The influential American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended legalizing gay marriage on the grounds that it fosters the good health and well-being of children.
In a policy statement released Thursday, the AAP declared that "scientific evidence affirms that children have similar developmental and emotional needs and receive similar parenting whether they are raised by parents of the same or different genders."
It wasn't the gender of the child's parents that affected their health as much as it was the child's relationship with their parents, and the parents' relationship with each other, the statement said.
"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," read the statement.
Its lead authors -- Dr. Benjamin S. Siegel, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, and Dr. Ellen C. Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston -- noted that almost 2 million U.S. children are currently being raised by gay and lesbian parents in the United States.
If a child has gay parents who wish to marry, "it is in the best interests of the children that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so," the authors wrote.
Same-sex marriage has been legalized in only a small number of of U.S. states and remains an issue of heated debate. The AAP statement comes just as the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to consider two gay marriage cases next week.
The policy statement also said that if two parents are not available for a child, adoption or foster parenting remained acceptable options to provide a loving home for a child and should be available without regard to the sexual orientation of the parents.
"Children need secure and enduring relationships with committed and nurturing adults to enhance their life experiences for optimal social-emotional and cognitive development," authors wrote.
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