Noam Scheiber of TNR is a droll one:
THE SOFT BIGOTRY OF LOW EXPECTATIONS--AND THE SOFT BIGOTS WHO EXPLOIT THEM: Put me down as mildly curious about whether Elisabeth Bumiller, David Sanger, or Richard Stevenson asked the obvious follow-up when the president asserted in yesterday's Oval Office interview that, "the ideal is--and studies have shown that the ideal is where a child is raised in a married family with a man and a woman."
Um, which studies are those? There is, in fact, basically zero social scientific evidence demonstrating this...
Gee, tell me again why Maggie Gallagher is in the news? Oh, yes - she writes a syndicated newspaper column, but also received money from HHS because she is an expert on marriage! And by what we can only imagine is an odd coincidence, she actually has some thoughts about that subject. Her paper titled "Do Mothers and Father Matter?" actually surveys a bit of the socially scientific literature, and comes up with some interesting nuggets.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court looked at evidence about the effect on children of gay marriage in arriving at its controversial 2003 decision. According to Ms. Gallagher, we can find this:
...In its opinion, the four justice majority of the SJC stated that “[t]he ‘best interests of the child’ standard does not turn on a parent’s sexual orientation or marital status,” and cited three child custody cases.33 With the state having conceded that gay and lesbian couples may make “excellent” parents,34 the court concluded that children of gay and lesbian couples were entitled to the benefits, which may flow from their parents’ marriage.35 The three dissenting justices strongly criticized the majority’s reasoning. In an opinion joined by Justices Spina and Cordy, Justice Sosman wrote:
...Conspicuously absent from the court’s opinion today is any acknowledgement that the attempts at scientific study of the ramifications of raising children in same-sex couple households are themselves in their infancy and have so far produced inconclusive and conflicting results.36
Justice Cordy, writing separately and also joined by Justices
Sosman and Spina, continued this argument:
We must assume that the Legislature (1) might conclude that the institution of civil marriage has successfully and continually provided this structure over several centuries;37 (2) might consider and credit studies that document negative consequences that too often follow children either born outside of marriage or raised in households lacking either a father or a mother figure,38 and scholarly commentary contending that children and families develop best when mothers and
fathers are partners in their parenting;39 and (3) would be familiar with many recent studies that variously support the proposition that children raised in intact families headed by same-sex couples fare as well on many measures as children raised in similar families headed by opposite-sex couples;40 support the proposition that children of same-sex couples fare worse on some measures;41 or reveal notable differences between the two groups of children that warrant further study.42
And here is footnote 41:
41. Id. at 999, n.26 (citing Cameron, Homosexual Parents, 31 ADOLESCENCE 757, 770-774 (1996) (concluding results of limited study consonant with notion that children raised by homosexuals disproportionately experience emotional disturbance and sexual victimization).
There is another summary of the Massachusetts Supreme Court opinions here.
Now, does anyone doubt that there is a politically correct answer to the question of whether children raised by same-sex couples do as well as children raised in a what President Bush would describe as the "ideal" setting? Does anyone have the least suspicion that we may see some agenda-driven social science on both sides of this question? Justice Sosman of the Massachusetts Supremes had some thoughts:
Interpretation of the data gathered by those studies then becomes clouded by the personal and political beliefs of the investigators, both as to whether the differences identified are positive or negative, and as to the untested explanations of what might account for those differences. (This is hardly the first time in history that the ostensible steel of the scientific method has melted and buckled under the intense heat of political and religious passions.) Even in the absence of bias or political agenda behind the various studies of children raised by same-sex couples, the most neutral and strict application of scientific principles to this field would be constrained by the limited period of observation that has been available. Gay and lesbian couples living together openly, and official recognition of them as their children's sole parents, comprise a very recent phenomenon, and the recency of that phenomenon has not yet permitted any study of how those children fare as adults and at best minimal study of how they fare during their adolescent years.
My guess is that, given the many confounding factors, proper liberals will consider this to be a scientifically open question until they get the answer they want. Whether that means that currently there is no social science addressing this, or simply no agreeable social science resolving this, is a different question, on which Noam Scheiber and Maggie Gallagher evidently differ.