Just came to mind, for some reason.

  13. dingojack says

    cptdoom – “We know, from sociology, for instance, that poor parents, whether married or not, will tend to have children with worse outcomes than parents with higher incomes.”

    … therefore the economy should be adjusted to substantially increase the incomes of the poor to improve the overall health, wealth and productivity of Americans, and America, into the future.

    Sounds like good proposition to me!
    :) Dingo

  14. says

    My brother and his hubby have been foster parents to an eight year old boy for the last six months. It has been a wonder to see a scared, withdrawn boy open up. He has a spring in his step and a light in his face that just wasn’t there six months ago.

    I went on a shopping trip with them recently and was quietly pleased to see the lad holding hands with my brother, chatting and smiling as he walked. I was completely blown away when he grabbed my hand as well when I came up beside them, and drew me into the conversation, asking me questions and telling me all the things that were on his mind at that moment.

    A single case, but one that would have sealed my opinion if there was any need.

  15. says

    Scalia’s not quite stooped to JAQing off but that “argument” is as sophisticated as some of the stuff we hear from the slymepitters. I.e.: pathetic.

  16. Ichthyic says

    this same-sex marriage stuff is so new that we have no idea what effect it will have”

    Argentina – 2010
    Belgium – 2003
    Canada – 2005
    Iceland – 2010
    Netherlands – 2001
    Norway – 2008
    Portugal – 2010
    South Africa – 2006
    Spain – 2005
    Sweden – 2009

    could ask one of them I suppose.

Leave a Reply