Having spent my entire career either caring for children as a pediatrician, or in a leadership role in pediatric health care, I cannot remain silent on the issue of the proposed marriage amendment to the Minnesota Constitution. I speak, however, as an individual, and do not purport to represent the institution I lead, its board or its staff.
Proponents of the constitutional amendment to restrict the right to marry have sometimes claimed that it is necessary to "protect our children." While it is fair to consider the impact on children in the debate, my own experience and the available evidence leads me to the inescapable conclusion that a "no" vote is the best choice for Minnesota children.
During my four decades of involvement in children's health care, I have seen my share of issues that harm children. However, from this time I can't cite a single case in which the presence of loving, committed parents, heterosexual or homosexual, has negatively affected a child. In fact, all the evidence points to the opposite. Children are far more likely to thrive when they are in a stable family with loving parents, or in many cases, a loving single parent.
That's not only my opinion. More than 25 years of research have documented that there is no relationship between parents' sexual orientation and any adverse measure of a child's emotional, psychosocial and behavioral adjustment. It is on the basis of this quarter-century of research that the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced its opposition to the amendment.
The claims that the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would protect children are particularly concerning. Protect them from what? From the stability and comfort that children derive from knowing that their family, and their parents, are recognized as "legitimate"? The research shows that what appears to matter most to the success of a child is the nature of the relationships within the family rather than the structural form that family takes.
I can tell you that when a child is looking for comfort from the pain of stitches or is in a battle with cancer, he or she is as easily soothed by two moms or two dads as by a mom and a dad. Security comes through love and commitment, not sexual orientation.
I do agree with amendment proponents that this is a moral issue. We tell children to look to adults as guides for their own behavior, to help them form their own moral compass.
What are we telling our children if our state designates one group of people as less entitled than others? Such a message may well provide moral permission for more bullying behavior, and sends yet another signal to adolescents already struggling with questions of sexuality that they should feel abnormal or as less than their peers.
There are strongly held beliefs on both sides of this issue for good reason. The nature of our families and how our society equips families to support their children is a serious discussion. But it's for that very reason that it should not be relegated to 30-second TV ads. Be careful in accepting as fact arguments that are based on fear.
If you're looking for facts, I encourage you to look to trusted sources on the health of children, including the AAP, American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League and the American Medical Association -- none of which support the premise that same-sex couples are inherently bad for children.
Based on firsthand experience, I can say that the best medicine and technology in the world will never equal the power of making a child feel safe, loved and supported. I've seen children and families walk through unthinkable tragedy and amazing triumph -- in either case, children are in the best position when they are supported by loving people and when they are empowered to love themselves for exactly who they are.
Ultimately, this amendment isn't about law or politics, it's about people. Constitutions should be used to enshrine freedoms, not limit them. Minnesota has an opportunity to be on the right side of history in this important vote. Please carefully consider the impact on children and the role of family when making a decision. When you do, vote no.
Dr. Alan Goldbloom is president and CEO of Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect a position taken on behalf of his institution. To read more marriage amendment commentaries, go here.