Are pediatricians just doing their public health duty? Are they reporting results of careful scientific studies that compare, say, health outcomes for children in the four states that permit second-person adoptions with outcomes for children in the other 46 states, which do not? No, of course not. The real issue here is not the well-being of children, but the sexual liberties of adults.
A review of the literature by Robert Lerner and Althea K. Nagai in the just-published scholarly volume "Revitalizing the Institution of Marriage for the Twenty-First Century" seriously questions the legitimacy of the research: Even dozens of small, flawed studies cannot and do not constitute proof that children do the same whether or not they have mothers and fathers. The response to their critique, from Dr. Judith Stacey, a sociologist at the University of California, in the prestigious American Sociological Review simply failed to address their central charge: that badly designed studies, no matter how often repeated, do not constitute sound scientific evidence.
What does this remind one of? Nothing so much as the urgent claims of divorce advocates in the '70s that "studies show" children of divorce do fine. An enormous amount of damage was done before more careful research created a new scholarly consensus that in fact, marriage matters a great deal.
I do not know if a child will be better off if, say, his or her mother's sexual partner is allowed to adopt. It depends on whether the potential benefits of child support outweigh the potential damage from the custody battles likely to ensue when romantic partners break up. (And same-sex relationships are statistically far more likely to break up than marriages.) I know of no good research on this question, but the potential for conflict is acute.
In the majority of divorces, custody issues are resolved by the spouses themselves and generally in favor of the mother getting physical custody, especially of young children. I suspect that when two moms battle for their baby, the battles are going to be harder to resolve, and if so, children may suffer a great deal because the law endorses such adoptions.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.
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