Research Shows No Evidence That Parents’ Sexual Orientation Impacts Children

Gary J. Gates is a research director at the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA School of Law. His findings on parenting were cited in Justice Kennedy’s June 26 opinion.

What kind of opposition do same-sex couples face when they try to adopt?

Only a handful of states put clear restrictions in the path of same-sex couples. Most of the time it’s up to family court judges, and the standard is usually the best interest of the children. I think that’s one reason why, in the U.S., general support for same-sex couples adopting has historically been higher than marriage for same-sex couples. And part of that is because in this country, people have seen same-sex couples with kids for a much longer period than they’ve seen same-sex couples getting married, and they’ve become comfortable with the idea (of adoption).

How do researchers take into account the many factors that determine a child’s well-being?

The majority of children being raised by same-sex couples are probably from different-sex relationships that one of the parents had. Because of that, those kids have probably had more family instability than, say, a typical kid (with) a different-sex married parent. And we know that family instability generally predicts worse outcomes for kids. As soon as (researchers) take into account this issue of family instability, the differences go away. The bulk of the research shows you just can’t find evidence that sexual orientation or gender composition of parents has any impact on a child’s well-being.

Do studies about same-sex parenting take the trans community into account?

There are (far fewer) studies on transgender parenting. The bulk of the studies around LGBT parenting have been female couples raising children.

What is your biggest concern for same-sex parenting?

Public adoption is the least expensive way to adopt. If states don’t make public adoption easy and widely available for same-sex couples — if they put up bars like you’ve seen with the law in Michigan, and now there’s one being debated in Florida around allowing adoption agencies to not serve same-sex couples if (the agencies) have a religious objection — if you put those bars in place, then private adoption and reproductive technology would become the primary way in which same-sex couples become parents. Those ways are more expensive, and in some cases only feasible among economically privileged groups. And I think that’s problematic.

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