In a continuation of my post regarding the same sex marriage ruling, I’ve been thinking about the potential impact of long-term same sex marriage studies. The kind I’m thinking of would be those that analyze the childhood and adult lives of people raised by two legally married adults of the same sex. While most people opposing same sex marriage do so on religious grounds, a substantial fraction instead argue that every child earns a mom and a dad. To strengthen that argument, these people could turn to long-term studies showing that children raised by two moms or two dads are “worse off” than children raised in traditional families. To precisely define “worse off,” we can look at factors such as overall happiness, overall health, future income, or a mix of these.
It is admirable to use research studies to back up one’s point (politicians, pay attention!), but with regards to the ones I’m thinking about now, I don’t believe such studies even exist. The issue of same sex marriage has only recently been at the forefront of public debate, so any long-term study would really be a short-term study. Second, we also have to consider that gay adults who marry an opposite-sex adult (perhaps under pressure) would likely not feel the same kind of affection as is common in parents of traditional families. I can’t imagine that a child could feel comfortable if his or her parents do not feel true affection towards each other.
Throwing those scenarios out the window, suppose we did have studies that showed negative impacts of same sex adults on their children. Even then, I’m not sure this should be a reason to invalidate same sex marriage. Here’s why: we get in a slippery slope of what we should allow for marriage. Without even doing any research, I can probably tell that children raised by parents who collectively earn $40,000 a year will be worse off than those raised by parents who earn $400,000 a year. Likewise, I can also probably find studies showing that children born to two black parents (of opposite sex) will be worse off than children born to two white parents (of opposite sex), even if income levels are the same. Then we would have to raise uncomfortable questions, such as whether we should have an income cutoff level for marriage. I’m not sure this is desirable, hence why even if studies show that it’s better for a child to be born in a traditional family, that’s not something we should use to prohibit same sex marriage.