During the Friday edition of “To The Point,” Public Radio International’s Warren Olney asked “should gays and lesbians qualify” as adoptive parents in the wake of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, in which former football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is accused of raping young boys. In 1997, Sandusky founded a charity called The Second Mile, through which he encountered many of his alleged victims.
After discussing the details of the Penn State story with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Michael Sanserino, Olney spoke with Frank Cervone of the Support Center for Child Advocates about how Sandusky managed to avoid a background check conducted for foster parents and then turned to the “theme” — as he called it — of whether gays and lesbians made for fit parents.
Olney discussed the “lazy stereotype” of gay men acting as predators on young children with John Ireland of the Raise a Child campaign — who explained the strenuous multi-month screening process he and his partner had to undergo to become adoptive parents — and then introduced Jerry Cox, a “traditional family values” proponent from Arkansas’ Family Council. In 2008, the group had lobbied for a law that prohibited unmarried, cohabitating individuals from adopting. The state Supreme Court found the measure unconstitutional.
“The gold standard, at least, for child rearing and for a child to grow up is in a table home with a married mother and father,” Cox persisted and connected child rape at Penn State with gay and lesbian adoptive parents:
COX: I find it interesting that we talk about the Penn State situation and then we talk about other situations where certain categories of people say ‘it’s alright to adopt, it’s alright to be a foster parent. In both of those situations, the rights of the children seem to have been put second place. [...]
If you have a same-sex couple with an adoptive child, what you’re in effect saying is that moms don’t matter or dads don’t matter. You’re saying that one of the genders doesn’t matter. And the research is really to the contrary. The research seems to indicate that children fair much better if they are much better if they are in a stable home, male mother and father.
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While Olney did ask if children do better with same-sex adoptive parents than the foster care system, he didn’t challenge Cox’s erroneous claims that sexual orientation is related to parenting or note that a range of studies, including the the American Psychological Association, have concluded that “beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents have no empirical foundation.” In fact, a recent study found that the 2 million children who are currently living with LGBT parents are hurt not by the sexual orientation of mom or dad, but the social stigma and legal inequality that people like Cox perpetuate.
The program’s final guest Sari Grant of the LA County Department of Children and Family Services did disagree with Cox, however, noting that “what’s most important to our children is consistency, love and stability — it is not the configuration of the family.” “A lot of gay and lesbian families particularly have gone through some crises in their lives and have dealt with those and come out on top and are much more supportive of our kids — who are going through a lot, who have a lot of challenges — are willing to access services, be there for that child, not give up on that child, because of their own experiences,” she added. “They are an excellent choice, along with more traditional families.”
Olney generated some debate between Grant and Cox, before closing the segment and thanking his guests for tackling the “challenging” topic. But not all listeners appreciated Olney’s apparent attempt to use child rape as a hook to discuss the viability of gays and lesbians as parents and pressed Olney to apologize. Yesterday, Olney issued a statement describing the reaction to the program as a “misunderstanding.” “We had no intention of confusing the issues of child abuse and same-sex adoption,” Olney wrote on the show’s blog. “We apologize to anyone who drew that conclusion.”