by Patrick Appel

Last week the Dish featured  this video of a man eloquently defending his mothers. Steven Landsburg objects:

University of Iowa engineering student Zach Wahls attempts to refute this notion [that gay people, on average, are less successful as parents] without offering a shred of evidence beyond a single cherry-picked case (his own) to prove that children of gay parents sometimes turn out just fine ...

Will Wilkinson utterly destroys Landsburg's argument. A taste:

The science-minded Mr Landsburg may be shocked to learn the assault on marriage equality in Iowa and elsewhere is not predicated upon the modest empirical hypothesis "that gay people, on average, are less successful as parents"; it is based on a conviction of faith that homosexuality is a sinful perversion inherently corrosive to the values that make healthy families possible. Mr Wahls' upstanding, A-student, Eagle-Scout character together with his normatively wholesome family life is sufficient to cast rational doubt on this rather sweeping article of faith.

Let's suppose, though, that there is a credible basis for the proposition "that gay people, on average, are less successful as parents", and that this has something to do with the gay-marriage debate we have been having here in Iowa. What then? Consider an analogy. There is evidence that people in dire poverty are, for a number of reasons, less "successful" as parents. Suppose some of us therefore proposed banning marriages between poor people. The first argument against this proposal is that the right to marry should not depend on membership in a class that is, on average, as successful at parenting as other classes. The second argument is that stripping poor people of the right to marry strips them of legal equality and what John Rawls, the great political philosopher, called "the social bases of self-respect". This harmful injustice would be suffered by the whole class marginalised by official discrimination, but it would be especially salient in the case of exemplary poor families clearly deserving of equal standing, recognition, and social esteem. The moving story of an exceptional family that would be harmed by the proposed codification of inequality draws our attention germanely toward the broader injustice such a law would create. Mr Wahls' primary argument seems to me to be of this sort. Again, this former logic instructor can see no sophistry in it.

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