In The Supreme Court of Virginia
PAMELA KAY BOTTOMS, Appellant,
SHARON LYNNE BOTTOMS, Appellee.
BRIEF OF AMICI CURIAE
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRY,
AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION,
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS, INC.,
VIRGINIA CHAPTER OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION
OF SOCIAL WORKERS, INC., AND
VIRGINIA PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION
IN SUPPORT OF APPELLEE
JAMES L. McHUGH
DORT S. BIGG
750 First Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
CAROLYN I. POLOWY
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of SOCIAL WORKERS, Inc.
750 First Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002-4241
December 27, 1994
CAROLYN F. CORWIN
COVINGTON & BURLING
1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
P.O. Box 7566
Washington, D.C. 20044-7566
STEPHEN W. BRICKER
BRICKER & ASSOCIATES
700 East Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Counsel for Amici Curiae
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry ("AACAP") is a nonprofit professional organization representing over 6,000 child and adolescent psychiatrists. Its members are physicians with at least five years of additional training beyond medical school in general and child and adolescent psychiatry. Its members actively research, diagnose and treat psychiatric disorders affecting children, adolescents, and their families. AACAP is committed to protecting the well-being and rights of children and their families. It advocates for the best interests of the child or adolescent.
The American Psychological Association, a nonprofit scientific and professional organization founded in 1892, is the major association of psychologists in the United States. The American Psychological Association has more than 120,000 members and affiliates, including the vast majority of psychologists holding doctoral degrees from accredited universities in the United States. Among the American Psychological Association's major functions are promoting psychological research and promulgating the results of this research as it applies to important human concerns. A substantial number of the American Psychological Association's members are concerned with research and the provision of psychological services pertaining to families and children, human sexuality, and attitudes toward stigmatized groups.
The American Psychological Association has submitted amicus briefs in important cases throughout the country that raise issues to which psychological research and opinion are pertinent. The American Psychological Association's amicus briefs have been relied upon by the majority, as well as key concurring and dissenting opinions, in many cases of national significance. E.g., Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836, 855 (1990); Hodgson v. Minnesota, 497 U.S. 417, 437 n.24, 454 n.38 (1990) (plurality opinion); id. at 494 (Kennedy, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part); Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186, 199, 202 n.2, 208 n.3 (1986) (Blackmun, J., dissenting); Kentucky v. Wasson, 842 S.W.2d 487, 490 & n.1 (Ky. 1992).
The National Association of Social Workers, Inc. ("NASW"), a nonprofit professional association with over 150,000 members, is the largest association of social workers in the world. The Virginia Chapter of the NASW has over 3,100 members. NASW is devoted to promoting the quality and effectiveness of social work practice, to advancing professional learning, and to improving the quality of life through the application of social work knowledge and skills. Through its Code of Ethics (NASW, 1993), the NASW bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and encourages social workers to act to protect the rights and opportunities of oppressed groups, including lesbian and gay persons. In its Policy Statement on Lesbian and Gay Issues (August 1993), NASW encourages the recognition and protection of the rights of lesbians and gays to be granted custody of their children and to provide foster and adoptive care where they are otherwise fit parents.
Amici believe that parent-child bonding, especially during the early months and years of life, is crucial to a child's development and well-being. Disruption of this relationship should be based only on compelling reasons, such as concern for the life, physical safety, and mental health of the child, certainly not on a parent's sexual orientation. The relevant social science research shows that an individual's sexual orientation does not correlate with the person's fitness as a parent.
Amici submit this brief to bring to this Court's attention the principal body of scientific knowledge pertinent to the questions posed in this case. It is particularly important that the Court consider such scientific research in view of the widespread prejudice and stereotyping that exists with respect to gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people in the United States.
Sharon Bottoms is the mother of two-year old Kenneth Tyler Doustou ("Tyler"). Pamela Kay Bottoms ("Kay Bottoms"), Tyler's maternal grandmother, instituted proceedings to obtain custody of Tyler. The juvenile court removed Tyler from Sharon's custody and awarded temporary custody to Kay Bottoms. Following a hearing, the Circuit Court held that Sharon Bottoms' lesbian relationship with her partner, April Wade, rendered her an unfit parent and that she should therefore lose custody of Tyler. App. 196-99.
The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Circuit Court. Bottoms v. Bottoms, 444 S.E.2d 276 (Va. App. 1994). Because the social science evidence indicated that "a person's sexual orientation does not bear a relation to that person's fitness as a parent," and because the trial court had before it "[n]o evidence . . . that tended to prove that Sharon Bottoms' living arrangement with April Wade and their lesbian relationship have harmed or will harm Sharon Bottoms' son," the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's ruling in favor of Kay Bottoms and ordered custody of Tyler restored to Sharon Bottoms. Id. at 283-84.
This Court granted review on the question whether the Court of Appeals "erred in deciding that the best interests of [Tyler] was to grant custody to his mother." Amici will address whether the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that a mother's involvement in a lesbian relationship does not render her an unfit parent, where psychological and social science research affords no basis to rebut the presumption of fitness of a natural parent and there is no evidence that the child has been or will be harmed while in the mother's custody.
Sharon Bottoms gave birth to Tyler on July 5, 1991, and raised him until April 5, 1993, when the Juvenile Court awarded custody of Tyler to Sharon's mother. During the hearing in the Circuit Court, Sharon Bottoms testified that she and April Wade have made a lifetime commitment to each other. App. 41. Substantial evidence was submitted to demonstrate that there was no basis for a claim that Sharon Bottoms was an unfit parent. App. 136-43, 152-68.
Dr. Charlotte Patterson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, testified on behalf of the court-appointed guardian in this case that she had reviewed the available research on how children who are raised by a lesbian or gay parent develop psychologically, and she had found that such children develop similarly to children raised by a heterosexual parent. App. 117-28. Dr. Patterson testified that there is no evidence in any of these studies that a child raised by a lesbian or gay parent will be disadvantaged relative to a child raised by a heterosexual parent. App. 127-28. Dr. Rochelle L. Klinger, a practicing psychiatrist and an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Virginia,
In cases where children do experience harassment relating to a parent's sexual orientation, the incidents generally are infrequent and consist of relatively minor verbal teasing, such as name-calling.