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Pediatricians Show Some Support for Same-Sex Adoptions

But critic says decision is based on flawed research

MONDAY, Feb. 4, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Saying the children of gays and lesbians are just "regular kids, like every other kid," the American Academy of Pediatricians today threw its support behind laws that let same-sex couples "co-adopt" children.

The academy's position is meant to encourage laws that let a gay man or lesbian co-adopt a child if the other partner already has custody. The group stopped short of endorsing the concept of joint adoption of children by same-sex couples.

"We believe that children of same-sex couples have the right to the same kind of legal, financial and emotional security that all children should have," says Dr. Ellen Perrin, a professor of pediatrics at Tufts New England Medical Center.

No one knows how many children live with one or two homosexual parents. The percentage of gay Americans is also not clear, but many studies have placed the number at about 5 percent of the total population.

The academy, which represents 55,000 members, became concerned about the legal status of children in same-sex couples as it noticed their numbers were growing, Perrin says.

She estimates that at least 6 million children have gay parents: "We don't know if that's more than there were before, but we have good hunches that it has considerably increased."

The academy's policy statement urges a number of safeguards, including:

  • ensuring the child's eligibility for health benefits from both parents
  • establishing the requirement for child support from both parents in the event of the parents' separation
  • guaranteeing the second parent's custody rights will be protected if the first parent falls ill or dies

The academy commissioned an investigation into gay parenting, and the results appear in the February issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the academy.

"The research all points in the same direction," Perrin says.

There have been three areas of concern in the past about the children of same-sex parents, she explains.

Some worried gay male parents might sexually abuse their children, she says: "That has been studied over and over again, and is definitely not a problem."

The second area of concern was the children would be the targets of teasing and harassment: "They appear to be able to handle that without any emotional harm," she says.

Finally, she says, studies have not shown any sign that children of same-sex parents are more likely to become gay and lesbian themselves. However, she acknowledges studies into this topic are very limited because most children studied have not grown up yet.

A critic of the academy's position contends the entire body of research into same-sex parenting is flawed. Every study into the children of same-sex couples has a "significant fatal flaw" that makes it inconclusive, says Glenn Stanton, a senior research analyst with Focus on the Family, a conservative family advocacy organization. "You can't say anything bad, you can't say anything good."

The studies are either too small or suffer from errors in methodology, he says.

He adds supporters of same-sex adoption are "minimizing" the importance of including a woman and a man in childbearing.

The Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition International says Washington, D.C, and these 21 states have allowed second parent adoption or are home to judges who have allowed it: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Washington.

What To Do: Learn the latest on second parent adoptions from the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse. Read Focus on the Family's statement about the American Academy of Pediatricians' position on second parent adoption.

SOURCES: Interviews with Ellen Perrin, M.D., professor, pediatrics, Tufts New England Medical Center, Boston; Glenn Stanton, senior research analyst, marriage and sexuality, Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo.; February 2002 Pediatrics
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