WASHINGTON -- In what may be a landmark decision, the trustees of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) ruled yesterday that homosexuality will no longer be considered a "mental disorder" in the association's official manual.
The vote of the 19-member board, described by homosexual activists as a "psychiatric turnabout," was unanimous with two abstentions.
Dr. Alfred M. Freedman, the APA president, said the ruling will make it easier for homosexuals to get help if they want it and will reduce discrimination against those who do not.
The trustees' resolution also urged that homosexuals be granted all civil protections now enjoyed by other citizens.
While the APA's decision "is in dispute and will continue to be internationally," Freedman said, homosexuality henceforth will be officially regarded as a "sexual orientation disturbance" which is not considered a mental illness.
Homosexuality had been listed as a "sexual deviation" in the APA's official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, one of the bibles of the profession. Other sexual deviations still listed in the manual include fetishism, voyeurism and exhibitionism.
"Sexual orientation disturbance," according to the new definition, concerns individuals whose sexual interests are directed primarily toward people of the same sex in addition to those who are either disturbed by, in conflict with, or wish to change their sexual orientation.
The APA is the third major psychiatric group to remove homosexuality from the category of illness. The Group of Advancement of Psychiatry made that decision in 1966 and was joined four years later by the National Association for Mental Health.
A spokesman for the New York-based National Gay Task Force said there are 20 million homosexuals of both sexes in the world. Statistics compiled during the Kinsey studies of the late 1940s and early 1950s indicated that about 25 per cent of all Americans had an adult homosexual experience and that 10 per cent were primarily homosexual.
The APA resolution urged enactment of civil rights laws to prevent discrimination against homosexuals, including repeal of sodomy laws and other legislation banning sexual acts performed by consenting adults in private.
"Homosexuality in and of itself implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability or vocational capabilities," the resolution said.