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Urban Rhythms

Parents With Partners

By Wiley Hall III | Posted 2/6/2002

The august American Academy of Pediatrics is asking its 55,000 members to support the right of gay men and women to adopt their partner's children. This is a controversial position for such a mainstream body to take. Many may even view this position as blasphemous. Yet I believe the academy is urging its members to act in the best interest of children. And I believe that, over time, it will be proven right.

A committee reviewed all of the available research on the subject and determined that children of gay and lesbian parents were as well adjusted socially and psychologically as the children of heterosexual parents. The biggest problem such children may have, the panel concluded, is with the legal system.

Legal adoption ensures that a child can be covered under either parent's health insurance. If one of the parents dies, legal adoption allows the child to receive survivor benefits from Social Security. And if the parents separate, legal adoption provides both adults legal status when determining custody, child support, and visiting rights. Without legal status, children who live in a home headed by gay and lesbian parents are denied those protections.

The American Academy of Pediatrics asked itself, why deprive children that way? And it concluded that there is no good reason to do so.

"Children who are born to or adopted by one member of a same-sex couple deserve the security of two legally recognized parents," the academy concluded in a policy statement just published in its journal, Pediatrics. That statement puts the academy squarely behind "legal and legislative efforts that provide for the possibility of adoption of those children by the second parent or co-parent in same-sex relationships." It urges pediatricians to "become familiar with professional literature regarding gay and lesbian parents and their children; support the right of every child and family to the financial, psychological, and legal security that results from having both parents legally recognized; and advocate for initiatives that establish permanency through co-parent or second-parent adoption for children of same-sex partners."

The academy is not calling upon physicians to prescribe such arrangements, like pills, in the examining room. Nor is it advocating gay marriage, another idea that many consider blasphemous. It simply calls upon physicians to support, when asked, the right of both members of a relationship to establish legal guardianship of the children involved.

Here's why I believe the academy's approach makes so much sense that it will one day become the law of the land. (Right now, three states ban such adoptions and seven states and Washington, D.C., specifically permit them. The rest are debating the issue.)

Children are best served in a stable, loving environment. All things being equal, two parents in such a home are better than one. Intuition, experience, and science are all agreed on that point. In its statement, the academy added that research also indicates that children in a stable, loving home headed by two homosexuals are just as likely to be well adjusted as children in a stable, loving home headed by two heterosexuals. The American Psychological Association and other professional groups agree. Common sense, then, would--or should--dictate that social and legal policy ought to promote those kind of homes rather than discourage them.

The real issue here, of course, is morality. There are many who believe, as a sincere article of their faith, that homosexuality is morally wrong and that society must do everything in its power to discourage it. The problem is that others disagree--including many of the same faith.

So how do we determine which side to support when faced with such a moral quandary? Do we take a vote? Do we follow historical precedent? Do we attempt to determine which side has the strongest conviction? We do all of the above, which is why same-sex couples who want to adopt have such a hard time. I believe, however, that one day we will be less concerned about parents' sexual orientation and more concerned about the kind of home they are able to provide. Mind you, I don't think this new way of looking at things will come about overnight. But when that day does come, we'll find that children will be better off.

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