Same-sex couples should be able to marry: Why the AAP got involved

Having married parents is good for children. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks that same-sex couples should be able to marry.

In a policy statement, that’s exactly what they said. It’s going to put the AAP in the middle of controversy–but it was the right thing to do for children.

There are currently almost 2 million children being raised by gay and lesbian parents in the United States. And you know what? They are fine. There is simply no evidence to suggest that it’s bad for children in any way to be raised by same-sex couples. They don’t have more emotional or social or any other problems than other children. For many of these couples, parenthood is something that they have chosen very deliberately and do with real commitment–and that is exactly what children need.

Whatever anyone’s beliefs are about parenting and same-sex marriage, we need to pay attention to the research. And research shows that what makes a difference in the well-being of children is the quality of the relationship they have with their parents, the quality of the relationship between their parents (or the significant adults in their lives) and the availability of resources, both social and economic.

That’s what matters, according to study after study. The sexual orientation of the parents just doesn’t.

And here’s the thing: marriage makes all of that more likely. As the policy statement says, marriage strengthens relationships and families. It brings 2 extended families together. Married couples have more financial and social resources. Married people tend to be healthier both physically and emotionally and less likely to do risky things. And marriage brings legal rights and responsibilities that are important–sometimes crucial, such as the right to make medical decisions.

This is about families. All children deserve to be raised in a secure, stable family that can give them the love, nurturing and resources they need. Marriage–not civil union or something else shy of marriage–helps give children all those things. Marriage supports families.

The AAP is hardly a hotbed of liberals. It is a huge organization with people from all sorts of different personal and political backgrounds. They don’t make policy statements unless they are absolutely sure that the scientific evidence supports them–and they only make policy statements that they think are really important for the health and well-being of children.

This is really important. It’s important for the 2 million children being raised by gay and lesbian parents. It’s important for the thousands of children in foster care who need loving families. It’s important for us as a society to do everything we can to support families–not just some families, the ones that look like us or that we agree with, but all families.

Because our children live in all sorts of families. And our children are our future.

Claire McCarthy is a primary care physician and the medical director of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Martha Eliot Health Center.  She blogs at Thriving, the Boston Children’s Hospital blog, Vector, the Boston Children’s Hospital science and clinical innovation blog, and MD Mama at, where this article originally appeared.

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  • NormRx

    Yea, marriage is great. That’s why, since my divorce in ’87 I am still single.

  • JD

    Before continuing, I would first like to say that I am in favor of gay marriage.

    Having said that, I think that instead of advocating for gay marriage, we should advocate for healthy inter-parent and parent-child relationships. After all, this is what we have proven to be of benefit to the child.

    The problem with advocating for marriage (gay or otherwise) is that marriage in itself does not promise healthy family relationships. Marriage, after all, is just a contract/arrangement. I know many married couples who are incredibly unhealthy in their family relationships, and I know many unmarried couples who have great family relationships.

    By advocating for gay marriage, the AAP is pushing a political, gay rights agenda, under the guise of “benefiting children”. Again, I absolutely believe in the rights of gay people to marry…..I just don’t think that we should use our positions as doctors to promote it.

  • Dave

    I hesitate to respond because I know deep down that anyone who would cite the FRC (classified as a hate group by the SPLC) isn’t interested in truth, but I will just in case someone happens upon this page with an open mind. So, here’s what we say about the ‘research’ you cited:

    1) This study was funded entirely by anti-gay groups, the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation. This alone doesn’t discredit it, but there’s more.

    2) The survey instrument itself did not look at same-sex couples vs. hetero couples. In fact, the question posed on the survey was(quoted from the study itself), ‘‘From when you were born until age 18 (or until you left home to be on your own), did either of your parents ever have a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex?’’

    Why ask the question that way? Why not ask something like, “Were you raised by two parents of the same gender?” This is where the funding comes in, because the question as posed is terribly worded and designed to give a certain outcome. What you end up sampling are children of heterosexual couples, at least one member of whom had an affair with a same-sex partner. You would also catch single parents who were gay. These are the groups you are sampling and then comparing to stable heterosexual families. I’m sure if you compared stable families to homes where people had affairs with opposite sex partners, you would find similar disparities. Ditto for single vs. multi-parent households.

    For me, the survey instrument is the nail in the coffin here. There’s no scientific reason to ask the question like they did if you really meant to study differences in outcomes between homosexual and heterosexual families.

    3) Just to add: the study author has been very active in the anti-gay movement aside from this “study.”

    4) The author’s talking points and coaching prior to his media appearances surrounding this study were leaked and clearly lay out the agenda he was being paid to promote. They are easily googled.

    5) Lets not forget the classic bias and sampling error inherent in survey-based research like this. The paper even admits that it had to cherry pick much of its data due to difficulty in surveying enough people who met the desired criteria.

    • Guest

      The caring, tolerant progressive who shot up the FRC office in DC also used the SPLC’s smear as his justification to do so.

      • Guest

        “The caring, tolerant progressive who shot up the FRC office in DC also used the SPLC’s smear as his justification to do so.”

        Good thing he used a SPLC “Hate-Map” and not one of Sarah Palin’s “crosshairs” maps, or else the media might have gotten upset!!!

    • Alice Robertson

      Dave do you realize what you are saying? To even quote the Southern Poverty Law Center (that both liberals and conservatives condemn) is so appalling it’s hard to make it through your points….that have *some* validity, but not in fullness…they come off as killing the messenger instead of in-depth analysis of the research. Did you really spend time reading about how that research was done? Reading beyond the FRC page? The FRC was just a copy of the research that was basically only considered print worthy by conservatives (because if one advocates gay marriage then your publication isn’t likely to print this type of research….and it’s all so bothersome that one has to try so hard to find the truth). It’s why the Wikileaks debate is so intriguing….agendas be dismissed and the truth be there for all to see….not at an editor’s whim.

  • Anon

    I really hate it when doctors go all political, especially on such divisive issues. Just like with the anti-gun stance, where you’re dissing a vast number of your patients who own guns or support gun owners (support for the second amendment is still a majority stance in this country), you’re going to diss the approximately half of your patients who don’t support gay marriage. And for what?

    Just keep political activism out of the doctor’s office. Support your pet causes outside of the workplace like most other folks do.

    • buzzkillerjsmith

      I agree completely. We docs risk losing credibility when we pop off on social issues. The good news is that the public cares little about what we think on these issues. Dr. M’s opinions will influence no one.

      Diagnosis and treatment is what we are good at. And that’s about it.

      • Margalit Gur-Arie

        …keep your head down and tow the line… :-)

        • Chris

          If doctors (singers, actors, accountants) want to influence policy, go into politics. But if you are a doctor, your client is not paying you to preach politics to them.

    • Margalit Gur-Arie

      For what, indeed… Maybe the government should also not bring political activism *into* the doctor’s office, by dictating when they can/cannot ask about guns and when they must perform transvaginal ultrasounds on non-consenting adult women…

      • Guest

        I agree, but doctors who are dependent on the government dime have only a limited negotiating position. “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

  • JKR

    Flawed logic leads to a flawed conclusion.

  • ninguem

    “…..The AAP is hardly a hotbed of liberals…..”

    If it’s anything like the American Academy of Family Physicians…….yes it is.

  • DavidBehar

    More left wing false propaganda, in the all out attack on the American family. Homosexuals will never be anything more than friends, no matter the left wing lies. The lawyers want to destroy the family to replace it with expensive government make work jobs. Homosexuals have no desire to marry, and in countries with gay marriage for years, very few take advantage of the law. Being homosexual does not make one stupid. Why on earth would a productive homosexual risk his assets for this commitment.?

    Homosexual income is a full standard deviation higher than that of heteros, because they provide more value to employers. Now, the employer will not be able to ask or know if the homosexual applicant has a spouse with AIDS, who will bust the health budget. Homosexuals will become unemployable. The same happened to the disabled, fater the ADA was enacted. They became a lawsuit in a wheel chair, and their employment plummeted. The lawsuits increased and the lawyers are doing well, as was the original intention.

    • Guest

      I am in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry, for reasons which are as valid to me as your reasons unquestionably are to you, but I think your response to the AAP’s public statement on promoting gay marriage is a perfect example of why professional physicians’ organizations should stay out of political lobbying and overt activism in the doctor’s office.

      When parents take their child to the pediatrician’s office, it’s not to have their political views either reinforced or challenged.

    • sphenoid

      I can’t tell if your comment is a farce or if you are being serious. Because it’s really that ridiculous.

  • dj

    If, “There are currently almost 2 million children being raised by gay and lesbian parents in the United States. And you know what? They are fine. There is simply no evidence to suggest that it’s bad for children in any way to be raised by same-sex couples. They don’t have more emotional or social or any other problems than other children.”

    Why fix it if it isn’t broken….. Why the big push to change the definition of Marriage… Most of the lesbian and gay individuals that I know don’t really care…

    • DavidBehar

      First, those studies of normalcy were done by left wing extreme academics with a homosexual agenda. They are not credible. Second, the privileges of marriages are to promote reproduction, and homosexuality precludes that by definition. Lastly, marriage will hurt the productive, and wealthy homosexual, as it has the productive male. So, few will be interested.

      This movement is not originating with the homosexual community. It is from the feminist lawyer to attack and degrade the family, to generate family law business in divorces, and to promote bigger child welfare bureaucracies, run by feminist lawyers.

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