Children raised by gay or lesbian couples benefit when their parents are allowed to marry, America's top pediatrics group said Thursday in support of same-sex marriage.
"If a child has two living and capable parents who choose to create a permanent bond by way of civil marriage, it is in the best interest of their child(ren) that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so, irrespective of their sexual orientation," the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a policy statement.
Dr. Ellen Perrin, co-author of the policy statement, says marriage gives children of same-sex couples the same advantages of any married couple's children.
"Marriage provides permanence and security for children, and those are extremely important for children's well-being," said Perrin, a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine who specializes in the developmental behavior of children. "(Marriage) allows them to grow up in an environment in which they're confident of the solidity of their family and the fact that their family is just like every other family of kids they know in school."
Almost 2 million children are being raised by gay and lesbian parents, according to the AAP. Only nine states and the District of Columbia currently allow same-sex couples to legally marry.
The policy statement comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to consider two same-sex marriage cases next week. One involves the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The other involves a California law banning gay marriage.
Critics of same-sex marriage have argued it hurts children, citing research that claims children do better when both a mother and a father are in the home.
In a 2009 story, Dale O'Leary, author of the book "One Man, One Woman: A Catholic's Guide to Defending Marriage," said being raised by a same-sex couple damaged children. All children have a natural desire for a parent of each gender, she says, and children of same-sex couples are forced to repress that desire because their parents won't accept it.
In a 2010 opinion piece, Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, said "An eight-year study of girls and their families showed that a father's presence in the home, with appropriate involvement in his children's lives, contributed to daughters' reaching puberty at a later age."
Although Jackson did not provide specifics on the study, Perrin dismisses such concerns and says virtually all the studies evaluating the benefit of having both a mother and a father in the home compare the situation to a one-parent family, typically the mother alone---not to two parents of the same sex.
"This is something that people are often concerned about, but in reality it just isn't really a problem for these families," she said. "It's very clear that other people in the child's family environment can substitute for a male or a female influence."
In reaching its conclusion, the American Academy of Pediatrics authors reviewed more than 30 years of scientific research evaluating children raised by gay and lesbian parents.
"There's no relationship between parents' gender or sexual orientation and their children's well-being," Perrin said. "Our conclusion is based in the fact that there's no evidence at all that same-sex marriage harms children in any way."