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Religious Tolerance logo

Homosexuality and bisexuality

An overview of same-sex parenting

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How many children are involved?

There are rumors of a "baby boom" among committed lesbian couples.  Meanwhile, male gay couples appear to be adopting children in increasing numbers. Other homosexuals and bisexuals are attempting to adopt the natural children that their same-sex partners have brought into the relationship. Increasingly, courts are allowing gay and lesbian parents to retain custody of their children after marital separation and divorce.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to uncover any precise data concerning the number of such families:

bulletReuters reported that: "The number of U.S. children with at least one gay parent is estimated at between 1 million and 9 million." 1,2 Corresponding figures for Canada are probably about one-tenth of these values.
bulletThe American Psychiatric Association cites that: "estimates of the numbers of lesbian mothers range from 1 to 5 million and with the number of children ranging from 6 to 14 million." 3

With the increased visibility of gays and lesbians in society, religious leaders, child psychologists, and other professionals are questioning whether children raised by a gay or lesbian couple "fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual." 4 Conclusions are mixed.

Positions taken by various groups:

bulletConservative Christians often agree with "neoconservative social scientists."  They express concern that "cohabiting couples, single mothers, and gay and lesbian parents" will raise children who exhibit poor psychological adjustment. For religious reasons, they are opposed equal rights for gays and lesbians -- including the right to marry and adopt children. They believe that the presence in the family of a father is "essential to positive child development and that responsible fathering is most likely to occur within the context of heterosexual marriage." These beliefs are derived from their belief that a father and mother have very different and rigid prescribed roles to play in a family. However, conservative Christians have not promoted laws to remove of children from single parent families whose children often lack a close relationship with an adult of one gender.
bulletLesbians, gays, religious liberals, child psychologists, pediatricians, and others often assert that "neither mothers nor fathers are unique or essential" to the successful raising of children. Parent(s) in a motherless or fatherless family can compensate for the non-present gender by involving their children with an adult from outside of the family. Many also support "the legitimacy of diverse family structures, rather than policy that privileges the two-parent, heterosexual, married family." 5

Children in single parent families:

It is generally acknowledged that children who are raised by a single parent, whether heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian, often suffer disadvantages, when compared to children who are raised by  opposite-sex parents. Many single parent families are poor. The single parent is often away from home for long periods at work. However, there appears to be little or no evidence that children being raised by a single lesbian or gay parent is any more disadvantaged than children raised by a single heterosexual parent. The main problem faced by such children is homophobia among friends, and at school and church. This type of bigotry is similar to that experienced by children of parents who are members of any other minority, whether of a race, nationality or religion that is different from the majority. This prejudice can have either a positive or negative influence on the child.

Studies showing that same-sex parenting does not harm children:

Most studies in the literature, and statements by professional associations, agree that children raised by a same-sex couple develop as well as those raised by an opposite-sex couple.

bullet1996: The first attempt in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage happened in Hawaii. During the trial, the State was at a severe disadvantage, because all of the expert witnesses, both for the plaintiffs and the defense said that gay and lesbian couples are as fit and as loving as opposite sex couples. None of the witnesses for the defense were able to demonstrate that harm would come to Hawaii if it recognized same-sex marriages.

On 1996-DEC-3, Judge Kevin Chang wrote in his ruling:

"The evidence presented by [the] plaintiffs and defendant establishes that the single most important factor in the development of a happy, healthy and well-adjusted child is the nurturing relationship between parent and child." 6 More details on the case.

bullet2002: The Committee on Psychological Aspects of Child and Family Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that no substantial differences were found between the children raised by homosexual and heterosexual parents. 7
bullet2003: In a case that legalized same-sex marriage in the state of Massachusetts, the court found that there was plenty of evidence that children do better when raised in a two parent family than in a single parent family. But there was no evidence that children in a family led by two same-sex parents were at a disadvantage when compared to children led by opposite-sex parents.
bullet2006: During a court case by a lesbian couple who want their Canadian marriage to be recognized in Ireland, Professor Richard Green a U.S. psychiatrist, research director at the Gender Identity Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital, London testified. He said that studies show that the welfare of children is not adversely affected when they are raised by lesbian parents. He explained that the quality of the parenting itself and not the gender of the parent, is the essential ingredient. He rejected suggestions by State counsel that it was "premature" to draw any long-term conclusions from existing studies as to the long-term development of children raised by lesbians, or that the methodology used in such studies was flawed. Green said that a large body of data shows children in lesbian families are doing "very well." 7

A  family led by two adults of the same gender lacks a continually available opposite-gendered parent that the children can use as a role model. Gay and lesbian couples appear to be aware of this potential problem. Lesbian mothers, for example, have been shown to be more concerned with providing male role models for their children than are divorced heterosexual mothers. 4

The main problem faced by children of same-sex parents is caused by the bigotry of others; they are frequently teased by other children for having two mothers or two fathers. This is expected to fade over time as society becomes more tolerant of sexual minorities.

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Suggestions that same-sex parenting harms children:

Focus on the Family, a fundamentalist Christian para-church group, cites a number of disadvantages that they believe children of same-sex parents suffer:

bulletGender confusion.
bulletSexual confusions.
bulletMore likely to become promiscuous
bulletMore likely to experiment with same-sex behavior

They also claim that children who are raised in a stable family led by married, opposite-sex parents have certain advantages:

bulletThey are physically healthier
bulletThey are emotionally healthier,
bulletThey do better academically
bulletThey experience less poverty
bulletThe commit fewer crimes. 8

Unfortunately, they merely make these statements without proof.

They also suggest that children of same-sex parents are more likely to lose a parent to AIDS, substance abuse or suicide. These are probably true. However, they can be used to promote:

bulletThe availability of marriage to all couples, both opposite-sex and same-sex. Marriage removes individual from the single lifestyle where they are more likely to have multiple sexual partners and contract STDs.
bulletThe elimination of homophobia so that sexual minorities are not driven to substance abuse, depression and suicide by oppression and/or internalized hatred.

Suggestions that same-sex parenting studies are unreliable:

Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai conducted a meta study of 49 evaluations of same-sex parenting. They found at least one major research flaw in each of the studies. Various studies exhibited:

bulletUnclear hypotheses and research designs
bulletMissing or inadequate comparison groups
bulletSelf-constructed, unreliable and invalid measurements
bulletNon-random samples, including participants who recruit other participants
bulletSamples too small to yield meaningful results
bulletMissing or inadequate statistical analysis.

They concluded that

"... no generalizations can reliably be made based on any of these studies. For these reasons the studies are no basis for good science or good public policy. 9

Even though they find that individual studies contain flaws, the fact that all 49 studies reach a consensus is a very strong indication that same-sex parenting is as successful as opposite-sex parenting. However, it would be really great if those 49 studies could somehow be traded in for a handful of impeccably designed and executed studies.

Personal observations of the author:

I am very irritated at the lack of definitive studies in so many areas:

bulletDuring the 1980s and early 1990s there were probably tens of thousands of therapists who used recovered memory therapy (RMT) to convince clients that they were sexually abused by children. Other therapists built on this technique to convince clients that they were victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse. When the science finally caught up with the practice, it was realized that RMT actually generated what appeared to be memories of events that never happened.
bulletDuring the 1990s, Facilitated Communication (FC) was claimed to allow some autistic children to communicate. Years later, the technique was found to be without value. However, many families of origin had already been destroyed by the results of FC.
bulletReparative Therapy is being promoted conservative Christian groups as a method by which sexual minorities can convert their sexual orientation to heterosexuality. Professional associations criticize the therapy because of its miniscule (or zero) success rate and lack of safety.
bulletConservative Christian groups generally consider homosexuality to be unnatural, abnormal, chosen, changeable and immoral behavior. Religious liberals, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, sexuality researchers, psychiatrists etc. generally consider homosexuality to be a normal and natural sexual orientation for a minority of adults. It is discovered, not chosen, is fixed, and is morally neutral.
bulletAs noted above, conservative Christians generally believe that same-sex parenting harms children; others feel that, on average, both types of families raise well adjusted children.

The public desperately need to reach a consensus on these types of debates. Proceeding with therapeutic techniques whose efficacy and safety has not been established is dangerous to people's health and lives. A lack of a consensus over homosexual and other sexual minorities adds to the oppression and discrimination that they experience.

Books to assist lesbians to in conception, pregnancy and birth: customers rated the following two books highly:

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References used:

  1. Laumann EO. National Health and Social Life Survey. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago and National Opinion Research Center; 1995
  2. "U.S. Pediatricians Argue for Rights of Gay Parents," Reuter's News, 2002-FEB-4, at:
  3. "FactSheet: Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Issues," American Psychiatric Association, 2000-MAY, at: You need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
  4. "Technical Report: Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents." Pediatrics, 2002-FEB, Volume 109, #3, Pages 341 to 344. Online at:
  5. Louise Silverstein & Carl Auerbach, "Deconstructing the Essential Father,"  American Psychological Association, at:
  6. Judge Kevin Chang's ruling was at It seems to be no longer available online.
  7. "No difference if children raised by lesbian parents, court hears," Irish Independent, 2006-OCT-07, at:
  8. "Focus on the Family Gives the Facts on Gay Adoption. Pro-Family Organization Reaffirms the Importance of the Traditional Family," Focus on the Family, 2002-MAR-19, at:
  9. Robert Lerner & Althea K. Nagai, "No Basis: What the Studies Don't Tell Us About Same-Sex Parenting," Catholic University of America, 2001-JAN, at:

Copyright © 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Date of last update: 2010-MAY-28

Author: B.A. Robinson

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