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Parenting Experts Say Mississippi Court Ignored Scientific Evidence in Denying Custody to Gay Father

The leader of a group of distinguished professors of psychology at the University of Mississippi issued a statement Feb. 17 condemning a recent state Supreme Court decision to deny custody to a gay father who sought to protect his son from domestic violence.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi and the ACLU's National Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which filed the case on behalf of the father, David Weigand, said that they are currently considering whether to appeal the ruling.

The psychology professors had filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, advising the court that all of the available scientific evidence demonstrates that lesbians and gay men make good parents and that children raised by gay and lesbian parents develop just as healthily as those raised by heterosexual parents.

Professor Dan Landis, Director of the University of Mississippi's Center for Applied Research and Evaluation and one of the authors of the friend-of-the-court brief, explained that the statement was being issued because "we felt it was important to speak out and let the community know that this tragic decision flies in the face of everything we know as scholars and psychologists."

"We provided the Mississippi Supreme Court with all of the scientific evidence that was relevant to this custody case," Prof. Landis added. "Since they chose to ignore it and base their decisions on anti-gay prejudice, we felt it was important to share our knowledge with the public."

Among the University of Mississippi professors joining the friend-of-the-court brief were Professor Landis; Philip Cooker, Professor of Educational Psychology and Director of the University's Graduate Program in Counseling and Guidance; Karen Christoff, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the University's Clinical Training Program; Billy M. Barrios, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology; and Nathan Weed, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology.

"While Mississippi's Supreme Court has done a great disservice to the children of gay and lesbian parents, it is heartening to hear a voice of reason from the academic community at the University of Mississippi," said Michael Adams, Associate Director of the ACLU's Lesbian & Gay Rights Project and lead counsel for the gay father in the Weigand case.

The professors' friend-of-the-court brief can be found at http://www.aclu.org/court/wiegandvhoughton_amicus.html.

The ACLU's previous news release on the case, with links to the court's decision, can be found at http://www.aclu.org/news/1999/n020899b.html. 


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