Research Reveals Same-Sex Marriage Bans Make People Sick and Mean

A new “working paper” (a preliminary scientific/technical paper) from Emory University, “The Effects of Same-Sex Marriage Laws on Public Health and Welfare,” by economists Andrew M. Francis, Hugo M. Mialon, and Handie Peng (links to the complete study available on metafilter), attempts to “analyze the relationships among same-sex marriage bans, social attitudes, and measures of public health and welfare” and gets some pretty interesting results.

Mialon and Francis are old hats in this particular field because  last year they did a study which linked gay marriage bans to rising HIV rates.

If you attempt to read the whole thing with no prior knowledge of “economics” or understanding of statistics, you will feel — as I did — that this study may or may not be important. In any event, it’s pretty interesting stuff regardless.

This was their conclusion:

“Using micro- and state-level data and a variety of estimation techniques, we find evidence that same-sex marriage bans reduced tolerance for gays and increased the syphilis rate, a rough proxy for risky homosexual behavior. Moreover, we find some evidence that same-sex marriage bans reduced tolerance for non-marital sex and reduced abortion and teen pregnancy rates, although the effect on teen pregnancy appears very short-lived. We found no consistent evidence that same-sex marriage bans impacted marriage or divorce rates.”


– Same-sex marriage bans tend to lower tolerance for gays by about 22 percentage points. This is key, because it reflects the trickle-down idea we’re so obsessed with — that legislated discrimination fosters a rich environment for micro-level discrimination across the board. It’s the government’s stamp of approval on the idea that Gays Aren’t Like Us.

– Same-sex marriage bans lower tolerance for premarital and teen sex by roughly 9 and 8 percentage points. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be negative or not.

– Findings suggest that men are less likely than women to be tolerant of homos but are more likely than women to be tolerant of premarital and teen sex. Also, gay tolerance rises steadily with education.

The rest of the paper is a bit too statisticy for a layperson to understand, but these are the conclusions:

– Using individual-level data, we found that same-sex marriage bans lowered societal tolerance for non-marital sex, especially sex between two persons of the same gender, indicating that such laws may signal socially-acceptable and socially-unacceptable behaviors, magnify the stigma associated with same-sex partnerships, and convey information regarding the prevalence of intolerance in society.

– Using state panel data, we found evidence that same-sex marriage bans increased syphilis, a rough proxy for risky homosexual behavior, perhaps by fostering intolerant attitudes toward gays and increasing the stigma associated with homosexuality. This finding may be important because risky homosexual behavior may also be a factor underlying the spread of HIV.

– Furthermore, we found evidence consistent with the view that same-sex marriage bans raised the social benefits of heterosexual marriage as well as the social costs of non-marital sex by codifying traditional family norms and signaling the prevalence of traditional family values. Our estimates suggest that bans may have lowered the abortion rate and may have decreased the teen pregnancy rate, although the latter effect may have only been temporary. There was no evidence that bans impacted the marriage rate and little evidence that they lowered the divorce rate.

So basically, when people lean liberal on one issue (same-sex marriage and relationships) they also tend to lean liberal on other issues, like sex before marriage and “traditional family values.”

Sidenote? Hugo M. Mialon has done some pretty interesting research in his day, including a paper entitled “Sinful Indulgences, Soft Substitutes and Self-Control” (For several harmful goods (e.g., junk food and cigarettes), less-harmful substitutes are available (e.g., light cigarettes and reduced-fat junk food). We develop a simple individual-decision model to analyze the effects of less-harmful substitutes on consumption and health outcomes) and, more recently, the the economics of faking orgasms.] Andrew Francis has done a good deal of research on LGBTQ issues as well.

Also in case you forgot, Obama “is ready to let gays die for America, but not marry.”

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  1. nothing was particularly surprisingly I think but it was nice to have it sort of more scientifically sound versus just anecdotes from daily life.

    also I try not to rag on obama too much, I think he’s done a lot and I think he tries a lot to be diplomatic, and perhaps he’s a bit too moderate but could he really give us marriage without a loss in the other direction? its all a game of balance and he’s not sure what he’d lose the other way. he’s probably playing safe now and hoping for re-election and then going to go wild or something.

  2. As much as I’d like to agree with this article, I’m finding some fault with the statement that “Same-sex marriage bans tend to lower tolerance for gays”.

    To me, gay marriage ban does not lower tolerance levels. I think it’s the other way around. Higher tolerance levels cause stuff like gay marriage bans to be lifted. So, naturally, in states where gay marriage is allowed, people are typically more liberal about issues.

  3. @meep – that is correct. The more “tolerant” the more likely to have that live and let live philosophy. What’s not mentioned here is the children – there is an abundance of research that shows children do best when raised by their bio mom and dad. They need that male/famale interaction and role modeling to do well statistically. Same sex relationships tend to be about what’s best at the moment for the adults, not for the kids.

  4. @Jajjal6

    Actually, a recent study in Pediatrics found that children raised by lesbian mothers score better than kids with straight parents in self esteem and other behavioral indicators. Here is an excerpt from an article in Time:

    “The authors found that children raised by lesbian mothers — whether the mother was partnered or single — scored very similarly to children raised by heterosexual parents on measures of development and social behavior. These findings were expected, the authors said; however, they were surprised to discover that children in lesbian homes scored higher than kids in straight families on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence, did better academically and were less likely to have behavioral problems, such as rule-breaking and aggression.”

    Read more:,8599,1994480,00.html#ixzz19KJe1Zgn

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