Monday, December 14, 2015

Anti-gay spokesman's distortions exposed by actual experts on NPR

Peter Sprigg's lies got destroyed on NPR
NPR, recently received some criticism for giving a platform to Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council to spread distortions about same-sex parenting.

From Media Matters:

NPR hosted a spokesman from a notorious anti-gay hate group during a discussion of same-sex adoption, giving him a national platform to peddle misinformation about same-sex parenting.

On the December 10 edition of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, guest host Melissa Ross interviewed Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council (FRC) to discuss legal battles over parenting and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed FRC as an anti-gay hate group since 2010 due to the organization's propagation of known falsehoods about LGBT people. The group has a history of making wild and inflammatory attacks on LGBT equality while masquerading as a serious policy organization in the media. Sprigg, who served as an ordained Baptist minister before joining FRC, has called for recriminalizing gay sex in the U.S. and suggested LGBT people should be "export[ed]" from the country.

But NPR didn't identify Sprigg as a hate group spokesman, and Sprigg used the platform to peddle misinformation about LGBT equality. Sprigg cited a widely discredited paper to suggest that children raised by same-sex couples perform poorly, and resurrected the long debunked horror story that Catholic adoption agencies have been shut down for refusing to serve same-sex couples. While guest host Melissa Ross did not push back on Sprigg's talking points, fellow guest Emily Hetch-McGowan, Director of Public Policy the Family Equality Council, called out FRC's use of discredited research

I am not one for shutting down views or keeping points of view from being debated, but Media Matters does make a good point. The media cannot ignore the fact that the Family Research Council has an ugly history of spinning distortions and lies against the lgbt community.  And the organization should not be treated as a credible source when it comes to issues of same-sex parenting or any other lgbt issue.

But I'm not totally upset at NPR because, while the network gave Sprigg  a platform to spread more distortions, it also provided a platform for actual experts and people in the know (Hetch-McGowan, Michele Zavos - managing partner and founder of Zavos Juncker Law Group, a metropolitan D.C. area firm specializing in family law, and Martin Gill plaintiff in the lawsuit which overturned Florida's ban on adoption by same-sex couples ) to refute Sprigg and expose him as a liar.

The following are portions of the debate (in transcript form) in which Sprigg was called out:

 . . . (Editor's note - This exchange tackles an earlier comment by Sprigg that research shows children do better in a mother/father household even if the mother and father aren't their biological parents. It came after Gill talked about the adoption of his two sons):

ROSS:  Peter Sprigg, when we listen to Martin Gill give this heartfelt rendering of his family's experience and say that so many children in foster care are awaiting good homes, what about the argument that it doesn't matter, in Martin's point of view, whether it's a heterosexual couple or a same-sex couple?

SPRIGG: Well, a couple things about foster care, first of all. Most children in foster care are not eligible for adoption. They are waiting either to be reunited with their biological parents, if the parents are able to get their act together or the next priority is often kinship care, where they are cared for by another relative -- a grandparent or an aunt or uncle or something like that. So we shouldn't assume that if a child is in foster care, it means that they're awaiting adoption. We have taken the position that even if same-sex couples are permitted to be foster parents, that there should at least be a preference.
SPRIGG: And then other family structures, including single parents as well as same-sex couples, might be used if there is a shortage of married couples. But we think it's legitimate to have that preference.

ROSS: Emily Hecht-McGowan, you're shaking your head.
HECHT-MCGOWAN: Well, Mr. Sprigg talks about the preference for married mothers and fathers. And, again, we go back to the decades of research. And the studies that Mr. Sprigg refers to, that he says, you know, contradict the research that every child welfare association agrees with. And what we do know from the research, not just that gays and lesbians make good parents, but that children do best when in a loving, stable and secure home, and that the gender of the parents has nothing to do with that.

 . . .  (Editor's change - This exchange tackles the talking point of how religious organizations who handle adoption will be forced to shut down because of same-sex parenting):

SPRIGG: Well, you know, I think that -- I want to come back to this issue of the religious providers, adoption providers and so forth. Because I think that if you force religious agencies to actually violate their religious principles with respect to this, the result will -- the long-term result will be fewer adoptive homes and fewer children being adopted. Because there are some adoptive parents who only -- who want to work with a religious provider. There may even be some birth mothers who want to place their child through a religious provider. And so if these agencies are driven out of business, like Catholic Charities was in Massachusetts and in Illinois, then the result may well be that there are actually fewer placements available for the children who need them.

ROSS: Michele Zavos, you don't agree?
ZAVOS: No, I don't agree. I'd certainly be interested to the statistics that Mr. Sprigg has access to. I don't agree because no one is forcing these agencies to do anything. They are voluntarily acting in the public sphere. If they don't want to treat everyone the same, they don't have to do this. And I think that we need to recognize that what is driving these kinds of agencies, frankly, is homophobia and hatred of gay people. I've represented thousands, thousands of gay couples and lesbian couples in adoption matters.

 . . .  (Editor's note - the following is the best exchange. Sprigg tries to not only cite the discredited Regnerus study but also buffer it with other discredited studies The two other participants in the debate weren't having it.):

ROSS: But where your paths diverge are the presumption Peter is holding is that there must be a biological tie to the child, am I correct, Peter, to assume parenthood? Is that where your paths diverge?

SPRIGG: Well, I'm saying that there is significant evidence that children benefit from a relationship with their biological parents.

ZAVOS: There is not.

SPRIGG: There is. And the -- let me go back to this research. The research that the other two guests are referring to, Emily and Michele, the number of studies that purportedly support the idea that there is no harm or no difference are from research that has had very small sample sizes, very convenient samples. In other words, where they are nonrandom samples. Many of them from one single data set, multiple studies being done on one data set, this National Lesbian Family Study. The more recent research that has come out, including the Mark Regnerus study and more recent studies by Douglas Allen and Paul Sullins using much larger, much superior data sets have shown significant harms for children of same sex couples.
ROSS: Emily.

SPRIGG: And they have not been discredited. It's simply false that these have been discredited.

ZAVOS: Actually they have. They have discredited all.

HECHT-MCGOWAN: They have been discredited. Mark Regnerus' academic institution...

SPRIGG: They investigated if there was scientific misconduct, and found there was none.

 ROSS: Let Emily answer, please. Let Emily answer. 
HECHT-MCGOWAN: They repudiated his conclusions. Look, the Regnerus report, the Allen paper, both of them concluded that families that have been disrupted or have been destabilized in some way are harmful to children, that children do better -- do best when in a stable environment. The Regnerus study talked about -- did not talk about children raised by same-sex parents. There were two young people, two children of parents who had been raised by same-sex parents in that study. That study had a broad sample and it talked about a whole host of instability and different kinds of factors and had nothing to do with same-sex parenting, absolutely zero. And a court in Michigan litigated it fully.

We shouldn't give organizations like the Family Research Council excuses to play the victim by making it seem that we are attempting to push them out of the public debate. We should be demanding spirited debates with them because quite simply, the truth has always been and will always be on OUR side. It is when we don't get these debates that we should then start raising hell. That being said, the media does simply have to stop giving credibility to these groups whose past actions prove that they don't deserve said credibility. At the very least, they should properly identify these groups.


Unknown said...

Good post, Alvin, thank you!

Unknown said...

There is a point neither of them make which I feel I need to say. As a person who has always wanted to foster, but has not had the means to get started on it yet, I take exception to the idea that it is either lifelong adoption as family, or fostering which they seem to be saying isn’t a family. I know full well most the children I would foster will likely be reunited with their parents or other family members when the time comes. The fact is, there aren’t enough foster families to go around to fill even that need. Though I do want to adopt at least one child as well, fostering isn’t something charitable I want to do; it is how I want to have a family. Their being more transient in my home does not negate the fact that they will be a part of my family. They keep talking like its adoption or nothing, and if one thing has become clear it is the fact that our definition of family has expanded. We need to recognize that foster families, regardless of if the children will be adopted, are families too.