Utah: Preventing gay couples from getting married protects "needs and interests" of children

The state argued in a brief that its ban on marriage equality is about children's welfare

By Katie McDonough

Published February 4, 2014 6:50PM (EST)

             (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

The state of Utah continues its fight against a recent court decision declaring its ban on marriage equality unconstitutional, arguing in a brief filed late Monday with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that preventing same-sex couples from getting married protects the "needs and interests" of children.

As reported by Brooke Adams at the Salt Lake Tribute, Utah defended its definition of marriage as a union between opposite-sex partners because marriage is "principally a child-centered institution, one focused first and foremost on the welfare of children rather than the emotional interests of adults." By excluding same-sex partners from the institution, the state is "reinforcing that understanding" and "gently encourages parents to routinely sacrifice their own interests to the legitimate needs and interests of their children," the brief continued.

The state's suggestion that same-sex couples -- in trying to secure the legal protections and material benefits of marriage -- are placing their "emotional interests" over the welfare of their children "is not designed to demean LGBTQ families "any more than giving an ‘A’ to some students demeans others," the state said.

This argument is commonly used to defend institutional discrimination against same-sex partners, but it simply doesn't hold up against available data on -- and the lived experiences of -- LGBTQ families.

Researchers at Melbourne University are in the midst of conducting the world's largest study on the children of gay parents, and revealed in their preliminary findings that these children are doing equally well -- or better -- than the children of straight parents on a number of key health and well-being indicators.

As I noted when those findings were released, "Kids growing up in gay and straight families matched pretty equally when it came to self-esteem, emotional well-being and the amount of time they spent with parents; but when it came to overall health and family cohesion, the children of gay parents did even better than the national average."

In March of last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out in support of marriage equality, saying that allowing parents who want to marry to do so is in the best interests of their children.

“There is an emerging consensus, based on extensive review of the scientific literature, that children growing up in households headed by gay men or lesbians are not disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents,” the academy said at the time.

In addition to securing the material and legal benefits afforded married couples, legal marriage equality allows parents to raise children free from stigma, which has both material and psychological benefits.

“Marriage strengthens families and benefits child development, and it also increases a parent’s sense of competence and security when they are able to raise children without stigma,” Dr. Nanette Gartrell, the lead author of another study on children and gay parents, told the New York Times.


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Equal Marriage Gay Rights Lgbtq Families Lgbtq Rights Marriage Equality Utah