I got the opportunity to read an interesting opinion piece from PoliticusUSA on the DOMA hearings and the interaction between Rep. Al Franken and Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family. Before I get into it, here is the interaction in question:
FRANKEN: Mr. Minnery, on page 8 of your written testimony, you write, quote, “children living in their own married biological or adoptive with their own biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to healthcare, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.”
You cite a Department of Health and Human Services study that I have right here, from December 2010, to support this conclusion. I checked the study out. And I would like to enter it into the record if I may.
And it actually doesn’t say what you said it says. It says that nuclear families, not opposite sex married families, are associated with those positive outcomes. Isn’t it true, Mr. Minnery, that a married same sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite?
MINNERY: I would think that the study, when it cites nuclear families, would mean a family headed by a husband and wife.
FRANKEN: It doesn’t. The study defines a nuclear family as ‘one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family. And I frankly, don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways.
Now many who support LGBT rights are applauding this interaction for showing Focus on the Family and the Christian Right as liars and not to be trusted. I can understand this reaction.
The focus on what is a lie is understanding what is meant by nuclear family. Here is a definition of nuclear family and it also goes to show what this terminology brings up the question:
nuclear family, also called elementary family, in sociology and anthropology, a group of people who are united by ties of partnership and parenthood and consisting of a pair of adults and their socially recognized children. Typically, but not always, the adults in a nuclear family are married. Although such couples are most often a man and a woman, the definition of the nuclear family has expanded with the advent of same-sex marriage. Children in a nuclear family may be the couple’s biological or adopted offspring.
Within the last few years, the term nuclear family is slowly changing to look at a family unity, regardless of the genders that make up the parental units. I can understand the desire to include people who are in a LGBT marriage, but since it is such a new institution, there has not been a wide embrace of the new definition as of yet. I am assuming that Al Franken has embraced the new definition though as he points out that Minnery’s understanding of the term is wrong.
Now PoliticusUSA is a bit biased in my opinion, so here is part of an article from POLITICO on the same topic:
The study in question, published by a division of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in 2010, found better health outcomes among children in nuclear families a point Minnery, senior vice president for public policy, said means children are better off with straight, married parents.
But Franken pointed out that the study’s definition of “nuclear family” does not specify the gender of the parents in such families, suggesting a lack of evidence that same-sex couples’ kids are less healthy than the children of straight couples.
“Sen. Franken is right,” the lead author of the study told POLITICO. The survey did not exclude same-sex couples, said Debra L. Blackwell, Ph.D., nor did it exclude them from the “nuclear family” category provided their family met the study’s definition.
The study’s definition of nuclear family is: “one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents of all the children in the family.”
That means the study does not provide evidence that straight couples’ children necessarily fare better than same-sex couples’ kids, as Minnery claimed.
Now as the quote from the doctor who performed the study shows, same sex couples were not excluded from the survey nor the definition of nuclear family that was used in the study. This would seem to help back up the point made by Franken, that the study does not show that straight married couples do a better job of raising kids that same-sex married couples.
My problem is that, when the study was conducted, the only place where same-sex marriages were recognized was Massachusetts. Considering that how small of a percentage of this study could have included same-sex married couples with children, I can easily understand why Minnery would take the stance that he has. Even if the same-sex married couple with children where abusive and the children were neglected and abused, the small number of people who fit this category would not have shifted the results that show the positive benefit of a nuclear family. Notice also, how the Dr Blackwell does not mention how many same-sex married couples were a part of this study or if they were even included in the results. They were not excluded, but that does not mean they were not included.
I think Al Franken does a good job at pointing out how our understanding of what a nuclear family is has changed in recent years, but for the most part, this was more of a grand stand to support LGBT rights and the “gay agenda”.