Proponents of gay marriage consider this week’s move by the American Psychological Association a huge boost in their fight for equality.
Members of the APA, which is the world’s largest organization of psychologists, approved a resolution at their annual convention this week to support gay marriage. The vote was 157-0.
"Now as the country has really begun to have experience with gay marriage, our position is much clearer and more straightforward,” said Clinton Anderson, director of APA's Office on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns.
“We keep the discussion fact-based and not make it about stereotypes.”
Members say they approved the measure because of an abundance of studies that support the idea that same-sex marriage is good for American communities, stable lives, and unity and equality overall.
The APA resolution states 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."
However, opponents claim the APA is using “cherry picking” research to support same-sex marriage.
It is because of this research that members of the APA say “same-sex marriage equality is the policy that the country should be moving toward.”
“‘Cherry-picking’ means picking out the best, juiciest, ripest facts to support a predetermined conclusion, from a whole bin of equally sweet, high-quality facts,” said psychologist Randy Stevens.
“The research the APA is using to support gay marriage is based on throwing out good data because it contradicts something one dearly wants to be true, regardless of whether it is or is not true – that is cherry picking at its best. They are not using real data and they are wrong."
According to APA bylaws, psychological and psychiatric experts have agreed since 1975 that homosexuality is neither a form of mental illness nor a symptom of mental illness. APA members believe social prejudice, discrimination, and violence against lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals take a damaging toll on the well-being of these individuals.
Researchers use the term “minority stress” to refer to the negative comments and acts of hate crimes against these groups.
But some psychologists say the APA made the decision as a body to support same-sex marriage because gay activists intimidated them. Some go as far as calling these gay activists, “militant.”
“I believe that some same-sex advocates will go too far in their fight to have these unions legalized,” Stevens said.
"They will threaten, pull financial support and make false threats against those who oppose gay marriage."
Social conservatives and others who oppose same-sex marriage argue that marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of a healthy society because it leads to stable families and, ultimately, to children who grow up to be productive adults.
Allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed, opponents contend, will radically "redefine marriage and further weaken it at a time when the institution is already in serious trouble due to high divorce rates and a significant number of out-of-wedlock births."
Family Research Council conducted a recent study of civil unions and marriages.
The survey found that more than 79 percent of heterosexual married men and women reported that they strongly valued sexual fidelity. Only about 50 percent of those in a gay marriage valued sexual fidelity.
It is interesting to note here that the legal battle over same-sex marriage is rooted, in part, in the question of whether state and federal constitutions protect a right to privacy.
But the word "privacy" never actually appears in the U.S. Constitution.
Opponents to gay marriage believe the answer lies in new legislation.
“Opponents hope to continue placing constitutional bans on the ballot and are targeting states, in the hope of reversing court decisions,” writes David Masci, a researcher for the Pew Research Center.
“Both sides also are gearing up for a renewed fight at state and federal levels. “
Moreover, many predict that giving gay couples the right to marry will ultimately lead to granting people in polygamous and other nontraditional relationships the right to marry as well.
A joint survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that about twice as many Americans opposed legalizing same-sex marriage (60percent) as supported it (29 percent).
Analysts say the debate will continue despite the APA’s move to support gay marriage because there remains a very passionate group of opponents ready to rally against same-sex marriage in the US.
Most states do not grant marriage equality. However, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.
Civil unions, which provide fewer benefits and rights than same-sex marriage, are permitted in California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin.
While battles have been raging in many states over whether to accept or ban same-sex marriage, a number of states have enacted laws that establish civil unions or domestic partnerships, both of which aim to give gay and lesbian couples many or most of the rights and responsibilities of matrimony without actually granting them the right to wed.
“While it is difficult to predict where the next battle will be fought and what the outcome will be,” Masci said, “It is safe to assume that the gay marriage debate will remain part of the nation's legal and political landscape for years to come.”