Testimony of Jill G. Joseph, MD, PhD, at a Oversight Hearing on "Legal Threats to Traditional Marriage: Implications for Public Policy" before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee

Document Date: April 22, 2004

Testimony of Jill G. Joseph, MD, PhD, at a Oversight Hearing on “Legal Threats to Traditional Marriage: Implications for Public Policy” before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the House Judiciary Committee

Good afternoon.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this subcommittee as it considers legal threats to traditional marriage. Unlike several of the witnesses today, I carry no expertise in law, but instead am simply a pediatrician and a pediatric researcher.

I agreed to testify before you today because I care for and about children. In common with all of you, the well-being of children is of great importance to me. And, as we all know, some of the supporters of the “”Federal Marriage Amendment”” claim that the welfare of children will somehow be advanced by constitutionally denying the legal rights of marriage to gay and lesbian couples and their families.

This claim is, however, inconsistent with both my own experience in the real world of caring for hospitalized children and their families, and with a large and growing body of scientific studies.

In my clinical work, I lead a team of residents, medical students, and other professionals to care for hospitalized children. In this role I coordinate these efforts with the patient’s family to that all children receive high quality, compassionate, family-centered care. As a pediatrician caring for hospitalized children I work with families in moments of great distress. Fortunately, from a medical perspective, the problem is usually simple: a broken bone, a bad attack of asthma. Only rarely do I have to start explaining how bruises can be an early sign of leukemia or how the intensive care unit really is a better place for the tiny 2 month old struggling to breathe. But every family I treat is a family in distress: anxious and often frankly overwhelmed.

For gay and lesbian families this situation carries additional and unnecessary stresses. Who has the assured right to take time off work to care for a now chronically ill child? If one parent must be home with the child, can the other provide insurance for the family? These pressing questions are complicated by the failure of our society to recognize the legitimacy of this family. Every medical form asks for the names of the mother and father. There is no line on the papers for the names of two loving and now frightened mothers waiting for the surgeon, two worried fathers taking turns holding the oxygen mask.

Whatever you may think about gay and lesbian relationships, this Congress must deal with the reality of American families, all families. Like it or not, the 2000 US Census counted over 600,000 same-sex unmarried partner households?.with the real figure more likely to be 3 million. And like it or not, approximately one-quarter of these households include children: adopted children, stepchildren, birth children.

I have already assured you that I am not a lawyer and I will not attempt to discuss the 1,138 federal protections associated with marriage. However, as a pediatrician, I am all too well aware of the need for health insurance, for life insurance, for Social Security benefits, for all the complex custodial arrangements required during the awful times of illness, disability, and death that can afflict us all. And I am very concerned that the Federal Marriage Amendment will cause further harm to children whose parents already face severe legal obstacles in securing the same legal benefits available to children of all other two-parent families.

But you should not rely solely on my own clinical experiences. In my research capacity as a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology, I regularly analyze peer-reviewed medical studies. In preparation for this testimony, I reviewed the scientific evidence regarding the welfare of children in gay and lesbian families. Between 1978 and 2000, 23 studies examined the effects of being raised by lesbian or gay parents. There were total of 615 children of gays and lesbians studied, ranging in age from 18 months to 44 years old. Methods of evaluation were diverse but standardized in order to describe their psychological status, behavioral adjustment, intellectual and cognitive abilities, as well as their sexual orientation and experiences of stigmatization. The scientists who comprehensively reviewed this literature concluded, “Children raised by lesbian mothers or gay fathers did not systematically differ from other children on any of the outcomes.” There are certainly those who disagree with this conclusion. Perhaps most notably Paul Cameron, although expelled by the American Psychological Association and denounced by the American Sociological Association for willfully misrepresenting research, continues to express contrary views.

But given the scientific evidence, it is not surprising that the American Academy of Pediatrics supports both joint and second-parent adoptions by gay and lesbian parents. Thus, the society representing those such as myself providing front-line care to America’s infants, children, and adolescents finds no cause for concern regarding parenting by gays and lesbians, and affirms the importance of ensuring that the legal rights of children extend to both parents

I commend this subcommittee for its focus on the welfare of families and thus of children. Many of us in this country are being challenged. Each of us must ask if the proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting the marriage of gay parents would support the welfare of all families and all American children, including those hundreds of thousands of children whose parents are gay or lesbian. With all due respect, for me as a pediatrician, the answer is clear. The Federal Marriage Amendment will only hurt the well-being of children in this country.

Thank you for your time and the opportunity to speak here today.

* for desciptive purposes only. The views expressed here are those of Dr. Joseph and not meant to represent the policies or opinions of her employer.