American Foundation for Equal Rights

Marriage News Blog

Studies document negative effects of marriage discrimination, benefits of marriage equality

As the nation awaits a Supreme Court decision in AFER’s case against California’s Prop. 8, research clearly shows that preventing gay and lesbian couples from getting married leads to negative side effects, including a 37% increase in mood disorders, a 42% increase in alcohol-use disorders, and a 248% increase in generalized anxiety disorders, according to Mark Hatzenbuehler, a psychologist at Columbia University.

The 2010 study Hatzenbuehler released with colleagues Katie McLaughlin, Katherine Keyes and Deborah Hasin was recently covered by NPR:

Beginning around 2004, several states banned gay marriage. Just before that series of bans, the National Institutes of Health happened to conduct a massive survey of 43,093 Americans. The questions elicited detailed information about respondents’ mental health. (To validate what people reported about themselves, psychiatrists also interviewed samples of the people in the survey, and their medical diagnoses closely matched the findings of the survey.)

Soon after the wave of state bans on gay marriage, in 2004 and 2005, the NIMH conducted a second round of interviews, managing to reach 34,653 of the original respondents. (That’s a high rate compared with most polls and surveys.)

The study reiterates evidence and expert testimony presented during the 2010 Prop. 8 trial, which became a truth commission of marriage equality.

But is the reverse true? Are there mental health benefits for marriage equality?

Hatzenbuehler has also found, in a study conducted in Massachusetts, that gay men experienced fewer stress-related disorders after that state permitted gay marriage.

In a study tracking the health of 1,211 gay men in Massachusetts, Hatzenbuehler found that the men visited doctors less often and had lower health treatment costs after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage.

This issue is compounded by the fact that the metro areas with the highest percentages of gay and lesbian couples raising children are in states with constitutional bans on marriage, according to the UCLA Williams Institute.

The percentage of same-sex couples raising children in metro areas with a population above 1 million are the highest in Salt Lake City, Virginia Beach, San Antonio, Memphis, and Detroit. Each of these metro centers are in states with constitutional amendments banning marriage for same-sex couples. Among all states, Mississippi has the highest percentage of same-sex couples raising children at 26 percent.