Two years ago, the Supreme Court struck down laws against same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. Before that ruling, 36 states (plus the District of Columbia and Guam) already issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This disparity allowed scientists to study the effects of the change, and the results showed an interesting benefit.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins compared suicide rates over time in states that legalized gay marriage, with states that did not. What they found is that states where same-sex marriage remained illegal did not see much change in suicide rates, but in states that legalized same-sex marriage there was a seven percent drop in attempted suicides.
That might not sound like a big number, but it means 134,000 fewer suicide attempts. Suicide is the second-most-common cause of death among people aged 15 to 24 in the US. Other studies have shown that non-heterosexual students are more than two to seven times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual students.
That is a lot more deaths than are attributed to terrorism. Legalizing same-sex marriage was a good step, but even more suicides could be prevented by eliminating other laws that stigmatize gay people, such as laws that don’t allow same-sex couples to adopt children or laws that allow religious exemptions from nondiscrimination policies.