Psychiatric association supports same-sex marriage

BY Advocate.com Editors

May 24 2005 12:00 AM ET

Representatives
of the nation's top psychiatric group weighed in on
same-sex marriage Sunday, approving a statement urging legal
recognition of same-sex unions. The statement, if
approved by the association's directors in July, would
make the American Psychiatric Association the first
major medical group to take such a stance. The statement, approved on a voice vote,
supports same-sex marriage and benefits "in the
interest of maintaining and promoting mental health."
The psychiatrists approved the statement on Sunday, the
first day of the APA's week-long annual meeting in Atlanta. The vote goes beyond the association's 2000
statement supporting same-sex civil unions and
continues a history of recognizing "that gay men and
lesbians are full human beings who should be afforded the
same human and civil rights," said Margery Sved, a
Raleigh, N.C., psychiatrist and member of the
assembly's committee on gay and lesbian issues. The position paper cites the "positive influence
of a stable, adult partnership on the health of all
family members." It says the lack of access to health
insurance, pension payments, death benefits and other
rights for same-sex couples hurts the stability of their
relationships and their mental health. The document clarifies that the association is
addressing same-sex civil marriage, not religious
marriages. It takes no position on any religion's
views on marriage. A clear majority of the assembly's
roughly 250 members present Sunday approved the measure. Joseph Berger, a psychiatrist from Toronto,
Canada, voted against it for what he called political
reasons. He cited votes on constitutional bans on
same-sex marriage in several states last year where voters
overwhelmingly sided against the institution. "It's very
unusual for an organization like ours to take on an
issue so contrary to where public sentiment is," he
said. "It's a little bit like poking your finger in
the eye of the public when so much of the public seems to be
against it." Forty states ban same-sex marriages, including
some that prohibit same-sex couples from enjoying many
of the legal protections that heterosexual couples
enjoy. Last year, Georgians voted 3-to-1 for a
constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union
of a man and a woman. Some psychiatrists pushed a
boycott of this week's conference because of the vote,
but most APA members opted to attend, officials said. Other mental health groups have adopted similar
positions on marriage equality in the past year. In
July the American Psychological Association adopted a
position statement that said research showed that
discrimination based on sexual orientation "detrimentally
affects the psychological, physical, social and
economic well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual
individuals." (AP)

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