Same sex relationship moral issues

Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society. She currently same sex relationship moral issues on a project funded by the Australian Department of Health. She is the co-author of a study cited in this article that looked at the wellbeing of children raised by same-sex parents. Victoria State Government provides funding as a strategic partner of The Conversation AU.

La Trobe University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU. The Conversation UK receives funding from Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence, as well as sixty five university members. Few debates have sparked such heated debate as same-sex marriage and the prospect of a national plebiscite on the issue. Both opponents and proponents of same-sex marriage regularly cite research evidence supporting their side of the argument.

But what is the evidence and why does it appear to be so contradictory? A 2012 British study showed that married and non-married opposite-sex couples tended to sustain longer relationships than same-sex couples. This study is consistent with the findings of a number of previous studies. There is less research comparing relationship longevity of couples who have children. Some small studies have shown lesbian mothers have more instability in their relationships than heterosexual mothers. Does this evidence support an anti-same-sex marriage argument?

Paradoxically, the aforementioned data is used to both support and challenge marriage equality. Supporters of same-sex marriage argue the sense of legitimacy and formality afforded by legal marriage will enhance relationship stability among same-sex couples. There is evidence that defends this stance, although again it is not consistent. A 2014 US study found no difference in relationship longevity between same-sex and opposite-sex couples who were married.

However, a comparable Norwegian study found married same-sex couples were more likely to divorce than married opposite-sex couples. Opponents of same-sex marriage argue that evidence showing relationship instability demonstrates that same-sex couples are unable to provide an appropriate environment for children. What is the evidence regarding children with same-sex parents? The study most often cited as evidence that children do not do well when raised by same-sex couples was published in 2012. This study involved a large, randomly-selected sample of young adults. It found children raised by a parent who had been in a same-sex relationship had poorer outcomes than other children on a range of measures including educational and income attainment, relationship problems and illicit drug use.

This study has been widely critiqued on the grounds that respondents were classified as being a child of same-sex parents if they had not been raised by an intact, heterosexual couple and if one of their parents had ever had a same-sex romantic relationship. This meant the study compared young adults raised in a two-parent, stable family to those who had been raised in a range of circumstances. A subsequent re-analysis of these data, using a different criteria for categorising respondents, showed no differences in well-being between children raised by same-sex couples and those raised by heterosexual couples. But the strength of this study is that researchers obtained a large, random sample. This is difficult to achieve due to the very high numbers needed to gain an adequate sample size.

As such, most studies rely on convenience samples, which means people have volunteered to participate in the study rather than being randomly selected. The study most often cited as evidence that children with same-sex parents fair just as well as children raised by heterosexual parents is a meta-analysis of 33 studies published in 2010. This study found children raised by same-sex parents fared equally as well as other children on a range of behavioural, educational, emotional and social outcomes. However, some children raised by same-sex couples may experience discrimination or isolation from their peers. They may also experience anxiety related to fear of discrimination.