Same-sex marriage and the curse of the dueling sound bite (5×8 – 3/13/13)

How do you fit hours of testimony into minutes of reporting, the bracket game and the search for perfection, the 68-year-old roller derby queen of Grand Forks, the dog with the bucket list, and is stress a real thing?



Yesterday’s two hearings on bills legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota didn’t offer many new perspectives not previously voiced, but it did renew a spate of criticism against the media for not dismissing claims of people with whom a writer disagrees when studies were cited. And when someone is making a point in politics, you can be sure some sort of scholarly study will be cited. Studies, the theory goes, settle arguments because, well, it’s science and all.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Research is often flawed. It occasionally makes assumptions and it’s almost always complex enough that those who disagree can point to a fact and shout, “Aha!”

At yesterday’s hearings, dueling studies focused on the question: Are children of same-sex couples worse off than children raised by a man and a woman?

At the Senate hearing yesterday, a University of Minnesota professor said lawmakers weren’t adequately considering the question, then offered last summer’s research of professor Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas. He found that children of these same-sex households “were found to have lower average income levels as adults, along with more physical and mental health problems and more instability in their romantic relationships. They also showed higher levels of unemployment, smoking, need for public assistance and involvement in crime.” (Catholic News)

“Household instability,” Regnerus said, was “a hallmark” of households whose parents engaged in same-sex relationships, whether those households were “led by a mother or father.”

That study, you may recall, drew fire from opponents — including scientists and academics — because it didn’t have a specific category of gay parents in the project, and only two of the 1.7 percent who reported having a parent in a same-sex relationship, actually lived with parents in that relationship for their entire childhood. There was, in effect, no study of children whose same-sex parents deliberately raised their children in a same-sex relationship.

The study was also funded by a group opposed to same-sex marriage.

His employer investigated allegations of research misconduct, found none, and left it to the academic marketplace to decide its validity.

At yesterday’s hearing, Grace Evans, 11, of Fridley told House committee members “Since every child needs a mom and a dad to be born, I don’t think we can change that children need a mom and a dad,” Evans said. “I believe God made it that way. I know some disagree, but I want to ask you this question: which parent do I not need, my mom or my dad?”

A writer took us to task for not blowing that assertion out of the water.

“Those who share Evans’ viewpoint deserve to have their viewpoint heard,” the writer said. “But I believe MPR erred in neglecting to report on the testimony of pediatrician Dr. Paul Melchert, who shared official positions from the American Academy of Pediatricians, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association, which have concluded overwhelmingly that children of same-sex parents are just as happy and healthy as those raised by opposite-sex parents.”

It was, in fact, 2010 when an American Psychological Association convention presented the findings of a Virginia researcher who found that the children of gays and lesbians were virtually indistinguishable from children of heterosexual parents.

But that study, too, had its detractors because it used the self-reporting of parents evaluating their own parenting than an in-depth study of children.

That doesn’t make it wrong, of course, it just makes it something worth considering in deciding the value of the research.

I don’t speak for MPR News, but I do know from experience that the problem with countering one assertion with a study, is it can often be trumped by another study. In the end, young Ms. Evans has a belief and a feeling on how she was raised that may not be supported by research.

It’s true that Dr. Melchert (by the way, that’s him in the photo above with one cute young man) could have been quoted to rebut Ms. Evans. But then, having provided that voice in support of same-sex marriage, one would have to take out another voice in favor of the dueling sound bites over one point not yet settled Which one?

These are the decisions that keep editors up at night.


We’re just about at the time of the year where any work at the office gives way to the gambling life of NCAA brackets.

So let’s review. You’re not going to nail it. You’re just not.


Lynn Lindholm of Grand Forks retired two years ago when she was about 66. Then she did what most retirees don’t usually do: She became a roller derby star.

“I wanted something more vigorous,” Vintage Vixen — that’s her roller derby name — says. “I really liked the idea of physical contact. And that’s what I got.”

She tells Forum Communications you don’t get injured much if you know what you’re doing.


Wallace the Pit Bull has a bucket list. Wallace was rescued in 2004 by current owners Andrew “Roo” Yori and his wife, Clara, and retrained to become a canine disc champion, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports. But in 2012, Wallace developed an aggressive cancer.

“We were told he’d have between two weeks to three months to live, so we made a bucket list to enjoy thetime we have left,” Roo Yori tells the PB.

And so, Wallace has been canoeing on the Zumbro River, ridden in a motorcycle sidecar, taken a road trip to California and swam in the Pacific Ocean — he’s even met actress Betty White. That’s just part of the list.

“Betty White was so sweet,” Clara Yori said. “She acted like we were doing her the favor by bringing Wallace.”


Before 1976, The New York Times had never published an article about stress as we understand it today, NPR reported last evening. Our idea of stress — as a personal, internal problem — is a recent invention, it asserts in this interview with Dana Becker, author of One Nation Under Stress: The Trouble With Stress as an Idea.

Bonus: What if they gave an exam and nobody came? (h/t: Brian Shipe)


Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase the tax on junk food. Today’s Question: Is there a role for the government to play in promoting a healthy lifestyle?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Networking and young minorities.

Second hour: How does one decide whether or not to persevere with a current job/career path or when to move on?

Third hour: The social and legal aspects of teenage drama

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A special presentation about former Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun of Minnesota.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Collaboration, innovation, and serendipity are all engineered at tech shops in Silicon Valley. At Google, cafeteria lines are designed to encourage conversation, and tables are laid out to make sure colleagues bump into one another. NPR reports on designing workplaces meant to keep employees happy, creative and in the office.

Light rail and other mass transit projects are booming in the metro What’s driving this growth and how could it potentially change life in the Twin Cities? MPR’s Jess Mador considers the question.