Same-sex marriage has been legal in every state since the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. This ruling was obviously good news for gay couples in states where marriage was previously forbidden. However, according to a recent study, the legalization of same-sex marriage has appeared to decrease the rate of teen suicide.
Study: Suicide Attempts Dropped by 25 Percent
According to the study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, whenever a state legalized same-sex marriage, teen suicide attempts, particularly among lesbian, gay and bisexual kids, dropped. That's particularly important because these teens have a much higher rate of suicide attempts than straight teens.
The researcher behind the study looked at the number of suicide attempts among teens overall and also specifically among gay teens. In states without same-sex marriage, the rates were 9 percent for all teens and almost 29 percent for gay teens. When same-sex marriage was legalized in a state, overall suicide attempts in that state dropped 8 percent overall and 25 percent among gay teens.
There's no way to know how much of this drop was the result of changes in the law. As the study's author points out, "These are high school students so they aren't getting married any time soon, for the most part." However, she adds that "permitting same-sex marriage reduces structural stigma associated with sexual orientation [and] makes students feel less stigmatized and more hopeful for the future."
A suicide prevention advocate sees the connection, too. He says, "The more that people feel that they are accepted and that people are not going to ostracize them or stigmatize them, the better off we're going to be in terms of keeping people alive." He notes that lessening a stigma can not only reduce suicide but improve "general mental health and well being."
More Legal Battles Lie Ahead
Of course, same-sex marriage has been just one legal battle fought by advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, and many more are still being waged. For example, in some states, gay couples still face issues involving child adoption and custody. Further, there's concern among LGBT rights advocates about a rollback of rights by the Trump administration and the Republican majority in Congress.
Family-law related regulations regarding LGBT rights strike at the core of people's being. Therefore, it's only natural that how they're perceived and treated by the legal system can have a profound effect on self-esteem. In an uncertain political future, it's essential to know your rights when it comes to marriage, children and other family law issues.
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