The Supreme Court of the United States made a historic ruling on same-sex marriage on Friday, voting 5 to 4 in favor of legalizing all unions. Not only does this allow everyone to marry the person they love, regardless of sexual orientation, but it’s also a step forward for mental health in a community that’s often stigmatized.
The SCOTUS decision is a leap in the right direction — especially when it comes to boosting the mental health of LGBT individuals.
According to the American Psychological Association, marriage boosts psychosocial and mental health due to the moral, social and even economic support extended to married couples in our society — and denial of those rights may impose certain risks when it comes to well-being. A 2012 University of California, Los Angeles study found that psychological distress is lower among gay, lesbian and bisexual couples who are allowed to be legally married, compared with those in unions that are not legally recognized.
In other words, science suggests that letting people marry who they want boosts mental and maybe even physical health.
The UCLA study isn’t the only evidence that champions legalized same-sex marriage for this reason. Around 2004, when state bans on same-sex marriage started to peak, the National Institutes of Mental Health conducted a survey that examined respondents’ mental health. Results showed gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals who lived in states where their unions were banned experienced a notable increase in psychiatric disorders, NPR reported, including mood disorders and alcohol-use disorder.
Additionally, when same-sex marriage laws passed in Massachusetts in 2003, research found that gay men experienced fewer stress-related disorders and lower health care use, suggesting a potential link between the two events.
Social exclusion may also take a toll on mental health, studies show, something the LGBT community has been all too familiar with when it comes to marriage. “It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion on the ruling. “Their hope is to not be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.”
Fundamentally, love of all kinds contributes to several health perks, including a healthier heart, better mood and even improved longevity. While love doesn’t require marriage, a celebration of love can be viewed as a celebration of this kind of health. Ruling in favor of same-sex marriage also rules in favor of a happy, healthy mind by creating a more inclusive community free from isolation — and that’s something we can all support.