Unfocused on the Family

Jim Burroway

July 26th, 2006

Glenn Stanton, of Focus on the Family, finally got around to responding to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ report on why same-sex marriage is important to children of gay and lesbian couples. (I reviewed that article here.) Unfortunately, he seems to have missed the entire point of the report:

“This report essentially says that research shows that gay and lesbian parents can be as loving and caring as heterosexual parents,” he said. “That is not the same as saying that children who grow up in homes in two-female or two-male adult homes do as well as kids who live with their mother and father in important outcome measures.”

The AAP is skirting some very important issues, he said. For example, the study claims “there are more similarities than differences in parenting styles and attitudes of gay and non-gay fathers.”

While sexual orientation does not seem to affect whether parents prefer their kids to eat healthy snacks, get plenty of exercise, read books, limit television viewing and be kind to their friends, Stanton said there are other important factors the study tries to play down or simply ignores.

Those who try to work with this line of reasoning miss a very important point, the very point that prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to commission the report in the first place. Gay and lesbian couples are parents. They have always been parents, and they will always be parents. There is simply nothing anybody can do which will ever change that. Like it or not, these children exist, they are growing up, and they will soon become adults themselves. This report is focused on their needs and how best to address them:

This analysis explores the unique and complex challenges that same-gender couples and their children face as a result of public policy that excludes them from civil marriage. In compiling this report it became clear to the contributing committees and section that the depth and breadth of these challenges are largely unknown to the general public and perhaps even to many pediatricians. As such, the AAP Board of Directors approved the broad dissemination of this analysis to assist pediatricians with addressing the complex issues related to same-gender couples and their children.

That’s why they wrote the report: To inform everyone what those challenges are, and why marriage is so important:

In all its work, the AAP is committed to calling attention to the inextricable link between the health and well-being of all children, the support and encouragement of all parents, and the protection of strong family relationships. This analysis was prepared to bring to light the legal, financial, and psychosocial ramifications of recent and proposed public-policy initiatives affecting same-gender parents and their children.

Civil marriage is a legal status that promotes healthy families by conferring a powerful set of rights, benefits, and protections that cannot be obtained by other means. Civil marriage can help foster financial and legal security, psychosocial stability, and an augmented sense of societal acceptance and support. Legal recognition of a spouse can increase the ability of adult couples to provide and care for one another and fosters a nurturing and secure environment for their children. Children who are raised by civilly married parents benefit from the legal status granted to their parents.

You can’t find a stronger endorsement of family values than that.

So, given the very real existence of these children in gay- and lesbian-led families, what exactly would Focus on the Family suggest we do to remove the many roadblocks that these parents face every day so they can provide the best care for their children? We know that Focus on the Family would like gays and lesbians to go away — that’s why they promote and finance ex-gay ministries. Do they have something in mind to make their kids go away too?

What does Focus propose for the children who are already being raised by gays and lesbian couples now and in the future? Don’t these children count? Was Glenn Stanton’s boss really serious when he backed extremely limited domestic partnership benefits in Colorado? James Dobson sure seems to have lost his voice since then. Maybe he took too much heat from fellow conservatives.

Or maybe Focus on the Family can only focus on one kind of family?

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