Major Medical Organizations To SCOTUS: Marriage Inequality Hurts Gay People

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The American Sociological Association filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to disregard arguments against same-sex parenting in the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act cases, but a coalition of other medical organizations also filed a brief explaining the consequences of denying gays, lesbians, and bisexuals the freedom to marry. The signers of this brief include the America Psychological Association, the American Medial Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, among other mental health professional organizations. In addition to reiterating the validity of same-sex couples’ parenting, the medical professionals argue that laws like Proposition 8 harm same-sex couples by denying them specific benefits that marriage offers:

Married men and women generally experience better physical and mental health than their unmarried counterparts. These health benefits do not appear to result simply from being in an intimate relationship, for most studies have found that married heterosexual individuals generally manifest greater well-being than those of comparable cohabiting couples. […]

Being married also is a source of stability and commitment. Marital commitment is a function not only of attractive forces (i.e ., rewarding features of the partner or relationship) but also of external forces that serve as constraints on dissolving the relationship. Barriers to terminating a marriage include feelings of obligation to one’s family members; moral and religious values; legal restrictions; financial concerns; and the anticipated disapproval of others. In the absence of adequate rewards, the existence of barriers alone is not sufficient to sustain a marriage in the long term. Perceiving one’s intimate relationship primarily in terms of rewards, rather than barriers to dissolution, is likely to be associated with greater relationship satisfaction. Nonetheless, perceived barriers are negatively correlated with divorce and thus the presence of barriers may increase partners’ motivation to seek solutions for problems, rather than rushing to dissolve a salvageable relationship.

Lacking access to legal marriage, the primary motivation for same-sex couples to remain together derives mainly from the rewards associated with the relationship rather than from formal barriers to separation. Given this fact, and the legal and prejudicial obstacles that same-sex partners face, the prevalence and durability of same-sex relationships are striking.

In other words, same-sex couples are forming lasting relationships even in spite of the fact that many of the protective factors for keeping families together are not present due to discrimination like Prop 8. Conservatives have argued that gay people shouldn’t have access to marriage because they want it for the selfish reason of validating their intimacy. But as these social science experts argue, the opposite is true — there are benefits to marriage beyond intimacy and commitment, and it’s for same-sex couples’ own well-being that they deserve access to those benefits.

It’s hard to argue there’s a compelling societal benefit for discrimination when social science shows there’s actually a compelling societal benefit for equality.