Pentagon And Congress Should Act Quickly To End Gay Military Ban, APA Says

There should be an image here!The American Psychological Association urged both the Pentagon and Congress today to move swiftly to end the restrictions on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, noting that tere are decades of scientific research demonstrating no threat to military readiness or morale.

“While we were heartened by the congressional testimony of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, we believe that a year to study the matter and another year to implement change is too long,” said APA President Carol Goodheart, Ed.D. “The military has proved itself willing, able and effective in the integration of African Americans and of women. This experience can and should inform efforts to end the current situation in which gay and lesbian service members, who everyone acknowledges are currently serving, must conceal their sexual orientation to avoid being discharged.”

Admiral Mullen, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary Gates testified on Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee in favor of allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military. President Obama has also voiced support for repeal of the current prohibition but has declined to issue an executive order to do so.

The American Psychological Association strongly opposes the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for lesbian and gay people in military service. This stance reflects the APA Policy Statement on Sexual Orientation and Military Service, adopted by the APA Council of Representatives in July 2004. In this policy statement, the association reaffirmed its opposition to discrimination based on sexual orientation and its commitment to disseminating scientific knowledge to ameliorate the negative effects of the current law through training and education.

APA has also lobbied in support of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which currently has 187 co-sponsors.

“We know that some openly gay or lesbian service members have served in the U.S. military with no ill effects to others,” Goodheart said. “In fact, a stop-loss policy during the Persian Gulf War prevented discharges for homosexuality during that war.”

In addition, Goodheart noted that repealing the current policy would improve the mental health of gay and lesbian people already serving in the armed forces.

“The military can be seen as a highly stressful environment, especially in wartime. It is important to encourage military personnel to seek mental health care when needed in order to promote their well-being and effectiveness,” she said. “The ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, however, works against effective access to mental health services by increasing the anxiety of gay and lesbian military personnel and then discouraging them from seeking mental health care.”

Public Affairs Office @ American Psychological Association

[Photo above by M. V. Jantzen / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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Do Children Need Both A Mother And A Father?

There should be an image here!The presumption that children need both a mother and a father is widespread. It has been used by proponents of Proposition 8 to argue against same-sex marriage and to uphold a ban on same-sex adoption.

On the other end of the political spectrum, Barack Obama endorsed the vital role of fathers in a 2008 speech: “Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation.”

The lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family challenges the idea that “fatherless” children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of parenting skills than women.

“Significant policy decisions have been swayed by the misconception across party lines that children need both a mother and a father. Yet, there is almost no social science research to support this claim. One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents,” said sociologist Timothy Biblarz of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Extending their prior work on gender and family, Biblarz and Judith Stacey of NYU analyzed relevant studies about parenting, including available research on single-mother and single-father households, gay male parents and lesbian parents. “That a child needs a male parent and a female parent is so taken for granted that people are uncritical,” Stacey said.

In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the “partial exception of lactation,” noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children’s psychological adjustment and social success.

As the researchers write: “The social science research that is routinely cited does not actually speak to the questions of whether or not children need both a mother and a father at home. Instead proponents generally cite research that compares [heterosexual two-parent] families with single parents, thus conflating the number with the gender of parents.”

Indeed, there are far more similarities than differences among children of lesbian and heterosexual parents, according to the study. On average, two mothers tended to play with their children more, were less likely to use physical discipline, and were less likely to raise children with chauvinistic attitudes. Studies of gay male families are still limited.

However, like two heterosexual parents, new parenthood among lesbians increased stress and conflict, exacerbated by general lack of legal recognition of commitment. Also, lesbian biological mothers typically assumed greater caregiving responsibility than their partners, reflecting inequities among heterosexual couples.

“The bottom line is that the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents. This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well,” Biblarz said.

Stacey concluded: “The family type that is best for children is one that has responsible, committed, stable parenting. Two parents are, on average, better than one, but one really good parent is better than two not-so-good ones. The gender of parents only matters in ways that don’t matter.”

Bethany H. Carland-Adams @ Wiley-Blackwell

[Photo above by greencolander / CC BY-ND 2.0]

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