Professional groups back gay marriage

12 Mar 2009

Same-sex marriage rights got an endorsement Monday from four Vermont professional organizations who cited research findings that "children of lesbian and gay parents are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish."

They also said gay and lesbian parents are as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to provide healthy environments for children and that "there is no credible scientific evidence" relating parenting effectiveness to sexual orientation.

Their statement, which comes as the Vermont legislature prepares to consider same-sex marriage legislation, was released at a news conference called by the Vermont Psychological Association, the Vermont Psychiatric Association, the Vermont Association of Mental Health Counselors and the Vermont chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Speaking on the organizations' behalf, Jackie Weinstock, an associate professor in the department of integrated professional studies at the University of Vermont, said the groups wanted to "set the record straight" by rebutting contentions by gay-marriage opponents that children raised by single-sex parents fare less well than their counterparts in heterosexual families.

"No study has shown that outcomes for children of single-sex families are any less positive than outcomes for children in heterosexual families," Weinstock said. She said contrary findings sometimes cited by opponents apply in part to children of divorced parents, not exclusively to children of single-sex parents. She acknowledged that national studies of children in same-sex parents have been limited by small research samples.

Vermont has permitted single-sex couples to adopt children since the early 1990s. The state enacted a civil-unions law in 2000. Democratic legislative leaders have said they plan to pass a same-sex marriage bill this session.

Contending arguments about effects on children and varying research interpretations are likely to play out at a legislative hearing on the marriage bill scheduled for next week. Weinstock said she and representatives of the groups expect to appear then to discuss the research in more detail.

In a phone interview Monday Craig Benson, president of Take It to the People, an organization that opposes the legislation, called the proponents' research references "advocacy science." He said any credible research would have to span a generation and cover larger numbers of children than the small groups of a dozen or so who have been followed "anecdotally." He added: "There's a real question whether it's good social policy to create a class of motherless or fatherless children."

Joining Weinstock at the news conference were Milton Marasch, president of the board of the Vermont Psychological Association; Heather Pierce, president of the Vermont Mental Health Counselors Association; and Rilla Murray, executive director of the National Association of Social Workers Vermont chapter. Their statement was consistent with positions taken by national organizations of psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers in support of same-sex marriage rights.

Included in the materials distributed at the news conference was a July 2006 article in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics that concluded, among other things: "There is ample evidence 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 one or more gay parents."

Contact Tim Johnson at 660-1808 or

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