A special legislative committee on foster care Tuesday jumped into the issue of same-sex parenting, seeking testimony from a Catholic priest and sociology professor who authored a highly controversial study on the topic.
Testifying by telephone, the Rev. Donald Paul Sullins said research has found a host of negative outcomes for children of same-sex couples compared with those of opposite-sex couples.
Children of same-sex couples are twice as likely to experience emotional issues such as depression and anxiety and are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse, he said.
But Sullins’ study has received much criticism. The committee also heard by phone from Clinton Anderson of the American Psychological Association, who said the research Sullins cites suffers from flawed methodology.
Anderson said there was no “credible scientific evidence to support discimination” against same-sex couples.
State Sen. Forrest Knox, a Republican from Altoona and chairman of the interim Special Committee on Foster Care Adequacy, said the question of family structure was an appropriate inquiry.
Knox said research still comes down on the side of a traditional home with a mother and a father as the best family structure to meet the needs of children.
He said he plans next session to offer a revised version of his 2015 proposal that would provide extra incentives for heterosexual married couples to become foster parents if they meet certain qualifications, such as regularly attending church or similar social organizations.
Knox wouldn’t say whether he favored restricting same-sex couples from the foster parent program. But if there were plenty of available foster care homes, he said, “you could put children in a home most like the home from where they were taken.”
Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the Department for Children and Families, which oversees the state’s foster care program, said currently nothing restricts married same-sex couples and single gays and lesbians from serving as foster parents in Kansas. The department has no specific policy regarding foster care and same-sex couples.
A juvenile judge in Utah recently sparked an uproar when he removed a foster child from the home of a lesbian couple. The judge placed the child in the home of a heterosexual child, saying the child would be better off.
But Judge Scott Johansen reversed the order and has removed himself from the case. Critics called for his impeachment.
Sullins told the committee that while same-sex relationships can be “loving and caring,” the evidence is clear about outcomes for children. Many foster and adoptive same-sex couples are female, and children in those homes later report they felt a loss because of the absence of a relationship with a father, he said.
Anderson said the important factors in outcomes for children include the quality of parenting, the quality of the relationship between parents and the child and the quality of the couple’s relationship.
“None of these factors, however, have been found to be related to sexual orientation,” Anderson said.
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, told committee members that Sullins is a fellow at a research institute that’s a project of the conservative Family Research Council and is a Knights of Columbus member. Both groups oppose same-sex marriage.
Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, voiced her concern that children could become the victims of “political correctness” on the issue of same-sex parenting. Children have long benefited from having both a mother and father for their upbringing, she said.
Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said any idea that same-sex couples aren’t fit to be parents was ridiculous and offensive.
“I look at my own experience as a parent, and then I hear somebody in public office saying I’m unfit to be a parent, there’s just no reality to what they’re saying,” Witt said.