The belief that homosexuality is abnormal and unhealthy is prevalent in the Christian community, and is the foundation of a great deal of Christian bigotry. For the time being, however, bigotry is not enough justification to subvert the constitution. Throughout the ongoing debate over the definition of marriage, Right Wing bigots have cited the damage caused by homosexuality and homosexual relationships in an attempt to justify legal discrimination against gays.
The scientific evidence on the matter is out there. (It has been for many years.) Had we simply trusted evidence years ago, there would be no more debate — at least no debate worth taking seriously. Sadly, very few people are aware of the evidence, and wouldn’t know where to find it if they wanted to look. This article presents some of the most compelling conclusions from recent scientific studies.
Children of Gays.
One of the most common accusations is that children of gay parents are more likely to suffer developmentally, more likely to become gay, or more likely to have emotional problems.
- In 1996, Mike Allen and Nancy Burrell published a peer reviewed study on the subject. They found the following: “The results demonstrate no differences on any measures between the heterosexual and homosexual parents regarding parenting styles, emotional adjustment, and sexual orientation of the child(ren). In other words, the data fail to support the continuation of a bias against homosexual parents by any court.” (The full text is available through PsychNet if you’d like to read it. There is a modest fee for membership.)
- In 2006, Gregory Herek replicated the conclusions: “The data indicate that same-sex and heterosexual relationships do not differ in their essential psychosocial dimensions; that a parent’s sexual orientation is unrelated to her or his ability to provide a healthy and nurturing family environment.” (Also available through PsychNet.)
- In 2001, Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz discovered something rather startling. While children of gay and lesbian parents don’t “become gay” any more than children of heterosexuals, daughters of lesbian couples do display one very different behavior: They play better with male children and have more gender-neutral views of society. (Isn’t that what we want? For women to choose their own destinies sans gender impositions?) “53 percent (16 out of 30) of the daughters of lesbians aspired to careers such as doctor, lawyer, engineer, and astronaut, compared with only 21 percent (6 of 28) of the daughters of heterosexual mothers.”
- Overall, Stacey and Biblarz found that “Lesbigay parents and their children in these studies display no differences from heterosexual counterparts in psychological well-being or cognitive functioning.”
Adult Gay Relationships
Failing to prove that children are harmed by having gay parents, many Christian bigots will go on to claim that homosexual relationships are “inherently” less stable, less emotionally fulfilling, and psychologically damaging. This claim is also contradicted by the evidence.
- A 2003 empirical study by Gottman, et al, of the interaction between heterosexual and homosexual couples found that “same-sex couples actually demonstrated more positive (and fewer negative) behaviors during their interactions than did married couples.”
- The 2003 study had a small sample, so Roissman, et al, conducted a more thorough and broader series of studies in 2008. They found “individuals in committed same-sex relationships were generally not distinguishable from their committed heterosexual counterparts, with one exception–lesbians were especially effective at working together harmoniously in laboratory observations.”
- Empirical evidence for actual levels of infidelity in either heterosexuals or homosexuals is very difficult to come by. Varying cultural and ethnic definitions, self-reporting bias, and social concerns have rendered the body of evidence difficult to interpret. At best. There is no data available for divorce rates among gays — since gay marriage has never been allowed in the U.S. However, it’s important to note that there are no reliable studies linking homosexuality with higher levels of relationship infidelity.
- Recent publications have questioned the reality of monogamy as a historical tradition. In The Myth of Monogamy, Barash and Lipton present a compelling (and cross-disciplinary) argument that heterosexual couples have never been paragons of fidelity to begin with. In other words, it appears that lots of people — both gay and straight — cheat. The Roissman study backed up this conclusion with the observation that both gay and straight couples’ relationship satisfaction was based more on non-sexual factors like parental support and modeling. Not sexual orientation.
In short, the arguments from the Christian bigots fail. They do not reflect reality, but rather a religious ideological agenda. There is no evidence whatsoever that gays are inherently less healthy, happy, or faithful than straights. There is no evidence that children of gays suffer any harm. In fact, there’s reasonable evidence that children of lesbians are more socially accepting and well adjusted — especially girls.
Allen, M., & Burrell, N. (1996). Comparing the impact of homosexual and heterosexual parents on children: Meta-analysis of existing research. Journal of Homosexuality, 32, 19–35.
Herek, Gregory M. (2006). Legal recognition of same-sex relationships in the United States: A social science perspective. American Psychologist, Vol 61(6), 607-621.
Stacey, J., & Biblarz, T. J. (2001). (How) does the sexual orientation of parents matter?American Sociological Review,66, 159–183.
Gottman, J. M., Levenson, R. W., Swanson, C., Swanson, K., Tyson, R., & Yoshimoto, D. (2003). Observing gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples’ relationships: Mathematical modeling of conflict interaction. Journal of Homosexuality, 45, 65–91.
Roisman G, Clausell E, Holland A, Fortuna K, Elieff C. Adult romantic relationships as contexts of human development: A multimethod comparison of same-sex couples with opposite-sex dating, engaged, and married dyads. Developmental Psychology [serial online]. January 2008;44(1):91-101.
Barash, David P and Lipton, Judith Eve. The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People. W. H. Freeman. (2001)