A landmark new study finds that children of same-sex couples are happier and healthier than children raised by heterosexual parents - a finding that major media outlets have largely ignored despite its potential significance in the legal fight for marriage equality.
On July 4, researchers at the University of Melbourne unveiled the results of a study that looked at how children of same-sex and heterosexual couples fare on a variety of health and wellness measures. The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families (ACHESS) is the largest study of its kind to date. Controlling for factors like socioeconomic status and parental education, researchers examined 500 children of 315 same-sex parents. An estimated 80 percent of the children were raised by female parents, with 18 percent raised by male parents. The Guardian summarized the researchers' findings:
The children raised by same-sex partners scored an average of 6% higher than the general population on measures of general health and family cohesion. They were equivalent to those from the general population on measures of temperament and mood, behavior, mental health and self-esteem.
Researchers did identify one hurdle often confronted by children of same-sex parents: anti-LGBT stigma, which about two-thirds of the children reported experiencing.
The Australian study is noteworthy not only given its unprecedented size and scope, but also because of its potential significance in the ongoing legal fight for marriage equality.
So far, however, the study has garnered scant attention. According to an Equality Matters analysis of print, broadcast, and cable news coverage, the study has received one mention on MSNBC and been the subject of one blog post each from The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Previous, smaller studies have found that children of same-sex parents fare just as well as those raised by opposite-sex parents, but the claim that same-sex parenting is damaging for children has nonetheless figured prominently in recent litigation over marriage equality. Defenders of marriage equality bans in Utah, Michigan, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Florida have asserted that the suppose superiority of heterosexual parents justifies their states' bans. In striking down Michigan's marriage equality ban, Reagan-appointed U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman smacked down anti-same-sex parenting arguments as "entirely unbelievable" and "not worthy of serious consideration." The ACHESS findings bolster Friedman's analysis.
Following a rash of court rulings against marriage equality bans, a Supreme Court ruling on the issue looks increasingly inevitable. That all but ensures that opponents will continue to peddle debunked arguments about why gay people should be denied the right to form families - and makes it all the more essential for media outlets to inform citizens about what the research about same-sex parenting really shows.
Equality Matters searched Nexis for "same-sex and parent!", "same sex and study," "gay and parent!", "gay and study," "same-sex and Melbourne," "gay and Melbourne," "University of Melbourne," and "Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families" between July 4, 2014 and July 10, 2014 for print outlets Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today and broadcast outlets ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. For The Wall Street Journal, Equality Matters entered those search terms in Factiva. For cable outlets MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, Equality Matters entered those search terms in TV Eyes.