Resolution on Opposing Discriminatory Legislation & Initiatives Aimed at Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Persons

Adopted by the APA Council of Representatives on February 16-18, 2007

Context

While legislation and initiatives that discriminate against lesbians, gay men and bisexual people have been enacted for decades (Smith, 1997), there has been a dramatic increase in such enactments during the past several years. One form of these enactments has been legislation passed by states and other jurisdictions that restricts the rights of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people in a variety of spheres including limiting access to the rights and responsibilities of marriage, restricting parental rights, and constraining access to legal recourse in the face of discrimination. The other major form of restrictive legal enactments has been popular initiatives proposing amendments to state constitutions that also result in restrictions on marriage and/or parenting rights or recourse in the face of discrimination. Some of the laws resulting from such legislation or initiatives also place restrictions on the rights of same-sex couples to enter into contractual arrangements of various kinds (e.g., Davidoff, 2006; Gay marriage ban goes too far, 2006).

Damage to Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexual People

The very process of introducing, debating, and voting on such measures — whether in legislative or referendum contexts — can have deleterious effects on lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. The rhetoric of these debates tends to be grounded in undocumented and faulty arguments about gay people (Herek, 1998; McCorkle & Most, 1997); often revives old stereotypes and prejudices (Bullis & Bach, 1996); and portrays lesbians, gay men and bisexual people as dangerous and threatening (Davies, 1982; Douglass, 1997; Eastland, 1996a, 1996b; Herman, 1997; McCorkle & Most, 1997; Moritz, 1995; Smith, 1997; Smith & Windes, 2000; Wieshoff, 2002). Much of the rhetoric includes a tone of moral condemnation (Smith, 1997). Lesbians, gay men and bisexual people are thereby objectified and disenfranchised.

Effects of Such Legislation and Initiatives

These legislative and initiative actions result in practical restrictions on the social and political freedom of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Some of these restrictions occur in the realm of the everyday; for example, in the context of the least restrictive of these legal actions, same-sex couples do not have access to the legal rights and responsibilities of civil marriage. Some of these restrictions occur in the context of more extraordinary events; for example, if one member of a same-sex couple has an accident and requires medical care, the couple's signed and notarized medical power of attorney can be legally disregarded by hospital personnel in a jurisdiction that has the more restrictive legal enactments (e.g., Davidoff, 2006; Gay marriage ban goes too far, 2006).

These legislative and initiative actions can also result in psychological distress for lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Immediate consequences include fear, sadness, alienation, anger and an increase in internalized homophobia (Russell, 2000; Russell & Richards, 2003). In addition, these actions can increase the degree to which lesbians, gay men and bisexual people are affected by minority stress (Cochran & Mays, 2000; Cochran, Sullivan, & Mays, 2003; DiPlacido, 1998; Gilman, Cochran, Mays, Hughes, Ostrow, & Kessler, 2001; Herdt & Kertzner, 2006; King & Bartlett, 2006; Mays & Cochran, 2001; Meyer, 2003).

Incompatibility with APA Policies

Discriminatory legislation and initiatives stand in explicit violation of earlier APA policies. Relevant APA policies, rooted in empirical data, have established that there is no basis for discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexual people (Conger, 1975); that there is no basis for legal enactments that limit legal recourse in the face of discrimination based on sexual orientation (APA, 1993); that there is no basis for discrimination against same-sex couples in marriage rights (Paige, 2005a) or parental rights (Paige, 2005b).

Therefore, there exists essential incompatibility between APA's existing policies and the discriminatory legislation and initiatives that seek to limit the rights of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Despite this incompatibility, it is expected that, in the foreseeable future, legislation and initiatives that discriminate against lesbians, gay men and bisexual people will be introduced, debated and voted on.

Resolution

Whereas various states and other jurisdictions have enacted legislation and/or constitutional amendments that limit the access of same-sex couples to the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage and that therefore affect their relationships with each other and/or with their children;

Whereas various states and other jurisdictions have enacted legislation and/or constitutional amendments that limit legal recourse available to lesbians, gay men and bisexual people in the face of discrimination based on sexual orientation;

Whereas it has been the expressed or implied intent of some elected and appointed officials to apply these laws in a manner that selectively discriminates against lesbians, gay men and bisexual people (e.g., Davidoff, 2006);

Whereas these legal restrictions resist the force of psychological data that provide "no evidence to justify discrimination against same-sex couples" (Paige, 2005a, p. 2);

Whereas these legal restrictions contradict two decades of empirical research that suggests "that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents" (Paige, 2005b, p. 2);

Whereas the debate leading up to these legal enactments as well as their outcome cause undue psychological risk to same-sex couples and their children as well as to single lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals, and they create a hostile climate for all lesbian, gay and bisexual people (Bullis & Bach, 1996; Davies, 1982; Donovan & Bowler, 1997; Douglass, 1997; Eastland, 1996a, 1996b; Gonsiorek, 1993; McCorkle & Most, 1997; Moritz, 1995; Moses-Zirkes, 1993; Russell, 2000; Russell & Richards, 2003; Smith, 1997; Whillock, 1995);

Whereas the psychological risks associated with exposure to prejudice and discrimination result in increased psychological distress (Cochran & Mays, 2000; Cochran, Sullivan, & Mays, 2003; DiPlacido, 1998; Gilman, Cochran, Mays, Hughes, Ostrow, & Kessler, 2001; Mays & Cochran, 2001; Meyer, 2003; Russell, 2000; Russell & Richards, 2003);

Whereas APA has taken clear stands against discrimination in any of its forms and against discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexual people in particular (Conger, 1975);

Whereas current immigration law unfairly discriminates against same-sex couples when one is a U.S. citizen and the partner is not;

Whereas municipal laws that prohibit or otherwise limit households members who are not related by biology or marriage may unfairly affect same-sex couples, who typically lack access to marriage, as well as poor people and other-sex partners who do not choose to marry;

Whereas APA has policies that specifically oppose discrimination against same-sex couples in access to marriage (Paige, 2005a) and that oppose "any discrimination based on sexual orientation in matters of adoption, child custody and visitation, foster care and reproductive health services" (Paige, 2005b, p. 3);

Whereas APA is increasingly adopting an international focus and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in many parts of the world face hostile environments;

Therefore be it resolved that APA reaffirms its opposition to discrimination against lesbians, gay men and bisexual people and will take a leadership role in actively opposing the adoption of discriminatory legislation and initiatives;

Be it further resolved that APA will convene a meeting of representatives of national health and mental health organizations to encourage their opposition to legislation and initiatives that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation;

Be it further resolved that APA shall consider the nature of the public policy with regard to sexual orientation discrimination of states and other jurisdictions as one relevant factor when making decisions about meetings and other contractual agreements;

Be it further resolved that APA shall take reasonable steps to publicly oppose discriminatory policies and to promote the physical and psychological safety of its members and staff, when holding meetings or engaging in other contractual agreements in states or jurisdictions with public policy that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.

Be it further resolved that APA encourages psychologists to act to oppose public policy that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation;

Be it further resolved that the APA shall provide scientific and educational resources that contribute to the public debate over sexual orientation discrimination and that assist APA members, divisions, and affiliated state, provincial, and territorial psychological associations to participate in the public debate.

Be it further resolved that APA encourages the United States National Committee for Psychology to develop and recommend to the International Union of Psychological Science General Assembly an international policy for psychology on sexual orientation discrimination;

Be it further resolved that APA encourages the United States to enact immigration laws that allow same-sex couples in which one is a citizen and one is not access to the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities that apply to other-sex couples in which one is a U.S. citizen and the partner is not;

Be it finally resolved that APA encourages municipalities to abolish laws that prohibit or otherwise limit households whose members are not related by biology or marriage that unfairly affect same-sex couples, who typically lack access to marriage, as well as poor people and other-sex partners who do not choose to marry.

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