[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s a practicing pediatrician here in Denver, I have patients ranging in age from four to 25, many of whom I have treated for years. I’ve been able to observe their emotional, physical and intellectual development over time and think about why some kids do well and others do not. It’s clear to me that the best predictor of good health is for children to have loving, committed parents. And in my experience –- confirmed by study after study — it doesn’t matter a bit whether the parents are gay or straight, only that they treat their children with respect and provide a sense of security.
Next month, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals here in Denver will hear cases that will decide whether same sex marriage will be legal in Oklahoma and Utah. Other courts across the country also are hearing marriage cases. With all the buzz around the issue, advocates on both sides are weighing in with their best arguments. While some marriage equality opponents point to a single, thoroughly discredited report that purports to show otherwise, the real science could not be clearer: there are no distinguishable differences in outcomes for children with same- or opposite-sex parents. In fact, a position statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics analyzed a wide body of scientific studies examining this issue and found that legalizing marriage equality would actually strengthen families and benefit children. Its authors examined more than 80 studies conducted over 30 years and found no evidence of harm or disadvantage to children raised by two parents of the same sex.
And there’s so much more. A 2013 study from Tufts University and Boston Medical Center reported extensive data revealing “that children raised by gay and lesbian parents have demonstrated resilience with regard to social, psychological, and sexual health.” It also said, “…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.”
Even more strikingly, the Australian Health Service reported in 2013 that children from five-to-17 years old with same-sex parents scored significantly higher on measures of general health and family cohesion than children from all backgrounds and family contexts. It also found that for all other health measures there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups.
We know what qualities we hope to instill in our children: independence, confidence, resilience, mental and emotional strength. Giving children a stable, loving home environment seems to be the most effective way to accomplish that.
As Sally T. Hillsman, the executive officer of the American Sociological Association (ASA), recently said, “The research supports the conclusion that the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples has the potential to improve child well-being insofar as the institution of marriage may provide social and legal support to families and enhance family stability— all of which are key drivers of positive child outcomes.”
The reality is that most parents are dealing with the same familiar meltdowns and spit-ups, untied shoes and unfinished homework, skinned knees and bad dreams. Most are doing their best to provide security and support at home while preparing their children for the future. What matters is that kind of focus and attention, not whether parents are gay or straight.
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