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As it turns out, gay people want to wed in Hawaii. And state lawmakers are actually listening to the growing majority who support giving them this right.
Furthering the public debate, Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday released the latest draft of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. But as he considers whether to call a special session of the Legislature to consider it yet this year, conservative religious leaders are firing up their faithful followers to derail the effort.
Larry Silva, the bishop of Honolulu, sent a three-page letter to Catholics last week that explained why discrimination is OK when it comes to marriage. But of all the familiar slippery-slope tales he purports, one stands above the rest: children who have gay parents are more likely to kill themselves.
“Children will be the greatest casualties, in that they will be deprived of being raised in a loving home by a mother and a father who loves them and whose love cooperated with God’s plan in creating them,” Silva says in the letter. “When children are deprived of such a home, there will be more poverty, more social ills, more juvenile suicides, and more problems than we can imagine.”
Is there any scientific evidence to back the bishop’s claim? We couldn’t find any generally accepted studies to support the assertion.
The bishop doesn’t cite any research that supports his contention.
One paper that is often cited by the Catholic News Agency and some conservatives suggests gays are more prone to depression, substance abuse and suicide and that their children would suffer from similar tendencies.
But the work of the psychologist who did the study, George Rekers, has been discredited for failing to meet the standards in the field by his peers and even the Florida Supreme Court. (The state of Florida paid him almost $120,000 to testify in a gay adoption case the court heard in 2008, but the justices found that the issue is “so far beyond dispute that it would be irrational to hold otherwise.”)
The assertion that children of gay parents are more prone to suicide is a familiar one for renowned sociology professors, Hawaii gay rights leaders and national experts we talked to about the effect gay marriage has on children.
Judith Stacey, a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, told us that Silva’s claims were so absurd they were hardly worth justifying with a comment.
“There are no negative outcomes associated with gay parenting. Period,” Stacey said. “The idea that their kids are more suicide prone is absolutely incorrect.”
Her research papers, published in respected scientific journals, examine the effects of parents’ sexual orientation.
A 2010 study Stacey did with University of Southern California professor Timothy Biblarz says research has not identified any gender-exclusive parenting abilities — with the partial exception of lactation.
“The entrenched conviction that children need both a mother and a father inflames culture wars over single motherhood, divorce, gay marriage, and gay parenting,” they said in the paper, titled “How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?”
Camaron Miyamoto, who coordinates the University of Hawaii’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Student Services, said all the data he has seen shows the unfortunate fact that most teen suicides come from heterosexual parents and so-called traditional nuclear families.
“I believe that blaming the parents or guardian in these grave situations of loss demonstrates an unfortunate lack of compassion for families at a time of grief and suffering,” he said.
The American Psychological Association, which held its annual convention earlier this month in Honolulu, has for the past decade maintained that there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation.
The APA says the body of research has shown that the “adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children are unrelated to parental sexual orientation and that the children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish.”
We also called Seattle-based syndicated columnist Dan Savage, who, with his husband, is raising their 15-year-old son together.
“If the concern is the health and safety and lives of children, the Catholic church should get out of the homophobia business and stop encouraging parents to reject their queer kids,” Savage told us. “The bishop is projecting — the hate and lies peddled by his church prompts parents to reject their gay kids, which doubles their already quadrupled risk of suicide.”
BOTTOM LINE: Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva’s claim that kids who have gay parents are more prone to suicide is FALSE. All the respected scientific studies to date have consistently found that children who grow up with gay parents are at least as likely to lead a great life as those with heterosexual parents.