Equal, But…

“Kids Do as Well with Same Sex Parents,” the headlines screamed. I crossed swords with Judith Stacey, one of the authors of this most recent study, at a debate at Bowling Green State a few years ago. I asked her point blank if she believed men and women were completely interchangeable as parents. In front of that very friendly audience, she said absolutely: the gender of parents doesn’t matter. And so she says now, in this new article the media loved. But midway through the article, her argument shifts from a “no difference” argument to my favorite definition of feminism: men and women are identical, except women are better. Her article ends with an intimation that I believe tells strongly against same sex marriage. Redefining marriage will create a cultural climate that will drive men out of the family, and lead to the belief that the only good man is a gay man.

The claim that the gender of parents doesn’t matter is a crucial argument for same sex marriage advocates. Treating same sex unions like marriage amounts to saying that mothers and fathers are interchangeable. It is a coin toss from a child’s point of view, whether they have two moms, two dads, or one of each. So here is how Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz show that “Two Mommies are as Good as Mom and Dad.”

What the Evidence Says

They say that the evidence purportedly showing that children need mothers and fathers doesn’t really prove any such thing. That research conflates five factors that are conceptually distinct: the number of parents, the gender of parents, sexual identity, marital status and “biogenetic relationship to children.” Children with married couple parents have one straight male and one straight female parent who are married to each other and both biologically related to them. To prove that heterosexual marriage is uniquely good for children, and superior to same sex parenting, we really need studies that separate all these factors. So, Stacey and Biblarz gathered 81 studies that compare families in these various dimensions.

But hold it right there: before we enter into this argument, look at what we are being asked to take on faith. The “biogenetic relationship to the child” is a ten dollar phrase meaning that the adults in the couple are actually the parents of the children. We have always taken for granted the idea that kids are entitled to a mom and a dad because a mom and a dad is what it takes to have a “biogenetic” origin, in the first place. By breaking marriage down into its constituent elements, Stacey and Biblarz are asking us to break ourselves and our children, into pieces. The children in my household need not be products of my sexual union with anybody in particular, or even a sexual union at all. The birth parents can be different from the legal parents can be different from the caregiving parents.

And the kids are supposed to be ok with all this.

But put that to one side. Let’s also put to one side the question of whether the interpretative scheme that Stacey and Biblarz construct around the 81 studies they summarize is really the one and only possible interpretation of all that data. It would take another whole article to deconstruct that issue. Instead allow me a few quotes, from “How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?” to illustrate my point that fatherhood itself is at stake in the same sex parenting debate.

  • “Two women who choose to parent together provide a ‘double dose of middle-class feminine approach to parenting.’”
  • “Women parenting without men scored higher on warmth and quality of interactions with their children than not only fathers, but also mothers who coparent with husbands.”
  • “If contemporary mothering and fathering seem to be converging,… research shows that sizable average differences remain that consistently favor women, inside or outside of marriage.”

See what I mean? Men and women are identical, except women are better.

“Gender nonconformity” used to be considered a negative trait, something, which if found, provided an argument against same sex parenting. But listen to Stacey and Biblarz turn “gender flexibility” into a positive trait.

  • “Twelve-year-old boys in mother only families (whether lesbian or heterosexual) did not differ from sons raised by a mother and a father on masculinity scales but scored over a standard deviation higher on femininity scales. Thus growing up without a father did not impede masculine development but enabled boys to achieve greater gender flexibility.”
  • “If, as we expect, future research replicates the finding that fatherless parenting fosters greater gender flexibility in boys, this represents a potential benefit. Research implies that adults with androgynous gender traits may enjoy social psychological advantages over more gender traditional peers.”


The bottom line is not really that mothers and fathers are interchangeable, but that masculinity is a bad thing.

  • “Thus, it may not be fatherlessness that expands gender capacities in sons but heterosexual fatherlessness. When gay men, lesbians or heterosexual women parent apart from the influence of heterosexual masculinity, they all seem to do so in comparatively gender-flexible ways that may enable their sons to break free from gender constraints as well.”
  • “Parenting by gay men more closely resembles that by mothers than by most married, heterosexual fathers.” Let’s see now. We’ve shown that women are better parents than men. We have shown that gay men parent more like women than like heterosexual men. Therefore, it stands to reason that gay men are better parents than straight men, perhaps even including the child’s own father.

Same sex marriage is being sold to the public as a small change, with “marriage equality” as the only important issue. I believe there is much more at stake in redefining the law and the culture surrounding marriage and parenthood. This article supposedly showing that “kids do fine” with lesbian parents, has proven my point for me. The drive for same sex marriage will marginalize men from the family, and lead to the belief that the only good man is a gay man.

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