When you think of non-profit organizations that are renowned for filing effective legal briefs in seminal cases, the American Psychological Association might not be the first one that comes to mind. But APA has filed 132 amicus (or friend of the court) briefs since the association decided in 1962 that such actions are part of its mission to advance the application of research findings to promote human welfare.
At a convention session Friday, APA General Counsel Nathalie Gilfoyle, JD, ticked off areas in which APA has weighed in via the amicus process: the death penalty, the insanity defense, psychotherapist-patient privilege, affirmative action and competency, to name a few. A total of 34 have been related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, she said, “a substantial and important part of our work in the amicus area.”
APA’s brief in the case In Re California was the only amicus brief that was cited in the opinion, which found that denying same-sex couples the right to marry violated the state constitution. That decision was overturned by California’s Proposition 8 ballot measure, which was vacated earlier this month in a ruling by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. That case, Perry vs. Schwarzenegger, is likely to be appealed, although attorney Paul M. Smith, JD, speaking at the same session, said it’s unclear that anybody has legal standing to file an appeal since the state has declined to argue in favor of the measure.
Just this past Wednesday, APA’s Council of Representatives passed a measure reaffirming APA’s support for same-sex marriage, based on the scientific research. That action was followed by the Board of Directors’ voting to file amicus briefs in Perry vs. Schwarzenegger and Gill vs. OPM, a case in Massachusetts that resulted in a ruling that struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.