Barring Same-Sex Marriage Has Economic And Health Consequences

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Recent research has found that barring same-sex marriage has its consequences: it hurts the economy and leads to an increase in mental illness among LGB people.

Shirley Phelps Roper

Photo: k763

Shirley Phelps-Roper and daughter Megan picket outside a California County Clerks office.

Recent economic and mental health studies have found that barring same-sex marriage has its consequences: it hurts the economy for everyone and leads to an increase in mental illness among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people.

Homophobia As A Public Health Concern

A study by the Mailman School of Public Health “found an increase in psychiatric disorders among the LGB population living in states that instituted bans on same-sex marriage.” Participants in their study were interviewed during 2001-2002 and then again during 2004-2005.

LGB people living in states that passed laws and constitutional amendments to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples (a total of 14 states) experienced increased rates of psychiatric disorders between the two time points.

There were significant increases in mood disorders, alcohol use disorders, and a more than 200 percent increase in generalized anxiety disorder.

This study is important because it looks at the direct effects of homophobia (i.e., prejudice and discrimination against LGB people) on LGB people – in this case, in terms of mental illness.  (A follow-up study is necessary, now that nearly every state outside of New England bans the legal recognition of same-sex couples.)

Homophobia has also been said to contribute to the high rates of HIV/AIDS among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (i.e., who do not identify as gay/bisexual) because it hinders safe sex practices, regular testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and public discussion about HIV.

Homophobia Hurts The Economy

Many scholars and activists have argued that homophobia hurts everyone, not just lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

Economic researchers, including M. V. Lee Badgett at UCLA’s Williams Institute, have found evidence that supports this, at least in terms of the economy.  That is, state laws that ban same-sex marriage costs states millions of dollars every year – primarily money that could come in from LGB couples’ weddings.

Where same-sex marriage is legal, like Washington, D.C. (as of a few weeks ago), several hundred jobs could be created to meet the demands of same-sex couples who marry.

One can argue, too, that the increased prevalence of mental illness among LGB people where laws and policies deny them equal rights and status also adds additional burdens in terms of health care costs and resources.

Just imagine the health and economic consequences of laws that call for the execution and imprisonment of LGBT people, like that which is being pushed in Uganda.

Dr. Eric Anthony Grollman

received his PhD in sociology at Indiana University. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Richmond. Dr. Grollman's research interests lie in medical sociology, social psychology, sexualities, and race/gender/class. You can see his personal blog at
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