How Same-Sex Marriage Laws Have Helped Save the Lives of LGBT Teens
Study reveals significant decline in suicide attempts by high school–age sexual minorities after passage of gay marriage laws
Anecdotal evidence and common sense suggests that LGBT youth receive tremendous self esteem and emotional health benefits the more they see positive images and hear empowering stories about queer adults. The It Gets Better Project, an increase in LGBT characters in TV and film (congrats on the best picture Oscar, Moonlight!), and personal testimonies like the speech Ellen Degeneres gave at the 2015 Teen Choice Awards all help. Concrete evidence now suggests that the advent of marriage equality has also played a vital role in helping teen-aged sexual minorities to thrive and look positively toward the future.
Although LGBT teens remain significantly more likely to grapple mental-health challenges than heterosexual teens, a recent Los Angeles Times article offers hopeful news: the advent of marriage equality has greatly reduced the rates at which queer high schoolers attempt suicide.
The study published in the peer-reviewed JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Pediatrics focused on attempted-suicide rates by LGBT teens from 1999 through 2015, a period during which same-sex marriage was legalized throughout the United States. The study found that during the first year each state adopted marriage equality, 14 percent fewer LGBT students attempted suicide than in states that had yet to pass similar laws.
Check out the full story, which also touches on the obstacles that the researchers from Johns Hopkins and Harvard had to overcome in their efforts to gather data on “a very understudied population of a very understudied phenomenon.” One other data point that stands out: 12.7 percent of the 763,000 thousand high school students surveyed anonymously through the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) identify as sexual minorities.
And to all the amazing LGBT couples who generously continue to share their stories and pictures with us in the magazine and on our website at Love Wins California, a big thank you. You’re all role models. And each of you is making a positive difference in the lives of the queer youth who read your stories.
The photo at the top is from the Palm Desert, California wedding of gay couple Jason Gaffney & Matt Gorlick. Photo by Robert Paetz.