|Laws on same-sex relationships worldwide. Source: Silje.|
On the other hand, a study just published this year has found that legalisation of same-sex marriage is associated with a drop in suicide attempts among high school students. At first, the states studied showed a suicide attempt rate of 8.6% for straight students, and 28.5% for LGB students. However, subsequent equal marriage rights was linked with a 0.6-percentage point decrease in attempts, which is a 7% relative reduction. Among LGB students, it was 4 percentage points and a 14% relative reduction, as they experienced most of the benefit. This persisted for at least two years after legalisation, meaning that any backlash against LGB rights did not result in a net loss to mental health. It is also possible that some of the benefits were indeed overshadowed by backlash against LGB rights, for example teenagers who otherwise would have seen their mental health improve still worsening because of their families' reactions. Why is the "ball and chain" (a silly term for marriage) so important? Even if you don't want to marry, the right to do so shows that your sexuality is respected and valued. If you do, whether or not you want to live together, your partner becomes family, giving you rights that you otherwise would not have. It is theorised that equal rights also drive social change, allowing people freedom to be themselves. Ellen Khan of the Human Rights Campaign also says: "When LGBTQ young people don’t feel safe, protected, or valued in their own community, when they don’t feel they can be fully out and authentic – that adds an emotional burden to bear”.
Today, more than 20 countries around the world allow same-sex marriage, with many others allowing civil unions, recognition of foreign marriages and unregistered cohabitation, at least in some of their regions. With the rights of sexual minorities on an upward trend, it's great to know that this is improving health and longevity too.