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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Prop. 8 Trial Looks at Effect on Kids

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A professor of developmental psychology at Cambridge University testified Friday in the trial challenging the constitutionality of California's ban on gay marriage, saying a child raised by a same-sex couple is in no danger of becoming a maladjusted adult. Spectators crammed into U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's courtroom to hear Michael Lamb testify that the quality of the relationship between a parent and child, rather than their biological connection, is crucial to raising well-adjusted children.

"I'm here to offer two opinions," Lamb said. "First, there is a substantial body of evidence that children raised by gay or lesbian parents are just as well-adjusted as ones raised by heterosexual parents. The second is that these adjustments would be promoted by legalizing gay marriage."

Lamb noted the necessity of a warm, loving relationship between child and parent, the lack of conflict in a household and the "availability of economic and social resources" for a child's development.

Whether a child is being raised by its biological mother and father or even by a heterosexual married couple is largely irrelevant, Lamb said.

"The absence of a father isn't the crucial factor," he said. "What's important is that children are more likely to suffer problems if they do not have a quality relationship with whoever is raising them."

When Waker asked Lamb, "Why is it that adoptive children often seek out their biological parents?" Lamb answered, "They believe there is something important about their origins to seek out their biological parents.

"In essence, they are literally trying to understand where they came from. It is not related to maladjustment," he said.

Lamb said that in his initial research on childhood development, it was only natural to predict that children needed a masculine and feminine parent.

"That initial prediction is incorrect," Lamb said. "Children do not need a masculine-behaving or feminine-behaving parent to adjust well."

In some cases, children raised by same-sex parents have "less sex-stereotype attitudes," Lamb said. For instance they do not associate some careers with women and some with men.

Nor does having two same-sex parents place a child in danger of sexual abuse. "There is no evidence that lesbians and gay men are more likely to abuse children," he said.

Later, Walker questioned Lamb about recent cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. "We've all read about the priestly abuse in the Catholic church and the litigation that followed," Walker said. "How do you square your statement with that phenomena?"

"Individuals who have a same-sex orientation are no more likely to abuse children. That doesn't mean that they don't, just as heterosexuals sometimes abuse children," Lamb answered. "I'm not an expert on abuse within religious orders. But I believe the abuse that you're talking about involves homosexual and heterosexual abuse."

Ultimately, Lamb said, it is better for a child's welfare that the parents be married. "This way they are able to call themselves part of a socially recognized institution," Lamb said, adding that legalizing same-sex marriage would only benefit children.

David Thompson, attorney for supporters of Proposition 8, began his cross-examination by suggesting the professor's politics had clouded his scientific judgment.

He criticized Lamb's membership in organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women, prompting laughter from the courtroom when he proclaimed Lamb had "even given money to the Public Broadcasting Service!"

Lamb refused to give a clear answer to Thompson's question of whether he was a "committed liberal," but argued fiercely against Thompson's assertion that politics and "ideology" can color academic research.

"Are you suggesting that governments dictate what topics are studied?" Lamb asked. He then went on to insist this was false, saying although all public research is government-funded, politics do not determine the results of scientific research.

Thompson noted the many differences between men and women in illustrating the necessary role each gender plays in parenting a well-adjusted child, from a man's inability to breastfeed to a woman's lower earning power.

Growing up without both a mother and father puts a child at greater risk of emotional trauma and gender confusion, he said.

"A married, heterosexual couple is the optimum environment for raising a child," Thompson said.

Lamb pointed out that many of the studies and articles Thompson cited regarding the necessity of opposite-gender parent households were from the 1970s. Some even dated as far back as the 1950s, before attitudes had changed and newer studies had disproved old conclusions.

"But you've done a great job for me in bringing back those great old memories," Lamb said to laughter in the courtroom.

After almost three hours of Thompson's questions and with the crowd growing restless, Walker intervened.

When Thompson asked Lamb whether women were any good at "setting boundaries," as parents, Walker interrupted to say, "I don't think parenting is the only place where setting boundaries is good idea."

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