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Al Franken Chides Focus on the Family Rep For Misreading Gov't Study on 'Nuclear Families


"I frankly don't really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony..."

On Wednesday, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) went head-to-head with Thomas Minnery, vice-president for public policy at the popular Christian group Focus on the Family (FOF). The exchange occurred during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for a bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

During the hearing, Franken made note of FOF's testimony which listed the benefits associated with children "living with their biological and/or adopted mothers and fathers" as being greater than those "living in any other family form." The data, the group claimed, showcased that children living with straight and married couples fared better than children living with same-sex parents. The group, as Franken noted, listed a Department of Health and Human Services study to back up their claims. TPM has more:

"I actually checked it out," Franken said in reference to the study FOF's Thomas Minnery has cited. He then observed it uses the term 'nuclear families' without specifically mentioning "opposite sex married families."

"'Isn't it true, Mr. Minnery, that a married same-sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite?' Franken asked.

Minnery replied, saying, "I think that the study, when it cites nuclear families would mean a family headed by a husband and wife." Franken then said, "It doesn't." The congressman and former Saturday Night Live cast member went on:

"The study defines a nuclear family as one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family. And I frankly don't really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways."

Watch Franken chide Minnery, below:

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Politico reached out to the author of the study and, alas, Franken's assertion is correct. The study cited was published by HHS back in 2010. It found that there were healthier outcomes for children living in nuclear families. While Minnery used this data to indicate that kids are better off with straight, married parents, the definition of "nuclear" does not take gender into account. Essentially, there is no evidence to prove, utilizing this study, that same-sex couples' children are any less healthy:

“Sen. Franken is right,” the lead author of the study told POLITICO. The survey did not exclude same-sex couples, said Debra L. Blackwell, Ph.D., nor did it exclude them from the “nuclear family” category provided their family met the study’s definition...

While FOF's use of the study is certainly flawed, this does not validate or invalidate either side of the debate. The impact -- or lack thereof -- that same-sex parenthood has on children will likely continue to be discussed as gay rights issues stand at the forefront of many contemporary social and political debates.

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