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Fenway Health Celebrates Supreme Court Landmark Ruling Today Striking Down Discriminatory DOMA, Legalizing Marriage Equality Across the Country

Fenway Health commends the U.S. Supreme Court for its landmark ruling today striking down state government discrimination against same-sex marriage, thereby legalizing marriage equality in all 50 states.

“Today the U.S. Supreme Court said that same-sex couples and gay, lesbian and bisexual people are fully equal citizens of the United States,” said Stephen L. Boswell, MD, FACP, President & CEO of Fenway Health. “This is the logical culmination of the right to equal protection under the law regardless of sexual orientation articulated in the Romer v. Evans case by Justice Kennedy in 1996, further developed in the 2013 U.S. v. Windsor case. We commend the Court and our colleagues at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, especially the incomparable Mary Bonauto.”

Same-sex marriage is especially important to lesbian couples. When Massachusetts legalized marriage in 2004, most same-sex couples marrying in the early years were female same-sex couples. Because lesbian couples earn less, on average, than gay male couples, and are more likely to be raising children, the legal protections of marriage are especially important for them.

Studies have shown that lesbian, gay and bisexual people derive positive health benefits from same sex marriage. A study, coauthored by a number of Fenway staff, including Judith B. Bradford, PhD, and Kenneth H. Mayer, MD, FACP, Co-Chairs of The Fenway Institute, suggested that legalizing same-sex marriage improves the health of gay and bisexual men and saves money in health care costs. “Effect of Same-Sex Marriage Laws on Health Care Use and Expenditures in Sexual Minority Men: A Quasi-Natural Experiment,” was published February 2012 in the American Journal of Public Health and showed that in the 12 months following the 2003 legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, gay and bisexual men had a significant decrease in medical care visits, mental healthcare visits, and mental healthcare costs, compared with the 12 months before the law change. This amounted to a 13% reduction in healthcare visits and a 14% reduction in healthcare costs. These health effects were similar for partnered and single gay men.

And a UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Williams Institute analysis of data from the 2009 California Health Interview Survey, the nation’s largest population-based state health survey, found that psychological distress is lower among lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals who are legally married to a person of the same sex, compared with those not in legally recognized unions.

Previous studies have documented that excluding lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals from marriage has a stressful impact on this population.

“While today is a day for celebration, we still have much work to do to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination and realize full equality for LGBT people,” said Sean Cahill, PhD, Director of Health Policy Research at The Fenway Institute and author of two books on same-sex marriage and LGBT family recognition. “Most states still do not have sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination laws, and LGBT people experience health disparities, discrimination in social services, and abuse in our criminal justice system. Still, today’s landmark court ruling is an amazing and exciting step toward full equality for all Americans.”

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