February 10, 2012 Interview Podcast for A Positive View of LGBTQ
The College of Arts & Sciences at UK produced a nice, short interview podcast about our book. You can hear it online at: https://www.as.uky.edu/podcasts/positive-view-lgbtq-ellen-riggle-and-sharon-rostosky
February 10, 2012: UK Professors Give a Positive View of LGBTQ Identities
By: Jonathon Spalding (University of Kentucky, College of Arts and Sciences PR)
LEXINGTON, Ky.—It started with a simple question, then grew into a large online survey with responses from over 1,000 people from across the U.S. and abroad. A new book by Ellen Riggle and Sharon Rostosky, “A Positive View of LGBTQ: Embracing Identity and Cultivating Well-Being,” explores what’s positive about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identities.
“It is the right question at the right time. People want to share their positive experiences,” said Riggle, UK professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Political Science.
Riggle and Rostosky, professor of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology, will hold asigning for their new book on Wednesday, Feb. 22,from 6:30-8 p.m., at the Morris Book Shop, 882 East High St., Lexington, KY.
What was expected to be a small project attracted such an inspiring amount of positive feedback from the community, that the authors wanted to share the stories with a broad audience. Using personal narratives from their research, the book focuses on how LGBTQ-identified individuals can cultivate a sense of well-being and a personal identity that allows them to flourish in all areas of life.
“There are real strengths, real benefits and a real sense of authenticity and meaning that can come from embracing LGBTQ identities,” said Rostosky. “We want these positive themes to be the first things that come to mind when people think about LGBTQ identity.”
The stories in the book are organized into eight themes that illustrate how a sense of well-being is connected to living an authentic life, forming strong relationships, having compassion for others, fighting for social justice and feeling a part of a larger community. Each chapter has activities to inspire readers to create their own positive narratives.
“We hope that LGBTQ individuals and their family, friends and allies will gain an expanded positive perspective from these stories,” said Riggle. “These are stories that the media rarely portray, but that need to be told and need to be heard.”
“A Positive View of LGBTQ” is now available locally at the Morris Book Shop and online at www.Amazon.com.
For more information about the book or its authors visit www.PrismResearch.org.
August 14, 2010
Researchers: Anti same-sex ballot measures have negative effects on mental health
Ballot measures opposing same-sex marriage have negative effects mental health not only for lesbian, gay and bisexual people but for their families of origin (i.e., parents, siblings and so forth), according to research presented at the convention Saturday.
Research conducted since 2000 by Glenda Russell, PhD, of the University of Colorado at Boulder has shown LGB people experience measurable shock, depression, anxiety, PTSD, anger and fear, and that that these people engage in cognitive and behavioral strategies to cope. More recently, Nathan G. Smith, PhD, of McGill University, studied LGB individuals living in Maine and Washington state, both of which had anti-gay constitutional amendments on the 2009 ballot. Although the Washington measure failed, Smith found that there were few differences in the stress felt by residents in both states. “People in Maine were engaging in more coping strategies than people in Washington,” he said.
Families of origin for LGB people also experience negative effects of such anti-gay ballot measures, according to research presented by Sharon G. Horne, of the University of Memphis. She and her colleagues looked at 198 family members from 41 states with anti-gay ballot measures in 2006. They found these family members experienced more stress than families without LGB members and that they also felt ambivalent and conflict as a result of the amendments.
Ellen Riggle, PhD, of the University of Kentucky presented data to demonstrate the failings of messages that attempt to paint same-sex couples as the same as opposite-sex couples. “The real issue is power and its distribution,” she said. Seventy percent to 80 percent of Americans now say they know someone gay or lesbian, yet two-thirds of voters vote for anti-gay measures, she said, “so there must be overlap” between people who know someone gay yet vote in favor of measures to restrict their rights. She advocated for more dialogue between gay and straight people in which gay people explain to heterosexuals the inequities that they face.
Kim I. Mills
APA Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 18, 2008
Contact: Kim Mills
ANTI SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AMENDMENTS SPARK PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTRESS AMONG GLBT ADULTS AND THEIR FAMILIES, ACCORDING TO NEW RESEARCH
Creates Harmful Environment That May Affect Health, Well-Being
WASHINGTON—Amendments that restrict civil marriage rights of same-sex couples – such as Proposition 8 that recently passed in California – have led to higher levels of stress and anxiety among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults, as well as among their families of origin, according to several new studies to be published by the American Psychological Association.
One quantitative and two qualitative studies on the impact of anti-GLBT legislation appear in a special issue of the Journal of Counseling Psychology, published by APA. That issue of the journal, to be published in January, will be titled: “Advances in Research with Sexual Minority People.”
The quantitative study was based on an online survey of 1,552 lesbian, gay and bisexual adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia examining “minority stress,” or the chronic social stress that minorities experience as a result of social stigmatization. Participants were grouped into those living in the seven states with an amendment on the ballot in November 2006 that did pass; those living in the 18 states with an amendment that passed before 2006; and those in the 23 states (plus D.C.) with no amendment. (Those living in Alabama, where an amendment passed in June 2006, were excluded because of the timing, as were those living in Arizona, where an amendment was defeated.)
The survey results documented increased minority stress, as well as more general psychological distress, among LGB individuals following the passage of a marriage amendment in 2006, compared to LGB people in states without an amendment on the 2006 ballot. The researchers, led by Sharon Scales Rostosky, Ph.D., at the University of Kentucky, found that those participants living in states that passed a measure in 2006 reported increased exposure to negative media messages and negative conversations.
“The results of this study demonstrate that living in a state that has just passed a marriage amendment is associated with higher levels of psychological stress for lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens,” Rostosky said. “And this stress is not due to other pre-existing conditions or factors; it is a direct result of the negative images and messages associated with the ballot campaign and the passage of the amendment.”
The qualitative studies, while much smaller in scope, give voice to some of the people directly affected by anti-gay marriage amendments. The first study, “Balancing Dangers: GLBT Experience in a Time of Anti-GLBT Legislation,” focused on 13 GLBT people living in Memphis, Tenn., who were interviewed at length about their experiences during the 2006 ballot campaign. The researchers, led by Heidi M. Levitt, Ph.D., at the University of Memphis, grouped the respondents’ reactions into eight major themes, or “clusters.” These included, for example: “Initiatives lead to constant painful reminders that I’m seen as less than human by our government and public laws,” and “The irrationality of anti-GLBT initiatives and movements is baffling, painful and scary: We are not who they say we are.”
Participants reported feeling not just alienated from their communities, but fearful that they would lose their children, that they would become victims of anti-gay violence or that they would need to move to a more accepting community. Some of these anxieties were mitigated by social support.
For instance, one interviewee said he became “petrified …of being raped or roughed up or killed, you know, for doing nothing, basically. I worry about being picked out as a gay guy because my mannerisms are not entirely masculine.” Another said the marriage amendment supporters were using the Bible “like a brick on us. They are beating us with it.”
Social support from religious institutions, families, GLBT friends and heterosexual allies led most of the participants “to greater feelings of safety, happiness and strength,” the researchers wrote.
And in the third study, 10 family members of GLBT people living in Memphis were interviewed regarding how anti-GLBT initiatives and movements had affected their family. Their responses were also grouped into clusters of similar themes.
“Some participants identified so deeply with their family member’s experience that they felt equally attacked by these movements and policies,” the researchers wrote. “They considered themselves members of the GLBT community and experienced rejection by others for being a GLBT family member.”
“Typically, we tend to think of anti-GLBT policies such as marriage bans and Proposition 8 as affecting only GLBT people. However, our research suggests that others in addition to GLBT people are also impacted by this legislation and sometimes quite negatively. For example, we learned that some family members experienced a form of secondary minority stress. Although many participants displayed resiliency and effective coping with this stress, some experienced strong negative consequences to their mental and physical health,” said Jennifer Arm, M.S.
Brent Mallinckrodt, Ph.D., editor of the Journal of Counseling Psychology, said the three articles provide empirical evidence of the harmful psychological and emotional effects of such measures.
“This information is especially timely, as we see the emotionally charged reactions from GLBT people in the wake of the Proposition 8 passage in California,” he said. “Psychologists serving GLBT clients and their families need to be aware of the real impact of these political forces on the everyday lives of the people most directly affected.”
Article: “Marriage Amendments and Psychological Distress in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) Adults,” Sharon Scales Rostosky, Ph.D., and Ellen D.B. Riggle, Ph.D., University of Kentucky; Sharon G. Horne, Ph.D., University of Memphis; and Angela D. Miller, Ph.D., University of Kansas; Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 56, No. 1.
Article: “Balancing Dangers: GLBT Experience in a Time of Anti-GLBT Legislation,” Heidi M. Levitt, Ph.D., Elin Ovrebo, M.S., Mollie B. Anderson-Cleveland, B.S., Christina Leone, M.S., Jae Y. Jeong, M.S., Jennifer R. Arm, M.S., Beth P. Bonin, B.S., John Cicala, M.B.A., Rachel Coleman, M.S., Anna Laurie, M.S., James M., Vardaman, M.B.A., & Sharon G. Horne, Ph.D., Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 56, No. 1.
Article: “Negotiating connection to GLBT experience: Family members’ experience of anti-GLBT movements and policies,” Jennifer R. Arm, M.S., Sharon G. Horne, Ph.D., and Heidi M. Levitt, Ph.D., The University of Memphis; Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol. 56, No. 1. Full text of the articles is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at:
http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/cou-jan09-Rostosky.pdf (Marriage Amendments and Psychological Distress)
http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/cou-jan09-Levitt.pdf (Balancing Dangers )
http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/cou-jan09-Arm.pdf (Negotiating connection to GLBT experience)
Press Release: National Sexuality Resource Center
For Immediate Release Contact: Ann Whidden, Communications Director 415-425-5157, email@example.com
Research Reveals: When it comes to Marriage, Separate is not Equal
New findings uncover harms that ballot initiatives and marriage-denial can cause
San Francisco, October 21, 2008: Denial of marriage and exposure to negative messages during ballot initiatives affect all gays and lesbiansnot just those seeking marriage–say new findings released today by the Sexuality Research and Social Policy journal, a project of the National Sexuality Resource Center. Three research studies, two of which were to be published in March 2009, came to striking conclusions that moved the authors to release the data early. Findings show that same-sex couples want marriage more than other forms of partnership; that exposure to negative messages in states in which marriage amendments are on ballots negatively impact lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons; and that the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships creates fears for and uncertainty about the future among lesbian and gay personsboth single and coupled.
The outcomes of marriage amendment votes may have an impact beyond just restrictive legislation; they may serve to alienate persons from democratic participation and serve to impair public health. “The absence of recognition for same-sex relationships conveys a sense of second-class citizenship and a stress associated with such an unwelcomed status,” concludes journal editor and contributor Dr. Brian deVries. “All gay, lesbian and bisexual personsnot just those who want to get marriedcan experience negative impacts when initiatives like this get put on the ballot.”
· Without marriage, the choices of committed same-sex couples are not necessarily or automatically respected. Brian deVries’ article, “State Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships and Preparations for End of Life among Lesbian and Gay Boomers,” established that without marriage, fears of the future and one’s independence for gay men and lesbians far exceed national averages. In states in which same-sex relationships are not formally or legally recognized, gay men and lesbians were more likely to have created a will and living will. They were also more likely to report fearing a death in pain, and fear of discrimination at the end of their lives because of their sexual orientation. These effects were evident for both coupled and single gay men and lesbiansan important finding highlighting the role that relationship recognition has on one’s sense of well-being as lesbian or gay person whether or not one is in a relationship.
· Negative messages become even more pronounced during state elections in which there is voting on constitutional amendments that restrict marriage rights. “Marriage Amendments and Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Citizens in The 2006 Election,” by Ellen D.B. Riggle, Sharon S. Rostosky, and Sharon Horne, reveals that lesbian, gay and bisexual persons report higher levels of exposure to negative messages about lesbian and gay issues with associated higher levels of reported negative affect, stress and depressive symptoms. Anti-gay and lesbian and marriage initiatives have a negative impact on the well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual state residents. Lesbian, gay and bisexual state residents report increased political participation and increased voting behaviors, and simultaneous feelings of political alienation.
· The research of Gary Gates, M.V. Lee Badgett, and Deborah Ho in “Marriage, Registration and Dissolution by Same-Sex Couples in the U.S.” (released July 2008), establishes that same-sex couples, like opposite-sex couples, prefer marriage. In fact, 37% of same-sex couples in Massachusetts married during the first year that marriage was offeredthis is compared with the 12% of same-sex couples having entered in civil unions and 10% having entered domestic partnerships during the first year in which states have offered these forms of recognition.
One survey respondent decried effects of initiatives, saying that “These amendments make you feel like less of a person. They make you a second class citizen and make it seem that you aren’t worthy of having the same rights as other people,” and NSRC Director Gil Herdt agrees, “The physical and mental health benefits of marriage for heterosexual adults have been firmly establishedbenefits derived, at least in part, from the tangible resources, federal benefits and legal protections offered to spouses by society. Clearly, society favors marriage over other forms of intimate relationshipsand all gays and lesbians suffer without it.”
For access to full-text articles, findings overview, video and audio footage go to nsrc.sfsu.edu or
Text of our presentation at the news conference:
Marriage Amendments and Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Individuals in
the 2006 Election
Ellen D.B. Riggle, Sharon S. Rostosky, and Sharon Horne
Presentation at National Sexuality Resource Center, October 21, 2008
In 2006, research collaborators Dr. Ellen Riggle and Dr. Sharon Rostosky at the University of Kentucky and Dr. Sharon Horne at the University of Memphis, conducted a national online survey of over 1800 gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) individuals in the United States. Their purpose was to examine the impact of marriage amendments on the political participation and psychological well-being of GLB individuals. Three main main findings based on this research study are soon to appear in the Journal of Counseling Psychology and Sexuality Research and Social Policy:
1. First, when a marriage amendment is on the ballot, political participation among GLB individuals increases during that election. This is consistent with the findings of studies of political participation among other groups, including studies of Asian-Americans, Latino-Americans, and African-Americans. When any group is being targeted by an amendment, the members of that group tend to get out and vote and to engage in political activities at increased levels. Marriage amendments target gay, lesbian, and bisexual citizens and they are concerned about protecting their committed relationships and families and are mobilized to act.
Here is a quote from one survey participant to illustrate:
“[The amendment] made me MUCH more politically active and aware. My congressperson hears from me on a regular basis, not only on this but on other issues. It has also made me much more determined to be out and vocal, because I feel it’s important that our foes have to deal with us as human beings with names and faces rather than as some faceless mass they can demonize and characterize however they wish.”
2. When a marriage amendment is on the ballot in a state, the number of negative messages about gay men and lesbians increases. For example, negative messages are more frequently encountered on TV, in newspapers, and on bumper stickers, billboards, and yard signs. Negative rhetoric and false stereotypes are often used in messages to demean same-sex couples and have a negative impact on public health.
One survey participant responded that these initiatives play on people’s fears about gays and lesbians, and “signal to many that it’s okay to discriminate and hate gay people.”
3. Marriage amendment campaigns increase the risk of psychological distress, including negative emotions, depression, and stress, which can be harmful to GLB citizens. One of the participants in the survey summed it up. “The hateful debates, political campaigning, and spiritual abuse encountered is a drain on the soul and spirit.”
This research documents that GLB citizens suffer increased stress and decreased well-being by the passage of a marriage amendment. While there is evidence of resilience and hope, many GLB citizens feel betrayed and alienated. Two primary effects emerge.
a. One, participants feel personally betrayed and alienated from their local communities, families of origin, and co-workers. For example, one of the participants wrote:
“I was saddened that so many of my neighbors did not understand how this affects my life. I was also saddened by the lack of support from my family.”
b. Two, participants also report feeling politically alienated and like “second class citizens” of their state. One participant responded:
“These amendments make you feel like less of a person. They make you a second class citizen and make it seem that you aren’t worthy of having the same rights as other people.”
Based on these findings, the researchers conclude that marriage amendments themselves are a public health issue because they put individuals at risk for diminished well-being and increased distress. Furthermore, the passage of an amendment has the potential to cause long term psychosocial harm to citizens and their families. These effects were also noted in a concurrent study of heterosexual family members, who also suffered increased stress and decreased well-being associated with marriage amendments on the ballot. The researchers conclude that marriage amendments are harmful to public health and community well-being.
Extended Key Points version of NSRC press release:
New Research Findings on Marriage for Same-Sex Couples
Findings Overview by Brian de Vries
Three new research studies support the desire for marriage among same-sex couples, the impact on lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons on the exposure to the negative messages so prominent in states in which marriage amendments are on ballots, and the fears for and uncertainty about the future among lesbian and gay personsboth single and coupledwho reside in states that do not legally recognize same-sex relationships.
There now exists a sizable body of literature supporting the positive consequences outcomes of marriage among primarily heterosexual adults: married persons generally experience better physical and mental health than do unmarried persons. Even cohabiting couples tend not to experience the same levels of health and well-being as married couples. Several authors have reported that these health consequences derive, at least in part, from the tangible resources and protections offered to spouses by society (some of the 1,138 statutory provisions in which marital status is a factor in determining or receiving federal benefits, rights and privilegessee Herek, 2006). Clearly, society favors marriage over other forms of intimate relationships.
Lesbians and gay persons similarly prefer marriage. In the research of Gary Gates, Lee Badgett and Deborah Ho, it was reported that 37% of same-sex couples in Massachusetts married during the first year that marriage was offeredthis is compared with the 12% of same-sex couples having entered in civil unions and 10% having entered domestic partnerships during the first year in which states have offered these forms of recognition. Importantly, the relative lack of enthusiasm for non-marital forms of recognition is also true among different-sex couples; in states that allow different-sex couples to enter non-marital forms of recognition, the registration rate has been less than 6% of eligible couples.
In the absence of marriage rights, more than 40% of same-sex couples have entered into civil unions or registered their domestic partnership at the state level as evidence of and in an effort to formalize their commitment to each other. Part of this commitment may be seen in the completion and execution of legal documents (such as advance directives) to ensure wishes are respected and care is appropriately delivered when the need arises. In the absence of marriage, the wishes and choices of committed same-sex couples are not necessarily or automatically respected. This knowledge is likely associated with the higher completion rates of living wills among the lesbians and gay men in the study of Brian de Vries, Anne Mason, Jean Quam and Kim Acquaviva relative to national samples of presumably heterosexual adults of comparable age: there is a necessity for gay men and lesbians to prepare in ways that are less evident among heterosexuals. This necessity may also translate into greater anxiety and fear, given the socially contested nature of the legitimacy of their unionfears of the future and one’s independence for gay men and lesbians that again far exceed national averages.
These fears are even more pronounced in those states in which same-sex relationships are not formally or legally recognized, as de Vries and his colleagues have shown. In those states, gay men and lesbians were even more likely to have created a will and living will. And, they were even more likely to report fearing a death in pain and fear discrimination at the end of their lives because of their sexual orientation. These effects were evident for both coupled and single gay men and lesbiansthis is an important finding highlighting the role that relationship recognition has on one’s sense of well-being as lesbian or gay person whether or not one is in a relationship. The absence of recognition of same-sex relationships conveys a sense of second-class citizenship and a stress associated with such an unwelcomed status.
Such messages become even more pronounced during state elections in which there is voting on constitutional amendments restricting marriage rights. The research by Ellen Riggle, Sharon Rostosky and Sharon Horne chronicles that lesbian, gay and bisexual persons report higher levels of exposure to negative messages about lesbian and gay issues with associated higher levels of reported negative affect, stress and depressive symptoms. Anti-gay and lesbian and marriage restriction initiatives have a negative impact on the well-being of lesbian, gay and bisexual state residents. At the same time, such residents report increased political participation and increased voting behaviors, although the prior passage of a marriage restriction amendment was associated with a lower voting rate in one state and feeling of political alienation in all states.
The impact of policy debates and policy outcomes merits greater attention. The outcomes of marriage amendment votes may have an impact beyond just restrictive legislation; the outcomes may serve to alienate persons from democratic participation and may serve to impair public health. Such health effects are noted beyond the times of the elections for gay men and lesbians and manifest in fears and concerns about the future, both stimulating action to guard against discrimination and unmet wishes and worrying about the circumstances and conditions of the final days.
Marriage, Registration and Dissolution by Same-Sex Couples in the U.S.
Gary J Gates, M.V. Lee Badgett, and Deborah Ho
Since 1997, ten states and the District of Columbia have granted some form of state-wide recognition to same-sex couples. Although the rights, benefits and obligations that come with these legal statuses vary considerably across the states, the accumulating numbers of same-sex couples having entered into and dissolving these statuses has the potential to answer several questions relevant the ongoing public discussion about legal recognition for same-sex couples. These data are analyzed in this report.
· In states that provide legal recognition, more than 40% of same-sex couples have married, entered into a civil union, or registered their relationship. Marriage is preferred over civil unions or domestic partnerships: 37% of same-sex couples in Massachusetts married during the first year that marriage was offered, whereas 12% of same-sex couples have entered in civil unions and 10% have entered domestic partnerships during the first year in which states have offered these forms of recognition.
· Importantly, the relative lack of enthusiasm for non-marital forms of recognition is also true among different-sex couples; in states that allow different-sex couples to enter non-marital forms of recognition, the registration rate has been less than 6% of eligible couples.
· Same-sex couples who have sought legal recognition are generally younger than different-sex married couples.
· About 20% of individuals in same-sex couples who marry or register have previously been married to a different-sex partner; this is comparable to the rate at which individuals in different-sex married couples have been previously married. Similarly, the percent of same-sex couples who dissolve their relationships each year closely matches the figure for different-sex couples (about 2%).
These data demonstrate that same-sex (and different-sex) couples prefer marriage over civil unions or domestic partnerships. Beyond having the legal rights and obligations associated with marriage, the name “marriage” matters for couples. As a result, it may be that in states that have recently extended non-marital forms of recognition to same-sex couples, some couples are waiting to register in the hope that marriage will someday be available or recognized in their state.
State Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships and Preparations for End of Life
Among Lesbian and Gay Boomers
Brian de Vries, Anne Mason, Jean Quam, and Kim Acquaviva
Civil Unions, domestic partnerships or marriages for same-sex couples are currently recognized in ten states and the District of Columbia. The impact of state recognition on lesbian and gay persons has not been well-examined; its role in planning for later life is explored in this study. This study reports on a national cross-sectional online survey of 797 non-heterosexual baby boomers (age range 40-61) conducted in February, 2006. Comparisons were made based on relationship status (single or partnered) and the state in which they lived (legally recognizing same-sex relationships or not legally recognizing same-sex relationships at the time of the survey).
· Being in a relationship, independent of State recognition, is associated with a greater likelihood of having a will, living will, and/or durable power of attorney; living in a state that does not legally recognizes same-sex relationships, independent of relationship status, is associated with a greater likelihood of having a will, living will, and/or durable power of attorney. The absence of recognition may spur individuals to action, but there are costs: individuals in these states also report lesser disclosure of their sexual orientationperhaps associated with minority stress.
· Single gay men and lesbian boomers were more likely to report that, relative to partnered persons, they were getting affairs in order and have tried to talk about death their death with other people; single gay men and lesbians were also more likely to report higher fears about dying alone. At the same time, single gay men and lesbians living in states that do not legally recognizes same-sex relationships are somewhat more likely to report being unsure who would be their primary caregiver should the need arise.
· Gay men and lesbians living in states that do not legally recognize same-sex relationships report greater fears of sexual orientation discrimination in later life. Gay men and lesbians living in states that do not legally recognize same-sex relationships also report greater fears of dying in pain.
It is important to note that State recognition of the unions of its citizens has an impact on both single and partnered persons; moreover, this impact extends beyond current quality of life, but also to future plans and emotional responses to the same. A lack of legal recognition at several levels requires non-heterosexuals to take greater action to anticipate their futures and ensure that their wishes are carried out, and may also lead to greater fears about later age.
Marriage Amendments and Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Citizens in
The 2006 Election
Ellen D.B. Riggle, Sharon S. Rostosky, and Sharon Horne
Over half of U.S. states have passed amendments to their constitutions effectively barring recognition of same-sex marriages. The impact of these ballot initiatives and debates on lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) citizens is little understood. This study reports on a national cross-sectional online survey of 1849 LGB participants at least 18 years of age conducted post-election in November, 2006. Comparisons were made between participants who lived in eight states with a marriage amendment on the ballot and those who lived in states where either a ballot measure had passed in a previous election or where there was no such amendment.
· Participants in this survey who lived in states with marriage amendments on the ballot in November 2006 reported higher levels of exposure to negative messages about lesbian and gay issues. No previous research has empirically established LGB individuals’ perceptions of exposure to negative and positive messages during marriage amendment or gay rights initiatives.
· These findings document reports of higher levels of negative affect, stress, and depressive symptoms by LGB residents of states with marriage amendments on the ballot; anti-gay and marriage restriction initiatives have a negative impact on the well-being of LGB citizens.
· Having a marriage amendment on the ballot was associated with increased political participation and voting by LGB citizens in a state. Prior passage of an amendment, however, was associated with a lower voting rate in one state and feelings of political alienation in all states.
We need to explore and consider the impact of policy debates as well as policy outcomes on the citizens most affected. The outcomes of marriage amendment votes may have an impact beyond just restrictive legislation, impairing public health and increasing alienation from democratic participation and citizenry.