Emotional well-being of LGBT people improved after marriage equality ruling

A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which extended marriage equality nationwide in June 2015, had a positive impact on the happiness and life satisfaction of LGBT people.

Using data from the Gallup Daily Tracking Well-Being Index Survey, researchers found that LGBT adults were less likely to be happy and less likely to rate their life satisfaction higher-than-average than non-LGBT adults before the Obergefell decision. However, these disparities disappeared immediately following the decision.

“The ruling alleviated one aspect of structural stigma from LGBT people’s lives,” said lead author Andrew R. Flores, Visiting Scholar at the Williams Institute. “And we see statistically insignificant differences following the ruling between LGBT and non-LGBT people in measures of their well-being.”

Key Findings

  • Before the Obergefell decision
    • 84% of LGBT adults reported feeling happy compared to 89% of non-LGBT adults
    • 58% of LGBT adults rated their life satisfaction higher-than-average compared to 68% of non-LGBT adults
  • After the Obergefell decision
    • 87% of LGBT adults reported feeling happy and 62% reported higher-than-average levels of life satisfaction
    • There were no significant changes in well-being among non-LGBT adults.

Researchers were unable to examine outcomes among LGBT people by race and ethnicity, sex, and other personal characteristics due to the small number of LGBT survey respondents, and the survey data did not contain more fine-grained measures of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result, these findings may mask differences in well-being among LGBT people, particularly for LGBT people of color, women, transgender people, and other people who are more likely to experience stigma and discrimination.

Read the report

June 10, 2020

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