In a meeting of the Legislature’s Special Committee on Foster Care Adequacy last week, Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, drew on testimony from Donald Paul Sullins, an associate professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America, to argue that Kansas should promote heterosexual marriage by providing monetary rewards to opposite-sex couples who serve as foster parents, but not to same-sex couples serving as foster parents.
Sullins argued that children who grow up in households with same-sex parents suffer from heightened emotional trauma and psychological problems. These claims are not representative of the body of sociological research on the issue of family structure and child well-being.
In an amicus brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, the American Sociological Association, the professional association representing the nation’s sociologists, emphasized that “the clear and consistent social science consensus is that children raised by same-sex parents fare just as well as children raised by different-sex parents.” In fact, the research findings reported by Sullins and championed by Knox were published in pay-for-publication journals that are viewed skeptically by most of the scientific community. Sullins’ view is extreme and out of line with the prevailing sociological consensus.
Though there is no compelling evidence to suggest that same-sex couples make bad parents, there is a wide scholarly consensus that stable families – including foster families – are good for children. Kansas needs more willing foster families, not fewer, particularly given the increase in the number of children in foster care in our state. Knox’s proposal would discourage capable, devoted same-sex couples from serving as loving foster parents to the thousands of children in Kansas who need a home.
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As Kansas sociologists, we object to the selective use of misleading sociological research for the purpose of limiting the rights and freedoms of same-sex Kansas couples, to the detriment of the state’s children in need.
Chase M. Billingham, Jennifer Pearson and Jodie L. Hertzog are faculty members in the Department of Sociology at Wichita State University.