November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

No post today, as Amy and I are visiting family and friends for the holiday. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving - I know I have a lot for which to be thankful, and I hope you do, too!

November 19, 2009

Same-Sex Parents and the Cost to Children

In the long-standing effort to prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from attaining the matrimonial rights enjoyed by heterosexuals, one of the most prominent arguments for continued discrimination against gays and lesbians has been that any costs associated with expanding the definition of marriage would be borne by their children. Just over a year ago, for instance, David Blankenhorn of something called the Institute for American Values wrote this:
All our scholarly instruments seem to agree: For healthy development, what a child needs more than anything else is the mother and father who together made the child, who love the child and love each other.
Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents who made him. Every single one. Moreover, losing that right will not be a consequence of something that at least most of us view as tragic, such as a marriage that didn't last, or an unexpected pregnancy where the father-to-be has no intention of sticking around. On the contrary, in the case of same-sex marriage and the children of those unions, it will be explained to everyone, including the children, that something wonderful has happened!
There's a funny thing about the "scholarly instruments" cited by Mr. Blankenhorn, however. Until very recently, they consisted largely of conjectures based on the examination of the children of divorced and single parents, as well as small studies of same-sex couples who volunteered to be counted. In other words, conclusions drawn from these populations should be taken with a healthy dose of statistically significant salt.

About 20 years ago, however, the Census Bureau
added a category for unwed partners, which included same-sex couples and provided considerably more demographic data. As it turns out, roughly one-fifth of male homosexual couples and about one-third of lesbian couples are raising children, a proportion that has grown considerably over the past two decades. Together with the passage of time, this growth means that there is now a large cohort of the children of same-sex couples who are old enough to yield solid data. This data, in turn, provides insights into the true cost to children of their homosexual parents' union:
In most ways, the accumulated research shows, children of same-sex parents are not markedly different from those of heterosexual parents. They show no increased incidence of psychiatric disorders, are just as popular at school and have just as many friends. While girls raised by lesbian mothers seem slightly more likely to have more sexual partners, and boys slightly more likely to have fewer, than those raised by heterosexual mothers, neither sex is more likely to suffer from gender confusion nor to identify themselves as gay.

More enlightening than the similarities, however, are the differences, the most striking of which is that these children tend to be less conventional and more flexible when it comes to gender roles and assumptions than those raised in more traditional families.

There are data that show, for instance, that daughters of lesbian mothers are more likely to aspire to professions that are traditionally considered male, like doctors or lawyers — 52 percent in one study said that was their goal, compared with 21 percent of daughters of heterosexual mothers, who are still more likely to say they want to be nurses or teachers when they grow up. (The same study found that 95 percent of boys from both types of families choose the more masculine jobs.) Girls raised by lesbians are also more likely to engage in “roughhousing” and to play with “male-gendered-type toys” than girls raised by straight mothers. And adult children of gay parents appear more likely than the average adult to work in the fields of social justice and to have more gay friends in their social mix.
What is so startling about this finding, of course, is not the conclusion itself - which would seem to be a wrench in the gears for fear-mongering outfits like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) - but that it isn't widely reported and that it confirms the findings of other studies. A Tufts University report from 2005, for example, found the following:

The vast consensus of all the studies shows that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way. In some ways children of same-sex parents actually may have advantages over other family structures.
So, there it is - out in the open. Now we know the terrible consequences of same-sex marriage to children: a tendency to rough-house a bit and a predisposition to tolerance.

No wonder religious bigots fight so hard against gay marriage; tolerance is, after all, a threat to their recruiting base.

November 14, 2009

The Lingering Preference for Ideology Over Fact

While President Obama and congressional Democrats have haltingly advanced legislation aimed at reshaping the health insurance landscape, Republicans have dug in their heels, spouting bromides about tax cuts and the need for change, but opposing substantive steps of any kind, and studiously ignoring their own complete inaction during the Bush Administration, a period of 8 years when they dominated Washington.

The current debate over health care reform, may have starkly divided the political class, but that doesn't appear to be the case with the citizenry. A June poll, for instance - the results of which are in line with a host of other surveys - indicated that fully 83% of the public supports a public option for health insurance coverage. (Click image at right to enlarge.)

If this is the case, from where does the raging conflict over giving Americans better access to health care coverage originate? If Republican pols truly advocate the desires and interests of their constituents, how can a poll like this be accurate? The answer, of course, is not that modern polling is consistently missing the mark, but that GOP positions truly do not represent the needs of the people in red states.

If that sounds like an arrogant exercise in divining the true intentions and best interests of others, it isn't. Last month, the Commonwealth Fund released the 2009 edition of their ongoing research, Aiming Higher: Results from a State Scorecard on Health System Performance, and the idea that Republican politicians are markedly out of sync with realities on the ground is entirely quantifiable.

Of the states with the best health care scores, nine of the top ten voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election, while seven of the ten worst performing states voted for John McCain. (Click image at left to enlarge.)

On one level, this is not necessarily the fault of Republican politicians - people keep voting for them, for whatever reason - but the fact remains that there is a clear correlation between state health care performance and whether or not it leans conservative. In general, if it's got one of the worst-performing care systems, it's a red state.

On another level, of course, GOP politicians are very much to blame, as they work to reinforce the memes that keep them in power. A perfect example of this occurred earlier this month, when former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry lobbied in the op-ed pages of the Washington Post to Let States Lead the Way, writing:
Texas, for example, has adopted approaches to controlling health-care costs while improving choice, advancing quality of care and expanding coverage. Consider the successful 2003 tort reform. Fewer frivolous lawsuits have attracted record numbers of doctors to the state as medical malpractice insurance premiums dropped by half.
Unfortunately for Governor Perry and Speaker Gingrich, the Lone Star State is the epitome of what is wrong with the current health insurance system. Fully 25% of its population goes without insurance, the highest percentage in the nation and far worse than the already alarming national average of 15.4%. Of course, given that Texas pays so much attention to "frivolous lawsuits" this is not entirely unexpected; according to the Congressional Budget Office, medical malpractice judgments represent just one half of one percent of total health care costs in the United States. Personal injury lawyers might be an easy target, but any plan that uses "tort reform" as a centerpiece is pretty much guaranteed to miss the mark.

With one in four Texans without health insurance, why do people in that state continue to support politicians like Rick Perry, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, all of whom have come out against health care reform? Probably for the same reason that Republicans decry "government intervention" and tout themselves as bootstrapping champions of personal responsibility, despite the fact that red states take far more in federal handouts than they contribute in tax dollars.

The widest gap between rhetoric and reality may be behind us with the long-overdue departure of George W. Bush from the White House. But like the lasting damage inflicted on the nation by his administration, continued claims that the United States has the best health care in the world - despite ever-taller mountains of evidence to the contrary - are ample proof that, within GOP political leadership, there remains not just a lingering preference for ideology over fact, but for political power over the interests of people.

November 9, 2009

Greenville, SC

I'm headed to Greenville, SC for work this week, so there will be no post on November 9th. Posting will resume later this week.

November 4, 2009

Operation Shower: Making a Difference

My wife, Amy, and three other women are the combined driving force behind Operation Shower, a small not-for-profit organization that focuses on one simple thing that makes a big difference in the lives of military men and women and their families. Operation Shower produces and delivers unit-wide baby showers and "showers in a box" for pregnant mothers whose husbands are in deployment or high stress situations.

The men and women who serve in the armed forces of the United States do not do so in order to become wealthy, and this simple gesture - providing items from diapers to toys to furniture - is a way not only to recognize the sacrifice and service of Americans in uniform, but to make their lives a little easier, too.

If you are interested in learning more or helping out, please be sure to check out the Operation Shower Blog.