Scientific Support for Same-Sex Parents

An article was published today in the Huffington Post, titled “Romney: 'Some Gays Are Actually Having Children. It's Not Right on Paper. It's Not Right in Fact.'The article reviews a Boston Globe piece from yesterday in which some of Romney’s actions as governor of Massachusetts indicate his antipathy towards gay marriage. In particular, the article criticizes the fact that Romney refused to allow the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics to revise birth certificate forms so that they could indicate the biological mother’s information as well as the “father or second parent”. In place of editing the forms, hospital employees would have to cross out the word “father” and write “second parent” in ink. This is an issue because handwritten changes make birth certificates look like they have been tampered with, which can be an issue in the post-9/11 atmosphere of increased security. The article also pulls a quotation from prepared remarks that Romney made in 2005, which said:

“The children of America have the right to have a father and a mother,’’ Romney said in his prepared remarks. “What should be the ideal for raising a child? Not a village, not ‘parent A’ and ‘parent B,’ but a mother and a father. [...] Scientific studies of children raised by same-sex couples are almost nonexistent,’’ he said. “It may affect the development of children and thereby future society as a whole.’’

Now, it should be acknowledged that Romney is neither an academic nor expert on this topic (and we can also acknowledge that he have may have learned a bit more about the issue in the last 7 years, though his policies don't reflect it), but he must not have done any research because the American Psychological Association passed a resolution in 2004 supporting protections of gay and lesbian parents because:

“The picture that emerges from research [on children of homosexual parents] is one of general engagement in social life with peers, parents, family members, and friends. Fears about children of lesbian or gay parents being sexually abused by adults, ostracized by peers, or isolated in single-sex lesbian or gay communities have received no scientific support. Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.”

Since that time, the APA has also passed another resolution supporting marriage equality. That resolution was covered on this site last August (APA Resolution Supporting Marriage Equality) and another of our authors posted a more detailed discussion of child development with same-sex parents in February 2011 that you can read here. If Romney had looked for it, he would have seen that there has been research on gay and lesbian relationships since as early as 1974 on everything from the quality of homosexual relationships, to the adverse effects of discrimination due to sexual orientation, to the suitability of gays and lesbians for parenthood. So, unlike Governor Romney claimed, this issue has been researched extensively.

Yet more important than the quantity of the work done is the fact that the academic community has found no evidence of adverse outcomes for children of same sex parents, and continues to find new results that support this position. For example, researchers at UCLA recently published findings that foster children do equally well when adopted by gay, lesbian, and heterosexual parents. In this study, the researchers found that children placed with all kinds of families – heterosexual, gay, and lesbian – showed meaningful gains in cognitive development and IQ, and their behavior problems were stabilized. It is particularly interesting, though, that children placed with gay and lesbian families had more risk factors (such as premature birth, prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol, abuse, and neglect, among others) than those placed with heterosexual families at the time of placement, and still performed on par with children placed in heterosexual homes. As noted by co-author Anne Peplau: "The children adopted by gay and lesbian parents had more challenges before they were adopted and yet they end up in the same place, which is impressive."

All of this evidence points to a pretty conclusive finding: there is no scientific support for the claim that children raised by gay and lesbian parents will be less well off than those raised by heterosexual parents.

I know I’ve filled this post with quotations, but this one really sums it all up:

Asked whether children need a mother and father, senior author Jill Waterman, a UCLA adjunct professor of psychology, said, "Children need people who love them, regardless of the gender of their parents."

So the next time politicians try to tell you that there’s no scientific evidence to support protection of gay and lesbian rights, tell them to do their research.