Four major mental-health professional associations -- the Minnesota Psychological Association; the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Social Workers; the Minnesota Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and the Minnesota Psychiatric Society -- oppose amending our state Constitution to exclude same-sex couples from legal marriage. Our associations have independently arrived at this position as health professionals who are trained to engage in practice that is informed by scientific evidence.
In recent months, Minnesotans have heard many arguments and claims about civil marriage; about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, and about children in same-sex-parented families. In the midst of this, we asked ourselves: What really is the scientific evidence for the many claims being circulated? We have concluded that it is our professional obligation to make known the evidence so that Minnesotans can make fully informed choices.
Why do same-sex couples desire civil marriage? Same-gender couples, like their heterosexual counterparts, form stable, long-lasting and committed intimate relationships. Among those same-sex couples who desire civil marriage, some also want to raise, love and parent children. Some do not choose to raise children -- just as in marriages between heterosexuals. Far from "redefining marriage," the research shows that same-sex couples who seek to wed one another are hoping to participate fully in the same traditional definitions of marriage their other family members embrace, and for the same reasons.
Do same-sex couples form and maintain healthy, successful, lifelong intimate relationships? The scientific evidence indicates yes. Additionally, empirical research has demonstrated that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners closely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships. Romantic and sexual orientation does not create any inherent barrier to forming a healthy and mutually satisfying intimate relationship with an adult of the same sex.
In addition, nearly every U.S. health professional association long ago concluded homosexuality is not a disorder. It is a normal expression of human sexual orientation that poses no inherent obstacle to leading a happy, healthy, productive life.
What quality of parenting do same-sex parents provide for their children? Research has found that same-gender parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide loving and nurturing home environments for their children.
How do children of same-sex parents fare? Four decades of empirical research indicates that the development, adjustment and well-being of children with same-sex parents do not differ significantly from that of children with heterosexual parents. Children's development and adjustment rely on the quality of relationships with their parents and the quality of the relationship between the two parents, just as for children with heterosexual parents.
A group opposing marriage for same-sex couples has publicized a survey reporting psychological problems in adults whose parents had a gay or lesbian relationship at some point; however, that study speaks of people whose lives were shaped by parents' marital stress and divorce, not of adults raised by same-sex parents in a loving home. In fact, there is no scientifically sound research supporting the idea that children of same-gender parents are disadvantaged in any significant respect when compared with children of heterosexual parents.
As professionals, our review of the research evidence, as well as our clinical experience with hundreds of Minnesota families, informs us that same-sex partners and parents are equally likely to be healthy, committed and responsible as their heterosexual counterparts, and that the development and well-being of their children is not inferior to children of heterosexual parents.
As a backdrop, research has also shown that two-parent, married families provide the most stable and consistent family environments for children, regardless of parents' gender. There is no good evidence to justify constitutionally restricting this group of Minnesota parents, and their children, from ever living in a two-parent, married household. In fact, there is ample evidence that such constitutional changes will harm LGBT families and their children.
In light of the accumulated data, we believe it is bad public policy to use the state Constitution to exclude same-sex couples and families from the fulfillment, tradition and protections of civil marriage. Together, our professional associations encourage Minnesotans to vote "no" on the "marriage amendment."
Daniel Christensen is president of the Minnesota Psychological Association. Kathleen Albrecht is president of the Minnesota chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Bruce Minor is president of the Minnesota Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Bill Clapp is president of the Minnesota Psychiatric Society. To read more marriage amendment commentaries, go here.