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Rx for gay parenting: a Missouri physician talks about the American Academy of Pediatrics' pro-gay proclamation regarding adoption rights. (Behind the Headlines).

When Ken Haller graduated from medical school in 1980, he decided to become a pediatrician, in part because, as a gay man, he thought it unlikely he would ever become a parent himself. "At least that way I could take care of other people's children," he says.

So when the American Academy of Pediatrics, a professional group of which Hailer is one of 55,000 members, released a statement on February 4 endorsing adoption rights for gay and lesbian parents, Haller was among those cheering the loudest.

"The decision will make it possible for more gay parents to give their children the legal stability they deserve," says the assistant professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University.

The Advocate spoke to Hailer about the AAP statement, which said "no data have pointed to any risk to children as a result of growing up in a family with one or more gay parents."

What's the political impact of this ruling?

The status of our families has been debated for years. When an organization of this stature comes down officially on our side, it moves us that much closer to full parental rights.

What should pediatricians around the country make of it?

Policy makers listen to people with expertise. Pediatricians, gay or straight, should make a point of talking to their state legislators about the importance of legal rights for gay and lesbian parents. This statement can't be dismissed as politically correct. This is a mainstream, evidence-based organization.

Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, called the AAP "a group of pro-homosexual people ... who want to further tear down the one-man, one-woman relationship."

He said that about the American Academy of Pediatrics? [Laughs] I'm flabbergasted. It amazes me how low some people will stoop to try to discredit good scientific evidence.

The medical profession has increasingly sided with gays and against conservatives. Why?

A good doctor adheres to evidence-based medicine. It's the gold standard of everything we do. All the scientific evidence has shown that gays and lesbians make very good parents. There simply is no good evidence on the other side. Notice that in his statement, Sheldon cites not a shred of evidence.

What have you observed about same-sex parents in your own practice?

They are like all parents in wanting the very best for their children. But because there are often societal obstacles to their relationships and to gay parenting, there is a level of commitment that you don't always see in opposite-sex parents. When gay people have kids, it's truly a choice, and it's sad to say that's not always the case with [straight] parents.

How do your patients' straight parents react to your sexual orientation?

I don't generally bring it up. But because I'm president of the local gay men's chorus and I've been on television, it might be hard for them not to know. If anyone has objected, they haven't brought it up to me. And believe me, I've remained quite busy. The relationship between doctor and patient has to be one of trust and comfort If people don't feel comfortable, they should choose another doctor.

Do gay pediatricians draw the old, discredited myths about gay men as threats to kids?

The best thing we can do is come out of the closet. If we are secretive, then people say, "Well, if he's ashamed of it, maybe there is something wrong with it." If you march proudly in the pride parade, you immunize yourself, to use a medical term.
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Article Details
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Author:Bull, Chris
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 19, 2002
Words:582
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