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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Lesbians of Mass Destruction

The empty case against Mary Cheney.

By William Saletan
Posted Saturday, Dec. 23, 2006, at 7:17 AM ET

Poor Dick Cheney. He was sure we'd find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We searched and searched, but he refused to give up.

Now he's discovering what it's like to be on the other end of such obtuse certainty. The conservative jihad has turned from Saddam to Sodom. Moralists are denouncing Cheney's pregnant daughter, Mary, for disclosing that she and her lesbian partner will raise the baby together. The moralists are confident that having two mommies is bad for kids. And no evidence to the contrary can dissuade them.

The 30-year search for proof that gay parents are destructive looks a lot like the hunt for WMD. The has compiled abstracts of 67 studies. Some are plainly biased, and only the latest two or three have avoided the methodological flaws of earlier investigations.

But after 67 tries, you'd expect the harm of gay parenting to show up somewhere. Yet in study after study, on measure after measure, kids turn out the same.

One study found that straight parents "made a greater effort to provide an opposite-sex role model for their children," but it doesn't say whether this affected the kids. Another says children raised by lesbian couples "were more likely to explore same-sex relationships," but it doesn't say they turned out gay. Other studies say they seldom do.

That's it. That's the evidence against gay parenthood. On the other hand, three studies say lesbians share child care more equally than straight couples do. Others conclude that lesbians are more satisfied with their relationships, that they show more "parenting awareness skills," that nonbiological lesbian moms "played a more active role in daily caretaking than did most fathers," and that their kids are less domineering and experience "greater warmth and interaction with their mother."

Such unwelcome findings haven't chastened the antigay lobby any more than they've chastened the Bush administration. If the direct evidence doesn't bear you out, look for indirect evidence. So conservatives have developed a subtler argument:On average, children do best when raised by their two married, biological parents

Let's take this argument a piece at a time. It's true that two parents are better than one. It's also true that married parents are better than unmarried ones. But those aren't arguments against gay parenthood. They're arguments for gay marriage.

The biological part of the argument is more serious. On average, kids do better with parents than with stepparents. Focus on the Family, a leading moralist group, concludes that gay parenthood is unhealthy because "it is biologically impossible for a child living in a same-sex home to be living with both natural parents."

Actually, that may change. Scientists recently produced a fertile adult mouse by combining, in one embryo, DNA from two females

But a lesbian who wants a genetic bond to her partner's baby doesn't have to wait for such technology. She can simply ask her brother to donate the sperm.

If you believe, as Focus on the Family does, that we should stop creating families in which one parent is biologically unrelated to the child, then gays are the least of your worries.

By professional estimates,40,000 babies are born each year from donated eggs or sperm.

You want to stop nonbiological parenthood? Go chain yourself to a sperm bank.

For that matter, if you want every child to have the benefit of two parents, you're picking on the wrong Cheney. Mary's sister, Liz, just had her fifth kid. All things being equal, Liz's baby will get one-fifth as much parental attention as Mary's will get. But nobody complains about that.

And let's not forget that the case against nonbiological parenthood is based on averages. Averages make bad law. The best critique of gay parenting studies is that because many homosexuals are closeted, those who are found by researchers and who agree to participate are disproportionately white, well-educated, and female.

But that's exactly what Mary Cheney is. She's a vice president of AOL. Her partner's current occupation is renovating their home. Should they abstain from motherhood because they're above average?

The same goes for gender averages. James Dobson, chairman of Focus on
the Family, says Cheney's pregnancy is a bad idea because a father "makes unique contributions to the task of parenting that a mother cannot emulate," such as "a sense of right and wrong and its consequences."

You must be kidding.

Cheney's partner is a former park ranger. They met while playing collegiate hockey. If they want a night out to catch an NHL game, Grandpa Dick can drop by to read bedtime stories about detainee interrogation.

If you're going to base family policy on averages, the chief problem isn't stepparents; it's men. That's what "pro-family" groups keep covering up.

According to Focus on the Family, "Increased risks of physical and sexual child abuse at the hands of non-biological parents are another serious concern for same-sex families."

Nope, not for lesbians. The latest study cited by the group actually concludes that the "key risk factors are living with a stepfather or the mother's boyfriend."

Of 55 child deaths reviewed in the study, zero were caused by a stepmother or by a biological mother in a stepfamily or live-in relationship. Other studies show the same pattern in child abuse generally.

The Family Research Institute says Cheney's child "will disproportionately associate with homosexuals-who are as a class considerably more apt to have STDs and a criminal history [and] be interested in sex with children."

That's hilarious.

Women commit 3.5 percent of single-perpetrator sexual assaults and make up 7 percent of the prison population.

The Family Research Council says lesbians are dangerous parents because of their "high prevalence of life events and behaviors related to mental health problems," particularly rapes and sexual attacks.

But if you look up the study cited by the council, guess who committed virtually all of the rapes and sexual attacks?


You want to protect kids? Here's my proposed constitutional amendment:

"Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union involving at least one woman."

Or you could just let Mary Cheney raise her child in peace.

NOTE: A version of this article also appears in the Outlook section
of the Sunday Washington Post. (Where all the links are hot)

William Saletan is Slate's national correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.


Eileen said...

Good parents are good parents.

Bad parents are bad parents.

SEXUALITY has nothing to do with this.

Two people living in loving respect for one another can do NO HARM. The end.

Two people living in hate or major dysfunction with one another can do lots of harm - with straight, glb or tg. It's the quality of mental health in all relationships in the family.

Focus on the Family can take that, put it in their pipes and smoke it!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Eileen! I've just gone over to read your blog. Well done.

I'm a 'suburban NJ mom' and nana, too. Yikes! I can't believe I just admitted that.

Wait a minute: I'm a fiesty urban guerilla who is presently traveling incognitio in the suburubs of NJ.

There! That made me feel better.

Thanks for your words. And, welcome to TEC, from a long-ago convert from the RC Church.

My prayers are with your boss.

Eileen said...

Thanks Elizabeth+ for those prayers Elizabeth! I'm stealing all kinds of good ideas for my blog from all over blogworld. I try to remember to give credit when I lift things!

And yes, I do indeed think that one needs to believe that one is "a fiesty urban guerilla traveling incognito" in order to effectively travel in the NJ suburbs. Being a mom/nana makes a great cover. You being a priest on top of all that blows my mind! I have my hands full just being an ordinary lay person - never mind all those things plus master spiritual guide! I bow down before you...

Catherine + said...

Glad to see you two finally "met"!

Don't you just LOVE how the ultra-orthodox [supposedly] twist that little thing we call the truth to suit their own twisted agenda?

I love articles like this which evens the playing field. Too bad that more people can't have access to the other side of the story.

You both need to check out MadPriest's thought for today. He says so much in such few words!

Blessings to you both NJ guerilla moms and feisty Episcopalians!

From waaayyy out West,


Eileen said...

(((Catherine+)))) You know all the good people in blogland!

I'll take all the blessings I can get, from whatever coast they come from - plus, you still have more of today left than I do at this point!