The Custody Crucible: The Development of Scientific Authority About Gay and Lesbian Parents

Law & History Review (2016) Forthcoming

Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-509

43 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2016 Last revised: 24 Apr 2016

Marie-Amelie George

Columbia University - Law School

Date Written: June 8, 2015

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

George, Marie-Amelie, The Custody Crucible: The Development of Scientific Authority About Gay and Lesbian Parents (June 8, 2015). Law & History Review (2016) Forthcoming; Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-509. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2763857

Marie-Amelie George (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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