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Ad claims children 'do best' when raised by 'their married mom and dad'

FamilyMarriageSame-Sex MarriageElectionsGay Rights

A new 30-second television commercial opposing same-sex marriage makes a claim that children "do best" when reared in a traditional, heterosexual marriage — or, as the ad says, by "their married mom and dad."

What the ad says: The ad is narrated by a woman while images of young married couples and babies flash across the screen. The ad, funded by the Maryland Marriage Alliance, says that the institution of marriage has a long history in society and is "more than what adults want for themselves — it is about the next generation."

The facts: The ad's sponsors point to two studies that they say support their claims: "Why Marriage Matters," published by the New York-based Institute for American Values, and a paper by Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas.

Neither speaks directly to the claims made in the ad.

The "Why Marriage Matters" report reviewed research about children raised by single parents, divorced parents and married, heterosexual parents. It concluded that children raised in the latter scenario fared better under various measurements. But the report did not consider data about children raised in homes headed by same-sex couples. "Gay marriage is still very new," said Elizabeth Marquardt, the director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values. "We don't have studies on what it does." Marquardt said her institution does not have a position on same-sex marriage.

The Regnerus paper, "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships," cites data suggesting that such children showed instability. It has drawn criticism from gay rights groups who point out that the study looked only at parents who have had homosexual relationships at some point in their lives, but not necessarily for an extended period while rearing children.

Analysis: The ad running in Maryland is similar to ones funded by the National Organization for Marriage that have aired in Minnesota, where voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Commercials against same-sex marriage also began airing this week in Maine.

The ad is intended to give voters who don't believe that same-sex marriage affects them a reason to vote "No" on Question 6. The strategy is regarded as having been effective in persuading voters to defeat same-sex marriage measures in California in 2008 and the next year in Maine.

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