Washington State Psychological Association Letter to Legislator Urging Support for Same-sex Union Bill

Letter to Legislator from Washington State Psychological Association Urging Support for Same-sex Union Bill

February 5, 2009

Dear Legislator,

On behalf of the Executive Board, Council, and membership of the Washington State Psychological Association, we are writing to you today to strongly urge your support of Domestic Partnership for Same-Sex Couples [SB 5688, HB 1727].  We believe that passing this bill will enhance the well-being not only of gay and lesbian individuals but also of all residents of Washington State, while not passing the bill further upholds discrimination against sexual minorities.  In fact, supporting domestic partner legislation has been identified as one of the top priorities for WSPA this year.

Ample research supports the notion that denying equal rights to same-sex couples not only is discriminatory but can adversely affect the psychological, physical, social and economic well-being of gay men and lesbians.  Much of this research is summarized in the 2004 American Psychological Association Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Marriage. 

This research demonstrates that:

  • Discrimination based on sexual orientation has a deleterious effect on the psychological, physical, social and economic well-being of gay and lesbian individuals.

  • Gay and lesbian couples already experience economic disadvantages.

  • Same-sex couples are remarkably similar to, rather than different from, heterosexual couples in terms of their desire for and ability to maintain committed relationships, as well as the processes contributing to relationship satisfaction and stability.

  • Codified discrimination of gay and lesbian individuals can increase the risk of harassment, violence and hate crimes.

  • The current (January 2009) issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology is devoted to new research demonstrating that the enactment of discriminatory legislation as well as the failure to enact protective legislation have potentially negative consequences for the mental health of LGBT persons in the jurisdictions in question. Further, such action (or lack thereof) perpetuates misunderstanding among the mainstream populace about LGBT people, putting them at greater risk for discrimination, harassment, and anti-gay violence.

As a result of their review of these findings, the American Psychological Association has resolved to support marriage equality for same-sex couples, and to take a leadership role in eliminating discrimination based on sexual orientation at both the state and federal levels.  In sending you this letter WSPA is acting in accordance with this strong mandate from APA.

During these difficult economic times, it is more important than ever to safeguard the economic security of all Washington residents.  Health care discrepancies based on sexual orientation constitute a further financial burden on same-sex couples, and therefore can produce further stress during these already difficult times.  For example, most same-sex couples are covered by two health insurance policies instead of one, and in the minority of instances where domestic partner health care benefits are available, the second partner’s health insurance coverage is taxed as income.

WSPA strongly recommends that Washington state move to provide all of the benefits of civil marriage to same-sex couples.  Additionally, when considering the welfare of the residents of Washington at large, it is important to remember that granting equal rights to same sex couples may also benefit people who experience discrimination based on other social ranks including age, race, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender identity, religion, and class. 

While WSPA supports the Legislature’s efforts toward increasing domestic partnership benefits, we hope you will not misinterpret our support as saying that domestic partnership is sufficient.  Although domestic partnership legislation may provide equivalent rights for same-sex and heterosexual couples, civil marriage confers a social status to heterosexual couples that is still denied to same-sex couples who enter into domestic partnerships or civil unions.  In states where domestic partnerships or civil unions are available, research is now accumulating that the lack of true civil marriage status still has a deleterious effect on the well-being of same-sex couples.  Separate is still not equal. Therefore, WSPA supports Washington State ultimately moving toward full marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Members of WSPA would be happy to provide you with the empirical literature supporting any of the above conclusions, as well as testimony as to the deleterious effects of lack of rights and anti-gay legislation on the well-being of our clients.  Please let us know how we can be of assistance to you.


Tim Popanz, Ph.D.


Stacey Prince, PhD
Marriage Equality Working Group,

On behalf of the membership of the Washington State Psychological Association