In a post this morning, I talked about a debate between the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and Bernard Whitman of Faith in America. The two were debating on Fox News during Easter Sunday about an Arizona law which gives preferences in cases of adoption to married heterosexual couples.
My point was that Whitman bested Perkins in the debate by being aggressive and countering his talking point of "decades of studies favor homes with a mother and a father" with some facts of his own.
Now comes something new about this debate which may interest you. I alluded to the fact that Perkins addressed children in same-sex households by citing an Australian study (starting at 3:11) which supposedly said children do worse in same-sex households.
Perkins gave no background on the study. However, a facebook friend of mine, Christopher Mongeau, tracked down the study and discovered that it has been discredited by the American Psychological Association:
A study from Australia (Sarantakos, 1996) has been cited as demonstrating deficits among children raised by gay and lesbian parents in Australia compared to children raised by heterosexual couples. The anomalous results reported by this study--which contradict the accumulated body of research findings in this field--are attributable to idiosyncrasies in its sample and methodologies and are therefore not reliable. An expert reading of the Sarantakos article reveals that certain characteristics of its methodology and sample are highly likely to have skewed the results and rendered them an invalid indicator of the well-being of children raised by gay and lesbian parents in at least three respects:
1. The children raised by gay and lesbian parents experienced unusually high levels of extreme social ostracism and overt hostility from other children and parents, which probably accounted for the former's lower levels of interaction and social integration with peers (see pp. 25-26);
2. Nearly all indicators of the children's functioning were based on subjective reports by teachers, who, as noted repeatedly by the author, may have been biased (see pp. 24, 26, & 30); and
3. Most or all of the children being raised by gay and lesbian parents, but not the children being raised by heterosexual married parents, had experienced parental divorce, which is known to correlate with poor adjustment and academic performance.
Indeed, although the differences Sarantakos observed among the children are anomalous in the context of research on parents' sexual orientation, they are highly consistent with findings from studies of the effects of parental divorce on children (see, e.g., Amato, 2001, and Amato & Keith, 1991). Children Australia is a regional journal that is not widely known outside Australia. As such, it cannot be considered a source upon which one should rely for understanding the state of scientific knowledge in this field, particularly when the results contradict those that have been repeatedly replicated in studies published in better known scientific journals. In summary, the Sarantakos study does not undermine the consistent pattern of results reported in other empirical studies addressing this topic.
Now in all honesty, let me throw some caveats out. Maybe Perkins was talking about another study. Or perhaps Perkins was not aware of the problems with this study he cited.
But with the caveats, there is another thing which should be mentioned.
This isn't the first time Perkins has misrepresented legitimate science during debate. Last year on Hardball when he was debating the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mark Potok (on the charge that FRC is a hate group because it deliberately spreads distortions about the lgbt community), he misrepresented a study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior to make the false connection between homosexuality and pedophilia.
He also cited work from a religious right sham group, The American College of Pediatricians, to further back up this claim.
Hardball's host, Chris Matthews, later had to make a clarification regarding the American College of Pediatricians after emails and phone call complaints.
My grand point - other than mock surprise that Perkins would have the temerity to lie on Easter Sunday - is to demonstrate yet again that Whitman won this debate. I know folks don't like to think about winners and losers when it comes to things like this, but to try and pretend that this isn't the case is a flight of fancy.
The battle over lgbt equality is a war between us and those who get paid handsomely to exploit the beliefs and fears of Christians and other Americans regarding our community.
But then others have said Perkins won the debate because he was able to interrupt Whitman on some points. Unfortunately to some members of the lgbt community, a win over a religious right figure in a debate isn't a win unless that person is left in a quivering pool of sweat in the midst of a huge epiphany of how they have been wrong to demonize lgbts.
Folks, that ain't gonna happen. Perkins, Maggie Gallagher, Peter Sprigg, and the rest are media slick. They have been trained to be so. You are not going to shake them from their talking point so easily. But you can make what they say work for our side.
Whitman was able to do this not only because he was consistent and aggressive but, as you have read, he led Perkins to tell a sloppy lie which could work for us - that is if we as a community take the time and energy to publicly show it as yet another example of religious right distortion of legitimate science (God knows there have been so many).
To paraphrase the words of actor Peter O'Toole in The Lion in Winter, "to these aged eyes, that's what winning looks like."