It's Really about Sex: Same-Sex Marriage, Lesbigay Parenting, and the Psychology of Disgust

By Redding, Richard E. | Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy, January 2008 | Go to article overview

It's Really about Sex: Same-Sex Marriage, Lesbigay Parenting, and the Psychology of Disgust


Redding, Richard E., Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy


TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION
  I. THE STATE OF SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH ON LESBIGAY PARENTING
      A. Early Research Returns: "No Differences" Between Children
              Raised by Lesbigay Versus Heterosexual Parents
      B. Critics Take a Fresh Look at the Research: Fatally Flawed or
              Flawed But Informative?
      C. The Importance of "Getting It Right".
      D. Three Recent Studies
 II. DOES SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH ON LESBIGAY PARENTING PROVIDE A
      BASIS FOR PROHIBITING LESBIGAY MARRIAGE OR ADOPTION?
      A. Are Children Raised by Lesbigay Parents More Likely to Be
              Homosexual?
      B. Are Children Raised by Lesbigay Parents Likely to Have
          Difficulty with Peers?
      C. Does the Mental Health Status or Sexual Behavior of
              Lesbigay Parents Put Children At Risk?
      D. Do Children Need a Mother and a Father (and Two
              Biological Parents)?
      E. Are There Advantages to Lesbigay Parenting?
III. DIRECTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
 IV. (IT'S REALLY ABOUT SEX): ATTITUDES TOWARD LESBIGAY PARENTING
     AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF DISGUST
CONCLUSION

INTRODUCTION

Lesbian and gay (hereinafter "lesbigay") parenting is becoming ever more prevalent in America. As many as nine million children living in the United States have a gay or lesbian parent, (1) and twenty-five percent of all lesbigay couples are raising children. (2) Indeed, marriage and parenting are aspirations of most Americans, yet these rights have often been denied to gays and lesbians. (3) For many years, states maintained legal presumptions against awarding custody to a lesbigay parent, (4) assuming that doing so would not serve the child's best interests. However, much has changed over the last quarter-century and most courts now consider a parent's homosexuality to be irrelevant in child-custody decisions. (5) All but eight states (i.e. Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin) permit adoption by gay and lesbian couples. (6) All but two states--Nebraska and Utah--allow them to serve as foster parents. (7) Yet, only four states allow same-sex couples to legally marry or enter into civil unions. (8)

The national debate surrounding same-sex marriage has galvanized renewed interest in the issue of lesbigay parenting, (9) and in the last several years ballot measures have been proposed in sixteen states to prohibit gays and lesbians from adopting children. (10) Asserting that the central purposes of marriage are procreation and childrearing, opponents of lesbigay marriage argue that children are harmed or disadvantaged when reared in homosexual households: (11)

   Man-woman marriage is the irreplaceable foundation of the
   child-rearing mode ... that correlates ... with the optimal
   outcomes deemed crucial for a child's--and hence society's--well
   being. These outcomes include physical, mental, and emotional
   health and development; academic performance and levels of
   attainment; and avoidance of crime and other forms of self--and
   other destructive behavior such as drug abuse and high-risk sexual
   conduct. (12)

They further argue that since marriage is a social institution that helps determine sexual and procreative norms by "guid[ing] individuals' identities, perceptions, aspirations, and conduct," same-sex marriage will serve to change social norms by legitimizing lesbigay parenting, (13) resulting in greater numbers of children being raised by non-biological parents:

   [A]ccepting same-sex marriage necessarily means accepting that the
   societal institution of marriage is intended primarily for the
   benefit of the partners to the marriage, and only secondarily for
   the children born into it. And it means abolishing the norm that
   children.., have a prima facie right to know and be reared within
   their own biological family by their mother and father. … 

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