Franklin Graham wasn’t the only one disparaging same-sex couples and their families on yesterday’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition and now chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, got into the act. He did so by making apples-and-oranges comparisons between gay and straight parents. And he did it using President Obama’s words to boot. But Cokie Roberts didn’t let him get away with it.
Guest host Martha Raddatz asked Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, if he agreed with Graham’s assertion that Putin is doing what’s right for Russia. “I have two children I adopted from a Russian orphanage. And I see the way that Mr. Putin has used Russian orphans as pawns,” Moore said. “There are children and orphans in orphanages all over Russia who are waiting for parents, he has shut down adoption from America. So I don’t see him as a — as a sympathetic figure. But I would agree with Reverend Graham that a child needs both a mom and a dad.”
And by the way, Martha, the social science on this is clear. This isn’t about Vladimir Putin. This is about what’s best for children here in the United States. And the social science is irrefutable. And it is that a child who grows up in a home without the mother and father present and they both play very unique procreative, nurturing and socializing role, they’re nine times more likely to end up dropping out of high school. They’re five times more likely to end up in poverty. And they’re three times more likely to end up addicted —
Reed was cut off by ABC News’s Cokie Roberts, whose terrific pushback during the discussion I will get to in just a moment. But let’s stick to the statistics Reed used to buttress his claim against same-sex parents. I thought it sounded familiar so I plugged in the “nine times” phrase into the Google. Here’s what then-Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) said on Father’s Day 2008.
We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled – doubled – since we were children. We know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison.
Conservatives have been using Obama’s words ever since to promote “intact families” overall or come to the rescue of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) after his “tailspin of culture in our inner cities, in particular” comment. And even though Obama’s focus is and has always been on fathers, Reed tossed out those stats to put down same-sex parents. Never mind that the focus should be on the impact of two-parent households on the health and well-being of children.
“I don’t know what specific studies Reed refers to, but social science is very clear that negative child outcomes are not associated with either parental sexual orientation or the gender composition of parents,” Gary Gates of the Williams Institute told me this morning. “Those who suggest otherwise, in the words of Reagan-appointee Judge Bernard Friedman, ‘clearly represent a fringe viewpoint that is rejected by the vast majority of their colleagues across a variety of social science fields.’”
Gates served as an expert witness in DeBoer v. Snyder, a challenge to Michigan’s ban on adoption by same-sex couples that was argued earlier this year. Judge Friedman overturned the ban, but the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals put a hold on his March 21 ruling.
Now, this is where Cokie Roberts, a devout Catholic, comes in. Seated next to Reed, the venerable journalist coolly brought down the hammer.
But the social science is also irrefutable that a child raised in an orphanage is in much worse shape than a child raised in a home. And the fact that people are willing to take these children and raise them and raise them in a loving way is clearly better for these children than [being in an orphanage].
Raddatz then asked Reed, “Would you rather have a child sitting in an orphanage and not have gay parents?” His response: “I think that the social science is just simply not in yet on same-sex couples and I think the law has every right to set an ideal. And the ideal is a mother and a father. . . .”
Reed is wrong about the social science. Just look at this 2010 report in the magazine of the American Psychological Association from. Or the 2013 study from the Journal of Family Psychology. Or research from the Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families from last year.
But Roberts wasn’t finished. Once again, she cut Reed off.
You know, the reason the numbers have changed so dramatically on this, first of all, that ideal isn’t true in all kinds of families, the divorce rate being what it is and the abandoned mothers. But it is also true — I mean, if we got — if we got better men, we’d be in better shape.
At the end of the roundtable, Raddatz asked Graham about his legendary father Billy Graham. But he circled back to the gays.
Graham: You know, when we talk about families and we talk about gay people, many people — maybe gays that are watching, you know, want to know can God forgive me or can I go to heaven as a gay person, absolutely. But the same for any of us. We have to repent of our sins and turn. A person cannot stay in adultery and be accepted by God. You have to repent.
Raddatz: What would you say to those children? What would you say to those children of gay parents?
Graham: What children? Of gay parents?
Raddatz: About their parents?
Graham: That, like any parent who is living in sin. If we repent — Franklin Graham is a sinner, and I’m no better than a gay person. I’m a sinner. But I’ve been forgiven, and I’ve turned from my sins. And for any person that’s willing to repent, in turn, God will forgive. And you can be gay and go to heaven, no question.
Graham’s sinner talk took me back to my aunt’s funeral last summer when the visiting minister thundered about gays not gaining entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. My blood boiled yesterday listening to Graham with the same intensity it did that hot August day. But Roberts made things right with her cutting last words.
A lot of gay people feel that they are sinners, but not because they’re gay.
And then Roberts punctuated the comment by slowly looking Graham and Moore in the eyes as Raddatz signed off the interview that was taped earlier in the week.
There’s nothing to say after that except “Brava!”
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj