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The Equality Equation

The Equality Equation

LGBT equality takes another step forward with American Academy of Pediatrics endorsement of gay marriage

By Patrick Kenney

Last month’s policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) vehemently supports gay marriage and full adoption rights and foster care, with the children’s best interests at the core of its reasoning.

The AAP, the largest pediatric organization in the world, representing 60,000 pediatricians, has gathered years’ worth of research and collected it in a technical report, to be published in Pediatrics this month. The conclusion to be reached from this data; there is zero reason to believe that same-sex parents are any less capable than heterosexual parents of raising kids.

“Gay couples can be wonderful parents,” says Dr. Kathleen Kelley, director of the training program for child and adolescent psychiatrists at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System. “I take care of several families, and they’ve just made such a difference in their kids’ lives, being able to adopt and [provide] a stable family.”

The question of whether gay men and women should be legally allowed to marry has already been answered in the minds of most Americans; of course they should.

The Pew Research Center reports “polling conducted in 2003 found most Americans (58 percent) opposed to allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, and just a third (33 percent) in favor.” Today, 49 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, with only 44 percent opposed. In people ages 18–32 years, support for marriage equality runs at 70 percent, up from 51 percent just a decade ago.

Interestingly, the idea of gays and lesbians raising children together is substantially more acceptable to the public than the idea of them marrying. Pew found that 64 percent of people now agree, “same-sex couples can be as good parents as heterosexual couples.” That’s 15 percent more than support marriage equality.

Beginning in 2002, with its policy in support of coparent or second-parent adoption, the AAP has closely examined the inequalities for gay and lesbian parents and its impact on their children. With the most recent policy and report, they set out to investigate “what disparities [continue] to exist for children whose parents are gay or lesbian, and what is needed to be done to eliminate those disparities, and to provide the kind of protection and permanence and security for those children that we as a society provide for all other children,” says Dr. Ellen Perrin, director of research at the Center for Children with Special Needs at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts University School of Medicine in downtown Boston, and a lead author of the policy.

The AAP argues, in service of its mission to advocate for the well-being of all children, that it is unjustifiable to deny same-sex partners the right to wed. The evidence that the AAP has collected shows that children can thrive in many nontraditional family models—the government offers support in many challenging situations like single parenthood—but that the ideal situation remains that a married couple, regardless of gender, can provide stability and permanence. In essence, to deny these couples the right to marry is to deny their children the right to equality, too.

Full legal marriage in this country comes with significant tax advantages, to say nothing of the rights guaranteed to married couples in cases of divorce or death of a spouse. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, there are 1,138 federal statutory provisions in which marriage is a factor in determining or receiving rights, benefits and protections.

Science and public opinion have made their voices heard; it is no longer conscionable to deny full equality to LGBT Americans. A social sea change has taken place. Now it’s time for the government to catch up.

Perrin says, “The bottom line is; what children need to grow and develop normally and become healthy adults is nurturing, loving parents who can provide permanence and security. Everything else matters less.”

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