HONOLULU -- Gay couples should be able to marry in civil ceremonies and, if they are parents, they deserve all the legal rights of straight parents, says a policy the American Psychological Association adopted Wednesday at its meeting here.
''We're going out on a limb,'' says Diane Halpern, president of APA, the nation's largest group of psychologists. ''But we're doing what we should be doing.'' The group already has a policy opposing discrimination against gays, and many members are concerned about political actions to stop gay marriages, she says.
Keeping gays from marrying ''puts a particular stress on them just because of their sexual orientation. It's a health issue and a mental health issue,'' Halpern says.
President Bush favors a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage but would leave it up to states to decide whether to allow civil unions, which give couples many of marriage's legal protections.
The federal amendment died in the Senate, but state amendments to ban same-sex marriages are on the ballot in seven states. Activists in four more states say they have gathered enough signatures for a vote, but the signatures are being verified.
There's no evidence that kids raised by gays have poorer mental health than those with straight parents, Halpern says. The research is limited but growing and improving in quality, says University of Virginia psychologist Charlotte Patterson.
David Blankenhorn, head of the pro-traditional marriage Institute for American Values, says there is strong evidence that kids do best when raised by married, biological parents. Supporting gay marriage encourages a ''marriage-lite'' trend that pretends unions are a private matter, he says. ''The whole social fabric depends on stable marriages; how the next generation is raised depends on it.''
But preventing gay parents from marrying hurts their kids, as does denying them equal rights to insurance and Social Security benefits, says Aimee Gelnaw, executive director of the Family Pride Coalition, an advocacy group for gay families. ''Separate is not equal,'' Gelnaw says.
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