Same-Sex Parenting: Mark Regnerus

Mark Regnerus summarizes and responds briefly to a new study done in Canada on same-sex parenting, a summary and study that will no doubt become a political flashpoint:

There is a new and significant piece of evidence in the social science debate about gay parenting and the unique contributions that mothers and fathers make to their children’s flourishing. A study published last week in the journal Review of the Economics of the Household—analyzing data from a very large, population-based sample—reveals that the children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples. And gender matters, too: girls are more apt to struggle than boys, with daughters of gay parents displaying dramatically low graduation rates.

Unlike US-based studies, this one evaluates a 20 percent sample of the Canadian census, where same-sex couples have had access to all taxation and government benefits since 1997 and to marriage since 2005.

Here is the official abstract from the journal:

Almost all studies of same-sex parenting have concluded there is “no difference” in a range of outcome measures for children who live in a household with same-sex parents compared to children living with married opposite-sex parents. Recently, some work based on the US census has suggested otherwise, but those studies have considerable drawbacks. Here, a 20 % sample of the 2006 Canada census is used to identify self-reported children living with same-sex parents, and to examine the association of household type with children’s high school graduation rates. This large random sample allows for control of parental marital status, distinguishes between gay and lesbian families, and is large enough to evaluate differences in gender between parents and children. Children living with gay and lesbian families in 2006 were about 65 % as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families. Daughters of same-sex parents do considerably worse than sons.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Yes but…

    1) this does not call commited homosexual relationships in question.
    I think that we have strong theological grounds for not opposing them
    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/on-the-sinfulness-of-homsexuality-von-der-sundigkeit-der-homosexualitat-deutschunten/

    2) what are the causes of these differences in the article? There are lots of other factors which must be discarded before one can claim that homosexuality in and of itself is the cause.

    Anyway, I am fed up with this American conservative obsession with homosexuality whereas the healthcare system they sanction is the cause of atrocious inequalities between poor and rich children.

  • Eric Weiss

    I agree with Lothar Lorraine (as well as Mark Regnerus) that there are unanswered questions about the survey sample – too many unanswered questions, IMO, though maybe paying to read the study and not just the abstract would answer some of them. Per Regnerus:

    Every study has its limitations, and this one does too. It is unable to
    track the household history of children. Nor is it able to establish the
    circumstances of the birth of the children whose education is
    evaluated—that is, were they the product of a heterosexual union,
    adopted, or born via surrogate or assisted reproductive technology?
    Finally, the census did not distinguish between married and common law
    gay and lesbian couples. But couples they are.

    When did the children enter same-sex households? Is their situation the result of the parent in a heterosexual marriage “coming out”? What were the social and economic and health backgrounds of the children? To what extent is any absent biological parent involved? To what extent has societal and employment and church rejection of gay relationships negatively impacted the welfare and income and health of same-sex households and hence the children of same-sex households? Etc.

    I won’t be surprised if some conservative groups jump on the abstract and ignore the unanswered and unaddressed questions.

  • Alastair J Roberts

    The appropriateness of same-sex marriage doesn’t immediately follow from granting the legitimacy of homosexual relations at all. Unfortunately, the crucial differences between a debate about homosexuality and a debate about the nature of the institution of marriage doesn’t seem to be recognized by most people today. I have a longer discussion of this in the following two pieces:

    http://alastairadversaria.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/marriage-and-procreation/

    http://alastairadversaria.wordpress.com/larger-projects/questions-and-answers-on-same-sex-marriage/

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    I recognize this but know very well that in an American context, opponents of gay marriage are also opponents of homosexuality.
    In France this is not the case at all.

    2013/10/16 Disqus

  • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

    … Regnerus … has been thoroughly debunked and discredited and rejected by his academic peers. The APA, ASA, AMA, etc. all filed briefs or issued policy statements specifically rebutting Regnerus and affirming the scientific consensus that sexual orientation of parents is irrelevant when it comes to child outcomes. Also, the only reason Witherspoon funded the project was so that Wilcox could design the variables to guarantee negative results and then use it as evidence in litigation. It was a Hail Mary pass at best and it failed. The Regnerus paper has been cited ad nauseum in every pleading and brief since it was published to justify a ruling against SSM and it has failed every time, most importantly in the Supreme Court (the sole exception being a District Court in Hawaii but that opinion will be most likely overturned on appeal in the 9th Circuit).

    The Allen paper is almost comical, especially if you are familiar with Allen’s history in the fight against SSM. He’s on the board of the National Organization for Marriage and he has been tilting as this windmill for the last decade. The proponents of Prop 8 attempted to use him as an expert witness but he was so bad at his deposition that even though he was dropped as an expert, parts of his deposition were introduced by Boies/Olson because it actually supported the case for SSM.

  • scotmcknight

    Etseq — whatever your name is [and not using your name here is a non-starter for conversation, but your comment is mostly reasonable] — please don’t assume cultural war. I posted this because I found the post worthy of conversation. Avoid using condescending terms; for the record Regnerus’ original research was endorsed by a number of prominent social scientists. And it is a sad fact that this issue’s research is often driven by political agendas from both sides…. so reasonable people work through the agendas back to some facts in order to find the truth.

  • Susan_G1

    My very first thought was: could this not be explained perhaps by the difficulties in High School that the children of such couples endure? Are they being bullied, harassed, laughed at? How would one control for this variable (e.g. how does this compare to studies done in countries or even counties where homosexual parents are accepted)?

    There are many variables here, and whenever the conclusion of one study departs significantly from a number of similar studies, the studies need to be re-examined, especially that which comes up with the differing conclusion.

    While I don’t pretend that this is the case here, there are studies, single studies, that have changed the face of things. My favorite example is a study by Barry Marshall (a histopathologist) and Robin Warren (a young Internal Medicine Fellow), in 1981, of Peptic Ulcer disease (which for centuries had been attributed to various things such as repressed sexual desires, stress, alcohol, spicy foods, smoking, chewing gum, increased acid production, etc.) They showed that ulcers were caused by Helicobacter pylori. Though there were some free thinkers in Medicine who were treating ulcers with antibiotics (because it worked) and one previous paper had been published linking bacteria to ulcers (ignored), the two endured the ridicule of the medical community until new study after study confirmed their findings. This changed the face of Gastroenterology. In 2005, Marshall and Warren won the Nobel Prize in Medicine, and ulcers are now treated with antibiotics. Ulcers which used to lead to stomach cancer.

    Again, valid factors to consider are who funded the study, how did the authors set up the study, how was the introduction of bias prevented, what was the control group, etc., etc. If there are known limitations, they need to be considered when looking at the outcome.

    But the knee-jerk response (at least verbal) shouldn’t be to cast aspersions on the study or the authors.

  • Steven W. De Bernardi

    This is such a politicized issue that I don’t trust research results no matter where they come from. Too many hidden agendas for me. My ministry experience over the past 35 years has been largely in urban American communities of poverty (NM, CA, PA, MN). High school graduation rates were low. As far as I know same sex marriages were not a factor. To many variables need to be factored in before any real light can be shown with regards to same sex unions, childrearing and the affect on children. In the meantime…share the love of Jesus with all is my best practice

  • Andrew Dowling

    The children of U.S. African-American parents are less likely to graduate high school too . . .should we prevent them from procreating?

    There are so many other variables, not to mention questions about the sample, that could affect results like this as to make the attempt at causation worthless.

  • Alastair J Roberts

    But surely if same-sex marriage doesn’t immediately follow from the legitimacy of homosexual relations then, irrespective of whether this is a general assumption in an American context, the argument of the linked piece doesn’t follow. It makes a huge leap for which no argumentation is provided.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    I agree, I was just arguing for the legitimacy of lifelong commited homosexual relationships.
    If you don’t want to call this a marriage, I won’t have much of a quible with so long as you don’t call these people sinful.

    Friendly greetings.

    2013/10/17 Disqus

  • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

    My name is Jimmy Green – if you had taken the time to link to my profile on disqus it was right there. I am an attorney – hence the latinism etseq. Sorry I did not know you had a rule about names – most patheos bloggers dont.

    And no, there were not significant social scientists on both sides. There was a letter coordinated by the baylor religion department signed by 12 religious scholars that are all connected to the movement opposing same sex marriage. On the other side, was a letter signed by over 250 scholars in the fields of psychology, sociology, medicine, etc. Not to mention all the professional associations. You can choose to believe that there is a huge conspiracy by the entire social science community to fudge the numbers because gays control the these fields. Unless you have evidence to prove that, I don’t think you will convince anyone except for the most extreme opponents of same sex marriage. I would also add that it sounds uncomfortably like conspiracy theories involving jews controlling hollywood or the banks,

    It’s your site so you can set the rules. And as far as I am concerned, I could care less if your religion thinks I am evil, perverted, immoral, a child molester. I have heard it all my life for christians. What I object to is religion attempting to subvert science in its quest to deny me legal rights.

    Ultimately, in a perfect world, these studies would be irrelevant – even if it were proven that child outcomes are worse, it shouldn’t matter. We don’t use child development metrics to decide rights for other groups. For example, african american and interracial marriages have lower outcomes than white marriages. We don’t deny them the right to marry and we don’t prevent them from raising children. But social conservatives have no problem making those arguments against gays. Its a cynical and dishonest argument that should be rebuked by christians of integrity. The real proof that the religious right is not really interested in the well being of children but purely to prevent gays from marriage is that they don’t argue that gays should be prevented from adopting or raising children. If they really believed that studies prove we actually harm our kids, they would trying to stop adoption, not marriage.

    I know this is an exercise in futility and that I will be written off as a liberal gay who is obviously biased. But I am stating facts – you can believe them or not. But I won’t play this false equivalency game where both sides are wrong. Its victim blaming at its worst, It has taken decades of hard work and activism to finally achieve a small bit of dignity in an incredibly homophobic society. This wasn’t some conspiracy. Now that evangelicals are on the losing side, they don’t get to pretend they are now the victims.

    Thank you for posting my comment. You are much more reasonable than some of your fellow bloggers who just delete anything they disagree with.

  • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

    Thank you – it is a very cynical and I would say unchristian political tactic that has nothing to do with children.

  • scotmcknight

    Thanks Jimmy,
    As I read Regnerus (and the abstract), I didn’t see any sanctions being proposed. It was a finding that children of same-sex parents didn’t graduate to the degree others did. I don’t see any follow up that, therefore, they shouldn’t be parents.
    You are possibly right in contending that some/many will want sanctions, or at least think about it … but I don’t see that in the article.
    I personally want no part of a faith that distorts evidence of any sort in order to further a faith. So I would agree with you about facts.
    It pains me to read the stuff you bring in here, stuff that is not a part of this article nor a part of what I have said — ever — on this blog, and I understand where you are coming from and despise unjust treatment of anyone.
    I for one don’t believe there is a conspiracy by the social scientists, and when I said not all agreed I was thinking of Christian Smith’s support of Regnerus in the early phases of the problems Regnerus faced at UTexas. I consider Smith a very fine sociologist.
    But let’s go back to the summary by Regnerus (I didn’t read the article itself): is any implication drawn from the conclusions of the article he is summarizing?

  • tanyam

    Etseq has me wondering about this, but even before his comments, I wondered what we actually have here.
    As noted, there have been countless studies on the well-being of children in same-sex households, and virtually all have shown no adverse effects. So many conservatives have wanted the research to show otherwise, to find the “smoking gun” which would slow the extension of full rights for members of the lgbt community. I wonder what I’m then supposed to make of this one study, which appears to demonstrate one negative outcome, and an odd one at that. If every study you’d made of the children in blonde families demonstrated that they thrived in the same manner as children in brunette households, except that they were 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school — you’d be wondering what that meant too, right?
    I’m going to wait for some real interpretation of this result.

  • tanyam

    And my skepticism rises. This comes from the Witherspoon Institute site.
    The Witherspoon Institute is a conservative think tank in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded on religious principles, the group is opposed to same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, and abortion.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witherspoon_Institute

  • Zeke

    Are you kidding? This is a very christian political tactic.

  • NigelD

    I wonder whether the sample of heterosexual couples has been adjusted to include a similar proportion of adopted children. Obviously the gay couples will have a higher propensity to adopt.
    I am no a sociologist but I would presume that the academic outcomes for adoped children would be considerably worse than for biological family units.

  • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

    Scott,

    I appreciate your friendly reply to what I now realize was probably an overly belligerent jeremiad. Defending the gay community against the misuse of Regnerus’ study has become a full time job for many activists and responding to so many harmful accusations constantly conditions one to expect the worse in people. I apologize for not giving you the benefit of the doubt.

    As for Allen, he is on the board of the NOM and has a history going back over 10 years of opposing same sex marriage in Canada and in the US. He tried to serve as expert witness in the prop 8 trial but his deposition went so poorly that the prop 8 lawyers dropped him for fear he would actually help the other side on the stand. Here is a thorough critique of his study

    http://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/the-douglas-allen-study-of-canadian-children-of-gaylesbian-parents-is-worthless/

    Just a trivial aside but Allen actually uses an episode from Modern Family in a footnote is his paper as evidence for the claim that modelling both gender roles are essential for child development. That is, a child has to have a not only a mother and a father but those parents are assumed to model masculine and feminine gender roles. Since gay couples are unisex, the have deficient gender modelling for their kids. As proof of this missing gender role model, Allen cited the MF episode where Lily the daughter of two men needed a dress so the men had to ask character Sophia Vargas to help their daughter. This was the infamous footnote 40. I am not joking – there was no study cited just a tv show. And he wasnt trying to be funny – he was serious.

    As for Regnerus, you do realize that he personally filed a brief with the Supreme Court based on his own study advocating that the court rule against gay marriage because he claimed that gay parents actually cause harm to their own kids, including a substantial increase in child molestation. Now, he never claims we molest our kids ourselves – he is too clever for that. The question he asked was have you ever been molested by your parent or someone else. So, these supposed molestations could have been a stranger, etc. But most people won’t parse the question that closely and will infer that gays are molesting their kids.

    So, to answer your question directly, both papers make causal claims for gay parents and bad outcomes. The papers make no recommendation of what should be done about it. But both authors have directly intervened in litigation and made the argument that their data supported restricting marriage to heterosexuals for the protection of children. Not sure how you can get much more biased than that.

    Regnerus has recently stepped up his anti-gay advocacy and has made several inflammatory statements on his blog and in Witherspoon’s Public Discourse. http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2013/06/10325/
    He has claimed that gays are responsible for the increase in heterosexual anal sex because they had “normalized the practice” and thus shattered the taboo for straights. I don’t know how to even parse an argument like that. He has also claimed that gay marriage would literally harm straight marriage because since gays are so promiscuous, once they can get married straight men will copy them and start cheating on their wives. He’s also claimed that gays wont be able to stay married because men are naturally promiscuous and women are the restraining force that keeps men in line. So two men will have no woman to restrain them. You might think the corollary to this would be lesbians would have great marriages. But no, you see women don’t like sex as much as men, so you put two women together and they will get bored and eventually break up because they stopped having sex. So, gays and lesbian marriages will be so unstable that they will have extremely high divorce rates. This in turn will destabilize straight marriages because straights will envy the flexibility gays have and won’t stick it out.

    Also, did you realize that the increase in porn consumption leads to support for gay marriage? Well Mark has “proven
    this http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/12/7048/
    Now in my humble opinion this seems to be one of those correlation not equal causation but I’m not an expert.

    Finally, even though the Supreme Court wasnt convinced by Regnerus paper, that hasn’t stopped NOM and some more radical anti-gay groups to use it internationally. The most frightening case is Russia where Brian Brown from NOM testified in the Russian Duma for legislation that restricted international adoptions and used the Regnerus paper as evidence that gays are dangerous to kids,. Noiw there is a new bill pending that will literally remove kids from gay parents and put them in foster care. The Bill references Regnerus statistics directly in the text, specifically the molestation and gays teach their kids to become gay. http://t.co/7URM3lQPDE

    So, I cannot share your presumption of good faith in the works of these two academics.

    Thank you letting me vent. I am not accusing you or christians in general or even evangelicals as a whole of guilt in any of this. But I am very concerned about the accuracy and misuse of this type of work for the lives of real people and their children. Its easy to view this stuff as very abstract but in this area it can have devastating consequences. I am not saying we should censor studies or not do the research but I think any one paper has to be viewed in the context of their entire field and prior research.

    —jimmy

  • Tom F.

    The original article for anyone interested:

    http://www.terpconnect.umd.edu/~pnc/allen-ss-grad.pdf

    Well, very interesting. The effect is rather large, wouldn’t you say, though?

    For example, the national average of graduation in America is around 75%.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/high-school-graduation-rate-hits-40-year-peak-in-the-us/276604/

    That same article puts graduation for Native Americans at 51%. African American students graduate at 62%. White Students graduate at an 80% rate. So, Native Americans are 63% as likely to graduate, and African American students are 77.5% as likely to graduate.

    Or by state:

    http://www.ed.gov/blog/2013/01/high-school-graduation-rate-at-highest-level-in-three-decades/

    Living in Mississippi, high schoolers graduate at a rate of 63.9%, while those in North Dakota graduate at a rate of 88.4%. Relatively speaking, that makes you 72% as likely to graduate living in Mississippi as North Dakota.

    So, apparently, being raised by gay parents puts you at such a huge disadvantage that the effect on your graduation rates are the same as if you come from a minority that has faced massive discrimination and cultural prejudice. The effect on your graduation chance is *better* if you live in the most dysfunctional school system in the US. (Or, put a different way, this studies implies that you’d rather be in Mississippi than have gay parents when it comes to high school graduation.)

    Why? Why would simply having gay parents make such a huge difference? This is a massive difference, and even the “convenience samples” of all the other studies conducted in America would not be able to hide this effect. Whatever your thoughts on homosexuality, gay marriage, and the like, I would not get behind this study. The effect is too large to hold up; something is not right.

    Also, see: http://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/the-douglas-allen-study-of-canadian-children-of-gaylesbian-parents-is-worthless/

  • scotmcknight

    Very good stuff here, Jimmy.
    First, I was not aware of some of this, and it provides a helpful and reasonable context for discerning intent for some scholarship. I would contend that an academic article will stand or fall on its own on the basis of evidence and merit and not on the basis of the author’s use of its conclusions in the public sector. Still, your evidence shows these scholars are looking for confirmation of their theories.
    Second, my judgment is that this works from both sides of this issue. I’m not a specialist in this field so I don’t follow the nuances of the studies but that is my reading. (And, as an academic, I think this applies across the spectrum in many fields, not least theological and biblical studies.)
    Now a query, if not a pushback: I appreciate your apology up top of this comment. What happens if we always assume the best in others? if when we enter a debate like this that we stick as much as possible to the evidence? In other words, when you come onto this blog slugging away and saying you don’t care what others think etc etc I wonder if this does anything but confirm stereotypes that gay folks are in favor of all legal moves in their favor and against all those who aren’t? Put differently, I think you really do care and are exasperated by the opposition of conservatives to you … well, they feel the same, you know… and that, so I would argue, is what makes a free America free. Activism is born into our fabric because of voting and representation. We can’t always win; but we can stick to what we believe. I want both sides of this issue to be able to express their free beliefs.
    Finally, here’s something I’d like you to know about me and this blog: I am anabaptist in orientation when it comes to church-state issues. Which means, I believe Christians are to be about what happens in the church and not about coercing the majority or the state, through agitation or legislation, into their views. So, what I believe about this issue is what the church ought to be about and not what the state ought to be about. While I have a right to vote my conscience, and I don’t change my conscience when it comes to voting vs. what happens in a church, I grieve over how evangelicals have converted the public forum into a culture war. Hope that helps.

  • Adam

    The bullying and harassment scenario isn’t really an issue for this study. It’s done in Canada which is about much more accepting than the US. So, even if bullying is an aspect to a part of the sample it’s way less than what you would see in US and therefore doesn’t affect the entire sample group. And with the sample group being 20% of the population, it’s large enough to dilute the impact of the few cases of bullying. Additionally, the gay/lesbian people groups were self-identified, which is another indicator that bullying isn’t a factor.

  • Adam

    Who said anything about preventing anyone from procreating?

  • Rory Tyer

    Jimmy – the following is an honest question, although from others it could be something inflammatory, but you seem well-read on this and personally invested to a certain extent so I would be very interested in your opinion. Re: your brief aside about about gay marriage “harming” straight marriage. Setting aside for a moment those on the conservative side who may think something like that as an alarmist or knee-jerk reaction, I have read statements by thought-leaders associated with LGBTQ rights, typically speaking from positions within academia (which I could look up if you would like but I do not have them in front of me), who talk about marriage as ultimately a harmful construct that they are hopeful will eventually lose its favored place in society (favored meaning, I think, benefitting uniquely from laws) as one consequence of the principles at work in the advancement of gay rights causes.

    To me, the displacement of the very idea of certain human relationships being given a certain favored legal status for any reason seems a logical conclusion of some of the forces at work here. In your opinion, do sentiments like this represent the “fringe” of the movement, or are they considered the leading and eventual edge of it? As a Christian I am very familiar with a strong desire to not be defined in others’ eyes by those I don’t take to be good representatives of my system of beliefs, so I don’t want to make that mistake here, but I also know that it is often in the academy that ideas first take root and then are championed through advocacy. So I am curious to know what you think.

  • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

    Rory,

    Thanks so much for the opportunity to engage in respectful dialogue! Far from being inflammatory, I think your question actually gets to the heart of the conflict and comes from a genuine fear from many people that marriage is under attack, especially from certain radical academics. And on that point I would agree with you – there are a small number of academic theorists that levied harsh critiques of marriage, ranging from radical feminists, unreconstructed marxists, right and left libertarians, anarchists, and the remnants of what is left of Queer Theory.

    Firstly, I know of very few gays & lesbians who hold a view that there should be no favored legal status for certain human relationships, specifically marriage. In fact, the fight for marriage equality comes from the the polar opposite of any such sentiments. There is plenty of polling data that shows that gays and lesbians view marriage as much if not more favorably than straight people. Specifically, gays and lesbians who are parents believe very strongly that marriage is the best environment to raise their children and they want that benefit for their kids. These views are separate and apart from the purely political value of the struggle. If anything, these values are more communitarian or even conservative than radical.

    In fact, there was indeed early tension in the 80s and 90s among gay activists about the whether marriage should be a priority for the movement. For a small minority activists that could be described as radical, marriage was a “heteronormative” anachronism that oppressed women and reinforced sexist gender roles so they were loudly opposed and also extremely critical of any gay person wanting to get married basically accusing them of assimilation for failing to share their politics. For perhaps the majority of activists, same sex marriage, though important, was a fight that we would lose and lose badly, as the public opinion at the time was so negative. Also, the gay community in the 90s was facing a significant backlash from social conservatives who were attempting to roll back what little progress we had made in the 80s. There were a handful of states and cities that had passed anti-discrimination laws in the 80s that were in danger of being repealed. Finally, gay men were still dying at record numbers from AIDS, which was still effectively untreatable and a death sentence until drugs were developed in the mid 90s. So, many activists argued that priority should be given to those issues that were more pressing and politically feasible.

    Finally, there was a smaller group of activists who thought marriage should be the priority for the movement for various reasons. First, due to the Hawaii court decision in the 90s legalizing same sex marriage, there was a massive backlash from conservatives that involved passing state laws and constitutional amendments that would make it virtually impossible for states in the near future to enact marriage through the legislature or the courts. So, we had no choice but to fight back against these efforts – the conservatives had prioritized it for us. Second, they did see marriage as a form of social capital that was important for human flourishing, particularly in strengthening romantic relationships and child development. Finally, they saw the potential for the fight for marriage in and of itself to reduce social animus against gays and reduce social as well as legal homophobia,

    That was the state of the debate in the 80s and 90s among national activists groups like the HRC, Lamda Legal, NGLTF, etc. By the 2000s, however, the pro-marriage activists had won the internal debate and because public opinion was shifting to radically, what was viewed as virtually impossible a few years earlier now seemed realistic. Also, while the national activist groups were prioritizing other issues, there was a huge pushback from the gay community, grassroots and statewide activists who wanted marriage rights and resented the neutrality of the national groups. So, you had a few states pass civil union laws and then marriage laws throughout the late 90s and 2000s. You also had individual couples files state and federal litigation that was proved to be very successful but at the time was harshly criticized by the national legal teams who wanted to take a more cautious approach.

    Finally, I can understand why many conservatives view the gay community and gay activists with skepticism or fear a much more radical political agenda. If I only was exposed to the what most neutral observers consider extremely biased and distorted reporting from religious and conservative news sources and activist groups, I would logically conclude that there was indeed a radical “gay agenda” that was a threat to my religion and family. But you have to understand that anyone can quote mine statements out of context or quote fringe figures like you mentioned. And I agree that progressives do the same thing to a certain extent – its just human nature and one of the uglier sides of politics.

    What I find ironic yet frustrating is that alot of the radicals that are held up as leaders or representatives of the gay community are viewed with equal if not more hostility by most gays, activists or non-activists. Specifically, during the 1980s and 1990 when postmodernism was the latest fad in the humanities, gay and lesbian studies, which itself had only existed for less than a decade and was primarily historical, was eclipsed and in some situations displaced by a literary theory, in particular Queer Theory. This was happening across the academy and the humanities departments in many universities gave rise to a very abstract, highly theoretical approach to study and research. Critical theory became dogma and the publish or perish tenure system put pressure on faculty to publish even more extreme theoretical arguments. It was a vicious cycle. So, Queer Theory, being the most radical of them all, had very little to do gays and lesbians per se – in fact, the main tenant of QT is that there is no such thing as essential categories and all norms are inherently oppressive – so it was founded on a utopian goal to deconstruct and resist all existing social categories and hierarchies. This proved so popular with graduate students and tenure track professors, not because of any political goals, but because it allowed them to publish new and interesting papers. It was so abstract and theoretical at that point that many on the left, and certainly in the gay rights movement, basically viewed the academic theorists as irrelevant, if not antagonistic to the lives of real people and the constraints of the existing political systems.

    Also, alot of these academics had become upper middle class due to rising faculty salaries and living in an ivory tower that had little resemblance to most gay people. So, the rift that started in the early 90s between the academics and the larger gay community was a permanent state of mutual contempt by the 2000s. The academics basically gave up on politics, which they viewed as corrupt and useless, in favor of using theory somehow to deconstruct the corrupt world and usher in a new utopia. This involved criticizing the existing gay community and activists for focusing on political change rather than transgressive resistance, often in a very harsh and condescending tone. The activists thought this was naive at best and destructive at worst. The gay community at large, to the extent they had ever heard of queer theory or understood it, thought it was elitist nonsense. They didn’t want a revolution – they wanted equality and assimilation into the existing society.

    So, long story short – quotes from these obscure academics about wanting to destroy the family, radically reconstruct society as some anarchist utopia, and other nonsense infuriate most gay people as it does conservatives. And those academics sometimes go out of their way to be provocative in order to generate media attention and if it also puts gay activists on the defensive, then even better. So, I doubt either side has anything to fear from these marginal figures. They have no mass constituency outside the academy and honestly there has been a significant backlash against postmodernist theory within academia so most of these tenured radicals are just acting out like children because no one is paying attention to them!

    Hope that helps….

  • Rory Tyer

    Jimmy – it does. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and thoroughness.

  • Derekmc

    Thank You Jimmy for the interesting responce. Several of my colleagues (i’m a Methodist pastor) were shaped by QT theory while in seminary back in the 90′s. Interesting to read about another veiwpoint.

  • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

    I agree with everything you said. It was bad form of me to presume the worst and I should have known better. This Regnerus paper was like a punch in the gut to most gays and lesbians and to me personally, it made me realize I was naive about how peer review and journal publishing generate accurate knowledge production. When I was an undergrad in the 90s, the sokal affair cemented me in the science camp and I paid little attention to the sociology of science and how social forces can shape particularly the social sciences. I still think science has the virtue of self-correction and that seems have worked in this case. But the danger of bad studies really isn’t so much to science but to society and its political institutions, who rarely have the skills or time to critically review media reports of individual studies.

    I have always admired the anabaptists tradition for its dedication to pluralism in a multi-faith society without sacrificing their own values. I also hope that evangelicals and the RCC will eventually reconcile themselves to the fact that the modern secular state does not have to be viewed as the enemy and that it offers the best solution to resolving the tensions inherent in pluralism.

    Although I am not religious, I do respect the ideal of loving your enemies and turning the other cheek. Social justice movements are at their best when they emulate Ghandi and King, even when it seems pointless and counter-productive.

    Thanks for patiently humoring my public catharsis…

    —jimmy

  • Robert

    Doesn’t necessarily say there’s anything bad about same sex parenting per se. How have the parents been affected by homophobia? Any problems are liable to get passed down the family. Then the relationship will often involve a step-parent. As astepfather twice over, I know exactly how difficult that is. You have to treat the kids exactly as though they were your biological kids. That wasn’t a problem for me – fortunately not for the girls either – but it could have been very different if they’d felt I wasn’t their ‘real’ father. Then do the kids get discrimination at school because they have same-sex parents? There are so many factors which could easily come into something like this.

  • Westcoastlife

    Canada’s graduation rate is: 89.5% (20 -24 year age range) in 2009/10. This study was done by census Canada, so that is a pretty large difference. Not sure if they are taking the 18-19 year old high school rate: that is 76.9% or the other one, but here are the Canadian stats:

    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/81-004-x/2010004/article/11360-eng.htm#a

  • Westcoastlife

    Excellent observation, since Census Canada doesn’t track adopted children specifically.

  • Westcoastlife

    That is interesting, as Canada legalized gay marriage for a while, my province even longer (ten years), and only 20 percent of gay/lesbian couples are married. I would say there isn’t much of a desire to get married, I work with quite a few gay couples and the only couple I know that are legally married also have adopted, not sure if that was the main reason to marry, but just an observation.

  • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

    1. So there is no homophobia, social stigma, or bullying in Canada? Tell that to this man,,,http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/14/canada-gay-man-paralyzed-_n_4097004.html I cannot find any data on kids of gay parents in Canada but gay and trans kids still suffer serious stigma http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/bullying-and-sexual-orientation-by-the-numbers-1.909444

    2. I’m puzzled by your logic that because 100% of a sample wasnt bullied, it cannot effect the entire sample group. You do realize that even if it only affected, say half of the group, that would probably be sufficient to explain the difference. And 20% is the sample group – the 20% is the sub-group of the total Canadian census that were given the long form version where this type of data is collected. As far as I know, its any variance from the total census is not statistically significant.

    3. Your logic about self-identifying as gay is exactly the opposite – bullying is the worst for gender non-conforming kids who can’t really hide being gay. And that group is about 75% more likely to self-identify as gay as an adult. Also, self-identified gay kids are much likely to be bullied. If coming out ended bullying or discrimination, there would be no one left in the closet. I wish it were as easy as you think it is to be gay in Canada or anywhere else.

  • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

    Thanks for the reply. Ah, Queer Theory – you either love it, hate it or give up trying to figure it out. I would hope the theological versions would be less cynical than what I was exposed to. Maybe that was part of the problem with secular versions – there was no telos to provide hope. I always wanted answers and like most postmodernist theories, it was more about questioning, deconstructing, interrogating, etc. I guess it comes down to personality types – some people are more artistic and they seemed to love literary theory because it allowed multiple interpretations of texts. Where some see chaos, others see beauty.

  • https://www.facebook.com/etseq97 etseq

    Not sure where exactly you are getting the 20% number from. I actually think its probably alot lower than that but its really impossible to tell because any population sample involving gays only captures people who are out and comfortable disclosing their sexuality. Its a difficult population to capture, as are many stigmatized groups.
    The absolute numbers are still small but the growth rate from is pretty high. That may reflect pent up demand that will taper off but no one really knows. However, Canadian marriage rates in general are about half that of the US and declining rapidly as cohabitation is becoming more the norm. There are lots of reasons for that – it reflects a general trend in western post-industrial countries, stronger common law marriage laws that equalize almost all the benefits between cohabiting and married couples, etc. So, I’m not sure how accurate to say that gays aren’t interested in marriage as a categorical statement as opposed to similarly situated straight Canadians. But I also wouldn’t expect the marriage rates to be the same – the pressures from family, society and religion that encourage marriage for straights either don’t apply or discourage marriage for gays. I’m sure that will change over time with assimilation, just as it does with any minority group. Also, I would imagine having children, which will always be lower for gays, is more predictive of marriage rates, especially among gays. I would imagine that rate will change with assimilation as well but that sort of change will take generations.

  • btotherock

    that was my thought exactly. thank you.


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