Study: Same-Sex Couples Don’t Make Good Parents, LGBT Groups Fire Back

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Wednesday June 13, 2012

A new research paper claims that the children of gay couples are worse off than kids raised by straight couples. The study, which has received considerable attention in the fringe-right and Christian anti-gay press, has received sharp criticism from both LGBT groups and social scientists, which say the research is misleading and flawed.

The study, called the "New Family Structures Study" surveyed nearly 3,000 18-to-39-year-olds, LiveScience reported. Most people questioned were raised by straight parents but 175 had mothers who had same-sex relationships at one point and 73 fathers who were once in a same-sex relationship.

The results claim that the children from these parents are more likely to be on welfare, unemployed, attend therapy as adults and more, than children from heterosexual couples.

The paper was written by conservative author Mark Regnerus, from the Department of Sociology and Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

GLAAD, the Family Equality Council and the Human Rights Campaign put out a joint statement slamming the controversial study and said that the paper is "flawed, misleading, and scientifically unsound," however. The groups also said the study "doesn’t even look at same-sex couples raising a child together in a long-term committed relationship."

"Flawed methodology and misleading conclusions all driven by a right-wing ideology," said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council, in a statement. "That alone should raise doubts about the credibility of this author’s work. But on top of that, his paper doesn’t even measure what it claims to be measuring."

"Because of the serious flaws, this so-called study doesn’t match 30 years of scientific research that shows overwhelmingly that children raised by parents who are LGBT do equally as well as their counterparts raised by heterosexual parents," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement.

The LGBT groups also said that Regnerus is known for his "his ultra-conservative ideology and the paper was funded by the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation - two groups commonly known for their support of conservative causes. The Witherspoon Institute also has ties to the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, and ultra-conservative Catholic groups like Opus Dei."

Gay rights activist aren’t the only ones who are against the paper. Some social scientists have vocalized that the study is extremely flawed.

"He doesn’t have an actual category of gay parents in the project that you can isolate and say the most important thing in this kid’s childhood is that they were raised by gay parents," Judith Stacey, a sociologist at New York University, told LiveScience. "These are kids whose parents, maybe they divorced, maybe they separated, maybe they had a scandalous affair, we just don’t know."

The article notes that Regnerus simply categorized "all people who said their parents were once in a same-sex relationship in the same group, even if those people had also experienced major childhood upheavals." Nearly 50 percent of the people who said their parents were once in a same-sex relationship also said their parents had been in a heterosexual marriage as well. This suggests that several of these children were the products of straight relationships and one parent later came out as gay or bisexual.

Additionally, 58 percent of those surveyed who were raised by mothers who had a lesbian relationship said their mom "once left the household during their youth" and 14 percent claim they had been in foster care at one point in their lives.

"All he found is that family instability is bad for children and that’s hardly groundbreaking or new," Gary Gates, a researcher at the Williams Institute, told LiveScience. "What I find most frustrating is that from what I could tell, he could have used his data to test the way I’m suggesting the test, and he chose not to," Gates added. "He intentionally chose a methodology that is absolutely primed to find bad outcomes in those kids."

GLAAD also notes that the study ignores 30 years of credible scientific research that shows same-sex couples make just as good parents as straight couples.

"We know that when we compare same-sex couples who are parenting by choice with heterosexual couples who are biological parents, the lesbian couples do really, really well," Stacey said.

"If growing up with gay or lesbian parents were catastrophic for children, even studies based on small convenience samples would have shown this by now," Pennsylvania State University sociologist Paul Amato said.

Non-gay respected news organizations picked apart the study as well. In the New Yorker blog, Senior Editor Amy Davidson noted that "It turned out that most of the adults that the study considered products of gay or lesbian parents were not, for the most part, raised by gays or lesbians."

She and others cited the statistic that 14 percent were in foster homes. If anything, this may show how caring LGBT parents are, since that means that they have essentially rescued these kids from the labyrinth of government agencies -- which, in fact, is where many of these families are formed. Even the State of Florida, which has formally banned gay adoptions, has cited the importance of LGBT parents in getting kids out of foster care and into real homes.

Nevertheless, many of readers supported the study when the ultra-conservative website Free Republic posted about the controversial paper.

"This has ALWAYS been the case.. anyone telling you otherwise has been LYING!" one person wrote.

Additionally, Maggie Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage (a group determined to ban gay marriage across the country), commented on the study in a statement and said that the paper does not reflect the parenting skills of same-sex parents but that families should be made up of one mom and one dad.

"Does this prove that gay parents are bad parents? No, of course not. It does suggest what no one familiar with the larger family structure research should be surprised by: compared to every other family form we know that has been studied, the ’gold standard’ for children remains the intact, married biological family, a mom and a dad," she said.

Regnerus says he will look at same-sex parented children more closely in an upcoming article.

"A detailed exploration of who lived with whom, when, for how long, etc., was not the point of this study," he said.