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APA Expected To Endorse Gay Unions


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APA Expected To Endorse Gay Unions

by The Associated Press

Posted: May 17, 2005 5:00 pm ET

(Atlanta) The nation's leading psychiatric group will take up the issue of gay marriage at its annual conference this weekend as its members debate whether to support the legal recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions.

The American Psychiatry Association's assembly will consider a proposal at its annual meeting in Atlanta on Sunday to amend the group's official position statement on gay marriage.

The new proposal goes beyond its 2000 statement supporting same-sex civil unions by saying that legal the recognition of such unions would ensure that legal rights afforded to heterosexual civil unions - such as health insurance, pension payments and death benefits - would be guaranteed for same-sex couples.

"This is an important issue for the mental health of gay and lesbian persons as well as ... a civil rights issue in terms of preventing discrimination," said Dr. Francis Lu, a professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California-San Francisco who has led the association's committee studying the issue.

The committee approved the proposal in November. If the association's assembly votes this weekend to support it, the proposal will then go before the group's board of trustees for final approval, likely in July.

"We're not talking about religious marriage but civil marriage," Lu said. "There should be no discrimination in front of the state."

The assembly's discussion will take place in a state where voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage six months ago.

Georgia's ban prompted an e-mail campaign by some psychiatrists to boycott the association's meeting in Atlanta but most members felt "it was very important for us to be present at the meeting," said Dr. Ellen Haller, president of the Northern California Psychiatric Society.

Other medical groups have adopted similar positions on gay marriage in the past year. In July, the American Psychological Association adopted a position statement that said research showed that discrimination based on sexual orientation "detrimentally affects the psychological, physical, social and economic well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals." It also said no scientific evidence exists to justify denying civil marriage rights as well as parenting rights for same-sex couples.

"We do see as a part of our mission to bring science, bring psychological research, to relevant public policy issues," said Rhea Faberman, spokeswoman for the psychological association.

Forty states bar same-sex marriages, including some that prohibit same-sex couples from enjoying many of the legal protections that heterosexual couples enjoy, including sharing health insurance and other benefits with their partners.

A federal judge last week struck down Nebraska's 5-year-old ban on gay marriage, ruling that the measure interfered with the rights of gay couples and people in a host of other living arrangements, including foster parents and adopted children.

Massachusetts has allowed gay marriage since last May. Vermont has offered civil unions to gays since 2000; Connecticut will begin offering civil unions in October.

©Associated Press 2005


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