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Same-Sex Marriage Legalization Caused Surprising Drop in LGBTQ Teen Suicide Rate

Picture of Nadia Elysse
US Editorial Team Lead
Updated: 23 February 2017
A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics found a direct correlation between the legalization of gay marriage in the United States and a decline in LGBTQ teen suicides, lending credence to the idea that societies that support inclusion produce healthier and happier citizens.

“These are high school students so they aren’t getting married anytime soon, for the most part,” the study’s lead author Julia Raifman said in a statement. “Still, permitting same-sex marriage reduces structural stigma associated with sexual orientation. There may be something about having equal rights ― even if they have no immediate plans to take advantage of them ― that makes students feel less stigmatized and more hopeful for the future.”

Researchers looked at data from 1999 to 2015 to evaluate the association between same sex marriage policies and adolescent suicide attempts in 47 states. Among the 762,678 students who participated in the study, there was a 14 percent reduction in suicide attempts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth as laws relating to gay marriage passed in their respective states.

“I think it is good for parents, teachers and medical professionals to be aware of the disparity and try to address it,” said Raifman.“I think there is a need for further research. A lot of studies look at interventions for suicide attempts, but none have really focused on LGBT interventions.”

This study was coincidentally released the same week that the Trump administration revoked federal guidance put in place by former U.S. President Barack Obama that allowed transgender public school students to use bathrooms of their choice. The Trump administration reversed the former President’s order, placing the power to decide on this issue back in the hands of the states.

Protesters gathered at the White House Wednesday night in support of transgender rights, and in opposition of Pres. Trump’s reversal. “This is a mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students who simply want to be their true selves and be treated with dignity while attending school,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement.