Judge Posner Ignores the Obvious: Kids Care More about a Mom and Dad than about a Government Certificate
by Peter Sprigg
September 8, 2014
Ed Whelan of the Ethics and Public Policy Center has been doing a great job at National Review Online debunking Judge Richard Posner’s opinion striking down the Indiana and Wisconsin marriage laws for a panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on September 4 (see here, here, here, and here).
I will note here just one thing that jumped out at me in both the oral arguments and the opinion. Judge Posner makes the following argument (pp. 22-23 of the opinion):
Consider now the emotional comfort that having married parents is likely to provide to children adopted by same-sex couples. Suppose such a child comes home from school one day and reports to his parents that all his classmates have a mom and a dad, while he has two moms (or two dads, as the case may be). Children, being natural conformists, tend to be upset upon discovering that they’re not in step with their peers. If a child’s same-sex parents are married, however, the parents can tell the child truthfully that an adult is permitted to marry a person of the opposite sex, or if the adult prefers as some do a person of his or her own sex, but that either way the parents are married and therefore the child can feel secure in being the child of a married couple. Conversely, imagine the parents having to tell their child that same-sex couples can’t marry, and so the child is not the child of a married couple, unlike his classmates.
Judge Posner’s set-up of this hypothetical situation sounds like a demonstration of how same-sex “marriage” could harm children raised by same-sex couples:
Suppose such a child comes home from school one day and reports to his parents that all his classmates have a mom and a dad, while he has two moms (or two dads, as the case may be). Children, being natural conformists, tend to be upset upon discovering that they’re not in step with their peers.
Perhaps it is a function of his long judicial career, but Judge Posner seems to think that it is entirely the law which will determine whether such a child experiences “comfort” or distress from such a situation. If the law says that the two women or two men raising the child cannot be “married,” the child will experience distress. But if the law says that the two women or two men raising the child are “married,” then they will experience “emotional comfort,” presumably from the knowledge that their family is just like that of their friends.
Except, even in Judge Posner’s own framing of the situation, it is not the absence of a marriage certificate that makes the children feel different from his peers. It is that “all his classmates have a mom and a dad, while he has two moms (or two dads, as the case may be).” If the child’s “two moms” or “two dads” are permitted to “marry” — well, “all his classmates” will still have “a mom and a dad,” while the child in question will still be “not in step with [his] peers” because he will still not have a mom and a dad!
Judge Posner is naïve in the extreme if he thinks that such a child would care more about whether his caregivers have a certificate from the government than about whether his family includes something as fundamental on a human level as a mother and a father.