The issue of same-sex marriage is becoming more and more of a touchstone for conservatives and now is almost dominating discourse on social issues.
Catholic groups in Ireland in particular are more vocal in their opposition to same-sex marriage. In the US it is a very obvious partisan issue.
I suppose I should come out (please forgive the pun) at the beginning and state that I am in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry and enjoy the same rights through marriage as different-sex couples. But this post is not so much about the arguments for that position. What I am interested in here is how arguments are framed and in particular a logical inconsistency in the argument against same-sex marriage on the basis of the effects on children.
The position against same-sex marriage is set out here in a blog post by David Quinn of the Iona Institute. A small quote I think sums up their perspective.
It is obvious that marriage should not have special status unless there is something special about it. What is that something? The answer is the benefits it passes on to children.
The perspective is child-centred. Marriage is between a man and a woman where there is the potential for children. The blog post above refers to an article by Child Trends that states that:
An extensive body of research tells us that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.
The Iona Institute have based their arguments for the primacy of different-sex marriage on this idea that children do better when they are raised by their biological parents (plural).
As an aside, Humanistiscus takes issue with Iona's citing of this Child Trend report and I agree with him. But the use of the report is not the logical inconsistency from which Iona and others suffer.
I often think a good approach to understanding arguments (and seeing their validity or otherwise) is to assume that the premises on which they're based is correct. Then if the premises are right what is the valid conclusion and is the arguer consistent in that conclusion.
So let's take it that children do better when they are raised by their biological parents. The argument now for opponents of same-sex marriage is that legislation should privilege marriage between different-sex couples.
Stable marriage between a husband and wife has safeguarded their children, surrounding them with familial love and creating the secure foundation for human flourishing. This natural desire, already weakened in a seemingly more and more promiscuous society, will no longer be privileged in civil law. It will be no more “normal” than any other “family” arrangement. If the nature of marriage is destroyed in civil law, the natural family goes with it.
So the ideal is children raised in a marriage of their biological parents, and while other family units may (and do) exist they should not be accorded the same status as the ideal state. As David Quinn puts is "this is why marriage deserves special support from the State and from society".
So far so good. Except now we need to see if the conclusion is applied consistently what is the outcome? Well, it's interesting to read David Quinn's article more closely. Let's quote again:
Child Trends itself says its brief only “summarises research conducted in 2002, when neither same-sex parents nor adoptive parents were identified in large national studies. Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn from this research about the well-being of children raised by same-sex parents or adoptive parents”.
It is interesting that the Child Trend report refers to the lack of information on outcomes for children raised by adoptive parents (presumably different-sex), while the article does not refer to those children in subsequent arguments.
The inconsistency in their argument is here. If they cite studies suggesting that the ideal is marriage with biological children and no other marriage should be considered as privileged why are they not opposed to adoption by different-sex married couples? Or at the very least, to be consistent they should not favour legislation which allows this form of adoption, since it is not providing the ideal outcome for children - according to their own standards.
So they can choose the element of biological parents that suits their argument (ie that they must be different-sex) rather than the more uncomfortable conclusion which would mean opposing adoption by different-sex couples.
And the Iona Institute does support adoption by different-sex couples. But the same blog post perhaps sheds some light on why they see adopted children raised by same-sex couples as being something to oppose while adoption by different-sex couples as being something to support.
It is obvious that same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are different in that while the later can provide a child with a mother and father, the former cannot
So the biological aspect is a red herring. Iona cannot argue to privilege marriage with biological children without opposing legislation for different-sex marriages without biological children. So the argument must come back to straight forward discrimination based on sexuality.
I'm an economist so many of these posts will be about economic issues. But since everyone is allowed a view on economics I am inclined to go beyond my profession to throw my tuppence ha'penny into other issues.