A new study found that gay marriage equality laws boosted LGBTQ mental health in a significant way. The Williams Institute study showcases the LGBTQ community’s happiness and life satisfaction levels after the Obergefell decision legalized gay marriage, compared to the period before it.
The study centered on 500 people who simply answered “yes” or “no” to questions about their sexuality. Researchers interviewed them every day prior to and after the 2015 decision. The Williams Institute shared their results in a report titled The Impact of Obergefell v. Hodges on the Well-Being of LGBT Adults.
According to the report, before the same-sex marriage equality laws passed, the discrepancies between the LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ adults were quite large. About 84% of the LGBTQ adults were happy, compared to 89% of the non-LGBT adults.
After Obergefell, LGBTQ+ happiness levels raised to 87%. Levels also reached a life satisfaction level of 62%, compared to 58% before Obergefell. Before the decision, same-sex marriage was legal in one way or another in about 38 states. After, gay marriage equality rights became a federal law, making same-sex marriages legal in all 50 states.
Same-Sex Marriage Equality Boosts LGBTQ Mental Health, Study Shows
The extensive study compares the happiness levels of people living in the states where same-sex marriage was legal before Obergefell and in the states where it became legal after the decision. From the report:
Prior to the Obergefell decision, there were significant disparities between LGBT and non-LGBT adults in their happiness and life satisfaction. Fewer LGBT adults reported feeling happy (84%) compared to non-LGBT adults (89%), and fewer LGBT adults (58%) rated their life satisfaction higher-than-average than non-LGBT adults (68%).
For non-LGBTQ adults, the study found no significant changes between their happiness prior to the decision and after. On the other side, the general happiness of LGBTQ people only increased. In the states where gay marriage was previously legal, their happiness increased from 83% to 87%. Likewise, in the states where Obergefell legalized gay marriage, their happiness increased from 87% to 89%.
As expected, states where Obergefell led to marriage equality saw larger differences in mental health improvements compared to states that already had equality laws on the books. Researches concluded that prior to Obergefell LGBTQ adults were less likely to say that their happiness was above average. Their emotional well-being actually increased after 2015.
Although non-LGBTQ people didn’t really see a difference, the newly instated marriage equality law measurably boosted the happiness and life satisfaction of LGBTQ people of the United States among those interviewed for the research.
While one study alone doesn’t completely prove that gay marriage equality improved LGBTQ mental health, it’s an interesting start. The Williams Institute is looking forward to further analysis, evaluating other public policies such as non-discrimination policies and paid leave. From the report:
The day that Obergefell was announced was an important moment for LGBT people in the United States, and this is reflected in their self-reported well-being immediately following the decision. Future research should evaluate how other public policies (e.g., LGBT non-discrimination protections, paid leave) impact the economic and emotional well-being of LGBT people.