Same sex couples have been making ground in the battle to legalize or decriminalize same sex marriage throughout the world. Currently there are 17 countries worldwide that allow marriage to all couples regardless of sexual orientation. In Canada, there are over 21,000 same sex married couples. In the US and Mexico, only parts of the country allow same-sex marriages. The legal status of same sex marriages in the US Supreme Court has been debated for months now and a ruling is expected within a matter of days. One of the points being debated by people lobbying to keep the unions illegal is whether children raised by same-sex couples suffer negative implications compared to traditional couples. However, the opposite is likely true as many scientists have shown that children of same sex couples benefit from psychological and physical benefits compared to children of single parent households. There were over 70,000 divorces in Canada in 2005 and 27% of households were one parent households. The burden of divorce on children is certainly greater than the imaginary burden of same sex marriages.
In the court of law, stats and p-values are rarely enough to sway people; consensus in a decision is often what matters. This means it can be difficult for scientists to prove something in a court of law. Social science researchers out of Denver have developed a way of analyzing researcher’s citation habits to determine when a consensus decision about a topic likely has been reached making it easier to use the whole weight of evidence in a court of law. The group collected and analyzed data from over 15,000 publications between 1977 and 2013 on the effect of same sex marriages on parenting. They looked at the number of times each paper had been cited and tracked when certain publications became more cited as the consensus in the scientific literature became more accepted. Citations in scientific publications are a way for scientists to back up claims they make in their research. The more something is cited, the more likely scientists are to accept it as correct. They found that, to no surprise, scientists agree there are no negative impacts on children from same sex marriages. Their method identified that overwhelming consensus on this topic was reached in 2000 even though the topic is still being debated in a court of law.
Consensus on a topic is not something that is black or white. It can evolve over time as more and more data is collected. A good example of this is vaccines and autism. Initially, consensus on the topic was uncertain because of a couple studies. As more and more good data was collected, consensus began to accumulate amongst the scientific community and now it is agreed that vaccines do not cause autism, and there are countless pieces of evidence to back that up. The same thing happened with same-sex marriages and the impact on children. There was no consensus early on in the research process but as more and more good studies were done, consensus was reached. Science never proves anything in one study; it takes replication over and over again to finally get consensus on a topic.
So what about same sex marriages, why are we still debating the impact on children? Often, people who have a vested interest in a topic like this can’t see beyond the mass of information and instead focus in on one or two outlier studies that may show a result that agrees with their viewpoint. We can only hope that the people in charge of making this big decision use the evidence put before them to come to the right decision instead of using their biased view points. Let it be known, there is no negative effects on the well being of children when raised by same-sex parents.