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The Psychotherapist Association for
Gender & Sexual Diversity

Marriage Equality

In November 2008, the ballot measure Proposition 8 (commonly referred to as Prop 8) narrowly passed, adding an amendment to the California State Constitution that defined marriage as valid in California only between a man and a woman. This effort was intended to reverse the effect of the decision by the California Supreme Court that spring, ruling a prior ban on same-gendered marriage as unconstitutional. The law was immediately challenged and taken to the California Supreme Court. Gaylesta joined many other organizations and individuals in submitting an amicus brief to the Court in 2009, supporting those petitioners challenging Prop 8's legality. That amicus brief was organized by Gaylesta members Jim Walker and Guy Albert, who had never before organized one being made. When the California Supreme Court upheld the ban, the case went to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In August 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Prop 8 was unconstitutional on the basis of due process and equal protection legal rights.  On appeal to the United States Supreme Court, it took the SCOTUS decision in June 2013 before the ruling actually went into effect and same-gendered marriages could actually resume in California.

Gaylesta's fight for marriage equality went beyond its participation in amicus briefs. We were the main sponsor and event organizer of the one-day Queer Families = Healthy Families Conference in the Bay Area in October 2008, just before Prop 8 came to a vote. 

Members also recognized that CAMFT, the largest organization of psychotherapists in California, had steadfastly refused to speak out against Prop 8 or to support same-gendered marriage -- excusing its inaction (in sharp contrast to many other professional organizations) as consistent with it not taking positions on propositions or on social issues. In a December 2008 response to a query, CAMFT Executive Director Mary Riemersma went so far as to say: "Taking a position is a no-win proposition for an organization whose mission is devoted to the professionals known as marriage and family therapists -- we are not about marriages or even families for that matter." It became a priority for many Gaylesta members to mobilize and press for changes in CAMFT.

The Gaylesta Board wrote a letter to CAMFT's Board asking it to rethink the association's position and recognize the harm done by its avoidance of this issue and the societal attitudes behind it. The Co-Presidents, Barry Bastian and Rebecca Silverstein, wrote an article for publication in CAMFT's publication, The Therapist, to educate the membership about the individual rights, mental health, family and social concerns underlying the fight for same-gendered marriage and against Prop 8. But the publication of that issue of The Therapistin May/June 2009 brought into high relief a lack of awareness and sensitivity, as well as prejudicial attitudes within CAMFT. Barry and Rebecca's article ("Working With LGBT Clients and Why Marriage Equality Matters") was included in a special section of articles on same-gendered marriage. However, by presuming a need to present "con" arguments (under the title "Supporting Traditional Marriage"), CAMFT published and appeared to give legitimacy to unprofessional homophobic and transphobic perspectives. This unleashed a storm of letters and action by many Gaylesta members. Some Gaylesta members resigned their memberships. Others became involved in a group that formed around this time -- California Therapists for Marriage Equality (CTME). CAMFT rapidly removed the offending articles from its website and apologized. Gaylesta organized a "town hall" in San Francisco on August 24, 2009, attended by over a hundred persons, in which CAMFT officials heard about how unhappy many were with their actions. Less than one month later, on September 12, CAMFT adopted a "Marriage and Family Inclusion Statement" which endorsed marriage equality.