Prop 8 Ruling: Weekend Coverage Analysis

It's now been several days since Federal Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that California's ban on marriage for gay and lesbian couples violates the US constitution, but new opinion, analysis, and information continues to flow. On Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown filed motions calling for marriages for lesbian and gay couples to resume in the state. Opponents of marriage equality want a stay on Judge Walker's ruling. In the New York Times, Journalist Lou Cannon discusses the political impact the ruling could have, focusing on California's Senate and Gubernatorial races. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat writes that many of the common arguments used against marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples don't hold up, but he claims to have another argument against it that does. The Washington Post collected statements from several obeservers, including GLAAD's Jarrett Barrios.  The piece also includes statements from several opponents of the ruling. The San Francisco Chronicle says the trial in Perry vs. Schwarzenegger brought up issues that should have been addressed (but weren't) during the 2008 campaign. Ted Olson appeared on Fox News Sunday, and asked host Chris Wallace how he would feel if his own freedom of the press were put to a public vote. Olson also debunked claims from his fellow conservatives that Judge Walker's decision was "judicial activism." Finally - and disturbingly - some in the media continue to give a voice to anti-gay activists, without challenging them on the falseness of their claims. CBS's Face The Nation played host to Tony Perkins from Family Research Council this weekend.  During a debate between Perkins and lead attorney David Boies, Perkins claimed that "there is not conclusive evidence" that the children of same-sex couples "fare as well as children who grow up with a mom and a dad." In fact, there is conclusive evidence that shows just that. Studies that actually compare the children of same-sex couples to the children of opposite-sex couples, show that the key factor in raising a child successfully is the quality of the parents, not the gender of the parents. According to Media Matters:
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says: "[S]cientific literature demonstrates" that same-sex couple children "fare as well."
  • The American Psychiatric Association says: "Research indicates that optimal development for children is based not on the sexual orientation of the parents."
  • The American Psychological Association says: "There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation."
  • The American Psychoanalytic Association says: "Gay and lesbian individuals and couples are capable of meeting the best interest of the child."
  • The Child Welfare League of America says: "Any attempt to preclude or prevent gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals or couples from parenting, based solely on their sexual orientation, is not in the best interest of children."
Dr. Nanette Gartrell is lead author of the US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, which is the longest ongoing study of same-sex couples parenting children ever undertaken. In a June report, released in the journal Pediatrics, she wrote "According to their mothers’ reports, the 17-year-old daughters and sons of lesbian mothers were rated significantly higher in social, school/academic, and total competence and significantly lower in social problems, rule-breaking, aggressive, and externalizing problem behavior than their age-matched counterparts in Achenbach’s normative sample of American youth. Within the lesbian family sample, no Child Behavior Checklist differences were found among adolescent offspring who were conceived by known, as-yet-unknown, and permanently unknown donors or between offspring whose mothers were still together and offspring whose mothers had separated." Anti-gay activists are quick to recite the all-too-familiar line "All the studies show that children do best when they have a mother and a father." Gartrell says those studies are actually comparing two-parent households to single-parent households, and do not include children raised by gay and lesbian parents. In June, Gartrell said “It’s not that our study contradicts any actual scientific data used by opponents — there are no opposing data. Ours is the first of its kind to show how these adolescents are faring, and they’re doing extremely well.” Another study, conducted by researchers from  University of Virginia and George Washington University, and published in the August issue of the journal Applied Developmental Science, had the same results. Authors called the belief that children do better with opposite-sex parents "deeply entrenched" but said their findings indicated "that two parents of the same gender can be capable parents and that parental sexual orientation is not related to parenting skill or child adjustment. The following is from GLAAD's "Talking About Adoption and Gay Parents" guide Studies show that children raised by lesbian or gay parents are just as happy and well-adjusted as children raised by straight parents. So why do anti-gay opponents often say the opposite? Here’s what you need to know: Generally speaking, the social science research on parenting shows two things.
  1. The research that studies gay parents shows that children of gay parents do just fine. There’s a large and growing body of research that examines outcomes for children raised by gay parents. All of this research consistently concludes that being raised by gay or lesbian parents has no adverse effects on children. Kids of gay parents are just as healthy and well-adjusted as other children. Also, nearly every credible authority on child health and social services (including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Child Welfare League of America) has determined that a parent’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with the ability to be a good parent.
  2. Children do better with two parents than with one parent. Social science research does indicate that, all other things being equal, children do better with two parents than with only one. But anti-gay opponents have twisted this finding to claim that “children do best with a mother and a father,” as opposed to two loving lesbian or gay parents. In truth, the body of peer-reviewed research they use to justify this misleading claim does not even study gay two-parent households— it only compares straight single parents with straight two-parent households.
Boies rightly blasted Perkins' claims as "junk science." But it should not be solely up to supporters of marriage equality to refute this claim in the media. Even a 'neutral' moderator should be armed with the facts, and should step in when a guest says something that is blatantly false, especially when it demeans a segment of their viewership. And a guest who repeatedly makes claims that are known to be false, like Perkins, should not be invited back.