American Psychological Association’s Council of Representatives Supports Equal Marriage Rights

July 29, 2004

Task Force was instrumental in APA declassifying homosexuality as an illness in the 1970s


Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications

Denying Same-Sex Couples Legal Access to Civil Marriage is Discriminatory and Can Adversely Affect the Psychological, Physical, Social and Economic Well-Being of Gay and Lesbian Individuals

HONOLULU Prohibiting civil marriage for same-sex couples is discriminatory and unfairly denies such couples, their children and other members of their families the legal, financial and social advantages of civil marriage says the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Council of Representatives in a resolution adopted today. The APA also opposed discrimination against lesbian or gay parents adoption, child custody and visitation, foster care and reproductive health services.

Both policy positions were adopted at the recommendation of an APA Working Group on Same-Sex Families and Relationships. The Working Group, appointed by the APA Council of Representatives in February 2004, was charged with developing policy recommendations for APA that would guide psychologists in the current public debate over civil marriage for same-sex couples. The Working Group was directed further to base its policy recommendations on the research on same-sex relationships and families.

This seven-member team of psychologists with a combination of both scientific expertise in family and couple relations and professional expertise with lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations summarized the research that discrimination and prejudice based on sexual orientation detrimentally affects the psychological, physical, social and economic well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals, that same-sex couples are remarkably similar to heterosexual couples, and that parenting effectiveness and the adjustment, development and psychological well-being of children is unrelated to parental sexual orientation.

“The APA recognizes the importance of the institution of civil marriage which confers a social status with important legal benefits, rights and privileges,” said psychologist Armand R. Cerbone, who is a private practitioner in Chicago and chair of the working group. “Discrimination of all kinds takes a toll on people’s health and psychological well being. In the context of the huge social and political debate that is currently going on, APA and psychologists had to grapple with the issue of what psychology believes is in the public interest in this controversy.”

Given what research tells us about the impact of discrimination and given that the research further provides no justification for discriminating against same-sex couples in marriage or in parenting, the Working Group strongly recommended that APA support states in providing civil marriage to same-sex couples and fully recognizing the parental rights of lesbians and gay men. As a benefit for human welfare, it is important to point out that permitting same-sex couples to marriage may especially benefit people who also experience discrimination based on age, race, ethnicity, disability, gender and gender identity, religion and socioeconomic status, said Cerbone.

According to the United States Accounting Office (2004), over 1,000 federal statutory provisions exist in which marital status is a factor in determining a person’s eligibility to receive various benefits, rights and privileges.

APA Working Group on Same-Sex Families and Relationships: Armand Cerbone, Ph.D., Chicago, Illinois; Beverly Greene, Ph.D., St. Johns University; Kristin Hancock, Ph.D., Graduate School of Professional Psychology at John F. Kennedy University; Lawrence A. Kurdek, Ph.D., Wright State University; Candace A. McCullough, Ph.D., Bethesda, Maryland; Letitia Anne Peplau, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Full text is available from the APA Public Affairs Office or at


The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.