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Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll July 17, 2016

GOP chair wrongly claims 'facts' show children do better with straight parents

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus defended the 2016 Republican Party platform ahead of its convention in a July 17 interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd.

While the platform isn’t yet in its final form, many observers have said the document so far lands to the right on social issues. Todd asked Priebus about the platform’s position on same-sex marriage. He referenced one draft that says "the data, the facts lead to an inescapable conclusion that every child deserves a married mom and dad" — based on claims that children raised in a traditional household are healthier and less likely to engage in crime and substance abuse.

"It’s implying somehow that children of same-sex couples are more likely to be addicts, to engage in crime," Todd said. "Do you mean to have it imply that?"

Priebus replied that it’s possible for children of same-sex parents and single parents to have successful lives, but the best scenario is for children to grow up in a traditional opposite-sex household.

"The best scenario for kids is a loving mom and dad," Priebus said. "However, it doesn't mean at all that single parents or same-sex parents, that any parent in America can't love a child, can't raise a child, and that child can't be successful and loved. It doesn't mean that. It just means what the facts say."

Do "the facts say" that "the best scenario for kids is a loving mom and dad" as opposed to same-sex parents?

We’ve rated two similar claims False in the past, and not much has changed since we last looked into it in 2014. If anything, the scholarly consensus that children can fare just as well in same-sex households has strengthened.

"The consensus is overwhelming that those children do very well in those (same-sex parent) families, and there’s no harm or bad consequence that occurs because of those parents not being opposite sex," said Ellen Perrin, a professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine who has researched this question.

What the research shows

Researchers at Columbia Law School reviewed scholarly works about the well-being of children living with gay or lesbian parents spanning the past three decades. The researchers found 78 relevant articles, and of those, 74 concluded that children of same-sex parents fare no worse than children of opposite-sex parents.

Six of these articles were published in the last three years. The studies examine topics such as adolescent well-being, child physical and emotional health, family functioning and the effect of homophobic stigmatization.

"Taken together, this research forms an overwhelming scholarly consensus, based on over three decades of peer-reviewed research, that having a gay or lesbian parent does not harm children," the Columbia researchers wrote.

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That leaves four articles that argue children face more risks with opposite-sex parents than they do with same-sex parents. However, the Columbia researchers say these studies are problematic because only a minority of the child subjects grew up with same-sex parents. Most subjects of these four studies grew up with opposite-sex parents but one of the parents eventually came out as gay or lesbian, often causing family breakup or turmoil.

Some of this research conflates family composition and structure with family stability and history, said Gary Gates, an expert in LGBT demography at the University of California Los Angeles. Social science research suggests marriage — and not necessarily the gender makeup of that marriage — is associated with stability.

"In other words, studies that compare children in long-term intact families with same-sex couple parents show that they generally do as well as kids in long-term intact families with different-sex parents," Gates said.

Gates co-authored an overview of contemporary research about LGBT parents. The report found that LGBT parents and their children are doing "quite well," but research into the subject face problems like getting a large and diverse sample size. And there is little research into subcategories, like sibling dynamics among children with same-sex parent families or domestic violence.

Perrin added that there is much more research into lesbian female parents than there is into gay male parents, but that imbalance is starting to even out, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of gay marriage and more male gay couples are having children.

In any case, evidence supporting Priebus’s claim is limited and problematic.

"There’s no scholarly data that suggests this is a problem," Perrin said.

We did not hear back from Priebus.

Our ruling

Priebus said, "What the facts say" is ... "the best scenario for kids is a loving mom and dad,"  as opposed to having same-sex parents.

The limited pieces of research that appear to support Priebus’ claim have been called into question. And overall, scholarly research shows that what matters to children is the quality and stability of the parenting, rather than the parents’ particular sex, gender or sexual orientation.

We rate Priebus’ claim False.

Our Sources

NBC, "Priebus: Trump Will 'Never Be Stopped' If Public Gets to Know Him," July 17, 2016

Columbia Law School, "What does the scholarly research say about the wellbeing of children with gay or lesbian parents?" accessed July 17, 2016

American Sociological Association, Amicus brief in Obergefell vs. Hodges, March 2015

UCLA Williams Institute, "Research Report on LGB-Parent Families," July 2014

New York Times, "Emerging Republican Platform Goes Far to the Right," July 12, 2016

NPR, "Republican Platform Tilts Right Of Trump On LGBT Issues," July 13, 2016

PunditFact, "Ralph Reed says 'irrefutable' social science shows kids better off raised by straight couples," April 22, 2014

PunditFact, "Tony Perkins: We 'know' from social science that children do best with a mom and a dad," Oct. 12, 2014

Phone interview, Ellen Perrin, Tufts School of Medicine professor, July 17, 2016

Email interview, Gary Gates, UCLA Williams Institute expert, July 17, 2016

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GOP chair wrongly claims 'facts' show children do better with straight parents

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