A Sad Day for the Social Sciences
This past week the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage. There has been relatively no discussion of its effect on children, which, many would contend, is the principle reason for government’s involvement in marriage. But even less has been said about what this ruling means for the social science community through the Courts misuse of the research laid before it on children of same-sex couples.
In the Majority Opinion, Justice Kennedy asserts that children would not be harmed by legalizing same-sex marriage. On page 15 of the opinion, he states that same-sex marriage ought to be safeguarded because it “affords the permanency and stability important to children’s best interests”, a position affirmed by The National Council of Family Relations (NCFR) and The American Sociological Association (ASA). Their research clearly influenced the court decision, but it was social science so bad (and repeatedly defended) its distortion of the findings had to be deliberate for there is no way that research this poor would get such a pass by these two professional bodies on any other issue.
Social science seeks truth through methodological rigor to better inform the academy and the public. The research justifying the assertion that same-sex marriage helps children is repeatedly contradicted by rigorous research (see research from Dr. Paul Sullins, of Catholic University of American here, here, and here).
Furthermore, decades of research demonstrates that children do best when raised by their intact biological parents. Thus NCFR and ASA unwittingly painted themselves into a rather strange corner, as Pat Fagan, Director of The Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), explains:
“…The logical conclusion of what they have submitted to the Supreme Court is that there is no impact on a child born to heterosexual parents and then separated from one parent and raised by the other parent and that parent’s new homosexual partner. This claim flatly contradicts incontrovertible evidence that child-parent separation even in a heterosexual context has a significant impact on the children involved. For the ASA’s “consensus” position to hold true, same-sex married parents must be uniquely superior to heterosexual parents in order to erase the natural consequences of such separations. The conclusion is so implausible that the ASA does not draw it, but instead fills its brief with methods that fail “Statistics 101.”
Clearly influenced by the “authority” of ASA and NCFR, the Supreme Court did not even acknowledge, and thus suppressed, the contrary social science evidence presented to them.
Patrick Deneen, professor of constitutional studies at the University of Notre Dame, quoting Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in a First Things commentary, indicates the way forward: “Therein we find, neglected by us, the simplest, the most accessible key to our liberation: a personal nonparticipation in lies! Even if all is covered by lies, even if all is under their rule, let us resist in the smallest way: Let their rule hold not through me!” The data that do not fit are a key to progress in the social sciences. NCFR and ASA have participated in suppressing data by not allowing research consisting of “contrary data” to be published in their journals. The history of science is littered with such suppressions, which eventually hurt the historical reputations of those involved. Paraphrasing Chief Justice Roberts (page 29 of his decent), MARRI concludes: “if you are in favor of same-sex marriage, celebrate this ruling, celebrate the changes to come, celebrate that you received what you desired, but do not celebrate the social science, it had nothing to do with it. It was not present.”