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Psychological Impact of Anti-Gay Ballot Measures on LGBT Community

Depression in the Gay Community After Anti-Gay Measures

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I remember clearly how I felt after the November 2004 election where 11 states voted to ban gay marriage. I was living in one such state, Oregon, at the time. My friends and I described our depression as similar to how we felt after the terror attacks of 9/11/2001. We couldn’t believe that our neighbors, fellow democrats and our community voted to restrict our rights.

I remember going into my local coffee shop and wanting to know how the owner voted before I would buy a latte. I felt like I didn’t know who I could trust. It was a pretty depressing time for me.

So, I’m not surprised to learn the results from a study of the psychological impact of anti-gay ballot measures on the gay, lesbian and bisexual community. The study, out of the National Sexuality Resource Center concluded gays and lesbians from states who passed anti-gay initiatives in the 2006 election reported significantly more depressive symptoms, stress, and negative affect, than gays, lesbians and bisexuals in states that did not have ballot measure campaigns.

Participants in this survey who lived in states with marriage amendments on the ballot in November 2006 reported higher levels of exposure to negative messages about GLBT issues in the media and in their communities. This finding is consistent with previous findings that negative messages proliferate during debates over marriage for same-sex couples and gay rights. Gays and lesbians often report they feel like second-class citizens because we aren’t allowed to get married and in many cases adopt our partner’s children.

A similar study in 2004 by G.M. Russell found that when a particular group is the subject of political debate, group members often exhibit a variety of negative outcomes including anxiety, depression, alienation, fear, and anger.

The eight states with anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives in 2006 were Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin and Arizona. All but Arizona passed.

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