We used to call them “lady doctors”; today defining a doctor by gender is reserved for an aging generation, if not forgotten altogether. Fast forward 50 years, and we might feel similarly about defining partnerships as “same-sex” or not.
It’s a good discussion to revisit with the recent debates in America on gay and lesbian couples’ right to marriage, and with Statistics Canada’s upcoming release of the results of the National Household Survey, the replacement for the long form census. Results from the short form census were released last September, and for the first time it reported numbers of same-sex couples and their family structures in Canada.
Same-sex marriage in Canada isn’t new. It was on July 20, 2005 that Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act, was passed into law, allowing same-sex couples in Canada to marry. Canada’s 2011 census shows that between 2006 and 2011 the number of same-sex married couples in this country tripled to almost 65,000 couples. Of this group, 10 per cent are raising children.
Opposition groups have long-since launched campaigns and published studies claiming children growing up with same-sex parents will be poorly educated, depressed, or guilty of crimes, to name some of the factors one group, the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada cites. However, other studies don’t support these results.
Benjamin Siegel, a professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, is the co-author of a report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that looked at more than 80 studies, books and articles conducted over 30 years and concluded that same-sex marriage would in fact strengthen families and benefit children.
“Children thrive in families that are stable and that provide permanent security, and the way we do that is through marriage,” said Siegel of the policy statement. “The AAP believes there should be equal opportunity for every couple to access the economic stability and federal supports provided to married couples to raise children.”
The statement defines the critical factors that affect the normal development and mental health of children as parental stress, economic and social stability, community resources, discrimination, and children’s exposure to toxic stressors at home or in their communities — not the sexual orientation of their parents.
Family matters, and matters of the family are always going to raise debate. But, opposition to issues of civil rights have a history of being unfounded.
Almost 10 years ago law professor at the University of Virginia Kim Forde-Mazrui drew parallels between interracial marriages and same-sex unions.
“If religious, scientific, moral opposition to interracial relationships — sex, marriage and adoption — were wrong, notwithstanding the sincerity and good faith of those who believed in the opposition, then are the same arguments any more justified when they are used to oppose same-sex relationships?” Forde-Mazrui asked. “It seems that the similarities at least shift the burden . . . . We’ve tried this before. We’ve learned in hindsight this is wrong.”
Legal and perceptual tides are indeed changing, and today a man like Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout, accidental marriage advocate and son of two moms has a voice that’s approaching mainstream, “The sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character.”