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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. 

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US Supreme Court justice families aren't as traditional as some would assume. In fact, their family life is increasingly like ours.

Christian Science Monitor illustration / File

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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.

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.

"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.

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