Hundreds of supporters are rallying in front of the Supreme Court as the Justices are in the midst of hearing two landmark cases for LGBT equality this week. There are many cases to be made against marriage discrimination — not least of which is the fact that it’s unconstitutional. On top of that, however, mounting scientific evidence also suggests that eliminating discriminatory practices against LGBT individuals will have significant health benefits for a community that has traditionally been vulnerable to health disparities.
Here are three ways that promoting policies that ensure LGBT equality will improve our nation’s health:
1. The children of LGBT parents will grow up healthier. Just last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics formally endorsed marriage equality, citing the significant benefits in store for the children who grow up with same-sex parents. According to the group, those children will be able to take advantage of the “social and legal status social and legal status that civil marriage conveys to their parents.” Ultimately, it’s in the best interests of children for them to grow up in families that are acknowledged to be just as equal as any other family — rather than imparting harmful messages to kids that their parents somehow aren’t good enough. During this morning’s oral argument over California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke to this issue, noting that children of same-sex parents “want their parents to have full recognition and status” and the “voice of those children” is important.
2. LGBT couples will be able to more easily able to access health benefits. Fortunately, Obamacare will prevent insurance companies from discriminating against Americans based on gender identity or sexual orientation — but that still doesn’t mean LGBT Americans are always able to access the health care they need. The Defense of Marriage Act has continued to prevent same-sex couples from being able to enjoy all of the legal protections that other Americans can access through their spouses, including health insurance. Without access to those benefits, some LGBT individuals are forced to either purchase costly insurance plans on the individual marketplace or simply go without health care altogether. Compared to heterosexual people, LGBT individuals are less likely to have health benefits, less likely to seek medical treatment, and more likely to delay getting essential prescription medications.
3. The decreased societal stigma will benefit LGBT individuals’ mental health. In addition to the American Academy of Pediatrics, several other major medical organizations — including the American Psychological Association, the American Medial Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers — have all come out in support of marriage equality because of the significant mental health benefits it will afford to LGBT Americans. Significant research has documented the toll that discrimination takes on mental health, as well as the positive effects of LGBT individuals being able to come out in a supportive society. The harassment, victimization, and stigmatization of the LGBT community all contribute to the negative psychological effects of discrimination — but advancing equitable policies could help reverse some of that damage.