Right, just to justify another mention of the redoubtable Melanie (although, in my defence, she’s been extremely busy recently), I’ll start with the conclusion of her column and work my way backwards:
“The underlying agenda behind gay adoption, as it is behind the whole gay rights movement, is nothing to do with protecting the rights of gay people. Were it really so, there would be no objection. No-one should be discriminated against simply on the grounds of his or her sexuality.
That does not mean, however, that gay lifestyles must be regarded as of equal value to heterosexual households when it comes to the raising of children. To say that anyone who makes such a distinction is prejudiced is to turn reality on its head.
But that is indeed the whole point of the gay rights movement – to destroy the very notion of heterosexual norms of sexual behaviour and the definition of the family so that gay lifestyles can present themselves as ‘normal’.”
Which is an opinion.
So how did we reach this bold conclusion? Well, via
“The reason why adoption is so successful at raising healthy, well-adjusted children is that it replicates as far as possible the biological mother and father whose presence in the family is so crucial to the well-being of their children.
The prevailing argument that all types of family are as good as each other as far as the children are concerned simply isn’t true. While some children emerge relatively unscathed from irregular households, children need to be brought up by the two people ‘who made me’ – or, in adoptive households, in a family which closely replicates that arrangement.
Where that does not happen, the child’s deepest sense of his or her identity as a human being is at some level damaged.”
Now I like my sub-Freudian rhetoric about concept formation in the young as much as the next man, but sometimes I find myself yearning for something a little more substantial. Doesn’t Melanie have anything more compelling to hang her conclusion on? Well, as it happens, there is this:
“Such people routinely claim that research shows there are no adverse outcomes for children from same-sex adoption. These claims are totally untrue. The fact is that there are virtually no studies of children adopted by gay couples – or raised by male same-sex couples. In general, studies of same-sex child rearing are in turn extremely thin on the ground and methodologically too unsound to be authoritative.”
Now here is the crux. This is an empirical question – there is a right answer and a wrong answer. Or, if we’re picky, answers which have more support from evidence and answers which have less. Your average person on the street, although they have access to the evidence to make this judgement, tend not to have the time. We could find out, but we have lives to lead. Instead we rely on authority. A comparable example would be a war abroad – in principal we could find out what’s going on ourselves, but we’re busy. You can see where this is leading. Newspapers, surely, are there to inform. On matters of opinion it’s all well and good to say ‘there is an editorial line – we are pro-X and anti-Y’, but on matters of fact you’re either informing or misinforming. Leaning as we do on the authority of those who have the time and inclination to look at the evidence, we should be able to expect, at the very least, that newspapers debating fact have looked at the evidence.
Which is why I get worried when the Mail routinely denies climate change, ignoring bodies of evidence and scientific studies. Or, as now, when Melanie ignores scientific data en route to telling the non-homosexual members of her readership that the Left is marginalising them and their way of life in favour of reprobates¹. If Melanie tells us there’s no evidence for healthy children from same-sex relationships and we know no better, we assume she probably knows better than we do. She has the evidence, we don’t.
Except she doesn’t. She denies that there is any, then speculates on what she believes is probably true. As it happens, she’s wrong. As one set of researchers puts it, this is a “growth industry” (Stacey and Biblarz, 2001). I thought I’d start with something nice and small scale – a single, peer reviewed study from an academic journal. A quick straw poll of journals with likely sounding names dredged up Brewaeys et al. (1997), who concluded “These results, like those of prior research (Steckel, 1987; Patterson, 1994, 1995; Flacks et al., 1995) indicate that child and family development in lesbian mother families is similar to that of heterosexual families.”. Feeling that this might just be a lucky stab, I tried to find a multi-article review² in a peer reviewed journal, instantly alighting on Patterson (2006) (“Does parental sexual orientation have an important impact on child or adolescent development? Results of recent research provide no evidence that it does. In fact, the findings suggest that parental sexual orientation is less important than the qualities of family relationships. “)
There was still a risk of lucky picking, so I went one further – are there any serious medical/psychological associations who have voiced an opinion on the matter? As it happens, yes – the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and even the American Psychoanalytic Association support adoption by same-sex couples, to name but three. I have not found any serious organisation with a position on the matter who are against it.
This is not hard. This information is readily available with only the lightest searching. Melanie and the fact-checkers at the Mail have no excuse for not knowing that when she says “These claims are totally untrue”, her claim is, in fact, totally untrue. A newspaper isn’t just a throwaway item – if it weren’t able to influence they wouldn’t be wasting their time with it. They have a responsibility to come down on the right side of factual arguments, whatever the position they want to take in debates on ‘morality’ or ‘standards’. To do otherwise is to cheat and fool their audience into believing that their bigotry carries the weight of scientific fact.
¹ And just while we’re thinking of the Left; surely Melanie has her left/right distinctions wrong – human rights are, and always are, libertarian matters. They are about what people cannot do to you. When we talk about the right to adopt, we’re not talking about granting homosexuals a boon, we’re talking about not standing in their way. Which is what she’s talking about when she conjures her evidence that same-sex partnerships harm children – there is a reason, she feels, to stand in the way, to annul what would be a right in the natural scheme of things. She’s totally upside-down, the Right should be rallying to the cause of the individual, not weighing itself down with tradition and small-c-consevatism.
² When originally published, this said ‘meta-analysis’. I corrected it because it wasn’t a meta-analysis, and I wanted to look like less of an idiot. Apologies for the mistake.³
³ Although, if you want a meta-analysis, try one which informed the decision of the American Academy of Pediatrics (above): Allen and Burrell (1997) Comparing the Impact of Homosexual and Heterosexual Parents on Children: Meta-Analysis of Existing Research Journal of Homosexuality 32:19-35