Conservatives’ Revolting Campaign to Harm the Children of Gay Parents

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
July 7 2014 12:38 PM

Conservatives’ Revolting Campaign to Harm the Children of Gay Parents

DV1676863
Conservatives, stop trashing these lovely same-sex parents.

Photo by Patricia de Melo Moreira/AFP/Getty Images

Last month, a new study conducted by the University of Melbourne in Australia confirmed what experts have been saying for years: The children of gay parents are just as healthy and happy as the children of straight parents. Actually, the study found that children in gay families are a bit healthier and happier than their counterparts in straight families, since gay parents often “take on roles that are suited to their skill sets rather than falling into … gender stereotypes,” creating a “more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and well being.”

Mark Joseph Stern Mark Joseph Stern

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

The new research is unlikely to persuade hard-core conservatives that gay couples really can make good parents. These reactionaries don’t care how much your silly peer-reviewed “studies” contradict their anti-gay views, since “the factors that really matter” are their own breathtakingly antiquated (and totally unscientific) views of gender stereotypes. It’s easy to laugh at this deliberately ignorant, Putin-esque nonsense. But in the long run, it’s really a shame that anti-gay conservatives are so unwilling to reconsider their bigoted views—since it’s them, not gay parents, who are inflicting the most harm on the children of same-sex couples.

Advertisement

How can homophobes reach into a family unit and actively denigrate children’s lives? Easy: by constantly demeaning the dignity and worth of gay families, thereby perpetuating the anti-gay stigma and teaching children that their families are wrong, immoral, disadvantaged, even diseased. That stigma isn’t some liberal myth sprouting from concerns over political correctness. It’s a real, observable phenomenon that risks seriously impairing children’s health and well-being.

The University of Melbourne study touches on the stigma question, noting that “perceived stigma” against gay people and their families is the one factor of same-sex parenting “negatively associated with mental health.” But a study last year by researchers at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and University of Pretoria in South Africa took a deeper dive into the effect of stigma on gay families, finding that:

The children were not upset that their parents are gay. In fact, most of them embraced it. The negativity that children with gay parents experience is rarely the result of having gay parents. Instead, it's the cultural stigma that causes all the problems. Any concerns they had were the result of how they would be treated in the public sphere. Research constantly shows that children with gay parents are normal, healthy, well-adjusted people. It's the social scrutiny and stigmatization that children have to negotiate and contend with.

As that quote suggests, the study only confirmed what previous research had borne out: Gay parents don’t disadvantage their children—but conservatives’ smear campaigns against gay parents do. This insidious harming of children at the hands of conservatives is pretty easy to understand. Anti-gay activists debase gay families as a whole by opposing equal rights for same-sex couples, singling them out for disfavored treatment and thus marking them as inferior or defective. Children begin to wonder why their parents are subject to such opprobrium and legal impediments, and translate legal inequality into moral deficiency. Their status as children of gay parents hangs like an albatross around their necks, impairing healthy development and fostering grief, anger, and depression.

All this could end if conservatives simply stopped demeaning gay people and their families. But because the shrinking core of anti-gay conservatism refuses to surrender its rather pitiful animus toward gay people, the vicious cycle will continue unabated. Gay couples make perfectly good parents. That drives the Christian right crazy—so they continue to inflict their phobias on otherwise happy children. There’s a perverse irony to all this. Conservatives have been claiming for years, in one form or another, that gay people are hurting children, and that kids need to be protected from gays. But in reality, it isn’t gays from whom kids must be protected. It’s conservatives themselves. 

Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Why Time Is on Our Side in the Fight Against Ebola

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

Catacombs Where You Can Stroll Down Hallways Lined With Corpses

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Crime
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 1 2014 4:55 PM Blood Before Bud? Must a gentleman’s brother always be the best man at his wedding?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?