We are now just a few months away from perhaps the most significant and controversial Supreme Court decisions in generations: whether or not there exists a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples.
Thirty-seven states now have same-sex marriage (SSM). According to a recent poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 60 percent of likely voters support gay marriage. A February CNN poll showed a staggering 63 percent of all Americans support a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, including 42 percent of Republicans. It would seem to most that the die is cast.
But not to all. For years, the anti-gay right has been on a war footing with its dire predictions of apocalypse and open rebellion if SSM becomes the law of the land. Its latest weapon against its spread, sadly, is a handful of adult children of gay parents, what they like to call COGs, who apparently don’t like the job their gay parent did of raising them and therefore wish to strike out against all gay people.
Out of the hundreds of thousands of kids who have one or both gay parents, four of them (count ‘em, four) recently filed briefs in the 5th Circuit federal court urging it to rule against a constitutional right to SSM. Never mind the fact that most gay couples don’t even have children, or that being a bad parent has never disqualified heterosexuals from the right to marry or procreate. In spite of the fact that one in three children in this country live without their father, or that millions of kids live in poverty with their single moms, it’s those gay parents that really make these four angry.
One of them was Robert Oscar Lopez, an English and classics professor from Los Angeles. A gay man, he has no complaints about his own lesbian mother but laments his upbringing without a father, no different really than the millions of kids with straight parents who share his plight. In a recent article at the Daily Caller opposing gay marriage, Lopez dutifully trotted out the now thoroughly discredited “studies” that purport to prove that COGs do not do as well as kids raised by married straight couples, all to make the case that all gay couples should be denied marriage equality.
The study most cited by Lopez and his allies is the one published in 2012 by Professor Mark Regnerus from the University of Texas that supposedly proves that children of gay parents don’t fare as well on a variety of behavioral and psychological criteria such as academic success, drug and alcohol abuse, self esteem, and parental molestation (among others) as children raised by traditional heterosexual parents. Yet no sooner had it been published than it came under withering attack for its sloppy methodology and the overt bias of its author, so much so that it was soon repudiated by both the journal that published it and the author’s own university.
The heart of the study, known as the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), was a question that was asked of over 3,000 young adults about their recollections of their parents’ relationship history. Of those, 248 reported that one of their parents had engaged in a same-sex relationship sometime during their lifetime. But as his critics pointed out, and Regnerus himself acknowledged, most of those who described a parent with a same-sex encounter had experienced divorces by their opposite-sex parents as children, and very few of them had lived with a same-sex couple while growing up, completely undercutting any comparison with stable traditional parents.
In fact, as the author also admitted, only two of the respondents had actually lived with their lesbian parent and her same-sex partner for most of their childhood, obliterating any legitimate comparison with straight couples. To draw general conclusions about gay parents from this study is junk science, and the majority of researchers in this field utterly reject this study’s conclusions.
Even the rabidly anti-gay Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council acknowledged the danger of drawing conclusions from the data: “Just because there are statistical correlations between having a homosexual parent and experiencing negative outcomes does not automatically prove that having a homosexual parent is what caused the negative outcomes.” And yet drawing negative conclusions from this study, even one as flawed as this, is exactly what Sprigg and others have done.
These four COGs have so internalized the homophobia of their anti-gay colleagues that they are willing to deny the hundreds of thousands of other kids with gay parents the same legal protections and privileges that straight parents automatically enjoy. That a gay man like Mr. Lopez would make this his very own cause celebre is a very sad thing indeed.
David Lampo is author of A Fundamental Freedom: Why Republicans, Conservatives, and Libertarians Should Support Gay Rights and serves on the national board of Log Cabin Republicans.