There is a new study out being touted by Catholic and Anti-Gay Marriage believers as proving that same-sex parent (SSP) families are uniquely detrimental to children. To them, this is another reason that Same Sex Marriage should not be supported.
As Catholics, American’s, and human being’s endowed with intellect and rational function, we have a responsibility not only to seek the fullness of Truth according to reality, but to uphold, support, and defend the Truth through realistic, prudent, and valid means. Therefore, I would like to examine this study to see what actual conclusions can be drawn from it concerning the same-sex marriage issue.
First however, to remove any doubt of my bias, let me share my views concerning SSM. I believe marriage is a Sacrament between a man and a woman, a reflection of the Trinitarian nature of God, for the purpose of begetting and raising children in a God centered environment. Therefore, I believe that any form of legislation endorsing same sex union is contrary to the will of God. For various theological, philosophical, psychological, legal and social reasons, same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry nor adopt or birth children. Furthermore, the raising of a child by a same sex couple after a heterosexual divorce provides complicated legal issues that could also be avoided by a marriage amendment.
That being said, the idea presented in this study that SSP is significantly and uniquely detrimental to the child being raised is, from a scientific paradigm, contrary to prior studies I have read, specifically one by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association*, but also numerous other studies (some of which even suggest children of SSP are actually better adjusted than even IBF’s**). However, Mr. Regnerus addresses the reliability of these studies in his article and thus appropriate doubt could be shed on their findings concerning their contrary views.
Futhermore, there are sources pointing out the flaws of the study (anything from sample-size, its specific cohort as being unrepresentative, to unreliable measures) and while some of these arguments are more valid than others, they seriously handicap the ability of this study to be used in public discourse. Of course, any secular instituion, most of which are in favor of SSM, will find a way to attack this study. However, Mark Regnerus himself says that the study has some weaknesses, does not say anything specifically about the morality of SSP, and should not be used to defend any political position. I mostly agree with these criticisms–the study, in what and how it measures, is extremely limited in its findings, though there is some valuable information to be gleaned.
What can we take away from this study? First, it must be noted that in nearly any scientific study dealing with this subject, the spiritual aspect of the child is ignored, and in that concern I believe that no SSP can ever be spiritually healthy for the child involved, as it presents an intrinsically disordered representation of love, sex, marriage, and natural law. In general however, this study supports the opinion that, while SSP is no worse than divorce, step parentage, and single parent families, the benefits that proceed from an intact biological family cannot be ignored. Traditional marriage is the best chance a child has at a healthy, spiritually fulfilling life and a realistic portrayal of love and sex.
What does all this mean for Catholics and Marriage Amendment supporters? This study is not the savior of the Marriage Amendment cause, so please do not treat it as such. The very sketchy and limited nature of the study, and the fact that most people are skeptical of it, means that it is very unlikely to help you win any arguments, or convince people to even more closely examine their views. It is important as Catholics that we use all the tools (science, philosophy, revelation, etc.) to adequately support our point, and that we don’t use an illogical, purely passionate, or invalid argument just because it supports our view. This does not win us any respect. Mark Regnerus’ study has some points with which we can use as a piece of the scaffold in our argument, but it is in no way sound enough to stand on its own, nor does it disable the opponents argument concerning SSP and child well-being. We must continue this fight in prayer, peaceful and respectful discourse, and with a firm handle on Truth and reality.
*cf. Carole E. Allen, James E. Crawford, Mark Del Monte, Jane M. Foy, Miriam Kaufman, Jonathan D. Klein, et al. “The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on the Health and Well-Being of Children” Pediatrics. 118.1 (July 2006) p349)
** “Intact Biological Families”–I disagree with this conclusion based on merely spiritual grounds, but the point is that there are varying degrees of sound science which finds different views on the matter.