In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. The decision opened the door for same-sex couples who are legally married in their state to receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples do.
That may make it easier for some children of same-sex couples to get health insurance, Gonzales said.
As it stood, even couples who were legally married in their state faced barriers to getting employer-sponsored health insurance for their families. Because federal law did not recognize the marriage, health coverage for a spouse or children was considered income -- and it was taxed. So same-sex married employees had to pay more out of their own pockets than their heterosexual counterparts did. Their employers also had bigger costs, in the form of a higher payroll tax.
Without the tax obstacle, same-sex couples may have an easier time, said Gonzales. It's not clear what could happen in states without legal same-sex unions, but Gonzales noted that many large companies have been voluntarily extending health insurance to the families of gay and lesbian employees.
Last month, for example, Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest private employer -- said it would start offering health benefits to U.S. employees' domestic partners, including those of the same sex.
The current findings, which support the American Academy of Pediatrics' endorsements of same-sex marriage, are based on data from a 2008-2010 Census Bureau Survey. It covered 5,081 U.S. children and teens living with same-sex parents, nearly 1.4 million who were living with a married mother and father, and more than 100,000 living with an unmarried mom and dad.
Along with the discrepancy in private health coverage, the researchers found that 10 percent of kids with two fathers were uninsured versus less than 7 percent of those with a married mother and father. Just over 7 percent of kids living with two mothers were uninsured.
Children of same-sex parents were also more often on public insurance -- with about one-quarter getting benefits, compared with 16 percent of kids with married heterosexual parents.
If legal same-sex marriage does boost private health coverage for kids, Wight said it could be a "win-win" for those families and for the public in general.