Has the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage Reduced Teen Suicide Rates?

gay marriage lawyer

The landmark case, Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage, has had a life-changing impact on the cultural landscape of this country. But who would have known that it might also have had a significant impact on the number of teen suicides? Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to The Trevor Project, a national support organization for LGBTQ teens and young adults. Their research has found that gay, lesbian and bisexual teens have a suicide rate that is four times higher than that of heterosexual teens.

A study that was published in the JAMA Pediatrics in April 2017 seems to draw a link between the legalization of same-sex marriage and a decrease in teen suicides in this country. A study that utilized self-reported data from more than 750,000 students living in states where same-sex marriage was legalized saw a significant drop in suicide rates, as compared to students in the same age range living in other states.

The science of saving a life: the benefits of same-sex marriage

Scientists, according to a story published in the Washington Post, identified an association, rather than a causal relationship, between decreasing suicide rates and same-sex marriage legalization. Though the study was not trying to figure out why there was a decrease in suicides, scientists speculated that the legalization of same-sex marriage reduced the social stigma of being a sexual minority. Julia Raifman, one of the authors of the study and an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, said “Policymakers need to be aware that policies on sexual minority rights can have a real effect on the mental health of adolescents. We can all agree that reducing adolescent suicide attempts is a good thing, regardless of our political views.”

The scientists involved in the study compared suicide rates before and after same-sex marriage was legalized. After same-sex marriage was legalized, the number of self-reported suicide attempts decreased from 8.6 percent to 8% among all students surveyed. For gay, lesbian, and bisexual students specifically, the rate of suicide attempts decreased by 14% from 28.5% to 24.5%. Researchers extrapolated that this would be equal to 134,000 fewer adolescents attempting suicide each year.

In a commentary about the new JAMA study, Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Ph.D. noted that one of the biggest reasons for the higher suicide risk for LGBTQ youth is the stigma, and the feelings of rejection from friends, family and society, along with an internalization of homophobia.

When you are facing a family law dispute, or you are considering divorce, we have a team of skilled Maryland family law attorneys at the law firm of Cynthia H. Clark & Associates, LLC, who are here to advocate on your behalf and protect your interests. You are encouraged to give us a call at 410.921.2422 or complete our contact form and schedule a conversation about your legal challenge with a knowledgeable Maryland divorce lawyer today.

Adultery: Impact on Custody?

One of the more surprising revelations as a new family law practitioner was how little sex couples were having in their marriage. Sure I had heard all the jokes about marriage (and kids)being the death knell of sex and so I was certainly prepared for couples contemplating divorce to speak wistfully of the passionate sex lives that marked their early years with their partner. I assumed, naively, that a loss of romance and passion among couples in a marriage resulted in a zero sum loss in the amount of sex occurring between the parties. WRONG!! What was surprising to learn is how frequently married people were getting their sexual needs met outside their marriage without their spouse’s knowledge or consent.

Infidelity is as old as the ages. Nevertheless, when infidelity comes to your door it can feel like a betrayal the likes of which have never been seen or experienced. One of the more immediate reactions to learning that a partner has shared intimacies with someone outside the relationship is hurt, quickly followed by anger. When the marriage has produced children, thoughts quickly turn to what impact a spouse’s infidelity will have on the children — which brings me to this week’s question.

Question: Does adultery affect who gets custody of the children?

Answer: No. It comes as a big surprise to many clients that a spouse’s infidelity has no bearing on a court’s custody determination. While it can be easily argued that an unfaithful spouse has failed in many respects to be a worthy life partner, one cannot extend such logic to the spouse’s worthiness as a parent. Just because a spouse has had an extramarital affair does not mean that such spouse is a poor parent per se in the same way that a good parent is not necessarily a faithful and trustworthy spouse. This is not to say that a spouse’s infidelity may not be evidence of some graver issues that may have implications for the spouse’s caretaking. For example, if there are substance abuse or mental health problems that are underlying the adulterous conduct, that is certainly an issue to be examined to the extent that these problems pose a risk to the parties’ children. However, infidelity alone will not tilt the balance in favor of one party and against another when it comes to deciding custody.

The fact that Maryland family law courts will not consider a parent’s adultery in determining custody does not diminish its impact on a marriage and the children. Spouses who have been devastated by infidelity should seek the advice of a counselor to process the range of emotions that attend such a betrayal. The importance of doing so cannot be overstated. Failure to make peace with the infidelity and move beyond the pain can make the sting of adultery last so much longer and be felt by more than just the adults but the children too.