Same Sex Parenting: What Do the Children Say?

During the oral arguments about Proposition 8, Justice Anthony Kennedy referred to children being raised by same-sex couples. Since I was one of those children—from ages 2-19, I was raised by a lesbian mother with the help of her partner—I was curious to see what he would say.

I also eagerly anticipated what he would say because I had taken great professional and social risk to file an amicus brief with Doug Mainwaring (who is gay and opposes gay marriage), in which we explained that children deeply feel the loss of a father or mother, no matter how much we love our gay parents or how much they love us. Children feel the loss keenly because they are powerless to stop the decision to deprive them of a father or mother, and the absence of a male or female parent will likely be irreversible for them.

Over the last year I’ve been in frequent contact with adults who were raised by parents in same-sex partnerships. They are terrified of speaking publicly about their feelings, so several have asked me (since I am already out of the closet, so to speak) to give voice to their concerns.

I cannot speak for all children of same-sex couples, but I speak for quite a few of them, especially those who have been brushed aside in the so-called “social science research” on same-sex parenting.

Those who contacted me all professed gratitude and love for the people who raised them, which is why it is so difficult for them to express their reservations about same-sex parenting publicly.

Still, they described emotional hardships that came from lacking a mom or a dad. To give a few examples: they feel disconnected from the gender cues of people around them, feel intermittent anger at their “parents” for having deprived them of one biological parent (or, in some cases, both biological parents), wish they had had a role model of the opposite sex, and feel shame or guilt for resenting their loving parents for forcing them into a lifelong situation lacking a parent of one sex.

I have heard of the supposed “consensus” on the soundness of same-sex parenting from pediatricians and psychologists, but that consensus is frankly bogus.

Pediatricians are supposed to make sure kids don’t get ringworm or skip out on vaccinations—nobody I know doubts that same-sex couples are able to tend to such basic childcare needs.

Psychologists come from the same field that used to have a “consensus” that homosexuality was a mental disorder. Neither field is equipped to answer the deeper existential dilemmas of legally removing fatherhood or motherhood as a human principle, which is what total “marriage equality” would entail.

I support same-sex civil unions and foster care, but I have always resisted the idea that government should encourage same-sex couples to imagine that their partnerships are indistinguishable from actual marriages. Such a self-definition for gays would be based on a lie, and anything based on a lie will backfire.

The richest and most successful same-sex couple still cannot provide a child something that the poorest and most struggling spouses can provide: a mom and a dad. Having spent forty years immersed in the gay community, I have seen how that reality triggers anger and vicious recrimination from same-sex couples, who are often tempted to bad-mouth so-called “dysfunctional” or “trashy” straight couples in order to say, “We deserve to have kids more than they do!”

But I am here to say no, having a mom and a dad is a precious value in its own right and not something that can be overridden, even if a gay couple has lots of money, can send a kid to the best schools, and raises the kid to be an Eagle Scout.

It’s disturbingly classist and elitist for gay men to think they can love their children unreservedly after treating their surrogate mother like an incubator, or for lesbians to think they can love their children unconditionally after treating their sperm-donor father like a tube of toothpaste.

It’s also racist and condescending for same-sex couples to think they can strong-arm adoption centers into giving them orphans by wielding financial or political clout. An orphan in Asia or in an American inner city has been entrusted to adoption authorities to make the best decision for the child’s life, not to meet a market demand for same-sex couples wanting children. Whatever trauma caused them to be orphans shouldn’t be compounded with the stress of being adopted into a same-sex partnership.

boy 2Lastly, it’s harmful to everyone if gay men and lesbians in mixed-orientation marriages with children file for divorce so they can enter same-sex couplings and raise their children with a new homosexual partner while kicking aside the other biological parent. Kids generally want their mom and dad to stop fighting, put aside their differences, and stay together, even if one of them is gay.

In my family’s case, my mother was divorced and she made the best decision given our circumstances. Had she set out to create a same-sex parenting family in a premeditated fashion, I would probably not feel at peace with her memory, because I would know that my lack of a strong father figure during childhood did not result from an accident of life history, but rather from her own careless desire to have her cake and eat it too. I am blessed not to contend with such a traumatic thought about my own mother. I love her because I know she did everything possible to give me a good life. Still, what was best in our specific circumstances was a state of deprivation that it is unconscionable to force on innocent children if it’s not absolutely necessary.

Justice Kennedy alluded to the views of children being raised by same-sex couples as if our desires and concerns are identical to and uncritical of the decisions made by our parents. The reality is far more complicated than that.

Putting aside all the historical analogies to civil rights and the sentimental platitudes about love, the fact is that same-sex parenting suffers from insurmountable logistical problems for which children pay the steepest lifelong price.

Whether it’s by surrogacy, insemination, divorce, or commercialized adoption, moral hazards abound for same-sex couples who insist on replicating a heterosexual model of parenthood. The children thrown into the middle of these moral hazards are well aware of their parents’ role in creating a stressful and emotionally complicated life for kids, which alienates them from cultural traditions like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, and places them in the unenviable position of being called “homophobes” if they simply suffer the natural stress that their parents foisted on them—and admit to it.

Same-sex marriage would pose no problems for me if it were simply about couples being together. As a bisexual I get that. But unfortunately the LGBT movement decided that its validation by others requires a redefinition of “marriage” to include same-sex partnerships. So here we are, stuck having to encourage problematic lives for children in order to affirm same-sex couples the way the movement demands.

That’s why I am for civil unions but not for redefining marriage. But I suppose I don’t count—I am no doctor, judge, or television commentator, just a kid who had to clean up the mess left behind by the sexual revolution.


This article originally published at MercatorNet.

Image credit:


Robert Oscar Lopez, PhD, is the author of Johnson Park and editor of the websiteEnglish Manif: A Franco-American Flashpoint on Gay Rights Debates. He is launching CREFA, or Children's Rights and Ethical Family Alternatives, a new project to discuss the ethics of LGBT family-building, with Doug Mainwaring.

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  • J_L_V

    My problem with this is that it Seems to create a false choice. The choice isn’t between same sex parents and Ozzie & Harriet. It is frankly that people have children in so many situation. Children are raised by a mom & dad who stay together. Children are raised by widows and widowers alone. Children are raised by divorced parents who are respectful and by divorced parents who are angry with each other. Children are raised by single mothers and single fathers. They are also raised by same sex couples.

    If we were to take the lack of both genders as a crushing problem for the child’s social and personal development, we’d need to start taking children away from divorced and other single parents.

    Anyone want to propose we act consistently? And at the same time, come up with parenting formulas with for the hundreds of thousands of kids this tosses into the child welfare system.

  • Chip70

    Seems to me, your beef should be with your Dad abandoning you Mr Lopez… Not with your mother’s love for another woman. Your parents got a divorse, THAT’S what “screwed” you up.

  • catholicexchange

    Hi everybody,

    Look, as the editor around these parts, I can’t take it anymore: the angry reactionary comments from proponents of same sex marriage that treat any opposing statistic or anecdote whatsoever with irrational disdain. These kind of comments have been saturating Catholic Exchange for a week now. If you can’t write something intelligent and in the spirit of some basic level of charity then please do not comment. Thank you, and God bless.

  • Chip70

    So much for the 1st amendment…

  • andrea gregorio

    It is a very good job that this is a ‘news’-‘comment’-type article. If it were submitted to a learned academic/clinical journal it would be binned on receipt. It is a mixture of anecdote, opinion and hopelessly skewed and unrepresentative statistics. The author’s experiences are valid – FOR HER. The intelligent reader will surely hesitate before imagining that this individual narrative can be extrapolated to the issue in general terms.

  • Guest

    Praise God for your enlightening words Robert. I pray God removes the intellectual blinders from those who screech about their rights….forgetting the children’s. I will be keeping you and CREFA in my prayers. God bless you!

  • Lee

    There are selfish adults in our society; and it is going to be the children who suffer. But it is also going to be the children who will clean up the mess being made by those very adults who just want their way no matter the cost. God Bless the children.

  • catholicexchange

    The author is a male.

  • rtmorgan

    Thank you for this article. I appreciate the risk Robert took to write this on behalf of many other children raised in same-sex unions. I constantly pray that we FIRST consider how broken biological mother-father-child bonds affect the life experiences of the child. And this goes for divorce, remarriage, single parenting, as well as same-sex.

  • Chip70

    Per another article, he wasn’t raised in a same/sexunion. He lived with his mother and her lover on weekends. Weeks days he lived with just his mother.. What happened to his Dad?

  • Chip70

    The author is a male

  • Friar Paul Schloemer, OFM Conv

    Dr. Lopez, I appreciate your comments and your experience. It is a valuable voice in this debate, and, as a Catholic priest with gay friends, whom I love dearly, it is good information. However, I notice that you discount rather severely the opinions of pediatricians and psychologists who, although as influenced as any by the world they live in, do base those opinions not solely on personal experience, but more objective studies with analyses of multiple case situations. Reading the link on your personal story, it seems to me that your upbringing was more as a child of divorce, than of two lesbian parents (you mention that your mother’s lover didn’t move in until you were 18-19, a legal adult). Your feelings of abandonment, and loss of a father figure would seem to be present regardless of whether your mom was seeing someone else, regardless of sex. Have you considered how your opinion may be different had you never known your father, but instead had been raised from earliest memory by two women? That seems to me to be the primary question before the state, and the one that needs to be addressed.

    And if you have been amassing testimonials from other children of same-sex households, could you not amass those comments into a formal study. Any grad psych student should be able to help you in converting text to researchable data.

    Just a thought. God bless you.

    fr. Paul

  • You can see Prof. Lopez’ testimony before the Minnesota State House at

    Prof. Robert Oscar Lopez article archives at the Witherspoon Institute, Public Discourse:

  • With respect, Friar Schloemer, Dawn Stefanowicz might have another point of view. Catholic Answers radio shows:

  • Pavle Estrajher

    Uh.oh I even read the whole article, but then something was somehow not right..then I went to read what the webpage was that I was on..hehe nice try..

  • James H, London

    We see here the weakness of the SS ‘marriage’ position. They can’t actually make their case, so they try to shut their opponents up.

  • Chip70

    James… That’s laughable – because its the moderator of this exchange that deletes comments he doesn’t like… Why delete any comment if there is no logical reason behind it?

  • Richard III

    And thank you and God bless you for your incredible patience. If this was my website, I wouldn’t be handling the stress as well as you have. Thanks again. 🙂

  • lightedlamp97

    The altered perception of God the Father that these unions cause, creates wounds that are so painful and deep. It can take years to replace these altered thinking patterns into God’s truths. Why isn’t protecting the soul from such trauma warranted.

  • I agree with the premise that children need fathers and mothers, but this article is very poorly written and unconvincing.

  • Michellelemon

    Did I read that correctly – did he say he was “bisexual”??

  • An extension of the Hate Crimes law recently passed the House of Representatives which will essentially codify into national law the “speech codes” that are smothering academic freedom on college campuses today. This law is the back door method Obama and his fellow socialists will use to stifle free speech in this country, as explained in an informative article by Jerry Kane at American Daughter.

    To heck with the “Fairness Doctrine.” Who needs to limit censorship to the airwaves? This legislation will silence anyone who disagrees with them.

    Hate crimes legislation has its roots in the communist-inspired, so-called Frankfurt School founded in Frankfurt, Germany by Bolsheviks in the 1920s. Its goal was to implement communism in the West quietly by gradually subverting popular culture — a movement known as Cultural Marxism. One of its leading lights, Herbert Marcuse, opined that the prevailing Western social order is repressive by definition and discriminates against minorities simply by existing.

    This creates a phenomenon he called “repressive tolerance” because even though other views are allowed within Western culture — you know, by that insignificant little old thing called the First Amendment — the Capitalist view is still permitted. It goes without saying that Marcuse considered that to be unacceptable.

    Instead, he proposed what he called “partisan tolerance,” i.e. tolerating the views of those “repressed minorities” only — who Marcuse assumes share his partisan hatred for everything noncommunist — while actively muzzling the views of the majority.

    So now we have a word for Democrats’ eye-popping hypocrisy when they wrap themselves in the mantle of free speech while simultaneously attempting to suppress non-Leftist ideas. We have a word for the Left’s double standard in championing “repressed minorities” only when those minorities share their politics, while savaging principled, accomplished minorities like Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell or Janice Rogers Brown. We have an explanation for why so many college campuses, supposedly the society’s heart of open-minded intellectual inquiry, actively, even violently intimidate conservative speakers — when they let them onto campus at all.

    They have been practicing “partisan tolerance.” That is, tolerance of the extreme Left and virulent intolerance of anything else.

  • Richard III


  • Droodlebug

    Dr. Lopez,
    You are a courageous man! Thanks for sharing your own insight into this debate. I am not at all surprised the editor needs to step in and clean up the messes left here by angry folks! These poor souls can’t face the truth about what redefining marriage would do to further disregard the rights of children in favor of the “rights” of self-absorbed adults. I am tired of the lack of intellectual discourse that comes from the “progressives” on this issue.

  • I don’t understand why so many women are supporting SS marriage as it will lead to SS adoption as Robert Lopez says.
    If SS adoption becomes the norm there is no longer an argument to presume that the children are better off with the mother after a divorce. If children can be placed with two men because the need for a others unnecessary then this removes the need for a mother in all cases surely?
    The difficult is with the SS adoption debate is that people always attempt to counter any opposing arguments with an either/or phallacy. Either SS couple or dishy functional heterosexual couple e.g. “so you’d prefer a child to be in a home with abusive parents than a SS couple?” like all such arguments this shuts down debate by reframing the ethical question into one which negates the opponents arguments. When in actual fact the better open is to place children with a functional, heterosexual couple for the reasons Mr Lopez gives.

  • In spite of this author’s assertion of his support for civil unions, I think his comments reflect precisely the reasons why we can’t allow for legal recognition of any kind for same-sex relationships. If a child will suffer intensely from not having a mother and a father in the immediate family, that same child who grows up with mom and dad will not be able to distinguish between a “civil union” and a “marriage” of two men or two women who might live next door or three houses away. Regardless of the technical definition, the same child will see..two men or two women, sharing the same home, acting as though they believed themselves to be a married couple.

    Any child will reasonably be pretty bewildered by trying to figure out why mom and dad obviously look like female and male, but the other couple..don’t.

  • Ron Van Wegen

    I agree with the premise that children need fathers and mothers, and this article is very well written and convincing.

  • Marrage is between one man and one women as defined by God. Anything else is a lie and a counterfit. You can buy a politition to change the laws but truth is not changed.

  • JohnnyVoxx

    Your advocacy would be much more effective if you adhered closely to your own experience. People can discount your opinions, but they can’t touch your experience. The more personal it is, the more effective it will be.

  • Deacon El

    One of today’s trends is ignoring the word of the Living God, and giving way to seducing spirits that promote spiritual wickedness in high places. Consider the so-called scholars and experts. If they are so correct with their rhetoric, why is the world a better place? Is it because they do not have the correct answers? no, it is because they do not have the solution. Self-centeredness versus God-centeredness is the debate.

  • angelccorr

    Due to my mother’s divorce, I grew up without a father, and can tell you from personal experience, not having both biological parents was very hurtful for me. Once children know it takes a male and female to make a child, they then realize there is an important relationship missing in their lives. I blamed myself because I loved my mother too much to blame her, and I came to the conclusion that I must not be important enough for my father to make the effort to be in my life.
    It can’t be much different for children being parented by same-sex couples.

  • Cris

    What about if a child is raised by their mother and aunt, or their grandma and aunt. Is that wrong? And what about all of the children in foster care? I know you touched on this, but what’s wrong with a same-sex couple taking in a child and loving them unconditionally? Or should that child just jump from foster home to foster home, not knowing what it’s like to have a guardian who loves them.

  • Rob smith

    Hi, We’ll for me it has been a happy fun safe Loving supportive experience. For the past 7 years, Im now 16, I have lived with two men who have been together for 13 years. Prior to this being my home, and my now family, I lived in numerous foster homes from 6 months old. I was removed three times from My biological parents and grandparents. I was born addicted to heroine, and alcohol. My father died when I was two he was 21. My mother physically abused me by kicking and punching me, then telling me to lie about the bruises. I didn’t and was removed and placed with my grandparents. This lasted for several months, my grandfather was a drunk, And in a drunken stupor he punched me repeatedly until I passed out. I then drifted in the foster care system, all heterosexual, all opposite sex married. Many of them were abusive and one married heterosexual man sexually abused me, I ran away, and lived in motels for 4 months with different workers until I was introduced, by my Case worker, to My same sex parents. Since being with them I have gone from being very under weight, undersized for my age, to being healthy weight and height. My education has improved, my bad behaviour is getting better, I haven’t been suspended from school like I was prior, I feel safe and secure, respected and worthy. Since being with them, I have cut my medication down, that was prescribed for anxiety, ADHD, drug addiction, insomnia, depression, to using only anxiety medication occasionally. Both my same sex parents work, they have never been drunk or abusive, yes they get cross, and their strict. I’m so glad they don’t mimic my heterosexual parents. Yes it was my choice to live here and that was made perfectly clear to me prior, I am constantly asked about how I feel living with two men, and as I said, I feel safe loved respected secure happy.