Monday, December 1, 2008

What the hell was Florida thinking!?

Ed Brayton has posted some excerpts from the court decision, and commenter noncarborundum provided a link to a PDF of the decision. It's a good read, and I'll post lengthy excerpts myself. It really is flabbergasting--I have no idea what Florida was thinking when they got their expert witnesses. Were they just the best the state could get? Probably; there doesn't seem to be any rational basis for banning gay people from adopting, so they have to resort to irrational witnesses to justify it.

Ed already posted the section about the state of the two children when they arrived at the household of their would-be adoptive parents, which is heartbreaking and monstrous. If I had read some of that in a work of fiction I would think the author were laying it on a bit too thick, but this is real--the elder brother, at four years old, would not speak, and was the one responsible for taking care of his four-month old younger brother (evidently because no-one else in their household cared to). So when people insist that children develop best when brought up by their biological mother and father, they are saying that gay parents are automatically worse than that.

But are they? Let's see what horrific neglect and abuses the boys were subjected to in this den on iniquity. Oh, before that, I should note that "Petitioner" is the man petitioning to adopt the boys, "John Doe" (the now eight-year old boy) and "James Does" (his younger half-brother). "Tom Roe, Sr." is the partner of Petitioner, and "Tom Roe, Jr." is his biological son, who's been living with them.
On weekdays, the household wakes up at about 6:30 a.m. Petitioner usually prepares breakfast, permitting each child to assist with an assigned kitchen duty. Each morning, the family eats together without distraction from the television. As each child finishes his breakfast, he puts his dish in the sink and proceeds to the bathroom to brush his teeth and hair. Petitioner and Roe purchased a Ford minivan, which Petitioner jokes was not his dream car, however, to accommodate the family size, is the most feasible. Tom Roe, Jr. is dropped off at school first. Afterwards, Petitioner takes John and James to school, walking them into their classrooms and usually speaking to their respective teachers. In the afternoon, after Petitioner picks the boys up from school, they generally go to the park for tennis lessons. At the conclusion of their lessons, the family heads home for dinner. At mealtime, the family blesses the food together and takes turns sharing the highlights of their day. Phones are not answered and the television is off during dinner. After the children are excused from the table, the older children load the dishwasher.

After dinner, the children spend one hour doing their homework. Although James does
not have homework, he spends time at the table pretending to do homework. John requires more supervision and one-on-one interaction to complete his homework. If a child finishes his homework early, the remaining time is spent reading. After homework is completed, the children are allowed to watch television. At bedtime, the boys retreat to their separate beds. By morning, however, James seems to always find his way into John's bed.

The family attends a non-denominational Christian church and have as pets, a dog, rabbit and kitten. John and James refer to Petitioner and Roe as "papi" and "daddy" respectively. John and James have lived in the same neighborhood, attended the same school, day care and aftercare since their arrival in the Petitioner-Roe home. As a result, each child has created friendships from school and in the neighborhood. John and James are closely bonded to Tom Roe, Jr., and their extended family. The boys consider Petitioner and Roe's parents, brothers and sisters their grandparents, uncles and aunts. The extended family sends the boys gifts for their birthdays and the holidays. Roe's mother, who lives in Tampa, visits the family regularly.

Here we see the nefarious gay agenda revealed: raising their kids, pets, going to church, going to work, taking kids to day care and school, etc. How depraved.

The ruling, after comparing expert testimony on both sides, concluded that same-sex parents are no worse than opposite-sex ones, despite what all the opponents of gay marriage would have you believe.
According to Dr. Lamb, there are three important factors that are predictors of healthy adjustment for children. One well recognized predictor of healthy adjustment is a child's relationship with his parents: a child is more likely to be well adjusted if he has a warm, harmonious relationship with committed, involved, sensitive parents. The second predictor is the relationship between the adults in the child's life. Children are more likely to be adjusted when the relationship between the parents is harmonious and positive. The third widely recognized predictor of adjustment is the resources available to a child. Children tend to adjust and better when they have adequate resources available and children who grow up in less well resourced homes are more likely to have issues with maladjustment. Providing additional insight into the development of the field in this area, Dr. Lamb points out that researchers once believed that traditional families provided the best environment for children. As the research developed, however, the notion was proven to be flawed, because the quality of the parenting itself is more important.

The witness testified that based on his 30 years of research and experience in the field, he can say with certainty that children raised by homosexual parents do not suffer an increased risk of behavioral problems, psychological problems, academic development, gender identity, sexual identity, maladjustment, or interpersonal relationship development.

Dr. Lamb's work is consistent with other studies of same sex parents indicating their
children are not more likely to be maladjusted. As such, pursuant to the witness' testimony the assumption that children raised by gay parents are harmed is not a reliable finding. In fact, it is contrary to the consensus in the field.

This, of course, anyone who really follows the subject would know. I was a little surprised to hear this, but it does make sense:
With regard to social relationships and peer adjustments, Dr. Lamb reports that children raised by gay parents develop social relationships the same as those raised by heterosexual parents. The research shows that children of gay parents are not ostracized and do not experience discrimination any more than children of heterosexual parents. According to the witness, children have always and will continue to tease and bully their peers about their parent's appearance, employment, ethnic background, parenting style, or sexual orientation. A child that
is teased views one reason no less hurtful than another. Therefore, Dr. Lamb concludes that the exclusion of homosexuals from adoption does not shield a child from being teased by his/her peers.

It's true. Children are vicious bastards, and that they're susceptible to teasing or bullying is not something unique to children of same-sex couples.

When the decision gets to discussing the 'expert' witnesses for the state, things get interesting. For starters, Rekers doesn't just have a theology degree, he's an ordained Baptist minister. There were also a number of interesting admissions.
Regarding relationship stability, Dr. Rekers proffered that homosexually behaving individuals have a substantially and significantly larger number of lifetime partners and maintain fewer relationships over a long period of time, partly due to the lack of recognizable legal unions and social support.

So they at least tacitly admitted that their own prejudices against committed monogamous same-sex relationships result in fewer committed monogamous same-sex relationships. And of course they use the fact that there are fewer of these to argue against allowing more of them. How this makes sense to them I don't think I'll ever figure out.
During Dr. Rekers' testimony, attention was drawn to his authorship of a St. Thomas Law Review article entitled "An Empirically Supported Rational Basis for Prohibiting Adoption, Foster Parenting, and Contested Child Custody by Any Person in a Household that Includes a Homosexually-Behaving Member" wherein the doctor heavily cited to the conclusions of a colleague who is sharply criticized as distorting data and was censured and ousted by the American Psychological Association for misreporting evidence regarding homosexual households. Although the American Psychological Association, has concluded that there is no difference between heterosexual and homosexual parenting, Dr. Rekers believes the Association's stance is political and not based on science. Dr. Rekers' much contested and hardly empirical article also cited to journals from authors who were neither psychotherapists nor social scientists.

When a judge is able to point out the deficiencies of your poorly-written article, you might want to reconsider your major.
Dr. Rekers astounded the Court when he testified that he favors removal of any child from a homosexual household, even after placement in that household for ten years, in favor of a heterosexual household. To this Court's further astonishment, the witness hypothesized that such a child would recover from the removal from his family of 10 years after one year in a heterosexual household. The Court finds this testimony to be contrary to science and decades of research in child development.

I shall consider "Dr. Rekers astounded the Court" to be judge-speak for "WTF!?"

The opinion also quotes in footnotes some excerpts from old books that Rekers wrote in his role as a minister. All these, I feel I should note, were from the early '80s (1981 & 1982), so maybe his views evolved some in the last quarter-century? But anyway, they include such titles as The Christian in an Age of Sexual Eclipse:
Within which, Dr. Reker's states, "Non-Christian psychologists often encourage their clients to do form their own values regarding sexual expression. In doing so, they mistakenly assume that they are providing the most appropriate and sensitive counsel. In reality they are tacitly creating an impression that the universe was constructed with no moral law inherent to the system, but God has spoken. God has given us explicit instruction as to what his moral laws are. The psychologist who recommends that a person simply define his own sexual values ends up not being an advocate of human freedom, instead he becomes a revolutionary, attempting to overthrow the moral laws of God. Instead of being helped, the client is therefore led down a fanciful path of alleged morality called, quote, liberation." p. 14;

"An honest scholarly search for the truth about homosexuality should not stop with psychological or medical information alone. Wise professionals should also consider evidence for moral truth as well. The bible teaches that people are foolish if they deny God's reality and live their lives as though he were not there…. What happens when psychologists and psychiatrists search for truth about homosexuality, but close the door to any possibility of information from the creator of the human race? What happens if scholars deliberately discard all moral evidence as irrelevant to their professional judgments? Roman's describes the consequences in suppressing truth revealed by the creator.... Those verses indicate that the existence of God is evident within each person, so psychologists and psychiatrists who proceed as though he does not exist are deliberately suppressing truth. To search for truth about homosexuality in psychology and psychiatry, while ignoring God, will result in futile and foolish speculations." p. 54-56;

Stating, "In my clinical training, as well as my experience as a university psychologist, I've been impressed by the devastating radical changes in sexual roles, which have occurred in America over the past 30 years. In the push and shove of these social changes, many kinds of individual problems have cropped up for men, women and children. Some unresponsive and insensitive husbands have failed to provide their problem masculine leadership in the home. Some women have allowed themselves to be sucked into the resulting vacuum, overstepping a more natural and supportive role in the home. This domestic upheaval has been labeled by many psychologists as the dominant wife syndrome. In other cases I've seen emotional or merely materialistic motives woe many mothers of preschool children out of their home and into the job market. This functional desertion has often caused serious emotional conflicts for their children.... Those who counsel people in distress have to be impressed by the clear correlation between the acceleration deterioration of the family unit, and the major changes that are taking place in our society's conception of the male and female roles. Could it be that the wholesale American abandonment of the God ordained male and female roles has brought upon our families a destructive force that will ultimately disintegrate marriage and family, if not soon reversed. I believe that the family will self destruct in direct proportion to its retreat from the biblically defined male and female roles." p. 12

So he's homophobic, racist (remember this is the same guy who supported banning Native Americans from adopting), and sexist. Bigotry trifecta!

There was also Growing Up Straight: What Every Family Should Know About Homosexuality:
Including chapters entitled, "The Truth About Homosexuality" "The Trap of Homosexuality" "Liberation from Homosexuality" "The Search for Truth About Homosexuality."

Within which Dr. Reker's states, "wise professionals should seek God's answer as well. When scholars disregard divine law, they deliberately suppress truth and result in foolish and futile speculations." p. 54.

"As a psychologist who has counseled scores of homosexuals, I have observed the pain suffered by individual homosexuals who have been manipulated by leaders of the homosexual revolt. Alone the homosexual seizes the deviance of other types of homosexuals, and he can even feel the need to change himself. But the homosexual leaders use the manipulative techniques of classic revolutionary strategies to achieve their own diabolical objectives, to the detriment of the individual suffering the effects of sexual perversion." p. 38.

"Homosexual activists seek to lure our children into a deceptive and destruction fantasy world that ignores the obvious physical, social and moral boundaries of sexual expression. Everything that the gay activists are working for stands diametrically opposed to everything concerned the parents stand for in seeking future family fulfillment for their children. Parents who are more aware of the tactics of homosexual activists will be better prepared to protect their own children, from the ploys of these enemies of normal sexual development." p. 40

And Shaping Your Child's Sexual Identity:
Within which, Dr. Reker's states, "The gay liberationists have taken the deliberate ploy of pressing first for legislation to legalize the sexual behavior between two consenting adults. After they had succeeded in winning the emotional war of soothing the public's queasy feelings about homosexuality activity among adults, the next planned step of the gay liberationists is to press for an elimination of laws of age discrimination, (in the terminology of the rhetoric of revolt). This means that the Gay activists are now beginning to press for the rights of the children to engage in homosexual behavior with adults. This will be their battle to legalize pedophilia!" p. 89.

In a subsequent section the court also quoted from a law review article Rekers wrote:
In homes with a homosexually behaving adult, children are more likely to experience the stress and associated harm of an ill-timed sex education that is not timed to match the psychosexual development needs of the child, but instead exposes the child to information about males engaging in oral sex, and inserting penis' into rectums, at formative ages, when those mental images can become strongly associated with sexual arousal patterns, predisposing the child to developing anxiety about sex, a confused sexual identity, or homosexual behavior. Knowledge of specific abnormal or deviant sexual practices is more safely introduced after the child has had the opportunity to develop a stable and secure gender identity and psychosexual identity.

Given all this, the court rendered its verdict: a judicial "EPIC FAIL".
Dr. Rekers' testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers' beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.

Having scornfully dismissed Rekers, the opinion turns its searing gaze to the other expert witness for the state, Dr. Schumm--who, I find, apparently co-authored a piece with Rekers:
In another paper that he co-authored with Dr. Rekers concerning the authors' disagreement with homosexual practices, he wrote:
Within the limitations imposed by context, errors in translation and errors of individual interpretation, we prefer to accept the authority of the Bible as the best guide for sexual decision making, as well as for many other areas of life. We consider Scripture to be important, not because of tradition or institutional affiliation, but because after reasoned study, we make the assumption that they contain the wisdom of the Creator regarding the human condition and effective ways of relating to others interpersonally. In particular, we turn to the life of Jesus as a guide for our own value system.

And... oh my god, this is... well, just read:
When reanalyzing studies on outcomes of children raised by gay parents, he found some differences in outcomes as a factor of parental sexual orientation where the original researchers reported no differences (the null hypothesis). He suggests that his reanalyses, mostly unpublished, should be accepted over the analyses of well respected researchers in peer reviewed journals. Dr. Schumm admitted that he applies statistical standards that depart from conventions in the field. In fact, Dr. Cochran and Dr. Lamb testified that Dr. Schumm's statistical re-analyses contained a number of fundamental errors.

So, we've got shoddy methodology in unpublished papers performed by someone who's not a psychologist and distorts statistics "to highlight the truth of the Scripture", that's supposed to override well-done research that has made it into peer-reviewed journals done by actual psychologists. Is it just me, or does the judge sound less than impressed in this passage?

Oh my. And this is rich:
[Schumm] concedes to the possibility that some gay parents may be beneficial to some children. He does so despite his objection to allowing homosexuals in the military due to the ease with which they can have oral sex and his belief that, since homosexuals violate one social norm, they are likely to also violate military rules.

Uh, how does that work? Because gays "violate one social norm"--i.e., people don't like them--they're also criminals? Does this only apply to the military, or to other rules, too? Should we ban them from getting jobs because they'd break rules? Should we just round them up and throw them into the penitentiary because they're likely to violate the law?

All the evidence finally led the judge to conclude, in the section "Summary of Findings of Fact", that gay people and couples are no more likely to be horrible parents than straight ones, that this was supported by hundreds of methodologically-sound, peer-reviewed studies, and that this conclusion is the position of numerous professional institutions, such as Child Welfare League of America. In fact, the judge said outright that it was simply crazy to maintain otherwise:
As a result, based on the robust nature of the evidence available in the field, this Court is satisfied that the issue is so far beyond dispute that it would be irrational to hold otherwise; the best interests of children are not preserved by prohibiting homosexual adoption.

Some of my favorite portions are in the section Conclusions of Law, though:
The challenged statute, in precluding otherwise qualified homosexuals from adopting available children, does not promote the interests of children and in effect, causes harm to the children it is meant to protect. Both the state and federal governments recognize the critical nature of adoption to the well-being of children who cannot be raised by their biological parents. There is no question, the blanket exclusion of gay applicants defeats Florida's goal of providing dependent children a permanent family through adoption. The exclusion causes some children to be deprived of a permanent placement with a family that is best suited to meet their needs.

Hear, hear!

And later, when examining whether Florida's reasons for supporting the ban pass the rational basis test, the court finds that they don't:
The Department argues Fla. Stat. §63.042(3) is rationally related to Florida's interest by protecting children from the undesirable realities of the homosexual lifestyle. However, as thoroughly summarized in the Findings of Fact section of this Final Judgment, the foregoing is, frankly, false.

Obviously, in order to be considered rationally related to a governmental interest, the distinctions between individuals may not be based on unsubstantiated assumptions. Based on the statistics, there are no set of facts for which such a stated interest can be reasonably conceived of to justify the legislation. Fortunate for the Department, the government has no obligation to produce evidence to sustain the rationality of the statutory classification. Here, the two witnesses proffered by the Department failed to offer any reasonable, credible evidence to substantiate their beliefs or to justify the legislation. Viewing the statute from this point of view clearly renders it "illogical to the point of irrationality."

...[H]omosexuals are no more susceptible to mental health or psychological disorders, substance or alcohol abuse or relationship instability than their heterosexual counterparts. Accordingly, such governmental interest does not justify the legislation.

Ouch.
The Department next claims that best interests of children are served by placing them in an adoptive home which minimizes the social stigmatization they may experience. Again applying rational basis review, this Court rejects the Department's attempt to justify the statute by reference to a supposed dark cloud hovering over homes of homosexuals and their children. ... In this regard, the professionals and the major associations now agree there is a well established and accepted consensus in the field that there is no optimal gender combination of parents. As such, the statute is no longer rationally related to serve this interest.

I like it.

It would've been nice if the judge had decided that gays were a suspect class (at one point she mentions that she found California's argument that they were "compelling", but was bound by her state's precedents). On the other hand, it's even nicer that the law was considered on a rational basis level and still overruled. They couldn't even muster that much.

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