Maggie Gallager
Right Wing Assails Aussie Gay Parenting Study; Researcher Responds

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com July 09 2014 2:08 PM ET

Anti–marriage equality activist Maggie Gallagher and some others on the right are objecting to a new Australian study that indicates children of same-sex couples are healthier and happier than kids in the general population.

The study by University of Melbourne researchers found that on measures of general health and family cohesion, children of same-sex couples scored, on average, 6 percent higher than children overall. The results were published in the journal BMC Public Health last month, following the release of preliminary results last year.

Gallagher, a founder of the National Organization for Marriage, posted an attempt at satire on the National Review’s website Tuesday, claiming, “Researchers are aghast that such a shoddy piece of work, which is based on a convenience sample of parents who volunteered to be surveyed, and which relies solely on these parents’ reports to determine child well-being, should have been published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal.” She concludes, “Oh wait, the study shows children of same-sex parents do better than the average child, after adjusting for income. Never mind.”

Her post is apparently meant to imply that researchers and the so-called liberal media would never question a study that showed results favorable to LGBT people, whereas there was outcry against studies that delivered unfavorable evidence, such as that by Texas academic Mark Regnerus, which received much criticism for its methodology.

In reality, the only objections to the University of Melbourne study appear to be coming from the right, including Gallagher, the Red State blog, and The Christian Post in the U.S., plus some right-wing groups in Australia. Lead investigator Simon Crouch addresses the critics on the blog Research Connect.

On the fact that the study looked at families who volunteered to participate, Crouch writes, “The volunteer sample is the only option” in Australia, which has “no population datasets that capture parent sexual orientation.” He notes, “It is argued that only parents with a vested interest in promoting positive health outcomes will volunteer. While this cannot be discounted as a possibility there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case.”

He continues, “There has also been an unfortunate focus on more personal aspects of the research. Some groups have highlighted the fact that I, the lead author on the paper, am a gay man raising children, suggesting that this is a conflict of interest and introduces inappropriate bias.” He points out that the research team has a range of family backgrounds and that “all published papers go through a rigorous peer review process that is blind to such things, assessing work on its methodological merits alone.”

“To suggest that my family situation is of relevance implies that no heterosexual researcher can produce unbiased work on heterosexual families,” he adds. “Or that any non-Caucasian researcher would be able to objectively conduct research on racial discrimination and child health.”