Will Children of Gay Parents Sway the Supreme Court on Gay Marriage?

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the likely swing vote in the U.S. Supreme Court's upcoming gay marriage decision, appeared to place a high value in how the Court will affect the children of gay parents. Some of those children are now telling Kennedy and the Court that redefining marriage to include same-sex couples is harmful for children.

(Photo: REUTERS/Larry Downing)The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court gather for a group portrait in the East Conference Room at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, October 8, 2010. Seated from left to right in front row are: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing from left to right in back row are: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., and Associate Justice Elena Kagan.

During oral arguments for the 2013 gay marriage case Hollingsworth vs. Perry, Kennedy asked, "there is an immediate ... what could be a legal injury, and that's the voice of these children [of same-sex parents]. There are some 40,000 children in California ... that live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important in this case, don't you think?"

(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)A person waits under a rainbow-colored umbrella outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 26, 2013. America's top court takes up the delicate and divisive issue of gay marriage on Tuesday when the nine Supreme Court justices consider the legality of a California ballot initiative that limits marriage to opposite-sex couples.

While Kennedy presumed to know what all 40,000 of those children wanted, some children of same-sex couples now want Kennedy to know that they do not support gay marriage.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples "would actually serve to strip [children of same-sex parents] of their most fundamental rights," Katy Faust, who was raised by same-sex parents, wrote in an open letter to Kennedy published at The Public Discourse.

Faust, who serves on the Academic and Testimonial Councils of the International Children's Rights Institute and writes at asktheBigot.com, said that most of the media believe it impossible for someone like her — someone who both loves her gay parents and opposes gay marriage — to even exist.

Faust is one of at least six adult children of same-sex parents who will also submit amicus briefs to the Supreme Court for this June's gay marriage case.

At its core, Faust argued, the government's interest in marriage should be about the children, not the feelings of the parents.

"There is no difference between the value and worth of heterosexual and homosexual persons," she wrote. "We all deserve equal protection and opportunity in academe, housing, employment, and medical care, because we are all humans created in the image of God.

"However, when it comes to procreation and child-rearing, same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are wholly unequal and should be treated differently for the sake of the children."

Every child raised by a same-sex couple is denied the opportunity to be raised by either a father or a mother in the home, she pointed out.

"When a child is placed in a same-sex-headed household, she will miss out on at least one critical parental relationship and a vital dual-gender influence. The nature of the adults' union guarantees this. Whether by adoption, divorce, or third-party reproduction, the adults in this scenario satisfy their heart's desires, while the child bears the most significant cost: missing out on one or more of her biological parents."

Another adult child raised by gay parents, Robert Oscar Lopez, says that his upbringing led him to be "sexually confused" as a child.

In an amicus brief for a gay marriage case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Lopez wrote about his desires as a child to have sex with men his father's age. He became a "habitual sex worker" by the time he was 16.

"I needed to feel loved and wanted by an older male figure, even if for only as short as a half hour," he wrote.

It was not until he rebuilt his relationship with his father that Lopez was able to overcome those desires.

Due to his personal experience, Lopez continued, he objects "strenuously to marriage and adoption for gay couples." (He does support same-sex civil unions and some kinds of foster care for same-sex couples.)

"Both marriage and adoption," he continued, "involve using the force of the state to force unwilling children into emotional relationships with people who are not their parents and this coercion is permanent, hurtful, and discriminatory, insofar as all children have a mother and father but children placed in same-sex-couple homes are stripped of one of these two figures without their consent."

His opposition to gay marriage, Lopez added, is consistent with the goals of the gay marriage movement — "to honor relationships, to respect how people are born (i.e., "born" gay), and to refrain from telling people whom they should love" — because: "We must honor the universal relationship between children and their father and mother. We must respect the fact that children are 'born that way' with a mother and father, always. Lastly, we must not tell children that they have to love adults who are not their parents simply because these gay adults say they love them and want to have custodial powers over them."

In another amicus brief, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, B.N. Klein (who has also written under the pen name Rivka Edelman) wrote about her abusive upbringing being raised by her mom and her mom's partner. The abuse she experienced was common, she wrote, among the other children she knew in her mom's circle of gay and lesbian friends.

(Photo: REUTERS/WADE PAYNE)Valeria Tanco (L), and Sophy Jesty pose with their new baby girl, Emilia, at their home in Knoxville, Tennessee April 7, 2014.

Within the LGBT community, Klein said, children are used as "props to be publicly displayed" to communicate the notion that homosexuals are just like heterosexuals.

Klein does not believe that all gays are "de facto bad parents," but from her own experience, "the gay community has never ... put children first as anything other than a piece of property, a past mistake, or a political tool to be dressed up and taken out as part of a dog and pony show to impress the well-meaning."

Same-sex parenting has become a key issue in the debate over government recognition of gay marriage because the well-being of children is central to the argument of same-sex marriage opponents.

That argument goes like this: While many relationships, of many types, can contribute positively to society, the marital relationship is the only one that government has an interest in recognizing because of its importance for the raising of children. Children raised by their biological mother and father do best, research has shown. And when the marriage relationship fails, through death, divorce, separation or abuse, the State must often decide what is best for the children. Additionally, the State will often need to expand its services when marriages fail because the children of failed marriages have, on average, higher rates of incarceration and mental health problems, and lower rates of graduation and employment. It is in the interest of government, therefore, to uphold conjugal marriage as the preferred norm for the raising of children.

For supporters of same-sex marriage, on the other hand, the adults, not the children, are central to their argument. Any consensual relationship of two people is not "equal," they argue, if they are not also allowed to get a state-issued marriage licence.

So, while the interests of children is not central to the arguments of same-sex marriage supporters, its centrality to the argument of traditional marriage supporters has led to heated debates over same-sex parenting.

Under pressure from gay rights groups, the American Sociological Association issued a 2005 report stating that there is "no difference" between same-sex and opposite-sex parents. The report's conclusions, however, were mostly based upon convenience samples that were not representative of the general population. There were other methodological issues as well. Some of the studies, for instance, drew conclusions about the skills of the parents based upon what the parents themselves reported.

Since that report, other researchers have sought to do better by using objective measures and probability samples.

A 2013 study using the Canadian census, for instance, found that children raised by same-sex parents had lower high school graduation rates than children raised by single parents or opposite-sex parents.

Another effort, the New Family Structures Study at the University of Texas at Austin, used a sample of 15,000 Americans and asked respondents if their mother or father ever had a same-sex relationship.

The study could not draw any firm conclusions about same-sex parenting because, even with such a large sample, only 248 reported having a parent who was in a same-sex relationship. And of those, not all of them were raised by two parents of the same gender.

The results of the study suggest, however, that the ASA's conclusions may not be correct. Those who reported having a parent who had a same-sex relationship were less healthy and more depressed. Plus, they were more likely to be unemployed, to have more sex partners, to have experienced more sexual victimization and to reflect negatively on their childhood.

The study's principle researcher, Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at The University of Texas at Austin, was attacked by gay marriage supporters for those findings. They attempted, unsuccessfully, to get the academic journal Social Science Research to remove Regnerus' peer-reviewed paper reporting the results of the study and to get UT-Austin to sanction him.

Liberal media outlets continue to report the ASA's report as definitive and the NFSS as flawed, even though the SSR and UT-Austin both concluded that Regnerus met academic standards. Politifact, for instance, recently dismissed the study by citing the fact that it was controversial while upholding the ASA report as definitive, while never noting the controversies surrounding the ASA report.