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Same-Sex Parenting OK, Says Prof.

Same-Sex Parenting OK, Says Prof.Studies show that children of gay and lesbian parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexuals, according to a Tufts expert. Boston.

Boston [04.23.04] As the debate over gay marriage continues, the discussion is turning not only to the courtroom, but to the nursery. Same-sex couples have been raising kids for a long time, but some critics of gay marriage are wondering how the alternative family make-up influences children's welfare. Tufts' Ellen Perrin MD - one of the leading experts on the subject - recently weighed in on the debate, saying that research shows there are no significant differences between children raised by gay and straight parents.

"Over and over and again, the data are monotonous in showing no reason to worry about these kinds of family structures for children," Ellen Perrin, Tufts School of Medicine professor of pediatrics, told National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation.

A behavioral pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts-New England Medical Center, Perrin helped usher in a policy supporting gay and lesbian parents in 2002 with a scientific summary that found more similarities than differences between children raised by gay and heterosexual parents.

"It's encouraging, because there's really no reason to think that these children would be worse off or different in any problematic way," Perrin told NPR. "And so the research really just confirms [this]."

An estimated 250,000 children are parented by same-sex couples in the United States. According to the Tufts expert, differences in how these kids are reared may come from societal - not parental - factors.

"If there is a problem with being a child in a family made up of same-sex parents, it doesn't come from the child or the family but from the society around them," Perrin told Talk of the Nation.

Perrin - a child development specialist considered to be one of the leading pediatrician experts on this topic - added, "The stigma that still surrounds homosexuality, even now, makes life more difficult for these families which are otherwise quite able to nurture and care for their children."

But can growing up with same-sex parents influence a child's sexual orientation? Perrin says the concern is not only "somewhat dated, since we now know that being gay or lesbian is not in itself a problem or a disability or a disorder," but a myth.

"We have no indication that children who grow up with gay or lesbian parents are more likely to be gay or lesbian themselves," Perrin told NPR.

According to the Tufts expert, the sexual orientation of parents is less important than the loving environment that the family provides.

"We have a lot of evidence that children do best in a two-parent, stable, committed family," Perrin told NPR. "What's important is that there be two stable, committed, conscientious, caring parents. That we know."

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