Yesterday President Obama took a political risk in publicly supporting gay marriage.  With the presidential election just around the corner, Mr. Obama’s comments could prove divisive amongst swing voters in this country.  As The New York Times reported today, the public’s views on gay marriage appear to be evolving; however, there are still many in this country who strongly oppose extending the institution of marriage to single-sex couples.  Furthermore, it is this opposition that tends to be more likely to vote on the issue than supporters.

While the issue is being framed as a political one, in fact, there are larger social implications to legalizing gay marriage.  Last summer I wrote a post on this issue and cited a growing body of empirical research suggesting that extending the rights of marriage to single-sex couples is likely to lead to stronger and more psychologically healthy families.  Instead of recapping my argument, I am attaching my original post (“The Case for Same-Sex Marriage”) in its entirety:

 

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July 25, 2011

Yesterday, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples across New York state wedded, marking a milestone for advocates for same-sex marriage.  New York becomes the sixth and largest state to legalize gay marriage.

Same-sex marriage remains a controversial issue, often eliciting strong emotions for those on both sides of the issue.  Several years ago, the American Psychological Association (APA) joined the debate and issued a public statement endorsing same-sex marriage.  In presenting their position, the APA cited a large and ever growing body of empirical research illustrating the harmful psychological effects of policies restricting marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Psychologists and other social scientists have long understood that marriage is an institution that profoundly effects the lives of those individuals who are allowed to participate in it.  In addition to the significant financial advantages that come with marriage, the institution has important implications for the psychological and physical health of those who partake.  Denying gay men and lesbians the opportunity to marry because of their sexual orientation is essentially denying such individuals a basic human right, including the psychological, physical, and financial opportunities that derive from that right.

Critics of same-sex marriage have often emphasized the importance of "family values," and they are right to do so, as such values do exist and have significant consequences for society.  For this reason (as well as others), the government has a responsibility to ensure that that such values are protected.  The strength of marriages is not just a function of physical attraction and procreation but also of external forces that serve as barriers, or perhaps constraints on dissolving the relationship.  Personally, I think the critics are misguided in their fears that allowing gays and lesbians to marry will somehow erode the fabric of society and throw us into social chaos.  In fact, the research suggests quite the opposite.  Granting same-sex couples the right to marry is likely to lead to stronger and more psychologically and physically healthier families, something we should all be invested in protecting.

About the Author

Tyger Latham, Psy.D.

Dr. Tyger Latham is a clinical psychologist practicing in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in men's issues, trauma, and LGBT concerns.

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