American College of Pediatricians: A Useful Prop for Desperate Anti-Gay Bigots in Maine and Everywhere
I just finished getting the kids down to sleep tonight and pulled out my local paper, the Herald Gazette of Knox County, and this letter to the editor popped right out at me:
Is it good for children to be raised by two mothers or two fathers? Definitely not, according to the American College of Pediatricians. What follows is a statement about homosexual parenting posted in the “Position Statements” section of its website, acpeds.org, and dated April 13, 2009:
“There is sound evidence that children exposed to the homosexual lifestyle may be at increased risk for emotional, mental, and even physical harm. […] The family environment in which children are reared plays a critical role in forming a secure gender identity, positive emotional well-being, and optimal academic achievement. Decades of social science research documents that children develop optimally when reared by their two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. The limited research advocating child rearing by homosexual parents has severe methodological limitations. There is significant risk of harm inherent in exposing a child to the homosexual lifestyle.
Given the current body of evidence, the American College of Pediatricians believes it is inappropriate, potentially hazardous to children, and dangerously irresponsible to change the age-old prohibition on homosexual parenting, whether by adoption, foster care, or by reproductive manipulation. This position is rooted in the best available science.”
Protect children. Defend the traditional definition of marriage. Vote Yes on 1.
The author, someone who lives a few miles down the road from me, has publicly asserted her individual right to leave her kids unvaccinated. But others’ individual rights? Well, that’s another matter. She wants to take away the rights of others to live and love in equality here in Maine. She wants her fellow Mainers to vote Yes on Ballot Question 1 in ten days’ time and put an end to same-sex marriage. And to back her up, she makes an appeal to authority: if the American College of Pediatricians says that “children exposed to the homosexual lifestyle may be at increased risk for emotional, mental, and even physical harm,” why then it must be true, right?
Wrong. The problem with this appeal to authority is that the American College of Pediatricians isn’t what the typical reader thinks it is. Just roll that name over on your tongue for a whole: American College of Pediatricians, American College of Pediatricians. Doesn’t it sound like an august body, a neutral arbiter of the best interest of children, the premier representative body for the profession of Pediatrics? Can’t you just smell the oiled wood paneling? Well, that’s what you’re supposed to think, and that’s what you’re supposed to smell. But it’s just a peeling veneer, a cheap plug-in potpourri, a mental mirage of something that isn’t really there when you take a look.
The real, actual premier professional body of pediatricians in the United States is the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2002, it released a review of the scientific literature and a concluding statement in which it declared:
…there is no systematic difference between gay and nongay parents in emotional health, parenting skills, and attitudes toward parenting. No data have pointed to any risk to children as a result of growing up in a family with 1 or more gay parents…. Although gay and lesbian parents may not, despite their best efforts, be able to protect their children fully from the effects of stigmatization and discrimination, parents’ sexual orientation is not a variable that, in itself, predicts their ability to provide a home environment that supports children’s development.
In 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a second review of available scientific literature with the following prescriptive conclusion:
Civil marriage is a legal status that promotes healthy families by conferring a powerful set of rights, benefits, and protections that cannot be obtained by other means. Civil marriage can help foster financial and legal security, psychosocial stability, and an augmented sense of societal acceptance and support. Legal recognition of a spouse can increase the ability of adult couples to provide and care for one another and fosters a nurturing and secure environment for their children. Children who are raised by civilly married parents benefit from the legal status granted to their parents.
Gay and lesbian people have been raising children for many years and will continue to do so in the future; the issue is whether these children will be raised by parents who have the rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage. Same-gender couples are denied the right to civil marriage in every state except Massachusetts and the right to civil union except in Connecticut and Vermont. The federal government and other state governments do not recognize those civil marriages and civil unions.
There is ample evidence to show that children raised by same-gender parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents. More than 25 years of research have documented that there is no relationship between parents’ sexual orientation and any measure of a child’s emotional, psychosocial, and behavioral adjustment. These data have demonstrated no risk to children as a result of growing up in a family with 1 or more gay parents. Conscientious and nurturing adults, whether they are men or women, heterosexual or homosexual, can be excellent parents. The rights, benefits, and protections of civil marriage can further strengthen these families.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has 60,000 members. But it is not the only large professional group of doctors to weigh in on the subject. The American Association of Family Physicians, a professional association of nearly 95,000 family primary care doctors, has released the following declaration:
The AAFP establishes policy and is supportive of legislation which promotes a safe and nurturing environment, including psychological and legal security for all children, including those of adoptive or foster parents, regardless of the parents’ sexual orientation.
The American Psychological Association, with 150,000 professional members, released a “Resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children” in July 2004, in which it declared:
Although exposure to prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation may cause acute distress (Mays & Cochran, 2001; Meyer, 2003), there is no reliable evidence that homosexual orientation per se impairs psychological functioning. Second, beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents have no empirical foundation (Patterson, 2000, 2004a; Perrin, 2002). Lesbian and heterosexual women have not been found to differ markedly in their approaches to child rearing (Patterson, 2000; Tasker, 1999). Members of gay and lesbian couples with children have been found to divide the work involved in childcare evenly, and to be satisfied with their relationships with their partners (Patterson, 2000, 2004a). The results of some studies suggest that lesbian mothers’ and gay fathers’ parenting skills may be superior to those of matched heterosexual parents. There is no scientific basis for concluding that lesbian mothers or gay fathers are unfit parents on the basis of their sexual orientation (Armesto, 2002; Patterson, 2000; Tasker & Golombok, 1997). On the contrary, results of research suggest that lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.
Research suggests that sexual identities (including gender identity, gender-role behavior, and sexual orientation) develop in much the same ways among children of lesbian mothers as they do among children of heterosexual parents (Patterson, 2004a). Studies of other aspects of personal development (including personality, self-concept, and conduct) similarly reveal few differences between children of lesbian mothers and children of heterosexual parents (Perrin, 2002; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001; Tasker, 1999). However, few data regarding these concerns are available for children of gay fathers (Patterson, 2004b). Evidence also suggests that children of lesbian and gay parents have normal social relationships with peers and adults (Patterson, 2000, 2004a; Perrin, 2002; Stacey & Biblarz, 2001; Tasker, 1999; Tasker & Golombok, 1997). The picture that emerges from research is one of general engagement in social life with peers, parents, family members, and friends. Fears about children of lesbian or gay parents being sexually abused by adults, ostracized by peers, or isolated in single-sex lesbian or gay communities have received no scientific support. Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.
And the American Psychiatric Association, with more than 38,000 members, released the following declaration in 2005:
As physicians who frequently evaluate the impact of social and family relationships on child development, and the ability of adults and children to cope with stress and mental illness, psychiatrists note the invariably positive influence of a stable, adult partnership on the health of all family members. Sustained and committed marital and family relationships are cornerstones of our social support network as we face life’s challenges, including illness and loss. There is ample evidence that long-term spousal and family support enhances physical and mental health at all stages of development.
This position statement is about the legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage, not religious marriage, and it does not pertain to any organized religion’s view of same-sex marriage.
Heterosexual relationships have a legal framework for their existence through civil marriage, which provides a stabilizing force. In the United States, with the exception of Massachusetts, same-sex couples are currently denied the important legal benefits, rights and responsibilities of civil marriage. Same-sex couples therefore experience several kinds of state-sanctioned discrimination that can adversely affect the stability of
their relationships and their mental health.
The children of unmarried gay and lesbian parents do not have the same protection that civil marriage affords the children of heterosexual couples. Adoptive and divorced lesbian and gay parents face additional obstacles. An adoptive parent who is lesbian or gay is often prejudicially presumed as unfit in many U.S. jurisdictions. Furthermore, when unmarried couples do adopt, usually one parent is granted legal rights, while the other parent may have no legal standing. These obstacles occur even though no research has shown that the children raised by lesbians and gay men are less well adjusted than those reared within heterosexual
As the population ages, the denial of legal recognition of civil marriage has consequences for increasing numbers of older adults in same-sex relationships who face age-related health and financial concerns. Excluding these adults from civil marriage protections of survivorship and inheritance rights, financial benefits, and legal recognition as a couple in health care settings increases the psychological burden associated with
The American Psychiatric Association has historically supported equity, parity, and non-discrimination in matters that have an impact on mental health. APA has also supported same-sex civil unions and the right of same-sex couples to adopt and co-parent children. This is because APA has a longstanding interest in civil rights and legal issues that affect mental health as well as a code of ethics that supports and respects human dignity. Educating the public about lesbian and gay relationships and supporting efforts to establish legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage is consistent with the Association’s advocacy for minority groups.
Civil marriage is associated with a unique set of benefits that provide legal and economic protections to adults in committed relationships and to their children. Equal access to the institution of civil marriage is consistent with the APA’s opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Therefore be it resolved that:
“In the interest of maintaining and promoting mental health, the American Psychiatric Association supports the legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage with all rights, benefits, and responsibilities conferred by civil marriage, and opposes restrictions to those same rights, benefits, and responsibilities.”
In 2002, the American College of Pediatricians formed out of opposition to these findings with just 59 members. According to the last Form 990 disclosure available for this non-profit organization, describing its 2006 activities, it:
* Operated out of a P.O. Box in Gainesville, Florida and paid no expenses on rent
* Had a nominal board of directors, each of whose reported average work hours per week for the group is reported as “0.0”.
* Reported $44,367 in revenue for the year, and just under $100,000 in revenue total in the four years before that.
* Spent $36,188 in salaries and employee benefits, $1,158 in membership recruiting, $356 on fundraising and $1,080 on marketing in 2006.
In short, the American College of Pediatrics is not a robust, sizeable professional organization. It is miniscule, homeless and operating on a shoestring, with no indication of any budgetary allowance for scientific research whatsoever. The much more sizeable, robust, and active professional organizations it shadows are consistent in their reviews of the scientific literature and their recommendations when it comes to policy: they are consistently supportive of same-sex marriage as efficacious for gay and lesbian couples and the children they raise.
I can only think of two reasons why the correspondent with my local paper appeals to the apparent but illusory authority of the “American College of Pediatrics” in order to justify her “Yes on 1” stance. I can only figure that either she is ignorant of the professional inactivity and irrelevance of this shell group and sincerely believes that this is the great, austere, professional commons suggested by its name, or she is aware it is a sham but is willing to use the name to prop up an otherwise shaky bigotry. Neither honest ignorance nor the cynical erection of a scientific bluff should inspire confidence in an informed reader of her letter.
And so her letter is filed in the thickening folder I’ve got titled “Yes on 1 Desperate Measures.”