Although the Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges occurred nearly a month ago, I still find myself thinking about the decision every day. When I first read that the right to marry now extended to all people in all states, I felt elated and a bit like I was dreaming. The spirit of celebration that followed was affirming, cathartic, beautiful. I thought of those whose collective suffering led to this movement. I thought of children who could now be born into a norm of marriage equality. And, I thought about my therapy clients.
Psychotherapy is meant to address the mental health needs of not only the people who seek it, but also of the society in which we live. In Justice Kennedy’s written opinion, he reminds us that homosexuality had been considered a diagnosable mental disorder until 1973 (and was not completely removed from the DSM until the mid 80s!). Just as Kennedy argued that the law must adapt to meet the needs of a changing society, so too must our understanding of mental health. In my opinion, both took too long to evolve here. As an intern therapist, I consider this decision to be a humbling reminder that we mental health practitioners must tirelessly work to serve all people who are being marginalized.
Today, I am thankful that I have never had to practice therapy in a day when someone’s sexual orientation would be viewed as an illness. My joyful tasks now include helping clients integrate the meaning of this new marriage acceptance, grieve the too-recent days in which their love and identity were invalidated, and cope with forms of oppression that are still ongoing. I have renewed hope that we can continue to illuminate the blind spots that allow people to be harmed by laws and official labels. People should be diagnosed based on their suffering, not based on who they are.
I hold both that the Supreme Court’s decision is a great triumph and that there is much work to be done to improve our relationship as a society. Even as I celebrate the end of institutional discrimination toward same-sex marriage, my relief is tempered; I do not think that Obergefell v. Hodges eliminates homophobia, just like the 1960s Civil Rights Movement has not eliminated racism. The law, while it forbids governmental discrimination, does not compel us to be kinder and more open with one another. We have to do those things ourselves. Love wins – now go love each other.
This post was written by Adrian Reyes,
Registered MFT Intern, IMF#66813.