The first TV ad by the No on 6 campaign pushes the “maybe it’s bad for the kids” theme that has worked well for marriage opponents in earlier campaigns. No matter that it’s based on an absurd non sequitur, since Maryland is not somehow voting on whether or not gays should have or raise kids (they’re doing that already), but on whether gay households with or without kids should be able to form legally recognized commitments, advancing the security and stability of those families.
At any rate, Annie Linskey at the Baltimore Sun has an excellent article examining the basis of the claims. The anti-6 Maryland Marriage Alliance cites two main sources. One is research from the Institute of American Values (whose founder David Blankenhorn has lately changed his mind on the topic of gay marriage, and now accepts it) which concludes that children do better in intact heterosexual families than in divorced or single-parent households. IAV’s Elizabeth Marquardt says the study did not attempt to consider outcomes in two-parent gay households. The other is the very new and exceedingly controversial Mark Regnerus study which assembled data almost exclusively from broken heterosexual and single-parent families in which a parent was reported to have had a same-sex relationship, however fleeting, and found that the children did not do as well as those in stable heterosexual couples.
The methodology and findings of the Regnerus study have been extensively criticized from many quarters; my own contribution to this literature appeared in the Huffington Post. And John Corvino, in his series of videos on same-sex marriage, has a segment that examines the Regnerus results:
“We shouldn’t be surprised if these children look like children from divorced families and single-parent families, because the vast majority of them were children from divorced families and single-parent families. That tells us nothing at all about children from planned same-sex families, and it tells us nothing at all about who should be allowed to marry.”
What are the consequences for actual children in gay families of forbidding legal recognition of their parents’ marriages? The Washington Post provided examples the other day from a Maryland family (“Dabney was a legal stranger, her name not on the children’s birth certificates.”) Law professor/blogger Eugene Volokh adds an example from Louisiana. And Timothy Kincaid of Box Turtle Bulletin challenges those who sloganize about a “right of every child to a mother and a father” to identify by name the particular children they would prefer never to have been born, or to have been consigned to state or foster care. Do they mean to include Zach Wahls?
Update: Just in, a new UCLA study finds that kids from troubled backgrounds do equally well whether placed with gay or straight foster parents. This is the kind of study structure — attempting to hold constant insofar as possible the variables other than sexual orientation — that is most likely to shed light on whether differences exist.