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Sorry, Conservatives, Gay Parents Are Great

Photograph by Twenty20

Despite the mainstreaming of same-sex parenting, some still hold out that for any kid to be healthy, happy and successful, he needs a mom and a dad. Or just a mom. Or dad. But definitely not a mom and a mom.

A new study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics does little to bolster that argument. The research concluded that kids of same-sex parents are as emotionally and physically healthy as children being raised by parents of a different sex.

What makes this study different from others—some of which concluded exactly the opposite—is that it's what one of the authors, Dr. Nanette Gartrell, calls an "apples to apples" comparison of the population.

"It is the only study to compare same-sex and different-sex parent households with stable, continuously coupled parents and their biological offspring," Gartrell told CNN. Previous studies relied on same-sex couples volunteering to take part in a survey, which creates a selection bias and casts doubt on the results. "It's been a goal of ours to do a nationally representative survey in which we could do this very carefully matched study," she said.

The study analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Survey on Children's Health. Researchers looked at information pertaining to parents' age, parents' level of education, parents' country of origin, location of the family residence (urban or rural), child's age, child's race, child's gender and whether the child was born in or outside the United States. What they found was that there was no difference—none—when it came to children's general health, emotional difficulties, coping behaviors or learning.

What did make a difference in all of those qualities and outcomes were the relationships between the parents, the parents and the child, and the level of parenting stress.

One small but not insignificant difference the study found between the straight and gay couples was that the gay couples in the study—all women—showed a higher level of stress. Researchers offered no explanation, and some who oppose gay parents jumped on this finding. Armchair sociologists might conclude that a lack of gender equality in the U.S. means that, in female-female couples, there's a doubling-down of gender wage gaps, pressure to be all things to all people and the tendency for mothers to be solely responsible for how their kids turn out. But the study only looked at the outcomes in kids of lesbian couples, because they found too few male same-sex couples with kids, so it's really too soon to draw even that conclusion.

In any case, like the 2010 movie starring straight women playing lesbian moms told us: The kids? They're alright.

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