The Denver Broncos weren’t the only ones who took a beating on Super Bowl Sunday. Coca-Cola was strongly criticized for their commercial showing two dads skating with their child, the first gay couple shown on such a highly viewed event. Disney’s introduction of a lesbian couple in a recent episode of “Good Luck Charlie,” a program aimed at young children, has also been the subject of controversy.
Lots of parents are uneasy. Until 1974, homosexuality was treated by health professionals as a mental disorder. Today, it is viewed as just another lifestyle.
Should parents be worried?
Let’s be clear about the scientific evidence about homosexuality. There is no basis for viewing gay or lesbian sexual orientation as due to some mental defect. You may not like such behavior, but you can’t label it a sickness just because it’s not your personal preference.
Are gay people good parents? Again, the data is very clear. There are some terrible gay parents, just as there are some horrible straight parents. Overall, the research indicates that gay parents are as good (and bad) as other parents.
The biggest concern is about the kids. How do children fare who are raised by gay parents? The answer probably won’t be known for several generations, but it has been an area of intense research over the past 40 years. In general, children raised by gay parents turn out about the same as kids raised by straight parents.
Research published by the Pew Research Center last year indicated that 60 percent of Americans reported that homosexuality should be accepted, a dramatic 11 percent increase since the 1997 survey. Even so, that leaves 40 percent of the population having feelings from uneasiness to disgust when they see two male high school students kissing on the popular television show Glee.
The Pew research was conducted internationally and indicated homosexuality was more likely to be condemned in countries with a strong religious orientation (with a few exceptions such as Russia and China). Parents have a right to their religious viewpoints, but what should they say to their kids?
First, be careful how you discuss homosexuality. It’s fine if your religious background views same-sex behavior as immoral, but it’s wrong to characterize it as a mental disorder. I was raised in a Catholic tradition where it was a sin to eat meat on Fridays. My parents never told me that people who believed otherwise were mentally ill.
Second, we need to help our kids learn how to be respectful of people from different religions, cultures, and lifestyles. Take a strong stand against discrimination based upon someone’s sexual orientation.
Our job is to teach children a set of moral values without demonizing others or justifying intolerance based upon the way people look, their cultural heritage, or who they love.