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Gay and Lesbian Marriage: The Supreme Court and the APA

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

One of the most controversial issues of our time has been the question of whether or not marriage of gay persons to one another should be recognized as legally binding just the same as heterosexual marriages. The question has serious implications for the way gay people are impacted. If gay marriage is legally recognized it means that gay couples would be entitled to the same medical and inheritance rights as other married people. In other words, when a heterosexual couple is married and one of them dies, the survivor is entitled to inherit the spouse’s wealth. In a similar way, heterosexual married couples can be covered under each other’s health insurance policies. For many years gay couples have fought for the right to be legally married so that they could be entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual people. Then, too, gay couples want the dignity of having their marriage contracts respected in the same way as heterosexuals.

This past week the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a California law barring gay marriages is not constitutional because it violates the right to equal protection under the law as provided in the constitution. While this decision did nothing to legalize gay marriage throughout the nation it did recognize the legality of gay marriage in the most populous state in the union. Thereby, California joined a growing list of other states that are now recognizing gay marriages. Despite this, the majority of states continue to not recognize gay marriages and gay couples in those states are not entitled to the benefits of heterosexual couples. Nevertheless, most people view the decision of the Supreme Court to be a major decision for the rights of gay people.

Why would anyone be anti gay marriage? Why would any states fail to legally recognize gay marriages? Why is this such a controversial issue? These are important questions.

For one, there are religious institutions, religious leaders and religious leaders in Congress who firmly believe that homosexuality is an abomination and unnatural. From their point of view, homosexual behavior is a sin and, therefore, do not want America condoning sinful behavior. This thinking frustrates those who are not religious as well as those who support the gay community. It seems logical that the anti gay religious community turn to science to recognize gay behavior as normal. What they fail to understand is that religious conviction is based on faith and a deeply held faith defies scientific principles. As one very religious Jewish person once explained to me, “You don’t eat kosher food because it’s healthy to do so. If you are Jewish and very religious, you eat kosher food because you have faith in the teachings of the Jewish religion.” In other words, modern science has nothing to do with it. In the same way, those who are anti gay marriage are so because of their religious beliefs.

However, here in America, people are entitled to the protections offered by the U.S Constitution. As such, while citizens have diverse beliefs and ways of living, they are all treated equal under the law. It is for this reason that gay people have a right to marry and have their marriages recognized by each state in the nation. Everyone is entitled to their opinion so long as they respect the rights of others.

Having said all of this, years ago the American Psychiatric Association recognized homosexuality as normal behavior. Why not respect the behavior and choices of normal people?

What are your opinions?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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