Thursday, January 1, 2009

Hawaii 1996, Part 3

Four expert witnesses were presented by the state of Hawaii during the Baehr v. Miike case, all of whom were expected to testify that children ought to be raised in a two-parent home by both biological parents. It was the ideal and most desirable environment, they told then-Circuit Judge Kevin S.C. Chang. Children raised in a gay couple’s home would be “burdened” by such an environment; hence, allowing same-sex couples to marry would harm children.

Yet, under oath, these same expert witnesses mustered by the state of Hawaii admitted that same-sex couples can, and do, provide positive nurturing home environments for children, and children raised in such households turn out just fine.

If you haven’t read the two previous posts to this, you ought to now before reading further. Begin with part one, and then read part two before returning to this post.

Psychiatrist Kyle D. Pruett had conducted a 10-year longitudinal study of two-parent families with young children in which the father had a primary role in raising the children. Pruett concluded that children raised primarily by their fathers during the early years did very well in later childhood. He also noted other significant benefits to a developing child having a father present during the child’s rearing.

“Dr. Pruett stated that same-sex relationships do not provide the same type of learning model or experience for children as does male-female parenting, because there is an overabundance of information about one gender and little information about the other gender,” Chang wrote in his decision.

That was very important information for the state to get on the record. But did the state count on what else Dr. Pruett was going to say?

“Nevertheless, Dr. Pruett also stated that same-sex parents can, and do, produce children with a clear sense of gender identity… that single parents, gay fathers, lesbian mothers and same-sex couples have the potential to, and often do, raise children that are happy, healthy and well-adjusted…that single parents, gay fathers, lesbian mothers, adoptive parents, foster parents and same-sex couples can be, and do become, good parents. Significantly, Dr. Pruett knows the foregoing to be true based on his clinical experience. More specifically, Dr. Pruett stated that parents’ sexual orientation does not disqualify them from being good, fit, loving or successful parents.”

It was very significant testimony for Chang to hear, and that was from the state’s first expert witness! It got better when Pruitt said that gay couples should be allowed to adopt, and that the sex of the parents was not the most important characteristic of having a positive influence on a child: rather, the “quality of the nurturing relationship between parent and child could, and would, outweigh any limitation or burden imposed on the child as a result of having same-sex parents.” (emphasis added)

Then came testimony from sociologist David Eggebeen, which dealt largely with what marriage is all about and why people marry.

Eggebeen presented data on how over the years the marriage rate had declined while the divorce rate had increased, as had the number of “young people” cohabiting, etc.

“It’s common today to find children in single parent families. It’s common today to find children living with a mother who never married. It’s common today to find children in remarried families. It’s common today to find children in dual earner families where both parents participate in the type of work. It is common or getting common to find children whose parents never married and they’re cohabiting,” Eggebeen testified. Having said that, however, he noted that 60 percent of children were being raised in two-parent households where the parents were married to each other and both parents were the biological parents.

Through Eggebeen’s testimony it is clear that the American nuclear family is in serious trouble. And the anti-marriage crowd likes to remind everyone of this. But that argument is easily countered with the one found in Turner v. Safley. In that case, the state of Missouri argued against allowing some inmates to marry someone from the outside because of the potential security problems such arrangements might create. The Supreme Court, however, noted that those security problems would exist regardless; to say that allowing marriages for inmates would exacerbate the situation was a baseless assertion.

In this case, Eggebeen reveals to the court that the problems with marriage existent at the time were already present, so any argument that allowing same-sex couples the opportunity to marry would exacerbate the situation, or, as some in the anti-marriage crow argue, even create such situations is spurious.

Eggebeen also tells the court something else the anti-marriage crowd loves to repeat in some form or another, and that is marriage is a “gateway to becoming a parent,” that it is “synonymous with having children.” However, Eggebeen’s testimony indicated he did not believe that such a characteristic was exclusive by any means. Rather, individuals get married without any intention of having children at all, or who may be biologically incapable of reproduction. And given that, the absence of any intent to have children, regardless of the reason, “does not weaken the institution of marriage.”

“In fact, Dr. Eggebeen recognized that people marry and want to get married for reasons other than having children; that those reasons are valuable and important; and that regardless of children, it is beneficial to society for adults to marry. Dr. Eggebeen testified that individuals should not be prohibited from marriage simply because they cannot have children.”

So, two of the state’s own expert witnesses have given testimony that undermines the state’s position. But Eggebeen’s testimony gets even better.

“Finally, and importantly, Dr. Eggebeen stated that children of same-sex couples would be helped if their families had access to or were able to receive the following benefits of marriage: (1) state income tax advantages; (2) public assistance; (3) enforcement of child support, alimony or other support orders; (4) inheritance rights; and (5) the ability to prosecute wrongful death actions. Dr. Eggebeen also agreed that children of same-sex couples would be helped if their families received the social status derived from marriage.” (emphasis added)

I will take up the state’s two other witnesses in the next installment, witnesses that include one that Chang found to be unpersuasive and unbelievable because the witness testified that he believed all social science, including psychology and sociology, is so flawed that it can never be fixed.

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