Metro Weekly

Study: Legalizing same-sex marriage improves gay men’s healthcare

While health insurance and physician access improved in gay men, the same was not true for lesbian women

A gay couple getting married – Photo: Blavou, via Wikimedia.

A new study has found that legalizing same-sex marriage leads to better health conditions for gay men.

Research conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that legalizing marriage — at both a state and federal level — increased the likelihood of gay men in same-sex households having health insurance and regularly visiting a physician for checkups.

“Legal access to SSM (same-sex marriage) significantly increased marriage take-up for gay and lesbian couples,” NBER’s report said, “and also significantly improved healthcare access and utilization for adult gay men in same-sex households.”

NBER conducted their research by cross-referencing the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System household surveys with the various states that had legalized same-sex marriage prior to its national legalization in 2015, following the Supreme Court’s landmark Obergefell ruling.

They found that gay men living in a two-person household in a state with marriage equality were 4.2% more likely to have insurance and a primary care physician. In addition, they were 7.3% to have had a health checkup in the 12 months prior to the CDC survey.

However, while gay men reported improved overall health conditions in states that legalized marriage prior to 2015, the same was not true for lesbian women.

“We hypothesized that same-sex marriage would lead to better health and better access to care for men and women,” report co-author Gilbert Gonzales told NBC News. “We were surprised not to find it.”

In addition, while legalizing sames-ex marriage correlated with more gay men having access to healthcare and insurance, it did not stop behaviors detrimental to overall health, such as smoking, excessive drinking, and other factors.

Gonzalez also noted that, while health insurance and physician access improved, legalizing same-sex marriage “doesn’t mean that discrimination or stigma are going to go away immediately” — both of which can have a detrimental impact on the health of LGBTQ people, who not only are more likely to smoke or drink excessively, but are also more likely to be at risk for mood or mental health disorders, as well as self-medicate.

Furthermore, while marriage equality improved healthcare access — Gonzalez gave an example of a married person being able to join their spouse’s healthcare plan — LGBTQ are at risk under the Trump administration of losing access to LGBTQ-specific healthcare.

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services approved a rule that allows health workers to deny treatment to LGBTQ people if they have religious or moral objections, a move that provoked fury among LGBTQ organizations.

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at

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