It's no secret that children need loving parents, but for decades, same-sex couples raising families have faced opposition from those who claim that growing up with two moms or two fathers might be bad for kids. It's unfortunate that this fight still needs to be fought, but research may be the key to helping everyone understand that having loving parents is more important for a child's development than who those parents love.
Studies confirm kids raised in lesbian and gay families grow up to be just fine, and basically the same as people who were raise in heteronormative households.
According to the researchers behind the longest-running study of same-sex couples raising kids, The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), concluded that 25-year-olds who grew up with two moms have "no significant differences in measures of mental health" compared peers raised by heterosexual parents.
"When I began this study in 1986, there was considerable speculation about the future mental health of children conceived through donor insemination and raised by sexual minority parents," says the study's lead author, Dr. Nanette Gartrell. "We have followed these families since the mothers were inseminating or pregnant and now find that their 25-year-old daughters and sons score as well on mental health as other adults of the same age."
This follows another study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics which followed three groups of families in Italy: 70 gay fathers who had children through surrogacy, 125 lesbian mothers who had children through donor insemination, and 195 heterosexual couples who had children through spontaneous conception.
"Our findings suggested that children with same-sex parents fare well, both in terms of psychological adjustment and prosocial behavior," said Prof. Roberto Baiocco, PhD, of Sapienza University of Rome.
The scores psychological adjustment for the children were within the normal range for all three groups, with no major differences. The researchers note that the kids in same-sex homes actually reported fewer difficulties than those born to heterosexual couples.
Parenting confidence impacts kids more than a parent's sexual preference.
What matters isn't the parents sexual orientation, but rather how confident they feel as a parent. In all three types of families, parents who didn't feel competent in their own parenting reported more problems with their kids, and less satisfaction in their relationship with their partner.
"The present study warns policy-makers against making assumptions on the basis of sexual orientation about people who are more suited than others to be parents or about people who should or should not be denied access to fertility treatments," Baiocco adds.
These studies, which build on others and add to the growing pile of scientific evidence that same-sex families are just families like everyone else, may seem unremarkable to some, but to families struggling to be seen as such, they're powerful tools.
In Italy, where Baiocco's study took place, access to fertility treatments is only available to couples who meet a set of conditions, including being heterosexual, and only this year were same-sex couples allowed to register their children to both parents.
Stateside, about 114,000 same-sex couples are raising children in America right now, according to UCLA, but Alabama, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, do allow state-licensed child welfare agencies to refuse to place and provide services to children and families if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
The ACLU of Michigan is asking a federal judge there to let it sue the state for discrimination against same-sex couples, alleging faith-based adoption agencies that receive state funding have been turning away same-sex couples who would like to adopt.
These studies may not impact rulings in Michigan or Italy, but they do prove one thing: Having two moms or two dads doesn't impact children negatively. Families are families and love is love.