Earlier, I wrote a blog post about the May 19, 2014 decision by U. S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane (Geiger v. Kitzhaber), striking down Oregon’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman — one of a series of such decisions in recent months.

Those interested in why these judges, in general terms, have it wrong should refer to the recent FRC paper, Marriage on Trial: State Laws Defining Marriage as the Union of One Man and One Woman Are Valid under the Constitution of the United States.

I noted that one maddening aspect of the Geiger decision in particular was Judge McShane’s sense of certainty in asserting things which are either a) blatantly false, or b) inherently unknowable.

In the former category (blatantly false) is virtually everything McShane says about the research on children raised by homosexual parents, including his declaration that “children fare the same whether raised by opposite-gender or same-gender couples.”

On the issue of homosexual parenting, however, McShane has a body of methodologically flawed and biased research that tends to support his view, as well as a collection of ideologically-driven policy statements by large professional organizations.

Even less defensible, however, are the blanket statements he made about the impact redefining marriage would have on the institution of marriage in the future — or rather, the lack of impact it would have.

For example, McShane declared:

Opposite-sex couples will continue to choose to have children responsibly or not, and those considerations are not impacted in any way by whether same-gender couples are allowed to marry.”

Quoting another judge on the next page, McShane added:

Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite-sex marriages.”

To both of these statements, my response is: “How can you possibly know?”

Decisions about public policy issues (which are actually not the purview of judges — but that’s for another piece) must, of course, rest on at least some informed predictions of what the consequences of a particular course of action will be. 

I made my own set of predictions about the consequences of redefining marriage in a 2011 FRC booklet, The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex “Marriage.” My predictions directly contradicted those made by Judge McShane, and included these points:

  • Fewer people would marry
  • Fewer people would remain married for a lifetime
  • Fewer children would be raised by a married mother and father
  • More children would grow up fatherless; and
  • Birth rates would fall.

However, there are two key differences between my predictions and McShane’s. I, at least, qualified them with the statement that they were “ways in which society could be harmed by legalizing same-sex ‘marriage’” (emphasis added), whereas McShane declared dogmatically what “will” and “will not” take place. In addition, he did so in the absence of any supporting evidence, whereas I offered specific, tangible evidence in support of my predictions.

Let me offer an updated overview of at least one of these issues, perhaps the most fundamental one. McShane declares, “Opposite-sex couples will continue to choose to have children . . .”

Will they? Of course, we may assume that some will continue to do so, but birth rates in many countries have been falling, with negative consequences already evident or easy to anticipate. (See, for instance, the books The Empty Cradle by Philip Longman, and What to Expect When No One’s Expecting by Jonathan V. Last.)

Would same-sex “marriage” result in lower birth rates? It is too early to identify a causal relationship between the two. It may be that a retreat from a procreative view of marriage contributes to both declining birth rates and the redefinition of marriage to include intrinsically non-procreative relationships. Yet while there are multiple confounding factors at work, there is evidence of at least a correlation between redefining marriage to include homosexual couples and lower birth and fertility rates.

For example, early this year, I researched the latest state-by-state data in the U.S. regarding three key measures of what we might call “reproductivity.” The “birth rate” as such represents the number of annual births per 1,000 total population. The “general fertility rate” is the number of annual births per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years (a general estimate of the childbearing years). Finally, the “total fertility rate” represents the “estimated number of births over a woman’s lifetime” (per 1,000 women).

The most recent national data available, published in December 2013, was a final report for 2012. I took the state data reported and listed the states in rank order for each of the three measures. I then compared these lists with the list of U.S. states that had authorized the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Omitting states with recent (2014) court rulings, but including Illinois (which did not issue such licenses until this week but whose legislature authorized the change last year), there were seventeen states that had redefined marriage. Here is how they stacked up, compared to those states retaining a one-man-one-woman definition.

With respect to the birth rate:

  • All of the bottom 6 states in birth rate have same-sex “marriage” (SSM)
  • None of the top 9 states in birth rate have SSM
  • 8 of the bottom 15 states in birth rate have SSM
  • Only 2 of the top 15 states have SSM
  • Average rank of SSM states in birth rate: 32nd

With respect to the general fertility rate:

  • All of the bottom 6 states in general fertility rate have same-sex “marriage”
  • None of the top 7 states have SSM
  • 10 of the bottom 15 states have SSM
  • Only 2 of the top 15 states have SSM
  • Average rank of states with SSM in general fertility rate: 34th

With respect to the total fertility rate:

  • All of the bottom 6 states in total fertility rate have same-sex “marriage”
  • None of the top 7 states have SSM
  • 8 of the bottom 12 states have SSM
  • Only 1 of the top 12 states has SSM
  • 12 of the 17 SSM states are below the national average
  • Only 5 of the 17 SSM states are above the national average
  • Average rank of states with SSM: 33rd

Overall:

  • There are 12 states which rank in the top 15 in all three categories; only 1 of them has same-sex “marriage” (Hawaii)
  • There are 8 states which rank in the bottom 10 in all three categories; 6 of the 8 (the 6 New England states) have SSM

Judge McShane should re-think his certainty that redefining marriage would have no impact on the larger institution.