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The Science Supporting Same-Sex Marriage

A number of medical and research societies have published consensus statements supporting same-sex marriage. We thought it would be a good time to review them.
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(Photo: chloeloe/Flickr)

(Photo: chloeloe/Flickr)

When love wins, so does health. The United States Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Constitution guarantees the right to marry to all. Long before this, a number of medical and research societies supported same-sex marriage, based on studies showing that marriage rights are important for LGBT people's health and that the children of same-sex parents fare as well as peers raised by opposite-sex parents. In policy statements, researchers laid out the consensus science for gay marriage. We thought this would be a nice time to review them.

In 2013, the American Sociological Association filed an amicus brief, opposing the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8, that focuses on the well-being of children of same-sex parents:

[T]he claim that same-sex parents produce less positive child outcomes than opposite-sex parents—either because such families lack both a male and female parent or because both parents are not the biological parents of their children—contradicts abundant social science research. Decades of methodologically sound social science research, especially multiple nationally representative studies and the expert evidence introduced in the district courts below, confirm that positive child wellbeing is the product of stability in the relationship between the two parents, stability in the relationship between the parents and child, and greater parental socioeconomic resources. Whether a child is raised by same-sex or opposite-sex parents has no bearing on a child's wellbeing.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also supports same-sex marriage for the same reasons:

Many studies have demonstrated that children's well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents' sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents. Lack of opportunity for same-gender couples to marry adds to families' stress, which affects the health and welfare of all household members. Because marriage strengthens families and, in so doing, benefits children's development, children should not be deprived of the opportunity for their parents to be married. Paths to parenthood that include assisted reproductive techniques, adoption, and foster parenting should focus on competency of the parents rather than their sexual orientation.

Marriage is not just good for kids, it's good for adults in a couple, as the American Medical Association notes in its policies:

Our American Medical Association: (1) recognizes that denying civil marriage based on sexual orientation is discriminatory and imposes harmful stigma on gay and lesbian individuals and couples and their families; (2) recognizes that exclusion from civil marriage contributes to health care disparities affecting same-sex households....

The American College of Physicians clarifies the health risks of marriage bans:

[D]enial of marriage rights for LGBT persons may lead to mental and physical health problems. Health benefits associated with same-sex marriage result from improved psychological health and a reinforced social environment with community support. Research suggests that being in a legally recognized same-sex marriage diminishes mental health differentials between LGBT and heterosexual persons. A comparison study on the utilization of public health services by gay and bisexual men before and after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage found a reduction in the number of visits for health problems and mental health services. The study noted a 13% reduction in visits overall after the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Expanding marriage rights across the United States is more than a matter of fairness. It's one of health too.