A recent letter lamented the plight of “dad-deprived kids” being raised by lesbian couples (BDN, April 8). The writer failed to mention that half of traditional marriages end in divorce, leaving children with less father contact and sometimes none. In addition, a significant number of children are being raised by single heterosexual women, and their children may or may not have contact with their fathers. Despite the writer’s reference to God’s “perfect design” for procreation of man and woman, marriage does not guarantee that fathers will be actively involved with raising their children. Nor does it ensure that children will be spared from ever witnessing or being victims of domestic abuse.
Those opposed to same-sex couples having the right to wed are quick to quote Scripture. At the time the Bible was written, people knew about homosexuality but did not understand the underlying causes. In the 2,000 ensuing years, we have come to understand that homosexuality is not a matter of choice any more than eye color is. If the Bible forbade blue-eyed people to marry and you happened to have blue eyes, how would you feel? Would you settle for a civil union or would you want equality?
Fear is another factor that underlies opposition to same-sex marriage and we tend to fear that which we do not know or understand. Same-sex marriage will not diminish the significance of traditional marriages. It will help same-sex couples in their quest to foster, adopt and raise children, some of whom are hard to place children who might otherwise languish in orphanages.
If one has the opportunity to get to know such families, one soon realizes that they deal with the same joys and struggles as heterosexual couples do raising a family and that their children can thrive.
Being raised with same-sex parents does not mean absence of contact with adults of the opposite sex. Male family members, friends and teachers often serve as role models for children growing up in lesbian families. Being raised by same-sex parents does not mean that these children will become homosexual. In fact, most homosexuals are the products of heterosexual marriages. Research has failed to find any evidence that homosexuals are better or less well adjusted than comparable heterosexuals. Their parenting styles are remarkably similar to those of their heterosexual counterparts. Research also has failed to show that absence of a father figure, in and of itself, leads to homosexuality.
One should be asking what is in the child’s best interest and how do children develop when raised by same-sex parents. A study comparing children raised by lesbian mothers to those raised by heterosexual mothers found that the children of lesbian mothers differed from their counterparts on two measures. Boys raised by lesbian mothers valued awareness of others’ feelings and gentleness more than boys of heterosexual mothers. The girls of lesbian mothers rated themselves higher than girls raised by heterosexual mothers on two male-valued traits: being adventuresome and leadership.
Less research is available on children being raised by gay couples although this is becoming increasingly common. Children being raised by homosexuals have had to deal with stigma and peer reactions. Attitudes are slowly changing and with passage of LD 1020 their parents will no longer be viewed as second-class citizens. In addition, children of these parents will be afforded the same rights and legal protections as are afforded to children of heterosexual married parents.
Of course, fathers are important, but children without fathers in their lives still can turn out well. Look at President Obama. Children need to be raised with love, respect, compassion and ethical values. Fortunately, most parents — be they lesbian, gay or heterosexual — are potentially able to meet these needs. As a society, we need to be able to support their efforts.
Diane Schetky of Rockport is a retired child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist and teaches at Maine Medical Center where she is a clinical professor of psychiatry through University of Vermont College of Medicine.