Robert Leopold Spitzer, a psychiatrist who played a major role in eliminating homosexuality from the list of mental disorders died December 25, 2015 in Seattle, aged 83. His wife, Columbia University Professor Emerita Janet Williams, Dr. Spitzer declared that he died from a heart disease.
Dr. Spitzer had a major contribution in classifying mental disorders working on several editions of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (D.S.M.). In 1973, Dr. Spitzer came to the conclusion that homosexuality should be removed from the list of pathologies, as gay people he had been talking to were comfortable with their sexuality. So he determined that “the people I appointed had all made a commitment to be guided by data.”
His statement wasn’t well perceived by representatives of the profession but he went on supporting his theory. “A medical disorder either had to be associated with subjective distress — pain — or general impairment in social function,” he told the Washington Post. However, at the APA conference in 1973, Spitzer determined the association to remove homosexuality from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Dr. Jack Drescher, a gay psychoanalyst in New York, told the Times that Spitzer played a major role in the gay rights movement, and today same-sex couples can legally marry due to him too. “The fact that gay marriage is allowed today is in part owed to Bob Spitzer,” Drescher said.