For opponents of gay marriage, how much is “gay” and how much is “marriage”?

11.22.2012, 2:37 PM

 At the WSJ (behind the pay-wall, which I consider un-American), Ken Mehlman makes once again what’s come to be known as the conservative case for gay marriage.  And at First Things, Rusty Reno denounces the argument as either disingenuous or delusional

 I can see it from both sides.  I wrote a book in which I, too, furiously denounced this argument.  Now that I support gay marriage, I am … how to put it? … a bit more hopeful

 But this debate is not really what’s on my mind today.  What interests me is Reno’s straightforward equation of the gay marriage debate with the larger issue of gay rights and gay identity.  For Reno, the animating issue is whether it is good for society to “treat homosexuality and heterosexuality equally” and therefore to move toward full “acceptance and affirmation of homosexuality.” 

For Reno, as for many orthodox Christians, the answer to that question is, No.  And the reason why it’s No is that, on the basis of church teaching and on the basis of conscience, they believe that homosexual conduct is intrinsically wrong and therefore should not be “accepted” or “affirmed” by society. Period.  Which is (at least in some measure) why he, as do many orthodox Christians,  opposes gay marriage today, and why he has always opposed (part of this is historical assumption on my part; someone correct me if I’m wrong) virtually every jot and tittle of what has been traditionally called, at whatever point in our recent history we are looking at, the gay rights or homosexual agenda.   All of this is very straightforward and easy to understand. 

 Yet at the same time, Reno’s argument is deeply – and in my experience, hotly – disputed today by many conservative Christians who oppose gay marriage.   For them, the issue is not “gay” and not “rights” – they favor both, they say – but instead “marriage.”  It’s as if “gay” is the last thing they want to talk about, and “marriage” is the only thing they want to talk about. 

 Again, I’m familiar with the argument.  I wrote a book defending it.  And I still think the argument has integrity. (Although in my own case, as I look back,  I think I was too self-congratulatory about my lack of anti-gay bias).  I certainly believe that it’s possible to oppose gay marriage without opposing gay people.  And I think that the anthropological record about the meaning and purpose of marriage cross-culturally in human history – a meaning and purpose fundamentally liked to filiation – is powerful, and simply cannot (should not) be swept aside, as if it does not matter. 

 But does that mean that Reno is wrong, and that the “real” issue on the table today is not “gay”, but only “marriage”?  I don’t think so.  I think Reno’s broader argument is closer to the truth.   

 As far as I can tell, the strongest argument against Reno’s view goes something like this.  We bear no animus, we have nothing against, persons with same-sex attractions.  They are children of God no less than anyone else;  the law of neighbor-love applies to them no less than it does to anyone else; and they have the same human rights that any other person has. Moreover, when we say we oppose sexual sin, we mean all sexual sin – straight as well as gay; masturbation, contraception, and adultery as well as homosexual conduct  – without any special reference to sexual orientation.

 So, are we “anti-gay”?  O course not.  Do we oppose their, or anyone else’s, “human rights”?  Of course not.  Do we favor any form of unjust or invidious discrimination?  Of course not.  Perish the thought. 

 To me this argument has some power, but it’s main weakness is that it insists on its own special definitions of all the key terms, including “gay” and “rights.”  When I was growing up in the South in the 1960s and 1970s, lots of people who opposed desegregation and favored the retention of Jim Crow insisted firmly that they had nothing against black people – quite the opposite! – and had no objection to civil rights, properly understood.  Again, the only hitch was, they were claiming the right to define all the key words in their way, as against the commonly understood and accepted (by the larger society) way of understanding those terms. 

 In the final analysis, I think Reno’s way of arguing is more honest, or at least more transparent.  Yes, he most definitely has something to say about “marriage.”  But he also definitely, and in his view more fundamentally, has something to say about “gay.”  And to him, the two fit together, with one of the debates being a logical sub-category of the other.   To me, seeing it that way makes the actual sociological patterns on the ground much more … clear.

50 Responses to “For opponents of gay marriage, how much is “gay” and how much is “marriage”?”

  1. Mont D. Law says:

    I have zero respect for Melhman who hid in the closet while the battle was at its fiercest to support the politics of people like Reno. Then to steal Jon Rauch’s argument and expect anyone on either side to take him seriously.

    But Reno’s argument made me laugh. He says this

    (We can’t predict the future of culture)

    And then spends eight paragraphs doing just that. Including unisex bathrooms and locker rooms.

    It has been noted before that even people who claim no animus towards homosexuals have no problem standing shoulder to shoulder with people who do. Then complain that they are getting tarred by the same brush. But I’m with my grandmother. Lie down with dogs get up with fleas.

  2. Kevin says:

    Mr. Reno is one of a dwindling group still arguing against legal same-sex marriage by some mysterious belief that marriage will benefit straight couples, but not gay couples. It would be very useful if people like Mr. Reno could explain how this distinction works for them. Because if they can’t, whatever benefits society gleans from promoting straight marriage can be presumed to also apply to gay marriage. Which means that society stands to gain from gay marriage, too.

    No marriage traditions are being “bull-dozed” as Mr. Reno calls it. Straight couples will still be allowed to marry, a popular tradition that remains. And it is hardly traditional to define marriage as excluding gay couples; that’s a new thing. Before, society simply ignored gay couples, the few that existed. Gay couples were never in the mix, so to speak, when marriage was created, or as it has been redefined over the years, until now.

    Marriage traditionalists conveniently ignore other traditions we have in this country, such as treating all citizens equally under the law. Some Americans would say that America has a tradition of fair play, too. Why are these other traditions, if traditions are near and dear to the hearts of conservatives, ignored? The great irony, of course, is not that anti-gay marriage people want traditional marriage (which traditions?) but rather status quo marriage, which in most US states, excludes gay and lesbian couples.

    “Basic cultural practices such as sex-segregated bathrooms and locker rooms will be revised…”

    Really? Any evidence that this is happening, or will? Must traditional marriage folks always rely on Chicken Little protestations?

    “….the most basic institution of civil life, marriage itself”

    Gee, I thought citizenship and voting were the most basic institutions of civil life! If marriage is so basic, why do so many Americans surrender their marriages (yes, apparently, few surrender their citizenship or right to vote!)?

    We’re in the silly phase of opposition to same-sex marriage. While Mr. Reno’s specific objection seems to be that a Republican/conservative argument could support legal same-sex marriage, Mr. Mehlman presented the case rather well. As a former GOP chair, he certainly can claim expertise. The more the government interferes with a highly personal choice, the more government is limiting liberty and freedom, which conservatives supposedly dislike.

    Finally, religious beliefs are irrelevant in the discussion of legal same-sex marriage. First, there is no imperative or authority in any religious text for imposing religious beliefs though the government. Bible believers cannot cite anything in the Bible where they are asked to impose biblical beliefs on everyone via secular law. Second, we live in a clearly secular country, with a tradition of keeping church and state matters separate. Another tradition to be ignored by the anti-gay marriage crowd I guess.

  3. annajcook says:

    I certainly believe that it’s possible to oppose gay marriage without opposing gay people.

    David, as Fannie and I have commented here before, it might be possible to oppose gay marriage without intending to oppose gay people … but the fact remains that in opposing legal equity for gay and straight couples, the effect of one’s opposition to my civil right to marry the (overage, consenting) partner of my choice is discrimination against folks who form same-sex relationships having equal access to the benefits and responsibilities of marriage. That is opposition to queer peoples’ equal claim to citizenship rights, even if it is not intentional on the part of the person taking the anti-marriage-equality stance.

  4. Kevin says:

    David, like other commenters here, I take issue with your notion that it’s possible to oppose legal same-sex marriage without bearing any animosity towards gay people. I think the best you can do is argue the degree of animosity, not whether it exists or not. I don’t know if you’re making the statement you made in the “anything’s possible” vein, or if you think that, surely, somewhere, there’s a group that opposes letting gay people get married but genuinely has no negative opinion of gay people.

    It’s not credible to support a public policy that makes gay and lesbian citizens legal second-class citizens, and supports the notion that they deserve such standing, without having some kind of negative feelings toward them, however mild.

    I hold a broad definition of animosity though, admittedly. I don’t think it is limited to people who loathe gay people. It’s enough that one is supportive of, or indifferent to, the marginalization of gay people. Someone who opposes legal same-sex marriage is making the following statement: “I support diminished legal and social status for committed gay or lesbian couples, with all the ramifications that entails, in a country that is largely already biased against them.” I don’t think a person can, or would, make that statement without having negative feelings toward gay people. Perhaps not loathing but at least disdain.

  5. Matthew Kaal says:

    Seems to me that folks on all sides of this debate seek to control the definition of key terms – to the detriment of their opponents.

  6. annajcook says:

    I’m confused how Reno’s argument that less marriage will expand the welfare state (a negative thing in his opinion) is an argument against gay marriage. If, as he writes, you believe “without the oldest and most effective social safety net—the family—we’re bound to need expanded government-funded programs,” then wouldn’t it make sense to encourage queer folks into family formations, including marriage, which will — according to him –make them less vulnerable?

    I also think it’s interesting, as Kevin noted, that he raises the issue of sex segregated locker rooms and rest rooms. This was one of those recurring red herring issues brought up during Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which I never understood. As if allowing the queer people who were already serving in the US forces to serve openly would suddenly make them gay in a single-sex environment in a way they had not been until then?

    Allowing people with same-sex attractions to marry same-sex partners has no impact on whether or not we move in same-sex spaces like restrooms, locker rooms, single-sex dormitories, etc. As a bisexual woman I’ve managed to be around naked women my whole life without behaving inappropriately; I imagine I could do the same with naked men — our culture just has a long-standing taboo against this. If we decided to change that taboo (as in nudist or naturist communities) we would realize that the shape of a person’s genitalia doesn’t have some magical power to cause impropriety: that instead we humans learn to self-regulate how to interact with fellow humans, naked and clothed, to whom we are or are not potentially attracted. If queer people have managed to do this without being isolated from the sex(es) to whom they are potentially attracted to, I imagine straight people could manage equally well if given the chance. To my mind, the spectre of revisiting sex segregation is hardly the harbinger of doom Reno appears to believe it to be.

  7. Diane M says:

    Just a side note – blogs are the future of journalism. Printed papers are shrinking and losing quality. A pay wall is going to be the way to keep journalists who are more than celebrities or kids willing to work for free.

  8. Mark S says:

    There is a certain virtue in honesty, and to that extent the sad but revealing essay by Reno is commendable. He at least acknowledges that the “protect marriage” movement has nothing to do with marriage and everything to do with denying equal rights to gay people. The difficulty that the anti-gay movement has faced is that outside of the South and other outposts of religious zealotry, they cannot prevail at the polls by being honest. So they have to pretend that their concern is with tradition or with some exalted view of marriage that has nothing to do with animus against gay people. They have been able to get away with speaking frankly of their disdain for gay people to their key adherents, but then adopting a different stance in their electoral campaign in which they stoke fear of gay people yet pretend that they are not anti-gay, just “pro-marriage.” But thanks to the Internet and the quick exchange of information via social media, their duplicity can no longer be contained.

  9. David Blankenhorn says:

    I hear the repeated objections that it is not possible to oppose gay marriage without opposing gay people. I hear, and I’m sure will hear again, but I disagree. The reason I continue to disagree is that the argument being offered is almost entirely circular — it’s an argument that avoids all difficulties by building the desired answer into the very structure of the question.

    “Regardless of my opponent’s subjective intentions, my opponent is objectively denying me my rights, which puts my opponent in th wrong.” Really? According to whose definitions? Yours? Oh, I see.

    There is such a thing as the right to marry the person I want to marry. That right is not a subjective wish but an objective fact, like a mountain or the ocean; its facticity is a given and is not in dispute, and can therefore be properly assumed in the very structure of question that I pose to my opponents. Reallly? According to whose definitions? Yours? Oh, I see.

    In the 1930s, communists and fellow travelers said, regardless of Roosevelt’s subjective intentions, his policy objectively aids fascism, which puts Roosevelt on the side of the fascists. According to whose definitions? Yours? Oh, I see.

    This is a style of argument that has been tried many times in many contexts, and in my view it is not legitimate. It’s almost entirely an exercise in queston-begging.

  10. Mark S says:

    The assertion that it is possible to oppose same-sex marriage without opposing gay people could be easily proven by demonstrating clearly exactly how allowing same-sex marriage would have deleterious effects on society. After a decade of arguing about this, the opponents of same-sex marriage have not been able to come up with any convincing demonstration of their position, just as the opponents of equal rights for black people were unable to come up with any convincing demonstration of their position.

    The arguments against racial integration invoked religion, tradition, the “Southern way of life,” states rights, etc., but all these arguments really depended on disdain for black people, from unapologetic racism to the belief that blacks “were not ready” yet to interact socially with white people, etc.

    Similarly, all the arguments against same-sex marriage depend on disdain for gay people whether they are argument from religion, tradition, or some abstract idea about the nature of human sexuality or of marriage itself.

  11. Tristian says:

    It seems to me, David, that the argument is closer to something like this: X supports policies that work against group Y=X disdains (hates, has animus against, etc.) people in group Y. This amounts to what logicians call a persuasive definition (building your conclusion into a crucial definition), but it’s also unhelpful. I think opponents to gay marriage are in the wrong. If they are it doesn’t matter in the slightest what their feelings or motives are. Grant the assumption that in their character they’re as pure as the driven snow–they’re still wrong.

  12. Tristian says:

    Reno can be an interesting and nuanced writer, but I guess as Editor-in-Chief of First Things he feels obliged to play the culture warrior, but unfortunately he’s really just not very good at it. He does come close to confronting the complicated nature of this whole debate in his post though. He says at one point that “same-sex marriage puts an exclamation mark on the transformation of marriage and parenting from the basic norm for adult life into one life-style choice among many, one that we can enter and exit as our choices change.” Change “exclamation mark” to “period” and he is close to right, as SSM is plainly a natural result of cultural changes that began a long time ago. What Reno and other opponents of SSM continues to resist is the next step, which is seeing that not recognizing gay marriage makes no sense in light of these changes. Whether or not it is animated by hostility towards or moral disapproval of homosexuality, opposition to gay marriage is counter to a generally accepted understanding of marriage as something like a contract. It is little wonder that attempts to argue against SSM based on claims about what marriage “really is” just sound strange to most people, no matter how philosophically sophisticated they may be.

  13. Mont D. Law says:

    [For Reno, the animating issue is whether it is good for society to “treat homosexuality and heterosexuality equally” and therefore to move toward full “acceptance and affirmation of homosexuality.”]

    The challenge here is that all objections to marriage equality are based on Reno’s argument.

    [There is such a thing as the right to marry the person I want to marry.]

    This misstates the premise. Since straight people have the right to adult family formation through a state licensing process conferring a menu protections and benefits, what legal reasons are there for denying gay people these licenses.

    [That right is not a subjective wish but an objective fact, like a mountain ....]

    No right is an objective fact unless the state decides to enforce it. Where ever rights come from they are meaningless unless the state guarantees them. The question is what legal justification is there to refuse this right to gay people.

  14. Mark S says:

    I think David’s reductive rendering of the argument in favor of same-sex marriage is pretty insulting: “There is such a thing as the right to marry the person I want to marry. That right is not a subjective wish but an objective fact, like a mountain or the ocean; its facticity is a given and is not in dispute, and can therefore be properly assumed in the very structure of question that I pose to my opponents. Reallly? According to whose definitions? Yours? Oh, I see.”

    If we really believed that, there would be no point to argue at all. We would have won and that would be the end to it.

    However, we are painfully aware that we live in a country that touts freedom and equality, but has a long and painful history of resisting freedom and equality.

    Yes, I believe that people SHOULD be able to marry the person they love. I believe that that is part of the pursuit of happiness and is guaranteed by the equal protection of the law.

    That is the question. There is nothing circular about the argument. Indeed, it is far less circular than the argument that marriage is by definition the union of one man and one woman, that is the way it has always been and you have no right to redefine marriage.

  15. Kevin says:

    David, let me try it from this angle: why is it so important to people who oppose same-sex marriage that they not be seen as homophobic, mildly or wildly? I see two practical possible reasons: that they believe it unacceptable to be homophobic, or they worry that it will weaken their advocacy for straight-couple-only marriage if people see their motives as merely hostile to gay people. Either case is problematic for anti-gay marriage people, since homophobia doesn’t have be limited to motivations but also to outcomes being advocated. It doesn’t seem like much of a difference to me to say, “I have nothing personal against gay people, I just don’t want them to have the right to marry, as straight people do,” and “I don’t like gay people, and I don’t want them to have the right to marry, as straight people do.”

    I’d like to add that anti-gay marriage people would do well to dispel concerns about their homophobic beliefs (again, I’m open to discussion of the degree of homophobia) beliefs if they could explain what the rational public purpose is in denying marriage licenses to gay people. They’ve done a poor job at that, in my opinion, although I give them an “A” for effort in devising new rationales as the argument has played out over these last five or so years.

    “There is such a thing as the right to marry the person I want to marry.”

    There isn’t? I’d say you have a pretty strong right to marry the person you want to marry, with very few limitations: that person has to agree, be of a certain age, not be a direct relative, and in most states, be of a different sex. Of the things government can feasibly regulate, which is age and “relatedness,” you mostly can marry just about anyone, and since you don’t want to marry your sister or brother, or the little girl next door anyway, for all practical purposes, you can marry anyone you want. It is a good point though, that the government puts very, very few limits on who may marry whom. And if your point is, the government can regulate who may marry whom, no one is disputing that right. But they have to have a rational public purpose in denying a fundamental right to a specific group of people.

  16. Tristian says:

    Socrates famously argued that no one knowingly does evil, suggesting instead that it arises through ignorance of one sort or another. To hold this Socrates has to ignore obvious counter examples: people who do what they know they shouldn’t, either out of weakness of the will or by embracing what they know is wrong.

    Curiously enough there’s seems to be an inverse version of Socrates’ dictum at work here: people only do evil knowingly, by way of embracing evil ideas and/or by acting on palpable hatred and animosity. This strikes me as equally implausible, a view that also ignores obvious counter examples: people who with good intentions reach flawed conclusions on the basis of false beliefs. In the current debate this would be people who sincerely believe discrimination against gays when it comes to marriage is morally (and legally) justified. I have no idea how many opponents of gay marriage fall into this category (nor do I care), but that there can be such people just seems obvious.

    I think the attempt to redefine a word like “homophobia” as suggested by Kevin shows an implicit recognition of this. Applying a word that points to irrational fear–a subjective state–to the effects of actions–objective states of affairs–is a straight forward confusion. But it does work to erase the distinction between those who are personally blameworthy in their opposition to gay rights from those who aren’t. And I take it that is the point.

  17. mythago says:

    David, I truly am not following your argument about opposing same-sex marriage being separate from animus. If we took this out of the context of homosexuality and applied it to any other category, it would be blindingly obvious. If a fundamentalist Christian said said “God made marriage is a Christian covenant, and while I fully support the right of Jews to practice their religion I don’t believe their marriage contract should be called ‘marriage’”, we wouldn’t be sitting around derailing the discussion by asking if this person was really anti-Semitic, or whether they meant Jews no harm but held a sincere religious belief. We’d recognize that from the point of view of everybody else, including Jews who wished to marry, it was irrelevant what such a person felt deep in their heart of hearts.

    Tristian is quite right, by the way; same-sex marriage is simply the logical result of many changes that have already been made to marriage (for example, treating women as equal in the eyes of the law instead of suborned to their husbands through coverture).

    I’m also baffled as to why conservatives such as Reno have chosen this hill to die on, instead of fighting against marriages that are not only morally wrong, but are far more destructive and commonplace. Marriage between adulterers, for example, or remarriage after no-fault divorce.

  18. Kevin says:

    Tristian, the point I was trying to make is that it doesn’t much matter if someone’s motivations are anti-gay or pro-gay, the result is the same: negative outcomes for gay and lesbian citizens. Unless one is unaware of the benefits of marriage (not likely), then people who oppose legal same-sex marriage know what they’re denying to gay and lesbian couples and their children, as well as their parents and siblings who want to see them married.

    As I said, I don’t see homophobia limited to feelings that motivate someone to act. They can also refer to promoting a bad outcome for a group. In fact, someone can have several motivations for opposing same-sex marriage, such as being instructed to by a religious leader. Still, unless one isn’t sophisticated enough to conceive of who is affected by one’s position, then one knows who is being denied a fundamental legal right: gay and lesbian people.

    The US Supreme Court has already recognized, as have other courts, that homophobia, or animosity towards gays, exists, and motivates at least some voters. All US courts have struck down (although some have upheld) laws whose outcomes (regardless of motivations) harmed gay and lesbian people. I’m really not plowing any new ground in considering motivations and outcomes as more or less the same thing, at least under law.

    It certainly is arguable that “homophobia” can only relate to passionate conscious feelings some has towards gay people, or some such thing. I think if someone supports disparate, and negative, outcomes for gay people, then they have, at least, subconscious feelings of disdain toward gay people, enough to let their minds accommodate disparate and negative treatment.

  19. annajcook says:

    David, your post reads to me as mocking in a way I don’t feel my (our) questions and challenges to your reasoning warrant. Like Mark, I feel pretty insulted by the way you’ve dismissed my argument as “circular” and therefore worthy of parody instead of a serious response.

    All the same, I respect the fact that if you truly believe we are making some specialized claim to a vocabulary of rights just because it suits us, this would be frustrating. I guess I just don’t understand why you think our framing of this as an equal rights issue is some new/unique use of the term? The 14th amendment says we must all be treated equally under the law. For my state (Massachusetts) to grant me the right to marry, and then to have my federal government decide to selectively approve of some state-legalized marriages and not others is unequal treatment under law. I don’t think that’s some unique manipulation of the notion of citizenship rights.

    I’m willing to listen to your argument to the contrary, and specifically how you feel our argument is “circular,” but I’m honestly confused by your parody of our assertion that our civil rights matter and that denial of those rights have real, material effect on the quality of our lives. This is hardly a debate over terminology — it’s about our ability to participate in the body politic and be respected as full citizens who contribute in positive ways to our collective well-being.

  20. Michael Worley says:

    We should have a front page story on this new study, using census data to show that (on the criteria for the group of kids used) children are 15-35% more likely to be held back in school if they are raised by gay and lesbian couples when compared to married couples. This is significant for most criteria used, except the 15%, which is not significantly different from any other traditional or non-traditional family type.

    Please also note there was a response given, but the response does not address all the concerns raised.

  21. Kevin says:

    Oh brother, another fake study showing gay people are lousy parents. Yawn. Really, what purpose does this kind of nonsense serve? Even if it were true, so what? Same-sex parenting is legal in all 50 states and that is unlikely to change. Why are there no studies telling us how bad blacks, Jews and left-handed people are? What, there’s no agenda to achieve in smearing those groups?

    Homophobia is a terrible disease. But it can be cured with resolve, and a good therapist!

  22. Michael Worley says:

    The study ain’t fake… it’s better then 98% of the studies out there. Please find me even one study that has more than 300 children of gays that shows gays and lesbians do just as well. Your side has a huge sample size issue.

    And if a child has a right to be raised by his biological parents– the two people who will understand him the most, it makes intuitive sense to carefully examine why a father and mother are better than gays and lesbians. It’s not aminus, it’s just that nature and nature’s God gave us one way to create and raise children.

    Also, homophobia is a terrible thing. I agree. But why is saying children need their father and mother where possible homophobic?

  23. Diane M says:

    It looks to me like the study has the same flaw as the Regnerus one – the children being raised by gay and lesbian couples are being compared to traditional married families. You need to control for which children are being raised by divorced families and which are being raised by couples that stayed together.

  24. Michael Worley says:


    All the same-sex couples were living together at the time the survey is taken. if gay parents broke up, they weren’t in this study. Given the amazing sample size, the fact that they control for stability, and the fact that they show the problems with Rosenfeld’s conclusions via their table 2, this should be the gold standard for such studies and well-deserves its own post.

    (If you look at the bottom of table 3, it clearly controls for stability. and has 8,000+ children in their table two).

    What study is any better for getting a national trend? most studies are nonrandom besides this one and Regnerus. And you can’t match the sample size.

    (This is my third post, feel free to respond but I can’t reply again.)

  25. Phil says:

    Please find me even one study that has more than 300 children of gays that shows gays and lesbians do just as well.

    What about the original 2010 Rosenfeld study? The paper to which you linked is a response to Rosenfeld, so you pretty much have to acknowledge that the data set is valid, or else withdraw your support of the 2012 paper.

    Please also note there was a response given, but the response does not address all the concerns raised.

    Michael, which concern, in your view, was not addressed?

    Here is what Rosenfeld wrote in his response:

    In Rosenfeld (2010), I was very careful to include only children who lived with their current parents for at least five years because those children’s current family structure influenced their progress through school. In their revision of my analysis, Allen et al. preferred to analyze the outcomes of all children, regardless of how long they had lived with their current families.

    Rosenfeld argues that Allen et al. arrived at potentially flawed conclusions because they misinterpreted and misapplied the data. That serves as a blanket address for everything that the Allen paper brought up.

    Do you think–I’m talking to everyone here, not just to Michael–that we are seeing an organized shift in how the academy analyzes same-sex parenting? Two scholarly papers this year compared children who were raised by a huge and diverse group of parental sets, all of which included a same-sex partner, with children who were raised by a homogenous group of married biological parents.

    I think it is reasonable to say that children raised by same-sex couples are probably always going to have some differences from children raised by their married, never-divorced biological parents. Same-sex couples, by definition, cannot be a pair of married, never-divorced biological parents.

    Same-sex couples belong to the subset of all couples who cannot conceive children together. There are mixed-sex couples in that subset, too, and the mixed-sex (usually heterosexual) couples actually outnumber the same-sex couples. The children being raised by same-sex couples will always have at least one biological parent who isn’t a member of the couple. This is not unique to same-sex couples; there are thousands of heterosexual couples for whom this is true. as well.

  26. JHW says:

    Michael Worley: What makes you think Table 3 controls for stability? The description at the bottom says “Each regression includes controls for disability, race, logged income, highest education in household, birthplace, metropolitan status, private school attendance, and state fixed effects.” I don’t think Census data enables direct controls for stability.

  27. Michael Worley says:

    I’ll take a risk here;

    Rosenfeld did not have enough statistical power to show what he purports. Table 2 of Allen, et. al. shows his smaller group is not statistically different from single mothers. This is a problem since we know single mothers aren’t as good as married biological parents. In short, even he did not have a large enough sample size to distinguish gays and lesbians from other family types

    Yes, Rosenfeld also achieved a large sample size–I guess I lumped those two studies together.

    JHW–the control for moving in columns 2 and 4 is a proxy for stability.

  28. Kevin says:

    Mr. Worley, the main objection to previous studies is that they are supposedly flawed for lack of an adequate sample size, and that participants “self-selected,” that is, volunteered to participate after being approached. But these objections are largely without merit, because of the longitudinal nature of their studies. They were conducted over a period of time, during which time any number of things can happen to the family, that could have a positive or negative impact on the children. So even if someone might be considered a better than average subject for having been willing to participate, unless they are living their lives with an eye to achieving high scores on a study they’re participating in, so what if it’s a “convenience” sample?

    But more importantly, if someone knows how to achieve positive outcomes for children, doesn’t that prove they know how to parent, even if they don’t represent the average? The notion that the same-sex parents in previous studies that concluded “no differences” somehow “cheated” at parenting still proves that same-sex couples know how to parent, whether under the scrutiny of a study or not. In other words, previous studies answer the following question, at least: “Can same-sex couples parent as well as different-sex couples?” Based on child outcomes, the answer is resoundingly “Yes!”. Even if the Hawthorne Effect is in play here, meaning, scrutiny brings better performance, so what? It still proves that performance is attainable. I suspect a lot of same-sex parents are self-conscious about their parenting, even if they don’t participate in a study; they might, say, go to great lengths to ensure their different-sex child has some kind of relationship with an adult different-sex family member.

    Even if previous studies used volunteer subjects deemed better than average same-sex parents for having been willing participants, it still shows us that same-sex couples can parent as well as, or better than, different-sex couples. Isn’t that a useful bit of information?

    Why do you think it matters that same-sex parents might be worse than different-sex parents? What will change? What public policies would be affected? What socially useful point is made if a study can be concocted that shows the children of same-sex couples fare worse than the children of different-sex couples, what then, in other words? Why is it important to refute the notion that same-sex couples as well as different-sex couples?

    Should we initiate studies on all kinds of different parenting structures? I bet the outcomes for the children of poor parents are less favorable than the outcomes for the children of wealthy parents. If I’m right, what comes next, once we have that information?

    That fact remains, the Regnerus study and, I suspect, this latest one, are flawed for not controlling for all variable other than same-sex parenting. It is simply not possible to blame sexual orientation for different outcomes, when you also are comparing intact marriages to broken ones. The Regnerus conclusions from last June were amateurish, to put it mildly. He either had an agenda or he is about the most incompetent academic researcher in his field, or possibly, he was simply failed on this one assignment. So far, his peers seem to be willing to grant him possibility #3. So far.

    What do you think makes a good parent? Among these factors, which are ones that only straight couples can be good at?

  29. JHW says:

    Michael Worley: The problem is that the “children and parents were not all together at the same residence” variable is capturing different sets of phenomena, which are likely to differ from group to group. Simply including it in the regression doesn’t effectively control for the likely difference in family history between children being raised by same-sex couples and children being raised by different-sex married parents. We know this is actually an issue here because Rosenfeld points out, in his reply, that the difference between the all-together-for-five-years group and the not-all-together-for-five-years group varied quite a lot depending on current family structure, with the difference for same-sex couples being relatively large, and the difference for some other family structures actually being in the opposite direction.

  30. admin says:


    One of your comments was taken down because it was incivil in tone. Please refrain from attacking others or making ungenerous blanket statements about them.

    This is your warning.

  31. Michael Worley says:

    A longitudinal study does not reduce margins of error. N=77 still is N=77. Thus, the margin of error will be the same, and thus the same problem–Type II error, still exists.

    Let me put it this way. I survey 77 voters to predict the election every month. I got them from downtown LA. Your argument is, in essence, because I conducted the polls over a period of time, during which time any number of things can happen to the voters, I will be able to predict the outcome of a nationwide election.

    I disagree. I say, spend the extra money, and do a nationwide survey.

    How on earth can a longitudinal study reduce type 2 error?? It can tell us more about that one group and the impact of different factors, but it surely cannot reduce type II error to


    We don’t know why there was that difference. Maybe gay relationships are less stable? Maybe it was what you said. We don’t know.

    Bottom line: We don’t know about stable gay relationships: Table 2 demonstrates how we need a larger sample size. As for less stable ones, that should be a factor to consider in public policy.

    Admin: I seem to be the only one addressing this study’s benefits. Can we get a front-page post on this study so others will take note? I feel justified in responding to comments directed at me, but am aware of the 3 per post rule.

  32. Michael Worley says:

    A child of a same-sex couple is never with one of his or her natural parents, so by definition, except for adopted children (who Rosenfeld excludes), there is always a transitional cost of getting the child into the same-sex couple situation (which Rosenfeld thinks is irrelevant to public policy.)

    You can’t make this argument above about any set of biological parents.

  33. JHW says:

    Michael Worley:

    1. As Allen et al. correctly note, Rosenfeld only looked at families where the child was biologically related to the household head. For obvious reasons, same-sex couples who meet this criterion are overwhelmingly going to be couples raising the children of a broken-up different-sex relationship. (There are undoubtedly some children of donor insemination in there also, but they are probably far fewer than half of the sample.) This is instability that has nothing to do with levels of stability of same-sex couples. In the particular subgroup Allen et al. are adding, this instability, associated with same-sex parenting but not caused by it, will likely be more common and more recent, and the circumstances of those children will have less to do with their current (same-sex) parenting circumstances and more to do with their past (non-same-sex) parenting circumstances. Perhaps there is increased instability among same-sex couples in the circumstances described in the study, and perhaps that explains some of the difference in child outcomes. But there is a more obvious and immediate explanation already.

    2. Even if we ignore statistical significance, we find that same-sex couples are a little less successful than married different-sex couples and a little more successful than unmarried different-sex couples, which, given both that no same-sex couples in the sample were married (this was 2000) and that a same-sex couple category will include both couples who would marry if they could and couples who wouldn’t, makes complete sense. Further, this similarity occurs despite the fact that those children being raised by same-sex couples have probably, on average, had more instability in their past (>5 five years before the Census) than those raised by different-sex married parents, for the reasons discussed in 1.

    3. There’s a bit of goalpost-moving going on here. A wide variety of studies using a wide variety of methodologies have failed to find that same-sex parents do worse than different-sex parents. Michael Rosenfeld’s study was yet another addition to this substantial body of evidence, and it is one that is representative and has a large sample size, responding to two common complaints from critics of the social-science consensus on this topic. But even this, now, is not good enough. What would be? Same-sex couples with children are a small group, they are hard to study, and attempts to increase sample size often end up introducing confounding factors that undermine causal inferences from the data; do we wait forever, then, to get a study that will satisfy people who want to hold on to their (so far scientifically unsupported) intuitions about the benefits of different-sex parenting? Why not go with the side with the overwhelming weight of the evidence, at least until we actually do get a genuinely good study that indicates otherwise?

  34. Michael Worley says:

    1. What about sequential same-sex relationships?

    2. That’s not a bad argument.

    3. If Allen, et. al. is right, that is why I shoot down Rosenfeld. I think Rosenfeld is wrong because of Allen, et. al.’s table 2. Without Allen, you are right, Rosenfeld is the best.

    Why not go with the side with the overwhelming weight of the evidence?

    Because the evidence does not support the conclusions. (Ignoring Rosenfeld for a moment), You cannot generalize a nonrandom sample, frequently done by lesbians (bias alert), of less then 150 people to a whole group of parents.

    I happen to think sexual freedom–and thus partner transitions– are bad for society and children. Rosenfeld tries to stop the study of this in same-sex couples

  35. Kevin says:

    Admin: I’m way over the comment limit. Please delete this, and others, if necessary. I apologize in advance for making extra effort for you, but this topic drives me nuts.

    “I disagree. I say, spend the extra money, and do a nationwide survey.”

    I’m fine with doing national surveys, but I insist on comparing apples to apples, not apples to chestnuts. Your data and sample size are irrelevant if you don’t know how to use the data. Clearly Mr. Regnerus didn’t: he included several variables between test and control groups, and then proceeded to blame differences on sexual orientation (I’m being charitable, as Mr. Regnerus now admits he doesn’t know the sexual orientation of his subjects’ parents, just that they had a same-sex adulterous affair at some point).

    Again, why are we trying to predict outcomes for the children of same-sex couples in the first place? What does it accomplish?

    And in terms of a study, how is a convenience sample based on same-sex parents volunteering who were found by identifying same-sex couples in environments where same-sex parents are likely to be found, such as GLBT-friendly bookstores, a problem? What is it about bookstore frequenters that makes these volunteers outside of the norm? Possibly, they might read to their children more than non-bookstore frequenters, but then, that proves my point: same-sex parents can do the very same things that lead to favorable outcomes for children: read to them. Isn’t a convenience sample that actually includes same-sex parents preferable to a “national” sample that doesn’t, if one wants to draw conclusions about same-sex parenting outcomes for children?

    As I noted before, the Hawthorne Effect, that is, the influence of being scrutinized, is irrelevant, if the hypothesis is about the parenting abilities of same-sex couples. At worse, one might conclude that same-sex couples must be under scrutiny in order to be good parents. They still know how to do it, though. And isn’t that what matters?

    Please explain why you think it’s appropriate to judge parental fitness of same-sex couples. And please enumerate the other kinds of parenting situations you believe should also be studied and evaluated, and what you hope to accomplish by doing so.

  36. admin says:

    All – the comment limit is 50. If you have been commenting over the usual three please just be mindful of others and try not to dominate the conversation, if someone abuses the comments we will let them know and ask them to allow others to comment.

  37. Michael Worley says:


    Because if children tend to do better on average with a married mother and father, that is a rational basis to encourage children to end up in that situation, which may be sufficient to uphold Prop 8.

    This would not be true in, for instance, a race-based study, where a court takes a stricter level of review.

    If we discover (I’m not saying that we have; we have except with respect to same-sex couples) that children tended to do better with their married biological parents, shouldn’t public policy encourage men to marry women, stay married, and have kids in marriage?

  38. annajcook says:

    I’m a bit frustrated that a conversation about same-sex parenting has taken over this thread discussing same-sex marriage and how opposition to same-sex marriage may cause material harm to queer folks even if that is not the intention of those advocating for marriage exclusion.

    However, I’ve been thinking about this question of studying queer parents while I was washing the dinner dishes, and here are a couple of thoughts:

    Same-sex parents were initially isolated as a group of people we needed to study because gay and lesbian parents were often automatically assumed to be dangerous and/or unsuitable for taking care of their children. This came up most often in (hetero) divorce proceedings where the homosexuality of a parent could negatively impact their ability to gain custody or even visitation rights. Homosexuality was seen as a psychological disorder and/or criminal behavior by many — it was pathologized. So obviously as part of the mid-century Gay Liberation struggle, making the argument that we weren’t disordered or sexual predators came hand-in-hand with making the case that we weren’t dangerous people simply because of our sexuality to have around children. Including our biological children, from heterosexual relationships, or by adoption.

    But my question now is why it is USEFUL — since we no longer classify homosexuality as a mental or behavioral disorder, and recognize that sexual orientations of a great variety of kinds can be safe, sane, and consensual — why is it USEFUL to try and study “gay and lesbian parents” vs. [insert chosen "normal" family type here]. For one thing, we are increasingly aware that sexuality is fluid and identities and behaviors can shift over time … so who counts as a “gay” or “lesbian” parent? Someone who has been paired with a same-sex partner since before their child was born and/or adopted? Someone who identifies currently as gay or lesbian? Someone who has ever had a queer relationship, regardless of how that relationship intersected with their parenting?

    Isn’t it more useful to ask what kind of parenting acts have positive and negative outcomes, rather than what sort of parental identities correlate with positive or negative experiences? The identities thing seems so much more difficult to isolate and then establish a causal relationship for. For example, in this study that Mr. Worley has found, they supposedly identify a negative correlation between same-sex parenting and school performance. How do you establish causation? And even if it was parental identity that “caused” the negative experience, that negative experience due to same-sex parents is much more likely to be adverse conditions due to social stigma towards families with same-sex parents … rather than anything that is inherent to one’s ability to parent while queer.

    I get that most social science studies are limited in generalizability, and have to have artificial strictures on their data pool in order to come to any conclusions, but I really don’t understand why we continue to isolate out parents who identify as non-straight and study them, now that we’ve basically agreed as a society that they have a sexual orientation just like straight people do, and straight people have been parenting-while-straight for a long time without studies seeking to understand whether being heterosexual somehow impairs ones ability to care for children.

  39. Michael Worley says:

    If you guys think marriage has nothing to do with parenting–when the link between them is the title of the blog (family)– I’ve lost this discussion before it’s begun.

    We are engaged in a national debate about same-sex marriage. As parenting and marriage are closely linked, a discussion of same-sex marriage is an important part of this debate.

    This is not just me. Vaughn Walker thought it was important in the prop 8 case.

  40. annajcook says:

    Michael, I never claimed that marriage ‘has nothing to do with parenting.’ My point was that this thread was in the middle of a discussion about whether opposition to same-sex marriage stems from anti-gay prejudice or whether it’s primarily about the definition of marriage, per se. It’s unclear to me how the study you linked to addresses that issue.

  41. Michael Worley says:

    Fair enough. I did it because no one else was discussing the study online yet.

    Having said that, you say we shouldn’t be studying who is a better parent. If that is so (and I don’t want to argue that–this’ll be my last post), aren’t you assuming who should win the same-sex marriage argument instead of looking to parenting and other issues to make up your mind?

  42. Kevin says:

    Admin: I really will shut up. Last post, I promise.


    How does not letting same-sex couples get married encourage male/female couples to get married and care for their children? Is marriage of value only if some other group is excluded? It’s not a country club, it’s a relationship whose benefits and obligations accrue to a couple willing to participate, regardless of what anybody else does. The “country club” theory says that something is less valuable depending on who participates. Yet even that theory assumes that straights will find marriage less desirable if gays are allowed. In fact, maybe as many or more straight couples will find marriage MORE desirable, reasoning that gosh, even gay couples get married; maybe we should, too!

    Same-sex marriage is not the same as same-sex parenting. If gay couples are lousy parents, outlaw same-sex parenting. Many gay couples won’t raise children, so your “ban same-sex marriage” solution is overbroad. And many straight couples are lousy parents, so your solution is under-inclusive. Logically, bad potential parents, straight or gay, should be discouraged from marrying. If the new narrative is “gay couples are defective/deficient parents” than there is no reason we shouldn’t examine other kinds of parents, too, you know, for the sake of the children.

    I don’t think the US Supreme Court will make a judgment about Proposition 8 in California based on the perceived parenting abilities of gay couples, because:

    1. No married couples have ever been denied a marriage license based on any pre-perception of their parenting skills. I don’t think SCOTUS will go down that road, and create a new right: legal marriage, if you’re judged to be a member of a group that parents adequately. Previous judgments regarding marriage, from both conservative and liberal courts, demonstrate great hesitance to put limits on who may marry. You’ve already got a Supreme Court ruling ensuring convicted murderers the right to marry. Would you rather see kids raised by that nice doctor and his teacher husband, or by a convicted murderer and the woman crazy enough to marry him?
    2. I think SCOTUS will see a same-sex marriage ban as a poor proxy for preventing same-sex parenting, for reasons cited above (under-inclusive and over-inclusive, and in the end does nothing to stop same-sex couples from becoming parents, yet leaves children vulnerable to being raised outside of wedlock).
    3. There is still nothing substantive that even supports the notion that same-sex couples are poor parents, and a mountain of data (whether you approve of it or not) that says they are fully as competent as different-sex couples. The Regnerus “study” has already been rejected as flawed by heavyweights like the American Medical Association and 200 of Regnerus’ peers. That’s hard to overcome. You’d have to convince the court there has been a 30-year vast conspiracy to make gay parents look good. There’s like, 70 studies out there that say gay couples can parent just as well as straight couples can. Those studies aren’t automatically negated because one or two studies say they can’t.

    Ultimately, if we’re suddenly connecting parenting abilities and marriage eligibility, there’s no particular reason only to compare gay parents to straight parents, and make appropriate public policy conclusions. Is it fair to let poor parents raise children, knowing they can’t give their kids the same material advantages the wealthy can? We should probably make a law that puts a minimum household income in place for couples who want to raise children. For the children’s sake, of course.

  43. annajcook says:

    Aren’t you assuming who should win the same-sex marriage argument instead of looking to parenting and other issues to make up your mind?

    Well, as a woman with a wife I am legally wedded to here in the state of Massachusetts, I’m pretty open about having made up my own mind on the value of marriage rights and responsibilities for myself and other same-sex couples.

    From where I stand the question of who makes a good parent and who has the right to marry are two inter-related yet distinct issues. We don’t require married couples to prove their fitness for parenting before marriage — and don’t require marriage in order for someone to become a parent.

    As a woman, if I wanted to I could have unprotected sex with a male lover and become pregnant. No one would or could force me to abort the fetus because I am bisexual or in a same-sex relationship. People become parents every day outside of marital relationships and without 100% straight sexual histories or identities. You may disagree with my belief that this is not necessarily a harmful thing, but nonetheless we don’t make it illegal to give birth out of wedlock or to become a biological parent while queer.

    On the flipside, people marry every day without the intention or ability to become biological parents. My wife and I are one such example, as we have made the decision not to become parents. In this, we are similar to may straight couples who are intentionally not parents, elderly couples who marry after their fertile years, and infertile couples who are unable to reproduce for whatever reason. The marriage licenses of those couples are not revoked when it becomes known that they do not plan or cannot procreate.

    This will be my final comment, too, as I feel I’ve taken up a lot of airspace on this thread. But I do want to say that I do think studying parenting is a valid enterprise — I just think it’s more valuable to study actions rather than identities, generally speaking, since parenting is about the relationship between parent and child, not about the parent’s self-concept. Obviously, self-concept plays a role in how we parent … but it’s not a straightforward one. I’d argue it’s more meaningful to organize parents by, for example, what their policies on computer use or sleepovers are, or what their decisions concerning provision of education are for their children, than what their sexual identities are.

  44. Phil says:

    Because I thought it was germane to the original post and the early part of this discussion thread, I’m going to attempt to rewrite my earlier comment, without naming any specific individuals and without making blanket statements that could be perceived as ungenerous.

    David, you write:

    For Reno, as for many orthodox Christians, the answer to that question is, No. And the reason why it’s No is that, on the basis of church teaching and on the basis of conscience, they believe that homosexual conduct is intrinsically wrong and therefore should not be “accepted” or “affirmed” by society. Period.

    I think that your assessment of Reno’s logic here is probably correct, David, but I still get the impression, from reading Reno’s post, that he’s trying to include along with his religious argument language that makes it more palatable.

    People who oppose any right or privilege on the basis of their religious beliefs are people who want to force nonbelievers to follow their religious beliefs. (This statement is uncontroversial; it is a truism.)

    As such, there appear to be two separate beliefs at play in Reno’s article:
    1. The religious belief that homosexuality (or homosexual behavior, or homosexual relations) is morally wrong.
    2. The belief that it is moral to use the law to force nonbelievers to act in accordance with religious belief number one. (By, for example, forcing same-sex couples to remain legally unmarried.)

    In our culture, and particularly among people of faith, there is a tendency to conflate the two beliefs. Religious persons will argue, essentially, “My hands are tied! I believe that God opposes same-sex marriages, and therefore I must oppose them by voting against them, or by voting for politicians who oppose them.”

    I’m not saying that all religious persons take this viewpoint; I’m simply saying that people who take such a viewpoint exist.

    I have many Jewish friends, although only a handful of them keep kosher. Of the handful of Jewish persons I know who never eat pork, I know not a single one who has ever attempted to use the law to prevent other people from eating pork. It’s possible, of course, that if there were a (statistically improbable) Jewish majority in this country, they might start to lobby for laws that force others to follow their beliefs, but as it stands, in my experience, even Orthodox Jews in the U.S. have a complex and sophisticated understanding of the difference between following and advocating your religious beliefs, and forcing other people to follow those religious beliefs.

    I have many Christian friends, although only a portion of them believe that homosexuality is morally wrong. Of that portion, however, a significant number believe that they have an obligation to force nonbelievers to adhere to their understanding of their religion. This is, in my opinion, both an intellectual and moral tragedy for Christians, and Reno provides evidence of it.

    For these Christians (who do not represent all Christians), it can be said that one of two things must be true: either 1) their understanding of their own religion is so unsophisticated that they cannot separate their religious beliefs from secular (or civil, or materialist) argumentation, or 2) their religious beliefs include the sinister and draconian belief that, when possible, the force of law should be used to impose their religious dictates on nonbelievers.

    I’ll add more to this later.

  45. Tristian says:

    Social scientists who study parenting routinely compare the parenting of different groups, looking at both practices and outcomes. Go to Google Scholar and search something like “Chinese American parenting outcomes”, for example, and see what comes up. They do this not because they suppose being Chinese American is itself a causal factor in determining parenting outcomes, but because being Chinese American tends to correlate with certain parenting practices and cultural experiences. As gay parenting becomes more common and because it’s a factor in debates about gay marriage, we can expect more studies along these lines, and that is perfectly reasonable. It is just wrong to suppose that we now know all we need to know about the matter, and it’s just naive to suppose the results of the research are intended to or will ever point to a simple answer as to whether or not gays as such are good or bad parents. Yes it touches on politically sensitive issues and yes partisans will abuse published results for rhetorical advantage. Still, the more research of this kind we get the better.

    The two papers linked here both have, it seems, some methodological problems, and the diametrically opposed conclusions they reach reveal this–call it a wash.

  46. JHW says:

    Tristian: But nobody tries to infer from those studies about Chinese Americans that Chinese Americans shouldn’t be allowed to marry, or that Chinese Americans should be discriminated against in adoption, or that “every child deserves two parents who aren’t Chinese Americans” and denying a child that is doing violence to that child. We don’t generally think those differences have anything intrinsic to do with a parent being Chinese-American. The big deal in the same-sex parenting debate is whether there is some intrinsic flaw with same-sex parents, whether children really do need both a male parent and a female parent to succeed—and that’s a claim that has a pretty overwhelming weight of evidence against it. I don’t think the mix of Rosenfeld’s study and the Allen et al. reply is a “wash”; there is just not anything in the reply that undermines Rosenfeld’s conclusion.

    A similar point could be made about the “instability” issue Regnerus and Michael Worley keep bringing up: if same-sex parents on average break up more often than different-sex parents, that might tell us something about the causal effects of the normative and legal force of marriage (and exclusion from it), and it might tell us something about common relationship practices among gays and lesbians, but it almost certainly does not reveal anything intrinsic about same-sex relationships (unlike the possibility that gender difference is essential to parenting), and it would not justify legal discrimination.

  47. Tristian says:

    Right: studies of gay parenting will be published against a highly politicized backdrop, and partisans will try to misuse the results in arguments they only indirectly bear on. What should we do? I would suggest we address bad arguments on their lack of merit rather than trying to shout down research whose results we don’t like. We need more of this research, not less of it.

    I myself made the point that studies of Chinese-American parents don’t assume being Chinese-American is itself a causal or “intrinsic” factor. That doesn’t mean the category is meaningless or doesn’t allow for meaningful comparisons. So too with “gay parents.” I don’t see the researchers in questions making any claims to the effect that being gay all by itself predicts parenting skills. The claims that are being looked at are claims about correlations. If gay parenting in fact correlates with instability, and instability in fact correlates with worse outcomes, we have evidence that supports a prediction: more gay parenting will mean more kids with comparatively worse outcomes, even if being gay has itself no effect on parenting. This is certainly a defeasible claim–we need much more research. But it is worth looking at.

    That Rosenberg’s way of analyzing the data has shortcomings is something he acknowledges: it dramatically shrinks the sample size.

  48. [...] gay marriage is the properly “conservative” position. David Blankenhorn offered some thoughtful reflections about what’s at stake for me (and [...]

  49. mythago says:

    Michael, no, it would not be enough to uphold Proposition 8, because (as you can see by reading the relevant court opinions), “biological married couples are best” would have to be reflected in marriage policy as a whole. That is, if the law suddenly gets concerned about parenting outcomes and married biological parents only when same-sex couples are at issue, that’s very strong evidence that what-about-the-children is a pretext – which is the situation in California.

    As an analogy, imagine that you work for me and I fire you – and you strongly believe that it’s because I am biased against you for your religious faith. When confronted, I point to the fact that you came into work five minutes late one day and claim that’s the reason I fired you. Don’t you think my argument would be pretty weak if it turned out I let other employees come in five minutes late all the time? Or if employees other than those of your religious faith didn’t have their time tracked at all?

    We don’t tie the rights of a man and woman to marry to conservative Christian theology; despite Jesus’ admonitions, city hall does not forbid a woman to re-marry her first husband if she has married and divorced another man in the meantime, for example. Nor do we tie marriage license to parenting outcomes; I think we’d all agree that people with felony child abuse convictions and active drug addiction are probably bad candidates for good parenting outcomes, let along childrearing, but neither of those things will prevent someone from marrying if they are otherwise eligible.

  50. Kevin says:

    Admin: go ahead, smack me, I deserve it :(

    “Social scientists who study parenting routinely compare the parenting of different groups…”

    They do? Social scientists routinely compare the outcomes of parents from different ethnic or religious groups? We’re not talking about parenting practices here (“wealthy parents tend to indulge their children more….”) but outcomes related to who the parents are (as Regnerus said, “the adult children of gay fathers are much more likely to have considered suicide…..”). Parenting practices and parenting outcomes are very different things. And cultural or religious differences abound but they aren’t tied to parenting specifically.

    I’ll do some research but if you can point me to a study that says something to the effect, “the adult children of Chinese-American parents are more likely to be molested by their parents than are the adult children of European-Americans,” a Regnerus-like construct and finding, I’d like to read it. If there are such studies, then I guess there is no public policy impact of different parenting outcomes, since we’ve not inhibited child-molesting Chinese-Americans from parenting or getting married. Gay parents will breathe a sigh of relief, as even Chinese-American parents, who are more likely to molest children, are still allowed to parent and get married.

    “Still, the more research of this kind we get the better.”

    How many studies of same-sex parents is enough? I would think the 70 that are already out there would be sufficient. How many more need to be done, or is it not about the number being done, but the conclusions that have been drawn from them so far, that some quarters find unacceptable.

    “I would suggest we address bad arguments on their lack of merit rather than trying to shout down research whose results we don’t like.”

    But “lack of merit” is the reason Regnerus got criticized, and his “study” panned. No one criticized Regnerus for his results but rather that his data didn’t support his conclusions, false conclusions that would be insulting to any group: gay, black, Jew, what have you. I don’t think anyone is advocating a moratorium on studying same-sex families; I am unaware of any complaints about the previous 70 studies done. In fact, some gay families volunteered to participate! So the issue isn’t “don’t look at us, you meanies” the issue is “don’t say offensive and untrue things about us.” Honesty is a pretty widely accepted principle and some believe that it applies even more strictly among academic research, because of the weight academic research holds.

    “The claims that are being looked at are claims about correlations. If gay parenting in fact correlates with instability, and instability in fact correlates with worse outcomes, we have evidence that supports a prediction: more gay parenting will mean more kids with comparatively worse outcomes, even if being gay has itself no effect on parenting. This is certainly a defeasible claim–we need much more research. But it is worth looking at.”

    Again, draw whatever conclusions you want, but that have to be based on facts. The Regnerus article wasn’t based on facts. He had no data to support his contention that the adult children of gay fathers are more likely to consider suicide, since he had several other variables involved, such as adulterous affairs and divorce, even child abandonment, which could explain the negative outcome.