If you’ve followed the news over the past week, you've probably noticed a shift in the very definition of the American family. As public opinion and state laws have evolved increasingly to tolerate and embrace gay marriage, so has the legal system – the Supreme Court this week invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act and effectively ended California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8.
Gays and lesbians who want to marry and receive recognition under the law are the obvious winners. But that the Court has been expanding marriage recognition, rights, and protection to same-sex couples is a part of a bigger trend – an expansion of marriage that has positive effects for children specifically, says Adam Pertman, executive director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York.
"The fact is, there's lots of research indicating that the biggest beneficiaries of marriage are children," Mr. Pertman says. "They get social benefits, economic benefits – they get a big range of benefits from marriage. The list goes on and on."
Pertman, whose organization researches policies that affect adoption and works to improve adoption laws, doesn't think that the court has been swept up in a pro-gay marriage, pro-children crusade. He points to the different ways that justices arrived at their two important decisions this week.
"If you look at it ruling by ruling, the California [Prop 8] ruling, for instance, it has a very different rationale than the DOMA ruling," Pertman says. "Both seem to be saying: 'All families are created equal, and all children should be protected' — but [the] California [decision] didn't really say that, [it] said the litigants didn't have standing." (The court ruled that proponents of a ban on gay marriage passed by California voters did not have the right to defend that law in federal courts).
The court also ruled that the backers of California's Proposition 8 didn't have standing to challenge lower-court rulings about the 2008 ballot initiative that banned gay marriage in the state.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/How_this_weeks_Supreme_Court_decisions_affect_Pa_NJ.html#Ktv31eVBwAR5XHEP.99 Pertman's stance is that the positive impact on children's lives is a good thing, but one that has come about haphazardly and not through any beneficent design on the part of the country's top court.
"The powers that be — the courts, and the legislatures — I rarely think they put their money where their mouth is," Pertman says. "What they say is, 'The children are the future, children are our more valuable resource, children are this, children are that,' but the truth is when push comes to shove, it's the adults and adult concerns that take priority."
The story, Pertman suggests, leads back to the ancient currency of Washington: clout.
"I wrote an op-ed saying children don't lobby and children don't vote, and they pay the price for that," he says.