What IS social science good for? As Mark Twain once wrote, "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics." Sometimes social science is trotted out to distract and obfuscate when the real issue at stake is pretty straightforward, you know, like fundamental fairness. Earlier this week, I wrote about a conservative group trying to manipulate social science research all in an effort to influence the Supreme Court's two upcoming gay rights decisions. Then came George Will this Friday who railed about the "shaky science" behind same sex marriage. Every example Will provided is of some scientific study that purports to evaluate either the effect of family structure on child rearing or the state's interest in defining marriage based on a state "purpose."
All of those examples miss the point of why the lawsuit, especially the suit challenging DOMA in U.S. v Windsor, is being brought. The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees equal protection of the laws. Edith Windsor is not suing for the right to marry per se or about her fitness to raise children. In this case the issues is about the discrimination of the laws that she faced because of the multitude of legal benefits and privileges (estate tax laws specifically), more than 1,300+ of them, that attach to the federal government's definition of "marriage".
Conservatives in recent years seem to have moved away from arguing the unnaturalness of gay marriage, although many still point to scripture as a source of their objections, but Will needs to be careful about impugning social science research on this topic. His shrill warnings about the lack of "decisive evidence" and "resting uneasily on the shiftable sand of premature social science conclusions" about gay unions sounds eerily like the fearful arguments presented against the unnatural social experiement of interracial marriages.
Besides, why is it incumbent on gays to prove the gay marriage is not harmful to society or children? Why is it an accpeted axiom that straight marriages are beneficial? Has anyone checked the divorce rate of tradtional marriage?