Utah Withdraws Use of Regnerus Study


On Thursday the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the appeal of a district court decision striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. In the wake of the Michigan case, they sent a letter to the court distancing itself from Mark Regnerus’ terrible study, which they had used at the trial level. That letter said, in part:

First, we wish to emphasize the very limited relevance to this case of the comparison addressed by Professor Regnerus. As the State’s briefing makes clear, the State’s principal concern is the potential long-term impact of a redefinition of marriage on the children of heterosexual parents. The debate over man-woman versus same-sex parenting has little if any bearing on that issue, given that being raised in a same-sex household would normally not be one of the alternatives available to children of heterosexual parents.

Second, on the limited issue addressed by the Regnerus study, the State wishes to be clear about what that study (in the State’s view) does and does not establish. The Regnerus study did not examine as its sole focus the outcomes of children raised in same-sex households but, because of sample limitations inherent in the field of study at this point, examined primarily children who acknowledged having a parent who had engaged in a same-sex relationship. Thus, the Regnerus study cannot be viewed as conclusively establishing that raising a child in a same-sex household produces outcomes that are inferior to those produced by man-woman parenting arrangements.

Weirdly, the state is making its argument largely on the basis of protecting children of straight families, not gay ones. And to make things even more bizarre, they’ve actually argued that banning same-sex marriage protects diversity in parenting:

Although they attempt to address the first proposition — i.e., that children generally do better in various ways when raised by a mother and father, at least one of whom (or preferably both) is a biological parent — Respondents attack a straw man: They mischaracterize this point as an argument that “same-sex parents are inferior to opposite-sex parents.” That is not the point: The State does not contend that the individual parents in same-sex couples are somehow “inferior” as parents to the individual parents who are involved in married, mother-father parenting. The point, rather, is that the combination of male and female parents is likely to draw from the strengths of both genders in ways that cannot occur with any combination of two men or two women, and that this gendered, mother-father parenting model provides important benefits to children.

That this would be so is hardly surprising. Society has long recognized that diversity in education brings a host of benefits to students. If that is true in education, why not in parenting? At a minimum, the State and its people could rationally conclude that gender diversity — i.e., complementarity — in parenting is likely to be beneficial to children. And the State and its people could therefore rationally decide to encourage such diversity by limiting the coveted status of “marriage” to man-woman unions.

This is a terrible argument one every imaginable level. First, there isn’t even an attempt to explain why banning same-sex marriage will do anything at all to harm families headed by straight people. Do they think that if they ban same-sex marriage, all the gay people in the state will say, “Welp, so much for that. I guess I’ll go marry someone of the opposite sex so I can have kids and raise them that way”? Gay parents can and do raise children whether they are allowed to get married or not. The only thing at stake here is whether those couples and their children will be granted the protections of marriage.

Second, even if this argument were true, so what? There are lots of studies that show that children of wealthy families have better outcomes on average than children from poor families, white families do better on average than black ones, two-parent families do better than those headed by single parents. And yet Utah does not use that as an excuse, nor could they conceivably without being viewed as absurd, to ban the raising of children by those who are poor, black or single. As the judge in the Michigan case pointed out, if those arguments about the relative outcomes of families in different demographic categories were to be taken seriously, no one but wealthy Asian couples should be allowed to have kids.

Comments

  1. Al Dente says

    For once someone is trying to explain how same-sex marriage will effect opposite-sex marriage. Their explanation is nonsensical but at least they’re giving it.

  2. Randomfactor says

    Why stop at “gender diversity”? Why not require that all married couples be of different races and different religions? (For purposes of inclusion I suppose we could say “atheist” counts as a religion.)

  3. wscott says

    I was thinking the same thing. At least they finally came up with an argument against same sex marriage that wasn’t used against interracial marriage – in fact it’s the exact opposite. So there’s that.

  4. dingojack says

    In fact several long-term studies of a wide range of family types in Australia have found no statistically significant difference in outcomes for children raised by parents who were in same-sex or opposite sex relationships. Since the sexes of the two partners are essentially irrelevant to child welfare, neither same nor opposite sex marriages should be favoured of disfavoured.
    No compelling evidence of harm can be shown nor any compelling states’ reason to deny extending marriage (with all it’s responsibilities and privileges) to same-sex couples who desire it.
    Surely then, Utah should be all for all marriage of two men or women — if only in the name of ‘marriage diversity’.
    Dingo

  5. Sastra says

    A few years back someone came into comments at Pharyngula arguing against gay marriage by making the suggestion that marriage laws were intended to protect roles which were ‘best’ for children: a breadwinner and a homemaker. When I asked him whether a breadwinner/ homemaker gay couple with kids didn’t therefore trump a childless heterosexual career couple, the problem with this line of attack became apparent. To the guys credit, he admitted it. For some reason it hadn’t even occurred to him to test it this way.

  6. sigurd jorsalfar says

    Society has long recognized that diversity in education brings a host of benefits to students.

    Oh really? What is ‘diversity in education’? This is the first time I’ve ever heard this phrase. It comes across as a bullshit attempt to try to claim the mantle of diversity for their position, without any understanding of what ‘diversity’ means.

  7. dingojack says

    Of course they have diversity:
    White, Linen, Egg-shell, Bone, Ash and Ecru.
    What more do ya want?
    @@
    Dingo

  8. zmidponk says

    The point, rather, is that the combination of male and female parents is likely to draw from the strengths of both genders in ways that cannot occur with any combination of two men or two women, and that this gendered, mother-father parenting model provides important benefits to children.

    That this would be so is hardly surprising. Society has long recognized that diversity in education brings a host of benefits to students. If that is true in education, why not in parenting? At a minimum, the State and its people could rationally conclude that gender diversity — i.e., complementarity — in parenting is likely to be beneficial to children. And the State and its people could therefore rationally decide to encourage such diversity by limiting the coveted status of “marriage” to man-woman unions.

    OK, so where’s the corresponding proposed legislation detailing the measures taken to ensure a man and a woman are sufficiently different from each other before they will be allowed to get married, in the interests of ‘promoting diversity’? Unless you can definitively and objectively prove that this diversity is promoted more by every different-sex couple than by every same-sex couple, without exception, this is still discrimination, if you insist on this for same-sex couples, but not for different-sex couples.

  9. raven says

    The point, rather, is that the combination of male and female parents is likely to draw from the strengths of both genders in ways that cannot occur with any combination of two men or two women, and that this gendered, mother-father parenting model provides important benefits to children.

    Gibberish.

    40% of US children are born to single mothers. The divorce rate is 50%. People die young sometimes.

    There are huge numbers of children being raised by single parents for one reason or another. How much less diverse can you get than one parent?

    While this might not be ideal in many cases, we certainly don’t prevent single parents from raising children.

    You can see that they are trying to assume that all marriages are between compatible men and women (preferably Mormon virgins after the guy goes on a mission and graduates from BYU) and everyone lives happily ever after. Even in Mormonville that doesn’t happen all the time.

  10. gertzedek says

    Although they attempt to address the first proposition — i.e., that children generally do better in various ways when raised by a mother and father, at least one of whom (or preferably both) is a biological parent — Respondents attack a straw man: They mischaracterize this point as an argument that “same-sex parents are inferior to opposite-sex parents.” That is not the point: The State does not contend that the individual parents in same-sex couples are somehow “inferior” as parents to the individual parents who are involved in married, mother-father parenting. The point, rather, is that the combination of male and female parents is likely to draw from the strengths of both genders in ways that cannot occur with any combination of two men or two women, and that this gendered, mother-father parenting model provides important benefits to children.

    Wow…when you’re arguing the semantics of your opponent’s argument, you’re really grasping at straws. Interpreting “Same-sex parents are inferior to opposite-sex parents” to refer specifically to the individual parents’ parenting abilities is, at best, a boneheaded misunderstanding of plain English, and, at worst, a desperate attempt to confuse the judges concerning their opponent’s argument.

    Also, isn’t it great how Republicans firmly believe that parents should be in charge of a child’s welfare only until the parents want to do something the Republicans don’t like? Comprehensive sex ed clearly shown to improve teens’ health and lower their risk of pregnancy? The state can’t interfere; it’s the parents’ prerogative! Gay people want to get married and have a family? Well…we’ve got a completely baseless hunch that gay people *might* not raise kids quite as well as straight folks, so clearly the state has to step in!

  11. dingojack says

    We’re not saying that, when ranking same-sex against opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples, oh no; we’re saying the opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. An order of difference don’tch’know.’

    Yeah, I’m sure that’ll work. And if it doesn’t, you’ll just keep trying it again, and again, and again… @@

    Dingo

  12. anubisprime says

    Is it possible that by this tactic of withdrawal of the Regnerus nonsense that they hope is that damage has already been done…as in you cannot un-see a piece of information ..it remains lodged somewhere in the cortex even if the source of that information is removed from the scene after the fact…

    It seems more a pragmatic ploy to tilt the board in their favour then remove the dodgy scaffolding overnight before Health and Safety castigate you publicly for using bullshite to prop your contention up leaving the judges hanging by fingertips and any bias inherent would be reinforced by information they picked up last week thinking it kosher…

    Seems it is a strange shenanigan…maybe the legal team should have evaluated their evidence before entering a court after all this Regnerus nonsense was known to be a shovelful of shit for quite sometime…before this court case begun any ways.

  13. jamessweet says

    That is not the point: The State does not contend that the individual parents in same-sex couples are somehow “inferior” as parents to the individual parents who are involved in married, mother-father parenting. The point, rather, is that the combination of male and female parents is likely to draw from the strengths of both genders in ways that cannot occur with any combination of two men or two women, and that this gendered, mother-father parenting model provides important benefits to children.

    This is sophistry of the highest order. Shortened, this is what it says: “We don’t think same-sex parents are inferior. We just think opposite-sex parents are superior.” Facepalm…

  14. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @dingojack, #4

    No compelling evidence of harm can be shown nor any compelling states’ reason to deny extending marriage…

    You miss the point. The point is that there are different tiers of analysis used to determine the outer bounds of constitutional law-making authority. Where race is involved, the state does need to show a compelling state interest. Where hair length is involved, the state need only show a “rational relationship” between legislation and stated goal. The goal of which must itself be “rational”. But this “rational basis” arose out of corporate/economic cases…and also at a time where good research on a wide range of topics was hard to find. So even where good info on a topic existed, we had to trust our law makers to go on with the best info they had on hand. Thus it was a subjective test –
    1. could the lawmaker have possibly thought that this course of action was rational, if that lawmaker held the beliefs the lawmaker claimed to have held during lawmaking?
    2. were those predicate beliefs something other than ridiculous?

    If the answer to both questions is yes, then the only question is whether the law is rationally related to the goal.
    “I believe diversity in education is beneficial” is not ridiculous.
    thus
    “I believe diversity in gender of intimate partners who then go on to raise children, a task involving quite a bit of education” is not ridiculous.
    also, we’ll need later in the argument:
    “Bisexual/pan/omni/non-gender-oriented folks exist” which is not ridiculous to believe.

    Holding these beliefs, it would be rational (under the court’s definition of rational) to promote gender diversity in intimate partnerships between people who choose to raise children.

    We know there are people with the capacity to form intimate partnerships from a gender-diverse potential-partner-pool. To provide tax, recognition, inheritance, and other incidental benefits to different-legal-sex couples but not same-legal-sex couples could have the effect of making certain partnerships less desirable for a single parent looking to settle down.

    Thus, there is a rational basis for restricting legal recognition of marriage by the state.

    Under rational basis there is no balancing of harm test, nor does consistency enter into it (“well, why didn’t you do that for race?” is an argument specifically dismissed by the courts and it will have no legal effect, though it will tend to exasperate some judges).

    Compelling interests also play no role.

    The state is asserting rational basis is the correct test to apply. If the state argued about compelling interests, it would lend credence to the idea that the very strictest form of scrutiny should apply. Utah would never do that.

  15. dingojack says

    Crip Dyke – I believe that, in fact, ‘heightened scrutiny’ was the standard used in several cases of this kind because of the history of harm these laws have created, not ‘rational basis’.
    Dingo

  16. eava says

    The compelling state interest standard comes into play when government action burdens the exercise of a fundamental right, and marriage is a fundamental right. The government can’t say only people with college educations can marry, even though studies show divorce rates are lowest among those with college educations. That may be a rational restriction, but because of the fundamental nature of the right to marry, such a law would never make it past the courts. So I don’t think laws regarding same sex marriage are subject to rational basis review, but require heightened scrutiny.

  17. eava says

    Whether sexual orientation should be considered a suspect classification entitled to heightened scrutiny in all cases is still an open question, but the Windsor decision certain my seems to point in that direction.

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