American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

By the Numbers: Gay and Lesbian Parents

Opponents of marriage equality like to talk about how marriage is an institution for child-rearing and that there is debate about whether gay and lesbian couples make good parents. This notion, however, is blatantly false and disproved by scientific study after scientific study, not to mention the experiences of 6 million Americans with gay and lesbian parents.

Attorney Paul Smith, who successfully argued Lawrence v. Texas before the Supreme Court, summed up several studies in a recent Huffington Post blog post:

Studies that have directly compared gay and lesbian parents with heterosexual parents have consistently shown that the former are as fit and capable as the latter, and that their children are as psychologically healthy and well-adjusted. A 2001 comprehensive survey of peer-reviewed scientific studies concluded that the evidence from empirical research “shows that parental sexual orientation per se has no measurable effect on the quality of parent-child relationships or on children’s mental health or social adjustment.” A more recent review by the same authors noted “the ubiquitous findings of no differences” in comparisons of the families of heterosexual couples with those of lesbian or gay couples. These conclusions are bolstered by three recent studies using national representative samples: one using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, another using data from the from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (Kindergarten Cohort), or the ECLS-K, and the third using U.S. Census data.

These studies are not alone. Major medical organizations have adopted policies supporting gay and lesbian child-rearing. These organizations include: American Psychological Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, The National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association. The list goes on.

And there are some incredible numbers that illustrate who gay parents are:

  • A typical LGBT parent is more likely to be an African-American woman in Mississippi than a white lawyer in California. U.S. Census Bureau data suggest that Americans raising kids as part of a same-sex couple are almost twice as likely to be African-American as are their counterparts raising children in heterosexual couples, and Mississippi is the state where same-sex couples are most likely to have a child.
  • About 3 million LGBT Americans are parents.
  • Surveys suggest that 37% of the more than 8 million LGBT adults in the United States report having had a child.
  • On average, they’ve had two kids, so it’s likely that at least 6 million Americans have an LGBT parent.

Then there is also the strong testimony revealed during the 2010 Prop. 8 trial, a truth commission on marriage equality, which supports the fact that gay and lesbian couples make great parents. On cross examination by David Boies, the Prop. 8 Proponent’s key witness, David Blankenhorn, testified that some studies suggest that children raised by gay and lesbian parents often fair better than those raised by a straight couple. Check out this video  of John C. Reilly (playing Blankenhorn) and George Clooney (playing David Boies) recreating the testimony. It comes from the play “8,” which is based on the actual trial transcripts:

So what evidence do opponents of marriage equality use to back up their claim? According to Paul Smith, it’s an internet-based study that has been discredited as “non-scientific” by independent audit started by the very journal that published it and denounced by over 200 scientists, clinicians and academics.