The Public Policy Committee of the American Psychological Association’s 44th Division is comprised of psychologists who volunteer to provide accurate information concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people based on scientific findings.
We are concerned about the effects of discrimination on foster care and adoption placements, particularly that discrimination can prevent children from having opportunities to live in stable, healthy homes. Although the exact number of gay and lesbian parents in the U.S. is unknown, 2005 Census Bureau data indicate that approximately 20% of nearly 20,000 same-sex cohabitating couples in Virginia were raising children (Romero, et al., 2008). Estimating the number of these couples and parents is difficult, but we know that in the U.S., adoption and foster parenting are one way that gay and lesbian parents are having families.
Research shows that being gay has no bearing on the quality of parenting. In fact, the American Psychological Association (2004) gathered experts in the area of parenting and child development to examine relevant research, and they concluded, “There is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation: lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for their children.”
Despite fears that children of gay or lesbian parents may be less well-adjusted than children raised by heterosexual parents, research has found no support for these fears. A wealth of studies reveal that children of gay parents fare at least as well as children of heterosexual parents in several domains, including children’s mental health, behavioral problems, and social performance (e.g., Gartrell & Bos, 2010). Being parented by a gay person also has no effect on a child’s sexual orientation. Indeed, most lesbian and gay adults were raised by heterosexual parents, and research shows that the overwhelming majority of children with gay and lesbian parents grow up to describe their sexual orientation as heterosexual (Patterson, 2000).
All children deserve to be cared for by parents who have all the legal rights needed to provide that care. Permitting discrimination based on such factors as sexual orientation jeopardizes opportunities for children to have healthy and safe families, particularly for those who are awaiting foster care or adoption. Based on the needs of these children and the scientific research that shows gays and lesbians can be fit parents who rear well-adjusted children, we urge you to provide protections against discrimination based on such factors as sexual orientation.
We invite you to contact us for references or if we can help to clarify anything further.
Sincerely, Division 44 Public Policy Committee