- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Recently, the American Psychological Association’s leadership approved resolutions supporting same-sex “marriage” and parenting. Since the announcement, many in and out of the APA have asked why the leadership felt the need to get involved in this contentious issue. Good question.

The APA news release announcing the policy move said the leadership wanted to provide “policy recommendations for APA that would guide psychologists in the current public debate over civil marriage for same-sex couples.”

Psychologists need guidance? That’s laughable.

Guiding psychologists is like herding cats. Children need guidance. Cattle need guidance. Psychologists are not in their offices thinking, “You know, I am so grateful that I know what to think about gay ‘marriage’ now.” I am not buying that at all.

While president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, I observed that many mental health professionals are not content to give advice in the consulting room. Many are closet public policy wonks. In other words, the APA leadership wants to guide you. Should you trust their judgment?

Q. How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?

A. Can’t say for sure: Depends on the light bulb.

Psychologists are notorious for being tentative. Therefore many of the public may assume the recent same-sex policy decisions were the result of a long process of gathering high-quality research to reach a broad professional consensus. However, that is not how it happened.

Q. How many psychologists does it take to suggest social policy?

A. 166.

That’s not a joke. Many people might assume the APA membership would vote on such important issues before the leadership would go public with a policy statement. No so. No polling was done of the 150,000 members. Six committee members recommended the resolution to the 160-members Council of Representatives and by a show of hands the matter was done. So when APA president Diane Halpern said to USA Today that the APA was “going out on a limb” to support same-sex “marriage” and parenting, a more accurate statement would be that the APA leadership had crawled out there without taking into account where the members stood.

Such research on attitudes of psychologists toward these issues has been conducted, but it was ignored. For instance, in a 1999 “Professional Psychology: Research and Practice” article, psychologists were asked to rate preferences for hypothetical homosexual and straight couples as an adoption setting. Psychologists favored the straight couple, particularly for the adoption of a female child.

Another assumption the public might make is that the psychologists studying such matters would be impartial or at least that several points of view would be represented on a committee. Not so in this case.

The individuals in the Working Group appointed by the APA were all aligned with homosexual political objectives before they were appointed. There was no diversity of view or research perspective on this panel. Let that sink in a minute.

All on the committee knew the outcome they supported before they started “working.” The committee should have been called the Same Sex “Marriage” & Parenting Advocacy Committee.

A third thing many people would assume is that developing policy on complex and controversial issues would require lengthy deliberation. Not so in this case.

The working group was only convened in February 2004. It had less than six months on task. The short time spent on the matter may explain why some pretty important studies were omitted from consideration. For instance, the paper supporting same-sex “marriage” did not mention Stanley Kurtz’s work on the impact of same-sex domestic partnerships in Europe. The paper supporting same-sex parenting did not mention a 1996 Children Australia study comparing children of straight married, straight cohabiting and same-sex cohabiting couples on measures of school performance and social adjustment. The report by Sotirios Sarantakos found that “in the majority of cases, the most successful are children of married couples, followed by children of cohabiting (straight) couples and finally by children of (cohabiting) homosexual couples.”

Even if the APA committee disagreed with the study’s findings, they should have considered them. They did not. Space does not permit examination of other studies unconsidered by the APA committee. This is not the way to develop professional consensus. A professional association that truly wanted to achieve a scientific consensus would have incorporated a much more diverse working group and taken much more time to consider research from all the social sciences.

Better yet, if the APA is really interested in guidance, I have a suggestion. To help the public and fellow professionals really understand the nature of professional consensus on any policy issue, let the membership be polled. Report the results along with whatever committee position is taken, even if there is disagreement. Let the cats meow, even if not in unison.

Warren Throckmorton is director of college counseling and an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College. He is also the producer of the documentary “I Do Exist” at www.idoexist.net concerning sexual orientation change.

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