Social Structure in the News
- Gay Adoption
- Surrogacy in Wikipedia
- Surrogacy “Building a Baby, With Few Ground Rules
- Witchcraft, Orphans, and Aids
- Parents Spending More Time with Children
- Gender Pay Gap
- Children of Gay Parents (legal issues and more on Stacey and Biblarz's research)
- Native American Homosexuality: Traditional and Modern
- Older Fathers More Likely to Pass on Genetic Defects (8-18-12)
- Mitt Romney and Trivers-Willard: why do the rich have more sons? (8-22-12)
- The Benefits of Circumcision Outweigh the Risks says Pediatric Academy (9-1-12)
- Gender Equity and Mate Choice (9-6-12)
- Lesbian and Gay Adoption study ("Can gay and lesbian parents promote healthy development in high-risk children adopted from foster care?”
along with a critical editorial by Regnerus)
They Say I Ate My Father. But I Didn't'
Barely school-age when relatives labeled her a witch, Naomi found herself cast out on the streets. Her story is a common one in Congo
By Edmund Sanders, LA Times Staff Writer
August 29, 2006
KINSHASA, Congo — Naomi Ewowo had just lost her parents when her family branded her a witch. She was 5.
After her mother and father died unexpectedly less than a month apart, Naomi's care fell to relatives who struggled to cope with the tragedy. They sought counsel from a neighborhood "prophet," who warned that a sorcerer was hiding in their midst. Soon all eyes turned on the family's youngest, most vulnerable member.
On a continent where belief in black magic and evil spirits is common, witch hunts are nothing new, usually targeting older, unmarried women. But in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there's a new twist to this ancient inquisition. A majority of those said to be involved in witchcraft and sorcery are children, and such allegations against them are the No. 1 cause of homelessness among youths.
Of the estimated 25,000 children living on the streets of Kinshasa, the capital, more than 60% had been thrown out of their homes by relatives accusing them of witchcraft, child-welfare advocates say. The practice is so rampant that Congo's new constitution, adopted in December, includes a provision outlawing allegations of sorcery against children.
A rise in religious fundamentalism, revival churches and self-proclaimed prophets is one cause. More than 2,000 churches in Kinshasa offer "deliverance" services to ward off evil spirits in children, the group Human Rights Watch says.
"Some prophets who run these churches have gained celebrity-like status, drawing in hundreds of worshipers in lucrative Sunday services because of their famed 'success' in child exorcism ceremonies," the group said in an April report.
But chronic poverty is the real culprit, some experts say. Decades of dictatorship, instability and war have unraveled the nation's social fabric, tearing apart traditional family and tribal support systems. It's no coincidence that the vast majority of accused children come from poor, broken homes. Most are orphans or have lost one or both parents to divorce or abandonment.
When relatives are unable or unwilling to cope with an additional mouth to feed, they may look for ways to get rid of the child, said Charlotte Wamu, a counselor at Solidarity Action for Distressed Children, which assists street children. In Africa, kicking out a family member, even a distant relative, is considered shameful, but allegations of witchcraft provide a convenient and hard-to-disprove justification.
"It's always the stepmother who finds witchcraft in the stepchild, not in her own," Wamu said. "The sorcerer is your dead brother's child, never yours."
Naomi, the only child of her father's second marriage, said his family never accepted her or her mother.
When Naomi's parents died in 2001, relatives took her from one prophet to another searching for a way to cast out her "evil spirits." Sometimes the exorcism consisted of a quick prayer, other times it was more involved.
One preacher locked Naomi in a room for three days without food or water, the girl recalled. "I wanted to try to sneak some water, but I thought that would only make my problems worse," she said.
She was probably right. Child-exorcism ceremonies can include brutal treatment, including beatings, burnings and the use of saltwater, orally and anally, to "purge" the children, the group Save the Children says.
One self-described prophet in Kinshasa, Pakoki Keni Emmanuel Suliman, began an interview with a robust prayer and ended it with a sales pitch for black-market diamonds, which he kept tucked inside his wallet.
From his Promised Temple church, which he runs from his home, Pakoki showed off one of his clients.
"Did you let the evil spirit back inside you?" the burly, bearded preacher bellowed at a quivering 9-year-old boy. "You must confess! Tell the truth! Then I will pray for you one more time." The boy dutifully confessed that since his last exorcism he had "killed" two people. His older brother has been treated several times as well.
Pakoki said he never accepted money, though relatives were required to buy white sheets, at $18 apiece, which were waved and draped around the children during the exorcism.
"I pray and they are cured," he said.
The forced confessions leave many children confused and guilt-ridden.
"They start to believe they've done something wrong or that they really are witches," said Evariste Kalumuna, head of the rescue center that took Naomi off the streets. He said that when he disciplined the children, they sometimes threatened him with their so-called powers.
"They say: 'Look out. I'm a witch. I'll hurt you,' " Kalumuna said. "Believe me, if they really were witches, I would have been dead a long time ago."
When asked recently, Naomi at first insisted that she didn't believe in witchcraft. Later, she accused her paternal grandfather of sorcery, saying he visited her and her mother in their dreams.
With a low, raspy voice and intense almond-shaped eyes, Naomi is a natural storyteller, reenacting her mother's death-bed scene as though it were the plot of one of the Nigerian soap operas she occasionally gets to watch on television. She imitated her mother's frail voice crying out the grandfather's name before dying.
Such dramatic tales have worsened relations with the family.
"We're convinced she's a witch," said Rachel Nazombo, 25, Naomi's eldest half-sister.
Naomi's eight half-siblings share two cramped rooms in an eastern Kinshasa slum. Proudly displayed on the living room wall is a magazine advertisement for something the family can only dream of: a Western-style kitchen, with a stainless steel oven and wood-paneled cabinets.
The siblings say the death of their father and Naomi's mother is proof of witchcraft. Even in a country where life expectancy has dropped to 42 years because of disease and poverty, premature death is often difficult to accept. Two deaths occurring so close together can only be caused by an evil spell, the family members say.
What is their evidence against Naomi? Local preachers and prophets confirmed their suspicions, they say. And a 3-year-old cousin once screamed Naomi's name during a nightmare. According to the family, Naomi also confessed to witchcraft when confronted during a family meeting a year ago.
When told that Naomi denied being a witch, Nazombo shook her head.
"She's hiding herself," the sister said. "You don't understand how tricky people who live in the night can be."
After her family threw her out, Naomi survived on the streets by selling what little extra clothing she had. Later she sold charcoal and resorted to robbery before being brought to the center by an outreach worker who had found her.
Wamu, her counselor at the center, began visiting the family to discuss reunification. Relatives stiffened when they saw Naomi and Wamu approach. Some refused to even look at the girl.
On a recent evening, Wamu returned for her fifth visit, this time without Naomi.
"The family should live together," she pleaded.
"We want to help her find a better life, but first she must cast out the bad spirits," Naomi's older half-brother responded. "She refuses to be helped."
Before accepting Naomi, the family wanted several preachers to verify that she was not a witch. Wamu discouraged the idea, knowing that eventually they would find a prophet who claimed to see evil spirits. Instead she emphasized the family's obligations to the girl.
They sat quietly for a moment. "We know it's our responsibility," said Flory Nazombo, 23, the eldest male in the family. "She's our sister. We can't abandon her." He promised that someone in the family would visit Naomi to discuss coming home.
Wamu nodded and wrote out her telephone number for the young man. It was the opening she had been looking for.
As she left the home, Wamu was flush with hope, though fewer than half of attempted reunifications succeed.
"I think we made some real progress tonight," she said. "It went well."
Three weeks later, no one from Naomi's family had visited her. The brother had not called. And Wamu was making plans for a sixth visit.
US Lesbian Parents Precedent Set
Lesbian parents have the same rights and responsibilities towards their children in the event of a break-up, California's highest court has ruled.
From the August 25, 2005 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0825/p02s02-ussc.html
California court affirms gay parenting
Ruling sets responsibilities, rights of homosexual parents but spurs backlash by same-sex marriage opponents.
By Amanda Paulson and Daniel B. Wood | Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor
CHICAGO AND LOS ANGELES - Defining parenthood is far less simple than it used to be.
That fact was made abundantly clear by the California Supreme Court's ruling this week in three cases involving reproductive technology and lesbian relationships.
In California, the landmark decisions - which granted full parenthood to former partners despite the absence of legal adoption or, in two of the cases, a biological connection - have made the terrain a little clearer and solidified the direction in which many courts are moving: conferring the rights and responsibilities of parenthood based on intent and psychology rather than biology, adoption, or marriage.
But as the decisions have been lauded and decried across the country, they've also underlined the vastly different patchwork of how states handle the often-murky relationships at the nexus of reproductive technology and shifting family structures.
"I regard these three decisions as unprecedented because they go so far toward protecting children without regard to marital status or biology or gender of the parent, but at the same time they're not unique," says Joan Hollinger, an adoption and parentage law expert at the University of California in Berkeley. "They're part of the quest on the part of so many states to figure out how to define parentage when sex is separated from reproduction."
At least nine states officially allow second-parent adoption - often sought by gay couples - and several confer visitation rights or have ordered child support from nonbiological or nonadoptive parents.
But the California cases are the first in which such individuals have been declared full legal parents, with the rights of, say, inheritance or social-security benefits.
The rulings also affect heterosexual couples who use reproductive technology but this week, much of the reaction has focused on the court's statement that "We perceive no reason why both parents of a child cannot be women."
"Same-sex couples are now able to procreate and have children, and the law has to catch up with that reality," says Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Like many gay-rights advocates, he applauded the decision for recognizing parental bonds outside of gender or marital status.
The three decisions, while all involving reproductive technology, addressed very different situations. In one, a woman was ordered to pay child support for the biological children of her former lesbian partner, who has relied on welfare since the two split up.
In the second, a woman who years earlier had gotten a court order - and birth certificate - declaring both herself and her partner to be parents, was told she could not terminate her former partner's rights.
Perhaps the most unusual case involved a couple in which one woman donated an egg to her partner, who bore the twin children. At the time of donation the woman, whose initials are K. M., signed a form giving up parental rights, although both women cared for the twins for six years.
Two dissenting judges in that opinion noted that ignoring the release form might hold implications for other sperm and egg donors who sign waivers believing they've relinquished their obligations. But the majority felt that the intent and act of par- enting were sufficient to grant K.M. the rights she sought.
"As the only existing precedent on the issues that it covers, it will be a significant point of reference" for other states, notes Jill Hersh, K.M.'s lawyer.
While these three rulings apply only in California, the state is often at the forefront of reproductive-technology decisions, and may give guidance to other states that increasingly are faced with complex family structures.
Technology outpaces law
"I tell my students I couldn't invent the kind of family situations in which people actually live," says Nancy Polikoff, a professor at the American University Law School. "And it's the job of the courts to resolve these disputes with the law they have at their disposal."
Such law, formed decades before sperm donors, surrogate parents, and same-sex parents were common concepts, is often hardly adequate. But increasingly, say experts, courts are ruling based on the individuals' intent to act as parents and principles like parenthood by "estoppel" - in which an acting parent-child relationship creates legal parenthood.
Resolving conflicting state laws can be tricky, however. In one much-publicized case, a couple who had a civil union in Vermont and had a daughter through artificial insemination is battling in courts in both Vermont and Virginia, where the biological mother now lives with her child.
A Vermont court awarded the former partner visitation rights, but the other mother is now hoping to use Virginia's Affirmation of Marriage Act - which declares that the state does not recognize civil unions - to declare her the sole parent.
"It's an example of a situation where the fact that different states have different laws can cause a problem," Professor Polikoff says.
Critics of the California rulings warned of a "slippery slope" in which biology is ignored and the number of parents a child has keeps growing.
"This blows apart the definition of family more than ever," says Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families in California. "It's about the courts pushing social engineering on the unsuspecting public."
Meanwhile, California opponents of gay marriage are pressing to put constitutional amendments on the June 2006 ballot that aims to push back currently recognized domestic partnership benefits and ban gay marriage.
But even as advocates on both sides debate repercussions of the court's rulings, K.M. is thrilled just knowing that she'll soon be reunited with her twin daughters, who have been living in Massachusetts with their other mother for several years.
"I am just like over the moon," she says. "I woke up today for the first time in four years and looked at the photos of my daughters by the bed and could do it without any pain or sadness.... I hope this means that all children and families will be protected from here out."
September 5, 2005
New York Times
Exploiting the Gender Gap
By WARREN FARRELL
Carlsbad, Calif. — Nothing disturbs working women more than the statistics often mentioned on Labor Day showing that they are paid only 76 cents to men's dollar for the same work. If that were the whole story, it should disturb all of us; like many men, I have two daughters and a wife in the work force.
When I was on the board of the National Organization for Women in New York City, I blamed discrimination for that gap. Then I asked myself, "If an employer has to pay a man one dollar for the same work a woman would do for 76 cents, why would anyone hire a man?"
Perhaps, I thought, male bosses undervalue women. But I discovered that in 2000, women without bosses - who own their own businesses - earned only 49 percent of male business owners. Why? When the Rochester Institute of Technology surveyed business owners with M.B.A.'s from one top business school, they found that money was the primary motivator for only 29 percent of the women, versus 76 percent of the men. Women put a premium on autonomy, flexibility (25- to 35-hour weeks and proximity to home), fulfillment and safety.
After years of research, I discovered 25 differences in the work-life choices of men and women. All 25 lead to men earning more money, but to women having better lives.
High pay, as it turns out, is about tradeoffs. Men's tradeoffs include working more hours (women work more around the home); taking more dangerous, dirtier and outdoor jobs (garbage collecting, construction, trucking); relocating and traveling; and training for technical jobs with less people contact (like engineering).
Is the pay gap, then, about the different choices of men and women? Not quite. It's about parents' choices. Women who have never been married and are childless earn 117 percent of their childless male counterparts. (This comparison controls for education, hours worked and age.) Their decisions are more like married men's, and never-married men's decisions are more like women's in general (careers in arts, no weekend work, etc.)
Does this imply that mothers sacrifice careers? Not really. Surveys of men and women in their 20's find that both sexes (70 percent of men, and 63 percent of women) would sacrifice pay for more family time. The next generation's discussion will be about who gets to be the primary parent.
Don't women, though, earn less than men in the same job? Yes and no. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps together all medical doctors. Men are more likely to be surgeons (versus general practitioners) and work in private practice for hours that are longer and less predictable, and for more years. In brief, the same job is not the same. Are these women's choices? When I taught at a medical school, I saw that even my first-year female students eyed specialties with fewer and more predictable hours.
But don't female executives also make less than male executives? Yes. Discrimination? Let's look. The men are more frequently executives of national and international firms with more personnel and revenues, and responsible for bottom-line sales, marketing and finances, not human resources or public relations. They have more experience, relocate and travel overseas more, and so on.
Comparing men and women with the "same jobs," then, is to compare apples and oranges. However, when all 25 choices are the same, the great news for women is that then the women make more than the men. Is there discrimination against women? Yes, like the old boys' network. And sometimes discrimination against women becomes discrimination against men: in hazardous fields, women suffer fewer hazards. For example, more than 500 marines have died in the war in Iraq. All but two were men. In other fields, men are virtually excluded - try getting hired as a male dental hygienist, nursery school teacher, cocktail waiter.
There are 80 jobs in which women earn more than men - positions like financial analyst, speech-language pathologist, radiation therapist, library worker, biological technician, motion picture projectionist. Female sales engineers make 143 percent of their male counterparts; female statisticians earn 135 percent.
I want my daughters to know that people who work 44 hours a week make, on average, more than twice the pay of someone working 34 hours a week. And that pharmacists now earn almost as much as doctors. But only by abandoning our focus on discrimination against women can we discover these opportunities for women.
October 17, 2006
Married and Single Parents Spending More Time With Children, Study Finds
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 — Despite the surge of women into the work force, mothers are spending at least as much time with their children today as they did 40 years ago, and the amount of child care and housework performed by fathers has sharply increased, researchers say in a new study, based on analysis of thousands of personal diaries.
“We might have expected mothers to curtail the time spent caring for their children, but they do not seem to have done so,” said one of the researchers, Suzanne M. Bianchi, chairwoman of the department of sociology at the University of Maryland. “They certainly did curtail the time they spent on housework.”
The researchers found that “women still do twice as much housework and child care as men” in two-parent families. But they said that total hours of work by mothers and fathers were roughly equal, when they counted paid and unpaid work.
Using this measure, the researchers found “remarkable gender equality in total workloads,” averaging nearly 65 hours a week.
The findings are set forth in a new book, “Changing Rhythms of American Family Life,” published by the Russell Sage Foundation and the American Sociological Association. The research builds on work that Ms. Bianchi did in 16 years as a demographer at the Census Bureau.
At first, the authors say, “it seems reasonable to expect that parental investment in child-rearing would have declined” since 1965, when 60 percent of all children lived in families with a breadwinner father and a stay-at-home mother. Only about 30 percent of children now live in such families. With more mothers in paid jobs, many policy makers have assumed that parents must have less time to interact with their children.
But, the researchers say, the conventional wisdom is not borne out by the data they collected from families asked to account for their time. The researchers found, to their surprise, that married and single parents spent more time teaching, playing with and caring for their children than parents did 40 years ago.
For married mothers, the time spent on child care activities increased to an average of 12.9 hours a week in 2000, from 10.6 hours in 1965. For married fathers, the time spent on child care more than doubled, to 6.5 hours a week, from 2.6 hours. Single mothers reported spending 11.8 hours a week on child care, up from 7.5 hours in 1965.
“As the hours of paid work went up for mothers, their hours of housework declined,” said Ms. Bianchi, a former president of the Population Association of America. “It was almost a one-for-one trade.”
Meaghan O. Perlowski, a 32-year-old mother of three in Des Moines, said in an interview, “Spending time with my kids is my highest priority, but it’s a juggling act.”
Ms. Perlowski, who is a full-time pharmaceutical sales representative, said she did grocery shopping and errands on her lunch hour and cut back on housework so she would have more time with her children.
“We don’t worry much about keeping the house spotless,” she said. “It’s sometimes a mess, cluttered with school papers, backpacks and toys, but that’s O.K.”
Fathers have picked up some of the slack. Married fathers are spending more time on housework: an average of 9.7 hours a week in 2000, up from 4.4 hours in 1965. That increase was more than offset by the decline in time devoted to housework by married mothers: 19.4 hours a week in 2000, down from 34.5 hours in 1965.
When Ms. Perlowski took a business trip on Thursday, her husband, Jim, took time from work to be home with their children, ages 1, 4 and 7.
In Miami, Ian D. Abrams, a 33-year-old marketing executive, said that since his daughter was born two years ago, he had done “a substantial amount of cooking and cleaning, to take that burden off my wife,” but he admitted that home repairs were often delayed. His wife, Yolanda, took a full-time job as a state court employee when their daughter, Marley, was 14 months old.
The researchers found that many parents juggled their work and family duties by including children in their own leisure and free-time activities. Married mothers, in particular, often combine child care with other activities.
Tammy L. Curtis, 34, a schoolteacher in Glendale, Ariz., outside Phoenix, said she typically worked from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but always made time for her 5-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter.
“I cook less,” Ms. Curtis said. “I exercise less. And I do a lot of multitasking. When my son is at soccer practice, I sit on the sidelines grading papers. I have no time for personal relaxation.”
The book’s two other co-authors, Prof. John P. Robinson and Melissa A. Milkie, are also sociologists at the University of Maryland. Rather than relying on anecdotes and images in the mass media, the researchers used “time diaries” to measure how families spent their time. Using a standard set of questions, professional interviewers asked parents to chronicle all their activities on the day before the interview.
Katharine G. Abraham, a former commissioner of labor statistics, said the new book provided “the definitive word” on how parents allocated time between paid work and family responsibilities. The most recent numbers, for 2000, are remarkably similar to time-use data in a new survey conducted annually since 2003 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.
Gary L. Bauer, a Christian conservative who defends traditional marriage as president of the advocacy group American Values, said the research was encouraging in one respect.
“It indicates that parents, especially mothers, instinctively know that the line promoted by social scientists in the 1960’s and 70’s — that professional child care can provide all the things that maternal care can — is not correct,” Mr. Bauer said. “Mothers made adjustments in their own lives to ensure that, even with jobs outside the home, they provide what only mothers can provide.”
The authors cited several factors to help explain how parents managed to spend more time with their children, despite working longer hours:
• Many couples delay having children to “a point later in life when they want to spend time with those children.” People who are uninterested in raising children can “opt out of parenting altogether,” by using birth control.
• Families are smaller today than in 1965, and parents are more affluent, so they can invest more time and money in each child.
• Social norms and expectations have changed, prompting parents to make “greater and greater investments in child-rearing.” As couples have fewer children, they feel “pressure to rear a perfect child.”
• Many parents feel they need to keep a closer eye on their children because of concerns about crime, school violence, child abduction and abuse.
While married mothers and married fathers were approaching “gender equality,” measured by total hours of work, the researchers found stark differences among women. These disparities suggest why working mothers often feel hurried and harried.
Over all, the researchers said, employed mothers have less free time and “far greater total workloads than stay-at-home mothers.” The workweek for an employed mother averages 71 hours, almost equally divided between paid and unpaid work, compared with a workweek averaging 52 hours for mothers who are not employed outside the home.
On average, the researchers said, employed mothers get somewhat less sleep and watch less television than mothers who are not employed, and they also spend less time with their husbands.
Wisconsin State Journal
October 16, 2006
Children of Gay Parents
Abbie Marie Hill has three moms and that fact, to the Madison teenager, is at once crazy and completely unremarkable.
Hill was born to a lesbian couple who later separated. Today she has a third parent, a stepmother, in her life. The 17-year-old high school junior takes a viola to youth symphony sessions and carries straight As home from Madison East.
"It's crazy and confusing but it works," Hill said of her family, which makes sense to her but isn't what some strangers expect. "In some ways it doesn't even seem like that's different."
A new wave of research confirms earlier findings that the children of gay and lesbian parents are at least as healthy and well-adjusted as comparable children of straight parents and that the differences found between these two groups of children have been modest, researchers say.
The studies, they say, undermine the argument that denying marriage and other rights to same-sex couples helps children.
Opponents of same-sex marriage counter that it's too early to be certain the research is valid and that the government has an obligation to give straight families preference over others.
Jenny Baierl, of Evansville, who supports a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriages and civil unions, said she does so in part out of concern for her two young boys.
Baierl, one of thousands of volunteers working to promote or oppose the proposal, has spoken at legislative hearings and squared off in a televised debate over the measure with openly gay Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison.
"I want to make sure my kids are raised in a society that values marriage," she said.
But for Mike Tate, head of anti-amendment group Fair Wisconsin, the proposed ban is a threat to children, because of the possibility it could go beyond the question of marriage and cost families health insurance or other benefits. "Why would we want to do something that hurts children and hurts families?"
What research says Medical establishment groups that have come out in favor of gay marriage or against bans like Wisconsin's proposed constitutional amendment include the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and, in July, the American Academy of Pediatrics. In Wisconsin, the national pediatrics academy's state chapter and the Wisconsin Medical Society also oppose the proposed ban because of its possible effects on patients.
That doesn't convince Bill Maier, vice president and psychologist in residence at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Maier said professional groups sometimes reflect decisions by committees, not all members. Existing studies are still hampered by questions about how strong and representative their samples of human subjects are, he said.
"The evidence confirms nothing about the quality of gay parents," he said. "It's still very early to be making any conclusive statements."
The children of gay men and lesbians are more likely to behave in ways that are outside the norm for their gender and may exhibit other differences as well, Maier said, citing in part a 2001 study that he called the "most comprehensive report" on the subject. But one of that study's co-authors, New York University sociology professor Judith Stacey, said anti-gay marriage groups have misrepresented her research in a "dishonest" way.
Stacey's article - a review of 21 studies going back some 20 years - examined in part whether having two parents of the same sex influenced the development of a child's sexual orientation and behavior related to his or her gender.
Five years later, Stacey said new research, including a study that used a random, nationwide sample, shows the situation has turned out to be more complicated than she had believed.
"I have been surprised that the differences so far seem to be smaller than I would have guessed," Stacey said.
Stacey, who has always supported gay marriage, is co-authoring an update to the first article that looks at some 80 studies of gay and lesbian parents, single mothers and fathers and their children from several countries.
In the first article, Stacey's study examined potential limitations in the studies' samples of human subjects and methods. Today, there are still holes in what we know, she said, noting that many studies of same- sex parents have focused on well-to-do whites and have neglected minorities and the poor.
But she said a new wave of research is "much solider now," addressing more of those issues as well as children such as Hill, who were born into families of same-sex parents rather than to opposite-sex parents who later split up and took same-sex partners.
"The kids are fine. There's no evidence whatsoever that children of gay and lesbian parents have noticeably different outcomes on mental health," Stacey said of the findings. "They turn out at least as well.
These children may turn out somewhat better, she added. "It's not because of the sexuality but because of selection factors. It's because these are wanted children," Stacey said, noting that same-sex couples have to deliberately set out to conceive or adopt children. "When you're looking at heterosexual parenting, you have a lot of accidental" pregnancies.
Stacey's findings square with research that has shown that the social groups of parents - rich and poor, white and black - matter much less than the quality of the parents and the love and discipline they show their children, said David Riley, a human ecology professor at UW-Madison.
But Riley also noted that this research on its own can't answer the question of how people should vote on the amendment. "Most people on both sides of the debate base their arguments on civil rights and religious teachings. Behavioral science can't tell you which of those is preferable."
A busy life Abbie Marie Hill enjoys the youth group at her Unitarian congregation, plays in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra and muses thoughtfully about the high school where she earns high marks.
Some evenings, she goes to talks on mathematics at UW-Madison - just because she wants to - and she dreams of a career in engineering or some other math-heavy discipline.
She spends five days a week at the condominium of her biological mother, Abbie Hill, who conceived Abbie Marie through artificial insemination, and two days a week at the East Side home of Hill's former partner.
Abbie Marie said that, growing up in Madison, she's never felt like she's different. In spite of that, she said she sometimes has difficulty explaining her family to strangers.
"I have the lesbian parents, and the split household," she said, joking that some people might scratch their heads when they hear her give contradictory details about her "mom."
"They probably think my mom has multiple personalities."
Most of the time she feels like any other student. "Occasionally, I'll just think of things that people in a traditional family have and realize, 'Oh I really will never have that. Hmmm.' Usually it's just like a hmmm thing. It's not a bad thing or 'Oh I'm missing out on something,'" Abbie Marie said.
Abbie Marie's step-mother Mary Waitrovich said the teen-ager has thrived.
"Here Abbie is - she's near the top of her class," Waitrovich said.
"She's a great kid. She's a shining example of how a child who's raised by lesbians can turn out great."
Abbie Hill said she cried once when she heard a speaker at an event argue that she and other lesbians were second-rate parents.
"As a mother for me to hear that it just broke me out. It made me feel like wait a minute," she said. "I've been such a good mother. It's probably the most important thing I've ever done."
Hill's former partner, Madison firefighter Karen Hoffman, called their daughter "a gift I never thought I'd have."
But Hoffman has never been able to adopt or gain legal recognition as a parent that would guarantee custody rights to her daughter or just the right to authorize hospital treatment.
"You don't have any rights at all," Hoffman said.
Father role cited Focus on the Family's Maier acknowledged the love and effort many lesbian parents give their children but pointed to studies that he said showed children need a father.
"The two most loving lesbians in the world cannot provide a father to a little boy," Maier said. "It's not just two parents. It's having the contributions of a married mother and father."
Jenny Baierl, the Evansville mother and pro-amendment activist, said she knows from experience the challenges of having two women as parents.
Baierl was raised by her mother and grandmother after her father was killed by a drunken driver when she was 5.
Though the two women loved her, Baierl had no uncles or grandfather to fill the void her father had left, she said. That searing experience, the teachings of her Christian faith, and her marriage to her husband John, leave Baierl with a powerful certainty about the value of traditional marriage.
"I had no male role models," said Baierl, 33, who now lives in an all- male household with her husband and two young sons in Evansville. "I feel like I was really cheated."
Differences modest Stacey said the situation of a child who tragically loses a parent isn't comparable to a child who has had two same-sex parents from birth. Plus, children often have access to relatives and other adult role models of both sexes, she said.
But Stacey said her studies and training in sociology suggest that having same-sex parents can lead to modest differences in the areas of a child's gender behavior and sexual orientation.
For instance, the boys of lesbian moms in one study scored just as high on masculinity scales as boys of opposite-sex parents but also higher on femininity scales, showing a willingness to talk about feelings as well as play sports, Stacey said.
As for sexual orientation, Stacey has predicted that the children of gay and lesbian parents are likely to be more comfortable identifying with that orientation themselves, but said that so far the research hasn't proven conclusive on that.
Abbie Marie Hill, for her part, isn't dating anyone and calls herself "straight but not narrow."
Her upbringing in liberal Madison with lesbian parents leaves her less worried about her sexual orientation or who she will love, she said.
"I don't feel this need for labels or I have to be one way or the other and I have to box myself in just to fit in," Abbie Marie said. "Whatever happens, it's cool. Why spend all this time, anguished time, like searching for, you know? Why not just be?"
By JOHN LELAND
SEELEY LAKE, Mont.
ALISTAIR BANE went to his first weekend gathering five months ago and was so nervous that he barely participated. By the time of his second, last month, he had sewn his own outfit and was comfortable enough to dance in the powwow and the drag show.
“This has been a big thing for me,” said Mr. Bane, who is a mixed-blood Eastern Shawnee. “If somebody had talked to me when I was 16 and said people like me were once respected, my life might have been different.”
The occasion was the ninth annual Montana Two-Spirit Gathering, a weekend retreat here in northwestern part of the state for a few dozen American Indians who define themselves as embodying both male and female spirits. Many are refugees from the gay or lesbian bar circuit who are now celebrating an identity among themselves that they never knew existed, in a setting without drugs or alcohol. Some identify themselves as gay or lesbian; others as a third or fourth gender, combining male and female aspects.
Since the term “Two Spirit” was coined at a conference for gay and lesbian natives in the early 1990’s, Two-Spirit societies have formed in Montana as well as in Denver; Minnesota; New York State; San Francisco; Seattle; Toronto; Tulsa, Okla.; and elsewhere, organized around what members assert was once an honored status within nearly every tribe on the continent.
“A lot of our tribal leaders have their minds blocked and don’t even know the history of Two-Spirit people,” said Steven Barrios, 54, who lives on a Blackfeet reservation in northwestern Montana, and who has been open about his sexual orientation since he was a teenager. Mr. Barrios cited a small and sometimes contested body of anthropological evidence that suggests that before the arrival of Christian missionaries, many tribes considered Two-Spirit people to be spiritually gifted and socially valuable.
Like the Montana group, most Two-Spirit societies rely on financing from the federal government — usually under public health auspices — and few are recognized by the members’ tribes. The societies hold their own powwows but most do not dance together in general tribal ceremonies. Members say they confront anti-gay sentiments from the general culture and from within their tribes, which they attribute to Christian influence.
“We can’t get a Two-Spirit person on our tribal council,” Mr. Barrios said. “We had a historian from our tribe on the reservation, and when he was asked what they did with Two-Spirit people, he said, ‘We killed them.’ But before the Christians came, Two-Spirit people were treated with respect. What we’re doing now is coming together, showing documentation that we have a history.”
Whatever their traditions, modern tribes often have complex relationships with homosexuality. In 2004 Kathy Reynolds and Dawn McKinley, two Cherokee women in Tulsa, petitioned to marry under tribal law, setting off a complicated legal and political battle that spread to other tribes. The women, who became unwilling public figures, were granted the right to marry by the Cherokee Judicial Appeals Tribunal but have yet to file their marriage certificate and complete their marriage. In response, several tribes, including the Cherokee Nation, passed laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Mr. Bane, 40, said he first heard about Two-Spirit gatherings in his late 20’s but did not attend one until he went to a gathering in Tulsa five months ago. As an adolescent, when he told his parents he was gay, the sense of rejection led him to leave school and home. He had little connection with his Indian heritage (most people at the gathering used the term Indian more often than Native American or First Nation), and after leaving home he found community with people living on the street, using heroin and selling his body. “I felt that at least somebody wanted me for something,” he said. Even when friends died of overdoses or took their own lives, he said, “We didn’t see ourselves as worth more than the life we lived.”
Like several others at the gathering, he said that at gay clubs he always felt he had the wrong hair or clothes, and felt pressure not to come off as “too Indian.” He said: “I can’t count the number of guys who have made comments about ‘If you cut your hair you’d be cute.’ If you conform to the whole Western culture idea of what a gay man is supposed to act like, then people want you around. But if not, you are either invisible or people outwardly make it clear that they don’t want you around.”
He added: “When I went to the gathering in Tulsa in May, there was a sense of acceptance I had never felt before. The mistakes I made in my past didn’t matter. What mattered was I came home. It goes beyond sexuality to a cultural role. That was important to me.”
The term for Two-Spirit people is different in each tribal language, but the practices and traditional social position of Two-Spirits is fairly consistent, said Brian Joseph Gilley, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Vermont and author of “Becoming Two-Spirit: Gay Identity and Social Acceptance in Indian Country.” In tribal tradition, when children exhibited interest in activities not associated with their gender — for boys, typically cooking or sewing; for girls, hunting or combat — they were singled out as inhabited by dual spirits, Mr. Gilley said.
In some tribes they were considered spiritually gifted, and might have been sought sexually for their powers. Often Two-Spirit people helped raise children or accompanied war parties as surrogate wives, Mr. Gilley said. At the Montana gathering, one man brought his two grandchildren, whom he was raising. “It was never about sexuality,” Mr. Gilley added. “It was about your role in the community.”
John Hawk Co-Cke’, whose parents descended from four different tribes and were Methodists, said he heard about Two-Spirit traditions in the 1980’s, when he started seeing a Indian therapist. He was having high-risk anonymous sex with men in parks and other public places and also drinking heavily at gay bars to compensate for feeling undesirable.
“At the time I had nothing to do with my Indian-ness,” he said. “I didn’t want to be more different.” The therapist, he said, told him, “‘You need to come home. Warriors would never put themselves in that position.’”
At the gathering Mr. Co-Cke’ wore women’s makeup, and at the powwow he wore a traditional native woman’s dress. Since embracing his Two-Spirit identity, he said, he has stopped heavy use of drugs and alcohol and is much happier. But he said he does not wear women’s clothing in Tulsa or at a general Osage powwow. “I teach guys: ‘Be smart. You have to remember you live in Oklahoma.’ Because we’ve had guys beat up. ‘As far as your sexuality, please be careful you don’t flaunt it.’ ”
Mr. Co-Cke’ said Two-Spirit gatherings often draw men who are hiding their orientation from their wives. At the Montana gathering several people did not come because of the presence of a reporter because they did not want their orientation to become public knowledge.
For three days, solemn rituals alternated with pop cultural references, high camp and playful but sharp intertribal teasing.
Matthew Reed, 32, who manages a Starbucks franchise in Denver, began the Saturday night powwow by leading an august gourd dance to cleanse the grounds. “Does everyone know how to gourd dance?” he asked, then advised: “Drop it like it’s hot,” a reference to a dance-filled rap video by Snoop Dogg.
As the night grew cold, Joey Criddle, who led a contingent called the “Denver divas,” explained for the group the historical significance of some of the dances and clothing, encouraging each dancer, “You go, Miss Thing.” Mr. Criddle, 45, a respiratory therapist and part Jicarilla Apache, was once married and has four children. He said that in Denver his group was trying to gain credibility and acceptance from tribal leaders by preserving the old language, skills and dances. “The elders will tell you the difference between a gay Indian and a Two-Spirit,” he said, underscoring the idea that simply being gay and Indian does not make someone a Two-Spirit.
Involvement with Two-Spirits has changed Mr. Bane’s life. After the Tulsa gathering he moved to Denver to live near Mr. Criddle’s group, and he stopped dating a man who refused to acknowledge their relationship in public. “I used to think that was O.K.,” he said. “Now I don’t.” He was also embracing some traditionally female tasks and slowly learning to do beadwork. “Beadwork gives you patience for traffic,” he said.
The surprise for his non-native friends, he said, was how much fun the gatherings were. “You read about it and think it’s real serious, and it is,” he said. “But then you have the drag show on the first night. When I told my friends, ‘I gotta get my drag outfit together,’ my white friends, they’re like, ‘What?’ ”
Jaxin Enemy-Hunter, 28, who helped Mr. Bane with last-minute stitching on his moccasins, found it rewarding to see people who were not raised in the Two-Spirit tradition embrace it, but their journey was not his. Growing up on a Crow reservation, he had been singled out early by his great-grandmother and given a double helping of education: studying with the boys and then studying with the girls when the boys played. He described the experience as both high status and extremely stressful.
“A lot of Two-Spirit societies, their focus is to bring the Two-Spirit role to their tribes,” he said. “With my tribe, we had never lost that. The younger generations focus more on the mainstream way of being a gay person, going out and partying, and not having responsibilities and being stressed out.”
Off the reservation, he added, “I would see friends going through hell over being gay. It was just very sad. They didn’t know about our history.”