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Pediatricians' group supports gay marriage, adoption rights

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Children's health and well-being are better off when parents who want to marry are allowed to do so regardless of their sexual orientation, a leading pediatricians' group said today.

The American Academy of Pediatrics announced in a new policy statement that it supports the rights for gay and lesbian couples to marry as well as become foster parents and adoptive parents.

"Research shows children thrive when there are two parents who love them and can provide a nurturing environment for them, and that sexual orientation makes no difference, said Dr. Benjamin S. Siegel, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine and co-author of the policy statement, which is published online today in the journal Pediatrics.

Adoption laws should be written such that "someone is deemed a good parent by their capacity to parent, not by their capacity to be heterosexual," Siegel told MyHealthNewsDaily.

In a report accompanying the policy statement, Siegel and his colleagues explained the scientific rationale behind the new policy statement.

"The science right now is very clear that a child who grows up with gay or lesbian parents — if they are committed to each other, if they are strong, secure parents, and have economic and social security — the children are fine," Siegel said.

For example, in one large national study of adolescent health, researchers looked at information from 44 teens who reported being raised by two women in a “marriage-like” family arrangement, and compared them with a random sample of 44 adolescents raised by heterosexual parents. Researchers found no differences in measures of self-esteem, depression, anxiety and school success, according to the report.

Another study called the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study includes 154 lesbian mothers (70 couples and 14 single mothers), and has tracked the children's health since 1986. At age 17, the children of the lesbian mothers were highly competent socially and academically, and had fewer social problems and aggressive behavior, according to the report.

Other recent studies show that families of gay men resemble closely those of lesbians, although fewer data are available because the numbers of gay men who are parenting have been small until recently, the report said.

"Marriage supports permanence and security (the basic ingredients for the healthy development of children). Marriage is also the of?cial societal mechanism for conferring rights, bene?ts, and protections that support couples as spouses and parents and their children ?nancially and legally," the report said.

The policy statement was five years in the making, Siegel said, and during that time the authors not only searched the literature to evaluate relevant studies, they also sought input from experts in child psychiatry.

Based on data from the 2010 census, an estimated 2 million U.S. children are being raised by gay or lesbian single adults or couples, according to the report.

Civil unions and domestic partnerships do not give children the same rights and protections that civil marriage provides, the policy statement noted.

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