Utah distances itself from anti-gay-marriage academic

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Hours before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear arguments in a case challenging Utah’s same-sex-marriage ban, defenders of the ban filed a letter with the court distancing themselves from a professor who has argued children suffer from having same-sex parents.

Written on the letterhead of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Gene Schaerr, the lawyer defending Utah’s same-sex-marriage ban on behalf of Gov. Gary Herbert (R), writes that the supplemental letter was filed in response to “recent press reports and analysis of the study by Professor Mark Regnerus.”

First, we wish to emphasize the very limited relevance to this case of the comparison addressed by Professor Regnerus. As the State’s briefing makes clear, the State’s principal concern is the potential long-term impact of a redefinition of marriage on the children of heterosexual parents. The debate over man-woman versus same-sex parenting has little if any bearing on that issue, given that being raised in a same-sex household would normally not be one of the alternatives available to children of heterosexual parents.

Second, on the limited issue addressed by the Regnerus study, the State wishes to be clear about what that study (in the State’s view) does and does not establish. The Regnerus study did not examine as its sole focus the outcomes of children raised in same-sex households but, because of sample limitations inherent in the field of study at this point, examined primarily children who acknowledged having a parent who had engaged in a same-sex relationship. Thus, the Regnerus study cannot be viewed as conclusively establishing that raising a child in a same-sex household produces outcomes that are inferior to those produced by man-woman parenting arrangements.

The letter comes after a federal judge blasted Regnerus in a separate same-sex marriage ruling handed down last month. In U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman’s March ruling finding Michigan’s same-sex-marriage ban unconstitutional, Friedman discredited Regnerus, who appeared as a witness for the state defending the same-sex-marriage ban. According to Friedman, the court found Regnerus’s testimony “entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration” and evidence at trial “demonstrated that his 2012 ‘study’ was hastily concocted at the behest of a third-party funder.” 

The Regnerus study, long pointed to by gay-marriage opponents as evidence that having parents of the same sex negatively impacts children, is cited in two footnotes in Utah’s opening brief. The letter comes as a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Kitchen v. Herbert Thursday morning in Denver, marking the beginning of the next chapter of the marriage-equality movement. 

The arguments today are the first time a federal appeals court has addressed same-sex marriage since the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last June. Since that decision, three state courts and eight federal courts have sided with same-sex-marriage proponents and universally quoted some aspect of the Windsor decision in their rulings. Five federal appeals courts are considering ruling against same-sex-marriage bans, with the 10th Circuit scheduled to hear arguments one week from today in the case challenging Oklahoma’s same-sex-marriage ban.

[Photo: Utah State Capitol. Credit: Mathieu Thouvenin/flickr.]

Utah Regnerus Letter

Justin Snow is Metro Weekly's political editor and White House correspondent. He can be reached at jsnow@metroweekly.com.

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