The 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics announced its support for same-sex marriage yesterday, following a review of 30 years of research comparing the well-being of children of same-sex parents to those with heterosexual parents.
Kids did well physically and mentally when their parents were married, regardless of whether both parents were from the same or opposite genders, the academy found. It released a technical report of existing research yesterday in addition to a new policy statement on the matter.
“If a child has two loving and capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond, it’s in the best interest of their children that legal institutions allow them to do so,” said Dr. Ellen Perrin, a pediatrician who co-authored the academy’s policy document, in a formal statement.
The academy’s new policy statement emphasizes the family as “the basic social unit” necessary for the well-being of all children. “Children need secure and enduring relationships with committed and nurturing adults to enhance their life experiences for optimal social-emotional and cognitive development,” the policy statement said. “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.”
Same-sex couples should be allowed civil marriage rights in the interests of their children, and if marriage was not an option, same-sex couples should be allowed to become foster or adoptive parents, the academy said.
Denying same-sex parents these civil rights created anxiety and tension for families and undermined children’s physical, mental and social well-being, the academy found.
The association’s endorsement comes in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of two cases this month: Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges California’s Proposition 8 law banning gay marriage, and United States v. Windsor, which challenges the existing federal Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The Supreme Court will hear those cases on March 26 and 27.
Over the last decade, American public opinion has been steadily shifting in favor of gay marriage, “among the largest changes in opinion on any policy issue over this time period,” according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.
A national Pew survey conducted in March found that 49 percent of Americans supported allowing same-sex couples to marry while 44 percent were opposed to the idea. In 2003, only 33 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage while 58 percent opposed it.
The shift in public opinion is partly driven by generational differences. Seventy percent of the Millennial generation – those born after 1980 – support gay marriage, according to the Pew survey. But older generations are being swayed as well: a full 28 percent of gay marriage supporters, the survey found, did not start out that way and had changed their minds in favor of the issue.
Last week, this shifting dynamic was thrown into public relief when, for the first time, a sitting Republican senator announced his support for gay marriage. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a previous opponent on the issue, said he had changed his mind after his teenage son came out to him as gay.
Portman had given the matter long and careful thought over two years, he said, examining the teachings of his faith against his feelings as a father. He concluded that his son deserved the same life opportunities as his straight siblings.
“I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married,” Portman wrote in an op-ed for The Columbus Dispatch on March 15.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees.
“Paths to parenthood that include assisted reproductive techniques, adoption, and foster parenting should focus on competency of the parents rather than their sexual orientation,” reads its technical report’s abstract.
“Many studies have demonstrated that children's well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents' sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.”
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