On the campaign trail, Rick Santorum rarely passes up an opportunity to pontificate on his favorite subject: the evils of gay marriage and parenthood. Speaking at a boarding school in New Hampshire on Friday, Santorum cited an unnamed “anti-poverty expert” to claim that children are better off having a parent in prison who abandoned them than having two same-sex parents.
This wasn’t just a hypothetical to some children in the audience, at least three of whom had gay parents, the Los Angeles Times reports:
For the second time in as many days, Rick Santorum waded into the issue of gay marriage, suggesting it was so important for children to have both a father and mother that an imprisoned father was preferable to a same-sex parent.
Citing the work of one anti-poverty expert, Santorum said, “He found that even fathers in jail who had abandoned their kids were still better than no father at all to have in their children’s lives.”
Allowing gays to marry and raise children, Santorum said, amounts to “robbing children of something they need, they deserve, they have a right to. You may rationalize that that isn’t true, but in your own life and in your own heart, you know it’s true.” [...]
The students at Dublin School, which runs from ninth through 12th grade, were primed for Santorum’s visit, said headmaster Brad Bates. He said three students in the audience had gay parents, though they were not among those who asked about the topic.
It’s unclear to which “anti-poverty” expert Santorum was referring, or what the expert’s study said, but it is clear that Santorum is likely distorting it. He isn’t wrong that numerous studies have highlighted the importance of keeping children connected to parents who may be in prison, but none of them include any actual research on comparisons with same-sex families. They may juxtapose a child having no father (i.e. a single mother) with having a father in jail, but it’s completely invalid to compare an abandoned mother to two committed loving mothers.
Numerous conservative groups regularly attempt this “fatherless” rhetorical trap to make a case against same-sex marriage. Focus on the Family, in particular, is notorious for this distortion and has made it many times in just the past year, including just this week. In reality, studies have consistently shown that same-sex couples are just as capable of raising children as opposite-sex couples, and any attempt to suggest otherwise is not only wrong but hurtful to same-sex families and the children they are raising.