Australia, you’ve done us proud…

Between September 12th and November 7th this year, Australia distributed the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, a national survey that gauged support for legalizing same-sex marriage. Unlike electoral voting, which is compulsory in Australia, responding to the survey was voluntary. The survey was returned with 61.6% “Yes” responses and 38.4% “No” responses. Even though the measure was expected to be approved, the size of the win and the unusually large participation of 12.7 million Australians out of the 16 million eligible voters added political legitimacy to it. It’s funny to think three letter strung together in the right order can mean so much to millions of proud Aussies. Several hours after the results of the survey were released, theMarriage Amendment Bill 2017 was introduced into the Australian Senate. The amendment  is a Bill for an Act to legalize same-sex marriage in Australia, by amending the definition to allow marriage between two people. This is not only a time to celebrate a historic moment for the country, but to understand the vast positive impact for the LGBT community especially when it comes to health.As soon as countries started implementing policies to grant legal recognition to same-sex couples, researchers began seeking ways to track the effect on a variety of health outcomes. Not only is this exciting for the well-being of Australia but it also affects the overall health of the LGBT community.  As we know, LGBT individuals experience minority stressors– a range of health disparities, from mental health issues, HIV and STDs, obesity, to substance abuse. Thankfully the social and legal landscape has changed dramatically since the election, and are having positive implications on health. In the United States, one of the most significant studies that was published in the American Journal of Public Health explained that there was a significant decrease in the number of visits for both medical and mental care and care costs among the LGBT community, in the period after the passing of the same-sex marriage law. Another reason for the marital advantage in health outcomes is that many obtain health insurance coverage through their spouse’s employer. Two studies found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults who married following the California Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage reported less psychological distress and were more likely to gain health insurance coverage. The health benefits from legal same-sex marriage extend beyond the adults themselves- particularly the thousands of children being raised by same-sex partners. Depending on the law, children are often protected under their parents health insurance as well.

So, can we ask the question, does same-sex marriage make a healthier world? I would say so. Australia is a neighbor to one of the most socially progressive countries in the world, New Zealand. Same-sex marriage became legal in New Zealand in 2013. Since then there has been a positive impact (similar to the examples above) for same-sex couples and the fact that it doesn’t erode marriage. In some ways, it’s an affirmation of the concept. Happy marriages can improve health and reduce those minority stressors.  

Once the news broke celebrations were far and wide across Australia. Rainbow-colored smoke, confetti, and more. More than 4000 tweets were sent every second during its peak- making the trend 10 times more popular than the well-known Melbourne Cup. Little did they know this would improve health and lifespan, and access to health coverage. It marks a historic moment- goodbye to “a man and a woman and hello to “two people. It’s the beginning of the end of a long-running campaign to allow marriage equality in Australia, something already legal in the majority of English-speaking countries worldwide.

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