Tag Archives: same-sex marriage

Fighting a losing battle

As I’ve said repeatedly since I began blogging, we’re in the midst of rapid-fire change when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Sometimes I read the news headlines, or scan my Facebook news feed, and I feel like Billy Joel’s singing a contemporary version of “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” (Pennsylvania, Oregon, trans exclusions all gone! Football, RuPaul, Hedwig’s angry inch. Not bad, huh?) This week, three of those events caught my attention:

  • Last weekend, the Texas Republican Party adopted a party platform for 2014 that includes support of reparative therapy, a psychological approach that claims, despite being heavily discredited, to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay to straight.
  • This past week, the Wall Street journal ran an opinion piece written by Dr. Paul McHugh, former chief psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. This piece was likely written in response to the Obama administration’s decision to reverse a 1981 policy that excluded gender reassignment surgery from coverage under Medicare. McHugh, in contrast, believes strongly that being transgender is “a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention.”  (A New York Times editorial, which ran a few days earlier, provided a much more pro-transgender perspective on this issue).
  • And last Thursday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. In that interview, when asked about her decision to include transgender rights along with lesbian, gay, and bisexual concerns, she said, “LBGT includes the “T,” and I wanted to stand up for the entire community. I don’t believe that people who are the L, the G, the B, or the T should be persecuted, assaulted, imprisoned, even killed for who they are.” (Full disclosure: She then, in a heated exchange with Gross, embarked on a clunky defense of her initial opposition to same-sex marriage.)

So hold on a minute. The Texas Republican party is supporting reparative therapy, even though a lot of highly respected professional organizations have issued public statements about how dangerous it is? A major news publication is running a piece declaring that transgender people are, by definition, mentally ill – even though the DSM-5 doesn’t include “transgender” as a mental disorder? Except for Hillary Clinton’s breath of fresh air (pun absolutely intended), these news articles seem like they could have been written 30 years ago.

Except they weren’t. This is happening today, in 2014. After the Supreme Court has overturned DOMA, and so many states have legalized same-sex marriage. After two states have banned reparative therapy for minors. After we’ve been closer than ever to passing an inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Of course, lots of people have continued to believe that being gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender, or in any way gender nonconforming, is sinful, wrong, or sick, and that granting rights to LGBTQ people merely enables our “condition.” But coming out publicly, on large political and media stages, and stating these views is rising to new levels. It’s almost like the anti-LGBTQ rights folks are saying, This shit’s gotta stop. Time to end this nonsense. 

Some might say that this is a perfect example of a backlash – a powerful, almost violent, reaction against progressive change. Back in 1991, Susan Faludi wrote a bestselling book titled Backlash: The Undeclared War on American Women, in which she discusses the conservatism of the 1980s as a reactive response against the gains of various social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. But I’m not sure “backlash” is the most accurate term. It’s more like a last, desperate gasp for air. These folks see that “one-man-one-woman” marriage statutes are tumbling down like dominoes. They see that ENDA now has bipartisan support in Congress. They see transgender rights gaining serious traction. And then they see Laverne Cox on the cover of Time magazine (oh, HELL no!), and seeing how close they are to the tug-of-war pit, they gather up every last bit of strength and start yanking on that rope as hard as they can.

What makes people dig their heels in so deeply, even though they know they’re fighting a losing battle? Why doesn’t someone like Paul McHugh budge – even just a little – on his beliefs, even when they conflict with the scientific consensus? Why does some factions of the Republican Party swing further to the right, even though they’re losing constituency groups? They’re on a sinking ship – why don’t they jump off?

I’ve scoured the psychological literature, in search of an answer to this question. And unfortunately, it hasn’t offered much. Some researchers point to personality characteristics, like the “authoritarian personality” – what psychologist Theodor Adorno thought reflected the “potentially fascistic individual.” From this standpoint, certain types of people are just more likely than others to dig in their heels and stay there. Other researchers view this stubbornness as a variation of the fight-or-flight response, a reaction to a perceived imminent threat. What that threat is certainly is up for debate; it could be a threat to one’s status and power, or it could be a more intrapsychic threat – a threat to one’s masculinity, for example, or a threat to one’s heterosexuality. Perhaps it’s a form of aggrieved entitlement, a variation of fight-or-flight and a concept I’ve written about in past blog posts – a feeling that one’s identity, status, and culture is being taken away from them, and a need to stand one’s ground against those changes.

Maybe it’s all of these. Or perhaps it’s none of these. Either way, research isn’t offering me great answers. At least, nothing that’s making me feel better.

When I’m surrounded by disturbing, uncomfortable, or distressing behavior, I tend to seek solace in the intellectual. If I can explain it, my reasoning goes, then perhaps I can have some control over it – and understanding is a form of control. Freud called this “intellectualization,” or “flight into reason.” (Freudian scholars, just to be clear, don’t see this as a particularly healthy form of coping.) To be honest, I’m distressed by the GOP’s party-line endorsement of reparative therapy. I’m distressed by Paul McHugh’s pathologizing statements about transgender people and surgery. And here I am, trying to explain their behavior, partly in an attempt to educate, but mostly in an attempt to just feel better. Because having large groups of people hating on you and wanting to fix you just feels yucky.

How did the song go? Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore! The Cola Wars may be over (or perhaps, in light of the New York City soda ban, we’re in a new Cola War), but I can absolutely relate to feeling overwhelmed by political attacks. Especially when those attacks my identity, and my family, and my community. Often, intellectualizing pulls me through. Direct action works wonders too. But sometimes, as odd as it sounds, giving myself the space to just feel yucky helps move me forward. Because really, the only way out of the yuckiness is through it. If I’m fighting a losing battle with my feelings, I’m being just as stubborn as the people that are causing me distress.





Filed under activism, gender nonconformity, homophobia, human rights, mental health, psychological research, reparative therapy, same-sex marriage, transphobia

Some are more equal than others

Blog topics come to me in strange and interesting ways. Sometimes, I start off with a clear idea of what I want to write about, and it comes together easily. Other times, I might start off thinking I’m going to write about a particular topic, and then my post morphs into something entirely different and unrelated. And every once in a while, something random happens in my life that sparks creative inspiration, and that’s what I decide to go with.

That’s what happened this week. Actually, this time it was TWO unrelated random somethings that happened in my life. Well, not exactly random. And not completely unrelated, either.

So, here’s Random Creative Inspiration #1: The red and pink equals sign.

For those of you who have been living under a rock (or who don’t use social media), this image literally took over Facebook the week the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the two same-sex marriage cases – one involving California’s Proposition 8, the other focusing on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). If you’ve ever seen the blue and yellow Human Rights Campaign logo, this image should look familiar. At one point, when I was checking my Facebook account, the few individual profile pictures that were left were submerged in a sea of red equals signs., showing an overwhelming level of support for same-sex marriage.

Now, for Random Creative Inspiration #2: Uncle Bobby’s wedding. (Note: I don’t have an Uncle Bobby.)

This past weekend, I attended a children’s book writing and illustrating conference, where one of the breakout sessions focused on diversity in picture books. One of the examples used in the presentation was Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S. Brannen. It tells the story of a guinea pig named Chloe who is devastated when she learns that her uncle Bobby is getting married – her big fear being that she will no longer be her uncle’s favorite person. Eventually, as Chloe spends more time with Uncle Bobby and his boyfriend, Jamie, she comes around, and is delighted to be the flower girl for their wedding. It’s a very sweet story, with a spirit of acceptance and love.

So these two Random Creative Inspirations weave together perfectly, right? It’s time for same-sex marriage to be legalized. We’re just as normal as everybody else. Same-sex relationships are becoming as mainstream as opposite-sex relationships.

Well, that’s not where I’m going with this. As much as I support marriage equality rights, I’m going to talk about the dangers of “normalcy.”

The speaker at the breakout session I attended at this conference was an editor for a major children’s book publisher, and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding comes out of that publishing house. Although she used numerous other books as examples throughout her talk, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding was the only one she read to us cover-to-cover.  And when she finished reading, these were my thoughts:

That was a beautiful story.

The illustrations were delightful.

And, unfortunately, that is NOT how it goes down for a lot of people.

The fight for legalizing same-sex marriage has used, overwhelmingly, the sameness argument. In a 2006 article published in American Psychologist, UC Davis researcher Gregory Herek carefully lays out an argument in support of same-sex marriage rights, grounding each of his assertions in social science research. His thesis essentially boils down to these main points:

  • On most psychological measures, same-sex relationships are no different from opposite-sex couples.
  • Children raised by same-sex couples are no different than children raised by opposite-sex couples; and
  • Marriage bestows significant benefits with regard to health, financial stability, and psychological well-being.

Hence, the sameness argument. Or, to use a more political term, the assimilationist argument.

The dirty little secret about the fight for same-sex marriage rights is that there are factions within the LGBTQ community that are deeply divided over this issue. For example, the week that Facebook was flooded with red and pink equals signs, a number of people in the LGBTQ community responded by posting their own subversive versions of that image. One looked like this:

Granted, some who posted this divide sign are Religious Right-type people who are not in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. But others who posted this image come from the trans* community, the poly/non-monogamous community, and others who exist on the edges of the mainstream LGBTQ umbrella.

One of the reasons some members of the trans* community chose the “divide” symbol over the “equals” sign is because of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Over a long period of time, the HRC, which is one of the largest gay advocacy organizations in the world, has committed some serious transgressions against the trans* community, the most noted being their support for excluding protections based on gender identity and expression from the Employer Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Their argument? It’ll pass more easily without the gender stuff. Just wait your turn, and be patient. (NOTE: To date, neither the exclusive or inclusive forms of ENDA have been signed into law.) More recently, at a marriage equality rally in front of the Supreme Court, a trans* activist was asked by an HRC staffer to remove a trans pride flag that had been erected behind the podium. These incidents highlight the ongoing tension between the “LGB”s and the “T”s, with the trans* community never feeling a sense of inclusion.

The divide sign highlights another very serious issue when it comes to same-sex marriage rights, and that is this: Not everybody in the LGBTQ community will benefit if Proposition 8 and DOMA are overturned.

What if you are gender-variant, and you don’t identify as “male” or “female”? So far, same-sex marriage policies haven’t included a “third gender” or alternative to the two-box binary gender system we’re so accustomed to.

What if you are in an ongoing polyamorous relationship? This, of course, is the “slippery slope” example that the Religious Right loves to whip out. Well, if we legalize same-sex marriage, then people will want to have multiple wives, or multiple husbands! Or they’ll want to marry their dog, or their horse, or their toaster! Usually, the response from marriage equality activists is this: Oh no, that will NEVER happen – because we’re just like heterosexual people.

Guess what? It happens. And when people enter into a polyamourous relationship, they are not legally protected. If a triadic (three-person) relationship splits up, there are no policies in place that guide how property and assets should be divided up. If a woman is in a quad (four people) and has a child with one of the men in the group, then decides to leave the quad entirely, how does child custody get sorted out? (Hint: She probably gets full custody, because the quad isn’t legally recognized by the state.)

I think some very serious questions are up for the LGBTQ community, and have been for quite some time. Are we fighting for equality – and if so, what does that mean? If assimilation is the goal that the movement is fighting for, then how does acceptance fall into that? Is it about fitting into the system, or changing the system? Uncle Bobby and Jamie fit into the system quite well. But that’s not true for quite a lot of us.


Filed under children, gender nonconformity, homophobia, human rights, intersectionality, intersex, LGBT families, LGBTQ, mental health, psychological research, relationships, religion, same-sex marriage, transgender, transphobia

First the POTUS, now the SCOTUS!

BREAKING NEWS:  Same-sex marriage is coming to the Supreme Court!

On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it will review the Ninth Circuit’s decision on the Proposition 8 case (Perry v. Schwarzenegger) , and it will also hear a case that challenges the Defense of Marriage Act (United States v. Windsor). Minutes after the announcement, I got the following e-mail message from Courage Campaign, a non-profit organization that has fought tirelessly on behalf of marriage equality (and other progressive issues as well):

Gayle, it’s time to go all in on the nation’s biggest stage. Chip in $15 or more NOW to help us secure a win at the Supreme Court to end Prop 8, DOMA, and possibly same-sex marriage bans nationwide. We can’t afford a loss and we need to move quickly.

Why are they asking for money? I thought to myself. How does money get a judge to rule one way or the other? Maybe Courage Campaign is a big scam, playing on my emotions in order to get my money. Or maybe they’re trying to raise BIG MONEY in order to pay off Justice Kennedy. (NOTE: It’s the end of the semester for me, and being tired and stressed probably contributed to these dastardly, unclean thoughts.)

Then I read on:

Legal experts all say the courts follow public opinion. Justices listen to arguments by day, but read the news and talk to friends and family at night. That means that we need to wage a nationwide public education campaign that shows the harm inflicted on same-sex couples and their families by discriminatory laws like Prop 8 and DOMA.

The courts follow public opinion??? Last I heard, it’s usually the other way around. Decades of social science research indicate that, when a landmark court decision is made (such as Brown v. Board of Education), or when a groundbreaking piece of legislation is passed (such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964), these policy decisions tend to have a powerful influence on public opinion. Gordon Allport, a social psychologist who wrote the classic text The Nature of Prejudice, argued in his book that stateways (laws and policies) tend to shift folkways (attitudes, beliefs, and norms) – not the other way around. In fact, if you look at the events of 2012, you can see this pattern very clearly. Consider this:

  • On May 8, 2012, North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in their state – bringing the total number of states banning same-sex marriage to 39.
  • The next day, President Barack Obama made a public announcement in support of same-sex marriage.
  • To date, North Carolina is the last state in the U.S. to have banned same-sex marriage.

Get my drift?

But the Courage Campaign people are saying the opposite. So which is true? Maybe the research can tell us.

Let’s start with the judges’ preexisting attitudes. A 2011 study led by Ryan Black of Michigan State University, published in the Journal of Politics, examined all justice utterances made in cases argued between 1976 and 2008, and then further examined individual-level voting patterns in cases presented between 2004 and 2008. After sifting through hundreds of thousands of utterances, what did Black and his colleagues find? When U.S. Supreme Court justices make their arguments using emotionally volatile language, the side that uses a greater proportion of harsh language is more likely to lose its case. An example? In McCreary v. ACLU (2005), a case that addressed the issue of displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools and courthouses, Scalia used the word “idiotic” twice during his arguments. At the end of the day, the majority of the remaining justices did not take his side. Clearly, angry sputtering does not win a case.

But judges are supposed to be “impartial,” right? The worst thing you can say to a person on the bench is that they’re an “activist judge.” When Ninth Circuit Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop 8 was unconstitutional, that’s exactly what he was called by the opposition – an “activist judge.” As crippling and insulting a statement that is, the reality is that judges are humans too – with real feelings, real attitudes and beliefs, real opinions on a variety of different issues. Most of the time, according to a 2007 Law & Society Review study, judges are very careful to set aside their ideological beliefs and instead weigh the merits of the legal arguments. The exception to that? In “salient” cases – cases that are high-profile and controversial – personal beliefs tend to carry more weight in the judges’ decision-making process. And I think it’s fair to say that Perry v. Schwarzenegger and United States v. Windsor are VERY salient cases.

So far, we have lots of evidence of the humanness of Supreme Court justices. But what about our original question – do the courts follow public opinion?  Logically speaking, it would seem so – if the public votes for the President, and the President selects Supreme Court justices, then public opinion influences the Supreme Court. However, in a 2011 study published in the Journal of Politics, researchers from Emory University investigated whether a more direct link exists between public opinion and judicial decision-making. The specific theory they tested is what’s called an “attitudinal change explanation” – the idea that attitudes of Supreme Court justices are likely to change dramatically over time, in tandem with public opinion. According to their findings, Supreme Court justices are influenced by the exact same factors that shift opinion in the general public. When a cultural norm begins to shift, people’s attitudes begin to conform more strongly to that norm – and Supreme Court justices are no exception to that.

Based on these findings, if marriage equality activists want to celebrate a victory next spring, what should be in the strategic playbook?

  • Demonstrate that public opinion solidly supports marriage equality rights.
  • Saturate the media in order to preserve the salience of this issue.
  • Pray that Justice Scalia goes on a rant with scathing homophobic vitriol.

Maybe the Courage Campaign isn’t a scam after all.


Filed under homophobia, human rights, psychological research, same-sex marriage

The myth of gay affluence

Gays are affluent.

Because gays aren’t usually saddled with children, they have lots of disposable income.

The “gay dollar” is a powerful market that businesses and political organizations need to tap into.

If your exposure to LGBTQ people is limited to the news and entertainment media, then it would be very easy to fall into the trap of believing these statements. A frequently-cited statistic is that this year, in 2012, the lesbian and gay market is worth $790 billion dollars. Since the 1990s, newspapers and magazines have run scores of articles about the increasing market presence of the LGBTQ community. Business journals have published articles and run advertisements courting the gay dollar. And there is some statistical data out there that supports the power of the gay dollar. Numerous books, including Steven Kates’ Twenty Million New Customers! Understanding Gay Men’s Consumer Behavior and Bob Witeck’s Business Inside Out: Capturing Millions of Brand Loyal Gay Consumers, have been marketed to the business community. (As an aside, Bob Witeck heads up Witeck Communications, a think tank that conducted the market analysis that yielded the $790 billion statistic.)

Businesses – and politicos – are paying attention. Earlier this month, Billie Jean King and Jane Lynch launched LPAC, the first lesbian super PAC to be established that raises money for pro-lesbian political candidates. Leveraging the “lesbian dollar,” they successfully raised $200,000 in the first day. American Airlines, a company known for its support for the LGBTQ community, saw almost a tenfold profit increase after the company formed a team devoted to gay and lesbian marketing. And just this past week, when Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy stated the company’s opposition to same-sex marriage and reiterated their Bible-based values, the ensuing boycott of the fast-food chain led company officials to soften their stance – probably because they feared the hit their profits would take. Based on these examples, it’s hard not to have reverence and respect for the power of pink money.  

But, sad to say, the idea of the all-powerful gay money is really just a half-truth. If we focus our microscope solely on urban, well-educated, affluent gay men who don’t have kids, then of course we’re talking about people who are likely to have a lot of money. But that’s only a narrow sliver of our incredibly diverse community. When we widen the scope, a different reality emerges.

Here’s a slice of that different reality. In Money, Myths, and Change: The Economic Lives of Lesbians and Gay Men, M.K. Lee Badgett, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, uses numerous scientific studies to debunk the myth of gay affluence. Among other things, Badgett cites bans on same-sex marriage, wage discrimination, the intersection of discrimination against women and homophobia (the wage gap between women and men is still alive and well), and lack of access to workplace benefits such as health benefits and retirement plans as barriers to achieving financial stability and success. Over the months I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve made clear again and again the impact of oppression and marginalization against LGBTQ people. When we experience discrimination and oppression because of our sexual orientation or gender identity and expression, we take a serious financial hit.  

What also strikes me about the “gay affluence” stereotype is that, at least in my mind, the image of a gay person with disposable income is often a White male. Lesbian women are more likely than gay men to be raising children, and that has a significant impact on economic status. Moreover, wage gap data collected over the past 60 years indicates a shrinking – but still distinct – difference in the earnings between women and men. When we consider race and ethnicity, the “gay affluence” image gets even more sketchy. In a 2006 study titled “Nuestras Voces/Our Voices: The National Study of Latino Gay Men,” researchers Rafael Diaz, Edward Bein, and George Ayala found that, over a one-year period, 61% of the 397 participants ran out of money for basic necessities, 54% had to borrow money at some point in order to get by, and 45% had to look for work sometime over the course of that year. Not surprisingly, experiences of financial hardship put people at higher risk for social isolation, low self-esteem, and psychological distress. And just this past Friday, the Queer Southeast Asian (QSEA) Network released a study titled A Census of Our Own: The State of QSEA America. While the results of this study focused predominantly on experiences of racism and homophobia, the study revealed that, of the 364 LGBTQ Southeast Asian Americans who participated in the study, 74% had been on public assistance at some time in their lives. If that doesn’t debunk the myth, I don’t know what does.

To me, the conflicting economic narrative we’re seeing here is all about where we choose to focus our lens. If we decide to study whether or not gay men shop at Whole Foods, and we get participants by standing outside of Whole Foods, then right off the bat we’re getting a skewed version of reality. Of course, most researchers would never commit such a novice sampling error. However, studies have shown repeatedly that, when we don’t include a diversified sample, or if they rely solely on a volunteer or convenience sample, what we’re going to get is largely a White, well-educated, affluent demographic in our participant base. That clearly paints an inaccurate picture of the realities of our community.

What if there wasn’t so much focus on how to get a piece of the gay money pie, but instead efforts were channeled – with equal fervor and drive – towards creating an economically equitable community? What if we leveraged our financial power to eradicate homelessness, poverty, and economic distress among our LGBTQ brothers and sisters?   




Filed under homophobia, human rights, LGBTQ, media, mental health, psychological research, racism, same-sex marriage, sexism, stereotypes

Comparing apples to oranges

 If same-sex marriage is legalized, then tolerance for it will be taught in schools.

If same-sex marriage is legalized, then it will be easier for gays and lesbians to parent children.

If same-sex marriage is legalized, then gay and lesbian parents will pass down their homosexual agenda to their children.

Same-sex marriage is dangerous to children.

The “dangerous to children” argument has been the most effective – and the most fear-based – ammunition against marriage equality rights, in my opinion. So how do you counter these attitudes, especially when they’re so pervasive? To start with, you can gather the facts, and then present the facts as, well, factually as possible. That’s what social science research is all about. And, for the last twenty years, that’s what many social science researchers have been doing with respect to same-sex marriage and parenting.

Charlotte Patterson, a psychologist at the University of Virginia, is one of these researchers. One of the early pioneers of same-sex parenting research, her first studies of same-sex parenting were published back in 1996. Not surprisingly, her findings indicate overwhelmingly that children raised in same-sex parenting households are as well-adjusted and healthy as children raised by heterosexual parents. In the National Lesbian Longitudinal Family Study, which has been running for almost 20 years, Nanette Gartrell of UCSF has not only consistently found similarities between children raised by lesbians and those raised by heterosexual parents, but she has also identified various strengths that develop in children raised by same-sex parents. And, using 140 studies to back up his arguments Gregory Herek of UC Davis wrote an article for the American Psychologist that presented an empirically supported argument for same-sex marriage that included this statement: 

“Having same-sex parents isn’t at all harmful to children. Studies of gay and lesbian families consistently show that they are just as healthy as heterosexual families. The research also shows that having two parents is better than one, whether parents are heterosexual or homosexual” (Herek, 2006).  

Pretty ironclad statement, don’t you think? Well, here’s a truism about psychological research. Research findings are almost never consistent. It’s very rare to study a phenomenon and get the same result every single time. This is especially true in the social sciences, where we’re studying the complexities of our humanness. So it’s not outside the realm of possibility, even after 20 years, for someone to do a study on same-sex parenting and find something entirely different.

Guess what? This past week, in “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” published in Social Science Research, sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin  identified some notable differences between children raised by lesbian parents, compared to children raised by married heterosexual parents. These “notable differences,” mind you, are not trivial or positive – for example, adult children raised by non-heterosexual parents reported higher reliance on public assistance, higher unemployment, a higher rate of smoking and marijuana use, higher likelihood of being arrested and pleading guilty to a crime, higher rates of being touched sexually by a parent – the list of negative outcomes identified in this study goes on.

Social scientists, journalists, and political activists have been reacting strongly to this study since its publication.  A joint statement was released by the Human Rights Campaign, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the Family Equality Council, and Freedom to Marry, titled “Flawed Paper Claims to Overturn 30 Years of Credible Research that Shows Gay and Lesbian Parents are Good Parents: Conservative Author Behind New Paper Marked by Poor Methodology, Faulty Conclusions.” Some of the claims in the title are valid. For one thing, one egregious methodological error is that Regnerus compared apples to oranges. Instead of studying same-sex parents in committed relationships, he lumped together anyone who was raised by a parent who participated a same-sex romantic relationship at some point in their lives, and he compared them to children raised by married and committed heterosexual parents. Moreover, the “conservative author” label probably references the fact that Regnerus graduated from a Christian college, studies the intersection between sexuality and religion, and – most notably – received funding for his same-sex parenting study through two conservative-leaning foundations. All of this poses significant challenges to objectivity.

However, I do think a potential opportunity exists with this study. Instead of viewing this study as a setback for the marriage equality fight, what if the findings from this study were used to argue in favor of same-sex marriage? In “A Liberal War on Science?” William Saletan of Slate magazine says this: “Trust science. Don’t bury this study. Embrace it.”

I love that statement.

What we need to embrace, Saletan argues, is the stability factor. If we take the focus off of “gay and lesbian,” and instead consider the findings from a “family stability” perspective, the data speak loudly and clearly: Stable families yield healthy, well-adjusted children. And, in fact, that’s what Charlotte Patterson and Nanette Gartrell have found in their studies. Children who are raised by committed, financially secure lesbian couples grow up to be just fine. But when we look at the “family stability” literature (not just considering gay and lesbian parents, but all kinds of families), we find that family instability results in all sorts of problems.

Sounds like a powerful argument in favor of same-sex marriage, doesn’t it? If marriage promotes stability, and stability promotes health and well-being in children, well, that speaks volumes to me.

To read Mark Regnerus’ study, go to http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12000610.

To read William Saletan’s article in Slate magazine, go to http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/human_nature/2012/06/don_t_let_criticism_of_the_new_gay_parents_study_become_a_war_on_science.html.




Filed under LGBT families, LGBTQ, LGBTQ youth, psychological research, same-sex marriage