June 20th 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Is 'same-sex marriage' a square peg in a round hole?

CANBERRA OBSERVED Rudd, Gillard squabble over slim enough legacy

HUMAN RIGHTS Conscience may be free, but its exercise ... ?

SOCIETY Children of same-sex households have a say

EDITORIAL No need for alarm over new anti-terror laws

CHILD SEX ABUSE Cardinal Pell: the bishop the media love to hate

HISTORY The diverse character of Indonesian religion

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Greece and EU stare into abyss of debt, austerity

HISTORY World War II and the origins of American unease

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Joan Kirner's legacy: VCE, Emily's List and abortion

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS China's sandcastles give its neighbours the jitters

PUBLIC HEALTH Case for legalising cannabis up in smoke

CINEMA Dystopia gives way to a little hope: Tomorrowland

BOOK REVIEW Rumours of peace

BOOK REVIEW The banality of Eichmann

PAPAL ENCYCLICAL Pope Francis reminds us to care for our common home

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Children of same-sex households have a say

by Terri M. Kelleher

News Weekly, June 20, 2015

In the debate over same-sex “marriage” a major issue is a child’s right to be raised by a mother and a father, his biological mother and father wherever possible, as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Robert Oscar Lopez

Those who support marriage as the union of a man and a woman say that to allow same-sex marriage violates that right as it means the child is deliberately deprived of either a mother or a father.

Proponents of same-sex marriage say the care the child receives from his parents, regardless of gender, is what is important, not whether he knows or is cared for by his biological parents. They claim that studies show that there are no negative outcomes for children being raised in same-sex households.

Well, let’s look at what those affected, the children of same-sex parents, have to say.

Robert Oscar Lopez, assistant professor of English at California State University, Northridge, was raised by his lesbian/bisexual mother and her female partner from the age of two until his late teens, when he left for university.

When he first “came out” about his childhood he wrote: “I had no male figure at all to follow, and my mother and her partner were both unlike traditional fathers or traditional mothers. As a result, I had very few recognisable social cues to offer potential male or female friends, since I was neither confident nor sensitive to others. Thus I befriended people rarely and alienated others easily.

“Gay people who grew up in straight parents’ households may have struggled with their sexual orientation; but when it came to the vast social universe of adaptations not dealing with sexuality – how to act, how to speak, how to behave – they had the advantage of learning at home. Many gays don’t realise what a blessing it was to be reared in a traditional home. … My home life was not traditional nor conventional. I suffered because of it, in ways that are difficult for sociologists to index.”


As a scholar and archivist Lopez has compiled testimonials and had access to the stories of many people raised by same-sex couples and he has submitted an Amicus Brief in the current US Supreme Court marriage case on behalf of a number of them. Here are some of the things some of them have to say about being raised in a same-sex household:

Jean-Dominique Bunel (raised by lesbians): “You see, two rights collide: the right to a child for gays, and the right of a child to a mother and father.”

Dawn Stefanowicz (raised by a homosexual father): “Though I was deeply disappointed with my father and his partners’ sexual behaviours, I couldn’t say anything negative about my dad or the homosexual lifestyle.”

Katy Faust (raised by lesbians): “In addition to the distinct and complementary ways that men and women parent, children need both sexes in their immediate world as they develop their own gender identity. It’s strongly held within the social sciences that begin­ning as early as age three, children can (and should) identify with their same-sex parent.”

Bronagh Cassidy (raised by lesbian mothers): “The adults choose to have that lifestyle and then have a kid. They are fulfilling their emotional needs — they want to have a child – and they are not taking into account how that’s going to feel to the child; there’s a clear difference between having same-sex parents and a mum and a dad.”

Jeremy Deck (raised by his gay father): “Homosexuals are often able to surround themselves with like-minded individuals in the thriving gay culture. Spouses, parents, or siblings of homosexuals do not usually immerse themselves in a homosexual environment once their loved ones ‘come out’. Children, however, are in a sense forced to live a lifestyle they have not chosen.”

Lopez rejects the social-science consensus that being raised by same-sex households holds no disadvantages for the children. Among his reasons he says the measures of studies used “cannot reflect the deeper, unquantifiable pains experienced by children in such homes even if they look happy on paper”.

He also says many children are under pressure to make their parents look good. Their answers to survey questions may therefore not be full and frank. And the negative outcomes often do not manifest until they are adults and the social-science researchers are no longer willing to include them in their studies.

Lopez defended Mark Regnerus for including in his survey children raised by same-sex parents in diverse arrangements not just the picture perfect, two-parent, long-term stable household. However, he does criticise Regnerus’ study for, as with all the other research into children of same-sex parents, always asking whether the children made a good impression on adults – “do they have good grades, are they well liked by peers, do they seem confident and well adjusted?

“All of these measurements reflect what adults want out of children. None of these measurements can possibly capture the grave injustice being done to a child whose father or mother has been permanently taken away.”

I will let Robert Oscar Lopez have the last word: “Something precious and important has been taken from a child who is forced to live without a mother or father, and the state has no business encouraging such a taking.”

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