Obscured by the fact that the Obama Administration submitted a brief against Prop 8 is the brief the American Sociological Association submitted. This is a shame because I think in many ways, ASA’s brief can be seen as just as, if not, more significant.
ASA’s brief destroys claims made that same-sex households are inferior when it comes to raising children, which is a major argument for those pushing Prop 8. The ASA especially calls out the Mark Regnerus study, which is the recent controversial study claiming children raised in same-sex households suffer adverse efffects. Supporters of Prop 8 made this study a huge part of their arguments in spite of fact that it has been discredited.
ASA said the following about the Regnerus study in its brief (pgs. 26-29):
First, the Regnerus study does not specifically examine children born or adopted into same-sex parent families, but instead examines children who, from the time they were born until they were 18 or moved out, had a parent who at any time had “a same-sex romantic relationship.” . As Regnerus noted, the majority of the individuals characterized by him as children of “lesbian mothers” and “gay fathers” were the offspring of failed opposite- sex unions whose parent subsequently had a same-sex relationship. In other words, Regnerus did not study or analyze the children of two same-sex parents.
Second, when the Regnerus study compared the children of parents who at one point had a “same-sex romantic relationship,” most of whom had experienced a family dissolution or single motherhood, to children raised by two biological, married opposite-sex parents, the study stripped away all divorced, single, and stepparent families from the opposite-sex group, leaving only stable, married, opposite-sex families as the comparison. . . Thus, it was hardly surprising that the opposite-sex group had better outcomes given that stability is a key predictor of positive child wellbeing. By so doing, the Regnerus study makes inappropriate apples-to-oranges comparisons.
Third, Regnerus’s first published analysis of his research data failed to consider whether the children lived with, or were raised by, the parent who was, at some point, apparently involved in “a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex” and that same-sex partner. Instead, Regnerus categorized children as raised by a parent in a same-sex romantic relationship regardless of whether they were in fact raised by the parent and the parent’s same-sex romantic partner and regardless of the amount of time that they spent under the parent’s care. As a result, so long as an adult child believed that he or she had had a parent who had a relationship with someone of the same sex, then he or she was counted by Regnerus as having been “raised by” a parent in a same-sex relationship.
Fourth, in contrast to every other study on same-sex parenting, Regnerus identified parents who had purportedly engaged in a same-sex romantic relationship based solely on the child’s own retrospective report of the parent’s romantic relationships, made once the child was an adult. This unusual measurement strategy ignored the fact that the child may have limited and inaccurate recollections of the parents’ distant romantic past.
Finally, the study fails to account for the fact that the negative outcomes may have been caused by other childhood events or events later in the individual’s adult life, particularly given that the vast majority (thirty-seven of forty) of the outcomes measured were adult and not childhood outcomes. Factors other than same-sex parenting are likely to explain these negative outcomes in the Regnerus study. Regnerus himself concludes that “I am thus not suggesting that growing up with a lesbian mother or gay father causes suboptimal outcomes because of the sexual orientation or sexual behavior of the parent.”
In sum, by conflating (1) children raised by same-sex parents with (2) individuals who reportedly had a parent who had “a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex,” and referring to such individuals as children of “lesbian mothers” or “gay fathers,” the Regnerus study obscures the fact that it did not specifically examine children raised by two same-sex parents. Accordingly, it cannot speak to the impact of same-sex parenting on child outcomes.
The fact that President Obama is supporting efforts to overturn Prop 8 is a major deal, but the ASA denunciation of the Regnerus study is also a huge victory for the lgbt community. When religious right groups find a piece of information to use against the lgbt community, they tend to use it continuously. Thanks to the ASA, whenever they cite the Regnerus study, the lgbt community now have a huge caveat we can make use of.
Photo by nerdcoregirl under Creative Commons license