Attorneys who submitted anti-gay briefs to the Supreme Court in favor of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are continuing the mischaracterization of a 2002 study on child development to suggest same-sex parents are less fit than opposite-sex parents, according to the non-profit that produced the study.
The 2002 study — which is is referenced in both the DOMA and Prop 8 briefs filed on Tuesday — is titled “Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children and What Can We Do About It?” and was produced by the D.C.-based non-profit Child Trends, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of children by through research.
Carol Emig, president of Child Trends, said in a statement to the Washington Blade that attorneys who wrote these briefs misconstrued the group’s study in arguments against same-sex marriage because the findings say nothing about the quality of life for children raised by same-sex parents.
“The Child Trends brief in question summarizes research conducted in 2002, when same-sex parents were not identified in large national surveys,” Emig said. “Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn from this research about the well-being of children raised by same-sex parents.”
Emig added, “We have pointed this out repeatedly, yet to our dismay we continue to see our 2002 research mischaracterized by some opponents of same-sex marriage.”
Child Trends’ study concludes, among other things, that “the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents.” The study makes references to children raised by single parents and stepparents, but no explicit reference to same-sex parents is found in the report.
In the DOMA brief, signed by attorneys House General Counsel Kerry Kircher and former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement, the Child Trends study is cited on page 47 as part of an argument that having DOMA on the books encourages childrearing by biological parents.
“Of course, only relationships between opposite-sex couples can result in children being raised by both of their biological parents,” the brief adds. “Therefore, when government offers special encouragement and support for relationships that can result in mothers and fathers jointly raising their biological children, it rationally furthers its legitimate interest in promoting this type of family structure in a way that extending similar regulation to other relationships would not.”
In the Prop 8 brief, signed by lead attorneys with ProtectMarriage.com, Andrew Pugno and Charles Cooper, the Child Trends study is referenced on page 37 as “a leading survey of social science research” under the argument that Proposition 8 furthers responsible procreation and child bearing.
“Because same-sex relationships cannot naturally produce offspring, they do not implicate the State’s interest in responsible procreation and childrearing in the same way that opposite-sex relationships do,” the brief states.
Attorneys affiliated with ProtectMarriage.com and the House Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment on the apparent misuse of the study in their legal briefs. The DOMA brief was filed in the case of Windsor v. United States and the Prop 8 brief was filed in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry.
The reference to the study isn’t the first time anti-gay forces have referenced that study as part of their argument against same-sex marriage, nor is this the first time that Child Trends has objected to use of its research for anti-gay purposes.
In his 136-page ruling against Prop 8 issued in 2010, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker tore into David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, for relying on the Child Trends study among others during testimony as evidence that parenting by same-sex parents is inadequate.
“Blankenhorn’s conclusion that married biological parents provide a better family form than married non-biological parents is not supported by the evidence on which he relied because the evidence does not, and does not claim to, compare biological to non-biological parents,” Walker writes.
David Blankenhorn, also citied the Child Trends brief as part of a 2008 essay titled “Gay marriage deprives children,” in September 2008 when Proposition 8 was headed for the ballot. In a letter to the editor, Emig also objected to the use of her group’s study for that argument.
“In research studies, the number of gay parents, even in large national surveys, has been too small to allow for separate analyses,” Emig wrote. “What is needed is a large-scale study of a representative sample of same-sex couples. Clearly, a better understanding of the diversity, strengths, and challenges faced by varied types of families is needed to better inform debates such as this one.”
While opposing marriage equality at the time, Blankenhorn has since reversed his views on same-sex marriage and now accepts it.
Similar objections were voiced in 2012 by Child Trends in the Kennebec Journal when Protect Marriage Maine brought up the study during the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage at the ballot in Maine and in the Minneapolis Star Tribune when Minnesota for Marriage cited the study as a reason for passing the failed anti-gay marriage amendment there.
Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, said the citing of this research in the Prop 8 and DOMA briefs is “dishonest, shameful, and, in my view, unprofessional.”
“These misrepresentations have not only been pointed out by the researchers before, but have been repeatedly debunked by the party and amicus briefs in these cases — and in expert testimony at trial in Perry and in expert witness declarations in Windsor — yet the attorneys fighting against marriage equality continue to baldly misrepresent the actual findings of this and the other research on which they purport to rely,” Davidson said.