The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says it’s “in the best interests” of the children.
The influential group of pediatricians released a policy statement in support of same-sex parents’ right to wed as well as to foster or adopt children. The policy was guided by the organization’s belief in gay marriage “to promote optimal health and well-being of all children.”
“We know enough about child development that we can say that children are nurtured when they have two loving, supportive, committed-to-each-other adults to take care of them,” says Dr. Ben Siegel, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and a co-author of the policy statement. ”Kids growing up with two same-sex parents are as normally developed as the rest of the population.”
About 2 million children are raised in the U.S. by same-sex parents, according to the statement. The policy evolved from two previous positions of the Academy in support of adoption by same-sex couples. The AAP has also previously stated that the data don’t support any negative impact of a parent’s same-sex orientation on children’s emotional and behavioral development.
According to the statement, which notes that married people have a groundswell of legal, economic and social support:
Scientific evidence affirms that children have similar developmental and emotional needs and receive similar parenting whether they are raised by parents of the same or different genders. If a child has 2 living and capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond by way of civil marriage, it is in the best interests of their child(ren) that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so, irrespective of their sexual orientation.
Is it unusual that the 60,000 pediatricians who comprise the AAP are wading into politics? “Our goal is to support the best interests of children,” says Siegel. “If people understand that as political, so be it. Our politics is what’s best for children.”
The timing of the report — published as the Supreme Court is considering the legality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex unions in states that allow them — is sheer coincidence, says Siegel. The committee has been reviewing hundreds of studies for more than five years in preparation for the statement and the accompanying in-depth report .
Not all of those studies have been conclusive as far as the developmental and health benefits of children raised in same-sex households. While many showed that children raised by gay parents were no more likely to experience behavioral or mental health issues than those raised by moms and dads in a heterosexual relationship, one much-publicized study, the New Families Structure Study (NFSS) by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus, found that children raised by gay parents were more likely than those raised in a heterosexual household to require therapy for depression or anxiety, and less likely to have a formal education or a full time job. The results have since been criticized, including by experts from the AAP, which noted that Regnerus defined gay parents as anyone who had had a same-sex relationship at one point in their lives. Rather that tracking children raised in households by parents in a stable gay relationship, many argued, the study, which took place at a time when gay unions were not as accepted legally or socially, instead documented the effects of the broken homes that resulted when gay parents left their initial, heterosexual relationships.
In writing about the study at the time, Healthland’s Belinda Luscombe, also noted the more disturbing message in the results:
The vituperativeness of the debate, while entertaining, does seem to obscure the one glaringly obvious fact emerging from the NFSS: that many American families are unstable, for reasons to do much more with poverty, health and education than sexuality. And that instability clouds American children’s future. Could we maybe get back to that?
Good question. Perhaps, with the nation’s pediatricians strongly supporting the fact that sexual preference is not a deterrent to good parenting, we can start to focus on what’s really contributing to the instability of the American family.