In the News...
APA Board of Trustees Approves position statement for civil marriage equality
Dan Karasic, MD

On July 30, 2005, the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association approved a position statement supporting the legalization of same sex civil marriage, and opposing efforts to ban marriage equality. The position statement had been approved by the APA Assembly in Atlanta last May.

AGLP members played an essential role in the passage to the position statement. There was much discussion on the proposed wording of the statement by AGLP members, including Jack Drescher, Dan Hicks, Marshall Forstein, Margery Sved, Mark Townsend, and many others. The statement originated in the APA’s Committee on Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues, chaired by Jack Drescher. Through the efforts of other AGLP members, several district branches also endorsed the statement. The statement was revised and endorsed by the Council on Minority Mental Health and Health Disparities, which is chaired by Francis Lu, MD. (Dr. Lu was honored at the AGLP Awards Banquet in San Francisco in 2003 for his work to promote LGBT equality.) The position statement then was approved by the Joint Reference Committee and sent to the APA Assembly. Drs. Drescher, Sved, Lu and numerous others helped shepherd the statement to passage in the Assembly in May.

AGLP members then contacted their representatives on the APA Board of Trustees, urging that the Board also approve the statement. In the end, the Board of Trustees overwhelmingly approved the position statement on July 30.

The APA can now file or sign on to amicus briefs supporting the legalization of same sex marriage, and opposing marriage equality bans. Amicus briefs, including the APA’s, were important in the Supreme Court reversing the Bowers decision in Lawrence vs. Texas, which invalidated sodomy laws. According to Lambda Legal, amicus briefs in the lawsuits over marriage equality are similarly important. Thanks to the hard work of many in AGLP, and our allies in the APA, the APA can now stand with the LGBT community in our fight for marriage equality.

Here is the APA Position Statement:
Position Statement in Support of Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Civil Marriage

As physicians who frequently evaluate the impact of social and family relationships on child development, and the ability of adults and children to cope with stress and mental illness, psychiatrists note the invariably positive influence of a stable, adult partnership on the health of all family members. Sustained and committed marital and family relationships are cornerstones of our social support network as we face life’s challenges, including illness and loss. There is ample evidence that long-term spousal and family support enhances physical and mental health at all stages of development.

This position statement is about the legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage, not religious marriage, and it does not pertain to any organized religion’s view of same-sex marriage. Heterosexual relationships have a legal framework for their existence through civil marriage, which provides a stabilizing force. In the United States, with the exception of Massachusetts, same-sex couples are currently denied the important legal benefits, rights and responsibilities of civil marriage. Same-sex couples therefore experience several kinds of state-sanctioned discrimination that can adversely affect the stability of their relationships and their mental health. The children of unmarried gay and lesbian parents do not have the same protection that civil marriage affords the children of heterosexual couples. Adoptive and divorced lesbian and gay parents face additional obstacles. An adoptive parent who is lesbian or gay is often prejudicially presumed as unfit in many U.S. jurisdictions. Furthermore, when unmarried couples do adopt, usually one parent is granted legal rights, while the other parent may have no legal standing. These obstacles occur even though no research has shown that the children raised by lesbians and gay men are less well adjusted than those reared within heterosexual relationships. As the population ages, the denial of legal recognition of civil marriage has consequences for increasing numbers of older adults in same-sex relationships who face age-related health and financial concerns. Excluding these adults from civil marriage protections of survivorship and inheritance rights, financial benefits, and legal recognition as a couple in health care settings increases the psychological burden associated with aging.

The American Psychiatric Association has historically supported equity, parity, and nondiscrimination in matters that have an impact on mental health. APA has also supported same sex civil unions and the right of same-sex couples to adopt and co-parent children. This is because 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. Educating the public about lesbian and gay relationships and supporting efforts to establish legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage is consistent with the Association’s advocacy for minority groups. Civil marriage is associated with a unique set of benefits that provide legal and economic protections to adults in committed relationships and to their children. Equal access to the institution of civil marriage is consistent with the APA’s opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Therefore be it resolved that:
"In the interest of maintaining and promoting mental health, the American Psychiatric Association supports the legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage with all rights, benefits, and responsibilities conferred by civil marriage, and opposes restrictions to those same rights, benefits, and responsibilities.”

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