In 1964 Bob Dylan wrote the amazing classic tune, “The times they are a changing”. Some of the words went like this:
“The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast…
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.”
Fifty years after Dylan’s riveting verses, special interest groups’ claims about both the nature and dynamics of marriage are changing more dramatically than any of the social phenomenon of the 60’s. For years, the argument for deeply altering an ancient institution was framed entirely in terms of individual “rights.” We were told homosexuals possessed an inherent right to have their relationships deemed “marriage,” end of story.
Faithfully following this strategy, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) activists steered clear of discussing children and their wellbeing. But recently, there has been a tactical shift by LGBT advocates, who are now choosing to feature select children front and center. According to Reuters, “Lawyers are recruiting same-sex couples who have children [for gay marriage cases], putting interviews with kids as young as seven in court filings, and organizing media events featuring teenagers.”
A growing number of academics suggest that children who grow up in households headed by homosexual couples fare “no worse than children raised by heterosexual couples”. The University of Southern California’s Timothy Biblarz and New York University’s Judith Stacey concluded, “No research supports the widely held conviction that the gender of parents matters for child well-being.” Stacey even went so far as to suggest that homosexual parenting may be superior: “I suspect, for the reasons of selection effects, the children of gay male co-parents will wind up having probably the best parents.” These conclusions were based on their 2010 review of 81 studies.
However, not everyone agrees. The University of Texas-Austin’s Mark Regnerus endeavored to study the effects of parental same-sex relationships on children’s long-term outcomes. He found that children whose parents were in same-sex relationships were far more likely to be depressed, use drugs, have multiple sexual partners as well as engage in other self-destructive behavior. Unsurprisingly, Regnerus and his study were viciously attacked and dismissed as irrelevant. Some of the criticism was valid from a purely technical standpoint: most of the children Regnerus studied were from broken families, which he compared to intact heterosexual families. The problem with this criticism (and with the 81 studies Stacey and Biblarz reviewed) is that intact homosexual families are a statistical anomaly; studying their effect on children is like studying Prince George, heir to the British throne, to learn about English parenting outcomes.
A study of 500 gay couples over several years done by San Francisco State University found that the majority had sex outside the relationship with the partner’s knowledge. In their older study, The Male Couple, behavioral scientists Dr. David P. McWhirter and Dr. Andrew M. Mattison noted that only 4.5 percent of homosexual males studied were sexually monogamous. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University entitled Number of casual male sexual partners and associated factors among men who have sex with men: Results from the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance system, 76 percent of the homosexual men studied had had at least one “casual” sexual partner in the past year. The families Regnerus studied were likely much closer to the typical experience for children living with a parent in a homosexual relationship than the studies reviewed by Stacey and Biblarz. So if LGBT activists are angry that Regnerus didn’t compare “apples to apples” in his research, it is because so few “apples” actually exist in the gay community. In fact, if we take living with married biological parents as the ideal for children, the homosexual equivalent literally does not exist.
While select homosexual couples may be capable of creating a stable home environment, it remains that these couples are just a tiny fraction of the population engaged in homosexual behavior. Homosexuals themselves, in turn, represent just a tiny portion of the general population. For better or for worse, homosexuals are allowed to adopt children in all fifty American states. The fitness of homosexual parenting is not really what is being debated in the argument over the definition of marriage. Redefining marriage is just the first step. Stacey herself has said, when questioned directly about marriage itself, “I would say that children certainly do not need a mother and a father.… There is no evidence that three parents would not be better than two.” The next frontiers in the marriage battle will be a combination of school curriculum debates and the attempts to normalize an “anything goes” family definition. Parents must be vigilant and engage in the educational process at every level. If families engage in our democracy, balance and sobriety are on their way.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD.