While I was out of the country last week there was remarkable progress when it comes to public health and the opportunity for children. It was wild to be so far away seeing the news unfold. First it was The Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS) voting to allow subsidies for the Affordable Care Act (facilitating the federal government to provide nationwide tax subsidies to support poor and middle-class people when they buy health insurance). Then just a day later SCOTUS voted 5-4 in majority to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states. With the highest court in the land stating clearly that from here forward, “marriage is a right” we realize it changes the game. These laws are about dignity and rights and care but this is squarely also about families. As a mom and pediatrician this feels MOMENTOUS.
Children thrive in situations of stability and when in spaces/places where expectations are clear. We parents learn this early (and sometimes the hard way when we fail to provide it) and we know that children thrive when enveloped by nurturing relationships. It’s also clear to me that all children should have the right to know their family is accepted, endorsed, and of value. Shame is perhaps one of the least desirable emotions for any child — little by little these legal changes will remove some of that. Structure comes from things like having meals with your family, having access to a safe school and quality health care, and even living in a home that requires a regular bedtime. It also comes from a community embracing your family.
These federal shifts are a big win, a sweeping victory for children and it brings into focus the opportunity to protect more children from injustices created when their families don’t receive equal support. I liked this snippet of the ruling as written in The New York Times:
Justice Kennedy rooted the ruling in a fundamental right to marriage. Of special importance to couples, he said, is raising children.
“Without the recognition, stability and predictability marriage offers,” he wrote, “their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue here thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples.”
The law received praise from child advocates including the American Academy of Pediatrics. They released a statement in support but they get good credit for their hard work. They’ve worked diligently to improve support for all children, penning a policy statement in 2013 on gay marriage saying, “To promote optimal health and well-being of all children, the American Academy of Pediatrics supports access for all children to (1) civil marriage rights for their parents and (2) willing and capable foster and adoptive parents, regardless of the parents’ sexual orientation. The AAP has always been an advocate for, and has developed policies to support, the optimal physical, mental, and social health and well-being of all infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. In so doing, the AAP has supported families in all their diversity, because the family has always been the basic social unit in which children develop the supporting and nurturing relationships with adults that they need to thrive.”
All this work to prioritize children and help allow for the construction of families to support them has done good. The laws are about rights, dignity, structure, support and families. I tend to agree that indeed, #lovewins.
- Children with gay parents (my blog post with stats and a thoughtful Pew Research graph, 2013)
- A great overview of the new law with respect to children and detailed history by Tara Haelle in Forbes
- New York Times article or NYT synopsis of the decision