In the association’s press release, ASA President Cecilia Ridgeway is quoted as saying:
The results of our review are clear. There is no evidence that children with parents in stable same-sex or opposite-sex relationships differ in terms of well-being. Indeed, the greater stability offered by marriage for same-sex as well as opposite-sex parents may be an asset for child well-being. An issue at the heart of these cases is whether family composition, per se, affects the well-being of children and thus, provides a justification for limiting the right to marry. This core question is an empirical one and is the subject of a broad range of social science research. As a scientific body, ASA has a duty to provide the court with a systematic and balanced review of the evidence to assess what the consensus of scholarly research has shown.
The impetus for ASA action was the publication and aggressive dissemination of a paper by sociologist Mark Regnerus, with funding from right-wing foundations, that purported to show negative outcomes for children of gay and lesbian parents. The fallout included a letter denouncing the study signed by 200 researchers, an investigation into the review process by the journal, and a special issue dedicated to the controversy. (My review of the events through last August is, with links, is here; the special issue is here.)
Out of the discussion a number of sections within the association asked the ASA Council to commission a brief, a decision that was controversial among sociologists. Some people expressed reluctance to have the association offer a substantive conclusion about ongoing research, or to cast judgment on peer-reviewed work. There is a normal amount of anxiety over whether the association should take public positions perceived as political.
My opinion is that the brief, under the research direction of Wendy Manning, a top-notch researcher with a non-ideologue reputation, strikes the right balance and should allay most sociologists’ concerns. Of course it is argumentative in a way that the most peer-reviewed work is not – and doesn’t go out of its way to represent its opponents’ views. But the strong conclusion is well-justified: on the issue of same-sex parenting and children’s well-being, we have the closest thing to a (social) scientific consensus we could hope for:
When the social science evidence is exhaustively examined—which the ASA has done—the facts demonstrate that children fare just as well when raised by same-sex parents … Unsubstantiated fears regarding same-sex child rearing do not overcome these facts and do not justify upholding DOMA and Proposition 8.
And it correctly points out the biggest problems with the Regnerus study, its wrongheaded setup and comparisons, and its misleading interpretations.
In short, I highly recommend the brief as an excellent piece of scientific writing, and a model for argument from evidence. And I like to see statements that include the phrase, “As a scientific body, ASA has a duty to…”