The Associated Press
NEW YORK--Psychologists sympathetic to gay rights have long asserted that children raised by same-sex parents are no different from any other children. But two professors are now challenging that premise in a study that both pleases and worries gay activists.
The new study by two University of Southern California sociologists says children with lesbian or gay parents show more empathy for social diversity, are less confined by gender stereotypes and are probably more likely to explore homosexual activity themselves.
"We say there are some differences, and that people have shied away from acknowledging them for hear that this would inflame homophobia," said Judith Stacey, who co-authored the report with Timothy Biblarz.
Some gays worry that the report, in the latest issue of the American Socilogical Review, will provide ammunition for opponents of adoption and foster-parenting by homosexuals.
However, leaders of national groups supporting gay families welcomed the article.
"I'm thrilled that they're tackling these issues," said Aimee Gelnaw, executive director of the Family Pride Coalition, who is raising a 16-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter with her lesbian partner in Oak Park, Ill.
"Of course, our kids are going to be different," Gelnaw said. "They're growing up in a different social context."
Kate Kendall, head of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, is also raising children with her partner.
"There's only one response to a study that children raised by lesbian and gay parents may be somewhat more likely to reject notions of rigid sexual orientation -- that response has to be elation," Kendall said.
She urged lesbians and gays to overcome any uneasiness they might have about the report.
"If in fact our kids are somewhat more likely to identifiy as lesbian and gay -- if we're ashamed of that outcome, it means we're ashamed of ourselves," Kendall said.
Stacey and Biblarz did not conduct any new research of their own; theu re-evaluated 21 psychological studies conducted between 1981 and 1998. The thrust of those studies was that children raised by same-sex parents were no different from those reared by heterosexual parents.
"Because anit-gay scholars seek evidence of harm, sympathetic researchers defensively stress its absense," Stacey and Biblarz wrote. Such researchers "tread gingerly around the terrain of differences."
In particular, researchers concluded there was no difference in sexual orientation or gender behavior, Stacey said in a telephone interview.
"We say that doesn't appear to be true," she said. "It's time to stop worrying about that and look at it with eyes wide open."
Stacey and Biblarz didn't try to quantify their findings with statistical projections. They recommended further research.
A family-law expert who is skeptical of gay parenting, Lynn Wardle of Brigham Young University's law school, said he was not surprised that Stacey and Biblarz found shortcomings in earlier research.
"This is a flashing yellow light that says before you legalize gay adoptions, you better think clearly," he said. "The social science doesn't support those kind of radical reforms."