GAY MARRIAGE: WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR PUBLIC HEALTH?

By Marvin So




Last weekend, one of my friends sent me this awesome video called “It’s Time”. Filmed by the Australian community advocacy group GetUp, the 2-minute video chronicles the ups and downs of a relationship in a strikingly beautiful way, check it out below!
The Advocate, an LGBT interest magazine, called the video possibly the most beautiful ad for marriage equality we’ve seen”. For me, I think it really hits home because relationship they illustrate is a completely normal, and would be completely socially acceptable save for the couple’s genders. The heart-breaking reality the video showcases really got me thinking about same-sex marriage in the United States, where it is currently not federally legalized, and how that relates to sexual health.
 
From the get-go, it’s been established that men who have sex with men (MSM) are at greater risk for STI’s and HIV. According to a recent study by Emory University, banning same-sex marriage was positively associated with risky homosexual behavior, and that in California, which has the largest population of gay men in the nation, the estimates for the prevalence of STI’s were substantially lower – this shows that homosexual behavior could really be shaped by marriage bans. This seems to make sense when one considers that even among heterosexual couples, if people were denied civil union – which represents to many people the emblem of their commitment to each other – I could foresee a greater amount of polygamous relationships, riskier sexual behaviors, and overall lack of benefits you usually see in strong, committed, and healthy relationships.  
Beyond sexual health, there is a plethora of other public health concerns to ponder as well. Being married does confer a degree of stability, as well as financial and legal benefits for both spouses and children, which can contribute greatly to individuals’ and families overall health. Kinsey Confidentialnotes that among LGBT people in the U.S., there were a much greater rates of mood, alcohol use, and anxiety disorders than compared to the rest of the world.
 
According to Advocates for Youth, “millennial youth” – those of us currently aged 18-29, are about 15% more supportive of same-sex marriage than any other age group in the population, and that this backing coincides with support for comprehensive sex education, family planning services, and the morality of same-sex relationships. Again, this makes sense to me; with the greatly increasing amount of people coming out in the past few decades, and stigma surrounding homosexual relationships slowly eroding, it’s easy to see how our generation’s attitudes have shifted surrounding non-vanilla sexual practices, and the need to protect all people. It seems as if the lack of same-sex marriage is directly reflective of homophobia in our society. The direct health outcomes that this systematic discrimination causes must be considered. 
 
A quick glance at the Youtube video’s comment section and you can already see the conflicts the issue of same-sex marriage creates. I really don’t know what the immediate future holds for same-sex marriage, but what do you think? Regardless of your stance on the matter, do you think continuing the ban on gay marriage in the U.S. will really have an impact on these individual’s health? What about our nation’s health as a whole?  For what other reasons should we or should we not care about gay marriage? 
 
 
For more information about same-sex marriage, here are some good sites to look into:
  1. 1. New York Times’ Topic Page on Same-sex Marriage
  2. 2. About.com Guide on ways to support same-sex Marriage
  3. 3. Freedom to Marry, a campaign win marriage nationwide
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