Children benefit from same-sex marriage, writer says
Allowing same-sex couples to marry legally would offer significant benefits to children in both gay and straight households, a Washington, D.C.-based author and journalist said Nov. 3 at the School of Social Work.
Children of married gay parents benefit directly from knowing that their future holds the prospect of marriage, said Jonathan Rauch, a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and a writer in residence at the Brookings Institution. In addition, children of married heterosexual parents benefit when they see marriage as the norm, he said.
"If a child sees that Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the neighbors to the left, are married, and that Mrs. and Mrs. Jones, the neighbors to the right, are married, and that the child's own parents are marriedthat, I think, sends a positive and reassuring message to children, about both the importance of marriage and the stability of their community," he said.
Rauch gave the Fedele F. and Iris M. Fauri Memorial Lecture, discussing his latest work, "Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America," and the challenges and triumphs gay marriage can present to gay families and their children.
His visit occurred a day after voters approved state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage in all 11 states where the measures were on the ballot, including Michigan. Rauch, who is gay, said the overwhelming defeat left him feeling as if he were "worked over by loan sharks in an alley."
Millions of gay Americans, he said, have been denied access to one of life's important institutions.
"Marriage makes people happier, healthier and financially more secure; and, even for those who do not choose marriage, the prospect of marriage shapes and guides life in stabilizing and maturing ways," he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2000 there were at least 160,000 same-sex couple households with children. The figure is likely an undercount, Rauch said, but those children would benefit directly from same-sex marriage.
Marriages are more durable than cohabitations, and they create a stable and committed environment for children, he said. Also, marriage is likely to bring more social acceptance of gay couples.
"That, too, would almost certainly be good for such couples' children," Rauch said. "It would give them a more supportive and less stressful environment."
Rauch said he is working with U-M professor William Meezan, who is his cousin, on a paper that examines same-sex parenting. Meezan, the Marion Elizabeth Blue Professor of Social Work, found no evidence that children raised by same-sex couples suffer from emotional, social or cognitive disadvantages.
"If same-sex marriage helps [children] find secure two-parent homes, that seems like a good thing," Rauch said.
If the U.S. Constitution were amended to forbid same-sex marriage, the repercussions would not benefit marriage, Rauch added. Banning same-sex marriage ensures that all same-sex couples with children will raise their kids out of wedlock. This is not a way to reconnect marriage with childrearing, he said.
"How important can marriage be for children if some children's parents are forbidden to marry?" he asked.
The lecture is presented annually in recognition of former vice president for state relations and planning and School of Social Work dean Fedele F. Fauri and his wife. His leadership and accomplishments in the field of child welfare spanned nearly 50 years.