The American Psychiatric Association board of trustees declared Saturday that it no longer regards homosexuality as a mental disease.
Leaders of the 20,000-member organization voted to reclassify homosexuality as a "sexual orientation disturbance" rather than as a "mental disorder," thus altering a century-old policy.
The APA trustees also declared their support for legislation to combat discrimination against homosexuals in the fields of housing, employment and licensing.
Reaction to the APA decision from Harvard psychiatrists and psychologists was mixed. Dr. Preston K. Munter, chief of psychiatry at University Health Services, yesterday praised the action.
"I commend the move highly," Munter said. "The APA just acknowledged a fact that we've known for years."
Munter credited pressure from homosexual organizations for the APA decision.
However, APA leaders insisted that pressure from homosexual groups was not a factor in the trustees' vote.
Dr. Stanley H. King, director of research at UHS, called the psychiatrists' decision "a reasonable, wise move." However, he expressed some reservations. "When people come into conflict over their homosexuality, then it's a treatable illness," he said.
At a Saturday press conference in Washington following the decision, Dr. Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, attempted to clarify the APA vote. "We're not saying that homosexuality is either 'normal' or 'abnormal'," he said. "We're saying that homosexuality per se is not a psychiatric disorder."
Gary Schwartz, assistant professor of personality psychology, yesterday called the APA decision "amazing." He speculated however that the APA's motivations were political, not psychobiological.
Schwartz cited recent studies which show that hormonal imbalance may cause psychobiological changes, including predisposed homosexual behavior. "Of all the things the APA could have declassified, I'm surprised they picked homosexuality," he said.
Homosexual organizations were quick to hail the association's new stance. The National Gay Task Force Saturday praised the declaration.