The Custody Crucible: The Development of Scientific Authority About Gay and Lesbian Parents
Law & History Review (2016) Forthcoming
43 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2016 Last revised: 8 Jul 2021
Date Written: June 8, 2015
This article argues that lesbian mother and gay father custody and visitation cases in the mid- and late-1970s spurred scientific inquiry into the impact of parental homosexuality on children’s sexual orientation and gender identity, with courts across the United States becoming critical arenas for the articulation of medical knowledge and forums for scientific debates on homosexuality. Courts reviewing lesbian mother and gay father requests for custody rights demanded information on the psychological impact of parental homosexuality on children, rendering questions of gay and lesbian parenthood increasingly important for scientists interested in issues of sexuality. Researchers, both for and against gay litigants, explicitly recognized the role their conclusions would play in courts, which shaped the structure and analysis of their work. This article demonstrates that the connection between gay rights and psychological science continued long after the American Psychiatric Association’s 1973 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental illness, with judicial debates driving new fields of social science research that would both help gays and lesbians assert their legal rights and provide evidence for opponents of the LGBT movement.
Keywords: Gay, Lesbian, LGBT, Children, Family Law, Psychiatry, Psychology
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