Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Coverage: Mary's Miraculous Pregnancy

I love Mary Cheney. That’s right, the Republican activist, corporate vice president of AOL, and daughter of the vice president known as "Vice" and "Dick."

Her pregnancy has finally forced some mainstream coverage of gay families.

William Saletan has a fantastic piece in Slate today, debunking Mary's conservative former friends' criticism of the family she hasn't even had yet. (The Washington Post also features a package on sperm-donor families today, including one that uses Mary Cheney as a jumping-off point. Apparently the package includes another version of Saletan's Slate article, but I can't find it.)

Saletan gives an overview of the scientific literature on gay parenting. He says that even though many studies have set out in bias to find evidence against gay parenting, none has ever succeeded. In fact, the strongest evidence suggests that kids of gay or lesbian parents are probably better off (horror of horrors, they are more likely to have experimented with same-sex relationships—but few actually turn out to be gay).

But the religious right is no more willing to admit this than Grandpa Cheney is to admit that there are no WMDs in Iraq, says Saletan.

If the direct evidence doesn't bear you out, look for indirect evidence. So conservatives have developed a subtler argument: On average, children do best when raised by their two married, biological parents.

Let's take this argument a piece at a time. It's true that two parents are better than one. It's also true that married parents are better than unmarried ones. But those aren't arguments against gay parenthood. They're arguments for gay marriage.

Saletan gives a crash course in how bogus the arguments of bogus religious groups like Focus on the Family really are. (I call it a bogus religious groups because, having looked at its 1099, I learned that Focus on the Family spends 4 percent of its budget on direct service, and 96 percent on bullshit studies and selling James Dobson's products, whose profits don't disqualify it from nonprofit status because they go to him as an individual—never mind that he then "donates" them back).

-- Biological parents are better, because they are less likely to abuse. Sure, if we're talking about biological fathers versus stepfathers or boyfriends.

-- Lesbians make bad parents because so many have been raped. Come again?

-- Kids of gays will associate with gays, and gays are more likely to have STDs, criminal records and pedophilic predilections. Saletan doesn't get into this one too much, because all of the statistics, to the extent that they exist at all, refer to men. And Mary Cheney and her partner aren't, as far as anyone knows, men.

Having looked at some research by Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, I would bet that by STDs, they mean HIV: Allow a disease to go untreated in a minority population for years, and then bash the minority for being contagious. Nice. I've debunked their data on pedophilia here. If they use the same logic for criminal records, they call anyone who's had sex with a man in jail gay, and thereby prove that gays are more likely to have a criminal record. One Family Research Council study co-authored by former actor Kirk Cameron and someone who appears to be his brother, compares the charges against homosexual and heterosexual parents in custody suits. First of all, these are just assertions made in a custody case. Secondly, if you read the fine print, you'll see that the homosexual custody suits were found "systematically"—i.e., looking for the claims they later claim to have proven—while the heterosexual cases were found "randomly." It's that easy to tear these guys down.

Mary Cheney's pregnancy shows two things. These people have no shame and will bite the hand that feeds them sooner than turn the other cheek. And, even Mary Cheney, Republican activist and corporate hack, doesn't think there's anything wrong with gays and lesbians having babies.

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