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Doctors back rights of gays to adopt - No negative effects seen on children, group says

Lindsey Tanner, Associated Press

February 4, 2002

CHICAGO - The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed the right of gay couples to adopt, saying they can provide the loving, stable, and emotionally healthy family life that children need.

The new policy focuses specifically on gaining legally protected parental rights for gay ''co-parents'' whose partners have children, but it also could apply to gay couples who want to adopt a child together, said Dr. Joseph Hagan Jr., chairman of the committee that wrote the policy.

Citing estimates suggesting that as many as 9 million US children have at least one gay parent, the academy urged its 55,000 members to take an active role in supporting measures that allow adoption by gays.

An academy report, based on related research, says ''there's no existing data to support the widely held belief that there are negative outcomes'' for children raised by gay parents, Hagan said.

''Denying legal parent status through adoption ... prevents these children from enjoying the psychologic and legal security that comes from having two willing, capable, and loving parents,'' the policy says.

Critics say the nation's largest pediatricians' group relied on flawed data and is meddling in a political issue.

''It's a group of pro-homosexual people ... who want to further tear down the one-man, one-woman relationship in America,'' said the Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, a Christian lobbying group. He called the policy irresponsible and ''a disservice to medicine.''

But the academy said that it is crucial for pediatricians to get involved because gay households are becoming more prevalent and doctors are increasingly confronted with related issues.

Gay partners often are the primary caretakers, but without parental rights they have no legal say in matters as simple as granting doctors permission to give a child a shot, said Dr. Barbara J. Howard, an assistant pediatrics professor at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. Howard helped draft the policy.

Also, children in gay households may lack health insurance if the family's only breadwinner is a gay parent without parental rights, Hagan said.

In addition, gay partners lacking parental rights may lose visitation or custody battles when a couple separates or one partner dies, depriving children they've helped raise of future contact, Howard said.

''It's not a political issue,'' Howard said. ''This is an issue regarding the well-being of the child.''

The policy is published in the February issue of the academy's medical journal, Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychological Association also support homosexual adoption.

Steven Drizin, an attorney with Northwestern University's Children and Family Justice Center, said the academy's stance will make a tremendous difference in legal battles involving gay adoption.

''The stamp of approval from a widely respected and mainstream organization ... will go a long way to further the movement throughout courts and legislatures,'' Drizin said.

Nationwide, about half the states have allowed second-parent gay adoptions, where one partner already is a legal parent, said Patricia Logue, an attorney with the gay rights advocacy group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

A handful of states have prohibitive statutes.

Florida bans any homosexual from adopting, while bans in Utah and Mississippi affect gay couples but not gay individuals, said Lisa Bennett of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group.

Research cited in the academy's report includes a study published last year suggesting that children with gay parents are more open to considering homosexual activity than those raised in heterosexual homes, although not more likely to be homosexual as adults.

Gay rights opponents say that study supports their contention that being raised in a gay family is harmful.

But the academy's policy statement says ''there is no basis on which to assume that a parental homosexual orientation will increase likelihood of or induce a homosexual orientation in the child.''