Why Focus On The Family’s ‘Fatherless’ Studies Are Irrelevant To DOMA

In today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery testified at length that same-sex marriage puts children at risk. In his written testimony, he cited many studies about the struggles of children who are raised without fathers to suggest that children raised by two moms are worse off for it and thus, those couples should not be recognized through marriage. His written testimony concludes:

In a nutshell – an analysis of more than 100 studies on parent-child relationships found that having a loving and nurturing father was as important for a child‘s happiness, well -being, and social and academic success as having a loving and nurturing mother. Some studies indicated father-love was a stronger contributor than mother-love to some important positive child well-being outcomes.

Unfortunately for Minnery, these claims and studies are completely irrelevant to any conversation about same-sex marriage. Besides the fact these conclusions rely largely on gender stereotypes and thus don’t have a legitimate scientific foundation, they aren’t even studies of same-sex couples. Opponents of marriage equality regularly refer to studies about children raised by single mothers to draw conclusions about children raised by committed same-sex female couples. For example, one of the chief witnesses called to defend California’s Proposition 8 was David Blankenhorn, author of a book called “Fatherless America.” Despite expectations he’d make a compelling case against marriage equality, under cross-examination, he actually conceded that allowing same-sex couples to marry would benefit children!

During the testimony, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called out the fact that Minnery misrepresented a study that showed children fare best with “nuclear families.” Franken pointed out that in the study, “nuclear families” does not, as Minnery posited, refer to opposite-sex families, but in fact any family with “two parents.” Franken concluded: “I frankly don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies this way.”

The real consensus among social scientists is that same-sex couples are just as effective at raising children and children benefit when those couples are allowed to marry. Minnery cited journalist Jonathan Rauch’s review of the research, but omitted the fact that Rauch’s conclusion was that same-sex marriage provides important security and affirmation for children. The American Psychological Association resolved back in 2004 that “children reared by a same-sex couple benefit from legal ties to each parent,” and reaffirmed in 2010 that “children raised by same-sex couples have been shown to be on par with the children of opposite-sex couples in their psychological adjustment, cognitive abilities and social functioning.”

During a public forum on marriage in the Iowa House of Representatives, 19-year-old Zach Wahls provided compelling testimony about his experience being raised by two moms. Watch it: