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Why gay parents are good parents

By Jennifer Chrisler, Special to CNN
  • Jennifer Chrisler says gay people want to raise families, just like straight people
  • Chrisler: Kids' advocates and medical groups say preventing gay adoption doesn't help kids
  • She says many in foster care could have permanent homes if gay people could adopt them
  • Chrisler: President must back Every Child Deserves a Family Act to open door to gay adoption

Editors note: Jennifer Chrisler is executive director of Family Equality Council, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents and guardians.

(CNN) -- This month we celebrate Gay Pride. But I'd like to suggest that we take this opportunity to celebrate gay parent pride.

We should acknowledge that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people do what every other American tries to do. They want to pursue life, liberty, happiness, love and marry the person of their choice, go to work without fear of being fired, have access to health benefits and hospital visitation rights. And, like their straight friends, they also want to create families.

There are 1 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents raising about 2 million children in the U.S., according to figures analyzed by UCLA's Williams Institute. Good parents are good parents, no matter their sexual orientation.

I am one half of a lesbian parenting team, and my twin 8-year-old boys are excelling both in school and Little League. They just finished reading the "Harry Potter" series and are obsessed with Legos. They set and clear the dinner table and are beginning to remember their manners (finally)! They're happy and productive boys.

But don't believe me, a doting, biased mother. The Child Welfare League of America, in the business of protecting children since 1920, has been unequivocal: "Any attempt to preclude or prevent gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals or couples from parenting, based solely on their sexual orientation, is not in the best interest of children."

The National Adoption Center, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association agree. Thirty years of research says the same, including a new 17-year study published this month in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, concluding that children raised by lesbian parents do better academically, are more confident than their peers and have fewer behavioral problems.

Yet critics still dismiss what child welfare experts say. The state of Florida, which bans adoptions by gay people, believes Martin Gill is an unfit parent. The state is refusing to allow Gill, who is gay, to adopt the two brothers he has been loving as a foster parent for more than five years.

(Florida's ban has been kept in place since 1977 with the help of testimony from now discredited and disgraced George Rekers, an anti-gay rights activist who recently toured Europe with a male escort and who has been the star witness for the small but vocal group of anti-gay adoption activists. Florida testimony also invoked the writings of Dr. Paul Cameron, another anti-gay adoption "expert" whose credibility has been recently decimated: He was dropped from the American Psychological Association for failing to cooperate with an ethics investigation and censured by the American Sociological Association, which condemned him for misrepresention of sociologial research.)

Foster children need loving parents and stable homes. Many of the 120,000 kids that the Department of Health and Human Services says are in the foster care system, up for adoption, could have permanent homes if gay people could adopt them. For every child available and waiting for adoption, there are 16 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people wanting to adopt, according to the Williams Institute analysis. The supply of parents dwarfs demand -- not a bad problem to have.

It's wrong to let all those prospective parents sit on the sidelines while kids are bouncing from one temporary foster home to another. Many states apparently think it's healthier and more productive if foster children remain wards of the states, without parents, than to let them be raised in so-called nontraditional families.

President Obama said recently that loving families come in many forms.

He told the Family Equality Council in 2008 that more needs to be done "to support and strengthen LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] families. Because equality in relationship, family, and adoption rights is not some abstract principle; it's about whether millions of LGBT Americans can finally live lives marked by dignity and freedom."

That's why we call on the president publicly to endorse the Every Child Deserves a Family Act, legislation in Congress that would open the doors for LGBT people to adopt. The bill takes into consideration the best interests of each individual child, rather than excluding potential parents based on personal bias or bigotry.

It's up to LGBT parents to define the perception of parenting and not let those opposed do it for us. We speak a common language with other parents from bedtime to bath time. And over time, more people will realize that LGBT families have a lot in common with traditional families.

Until then, however, the foster kids are waiting.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jennifer Chrisler.