Doctors prescribe a dose of marriage equality

The American Academy of Pediatrics finally endorses same-sex unions — for the sake of the children

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published March 21, 2013 6:42PM (EDT)

            (<a href=''>Mincemeat</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(Mincemeat via Shutterstock)

You know your homophobic relative back home who keeps gassing on at every family holiday about how marriage equality will destroy the American family? Today would be an awesome day to call her. But you might want to tell her to sit down.

In a very satisfyingly worded statement Thursday, the American Academy of Pediatrics – that's "60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults" – officially made policy its endorsement of same-sex marriage. Citing its support for couples "regardless of sexual orientation" as "the best way to guarantee benefits and security for their children," the AAP's Benjamin Siegel issued a statement that "there should be equal opportunity for every couple to access the economic stability and federal supports provided to married couples to raise children." Fancy that. Stability. It's good for children.

The policy statement is not exactly out of left field for the organization. In both 2002 and 2010, the AAP declared its support for second-parent adoption by partners. But as marriage equality becomes – to the dismay of dudes like Saxby Chambliss, who seems to think anybody would ever want to gay marry him -- increasingly accepted and approved across the country, the opposition is digging in its heels even further. The Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus just Tuesday affirmed his party's platform that "our party believes marriage is between one man and one woman."

That's why a decisive statement from a respected, venerable organization is such an encouraging and happy development. Though it may seem ridiculous to existing gay and gay-friendly families to even have to say this, the AAP statement normalizes their existence. It says this is what safe, functioning families look like. As father of two Dr. Travis Kidner told the New York Times Wednesday, "The arc is in our favor now."

Like your most conservative neighbor, the AAP affirms that "the family has always been the basic social unit" – but the organization, made up of individuals who actually work directly with children, understands that family takes many forms. Nothing is threatened; nothing is lost when two loving, emotionally healthy individuals of either sex unite to raise children. On the other hand, as the AAP's accompanying technical report notes, based on "extensive research," "Lack of opportunity for same-gender couples to marry adds to families' stress, which affects the health and welfare of all household members." Why don't you support marriage equality, Aunt Tammy? You're hurting families!

In a country where there's still far too much fear and suspicion and hiding behind the old "But what about the chiiiiiiiildren?" argument, it's a pretty big deal to now have one more piece of supporting evidence that equality is in the best interest of children. The AAP says, "A great deal of scientific research documents there is no cause-and-effect relationship between parents' sexual orientation and children’s well-being, according to the AAP policy. In fact, many studies attest to the normal development of children of same-gender couples when the child is wanted, the parents have a commitment to shared parenting, and the parents have strong social and economic support." Did you hear that one, Aunt Tammy? The people who wipe the sniffles off our little girls and boys and bandage up their boo-boos understand what really matters to them. It's love and support and consistency. It's family.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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