We thought that, you know, equal rights were just the right thing to do. But it turns out there’s a bonus. Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that legalized gay marriage correlates to a drop in teen suicide attempts, with the biggest decrease among gay, lesbian, and bisexual kids.
Researchers, like researchers tend to be, were cautious. They said, basically, that correlation doesn’t prove causation, i.e., just because both happened doesn’t mean that one caused the other. But according to the Associated Press, lead researcher Julia Raifman says legalized marriage could create more tolerance and decrease bullying.
Since suicide is the second leading cause of death for American teens, this is big news. Anything that helps lower the teen suicide rate is a huge win, especially LGBT teens, 29% of whom admit attempting suicide, compared to 7% of other kids. That’s a big difference.
Gay marriage was first legalized by Massachusetts in 2004. Back in those dark days, a full 60% of Americans opposed it, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, those numbers have changed remarkably, with 55% of people supporting gay marriage rights.
The more gay marriage becomes legal, the more acceptable it becomes. And the more tolerant people become. Of Millennials, 71% support gay marriage today. In the long, long ago we call 2006, a full 50% of American teens thought gays should have the right to marry, according to a Gallup poll taken at the time. We can only extrapolate those numbers rising, just as they have among every demographic; teens may be the most tolerant among us.
But legalized gay marriage doesn’t just help our teenagers. It helps kids in general — lots of kids. When LGBT people marry, 70% of them feel a deeper level of commitment in their relationship, according to a study conducted by the Williams Institute of the UCLA School of Law. An equal percentage “felt more accepted and legitimized within their broader families and communities, with a common response being that being married made it easier for other people to understand and affirm their relationship.” This helps the kids they happen to be raising, and in this study, more than a quarter of gay households include children.
The Williams Institute continued that couples thought “their children were happier and better off” because of their marriage. Some said kids felt “more secure and protected.” Others claimed that “their children gained a sense of stability.” And many also said that kids now saw their parents’ union as legitimized or recognized by the government. Basically, kids felt better about themselves and their place in the world. And duh, every single child deserves that.
There’s something else every kid deserves: health care. When gay marriage is legally recognized by the state, a child has a better chance of receiving coverage under one of their parents’ health care plans. Kids need insurance — and parents need the ease of accessing it — without busting through bureaucratic red tape to get it.
It’s also important that your parents have a job. The Atlantic notes that people are so supportive of federal non-discrimination laws protecting LBGT Americans that they actually think those laws already exist. According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s CEO, Robert P. Jones, “People in their head just logically think, if marriage is legal, then workplace protections must also be in place.”
Gay marriage leads, then, to not only increased tolerance, but also increased belief that people, inherently, deserve that tolerance be enshrined in law. Those laws help parents keep their jobs. And kids deserve happy, productive parents who can whistle while they work, safe in the knowledge they won’t be canned for their biologically innate sexual preference.
Gay marriage creates tolerance, and tolerance breeds more tolerance. In 2015, before the national gay marriage law, only 17% of Americans knew a transgender person, The Atlantic reports. Today, 35% do — almost double — likely because more people felt comfortable coming out, and more people felt comfortable reaching out to folks who were different from them.
Further, The Atlantic notes that most Americans oppose the so-called “bathroom laws” that force the transgendered to use a restroom that doesn’t correspond to their gender. These laws especially hurt teens who may be struggling socially with their gender identity. However, non-discrimination legislation legitimizes their gender at a very vulnerable time. With bullying rates as high as they are, trans teens need all the support and acceptance they can get, and government recognition is a huge step in the right direction.
But those rights may be in danger. The Trump administration is expected to rescind the right of public school students to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender identity, rather than their sex. This could have a huge psychological impact on trans students, with the government itself stepping in to deny the validity of these students’ gender identities. Just as tolerance breeds more tolerance, so intolerance breed more intolerance. Bullying of trans students can be expected to increase. After all, it’s as if that bullying is sanctioned on an administrative level. When we spread intolerance, intolerance follows.
That’s not the only right Trump has his sights set on. There are credible rumors that he’s drafting an executive order that would hinder LGBT people from adopting, a basic right they enjoy on a national level. That would hurt families in which someone can’t adopt her partner’s biological children, making a family seem “less real” and possibly hindering health care benefits. It would leave children languishing in foster care. And it would deny a basic human right to people who just want a child to love. This type of intolerance drags us back to the dark ages. And it only breeds more intolerance, just as recognition of gay rights creates tolerance.
It’s not just suicide rates. Legalized gay marriage carries a host of benefits for teens and children. Those benefits go down to the microlevel: A study just released last month found that gay parents who “experienced more stigmatization” had kids who externalized their problems more. So the greater the level of societal acceptance, the better off the individual kids of gay parents.
Equal rights create tolerance, and tolerance creates a host of benefits, from job protections to bathroom protections to more health care. Put simply, legitimizing gay unions helps gay kids, kids of gay marriages, and transgender kids in a host of different ways. As tolerance increases, so do those benefits. Equal rights breed more tolerance, more justice, and a better society for all. That’s an America we can all believe in. Continuing to show our support for the LGBTQ community, and the causes that further their inclusion and acceptance, is a tangible way that we can actually make MAGA. So, let’s keep doing that.
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