MPIPP NEWS: July-August 2013 SAME-SEX MARRIAGE–Questions of Where and When

 

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE – QUESTIONS OF WHERE AND WHEN?

In this issue:

AN EDITORIAL COMMENT FROM MPIPP

Wedding ringsThe unmistakable message of the recent decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) same-sex marriage case before the US Supreme Court was that the majority considered that discriminatory treatment by the federal government of gay couples who were married under the laws of their own states should have the same rights and benefits at the federal level because to do less violated the equal protection clause of the US Constitution. However, the US Supreme Court was not yet ready to overturn the laws or constitutional amendments in states that banned same-sex marriage, such as Michigan.

Michigan is moving forward on several fronts on legal cases that exhibit discrimination against same-sex couples.  US District Judge David Lawson has blocked Michigan’s ban on domestic partner benefits for public employees under Public Act 297 of 2011 (see Detroit Free Press article on the decision).  In another highly visible case (DeBoer v. Snyder) on second-parent adoption, US District Judge Bernard Friedman, has scheduled a date to hear arguments on the case.   Other test cases are in the mill and working their way forward.

There also is momentum building to challenge the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that has been in place since 2004.  Equality Michigan, joined by many other organizations, is spearheading this effort.

At MPIPP we always ask ourselves what is the role of social science research in helping to advance equality for Americans who are LGBT?  We feel gratified that the Supreme Court’s decision acknowledged the personal toll on same-sex couples and their children who are denied equal protection because of who they love. The amicus curia filings of our colleagues at the American Psychological Association played no small part in helping the court to understand the impact of this kind of discrimination under the law.  In fact, the two are linked as indicated by APA President Donald N. Bersoff, PhD, JD, who recently said that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the Defense of Marriage Act was “a triumph for social science and recognition of the basic dignity of all American citizens.”

You may find both decisions of the Supreme Court as well as the briefs filed by the APA and pertinent research on our Same-Sex Marriage page.

WHAT DOES SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH TELL US ABOUT THE RIGHT TO MARRY AND MENTAL HEALTH? 

Despite historical legal, religious, and social recognition of marriage between opposite- sex couples, there is no scientific basis to ban marriage between same-sex couples. In fact, research does tell us that same-sex couples benefit from recognition of their marriages in much of the same ways that opposite-sex couples do:

  • Same-sex couples share similar psychological characteristics with different-sex couples, and potential differences fail to reflect differences in the health or value of those relationships.
  • Marriage is consistently related to health benefits and marriage inequality is linked to health detriments for same-sex couples and their loved ones.
  • Both the ceremony as well as the legal recognition of formalizing a relationship may benefit gay couples’ relationships

Further, research tells us that the negative messages in anti-gay marriage campaigns lead to psychological harm to gay people and their families. To read more about this topic, click here.

THE IMPACT OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE ON CHILDREN

One of the issues most frequently raised by those opposed to same-sex marriage is about the impact on children in such families.  Fortunately, this question has been broadly studied by researchers.  Their findings:

  • Gay and lesbian couples or individuals are psychologically fit for parenting
  • Children of gay or lesbian parents are as well adjusted as those of heterosexual parents
  • Children of gay or lesbian parents develop their own sexual orientation or gender identity similar to children of heterosexual parents

More research on this topic can be found on our website.

Most of the major health care professional associations have also studied the topic of same-sex marriage and the impact on children.  Their position statements are available on the MPIPP website.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STARTS IMPLEMENTING THE US SUPREME COURT DECISION 

 Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the President directed federal agencies to start implementation of the decision throughout the many federal agencies, to be coordinated by the Department of Justice.

In a related move, Director of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has directed the office of US Citizen and Immigration to review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.  For the Department’s webpage containing Frequently Asked Questions, including an important question on whether the place of residence or place of celebration are considered by the agency, click here.

WHAT DO MICHIGANDERS THIK ABOUT SAME-SEX MARRIAGE? 

 There have been recent polls taken across the US and Michigan that suggest a significant upsurge in acceptance of same-sex marriage.  Reportedly, this is due to people who now say they know more LGBT people as well as a very strong support of same-sex marriage by younger Millennial voters who are influencing the overall numbers.

For example, in a May 2012 Glengariff Group poll, 56.8% of Michigan registered voters are in favor of  marriage equality and 54% were in favor of repealing the state’s Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  In 2004 when Michigan’s Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was enacted, only 40% approved.  That is a significant shift in less than 10 years. The most remarkable change has occurred in voters who “lean Republican” where support has doubled in the past year (from 20.6% to 43.8%). The poll was of 600 registered voters where 80% were contacted by landline (and 20% by cellphone) and had a sampling error of plus or minus 4%. To view the poll results, download the PDF.

In another poll, conducted in June 2013,  51% of Michiganders opposed having same-sex marriage brought up for a vote, while 41 percent supported such a move, and 7% were undecided.  This poll also had 600 likely voters where 90% were contacted by landline (and 10% by cellphone), and had a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

In a 2012 poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, 70% of Michiganders felt that gay people should be allowed to marry or to form civil unions. See the report here.

A different 2012 telephone survey of 1015 Michigan residents (conducted by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research which is a part of the College of Social Science at Michigan State University) between June and August 2012, found that 56 percent of the state’s residents support gay marriage while 39 percent oppose it. For an article on the survey in MSU Today, click here.

PEW Research Center has a frequently updated national poll on LGBT issues, including same sex marriage.  Visit the website here.

For a slideshow, prepared by the Pew Research Center, on changing attitudes on same-sex marriage, click here.

 MEET JAY KAPLAN:  Michigan ACLU’s Legal Expert on Same-Sex Marriage (and all things LGBT)

Jay Kaplan_horizJay Kaplan is the staff attorney for the LGBT Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan.  Jay earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan and holds a law degree from Wayne State University.

Jay is considered to be very special by those who know him.  For example, Jay was named Between the Lines (first ever) Person of the Year for 2006 for his accomplishments and his personality, according to Susan Horowitz, co-publisher of Between the Lines. Others speak highly of his involvement and leadership on LGBT issues.

More modestly, Jay says, “I specialize in LGBT legal issues – particularly those involving discrimination and constitutional rights.”  In that role, he has received recognition from the media and sincere appreciation from those in the LGBT community as well as people who strongly believe in social justice.

Prior to working for the ACLU of Michigan, Jay was an attorney at Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, a disability rights agency where he specialized in HIV/AIDS legal issues, guardianship reform, vocational rehabilitation, and special education services.

Kaplan also is the “go-to” person for the media when they are looking for comments on LGBT legal cases.  This was especially the case following the release of the US Supreme Court decisions in June when he was immediately interviewed by numerous print and broadcast media.

On working with MPIPP . . .

Jay Kaplan and MPIPP have worked together on issues involving the psychological impact that discriminatory policies and practices have on LGBT people and their families, and as he puts it, “to demonstrate why LGBT people need legal protections against discrimination.  We have collaborated on providing testimony regarding certain pieces of legislation that impact the LGBT community.”

What makes you happy?

“Being able to be helpful to other people and making a positive difference in the lives of others.  As for myself, coming across an incredible idea or thought — in a piece of music, a novel, or a play makes me very happy.”

What accomplishments are you most proud of to date?

In describing his accomplishments, Jay mentioned both professional and personal achievements, including:

  • “Starting the first HIV/AIDS legal program in Michigan.
  • The recent federal court decision (in our ACLU case) striking down Michigan’s law prohibiting certain public employers from offering health insurance to same-sex partners as unconstitutional discrimination.
  • Running a full marathon last year, when I only trained for a half.”

Who Are Your Hero(s) And Why?

  • Eleanor Roosevelt — for her compassion for those less fortunate and for her resolved commitment to social justice and world peace.
  • Nelson Mandela — for his courage, his strength, and his incredible vision.
  • Thurgood Marshall — for his contribution to the civil rights movement and his tenure as Justice on the Supreme Court (I also feel the same way about William Brennan).

What Is Your Favorite Quote?

From Eleanor Roosevelt:

“You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.”

 Do you have any comment for others who might want to work with MPIPP?

“I strongly encourage organizations that work on behalf of the LGBT community to collaborate with MPIPP, which serves as a very important resource to our community.  MPIPP can provide the expertise and the research to demonstrate that the justifications for discrimination against LGBT people have no basis in science nor fact¾but are based on fear.  The only way we are going to change hearts and minds of people regarding LGBT people and public policy is to educate with actual facts and information, not conjecture.  Overall, the only way to achieve full equality for the LGBT community is to have organizations — both LGBT-specific and non-specific collaborate and work together.  There is strength and power, not to mention resources — in numbers.

Jay continued, “I think their social science research can also be helpful in the area of LGBT relationships.  Michigan law and public policies treat LGBT couples and sometimes their children as strangers to one another.  This definitely harms the children, who often lack the legal protection of two parents and can undermine both the economic and psychological stability of LGBT families.”

UPCOMING AUGUST CLINICAL TRAINING FOR THERAPISTS 

A series of clinical trainings will be held in August at Affirmations in Ferndale.  For more information, and to register for any of these workshops, please visit Affirmations.