Here’s what Dan Savage has to say:
I’m happy to scrap the results of this study—this peer-reviewed, 25-year-study—on the condition that the haters stop citing the results of discredited, non-peer-reviewed studies funded by anti-gay advocacy groups, studies that are “designed to come out with” anti-gay outcomes, studies conducted by disgraced and discredited “scientists” like Dr. George Rekers.
No, Dan, no! There’s no reason to throw out the study, and you shouldn’t be conceding anything here.
The study to which he refers took a long view of the behavioral and social outcomes of the kids of lesbian parents, comparing the results to an often-used data set consisting of a normative sample of American youth. In the same post, he rightly argues that the comparison groups could have been better, because the women studied were motivated volunteers, who (just by virtue of having to take the steps to create and parent a child) might be expected to be more engaged and involved than the “normative sample” (read: average).
Having read the report of the study in the highly respected Pediatrics, I’d add my concern that much of the data came from reports from the mothers themselves about their children at various ages. In addition to the inherent bias in self-reporting that’s well-known to epidemiologists, this particular report seems particularly susceptible to such bias: these women likely have at least some interest (perhaps greater than parents in the “normative sample”) in seeing their kids as happy and well-adjusted.
But conceding these points doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and say: “Well, we need a better study so this one is worthless.” It isn’t. Peer-review is — as Savage seems to recognize but then is willing to overlook — the gold standard for scientific acceptability. Courts have even assessed witnesses’ credentials based upon whether their “scientific” testimony is grounded in peer-reviewed science. George Rekers and other “haters” are, by contrast, charlatans who live in what Andrew Sullivan and others have called their own epistemically closed world. Read: no serious scientist, or publication, gives them the time of day.
I want to make another, deeper point, though. Since the kids of gay and lesbian parents will always be the product of deliberative decision-making, why is it unfair to compare them to the broader population of the children of heterosexual parents? After all, that’s the comparison group that the anti-equality forces constantly refer to. “Kids do best when raised by their biological parents.” Maybe that’s wrong, and maybe this study is a major step towards using science — real, peer-reviewed science — to debunk that unsupported assertion.
If our kids do better than a “normative sample,” it’s fair to point that out. Our opponents haven’t hesitated to argue the contrary — even without evidence that applies to our families at all. The evidence they rely on compares kids being raised in stable, two-parent families with kids being raised by single parents, with stepparents, and so on. What if being raised by same-sex parents is the best situation for kids? Wouldn’t that be…I don’t know, funny?