In the Public Interest

Among APA's primary roles is increasing and disseminating knowledge about human behavior and applying what we know about psychology to address human concerns. A recent example of our work in these areas was our filing an amicus curie brief, along with the California Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the National

Association of Social Workers, in the California case that challenged the decision to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The court found that restricting marriage to same-sex couples violates the state constitution. In its decision, the court cited only APA's brief—one out of the 45 submitted. APA offered rigorous psychological evidence emphasizing the major impact stigma has on well-being, the benefits of marriage, and the lack of difference between lesbian and gay parents and heterosexual parents.

According to the brief:

1. Homosexuality is neither a disorder nor a disease, but rather a normal variant of human sexual orientation. The vast majority of social prejudice, discrimination and violence against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals takes a cumulative toll on the well-being of members in each of these groups. "Minority stress" is the term used by researchers to refer to the negative effects associated with the adverse social conditions experienced by those belonging to a stigmatized social group.

As a product of sociopolitical forces, structural stigma "represents the policies of private and governmental institutions that restrict the opportunities of stigmatized groups." By legitimating and reinforcing the undesired differences of sexual minorities and by according them inferior status relative to heterosexuals, structural stigma gives rise to individual acts against them, subsequently increasing levels of stress as a result.

2. Substantial numbers of gay and lesbian couples are successful in forming stable, long-lasting, committed relationships. Empirical studies using nonrepresentative samples of gay men and lesbians show that the vast majority of participants have been involved in a committed relationship at some point in their lives. Data from the 2000 U.S. Census indicate that of the 5.5 million couples who were living together but not married, about one in nine had a same-sex partner.

3. Being married affords individuals a variety of benefits that have important implications for physical and mental health and for the quality of the relationship itself. These health benefits do not appear to result from simply being in an intimate relationship because most studies have found that married men and women generally experience better physical and mental health than their cohabitating unmarried counterparts.

4. Empirical research has consistently shown that lesbian and gay parents do not differ from heterosexuals in their parenting skills, and their children do not show any deficits compared with children raised by heterosexual parents.

In addition, if their parents are allowed to marry, the children of same-sex couples will benefit not only from the legal stability and other familial benefits that marriage provides, but also from elimination of state-sponsored stigmatization of their families.

In 2004, APA's Council of Representatives adopted two resolutions relevant to this issue, which can be found on APA's Public Interest Directorate Web pages. In the Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Marriage, it was resolved, based on empirical research concerning sexual orientation and marriage, "that the APA believes that it is unfair and discriminatory to deny same-sex couples legal access to civil marriage and to all its attendant benefits, rights, and privileges." In the Resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children, the association recognized that "There is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation."

Adopting these and similar resolutions and filing amicus briefs are but two of the many ways that APA demonstrates its steadfast commitment to providing scientific and educational resources and support to inform public discussion and a clear and objective understanding of these issues.

The full text of the California amicus brief can be found online.