This article from the Public Discourse takes a look at the oral arguments from the same-sex marriage case in progress at the Supreme Court.
Here’s the list:
- Error Number One: Massachusetts Marriage Rates Have Stayed the Same
- Error Number Two: Because Some Men Leave Their Wives and Children, Marriage Does Not Help Keep Fathers Around
- Error Number Three: The Purpose of States’ Recognizing and Regulating Marriage is to Bestow Dignity on Couples
- Error Number Four: The Only Harm to Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Is Making Marriage More Adult-Centered
- Error Number Five: There Is a Parallel between Brown/Loving and Lawrence/Obergefell
- Error Number Six: Age Restrictions on Marriage Are Equivalent to the Definitional Element of One Man and One Woman
One of Obama’s Supreme Court picks is showing herself a poor thinker:
Error Number Two: Because Some Men Leave Their Wives and Children, Marriage Does Not Help Keep Fathers Around
Justice Sotomayor also committed what is commonly referred to as an exception fallacy. This is where someone reaches an overall conclusion about a group on the basis of a few exceptional cases. Thus, when Mr. Bursch was making the argument that redefining marriage to include same-sex couples will disconnect marriage from the long-held norm that the institution binds children to their biological mother and father, Justice Sotomayor responded:
Marriage doesn’t do that on any level. How many married couples do fathers with the benefits or the requirements of marriage walk away from their children? So it’s not that the institution alone does it and that without it that father is going to stay in marriage. He made a choice . . . Some mothers do the same thing.
This is a classic example of the exception fallacy. Of course some men and women walk away from their marriage and their children. But that is the exception, not the rule, and it is certainly counter to the social norm of marriage that gently pushes parents to stay together and raise their children.
It is rather shocking that a justice of the United States Supreme Court would claim that “on any level” marriage does not have that effect and longstanding purpose. It is also disappointing that she would commit such a basic error of logic.
I often encounter the problem among people with no math background. You cite statistics about what outcomes are expected, and they reply with an exceptional outlier to refute the argument. I’m troubled that Supreme Court justices lack the ability to reason in this way, though.
Here’s another pretty obvious mistake:
Error Number Four: The Only Harm to Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Is Making Marriage More Adult-Centered
Several justices struggled to see how redefining marriage in genderless terms would cause any harm or have any impact on the institution of marriage. As Mr. Bursch correctly but incompletely argued, legalizing same-sex marriage will alter the institution to be primarily concerned with fulfilling the desires of adults rather than the needs of children.
But that’s not all. As the 100 Scholars of Marriage made clear in their amicus brief, several other important and beneficial social norms will be eroded, if not erased, by same-sex marriage, including:
– Gender-diverse parenting: the norm that children both need and deserve to be raised by a man and a woman, not only because of what they learn from interacting with a parent of each sex, but because men and women parent and interact with their children differently, providing distinct but complementary benefits. By its very structure, same-sex marriage eliminates this norm and its attendant benefits to children.
– Biological bonding: the norm that marriage binds children to their biological mother and father in a family unit. Same-sex marriage and parenting, by definition, means that at best only one of a child’s biological parents will be in the home. While death, divorce, or parental delinquency create exceptions, elevating the exception to the norm undermines that norm and the benefits it produces.
– Postponing or channeling procreation: the norm that procreation should only responsibly occur within the stable bonds of marriage. Same-sex marriage is not, and biologically cannot be, about procreation. By redefining marriage in this way, the institution becomes less about being the socially recommended “place” and “time” where procreation is recommended.
– Placing social value on raising children: the norm that society values and needs children to be born and raised by their parents. Again, same-sex marriage is not primarily about procreation, and its acceptance attenuates this norm for the institution as a whole. Of course, same-sex couples can adopt or one member of the couple can reproduce with someone of the opposite sex, but these are secondary purposes and behaviors.
What impact will the weakening or elimination of these norms have on the institution of marriage, and thus the behavior of society? Put another way, as Justice Breyer asked, “what’s the empirical connection?”
Well, the last major alteration to the institution of marriage—no-fault divorce—did have unintended negative consequences, reducing marriage rates and increasing divorce rates more than expected, with children and women suffering the consequences. Additionally, the Netherlands, the country that has had same-sex marriage the longest, after controlling for other factors, has experienced a drop in opposite-sex marriage rates among young women after adopting same-sex marriage.
The truth is, no one knows for sure what the effect will be—but it clashes with history, common sense, and theory to assume it will be innocuous.
The norm of gender-diverse parenting is important, because fathers and mothers are both needed.
Look at this abstract from a very new study to see why:
The association between family structure instability and children’s life chances is well documented, with children reared in stable, two-parent families experiencing more favorable outcomes than children in other family arrangements. This study examines father household entrances and exits, distinguishing between the entrance of a biological father and a social father and testing for interactions between family structure instability and children’s age, gender, and genetic characteristics. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and focusing on changes in family structure by age (years 0–9), the authors show that father exits are associated with increases in children’s antisocial behavior, a strong predictor of health and well-being in adulthood. The pattern for father entrances is more complicated, with entrances for the biological father being associated with lower antisocial behavior among boys and social father entrances being associated with higher antisocial behavior. Child’s age does not moderate the association; however, genetic information in the models sharpens the findings substantially.
Biological fathers need to present in the home.
It doesn’t look like we will get a good legal decision on this case. The leftist judges are just not thinking clearly.