NEW YORK (Reuters) - A new think tank specializing in gay issues wants a say in the U.S. debate over same-sex marriage and other matters, seeking to counter the influence of religious conservatives by beating them at their own game.
The Rockway Institute is the brainchild of executive director Robert-Jay Green, a California psychology professor who says the media, courts and politicians often make wrong assumptions about what the latest scientific research shows.
Green is building a team of 100 experts who hope to serve as expert witnesses in court cases or testify before state legislatures as they weigh laws affecting gay rights.
One goal to is to challenge the influence of organizations that have lobbied against same-sex marriage or same-sex parenting rights using what he dismisses as “pseudo science.”
“Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council are basically media machines churning out press releases, policy reports, appearing on talks shows constantly conveying their messages and distorting the actual research findings,” Green told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.
“There is not a single iota of scientific evidence showing that children raised by lesbian and gay parents do less well than children raised by a heterosexual mother and father,” he said.
Green cites major media commentators, court rulings and U.S. President George W. Bush asserting — wrongly, in his view — that children must be better off living with heterosexual parents than a same-sex couple.
A spokeswoman for Focus on the Family, a Christian ministry that opposes same-sex marriage, contends the research promoted by the Rockway Institute is not credible, and considers the upstart a mere advocacy group for same-sex marriage and parenting.
“We’ve looked at what homosexual activists have put forward and found it lacking. It doesn’t meet basic social science standards,” Carrie Gordon Earll said. “It speaks to the desperation among homosexual activists to give credibility to their political goals.”
“Children do best in homes with married mothers and fathers. That’s where the research is,” she said.
Green wants to engage public opinion on a variety of issues including protection for gay youths in schools, mental health and substance abuse, and what he considers the dangers of “conversion therapies” that aim to turn homosexuals straight.
A major issue in U.S. politics that may play a role in the 2008 presidential campaign is gay marriage.
States in the Northeast of the country are comparatively friendly to the rights of gay and lesbian couples, but a majority of states still have laws or constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. Only one state, Massachusetts, has made gay marriage legal.
The Rockway Institute has existed for about a year but Green said the project is still “just getting off the ground.” He is promoting its mission on an East Coast tour.
While the group will not endorse any presidential candidate it is preparing for a potentially bruising 2008 campaign.
“Wherever there’s a debate about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues,” Green said, “we would like to be involved.”