In a move that could have far-reaching impact in the national marriage equality debate, the American Psychological Association's ( APA ) policymaking body voted unanimously Aug. 3 in support of a resolution backing same-sex marriage.
Citing new studies that show that "many gay men and lesbians, like their heterosexual counterparts, desire to form stable, long-lasting and committed intimate relationships and are successful in doing so," the APA amped up its previous support for LGBT family equality and recommended same-sex marriage become a national policy.
"We don't think there is any justification for discrimination against [ LGBT ] people," said Clinton Anderson, director of the APA's Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns. "Scientific research on marriage suggests that marriage is a very, very positive thing for people, and to deny access to that… is something we oppose."
Considered the largest and most respected psychological organization in the world, the APA has long supported LGBT equality. The group backed same-sex marriage and adoption rights in 2004 and voiced opposition to "ex-gay" or "reparative therapy" in 2009, arguing it was ineffective and caused more harm than good.
"Psychology is really important in trying to keep the discussion around civil rights at more of a logical level," said Anthony Martinez, executive director of the Civil Rights Agenda ( TCRA ) , "as opposed to getting into the moral implications which the conservative right loves to try to throw around and also the emotional implications. Statements like these help to keep it at a very logical, sound level."
Six states ( Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont ) and the District of Columbia currently allow same-sex marriage, while twelve others offer civil unions, which provide fewer benefits than marriage.
Activists hope the weight of APA approval could help sway political and legal battles in coming years.
"In terms of practical implications, I don't think the average LGBT person is going to see the affect in their everyday lives," Martinez said, "but I think it will be a very significant statement that can be used in the future not only by advocacy groups, but in the courts as well… This hopefully reminds all of us to reframe the debate around relationship recognition as a basic right and a basic need."