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Same-sex marriage (SSM)

Health benefits resulting from SSM

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2005-FEB: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health article on health benefits:

Professor Michael King, of University College London, co-wrote an article in this Journal in which he predicted that positive mental health effects would result from the recently passed civil partnership law in England and Wales. The article was based on studies in other countries that had introduced civil partnerships previously. In 1989, Norway was the first country to create civil partnerships similar to civil unions in the U.S. They give most of the benefits and protections of marriage to same-sex couples and their children without the right to call their relationship a marriage.

The article notes that there are elevated rates of depression, suicidal ideation, drug abuse, and alcoholism in the lesbian and gay community.

  • Religious and social conservatives generally attribute the cause of these problems to homosexuality itself, which they consider to be a disordered, unnatural, and abnormal behavior.

  • Religious and social liberals, mental health professionals, human sexuality researchers, and the LGBT community generally attribute these problems to the high levels of homophobia in the culture.

Unfortunately, these two groups do not seem to have ever made an effort to enter into dialogue and resolve their differences. The results of this indifference are seen in the high suicide rates in the gay and lesbian community.

Professor King wrote:

"Civil partnerships are likely to break down some of the prejudice and promote greater understanding, including among staff working in the health service.

"Legal civil partnerships could increase the stability of same sex relationships and minimize the social exclusion to which gay and lesbian people are often subjected."

According to the BBC, the report:

"... cited Swiss research which showed patients with HIV in stable partnerships were more likely to progress more slowly to AIDS.

And other studies have revealed that married same sex couples had greater openness about their sexual orientation and closer relationships with their relatives than same sex couples not in civil partnerships.

But the doctors in the latest study added further research was needed to prove the theory." 1

Andy Forrest, of Stonewall Cymru, a gay rights organization in Wales, referred to the articles conclusions as "logical." He said:

"I think having civil partnerships is going to mean a lot more security, financially, without the need to seek legal recourse, which in turn means less stress and that will be beneficial. There is also the issue of prejudice and hassle that people can encounter in their every day lives, with the rights these partnerships have this will be reduced." 1

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2008-SEP: "Same-sex marriage and health" report:

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association's (GLMA) Marriage Equality Initiative reports that:

"A large body of scientific research indicates that the denial of marriage rights to gay men and lesbians can negatively impact their health and well-being and that of their children." 2

The GLMA noted that:

  • Perceived discrimination is linked to a decreased sense of personal growth, diminished environmental mastery, and lowered self-acceptance.

  • Among lesbians and gay men, sexual orientation stigma and discrimination are associated with decreased quality of life and increased rates of psychological distress and mood and anxiety disorders.

  • The American Psychiatric Association has found that "same-sex couples ... experience several kinds of state-sanctioned discrimination that can adversely affect the stability of their relationships and their mental health."

  • Young people today have a greater expectation of openly expressing their sexual orientation in adolescence. This expectation is frustrated by campaigns to continue to deny them the possibility of a future that includes marriage. This marriage denial reinforces stigma associated
    with sexual orientation and undermines well-being, an effect to which adolescents and young adults are particularly sensitive. The ability to be married increases developmental options for lesbian and gay adolescents and young adults, who could envision marriage as a key element of their adulthood.

  • Marriage is associated with many tangible and intangible benefits that support psychological health, including spousal benefits such as social security and public pensions; income tax benefits; inheritance, insurance, and survivorship rights including estate tax benefits; health
    insurance in spouses’ group plans; the right to sue for wrongful death of a spouse; and power to make medical decisions on behalf of a spouse. More than 60 percent of insured Americans received health care through their own employer or that of their spouse or other family
    member. Non-marital legal recognition of relationships does not provide the full range of legal, economic, social, and mental health benefits provided by marriage. Legal recognition short of marriage is not transportable across state lines and subjects lesbians and gay men to the
    vicissitudes of local law and law enforcement. 2

The GLMA concluded:

  • Marriage can help protect and promote the mental and physical health of lesbians and gay men.
    • Marriage is associated with multiple mental and physical health benefits.

    • Marriage is also associated with many tangible and intangible benefits that support psychological health, including access to healthcare through a spouse.

    • Other kinds of legal recognition of same-sex relationship do not provide the full range of benefits provided by marriage.

  • Marriage can help protect and promote the health of children being raised by gay men and lesbians.
    • Millions of children are currently being raised by same-sex couples. Their health and well-being are at risk because of the lack of legal and insurance protections that are granted automatically through marriage. They benefit when their families are respected and afforded legal protections.

    • Multiple, published credible research studies find no differences in parenting skills by sexual orientation or in the psychological health or adjustment of children raised by heterosexual or homosexual parents.

  • Marriage can help protect and promote the health of aging gay and lesbian individuals.
    • Many older gay and lesbian people are in long-term committed relationships.

    • Without legal recognition, older lesbians and gay men will face additional stressors related to their finances which have the potential to worsen their physical and mental health.

The full 15 page report is well worth reading in full. 2

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2011-DEC-15: Positive health impact noted as a result of legalization of SSM in Massachusetts in 2003:

Same-sex marriage in the U.S. is currently available in the District of Columbia and six states of the U.S. Of these, Massachusetts was the first jurisdiction to make marriage licenses available to same-sex couples. On 2003-NOV-19, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state constitution allowed same-sex marriage, and that the state had to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples starting on 2004-MAY-17.

Researchers in Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University monitored the 1,211 gay male clients of a single health clinic during the 12 months prior to the court decision, and again during the 12 months following the event. Those studied included gay men with partners and single men. They found a 13% decrease in healthcare visits for medical and mental problems, and a 14% decrease in health care costs. Blood pressure problems, depression and "adjustment disorders" were all reduced. The report authors attribute this to a lowering of stress levels.

Lead researcher, Dr Mark Hatzenbuehler, said:

"Our results suggest that removing these [marriage] barriers improves the health of gay and bisexual men. ... Marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions." 3,4

A spokesperson for the Terrence Higgins Trust -- a UK-based sexual health and HIV agency, said:

"There is a known link between health and happiness. It's no surprise that people who are treated as second class citizens tend to have low self esteem, which in turn makes them more likely to take risks. Whether this is [consumption of] drugs, alcohol abuse, or unsafe sex, treating gay men unequally has lasting repercussions for their health." 3,4

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Gay marriage 'is good for health'," BBC News, 2006-FEB-14, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  2. "Same-sex marriage and health," Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, 2008-SEP, at: http://www.lgbthealthinitiative.com/ This is a PDF report.
  3. "Gay marriage improves health'," BBC News, 2011-DEC-15, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/
  4. Michael Sheridan, "Legalization of same-sex marriage may make gay men healthier: study. Research finds homosexual men visit doctors less in states where gay marriage is legal," New York Daily News, 2011-DEC-18, at: http://www.nydailynews.com/

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Copyright © 2011 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2011-DEC-18
Latest update: 2011-DEC-18

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