Ricci Levy's blog

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Building Bridges for Creating change in the DSM

In the past few months I've received numerous calls and emails about the revisions to the bible of the psychiatric world - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM for short.  The diagnosis in this manual are critically important because they determine who gets diagnosed as mentally ill, who should get powerful psychotropic drugs, and whether and how much insurance companies will pay for care.

The Washington Post quoted Alan Schatzberg, the president of the American Psychiatric Association, "It not only determines how mental disorders are diagnosed, it can impact how people see themselves and how we see each other.  It influences how research is conducted as well as what is researched. . . . It affects legal matters, industry and government programs."

The proposals will be debated in an intense process over the next two years, with potentially billions of dollars at stake for pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, government health plans, doctors, researchers and patient advocacy groups.

But perhaps more important, the outcome will help shape which emotions, behaviors, thoughts and personality traits society considers part of the natural spectrum of the human persona and which are considered pathological, requiring treatment and possibly even criminal punishment.

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Marriage Isn't The Only Valid Relationship


A hearing begins in Washington, DC this coming Monday (and continues the following week) on a piece of legislation proposed by Councilman Catania. Bill 18-482, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, that will finally grant same-sex partners the right to marry in the District of Columbia.

Unfortunately, the way the bill is currently written it will also end the Domestic Partner registry in DC. This registry is so well-written it has been the model for others across the country. In ending the ability to register as domestic partners, the bill will give one group of individuals their long-denied rights to marry while taking away the rights of another group of individuals - those who choose, for whatever reason, to NOT marry.

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation is one of several hundred witnesses - apparently the largest turn out in the history of the council - who will be testifying at this hearing. We aren't the only organization and/or individuals concerned about the domestic partner registry and we are all hopeful that we can achieve same sex marriage without stripping another group of individuals of their equal rights. 

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation (WFF) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to affirm sexual freedom as a fundamental human right. We define sexual freedom as the fundamental human right of all individuals to develop and express their unique sexuality. Part of this definition includes the right of adults to engage in the relationship of their choice with other consenting adults – with the same equal rights afforded to other relationships.

There are nearly 100 million unmarried adults in America: about 15% live with intimate partners and about one-third live alone; that leaves the majority of unmarried people living with other people in a web of important relationships. In 2007, nearly 6.5 million households in the U.S. – including nearly 20,000 in D.C. – comprised only unmarried adults related by blood.

According to the testimony of one of our allies, the Alternatives to Marriage Project,

"These lives are intertwined; many take responsibility for each other as family yet few are eligible for the legal protections or obligations of marriage. By being open to people not eligible to marry for reasons other than gender, the District’s domestic partnership registry created an important national model of how to encourage and recognize personal responsibility."

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