A new study from researchers at Rice University finds that without marriage, same-sex couples do not have access to the same health benefits as married opposite-sex couples. The study compared non-married same-sex couples, non-married opposite-sex couples, and married opposite-sex couples and found that the married couples were usually healthier than all of the cohabitating couples. Lead researcher Hui Liu explained that the data suggest same-sex couples would benefit from having the same access to marriage — combined with the resulting decrease in societal stigma — as opposite-sex couples:
LIU: Most of those people in the cohabiting relationships cannot be legally married, so they cannot get the resources related to marriage — for example the health insurance benefits from their spouses. This is not good for their health. It is also possible that the same-sex couples suffer higher levels of discrimination and higher levels of stress which may also effect their physical health.
Conservatives, unfortunately, have manipulated the study into an anti-gay narrative, suggesting that it somehow confirms their belief that gay people are just naturally less healthy. There’s no rationale for this explanation other than confirmation bias, and the data do not support this conclusion. Unmarried opposite-sex couples also had lower health outcomes compared to the married couples, so the variable is clearly marriage — not sexual orientation. Further, the same-sex couples were still healthier than people who were single, so there are benefits to being in a relationship regardless of the sex of the partner.
Marriage is not just about rights; it’s about security, health, and respect. Regardless of how opponents of equality try to spin an anti-gay narrative, same-sex couples can and do benefit from marriage just like everybody else.