Does gay marriage make straight men hate children?

A few comments on a recent brief against marriage equality in Utah. But first some background.

As public opinion has shifted so dramatically on same-sex marriage, there has been some consternation about the ill treatment of those left behind — those opposed to marriage equality — as if they were nothing but common racists, whose hateful motivations may be divined from their policy conclusions rather than from knowing the love in their hearts.

Barry Deutsch has written a great response to this, pointing out that the sophisticated racists during the debate over interracial marriage made the same claim that the anti-marriage equality people make today. They were not motivated by hatred, they were not racist, they merely opposed a new, untested form of marriage that happens to go against tradition and the natural order, and would probably harm children. Especially the children.

Oh, no. Gay marriage is coming. Should I catch her? Photo by Mike Baird from the Flickr Creative Commons
Oh, no. Gay marriage is coming. Do I catch her? Photo by Mike Baird from the Flickr Creative Commons

Run, hide, double down

The smart conservative money in the last year or two has moved away from all this. Among those public intellectuals who labored to block their gay and lesbian fellow citizens from crossing the threshold of matrimony (under the terms of their choosing, at least), there are three approaches.

  • The most openly forward-looking, such as David Blankenhorn, publicly reversed course and threw in the towel. Blankenhorn’s Institute for American Values has shifted to the movement against gambling (joining a sadly low-rent effort that unites Blankenhorn with the likes of Barrett Duke, a veteran of the crusade against the “homosexual special rights agenda“).
  • The more duplicitous, such as Brad Wilcox, simply avoid discussing the issue in public. Hard to believe these folks have no opinions on the subject, considering Wilcox’s efforts to generate research in opposition to marriage equality. But his new Institute for Family Studies (IFS) seems not to have mentioned this issue — even though its nominal president, Richard Brake, was (and is at press-time still listed as) National Education Director for the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which has as its mission preventing the spread of a “relativism that rejects an objective moral order.” (The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which paid for some of the Regnerus study to prevent marriage equality, also funds ISI.)
  • Finally, a contingent of obdurate cranks continues to resist the new moral order, marriage equality included. I wrote about two of them, Mark Regnerus and Douglas Allen, who testified in Michigan’s recent losing battle. But this group also includes Alan Hawkins and Jason Carroll, two professors of Family Life at Brigham Young University.

Hawkins and Carroll

I hadn’t read, until recently, the amicus brief filed by Hawkins and Carroll in Utah’s attempt to stop (or re-stop) marriage equality, which is available here. Before I describe it, though, a quick word about these two. Hawkins has showed up here for his shoddy research in defense of (straight) marriage promotion. He and Carroll have both done paid work for the federal marriage promotion campaign. And they are both part of the Wilcox brand, Hawkins as a contributor to the IFS blog and Carroll as a co-author of his Knot Yet report.

At BYU, Hawkins has expressed concern about how modernity might affect the ability of Family Life graduates to get jobs:

“A very real risk is that there will possibly be formal litmus tests in graduate programs out there,” Hawkins said. “We’re already seeing informal ones in some graduate programs. It’s not just saying, ‘I’m willing to work with same-sex couples and families.’ It’s more than work, it’s that students’ beliefs and attitudes will have to align with the new, contemporary definition of marriage.”

In other words, in the new relativist moral order, it may be difficult to get a job or spot in graduate school in say, family therapy, if you believe your legally married gay or lesbian clients don’t have a right to get married on their way to spirit prison, or worse. To some of us, I suspect this is pretty close to the definition of progress.

Anyway, in the Utah case, the state recently dumped Regnerus’s argument that same-sex marriage directly harms children, in favor of the argument that same-sex marriage hurts straight marriage. (I played around with this empirically a little when Utah first appealed the federal court’s decision to overturn their marriage ban.) Hawkins and Carroll attempt to make this case theoretically.

They pretty much sum it up in the table contents, which directs the reader to page 18 if they want to read this:

Traditional, gendered marriage is the most important way heterosexual men create their masculine identities. Marriage forms and channels that masculinity into the service of their children and society. Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would eliminate gender as a crucial element of marriage and thus undermine marriage’s power to shape and guide masculinity for those beneficial ends.

The details involve a lot of untestable assertions about how (straight) marriage shapes men’s masculinity, followed by what read as not only untestable but frankly paranoid assertions about how this would all change if marriage were to lose its gendered character. Because, all the bad things that are already happening to marriage will only be amplified by letting more gay people get married:

Many of the historical supports that have traditionally preserved men’s involvement in their children’s lives have been eroding for contemporary families. Historically high rates of non-marital cohabitation, out-of-wedlock childbirth, and marital divorce have dramatically altered the landscape of fathering, leaving unprecedented numbers of children growing up with uncertain or nonexistent relationships with their fathers. …any signal that men’s contributions are not central to children’s well-being threatens to further decrease the likelihood that they will channel their masculine identities into responsible fathering. We believe the official de-gendering of marriage sends just such a signal.

Yes, the very existence of gay marriage will encourage the evolutionary tendency of (straight) men to neglect their children. They go on to concede that such an indirect effect would be hard to detect. But that doesn’t make it any less important:

To be sure, these risks associated with same-sex marriage may be difficult to disentangle from negative effects from other strong social changes. After all, we believe a de-gendered understanding of marriage is an additional force in a larger trend that is uncoupling sexuality, marriage, and parenthood and making men’s connections to children weaker. Thus, it may be difficult to separate statistically the potential effects of de-gendering marriage from the effects stemming from powerful forces to which it is related, such as the sexual revolution, the divorce revolution, and the single-parenting revolution. That these effects are intertwined with the effects of other powerful forces, however, does not diminish their importance or the harms they can impose on marriage.

Of course, the same could be said of all the negative effects of the sexual revolution, divorce revolution, and single-parenting revolution — which are just a little too difficult to detect, what with all the increase in women’s status and independence, decrease in crime and family violence, increased educational attainment (for men and women), rising life expectancy and plummeting teen birth rates that have accompanied these catastrophic family changes.

If anyone really believes this stuff, it is still hard to believe that they believe the courts will go for it in the post-Windsor era.

26 thoughts on “Does gay marriage make straight men hate children?

  1. These ‘theoreticians’ of degendered marriage should recognize that the traditional view where men were seen as reluctant to marry and assume the role of a nurturing parent without certain emoluments like praise for the sacrifice of their ‘freedom’ for their family’s sake are just that: traditional and fading views of gender and marriage. Why not think about the more relevant contemporary marriage form wherein men and women share in both bread-winning, home-making and parenting roles as a model of how gender might fade in importance next to traits like devotion, appreciation, mutual support and a far more shared experience of marriage and its sequelae.


    1. I would hazard a guess that the “reluctant husband” trope isn’t even all that traditional, and has probably never been based in fact


      1. “wouldn’t it be twice as good if the child has two fathers?”
        clearly, the anti-anti-gay marriage activists are trolling now.

        What about four fathers? polygamy for gays would be really cool.


  2. it may be difficult to get a job or spot in graduate school in say, family therapy, if you believe your legally married gay or lesbian clients don’t have a right to get married on their way to spirit prison, or worse. To some of us, I suspect this is pretty close to the definition of progress.

    Speaking as a family therapist, I say: it’s about time. If you want to provide religious counseling, go to seminary. If you want to provide therapy under an MFT license (or any other), follow the empirical evidence and provide services based on best practices. If your distaste for some of those best practices is so great that you would refuse to follow them, pick another profession.


  3. You have some good points and interesting takeaways without taking a swipe at Mormonism in the process, whether you agree or disagree with it and its stance on marriage equality.


    1. Thanks. But I disagree about the the swipe at Mormonism: It’s not gratuitous considering the comments made by Hawkins. I said the same thing about the Protestant Douglas Allen when he said in the Michigan case testimony that gays go to hell. You might think you can provide counseling or other personal services to people that you think are going to hell, but I think that’s a legitimate reason to not hire someone for that job.


        1. I do think the concept of hell – or equivalent – is both ridiculous and mean, especially to children. I do not feel obligated to show respect to ideas like that just because they come from a religion.


  4. Okay I’m game, not afraid to talk about it. Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, LDS, or Mormons.

    Apparently running around the country filing “Expert” Reports on MANY of the Court Cases for Civil Marriage for Sexual Minorities, including Michigan.
    Loren Marks- (Prof LSU)
    PhD, Family Studies, University of Delaware, 2002
    MS, Family Science and Human Development, Brigham Young University, 1999
    BS, Family Science, Brigham Young University, 1997

    Joe Price- (Prof Brigham Young)
    Likewise, running around the country filing anti gay parenting “Expert” reports in Court Cases.
    PhD, Cornell University, 2007
    BA, Brigham Young University, 2003

    and of course the above mentioned
    Alan Hawkins (Prof Brigham Young)
    guess he feel hurt he isn’t being asked to be an “Expert” so he files Amicus briefs instead.

    Jason S. Carroll (Prof Brigham Young)
    Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 2001
    M.S., Brigham Young University, 1998
    B.S., Brigham Young University, 1996

    Then you have Regnerus & Wilcox holding up the Catholic block. For Evangelicals you have Walter Schumm at Kansas State and the aforementioned Doug Allen.
    Yes there is a STRONG religious bias in these academics, with what they are swearing to the Courts as true.

    I would like to delve just a little more into this Mormon effort. Now I am not a college or University Professor so possibly this is what you all do and it is perfectly fine, just a perk in academia. I found it fascinating reading in Joe Prices Deposition where he admitted to the Plaintiffs lawyer that yes he used to have a Witherspoon Grant on his CV then he took it off. He said it never should have been on there in the first place as it wasn’t what most people think of as a grant. What he said was that during the run up to the California Prop 8 case (gay marriage) he rounded up a posse of students and paid them and bought them pizza and what the students did was vet all the amicus briefs filed on behalf of the Plaintiffs. They dug through them trying to find any errors. Now since Joe price is an economist and presumably the students he would be interacting with would be economics students it is hard for me to believe that there were all that many pure economic claims made in those Amicus briefs. And basically Witherspoon just paid for that to be done. I know Brigham Young is a Private School so they can do whatever they want, but it just seemed so odd to me, this war room of students trying to find errors in the Prop 8 Amicus Briefs. It was basically the first thing the Plaintiffs attorneys in Michigan asked him about. It starts on .pdf page 4 of his Deposition here

    And his court testimony on the Prop 8 War Room starts on .pdf page 25 here

    When reading through Joe Price’s trial testimony I’ll say one thing, he sure has a high opinion of himself (putting it nicely). Nobody else testified quite like he did, I was reaching for my barf bag. e.g.

    These include presentations I have given at various countries around the world. But, again, this is another signal of the degree to which my research is held in esteem. These are places that expend a lot of resources bringing scholars out and I have been one of those scholars.

    Reading the Hawkins/Carroll amicus brief which they have filed in many court cases, isn’t it eerily similar to Mark Regnerus’ saying that straight husbands will stray because (he claims) gay coupled men have permitted outside sex so straight men are going to look at their wives and and say, “Well honey, the gays do it.” Also if I am not mistaken, I think I remember this, Regnerus also claims that because gay relationships are becoming normalized men will be asking their female partners for anal sex now. SEE! There is just all kinds of bad things that potentially will happen because of the gays. Dr. Cohen is right with Utah basically throwing Regnerus under the bus and deciding that they would not claim having gay parents is harmful to children, in oral arguments they really did fall back on this Hawkins/Carroll Brief. They did so also in the Oral arguments last week in the Oklahoma case. Remember these are both Appeals cases being heard by a panel of 3 Judges. These are important cases.


  5. Thanks Phiilip – It’s hard to believe Hawkins still has his otherwise reasonable ardent defenders in the pro-marriage federal porgrams (who appear in your comments from time to time). I guess all is fair in love and war when the federal trough is fedding the little piggies…


  6. It is also interesting that Regnerus has been made persona non grata in the Utah filings even though he has still filed amicus briefs in other cases…Guess we know now who is giving the order on the anti-side…


  7. This was clearly a well thought out post. People would do better to share these research backed articles on their “walls” than the random fluff that is posted everyday. I agree with many of your points; and comments left in reply. Particularly that religious arguments and paradigms do not hold logical weight against human right paradigms. A person is more important than a belief.

    However, I would like to point out that every researcher is biased, and often receives funding from large corporations or private organizations. This is common for studies that are both liberal and conservative. People are quick to point fingers at Mark Regnerus but his flaws are not nearly as egregious as they are made out to be. Many researchers have made similar mistakes and have simply been ignored. These poor researchers either don’t get published, their published article gets removed, or are unable to receive further funding. It often seems like Mark is being made an example or used a fear tactic, which is ridiculous. Let’s say it like it is, and let the matter drop; his research was not well done, and was not unbiased.

    While Hawkins and Carroll may have made a decision which shows their biases (which I agree is not best practices for a researcher), many researchers share their own personal biases. We can see that on this blog. While this is not an official document, it’s widely seen and shared.

    Unfortunately the way research is set up lends it’s self to research bias. They pick an interesting topic, usually one where they have invested emotional interest, and then are asked to find money to fund their specific research. This then means you have to find someone who has lots of money and is also invested in your cause. That’s all bias (don’t get me started on medicinal research). Until this system is corrected, every researcher will show bias in their research.

    The point of all this is to say that just because a formal document was written by a researcher, especially one that is disagreeable, does not mean that their research is inherently poor. I would be more inclined to talk about statical models and how they are being implemented, before speaking on bias or funding. However, the points that are made about disagreeing with the document it’s self are legitimate and I agree with you on many points.


    1. Let the historical revisionism begin! Sorry but a) the errors in the Regnerus study were not the result of mere negligence – the entire study was intentionally constructed to maximize differential outcomes as Phillip has demonstrated in meticulous detail b) similarly, there is not an iota of evidence of similar corruption by the scores of other researchers who published the vast body of research that Regnerus and his co-conspirators dismiss with homophobic allusions to some sinister gay conspiracy c) there is solid evidence from the FOIA emails documenting micromanagement of the study design by a right wing think tank so that the results would be negative outcomes for use in litigation and d) Regnerus has dishonestly injected himself and his study into countless political and judicial debates over gay rights (including international disputes where gay people face violence and even death) with such disgusting claims about anal sex, lesbians causing asexuality and gross generalizations about gay men as sexually obsessed and incapable of love and fidelity.
      Give it a rest please…


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