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Legal News
APA Joins Legal Battle Against Gay Marriage Ban
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 23 page 4a-4a

Scientific evidence shows that same-sex parents are as capable of raising psychologically healthy and well-adjusted children as heterosexual parents, assert APA and other leading medical and mental health associations in a November 3 amicus curiae brief supporting a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage act (DOMA).

At issue is Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, thus denying same-sex couples the federal spousal benefits and protections afforded heterosexual couples who have the option of marrying. The brief addresses the specific claim that children raised by same-sex couples face undue harm and explains how DOMA “compounds and perpetuates the stigma historically attached to homosexuality.”

The brief is co-signed by the American Psychological Association, Massachusetts Psychological Association, AMA, National Association of Social workers and its Massachusetts chapter, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Evidence supports the conclusion that homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexuality that is not chosen, that gay and lesbian people form stable, committed relationships that are equivalent to heterosexual relationships in essential respects, and that same-sex couples are no less fit than heterosexual parents to raise children,” state the signatories.

APA and its cosigners note that many same-sex couples are currently raising children, with studies showing that “the factors that affect the adjustment of children and adolescents are the same regardless of parental sexual orientation.” these include the qualities of parent-child relationships, the qualities of relationships among those raising children, and the economic and other resources available to children.

The brief also repudiates claims that having a homosexual parent affects the development of children’s gender identity.

“Evidence indicates … that the vast majority of lesbian and gay adults were raised by heterosexual parents and that the vast majority of children raised by lesbian and gay parents grow up to be heterosexual,” the brief points out.

Denying federal recognition to legally married same-sex couples also serves to stigmatize them, according to the brief. This sentiment echoes that of APA’s 2005 position statement in support of the legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage.

“APA has a longstanding interest in civil rights and legal issues that affect mental health as well as a code of ethics that supports and respects human dignity,” wrote APA in its position statement. “equal access to the institution of civil marriage is consistent with APA’s opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

The amicus brief has been filed in the appeal of a ruling on the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA. The appeal consolidates three related cases.

In July 2010, U.S. District Court judge Joseph Tauro ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in two of the three suits (Gill, et al. v. Office of Personnel Management, et al. and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, et al.) after filing appeals in both cases several months later, the Department of justice announced last February that it would cease to defend Section 3 pursuant to the executive order of President Obama.

The House of Representatives’ Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) subsequently intervened on behalf of the federal government to defend DOMA in the U.S. Court of appeals for the first Circuit. It is expected that the case will eventually reach the Supreme Court.

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) noted that 10 other groups submitted amicus briefs supporting the plaintiffs in the consolidated suit, including a collective of 70 companies addressing the burdens on business caused by DOMA, 130 members of Congress opposing the arguments purportedly made on their behalf by the BLAG, and labor organizations addressing how DOMA prevents private- and public-sector employees from obtaining protections available to other workers.

The amicus brief cosigned by APA is posted at <www.apa.org/about/offices/ogc/amicus/gill.pdf>. APA’s position statement on the support of legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage is posted at <www.psych.org/Departments/EDU/Library/APAOfficialDocumentsandRelated/PositionStatements/200502.aspx>.inline-graphic-1.gif

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