Email responses sent to Rep. Maggart

From: Lynn Sacco <>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2006 15:43:36 -0500
Subject: homosexual parents

Dear Ms. Maggart,

I have just read NewsChannel 5's article on your views about gay adoption
<>. I am a history professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and am completing a book on father-daughter incest and child sexual abuse. There is no legitimate, peer-reviewed, mainstream research to support the idea that gay adoptive parents--as a group--sexually abuse their children more than heterosexual parents, either as an unintended or intentional consequence of the adoption.

My research indicates that children (whether natural or adopted) are sexually abused in every type of home, regardless of race, class, or ethnicity. Most children who are sexually abused are girls who are sexually assaulted by their fathers or other male relatives or close family friends (I draw this conclusion from studies published by the federal government). In other words, the vast majority of child sexual abuse is "heterosexual." Using your logic, you should be campaigning instead to prevent heterosexual couples from adopting children, or perhaps from permitting men to marry women who already have daughters, as a girl's own home is the place where she is most likely to be sexually assaulted by a male.

I have read the Focus on the Family website materials on issues such as homosexuality and have been dismayed to find that their "papers" are not supported by peer-reviewed research from mainstream publishing sources and that they are intentionally misleading. See, e.g., <>. This paper on homosexuality, for instance, pretends to respond to young men and women who may be concerned that they are gay. The goals seems to be to frighten the reader into believing that if he is gay he will get AIDS (the highest rates of infection now are not among gay men but among African American heterosexual teenagers). Is this the message we want to send to a young man--that if he is gay he will get AIDS? I suggest you read the literature on suicide among teen males and think about how this paper--among many--from Focus on the Family may actually lead a young man who is questioning his sexuality not to Exodus, as is the apparent goal from the constant plugs for that organization, but instead to despair, shame, and death by his own hands. Talk with some parents who have lost a child in this fashion.

The technique of Focus on the Family seems to be to cull only the slim research that supports their ideological views, rather than to shape their views based on competent research--something that every high school and college student understands is not only a poor way to construct a position but that also avoids entirely the process of critical thinking that is key to fully exercising one's citizenship in a democracy. I recently saw Mr. Dobson give a television editorial, in which he claimed that needle-exchange programs promote drug use. His research? He cited a study "from the 1980s" from Switzerland. The fact that Mr. Dobson did not use current, U.S. data on an issue that has been heavily studied, indicated to me immediately that the body of mainstream research on the topic must not support his views--otherwise he would have cited it. When I did my own research into the issue, I found that my hunch was correct--the overwhelming majority of serious studies show needle-exhange programs to be effective in reducing HIV infection and NOT to increase drug addiction. As I assume that Mr. Dobson or whoever prepares his editorials looked for research to use in this editorial, I can only assume that their goal was to intentionally mislead viewers.

I also read your email correspondence with Sara Dykstra and found your conclusion that homosexuality is an indicator of dysfunction to be a position that is unsupported by mainstream, peer-reviewed research. Yes, Focus on the Family can provide you with "research" to support this view, but such research has been discredited over and over for the last 40 years. And yes, some homosexuals have emotional and psychological problems--as do many heterosexuals. However, there is no research to indicate that there is a causal link between homosexuality and dysfunction--except in those cases where the homosexual is made to feel shame by society. If not for the fact that so many homosexual men and women were leading happy, fulfilling, otherwise "normal" lives--including innumerable gays and lesbians who identify as Christian and who are as engaged in their churches as their heterosexual neighbors--gays and lesbians would be of no interest to you and Mr. Dobson. It is only because gay men and lesbian are so functional, because being gay does not seem to have ruined their lives or turned them into monsters, that they present a challenge to normative ideologies about what comprises a family, what types of sexual behaviors are appropriate, etc.

I have met numerous gay and lesbian couples, in long term committed relationships, who sought out the most difficult children to foster or adopt: babies and children with HIV/AIDS, crack babies, severely disturbed children, and babies with physical disabilities. These babies were available to gay and lesbian couples because straight couples did not want them. These babies required enormous commitments of money, time, and generosity of spirit--not to mention a degree of commitment that many heterosexual couples (as shown by divorce statistics) lack. How can someone twist this most generous effort into a plan for pedophilia?

Although I disagree with it, I understand the political agenda of legislators and lobbyists like Mr. Dobson who wish to "pathologize" gays and lesbians and to deny them the right to marry and adopt;  to not do so would send an implicit message that it is ok to be gay. But to cast aspersions at gay men and lesbian who wish to adopt is a vicious tactic that harms both the citizens of Tennessee and its "unwanted" children. Claiming that gay men and lesbians are predatory, dysfunctional, damaged people also  encourages hate crimes by depicting gay men and lesbians as not fully human. I am especially amazed by the constant demonization of gays and lesbians, particularly as unfit parents, in a state that has the 6th highest rate of divorce in the country, low rates of child support payment, and high rates of domestic violence--why don't we fix the widespread problems we know have before conjuring up bogey men to fight instead?

I practiced law for fifteen years in Chicago, where I represented parents and children in custody and abuse/negligence cases, as well as heterosexual parents adopting children. I wholly support your effort to shed light on the issue of child sexual abuse and hope that as a legislator you will keep that issue at the top of your agenda. I would recommend, however, that you refocus your energies away from screeds against gay and lesbian parents--who comprise only a minority of all adoptive parents anyway--and investigate instead other more pressing and widespread issues that face children in both the adoption and foster care systems. With limited time and money to devote to such issues, I would like to see my tax dollars directed instead to solving an appalling problem that we all share an interest in fixing but which receives virtually no sustained attention.

I would be very interested to see the research you claim supports your views and would be happy to discuss that research with you at any time.

Very Truly Yours,

Lynn Sacco
Assistant Professor, History

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