Supreme Court justices' families less nuclear, more diverse like US
Now more than ever, Supreme Court justices go home to non-traditional families. Whether having experienced divorce or adoption, the Supreme Court justices share increasingly diverse family life.
With their Ivy League pedigrees and East Coast addresses, Supreme Court justices often are rightly described as unrepresentative of the nation. But in one area, the justices look a lot like the rest of America.Skip to next paragraph
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Members of the court have firsthand experience with divorce and adoption, as well as making it alone without ever getting married. Just five of the nine justices have been married once and have had biological children with their spouses.
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"The diversity of the family lives of the justices mirrors the diversity of American families overall," said Andrew Cherlin, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist who studies families and public policy.
These varied family portraits of the justices are somewhat at odds with the arguments of gay marriage opponents who stress the unique ability of heterosexual couples to have babies as a reason to uphold bans on same-sex marriage.
The briefs defending California's Proposition 8 gay marriage ban and a federal law denying benefits to legally married gay couples are sprinkled with references to the ideal family as having a mother, a father, and biological children.
"Proposition 8 thus plainly bears a close and direct relationship to society's interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who brought them into the world in stable and enduring family units," the provision's supporters say.
The conservative, public-interest Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., puts it this way: "Reserving marriage to a man and a woman thus reflects the inherent distinction between those pairs capable of engaging in the act which can produce human offspring, and those pairs which cannot."
The two justices who have adopted children are considered likely votes against gay marriage. Chief Justice John Roberts is the father of two children, Jack and Josie, both 12. They were adopted four months apart as babies in 2000, after Roberts and his wife, Jane, then 45, spent several years trying to adopt. The Roberts family discussed the adoption for a biography of the chief justice that was aimed at young readers and published in 2006.
Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia, took custody of Thomas's grandnephew, Mark, when he was 6, in 1998. Soon after they were married in 1987, the Thomases decided they would not have children of their own, author Ken Foskett wrote in his biography, "Judging Thomas." Mark's father had been in and out of legal trouble and his mother was raising three other children on her own. Thomas also has a biological child from his first marriage, which ended in divorce.