The Use and Abuse of Social Science in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate

30 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2004


There is no conclusive, scientific answer to the question of what children's development and well-being will be if society permits same-sex marriages. This is not surprising, in view of the limited nature of research done, and the difficulties of doing large scale, randomized, controlled studies. Indeed, virtually none of the changes which have dramatically affected the institution of marriage in recent times - including no-fault divorce and the entry of mothers of infants and young children into the full-time workforce - have been preceded by reliable scientific studies demonstrating the likely effects of such changes on children.

A look back at past societal controversies, over eugenic sterilization and over interracial marriage, highlights the danger of relying on scientific theories to resolve social issues. Science in these past debates too often reinforced societal biases. The four guidelines suggested here for considering the welfare of children in the context of same-sex marriage treat social science studies as one input among others that, when fairly considered, give substantial support to allowing such marriages as a means to promote the welfare of children raised by same-sex couples.

Keywords: same-sex marriage, social science

Suggested Citation

Newman, Stephen A., The Use and Abuse of Social Science in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate. Available at SSRN:

Stephen A. Newman (Contact Author)

New York Law School ( email )

185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States

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