APA brief cited in California same-sex marriage ruling

In striking down California’s ban on same-sex marriage on May 15, the state’s Supreme Court cited an amicus curiae brief APA jointly filed with the California Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers and its California chapter.

In a 121 page opinion, In re Marriage Cases, the court held that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples violates the state constitution. Out of the 45 amicus briefs in the case, the only brief cited and quoted in support of the decision was the one APA co-filed. The amicus brief provided extensive psychological research on key points relevant to the court's decision, including:

  • How sexual orientation is related to the gender of partners to whom one is attracted--meaning that prohibiting same-sex marriage discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, rather than just imposing disparate burdens on gay people.

  • Current scientific research on the nature of same-sex relationships, the role of child-rearing, and the stigma resulting from denying the label “marriage” to same-sex unions. For example, the brief cited psychological research showing that gay and lesbian parents are not any less fit or capable than heterosexual parents, and that their children are not less adjusted.

Looking at the substantive grounds for protecting marriage because of its importance to society and the individual, the court concluded that those reasons apply with equal force to same-sex couples as to opposite-sex couples, and therefore the constitutional right to marry covers the former as well as the latter.

The court also concluded that denying the label “marriage” to same-sex unions while extending that label to opposite-sex unions impairs the same-sex couples’ fundamental right to marry, because it denigrates their unions as being of lesser value, despite the existence of the same substantive rights.

May 16, 2008