- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

State gay marriage laws are under attack in courts across the land, but the legal battle over gay marriage in Michigan has broken new ground as a federal court has weighed — and rejected — research questioning the impact of same-sex unions on children.

The dismissal of scholarly research on the children of gay couples met with anger from defenders of traditional marriage, who see that argument as a key pillar of their defense of state laws and statutes against gay marriage.

“The overwhelming weight of the scientific evidence supports the ‘no differences’ viewpoint,” U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman said Friday in a ruling that overturned the state’s marriage amendment as requested by lesbian plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse.

“No differences” refers to the premise that children raised by gay men or lesbian mothers do just as well as children raised by heterosexual parents. While many small studies indicate that there are “no differences” between family forms, a few academics have found evidence suggesting there are important differences — and that the “gold standard” is still for children to be raised in a home with their own married mother and father.

Judge Friedman held a two-week trial looking at gay relationship and parenting studies because the purpose of Michigan’s marriage amendment is to “secure and preserve the benefits of marriage” for children and society.

In his ruling, the 70-year-old judge rejected as “unbelievable” or insignificant the testimony of the state’s witnesses, including University of Texas at Austin sociologist Mark Regnerus and several other academics.

The judge was particularly critical of Mr. Regnerus — picking apart his 2012 study that found that adults raised by their married, biological parents fared better on many standards than adults who saw one of their parents have at least one gay relationship during their childhoods.

Judge Friedman also ruled that Mr. Regnerus “obliged” the study’s main funder, Witherspoon Institute, by producing research that met its expectations.

“That’s false,” Witherspoon Institute scholar Matthew Franck said Tuesday of the judge’s assertion. Witherspoon leaders asked Mr. Regnerus to examine the “no differences” issue and report the evidence “whichever way it comes out.” Mr. Franck added that an independent auditor scrutinized the 2012 study’s publication process and found nothing improper.

Mr. Regnerus said Tuesday he was “disappointed about the dismissive tone” of Judge Friedman’s decision.

All the state’s witnesses disputed the idea that social science is settled or there’s a “done deal” on same-sex parenting, said Mr. Regnerus. “I thought [the ruling] would have exhibited greater wrestling with the issues that were raised at trial, rather than rest largely on criticisms of our (rare, population-based) studies and intentions.”

Judge Friedman’s ruling could be “absolutely chilling” to academic debate if it silences scholars who dare to report findings that go against the mainstream, said Glenn Stanton, director for Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, who defended Mr. Regnerus as “measured” and scrupulous.

But gay-marriage supporters were elated by Judge Friedman’s ruling.

“The trial laid bare the dishonest strategy that religious conservatives have tested in recent years to battle gay equality — and the court’s rebuke is yet another major failure of the forces of anti-modernity,” Nathaniel Frank wrote for Slate.com.

A panel of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday granted a request by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette’s request to indefinitely stay Judge Friedman’s ruling.

Michigan’s Ingham, Washtenaw, Oakland and Muskegon counties began issuing marriage licenses Saturday before the appellate court stepped in with a temporary halt. Hundreds of gay couples were married, and the state said those marriages will not be recognized until the case is settled.

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