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More Bad Marriage Arguments From State of Michigan

In the federal lawsuit challenging Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban on behalf of a lesbian couple who want to adopt each others’ children, the state of Michigan continues to make terrible arguments in defense of that law. In their latest brief, they continue with this completely irrelevant claim:

Indeed, Plaintiffs’ argument rests on the conclusion that there is only one rational way to define marriage — as between two consenting adults — and that it makes no difference for raising children whether a child has both a mother and a father. The State’s response, however, is a modest one: it is within the realm of reason to believe that having both a mother and a father benefits children.This point reflects the reality that every child of a traditional marriage has a mother and a father. But in a same-sex marriage, there is always one biological parent who is not a legal one, and one legal parent who is not a biological one. The State does not seek to injure anyone, but rather wishes to foster what the majority of its citizens believe to be best for children. That effort is a reasoned one…

No single person — regardless of sex or sexual orientation — may join with another single person to adopt a child in Michigan. Further, the fact that same-sex families exist in Michigan does not in and of itself make irrational the State’s position that, all things being equal, it is optimal for children to be raised in a family where both sexes are represented.

Such a terrible argument. There may be some Platonic ideal of a perfect family here that many people hold, but so what? But how does forbidding a lesbian couple from adopting the three children they have raised together for years (one of them previously adopted two of the children, the other adopted the third) help attain that ideal? This has nothing to do with whether having a mother and a father in the home is good “all other things being equal.” Gay people are not going to all run out there, form relationships with people of the opposite sex and start having children. And even if they did, you shouldn’t want them to. Believe me, I’ve seen first hand the damage that someone pretending to be straight and getting married to cover up being gay (for a time; it never lasts long because it’s too damaging to everyone involved) can do.

The state is trying to make a very minimalist argument here because they know that’s all they have. They’re trying to argue that even if there isn’t a very coherent argument to be made, it meets some minimal level of being “rationally related to a state interest,” as the rational basis test requires in its most lenient formulation. But in light of the Supreme Court’s DOMA case and it’s “more searching form of review,” I don’t think that’s going to fly. And despite all of these broad and vague arguments about the Platonic ideal of marriage, the state has to explain why denying the protection of marriage to this particular family helps the state achieve a compelling interest. And they just can’t do that.

Comments

  1. jolly says

    If I were a taxpayer in that state, I would want to fire everyone involved in the state’s side because they are not very smart. I bet they are being paid a lot more than the average citizen.

  2. anne mariehovgaard says

    It is within the realm of reason to believe that having access to a piano benefits children. So obviously, no non-piano-owner should be allowed to marry, let alone adopt.

  3. Synfandel says

    No single person — regardless of sex or sexual orientation — may join with another single person to adopt a child in Michigan.

    Doesn’t that make the point for the plaintiff? The couple is challenging the state’s same-sex marriage ban in order to be able to adopt each others’ children. They want to get married and adopt each others’ children. They’re being prevented from doing so by a law that bars same sex marriage and, as a consequence, prevents them from being in a position to adopt children. If the state invalidates that law, the purposes of marriage and adoption are both served.

  4. says

    Okay; so, these guys are completely ignoring the 800 #* elephant in the room.

    IF you allow GAY’rents to adopt, you open the door to the slippery slope. When it’s legal for teh GAY to adopt there will be MILLIONS of adoptions of beautiful, white, Nothomo babeez by GAY gypsies! After they are adopted, allathem kids will be forced into loveless, GAYmarriages, betrothed before kindergarten** to other formerly unGAY children who have been turned away from the beaming countenance of JESUS and subverted to the dark side of spandex and sequins!! 11onety!!!

    * NOT a “hashtag”, but a “pounds” sign.

    ** Thank GOD that we gutted “Headstart” programs!

  5. hunter says

    Well, OK, the “mother and father” argument. Again. Nope. No evidence to support it.

    And the rest is just as coherent.

    It’s not a matter of “if this is the best they can do.” It is the best they can do, and it’s failed every time it’s been tried as anything other than a scare ad. I’m surprised they didn’t go the “intentionally depriving a child of a mother or father” route.

    If the judge has any brains — and as I recall, he’s the one who suggested they contest the marriage law to begin with — the state is going down in flames.

  6. cptdoom says

    But in a same-sex marriage, there is always one biological parent who is not a legal one, and one legal parent who is not a biological one.

    Just like when a step-parent adopts a child abandoned by his/her biological parent. Is the State of Michigan now going to argue against remarriage after divorce?

  7. eric says

    The State does not seek to injure anyone, but rather wishes to foster what the majority of its citizens believe to be best for children. That effort is a reasoned one…

    It could be reasoned if you made all other “sub-optimal for children” adoptions illegal – but you don’t. As the clearest example, the state doesn’t make adoptions by single parents illegal. So making this adoption illegal is just plain old discrimination.

    In order to rationally justify the exclusion of gay couples when you include single parents, you’d have to show that (the state has a credible reason to think) gay couples are even less beneficial than your so-called sub-optimal single parents. You can’t compare gay couples to hetero couples because, in allowing single parents to adopt, you’ve already made the decision that you’re not going to limit adoption to ‘ideal’ parent candidates.* That ship has sailed – probably decades ago, if not centuries ago.

    *I don’t endorse this claim of Michigan’s, that hetero couples are the ideal. I’m pointing out that even if we grant them this position, it does not provide them with a rational, nondiscriminatory basis for excluding gay couples, because they already let ‘nonideal’ parents adopt.

  8. Abby Normal says

    The poor can still get married. Emotionally unstable people can still get married. Alcoholics and addicts can get married. Convicted thieves, murderers, and even child molesters can get married. Tell me again how marriage is about creating an ideal environment for raising children.

  9. gshelley says

    If all they were concerned about was making sure children got the perfect environment or nothing, and didn’t want to support those in the “non ideal”, wouldn’t it be against the law for a single person to adopt?

  10. drr1 says

    This Michigan law (and others like it, all around the country) is so irrational on so many levels, it’s difficult to come up with a comprehensive list. Michigan allows a single gay or lesbian parent to adopt, but a gay or lesbian couple is barred from doing so. April and Jayne (the plaintiffs in this case) were approved by the State of Michigan as a foster family, but the State then says they cannot be a suitable adoptive family.

    hunter@7 said:

    I’m surprised they didn’t go the “intentionally depriving a child of a mother or father” route.

    The State stopped short of making that argument, but at least one other supporter of the law has done so.

    Oral arguments on the cross motions for summary judgment are scheduled for October 16. I can’t make it, but I think some of my students may go. Keep your fingers crossed!

  11. whheydt says

    Perhaps the state is making the best argument it has…even if it’s a very poor one.

    On the other hand, perhaps the lawyer who wrote that actually wants to *lose* the case while preserving the appearance of trying to win, and has, therefore, made an argument that looks good the dimwits that are opposing gay marriage, but which he knows really won’t do anything to win the case.

  12. freemage says

    Following the state’s logic in this mess, we should also take children away from divorced couples and stick them with married couples. And poor children should be taken from their families and placed in upper-middle-class homes. Right?

  13. raven says

    The State’s response, however, is a modest one: it is within the realm of reason to believe that having both a mother and a father benefits children.This point reflects the reality that every child of a traditional marriage has a mother and a father.

    1. This isn’t true. The divorce rate is 50%. As it turns out, only 60% of of children live with their two biological parents.

    40% of all births are to single mothers.

    2. There is no such thing as traditional marriage. Biblical marriage is between one man and however many wives he can round up and however many sex slaves he can afford to buy.

  14. scienceavenger says

    It’s as if they were trying to see how many bad arguments they could tie together in one. To wit:

    1) Marriage is not about raising children.
    2) It is not the job of the state to deprive a group of a right based on what optimizes results.
    3) There is no evidence that two hetero parents are better for children than 2 homo ones, but plenty of evidence that two parents is better than one (who is allowed to adopt).
    4) Some children do not have two parents (in vitro anyone?)
    5) If homo couples cannot both contribute genetic material to a child now, they will be soon.

    In short, every single statement the state made is wrong. Impressive, really.

  15. Scientismist says

    But in a same-sex marriage, there is always one biological parent who is not a legal one, and one legal parent who is not a biological one.

    Yes, and while there might be nothing the State can do about the biological relationship, the legal disadvantage is within the power of the State to preserve or to remedy. For the “good of the children,” the State is going to do everything they can to make sure the legal disadvantage remains in place. But please understand:

    The State does not seek to injure anyone, but rather wishes to foster what the majority of its citizens believe to be best for children.

    And what is best for the children is that if one parent dies, those of the children who are not legally related to the surviving parent (and are darn well going to stay that way) will be removed from their home and put into foster care. Why is that for the best? Because gay people are icky, that’s why.

    It all makes sense, if you just keep your bigot glasses on.

  16. robb says

    if it is better for children to have opposite sex parents, why stop at only two? marriage should be defined as between 6 men and 6 women. such a family would be 6 times better for children.

  17. exdrone says

    in a same-sex marriage, there is always one biological parent who is not a legal one, and one legal parent who is not a biological one

    Also, there is always one parent who is older and one who has more hair. This is a fun game. Is there a point to it?

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