STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. When the Supreme Court takes up same-sex marriage next week, much of the debate will revolve around children. Opponents have long argued that kids' best interests require both a mom and a dad. Now, as NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports, the children of same-sex couples say the evidence shows something else.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Two years ago, this video of a young man testifying in the Iowa legislature went viral.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

ZACH WAHLS: Good evening, Mr. Chairman. My name is Zach Wahls. I'm a sixth-generation Iowan, and an engineering student at the University of Iowa, and I was raised by two women.

LUDDEN: Wahls told lawmakers he was a top student and an Eagle Scout.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

WAHLS: The sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of my character. Thank you very much.

STEVE MAJORS: When we saw that video, we knew that he was just the tip of the iceberg.

LUDDEN: Steve Majors is with the gay advocacy group, Family Equality Council. It's filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court highlighting the stories of people like Wahls, the first generation raised by openly gay and lesbian parents. He notes that just yesterday, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out in support of same-sex marriage as good for kids.

MAJORS: More than 30 years of social science research tells us that the children have the same outcomes, the same positive outcomes as children raised by opposite-sex couples.

ELLA ROBINSON: My dad came out when I was four, and that's when my parents got divorced.

LUDDEN: Ella Robinson is now 31. Her dad is Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop of a major Christian denomination. He and his partner helped raise Ella at a time when she knew no other families like hers.

ROBINSON: And we used to joke that, you know, people would expect a disco ball in our living room, or, you know, naked pictures on the wall. And that could not have been farther from the truth.

LUDDEN: In reality, she says, it was board games and family dinners - boring, normal and loving. Today, there are far more same-sex families. President Obama mentioned them when he told ABC last year that his views on gay marriage had evolved.

(SOUNDBITE OF ABC NEWS BROADCAST)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, Malia and Sasha, they've got friends whose parents are same-sex couples. It wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently.

LUDDEN: In citing his children, the president echoed many others who changed their mind on this issue. So does this explain the huge shift in public opinion? Well, surveys suggest kids under 18 in same-sex families still number fewer than a quarter million.

THOMAS PETERS: It's a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent.

LUDDEN: Thomas Peters is with the National Organization for Marriage, a leading group opposing same-sex marriage.

PETERS: The difference is is that children raised by gay parents are very much in the media's eye. We see it on "Modern Family." We see this hugely blown-out of proportion. It's why, by the way, in Gallup, Americans believe a third to a fourth of Americans are gay.

LUDDEN: In fact, studies estimate it's more like 3 to 4 percent. And Peters argues the media image of gay marriage's impact is misleading. His group put out this ad last fall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADVERTISEMENT)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Young adults with a parent who's had a same-sex relationship fared worse on nearly two-thirds of outcomes measured.

LUDDEN: That study's also cited in a Supreme Court brief, even though it has been widely debunked. Still, children are making their own heartfelt case.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

GRACE EVANS: My name is Grace Evans, and I want to thank you for letting me speak today.

LUDDEN: Eleven-year-old Grace, long hair in a braid, testified this month as Minnesota lawmakers considered legalizing same-sex marriage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

EVANS: I want to ask you this question: Which parent do I not need, my mom or my dad?

LUDDEN: She looked up from her paper to a long silence. A teen who testified last year against gay marriage in Maryland received online death threats. But Thomas Peters, of the National Organization for Marriage, says kids are central to this debate.

PETERS: As long as the marriage conversation remains focused on, generationally, what's best for children, I think America will find the right way forward.

LUDDEN: Yet public opinion is moving rapidly in favor of same-sex marriage. A decade ago, the Pew Research Center found most Americans thought it would undermine the traditional family. Today, researcher Michael Dimock says most do not.

MICHAEL DIMOCK: We see a lot of support for same-sex couples raising children. Sixty-four percent in the current poll say that same-sex couples can be as good a parents as heterosexual couples. That's much higher than support for gay marriage.

LUDDEN: In fact, Dimock says Americans seem to regard same-sex marriage and parenting as two separate issues. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.