from Books &
No Basis:by Robert Lerner,
Ph.D. and Althea Nagai, Ph.D.
What the Studies Don't Tell
About Same-Sex Parenting
(2001, Published by Marriage Law Project, Ethics and Public
Policy Center, 1015 Fifteenth Street NW, Suite 900,
Washington, D.C. 20005)
This important new book poses a long-overdue challenge to
flood of studies--often conducted by researchers who are
themselves gay or lesbian, and funded by gay-friendly
foundations--which are, despite their questionable
experimental design, now having a dramatic impact on law and
Lerner and Nagai tackle the painstaking (and indeed,
professionally risky) job of taking apart those studies. They
look at them one by one to expose the flaws in sampling,
design and conclusions which have led U.S. and other courts to
change marriage, child custody and adoption laws.
The American Psychological Association has stated that
there is no evidence of difference in social and psychological
adjustment between children raised in gay households and those
raised with heterosexual parents. Other professional groups
have followed suit, urging that gay marriage and adoption be
legalized. The American Academy of Pediatrics is the most
recent association to weigh in favoring gay adoption.
But is the conclusion of "no difference" between homosexual
and heterosexual households indeed warranted?
Robert Lerner, Ph.D., and Althea Nagai, Ph.D.,
professionals in the field of quantitative analysis, evaluated
49 empirical studies on samesex parenting. They found at least
one "fatal" research flaw in all fortynine studies. Some major
problems uncovered in those studies include the following:
- Unclear hypotheses and research designs
- Missing or inadequate comparison groups
- Self-constructed, unreliable and invalid measurements
- Non-random samples, including use of "friendship
circles" (participants who recruit other participants)
- Samples too small to yield meaningful results
- Missing or inadequate statistical analysis
As a result, the authors concluded that no generalizations
can reliably be made based on any of these studies.
Yet it is now routinely asserted in our courts, legal and
social science journals, and the media that it makes "no
difference" whether a child has a mother and a father, two
fathers, or two mothers. Reference is often made to
social-scientific studies that are claimed to have
In a foreword to No Basis, David Orgon Coolidge
Director, of the Marriage Law Project in Washington, D.C.,
explains that the book project was undertaken by the authors
"at the risk of damaging their professional and academic
reputations." They have not only analyzed the flaws in the
current studies, but they have proposed a better way to
accurately evaluate homosexual parenting.
"You will learn more than you ever wanted to know about how
studies should be designed, implemented and evaluated,"
Dr. Coolidge describes how he first became interested in
analyzing this body of research:
"I first saw the need for such an evaluation
back in 1996, in Honolulu, Hawaii. I sat through two weeks
of testimony in the samesex "marriage" case, Baehr v.
Miike. Almost all of the testimony was by social
scientists. It raised questions I could not shake.
"Many of those questions are larger ones, such as how
science and morality relate. But other questions were more
straightforward: Are these studies welldone by normal
standards? Should journals publish them? Should policymakers
rely on them?"
Coolidge discovered that the studies are deeply flawed, yet
"the fact of the matter is that many people, including
policymakers, are relying upon these studies in
litigation, legislation, scholarly writing, and in the larger
Social Scientists as Gay
Lerner and Nagai uncovered a very troubling fact about this
body of research: the social scientists conducting these
studies are rarely ever neutral about the results they hope to
"With one exception, the authors of these
studies wish to influence public policy to support samesex
marriage and the adoption of children by homosexual couples.
While the authors of these studies have every right to
advocate this point of view, as do those who disagree with
them, their wish means that the stakes in obtaining valid
answers to these research questions are very
The studies' findings are indeed interesting and
provocative, they say, but they are not strong enough to
justify dramatic alterations in longestablished public
policies. To justify changes in public policy, they say,
studies should be strong enough that "policy makers have faith
in the study's reliability, and confidence that more research
is unlikely to overturn its findings." Relying on the wrong
studies, they point out, can have devastating social
So do these 49 studies offer conclusive proof that there is
'no difference' between heterosexual and homosexual
households? Lerner and Nagai conclude,
"We believe that these studies offer no basis
for that conclusion--because they are so deeply flawed
pieces of research."