December 9, 2002
gmh JUDICIARY COMMITTEE 1:00 P.M.
PRESIDING CHAIRMEN: Representative Lawlor
SENATORS: Coleman, Daily, Roraback
REPRESENTATIVES: Feltman, Farr, Abrams, Cocco,
Conway, Dandrow, DeMarinis,
Dillon, Doyle, Fritz, Hamm,
Michele, Nystrom, O'Neill
REPRESENTATIVE LAWLOR: Ladies and gentlemen, if we could have your attention just for one moment. I just wanted to welcome everyone to the State Capitol. This is a time of year we thought we would not having much business going on here at the Capitol. Unfortunately, we're wrong and besides this today, obviously I think everyone is aware there's quite a few other deliberations taking place, mostly related to the budget and for that reason, a number of the more senior members of the committee are occupied in those endeavors.
It turns out we may actually be in special session in the middle of next week apparently. And so I certainly apologize for that.
However, the proceedings today, as always the case are recorded and all the commentary that will be taking place during the course of our deliberations will be part of the permanent record of our deliberations and ultimately it's our goal to provide some relevant information to the 2003 session of the General Assembly, should it decide to take up the issues related to same sex relationships.
So with that, let me mention that today's discussion is to be centered on the effects of legal recognition of same sex marriage or civil unions on children who would be living as part of those relationships.
Two weeks ago, the Judiciary Committee convened a similar discussion where we listened to a number of presentations from our non-partisan research office, the Office of Legislative Research and the Office of Fiscal Analysis responding to a number of questions which we had asked them to just get us some information.
Two weeks ago, after those presentations, members of the committee had some additional questions that they asked for answers to and as is always the case, our all stars and our non-partisan staff were able to put together a number of reports and they're available today. I think the members of the committee have packets that look like this that contain all those reports which you are free to certainly take a look at. Does everybody have one? Diana will make sure you will all have one, right? And I think there maybe some additional copies, if later on, anyone else in attendance today would like copies of these reports. They're certainly all publicly available. I'm quite confident they've been linked on the Internet. Not yet? Okay. At some point they will be. But we did ask one of the attorneys who works at the Office of Legislative Research to briefly fill us in on those reports and what's now available and the answers to those questions and if we have additional questions today, I'm sure Attorney Price-Livingston will be happy to answer them.
And so, if you would like to do that, please proceed.
SUSAN PRICE-LIVINGSTON: Is this on? Can you hear me?
REP. LAWLOR: It is, yes.
SUSAN PRICE-LIVINGSTON: Good afternoon, Chairman and members of the Judiciary Committee. I'm going to briefly answer some of the questions that you asked during last month's committee meeting.
Our office has also written eight reports on these topics since that time and we've given each of you a packet of them.
The reports will be posted on OLR's web site soon.
The first question was asked by both Senator Kissel and Representative Fox. They wanted us to do a side-by-side comparison of the coverage under California's Domestic Partner Registry and Connecticut's Public Act 02-105, the Designated Representative law. Both states have provisions covering nursing home visitation, medical decision-making, property transfers upon death, and employment. In most cases, California's coverage is more expansive than Connecticut's and in addition, California covers some areas that Connecticut has not addressed such as conservatorship, civil claims, estate administration, and non-taxation of health insurance benefits for domestic partners.
Our comparison is in Report #0950, which is the first document in your set. We've also identified in this report some of the generic ways people can create rights and responsibilities in written documents.
Chairman Lawlor asked the second question, what steps people have registered domestic partnerships in California must take to qualify for state rights and benefits that become covered after their registration. Our research shows that they automatically qualify for the new rights unless they opt out. The report on this topic is #0954 and it should be the second document in your set.
Next, Representative Fox and O'Neill asked a series of questions about state defense of marriage or mini DOMA laws. Report 0957 describes the four approaches the states have taken. These are number one, specifically defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman; number two, denying recognition to same sex marriages that were entered into in other states; number three, making same sex marriage a violation of public policy; and number four, limiting the definition of "spouse" to a person of the opposite sex who is legally married as a husband or wife.
Our report contains a chart comparing the provisions of the laws in the 37 states that have mini DOMA's.
Report 0958 lists the states with DOMA language that prohibits recognition of civil unions in addition to same sex marriage. Nebraska's law explicitly refers to civil unions and the courts might interpret the broad language in Alaska, Florida, and West Virginia's law as applying to civil unions.
Finally, Report 0955 identifies nine states that had laws on the books restricting marriages to opposite sex couples prior to 1996 when the federal DOMA was passed. Six of these states further amended their laws after the DOMA's passage.
Representative Fox also asked us to check out the status of the two Connecticut cases involving same sex partners; Rosengarten vs. Downes is the pending Supreme Court case involving a Connecticut resident's effort to dissolve his Vermont civil union in our Superior Court. Mr. Rosengarten died in October and the Supreme Court has stayed the action until early May, while the executor of his estate assesses whether or not to go forward with the appeal.
Mr. Downes has not filed a claim for spousal share of the support of the estate, but the deadline for doing so has not yet passed.
The second case is in front of the CHRO. It involves a state employee whose in a long term heterosexual domestic partnership and claims that restricting benefits in the state health and retirement plans to same sex domestic partners discriminates on the basis of marital status and sexual orientation.
The CHRO has found reasonable cause and will hold an administrative hearing within three to six months.
Our status report on these two cases is Report #0952, which is the sixth document in your packet.
Next, Representative O'Neill asked us to see how Connecticut courts would handle a divorce action filed by the second or third wife of a Connecticut resident who had lawfully entered into multiple marriages outside of the state. Although this issue has never come up in Connecticut, our analysis of how this question might be treated is in Report #0971. The basic rule is that Connecticut courts have the power to decide claims, including marriage dissolutions arising under foreign law unless doing so would violate the state's strong public policy.
So, a court would have to decide whether plural marriage falls within this public policy exception.
It's possible that the fact that bigamy is a crime and has been illegal in Connecticut for more than 300 years could form the basis for a court declining to grant a divorce. In that case though, it looks like it could annul the second and third marriages under existing law.
The last question from Chairman Lawlor was for clarification on the method the Census Bureau used to count same sex partner households in the 2000 Census. What we found out was that the census questionnaire asked about the gender and the relationship between the head of the household and each person living there. It counted as unmarried same sex partner households, all same sex relationships where people indicated either that they were the husband or wife of the head of the household or that they were that person's unmarried partner.
Other relationship options people could have selected on the form include roommate, border, and various blood relatives.
Our report, which reproduces the actual census question is #0969, the last document in your packet.
We're still looking for the answers to three questions you asked. The first from Representative Fox is whether any other states have passed laws similar to PA 02-105. So far, I have not found any, but I'm still looking.
The second, which Chairman Lawlor asked, is what impact an Indian tribe's decision to recognize same sex marriage and to perform marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples on their reservations might have. We're looking into this, as well.
And the last question, which Representative Cafero asked, is what impact recognizing civil unions might have on the volume of divorce filings in Connecticut's courts. Michael Murphy, from the Office of Fiscal Analysis, tells me he will be issuing his report on this topic shortly.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you very much. It seems to be quite thorough. Representative O'Neill, did you get the answer to your question? As you were walking in, I think, you mentioned -- you had the one about plural marriages. And there is a report in there, a response to that.
If - I don't know if there is any other -- at this point, if anyone wanted to ask for additional research from the Office -- do any members of the committee have any other questions they wanted answered on this topic or clarification?
If not, thank you very much, Susan. We appreciate that. And we'll now get on to our four speakers today.
By way of explanation, as I said earlier, first of all, the topic for today is the effect, if any, on children when there are same sex families. In other words, same sex parents or caregivers and initially we had extended an invitation to both sort of general points of view on this topic to give us names for persons who could present this morning. In the end, we had informally agreed that there would be three, in essence, on each side and I understand that there was an interest in having more than Dr. Finn on sort of the contra-side and that there was some logistical problems at the end that prevented some other folks from showing up. So, we certainly understand that and I just wanted to emphasize that no one should take the fact that in general there's three presentations sort of favor of this and only one sort of against it. We did attempt to balance it as best we could. We understand, sometimes logistics don't allow for that and we'll have additional opportunities to entertain more speakers in the future, but I just wanted to explain that at the outset.
So, why don't we begin with Dr. Finn, if that's okay. If you'd like to make your presentation and because of the strong interest of community members in the past of asking questions, we've asked the speakers to keep their initial presentation to a minimum, five or ten minutes and then we'll all have an opportunity to ask questions and I'm sure there will be more substantive discussion to follow the presentation.
So, the four presenters will go first and then we'll ask our questions after each of the four have finished.
DR. THOMAS FINN: I don't need to press the button then?
REP. LAWLOR: I think your -- it think it's on.
DR. THOMAS FINN: The light is on.
REP. LAWLOR: Yes.
DR. THOMAS FINN: Good afternoon, Senator Coleman, Representative Lawlor, and members of the Judiciary Committee. I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and address the topics at hand.
I am from Southington. I'm a psychologist in private practice and my overall concern in addressing the issues today, because it has a lot to do with research, -- well, basically there are several concerns.
One is that I've always found that talking about research related to public policy can easily kind of roll down into a bunch of sound bites about different studies and I think a lot of times that's very difficult to really find meaning in because when we talk about research in general, there are all different kinds of research, all different qualities of research and to pull a sound bite out of a study often just doesn't really give a context to what it is we're trying to understand.
But that being the case, we'll probably be doing some of that anyway.
The other thing that I think is very important is realizing that as we're talking about research and numbers and percentages and that kind of thing, that really what we're doing is we're talking about human persons and we need to really be able to keep that context very clear because the question really is, in my mind, what is in the best interest of human persons in general and in this case, children?
What is it that really looks at their best interest and I think we have to just really keep that mind.
The other one thing that I think is important in context is realizing that when we talk about what research says, that there are always exceptions to what research says. So, I think it's certainly hard to draw a generalization that says this piece of information applies to everyone and I think that's especially important when we are making judgments in some way on the impact of people's lives on other people's lives and we just have to make sure that is clear in our minds.
But that being the case, I am here speaking as a representative of a coalition of persons who would not like to have the definition of marriage redefined to include same sex couples really because I think it does miss the broad picture of what is the best interest for children and therefore, society as children ripple out into the world.
I would like to address two assumptions that I think have been a very important part of the whole discussion as we've gone along and the assumptions, particularly in terms of research related to the question, first of all, of the biological or genetic basis to homosexuality and then the question of parenting effects on children.
The first is important because I think it gives us a flavor for how research is used in these areas, but then also looking at some of the questions that become central to parenting down the road.
I think that the first assumption to address really is the one that has held for a while that sexual orientation and sexual behavior is genetic, inherited and widespread. In other words, that it is an innate characteristic. And the root of this assumption is reflected in a statement from Dennis Altman's book, "The Homosexualization of America". And the single greatest victory of the gay movement has been to shift the debate from behavior to identity. Thus, forcing opponents into a position where they can be seen as attacking civil rights of homosexual citizens.
And the shift of the debate from behavior to identity encouraged people to believe that anyone living a homosexual lifestyle didn't choose to do so. In other words, in a sense that they were born that way.
So in other words, they're being a genetic or biological basis. And the belief was created primarily back in the early 90's when in the media appeared a number of research studies claiming to have found that connection. And since I've provided, in my written testimony, a lot of specific information on all that, I just would like to draw a couple of generalizations.
That basically as those studies were done either looking at the correlation of homosexuality and twin studies, different genetic markers and on size of brain differences in the area of the (inaudible) campus, ultimately what happened was the researchers who conducted those studies several years later said that their research didn't find what was being proclaimed in the media, that there was a biological basis. And just to give you a flavor for what they said, these are quotes from the researchers: "there is no way of telling whether those structural brain differences are the cause of people's sexual behavior or the consequence or none of the above." "Sexuality is greatly influenced by environment and the role of genetics is, in the end, limited." "Homosexuality is culturally transmitted, not imperative." And those conclusions were supported by other studies that came later in the 90's and again, those are all referenced in the materials that you have.
So, the question then also in terms of just the number or what is the frequency of homosexual behavior activity relationships in society, most of the assumptions have been based on a figure of 10 to 15 percent of the population is homosexual.
That number was derived from publications by Alfred Kinsley back, probably about 50 years ago or so, and those really have been widely disproved and more recent estimates put the number at about 1 to 3 percent and the number of Connecticut households and the number I saw from the Census was about half of one percent.
So, I think that when we look again at what research is saying, we have an assumption that says there is a biological basis and a widespread living out of that biology.
But what we really see is that that is not the case, that the consensus of scientists is that homosexuality is not biologically based, rather it is socially influenced. And I think whenever I speak about that issue, it's very hard because many people have grown up believing or assuming that what they do or what people they know have lived in terms of a lifestyle, has a biological root. And so this creates, I think, a fair amount of tension.
But in terms of children, the second assumption I'd like to look at is that children raised by same sex couples are no different from children raised by a mother and father or by heterosexuals and that assumption, which was spoken about mostly, I think, about a year ago in the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy paper and technical report. They wrote about, "a growing body is scientific. Literature demonstrates that children who grow up with one or two gay or lesbian parents fair as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual."
And I think again what we have to do is closely evaluate that body of scientific literature that's referenced there because it really does not support the Academy's position.
Most importantly, most of the research on which those claims are based, doesn't compare children reared in same sex homes to children raised by a mother and father. They usually compare children raised in same sex homes to children raised in single parent heterosexual homes.
Secondly, the studies that are cited -- and here's where you get a little bit into the research lingo of this, but really the validity of those studies is extremely poor. The way that samples were drawn, statistics that were used, just don't bear out the conclusions that were found at all. So the small samples, the lack of random design, basically makes what's written in those reports, in my opinion, fairly meaningless.
Now, we can make the arguments about the quality of research on all sides of this issue. But I think that the important thing was in the body of all those studies in the Academy's report, virtually every author to a person made a very clear statement that the results that they were writing down in their journal articles really could not be considered as valid and there could be no valid generalizations made from that.
Just as an example, one of the authors, Susan Golingbach, "a further objection to the findings lies in the nature of the samples studied. Both groups were volunteers obtained through gay and single parent magazines and associations. Obviously, these do not constitute random samples and it is not possible to know what biases are involved in the method of sample selection."
So, that being the case, when we look then to what I would see as a broader more valid foundation of scientific literature, what we see is a conclusion that's very different from what was purported there.
What the broader more valid studies tell us is that children will have much healthier lives if they grow up in a home with both a mother and a father. Specifically, kids who live with a mom and dad are generally better off academically, financially, emotionally, socially, behaviorally, and have better health. They delay sex longer and in that context, have both a mother who provides emotional and physical nurturance and a father who helps develop a positive basis or character.
And again, I'm making very general statements. We can always find exceptions to things like that. But we're talking about, I think, redefining marriage. We're talking about redefining marriage for everyone, not just exceptions. So I think this becomes very important.
Now, the other thing I should say is that certainly no one would conclude that a child who grows up in a single parent home is unable to thrive. None of what I'm saying is intended to disparage any family living. I'm from a divorced single parent family.
Thanks to dedication, sacrifice of people like my Mom, and other moms and dads, wonderful growth can occur. But as a whole, the challenges of single parenting are many and the kids who grow up in single parent families face a number of very substantial realities in front of them. And again, this is important to look at because the studies usually talked about - describe the impact of children from a pro-same sex union side, again, are comparing children in those unions to single parent families and the kids in them.
In single parent families the kids are facing a greater likelihood of living in poverty, a greater experience of physical abuse and neglect, a greater risk of injury, health problems, academic problems, as well as needing to be treated for emotional and behavioral difficulties.
And again, since the comparison is from kids in a same sex union to a child from a single parent, I think we would have to extend logic to say then that the likelihood is that some of those same challenges faced by kids in single parent families will be faced by the same sex union because the studies are saying there's no difference between those two groups of children.
Additionally, research shows that there are a lot of challenges that kids will face growing up in a gay or lesbian home, different from a home with a mom and dad. And again, these are all listed in the things that are written before you, but I think a lot of the question does often center on well, is there a greater likelihood that children raised in same sex unions will practice a homosexual expression down the road or develop homosexual/sexual orientation? And again, here's where I have a lot of difficulty with the research, as it's described, because many of the studies, especially in the AAP report, said there was no increase in that, but yet, you look at a lot of the specific data and it does show an increase.
A couple of studies said that the likelihood of a child raised in a same sex union to develop a same sex orientation down the road was about 10 to 15 percent. Now, the study will say so that's no different than average, but again, that average number of the assumption of 10 to 15 percent doesn't hold when we look at good randomized broad studies. It's one to two percent.
So, the increase there certainly is of concern.
And I think the other piece of that is that a lot of these studies that are saying there is no increase in any sexual identity confusion, etcetera, down the road, are looking at children who have not reached ages of sexual maturity. In some cases, they're looking at kids who are six and seven, eight years old and there really is just not a possible way of drawing a conclusion there. Sexual identity is something that really finds more of a consistent expression in later teens, even into young adulthood.
So, the concern that is of the same sex marriage is created, adoption, foster care, etcetera of children placed into those homes, were placed in settings that are vulnerable to risks such as increased presence of sexually transmitted disease, violence, substance abuse, mental health problems, etcetera because those have appeared in the scientific literature as it stands.
So, as I look at this issue, I worry because I do see a greater risk to kids who would be growing up in a same sex home.
Again, going back to what I said earlier though, there are exceptions to rules. No one is saying that a child who grows up in a certain home is going to face "x" problems, given "x" qualities in parents, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual. But again, we have to look at what the broad picture seems to tell us.
So in summary, I think the assumptions behind the same sex union agenda are false and unfounded. The health and well being of children of adults in our society depends on (inaudible) of families centered in one man or one woman and a lifelong faithful, fruitful marriage.
I agree and I hope that our laws can respond to the needs of society and if there is anything that we know at this point, our society needs a very firm basis of family life for the health and well being of children.
So, I again look at all the data in front of us and I am very concerned about where the effect of moving in the direction of a same sex union, same sex marriage bill would take us.
I would offer, instead, that based on centuries of experience and valid research, that only when a man and woman lovingly commit to a lifetime of fidelity, responsibility and hard work, are the best interests of children and society served.
So, I thank you for your time.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Dr. Finn. And it was about fifteen minutes or so, but since -- that's okay, but you're the only person sort of offering one point of view. So I thought it was appropriate to give you some flexibility there.
DR. THOMAS FINN: Thank you very much.
REP. LAWLOR: But I would encourage -- since it's important we get to the question and answer part, I would like our next speakers to be more concise, if that's possible and then I'm sure we'll have plenty of opportunity in the question and answer period to expand on some of the thoughts being presented.
So, next on the list is Judge Robert Killian, the Probate Judge of Hartford. Welcome, Judge Killian.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: I know it's not your first time testifying before the General Assembly, but we appreciate you're coming over here today.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: I'm at a decided disadvantage to these scientists because my experience in this matter is predicated upon nineteen years in what I suppose you could call the trenches and I suspect during that tenure, upwards of 100 situations where I have placed children in the care of either a homosexual single guardian or parent or since the wisdom of the Legislature allowed it, into a co-parenting situation with a same sex couple.
Now, I have to report to you that I've gone through quite a change in my own personal philosophy and thinking over those twenty years. You know, we're all the product of our environments. At that time, I suppose you could say I was a middle aged, middle class Irishman --
REP. LAWLOR: Not that there's anything wrong with that.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: No, there's nothing wrong with that, Mr. Chairman. But it brings its own baggage. And I had grave reservations when I started in this business of Probate Judge with placing children with homosexual guardians or when we allowed single parent adoptions a decade or so ago with a homosexual parent.
I have no fears at this point. I have not experienced personally and this is where I'm at the disadvantage because this is observation, anecdotal. I don't have studies to cite, but I can tell you that in these, perhaps, hundred situations, I haven't had one bad outcome. And one of the advantages of my job and my opportunity living in a small community is that you run into people regularly in the supermarket and you see them at different events. As a probate judge, you're involved within a different important life markings and the reports that I get back are routinely good. And that, to me, is all I need to know to change my attitudes toward this.
I testified in favor of the so-called gay adoption bill a year or two ago when we were dealing with that. It seems to me that in some ways what you're doing today is a giant step backwards because we've addressed that issue. The issue of the civil union, one might have thought would come, would pre-date the gay adoption, but it was a long time ago that we separated the issue of adopting and the issue of marriage and we decided that in this world of ours, making sure somebody was in the care of a loving and caring individual, not the state, not somebody who was -- no matter how good their intentions, being paid to care for that child for a period of time during its life, was the single most important thing we could do for those kids in ensuring their stability and their future and their happiness and their development.
And I think you've achieved that and I salute that move and if there's any inclination to go backwards, I pray that you don't.
We have allowed people, same sex couples, to raise kids for a long time now. When we were doing the single parent adoptions, when I started or shortly after I started in this business, in many of those cases, the partner was a same sex partner, not allowed to adopt. One would be the parent, the other would be a parent in name, but not (inaudible) not according to the law.
And we have gotten away from that façade and that's good because it allows people, it seems to me, together make a commitment to an enterprise that in and of itself is the act that cements relationships.
How many people get through the tough times of marriage for the kids' sake? I don't think that's any different whether you're heterosexual or homosexual. You have your values. You have your goals and you have your aspirations for yourselves, but also for your kids and you want to be part of those lives and these commitments, from my perspective, are a beautiful thing to observe.
I hope we can come to the point, as we did in the gay adoption bill, where we remove all of the civil impediments to civil commitment and let people decide the nature of the relationships they're going to have and let them flourish in them or fail in them, just as they do whether they be homosexual or heterosexual relationships.
I'm looking forward to your questions.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Judge. Appreciate it. Next is Dr. Robert ZAVOSKI. Dr. ZAVOSKI has been before the General Assembly a number of times on quite a few topics, but I think this is a first on this topic. So welcome, Dr. ZAVOSKI.
DR. ROBERT ZAVOSKI: Thank you, Representative Lawlor, Senator Coleman, members of the committee.
I'm Rob ZAVOSKI and I'm president-elect of the Connecticut Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and I'm also a practicing general pediatrician here in Hartford.
The Academy of Pediatrics is committed to the attainment of optimal physical, mental, social health and well being of all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. We have over 1,000 members here in Connecticut.
In February of this year, the National Academy's committee on Psycho/Social Aspects of Child and Family Health released a policy statement entitled, "Co-Parent or Second Parent Adoption by Same Sex Parents". This statement came after a review of the available literature and to the medical and psycho-social aspects of growing up in a family with parents of the same sex.
And the committee found that and I quote, "children who are born to or are adopted by one member of the same sex couple deserve the security of two legally recognized parents. And therefore, the Academy supports legislative and legal efforts to provide the possibility of adoption of the child by the second parent or co-parent of these families.
In addition, the committee recommended that such legislation guarantee the rights - the child's right of relationship with both parents, the second parent's custody rights and responsibility if the first parent is incapacitated, the second parent's rights of custody and visitation should the couple separate, the child's eligibility for health and other benefits from both parents, the ability of both parents to participate in consent and educational, health care and other important decisions on behalf of the child, and the child's financial security in the event of the death of one of the parents through eligibility for all appropriate entitlements and survivor's benefits."
And I have left with the staff copies of the full statement and also the technical report that supports it.
As stated in the technical report, research into the long term outcomes of children growing up with gay and lesbian parents show no difference from those of children growing up in more traditional families. Furthermore, the so-called negative effects of growing up with gay and lesbian parents are the same as those experienced by children of heterosexual parents who grow up in families where they experience divorce, parental discord, or experience social stigmas.
It should be recognized that many of these studies are limited. They're limited by small numbers of study subjects, varied and diverse family structures, and short term follow-up periods, all in part, largely due to the social stigma that is still placed by society upon homosexual lifestyles.
Despite these major limitations of the research that does exist is clear and conclusive, children who grow up in a family environment where they are loved, protected, and nurtured become far more stable and successful adults than do children who grow up without such benefits and that is regardless of the sexual orientation of their parents.
Frankly, when this was released last spring, there was a great deal of argument within the Academy as to whether this was something that we ought to be doing. Each year the Academy's leadership from all the states get together to discuss active and important issues of the time and this was the leading thing that was discussed and debated in that meeting.
Although a few members did express discomfort with some of the alternative parental lifestyles for religious and other reasons, the leadership all came together and overwhelmingly endorsed the Academy's statement.
The current Public Act 00-226 includes many of the criteria that the Academy of Pediatrics has recommended. Unfortunately, many of the most important needs of children of same sex parents still remain unmet such as access to health insurance benefits and other benefits that are available only to married employees. The General Assembly may choose to address each deficiency individually as it is identified, which will be laborious and a time consuming process, or alternatively the General Assembly could enact the Academy's recommendation that legally recognizes civil unions and to quote the position statement again, "assuring legal status equivalent to marriage for gay and lesbian partners providing security and permanence for the children of those partnerships."
Not recognizing civil unions legally and financially discriminates against the children of gay and lesbian parents. Frankly, since it is a social stigma directed against many of these couples that research identifies as the greatest risk to their children, it is time that Connecticut ends this legalized discrimination and legally recognize gay and lesbian families for what they are, families.
Thank you for your time.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Dr. ZAVOSKI. Finally, Dr. Julian Ferholt, who I don't believe has been up here before, I might be wrong on that, before the General Assembly, but welcome, Dr. Ferholt and please proceed.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I'm a child psychiatrist in private practice in New Haven and I have some other (inaudible) that are relevant to this. I am the previous Director of the Child Development Unit at the Yale Child Study Center and I'm the current President of the Connecticut Council of Child Psychiatry.
And I think I'll start with the end of my presentation. I won't read my presentation because my presentation was focused -- and I will supply a written copy to the meeting, but my presentation was focused on a different question than I seem to think is being discussed here and I will connect it to it.
We will have already supported - our organization has, and all of organized -- all the organized professions in the mental health area have already supported the notion of full status as fathers and mothers for adults with - who have gay, lesbian, or bisexual orientation. And I thought that issue was resolved in Connecticut and I'm proud of our second parent or co-parent adoption and did participate in helping that legislation to come about.
But I would like you to know that the same issues apply for children to the questions before your committee, that is the question of legal recognition of the parental status. We're talking about what it means for children to have their parents' relationship have full status in this society in recognition. And it turns out it means a great deal to them and I'd like to make that argument to you today in a way that I hope will be helpful to you.
But I'd like you to know ahead of time that the Connecticut Council has taken a position in support of full status for same sex domestic partners as married people and so as the American Psycho-Analytic Society and both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association are in support of the legal recognition of same sex domestic partnerships and their associated legal rights, benefits, and responsibilities.
And I want to speak, some, during the course, maybe in the question period, about the issue of research and its role in those decisions because I come to you as a physician, I come to you because I am interested in representing the best interest of my patients, these children and their families. I don't represent any particular moral position. I'm not here to represent a moral position. A physician has to -- I have a moral position, of course, but a physician has to treat everyone and a physician has to be concerned with the dignity and well being of every child that comes into his practice and every parent.
And I want to take that position. And that position essentially appreciates that there's a plurality of ways to achieve dignity and well being in the pursuit of happiness in this society. So, we have to respect the individual values of the people we see.
And so, I'm taking the strong position in favor of marriage on behalf of all children.
In child psychiatry, the purpose of marriage is similar to the purpose of marriage expressed in your legal deliberations as far as I've read about them. And that is, basically the purpose of marriage is to sustain, support, and promote a committed ongoing domestic partnership in order to achieve three goals; the well being of the partners themselves, the well being of any children who live with them, and to support important social values, the values of care giving and the values of civic responsibility.
I believe that's what we're here to do today, to consider whether these bills will further those goals, whether legal recognition for same sex domestic partners will achieve those goals.
And I want to speak to the issue of how doctors, as professionals, come to their expert consensus opinions about things like this. And I want to emphasize that we do that based on our clinical knowledge, which is informed by medical and social science research, just as you make decisions in human affairs that are in no way dictated by social science research. They are informed by social science research. And everybody who has spoken disagrees about the quality of the research or disagreements about the findings of research, but I fully agree with Robert that the consensus opinion of my organization and the consensus opinion among the scientists is that the studies, of course, are imperfect, as also science research is imperfect, as all empirical research about human beings is imperfect.
However, they're quite compelling that they show absolutely no evidence of differences, of significant differences between adults that have bisexual, gay or lesbian sexual orientation and adults who have heterosexual orientation with regard to the issues that are important for parenting or for committed partnerships and they show no significant difference in their children.
And I'm going to make an argument today that being bisexual, gay or lesbian and a parent makes a huge difference to your children and it makes no difference and I want you to listen carefully because I'm not crazy, I don't think, in saying those (INAUDIBLE-SOME TESTIMONY NOT RECORDED DUE TO TAPES SWITCHING SIDES)
It is not harmful to children. However, as Robert pointed out, the one unique risk factor for gay, lesbian and bisexual parents for their children is the stigma and the prejudice and that stigma and prejudice is tremendously reinforced by their exclusion from marital status, in the children's eyes.
A story. A clinical story. A five-year old boy is in a discussion with his father. He is in a family with two fathers. He's discussing one of his playmates who has two mothers. And they're discussing the issue of families and he's asking questions.
And his father says to him, "Well, Papa and Daddy are kind of married. We're almost married." He says, "No." He says, "No, you're not married because boys can't marry boys." I tell that story not because I think it's biologically into children's heads that the only (inaudible) Papa's marriage is a heterosexual marriage because I want you to know that kids perceive from a very early age these important things.
They are struggling with the issue of their legitimacy. Their own legitimacy as people. And that is closely tied to the legitimacy of their positions in their families and the legitimacy of their families and the legitimacy of a family is dependent on whether or not the marital couple in that family are a legitimate couple.
That's not all true in the sense that there could be very good families without married couples and there could be very good families with single parents that can create families that work.
But children perceive - they always have to struggle with this issue. Marriage is such an important institution in our society.
Now, there are two kinds of benefits that a marital status brings to the parents and to the children. One of them has to do with the fact that the parents benefit from being married and people have spoken about that to you. It has to do with, of course, the statutory benefits and protections and it has to do with many non-statutory, a whole structure of opportunity for people who are married. There are no less specific benefits and patterns. And it has to do, most importantly, and I want to speak to you about that, with the stigma and the prejudice and the discrimination.
Not to say, by any means, that the rights and privileges we're talking about are trivial for those marriages, they are, in fact, tremendous stresses in the lives of especially poor people excluded from public housing privileges and all kinds of benefits which might be quite essential to them.
It is quite remarkable and important that in our society that the benefits of being married are quite substantial and they really help people and they help to sustain these relationships, especially with regard to the rules you have about separating because in a marriage, you want people who have trust and fidelity. You want people who have a friendship who can be empathic and respectful in ways that really support each other's dignity, not just -- although it's quite important, people who take care of each other save the society great deals of money by not making society take care of them.
You want a structure where people can be safe and one of the things that makes you safe in a marriage is that the State protects what happens to you afterwards, the custodial arrangements and your financial arrangements after, which is very, very important in the quality, in the emotional quality and emotional tone of that marriage and as Robert said, what we find in these studies and what we find from our clinical experience is what matters to the kids is the emotional tone of their household, the respect, the love, the commitment, and the quality of the way people treat each other. Poor people can raise wonderful children. It's harder because it's harder to maintain a frame of mind when you're in poverty than it is when you're not in poverty, but if you look at poor people's families, you'll see lots of troubles, but there's no question clinically that we don't believe that other qualities that those people have, that they're just as capable as rich people raising good kids and being part and having good families.
I want to speak about the second category of benefits because that's the most important one. I want to say that the diminished social status that such arbitrary exclusion entails causes intense suffering and moral harm. That's the harm that isn't picked up in the social science studies. That's the harm that doctors know because they know individual families and they know them very, very intimately.
And that harm occurs because such prejudice undermines a sense of self of the parents and their children. A child that knows that his parents are excluded from marriage experiences, himself, as part of a family that's not fully legitimate and tends to think of himself as less a legitimate person.
I want to say that there's overwhelming evidence that exclusion from marriage causes an ongoing level of suffering and moral harm that is similar to the suffering experienced by individuals who face other prejudices.
And I've said some of this already and I've said that psychiatrists are uniquely qualified among the experts and policy-makers and tend to detect suffering and moral harm.
And I've said that sometimes moral harm and suffering are not detected in social science research.
So, I have something else to say that's a reflection of this and that is the greatest cost to eliminating the exclusion, the marital exclusion, the same sex -- the exclusion of same sex couples from marriage is for the same reason that there will be heterosexual people of good will and there are many who will suffer because the institute -- and that's why there's so much resistance to this because the institution of marriage, in their minds, is so tied to heterosexuality and that is why it's so difficult to be in your shoes, I think, and in mine right now, because we are speaking about something that will cause other people legitimate suffering. We don't just have evil people who are concerned. We have very sincere people who we know that it's not going to hurt kids and who know that gay and lesbian and bisexual adults are capable of commitment and intimacy and they need these protections, but still believe that marriage shouldn't be the root.
And because that will desecrate marriage for them and I want to say that what will help them is if this is done not on a stakeholder basis. It's very important that we don't legislate to eliminate the exclusion based on one interest group opposed to another. It must be done based on the common good. It must be done based on the principles that are fundamental for this country that if there isn't a good reason to exclude people from that opportunity, they shouldn't be excluded.
And I want you to know it's a position of our organization and my own that civil union is not a morally acceptable alternative to marriage. First of all, it fails to ensure any of the important non-statutory benefits. It's much more vulnerable for nullification and it doesn't ensure the full status of marriage. It's much, much better than not having it, much, much better than not having any legal recognition, but it's much, much worse than marriage itself for the children.
And thank you very much for inviting me to come and speak with you today.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you, Doctor. So, that completes the presentations from the four persons who have been asked to testify today and I'll throw it up for questions from members of the committee.
REP. O'NEILL: I guess it's the last speaker, Dr. Ferholt. Come back, we're going to ask questions.
Do you have any idea how many children we're talking about that are in gay households?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I had some idea this weekend when I looked it up, but it's not clear to me. Do you know, sir?
REP. O'NEILL: No.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: It's very hard to know exactly, but the census indicated, and I think somebody told me that there were 7,000 children in this state. Am I getting that right? Does anybody in the audience know?
REP. LAWLOR: I think the Census was that - the only question that was asked that I'm aware of that's relevant to this, is the number of persons who are in same sex partnerships, in effect. So that would be adults.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: With children in the household?
REP. LAWLOR: No. There was 7,400 individuals --
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: That must be the number that's sticking in my head. I'm sorry, I don't know how many children are in same sex households, but I would guess it's somewhat more than that, but because there are so many people who did not report to that census, that I'm sure that they had gay and bisexual or lesbian sexual orientation.
But I don't know the answer to your question. There's a significant number whose welfare is at stake here. I don't know the number.
REP. O'NEILL: I'm sorry.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: A significant number of children whose welfare is at stake here, but I don't know the number.
REP. O'NEILL: Because that was one of the things that - since with your clinical background, I was hoping maybe you could give me some idea.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I know that we see them in our practices and we're consulted about them often and throughout the State, child psychiatrists have participated in helping gay and lesbian and bisexual parents who are asking ahead of time themselves whether they will be alright as parents and wanting help in knowing about that and all the centers that offer to help these people, offer them discussions about parenthood.
So, this is a major issue for gay, bisexual and lesbian people who have surely, where their behavior is part of their identity, -- it was something said earlier today that I have to ask you, if it's just behavior and just choice, I would ask any of you to try a little homosexual behavior and see how it fits with your identity because most people who do not have a gay or bisexual or lesbian identity, can't choose to do that behavior because it's so uncomfortable for them.
So, there's no question among professionals that this is an issue of identity. There is a question, as there is with everything and to do a psychological development, what the role of genetics is and nobody would claim that genetics is a full explanation for almost anything that happens to people except the most severe brain damage because schizophrenia, which is heavily genetic, is mostly not.
REP. O'NEILL: Well, the reason I'm asking the question, partly, is I'm trying to get a handle on the size. Maybe you're just a practicing child psychologist.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I'm a practicing psychiatrist, child psychiatrist.
REP. O'NEILL: Psychiatrist, I'm sorry.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: The difference is a psychiatrist is a physician, a fully trained physician and a fully trained adult psychiatrist.
REP. O'NEILL: But you're a child psychiatrist?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: A child psychiatrist is a sub-specialty of adult psychiatry. So then you become an adult psychiatrist first and then a child psychiatrist.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay. And could you give me some idea as -- is your practice limited only to people with gay or bisexual situations or is it --
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: Oh no, absolutely not. No.
REP. O'NEILL: So what percentage of your practice, do you think, is made up of children? You're a child psychologist, psychiatrist, children who are gay?
The parents are gay?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: In my whole practice time, I've had only three or four patients who have been - children who have been in my practice who have same sex partners for parents and that would be the experience of most child psychiatrists who have full practices. It isn't a large part of anybody's clinical practice.
REP. O'NEILL: How many children do you see, say in a year?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: How many children do I see a year?
REP. O'NEILL: Yes.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: Well, how many new children do I see a year, you mean?
REP. O'NEILL: If you had all your active cases, and you counted them up, how many active cases do you have?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: There's probably 60 cases active in my practice at any one time.
REP. O'NEILL: And does that -- that's the same year over year? Roughly the same cases or do people kind of come and go?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I would like to think sometimes people get better, but sometimes they stay a long time because we're not so good at what we do.
But -- right. In my practice, I do intensive work with families so that people often stay more than a year and less than three years.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay. So that presumably over the course of three years, you would see a significant number of that 60 would be new cases that weren't there three years ago?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: That's right.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay. So, -- and you've been practicing -- you said you have three or four cases of a child who was - had gay parents during your entire career?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I don't know what you're driving at, but I was speaking about a consensus within my whole field, based on clinical principles, based on clinical experience, and based on empirical research. So we're talking about something that the whole institution of child psychiatry has concerned itself with because it was such an important social issue.
This is not something that - these are not opinions that I generated from my own practice with a few patients.
REP. O'NEILL: But in the absence of a number, the Census did not ask us - did not ask the question - can't give us the information unless we do a lot of, I think, possibly manipulations of the data to try to tease it out, but the Census didn't give us a number of children in those 7,300 households. No one else seems to know a number, so far as been brought forward, maybe our OLR research staff can try to find one. And I was hoping that you could give me some idea, based on -- since you practice in this area and you deal with -- you have a broad based practice and then presumably some portion of that consists of children who are from gay households. And you've given me a number that sounds like three or four and how long have you been practicing?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: Thirty-one years.
REP. O'NEILL: So that would be about 300, would you say, patients that you have?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: No, no, no. Oh, you mean patients in my whole lifetime?
REP. O'NEILL: Right.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: That I've ever seen? Well, I was the Director of the Child Development Unit and there I was supervising very large numbers of patients. So I've seen many, many patients in my lifetime, but I don't know what you're getting at. I won't be able to give you an epidemiological information this way because what happens is --
REP. O'NEILL: You can't do an epidemiological study. What I'm asking for is the information that you, in fact, possess, which is the number of children of gay parents that you've seen, relative to the totality of people that you've seen.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: It's a very small fraction, sir.
REP. O'NEILL: That's really - that was what I was trying to figure out, whether it's a big fraction or a small fraction.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: No, no. A very small fraction.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I mean, I hadn't thought about this issue so much until -- as much in the last few weeks. It's been a major factor for me to find out from the people in my field who know the most about it, what the Consensus opinion is. I didn't develop this opinion out of my own clinical experience.
REP. O'NEILL: You basically indicated that the most important thing here - a very important thing as a general proposition. I'm not trying to trick you. I will say, in addition to being a legislator, I'm also a lawyer and I'm not trying to play Perry Mason games with you.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I'm going to do the best --
REP. O'NEILL: I'm just trying to get some sense of --
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I'm trying to help, that's all.
REP. O'NEILL: But the -- you said the most important thing is that there be a stable family, a marriage. That's really, really important for the well being of the child, is that there be a stable marriage. Is that a fair statement of what you said?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: If I had to speak about things in order, I would say the most important thing for the child is that he have a stable relationship with a single primary caregiver who loves and respects him and that that relationship have a continuity.
If you wanted to talk about what we know about children's development in this culture, that's the most important thing. After that, you want to surround that caregiver with the proper kind of supports because it's very difficult to care for children's emotional life. It's not difficult to do the physical work, but it's very difficult to be with them emotionally for complicated reasons that I could talk to you about, but I don't think I should right now, but we all know it from just trying to mismanage our own kids. So we know how upsetting it is and how trying it is and how much work is involved and what we've worked out in this culture, which I think is good sense, that the best support for that is an intimate relationship with other adults. I'm not saying at all that other supports are not important like day care and financial support and housing and all those other things, which are critical to caregivers. And as doctors, as caregivers, we also like to have a decent salary. All of that helps.
But it turns out in this culture that marriage is a very powerful indicator of legitimacy. Never mind, that it gives you tremendous advantages that helps support that union. If you're rich enough, those advantages don't matter much. There's 550 of them, most of us have used -- will use three or four or six and probably more than that, we don't even know that they're helping us, this counts here and the other things are not so critical to us. But if you're struggling, if there's any difficulty, all those tangible advantages also matter.
But more important than any of them for everyone, is the issue of your legitimacy, your self-esteem is what matters so much in your life. It's how you view yourself. That's what allows you to be a decent person or not a decent person. That's what allows you to extend yourself voluntarily to other people and be helpful in an open society.
So we're talking about raising people who feel good about enough about themselves that they can be generous and not mean-spirited. So, I think that's -- and in that sense, I think marriage plays a tremendous role. This is not a small issue, a very, very big issue for kids is whether or not they experience themselves as legitimate.
You can't imagine how it feels for a Black person or a Jew or anybody who is in a situation where people either see through them or look at them as inferior, not fully human. It is a struggle for every one of them and those that achieve and look competent and do everything, and are perfectly mentally healthy and most of them are, still are tremendously plagued by suffering around that issue and it takes a toll on them.
And I'm asking you to consider that when you consider what the meaning of marriage in this society to the children. That's what I was emphasizing.
REP. O'NEILL: Well, I guess I thought you were saying that you thought marriage was important and I guess -- I'm not trying to reduce it to a yes or no question, but I mean are you saying --
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: The answer is yes. Marriage is very important.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I'll try and answer you short, if you would like.
REP. O'NEILL: And where I was going to go with this -- I mean, you're talking to the Legislature. We write laws regarding marriage and lots of other things.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: Yes.
REP. O'NEILL: Do you think it would make sense for us to make it harder to get a divorce?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: Make it harder?
REP. O'NEILL: Yes. Make it harder to get a divorce on the assumption that if people stay together and they provide the supports for the primary caregiver, in other words, if the husband doesn't leave, which is typically the case where the primary caregiver is going to be the wife because the husband -- even today, is still likely to be making more money. Therefore, the wife is going to be staying with the child longer, more often.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: Sir, --
REP. O'NEILL: Should we -- just a question. Should we make it more difficult to get a divorce because it will help sustain the caregiver?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: That is a -- I'll answer it as quickly as I can. I have spent time in the American Bar Association sitting on committees dealing with divorce and separations, a very important issue. We should make it harder to get a divorce for the wrong reasons and easier to get a divorce for the right reasons. That's why divorce law is so difficult.
And that's why there's so much discretion in the family court around divorce.
So, the answer is, we have decided, as a culture, to make it easier to get divorced for some of the right reasons because things changed enough that it was being more harmful to children to force people to stay together under certain conditions than it was to have them separate.
It maybe said that it's a little too easy now. I'm not saying that I haven't thought that through, but I don't know about easy or hard. I just know that -- I'm glad I'm not writing divorce law because it's a terribly hard thing to know what should be done.
But I would propose that you eliminate marriage because divorce is so bad. Most people manage a divorce. Ten percent of them get involved in this terrible fight and we read about that in our medical journals and in our legal journals and I get involved in those cases, where they want to kill each other and they want to kill the kids in order to get revenge and this, that, and the other thing. That's horrible and you wish there was never the institution of marriage when they get that power and they get their attorneys with them and it costs $100,000 and the courts are fed up and the kids are getting killed.
Ninety percent separate in a fairly reasonable way. Divorce is always painful for children.
I'm not a person who believes that people should easily separate. Marriage is a good institution. It really is. People should be free to elect not to do it. it's not wrong to -- it's not impossible to raise a family by yourself -- to raise children by yourself. It's not impossible to be a very good parent and a very good person outside of marriage and I think people should be free in this country not to make the commitment of marriage.
But I think we should give a great deal of support to marriage. I really think you did the right thing by giving all these advantages to married people. I'd like to see you give them to people who have those commitments and who need that support also and who can make a tremendous contribution to our society by making those commitments without giving them second class citizenship.
So, I hope that answers your question about whether it should be easier or harder. It should be harder to divorce for the wrong reasons and easier to divorce for the right reasons.
REP. O'NEILL: Well, right now you can get a divorce with no reason, just simply say irreconcilable differences.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: That's right.
REP. O'NEILL: So you don't have to give any reason at all in order to get a divorce.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: Now you're talking about the legal aspects of it, but we also live in a society that has some thoughts about people who are divorced and some thoughts about people who manage to stay together. And although my children have sometimes complained that they were the only ones in the classes where their parents were so stogie that they were in their first marriage, there's still something to be said for struggling through a marriage and if you do it, you feel pretty good about it and you know, it's never perfect, but there's tremendous hardship in finding a new mate and leaving an old marriage. It's not that I don't recommend sometimes to people that they have to do it, but I'll struggle with you very hard to help you stay together if you possibly can and for your children.
You can't stay together for the children when you know you're hating each other, but you can stay together for the children if it means you're going to work a little harder, even to give up some affair that means a great deal to you because it's made you feel younger than you ever were before.
There's a whole range of responses to your question about marriage, but I believe that I'm not alone in my organization of people who believe that committed and legally recognized relationships between adults who are raising children is a good thing in this society. I mean, I'm not an anthropologist. In other societies, kids are raised by their uncles and their aunts and they do fine, that's probably good, but we live in a very, very difficult society and a society where care giving is in crisis where our government doesn't want to support professional care giving in the schools or in the hospitals. I hope nobody is getting sick recently, but I don't want to start -- that's my usually advocacies about that. We have a terrible problem in care giving. Let's at least support our families where people love each other and it's the best thing they can do to save democracy in this world, I believe.
REP. O'NEILL: Okay. I guess that's it. Thanks.
REP. LAWLOR: Thank you. Representative Dillon.
REP. DILLON: I guess I have a question that I directed to the Chairman before and I could ask you, Julian. Hi. Or Dr. Finn, but I don't know how much research is going to play into any decisions that will take on the committee, but so the extent to which epidemiology and methodology came up today, and I must say I'm thrilled. I've been here a long time. I don't think anybody has ever talked about epidemiology before. And I'm so sorry that Julia can't be here -- we actually have two epidemiologists in the Legislature and I'm sorry Julia can't be here to share in this moment.
But I wonder if you could provide us with your CB's. I don't know -- I don't know, obviously this moment, I don't. I certainly don't want to embarrass anyone, but I was unprepared for the level of methodological detail that came out in some of the discussion today and that's fine, but it's easier, at least for me, to know how much weight to attach to any piece of testimony, at least if I have a sense of what your training is, whether you're a methodologist or not, for example. And I don't, for example, necessarily believe that bigger numbers -- generally speaking, they would be bigger numbers or better, but that's hard with social science and I don't know how many variables we're talking about and even in this hearing, I don't know what the dependent variable is, which gets me to the second question.
We are talking about the impact on children and there seems to have been a bit of conversation about whether or not -- about the biological determinants, yes or no.
Is there some kind of a subtext here that everyone knows that I don't? I mean, is there a question about whether there's some anxiety that children who are raised by gay parents will, themselves, be gay? Is that part of the problem here?
Julian, could you take that first and then Dr. Finn? I'm sorry. Dr. Ferholt. I didn't meant to have no respect.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: That's alright.
REP. DILLON: Dr. Ferholt yells me at sometimes when we have meetings about the budget, don't we?
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I never yell at you.
REP. DILLON: No, but he's very passionate.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: Yeah, I am a little too passionate sometimes and it interferes sometimes in getting my message across and I apologize if I was with you, Representative O'Neill.
Yes, there are some -- there's no subtext for me about this issue. I don't know whether or not there is some genetic component to having a gay or lesbian sexual orientation. There are some very respected careful scientists in our crude field of psychiatry who believe, with conviction, that there is evidence that points in that direction.
And there are others who believe that a gay sexual identity is purely a socially constructed event and that it occurs in relationship to the vicissitudes of your social environment.
There could be concern among some people -- it is not considered a negative outcome in our social science research if your children are gay. But -- and I wouldn't want the legislators to treat a higher incidence of gay children among same sex families as a negative outcome. However, it just happens and it's of interest to us, that having same sex parents does not seem, either by our clinical principles or by a little bit of experience that we have from looking at empirical research to result in an increased entrance of children who have a bisexual, gay or lesbian sexual identity.
But that is, by no means, negative findings. It's by no means conclusive and as Dr. Finn said here, he can find some studies in which the incidents looks pretty high, but it's felt to not elevated because people are saying that the incidents of gay and lesbian sexual identity is higher in the population than some other people think.
So, if he says the incidents is 50% in some studies and other people think it's 15% in the whole population, but it's not yet detected or people -- it's not always found in the study, he says 15% is greater than 2% and the other person says 50% is the same as 15%. I just don't think it's relevant. I don't think it's important.
REP. DILLON: Well, but if some people are anxious about it, I think it's legitimate to air it and I'm trying to think through the logic of this.
Let's say that there's someone who doesn't want to say that because it will sound intolerant and they're anxious that a child raised in a gay household or where there is the same sex parent that actually many children are probably raised in gay households, but we're talking about one where it's expressed openly and both parents are the same gender.
If there is an anxiety that the children would be more likely too, themselves, be homosexual as a result, it seems to me and I'm thinking aloud here, that if sexuality is a choice, then the anxiety would be that creating such an environment would influence the children's behavior. Isn't that true?
Wait a minute. But this is the second part. If it's biologically determined and it's genetically transmitted, and one of them is the natural parent of one of those children, then that might be the -- then there's an equal chance, on both sides, that the children could very well end up gay. Isn't that true? I don't know. This isn't my particular anxiety, but I know that it's an anxiety of some legislators, aside from the fact of terror of even dealing with this issue because our budget is bad and they don't want to take up anything controversial, but I've had legislators ask me this. And I think it's legitimate to ask the question.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: Of course, it's legitimate to ask the question because the complexity goes beyond choice, though, and genetics. It's not choice or genetics.
It is much about us that we have to struggle to choose about that's not genetically determined. In other words, we work with -- the small part of us that we have free will about and that we can choose about and thank God our legislators still believe in that because sometimes that disappears from medicine, but if we all believed that we're moral people and that's what makes us human and we make choices, and we're responsible for them, there certainly are choices that people make.
And if you talk to gay individuals who lived at a time when they were choosing on moral grounds not to, -- there's a recent movie about Orthodox Jewish men who were gay and how they struggled and how their Rabbis helped them struggle in a loving way not to express their gay identity in gay actions.
You find that you can witness how much their will can do it and if you struggle, you can do it. sex is a very hard thing to control and sex, mixed with intimacy is even harder to control. So, they struggled and they suffered terribly.
REP. DILLON: You're talking to an Irish Catholic here, so be careful. And I might add, it's not easy to be Catholic these days.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: But you know, the point I'm making here is that there are many things that are dictated to us about our lives that are not genetic, that are a combination of genetics and our experience and the culture we live in. So we struggle.
We struggle to think differently about things. If you go to another culture, you discover that they think differently about things and you're just a little off and you can't quite translate it, it's almost incommensurable and it's not because they're genetically different from you only or even mostly. It's because they grew up in a culture where those things were taken for granted in their families and in their neighborhoods. And they become part of them.
So, there are many things about your identity that you don't choose.
When you have an opportunity to choose when you're a teenager or you're in some other upsetting time in your life, you make choices and you do make revisions in your identity. But a lot of your identity comes to you by a gift and if it isn't what you like, you work really hard to choose it. If it is what you like, you're very appreciative and you work with it and if you find yourself with a gay identity, whether it's mostly genetic or it could be different in different people too, you have a real problem in this culture right now and most of us have decided, psychiatrists have decided that since they're alright in every other way, they're morally competent adults, they're not anymore prone to mental illness, they're decent and full human beings, then it should be alright for them to be gay. That's not a moral stance, but it's a stance of a medical person saying that's not bringing them any suffering, they can live with that. They shouldn't have to change just because a society doesn't see it's alright.
REP. DILLON: Thank you. Dr. Finn.
DR. THOMAS FINN: In terms of the question of subtext --
REP. DILLON: I was also asking about the CV's, as well because you --
DR. THOMAS FINN: No problem. I'll get that to you.
My concern really is not in terms of identity. It's really in terms of concern for risk. Again, there are many conflicting ways of reading data, but when I do look at the potentials for increased risk for people who are living a homosexual lifestyle in terms of disease, lifespan being shorter, --
REP. DILLON: So you're talking about not risk for, let's say, being molested. You're talking about risk for --
DR. THOMAS FINN: There are studies that point to that also.
REP. DILLON: We're going to confession. Well, never mind. I mean, we're worried about -- a lot of us are worried about children's safety these days and I don't want to get into inflammatory areas, but you know, that's complicated, is all I'm saying.
So that would be your anxiety?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I'm also concerned.
REP. DILLON: So the dependent variable you would be worried about would be harm to the child?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Right.
REP. DILLON: Not necessarily the child's identity going forward?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Exactly.
REP. DILLON: Okay. Because my problem with some of the things that I've heard -- and I'm very skeptical about a lot of the research, as we should be, I think, is what the case definition is and if I can give you an example.
I have a relative, by marriage, who is - who came out as gay in the 70's. it's in advanced stage now. And a lot of his friends died of AIDS. It's been a very powerful experience for him. He goes to mass every day. He has decided he is not gay. And I was having lunch with my aunt last August and I asked about him and she said, "my brother isn't gay, he's an artist." Well, I imagine now -- he's a member of my family and so you know, -- but I would expect that if you did a survey of my family, you would find that no one thinks that there -- particularly that part of the family, there are no gay members. You know, the person himself has decided he's not. His sister has decided that he's not.
And another example, one of my first students when I started teaching came out to her parents in the 70's and the same thing. I guess that's what was happening then. I don't know. And I think she thought that that was done, you know. She didn't think that coming out as the continuous process. She thought of it as something - you know, she flew out to see me and my husband and came out to us first and then talked through things she could explain to her parents and discovered when she met with her parents about six years ago to talk about her will because she wanted to talk about a will so her partner would be taken care of if anything happened to her. Her parents had totally lauded that whole issue. And when she kept saying to them, "But I'm a lesbian", her mother kept saying, "You're a career girl, you're not a lesbian."
Now, there's two people that I'm very close to, both of whom came out at some point in their lives where if they were in any sample survey, there's only one and none of the relatives -- now, it could be that everybody in this conversation is Catholic and we may have different ways of expressing sexuality or thinking about what can be expressed or you know, who knows? I really don't know. And may not have anything to do with Catholicism. Maybe it's ethnic. I mean, I really don't know.
But I just wanted to say it's a caveat in terms of all these studies that I'm very skeptical of. I don't know what the case definition would be and I don't know about the real liability of a lot of responses. If my own anecdotal experiences are any guide, if somebody can come out in the 70's and then say they're not gay in the 90's, it's an interesting -- that's a self-definition that theoretically I can't call this with a methodologist, but obviously there's a question there then about the validity.
DR. THOMAS FINN: If I might just add one point that I wanted to make that in terms of a subtext or a sense that anyone - that any person is bad at that level, I think that has to be something just totally removed from the discussion. I think regardless of what orientation a person is, seeing themselves as, or what their behavior is, human dignity transcends all of that and I think it's very important that we not label good or bad or put the words "good" or "bad" to a human person.
REP. DILLON: Great. That's good, very good. Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: I just want to ask a couple of questions, more specific.
Dr. Finn, in your testimony, in part, I guess, you were, in essence, refuting this assertion that the evidence is conclusive, that there's no adverse impact on children who are being raised by gay parents, in essence. And so does that mean that the evidence is conclusive that it is harmful in your opinion or does that mean that the evidence is inconclusive?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I think for evidence to be conclusive, the number, the size, the design of studies has to be just incredibly consistent over a long period of time and that body of literature doesn't exist.
I think, as I look at it, even from say the research dimension of sample size, the studies that seem to point to the concerns that I have are much larger than the studies cited that say there is no concern.
So, I worry, but I think none of us can claim that we have the data that says this is it, folks, case closed.
REP. LAWLOR: So if people were to say it's clear that by changing the public policy to acknowledge, legally acknowledge the existence of the same sex relationships, if people would argue that it's clear that that would be harmful to children who live in those relationships, you would say that the evidence doesn't indicate that yet. Your suspicion is that it might, but --
DR. THOMAS FINN: It would depend on how you define "clear".
REP. LAWLOR: Well, conclusive.
DR. THOMAS FINN: So basic one-to-one correlation that would not - I would not agree with that.
REP. LAWLOR: Do you think the evidence is conclusive that there's a greater likelihood that it would be adverse to the children?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Again, conclusive means --
REP. LAWLOR: That you're convinced.
DR. THOMAS FINN: -- they're likely to continue to go in the same --
REP. LAWLOR: You're personally convinced of that fact?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I'm sorry.
REP. LAWLOR: That you are personally convinced of that fact, as opposed to your senses that it's probably harmful, but you're not 100% sure yet?
DR. THOMAS FINN: In general, I would agree with that. I think there are clear cases where children grow up with same sex parents or gay parents, lesbian, bisexual parents and they seem to be doing okay. But again, to me what we're talking about here is making a law that's going to potentially effect everyone and we don't know the interactions --
REP. LAWLOR: How would you --
DR. THOMAS FINN: -- that come into play there.
REP. LAWLOR: Maybe I'm wrong, but I think that if either of the two options are -- there are more options than marriage or civil union, but if either of those two options are chosen, how would that effect everyone?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Well, we're talking about the ability for anyone who would want to enter into a union to enter into that.
REP. LAWLOR: Right. But would that effect you, for example?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Effect me personally?
REP. LAWLOR: Yes.
DR. THOMAS FINN: I don't think directly. The gay persons I know are living and they're living together. But I think would it effect me personally in terms of the potential affect down the road for a broader picture of society, of values? Would it essentially effect me in the clients I see? It could. I have no way of really (inaudible)
REP. LAWLOR: Do you have gay clients? Do you have gay clients in your practice?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I do. I don't have any currently, but I have certainly worked with them, gay and bisexual.
REP. LAWLOR: Earlier on you had mentioned something that comes up quite a bit in these discussions and that is the notion that somehow if we make these public policy changes we would be redefining marriage. And it's an interesting concept, I guess, but do you -- each time the government has lifted a particular restriction on who can marry, and certainly the Connecticut government and other states' governments have done that quite a few times, each of those decisions, did we redefine marriage when we allowed interracial marriages and when we allowed epileptics to marry, in your opinion?
DR. THOMAS FINN: No. I think we're talking about a gender definition.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay, but all I'm saying is that for many, many years there were all kinds of prohibitions on who could be married. I mean, there was a very restrictive - I mean, before the civil laws covering this, you could only get married by a church and, in fact, in Connecticut there was only one church that was allowed to perform marriages and those were the only ones recognized in the State. So, gradually the law has enlarged the categories of people who are allowed to marry one another, but I'm saying each time the General Assembly changed those laws, does that really redefine marriages or is that just changing the laws?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I think that would be changing the law because, again, I don't think it has redefined marriage between a man and a woman.
REP. LAWLOR: But it used to be a marriage could only occur between White men and White women, for example.
DR. THOMAS FINN: The adjective is before a man and a woman.
REP. LAWLOR: I understand, but that was the law and only healthy men and women could marry each other and non-citizens couldn't marry each other, according to family law, I mean, the federal law, for a long time. I'm just saying are those changing the definition of marriage really or are those just changing the legal, the civil restrictions on who can be married?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I'm not sure --
REP. LAWLOR: The federal law said that a male U.S. citizen could marry a female non-U.S. citizen, but a female U.S. citizen could not marry a male non-U.S. citizen. That was the law around the turn of the century. There's a lot of hysteria around the immigration at the time and states and the federal government a lot of laws about marrying foreign citizens. Yeah, there actually was a restriction and federal law prohibited it.
So I'm just curious if that was a redefinition of marriage.
DR. THOMAS FINN: I feel I'm out of my league. I don't know the implications of all that legal stuff, but to me I think the line that you're looking at crossing now is to move out of the marriage definition of being one man and one woman.
REP. LAWLOR: But you don't think lifting the ban on interracial marriages, for example, is a redefinition of marriage?
DR. THOMAS FINN: You know, we're into a lot of legal pieces that I'm not sure I understand, but it certainly didn't change it between a man and a woman.
REP. LAWLOR: No, but between, for example, Asian men and White women, for example. That was prohibited in this country for a long time. Okay.
Aside from marriage, do you have any strong personal views on homosexuality and in particular, would you characterize as the act as opposed to being gay? I mean, do you personally believe homosexual conduct is simply wrong?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Wrong in what sense?
REP. LAWLOR: Immoral.
DR. THOMAS FINN: See, you know, I think -- again, if we try to take the personal statement of that, in my mind I think we just go down a totally different road than we want to be on.
You know, I think I'll speak for myself. It's not something that I've done or would see myself doing.
REP. LAWLOR: Do you think it should be a -- for example, in some states it's a crime for homosexual sexual activity to take place. Do you think it should be a crime?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I don't really think I can give you an answer that's going to make sense from a legal point of the crime. I'm not up on that.
REP. LAWLOR: I'm just curious.
DR. THOMAS FINN: I don't see any of the gay persons I know as being criminal.
REP. LAWLOR: Okay. The reason I was asking is because the other speakers sort of said where they were, generally, on the topic and I was just curious if you had a strong personal belief on that topic. So, that's the only reason I was asking. But thank you.
Are there other questions? Representative Farr.
REP. FARR: In terms of the impact of gay marriages on children, let's start off with the question of the impact of a child in a single parent family. Isn't it generally accepted that the outcome for children in single parent families is not as good as it is for a traditionally heterosexual family? In other words, if the fatherless child, generally speaking, does not fair as well as a child who has both a mother and a father?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Generally speaking yes, that's true.
REP. FARR: And I understand in terms of these issues are extremely complicated because fatherless children are usually raised in poor surroundings and there are lots of other factors, but obviously if you go out in the streets and ask gang members what their fathers think of them being in the gang, or teenager mothers, what their fathers think of their behavior, then the sort of universal response is, "what's a father?" I mean, because very few of them have actually come from families in which there are fathers.
I think all the statistics would bear that out.
So, the question is, if you have -- if a child is raised in a two parent household, it appears that they're better off than in a single parent household. Is that correct?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Generally speaking, true.
REP. FARR: But we don't know if the option is that child is born - is raised in a two parent household, but the parents are of the same sex, your testimony is that there's no - not enough evidence to know outcomes one way or the other. Is that correct?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Again to conclude, I agree. I don't think there is a valid body of evidence that can tell us - that is your answer to that question either way.
REP. FARR: And --
DR. THOMAS FINN: If I could add though, that what the conclusions of people who look at that information, for example, the American Academy of Pediatrics, they are basing a conclusion saying that they see that there is no difference between those children raised in a same sex household to children being raised in a single parent household.
REP. FARR: And if -- the issue really before us is not whether or not a child is going to be raised in a same sex household. It's really a question of what the legal - what we, as a society will confer upon that household. And is there any study you're aware of that indicates that there's a difference in outcome for children in a same sex household if the parents have a legal relationship versus they're not, if they don't?
DR. THOMAS FINN: No, I'm not aware of any.
REP. FARR: Well, I'm not surprised there wouldn't be because there's so few jurisdictions that grant any rights that we really wouldn't be in a position to study that.
And we don't really know if children are better off in a single household versus - a single parent household or a two parent household with two parents of the same sex. Is that correct?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Do we really know that conclusively? No, there, I think, are a couple of studies that try to look at it or have tried to look at that. I think in the one I saw, there was no difference. In the other one, the single parent household was better on some measures than the same sex household.
But I think that was a study in Australia. So how relevant that is to here, I wouldn't know.
REP. FARR: So really, the decision we have to make is or part of the decision is if a child is a same sex household, does conferring legal rights to the parents give - make for a better outcome for the children and I think what you're saying is we don't really know.
DR. THOMAS FINN: No.
REP. FARR: And we also don't know, from a scientific point of view, we don't really know that answer. We can conclude that or assume that if the parents have rights and there's a legal framework for that, that somehow there might be better stability in the household and that there maybe some benefits, but really, there are no studies out there that show one way or the other?
DR. THOMAS FINN: No. And to design a study, not to get too technical, but you would have some - a hugely randomized design with control groups and you get into kind of ethical issues there in terms of research --
REP. FARR: Well, there was testimony by the other witness before you or after you that we allowed - made it easier for divorces because we determined that it was better often times for a child - for children if the parents got divorced than if they stayed in an unsuccessful marriage. And frankly, I have to tell you that I'm aware of no studies that ever - that showed that, that the change in our divorce law was not driven by scientific studies, it was driven by the fact that as a society we wanted to make it easier to get a divorce. And nobody came out and said gee, this is going to help children. That's not why it was changed and I guess where I'm going is I don't think at the end of the day that this decision will be made based upon some scientific study that shows that this is going to help or hurt children.
I think at the end of the day, we're going to make it based upon some other considerations.
Okay, thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Representative Feltman, then Representative Hamm.
REP. FELTMAN: Yeah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Maybe just an observation before I ask a couple of questions, but I feel like I'm in a little bit of a time warp because most of the discussion this afternoon has been around the issue of -- it seems to be around the issue of whether or not we should have same sex parenting and the Legislature, two years ago, made that decision and we decided that should be an option, that we're going to have some same sex parents, we have some opposite sex parents, we have some single parents and I don't think that there's any focus of this Legislature at this point revisiting that issue.
What I understand what we're discussing this afternoon is given the fact that we're going to have some families that are going to have two parents, both of whom are the same gender, we'll support that family for there to be legal recognition of the relationship between the adults.
So along those lines, -- and I guess the other question that we're looking at is whether or not, in a childless situation, whether or not there should be -- there could be support and whether or not the couple will benefit if they are of the same sex from having legal recognition of their relationship.
And Dr. Finn, this sort of gets me into some of the questions I have of you. You identified yourself as a psychologist and you have now identified yourself as being specialized in children. Am I missing something or are you a psychologist in general practice treating adults?
DR. THOMAS FINN: In my practice, I treat a lot of children, as well as adults.
REP. FELTMAN: Okay. Your practice includes adults?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I'm also trained as a school psychologist. So I've done a lot of work with the kids in educational settings too.
REP. FELTMAN: But you don't hold yourself as out as specializing as a child psychologist? You're a general psychologist, is that right? Okay.
And you said that you have in your practice - have had, over the years, gay and lesbian clients? Is that right? Okay. And you've referred to some of the risk factors that you think gay people are at greater risk for, including sexually transmitted diseases and mental health problems, substance abuse, shorter life spans, which I assume refers back to some of the other factors.
In your experience working with gay adults, do you have any comment to make about whether or not there's a lesser risk factor for these kinds of problems if people are in stable same sex relationships as opposed to being single?
DR. THOMAS FINN: No, my experience hasn't given me an angle on that one.
REP. FELTMAN: Well, let me ask you a question with regard to people, in general. Do you think that people, in general, whether they're same sex or opposite sex, in terms of their orientation, have more support or less at risk for some of these problems if they have the support of a significant other?
DR. THOMAS FINN: A fair amount of research says that married men and women tend to have longer life spans. They seem to do better on a number of --
REP. FELTMAN: Okay. So, would it be your inference if married people have longer life spans, people who are in long term committed relationships and are at less risk for mental health problems or any of these other problems? Would you be able to infer, based on your experience that the same benefits could be derived from people who are same sex couples?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I haven't seen that based on my experience. I look at the life span data, for example. We never know, in the studies that look at that, when they find that somewhat of a homosexual orientation and lifestyle, their life span is shorter whether they're living in a same sex household or not. I don't think that data exists.
REP. FELTMAN: Well, wouldn't it be logical, for example, in terms of -- I assume some of the reason for a shorter life span is in people who are - some people get involved with sexual transmitted diseases and they're from a non-monogamous pattern would end up with a shorter life span? So wouldn't it be safe to assume that if someone were in a stable long term monogamous relationship, that they would be at less risk for sexually transmitted diseases and therefore have a longer life span?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Whether that's a valid assumption, again we have no way to study that. I think if the question becomes how will that relate to a same sex couple, there's a fair amount of data that looks at the percentage of the frequency of lifetime monogamous relationships and that tends to be very low.
REP. FELTMAN: You're saying that the percentage of gay and lesbian people who are involved in long term monogamous relationships (inaudible) very well?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Right, percentage-wise in research.
REP. FELTMAN: I'd love to see that research.
DR. THOMAS FINN: It's cited in the paper that --
REP. FELTMAN: That's certainly contrary to my experience.
DR. THOMAS FINN: And if I could add, I think that's one thing that makes it harder, is that we all have our experience and obviously we try to draw our sense of truth from it, but when we look more broadly, sometimes our experience doesn't (inaudible-background noise)
REP. FELTMAN: Well, let me talk about our respective experiences and how many gay and lesbian people have you treated in the course of your practice, the history of your practice?
DR. THOMAS FINN: About a dozen.
REP. FELTMAN: A dozen. Okay. So we have different experiences based on probably the number of people you've seen. I have a law practice in which a large percentage of my clients are gay and lesbians. So I have seen many more than a dozen relationships in the course of my experience.
DR. THOMAS FINN: And I don't know about yours, for instance, but mine is, again, I don't work with someone over the course of their life. So, I don't know about how things have gone after they have left my office.
REP. FELTMAN: So getting to people's emotional development, we talk about some of the physical factors and some of the outcomes in terms of health and life span and so forth. Is it your experience that people who are in couples tend to have more emotional support and tend to be happier, for example?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I'm not sure I heard the question. Was my experience whether couples tend to be happier?
REP. FELTMAN: Well, the individuals who are coupled, are happier, have lives that may feel more fulfilling to them?
DR. THOMAS FINN: No, I wouldn't say that because looking at my clinical experience, everyone coming in who is in a relationship is usually not doing well in the relationship.
REP. FELTMAN: Are you familiar with any research that would indicate whether people who are coupled are happier (inaudible-background noise) more support?
DR. THOMAS FINN: The broad picture is that married couples tend to score --and I don't know what measures are used in this, but at least the conclusions I read say that there is a benefit in heterosexual marriage for those individuals being married. I don't believe -- again, how do we define "happier"? I would think probably the answer to that would be yes.
REP. FELTMAN: Okay. Do you assume that there -- do you have any reason to believe that the experience of same sex couples would be different from the experience of opposite sex couples in that regard?
DR. THOMAS FINN: No experience that I can base that to. Maybe, maybe not.
REP. FELTMAN: In terms of support, in terms of emotional support, financial support, other forms of support, are people who are in couples feel more support, have more actual support, social support for themselves?
DR. THOMAS FINN: When the relationships are good, sure.
REP. FELTMAN: Would you expect that that would be the same regardless of the gender of the person providing that support?
DR. THOMAS FINN: It certainly could be.
REP. FELTMAN: And could you anticipate that if we decided, as a Legislature, that providing that support, that making sure -- strike that.
If we decided in the Legislature that those supports were important for those couples and that we wanted to provide some social structure, would you be opposed to that on taking some action to legitimize that support?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Yes, to the degree especially as it may impact children.
REP. FELTMAN: I wasn't asking in the context of children. I was asking in the context of couples.
DR. THOMAS FINN: If it redefines that tradition of marriage between a man and a woman, yes I would object to it.
REP. FELTMAN: And is that based on your professional view as a psychologist?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Yes.
REP. FELTMAN: And please tell me why you would be opposed to that.
DR. THOMAS FINN: Because I think that there is a compliment between a man and a woman that over the course of marriage and the struggles, the ups and downs, tends to enhance the psychological, physical, emotional development of those individuals.
REP. FELTMAN: And is it your testimony that two people of the same gender cannot enjoy a singular benefit from being coupled, from being involved in a long term --
DR. THOMAS FINN: It doesn't seem, over the long run, based on the data I read. But again, I think it's hard because I'm sure there are some couples where that does happen, but in the broad picture, it doesn't seem to follow the same course.
REP. FELTMAN: So it's your testimony that gays and lesbians just can't successfully couple. Is that what you're saying?
DR. THOMAS FINN: No.
REP. FELTMAN: It's not what you're saying or --
DR. THOMAS FINN: I'm saying that it certainly seems like that -- I'm sure that that can happen, but in terms of what's the general picture of that, it doesn't seem to --
REP. FELTMAN: So, in general, you're saying that gays and lesbians are not successful in coupling?
DR. THOMAS FINN: No, I'm saying that when you look at the research data on the length of relationships, monogamy and relationships, that those don't say to me what I would think a successful relationship of two persons bonded together for the whole life.
REP. FELTMAN: You talked before about the incidents of same sex couples in the population. Your statistics say it's only one to three percent of the population you believe are gay and lesbian?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Right.
REP. FELTMAN: Okay. And so what was the implication you're trying to make from that, that -- because you said that earlier studies had found 10 to 15 percent. So if the incidents were one to three percent or one to two percent, I'm sorry, from your -- is there something you're trying to -- a point you're trying to make by saying it's one to two percent rather than 10 to 15 percent?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Primarily in the context of how research assumptions or how assumptions are often not matched by research as it plays out. And also in the discussion of the assumption of a genetic basis. The sense is that would be wide - that homosexual orientation would be more widespread if it was, but purely biological than the (inaudible).
REP. FELTMAN: So you're saying that there is no genetic -- no characteristic that's driven by genetics that could show up in one or two percent of the population? Is that your testimony?
DR. THOMAS FINN: I don't think I'm saying that. In terms of the genetic pieces of the research, there have not been any conclusive things that say that there's a specific genetic component to that.
REP. FELTMAN: Okay, I guess I'm not following. It seems to me if something were genetically - had some element of genetic (inaudible) that it could turn up in one or two percent of the population as easily as it could turn up in 10 or 15 percent of the population.
DR. THOMAS FINN: Probably.
REP. FELTMAN: Probably. So, I sort of understood and maybe I misunderstood your testimony about your research of lower incidents of homosexuality in the population to indicate that this was a less pressing problem for the Legislature to grapple with and was I misunderstanding your position?
DR. THOMAS FINN: Yes. I was not implying that at all.
REP. FELTMAN: Okay. I have no further questions at this time.
REP. LAWLOR: Representative Hamm.
REP. HAMM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, Dr. Finn and Dr. Ferholt, if you'll bear with me, I arrived late and I'm not keen, I don't know the methodology, the epidemiology and all these very fine research terms, but I've been (INAUDIBLE-TAPE SKIPPED - TESTMONY NOT RECORDED)
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: And when we have a commitment to research it properly, then we're going to find, as I believe I have satisfied myself -- (INAUDIBLE-TAPE SKIPPED-TESTIMONY NOT RECORDED) if I may borrow the word, lawyers hesitate to do this clinically over the course of 19 years, that we're going to have a very happy outcome from this process.
(TAPE 2A SKIPPED - NO DIALOGUE RECORDED FROM LOG SHEET NUMBER 7 THROUGH 9 BEGINNING WITH QUESTIONS FROM REPRESENTATIVE HAMM, SENATOR COLEMAN, REPRESENTATIVE O'NEILL THROUGH DIALOGUE OF REPRESENTATIVE NYSTROM TO THE PANEL, BEGINNING AGAIN ON LOG SHEET NUMBER 9)
REP. NYSTROM: First, I would say that I enjoy watching your emotion rise, right now as you cited some of the extreme cases that exist, unfortunately in children's lives and I would only ask, are our laws strong enough to allow you to continue to do that in those situations? Because if they're not, I think we would want to know that too.
The real question for me is I see us trying to do what's right, trying to do what's in the best interest of children and this whole issue of same sex marriage, I recall in the co-parenting adoption debate. We were told children would not be used as a reason for this debate. And yet it is.
And I knew it would be anyway, even though we were told that. I mean, I'm not a fool. I don't think anyone else is either. It was the next step.
But my concern is, is it still enough in that child's development, an unknown child, a name I don't have. There's clearly enough data out there that tells us that a child who can identify with their mother and identify with their father is a stronger citizen later in life.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: There is a lot of information out there that tells you that children of abusers become abusers.
REP. NYSTROM: Oh, absolutely.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: There's a lot of --
REP. NYSTROM: It's not in dispute there.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: The information we're talking about, a very small subset of the totality. We're talking about the legal equivalent of psychiatry, which I think is fair to say tends to deal or analyze from the point of view of the aberration rather than the (inaudible). I think they probably get more into this, the psychologists more into the norm. But it's an issue that of all the kids in this world and certainly all the kids in Connecticut, the overwhelming majority are going to be bred, born into and raised by the traditional nuclear family that you value and that I value. I want my kids to be exactly like me except skinny. And I think you do. I think that's kind of normal too, that we all want our kids to be us, just a little bit better. And I just really believe that if you can -- we're not going to make a huge (inaudible). Hell, there are 7,400, we're told, of these families of same sex couples in Connecticut.
Maybe it will go to 74,000, I don't know. But that's still a very small percentage of the total. If Dr. Finn is right and only one or two percent of the population could want this anyway, then maybe we've already maxed out with the 7,400.
We're legislating here - this is civil rights legislation. And civil rights deals with minorities. That's the reality of civil rights. This isn't mandating anybody's concept of a family. It's mandating that we not enforce our concept of a family on somebody else, that we demand the same (inaudible) and the same decency that we do every place else. But that's our objective test after the fact.
So, I share your concerns. I share a fear that some day maybe somebody will be able to come back here and say, Killian, you had some dearly held positions and like so many of my dearly held positions, they were based on a dearth of hard facts and they were wrong. That could happen.
But if can extrapolate just from my experiences, I don't think I'm going to be proven wrong here, Representative Nystrom.
REP. NYSTROM: The issues you cited, the drug abuse, the abuse and all that other kinds of stuff like that, I don't know that I would go so far as to say they are examples of failed marriages. I think that it would be more than that and I don't know that they would be appropriately used as reasons for the discussion we're having here today, in themselves. I would think they stand alone on that basis.
In your adoption experience, have you had grandparents petition to be heard during that process so that they're not forgotten? They're not set aside out of the child's life?
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: Oh, absolutely. And I have approved -- one of the things we're allowed to do - it has to be done, unfortunately -- you asked about laws.
REP. NYSTROM: Right.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: If you want to give me a tool I would love, we do about half of the termination of parental rights that transpire, occur in the probate courts and about half in the Superior Court. A 100% of the adoptions occur in the Probate Court.
If you are going to reserve a right for a family member of the genetic family, it has to be done as a component of the termination petition. And I would love to see the law changed to allow that to be a component of either the termination or the adoption process because it would give us two bites at the apple. We create, sometimes, horrible legal fictions through adoption and not in this instance, but we have uncle daddy and aunt mommy that we create here and the kids know who their mother and their father are. The mother and father now becomes a sibling in many instances, legally in the adoption process.
We see mostly likely adopting persons as a family member, an aunt, an uncle, or a grandparent.
REP. NYSTROM: Many grandparents today.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: Many, many grandparents. I mean, they're the unsung heroes of this whole process. But I'm not suggesting that there is a strict analogy to drug addiction or prostitution or sexual abuse or physical abuse or abandonment here. What I am suggesting is that what it has in common with all of these situations is that those were bad parents and what we're looking for are good parents.
And if I can expand my universe to include the possibility that there are some same sex good parents that I can use, then I don't think I will hurt people. I think I will be able to help them.
REP. NYSTROM: Not to get off of this other tangent, but you mentioned adjusting our laws so that in those cases where grandparents, for example, who didn't participate in the termination of parental rights, how often do they come in at the adoption point and they're now told the law doesn't allow that?
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: Again, a significant minority of the cases. I will guarantee you that the grandparents, if their whereabouts were known, will have been canvassed to see if they want to be a kinship guardian for these children or the adoptive children if the termination is inevitable.
So generally, if they appear at the adoption hearing, it is because of a quirk in the process, they didn't know they were around, they were never identified in the process, or they had a late blooming interest in maintaining an involvement. We've been able to accommodate some and the law is tough in this regard, so we've been unable to accommodate others. And I would love an opportunity to accommodate more of them.
REP. NYSTROM: Can I ask, in your experience with the adoptions that have taken place, where those accommodations haven't been made, do you know that through personal effort, can you tell us whether or not the adopting parents have provided access for grandparents?
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: In some cases, yes and in some cases, no.
It can also extend to siblings who have not been kept together for one reason or another. Adoption has a (inaudible-background noise).
REP. NYSTROM: I'm sorry, what was that?
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: It has a cruel aspect and the law demands -- it's why, in the overwhelming majority of cases, we go to kinship guardianship. The removal and guardianship as opposed to termination in adoption because it is less austere, less stringent and less unyielding. And we achieve it about four times as often as termination and adoption in Connecticut.
REP. NYSTROM: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Just so you don't (inaudible), Judge, that the suggestion we're making about the grandparents and the adoption --
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: Terminations - when you terminate a parental right, you can incorporate into the decree, the order at that time, a protection to allow some ongoing relationship between the terminating parents or family claiming through them, and the child who is now eligible for adoption.
That is allowed at the time of termination. It is not also allowed at the time of adoption.
REP. LAWLOR: I see.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: And I'm not sure I understand why it shouldn't be or there shouldn't be some procedure to allow for it or a procedure maybe to reopen the termination for the sole purpose of seeing who is going to be in any ongoing relationship, although I would rather deal with it at the time of the adoption, which doesn't open another can of worms of appeals and delaying the adoption.
REP. LAWLOR: Got that, Rick? Okay.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: Sorry.
REP. LAWLOR: That's no problem. But I think it's a very valid suggestion.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: And hopefully the Assembly next year can take that up.
REP. FARR: Just to follow-up on that. Are you suggesting that in all adoption cases, all grandparents be given notice then?
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: I'm not sure - I think they should get notice, yes. I think, in the scheme of things, I think in the scheme of things if we are terminating parental rights for purposes of an adoption -- now, this is different from a sperm donor situation or an egg donor situation. We have other laws that pertain there.
But in the case where we are engaged in a termination of parental rights, I think traditionally the first effort should be to see if there is a kinship guardianship situation that makes sense. The federal government, our law, all recognize that as a permanency plan. And only after you've gone through that, should you go to the more severe position, I think, generally of a termination.
There are exceptions to all rules, including that one.
REP. FARR: But if you had the termination today and you terminated in the juvenile court, and then there was an adoption in Probate Court, my understanding is there's no requirement of giving a notice to the parents, let alone the grandparents.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: We would give no notice to the parent or to the grandparents of the adoption. Although it's usually not a secret. It's only a legal secret, a fictional legal secret.
REP. FARR: Right.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: Everybody else in the world knows about it, the family and if the kid is of age, the kid and -- but we make believe it's a secret.
REP. FARR: Well, I'm just a little concerned about a requirement that we had to give notice to the grandparents, we don't have to give notice to the parents themselves of the adoption.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: I'm talking about at the time of the termination. I'm sorry, I'm mixing apples and oranges. I think grandparents -- the Superior Court, historically, grandparents were kind of left in the waiting room. They've changed that, by and large now through some of your efforts. We always gave notice to known next of kin and part of that is because we are always looking, as is DCF, for a kinship guardianship alternative before we go to the termination and removal.
REP. FARR: Okay.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: And this is different again in certain, perhaps identified adoption situations and the like, which are different sets of circumstances.
We lead the way, ironically, from grandparents' rights in the last five or six years, with the Supreme Court case on visitation.
REP. FARR: The irony there, of course, as you point out, we've had this incredible growth in grandparents ending up with the kids. They have no rights in many circumstances, but a large increase in the number of cases where grandparents actually got the custody of the children.
JUDGE ROBERT KILLIAN: Right now we've had two events that relate to what you're doing. Two weeks ago we had an adoption day at the Hartford Probate Court. Two weeks ago Saturday. We had 130 kids who were adopted in the last year back at the court with their families. It included same sex couples and obviously, the overwhelming majority were opposite sex couples and it was really a rather inspiring event. I didn't think anybody would come. Casey Family Services urged us to do it as a part of a national effort and it was a huge success.
And we also have an exhibit of photographs of grandparents with their grandkids. It was taken at an outing that the AARP sponsored for grandparents caring for their kids and if you want to feel good, the next time you're around the Hartford Probate Court, stop in a couple of minutes and just look at the pictures and faces of both the kids and the grandparents. We owe them so much and give them so little. Put that on Rick's agenda too, Chairman Lawlor.
REP. LAWLOR: There you go.
REP. FARR: I want to thank you for taking the time to testify today because you've got the real world experience. So many of these things are driven by advocates who really -- they may be talking about one case and really you're on the firing line, you see the real world and what's going on out there.
So, thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Are there further questions? Representative Nystrom.
REP. NYSTROM: Thank you. I'd like to ask a question of each of our physicians, doctors that are here. And it will be the same question.
It goes back to the discussion I had with our Judge here.
In all the studies we have been listening about today, which are very incomplete, I guess that's the way I would sum them up, they're based on looking at these issues on behalf of children's needs.
And when I was talking with Judge Killian, I was pointing out a hypothetical where a child is not able to identify with a mother or a father from day one of comprehension because they're not in their world, based on the laws that are now in Connecticut and what is provided.
I would just like to ask each person if that has the potential to harm a child because they can't identify with a mom or a dad? And I don't know if any of you have ever thought about that because we've removed that other person by the system we now have that's legal. Whoever wants to go first.
DR. ROBERT ZAVOSKI: As a pediatrician, I actually deal with this quite frequently because I work in Judge Killian's world on the opposite end. I'm a physician. As long as that child has identified an adult or adults who they see as the person who is going to care for them for the rest of their life, keep them safe, love them, nurture them, then no, they don't miss their natural parent.
If they are put into the care of somebody else for social reasons, etcetera and the social reasons go along with them, which is very frequent, then they don't do as well.
REP. NYSTROM: Okay.
DR. ROBERT ZAVOSKI: Does that answer it?
REP. NYSTROM: I think so.
DR. ROBERT ZAVOSKI: Can I also plea that we get away from the research a little bit?
REP. NYSTROM: I don't think there is any research. That's why I called it incomplete. I mean, it's not --
DR. ROBERT ZAVOSKI: You wouldn't get much of an argument from me on that.
Representative Dillon isn't the only one whose had some epidemiology training, as well in this room. And when I did mine, the first day they give you a lecture on a classic study. That was the first epidemiological study that was really done down in London looking at trying to find the source of a cholera outbreak. And it was a very simple study and it was very neatly done because you knew who had cholera and you knew who didn't and cholera is something that happens very quick and you either - you've got it or you don't have it. there's no middle ground.
And they were able to find or identify what the common thread to all of this was, was a common water source. That's the classic epidemiologic study.
I don't think anybody has ever really been able to do another classic epidemiologic study.
You're certainly not going to do a class epidemiologic study in this area. First of all, you don't have a good marker. Second of all, these families are all kinds of different families. Kids are being raised by two lesbians. Some are being raised by two gay parents. Some are being raised by a combination. Some are conceived in various manners. Some are the products of divorce, some are not. Some are also minorities. Some are living in poverty, etcetera, etcetera, and on and on.
And when you start to add in all those confounders, plus if you're really going to look to see how they do, you're going to spend 20 years looking at them. You're going to need thousands and thousands of families over 20 years and that will never be done.
So rather than looking at the research, let's look at the families. These are kids who are growing up in families today who, because they happen to have two gay parents, can't get health insurance. That's a real world problem that we need to deal with today.
And we can't wait -- those kids can't wait for that research to be done because it will be too late for them.
DR. JULIAN FERHOLT: I agree with everything that Robert just said about the research and about the focus, but I would like us to take the clinical experience of all of these disciplines, not just the people in this room, but all of these disciplines very seriously because it maybe valid information. And if it's someone seeking to dismiss anyone's comments -- but the sincerity of your question about -- and the passion in which you spoke about your own family, really moved me.
There's a question of harm. You know, if two African American parents in a marriage, a man and a woman, have a child, they have a child who, in a racist country, will experience harm and if you mean that kind of harm, none of us would think it's good public policy for us to advise them not to have children.
It's also true that the burden of these difficulties can bring tremendous strength and opportunity. It doesn't justify racism. It means we will work hard against racism, but we wouldn't think not to have children in African American families because we have many other reasons, as a man said here, there are many other reasons why we want diversity in our country and in our world.
So that I feel the same way about children in same sex marriages. There is no question that if you were married to a man and you had a child, your child would come home to you some day and ask the question that you asked us. It's not a foolish hypothetical at all. And you would feel hard pressed to give them a good answer. It would be difficult.
It wouldn't be without identification with women and you wouldn't be without identification with mothers. I can say I'm married to a physician. We became physicians in the 60's. It meant a great deal for her. When she was in a class, she was two out of 70. Now they're 50% in pediatrics.
My children were four. They refused to play doctor and nurse - two daughters - in the way that the girls ever played a doctor. And my said to them, "why are you guys always nurses?" They said, "We're one of the nurses."
My point to you only is that the culture brings -- the culture comes to children in many ways. The good parts of it and the bad parts of it. And you needn't fear that a girl or a boy being raised by two men or a girl or a boy being raised by two women would find for herself good people.
There was a man (inaudible) when I was growing up who was an African American man in New Rochelle who grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same elementary school as I did. And he came from a horrible family and he was a world class athlete. And the school is very proud of him and he came to the school and he coached us and he did stuff like that.
It turned out there was one policeman on the corner and that man took a relationship with him. So children search for what's good and they search for the things that they need.
So I would just say to you that you're right to be concerned about the pain. We should be fighting the discrimination involved in -- it's a stigma about gay people and we should be also helping, as much as we can, to make the families legitimate. If we're putting children in them and we believe it's alright, then we should certainly make those families legitimate.
Then the children can say I have married parents, I have valid parents, they're in a valid relationship. It's true, I don't have a mom. And they will miss a mom, they will.
REP. NYSTROM: Thank you.
REP. LAWLOR: Is that alright?
REP. NYSTROM: Yes, thank you.
DR. THOMAS FINN: To your question, is there a potential about a child will experience some pain of sometime not having a mother or a father? I think the answer to that is certainly yes. The potential is there.
Certainly, my experiences with people of all ages who have not bonded with the mother or the father is sad in different ways. Some do, some don't.
But it could be someone whose ten. It could somebody whose fifty. Suffering. So I think the answer is, the potential is there.
To be raised by two parents of the same sex, will that create an issue of not modeling or not benefiting from the modeling of one sex or the other? That seems to be what happens. Will that be for everyone? We don't know in terms of that clinical sense of values.
Our experience though is certain. Sometimes it certainly can be an issue. So I would say that the potential is there.
REP. NYSTROM: I realize that you may not ever be able to identify all of that. My real concern is kids can be cruel. Peer pressure is often very subjective. Those are the kinds of concerns I have.
That's why I asked the question. It was a question I had, a concern I had when we were debating the co-parenting adoption bill. And again, through that I still see a breakdown from one generation to another, potentially, of families. And it happens now anyway through adoption because relationships end and grandparents get pushed aside and a child loses that contact in their life, as well. Not the parent, but the grandparent.
My father will be 88 and he lives with us and lives with my kids. And I see the gain there of he in their lives. Adoption in itself often takes that away as it is and I think that's very unfortunate.
But I don't know that all of this points to a reason to change the definition of marriage because I don't know that we, here today, have identified that marriage or saying that marriage is a failure and we have to redefine it now. Certainly, we all want what's in the best interest of kids. We want them in safe homes, loving homes. We want them removed from the elements that Judge Killian talked about, whether it's drugs and abuse and violence.
No child should have to be in that kind of setting, ever.
REP. LAWLOR: Any other questions? If not, we'll -- let me thank our four speakers today. It has been extremely thoughtful and thought provoking.
Next Monday, we are hoping to convene a similar discussion, perhaps with a slightly larger panel, talking about some of the legal aspects of this and what's taken place in other states, both from the point of view of promoting legal recognition of same sex relationships and on the other hand, in effect, prohibiting it through the DOMA laws, etcetera.
So, if there's -- you know, as the invitation that was extended last time stays or stands, that if anyone would like to suggest speakers or talk to me or Senator Coleman or anyone else on the committee about the appropriate way to construct this discussion, then please feel free to do so.
It's not quite clear yet exactly how we'll go about meeting our mandate to issue recommendations or a report on the pros and cons of these concepts, but hopefully we can discuss that in more detail next Monday and have something ready for the beginning of the next General Assembly's session.
So, unless anyone else would like say something, we'll call this hearing to an end and thank everyone for their patience and their thoughtful participation.
(Whereupon, the informational hearing was adjourned.)