Over at Religion Dispatches, I make the argument in a recent blog that the arguments from “social science” that marriage equality opponents make is just as spurious as the arguments they make based on religion. Opponents argue that the “social sciences” prove that children are better off in homes with their biological mom and dad. Never mind that about half of the children in this country don’t enjoy such a home (with divorce rates at nearly 50 percent).
A study from Canada, conducted in 2007 by Canada’s Department of Justice (so it’s not some left or right research group), after marriage equality was granted to gay and lesbian couples there shoots that theory right out of the water. It showed that gay and lesbian parents are just as good, if not a bit better, at raising well-adjusted, socially competent children:
“Research has consistently shown little difference in children’s social competence, parental socialization, and family functioning between families of heterosexual parents and families of gay or lesbian parents,” the paper says. “The few differences that do emerge consistently suggest that (1) gay and lesbian couples tend to have a more egalitarian and satisfying balance of child-care tasks than heterosexual couples, (2) gay and lesbian parents may be marginally more effective socialization agents than heterosexual parents, and children with gay or lesbian parents may be more concerned with or even experience more discrimination due to their parents’ sexual orientation, although this does not appear to interfere with their social competence. From the perspective of risk and protective factors, the marginally, more effective socialization practices of gay and lesbian parents might act to protect their children from the adverse effects that could otherwise result from concern about or experience of teasing, bullying and discrimination because of the sexual orientation of their parent(s). Additionally, the marginally more positive home environment that likely results from lesbian and gay parents’ greater support of each other’s childcare activities might provide a marginally more supportive context for children’s development of feelings of security and self-worth.”
It’s important to understand that this study has found that same-gender couples are more attentive to their parenting – especially because of the hardships that they know their children will face at the hands of those who may disapprove of their parents’ sexual orientation:
“Perhaps anticipating that their children may be at risk of social disadvantage due to discrimination, gay and lesbian parents may put extra effort into meeting the needs of their children and providing them with strong social and emotional resources. Thus, the expected deleterious effects of economic stress on the quality of parental socialization may be ameliorated to some extent by the added childcare motivation present in many homes with gay or lesbian parents.”
Gay and lesbian parents know they face challenges and they know their kids will face challenges as well, so they are highly motivated to help their children cope with the hatred and fear the world will use to try and cripple them. Heterosexual parents, on the other hand, are more likely to take their kids for granted and not pay that much attention to equipping their children to cope with challenges – and may be more inclined to teach their children to react in fear and hatred to any child that may seem “other” in some way.
The next time someone makes an argument from “social science” about how kids are better off with heterosexual parents – you’re prepared. Canada has had marriage equality for some time now, and they’re discovering that children excel in a home run by two men or two women.
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.