Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia over the weekend, the American Psychiatric Association voted to support same-sex marriage. By a voice vote, the APA assembly adopted a statement demanding legal recognition of marriage for same-sex couples. According to press reports, the statement reads: “The American Psychiatric Association supports the legal recognition of same sex civil marriage. Heterosexual relationships have a legal framework for their existence through civil marriage. Same sex couples therefore experience several kinds of state-sanctioned discrimination that can adversely affect the stability of their relationships and mental health.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the APA identified the effects of discrimination as the ground for its action: “The psychiatrists said discrimination is toxic to mental health, and as medical professionals, condoning it collides with the ethics of their profession.”
Thus, the APA–presumably a medical association–enters the fray on same-sex marriage because, in the judgment of its members, disallowing same-sex marriage represents discrimination that can lead to poor mental health. The obvious question that arises is this: How can the APA limit this argument to homosexuals and same-sex marriage? What about polygamists or any other ‘sexual minority?’ If all discrimination is inherently wrong, and can endanger mental health, aren’t we then obligated to surrender all forms of moral discrimination?
Let’s just call this what it is. The APA is making a political and moral judgment disguised as a medical argument. This is hardly new. After all, this is the group that surrendered to political pressure in 1973 by removing homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders. According to the APA, homosexuality was an illness one day–one day later it is normal. And they dare call this science?
The action in Atlanta must be ratified by the APA Board of Trustees in July. Approval is considered likely.
By the way, the magazine The Week reported earlier this month that the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–the official list and description of all recognized mental disorders is up to 3.7 pounds in weight–a full 1.4 pounds heavier than the previous edition. When first published in 1952, the book was only 100 pages long. The “list” of recognized mental disorders is growing fast–evidence of what the late Phillip Rieff called “the triumph of the therapeutic.” According to those who decide such things, we are all either in therapy or in denial.
DOCUMENTING THIS DRAMA: Coverage in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, BBC News, The Washington Blade, and The Washington Times. See also the APA text, “Principles of Medical Ethics.” Read my commentary of August 3, 2004, “Psychologists Join the Gay Marriage Bandwagon.”