In advance of oral arguments before Maryland’s high court, prominent state psychologists, social workers, and child welfare advocates have spoken out in support of marriage for same-sex couples.

The Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, representatives of these groups stressed extensive, consistent scientific evidence showing that children raised by lesbian and gay couples develop as well as children raised by heterosexual couples.

“The evidence is clear: No matter how you measure it, children raised by same-sex couples are no different from their peers raised by opposite-sex couples. In areas such as social development, psychological functioning, cognitive ability, and adjustment, there is no difference when comparing these kids,” said Paul Clavelle, President of the Maryland Psychological Association.

Dr Clavelle was joined by Ruth Fassinger, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland, who outlined several decades of social science research demonstrating that same-sex parents are just as capable of being good parents as are straight couples and that their children are just as likely to be well adjusted.

Dr Fassinger also stressed that there is absolutely no scientific basis for distinguishing between same-sex and heterosexual couples regarding parental and civil marriage rights.

Daphne McClellan, Executive Director of the Maryland Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, noted, “Because of the extensive and consistent research on same-sex parenting, many of Maryland’s prominent child health and welfare organizations, including the National Association of Social Workers, the Maryland Psychological Association, the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association, have asked the Court of Appeals to find that it is unconstitutional for the state to continue to deny same-sex couples marriage protections for their families.”

Susan Leviton, founder of the Maryland child welfare group Advocates for Children and Youth and a longtime child advocate, pointed out the many harms faced by children of same-sex couples when their parents’ relationships are not recognised.

“This ban on marriage for same-sex couples is especially hurtful to the many children who are being raised by same-sex couples,” said Leviton. “Denying children a legal relationship with both of their parents, and parents a legal relationship with one another, results in children being denied health insurance and inheritance rights, and can result in children being separated from their surviving parent if the biological parent dies.”

The conference speakers represent a broad coalition of psychologists, social workers, and other child welfare advocates who filed friend-of-the-court briefs in Conaway v. Deane Polyak, the case filed by the ACLU on behalf of nine same-sex couples, and a man whose partner passed away, seeking marriage protections for same-sex couples in Maryland.

Also speaking at the press conference was Lina Ayers, on behalf of Families with Pride, a Maryland support organization for gays and lesbians raising children.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on July 7, 2004, in partnership with Equality Maryland. A Baltimore Circuit Court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, and the state appealed that decision. Oral argument will take place December 4, 10 a.m. at the Court of Appeals building in Annapolis.