In Michigan, Gay Marriage – “For the Sake of the Children”?

One of the standard conservative arguments against gay marriage, is that it is somehow harmful to children. In Michigan, a court is being asked to evaluating this claim – and the conservatives are having a rough time of it. They planned to produce two expert witnesses – but got off to a poor start. Yesterday, the judge ruled that the first witness for the state could not take the stand, because he is still a student, and so does not quality as an expert. Today, the second alleged expert was due to testify – but in the meantime, his own employer, the University of Texas, dismissed his research as methodologically flawed.

Plaintiffs Jayne Rowse, left, and her partner April DeBoer stand outside Federal Court in Detroit on Feb. 25, 2014. / Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press


The case began when two women asked the court to recognize both of them as joint parents of their three adopted children – which is currently prohibited by virtue of Michigan’s ban on same – sex marriage. When the case first came to trial, the judge suggested that they withdraw, and resubmit their application as a challenge to the marriage ban. This they did, and the case came to trial last week. The plaintiffs produced an impressive set of expert witnesses, from a range of disciplines, to present evidence that research shows parents of the same – sex are as effective and suitable as parents as opposite – sex couples. The state, defending its ban, had only two alleged “experts”.

The first of these was due to testify yesterday. It did not go well. His credentials were  immediately challenged by the plaintiffs legal team – and the judge agreed, that he does not yet quality as an expert.

“The fact is you’re still a student. Someone else is still grading your papers,” said attorney Ken Mogill, co-counsel for two Detroit-area nurses challenging the gay-marriage ban.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said Girgis is smart, articulate and bound to become an expert in his field.

“But not quite yet,” Friedman said.

Their other witness is Professor Mark Regnerius, whose controversial research has been widely touted by the opponents of gay marriage – but has been equally widely challenged as methodologically flawed, and not in fact demonstrating the results that Regnerius has claimed. Professor Regnerius js employed by the University of Texas – and this is not exactly the ringing endorsement he will have wanted from his employer:

The Sociology Department of the University of Texas issued this statement Monday about sociologist Mark Regnerus, who believes traditional marriage should be upheld in Michigan because, he says, kids thrive best in that setting.

“Dr. Regnerus’ opinions are his own. They do not reflect the views of the Sociology… Nor do they reflect the views of the American Sociological Association, which takes the position that the conclusions he draws from his study of same-sex parenting are fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds and that findings from Dr. Regnerus’ work have been cited inappropriately in efforts to diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LBGT partners and their families. We encourage society as a whole to evaluate his claims.”

– Detroit Free Press

This is fun, but beyond the humour of the situation, is an extremely serious point. For years, in all the struggles and disputes over marriage equality, the opponents have made emotional claims about the alleged damage it will bring to traditional society and the welfare of society, and the harm thaand time after time, in case after case and state after state, judge after judge has dismissed these arguments as entirely without foundation.

This one takes the cake though – the case is all about the best interests of very specific children, and very specific, very capable parents. The opposition really doesn’t have a leg to stand on, and I’ll be amazed if the judge doesn’t spell that out.

When he does, it will be because in this case at least, gay marriage is needed – for the sake of the children!

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