Marriage Equality Laws and Youth Suicidal Behaviors
NBER Working Paper No. 26364
Since the landmark ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health in 2004, the legalization of same-sex marriage (SSM) has proliferated throughout the United States via either legislative action or court order. Advocates of SSM laws argue that marriage equality will generate important health benefits not only for adult same-sex couples, but also for LGBQ-identifying youths. Using data from the State Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, we explore the relationship between marriage equality and suicidal behaviors among LGBQ-identifying youths. Despite previous research suggesting otherwise, we find little evidence that SSM laws have reduced suicide attempts among teen sexual minorities, nor have they decreased the likelihood of suicide planning, suicide ideation, or depression. Instead, we find some evidence that SSM legalization via judicial mandate is associated with worse mental health for these individuals, consistent with a story of social backlash.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26364