American Foundation for Equal Rights

Los Angeles Times: Parenting should be a nonissue in gay marriage debate

Supporters of Proposition 8 have made child-rearing a focus of the trial. But no other group is prohibited from marrying because of parental abilities, or lack thereof.

It wasn’t surprising that the federal trial on Proposition 8 in January confirmed that the same-sex marriage ban is destructive to family life and discriminatory toward a group that has historically been subject to abuse. What did surprise us: Some of the strongest arguments in favor of same-sex marriage were made by those opposing it.

Closing arguments in the case will be heard Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, more than four months after testimony ended. Even so, it’s easy to recall some of the startling moments of the trial. One witness who had been hired to testify that gay men and lesbians wield significant political power — and therefore were not a group that had especially suffered from discrimination — ended up conceding that at least some people voted for Proposition 8 because of prejudice against homosexuals. The witness, Kenneth Miller, a professor at Claremont McKenna College, also had made statements in the past that minorities were vulnerable to harm from ballot initiatives, and that courts should protect them from such harm — an argument that seemed to weaken the case for his side.

Then there was David Blankenhorn, the founder and president of the Institute for American Values, who testified that preserving traditional marriage should take priority over the rights of gays and lesbians — but then offered no proof that same-sex marriage would in any way harm the institution of marriage, and admitted that marriage would be beneficial to families headed by same-sex couples.

The objective of the lawyers arguing for Proposition 8 before Judge Vaughn R. Walker is to show that voters had rational reasons for approving it rather than being motivated by bigotry. And a key reason, one of the lawyers said, is that children fare best when raised by a married couple of opposite genders.

The premise itself is dubious. A longitudinal study published online this month in the journal Pediatrics found that the adolescent children of lesbian couples fare very well. In fact, they “rated significantly higher in social, school/academic and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive and externalizing problems” than others their age.

The premise also is irrelevant. Just as we wouldn’t propose taking marriage away from heterosexual couples even though their children might not do as well as those of lesbians, there is nothing reasonable about denying marriage to same-sex couples based on judgments about child-rearing or anything else concerning the perceived quality of their marriages. Despite what Proposition 8 supporters have tried to argue during the trial, marriage is not solely about procreation and raising children; for many couples, that’s not even a factor. And same-sex couples who want children will have them whether or not they have a marriage license.

Read the full piece here.