Gay marriage not only benefits gay people, it benefits the entire country.
More then 14 years ago, states like Colorado passed Constitutional amendments banning LGBT people's civil rights. Those discriminatory amendments were eventually overturned by the US Supreme Court.
Today gay marriage is now legal in nine states, Washington State being the newest. On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases, one regarding the legality of gay marriage and whether the federal rights granted to heterosexual couples should also be granted to same sex couples. Depending on how they decide by next summer, gay marriage could be legal in the United States!
Even conservative fundamentalist Christians, such as Rick Warren and leaders of the Mormon Church, while not endorsing gay marriage, have softened their vitriol and reduced their attacks on gay people. In a recent Piers Morgan interview, Mr. Warren creatively re-framed the old standby position of the far right Christian's from, "Love the sinner, not the sin" into "It's okay to be gay, but it's not okay to have gay sex."
It's the same tired message in a new suit of clothes. Let me interpret: They used to say that being gay was a sin; now it's not a sin to be gay, just a sin to make love to someone you love, if that someone is your same-sex lover.
It's hard for any minority group to thrive from their minority position. The LGBT population has a hard time thriving in a world where everybody expects you to be heterosexual treating you differently and as "less then" if you are not straight. In the USA, LGBT people have:
- two to three times more psychiatric problems then the population as a whole;
- twice the homeless rate of the population as a whole; and
- a more difficult time getting good healthcare. Homosexuality was considered a psychiatric illness until 1973.
So, slowly and erringly, we progress towards treating all beings under the sun as equal. Apart from emotional attachments and long-held belief systems about what marriage means to a couple, why is it so important that LGBT people have the right to marry? After all, heterosexuals need no help destroying the institution of marriage as evidenced by the 50-percent divorce rate in the U.S.A. In fact, Christian fundamentalists, the most vocal opponents of same sex marriage, as a group, have one of the highest divorce rates in the country.
Given their hypocrisy, I can't help but delight in stories like Ted Haggard, former rising star in the fundamentalist Christian movement, getting caught having gay sex with his drug dealing boyfriend. Heterosexuals don't have a good track record with marriage. Sometimes I wonder why we LGBT folks want the institution of marriage for ourselves. That said, here are three benefits to gay marriage in the USA:
1. Fewer physical health problems. When a persecuted group is no longer persecuted, but allowed to live like everybody else, they enjoy fewer health problems. A recent study published in The American Journal of Public Health found that 12 months after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, there were significantly fewer health problems among gay men. This result is mirrored by the other states that have legalized gay marriage.
2. Fewer mental health problems. Mental health and addiction problems improved when same sex marriage is legal. In the study population depression and other mood disorders lessened and suicide attempts went down. Substance abuse and other addiction issues all improved as well.
3. Acceptance. Being allowed to fit in and live like your neighbors improves self-esteem and helps people make better choices about career, relationships and other important lifestyle issues. Your sense of moral worth and ability to see yourself as an equal and a valuable contributor to society are heightened.
It's difficult being a minority in a majority culture. Once the majority culture decides to recognize the minority people, in this case LGBT people, as an important and legitimate part of the society, the entire society benefits. Since LGBT people are now happier and healthier, they are also more productive and better situated to give back to society.
Depending on what the Supreme Court decides next spring, same-sex couples married in any state that has legalized gay marriage may finally be able to have the same social security, disability, tax preference and retirement rights as heterosexual couples. This would be a positive message and a large step in the right direction for justice and fairness in the United States.
If this sounds like you or anybody you know, contact me through my website for more information. I'm here to help at www.larrycappeltherapy.com.
Larry Cappel specializes in same-sex relationships and a licensed marriage and family therapist. He can be reached through his website if you'd like to talk about any aspect of your relationship. He can be reached through his website at www.gaymendenver.com