Last Friday, social commentator Bettina Arndt earnestly told readers through the pages of The Australian, that prejudice can make life miserable for children with same-s-x parents.

Sadly, this wasn’t a column urging an end to this prejudice, or an appeal to tolerance, fairness and better anti-discrimination protections and education programs in schools. No, the column was designed to blame-the-parents of gay families for effectively placing their kids in this situation.

Whereas Arndt wouldn’t dream of blithely noting the harassment of kids with mixed race parents and then blaming the interracial couple for creating this situation, it seems that queer kinder are fair game. Blurring same-s-x relationships with same-s-x parenting, her subtext seems to be that gay marriage is bad for kids, although she doesn’t expressly say that. It’s merely implied and readers are invited to join the dots.

However, her article got particularly nasty when she dismissed the academic research into same-s-x parenting as “biased” and then purported to have better information from the more reliable sources of Lerner, Nagai and Nock.

“Most of the scholarship on gay parenting is conducted by researchers sympathetic to gay concerns and fails to include proper controls, relies on very small samples and uses unreliable or invalid measures,” says Arndt, who then quoted her experts:

“The methods are so flawed that these studies (on gay parenting) prove nothing,” say Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai, experts in qualitative analysis.

“Not a single one of these studies was conducted according to generally accepted standards of scientific research,” concludes sociology professor Steven Nock.

Experts, Bettina?

Well, not quite as it turns out. In fact, Professor Steven Nock, was head of the anti-gay Marriage Matters project, which commissioned his work.  On the other hand, Lerner and Nagai are discredited statisticians who were paid by a US anti-gay group to come up with the results they claimed to find.

Lerner and Nagai were implicated earlier on in another cash-for-findings “study”, in which they  found African Americans were at least three times more likely to be acquitted of r-pe than white people.  This farcical conclusion about all r-pe trials was found by looking at just five jury trials involving black defendants.

Qualitative analysis, Bettina?

Lerner, Nagai and Nock are highly questionable and all have a clear anti-gay political agenda associated with the American religious right. Their views are not “research” and they are not credible.

In the past 30 years, respected scientific researchers have looked at more than 1000 children and more than 500 lesbian and gay parents.  The research has been published in well-regarded journals and both the findings and methodologies of these studies have been strenuously reviewed.

The findings of genuine research keeps returning to the same point: s-xuality has no bearing on whether you can raise children. This is why the Australian Medical Association and Australian Psychological Society support gay and lesbian parenting.

More importantly, if a child in society is the subject of discrimination, isolation and ridicule, then the response required is not to the blame the victim or his or her parents. The correct response is to find the source of the negativity and confront it. Most Australians would agree with that Bettina, even if you aren’t.

*With acknowledgement to Rod Swift

Peter Fray

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