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Gay Marriage Supreme Court Debate: Are Same-Sex Parents "Harmful" to Kids?

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The Supreme Court began two days of historic oral arguments Tuesday on whether members of the same sex have a constitutional right to marry. During the first day of those arguments, the topic of parenthood came up when Justice Antonin Scalia wondered if having parents of the same sex may be “harmful” to children.

“If you redefine marriage to include same-sex couples,” Scalia interjected, “you must permit adoption by same-sex couples, and there’s considerable disagreement among sociologists as to what the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, whether that is harmful to the child or not. Some states do not permit adoption by same-sex couples for that reason.”

Scalia did not cite specific sociologists who disagreed over the consequences of raising a child in a single-sex family, but last week the American Academy of Pediatrics, the country's preeminent pediatric organization, came out in full-throated support of gay marriage. 

Plus: AAP: We Support Gay Marriage

"We're saying that it's best for children's health and well-being to be in families with two loving parents joined by the legal institution of marriage," Dr. Ben Siegel, co-author of the report and chairman of the AAP's Committee on Psychological Aspects of Child & Family Health, told Parenting.com.

The AAP also joined in a call to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the constitutionality of which is before the Supreme Court today. “Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationship with their parents...than by the gender or sexual orientation of their parents,” the AAP states.

“Lack of opportunity for same-gender couples to marry adds to families’ stress, which affects the health and well-being of all household members,” the new AAP policy statement reads. “Because marriage strengthens families and, in, so doing, benefits children’s development, children should not be deprived of the opportunity for their parents to be married.” 

Plus: Why the AAP's Gay Marriage Ruling Annoyed This Gay Father

But Cathy Ruse, Family Research Council (FRC) Senior Fellow for Legal Studies, made her own statement against gay marriage at Tuesday's "March for Marriage" event, in which she said legalizing gay marriage would amount to a "violation" of children's rights. 

"I am a lawyer and I work in public policy, but today I speak to you as a mom. Let me ask you: Can you imagine what your life would have been like without your mom? It’s almost impossible to imagine," she said. 

"What if someone could turn back the clock, and without asking your permission, take away your mother. How unjust that would be. How cruel. What a violation of your rights."

For his part, Scalia did not take a position on the issue personally, but hedged on the science: "I take no position on whether it’s harmful [to children] or not," he said Tuesday. "But it is certainly true that there’s no scientific answer to that question at this point in time.”

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 58 percent of Americans support gay marriage, which is currently legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. Civil unions are legal in nine states. Thirty-one states have constitutional amendments that ban gay marriage.

“Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationship with their parents … than by the gender or sexual orientation of their parents,” says the AAP's official statement on the topic.

How did you react to the AAP's support of gay marriage? Do you think it will influence the Supreme Court decision? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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