Sponsors Fatherlessness


P1. Same-sex marriage reduces the social pressure for fathers to remain in their family

P2. A reduced social pressure for fathers to remain in their family will likely lead to less fathers remaining in their family

C. Therefore same-sex marriage will likely lead to less fathers remaining in their family


PragerU – Are Fathers Necessary?

This argument is also used against:

Fatherlessness is becoming a major social issue:

In every state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.


Clearly less fathers remaining in their family is devastating for children and the social problem that every society must solve. The impact of fatherlessness on children has been widely studied and research strongly correlates fatherlessness to a wide range of negative effects on children, most notably boys. In the words of Jordan Peterson:

“we know that fatherlessness isn’t good for people by any measure, it’s a catastrophe”

The Effects of Fatherlessness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJgX5XbE6Ok&t=315s

From Barack Obama:

We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it


Traditional marriage implies that fathers are essential to a family and the life of a child, whereas same-sex marriage implies that two mothers are just as good as a mother and father and therefore fathers are not necessary. What social effect does it have on men if the law sends the message that children do not need a father? Surely it makes it more socially acceptable for a man to leave his pregnant girlfriend alone with the child.

David Blankenhorn who famously wrote about “Fatherless America” remarks:

Fatherhood, much more than motherhood is a cultural invention. Its meaning for the individual man is shaped less by biology than by a cultural script or story – a societal code that guides, and at times pressures him into certain ways of acting and of understanding himself as a man.

A father makes his sole biological contribution at the moment of conception – nine months before the infant enters the world. 
Margaret Mead and others have observed that the supreme test of any civilization is whether it can socialize men by teaching them to be fathers – creating a culture in which men acknowledge their paternity and willingly nurture their offspring.

David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem (1995)

OBJECTION: “Children don’t need fathers. Social science has unanimously shown that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by opposite-sex parents”

The research used to justify this claim has been criticized as rather weak, as Ryan T. Anderson et al point out:

Not one study of same-sex parenting meets the standard of research to which top-quality social science aspires: large, random, and representative samples observed longitudinally. Only one—studying only rates of primary-school progress—is even just large and representative. Several that are most frequently cited in the media actually compare same-sex parenting outcomes with single-, step-, or other parenting arrangements already shown to be suboptimal. Few test for more than one or two indicators of well-being. Most resort to “snowball sampling,” in which subjects recruit their friends and acquaintances for the study. With this technique, “those who have many interrelationships with . . . a large number of other individuals” are strongly overrepresented. As a result, psychologist Abbie Goldberg notes, studies of same-sex parent households have focused on “white, middle-class persons who are relatively ‘out’ in the gay community and who are living in urban areas.” They have overlooked “working-class sexual minorities, racial or ethnic sexual minorities, [and] sexual minorities who live in rural or isolated geographical areas.” Yet such favorably biased samples of same-sex parents are often compared to representative (and thus more mixed) opposite-sex parent samples. As Loren Marks observes in a literature review of all fifty-nine studies on which the American Psychological Association relied in declaring no differences between same-and opposite-sex parenting, “The available data, which are drawn primarily from small convenience samples, are insufficient to support a strong generalizable claim either way. . . . Such a statement would not be grounded in science. To make a generalizable claim, representative, large-sample studies are needed—many of them.

By contrast, consider the findings of a recent study in this area that was based on a large, random, and nationally representative sample, regarding outcomes in adulthood of various family structures. Compared to children of parents at least one of whom had had a gay or lesbian relationship, those reared by their married biological parents were found to have fared better on dozens of indicators, and worse on none.

Girgis, Anderson, George, 2012. What Is Marriage?: Man And Woman: A Defense. Encounter Books.

As well as the research being criticized as weak, the climate has been described as highly politicized leading to exaggerated and much publicized conclusions which ignore conflicting results such as:

  • “Not a single study has found children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents” – Chan, R.W., Raboy, B., Patterson, C.J., 1998. Psychosocial adjustment among children conceived via donor insemination by lesbian and heterosexual mothers. Child Development 69, 443–457.
  • “Not a single reputable study has found that children raised by gay or lesbian parents have been harmed because of their parents’ sexual orientation in any way” – Cooper, L. & Cates, P. (2006) Too high a price: The case against restricting gay parenting. New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation. Quote in the introduction from Shay Bilchik, President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America.
  • “Not a single study found any adverse effect on children’s development associated with the parents’ sexual orientation.” –  Cooper, L. & Cates, P. (2006) Too high a price: The case against restricting gay parenting. New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation

Social scientists Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz who are supporters of same-sex parenting echo this point:

We wish to acknowledge that the political stakes of this body of research are so high that ideological ‘family values’ of scholars play a greater part than usual in how they design, conduct, and interpret their studies.

(R)esearchers frequently downplay findings indicating difference regarding children’s gender and sexual preferences and behavior that could stimulate important theoretical questions

Stacey, Judith, and Timothy J. Biblarz. “(How) does the sexual orientation of parents matter?.” American Sociological Review (2001): 159-183

And finally, Leon Kass from the University of Chicago and Harvey Mansfield from Harvard University state that:

There is good reason to believe that the political climate has strongly influenced much of the existing research on issues raised in this case.

There could conceivably come a time when supporters of traditional marriage are compelled by scientific evidence to acknowledge that same-sex marriage is not harmful to children or to society at large. That day is not here, and there is not the slightest reason to think it is imminent … Now and for the foreseeable future, claims that science provides support for constitutionalizing a right to same-sex marriage must necessarily rest on ideology. Ideology may be pervasive in the social sciences, especially when controversial policy issues are at stake, but ideology is not science.

Brief of Leon R. Kass, Harvey C. Mansfield and the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners, p. 2

All children raised by same sex couples must be separated from at least one of their parents through either death, divorce, abandonment or third party reproduction. We should also be skeptical of the counter-intuitive claim that children raised by same sex-couples are no worse off than children raised by opposite-sex parents, not only due to all the research which directly contradicts it, but also due to the following three generally accepted negative phenomena which are found in all same-sex parenting arrangements:

  1. Children experience trauma as a result of being separated from one or more of their parents
  2. Non-biological parents are on average more transitory, invest less time, energy and resources into their children and are also a greater risk to their children
  3. Mothers and fathers on average parent differently, with each bringing unique contributions to the well-being of a child

When all the above conditions are common in all children cared for by same-sex couples, and each condition has negative effects, it is difficult to see how children cared for by same-sex couples would generally fare just as well as children cared for by opposite-sex parents.