- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 23, 2004

Are children raised by same-sex parents worse off than other children? As same-sex couples line up for marriage licenses in Massachusetts, the question achieves greater urgency.

Two researchers answered when they reviewed the available scholarly literature in the American Sociological Review three years ago. What makes their essay intriguing is that both professors Judith Stacey and Timothy J. Biblarz emphatically favor same-sex marriage and child-rearing.

Being honest scholars, though, they could not accept the tendentious spin that others in their field have put on the available research. They deny the studies show “no difference” between children raised in homosexual homes and those raised in heterosexual homes.

Mr. Biblarz and Ms. Stacey begin with the common-sense observation it is difficult to get good data on children raised by homosexual parents. Many of the children studied were conceived in traditional families and lived through a divorce before being raised by one biological parent and his or her same-sex partner. When comparing these children to those from intact families, the trauma of the divorce would have to be considered.

Then there is the problem of selection. “Most research to date has been conducted on white lesbian mothers who are comparatively educated, mature and reside in relatively progressive urban centers, most often in California or the Northeastern states.”

The authors also doubt the conventional wisdom that broader acceptance of homosexuality will increase the number of children being raised in same-sex households. They believe the opposite is more likely. Their reasoning is as follows: Most children being raised by homosexual men and women were born into heterosexual families. The authors believe a significant number of these parents (who would later come out of the closet) would never have entered heterosexual marriages if same-sex unions carried less of a stigma.

“As homosexuality becomes more legitimate,” they write, “far fewer people with homoerotic desires should feel compelled to enter heterosexual marriages, and thus fewer should become parents in this way.”

There is a countervailing trend. Same-sex couples are taking advantage of the less censorious social climate to form whole “gay” families. But Mr. Biblarz and Ms. Stacey doubt this will overcome the first trend.

For male homosexuals, reproduction is a complicated and expensive affair. They must either adopt or pay a surrogate to carry a baby for them. Besides, as the authors note, men of both sexual orientations are less likely to desire children than are women. For lesbians, obviously, the process is far simpler. A trip to the local sperm bank is all that is required.

But since there are many more homosexual men than women, the authors doubt the increased number of lesbian couples will add to the total of homosexual-raised children much if at all in light of the first effect.

Mr. Biblarz and Ms. Stacey examined 21 studies of “lesbigay” couples’ children compared with heterosexual parents’ children. While all the researchers claimed to find “no difference” between the two groups’ outcomes, Mr. Biblarz and Ms. Stacey disagree. There are statistically significant differences in gender identity, sexual experimentation and promiscuity.

The authors are quick to add that these observed differences do not alarm them. They are happy to embrace a variety of family forms. And if homosexual parenting means more homosexual offspring, the authors are not alarmed.

First, not surprisingly, both boys and girls raised by homosexuals are far likelier to tell researchers they have experimented with or considered homosexuality. This is no shock. The research further shows girls raised by lesbians tend to have a larger number of sexual partners from puberty to adulthood than children in ordinary homes. It also, interestingly, shows boys raised by lesbians have fewer sexual encounters than boys raised by heterosexual parents.

As Mr. Biblarz and Ms. Stacey observe, the majority of children raised in homosexual families are heterosexual in adulthood (bearing in mind the research limitations).

Mr. Biblarz and Ms. Stacey deserve credit for their honesty. But their breezy embrace of same-sex parenting is very reminiscent of the cheerful accounts offered in the 1970s for divorce and single-parent households. Then, we were told whatever made a parent happier also made for a happier child. We are sadder and wiser now. The children are much sadder.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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