The goal of the present paper is to prove that gay and lesbian parenthood causes no harm to society. It is more likely to positively affect the social institutions of parenting and childrearing. The hypothesis will be proved in three subsequent sections. The first part will determine the place of lesbigay families in the typology of family as a range of social and gender arrangements (traditional versus nontraditional, one-parent versus two-parent, and so on). The status of children in regard to the type of family will be also reviewed.
To put it differently, the section will overview the ways by which homosexual families can arrange parental custody. The second part will denote the legal framework for adoption and custody as related to lesbigay couples. The third part will describe positive relationships existing in same-sex families relying on the data obtained from eight scholarly articles. It is argued here that lesbigay parents are more sensitive and affective towards children needs and well-being.
Homosexual parents are more likely to demonstrate the behavioral patterns of empowerment and social proactivity to reinforce interpersonal links within families and between lesbigay families and communities. Children raised by homosexual parents are reported to be more aware of social justice and morale issues. Their attitude to peers and elder individuals proved to be less aggressive and dominating.
Types of Families and the Status of Children in Various Family Types The United States social and legal systems demonstrate various attitudes towards homosexual families, especially to those with parental custody, ranging from tolerance to resentment. Meezan and Rauch, the authors of the article “Gay Marriage, Same-Sex Parenting, and America’s Children,” observed that “[t]oday, across generations and geography, the country is divided over the meaning of marriage as it has not been since the days when states were at odds over interracial marriages and no-fault divorces – if then” (98).
Social science traditionally labels lesbigay families as nontraditional, thus, opposing them to heterosexual or traditional arrangements. However, it seems that homosexual families do not differ so much from the heterosexual ones in structure so far as both can consist of only one parent. Both homosexual and heterosexual families can be “patchwork” or “blended. ” It means that “after divorce one of the parents found a new partner who had children out of a former relationship and together they have created a new family” (Bos, van Balen & van den Boom 263).
Among homosexual couples similarly to the heterosexual ones, there are planned and nonplanned families. Bos, van Balen & van den Boom distinguished between planned and nonplanned same-sex households focusing on lesbian individuals. The researchers argued that a planned lesbian family should be treated as “in contrast to lesbian families whose children had been born to the mother in a previous heterosexual relationship before coming out of the closet” (Bos, van Balen & van den Boom 264).
It speaks to the fact, that a mere classification of families in regard to their “traditionalism” in regard to partners’ gender is not enough to explain the role of the “family” concept for our society. Each of the families exists not in a vacuum but in a complex social environment. Therefore, treating lesbigay families as “nontraditional” of inferior to heterosexual traditional arrangements is discriminative.
In regard to the typology of children being affected by same-sex marriages, most children living in lesbigay houses are born from a parent who once used to live with a heterosexual spouse, then identified himself or herself as gay or lesbian, and entered a new homosexual partnership pertaining parental custody. Besides, as Meezan and Rauch argued, there was the so-named “third class of children” (99), or “additional children”:
In many cases (no one knows just how many), children living with gay and lesbian couples are the biological offspring of one member of the couple, whether by an earlier marriage or relationship, by arrangement with a known or anonymous sperm donor (in the case of lesbian couples), or by arrangement with a surrogate birth mother (in the case of male couples). (99) The researchers observed that the route of parenthood (whether a child is a biological offspring of one parent from a previous heterosexual marriage, or whether a child was adopted) affects the relationships in the family.
For example, Meezan and Rauch (2005) argued that gay men were more likely “to adopt children who are not biologically related to either custodial parent” (99) than lesbians. The relationships in lesbigay families can also be complicated by a recently novel experience of having children through donor insemination, and surrogacy. Lesbigay families are usually children loving and use every opportunity to enjoy parenthood. Bos, van Balen and van den Boom (2005) cited the results obtained by a Kaiser Family Foundation survey (2001) that interrogated 405 randomly selected, self-identified lesbians, gays and bisexuals in the United States.
Every eight of hundred homosexual respondents stated that they were parents or legal guardians of a child under 18 who lived in their home. Forty-nine percent of lesbians, gays and bisexuals who participated in the survey indicated that although they were not parents at the time of the interrogation, they would gladly have children of their own. Unfortunately, there is no statistics on either the exact number of lesbigay families having children or the routes by which these lesbigay families got access to parenthood.
Earlier research (Ariel & Stearns, 1992; Patterson, 1995 – Lassiter et al. 2006) indicated the number of gay fathers as between 1 and 3 million and the number of lesbian mothers as between 1. 5 and 5 million. As for the number of children being raised in same-sex families, Lassiter et al. (2006) referred to Ariel and McPherson’s data (2000) on between 2 million and 8 million gay men and lesbians parenting between 8 million and 10 million children. Meezan and Rauch (2005) referred to the 2000 United States national census that mentioned approximately 594,000 households managed by same-sex couples, of which 27 percent were reported to raise children.
The same group of researchers hypothesized that nearly 166,000 children were growing in lesbigay families. Lambert (2005) estimated the number of lesbian mothers to be from 1 to 5 million (with reference to Falk 1989 and Gottman 1990) and those for gay fathers from 1 to 3 million (referring to Gottman 1990). With reference to Patterson (1995; 2000), Lambert (2005) indicated that the number of children being raised in gay and lesbian parents could range from 4 to 14 million, and those for children born by mothers who had entered same-sex marriage was reported to be from 5,000 to 10,000.
The abovesaid figures are approximate because not all of the same-sex couples report about their status. As Lambert (2005) noted, Unfortunately, accurate statistics regarding the numbers of families headed by gay men and lesbians in our culture are difficult to determine. Due to fear of discrimination in one or more aspects of their lives, many gay men and lesbians have carefully kept their sexual orientation concealed – even from their own children in some cases. (43)
Patterson (2000) also acknowledged that lesbigay people often preferred to conceal their family status from relatives, friends, and community because they were aware of “the stigma attached to nonheterosexual identities” (1052) by modern society. The researcher, however, concluded that “[d]espite such obstacles … lesbian and gay people have often succeeded in creating and sustaining meaningful family relationships” (Patterson 1052). The hypothesis about lesbigay families enjoying happy life is undermined, however, by the cases of legal oppression that exists in regard to homosexual marriage and parenthood.
The next section observes some arguments against same-couple alliances utilized by courts. The counterarguments to these statements will help to build a foundation for further analysis of possible positive contribution of homosexual parenthood to society. Legal Framework for Same-Sex Marriage and Parenthood Stacey and Biblarz (2001) observed that, “As the new millennium begins, struggles by nonheterosexuals to secure equal recognition and rights for the new family relationships they are now creating represent some of the most dramatic and fiercely contested developments in Western family patterns” (159).
Despite the statistical controversy, it is clear that the number of lesbigay parents in the United States is impressive. However, the fact that so many gay and lesbian individuals successfully live together as caring and loving couples does not save these people from being deprived of their parenting rights both legally and in public opinion. They are often prohibited to adopt children or hold custody of their own children upon divorce with a heterosexual spouse.
Meezan and Rauch (2005) recalled the Baker and McConnell’s case (1970), when a homosexual couple applied for a marriage license in Minnesota to be debarred. Although there was no evidence against the appropriateness of that marriage, the unfavorable legal decision demonstrated how strongly society reacted towards lesbigay families in the recent past. As Meezan and Rauch observed, the 1990s saw how Hawaii’s state supreme court failed to order same-sex marriage because of a state constitutional amendment. Discrimination against lesbigay families pitifully survived into the 21st century.
In the overwhelming majority of the U. S. states homosexual couples are prohibited to espouse and adopt or retain custody of children by state laws and constitutional amendments. In 2004, thirteen states – Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Oregon, and Utah – passed constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage. Apart from marriage laws, there is a rigid legal framework guiding adoption and custody procedures in regard to same-sex or bisexual couples.
All the states discriminate against GLBT people on the issue of child care in comparison with heterosexuals. Whereas in all the states except Utah even an unmarried individual can apply for adoption if he or she is identified as heterosexual, homosexual applicants should be an officially registered married couple in all the states without exception. And this requirement cannot be met since the majority of the states refuse marriage certificates for lesbigay couples. And even in this latter case nobody guarantees that the custodial application of a legally married lesbigay couple will be approved.
Bennett and Gates, the authors of a Human Rights Campaign Foundation report “The Cost of Marriage Inequality to Children and Their Same-Sex Parents,” stated that … two-thirds of the children being raised by same-sex parents nationwide live in states that have not yet even guaranteed both of their parents the right to establish a legal relationship to their children, through a procedure known as second-parent or joint adoption.
Nor may they enjoy the more limited protections that come with having, at the minimum, a legal relationship to their parents. 7) Negative legal decisions on the issue of same-sex parenthood are based on several assumptions. Some of them are discriminatory in a really old-fashioned prejudiced and racist-like way. As Stacey and Biblarz observed, … a few psychologists subscribe to the view that homosexuality represents either a sin or a mental illness and continue to publish alarmist works on the putative ill effects of gay parenting family interaction with both genders' parenting skills during their years of childhood.
Some opponents of lesbigay parenthood state that the public and legal permissiveness of lesbigay marriages leads to “legal and cultural indifference” in regard to heterosexual families that will in turn result in “further ero[sion of] the norm of childrearing by both biological parents” (Meezan and Rauch 99). The proponents of such a viewpoint argue that finally “more children would end up in fatherless homes” (Meezan and Rauch 99).
Some supporters of same-sex alliances try to defeat this fear by arguing that “same-sex marriage will signal the government’s (and society’s) preference for marriage over other family arrangements, reinforcing marriage’s status at a time when that status is under strain” (Meezan and Rauch 99). The logic of the opponents to lesbigay parenting rights seems to be invalid. There is no direct correlation between lesbigay marriage rights and corruption of traditional family values. Many heterosexual families end with domestic violence and divorce.
So one cannot predict that the increase in the number of lesbigay legally accepted households would cause the increase in the ratio of single-parent households. Patterson analyzed some cases when lesbian parents were convicted of “being unusually masculine and that they might interact inappropriately with their children” (1056). Patterson has noted: In contrast to expectations based on the stereotypes [that are held by courts], however, neither lesbian mothers’ reports about their gender role behavior nor their self-described interest in childrearing have been found to differ from those of heterosexual mothers.
It means that sexual orientation of parents is not likely to corrupt children sex-role orientation and preferences. Thus, children raised in lesbigay families are not shown to have developmental deficits because of homosexuality of their parents. Patterson’s findings seem to fit the paradigm of recent social research that named “lesbigay parents [being] as competent and effective as heterosexual parents” (Stacey and Biblarz 160). Stacey and Biblarz observed that policy makers attempt to take this anti-discrimination scientific evidence into account:
Lawyers and activists struggling to defend child custody and adoption petitions by lesbians and gay men, or to attain same-gender marriage rights and to defeat preemptive referenda against such rights (e. g. , the victorious Knight Initiative on the 2000 ballot in California) have drawn on this research with considerable success. Although progress is uneven, this strategy has promoted a gradual liberalizing trend in judicial and policy decisions. (160) Nowadays, lesbigay families are treated differently in regard to children adoption and custody across the states.
Meezan and Rauch (2005) observed that Florida maintains the most resentful position in regard to lesbigay parenthood in the sense that it still bans adoption of children by homosexuals. Other states utilize intermediary policies, sometimes allowing lesbigays to adopt children through the so-called “second-parent” adoption route, permitting one member of a gay or lesbian couple to become the second parent of the first partner’s biological or previously adopted child.
Some other states provide homosexual individuals with the opportunity to raise a child only as a single custodial parent. It speaks to the fact that public and legal views of lesbigay marriage and parenthood become more tolerant. The example of the most tolerant and non-discriminative attitude towards same-sex parents was demonstrated by nine states and the District of Columbia that granted to same-sex couples the right to apply jointly for adoption in mid-2004.
It gives homosexual families living in other states the hope to be treated on the same scale as heterosexual couples in regard to parenthood, parental custody, and adoption. Are Lesbigay Families Harmful or Positive to Society? Lesbigay Parents’ Viewpoint Lassiter et al. conducted a survey of ten lesbian and gay individuals of various cultural backgrounds, degree of disclosure of sexual identity, relationship status (partnered living together, partnered living separately, not partnered), and parenting experiences to identify their self-perceptions of family relationships in regard to child rearing.
The research team utilized the concept of “empowerment” to denote “the ability to influence people, organizations, and the environment affecting one’s life, the gaining, developing, seizing, enabling, or giving of power, and attaining control over one’s life, including further participation in the community” (Lassiter et al. 246). The investigators also took into account the definition of empowerment provided by researchers at Cornell University who described the phenomenon as n intentional, ongoing process centered in the local community, involving mutual respect, critical reflection, caring, and group participation, through which people lacking an equal share of valued resources gain greater access to and control over those resources. (Cornell University Empowerment Group 2, qtd. in Lassiter et al. 246). Lassiter et al. investigated both internal and external factors affecting child care in lesbigay families.
By internal factors the researchers understood “forces that originate from inside the person, reflect more personality traits or attributes, and are more influenced, developed, and controlled by the participant” (Lassiter et al. 246). Within the cluster of internal forces, Lassiter et al. revealed that same-sex couples improved their attitude to children and child rearing along the strands of self-acceptance, nontraditional gender roles and norms, enhanced valuing of parenting, and resilience.
The first element of the internal factors cluster – self-acceptance – was especially valuable for homosexual parents who achieved greater extent of freedom, personal attainment, and cooperation through revealing their sexual identity to themselves, members of their extended family, children, and outer community. Homosexual parents also stressed the importance of resiliency as formed by “determination, courage, and a strong sense of spirituality as vital elements” (Lassiter et al. 248).
Whereas accepting their own sexual roles and feeling resilient appeared to affect positively mainly lesbigay parents at the personal level, acceptance of nontraditional gender norms produced a positive effect on children. Lassiter et al. cited two gay parents who confessed: As one gay father stated, “In the African American culture, being a nurturing man is seen as a weakness. That’s what women do and men who do it are sissies. So since I was already a sissy, I didn’t have a problem being nurturing. ” Another gay father reported comfort with his nontraditional parenting role. I stayed at home with my kids for a year.
So I was very, very close to my two infant daughters. ” (248) To summarize, by accepting nontraditional gender norms, gay and lesbian parents are likely to free themselves from imposed rigid sexual identities to become more empathic and caring parents. They started valuing parenthood so that their responsibility to children increased. As one lesbian participant of the survey stressed: You have to feel really proud and good about becoming a parent and being a parent.
You know, I’m not just going to go and have intercourse with some man and get pregnant. Because of the challenge of getting pregnant or adopting, you need to feel really, really proud and confident and good about doing it in the first place. Beyond that, you have to feel really good about what you have to offer [your child]. (Lassiter et al. 248) It is logical to hypothesize that increased self-confidence and thus conscious interest in mastering the skills of parenthood will bring benefits to children of these individuals and broader society.
Responsible parenthood promotes stability of society in general and of the social institute of parenthood in particular. As Lassiter et al. evidenced, many same-sex parents wanted to create a safe and supportive environment for their children, therefore overall rates of juvenile delinquency can be reduced due to lesbigay parents’ cooperative effort. By external factors contributing to the conceptualization of parenthood in same-sex houses, Lassiter et al. meant “those aspects mitigated by the forces outside one’s self” (248).
Their respondents identified four external factors influencing their sense of parenthood such as social support, integration of coparenting roles, parental role modeling, and need for affirmative resources. At the level of social support, parenthood in lesbigay families reinforces family ties. Many respondents emphasized that their siblings’ help and commitment were especially valuable for them. Semi-sexual parenthood also contributed to the creation of supportive and socially active local communities.
Due to their sharpened sense of fairness and sensitivity, lesbian and gay parents tend to participate enthusiastically in social life of their children’s schools, religious communities, and other social institutions. Therefore, a “sense of belonging and continued sense of cultural identity” (Lassiter et al. 249) is emerging not only within semi-sex houses but also in the outer environment. In regard to integration of coparenting roles, an overwhelming part of respondents had a long history of stable cohabitating relationships. As Lassiter et al. 249) observed, the “active coparenting role further solidified [same-sex houses] and strengthened their ability to parent effectively. ”
Additionally, homosexual parents are likely to enrich the role modeling of children overall who learn important moral and social themes such as “confronting discrimination, empowering … to deal with prejudice, and being respected by members of heterosexual and nonheterosexual communities” (Lassiter et al. 249). External factors contributing to same-sex parenthood were reported to positively affect children’s self-esteem, empowerment, and social consciousness:
In terms of empowering children, one lesbian mother stated: You’ve got to arm your kids with the words and power to feel good about who they are. My son has had an incredible experience for being proud of his family and not backing off of a situation where he could have been bullied, but he didn’t allow it to happen. He actually said, “My mom’s a lesbian, do you have a problem with that? ” At 13, he was able to use the word lesbian, which many of us can’t even use. I thought that was very empowering. (Lassiter et al. 249)
The role modeling proved to affect not only lesbigay household in the present but other families in the future. Belonging was a consistent theme especially related to finding supportive friendships, family. Many parents in this sample were concerned about forging positive impressions of gay parenting with the larger society in an effort to make parenting easier for others in the future. The ability to create positive role models for these future parents gave participants a sense of empowerment in the face of societal discrimination. (Lassiter et al. 249)
Finally, semi-sex parenthood improved the effectiveness of local social networks in terms of affirmative counseling, medical, and legal resources. To expand the conceptualization of homosexual parenthood, Stacey and Biblarz stated that homosexual parents were likely to choose “the more egalitarian relationships” (163) with their children in the sense of equality, empathy, and cooperation. At the same time, as Patterson observed, homosexual fathers reported about “greater warmth and responsiveness on the one hand and of greater control and limit setting on the other” (1057).
To put it in a nut-shell, although lesbigay individuals’ aspirations and conceptualizations do not always coincide with discriminative reality, their social proactive behavior and role modeling strategies are likely to create a social network where “the combination of a secure identity, confidence, and empowerment may lead to the raising of healthier children” (Lassiter et al. 250).
Children’s Perspective Some officials wishing to eliminate the institute of gay and lesbian parenthood focus on the potential harm that is caused to children: gay parents subject children to disproportionate risks; … children of gay parents are more apt to suffer confusion over their gender and sexual identities and are more likely to become homosexuals themselves; … homosexual parents are more sexually promiscuous than are heterosexual parents and are more likely to molest their own children; … children are at greater risk of losing a homosexual parent to AIDS, substance abuse, or suicide, and to suffer greater risks of depression and other emotional difficulties; … homosexual couples are more unstable and likely to separate; and … the social stigma and embarrassment of having a homosexual parent unfairly ostracizes children and hinders their relationships with peers. (Stacey and Biblarz 161)
The present essay expresses solidarity with the statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics that stated in 2002: “Children who grow up with one or two gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual” (qtd. in Meezan and Rauch 6).
Many researchers argued that children of homosexual parents did not vary from the ones raised in heterosexual houses. Referring to an American research conducted by Patterson, Chan and Raboy (1998) in 55 lesbian-headed families and 25 families headed by heterosexual parents, Ray and Gregory (2001) stated that “After extensive psychological, intelligence, social and personality testing, it was found that no significant difference existed between the psychosocial status of the children of lesbian mothers and those of heterosexual mothers” (28). The divide between children from different families seems to be not in relating to their development or ‘quality’ but in regard to them being subjected to discrimination, bullying, and silencing.
Both homosexual parents and their children reported about “the feeling of isolation or being different” (Ray and Gregory 30). Despite heavy psychological burden that is put on children raised in homosexual families by the outer environment, they possess enough inner power to be “inventive in defending themselves against teasing and bullying” (Ray and Gregory 34). Sometimes they are successful enough in utilizing prosocial skills to establish a contact with bullies: The Year 11 and 12 students tended to deal with insulting language by addressing underlying issues. “They say ‘fag’ and ‘poof’. I say – don’t use that word cos using it as a put-down is a put-down to homosexuals, not just to someone you want to insult. ” (Ray and Gregory 32)
Relying on the responses from 117 homosexual parents, of which sixty percent were gay and lesbian parents at the moment of the study with children ranging in ages from five to eighteen years, and 40 percent were prospective parents, the researchers observed that the children of lesbigay parents were likely to be more sensitive to the issues of justice, fairness and human rights. Ray and Gregory evidenced how “Some children suggested that homophobia should be dealt with in the same manner as racism and sexism” (33): Secondary school students had more insights into some of the benefits of being raised by gay or lesbian parents and many of them felt their upbringing led them to tolerance and an appreciation of difference. “I’ve been able to grow up with an open mind. And I bring that into the world and create more open minds . . . I’ve taught my friends about homosexuality. I’ve been a support for gay kids. ”
Overall, Ray and Gregory’s study demonstrated that homosexual parenthood caused no harm to children. Rather it was an outer school environment that made those children feel isolated and unsafe. Wainright, Russell, and Patterson (2004) investigated how forty-four 12- to 18-year-old adolescents parented by lesbigay couples might differ from their coevals raised in heterosexual couples in psychosocial adjustment, school outcomes, and romantic relationships to find that those factors were not closely associated with family type.
It was rather an issue of good and trusting relationships with parent that increased children’s self-respect, feeling of safety, and comfort. In Wainright, Russell, and Patterson’s own words, on nearly all of a large array of variables related to school and personal adjustment, adolescents with same-sex parents did not differ significantly from a matched group of adolescents living with opposite-sex parents.
Regardless of family type, adolescents were more likely to show favorable adjustment when they perceived more caring from adults and when parents described close relationships with them. (1895) Similar to the respondents of Ray and Gregory’s survey, the participants of Wainright, Russell, and Patterson’s study living in same-sex houses reported about a greater “connectedness at school” (Wainright, Russell, and Patterson 1896) than the children of heterosexual parents. The variable was associated with less aggressive behavior, fewer disciplinary problems, and greater emotional balance.
The adolescents from lesbigay families were more sensitive to “care from adults and peers” (Wainright, Russell, and Patterson 1896) that made them more cooperative and sensitive to other people’s needs. That characteristic statistically correlated with the variable of family type. However, the researchers abstained from explaining the measures of adjustment such as self-esteem and depressive symptoms by family type exclusively. Wainright, Russell, and Patterson concluded their report by a clear antidiscriminatory message: Major theories of human development have often been interpreted as predicting that youngsters living with same-sex parents would encounter important difficulties in their personal, social, and sexual adjustment, especially during adolescence.
The fact that results from a large national sample of American adolescents fail to confirm this view leads to questions about the extent to which predictions of the theories have been disconfirmed. In particular, results of recent research on children and adolescents who are not living with opposite-sex parents … suggest that theorists may need to reconsider the importance of opposite-sex parents for human personal and social development. (1897) Some opponents of same-sex parenthood fight with lesbigay families because they are scared that children raised in homosexual families will get lost in mutually contradicting sexual and cultural identities of their nontraditional houses and traditional outer communities.
In other words, such researchers predict that a son of same-sex parents will become a gay, and a daughter of homosexual individuals will be a lesbian. Stacey and Biblarz attempted to defeat such claims by summarizing a substantial collection of empirical research on the issue of sexual identities formed in the children of gay and lesbian parents. Although the researchers are more attentive to lesbian parents, their findings are nevertheless valuable for the present study. Upon review of empirical evidence on the point, Stacey and Biblarz stated that “lesbian parenting may free daughters and sons from a broad but uneven range of traditional gender prescriptions” (168, 170).
It means that the children of lesbian parents are less likely to be restricted by rigid gender roles in terms of professional development. The daughters of lesbian parents choose the professions that are believed to suit men: astronauts, engineers, doctors, lawyers, and so on. The boys raised in homosexual couples demonstrate less aggressive and dominant behavior. However, in regard to occupational strategies they are more traditional than the girls from same-sex houses. So far as the adoption of sexual roles by children from their homosexual parents is concerned, Stacey and Biblarz found “evidence of a moderate degree of parent-to-child transmission of sexual orientation” (171).
In other words, nobody has yet proved that the child raised in a same-sex family would definitely become a homosexual. To summarize, the present essay overviewed eight scholarly pieces of research, two of which were secondary in terms that they analyzed previous investigations, and the other six were empirical or based on practice, to reveal that same-sex parenthood rather benefited to than harmed society. The first section of the paper that overviewed types of families in regard to sexual orientation of their members revealed that homosexual houses are neither inferior nor superior to heterogeneous ones. The second section cited some evidence of discrimination