Leading pediatricians' group backs same-sex marriage


CHICAGO The nation's most influential pediatrician's group has endorsed same-sex marriage, saying a stable relationship between parents regardless of sexual orientation contributes to a child's health and well-being.

The new policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics, published online Thursday, cites research showing that the parents' sexual orientation has no effect on a child's development. Kids fare just as well in same-sex or straight families when they are nurturing and financially and emotionally stable, the academy says.

Separately, a new national survey shows the nation's views on same-sex marriage are more favorable -- in large part because of a shift in attitudes among those who know someone who is gay or became more accepting as they got older of gays and lesbians.

The Pew Research Center poll also finds that a large group of younger adults who tend to be more open to gay rights is driving the numbers upward.

The issue has grabbed the national spotlight recently with the public embrace of same-sex marriage by Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

The pediatricians' academy says a two-parent marriage is best equipped to provide that kind of environment. The new policy says that if a child has two same-sex parents who choose to marry, "It is in the best interests of their children that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so."

The policy cites reports indicating that almost 2 million U.S. children are being raised by same-sex parents, many of them in states that don't allow gays to marry.

Officials with the academy said they wanted to make its views known before two same-sex marriage cases are considered by the U.S. Supreme Court next week.

"We wanted that policy statement available for the justices to review," said Dr. Thomas McInerney, the academy's president and a pediatrician in Rochester, N.Y.

The pediatricians' stance is not surprising. They previously joined other national groups, including the American Medical Association, in supporting one of the Supreme Court cases that contends the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The academy also previously supported adoption by same-sex parents.

The academy's statement notes that several other national health groups have supported same-sex marriage. Those are the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American College of Nursing.

Dr. Ben Siegel, a Boston pediatrician and chairman of an academy committee that developed the new policy, said its focus is on "nurturing children. We want what's best for children."

Commenting on the new national survey, the Pew center's director, Michael Dimock, says, "We've certainly seen the trend (in support of same-sex marriage) over the last ten years. But we're now really in a position to talk about the combination of generational change and personal change that have sort of brought the country to where it is today."

Overall, the poll finds 49 percent of Americans favor allowing gay men and lesbians to marry legally, and 44 percent opposed to the idea. That's more people now favoring same-sex marriage than opposing it. A decade ago, 58 percent opposed it and a third supported it.

The 49 percent who now support same-sex marriage includes 14 percent who say they have changed their minds.