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Anti-gay briefs ‘mischaracterized’ study

Child Trends says its research doesn’t pertain to same-sex parents

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Paul Clement, gay news, Washington Blade
Paul Clement, gay news, Washington Blade

Former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement filed the anti-gay DOMA brief (Public domain photo)

Attorneys who submitted anti-gay briefs to the Supreme Court in favor of California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are continuing the mischaracterization of a 2002 study on child development to suggest same-sex parents are less fit than opposite-sex parents, according to the non-profit that produced the study.

The 2002 study — which is is referenced in both the DOMA and Prop 8 briefs filed on Tuesday — is titled “Marriage from a Child’s Perspective: How Does Family Structure Affect Children and What Can We Do About It?” and was produced by the D.C.-based non-profit Child Trends, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of children by through research.

Carol Emig, president of Child Trends, said in a statement to the Washington Blade that attorneys who wrote these briefs misconstrued the group’s study in arguments against same-sex marriage because the findings say nothing about the quality of life for children raised by same-sex parents.

“The Child Trends brief in question summarizes research conducted in 2002, when same-sex parents were not identified in large national surveys,” Emig said. “Therefore, no conclusions can be drawn from this research about the well-being of children raised by same-sex parents.”

Emig added, “We have pointed this out repeatedly, yet to our dismay we continue to see our 2002 research mischaracterized by some opponents of same-sex marriage.”

Child Trends’ study concludes, among other things, that “the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents.” The study makes references to children raised by single parents and stepparents, but no explicit reference to same-sex parents is found in the report.

In the DOMA brief, signed by attorneys House General Counsel Kerry Kircher and former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement, the Child Trends study is cited on page 47 as part of an argument that having DOMA on the books encourages childrearing by biological parents.

“Of course, only relationships between opposite-sex couples can result in children being raised by both of their biological parents,” the brief adds. “Therefore, when government offers special encouragement and support for relationships that can result in mothers and fathers jointly raising their biological children, it rationally furthers its legitimate interest in promoting this type of family structure in a way that extending similar regulation to other relationships would not.”

In the Prop 8 brief, signed by lead attorneys with ProtectMarriage.com, Andrew Pugno and Charles Cooper, the Child Trends study is referenced on page 37 as “a leading survey of social science research” under the argument that Proposition 8 furthers responsible procreation and child bearing.

“Because same-sex relationships cannot naturally produce offspring, they do not implicate the State’s interest in responsible procreation and childrearing in the same way that opposite-sex relationships do,” the brief states.

Attorneys affiliated with ProtectMarriage.com and the House Republican-led Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group didn’t respond to the Blade’s request for comment on the apparent misuse of the study in their legal briefs. The DOMA brief was filed in the case of Windsor v. United States and the Prop 8 brief was filed in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry.

The reference to the study isn’t the first time anti-gay forces have referenced that study as part of their argument against same-sex marriage, nor is this the first time that Child Trends has objected to use of its research for anti-gay purposes.

In his 136-page ruling against Prop 8 issued in 2010, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker tore into David Blankenhorn, president of the Institute for American Values, for relying on the Child Trends study among others during testimony as evidence that parenting by same-sex parents is inadequate.

“Blankenhorn’s conclusion that married biological parents provide a better family form than married non-biological parents is not supported by the evidence on which he relied because the evidence does not, and does not claim to, compare biological to non-biological parents,” Walker writes.

David Blankenhorn, also citied the Child Trends brief as part of a 2008 essay titled “Gay marriage deprives children,” in September 2008 when Proposition 8 was headed for the ballot. In a letter to the editor, Emig also objected to the use of her group’s study for that argument.

“In research studies, the number of gay parents, even in large national surveys, has been too small to allow for separate analyses,” Emig wrote. “What is needed is a large-scale study of a representative sample of same-sex couples. Clearly, a better understanding of the diversity, strengths, and challenges faced by varied types of families is needed to better inform debates such as this one.”

While opposing marriage equality at the time, Blankenhorn has since reversed his views on same-sex marriage and now accepts it.

Similar objections were voiced in 2012 by Child Trends in the Kennebec Journal when Protect Marriage Maine brought up the study during the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage at the ballot in Maine and in the Minneapolis Star Tribune when Minnesota for Marriage cited the study as a reason for passing the failed anti-gay marriage amendment there.

Jon Davidson, legal director at Lambda Legal, said the citing of this research in the Prop 8 and DOMA briefs is “dishonest, shameful, and, in my view, unprofessional.”

“These misrepresentations have not only been pointed out by the researchers before, but have been repeatedly debunked by the party and amicus briefs in these cases — and in expert testimony at trial in Perry and in expert witness declarations in Windsor — yet the attorneys fighting against marriage equality continue to baldly misrepresent the actual findings of this and the other research on which they purport to rely,” Davidson said.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Brian Ferri

    January 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    So, this brief states "having DOMA on the books encourages childrearing by biological parents". I'm loss for words, kind words.

  2. Scott Rose

    January 25, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Family researchers include adoptive parents in the term “biological parents” when the child was adopted in the first two years of its life. In Perry v. Schwazzeneger (the Prop 8 case), the anti-gay side intended to use Loren Marks as an expert witness. But, Marks misused the term “biological parent” and under withering cross-examination admitted that family researchers do apply the term “biological parent” to adoptive parents. The anti-gay side then withdrew Marks as an expert witness.

  3. Scott Rose

    January 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Family researchers include adoptive parents in the term "biological parents" when the child was adopted in the first two years of its life. In Perry v. Schwazzeneger (the Prop 8 case), the anti-gay side intended to use Loren Marks as an expert witness. But, Marks misused the term "biological parent" and under withering cross-examination admitted that family researchers do apply the term "biological parent" to adoptive parents. The anti-gay side then withdrew Marks as an expert witness.

  4. Bj Lincoln

    January 25, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Lets just hope that this is pointed out AGAIN in front of the SC and they have a chance to see for themselves what a bunch of liars looks like. Why do they think they can get something like this past the SC?
    This is going to be the Prop 8 trial all over again. I just hope we get to watch this time and not have to wait for the play!

  5. Marco Luxe

    January 25, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    Can Child Trends file an amicus brief disavowing the use of their study? Is it just up to the parties to note this in a reply brief?

  6. Michael Equality Barber

    January 26, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Did the researchers file an amicus brief explaining the lies of the Republicans?

  7. Etaoin Shrdlu

    January 26, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    The argument of the anti-gay marriage brief is utterly wrong. Aside from the fact that it is based on a lie (the misuse of a study which says NOTHING about gay parenting), it is both overly broad and underinclusive – two big constitutional no-no’s.

    Overly broad because it allows “straight” couples to marry even if they are infertile, and therefore no different from gay couples. (Neither can “naturally produce offspring”.)

    Underinclusive because while it allows one set of couples (heterosexuals) to have children by artificial means (even if the children will only be the biological “offspring” of one of the “parents”, or possibly even none), it would deny marriage to gay couples IN THE EXACT SAME SITUATION.

    And, of course, it doesn’t deal with the issue of adoption, let alone those who don’t procreate, and don’t wish to.

    In short, the argument has “merit” (if at all) ONLY if we made “natural procreation” a REQUIREMENT for marriage, declared all marriages void between persons incapable of it, and annulled all marriages where no procreation took place. That will never happen, of course, for obvious political reasons.

  8. Anthony Noccolino

    January 27, 2013 at 2:34 am

    From everything I have read, the court could rule one of three way on this issue:
    1) Rule in favor of prop 8 and keep the law as is.
    2) Rule against prop 8 with a narrow ruling that say it is illegal in CA to keep marriage licenses away from gay people.
    3) Rule that all anti-gay marriage amendments across the nation are invalid and that Gays and Lesbians do a constitutional right to marry and it is legal to do so nationwide.

  9. Rex Equality Toltschin

    January 27, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Typical Republicans – Being Truthful, Not One Of Their Values. Lying to further their hateful agenda always more their style.

  10. Robben Wainer

    January 28, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Our children receive most of their education and upbringing from homosexual couples. I feel discrimination that causes such homophobia is not giving our children a fair chance. When I look back on those whose influence had the most impact on my reaching adulthood, homosexuality and homosexual couples were the inspiration that helped motivate my behavior.

  11. Nichole

    January 29, 2013 at 9:17 am

    As the S.C. reads this brief it must be wondering just how gullible Kerry Kircher and Paul Clement believe they truly are. By now the Child Trends research has been read by the S.C. and the context of these decisive findings seen for what they are: lies. Kircher and Clement are grasping for straws using the Child Trends study and if that’s the best they can do they’re going to lose the case.

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National

Alarming numbers of Texas Trans kids in crisis over litany of anti-Trans bills

“Under the guise of protecting children- Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender & nonbinary youth”

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LGBTQ youth protest anti-Trans bills at the Texas Capitol building (Photo Credit: Equality Texas)

NEW YORK – The Trevor Project received nearly 4,000 crisis contacts from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas in 2021, with many directly stating that they are feeling stressed and considering suicide due to anti-trans laws being debated in their state.

This new data comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

The Texas State Senate passed its anti-trans sports ban SB3 this week, and the companion bill HB10 is now moving forward in the Texas House. 

Republican Texas Governor Abbott has prioritized SB 3 and called for a third consecutive special session of the legislature to consider this bill, which would ban transgender student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

“The Trevor Project’s crisis counselors have been hearing from transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas who are scared and worried about anti-trans laws being debated in their state — and some have even expressed suicidal thoughts. This is a crisis. We urge Texas lawmakers to consider the weight of their words and actions — and to reject HB10/SB3,” said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project.

  • Between January 1 and August 30, 2021, The Trevor Project received more than 10,800 crisis contacts (calls, texts, and chats) from LGBTQ young people in Texas looking for support. More than 3,900 of those crisis contacts (36%) came from transgender or nonbinary youth.
  • Crisis contacts from LGBTQ young people in Texas seeking support have grown over 150% when compared to the same time period in 2020.
  • While this volume of crisis contacts can not be attributed to any one factor (or bill), a qualitative analysis of the crisis contacts found that:
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth in Texas have directly stated that they are feeling stressed, using self-harm, and considering suicide due to anti-LGBTQ laws being debated in their state.
  • Some transgender and nonbinary youth have expressed fear over losing access to sports that provide important acceptance in their lives.

“As a transgender young person in Texas, this new data from the Trevor Project is not surprising, but it’s nonetheless harrowing and alarming to see this representation of the detrimental impact Texas Lege is having on our community — especially our kids. Lawmakers and proponents of bills like SB3 and HB10 should be alarmed by these statistics, too,” Landon Richie a Trans youth activist and GenderCool Youth Leader from Houston told the Los Angeles Blade.

“Under the guise of protecting children and promoting fairness, Texas legislators are directly harming thousands of transgender and nonbinary youth, denying them the dignity, respect, and childhoods that they deserve. It’s never an exaggeration to say that the passage — and merely debate — of these bills will cost lives,”  Richie added.

National mental health organizations like The Trevor Project and state LGBTQ equality groups including Equality Texas and Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) are raising concerns about the impact of such legislation on the mental health and wellbeing of transgender and nonbinary youth.

The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. Further, Trevor released a new research brief earlier this month on LGBTQ youth participation in sports, which found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (nearly 66%) do not actively participate in sports — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

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2nd largest school district in Utah bans Pride & BLM flags as ‘too political’

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can”

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Davis School District Offices in Farmington Utah (Photo Credit: Davis School District)

FARMINGTON, Ut. – Administrators this week in the Davis School District, which is Utah’s 2nd largest school district with 72,987 students, banned LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, saying they are ‘politically charged.’

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, Davis Schools spokesperson Chris Williams told the paper; “No flags fly in our schools except for the flag of the United States of America.” Williams later walked that statement back adding a clarification that some of the Districts schools have flags from sports team or international countries which are considered “unrelated to politics.”

“What we’re doing is we’re following state law,” said Williams. “State law says that we have to have a classroom that’s politically neutral.”

Amanda Darrow, Director of Youth, Family, and Education at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City, told multiple media outlets the school district is “politicizing the rainbow flag” which doesn’t belong on a political list.

“That flag for us is so much more,” said Darrow. “It is just telling us we’re included in the schools, we are being seen in the schools, and we belong in these schools.”

KUTV CBS2 News in Salt Lake City checked with the Utah State Board of Education. In an email, spokesman Mark Peterson said, “There is nothing in code that specifically defines a rainbow flag as a political statement so it would be up to district or charter school policies to make that determination.”

The local Utah chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in saying in a statement;

Whether or not a school district has the legal ability to ban inclusive and supportive symbols from classrooms, it is bad policy for them to do so,” the advocacy organization said in a statement. “Utah schools have an obligation to ensure that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identify, feel welcome inside a classroom. We urge school administrators and teachers to adopt policies that make all students feel safe and included.”

Williams insisted the policy is not meant to exclude anyone and that all students are loved and welcomed – they just want to keep politics out of school he told the Tribune and KUTV.

“We have to have a politically neutral classroom, and we’re going to educate the students in the best possible way that we can,” said Williams.

A Utah based veteran freelance journalist, writer, editor, and food photographer weighed in on Twitter highlighting the negative impact of the Davis Schools decision on its LGBTQ youth.

Davis County School District bans LGTBQ and BLM flags as ‘too political’

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Non-binary person reports assault by Proud Boys near Portland

‘They nearly killed me’

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Juniper Simonis (Photo by Mariah Harris)

It was a typical day for Juniper Simonis. The freelance ecologist decided to break from work for lunch at about 3 p.m. to take their service dog, Wallace, to the local dog park and grab a bite to eat.  

But a planned peaceful afternoon quickly turned ugly. Simonis says they survived a gang assault of about 30 perpetrators in Gresham, Ore., a suburb outside of Portland. The Oregon resident encountered the group for only minutes but suffered a concussion, sprained jaw, extensive car damage and verbal assaults, they said. 

“They nearly killed me,” they said.

Simonis said they turned into a parking lot to pick up lunch in Gresham, Ore., and stumbled upon a rally that included several members of the Proud Boys — a far-right, ultra-nationalist organization known for its anti-LGBTQ, anti-feminism and neo-fascist ideologies. 

There was a “Flag Ride” right-wing rally in a parking lot earlier that day. Simonis was under the impression the event had ended after checking reports on Twitter. After pulling into the lot, originally to look for lunch options, Simonis saw a large gathering still in the lot. 

Simonis decided to take pictures of what was happening to post online to warn others and was intentional in keeping their distance, they said. As Simonis was preparing to leave the area, they yelled from inside the car, “Fuck you, fascists, go home.” 

“I did not expect this to escalate into violence,” they said. 

The attack itself only lasted about three minutes, Simonis said. Simonis was quickly surrounded by several people and physically blocked from leaving the lot. People stepped in front of the parking lot exit, then a car was moved to barricade Simonis. People began to shout homophobic slurs at Simonis, they said. 

“I’m in serious trouble now and I know it,” they said. 

Simonis was then punched while inside their vehicle and was briefly knocked out. They regained consciousness a few seconds later, and a cinder block was thrown at the car and shattered the back window of their car inches away from their service dog, Wallace. 

Simonis got out of the car to assess the damage and make sure their service dog was safe. They quickly got back in their car and was able to leave the lot by maneuvering around the blocked exit, Simonis said. 

Wallace, Juniper Simonis’ service dog. (Photo by Mariah Harris)

Looking back at the photos and videos Simonis took before the assault, Simonis said they saw people looking into the camera and acknowledging them taking photos. 

“I honestly don’t know if I hadn’t said anything, that … things would have gone any different,” they said. 

Last year, Simonis was targeted and arrested by federal police in Portland during the tumultuous Black Lives Matter protests in the city. They were denied medical attention, misgendered, jumped and aggressively handcuffed while taken into custody. 

Simonis is still working through legal proceedings in a multi-plaintiff lawsuit. 

A witness to the event called the Gresham Police Department, which was only a few blocks away from the incident. But the call went to voicemail and the witness did not leave a message, Simonis said. 

Another witness called 911, Simonis said, which led to an officer calling Simonis about 45 minutes after the accident to take a report.   

In the police report obtained by the Blade, Simonis is consistently misgendered. Simonis’ sex is also listed as “unknown” in the report. The incident was labeled as vehicle vandalism. 

Simonis said the conversation with the officer was filled with victim-blaming and the officer wrote in the report that Simonis should avoid “approaching groups of this nature.”  

“At no point in this conversation does he treat me as an actual victim of a crime,” Simonis said.

The Gresham Police Department did not respond to a request for comment. 

Weeks after the assault, Simonis is struggling mentally and physically, they said. 

The concussion makes working on a computer virtually impossible because of light sensitivity and trouble focusing, Simonis said. The pain caused by the sprained jaw makes it difficult to focus, as well. 

Simonis is not able to begin physical therapy for their jaw until November because of long medical wait times, they said. The cost to repair the car damages will be about $8,000, as well, they said.  

The times where Simonis is able to focus are usually taken up by piecing together what happened that day, they said. 

“The part of my brain that I use for work has been hijacked functionally by the part of the brain that needed to know what happened to me,” they said. “There is such a painful need to understand what happened to me.”

Because of past traumatic events, like the experience of being in federal custody last year, Simonis said processing and living with the trauma is a bit easier to handle. But their ability to work will be forever changed yet again, they said. 

“I’m not able to work at the pace that I used to work at before I was assaulted by DHS. I’ll never be,” they said. “And this is just a further knockdown.” 

The trauma of the event has increased Simonis’ hyper-vigilance, as well. 

“Every time I hear a car go by, I’m double-checking,” they said. 

Even though Simonis has the tools to process and live with the immense trauma, they will never be the same person, they said. 

“They fucking changed my life forever. Point blank,” they said. “Not just mentally, but physically and physiologically. I can’t go back to where I was before. I’m lucky that I survived.”

Simonis has reported the attack to the FBI and is pursuing legal action with two specific goals in mind: to heal and to prevent similar crimes from happening.

“I am somebody who believes in abolishing the carceral system and the justice system as it exists and policing,” Simonis said. “But also a 37-year-old trans and disabled person who somehow managed to survive this long. And so naturally has become pragmatic about the world.”

Because of the reaction of the Gresham Police Department, Simonis did not want to work with local officers and instead went to the federal level. But because of the alleged assault by agents in Portland last year, this decision wasn’t easy for them.

Perpetrators in the assault threatened to call the police on Simonis,  even though Simonis did not commit a crime. Reporting the crime to the federal level is also a layer of protection, they said. 

“All of this is forcing my hand,” they said. There is no easy decision in the situation, they added. 

“We all know that crimes are underreported. We hear about it all the time,” they said. And there are reasons why people don’t report crimes and they’re totally understandable. A lot of victims are very concerned about what will happen if they break anonymity. In my situation, I’ve already broken anonymity.”

With recent arrests and crackdowns on the Proud Boys and other hate groups in the United States, Simonis is bracing for a long process. 

“This isn’t just going to go on a shelf,” they said. 

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