California Supreme Court recognizes same-sex marriage right

If you get Google alerts or some similar service, you already know that the California Supreme Court has issued a ruling recognizing a right to marriage for same-sex couples. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The state Supreme Court struck down California’s marriage law banning same sex couples from getting married in a historic decision Thursday that declared the law unconstitutional discrimination.
The decision will surely touch off an impassioned political fight.
The 4-3 opinion is the high court’s most important civil rights decision in more than a decade, and it is an epic legal victory for same-sex marriage advocates. California is now the second state in the nation to allow gays and lesbians to be legally married.
According to the opinion, “we determine that the language of section 300 limiting the designation of marriage to a union ‘between a man and a woman’ is unconstitutional and must be stricken from the statute, and that the remaining statutory language must be understood as making the designation of marriage available both to opposite-sex and same-sex couples.”

Email alerts reactions from various groups range from “a full win” by gay groups to “a disregard of California voters” from conservative groups. The November ballot initiative will now be considered an effort to overturn this ruling.
Fallout and reactions:
Presidential candidates reactions
New York Times
Schwarzennegger
Associated Press

Glenn Stanton and Patrick Chapman debate anthropological arguments

Not new news, but noteworthy nonetheless; Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family and anthropologist Patrick Chapman debate Glenn’s recent article on marriage over at Box Turtle Bulletin.

First Patrick Chapman had a go at the Stanton article that started the conversation and then Stanton had his turn.

Followed by a lively and ongoing discussion…

Year in review: Top Ten Stories from 2007

Since it was so much fun last year, I decided to compile a top ten list of stories of the year on the blog. Since I am the only voter, the list is subjective and regular readers might arrange them differently or think I should have included another story over one of these. The stories are arranged in the order of the interest they seemed to create here on the blog and elsewhere.

1. APA Task Force on sexual orientation – I first reported here that the APA had convened a task force to review APA policy regarding therapeutic responses to sexual orientation. Initial information released from the APA noted that gay advocacy groups sought assistance from the APA in order to negatively evaluate efforts to change sexual orientation. The charge also involves therapeutic responses to individuals who wish to alter behavioral expression of their sexuality. The issue was the subject of a CNN segment involving yours truly, an Associated Press article and was the subject of several posts on the blog. A large coalition of religious groups and interested individuals wrote the APA regarding the religious aspects of the committee’s charge. Efforts to further regulate orientation change efforts spilled over to other professions, notably, the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The APA Task Force will likely be featured as a top story again since the report is expected to be released sometime in 2008.

2. The sexual identity therapy framework – The SIT framework was the subject of national news stories and identified by Stephanie Simon of the LA Times as an important component of changes in therapy for those in conflict over sexual identity. I did numerous posts on the framework in an attempt to distinguish it from other approaches. Mark Yarhouse and I presented aspects of the framework at the American Psychological Association convention, the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference and other local conferences. A revision of the framework and several high level presentations are slated for 2008. 

3. The release of the Exodus outcomes study by Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse – After months of speculation, Stanton Jones and Mark Yarhouse released the results of their longitudinal study of Exodus International participants at the AACC conference in September.  Although the study garnered little national media attention, many blogs, (including this one), and the gay and religiously based news services thoroughly covered the study. With additional data to be collected and reported, this story will most likely reappear in 2008.   

4. Donnie Davies – For a short time in January and February, blogosphere was captivated by the “Rev. Davies” and the “The Bible Says” music video. In a kind of “Where’s Waldo” cyber hunt, numerous bloggers were eager to crack the case and learn find out who Donnie Davies was, where was he hiding, and to learn if his act for real. I did 11 posts on the subject and became acquaited via email with Joey Oglesby, the actor behind the spoof. We even wondered if Mr. Oglesby and Rev. Davies were twins separated at birth because of their uncanny resemblance. Will Donnie do an anniversary reunion tour in January? Stay tuned.

5. The Cameron Eastern Psychological Association presentation – In March, Paul and Kirk Cameron released a series of news spots claiming that data from Canada, Norway and Denmark supported their contention that gays die between 20-30 younger than straights. In reviewing their study, first presented as a poster session at the Eastern Psychological Association annual meeting, I disputed key assumptions underlying their claims. In addition, Danish epidemiologist, Morten Frisch reviewed the study here on the blog finding it inadequate. Paul and Kirk Cameron provided rebuttals to criticisms and a nine-part series resulted.

6. New Warriors Training Adventure and the Mankind Project – A post regarding the suicide of Michael Scinto in an October issue of the Houston Press led to a series of posts about the Mankind Project and New Warriors Training Adventure. I received numerous emails from men who attest to benefit and those who believe NWTA was harmful and coercive. One irony about NWTA is that public proponents of reparative therapy and gay affirmative therapy both recommend NWTA to clients to enhance masculinity. Reparative therapists believe NWTA may lead to reduced same-sex attraction and gay therapists believe NWTA can enhance security in a gay identity. I remain curious about the mechanisms inherent in NWTA and other such programs to effect either benefit or harm. With the Scinto trial schedule for later in 2008, this story will remain of interest through the next year.

7. Montel Williams show on reparative therapy – The Montel Williams show purporting to examine reparative therapy was a lightning rod for controversy. On the show, psychiatrist Alicia Salzar falsely claimed that science has shown that 96% of people attempting to change orientation cannot do so and experience harm. Her claim was based on a study, the authors of which acknowledged cannot be used to make such a claim. The unwillingness of the show to retract the statement led to a ethics complaint against Dr. Salzar, filed by Exodus International. 

8. Pro-life/abortion related stories – The most viewed post on the blog consisted of an interview with Grove City College colleague and historian Paul Kengor regarding the religious beliefs of Hillary Clinton.  Other such interviews have been immensely popular with readers as well. Another APA task force, this one on abortion and mental health issues, stimulated grassroots activism, reported here in November. 

9. Emergence of the ex-ex-gay movement – At this year’s Exodus conference, a group of people once involved in ex-gay efforts had a parallel conference to discuss their efforts to recover from their experiences. Perhaps, the newest ex-ex-gay, James Stabile is a 19 year old young man from Dallas who encountered evangelists from the Heartland World Ministry Church in early September. Recorded on film and broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network, it appeared that Mr. Stabile was dramatically converted and even reported change in homosexuality. Later it was learned that Mr. Stabile had not changed and was back home with his parents after a stay at ex-gay residential program, Pure Life Ministry.

10. Richard Cohen – An early 2007 debacle on John Stewart’s Daily Show led Mr. Cohen to pledge on my blog that he would do no additional media appearances. He ended his email with a fundraising appeal. In response to this appearance, Exodus issued a statement distancing the organization from Cohen’s work, and NARTH and PFOX quietly removed references to Mr. Cohen from their websites. Cohen made something of a comeback however, with You Tube videos including his family, and a new edition of one of his books with Evangelical publisher, Intervarsity Press. Then, later, I looked into the Unification Church connections of Mr. Cohen’s assistant director and former board member, Hilde Wiemann. Both Cohen and Wiemann initially denied these connections but they were clear enough that cult expert, Steve Hassan, briefly placed the International Healing Foundation back on his list of Unification Church connected groups. Eventually, Mrs. Wiemann acknowledged, in contrast to the initial claims, that she had been involved in the church and had only recently left it. After her repudiation of Moon, Mr. Hassan then again removed the IHF from his list of Unification connected groups.    

Well, that was quite a year. I suppose one could make a case for other stories, e.g., the Omaha websites advocating violence, the quick emergence and then retreat of Michael Glatze as an ex-gay spokesman, Ted Haggard’s three week therapy, the wide stance of Larry Craig, the Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger, Stephen Bennett’s public division with Exodus, Al Mohler’s comments on biology and homosexuality, the retirement of I Do Exist, and my musical comeback and resultant #1 Internet hit.

Now cast your opinion – What would your top ten list for this blog look like for 2007?

Godspeed to all and a Happy New Year!

Same-sex marriage conversation: What do we know? Part 2

As Part 2 of my series on same-sex parenting research, I am posting the transcript of a presentation delivered at the Catholic University just over a year ago. A section on same-sex marriage was provided after Michael Bailey and prior to my speech at the same comference.

(Quotes removed at the request of Brad Wilcox)

Here is a more socially conservative scholar who comes to an assessment similar to Meezan and Rauch: we don’t know much and not really enough.

Some distinctions are arising in the comments on other threads that should be sharpened going forward. Same-sex adoption of special needs kids should be distinguished from use of reproductive technologies to create kids without hope of knowing a parent of one gender. Whereas some would say public policy should not make these distinctions; others would say it can and should. What data exist to inform these discussions? Are there data that could address these issues? Or is policy to be made on the basis of presuppositional principles? How do we decide which principles apply? I would say the best interest of children would be such a principle. If research finds, on balance, discouraging results from studies of same-sex parenting (however defined), do equal protection arguments for adults trump any potential child consequences? What if research finds that some outcomes are better for same-sex parenting and some are not, then how should public policy take mixed results into account?

Let’s keep talking…

Same-sex parenting: What do we know?

Comments on a recent post about an article in the Southern Poverty Law Center have drifted toward a discussion about same-sex parenting. Commenters noted that several professional associations (APA, Pediatrics group) have policies which endorse gay parenting. Other commenters have questioned the wisdom of such endorsements citing research based concerns.

So here is the first of a multi-part series summarizing what I can find on the subject. I am not as aware of this literature as I am some other aspects of social policy so I do not claim that this is exhaustive but I do want to put up some links and get our conversations based on something besides anecdote and irrelevant studies.

Let me start with a link to a 2005 article by William Meezan and Jonathan Rauch, titled, Gay Marriage, Same-Sex Parenting, and America’s Children. It is a serious effort by advocates of gay rights to examine the literature. They find much contention among bonafide scholars about the quality of the research. For instance, they note

The significance of this body of evidence is a matter of contention, to say the least. Steven Nock, a prominent scholar reviewing the literature in 2001 as an expert witness in a Canadian court case, found it so flawed methodologically that the “only acceptable conclusion at this point is that the literature on this topic does not constitute a solid body of scientific evidence,” and that “all of the articles I reviewed contained at least one fatal flaw of design or execution. . . . Not a single one was conducted according to generally accepted standards of scientific research.” Two equally prominent scholars, Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz, vigorously disputed the point: “He is simply wrong to say that all of the studies published to date are virtually worthless and unscientific. . . . If the Court were to accept Professor Nock’s primary criticisms of these studies, it would have to dismiss virtually the entire discipline of psychology.”

Dismiss psychology? Stacey and Biblarz say that like it would be a bad thing…

Meezan and Rauch identify only four studies that meet sufficient criteria for examining claims about gay parenting. I encourage readers to review their summaries. My impression is that the studies are suggestive, they are far from a basis for making policy recommendations. Meezan and Rauch acknowledge as much when they write

We believe that both sides of that argument are right, at least partially. The evidence provides a great deal of information about the particular families and children studied, and the children now number more than a thousand. They are doing about as well as children normally do. What the evidence does not provide, because of the methodological difficulties we outlined, is much knowledge about whether those studied are typical or atypical of the general population of children raised by gay and lesbian couples. We do not know how the normative child in a same-sex family compares with other children. To make the same point a little differently, those who say the evidence shows that many same-sex parents do an excellent job of parenting are right. Those who say the evidence falls short of showing that same-sex parenting is equivalent to opposite-sex parenting (or better, or worse) are also right.

This seems to be about as good a summary as I could write. We have precious little to go on and I believe social conservatives are correct to say we are not inspired to make national policy based on the positive results obtained thus far. Advocates of same-sex parenting, Meezan and Rauch go on to suggest a research strategy

In particular, the clustering in four neighboring states of all three kinds of arrangement— same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, civil unions in Vermont and Connecticut, and neither in New Hampshire—offers a near ideal natural laboratory. A rigorous study of how children fare when they are raised in these various arrangements and environments would not be easy to design and execute, and it would require a considerable amount of time and money; but the knowledge gained would make the debate over gay marriage better lit and perhaps less heated, to the benefit of all sides of the argument.

Although some would never agree, I believe there is some merit to this suggestion. Doing such a study would not interfere with the ability of advocates on both sides to make their cases on ideological grounds, nor would people who are not in favor of gay parenting be required to change their moral views in order to acknowledge that such arrangements exist and should be reviewed. 

Now what do you think? What are the promises and pitfalls of such a study?

In beginning this series, I hope that commenters will add specific references to studies which I should consider adding to future posts.