Lesbian and Gay Families with Children: Implications of Social Science Research for Policy

University of Virginia
Journal of Social Issues (Impact Factor: 1.96). 04/2010; 52(3):29 - 50. DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1996.tb01578.x


In this paper, we provide an overview of variability across jurisdictions in family law relevant to lesbian and gay parents and their children, showing that some courts have been negatively disposed to these families. We summarize recent research findings suggesting that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as are heterosexual parents to provide home environments that support positive outcomes among children. Research findings suggest that unless and until the weight of evidence can be shown to have shifted, parental sexual orientation should be considered irrelevant to disputes involving child custody, visitation, foster care, and adoption.

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    • "Lesbian motherhood is less common than heterosexual motherhood, and lesbian routes to conception are, by definition, non-(hetero)normative and prone to classification as 'artificial' (Mamo, 2007), even when medical assistance to conceive is not sought (Ferrara et al., 2000). Nevertheless, estimates suggest that there are between 1 and 5 million lesbian mothers in the USA (Patterson and Redding, 1996), and that about a third of British lesbians are mothers (Golombok et al., 2003). Sixteen percent of married and co-habiting lesbian couples in Canada have children living with them (Statistics Canada, 2009), and according to the 2001 Australian census 19% of female same-sex couples have children (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2005). "
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    • "Seemingly relying on stereotypes or myths about same-sex parenting, many judges have come to the conclusion that gays and lesbians are not adequate parents (Patterson & Redding, 1996). Falk (1994) asserted that courts have assumed that lesbian mothers are emotionally unstable and therefore unfit to assume the " motherly " role. "
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    ABSTRACT: With the growing number of same-sex unions, the legal system must determine the rights and responsibilities of gay parents who decide to end a relationship. In 2005, the California Supreme Court found that a child's lesbian caregiver was a legal “parent” despite having no biological or adoptive relationship, while the Massachusetts Supreme Court in 2004 concluded the opposite. Psychologists can inform this debate by presenting research demonstrating that (a) children benefit from contact with two parents, and (b) children's well-being is unaffected by their parents' sexual orientation. Psychologists can further assist the legal system by conducting future research. In order for psychologists to impact laws and policies, legal actors must utilize this expertise.
    Social Issues and Policy Review 12/2008; 2(1):103-126. DOI:10.1111/j.1751-2409.2008.00012.x
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    • "Not surprisingly, a fast growing, sometimes controversial body of literature addresses the wellbeing and outcomes of children raised in gay as compared to heterosexual households (Chan, Brooks, Raboy, & Patterson, 1998; Chan, Raboy & Patterson, 1998; Herek, 2006; Patterson, & Redding, 1996; Stacey & Biblarz 2001; Sullivan, 1996). beyond family sociology and family psychology, we can draw from a fascinating literature on the uniqueness of gay men's and lesbians' family lives and intimate relationships (Carrington, 1999; Weston, 1991). "
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