Some observers worry that legalizing same-sex marriage would send the message that same-sex parenting and opposite-sex parenting are interchangeable, when in fact they may lead to different outcomes for children.
To evaluate that concern, William Meezan and Jonathan Rauch review the growing body of research on how same-sex parenting affects children. After considering the methodological problems inherent in studying small, hard-to-locate populations-—problems that have bedeviled this literature—the authors find that the children who have been studied are doing about as well as children normally do. What the research does not yet show is whether the children studied are typical of the general population of children raised by gay and lesbian couples.
So children of gay and lesbian parents are doing fine compared to other children, but they might have different ideas about certain things than children raised by straight parents--hmmm, like they might think it's ok to be gay, or more tolerant of people different from themselves? Wonder why that would be ...
A second important question is how same-sex marriage might affect children who are already being raised by same-sex couples. Meezan and Rauch observe that marriage confers on children three types of benefits that seem likely to carry over to children in same-sex families. First, marriage may increase children's material well-being through such benefits as family leave from work and spousal health insurance eligibility. It may also help ensure financial continuity, should a spouse die or be disabled. Second, same-sex marriage may benefit children by increasing the durability and stability of their parents' relationship. Finally, marriage may bring increased social acceptance of and support for same-sex families, although those benefits might not materialize in communities that meet same-sex marriage with rejection or hostility.
So not only are children raised by same-sex parents "doing about as well as children normally do," but they do even better when their parents are married. Since conservatives have been hammering home for decades the idea that children are better off with married parents, it shouldn't come as a surprise when the evidence bears that theory out. So why do so many conservatives oppose what is essentially a conservative principle--strengthening family bonds to improve the welfare of children? Does anyone have an answer?
Hat tip: William Saletan at Slate.