As the Supreme Court wrapped up its nail-biting deliberations on marriage equality, where were the children? With Justice Kennedy, it turned out. Although he remains conflicted, he went straight to the heart of the matter: "There are some 40,000 children in California," he said, who "live with same-sex parents, and they want their parents to have full recognition and full status. The voice of those children is important."
Indeed. No less an arbiter of children's health than the American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a policy statement, if not an explicit endorsement, of same-sex marriage, marshaling all the available evidence to put the kibosh on concerns about the effects of parental sexual orientation on the well-being of their children:
All children need support and nurturing from stable, healthy and well-functioning adults to be resilient and effective adults. On the basis of a review of extensive scientific literatures, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) affirms that children's well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents' sense of competence and security and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.
But the culture wars rage on. Never mind what's in the best interest of kids. Or the twisted logic of those who lay claim to the sanctity of marriage and family. "Statements like this from the AAP...are clearly driven more by political correctness than the actual state of the research on this issue," declared the Family Research Council's Peter Sprigg. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
And what about the citizens of our democracy? Americans in record numbers have been embracing the rights of their fellow citizens to form more perfect unions, regardless of sexual orientation. According to a CBS poll released this week , 53 percent support gay marriage. Among millenials, or those who were born between 1977 and 1992, a whopping 70 percent say "Aye."
Most importantly, the reality for American children is rapidly changing. According to the U.S. 2010 Census, nearly 650,000 households included two adults of the same gender, an increase of 52 percent over the past 10 years. These couples are raising 115,000 children 18 and under in virtually every county of the nation. If you combine this number of children with those raised by single gay and lesbian parents, you've got two million children, as noted in All Children Matter: Healthcare Obstacle and Opportunities for LGBT Families, a co-production of the Family Equality Council, the Movement Advancement Project, and the Center for American Progress. No small potatoes.
Equality embodies our humanity, and our progress as a nation. But for those who prefer their rationale more hard-nosed: Human capital -- our children -- is the engine of our economy. And as the AAP makes clear, they need support from consistent, loving, healthy adults, no matter their sexual orientation. That relationship, between parent and child, holds the key to the success of this enterprise, including school readiness, academic achievement, and entrée into the middle class, and beyond.
In a felicitous twist of fate, Kristin Perry, one of the challengers to California's 2008 voter initiative to ban same-sex marriage, is a staunch children's advocate, who understands the stakes, both personally, and universally. She and her partner have raised a blended family, including twins and children from a previous marriage. "There is no more important decision as an adult than who you choose to love and build a family with," Perry said, adding that Proposition 8 hurts not only her, but her parents, her community, and her kids.
In 1989, the year my millennial daughter entered the world, Heather Has Two Mommies was self-published by Leslea Newman, unleashing a storm of controversy, and landing in the top 10 most frequently challenged books of the American Library Association. We've come a long, long way, as Newman reflects in the twentieth anniversary edition of her opus. But we're not there yet. We need to be vigilant, and keep our eye on equality -- for all.
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