Unpacking the slogans on same-sex parenting

MercatorNet 8 August 2013
As a sociologist my life is all about creating, taking and interpreting surveys of attitudes and opinions. So I sometimes feel a bit depressed at how knuckle-headed the media can be when reporting about research on same-sex marriage. Let’s look at a slogan which is being repeated over and over: Same-sex parents are just as good at parenting as heterosexuals. This looks simple — but its simplicity is deceptive. Let me unpack it for you.

What is meant by “same-sex”?

Two sisters living together to save money, raising children from former husbands who died at a young age? Two bisexual women with children from previous marriages to men? Two lesbians who have each conceived a child by sperm donation? Two gay men who have adopted a child jointly?

Different situations can impact children very differently; thus, it is risky to subsume them all under the one label of “same-sex parent”. Does it mean that one parent had some same-sex experience as a teenager but now is heterosexual? Does it mean that one parent identifies as heterosexual but engages in gay affairs just for the sex? Sexual orientation is defined by attraction, behavior, and identity, with all combinations in between. Does it mean a woman who was raped at age six and became lesbian out of a hatred for her rapist? Does it mean a woman who feels she can be a better mother with another woman at her side rather than a man? Or, are we talking about someone who identifies as a “gay” man because he has found he has no sexual attraction to women or to men?

What is meant by “good”?

Does it mean they are provided adequate nutrition? Does it mean they are growing up with no plans on having sex until they marry? Does it mean they plan on cohabiting before they marry? Are they being raised to believe that they can marry a man or a woman when they marry? To what extent do the children believe in and practice delayed gratification? Are their gender roles distinct from those of the opposite sex? Are they growing up to love and serve God, putting that before personal pleasure or satisfaction? Does it mean they are academically prepared to succeed at the university?

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