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A 2010 study in the periodical Demography by Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld parsed Census data to compare the school progress of children reared in same-sex, heterosexual, and single parent families. He reported that “children raised by same-sex couples have no fundamental deficits in making normal progress through school.”
A 2012 study by UCLA researchers involving 82 families (60 heterosexual, 15 gay, and 7 lesbian) who adopted high-risk children from foster care found that on average, children in both same-sex and different-sex households “showed significant gains of approximately 10 IQ points in their cognitive development and maintained stable levels of behavior problems that were not clinically significant.”
The researchers noted that these findings were especially remarkable because the children adopted by same-sex couples were generally higher risk and often of a different ethnicity than those adopted by heterosexual couples. The bottom line is that research on the effects of being reared by same-sex parents on children is certainly not perfect, but the AAP seems right when it concluded that despite research “imperfections, it is likely that the extensive research efforts that have been carried out would have documented serious and significant damages if they existed.”
Research suggests one salient difference between same-sex, especially gay male couples, and different-sex couples relates to the acceptability of sex with people outside of the relationship. A 2010 study by University of Toronto sociologist Adam Isaiah Green in the Canadian Journal of Sociology involving 30 same-sex married couples around Toronto found that two-thirds of same-sex spouses (40 percent female, 60 percent male) did not believe marriage needed always to be monogamous. In fact, nearly half of male same-sex spouses (47 percent) had an explicit agreement that allowed for non-monogamy. In comparison, the General Social Survey reported in 2010 that 19 percent of men and 14 percent of women they had been unfaithful at some point during their marriages.
My reading of the scientific literature as it currently stands is that the legalization of same sex marriage does not have major effects on marriage trends in the wider society. As ever greater numbers of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans have exited the closet, more straight Americans have come to know and accept their homosexual family members, friends, and colleagues. It is this personal data, not the dueling studies published in obscure social science journals, that have now persuaded a majority of Americans in recent polls to support same sex marriage.
A slightly different version of this article originally appeared at the Wall Street Journal's Ideas Market.
Disclosure: My wife and I have supported Equality Virginia for a number of years.