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Same-sex marriage ballot: Skeptics say ‘yes’ to science

Australian Skeptics Inc (ASI), a group dedicated to countering pseudo-scientific claims from a responsible scientific viewpoint, has released a statement looking at the science-based evidence used to support the competing views for the upcoming postal ballot on same-sex marriage (marriage equality).

ASI is known for debunking psychics, creationists and anti-vaccination claims, but has not traditionally touched on socio-religious discussions. However, ASI’s mandate is to publicly advocate for evidence-based and rational decision making and policy development. As such, ASI upholds that policies should reflect the quality of evidence.

“While the postal survey is about the right of same-sex couples to get married, the subject of children in LGBTQI families has been drawn into the conversation by both sides,” says ASI President, Eran Segev. “There have been specific claims that cite a body of evidence. As part of a wider consideration of these positions, ASI has examined the merits of these claims. Are the Yes and No campaigns drawing from good evidence to back their arguments?”

ASI concludes that the scientific evidence base for the No campaign is less convincing than that presented for the Yes case. According to the majority of peer-reviewed studies, there is no intrinsic damage to children of same-sex marriages (or even same-sex relationships without marriage).

Read the full statement from Australian Skeptics Inc here.

Tim Mendham:

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  • Now why did I guess the er, science wld come down on the most politically correct side?

    Very wise too. There wld have been er, hell to pay if it hadn't!

    Yours cynically, Ann

    • Ann, the point of scepticism is to value evidence over popular myths, scams, vested interests and political correctness. For several years professional bodies such as the Australian Psychological Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics have presented summaries of the peer reviewed research showing kids from SSM households do very well developmentally and academically. We should, of course, all vote according to our own opinions but the campaigners are not entitled to their own facts.

  • It would not have taken much research for Australian Skeptics to have drawn a more substantive conclusion.

    The claim that allowing LGBTI couples to wed will harm children represents the most egregious myth. Such a claim affects real-life families and children, and the claim is the most demonstrably false.

    In 2015, a brief to the United States Supreme Court in Obergefell v Hodges weighed the evidence supposedly supporting the claim that marriage equality harms kids.

    More than a dozen professional associations prepared the brief: the American Psychological Association, Kentucky Psychological Association, Ohio Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of Social Workers Tennessee Chapter, National Association of Social Workers Michigan Chapter, National Association of Social Workers Kentucky Chapter, National Association of Social Workers Ohio Chapter, American Psychoanalytic Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American Medical Association.

    The brief to the Supreme Court says:
    "Assertions that heterosexual couples are better parents than same-sex couples, or that the children of lesbian or gay parents fare worse than children of heterosexual parents, are not supported by the cumulative scientific evidence. Rather, the vast majority of scientific studies that have directly compared these groups have found that gay and lesbian parents are as fit and capable as heterosexual parents, and that their children are as psychologically healthy and well adjusted."

    These findings correspond with those of the ‘What We Know’ Project at Columbia Law School. The project found that 75 of 79 scholarly studies found kids of LGBTI parents fare no worse than other kids of LGBTI parents.

    As for the four other studies, all share the same flaw:
    "At most a handful of the children who were studied were actually raised by same-sex parents; the rest came from families in which opposite-sex parents raised their children for a period of time, but in which, often, one or more parent(s) subsequently came out as gay or lesbian and left the family or had a same-sex relationship."

    The brief to the Supreme Court gets even harsher on the handful of sources that suggest same-sex parenting may have negative effects on children, concluding that those studies ‘suffer from serious methodological flaws and do not reflect the current state of scientific knowledge.’

    Specifically, the conclusions of three researchers who opponents of same-sex marriage frequently cite — Sarantakos, Regnerus, and Allen — ‘have been resoundingly rejected by the mainstream scientific community.’

    The brief to the Supreme Court calls out Donald Paul Sullins for special mention. An offensive poster allegedly placed in a Melbourne street cites one of Sullins' studies.

    Lyle Shelton’s Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) has also relied on Sullins to spread the myth that same-sex marriage harms children. Even the Conservative Bolt Report has labelled the claim in Sullins’ study ‘wrong’:

    The brief to the Supreme Court says of Sullins:
    "Recently published papers by Donald Paul Sullins — all reporting secondary analyses of data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) — have similar methodological flaws… For instance, Sullins fails to adequately take into account children’s histories of family disruption; he combines all children residing with same-sex couples into a single heterogeneous category, while creating more differentiated categories of children of opposite-sex couples (children residing with married versus single or divorced parents); he fails to acknowledge known coding errors in the NHIS data set, which resulted in the misclassification of many heterosexual partners as same-sex couples; and — in one paper — he attempts to correlate a largely heritable condition (ADHD) with variables related to children’s upbringing. In addition to these problems, none of the journals in which Sullins’ papers were published are indexed in major, reputable social science databases.

    The peer review process used by these journals appears to have been perfunctory and conducted by reviewers without relevant expertise or any familiarity with the NHIS. Even a cursory examination of the reviews, which are posted on each journal’s web site, reveals that they raised few substantive concerns at all."

    The particular study that the ACL and Melbourne poster have cited has been thoroughly rebuked here. In fact, denying same-sex marriage to LGBTI couples may cause the real harm.

    Quoting the AMA, the brief to the Supreme Court says:
    "It has further recognized that “denying civil marriage based on sexual orientation is discriminatory and imposes harmful stigma on gay and lesbian individuals and couples and their families”, and that “exclusion from civil marriage contributes to health care disparities affecting same-sex households."

    In Australia, the Australian Medical Association also strongly supports marriage equality.

    If opponents of same-sex marriage really care about children, then they may consider supporting same-sex marriage.

    • Sorry you have simply acquiesced to the PC zeitgeist. As soon as I saw the article I thought you may lack the courage to other than cherry pick to get to a safe position. Read your conclusion again / pre written to try to offend no one but appease what you see as PC and pragmatic. Cowardice and not skepticism.