- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A study that shows favorable outcomes for teens raised by lesbian mothers is strengthening calls for acceptance of gay families, while opponents say such research is too flawed to be believed.

“This study is yet another confirmation that gay parents are good parents,” said Jennifer Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Council in Boston, referring to a June 7 study in Pediatrics.

The study is “inherently unreliable” and “does nothing to undermine other studies which prove the common-sense idea that kids need both a mom and a dad,” countered Brian Raum, senior legal counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which defends traditional marriage in lawsuits.

The study, authored by Nanette Gartrell and Henny Bos, is the first to examine outcomes in teenagers who were raised from birth by lesbian mothers who used donor insemination.

The 78 lesbian-raised children were compared with 93 teens raised by a mother and a father. Each group had a nearly equal number of boys and girls.

According to mothers’ reports, teens raised by lesbian mothers “were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence” measures, the authors said. The lesbian-raised teens also scored “significantly lower” than the mom-and-dad-raised teens in “problem” categories, such as social behaviors, rule-breaking and acting out.

These outcomes show that teens in “planned lesbian families” achieve healthy psychological adjustment and “provide no justification for restricting access to reproductive technologies or child custody on the basis of the sexual orientation of the parents,” wrote Ms. Bos, who is an associate professor at the University of Amsterdam, and Ms. Gartrell, who is affiliated with the University of California in San Francisco and the Williams Institute, a center for gay and lesbian studies, at the University of California School of Law.

The only time the children of lesbians showed poor outcomes, they noted, was when they experienced homophobic stigmatization.

Ms. Chrisler, who is married to Cheryl Jacques and is a mother of twins, said the study adds to 30 years of research that shows that children raised by gay parents have outcomes equal to or even better than other children.

“There is no legitimate reason” for states or agencies to prevent gays and lesbians from raising or adopting children, she said. “Gay parents and straight parents are really no different.”

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council (FRC), said the study clearly acknowledges it has major flaws.

The data come from mothers’ reports but don’t include answers from teens or their teachers, he said. The fairly small number of lesbian families all volunteered for this study years ago, and may be especially committed parents, rather than representative of all lesbian families.

Moreover, several findings are “implausible,” said Mr. Sprigg. For instance, the researchers also found “no differences” in whether a child’s lesbian mothers separated (as 56 percent did) or stayed together, or whether the children knew the identities of their sperm-donor fathers. There were also no differences seen between lesbian-raised daughters or sons.

“This study is inherently unreliable for the very same reasons that other same-sex parenting studies are unreliable. … [I]t does not use a random sample, the sample is very small and the data relied upon is from self-reporting [by mothers] of children’s behavior,” said the ADF’s Mr. Raum, who is defending California’s Proposition 8, the voter-passed amendment to the state’s constitution that defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

Final arguments in the case are scheduled for June 16.

Plaintiffs seeking to overturn the amendment raised its impact on gay families as an issue. More than 100 studies have found that children raised by gay parents are “just as likely to be well-adjusted” as other children, Michael Lamb, professor and chairman of the department of social and developmental psychology at the University of Cambridge in England, testified in January.

Asked this week whether he thought the Gartrell-Bos study would be used to overturn the amendment, Mr. Raum said it would “have no impact.”

Meanwhile, in Congress, Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat, and 25 co-sponsors have introduced a bill to restrict federal funding to states that “discriminate” on the basis of “sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status” in foster care or adoption.

The Stark bill takes aim at Florida, which bans gay adoption; Mississippi, which doesn’t allow “same gender” couples to adopt; Utah, which doesn’t allow unmarried couples to adopt; and a voter-passed measure in Arkansas that is similar to Utah’s policy.

The Arkansas measure was recently thrown out by a trial court judge, but supporters have said they would appeal the decision.

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