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LOS ANGELES — The influential American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended legalizing gay marriage on the grounds that it fosters the good health and well-being of children.

In a policy statement posted online Thursday, the academy declared that “scientific evidence affirms that children have similar developmental and emotional needs and receive similar parenting whether they are raised by parents of the same or different genders.”

The academy based its policy on a review of scientific literature that it began more than four years ago. “If the studies are different in their design and sample but the results continue to be similar, that gives scientists and consumers more faith in the result,” said Dr. Ellen Perrin, a co-author of the new policy and a pediatrics professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

It wasn’t the gender of the child’s parents that affected their health as much as it was the child’s relationship with the parents, and the parents’ relationship with each other, the review found.

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“Children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents,” the new policy states.

The policy’s lead authors — Dr. Benjamin Siegel, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, and Perrin — noted that almost 2 million U.S. children are being raised by gay and lesbian parents.

If a child has gay parents who wish to marry, “it is in the best interests of the children that legal and social institutions allow and support them to do so,” the authors wrote.

Other scientists called the evidence lackluster and said the academy’s endorsement was premature. Loren Marks, an associate professor of child and family studies at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, said there was not enough national data to support the pediatric association’s position on same-sex marriage.

“National policy should be informed by nationally representative data,” he said. “We are moving in the direction of higher-quality national data, but it’s slow.”

Same-sex marriage has been legalized in the District of Columbia and nine states, including Washington, and remains an issue of heated debate. The academy statement comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to consider two same-sex marriage cases next week.

The policy statement also said that if two parents are not available for a child, adoption or foster parenting remained acceptable options to provide a loving home for a child and should be available without regard to the sexual orientation of the parents.

Material from The New York Times is included in this report

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