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Surprising Science

Gay Marriage May Complicate LGBT Health

Now that New York’s state Senate has approved gay marriage, how will the health of the LGBT community be affected? Take the good with the bad, says a Columbia Law School professor. 

What’s the Latest Development?

When the New York state Senate legalized gay marriage yesterday, New York became the largest state to grant same-sex couples the right to marry. On one hand, there will likely be psychological benefits to the decision: “A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found a rise in psychiatric disorders—including a 200% increase in generalized anxiety disorder—in lesbian, gay and bisexual people living in states that had put in place bans on same-sex marriage.” On the other hand, might universal marriage rights undercut civil unions which, according to Columbia Law School professor Katherine Franke, has offered an alternative to the “one-size-fits-all rules of marriage.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Numerous studies support the claim that same-sex couples suffer mental anguish when they live in states that will not permit them to marry. The same studies say the stress carries into the lives of their family members. But besides mental health effects, legalizing gay marriage may carry complicated legal consequences. “If the rollout of marriage equality in other states, like Massachusetts, is any guide,” says Franke, “lesbian and gay people who have obtained health and other benefits for their domestic partners will be required by both public and private employers to marry their partners in order to keep those rights.”


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