Federal same-sex marriage ruling improved life satisfaction for individuals, study shows

Until the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015 provided federal recognition of same-sex marriage in the United States, individual state laws varied. Some states were clear on whether or not they would recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, and others were in an uncertain flux, in some instances legalizing, then backpedaling on the decision days later. Some married couples thus faced uncertainty about whether their union would continue to be legally valid.

Even since the ruling, recent news headlines have shown that several states continue to challenge equality.

Researchers in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois, led by associate professor Brian Ogolsky, intially wanted to understand how variation in state-level legislation and local community climate regarding same-sex marriage impacts the well-being and life satisfaction of same-sex couples across the U.S.

When the U.S. Supreme Court announced they would be ruling on same-sex marriage, the researchers expanded their project so they could evaluate the impact of the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision.

"Our key question was, does federal recognition improve the well-being of individuals in same-sex relationships?" Ogolsky says.

To understand the impact of the federal ruling, the researchers looked at levels of psychological distress, such as anxiety and depression, and life-satisfaction under the framework of minority stress—negative experiences made possible by stigma in the social environment. They collected survey data from individuals in committed, four months before the Obergefell vs. Hodges ruling, and then two weeks, three months, and one year after. Half of the sample surveyed included individuals in same-sex relationships (279), and half included individuals in different-sex relationships (266), the latter of which, in principle, should not have been affected by the ruling, Ogolsky explains.

Their first paper focuses specifically on the experience of individuals in same-sex relationships. The researchers traced how changes in the legal context of same-sex marriage in the U.S. affected the well-being of the individuals in these relationships. Looking at stressors unique to individuals in same-sex relationships, and taking into account that the social climate toward LGBTQ people across communities may vary, the researchers found that psychological distress dropped, and life satisfaction increased after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The findings held regardless of marital status. In other words, the positive effects of Obergefell were felt by individuals in same-sex relationships whether married or unmarried.

Further, Ogolsky and his colleagues found that those who were more distressed before the Obergefell decision experienced more improvement after the ruling.

"The most pronounced improvement was for those who were worse off in the beginning," Ogolsky explains. "If you experienced higher levels of stigma related to sexual orientation before Obergefell, then you had a larger reduction in minority stress, and larger gain in psychological well-being, after the decision.

"We don't want to overstate the findings and say that legalizing same-sex marriage made everybody in this country supportive. Levels of psychological distress dropped, but symptoms are still there. Just because a person goes from highly traumatized to less traumatized is not necessarily reason to celebrate, but it is a reason to feel that there is something to be said for public acceptance. It makes it easier for individuals in same-sex relationships to feel okay in their relationships."

In their second paper, the researchers compared the effects of Obergefell on individuals in same-sex to different-sex (i.e., heterosexual) relationships. Findings show no evidence that legalizing same-sex marriage had any negative consequences on the individuals in heterosexual relationships. However, in discussing support needs in the paper, the researchers report higher levels of family support for those in same-sex relationships after the federal ruling.

"As family support increased, friend support decreased," Ogolsky explains. "That is, if one's support needs are being met by others, then needs in other domains decrease. It's also possible that family support increased because marriage equality allowed heterosexual kin to see their LGBTQ family members as fitting into cultural norms of marriage."

Ogolsky adds that it may be valuable to continue looking at the effects years after the ruling. "We need more time to understand how people are going to react and enforce these laws. We need more time to understand if they have lasting consequences. Now that we have national consistency, does it matter more what happens at the state or local level?"


Explore further

What are the health-related benefits of the marriage equality ruling for LGBT couples?

More information: Brian G. Ogolsky et al, As the states turned: Implications of the changing legal context of same-sex marriage on well-being, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (2018). DOI: 10.1177/0265407518816883
Citation: Federal same-sex marriage ruling improved life satisfaction for individuals, study shows (2019, February 27) retrieved 23 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-02-federal-same-sex-marriage-life-satisfaction.html
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Feb 27, 2019
In spite of what individuals and politicians wish to make into a law, there is a much Higher Law that Marriage and sex should ONLY BE between a consenting natural-born man and a natural-born woman. The ONLY reason for sex and marriage is for Procreation and the begetting of children for future generations. Since 2 men or 2 women cannot reproduce natural offspring without some contrived and unnatural method, such laws to allow them to marry is foolish and immoral, and only serves the purpose of their self-satisfaction in their pretense to be equal to a normal and natural male and female sexual relationship.
There are, and will be consequences to such immorality, and woe to the nation that approves it.
Often, one or more parents have, for reasons of their own, an unnatural dislike for their child growing up to marry a member of the opposite sex. This is the idea that the grown son or daughter will stay close to the parent(s) always, rather than go off to have a family of their own

Feb 27, 2019
A practice most practised, but
SEU> This is the idea that the grown son or daughter will stay close to the parent(s) always, rather than go off to have a family of their own

What actually happens is the offspring runs a mile as soon as their legs reach the legal age!

Feb 28, 2019
"there is a much Higher Law that Marriage - Egg Moron

Laws are created by man to limit individual liberty and foster the production of a coherent society.

Marriage is nothing more than a religious tradition invented by cave men and defended by cave men wanna-be's who's arguments are invariably irrational, incoherent, childish and hence moronic.


Mar 01, 2019
"there is a much Higher Law that Marriage - Egg Moron

Laws are created by man to limit individual liberty and foster the production of a coherent society.

Marriage is nothing more than a religious tradition invented by cave men and defended by cave men wanna-be's who's arguments are invariably irrational, incoherent, childish and hence moronic.
says V4

But heterosexual marriage works (for the most part) and most of those marriages are happy and successful. The US has the most liberal laws of all nations - to a fault. The problem is that many Americans don't understand that with Liberty comes Responsibility. Just liberty alone often leads to Anarchy and crimes against society, as well as against the individuals themselves doing the crime - although they don't understand that part.
Many religious traditions are logical, reasonable and sensible. A loving and caring relationship within a good marriage profits society. And the children are well-mannered. You should try it

Mar 01, 2019
"The ONLY reason for sex and marriage is for Procreation and the begetting of children for future generations. Since 2 men or 2 women cannot reproduce natural offspring without some contrived and unnatural method, such laws to allow them to marry is foolish and immoral, and only serves the purpose of their self-satisfaction in their pretense to be equal to a normal and natural male and female sexual relationship."

This sounds like you are calling for the banning and dissolution of heterosexual marriages where the members are over 40 with no children, otherwise infertile, or just unwilling to breed and produce the children that are the ONLY purpose of your idea of marriage. Breeding stock!

Marriages also serve the purpose of creating unions where the members support each other and this has societel benefits both social and economic. They help couples remain together under transient trying conditions that might dissolve a less formalize relationship.

Mar 02, 2019
"The ONLY reason for sex and marriage is for Procreation and the begetting of children for future generations. Since 2 men or 2 women cannot reproduce natural offspring without some contrived and unnatural method, such laws to allow them to marry is foolish and immoral, and only serves the purpose of their self-satisfaction in their pretense to be equal to a normal and natural male and female sexual relationship.".
says Tagbert

That is the PRIMARY purpose of the marriage between one man and one woman, to be mother and father to the next generation and for the nurturing and protection of their children to prepare them for when they, too, will become adults. It is the reason why natural males and natural females are differentiated by their natural genitalia. And I have to include that because there are those who are referred to as 'transgenders' who are confused as to their true gender. But that is their choice to make.

Mar 02, 2019
-contd-
This sounds like you are calling for the banning and dissolution of heterosexual marriages where the members are over 40 with no children, otherwise infertile, or just unwilling to breed and produce the children that are the ONLY purpose of your idea of marriage. Breeding stock!.

- Where did I say the words 'banning' and 'dissolution'. I didn't, which means that YOU are projecting something for which I did not intend at all. Many happily married couples are barren, which is something that only the Creator God knows why. It is Love that keeps them together. If they don't wish to bear children, that is strictly up to them. But children mostly solidify the marriage itself and gives more inspiration for the couple to stay together for life.
Breeding is for livestock, and in some social circles - good manners is considered to be a result of 'good breeding'.


Mar 02, 2019
-contd-
Marriages also serve the purpose of creating unions where the members support each other and this has societel benefits both social and economic. They help couples remain together under transient trying conditions that might dissolve a less formalize relationship.
says Tagbert

Of course, a good and faithful heterosexual marriage may also be economically sound for the married couple, as well as providing comfort, confidence and the feeling of security for one or both who may fall ill. That goes for whether or not the couple have had children, as children also provide some measure of comfort and aid to one or both parents in their elderly years. It is such traditional marriages that are the backbone of the nation. All others, such as same-sex 'marriage' is an unholy liaison that has no real objective but to create a pretentious bit of fakery so that the two who are involved might feel a bit of righteous normalcy about it.

Mar 02, 2019
Gee, people get to do what they want and they're happy!

Who knew?

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