Supporters of same-sex marriage view this union as a matter of equality and argue that the rights of those in same-sex relationships are infringed if such marriage is not legally recognized. On the other hand, opponents of same-sex marriage argue that it runs in contrast with the best interests of a child because it deprives him or her either a father or a mother and that its legalization would mean erosion of religion.
Currently same-sex marriage is not recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act of the United States federal government. However, it is legal in only two states, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Stress and same-sex marriage ban
Amendments limiting marriage rights for same-sex partners can have a great emotional impact on LGBT couples. According to three studies published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, same-sex marriage bans spark psychological distress among the LGBT community, including their families.
Researchers find that an increase in exposure to media messages and negative conversations about same-sex marriage makes a detrimental environment for the gay population that may significantly affect their mental health and well-being.
In her survey of over 1,500 gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults across the United States, psychologist Sharon Scales Rostosky of the University of Kentucky revealed that most participants from the 25 states that have banned same-sex union reported having “minority stress”. This stress refers to the chronic social stress caused by minority-group stigmatization. They also reported experiencing general psychological distress.
According to Rostosky, the negative campaigning associated with the same-sex marriage ban is responsible for the stress experienced by the LGBT population. Previous studies have found that minority stress is associated with such health risks as substance abuse and risky sexual behavior.
Two other studies looked at the personal reports from LGBT adults and their families living in Memphis in Tennessee, right after a 2006 ballot campaign successfully banned same-sex marriage. A huge majority of the participants reported that they felt alienated from their communities. Most of them were afraid they might become victims of hate crimes and they would lose custody of their children.
In addition, counseling graduate student Jennifer Arm from the University of Memphis says that the studies also show that families of LGBT adults experienced some kind of secondary minority stress.
Emotional roller coaster
Rostosky is expecting similar trends to emerge, following the passage of legislations banning same-sex marriage in Florida, California, and Arizona. She says the LGBT community and their families are riding an emotional roller coaster, in the wake of California’s decision to ban same-sex marriage in November after overturning the state’s same-sex marriage ban in June.
She says, “The stories of same-sex couples who have married in California make it clear that they are feeling very betrayed, angry, confused and anxious.”