Domestic Diversions

The impact of commitment

The New York Times discusses the impact of gay marriage on the couple’s children.

Patricia Leigh Brown writes (excerpt):
The 2000 census reported that 594,000 households in the United States were headed by same-sex partners, a figured considered by some experts to be conservative. Of those, about 33 percent of lesbian couples reported having children 18 years old or under, while 22 percent of male couples did.

There are no reliable comparisons to the 1990 census, but “it’s very clear that gay fatherhood has risen significantly over the past 10 years,” said Judith Stacey, a sociology professor at the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at New York University.
When the subject of same-sex marriage comes up in class, “I hear a lot of rude comments like, “Eew, that’s disgusting,” Jaclyn said. “A lot of kids say, `That’s really gross.” She says that she has never confided in classmates about her family and that she sits there silently.

“I wish they’d stop,” she said, her eyes looking at the floor.

Studies show that children of gay and lesbian parents are developmentally similar to those with heterosexual parents, said Charlotte J. Patterson, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia who has studied gay and lesbian families. In general, Professor Patterson noted, parenthood for gay and lesbian couples is a conscious choice, but there are as yet no adequate studies measuring stress levels in their children.

Like members of other minorities, children of gay and lesbian parents have to negotiate social and economic differences, which can be “big emotional freight,” Professor Patterson said, adding, “Knowing your parents have made a commitment to stay together and take care of you forever makes children feel more secure.”

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