Huckabee in the doghouse

Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and erstwhile Republican presidential candidate, thinks that letting same-sex parents raise children is too “experimental.

He told a crowd at The College of New Jersey on April 7 that he supported an Arkansas law prohibiting same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents, and said, “I think this is not about trying to create statements for people who want to change the basic fundamental definitions of family. And always we should act in the best interest of the children, not in the seeming interest of the adults. Children are not puppies. This is not a time to see if we can experiment and find out, how does this work?” (The Perspective, April 9).

Here are some things Huckabee should keep in mind.

LGBT parents are hardly something new. The term “gayby boom” dates back to at least 1990, when it appeared in a Newsweek article on “The Future of Gay America.” That was 20 years ago — far long enough for the children to have grown up.

Because public consciousness trails reality, however, we can go back even further, to 1976, when the American Psychological Association asserted: “The sex, gender identity or sexual or orientation of natural, or prospective adoptive or foster parents should not be the sole or primary variable considered in custody or placement cases.”

Courts began to rule in a similar vein. In 1985, for example, the Alaska Supreme Court stated in a custody case between a lesbian and her ex-husband (S.N.E. v. R.L B.), “There is no suggestion that [the mother being a lesbian] has or is likely to affect the child adversely. The record contains evidence showing that the child’s development to date has been excellent … and that there is no increased likelihood that a male child raised by a lesbian would be homosexual. Simply put, it is impermissible to rely on any real or imagined social stigma attaching to Mother’s status as a lesbian.”

The number of lesbian and gay parents has continued to grow. As of 2005, at least 270,000 children were living in households headed by same-sex couples, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA. (Because the study was based on U.S. Census data, it could not detect children with single LGBT parents.)

Looking just at adopted children, an estimated 65,500 are living with a lesbian or gay parent, which equals about 4 percent of all adopted children in the U.S., according to a 2007 Williams report. An estimated 14,100 foster children are living with lesbian or gay parents — 3 percent of all foster children.

In Huckabee’s home state of Arkansas, 1,040 adopted children are living with a lesbian or gay parent. That number may now grow: An Arkansas circuit court ruled this month that the state ban on adoption by unmarried couples (including all same-sex couples) instituted in November 2008 was unconstitutional.

How are the children of lesbian and gay parents doing? Studies in a host of scholarly, peer-reviewed professional journals and organizations indicate they are just fine. Much of this evidence was presented by witnesses for the plaintiffs during California’s Proposition 8 trial in January, to counter the view that marriage must be restricted to opposite-sex couples because only they could provide an appropriate environment for children.

If Huckabee doesn’t want to wade through Prop. 8 trial transcripts, I would point him to “Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children,” by Dr. Abbie Goldberg, who has compiled decades of research into less than 200 pages, an easy read for a busy Fox News host. She concludes, “Although lesbian- and gay-parent families construct and enact family in unique ways, they are not, by virtue of their family structure, essentially different from heterosexual-parent families.”

I could also cite cases such as those of Greg and Stillman Stewart, who adopted five “at-risk” boys from California’s foster-care system and helped them thrive. Similarly, Florida dads Steven Lofton and Roger Croteau raised five boys from Florida’s foster-care system. Both families’ stories have been documented on film: the Stewarts in “Preacher’s Sons” and Lofton and Croteau’s in “We Are Dad.” Both are available on DVD and easily viewed on a laptop by Huckabee during one of his flights to a speaking engagement. I challenge him to watch them and then tell me how the adults are putting their own agendas above the needs of their children.

Huckabee’s statement is also worrisome because it implies there is only one right way to parent a child. As I see it, there are as many right ways as there are children. Parenting, at its heart, is one big process of experimenting and adjusting, finding ways to guide a unique, dynamic human being from birth to reasonable self-sufficiency. Experimenting isn’t to be avoided: It’s a necessity.

Experimenting, of course, does not mean guessing wildly, as an eighth-grade science student knows. It means making reasonable conjectures based on available evidence, trying them out and then refining them.

No, children are not puppies. They take longer to house train and they borrow the car keys without asking. But over 30 years of evidence shows that LGBT parents will find solutions to those problems just like our non-LGBT peers.

What we are not experimenting with, contrary to Huckabee’s assertion, is the basic definition of family: loving parents doing the best for our children — no bones about it.

Dana Rudolph is founder of Mombian (, a blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.

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