Psychologist Says Lawyers Defending DOMA Misconstrue Her Research Findings

This week, a psychology professor denounced the use of her research by lawyers to defend the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” in a trial court. Lisa M. Diamond, an associate professor of developmental psychology at the University of Utah, released an affidavit stating that the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives (BLAG), which is leading the defense of DOMA, “misconstrues and distorts [her] research findings.” BLAG cites Prof. Diamond’s research in a lengthy paper submitted to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this month. The paper was written in an effort to convince the court to dismiss the case brought by Edith Windsor, an openly lesbian woman who is seeking a refund of the more than $350,000 estate tax bill that she had to pay because her marriage to her late wife was not recognized by the federal government.

In her affidavit, Prof. Diamond points to several instances in BLAG’s paper where her research is misrepresented. Diamond refutes BLAG’s use of her quote to make claims about the immutability of sexual orientation, saying, “My quoted statement…says nothing whatsoever about the immutability of sexual orientation itself.” She goes on to clarify the difference between sexual identity labels (i.e., how individuals describe and interpret their sexuality) and sexual orientation, a distinction that BLAG ignores in order to further their immutability argument. Given these adulterations of her work, it is not a surprise when Diamond reveals that, “Counsel for BLAG never requested that I serve as an expert witness for them…If they had so requested, I would not have agreed to do so.”

In addition to distorting Diamond’s research, BLAG cites the work of many discredited pseudo-scientists known for their anti-gay biases. The bogus research of one “expert” cited by BLAG, Paul Cameron, was rejected by both the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association. Cameron has made ludicrous public statements about LGBT people, once testifying that lesbian and gay people were more likely to drive drunk than their straight counterparts. BLAG also cites a paper by Professor George W. Dent Jr., which uses fables about step-parents as “support” for the idea that children being raised by both biological parents are “uniquely benefitted.”

Edith Windsor’s lawyers are now arguing that BLAG’s paper be stricken from the evidence, and the Department of Justice released a brief last week asking the District Court to grant Windsor’s motion for summary judgment. GLAAD encourages all media reporting on this case to note the gaping holes in BLAG’s arguments and its use of both misrepresented and discredited research. It is important that coverage of these ongoing proceedings remain fair and accurate.

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