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20 December 2011

Praise: Columbia University Study on Benefits of Same Sex Marriage

The Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University published a study on 15 December 2011, Effect of Same-Sex Marriage Laws on Health Care Use and Expenditures in Sexual Minority Men:  A Quasi-Natural Experiment.  The press release states the following:
“Our results suggest that removing barriers to marriage improves the health of gay and bisexual men,” said Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, PhD, lead author of the study and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the Mailman School. It also saves money in healthcare costs.
In the 12 months following the 2003 legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, gay and bisexual men had a significant decrease in medical care visits, mental healthcare visits, and mental healthcare costs, compared with the 12 months before the law change. This amounted to a 13% reduction in healthcare visits and a 14% reduction in healthcare costs. These health effects were similar for partnered and single gay men.
Those opposed to equality often complain that gays are seeking "special rights".  Right now straights in all states have those "special rights" and the benefits that come from marriage.  Equality is what we seek.  The financial impact would be good, but the specific health improvements even better.
For the study, researchers surveyed 1,211 patients from a large, community-based health clinic in Massachusetts that focuses on serving sexual minorities. Examining the clinic's billing records in the wake of the approval of Massachusetts' same-sex marriage law, researchers found a reduction in hypertension, depression, and adjustment disorders—all conditions associated with stress.
“These findings suggest that marriage equality may produce broad public health benefits by reducing the occurrence of stress-related health conditions in gay and bisexual men,” Dr. Hatzenbuehler said.
Previous studies have documented that excluding lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals from marriage has a stressful impact on this population. Dr. Hatzenbuehler's study is the first study to examine whether same-sex marriage policies influence healthcare use and healthcare expenditures among sexual minorities. Lesbians were not included in the survey due to insufficient sample size among the patients who visit the clinic.
“This research makes important contributions to a growing body of evidence on the social, economic, and health benefits of marriage equality,” Dr. Hatzenbuehler said.
The myths perpetuated by the anti-equality bigots are slowly being discredited.  For example, many hate groups continue to claim that homosexuals have a shorter lifespan, based directly or indirectly on a flawed study by Paul Cameron that was disproven by Columbia University among others.  There are many more examples both of this myth and refutations of Dr. Cameron's so-called study.

More research is, as Dr. Hatzenbuehler wrote, needed.  This is wonderful initial information.  Perhaps one day my partner and I may be legally allowed to wed.  We have been together since 2005 and are not living in one of the six states or the District of Columbia where we can legally marry.

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