79% of doctors support gay parenting in poll

I was online early the other morning, perusing a doctors-only Web site I frequent that tends to learn significantly to the right. Imagine my surprise when I found them surprisingly, and overwhelmingly, supportive of gay parenting.

I’ve written before about how some doctors’ groups and medical sites are becoming more liberal. I mentioned that the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine (an arm of the Massachusetts Medical Society) were supportive of universal health care (though they didn’t necessarily come out and say that they favored the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare)). I think my field is subtly shifting to the left.

On the medical site that I mentioned above, I’d guess that about 65% or so of the doctors there are conservative, or independent with a conservative bent. There are lots of threads on medical topics: diseases, medications, research and more. And this site has doctors from all specialties.

Often a medical topic gets presented — say, about type II diabetes, for example. We’ll be discussing treatment options, lab testing, genetics or other aspects of the disease. Often someone will post a political comment. Then the thread will get sidetracked with conservatives attacking the ACA, obese people who “don’t take responsibility for themselves,” food stamps (SNAP), Obama, Medicaid or some other political topic that may be tangentially related to diabetes.

A battle often ensues between liberals, conservatives and independents. Usually the conservatives are greater in number. Their tactics run similar to those they employ in the comments of AMERICAblog and other sites: ad hominem attacks, opinions not backed up with valid statistics, attempts to change the topic, and more. It’s amazing how a topic on something like bunions can become politicized. But it happens. I’d give you a link to the site so you could see for yourselves. but I can’t. First off, you need a valid medical license to register to get into the site. And, as a condition of membership, I can’t directly copy and paste or even give direct quotes from things presented there. But I’ll do my best to give you the gist of this one topic.

(Good guy) protesters outside the Supreme Court, and across from the US Congress, for the oral arguments on the gay rights cases involving DOMA and Proposition 8 in March, 2013. © John Aravosis 2013

Gay parents, and their kids, outside the Supreme Court, and across from the US Congress, for the oral arguments on the gay rights cases involving DOMA and Proposition 8 in March, 2013. © John Aravosis 2013

One of the internal medicine doctors asked how other docs felt about same-sex couples raising children. Were they in favor of it or not? And he asked the same question in the form of a poll for the doctors to vote on. Without looking beyond the question, I figured that the responses would be about 70% in the negative. Much like they would be if someone asked a question on same-sex marriage, abortion, immigration or any of the other hot button issue that tends to elicit a negative reaction from conservatives.

So I read the first response. It was the author of the post. He supported same-sex couples raising children. Okay, well from the way he wrote the original question, I suspected as much.

Then I moved on to the next response, sure that there would be a negative comment. Wrong. This poster said that only good parents, of any orientation, should be allowed to raise children. And this respondent isn’t known to be a flaming liberal.

So I went down the list further. Not only did the following doctor, a psychiatrist, support same-sex couples raising kids, he said that he thought that same-sex couples planned and thought about raising kids more that mixed-sex couples. Hmm, okay, well he’s a psychiatrist, and some of them tend to be more liberal, I figured.

I went to the next post, expecting the worst; it was long overdue. This ER doc felt that same-sex couples probably had the same parenting skills as mixed-sex couples. Another thumbs up.

The next one gave a neutral reply saying that he was worried about problems that children raised by a gay couple might face. But he didn’t say that gay couples shouldn’t raise children.  And the next five responses — two Ob-Gyns, a pediatrician, and a notoriously-conservative surgeon all were positive. One even cited stats and gave examples actually favoring parenting by same-sex couples.

Yet I persevered, increasingly perplexed by the forward-thinking nature of my all-too-conservative peers.

The next five comments were also positive. One called it a non-issue. Another recalled how one gay couple he knew broke up, yet continued to raise their kids to adulthood. And the kids turned out all right. Still another said that it was no one’s business what the parents did sexually, so long as the children were safe and well-cared for.

Then, finally, a negative. Someone said that kids need a mom and dad, not two of one and none of the other. A few more comments had a whiff of Regnerus to them (this is the now-discredited anti-“gay parenting” study that didn’t seem to look at any actual children of gay parents).

But overall, the overwhelming majority approved of gay parenting, with two neutrals and one negative. Incredible.

Then I remembered the poll.

I knew immediately that the lurkers out there, who had read but not commented, would have voted in the negative. It’s one thing to express tolerance with your name attached, but surely the anti-gay votes would be in abundance in an anonymous poll protected behind a firewall.

So I cast my vote, and the poll results were revealed. 84% of the doctors favored same-sex couples raising children.  Many of those responding either giving statistics supporting their beliefs, or relating personal experiences of patients they had who were (good) same-sex parents. I really expected that the results would have been opposite to what they were.

In the 4 days the post has been up, the numbers have only shifted slight: with 79% favoring gay parenting, with only 21% opposing.

Again, the results are interesting for two reasons.  First, this poll is on a Web site that only doctors can access. It’s not something that can be skewed by the public at large. Second, this is a site that is overwhelmingly conservative politically. When so-called “liberal” topics come out, they get roundly shouted down.  Yet, even with those constraints, four out of five doctors ended up supporting gay parents, and their comments were just as supportive.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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