Traditional Marriage is Best for Rearing Children

On September 18, 2007, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued the long-awaited ruling in the case of Conaway v. Deane, upholding the constitutionality of the Maryland law that “[o]nly a marriage between a man and a woman is valid in this State” (Family Law Article, Section 2-201). The Court of Appeals by a 4-3 vote, rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments that the Maryland law violated both the State Equal Rights Amendment (Article 46) and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court also rejected the argument that there is a “fundamental right” to same-sex marriage.1 It is anticipated that any future efforts to establish a right to same-sex marriage in Maryland will take place in the State Legislature.2 When that debate takes place it will certainly include a debate of whether gay couples can raise children as well as heterosexual, married couples. Current studies demonstrate that married, heterosexual couples are better for raising children than other combinations, including both single-parents and same-sex partnerships.

The superiority of the traditional marriage relationship for the rearing of children is supported by both the advantages of marriage to the couple and to the children.

To begin with, the benefits to married partners are better than the benefits to single parents or co-parenting adults. Married men and women are more likely to be financially stable.3 Married adults have greater longevity, less illness and disease, better health and health care, increased happiness, lower levels of mental illness (including depression), and less substance abuse than both single and co-habiting adults.4 Homosexual people are at a substantially higher risk for some forms of emotional problems, including suicidality, major depression, and anxiety disorder.5 Homosexual women have a higher prevalence of substance use disorders than heterosexual women.6 Gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students have higher incidences of alcohol use, cocaine use and illegal inhalant use than others.7 The benefits from traditional marriage help parents to be better at rearing children than single parents and co-habiting adults.

Studies also provide direct evidence that traditional marriage relationships are better for the rearing of children than either single-parents or cohabiting adults, including same-sex couples.8Dr. A. Dean Byrd states that “Mothers and fathers contribute in gender-specific and in gender-complementary ways to the healthy development of children.9 In support of this, Dr. Byrd referred to the following summary of Child Trends research:
Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage…. There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.10

Dr. Byrd states that “extensive research spanning decades yields an overwhelming abundance of data supporting the importance of both mothers and fathers to the healthy development of children.”11 In 1982 Baumrind concluded that children of dual-gender parents are more competent, function better, and have fewer problems than other children.12 In 1991 Baumrind found that the combined parenting from a mother and a father in the home provided complementary benefits to the children.13 In 1984 Greenberger confirmed and bolstered Baumrind’s 1982 study; Greenberger’s study found that the optimal development of children requires gender-specific and gender-complementary contributions that a mother or a father cannot do alone.14 The difference between mothers’ and fathers’ parenting styles have been confirmed by studies, including studies by Rossi (1987)15and Shapiro (1994)16. A study by Clarke-Stewart (1980) concluded that fathers’ play and mothers’ play with their children are different, and that each offers distinct benefits to the children.17 Studies by Rohner and Veneziano (2001)18 and by Diener (2002)19 documented the unique contribution that fathers make in the development of a child. The absence of a father in the home has been linked to teenage pregnancy, child abuse, domestic violence and the need for psychiatric care. 20 The discipline styles of fathers and mothers also tend to be different, and it is beneficial to children to be exposed to both styles.21 A study by Golombok, Tasker & Murray (1997) found that the deficits experienced by children in “father absent families” is no different than the deficits experienced by children raised in lesbian families.22 The adverse affects of the absence of a mother in raising children has also been documented. The 1998 study by Eisold confirmed this.23Research confirms that mothers and fathers are not interchangeable; each provides separate and distinct advantages for the raising of children.24

Advocacy groups insist that same-sex parents can raise children as well as opposite-sex parents. But Dr. Byrd says that “studies on same-sex parenting are quite limited and quite limiting,”25 and that most studies that have been cited in support of this proposition have either serious research flaws or other limitations that affect their conclusions.26 In 2000, Lerner and Nagai made a detailed analysis of 49 studies that purported to show that homosexual parents raise children as well as married biological parents. Lerner and Nagai concluded that all 49 studies suffered from “severe methodological flaws, plus other problems.27 These conclusions were confirmed by Williams (2000),28 Nock, a sociologist at the University of Virginia,29 and Stacey and Biblarz (2001).30 Wright and Cummings also noted these serious flaws in their book, Destructive Trends in Mental Health (2005).31 More recently, a study by Wainwright and Patterson refuted the claim of some gay activists that incidents of delinquency and substance abuse in adolescents raised by lesbian couples does not differ from those raised by heterosexual couples.32

Based upon this and other research, George A. Rekers concluded that children are better off raised by heterosexual parents than by gay couples.33 A 2005 study by Dean Byrd also confirms this conclusion.34
Finally, I would make the obvious argument that a gay couple cannot model a healthy male-female relation between the parents. This statement is beyond the need for proof by scientific study, but its importance should not be overlooked. Over 99 percent of society’s children have and will continue to marry in traditional opposite-sex marriages, where children will be conceived, born and raised.35 There is nothing more geared to the happiness and success of individuals than a happy, traditional family, where parents are able to meet the many and varied needs of male and female children. It is advantageous to the children to have both a male parent and a female parent, each of whom can supply different but important counsel and leadership. When a child is reared in a home with a mother and father who love each other, this is the supreme situation that society can elect to establish. Restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples establishes this preference.

Scientific studies support the conclusion that biological parents are more likely to be better than single parents and same-sex partners in raising children.

[1] It is not known at this time whether Deane and the other plaintiffs will petition the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, or whether such a petition would be granted.
[2] During the last two sessions there were bills offered to amend the State Constitution to limit marriage only between a man and a woman. In light of the recent ruling, it is not certain whether such a bill would be forthcoming in 2008. But on the other side of this issue, it is anticipated that gay rights activists may introduce a bill to do legislatively what they were not able to accomplish judicially.
[3] Wilcox, W.B. et al. (2005). Why marriage matters: Twenty-six conclusions from the social sciences. 2d ed. New York: Institute for American Values. Cited in the testimony presented by A. Dean Byrd (February 1, 2007) “Dr. Byrd Provides Testimony in English Court Case Regarding Same-Sex Adoption” [hereafter referred to as “Byrd”], p. 1. A 13-page summary of Dr. Byrd’s testimony is found at the website of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) at Most of the studies cited in this article come from Dr. Byrd’s testimony summary.
[4] Waite, L. & Gallagher, M. (2000). The Case for Marriage. New York: Doubleday., cited in Byrd, p. 2.
[5] Bailey (1999).
[6] Sandfort, de Graaf, Bijl and Schnabel (2001).
[7] Timothy J. Dailey, “The Negative Health Effects of Homosexuality.” Insight, No. 232, Family Research Council (March 2001).
[8] Popenoe, D. 1996. Life without father. New York: Mark Kessler Books, The Free Press. Pg. 176, cited in Byrd, p. 2.
[9] Byrd, p. 3.
[10] Moore, K. A. et al. (2002). Marriage from a child’s perspective: How does family structure affect children and what can we do about it? Child Trends Research Brief (Washington D.C.: Child Trends) (June), cited in Byrd, p. 3.
[11] Byrd, p. 8.
[12] Baumrind, D. (1982). Are androgynous individuals more effective persons and parents? Child Development, 53, 44-75, cited in Byrd, p. 3.
[13] Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Adolescence, 11(11), 59-95, cited in Byrd, p. 3.
[14] Greenberger, E. (1984). Defining psychosocial maturity in adolescence. In P. Karoly & J.J. Steffans, (Eds.) Adolescent behavior disorders: foundations and temporary concerns. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books., cited in Byrd, p. 3.
[15] Rossi, A..S. (1987) Parenthood in transition: From lineage to child to self-orientation. In J.B. Lancaster, J. Altman, A.S. Rossi, and L.R. Sherrod, eds., Parenting across the life span: Biosocial dimensions. New York: Aldene De Gruyter, 31-81.
[16] Shapiro, J. L. (1994). Letting dads be dads. Parents, June, 165, 168.
[17] Clarke-Stewart, K.A. (1980). The father’s contribution to children’s cognitive and social development in early childhood. In F.A. Pedersen, ed., The father-infant relationship: observational studies in the family setting. New York: Praeger, cited in Byrd, p. 4
[18] Rohner, R. P. & Veneziano, R.A. (2001). “The importance of father love: history and contemporary evidence,” Review of General Psychology 5.4, 382-405, cited in Byrd, p.4.
[19] Diener, M.L., Mangelsdorf, S.C., McHale, J.L. & Frosch, C.A. (2002). Infancy, 3(2), 153-174; and Masser, A. (1989). Boys’ father hunger: The missing father syndrome. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 23(1), 44-50. Both of these are cited in Byrd, p. 5.
[20] Blankenhorn, D. (1995). Fatherless America: Confronting our most urgent social problem. New York: Basic, cited in Byrd, p. 5.
[21] Gilligan, C. (1994). In a different voice. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press, cited in Byrd, p. 5.
[22] Golombok, S., Tasker, F., & Murray, C. (1997). Children raised in fatherless families from infancy: Family relationships and the socioeconomic development of children of lesbian and single heterosexual mothers. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 38:783791, 788, cited in Byrd, p. 6.
[23] Eisold, B., (1998) Recreating mother: The consolidation of ‘heterosexual’ gender identification in the young son of homosexual men. American J. of Orthopsychiatry 8:3:433-442,cited in Byrd, p. 7.
[24] Biller, H. (1993). Fathers and families: paternal factors in child development. Westport, CT: Auburn House, cited in Byrd, p. 7.
[25] Byrd, p. 9.
[26] Byrd, pp. 9-12.
[27] Lerner, R. & Nagai, A.K. (2000). “Out of nothing comes nothing: Homosexual and heterosexual marriage not shown to be equivalent for raising children,” paper presented at the Revitalizing the Institution of marriage for the 21st Century conference, Brigham Young University, March, Provo, UT, p. 1, cited in Byrd, p. 9.
[28] Williams, R. N. (2000). A critique of the research on same-sex parenting. In D. C. Dollahite, ed. Strengthening Our Families, Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 325-355, cited in Byrd, p. 10.
[29] Nock Affidavit, Paragraph 3. Halpern v. Attorney General of Canada, No. 684/00 (Ont. Sup. Ct. of Justice), cited in Byrd, p. 11.
[30] Stacy, J. & Biblarz, T.J. (2001). (How) does the sexual orientation of parents matter? American Sociological Review, 66(2), 172, cited in Byrd, p. 11.
[31] The esteemed psychologists, Drs. Rogers H. Wright and Nicholas A. Cummings describe this blatant and embarrassing situation as a trend to sacrifice science for a popular social agenda. Destructive Trends in Mental Health, New York: Routledge (2005). Dr. Cummings is a former APA President and a recipient of five honorary doctorates. Dr. Wright served on the APA Board of Directors. One of the important erroneous beliefs that Wright and Cummings bring to light is the unfounded assertion that homosexuality is innate and immutable. In 2003 Dr. Robert L. Spitzer published his research and findings that many people have successfully changed and repressed same-sex attractions that had plagued them for many years. (See Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 5, Oct. 2003, 403-417.) The Spitzer study is especially significant because he is the very man who years ago took the lead in advocating to remove homosexuality from the list of psychiatric disorders.
[32] Wainwright, J. & Patterson, C. (2006). Journal of Family Psychology, 20,3,526-530, cited in Byrd, p. 11.
[33] George A. Rekers, Ph.D., “Review of Research on Homosexual Parenting, Adoption and Foster Parenting.” University of South Carolina School of Medicine (2004).
[34] A. Dean Byrd, “Gender Complementarity and Childrearing: Where Tradition and Science Agree.” Journal of Law and Family Studies, University of Utah (2005).
[35] Study of marriages in Sweden and Norway, where same-sex marriages are allowed, reveals that less than one percent of marriages taking place there (between 1993 and 2001, after same-sex marriage was legalized) are same-sex marriages. Gunnar Andersson, et al., “The Demographics of Same-Sex Marriage in Norway and Sweden,” Demography 43 [2006]: 79-98, cited in World Congress of Families, “Homosexual Unions: Rare and Fragile,”

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