One of the more high-profile contemporary civil rights issues is the controversy over gay marriage. Proponents of the rights of same-sex couples argue that there is absolutely no basis for discrimination against gay marriage and that it is the precise equivalent of laws prohibiting interracial marriage from the shameful history of racial segregation in the U.S. Opponents of same sex marriage consider it to be a fundamental violation of traditional moral principles that have governed the institution of marriage throughout human history. They have also suggested that one of the strongest reasons for opposing gay marriage is that it legitimizes those relationships in a way that would greatly increase the numbers of adopted children raised by gay parents.
Meanwhile, there is absolutely no empirical evidence that gay parents are any less qualified to provide good homes for children than parents within traditional heterosexual marriages. I fact, there may actually be credible evidence that children raised by same-sex couples and by single gay parents have fewer problems of certain types relevant to the issue than children raised within traditional marriages and by heterosexual single parents respectively.
The Basis of the Objection to Gay Adoption
In 1996, William J. Bennett, the former National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman and Education Secretary in the Reagan administration and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, wrote a scathing objection published in the Washington Post in which he issued very explicit warnings about the dangers of same-sex marriage legalization. According to Bennett, the legal acceptance of same-sex marriage presents the danger of legitimizing same sex marriage and, more specifically, sets society in motion to accept gay parenting and gay adoption.
"If the law recognizes homosexual marriages as the legal equivalent of heterosexual marriages, it will have enormous repercussions in many areas.
Consider just two: sex education in the schools and adoption. The sex education curriculum of public schools would have to teach that heterosexual and homosexual marriages are equivalent. Heather Has Two Mommies would no longer be regarded as an anomaly; it would more likely become a staple of a sex education curriculum. & #8230; Homosexual couples will also have equal claim with heterosexual couples in adopting children, forcing us (in law at least) to deny what we know to be true: that it is far better for a child to be raised by a mother and a father than by, say, two male homosexuals." (Bennett, 1996)
Opponents of gay adoption are concerned that, in theory, homosexual parents are more likely to influence their children in detrimental respects and that there are objective justifications in terms of child developmental health and welfare that homosexual applicants and same-sex couples should be presumptively disqualified from adoption eligibility. Social service and adoption agencies vary widely in their views on gay adoption: some agencies welcome prospective parents who are same-sex couples but others expressly exclude them (Brooks & Goldberg, 2001 p.148). However, there is actually no empirical evidence to support any of the bases raised as objections to same-sex adoption or marriage. If anything, the available empirical data seems to support the opposite view. (Brooks & Goldberg, 2001 p. 152; Stone, 2006).
The Justification of Gay Adoption
In the United States, more than one hundred thousand children are in need of adoptive families, fewer than half of whom ever find permanent homes (Stone, 2006). Meanwhile, there are thousands of single gay individuals and same-sex couples who would are qualified and willing to provide suitable permanent homes for orphans in need. Prior research reveals that gay adoption applicants are motivated by the same desires as heterosexual adoption applicants: namely, the hope of rescuing a child in need and the desire to be parents without going through the pregnancy or infant parenting experience. In interview studies on their respective motivations, there is essentially no difference between heterosexual and homosexual adoption applicants (Brooks & Goldberg, 2001 p. 152).
In fact, to the extent there is any qualitative difference between gay adoptive parents and heterosexual adoptive parents, it is actually being raised by same-sex or single homosexual parents that appears to confer a slight statistical benefit. More specifically, children of same-sex couples are no more likely than their counterparts raised in traditional families to exhibit homosexuality (Brooks & Goldberg, 2001 p. 149). In some studies, adolescent children of gay parents have lower incidences of referrals for psychological counseling and higher rates of psychological stability and maturity (Brooks & Goldberg, 2001 p. 149). Furthermore, single gay male parents are more likely to provide emotional support and nurturance than single heterosexual fathers (Brooks & Goldberg, 2001 p. 148).
Precisely because all of the empirical evidence suggests that there is no rational basis for discriminating against gay adoption applicants who are otherwise qualified to provide a healthy home for an adoptive child, some powerful associations of physicians and of child welfare organizations have openly advocated for gay adoption:
"In support of adoption by gays, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child
Welfare League of America (CWLA) and adoption advocacy groups cite research that children with gay or lesbian parents fare as well as those raised in families with a mother and a father. Conservative groups such as Concerned
Women for America say the research is flawed." (Stone, 2006)
Because of concerns advanced by opponents of gay adoption, various studies have analyzed the respective incidence of child sexual abuse as between homosexual parents and heterosexual parents. Those studies indicate that the concern is entirely unfounded because the vast majority of child sexual abuse with the family involves heterosexual male adults and female child victims (Brooks & Goldberg, 2001 p. 149). Even the issue of inappropriate sexual displays has been tested as the result of justification along those lines opposing gay adoption. The available evidence directly contradicts the legitimacy of that concern (Brooks & Goldberg, 2001 p. 149).
Numerous studies have addressed all of the hypotheses underlying the objection to child adoption by homosexual parents and same-sex couples. Rather then justifying any conceptual objection to gay adoption, the results of relevant inquiries reveal that there is no identifiable benefit to children from being raised by single gay parents or by same-sex couples. The available evidence actually supports the opposite conclusion: namely, that in virtually every measurable way, whenever there is a benefit associated with the respective sexual preference of parents (including adoptive parents) the benefit corresponds to adoption by gay parents.
Bennett, William J. "Gay Marriage: Not a Very Good Idea." The Washington Post (May
The institution of marriage is already reeling because of the effects of the sexual revolution, no-fault divorce and out-of-wedlock births. We have reaped the consequences of its devaluation.
Notice to Reader: "The Boards of both CERC Canada and CERC USA are aware that the topic of homosexuality is a controversial one that deeply affects the personal lives of many North Americans. Both Boards strongly reiterate the Catechism's teaching that people who self-identify as gays and lesbians must be treated with 'respect, compassion, and sensitivity' (CCC #2358). The Boards also support the Church's right to speak to aspects of this issue in accordance with her own self-understanding. Articles in this section have been chosen to cast light on how the teachings of the Church intersect with the various social, moral, and legal developments in secular society. CERC will not publish articles which, in the opinion of the editor, expose gays and lesbians to hatred or intolerance."
We are engaged in a debate which, in a less confused time, would be considered pointless and even oxymoronic: the question of same-sex marriage.
Now, anyone who has known someone who has struggled with his homosexuality can appreciate the poignancy, human pain and sense of exclusion that are often involved. One can therefore understand the effort to achieve for homosexual unions both legal recognition and social acceptance. Advocates of homosexual marriages even make what appears to be a sound conservative argument: Allow marriage in order to promote faithfulness and monogamy. This is an intelligent and politically shrewd argument. One can even concede that it might benefit some people. But I believe that overall, allowing same-sex marriages would do significant, long-term social damage.
Recognizing the legal union of gay and lesbian couples would represent a profound change in the meaning and definition of marriage. Indeed, it would be the most radical step ever taken in the deconstruction of society's most important institution. It is not a step we ought to take.