On Your Behalf

Psychology plays key role in same-sex marriage gains

The number of states recognizing gay marriage more than doubled in April, due in large measure to efforts by psychologists and APA. Iowa's Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage April 3, citing research from an APA amicus curiae brief, which states that there is no research basis to justify discrimination against same-sex couples.

Less than a week later, the Vermont legislature voted to legalize same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts and Connecticut in allowing such unions. In the weeks leading up to the vote, the Vermont Psychological Association was staunchly advocating for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, backed by APA policy. In addition, on May 6 lawmakers voted to support same-sex marriage in New Hampshire and Maine.

"The debates preceding these decisions raised many factual questions that can be addressed by scientific data, and APA has been at the forefront in presenting those data to policymakers, judges and court justices," says Gregory M. Herek, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, who has helped APA draft amicus briefs on issues related to sexual orientation. For example, he says, in the first pages of the Iowa opinion, the court notes that APA is a "leading organization" that "weighed the available research and supported the conclusion that gay and lesbian parents are as effective as heterosexual parents in raising children."

Both the Iowa amicus brief—filed in favor of the plaintiffs, six Polk County, Iowa, same-sex couples in committed relationships—and VPA's advocacy drew upon psychological research summarized in APA's Resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents and Children. The resolution asserts that children of same-sex couples are as likely as those of heterosexual parents to flourish and that discrimination against gay and lesbian parents harms their children.

There also appears to be a cumulative effect of APA's efforts in other same-sex relationship cases, says APA General Counsel Nathalie Gilfoyle, JD. The Iowa opinion mentioned similar rulings last year in California and Connecticut, which were also informed by APA briefs.

"It's clear that they're reading the opinions from other states and building on them," Herek says.

—A. Novotney

 

Big victory for psychology education and training

Thanks to APA's intense advocacy, for the first time ever legislation to authorize the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) program has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The legislation would amend the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to specifically provide federal support for graduate education and training in psychology by allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants, cooperative agreements and contracts to accredited doctoral, internship and residency programs in psychology for the development and implementation of programs to provide interdisciplinary training in integrated health-care settings to psychology doctoral students with a focus on the needs of underserved populations.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) introduced the Senate Bill (S. 811) and Reps. Gene Green (D-Texas) and Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) introduced the House bill (HR 2066).

The GPE program is the nation's only federal program solely dedicated to psychology education and training. This authorizing legislation would give the GPE program permanent legal standing as part of the PHSA, the guiding legislation for the nation's public health programs.

Support in both the House and Senate propels the GPE program further along down the path to success as both legislative bodies must agree for a bill to become a law. If successfully authorized, the GPE program will have its own line item within the budget for the Bureau of Health Professions. The bill seeks to authorize the program for five years.

As part of APA's ongoing advocacy for the GPE program, this year APA's Education Government Relations Office launched a grassroots initiative of one-on-one meetings with all key members and staff of the House and Senate Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittees. During the meetings, APA members and staff emphasized the need for more training for the provision of psychological services in integrated health-care settings in underserved communities.

APA is following up on these meetings with a call-in and letter-writing campaign to demonstrate the strong support for the GPE program nationwide.

Since 2002, the GPE program has received nearly $24 million in federal funding and awarded 70 grants in 30 states. Currently there are 18 grants in 15 states. About 900 universities, professional schools and hospitals nationwide are eligible for funding.