Donald Trump issued a new set of family-friendly policies this week, but they won’t really help the people who need the most assistance. Trump surrogate Rep. Steve King (R-IA) joined CNN Wednesday morning to promote the campaign’s new family rhetoric, but when Chris Cuomo asked him about whether the policies would support LGBT families, King said he was only interested in encouraging the “natural family.”
“I want to respect all people, but I want to promote the natural family,” he said, describing it as “a man and a woman joined together hopefully in holy matrimony, blessed by God with children.” Cuomo pushed back, noting that research shows kids raised by LGBT families do just as well, if not better, than kids in King’s so-called “natural families.” King replied, “I think I’d need to look a little further into some of that research. You know, we got down to the global warming argument and found that there was another side to that equation too.”
— New Day (@NewDay) September 14, 2016
King opposes LGBT rights, and King also rejects climate change, calling it a “religion” — “not science.” His positions, by necessity, ignore the science that is actually out there, including measured impacts that rejecting same-sex families and climate change has had on real people. But by drawing a comparison between the two, King has actually highlighted some compelling parallels that demonstrate the way conservatives cling to positions that are wholly unsupportable by research.
The issues of same-sex parenting and climate change actually have a lot in common.
For example, on both issues, the relevant scientific fields have already arrived at a consensus. An analysis published last year found that there has already been a consensus that kids do just fine with same-sex parents for decades. Research continues to pour in further solidifying that consensus, but its robustness has not been in question for some time.
Likewise, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and that it has been influenced by human activity. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has explained that “the science linking human activities to climate change is analogous to the science linking smoking to lung and cardiovascular diseases.”
On both issues, there are, of course, detractors within the respective scientific communities, and some have conducted studies that they claim contradict the consensus. And on both issues, those studies have been debunked as having shoddy methods — not to mention that they generally happen to be funded by groups with an ideological bias in favor of the anomalous results.
The primary studies challenging the consensus on same-sex parenting, for example, have come from Mark Regnerus and Paul Sullins. Regnerus’ research, which has been widely debunked, was funded by the Witherspoon Institute, a conservative think tank that opposes LGBT equality. Sullins, whose research also falls flat, is a professor at Catholic University of America and a fellow with the Marriage and Religion Research Institute, a project of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council.
Similarly, prominent academics were found to be quite willing to accept funding from fossil fuel companies to produce studies that sow doubt about climate change. Because those researchers also expressed willingness to hide the source of their funding, it remains unclear how many of these kinds of studies actually had such shady funding. When scientists replicated many of those studies, however, they conspicuously could not reproduce the same results. Wei-Hock Soon (“Willie”), one of climate deniers’ most prominent go-to researchers, has received at least $1.2 million from the fossil fuel industry to fund his research and salary.
So King’s comparison is apt. Both same-sex parenting and climate change are issues that are settled in terms of the science, just not in terms of the politics. King’s struggle to reconcile the research is emblematic of the way conservatives prioritize the past way of doing things over the present consequences that can have on real people.
Last year, after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, King claimed that people can now marry their lawnmower if they want to. It’s unclear how often a lawnmower must run to make such a marriage work, but an hour of lawn-mowing can produce almost as much pollution as a 100-mile car trip. Perhaps King just needs to do some more research.