Psychiatry group votes to support gay marriage

Giving gay couples legal rights goes a long way toward supporting their mental health, the American Psychiatric Assn. says.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted June 13, 2005

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The American Psychiatric Assn. appears to be on track to become the first major medical organization to urge that gay marriage become legal.

The APA's assembly approved a statement seeking the legal recognition of same-sex civil marriage during its annual meeting in May. The APA's board of trustees, which meets in July, would need to approve the statement before it would become policy.

Jack Drescher, MD, the author of the position paper presented to the assembly, said the move was intended to promote the stabilizing of gay couples and families. He hopes the APA's action will spur other medical organizations to take on the issue.

"We live in a country where we believe in fairness, equal access and separation of church and state," Dr. Drescher said. "We think there's a lot to be gained in having the conversation about what we think a marriage is."

Acknowledging gay couples' right to a civil marriage honors their value as human beings, Dr. Drescher said.

The gay marriage position paper, he said, was developed at the APA board's request. The action follows a similar move by the American Psychological Assn. in 2004 and is in line with past activities by the APA, which removed homosexuality from its mental disorders list in 1973 and came out in favor of same-sex civil unions in 2000.

Dr. Drescher said that although a civil union is virtually the same thing as a civil marriage, most states don't recognized civil unions, while they do recognize the legal protections of a civil marriage.

Ken Haller, MD, immediate past president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Assn., was pleased with the psychiatric association's vote."Up until now, the debates involving public policy have had a great deal of misinformation," he said.

The American Medical Association recently created an Advisory Committee on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender issues, which will advise the Board of Trustees on the needs of GLBT physicians, medical students and patients. The committee's first meeting is scheduled for this month.

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