Gay & Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review, Vol

By Floyd Greene,2014-07-10 16:21
13 views 0
Gay & Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review, Vol ...


    death, to be exempt from inheritance tax are SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

    taken for granted by heterosexuals who have AND EQUALITY exercised their right to marry. SUE WILKINSON & Previously, some of these rights could be

    assembled piecemeal (as the Goodridges CELIA KITZINGER

    attempted to do); increasingly some or all of them can be acquired (in some countries) with What do you do when your four-year old ‘civil partnerships’ or ‘civil unions’. With the daughter tells you ‘If you loved each other, you’d advent of marriage for same-sex couples, they be married’ – but when, as a lesbian couple, you are acquired wholesale, and automatically, as cannot legally marry? What Julie and Hillary part of the legal contract, just as they are by Goodridge did was to become lead plaintiffs in heterosexual couples. ‘It’s about fairness and the landmark lawsuit which achieved the right to justice,’ said Joseph A. Curtatone, Mayor of marry for same-sex couples in Massachusetts. Somerville, Massachusetts, welcoming same-sex The world was watching as the Goodridges couples arriving to get married in his town. His with daughter Annie (now eight) as ringbearer words were echoed around the world, with and flower girl were wed in Boston on 17 May Massachusetts lauded as ‘The first American 2004, along with scores of other lesbian and gay state that has removed the mindless couples. discrimination against its citizens their basic sexual orientation’ (Tereza Nosalkova, in the Massachusetts became the first American state Lidove Noviny). However, Czech daily newspaper to permit same sex-marriage, and the USA only just six months later, in the conservative the fourth country in the world to do so. That backlash after the Presidential election, 11 US same day George W. Bush reiterated his vow to states reinforced such discrimination, voting to change the US constitution to prevent the restrict the definition of marriage to a union ‘redefinition’ by the courts of the ‘sacred between ‘one man and one woman’. institution of marriage’. ‘This isn’t changing marriage,’ said Hillary Goodridge. ‘It’s just The day after Massachusetts equalised marriage, opening the door.’ a leader in the The Independent asked ‘Should not Britain be next?’ It is most unlikely that this Why would lesbians and gay men, or anyone will be the case. In November 2004 the Civil else, want this particular door opened? And what Partnership Act became law in Britain meaning is the role of psychology in these often that from late 2005 same-sex couples (and only emotionally charged ‘equal marriage’ debates? same-sex couples) will be able to register their relationships and have these legally recognised Exclusion from marriage as conferring a range of rights and benefits. The option of equality in marriage is not on the table. Prior to their marriage, the Goodridges, like many same-sex couples, had the partial Civil partnerships, or variants thereof, differ from protections of mutual powers of attorney, trusts, legal marriage in most countries in that they wills and healthcare proxies but none of these offer far fewer legal benefits. For example, the protections gave them a legal relationship. When systems in Vermont and California do not, and Annie was born, by Caesarean section, they cannot, cover federal rights such as the ability were not enough to get Hillary into the recovery for a non-US spouse to become a full US citizen, room to see Julie, nor into neonatal intensive federal taxes, and the more than one thousand care to see her daughter. Such rights along laws triggered by legal marriage (Demian, 2003). with a string of others, such as the right to Around a dozen European countries have some adopt as a couple, to vote by proxy, kind of relationship registration for same-sex automatically to receive a pension and other couples, varying in the range of benefits thereby income related benefits, to register a spouse’s conferred (see Kitzinger & Wilkinson, 2004b, for

     ISSN 1832-6471 ? 2005 British Psychological Association. First published in The Psychologist, 18 May 2005.


    introduction of equal marriage in the Canadian a more detailed review) full adoption rights are province of Ontario: excluded in Sweden, Finland, Norway and

     Iceland; tax benefits are excluded or reduced in Any ‘alternative’ status that nonetheless provides Belgium and France; social security rights are for the same financial benefits as marriage in and excluded in Germany; and so on (see Kitzinger of itself amounts to segregation. This case is about and Wilkinson, 2004b, for a more detailed access to a deeply meaningful social institution it review). The British Civil Partnership Act will be is about equal participation in the activity,

    expression, security and integrity of marriage. Any one of the most extensive, covering virtually all

    ‘alternative’ to marriage, in my opinion, simply the rights and responsibilities of marriage; its offers the insult of formal equivalency without the introduction is an important advance for lesbians [Canadian Charter’s] promise of substantive and gay men in the UK. equality. (Egale Canada, n.d.) However, it is not just the restricted range of The segregationist ‘separate but equal’ doctrine benefits that accords civil partnership its inferior (commonly used in supporting the ‘alternative’ of status. Marriage is universally understood to be civil partnerships for same-sex couples) was the fundamental social institution for recognition rejected by the US Supreme Court in the 1954 of the couple relationship; and civil partnerships Brown v. Board of Education case considered are generally seen as something ‘less than’ by many to be the greatest leap forward in US marriage. Indeed, this is precisely why they are civil rights history. The 50th anniversary of sometimes favoured by those who oppose same-Brown happened to be the very same day that sex marriage. Historically, exclusion from same-sex marriages became legal in marriage on grounds of the partners’ gender, Massachusetts. The Brown verdict ruled that the sexual orientation, ‘race’, ethnicity or religion – segregation of schools on the basis of race has always been used as a tool of oppression. violated constitutional equality guarantees, even On 15 September 1935, the Nazis passed the though the physical facilities and other ‘tangible’ Nuremberg Law for the Protection of German factors may have been equal. The court held Blood and German Honour, stating that: that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal because to separate students ‘from Marriages between Jews and Nationals of German

    others of similar age and qualifications solely or kindred blood are forbidden. Marriages

    concluded in defiance of this law are void, even if, because of their race generates a feeling of for the purposes of evading this law, they are inferiority as to their status in the community concluded abroad. that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone’ (Egale Canada, n.d.). Likewise, the Immorality Act and the Prohibition In parallel fashion, the exclusion of same-sex of Mixed Marriage Act of the South African couples from marriage can be seen as offering a apartheid regime (repealed in 1985) prohibited negative message about the status of lesbians marriage and sexual contact between ‘races’. and gay men in the broader community and as Forty US states once prohibited ‘interracial’ having similar potential to affect ‘hearts and marriages (defined, for example, in South minds’ in an enduring way. Carolina as ‘the marriage of a white person with a Negro or mulatto or person who shall have one Psychology’s role eighth or more of Negro blood’). Interracial marriage was still criminalised in 15 US states as The landmark desegregation decision in Brown v. recently as 1967. Board of Education was informed, in part, by a new liberal psychology that emphasised the Principles of justice and equality are not served if psychological harm suffered by black children as the key civil institution of marriage is reserved a consequence of segregated schools. for heterosexuals only any more than if it is Psychologists (many of them founding members reserved for those of particular ‘races’, of the American Psychological Association’s ethnicities or religions. As Justice Laforme wrote Division 9, the Society for the Psychological in a landmark decision prefiguring the Study of Social Issues) acted as expert witnesses



in the case, and set out to demonstrate that rights and privileges against same-sex couples’

    segregated schooling caused intellectual and (APA, 2004). psychological harm to black children. The Brown case, the Clarkes’ famous doll studies (e.g. Clarke & Clarke, In a manner analogous to the findings of psychological research on mental 1939) although later criticised on health factors associated with being lesbian or methodological grounds were part of the gay are a cornerstone of the arguments evidence presented. presented in support of legal recognition of same-sex couple relationships. Two kinds of Psychologists are generally allies of those evidence predominate. First, there is a campaigning for equality, and this has also been frequently cited collection of findings of ‘no so in the context of the equal marriage debates. difference’ between the children of same-sex Although 30 years ago the majority of and different-sex couples and, more generally, psychological research presented homosexuality of no mental health differences between as a form of pathology (Rosario, 1997), today, gays/lesbians and heterosexuals, or between the Euro-American psychology overwhelmingly quality of same-sex and different-sex presents same-sex sexualities and identities as relationships. Second, there are findings of within the normal range of human behaviour, psychological damage caused by social exclusion and actively seeks to advance lesbian and gay and suffered by lesbian and gay individuals (and rights (see Coyle & Kitzinger, 2002). families) as the ‘mark of oppression’ (see Contemporary feminist, critical, and social Kardiner & Ovesey, 1951/1972). constructionist psychology has challenged prevailing orthodoxies, highlighting the The ‘no difference’ arguments ideological dimensions of (certain constructions of) what it is to be lesbian or gay (e.g. Kitzinger,

    The APA policy statement on legal benefits for 1987; Wilkinson & Kitzinger, 1993; Wilkinson &

    same-sex couples (1998) claims that ‘the Kitzinger, 1996).

    scientific literature has found no significant

    differences between different-sex couples and The BPS Lesbian and Gay Psychology Section

    same-sex couples that justify discrimination’; (2003) responded favourably to the

    and that ‘scientific research has not found government’s consultative document on civil

    significant psychological or emotional differences partnerships (Women and Equality Unit, 2003),

    between the children raised in different-sex but the British Psychological Society has to date

    versus same-sex households’. The same claim of produced no public statement in support either

    ‘no difference’ for children is emphasised by CPA of civil partnerships or of equal marriage. By

    President Dr Patrick O’Neill in his statement contrast, other national psychological

    endorsing Canadians for Equal Marriage: associations have done so, and have provided

     psychological evidence in support of their

    The psychological research into lesbian and gay position. The Canadian Psychological Association parenting indicates that there are essentially no (CPA) and the American Psychological differences in the psychosocial development, Association (APA) both explicitly support equal gender identity or sexual orientation between the marriage. The CPA formally endorsed the children of gay or lesbian parents and the children Canadians for Equal Marriage campaign (Egale of heterosexual parents (Quoted in Egale Canada, Canada, 2003); and the APA having previously 2003). supported the provision of legal benefits for same-sex couples (APA, 1998) recently As long as sexual orientation can be used to adopted a resolution supporting same-sex deprive a lesbian or gay parent of child custody, marriage. It did so on the grounds that ‘it is fertility services, adoption or fostering rights, it unfair and discriminatory to deny same-sex remains important for psychologists to point out couples legal access to civil marriage and to all that the weight of scientific evidence supports its attendant benefits, rights and privileges’ – ‘no difference’. Indeed, Stacey and Biblarz (2001) and it further resolved to ‘take a leadership role note that where there are apparent differences, in opposing all discrimination in legal benefits,



(see Kitzinger & Wilkinson, 2004a, for more on these can be seen as favourable to lesbian and this argument). gay parenting (e.g. children of same-sex couples exhibit greater gender role flexibility and are Separate is still not equal more accepting of sexual diversity than those of different-sex couples). As Stacey (2004) Important though psychological evidence has discovered, however, following her analysis of been and continues to be in relation to major lesbian and gay parenting studies, there are social issues like school desegregation and equal always dangers regarding the application of marriage, it is only one way of arbitrating on findings in psychology to important public policy such issues. In the desegregation battles, while issues: findings may be misappropriated by the majority of the expert witnesses in the early others seeking to promote diametrically opposed cases were psychologists (at least 20 of the 30 agendas. In particular, any findings of signers of the Brown brief), 25 years later, ‘difference’ there are will always be interpreted psychologists were in the minority as expert as ‘deficit’ in a fundamentally unequal world. witnesses (only 6 of the 38 signers of the The ‘psychological damage’ arguments Columbus brief) (Chesler et al., 1988).

     Psychological accounts of lowered black self-

    esteem were subsequently displaced by The APA statement (in 1998) supports the

    sociological explanations of structural extension of the legal benefits of marriage

    disadvantage. In parallel fashion, expert because, it claims, the absence of them

    witnesses in Canadian cases involving lesbian ‘constitutes a significant psychosocial stressor for

    and gay issues from the late 1980s onward were lesbians, gay men and their families’. The BPS

    increasingly not psychologists, but sociologists Lesbian and Gay Psychology Section’s (2003)

    presenting evidence about structural inequalities support for the UK government’s civil partnership

    and diverse family forms (Herman, 1994). proposals claimed that legal recognition of same-

    Philosophers, political scientists, and sex couples would have psychological benefits,

    particularly legal theorists have also including ‘acceptance by parents of a child’s

    contributed their disciplinary expertise to the sexual orientation of preference’ and ‘the

    contemporary debates on equal marriage. The inclusion of a same-sex partner into the

    contributions of psychologists are part of the extended family of her/his significant other’.

    discipline’s track record in the pursuit of equal Psychological harm arguments are routinely

    rights and social justice. We take as axiomatic deployed by advocates of equal marriage, who

    psychology’s commitment to these ideals; and claim that lack of access to marriage has a

    the continuing deployment of psychological skills negative impact on individuals’ health, self-

    and knowledge in pursuit of equality and justice esteem and relationship stability and that

    for all. marriage increases people’s life satisfaction and

     happiness by an amount equivalent to an

    Like interracial marriages in the 1950s, today’s additional annual income of ?72,000 (Clarke &

    same-sex marriages are not yet supported by a Oswald, 2002).

    majority of the population in the US or in Britain

     although polls suggest a substantial majority of Recent psychological research has focused

    younger people are in favour, and there is explicitly on the negative psychological effects

    majority support in Canada (where federal on lesbians and gay men of being discriminated

    legislation on equal marriage is pending). But against, and reports that oppression causes

    recent history suggests that lesbian and gay anxiety, depression, substance-use disorders,

    relationships have won acceptance and are suicidal thoughts, and other stress-related

    continuing to win acceptance more quickly mental health problems (e.g. Cochran, 2001;

    than interracial relationships, in part because Mays & Cochran, 2001; see also APA, 2004). In

    they have been able to draw on civil rights acknowledging such harms, we need, of course,

    precedents achieved by other groups. ‘The to be wary of treating negative psychological

    freedom to marry has long been recognised as reactions to inequality and injustice rather than

    one of the vital personal rights essential to the inequality and injustice itself as the problem



     orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,’ Sue Wilkinson is Professor of Feminist and declared Chief Justice Earl Warren, striking down Health Studies at Loughborough University, and the law banning interracial marriages in the 1967 Loving v. Virginia case. Celia Kitzinger is Professor of Conversation

     Analysis, Gender and Sexuality at the University In the context of the conservative backlash of York. They were legally married in British against equal marriage in the US, the victory in Columbia, Canada, in August 2003, and are Massachusetts (partial and limited as it is) seeking a declaration of the validity of their represents an important symbolic victory. Finally marriage in Britain. E-mail: free legally to marry their loved ones, the or happiness of same-sex couples bubbled onto the streets of Massachusetts: ‘I’m so happy right now. This is a dream come true’, said Tanya References McCloskey, as the city of Cambridge recorded the nation’s first legal same-sex marriage. American Psychological Association (1998). Legal ‘Happy is an understatement’ replied her bride benefits for same-sex couples. Policy statement. Marcia Kadish. Others described 17 March 2004 Retrieved 26 January 2005 from as ‘a day for love and happiness’; ‘amazing’; ‘almost too good to be true’. ‘Next to the birth of our daughter Annie, this is the happiest day of American Psychological Association (2004). our lives,’ Julie Goodridge told reporters in Resolution on sexual orientation and marriage Boston. (adopted by the APA Council of Representatives, July 2004). Retrieved 26 January 2005 via Here in Britain (and much of the rest of Europe) lesbians and gay men are still denied equal access to marriage. Although the Civil Chesler, M., Sanders, J.& Kalmuss, D.S. (1988). Partnership Act, whose provisions come into Social science in court: Mobilizing experts in the force later this year, is a significant advance for school desegregation cases. Madison, WI: lesbian and gay rights, it also perpetuates same- University of Wisconsin Press. sex couples’ exclusion from the right to marriage itself. The introduction of civil partnerships Clarke, K. & Clarke,M. (1939). Development of constructs a two-tier system of state recognition consciousness of self and the emergence of of relationships that concedes to same-sex racial identification in Negro preschool children. couples virtually all of the rights, benefits and Journal of Social Psychology, 10, 591. responsibilities of marriage, withholding only the symbolically charged name of ‘marriage’. By Clarke,A.E. & Oswald,A.J. (2002). A simple continuing to exclude same-sex couples from statistical method for measuring how life events marriage the fundamental institution for affect happiness. International Journal of recognition of the couple relationship the new Epidemiology, 31, 11391144. civil partnerships send the inescapable message that lesbians and gay men are second-class Cochran, S.D. (2001). Emerging issue in citizens. Separate is still not equal. research on lesbians’ and gay men’s mental health: Does sexual orientation really matter? One day, Britain, the rest of the US and the American Psychologist, 56, 931947. rest of the world might join Massachusetts, the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada in according Coyle,A. & Kitzinger, C. (Eds.) (2002). Lesbian equal marriage rights to all citizens. As and gay psychology. Oxford: BPS Blackwell. psychologists, we can play a substantial role in this struggle for social justice. Demian (2003). US federal laws for the legally married. Retrieved 27 January 2005 from

    Author note



    Social Problems, effects of public sociology. 51(1), 131145. Egale Canada (2003, 11 August). Registered partnerships are offensive and unworkable Stacey, J. & Biblarz,T.J. (2001). (How) does the segregation [Press release]. Available via sexual orientation of parents matter? American Sociological Review, 66, 159183. Equal marriage for same-Egale Canada (n.d.). Wilkinson, S. & Kitzinger, C. (Eds.) (1993). sex couples: The problem with partnership

    registries. Retrieved 28 August 2003 via Heterosexuality: A ‘Feminism & Psychology’ reader. London: Sage.

Herman, D. (1994). Wilkinson, S. & Kitzinger, C. (Eds.) (1996). Rights of passage: Struggles

    for lesbian and gay legal equality. Toronto: Representing the other: A ‘Feminism &

    University of Toronto Press. Psychology’ reader. London: Sage.

Kardiner.A. & Ovesey, L. (1972). Women and Equality Unit (2003). The mark of Civil

    oppression: Exploration in the personality of the partnership: A framework for the legal American Negrorecognition of same-sex couples. New York: Meridian. (Original . London: DTI

    work published 1951) Publications.

Kitzinger, C. (1987). The social construction of

    lesbianism. London: Sage.

Kitzinger, C. & Wilkinson, S. (2004a). Social

    advocacy for equal marriage: The politics of

    ‘rights’ and the psychology of ‘mental health’.

    Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 4(1),


Kitzinger, C. & Wilkinson, S. (2004b). The

    rebranding of marriage. Feminism & Psychology,

    14, 127150.

Lesbian and Gay Psychology Section of the

    British Psychological Society (2003). Response to

    the Women and Equality Unit consultative

    document on ‘Civil Partnership’ . Available from

    the Secretary of the Section: E-mail:

Mays, V.M. & Cochran, S.D. (2001). Mental

    health correlates of perceived discrimination

    among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults in the US.

    American Journal of Public Health, 91, 1869


Rosario,V.A. (Ed.) (1997). Science and

    homosexualities. New York: Routledge.

Stacey, J. (2004).Marital suitors court social

    science spin-sters: The unwittingly conservative


Report this document

For any questions or suggestions please email