Russia’s latest anti-gay campaign is a bill that would disqualify gay parents from retaining custody of their own biological children. Its sponsor, Alexei Zhuravlev, believes that those kids would be better off in an orphanage because of a study he read making claims against same-sex parenting. But the author of that study with its flawed conclusions, Mark Regnerus — strangely writing for The Atlantic — believes that Zhuralev’s solutions are a step too far:
But such a legislative move would be wrong. Why? Because the study in question, and no shortage of other analyses of population-based data, reaffirm that kinship and stability are important for children. Generating new household instability, via one-size-fits-all legislation poised to sever the parent-child bond, is to overlook these basic conclusions of the study. A comparable treatment is not, I presume, planned against heterosexual stepfamilies, regardless of the extent of the household upheaval and parental relationship drama that may or may not have generated them.
In his analysis, Regnerus compared children who may have had a parent that engaged in homosexual behavior — almost all of whom were in broken homes as a result — to those who were raised in intact homes with straight married parents. None of his data actually has anything to say about committed same-sex couples raising children together nor the ability of gay and lesbian people to be effective parents in general. Thus, he is right when he says that stability is important, because every study that has actually considered committed same-sex parents has found that it’s the stability that makes the difference, not the sexual orientation or gender-pairing. It’s an argument in favor of marriage equality for the sake of the children already being raised by same-sex couples, though Regnerus has never admitted that.
His claims about kinship are a bit more contrived, however. Though Regnerus collected data about children adopted to opposite-sex parents, their outcomes were not a significant part of his original analysis nor any of the writing he’s done about the study since. Given he has used his study to be an outspoken advocate against marriage equality because of its fraudulent claims about same-sex parenting, if there were significant differences between children raised by adoptive vs. biological parents, then surely that would have made an even bigger public disruption. Certainly he believes that kinship is important, but consider the implications of the following statement he makes about what laws Russia should consider:
Of course, such kinship ties are often broken, sometimes with intention (by mutual divorce, sperm donation, and some instances of surrogacy), sometimes by accident (as through the death of a parent), and sometimes by necessity (in the case of seeking protection from domestic violence), all through no fault of the child. A good society seeks to discourage broken kinship ties, and to struggle over how to manage those that are unavoidable. It does not respond by simply declaring biological bonds to be irrelevant or such brokenness only imagined.
If Regnerus were true to his word, then he would have to openly oppose adoption, surrogacy, sperm donation, divorce, and even letting children be raised by single parents. If the outcomes of children were so significantly dependent on having parents that were opposite-sex and biologically related, then like Zhuravlev, he’d have to advocate for policies that take children away from their homes.
Regnerus has a lot of data he could work with that might even offer some helpful guidance for families, but he’s locked onto the one conclusion his results don’t support. He opposes same-sex marriage for religious reasons, he designed a study specifically so that it could be manipulated to look like same-sex parenting was bad, and it’s the only thing he uses his study to talk about. When even Regnerus has to say that a legal solution like Russia is proposing goes too far, it’s clear that his study has become a Pandora’s Box that’s spun out of his own control.