By Stephen Richer
Following my Facebook posting of Matt’s Politico piece, my friends had a nice little debate over gay marriage (for the 100th time). The main opposition to gay marriage took the form of “gays-make-bad-parents…we’re-hurting-children.” I’m writing this post to offer my friend the response he deserves and to put this “gay-marriage-bad-for-children” baby to sleep.
Here’s some of the relevant parts of the opposing view. (I think it’s fair to quote from my wall):
… the best environment for children, the foundation of society, the role of government, or the meaning of religious freedom. …
but I find it entirely uncontroversial to believe that all things being equal, children are better off growing up with their biological parents married to each other, and having a mother and father in the home, vs two fathers. …
When a gay couple sets out to have a kid through surrogacy, sperm donation, whatever, it means they are intentionally creating a situation where the kid won’t know it’s mother or father. Which up until now would be treated as something perfectly legal but less than ideal. But ssm folks are forced to argue that there is absolutely nothing missing in that child’s life, since a kid doesn’t actually need a mother, or his mother, as long as there are two parental figures (a fairly arbitrary number). And now, we cant even acknowledge that sdomething is missing in the kids life. Outside of the ssm debate, almost no one would argue this. …
Ok, so you are for gay adoption. Entirely different issue than what the government forces everyone in society to say about gay marriage. Whether gays adopt children or not is not at all contingent on whether govt recognizes ssm or not. …
1. Gay couples don’t steal children from straight couples.
Perhaps straight couples are better at raising children than gay couples (we’ll get to this later). But what does it matter? Gay couples aren’t stealing kids from straight couples. They’re either having their own through artificial insemination, or they’re adopting kids. Children raised in gay households aren’t going from ideal situations to less ideal situations. They’re either being born into gay families, or they’re going from very-less-then-ideal situations (foster homes, single parent households, etc.) into gay households (which I think most same sex marriage opponents acknowledge to be better). According to this PhD (Elisa Rosman), there are 107,011 children in foster homes. The New York Times puts the number of children waiting to be adopted at 115,000 in the United States. Gay couples play a significant part in providing these kids with homes — 65,000 adopted children live in gay homes, 4% of all adopted children in the country. (Gary Gates study).
2. Re: “Whether gays adopt children or not is not at all contingent on whether govt recognizes ssm or not.”
If we accept that the adoption of gay couples is a good thing, then perhaps we should want more of it (if we’re into social engineering). You say that the number of gay adoptions has no relation to state recognition of same sex marriage. I’m not so sure. The trend seems to suggest otherwise. The Williams Institute at UCLA found that, “Among couples with children, the proportion of same-sex couples who have adopted children has nearly doubled from 10% to 19% between 2000 and 2009.” And the New York Times article reports: “About 19 percent of same-sex couples raising children reported having an adopted child in the house in 2009, up from just 8 percent in 2000, according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law at the University of California, Los Angeles.”
It sure looks like more gay marriages = more gay adoption. True, that doesn’t necessarily have to follow (the rise could be as a result of the increasing acceptance of gays in society, so they feel more comfortable adopting, or it could be the result the changing legal landscape, allowing more gay Americans to adopt).
I’ve emailed a few experts on this topic (“Do married gay couples adopt children at a higher percentage than gay couples joined by civil unions or informal means?”). I’ll let you know what I hear.
3. Being born to gay parents is better than not being born at all.
It sounds like you’re skeptical of children raised by gay couples because not all of these children are adopted (which you acknowledge as an improvement in the child’s life) — some of them are born through, artificial, scientific means. Ok. But wouldn’t you — as a strong supporter in the “pro life movement” — accept that being raised by gay parents is better than not being born at all? That sounds a lot like a Tim Tebow abortion argument, but there it is. And I don’t think you’d disagree.
4. Gays aren’t worse parents.
So this is kinda the assumption on which your entire argument is based. But the science, seemingly, doesn’t support it. Here’s Wikipedia:
A consensus has developed among the medical, psychological, and social welfare communities that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are just as likely to be well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual parents. The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology. Based on the robust nature of the evidence available in the field, the Third District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida was satisfied in 2010 that the issue is so far beyond dispute that it would be irrational to hold otherwise; the best interests of children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption.
But if you’re not big on Wikipedia, here’s some other links that show that gays don’t make worse parents than straights:
- American Academy of Pediatrics Report
- New York University sociologist Judith Stacey and University of Southern California sociologist Tim Biblarz
- University of Melbourne researchers
- Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld
- The National Adoption Center, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association
- Ellen C. Perrin, MD, professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine
- Ezra Klein looking at the same question
So while “concern for children” is perhaps a state reason for treating gays unequally (but why wouldn’t it apply to other relationships that we can statistically say are likely to not be good parents?), the logic and science just isn’t there. Gay couples aren’t bad for kids. They adopt kids that need homes; they give other kids new lives; and they’re just as good at parenting as straight couples.