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Thoughtless:

John McCain was interviewed Friday by the New York Times, which published a summary in this morning's edition. The Times recounted a question-and-answer with McCain on the subject of gay adoption as follows:

Mr. McCain, who with his wife, Cindy, has an adopted daughter, said flatly that he opposed allowing gay couples to adopt. "I think that we've proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no, I don't believe in gay adoption," he said.

We don't know precisely what the Times asked McCain, so we don't know what he means by opposing "gay adoption." There is some ambiguity in the phrase. Does "gay adoption" mean adoption by a single gay person, which is permitted in 49 of the 50 states? Or does it mean legal adoption by same-sex couples, which is permitted in some jurisdictions in about half the states? The Times's summary suggests the interviewers were referring to adoption by same-sex couples, but I'd want to see a transcript to be sure. [See update below.]

Either way, it's a terrible, thoughtless quote. Emphasis on thoughtless, because I don't think McCain has given even a moment of thought to the subtleties of talking about this. The second half of the quote is a non sequitur. Adoption is necessarily a context in which "both parents" are unavailable, so it makes no sense to cite the superiority of biological parents as a reason to prohibit adoption by gay individuals or same-sex couples.

In the context of the culture wars, I think McCain hears a question like, "Do you favor gay adoption?" as, "Do you think gay parents are as good as a married mother and father?" I don't think he hears it as, "Do you think that, once a child is up for adoption because his married mother and father are out of the picture, a gay person should be eligible to adopt that child?"

There is considerable debate about the first question, though even if you think opposite-sex parents are generally better it's not obvious why this should lead you to oppose adoption by gay couples under all circumstances. Hardly anybody answers the second question — whether gay individuals should be able to adopt — in the negative. Only one state does so (Florida). That can't be McCain's position. But his answer has created enough doubt about his position that the burden is now on his campaign to clarify what he meant.

UPDATE: A reader has pointed me to the transcript of the interview. Judge for yourself. It looks to me like McCain is suggesting that gay couples should not be able to adopt children, even if the alternative is foster care. (I wish there had been much more follow-up, since the final question is phrased in terms of McCain's "preference" for "traditional couples.") He says nothing about whether gay individuals should be able to adopt children. If he thinks gay individuals -- but not couples -- should be able to adopt children the upshot is this: McCain believes those kids are better raised by one parent than by two.

AnneS:
McCain could have a hearing or a comprehension problem. He could just not have thought it through and be giving his true gut reaction to the issue. Or he could just be reflexively giving the anti-gay answer for political reasons with no regard to the actual content of the question or the truth of the factual assertions he makes.

The constituency he's trying to attract with this doesn't care about the subtleties of the issue, after all, so there's no reason for him to point them out or reflect on them.
7.13.2008 11:08am
Eli Rabett (www):
Many, indeed most, of McCain's positions are thoughtless, the kind you hear in a bar, ranging from bomb, bomb, bomb Iran, to social security being a disaster. McCain, in his own way would be a disaster.
7.13.2008 11:41am
egn (mail):
I think McCain's glibly pandering answer just serves to confirm that he doesn't care a bit about these "social issues" and only cares about the Christian Right to the extent he can get them to come out on election day. He doesn't have a lot of sincere positions on abortion, gay rights, etc., and certainly no deeply held ones. He just doesn't care -- so he tries to say the right things, but his heart isn't in it. I'm not sure how much of his target audience he's fooling.

This also serves to confirm that Florida is a terrible, terrible place.
7.13.2008 11:49am
KevinQ (mail) (www):
"Thoughtless" seems to sum up McCain's approach to several positions this week. Several days after Carla Fiorina, an advisor and possible running mate said "there are many health insurance plans that will cover [a spam filter word starting with V] but won’t cover birth-control medication” and that many “women would like a choice (on birth control),” McCain was asked about his voting against legislation which would have required insurance companies to cover birth control.

The best he could come up with was: "I don’t know enough about it to give you an informed answer because I don’t recall the vote, I’ve cast thousands of votes in the Senate. I will respond to - it’s a, it’s a (nervous)."

Link here

Now, this was several days after the initial comments, when the liberal side of the blogosphere had already started remarking on Fiorina's comments. Nobody in his campaign thought it important enough to go back, look at his vote, and feed him an answer? Even a short answer like "I feel that the market should handle something like that" would have made it sound like he had given the even a brief thought to an issue many people consider important (access to birth control).

Like you said, thoughtless.

K
7.13.2008 11:53am
Modus Ponens:
A rare moment of thoughtfulness for a V.C. blogger. Bravo, Dale.
7.13.2008 11:59am
Matthew K (mail):
Actually the scientific debate about the impact of homosexual parents on child development has been resolved for years; the children are fine. This is why the American Psychological Association has been submitting amicus briefs in gay adoption cases and issuing policy statements like this one http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/policy/parentschildren.pdf . If only judges had the slightest clue how to evaluate social science research...

Personally, I don't think McCain has ever put serious thought into most aspects of policy. We've just tried having a President like that, and it didn't work out well.
7.13.2008 12:04pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"A rare moment of thoughtfulness for a V.C. blogger. Bravo, Dale."

You're kidding, yes? This is one of the most consistently thoughtful legal blogs out there.

Matters revolving around gay people always seem to rely chiefly on obliviousness. I still can't get over that the for some sides of the issue, the vast majority of the debate on gay marriage has somehow proceeded without ever even mentioning the existence of gay people (i.e. talking only and repeatedly of the importance of marriage, never directly mentioning exactly what it is that threatens it or why)
7.13.2008 12:05pm
Jerome Cole (mail) (www):
Social conservatives going on and on about gay people just make me really frustrated. if some guy likes to get sausage from another guy is that really such a bad thing? If they want to get married, so what? What is it to you? Gay people don't seem to be any more or any less dysfunctional than straights. If you don't like gay people then just don't associate with them. Personally I find their sexual practices revolting, but it is none of my business and none of yours either. This is 2008. Why are will still talking about this stuff? This isn't even a topic presidential candidates should have to address. States rights? Unenumerated powers reserved to the states and people? Beuler, Beuler, Beuler?

Anyway, McCain, if you need to pander to the yahoos, by all means do so. It is a necessary evil in Republican politics and a fiscally conservative hawk would be a lot better president than Obama.
7.13.2008 12:13pm
EPluribusMoney (mail):
Aren't there not enough babies up for adoption so that people are going to China, Russia, etc? So if there are plenty of male/female households to raise adopted babies, and if these mother/father households are better than gay households for the babies, isn't it logical to be against gays adopting?
7.13.2008 12:19pm
Bleah:

We don't know precisely what the Times asked McCain, so we don't know what he means by opposing "gay adoption."


So wouldn't it have been more valuable, realizing we're missing information, to make the effort to get the rest? Maybe ask the reporters or the campaign? To me, it seems like that would go a lot farther to clear any questions up than to engage in further speculation.
7.13.2008 12:22pm
theobromophile (www):
Emphasis on thoughtless, because I don't think McCain has given even a moment of thought to the subtleties of talking about this. The second half of the quote is a non sequitur. Adoption is necessarily a context in which "both parents" are unavailable, so it makes no sense to cite the superiority of biological parents as a reason to prohibit adoption by gay individuals or same-sex couples.

I read this as a verbal gaffe, not as a non sequitur. McCain may well have meant, "I think that we've proven that both [a mother and a father] are important in the success of a family so, no, I don't believe in gay adoption."

That at least makes some sense, whether or not you believe that there is something about a mother and a father that adds something intangible to a child's development.
7.13.2008 12:39pm
Benquo (mail) (www):
@Jerome Cole:

Brilliant
7.13.2008 12:42pm
Benquo (mail) (www):
That was supposed to be in response to a double-double post that seems to have disappeared.
7.13.2008 12:43pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
@EPluribusMoney: Yes, there are relatively few American infants available for adoption. There are, however, plenty of children and teens stuck in the foster system. And, even if a gay family or a single gay parent is inferior to a nuclear family, they're often superior to foster care.
7.13.2008 12:44pm
Mike& (mail):
The man doesn't think. He embodies thoughtlessness.
7.13.2008 12:47pm
ejo:
maybe he hasn't given a great deal of thought to the tiny percentage of the tiny percentage of the population that is gay and actually wants something to do with children? as to being any more or less dysfunctional, I again direct everyone's attention to the local gay pride parade in whatever municipality you reside in. of course, I am sure that is not representative of gay society as a whole.
7.13.2008 12:59pm
Gary Anderson (mail):
This isn't even a topic presidential candidates should have to address.

I agree.
7.13.2008 1:13pm
Brian K (mail):
maybe he hasn't given a great deal of thought to the tiny percentage of the tiny percentage of the population that is gay and actually wants something to do with children?

so he hasn't given much thought to a major campaign issue this season and a topic very important to a large segment of his constituency? that doesn't speak well for mccain.
7.13.2008 1:17pm
JRL:
"Adoption is necessarily a context in which "both parents" are unavailable . . ."

No, not necessarily.
7.13.2008 1:21pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
@ejo: Per "Adoption and Foster Care by Gay and Lesbian in the United States" (Gates and Macomber 2007), more than 60k adopted children live with at least on gay adult, which for comparison is about 10% of the total number of children in foster care. Sixty thousand children might deserve a minute or two of thought by the president.

Unless you and he are too busy pandering to think about facts.
7.13.2008 1:25pm
ejo:
major campaign issue? large segment of his constituency? well, if one assumes that a large segment of his constituency is not in favor of gay adoption, then he gave the "correct" answer that they would want. thoughtless-maybe he just doesn't favor it and he was speaking truthfully on the issue. does one have to be thoughtless to decide that the crowd popping x in boystown this past weekend are more representative of the gay community than a few professors who think you are thoughtless because you don't accept their ideology?
7.13.2008 1:28pm
Chris 24601 (mail) (www):
A big part of the missing context is what "believe in" means here. Not "believing in" single people adopting might be consistent with thinking there are compelling prudential reasons for not banning it.
7.13.2008 1:29pm
Great Unknown:
It is true that children of gay and lesbian parents are equivalent to those of heterosexual parents on certain developmental outcomes (e.g., social competence and behavior problems) when parental background characteristics (viz., parental warmth and sensitivity and depression) are statistically controlled.

See, e.g., Patterson

However, from a policy perspective, it would be useful to know if children of gay parents are equivalent to children of heterosexual parents when parental background characteristics (viz., warmth, sensitivity) are not controlled. This would be especially important if the base rates on such parental characteristics differed for gay men, lesbians, or heterosexuals, increasing (or decreasing) the risk of poor outcomes for children adopted by one group of parents. (It would also be important if such characteristics could not easily or practically be evaluated by, for example, adoption agencies.)

In any event, I am unaware of research that reports both the adjusted (statistically controlled) and the unadjusted (uncontrolled) parental background effects of parent type (gay or heterosexual) on child outcomes.
7.13.2008 1:36pm
Great Unknown:
Dale,

It is true that children of gay and lesbian parents are equivalent to those of heterosexual parents on certain developmental outcomes (e.g., social competence and behavior problems) when parental background characteristics (viz., parental warmth and sensitivity and depression) are statistically controlled.

See, e.g., Patterson

However, from a policy perspective, it would be useful to know if children of gay parents are equivalent to children of heterosexual parents when parental background characteristics (viz., warmth, sensitivity) are not controlled. This would be especially important if the base rates on such parental characteristics differed for gay men, lesbians, or heterosexuals, increasing (or decreasing) the risk of poor outcomes for children adopted by one group of parents. (It would also be important if such characteristics could not easily or practically be evaluated by, for example, adoption agencies.)

In any event, I am unaware of research that reports both the adjusted (statistically controlled) and the unadjusted (uncontrolled) parental background effects of parent type (gay or heterosexual) on child outcomes.
7.13.2008 1:38pm
jfb2252:
Transcript

is the full transcript of the interview. The relevant piece:

Q: President Bush believes that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt children. Do you agree with that?

Mr. McCain: I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no I don’t believe in gay adoption.

Q: Even if the alternative is the kid staying in an orphanage, or not having parents.

Mr. McCain: I encourage adoption and I encourage the opportunities for people to adopt children I encourage the process being less complicated so they can adopt as quickly as possible. And Cindy and I are proud of being adoptive parents.

Q: But your concern would be that the couple should a traditional couple

Mr. McCain: Yes.
7.13.2008 2:37pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
"[D]oes one have to be thoughtless to decide that the crowd popping x in boystown this past weekend are more representative of the gay community...?

This assumes that the crop of homosexuals popping x in boystown are representative of the homosexuals who want to adopt: It's highly doubtful. Anyone who is a parent knows that it's a life changing, specifically as SOCIAL LIFE changing event. Unattached youngish men especially like to play -- think about your lifestyle in college v. your lifestyle after getting married and having kids. What happened in the meantime? You got married and had kids. It is so hard to understand why gay men play more than straights?
7.13.2008 2:42pm
AnneS:
Well, there we have it. McCain had a chance to respond to the subtler questions and did so. In a way that will make the constituency he's pandering to happy. Congrats, Jerome, you've got the candidate you deserve. He's willing to sell out not only himself, not only the tiny minority of gay people, but children languishing in foster care to appeal to the small-minded, but useful, idiots.
7.13.2008 2:50pm
Cornellian (mail):
Q: President Bush believes that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt children. Do you agree with that?

Mr. McCain: I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no I don’t believe in gay adoption.

Q: Even if the alternative is the kid staying in an orphanage, or not having parents.

Mr. McCain: I encourage adoption and I encourage the opportunities for people to adopt children I encourage the process being less complicated so they can adopt as quickly as possible. And Cindy and I are proud of being adoptive parents.


Wow, he'd rather he'd rather a kid remain stuck in an orphanage with NO parents than to be adopted by two people of the same sex.

Or, as an earlier commenter noted, what he's really thinking is "personally, I couldn't care less about the whole issue, but this is a cheap and easy way to score a few points with the base on an issue that doesn't cost me anything anyway, so this is what I'll say."
7.13.2008 2:50pm
J. Nicholas Smith:
Um. Yeah. See, "both parents" means "both types of parent" that is, both a mother and a father, not "both biological parents". This doesn't require deep thought to figure out, just a moment's reflection on the context of the quote.

And that belief does have practical consequences. In regards to infant adoption, there is such a long waiting list that the need for parents can be satisfied entirely with male-female couples. Allowing single people or gay couples to adopt infants is a deliberate choice to place infants in situations where they don't have both a mother and a father, since male-female pairs are available in all such cases. So, a strong preference for placing children in families with both (kinds of) parents means, de facto, a ban on single and gay couple adoption of infants.
7.13.2008 2:57pm
p. rich (mail) (www):
But his answer has created enough doubt about his position that the burden is now on his campaign to clarify what he meant.

No, it isn't.
7.13.2008 2:58pm
Chris Bell (mail) (www):
@Jerome Cole:
if some guy likes to get sausage from another guy is that really such a bad thing? If they want to get married, so what? What is it to you?
The biggest difference between a theocratic mind and a secular mind is the concept of shared morality.

I think you can be religious and still "secular" in the sense that you can evaluate your own behavior by your own standards. YOU can be holy in an unholy society. Theocrats think that morality is shared. Your neighbor's sins taint not just him, but you.

CNN had a video a few weeks ago about a swinger's home in Florida. The swinger was not disruptive or loud, but he had private swinging parties. The neighbors found out and threw a fit. They staked out the home and publicized the license plates of visitors. They got the cops to shut the home down on the pretext that it was a business, even though no money was charged. (It's going to court.)

My point is a comment from one of the neighbors. The neighbor was asked why he was out protesting when the swinger was not bothering anyone. It was, after all, a private affair. The angry neighbor responded that the swinger was "lowering the morality level of the neighborhood."

That concept makes no sense to me, and apparently makes no sense to you. It is the essence of domineering religions. Here is another essay that hits right on this point.

@EPluribusMoney: Adoptive parents overwhelmingly prefer babies. Young children are less desired, and teenagers are almost never adopted.

It is sad that people go to China to adopt a baby when there are thousands of teenagers living in unpleasant foster homes right here.

But that is the solution to your question. People go to other countries AND we have thousands in foster care.
7.13.2008 3:03pm
hattio1:
Wow, Just Wow.

Professor Carpenter. I appreciate that this is an issue you feel strongly about, and that you are also a conservative that would be loathe to support Obama, but please don't twist yourself in knots trying to make McCain's comments mean something they don't. As Nick Smith pointed out "both parents" pretty clearly means both types of parents as we are talking about adoption. As for your speculation that he was answering a different question (are gay parents better or as good as opposite sex couples) I think the quote pretty much conclusively states that. He's asked whether gay adoption is better than staying in an orphanage, and, at best, avoids the question, and at worst, says no, they should languish in the orphanage.

If you want to believe McCain is just pandering, I guess that's understandable. If you want to support him anyway, because on the whole, you agree with him more than Obama, I can understand that. Heck, I support Obama though there are certain positions that drive me nuts. But, don't try to twist his words around to mean what you mean. McCain either disagrees with you wholeheartedly on this issue (the likely answer in my position) or he's willing to lie about it to pander to the Christian Right. If he's willing to lie about it, I would bet he's willing to sign legislation in an attempt at a second term.

DC: I can understand why an Obama supporter might want to read the worst into his statements, and I can understand why a McCain supporter might want to read them either as fully supporting the most socially conservative view or might try to find some daylight for gay single/couples. But I don’t see how you can read the summary or the transcript and *not* find ambiguity in the questions and answers. And I’m hardly sugar-coating this for McCain; as I said in the post, I think his response was terrible and thoughtless, regardless of the meaning we think most likely.
7.13.2008 3:14pm
GV:
I wonder if McCain thinks having a father who cheats on his female spouse and leaves her is more detrimental to a kid than having a father (either one or two) who is gay.
7.13.2008 3:24pm
Randy R. (mail):
"as to being any more or less dysfunctional, I again direct everyone's attention to the local gay pride parade in whatever municipality you reside in."

Or you could check on the dynfunctionality of all those heteros by directiing you to the local St. Pat's Day Parade, or Mardi Gras.
7.13.2008 3:35pm
Big Bill (mail):
Eugene, could you give us the benefit of your thoughts?

Could you tell us why you support gay adoption?
7.13.2008 3:35pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Randy,

The folks who talk about homosexuality as a dysfunction tend to be the same ones who argue that gays are so much better educated, wealthier and have higher incomes, (therefore they don't need antidiscrimination protection) which are all indicia of hyperfunctionality. These things also matter in parenting. It's considered more ideal to place children in homes with better educated parents who make more money and have higher incomes. If this stereotype about gays is true, it just makes them more desirable parents.
7.13.2008 3:44pm
nutbump (mail):
McCain is exactly right on the issue. He opposes a state enforced equalizaion of gay couples to heterosexual couples as far as adoption concern.
Recoginiton of gay couples adoption essentially means deprivation of adopted child a basic right. Right to have a father and mother. McCain is a man. I respect him for his position on human right.
7.13.2008 3:49pm
MLS:
Perhaps someday I will be fortunate enough to read an interview where the topics of discussion pertain to the role served by the President under Article II, and not digressions into Article I matters under the purview of the Congress.
7.13.2008 3:50pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
I don't have a problem with adoption companies on their own granting a preference to heterosexual couples. As a libertarian I just want the government to leave them alone. If an adoption company wants to ban gays from adopting, adopt a nondiscrimination or "equality" policy between homosexual and heterosexual couples or something in between (say a preference for heterosexuals, but willingness to place kids with gay families) so be it.

Personally I never understood the infatuation with babies. If I do adopt one day, I want the child to be past the diaper stage.
7.13.2008 3:53pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
My personal epiphany was pretty simple. Several lesbian couples with adopted kids use to summer at the same lake as we did with our adopted kids (here is a twist - two Americans living in Paris adopt two french kids - parents live overseas where they find their kids). So how did the kids respond to their two mothers? Answer: "Mama One" and "Mama Two". Seemed so obvious to me after I saw it.

Also, the thing about adoption is that at the end of the day it is the kid who adopts the adult or adults. Oh sure, the law puts it all in the other direction, but really a 7 month old checks you out in ways you can not imagine to see if they will be comfortable with you. For example, vomiting on your clothes and seeing how you react. Or do you do a good job changing the diapers?

I know several gay men couples with adopted kids and the above lesbian couples and single adoptions and the common theme for me is that the kids were and are alright.

McCain's comment are what they are. I know great gay and lesbian adoptive parents.

Also the point on the preference for babies is absolutely true and why there are so many kids languishing in foster care. And a further issue is people wanting to adopt a child that resembles the child they would have had. Because I was black in a predominantly white France, that preference played to my advantage in terms of maybe being put ahead in the process by being interested in adopting black babies before white babies for which there was greater demand.

Of course, cross racial adoptions are subjects of controversy for some, but my sense is that getting kids out of foster care and into loving homes is very important. You could see how my kids took off in birthweight and all the rest of it once they were in a home where they were loved. More power to people who get past the "I want the baby to look like me" blinder who share their love. Power to the adopting people!

For anyone who has not been through the process, I will tell you that the social worker (at least in France)walked us through all of our prejudices to try to figure out who we really are. For example, I don't know why but I had a thing about winestain birthmarks like Gorbachev had. Completely irrational, but it came out in the discussion as they try to match children with adoptive parents.

So I regret McCain's remark (sigh), but I suspect he is similar to a great many Americans who see gay and lesbian adoption and freak at it.

Best,
Ben
7.13.2008 3:54pm
hattio1:
Professor Carpenter,
You say that you can't see how I can read out ambiguity. But the questions weren't ambiguous. They asked would you rather someone languish in foster care or be adopted. McCain's answer was at best ambiguous, but he clearly thought about the issue. Or, if he didn't with that kind of a question, he's completely incapable of the kind of thinking we want in a president.

DC: You’re missing another possibility. McCain did what politicians often do when asked a tough, direct question: he answered a different question in an attempt to deflect the issue. The interviewer gave him a soft out by asking whether he had a “preference” for traditional couples, rather than whether he would have an absolute rule against gay couple adoption. So his view remains unclear. By the way, this was noted already in an update to the post.
7.13.2008 3:58pm
Jon Rowe (mail) (www):
Ben,

Very nice comment.

The gays I know who adopt, my own observations are that they are better educated and the more professional types (is that true of adoptive families in general?). I'm not sure about the statistics that show gays having higher incomes and better educated (lots of potential problems with them). But my anecdotal observations tell me it's probably true.

The gay families I know who adopt I see raising their children in a very responsible middle-class environment.
7.13.2008 4:08pm
Mike Keenan:
This kind of pandering seems to be required for the Republican candidate. It is repulsive. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
7.13.2008 4:21pm
Guest12345:
GV:
I wonder if McCain thinks having a father who cheats on his female spouse and leaves her is more detrimental to a kid than having a father (either one or two) who is gay.


I wonder if McCain thinks having a gay father who has contracted HIV and has passed on the infection to seventeen thousand people, cheats on and beats up his gay bondage slave, embezzles money from his employer, sells heroin on the side, and buggers the child twice a day is more detrimental to the kid than having a father (one) and a mother (one) who treat the child with love and respect, act with integrity, believe in the good in people, work hard, plan for the future, volunteer at homeless shelters, work to ensure that everyone is treated fairly, cure cancer, and brought about world peace?

Wow! That's so much fun. Pick a position and make a fact pattern that has nothing to do with the topic at hand, or reality for that matter. It's like I totally zinged McCain. He's never going to be able to flip flop his way out of this clever logical trap. And his presidential campaign is doomed.

Keep it up GV, you've really shown McCain.
7.13.2008 4:24pm
AntonK (mail):
Mike Keenan says, "This kind of pandering seems to be required for the Republican candidate. It is repulsive. Thanks for bringing this to our attention."

Right, like Democrats don't have to pander to their constituency. Grow up, moron.
7.13.2008 4:25pm
Perseus (mail):
If he thinks gay individuals -- but not couples -- should be able to adopt children the upshot is this: McCain believes those kids are better raised by one parent than by two.

To the extent that same-sex couple relationships tend to be less durable than heterosexual ones (and the break-up of parents causes significant, lasting harm to children), two parents are not necessarily better than one.
7.13.2008 4:28pm
TonyRyan (mail):
The problem I have with most of these arguments is the assumption that anything is better than foster care. Why? The better argument (made by a few here) is that gay/lesbian parents are just as good (for lack of a better term) or even better than regular adoptive parents. The anything is better than foster care argument just leads to conflation of issues and tangents that have nothing to do with the issue here. If adopted children of gay parents thrive then gay adoption should be encouraged.
The previous comment lamenting that the courts don't know how to interpret social science research is interesting. I see this as a positive thing. Most of the social science research I come across is biased, uses dubious statistical methods, and relies on assumptions that end up determining the outcomes. After reading you sit there thinking to yourself how this could be peer reviewed. Quite frankly, if I submitted a brief similar to social science "research" I would expect to be sanctioned. I would be interested in a REAL study of adopted children of gay parents. The studies mentioned are a joke. The APA is a joke. Their studies always seem to coincide with their policy positions they created before their studies. Amazing! Do a study, be willing to accept data or conclusions that you don't like, then publish it. If it turns out that adopted children of gay families thrive then fantastic. If it turns out that they do not then we may need to reconsider our adoption programs. Just don't hand me "studies" that are nothing more than policy documents.
7.13.2008 4:34pm
Big Bill (mail):
Great Unknown says:

It is true that children of gay and lesbian parents are equivalent to those of heterosexual parents on certain developmental outcomes (e.g., social competence and behavior problems) when parental background characteristics (viz., parental warmth and sensitivity and depression) are statistically controlled.

I always grab for my wallet whenever the APA sneaks one past me like the Patterson paper and its controlling for disposition.

What Patterson is saying, then, is that Patterson has come up with a first set of criteria ("background characteristics") that, when applied to gay and straight adoptive parent groups will cause their children to be equal according to a second set of criteria ("developmental outcomes").

Of course it does not tell us that both groups are equally qualified. It says that nice adoptive parents (whether gay or straight) produce equally nice (or not so nice) adoptive kids.

It does not tell us whether gays or straights are equally
"nice", of course, nor does it tell us whether adoption agencies are capable of determining whether potential adoptive parents of either group are "nice" or not.

One does wonder. If social service agencies pick foster parents so badly, why would one expect them to pick adoptive parents well?
7.13.2008 4:42pm
mmf:
Didn't we just try the "non-thinking President" plan? Just going by results, I think you'd have to say it doesn't seem to have worked out so great....
7.13.2008 4:45pm
theobromophile (www):
No matter how anyone feels about homosexuality, the ability of gays to be parents, etc., it should be clear that the relevant question is: What is best for the child? At least McCain is answering that question, rather than digressing the best interests of the parents.

MLS - this isn't even an Art. I issue. Definitely a health, safety, and welfare issue - a state issue.
7.13.2008 5:01pm
Anon21:
Guest12345: I think you missed the joke. The fact pattern is very much based on reality--it's John McCain's life. He cheated on his first wife (with whom he'd fathered one child and adopted two others), then divorced her to marry the woman he was cheating on her with.
7.13.2008 5:19pm
DangerMouse:
No matter how anyone feels about homosexuality, the ability of gays to be parents, etc., it should be clear that the relevant question is: What is best for the child? At least McCain is answering that question, rather than digressing the best interests of the parents.

What's best for the child? Simple. Children have a right to have a mother and a father. It's part of their human rights. I don't support gay adoptions either.
7.13.2008 5:37pm
GV:
What Anon21 said, except I wasn’t trying to make a joke. If John McCain thinks that a certain class of people shouldn’t be able to be parents, he should be able to articulate why that group of people is more harmful to kids than divorced adulterers. If he thinks there is no difference and that he should not have been a parent either, I think that’s worth knowing too.
7.13.2008 5:41pm
Matthew K (mail):
TonyRyan:
Given that there are numerous rigorous studies on homosexual parenting, I'm a little surprised by your comment. What makes you qualified to dismiss out of hand that body of work? There surely is some bad social science research, but I have never seen a convincing argument that these studies should be disregarded. (note: it isn't all about the Patterson study. Any one paper has flaws, or at least potential flaws. See the full body of work).

Regarding comments from others:
"What's best for the child? Simple. Children have a right to have a mother and a father. It's part of their human rights. I don't support gay adoptions either."
1.) It has not been shown that being raised by a man and a woman is superior to being raised by two men or two women.
2.) Where does this supposed right come from, and how do you propose to enforce it? Parents divorce and die. A lot of kids are growing up in households that do not contain two parents, let alone the two people whose biological material they carry. Life is complicated, deal with it.
7.13.2008 6:08pm
blabla (mail):
I think I know what McCain is referring to: There is a body of literature out there that describes how children supposedly gain different types of skills and experiences from a male parent than they do from a female parent. One example is the book "Fatherneed," which sums up the literature describing the various things that a male parent gives but a female parent does not (e.g., male parents use more adult vocab with kids). McCain is probably referring to this literature, arguing that it's best to have one female and one male parent rather than two same-sex parents.

Note: please don't shoot the messenger; I'm not saying that I agree with any of this. I'm just trying to speculate as to what McCain might have been talking about.
7.13.2008 6:09pm
Guest12345:
You know what's interesting? I think that dentists should be good at what they do. On the other hand I'm not a good dentist. Does that mean I'm wrong? The fact that McCain cheated on his wife and divorced her doesn't mean that your question is a valid response to his opinion.
7.13.2008 6:11pm
ReaderY:
It has also as not merely odd, but rediculously hypocritical, that certain commentators are able to say out of one side of their mouth that the state has a compelling interest in children's development in ensuring that not merely children but college students recieve an education in a multi-sex environment, while saying out the other side of their mouth that the minute the children leave school home, home the gender diversity of their enviromnet not only makes no difference, but thinking that it makes a difference is irrational.

It's rediculous. One can't keep calling logic "irrational" forever.
7.13.2008 6:12pm
ReaderY:
It has also as not merely odd, but rediculously hypocritical, that certain commentators are able to say out of one side of their mouth that the state has a compelling interest in children's development in ensuring that not merely children but college students receive an education in a multi-sex environment, while saying out the other side of their mouth that the minute the children leave school for home, the gender diversity of their enviromnet not only makes no difference, but thinking that it makes a difference is irrational.

Even assuming it's possible for a rational person to swallow the idea that the way children develop really changes this radically the minute they cross a property boundary, it strikes me that if one is going to call adoption a commercial service with respect to religious adaption agencies, that necessarily puts adaption on the commercial, pro-gender-diversity side of the line and we should apply the state's compelling interest in ensuring that children in commercial contexts experience gender diversity to these supposedly commercial environments. If adaption truly is a commercial service, then the school gotta-protect-diversity-in-education rules, not the home gotta-protect-gender-preference rules, should be the ones that apply and ensuring gender diversity should be the relevant interest and determinant of what is rational and compelling.
7.13.2008 6:22pm
Great Unknown:
It does not tell us whether gays or straights are equally "nice", of course, nor does it tell us whether adoption agencies are capable of determining whether potential adoptive parents of either group are "nice" or not.

That’s right: The policy implications of studies that statistically control for dispositional parent characteristics (low warmth, low sensitivity, high depression) are difficult to interpret – and may be misleading – if group differences in “qualified” parents are large. That’s why I’d like to see both the statistically controlled and uncontrolled effects on child outcomes (rather than only the controlled effects), in studies that compare children adopted by gay or heterosexual parents.

Patterson, for one, should be able to report the unadjusted (or raw) effects on child outcomes, since he obviously had the data to report the adjusted effects.

In any case, my sense is that people don’t generally believe this issue (adoption by gays) is subject to an unbiased empirical test. Or, alternatively, they don’t want to ask a question that could yield an answer that doesn’t agree with their position on the issue.

A fair minded individual should be able to honestly answer a simple question: What data would you accept that would contradict you view on the issue (of whether gays should be able to adopt)?
If you can’t answer that, you’re reasoning like a lawyer, not like a scientist.

On the matter of reaching for you wallet: Why not join APS, which, in my experience, is far less political?
7.13.2008 6:26pm
kmwa:
As is becoming daily more evident, McCain is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Don't forget...he was 3rd from the bottom of his class at Annapolis. Out of 1000. That's frighteningly stupid for someone wanting to be president. But the Republicans seem unusually attracted to anti-intellectual bimbos generally speaking. Tom DeLay, Dubya, Gonzalez, Ronald Reagan, Rumsfeld, etc., etc., etc.
7.13.2008 6:27pm
hawkins:
kmwa - not that I'm a fan, but what qualifies Rumsfeld as an anti-intellectual bimbo?"
7.13.2008 7:09pm
subpatre (mail):
TonyRyan stumbles across the "better than foster care" fallacy.

The initial reaction is that 'yes', adoption is better than foster care. Well, adopted children are better off than in fosterage. The fallacy is that adoption is a solution for so many in foster care.

Foster care is a worse environment than adoption, but both are many, many time worse than leaving children in their original homes. Eliminate the majority of removals —those based on 'child abuse means doing things different than a social worker'— and removing only children truly harmed or at harm.

As long as Clinton's "head bounty" is on prospective adoptions, welfare departments will continue to legally kidnap children from the poor and less educated; offering a full catalog of adoptees to the wealthy and well educated, including gays.

Once social services and gays are no longer dealing with stolen children, then there might be better acceptance of adoption by gays. Social services, being a governmental organization, has no conscience and reacts to political pressures and monetary rewards only. Both these have increased pressure to strip natural parental rights.

In contrast, gays are people and (supposedly) have conscience of right and wrong. With current pairing behaviors, it’s in their interest to have children without a third individual involved, and adoption is an easy way for non-‘breeders’ to obtain family. To many in the working class, gays have entered an unholy alliance with government to steal children.

IMO many, many people in the social services and gay families have no intention to do this, but participate anyway. Until this pattern is broken, opposition to gay adoptions will have excellent (realistic) political traction.
7.13.2008 7:14pm
subpatre (mail):
TonyRyan stumbles across the "better than foster care" fallacy.

The initial reaction is that 'yes', adoption is better than foster care. Well, adopted children are better off than in fosterage. The fallacy is that adoption is a solution for so many in foster care.

Foster care is a worse environment than adoption, but both are many, many time worse than leaving children in their original homes. Eliminate the majority of removals —those based on 'child abuse means doing things different than a social worker'— and removing only children truly harmed or at harm.

As long as Clinton's "head bounty" is on prospective adoptions, welfare departments will continue to legally kidnap children from the poor and less educated; offering a full catalog of adoptees to the wealthy and well educated, including gays.

Once social services and gays are no longer dealing with stolen children, then there might be better acceptance of adoption by gays. Social services, being a governmental organization, has no conscience and reacts to political pressures and monetary rewards only. Both these have increased pressure to strip natural parental rights.

In contrast, gays are people and (supposedly) have conscience of right and wrong. With current pairing behaviors, it’s in their interest to have children without a third individual involved, and adoption is an easy way for non-‘breeders’ to obtain family. To many in the working class, gays have entered an unholy alliance with government to steal children.

IMO many, many people in the social services and gay families have no intention to do this, but participate anyway. Until this pattern is broken, opposition to gay adoptions will have excellent (realistic) political traction.
7.13.2008 7:14pm
GV:
The fact that McCain cheated on his wife and divorced her doesn't mean that your question is a valid response to his opinion.

I didn’t say his prior moral shortcomings made his opinion irrelevant; indeed, the fact that he had prior moral shortcomings might make his opinion more insightful. I simply noted that it might be interesting, in light of his opinion about gay parenting, to hear McCain explain whether it is worse to have a gay parent or a divorced adulterer as a parent. Maybe he thinks its worse, which would be interesting in and of itself, or (more likely) he thinks it is worse to have a gay parent, in which case I think his explanation for why that is so would be interesting as well.
7.13.2008 7:45pm
bab23:

kmwa - not that I'm a fan, but what qualifies Rumsfeld as an anti-intellectual bimbo?"



hawkins, I find it amusing you accept the rest of the list without comment. C'mon, at least the pre-geriatric Reagan knew what the hell he was talking about.
7.13.2008 7:52pm
EH (mail):
Let's bring this all back to the classic Libertarian bugbears: Is there a higher incidence of prison and welfare cases among children adopted by gays?
7.13.2008 8:51pm
nutbump (mail):

It has not been shown that being raised by a man and a woman is superior to being raised by two men or two women.

and no one have to show anything to anyone. People who demand to show them something, probably think that they are Gods. They are not. Yes, gays are well organized minority and they are politically beating disorganized majority. But it does not mean they are capable to convince anyone that somehow two gays is a substitute for mother and father.

There is a simple natural right of every child to have father and mother. Natural means it is happen without intervention of the government. E.g. there is no law that says that human have a right to eat and drink. The same is true for a right to have a mother and father. It is basic uncontestable right. Government commits a crime by allowing to place a child to gay family where child will never have a father or mother because gays (our new GODS) think it is good idea.

Adoption is process of creation of a new family for a child. That family should mimic a natural family and be as optimal for the child as possible i.e. include father and mother.

Gays couples have no right for adoption because they have no ablity to have children on their own, accordingly they can't give a child a concept of procreation.
7.13.2008 9:07pm
dr:

Gays couples have no right for adoption because they have no ablity to have children on their own, accordingly they can't give a child a concept of procreation.


so...

so you're concerned that kids who grow up in a home with two gay parents won't have a concept of procreation?

it's a valid concern. if only the dominant popular culture could somehow be retooled to fill in that knowledge gap.
7.13.2008 9:11pm
Don Meaker (mail):
I adopted two children of my second wife. Both fathers were above ground, but for various reasons, not in a position to act as a father, something having to do with the penal codes.

Not all adoptions are because the parents are not available.

Further, increasing the number of adoptive parents (demand) without doing anything to the number of children to be adopted, raises the price. Do we want to raise the price of adopting for hetero parents?
7.13.2008 9:15pm
JK:
I'm loving things "right to a mother and father" business. All of the sudden conservatives are concerned about children that don't have two parents (of opposite sex) in the household, and believe there should be government intervention to make this so. I think that’s wonderful, but of course before we start worrying about gay couples with children we should really start addressing the much bigger issue of struggling single parents (mostly mothers), so what sort of assistance do you think we should be providing them?

*cricket* *cricket*
7.13.2008 9:37pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
A disturbing fact continues to surface in sex abuse research,… the second best predictor [of abuse] is conservative religiosity, accompanied by a parental belief in traditional female-male roles. This means that if you want to know which children are most likely to be sexually abused by their father, the second most significant clue is whether or not the parents belong to a conservative religious group with traditional role beliefs and rigid sexual attitudes.
- Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches by Carolyn Holderread Heggen ©1993

Being against gay adoption seems obviously a case of the foxes pretending they are the defenders of the hen houses.
7.13.2008 9:50pm
theobromophile (www):
Gays couples have no right for adoption because they have no ablity to have children on their own, accordingly they can't give a child a concept of procreation.

Um... you're serious? Children can't get a "concept of procreation" without heterosexual (presumably procreating) parents?

I can understand that a child would get a "concept of procreation" by seeing a parent get pregnant, or hearing stories about his mother's pregnancy with him, but all adopted children and youngest children won't get to experience this. Pray tell, how exactly does an adopted child get a "concept of procreation" from his parents? I never thought that hearing one's parents go at it, then snicker meaningfully at each other once pregnant, was really a necessary part of growing up.
7.13.2008 9:59pm
blabla (mail):
"I'm loving things "right to a mother and father" business. All of the sudden conservatives are concerned about children that don't have two parents (of opposite sex) in the household, and believe there should be government intervention to make this so. I think that’s wonderful, but of course before we start worrying about gay couples with children we should really start addressing the much bigger issue of struggling single parents (mostly mothers), so what sort of assistance do you think we should be providing them? "

Conservatives have been worrying about this for years. They often don't want to say anything because it's hard to talk about the issue without coming off as racist. But despite this there are tons and tons of examples of conservatives listing single-parent families as one of the most serious domestic problems that the country faces.
7.13.2008 10:10pm
JK:

Conservatives have been worrying about [single parent homes] for years. They often don't want to say anything because it's hard to talk about the issue without coming off as racist. But despite this there are tons and tons of examples of conservatives listing single-parent families as one of the most serious domestic problems that the country faces.

Really? Have they been including substantive policy ideas for how to deal with it? If so I've certainly missed it (which is definitely possible). What I do recall is a lot of talk about how all welfare is bad because there aren't any legitimately needy people in this country.

It seems that conservatives are willing to tell others how to live their lives based on (their version of) divine mandate, but if that divine mandate involves actually helping someone else out (or inconveniencing themselves in any way), the word of god is more flexible.

I don’t mean to be completely glib, this is an issue I’d definitely be willing to compromise on if I thought conservatives were actually interested in helping children, and not just bullying people they don’t like.
7.13.2008 10:40pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The problem is, JK, that people usually manage to manage their circumstances. If welfare means you learn to game the system, then you learn to game the system. Absent welfare, you learn something else. Like work.
I have two relatives who work with the poor. They start with, for example, don't do your grocery shopping at the gas station. What? Why not? It's where I get my cigarettes at the highest price in town. Why not get milk there?
I expect you consider discussing these issues as "bullying".
7.13.2008 10:53pm
nutbump (mail):

so you're concerned that kids who grow up in a home with two gay parents won't have a concept of procreation?

Yep you have got it. They (gays) will teach an orphan that same sex couples are identical to heterosexual couples. This is a distorted logic that is detrimental to the society as a whole. Of course this is not a main reason why gays should be prohibited from adoption.
As I have said before, government representing gays, have no right to deprive an orphan an opportunity to have natural family i.e. two parents of different sexes.
7.13.2008 11:04pm
dr:


so you're concerned that kids who grow up in a home with two gay parents won't have a concept of procreation?



Yep you have got it.


well then, if we MUST have gay adoptive parents, perhaps the solution is to mandate government-sponsored sex education for those children? forgive me if this is all really basic stuff to you -- i'm just trying to be proactive and help find a solution to a problem that, frankly, i wasn't aware of before you brought it to my attention.


As I have said before, government representing gays, have no right to deprive an orphan an opportunity to have natural family i.e. two parents of different sexes.


obviously, you're also against single-parent adoption, including straight parents. but if i may probe a bit -- and call back a previous commenter from this thread -- what if a woman whose husband has a history of adultery and family abandonment wishes to adopt? should the government put a child in such a situation, given the presumably increased likelihood that the child will end up absent a father? or should that mother and her husband be told that they cannot adopt?

note: i ask this not to jab at mccain (merited though it may be). i ask to jab at this bumpnut character, and all others whose concern for the welfare of small children extends to the kids of gay couples, but not the kids of straight senators.
7.13.2008 11:15pm
JK:
Richard Aubrey,
That certainly a serious problem, and I certainly never meant to imply otherwise, but it's not the end of the conversation. We still have children who are suffering far more than any reasonable understanding of the disadvantages of children with gay parents (which my gut also tells me is not ideal).

I'm not sure what you meant by your last sentence, but my guess is that you're comparing giving financial advice to individuals receiving government assistance to government bans on adoption by disfavored groups. Do I really need to explain how these practices are different and how I’m more skeptical about the motivations behind the latter than the former?
7.13.2008 11:16pm
Brian K (mail):
to those people saying that gay parents shouldn't be able to adopt because heterosexual parents are "better": why is the line drawn at gay parents?

non-abusive parents are better than abusive parents, why aren't abusive parents children automatically and forever taken away from then? why aren't their laws preventing people with a history of abusing people from having children in the first place?

likewise with adulterers, divorcers, poor, less-well educated, workaholics, single and people who just don't care enough about their kids? why are you not advocating laws to prevent these groups of people from having kids? why isn't big bucks being poured into campaigns to amend the constitution to prevent married couples with kids from getting divorced and to force unmarried people with kids to get married?

essentially, why aren't you advocating laws that only allow ideal and perfect parents from having children? why is the line between "these people can adopt" and "these people absolutely cannot adopt under any circumstance" drawn at homosexuals?
7.14.2008 12:23am
Waiting for China:
Chris Bell wrote:

It is sad that people go to China to adopt a baby when there are thousands of teenagers living in unpleasant foster homes right here.

He could also have written:

It is sad that people conceive and give birth to a baby when there are thousands of teenagers living in unpleasant foster homes right here.

Parents have an enormous influence the first few years of life. It's not surprising that adoptive parents want to have that influence.

Parents used to go to China because the process was remarkably similar to giving birth to a baby: 1) You received a referral of an infant withing 6-12 months of submitting your paperwork; 2) the system was honest; 3) the parental rights of birth parents were permanently severed; 4) and your adoption is permanent as soon as you get back to the States.

No domestic process came close.

Unfortunately for waiting parents, but fortunately for Chinese children, China is no longer such an obvious choice. The wait for a referral is now approaching three years, and some are predicting it will be six or more years for new applicants. See here and here. China is processing about 5-6 days of applications every month, and they are still working on applications submitted in January 2006.

As to American teenagers needing adoptive homes, Chris Bell, I ask you, how many teenagers have you adopted?
7.14.2008 5:47am
Waiting for China:
Tying this back to McCain's statement, McCain shares his adoption policy with the Chinese government--the Chinese government categorically bans adoptions by gays and lesbians.

So basically, McCain wants the United States to adopt this part of China's family policy.
7.14.2008 6:14am
Some Guy (mail):
You appear to be a couple steps ahead of the law. Last I heard, almost every state did not allow gay marriage. So, what legal enforcement mechanism is there to make sure that children adopted by gay "couples" really are being raised by two people, rather than one? Would it stand up in other states? What are the statistics on gay "couples" staying together for the 18 years it will take for that child to reach adulthood? And the legal protections for the child to ensure that the adoptive parents remain financially responsible for the child's upkeep?

I know, I know, you want what you want and now. Screw the consequences.

Focus on getting the majority of Americans to support gay marriage by voting for it. Institute legal responsibilities on the part of married gays. Then move on to the question of gay "couples" adopting children. Anything else is basically pushing orphans into adoption by the gay equivalent of single mothers. Say what you want about civil rights, but when you say you're willing to put children into homosexual, single-parent households, you expose yourself as not at all interested in the well-being of these children.

(Or, you know, keep suing your way into a backlash. Either way, just being helpful.)
7.14.2008 7:32am
m:
Dale's early caveat that "We don't know precisely what the Times asked McCain, so we don't know what he means by opposing "gay adoption" is worth reiterating: I expect at least some of McCain's apparent non-responsiveness and resulting muddle was made unavoidable by the NYT's not giving us the precise questions asked in the interview. Even at the NYT link of the "transcript," on which the summary articles are presumably based (http://tinyurl.com/5t46jj), we're told that "The answers are transcribed verbatim; some of the questions are paraphrased." An odd feature in a transcript, I'd say, and worth drawing to the attention of commenters referencing the published Q&A.
7.14.2008 8:24am
aleks (mail):
John McCain's core beliefs:

1. John McCain deserves to be president.
2. a. War is hell.
2. b. War is also honorable and glorious and necessary in a surprising number of cases that the pussies don't understand.
3. The Iraq perfectly demonstrates beliefs 1. and 2b.

Anything else (social and economic issues for starters) are unimportant and completely negotiable.
7.14.2008 9:19am
nutbump (mail):



dr: obviously, you're also against single-parent adoption, including straight parents.

Where is an evidence of the obvious?
Single parent adoption is totally different issue. It is issue about whether to allow single person to adopt a child. We are talking about couples here.
By allowing gay couples (assuming they live in California or Massachusetts) to adopt we permanently deprive child a natural right to have mother or father.
As far as single parent concern, single parent is definitely better solution then gay family, because that way no right of child is violated, and opportunity to have adopted mother or father (in case if single parent get married) remains open.
7.14.2008 9:39am