April 3, 2009

Iowa Court Says Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

APA policy cited in Supreme Court decision

WASHINGTON—Iowa has become the third U.S. state in which marriage is legal for same-sex couples by virtue of the April 2, 2009, ruling of the Iowa Supreme Court in the case of Varnum v. Brien, No. 07-1499 (Iowa Sup. Ct., April 3, 2009).

The decision holds that Iowa's prior ban on same-sex marriage violated the equal protection clause of Iowa's state constitution. After reviewing the several justifications put forward by the defendant, the County that had denied the six couples' applications for marriage licenses, the Court concluded that the ban on same-sex marriage was not substantially related to any important governmental interest.

The Court also noted in particular that religious opposition was not a constitutional basis to justify a ban on same-sex marriage. The Court concluded that the appropriate remedy was to allow gay and lesbian people full access to the institution of civil marriage. The case was decided solely on the basis of a state constitutional claim for equal protection.

In its decision, the court quoted the American Psychological Association policy on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children which states that “there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation: Lesbian and gay parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide supportive and healthy environments for children.” The APA filed an amicus brief in favor of the plaintiffs, six same-sex couples in committed relationships.

The social science contribution to this decision is apparent throughout the opinion. In the first pages of the opinion, the Court notes the APA as 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” and quoted the APA's Resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents and Children.

Generally, the Court's analysis and understanding of sexual orientation reveals that it carefully evaluated the research of numerous psychologists and other social scientists in reaching its decision.

The Iowa ruling builds on earlier decisions in California and Connecticut which relied on the same science in ruling against state laws limiting marriage rights to heterosexual couples.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.