FLINT logo
Families Link International
Tel:0781 886 1724

home | issues | policies | family groups | courts | court reporters | research | law | contacts | donations | Useful Quotes |

Issues - child abuse - Gay parenting attacked

Same-sex marriage opponents attack gay parenting

Published: July 8, 2004
By James Sinks
The Bulletin

Lawyers and activists who want to ban same-sex marriage in Oregon say their campaign is focusing on just that singular goal: Editing the state constitution to explicitly say that marriage can occur only between one man and one woman.
"We have been very, very careful to ensure that it is only about defining marriage and clarifying the intent in the constitution," said Tim Nashif, political director for the Defense of Marriage Coalition.
A measure that appears headed for the November ballot would nullify thousands of marriage licenses handed out this spring by Multnomah County to same-sex couples. A judge halted the practice, saying the county was violating state law.
"All we're doing right now is trying to preserve the status quo," Nashif said.
Yet as same-sex marriage opponents gear up for what is expected to be a bruising campaign, they're talking about more than the ability of gay couples to marry.
They've expanded the debate to include children — and whether it's appropriate for same-sex couples to be parents.
Those remarks are sending a shudder through gay and lesbian parents and gay-rights activists.
The source of the angst is part of a press release issued by the Defense of Marriage Coalition, which says: "Endless studies demonstrate the benefits to children of being raised with both a mother and father. A redefinition of marriage (to include same-sex unions) would permanently deny some children this proven advantage."
The coalition cites several studies, but authors of some of that research say their findings are being taken out of context or that little solid data exists on the impact of gay parenting.
"That is not a legitimate use of our work," said Michael Gottfredson, a criminology professor and associate chancellor at the University of California at Irvine who cowrote a 1990 book on crime trends.
That research says children with a loving parent are less likely to commit crimes, but makes no distinction about the sexual orientation of the parent, he said.
David Popenoe, a sociology professor and co-director of the National Marriage Project and Rutgers University, said nobody knows yet how children fare with same-sex parents.
However, it would be a reasonable hypothesis to say they would do no worse than with opposite-sex stepparents, he said.
His study did not mention same-sex parents, he said.
Several studies offered by Oregon gay marriage critics compare children in single-parent households versus those in two-parent households.
However, one citation is an article that explicitly opposes gay marriage by Glenn T. Stanton, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, a religious Colorado nonprofit that offers on its Web site "debate-tested sound bites" for criticizing same sex unions.
"Our concern is for the well-being of children," he said.
Stanton said research about the impact to children in gay households is inconclusive, but studies show children do better in school and socially when raised by a mother and father. Gay households are either motherless or fatherless, he said.
"It's not an absolute correlation, but we know what happens when you raise kids without fathers."
While the measure that appears headed for the November ballot doesn't speak directly to parenting rights, the child-related remarks have set gay and lesbian couples on edge.
Cat Finney of Bend, who has been in a relationship with her lesbian partner for 14 years and was among those who stood in line for licenses in Multnomah County, strongly disagrees with any assertion her children are at a disadvantage.
"I, of course, see no way that heterosexuality is a prerequisite to having happy and healthy children," she said.
She worries the statement could be an indication that the coalition behind the measure may also be setting sights on unraveling parenting rights of gays.
"I would not be surprised if folks behind this effort extended the breadth of their work to start defining families and limiting parenthood to heterosexual couples," Finney said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association have gone on the record in support of gay parents and their right to adopt.
Kelly Clark, the attorney for the coalition, said there is no goal to reverse that ability in Oregon. He knows of no rights that gays and lesbians would lose if voters pass the initiative, he said.
Still, on both sides of the measure, activists say it could have wider implications because a revised Constitution would force a reexamination of more than 300 statutes that refer to marriage.
"If statutes or local government ordinances extend benefits to people because they are married, then yes, they would have to be limited to men and women," Clark said.
He said the statement about children is not part of the scope of the campaign because the measure does not impact parenting.
"It's fair to say, technically, that statement in and of itself reaches too far," he said.
Roey Thorpe, executive director of Basic Rights Oregon, said her organization is conducting a legal analysis to make sure.
"The truth is we don't know the answer yet," she said.
At a minimum, the success or failure of the measure at the ballot box is certain to be touted as a referendum on public opinion — and will help spur legislation or possibly additional ballot measures.
For instance, a defeat in November would almost certainly usher a political push for state-recognized gay marriages or civil unions.
In addition, campaign spokesman Nashif fears state-sanctioned same-sex unions also could yield bolder steps by gay-rights activists, such as demanding that schools teach that gay sex is normal in sex education curriculum.
On the flip side, a successful ballot measure will send a signal to legislators that Oregonians support additional steps to strengthen traditional families, he said.
"It could be a catalyst and a statement that Oregonians would make that we think traditional marriage is the way to go and it should be strengthened and encouraged," he said.
State Rep. Linda Flores, R-Clackamas, a campaign leader, said there have been background discussions about children thriving in homes with "traditional man and woman relationships."
"But that isn't the thrust of what we're dealing with," she said. "That's not the focus."
If it passes, however, legislators in 2005 will need to carefully consider the state's statute books to ensure laws conform, she said.
The state Election Division is verifying signatures to confirm that the measure qualifies, but it seems a foregone conclusion.
Petitioners turned in more than 244,000 signatures, and only 100,840 of them need to be valid to put a proposed constitutional change on the ballot.
Those signatures came from every county in the state, including 8,694 from Deschutes County, according to the coalition.
James Sinks can be reached at 503-566-2839 or at jamess@cyberis.net.

The contents on these pages are provided as information only. No responsibility or liability is accepted by or on behalf of FLINT for any errors, omissions, or misleading statements on these pages, or any site to which these pages connect, whether provided by FLINT or by any organisation, company or individual. No mention of any organisation, company or individual, whether on these pages or on other sites to which these pages are linked, shall imply any approval or warranty as to the standing and capability of any such organisations, companies or individuals on the part of FLINT. All rights reserved.