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US: Dueling experts debate data in Mich. gay marriage trial

DETROIT — Our research is better than yours.
That’s the main theme of Michigan’s gay-marriage trial, where both sides of the debate have claimed for the last week that they have reliable and conclusive research about child outcomes in America and what type of family structure works best.
The issue was raised during the case involving two lesbian nurses — April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse — who are seeking to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage so that they can marry and adopt each others’ children.
Plaintiffs argue there’s no research that shows same-sex couples aren’t fit parents or that their kids don’t thrive.
The state’s theory is that kids thrive best when raised by married moms and dads — a point that two academic experts hammered during testimony Tuesday.
One of them was Brigham Young University economist Joseph Price, who testified that children of same-sex couples have a tougher time in school.
At least that’s what his data shows, said Price, testifying on the state’s behalf in a case that could make Michigan the 18th state to legalize gay marriage. The state is opposed to this, but plaintiffs argue the bans on same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples are unconstitutional.
Price, meanwhile, said his research shows that children fare better in life when raised by married heterosexuals.
“Children born into a married couple have better outcomes right at the start of life. This gap has shrunk over time, but has continued to exist over decades,” he said.
Children raised by married heterosexual parents, he said, are 35% more likely to be making normal progress in school than kids raised by same-sex couples.
“This is statistically significant,” Price said, noting children of same-sex couples are also 15% more likely to be held back in school than children raised in traditional family settings.
Price contradicted the prior testimony of Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld, who last week said that children raised by same-sex parents suffer no disadvantage when compared with other kids, according to his research.
Rosenfeld wrote a 2010 study, based on Census data, that concluded that children of same-sex couples are as likely to make normal progress through school as children in most other family structures.
Price’s testimony followed that of another key witness for the state, who ended up going on the defensive Tuesday after getting criticized by his employer over his testimony.
The Sociology Department of the University of Texas issued a statement Monday about the witness: sociologist Mark Regnerus, who said he believes traditional marriage should be upheld in Michigan because, he said, that’s the most stable environment for children.
“Dr. Regnerus’ opinions are his own. They do not reflect the views of the Sociology Department. … Nor do they reflect the views of the American Sociological Association, which takes the position that the conclusions he draws from his study of gay parenting are fundamentally flawed on conceptual and methodological grounds and that findings from Dr. Regnerus’ work have been cited inappropriately in efforts to diminish the civil rights and legitimacy of LBGTQ partners and their families. We encourage society as a whole to evaluate his claims.”
Regnerus said he was disappointed by the statement.
“It’s regrettable. I guess they have been getting negative press about my appearance here,” said Regnerus. “I think they just wanted to distance themselves from me, which is sad. I heard from my colleagues that this was an inappropriate thing to do.”
Michigan is counting on Regnerus to bolster its argument that traditional marriage in Michigan should remain intact, just as voters decided in 2004, when they defined marriage as being only between a man and a woman.
Regnerus testified Monday that scientific research in the area of same-sex parenting and same-sex marriage is too new, and therefore unreliable.
The trial resumes Wednesday. Closing arguments are expected Friday.

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