Research has previously demonstrated that ballot initiatives to ban same-sex marriage create psychological stress for the gay community, and new analysis from a massive National Institutes of Health study has confirmed the same effect. Around 2004, NIH began conducting interviews for a massive mental health survey, then followed up with the same participants a year later. In the 13 states that approved constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage that year, there was a sharp increase in psychological disorders among people who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to Columbia University psychologist Mark Hatzenbuehler:
“Lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals who lived in the states that banned same sex marriage experienced a significant increase in psychiatric disorders,” Hatzenbuehler says.
“There was a 37 percent increase in mood disorders,” he says, “a 42 percent increase in alcohol-use disorders, and — I think really strikingly — a 248 percent increase in generalized anxiety disorders.”
To put those numbers in perspective, although Hatzenbuehler did find more than a doubling in the rate of anxiety disorders in states that eventually banned gay marriage, in absolute numbers he found that anxiety disorders went from being reported among 2.7 percent to 9.4 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual people.
The effect was unique to members of the gay community and unique to those states, not occurring among LGB people in states that didn’t have ballot measures that year. Hatzenbuehler attributes the psychological stress to negative media portrayals, anti-gay graffiti, a general loss of safety, and a feeling of directly targeted for discrimination.
Conservatives regularly claim that there are “health consequences” associated with being gay, but they rarely admit that it’s their rhetoric and tactics that are responsible.