The country’s leading organization of pediatricians today strongly reaffirmed its support of same-sex marriage, calling marriage “the basic building block for family structure and child-rearing" in a move that just happened to be timed to the U.S. Supreme Court's review of the federal Defense of Marriage act next week.
"We're saying that its best for children's health and well-being to be in families with two loving parents joined by the legal institution of marriage," explained Dr. Ben Siegel, co-author of the report and chairman of the AAP's Committee on Psychological Aspects of Child & Family Health.
As far as the timing of the announcement, Dr. Siegel described it as "serendipitous." "We've been working for five years to craft this policy. But we're definitely delighted by the timing." The AAP has joined in a call for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. That case is set to be heard this week.
“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 American Academy of Pediatrics (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.”
Note the use of the word “marriage.” The policy, a beefed-up update of a 2006 one that was set to expire, says that civil unions and domestic partnership just won’t do. They don’t confer the same legal rights as traditional marriage, such as being able to live with a nonbiological parent after the bio parent dies or for the surviving parent to collect federal benefits like Social Security or military benefits on behalf of the child. And if the relationship does end, without marriage there’s no legal obligation for child support or visitation, both of which could devastate a child.
In addition to legal protections, the AAP reasons that having married parents is in the best interest of children because:
- All those extra grandparents, uncles and cousins offer long-term social and support and security.
- Married couples have more financial and social resources, including affordable health insurance. (Same-gender couples are two to three times less likely to have health insurance than hetero couples.)
- As most of us know, marriage settles you down, meaning you’re less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
Also new in this policy is the AAP's backing of adoption and foster-care placement be allowed with no regard to a caregiver’s sexual orientation. "There should be no laws barring gays and lesbians" from adopting or fostering, Dr. Siegel said.
"The AAP has long been on the forefront when it comes to addressing the rights and needs of LBGT youth and families. It's especially important to me that we understand that from the perspective of 'best interests of children,' marriage equality and expanded adoption laws are indeed the right thing," said social worker Ellen Kuhn, who as director of the Human Rights Campaign's Family Project cheered not only the AAP's strongly worded policy but also the timing of its release.
An estimated 2 million children are being raised by gay and lesbian parents (singles and couples), according to the AAP’s assessment of 2010 Census figures. Studies show that those kids are doing just fine. “Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affect much more by their relationship with their parents … than by the gender or sexual orientation of their parents,” the AAP states.
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.