Alex Blaze

Marriage initiatives and mental health

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 04, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: California, gay marriage, gay rights, LGBT, LGBT civil rights, marriage, marriage equality, Prop. 8, protests, psychology

If you're wondering just where those gays who are out there protesting were before the election, this study on marriage initiatives might help explain why:

The researchers sorted participants into two groups -- those living in a state with an anti-marriage amendment on the 2006 November ballot and those in other states. Not surprisingly, compared to residents of other states, residents of the amendment-campaign states reported encountering a larger number of antigay messages in the mass media and in day-to-day conversations. Moreover, comparison of the November questionnaires with those administered six months earlier revealed that the number of encounters with negative messages had increased significantly in the amendment states but not in the other states.

When the researchers examined the mental health data, they found that residents of the states where an antigay campaign had just been waged reported higher levels of stress, more negative emotions, and more symptoms of depression than did respondents who lived elsewhere. Comparison of the pre-election and post-election questionnaires revealed that levels of psychological distress had increased significantly among residents of states with a marriage amendment on the ballot, but not among residents of other states.

It's not surprising that these campaigns take their toll on the residents of the states they occur in, considering bullshit like this in California:


iPhone users: Click to watch

And it's not just the TV ads, of course. It's talking with neighbors, family, and friends and finding out what they really think about you. Or seeing the Yes on Prop Whatever signs in the neighborhood. Or watching people debate the referendum as if they were debating a bond initiative, normalizing this rhetoric as mainstream political discourse.

And then finding out on election day that they hate us, they really hate us. "They" includes possibly anyone, like good straight neighbors who have convinced themselves that there isn't a connection between these referenda and homophobia:


iPhone users: Click to watch

The insult here is huge, and of course that's part of the reason the Religious Right undertakes these ballot initiatives even in states that will never legalize same-sex marriage. They're intended to be up-or-down votes on our value, and we're supposed to feel marginalized as a result. The intent is to show the rest of the voters that it's normal, acceptable, and popular to discriminate against queer people.

This could have happened on any issue, but right now the referenda are focusing almost exclusively on marriage. Whether that institution has any material value for the people who now care was a relevant question before the election, but is less so now.


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no link to the study? also: are they proposing that everyone is the worse off, or that the testing specifically made queer folks that much worse off that it was notable in the population en masse?

OK, yeah, I put in the link.

I doubt every single person was worse off. I'm guessing this was a general response.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | December 6, 2008 2:26 AM

All I know is that this last round hit me for a loop -- and I'm hardly unseasoned in facing down hate and haters. It's also strengthened my resolve, however.

I can't help but think, too, of the extra crazy-making quality of the mixed messages delivered by those who, like Donny Osmond, don't like the bigot in the mirror but still desperately cling to the bigotry, claiming all the while that "some of my best friends are ..."