Gay Marriage Decision Praised by Psychological Group

same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage remains a divisive political issue. (Image credit: Dreamstime.)

The American Psychological Association praised a newly released court decision from California today (Feb. 7) that declared the state's same-sex ban unconstitutional.

The ban, known as Proposition 8, is a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage in California that passed by 52 percent in 2008. The measure came after the California Supreme Court struck down two anti-gay marriage laws five months earlier, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in the state.

The APA, the largest professional organization for psychologists, has long supported same-sex marriage. Today, the organization put out a statement cheering the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding a U.S. District Court's 2010 decision to overturn Proposition 8. (Same-sex marriages have been on hold in California as the legal challenges work their way through the system.)

"Research shows that marriage provides important health and wellness benefits and that same-sex couples are similar to heterosexual couples in essential ways, including the fact that they are just as likely as opposite-sex couples to raise mentally healthy, well-adjusted children," APA President Suzanne Bennett Johnson said in a statement. "There is no scientific basis for denying marriage equality to same-sex couples."

Research has shown that children of gay parents turn out just as well as children of straight parents. Kids with two lesbian mothers, for example, have similar levels of academic achievement and well-being as well as similar numbers of friends as kids with two heterosexual parents, according to a 2010 review of research.  

Public opinion may be echoing scientific opinion. In May 2011, the Gallup polling agency reported for the first time that more than half of Americans support same-sex marriage. Surveys revealed that 53 percent of Americans were in favor of marriage rights for gay couples, a 9-point increase over the previous year.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court decision announced today could be appealed, either to a larger judicial panel on the Ninth Circuit or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Same-sex marriages will not resume in California until after the deadline for appeal passes; if an appeal is filed, such marriages will remain on hold until a higher court makes its decision.

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Stephanie Pappas
Live Science Contributor

Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.