National Affairs Rory Leishman

National Affairs Rory Leishman

In recent years, virtually every major professional association in the United States, ranging from the American Psychiatric Association to the American College of Nursing has come out in support of so-called same-sex marriage. The latest to do so is the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). In a policy statement and accompanying technical report on March 21, the AAP affirmed that after careful consideration it, too, now “supports civil marriage for same-gender couples as the best way to guarantee benefits and security for their children.”

While conceding that “the methodologic challenges are daunting in addressing phenomena as complex and multifactorial as children’s long-term developmental and psychosocial outcomes,” the AAP nonetheless concludes that “the literature accumulated over more than 30 years, taken together, provides robust, reliable, and valid assurance about the wellbeing of children raised by parents of the same gender.” Specifically, the AAP claims that “children and adolescents who grow up with gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual.”

What are the rest of us to make of such bold scientific assertions? Now that professional associations representing the great majority of psychiatrists, psychologists and pediatricians in the United States have all expressed support for same-sex marriage, does it follow that there is no longer any reasonable basis for supposing that children are likely to thrive best under the care and guidance of their own married, biological parents?

Most definitely not. In a briefing paper submitted to the United States Supreme Court, Harvey C. Mansfield, professor of government at Harvard, and Leon R. Kass, professor emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, persuasively argue that the supposedly authoritative policy statements supporting same-sex “marriage” issued by an array of academics and groups like the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are all simply political and ideological: They do not have, and could not conceivably have, any solid scientific basis.

The main reason is straightforward: same-sex marriage and the practice of raising children by same-sex couples are such recent innovations that no one can possibly know that they will have benign long-term effects. Mansfield and Kass point out: “Even if same-sex marriage and child rearing by same-sex couples were far more common than they now are, large amounts of data collected over decades would be required before any responsible researcher could make meaningful scientific estimates of the effects.”

Justice Samuel Alito of the United States Supreme Court evidently concurs: in an ongoing case involving Proposition 8, a California referendum banning same-sex “marriage,” he pointed out during oral arguments to a lawyer for the Obama administration: “Same-sex marriage is very new. I think it was first adopted in The Netherlands in 2000. So there isn’t a lot of data about its effect … but you want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet? I mean we – we are not – we do not have the ability to see the future.”

Liberals on the Court, like their counterparts who predominate in academia and professional bodies like the AAP, are unmoved by this argument. They take the view that marriage is good for children, regardless of whether the parents are a same-sex or heterosexual couple. Benjamin Siegel, MD, one of the co-authors of the AAP statement endorsing same-sex marriage, has put the matter succinctly: “Children thrive in families that are stable and that provide permanent security, and the way we do that is through marriage.”

Siegel did not, and could not, cite any evidence that marriages between same-sex couples will prove to be no less stable than heterosexual marriages. At best, that is only a fond hope. Matthew J. Franck of the Witherspoon Institute, in Princeton, N.J., notes: “Multiple studies show that same-sex couples, particularly lesbians, divorce at higher rates where marriage is available to them, and stay together for shorter periods. If so, then again we could expect to find family instability—and the effects thereof—in the life outcomes of children.”

Regardless, Canada and 14 other countries plus nine states in the United States have undertaken an experiment with same-sex marriage. We can only hope and pray for the wellbeing of the children who have been involuntarily exposed to this reckless gamble.