Same Sex Marriage will benefit children

Same Sex Marriage will benefit children

The welfare of children has been spoken about considerably during the debate surrounding marriage equality. The fact remains that the Marriage Act does not mention children, not even once. It is not currently a legal requirement of marriage that the married couple produce children, it is not even a legal requirement that the couple be biologically able to produce children – elderly couples and infertile people are not excluded from marriage.

It is not illegal to have children outside of a married relationship. There are plenty of children born and raised outside of a married relationship. There are adopted children and even children born by assisted methods, such as IVF and surrogacy, presently being raised by unmarried couples, and the law does not prevent this. Neither does the law prevent uniformly undesirable parents to get married and/or produce children – for example, murderers, paedophiles, and rapists are not excluded from marriage.

Gay and lesbian couples have been raising children for many years and will continue to do so in the future. Sometimes their children are conceived through previous relationships, sometimes they are conceived through IVF or similar methods, and sometimes they are adopted. Over three decades of medical research comparing children raised by same sex couples with children raised by opposite sex couples has not shown any significant difference in outcome, from personality, behaviour and self esteem, to health, academic success, and sexual orientation. [i]

I believe, as many have stated, that “the best conditions for the creation and upbringing of children is a loving, long-term relationship”. By supporting gay and lesbian marriage, we can further stabilise and cement their relationships, giving them all the rights, benefits and protections of a legal marriage, and this will therefore create the best possible environment for their children.

The legalisation of same sex marriage will reduce social stigma and discrimination presently experienced by same sex couples and their children. This can only benefit the children of such relationships and there is no evidence that this will harm any children of opposite-sex parents.

Legal marriage offers many financial and legal benefits over a de facto relationship. Particularly in the case of a relationship break up, a legal divorce (only possible if first there is a legal marriage) offers a legally structured means of dissolving the relationship. This will assist in managing children of separated same-sex parents, by allowing each parent the same rights to custody and visitation. Consider a situation where two women in a relationship each conceive children by artificial means to different men. If the relationship between the women breaks down, now the law may award each woman “her” biological child – and the other mother may not be entitled to any custody or visitation. This would obviously be a very unfortunate situation. Consider now if these women were married – as automatic step-parents of each other’s biological children, they would be entitled to arrange custody and visitation through a mutually acceptable agreement, just as in any other divorce. This situation clearly benefits the children, and makes the separation smoother.

The simple fact remains that children do best when raised by a loving, long term relationship. Married relationships are more stable and tend to last longer than de facto relationships. Therefore, by allowing same sex couples access to the rights, benefits and protections of marriage, we are granting their children access to the same stability afforded to children of heterosexual relationships. Marriage equality will not harm children – it will benefit them.

Dr Amanda Villis works as a general practitioner (family medicine doctor) in a small country town in Western Australia. She founded the group “Doctors for Marriage Equality” to advocate for marriage equality on health grounds. You can check out the website at drs4equality.com, “like” the facebook group at facebook.com/doctorsformarriageequality and follow on twitter @drs4equality.

 


[i] Pawelski, J et al. The effects of marriage, civil union and domestic partnership laws on the health and well-being of children. Pediatrics 2006 118;349

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