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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 3/30/13

Marriage Equality is Good for Education

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Saying, "the voice of those children is important in this case, don't you think," Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy linked the marriage-equality cases before the courts with education. Justice Kennedy was responding to an assertion by Solicitor General Donald Verilli that for children, disqualifying their same-sex parents from marriage "has effects on them in the here and now. A stabilizing effect is not there. When they go to school, ... they don't have parents like everybody else's parents." The voice of the children and the impact on education is an often-overlooked fact in this debate but one where there is a growing consensus on the positive impact marriage equality will have.

Just as polls show growing and now majority acceptance of gay marriage, there is a trending acknowledgement in social-science circles that their unions are "not a major determinant in how well children fare in school, on cognitive tests and in terms of their emotional development." Since 2004, marriage equality has existed in Massachusetts, and NAEP scores in that state are still the best in the nation. Far more important than family composition for student success is stability, parental involvement, and economic resources. Allowing same-sex families the stability of marriage, parental rights to both partners, and the tax advantages of marriage will benefit the children in all three areas-- they'll be more secure, feel more accepted, and be better off financially. By declaring marriage equality, the Supreme Court would be siding with these children.

As the solicitor general correctly noted, the children of same-sex couples cannot help but observe the discriminatory status their parents receive in the forty-two states where marriage is defined as between a man and a woman. This slight negatively influences these children in a much more profound way than any study shows being a child of a same-sex couple does. Codifying this institution into federal law will grant more acceptance not only for the adult partners but also for their children. As a American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement said, "If a child has two living and capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond by way of civil marriage, it is in the best interests of their child(ren) that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so."

While social institutions and tradition definitions deserve deference, the long arc of history confirms that progress is only made through the extension of rights. Whether or not you believe that extending the right to marry to same-sex couples is correct, it will not be detrimental to education. In fact, it will be a positive. Allowing biracial marriages as the Supreme Court did in Loving V. Virginia has certainly been a huge net positive for children and schools. And, while some of the very same arguments posited now existed then, they have been proved as fallacy.

The court, while unlikely to make a sweeping ruling allowing same-sex marriages across the nation, must not allow the inept arguments of same-sex families harming children and education any place in its final ruling. Children do best with under the loving support of two caring parents. Whether or not the parents are heterosexual or homosexual should not be a factor. 

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John Horton is a policy analyst. He has co-authored op-eds in the Miami Herald, Florida Sun-Sentinel, Michigan Chronicle, and Tallahassee Democrat. He currently resides in Washington, DC.
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