Among the many amicus briefs filed before the Supreme Court this week addressing marriage equality, the brief from the American Sociological Association is one of the most concise explanations of what social science actually has to say about same-sex parenting. The ASA pulls no punches when debunking the many fraudulent claims made by BLAG (the House Republicans’ defending the Defense of Marriage Act) or the proponents of Proposition 8, making clear that “there is no evidence that children with parents in stable same-sex or opposite-sex relationships differ in terms of well-being.”
The ASA takes time in the study to show that few — if any — of the studies cited by opponents of marriage equality actually measured same-sex parenting whatsoever. Many attempt “apples-to-oranges” comparisons between stepparents, divorce parents, or single parents and same-sex parents, without actually studying any same-sex parents. Others draw comparisons between biological parents and adoptive parents — again ignoring same-sex parents entirely — even though neither DOMA nor Prop 8 had any implications for heterosexual couples who adopt or have children through other assisted means. The ASA also noted that some researchers have even objected to their studies being improperly manipulated in this manner.
What’s particularly notable about this brief is the time it takes to unpack everything that was flawed about Mark Regnerus’s study that claimed that children who had parents in same-sex relationships fared worse. The study has been called “bullshit” by an internal audit of the journal that originally published it, and even Regnerus has admitted that he really didn’t capture any valid information about gay fathers or lesbian mothers. Nevertheless, conservatives repeatedly cite it as evidence against same-sex parenting, including in the arguments for DOMA and Prop 8. In brief, here was how ASA debunked the study:
- Regnerus did not study children born or adopted into same-sex parent families, only those who seem to recollect one of their parents ever having a same-sex relationship.
- Regnerus compared that group, most of which had experienced family dissolution, only to stable, married, opposite-sex families — i.e. he compared unstable to intact.
- Regnerus ignored whether the children lived with or were raised by the parents who had a same-sex relationship.
- Regnerus only identified these “gay” parents based on the recollection of the children, not based on how the parents actually identify or live their lives.
- Most of the factors Regnerus analyzes were adult outcomes, not childhood outcomes, and could very well have had nothing to do with the relationships of the children’s parents.
In a footnote, the ASA also mentioned how researcher Douglas Allen distorted data from another study in a similar way to result in a false comparison between unstable and stable households.
For anyone interested in the question of same-sex parenting, the full ASA brief is a worthwhile read in its entirety. As it concludes: “The social science consensus is both conclusive and clear: children fare just as well when they are raised by same-sex parents as when they are raised by opposite-sex parents.”