Adoption by Homosexuals — Is the Research for Real?

A Mixed Landscape, and Lots of Shaky Studies

PARIS, MARCH 2, 2002 ( Debate over whether homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt is heating up. Last Tuesday the European Court of Human Rights ruled that prohibiting the adoption of children by homosexuals is not a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court by a 4-3 vote held that neither Article 14 of the Convention, which prohibits discrimination, nor Article 8, which upholds the right to respect for private and family life, had been violated, the court registrar said in a press release.

The case concerned Philippe Fretté, a French national who lives in Paris. In May 1993 the Paris Social Services, Youth and Health Department refused his request for authorization to adopt a child.

In its judgment the European Court noted that the decisions refusing authorization pursued a legitimate aim, namely, protection of the health and rights of children. The judges also observed that the scientific community is divided over the possible consequences of children being brought up by one or more homosexual parents and that there are only a limited number of scientific studies on the subject published.

In the United States, meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared that same-sex partnerships could provide the elements needed by children, the Associated Press reported Feb. 4.

The policy adopted by the academy is mainly concerned with obtaining parental rights for the second member of a homosexual couple where one of the partners already has children. These situations are normally known as second-parent adoptions. But it also could apply to homosexual couples who want to adopt a child together, said Dr. Joseph Hagan Jr., chairman of the committee that wrote the policy.

The announcement drew strong criticism from Christian groups. The Reverend Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, a Christian lobbying group, called the policy irresponsible and “a disservice to medicine.”

Added Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, in a Feb. 4 press release: “There is an abundance of research demonstrating that children do best when raised by a mother and a father who are committed to one another in marriage.”

Three U.S. states now ban second-parent adoptions, while seven states and Washington, D.C., permit them by law or court ruling, the New York Times reported Feb. 4.

Some yes, some no

Activist groups have had a number of recent successes in allowing adoption by homosexual couples. Last October, California Governor Gray Davis signed a bill giving a series of rights to registered same-sex couples, among them the possibility to adopt a partner´s child.

In South Africa last year, the High Court ordered changes to the law to allow homosexual couples to adopt children, BBC reported Sept. 28.

And in the Canadian province of Quebec, Justice Minister Paul Bégin has recommended that same-sex couples be given full rights as parents and the same consideration as heterosexual couples when adopting, the National Post reported Feb. 22.

He made the recommendations on the last day of parliamentary hearings on a bill to institute same-sex civil unions. Bégin said he wants to introduce the final version of the bill as soon as the National Assembly resumes sitting in mid-March and have it passed into law by the end of session in June. British Columbia has allowed same-sex adoption since about 1996, according to the National Post.

In Sweden, a proposal has been made to allow same-sex couples to adopt also. According to the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 24, lawmakers are now debating a bill that would give these couples the right to adopt children, both in Sweden and abroad. Parliament is expected to approve the measure when it votes in June.

Opponents of adoptions by homosexual couples have had a couple of successes too, in the United States. The nine members of the Alabama Supreme Court awarded custody of three teen-agers to their father over their lesbian mother who now lives with her partner, the Associated Press reported Feb. 15.
In Florida, a federal judge upheld the state´s ban on adoptions by homosexuals, the Washington Post reported Aug. 31. The decision by U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King was the first federal court ruling on the issue and affirmed the 1977 ban which automatically disqualifies a homosexual who is otherwise qualified to adopt.

Nonexistent proof

Two recent publications examined the evidence on how children fare when they are raised by two homosexuals. One was “No Basis: What the Studies Don´t Tell Us About Same-Sex Parenting,” published by the Marriage Law Project and the Ethics and Public Policy Center in January 2001.

The authors, Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai, experts in the field of quantitative analysis, evaluated 49 studies on homosexual parenting. These studies often have been used to “prove” that a child is not adversely affected when brought up by two homosexuals.

In a nutshell, the book concludes that this “proof” is nonexistent and that “the studies on which such claims are based are all gravely deficient.”

All 49 studies were found to have at least one fatal flaw. Among the deficiencies were unclear hypotheses, missing or inadequate comparison groups, invalid measurements, non-random samples, samples too small to yield meaningful results, and missing or inadequate analysis. For example, 21 of the studies had no heterosexual control-group.

The second publication, which came out last month, is by United Kingdom family expert Patricia Morgan. Her “Children as Trophies?: Examining the Evidence on Same-Sex Parenting” is published by the Christian Institute.

Morgan observes that many of the studies used to support same-sex parenting are “little more than anecdotal.” Moreover, she contends, public bodies and research institutes are guilty of double standards by uncritically accepting material as evidence that would be rejected in other, less politically correct, fields.

She cited a briefing paper given at an adoption conference held by the Family Policy Studies Center in London last July. The paper consisted in a collection of self-congratulatory testimonials by homosexuals purporting to show that they were as successful as others in this area. The paper received a very favorable reception by conferees, in spite of its lack of scientific rigor.

By contrast, the conference gave a hostile and critical reception to another paper that showed how low-conflict marriages ending in divorce meant worse outcomes for children. This reaction was in spite of the paper´s “meticulous attention to a multitude of variables,” says Morgan.

The press often accepts, uncritically, assertions made on the basis of flawed studies, she adds. Morgan gives the example of one such study, hailed by the press with headlines such as “Gay Men Make Better Fathers.” In fact, the study was merely a collection of testimonials by homosexuals who were all volunteer respondents; it had no hint of statistically valid research. Moreover, the children were not evaluated to see if the homosexuals´ assertions were true or not.

Morgan concludes: “Much campaigning for homosexual parental rights involves the use of children by activists to make political statements.” For the kids´ sake, legislatures and courts would do well to recheck the data presented by the homosexual lobby.

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