Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States once again decreed marriage to be a civil right by announcing that states’ bans against same-sex marriage are unconstitutional according to the 14th Amendment and a violation of a person’s civil rights. This decision is in line with 14 previous decisions between 1888 and 2003.
But civil rights are not unlimited, but can be restricted in some way by the state if the state can show a compelling interest in doing so. For example, the civil right of freedom of speech does not allow a person to walk into a crowded movie theater and yell, “Fire!.” The potential panic cause could result in injury and possible death because of the mad rush to exit the building. The state has a compelling interest in the safety of its citizens and, therefore, can restrict the civil right to freedom of speech in this way.
How can the state show a compelling interest in restricting the civil right of marriage to heterosexual couples? I believe there are two ways, with the first being mitigated by advances in medical science, specifically in the area of reproduction.
The first area of compelling interest is the continuing existence of the state itself. Without citizenry, the state ceases to exist. So the state’s compelling interest in marriage in this regard is procreation and the state’s continuing existence. Because of advances in medicine, it is now possible for same-sex couples to “reproduce,” but its own continued existence is still a compelling state interest.
The second compelling interest of the state involves the effect upon children growing up in either a fatherless or motherless home. Numerous studies have shown the negative effects in many areas on children growing up in these types of homes, and the results of of these effects directly impact the state in a variety of ways, including economic, educational, and quality of life.
First the studies that show the effects on children in homes without a father. (this could be a single mother or a lesbian same-sex couple)
The Positive Impact of Father Involvement
In a study examining father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life, researchers found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning. The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement. This study showed the significance of the role of fathers in the lives of at-risk children, even in case of nonresident fathers.
Source: Howard, K. S., Burke Lefever, J. E., Borkowski, J.G., & Whitman , T. L. (2006). Fathers’ influence in the lives of children with adolescent mothers. Journal of Family Psychology, 20, 468- 476.
Father Factor in Poverty
Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. In 2011, 12 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 44 percent of children in mother-only families.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2011, Table C8. Washington D.C.: 2011.
Father Factor in Emotional and Behavioral Problems
Data from three waves of the Fragile Families Study (N= 2,111) was used to examine the prevalence and effects of mothers’ relationship changes between birth and age 3 on their children’s well being. Children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers. Living in a single-mother household is equivalent to experiencing 5.25 partnership transitions.
Source: Osborne, C., & McLanahan, S. (2007). Partnership instability and child well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 1065-1083.
Father Factor in Maternal and Child Health
Infant mortality rates are 1.8 times higher for infants of unmarried mothers than for married mothers.
Source: Matthews, T.J., Sally C. Curtin, and Marian F. MacDorman. Infant Mortality Statistics from the 1998 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set. National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 48, No. 12. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2000.
Father Factor in Incarceration
Even after controlling for income, youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds.
Source: Harper, Cynthia C. and Sara S. McLanahan. “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.
Father Factor in Crime
A study of 109 juvenile offenders indicated that family structure significantly predicts delinquency.
Source: Bush, Connee, Ronald L. Mullis, and Ann K. Mullis. “Differences in Empathy Between Offender and Nonoffender Youth.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 29 (August 2000): 467-478.
Father Factor in Teen Pregnancy & Sexual Activity
Being raised by a single mother raises the risk of teen pregnancy, marrying with less than a high school degree, and forming a marriage where both partners have less than a high school degree.
Source: Teachman, Jay D. “The Childhood Living Arrangements of Children and the Characteristics of Their Marriages.” Journal of Family Issues 25 (January 2004): 86-111.
Father Factor in Child Abuse
A study using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study revealed that in many cases the absence of a biological father contributes to increased risk of child maltreatment. The results suggest that Child Protective Services (CPS) agencies have some justification in viewing the presence of a social father as increasing children’s risk of abuse and neglect. It is believed that in families with a non-biological (social) father figure, there is a higher risk of abuse and neglect to children, despite the social father living in the household or only dating the mother.
Source: “CPS Involvement in Families with Social Fathers.” Fragile Families Research Brief No.46. Princeton, NJ and New York, NY: Bendheim-Thomas Center for Research on Child Wellbeing and Social Indicators Survey Center, 2010.
Father Factor in Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Even after controlling for community context, there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father.
Source: Hoffmann, John P. “The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use.” Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (May 2002): 314-330.
Father Factor in Childhood Obesity
The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children.
Source: National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
Father Factor in Education
Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s. This was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers, and for fathers heading single-parent families.
Source: Nord, Christine Winquist, and Jerry West. Fathers’ and Mothers’ Involvement in Their Children’s Schools by Family Type and Resident Status. (NCES 2001-032). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2001.
Now the studies about the effects on children in homes without a mother (single father or gay same sex couple homes)
- check out this study about the effect of a mother’s love on a child’s brain: http://www.livescience.com/18196-maternal-support-child-brain.html
- here is an article discussing the role of a mother in a child’s development: http://geetarao04.hubpages.com/hub/Role-Of-A-Mother-In-Child-Development
- read and examine the sources of this article dealing with how healthy mothers are crucial to the success of a family: http://www.familyfacts.org/briefs/44/healthy-mothers-healthy-families-how-mothers-are-crucial-to-the-success-of-the-family
The result of all of this research demonstrating the affect of having both a mother and father present in a home is that it is very important for a child’s development to have both a mother and father present in the home. The mother and father both bring effects which are unique to either being a father or mother. Because stability and development of its most vulnerable citizens is of utmost importance to a state because it directly impacts the state in a variety of ways, any way the state can utilize to carry this out should be available to it to do so. This is a compelling interest.
Hence why I believe the state has a genuine compelling interest in being able to restrict the civil right of marriage.