March 1, 2013

No Scientific Basis for Prohibiting Same-Sex Marriage, Key Associations Argue

Leading mental health groups file briefs in Supreme Court cases challenging Defense of Marriage Act, California’s Proposition 8

WASHINGTON—There is no valid scientific basis for denying same-sex couples the right to legal marriage, or to deprive them of considerable benefits of the institution, according to legal briefs filed with the U.S. Supreme Court by the American Psychological Association and other leading mental health associations.

“Empirical research demonstrates that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners largely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships,” the briefs state. “Like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples form deep emotional attachments and commitments. Heterosexual and same-sex couples alike face similar issues concerning intimacy, love, equity, loyalty and stability, and they go through similar processes to address those issues.” 

Denying recognition to legally married same-sex couples stigmatizes them, according to the “friend of the court” briefs filed in the cases of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges California’s Proposition 8, and U.S. v. Windsor, which challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Perry is slated to be argued before the court on March 26; Windsor will be argued on March 27.

The briefs cite empirical scientific evidence that demonstrate that “homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexuality, is generally not chosen and is highly resistant to change.” Likewise, “there is no scientific basis for concluding that gay and lesbian parents are any less fit or capable than heterosexual parents, or that their children are any less psychologically healthy and well-adjusted,” according to the briefs.

“In drawing conclusions, we rely on the best empirical research available, focusing on general patterns rather than any single study,” the briefs state. All the studies cited in the brief were critically evaluated to assess their methodology, including the reliability and validity of the measures and tests employed, and the quality of data-collection procedures and statistical analyses.

APA President Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD, noted that the association has a long history of supporting equal access to legal marriage based on years of scientific research. “There is no scientific basis for denying marriage to same-sex couples particularly when research indicates that marriage provides many important benefits,” Bersoff said. “The research shows that same-sex couples are similar to heterosexual couples in essential ways and that they are as likely as opposite-sex couples to raise mentally healthy, well-adjusted children.” 

Joining APA in filing the Windsor and Perry briefs were: the American Academy of Pediatrics; American Medical Association; California Medical Association; American Psychiatric Association; American Psychoanalytic Association; and National Association of Social Workers. Also joining the Windsor brief were: the New York City and New York state chapters of the National Association of Social Workers and the New York State Psychological Association. Also joining the Perry brief were the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy; the California Chapter of NASW and the California Psychological Association.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., 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 137,000 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 the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.