A recent study by the University of Melbourne in Australia has found that gay parents actually raise happier kids than the general population. The nature of the study and its finding are leading some to argue that conservative opponents of the LGBT community are doing harm to the children of same-sex families. For years, the argument that same-sex parents harm children has been a favorite of conservatives who oppose equal marriage. The Melbourne study is just the latest in a string of such endeavours that has destroyed that argument, but it also creates the addition of one very important fact. Conservative activists are harming children by opposing their parents’ rights and it is that fact that should really have people talking.
This new study is the largest of its kind in the world making it important to the discussion. Bigger numbers mean a more representative sample of the population and lends weight to the findings, which in this case are largely positive. The 500 children being raised by same-sex parents scored six percent higher on measures of emotional and physical well-being. The Australian study also looked at what happened with the children when a conservative driven stigma was applied to them. Two-thirds of the parents said that they had experience negative attitudes towards their family composition. This experience was linked with negative scores for their kids on a variety of measures, including mental health and emotional outcomes. Thus, the overall conclusion of the study is that families of same-sex couples are happy families and that the hatred and disapproval leveled at them by conservative opponents has more of an ill effect than the parents’ sexual orientation.
As of last month, the University of Melbourne study is the latest to look at same-sex families and find nothing wrong with them. The conservative argument that families need to have opposite sex parents simply does not hold up under scrutiny. Why might this be? The author of the study, Dr. Simon Crouch, has offered an interpretation of the data that answers this question. Instead of remaining trapped in certain roles because of gender stereotypes, same-sex couples play to their strengths and do whatever is best for their children rather than what is considered standard. That willingness to do whatever is needed for the sake of the children is what makes same-sex couples and anyone else with children good parents and is the deciding factor in their ultimate happiness.
The conclusion is that gay parents raise happier kids. The discussion about what harms children, however, is the interesting part. The study is not directly arguing that conservative activism against same-sex couples is harming children, but there are some commentators who have made that argument based on the findings in this study. Mark Joseph Stern, a writer for Slate, wrote an article about the “Conservatives’ Revolting Campaign to Harm the Children of Gay Parents.” In that piece, he argues that “it’s them [conservatives], not gay parents, who are inflicting the most harm on the children of same-sex couples.” Stern uses the new Australian study as his jumping off point for the argument and he makes his point well, but it still deserves some evaluation.
How exactly are conservative, anti-gay activists harming children? Looking back at the study, two-thirds of parents reported that their families had been the targets of negative attitudes and perceived stigma due to their sexual orientation. Is that the fault of anti-gay activists? Perhaps only partially. While everyone who imposes a negative stigma a group of people is responsible for their own actions, conservative anti-gay activists are responsible for the supporting of those views that lead to such discrimination. Therefore, the perpetuate the stigma that harms kids whose parents are gay.
The comparison of LGBT people with pedophiles is one perpetuation that makes it more acceptable to discriminate against the families of same-sex couples. Linda Harvey, an American conservative activist, is one of the more famous proponents of such an argument. “Yes there are adults who molest children,” she has said. “It’s not every adult in this lifestyle, of course, but it certainly seems acceptable to some.” Harvey, who has been called “the most homophobic woman in America,” made this statement without backing it up with facts or solid evidence, unlike the Australian study. Yet there are people who listen to her more readily than to scientific studies by qualified researchers. They agree with her and her statements lend a type of approval to their own discrimination against an entire group of people, including children.
It is increasingly clear that anti-gay activists are spending more time promoting their agenda than looking after the welfare of children and the effects of that crusade are beginning to show in big ways. Texas has provided one example in a court case brought by two gay dads. The two men who are in a committed relationship have had children via a surrogate mother. They are the biological fathers of their children and went to court in order to have their names listed together on the birth certificate without that of the surrogate, who is not biologically related to the kids. A Texas judge denied these biological parents’ request on the grounds that same-sex marriage was not legal in Texas. Instead of protecting the kids by issuing an accurate birth certificate, the judge denied the two dads the legal right to care for their own children leaving them vulnerable and unprotected by basic legal rights. Such an event would not be possible except for the success of anti-gay and same-sex marriage activists who have made opposing the LGBT community more important than protecting children.
The new University of Melbourne study about same-sex couples and their children does not tread new ground. As the largest of its kind, though, the study can claim to have a more representative sample than most, but that’s about the only revolutionary aspect of it. The conclusions some have drawn from the study, however, are enough to provoke a heated discussion. Negative attitudes towards LGBT families have a negative impact on children and that effect can be laid largely at the feet of conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage. People like Linda Harvey who denigrate LGBT persons without fact or evidence are primary purveyors of harm to the children they claim they want to protect. Still, study after study prove that the children of LGBT parents fare just as well if not better than their counterparts in heterosexual families. The Australian study will not be the last to proclaim that gay parents raise happy and happier kids, but for now it is the biggest and is generating plenty of conversation.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury