Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne are the proud grandparents of a new baby boy. Their daughter Mary gave birth to Samuel David Cheney at a Washington D.C. area hospital May 23, 2007.
Baby Samuel has been the recipient of much more attention than his family's love. From first word that Mary and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, were to become parents, their pregnancy created controversy.
In a TIME Magazine essay last December titled "Two Mommies is One Too Many," James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, shared his views about their parenthood. Basing his argument on the general claim that children do best when raised by a married mother and a father, he added: "We should not enter into yet another untested and far-reaching social experiment, this one driven by the desires of same-sex couples to bear and raise children."
Mary Cheney reacted like any other parent, telling a magazine forum "This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate by people on either side of an issue. It is my child."
Setting politics aside, the Cheneys have every reason to be optimistic about Samuel's future. A large number of research studies published in peer-reviewed journals show no disadvantages for children raised by lesbian/gay parents. The children of lesbian and gay parents turn out to be just as emotionally well-adjusted as their counterparts from "Mom and Dad" households. They do just as well in school, have just as good peer relationships, and perform as well as their classmates academically. The research also finds that children from both types of families who have closer relationships with their parents show fewer adjustment problems.
Sounds pretty conventional, doesn't it? This research is so substantial that even the American Academy of Pediatrics—the quintessentially mainstream, leading association of pediatricians in the United States—issued a policy statement in favor of adoptions by lesbian/gay co-parents.
As for Focus on the Family's contention that children do best in households with two married heterosexual parents, the only research showing advantages of "Mom and Dad" households is on an entirely different topic—it compares children in households with one heterosexual parent to those with two heterosexual parents. That research does not compare "Mom and Dad" parenting to "Two Mom" or "Two Dad" parenting. Regrettably, these research results, which solely pertain to heterosexual parents, are frequently distorted by antigay groups to claim that children from families headed by same-sex parents fare less well. More ominously, it's not only these ideological groups that ignore the facts.
In justifying its ruling against same-sex marriage last year, the majority in New York State's highest court asserted: "Intuition and experience suggest that a child benefits from having before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man and a woman are like." Unfortunately, these justices' "intuition and experience" simply don't match up with the more solid research findings. Sometimes people's most convincing intuitions arise from unconscious stereotypes, and their personal life experience may be far too limited for those stereotypes to be questioned and corrected.
In contrast to the continuing prejudice they face, we wish all three generations of Cheneys our best on the occasion of Samuel's birth. Like other scientific findings that challenged long-held assumptions, the truth about lesbian and gay-headed families will sink into public awareness eventually. The facts are friendly, even if some segments of American society are not.