Two questions answered

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When Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage on May 17, 2004, the move was met with fear and controversy. Fortunately, as time has proven, this milestone was just the start of even greater progress and acceptance. Now, as we celebrate Pride Month this June, a new study confirms that decades-old concerns about same-sex marriage were unfounded.

Same-sex marriage has had no negative effects on society, according to an analytical review of evidence from RAND. This study sought to answer two questions: 1) What does research show about the impacts of legalized same-sex marriage? and 2) How do changes in marriage policy affect marriage rates, divorce rates, cohabitation rates, and marriage attitudes?

To answer the first question means addressing concerns that same-sex marriage would devalue traditional marriage and lead to a breakdown in family structures. Once states legalized same-sex marriage, same-sex households experienced more stable relationships, higher earnings, and higher homeownership. Hate crimes and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation declined, and state-level rates of syphilis, HIV, and AIDS fell dramatically.

As to the second question, substantial evidence has shown that children of same-sex parents fare just as well as those raised by different-sex parents. New marriages increased by 1% to 2% among different-sex couples and about 10% overall. Divorce and cohabitation rates have not increased, and high school seniors, have, if anything, a more positive attitude toward marriage.

Over the years, public opinion on same-sex marriage has shifted significantly. Strong opposition from Republicans started to fade so that by 2022, the Respect for Marriage Act, which provided statutory authority for same-sex marriage across the country following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision in 2015, passed with bipartisan support. Nationwide polls have shown that more than 70% of Americans now approve of marriage for same-sex couples, including a majority of Republicans.

The naysayers and fearmongers have been proven wrong thanks to 20 years in which “[n]o evidence was found of lasting negative changes in public opinion as a result of granting same-sex couples access to marriage.” As the United States strives to move forward in other areas, the story of same-sex marriage should serve as a reminder that Republican fears are not exactly the most accurate or trustworthy signpost.

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