Upfront

APA has filed two friend-of-the-court briefs—one in the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals and one in the Montana Supreme Court—that support the legal rights of same-sex couples. The cases are significantly different in their arguments before the court, but the briefs rely on the same social science research showing that homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexuality and that same-sex couples are not any less fit or capable than heterosexual parents and that their children are no less adjusted.

"The briefs are part of a straightforward effort to reduce discrimination by promoting the research on same-sex relationships and the influence of same-sex parents on children," says Clinton Anderson, PhD, associate executive director of APA's Public Interest Directorate.

The 1st Circuit case stems from a Massachusetts lawsuit, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. The plaintiffs, a group of same-sex couples, widows and widowers from same-sex relationships, say the federal Defense of Marriage Act definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman is unconstitutional. That provision, they say, bars the federal government from recognizing marriages of same-sex couples who are legally married in their home states. It also prevents the couples from receiving any of the federal benefits of marriage awarded to opposite-sex married couples.

APA's brief in the Gill case addresses the assumption, stated by the judge from the Massachusetts appeals court, that Congress was motivated by hostility toward same-sex couples when it passed the Defense of Marriage Act.

"The brief argues that the research clearly shows that there is no justification for that animus," says Anderson. The brief states that "the claim that legal recognition of marriage for same-sex couples undermines the institution of marriage and harms their children is inconsistent with the scientific evidence."

The brief was co-signed by the Massachusetts Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association, among others.

It's unclear when the 1st Circuit will decide the case, but experts believe it, along with several other cases challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, in the Montana case—Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana—the plaintiffs ask that the Montana government provide same-sex couples with the same legal privileges awarded to married couples. They argue that under the equal protections granted by Montana's Constitution, the state cannot discriminate against same-sex couples in denying them legal privileges, such as hospital visitation rights, tax breaks and shared property rights.

APA's brief, which was co-signed by the Montana Psychological Association, argues that there's no scientific justification for discriminating against same-sex couples.

—B. Azar