If Hillary Clinton kicked off this week as a good one for gay marriage proponents—and she did—what started off good is moving toward banner status. Thursday, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared its support for same-sex marriage. If gay and lesbian parents choose to marry, that, the official statement declares, is in the best interests of their children.
An extensive review of the scientific literature on the topic was made and a ten-page report was released that summarizes the Academy’s findings.
Dr. Nanette Gartrell in the New York Times article said, “Marriage strengthens families and benefits child development, and it also increases a parent’s sense of competence and security when they are able to raise children without stigma.” Gartrell is the lead author in the study and a visiting scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law.
Dr. Abbie Goldberg’s 2010 study was one cited byt the AAP. “The AAP statement is supported by several decades of research showing that parents’ sexual orientation is not a relevant factor in shaping children’s well-being and should not be considered in determining adoption or custody rights,” she explains. “Furthermore, recent research by myself and other scholars suggests that when lesbian and gay parents have access to marriage and other legal protections, their children benefit in multiple ways. In contrast, the well-being of children who are raised by parents who cannot legally adopt them and/or who cannot legally marry may be undermined.”
Dr Ellen Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine is a co-author of the AAP study. “If people can’t get married, then they can’t get divorced,” she points out in the New York Times article. “That legal system that exists to protect our most vulnerable, namely children, isn’t in play.”
In really practical terms, Goldberg offers this example: “My research found that young adults who were raised by lesbian parents unable to marry sometimes lost access to financial and emotional support from their non-biological parent when their parents separated, something that these young adults noted would have been prevented had their parents been married and thus had to legally dissolve their union.”
And that’s, in a way, the larger point — families need support. Family values are—when they work—ones to ensure all families thrive, through thick and thin, together or apart, because the children’s best interests are at stake.
Contributor Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Brain Child Magazine, Huffington Post and Salon, amongst others. She keeps a personal blog, Standing in the Shadows. Follow her on Twitter at @standshadows .