Testimony before the Illinois House of Representatives in support of civil unions

Testimony in favor of House Bill 0178, The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act

Representative Greg Harris, Chair
Youth and Family Committee

Thursday March 5, 2009

Chairman Harris and Committee Members:

I am honored to speak to you today in favor of HB178. While this bill extends relationship rights to opposite-sex couples, I am going to restrict my comments to the positive mental health impact, which the Civil Union Act will have on same-sex Illinois domestic partners and their children. However, as a clinical psychologist who evaluates and treats older adults, I acknowledge the benefits of this bill for this segment of our population. In addition, as someone with prior theological training I would like to praise the authors of the Bill for the respect, which the Civil Union Act, extends to faith traditions.

Major national mental health organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers, and American Psychological Association, and locally, the Illinois Psychological Association have gone on record in their support of formal legal recognition for same-sex unions. In terms of the American Psychological Association, I reference the 2004 Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Marriage and its Resolution on Sexual Orientation, Parents, and Children.

Reasons for extending equivalent rights and responsibilities to same-sex committed relationships are many but given time constraints, I will reference the following:

Mental health professionals have recognized for 30+ years that homosexuality is not a disease, not a disorder, but rather a normal variant of human sexual orientation.  Since sexual orientation is often expressed in an intimate relationship, there is no intrinsic reason for government to treat same-sex committed couples any differently than heterosexual couples.

Heterosexual and homosexual relationships are essentially equivalent in terms of their psychological and social functions and therefore discriminatory policies are unjustified. The majority of gays and lesbians have been in stable relationships. By last Census count, there are almost 800,000 cohabiting same-sex couples in the US, and many describe their relationships as rewarding as their heterosexual counterparts. In Illinois, the estimate of same-sex couples has grown by 31% from 2000 to 2005.

Government recognition of relationships affords a variety of benefits that are favorable to the couple’s physical, financial, and psychological well being. Just as for heterosexuals, a committed relationship offers a positive sense of self, self worth, and mastery, and provides some insulation from mental and physical disorders.

Formal recognition of gay and lesbian unions would improve access to social support and strengthen the relationship, as well as, impose barriers and constraints against easy relationship dissolution, which improves motivation for maintaining the union and working through the hard times.

Stigmatizing same-sex relationships, by defining them as substandard, undesirable, or inferior, to heterosexual relationships, adds to stress for gays and lesbians and promotes physical and mental illness. By extension, stigmatizing and stressing parents in same-sex relationships stresses the children in the family and may have a deleterious effect on children’s psychological and behavioral well being.

And a related point, by instituting relational rights and responsibilities, children residing in the family will be provided with a clearly defined legal relationship with parents and will therefore profit from a sense of well being and physical, psychological, and financial security.

In conclusion, after careful consideration of the best social science research available to date, there is no basis for distinguishing between same-sex and heterosexual couples with respect to governmental recognition of such relationships and the attendant benefits and burdens conferred by such recognition.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to speak before this committee today.

Testimony provided by Randy Georgemiller, PhD