On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all same-sex couples are guaranteed the right to marry, which extended legal marriage recognition to same-sex couples throughout the United States. Major events such as this have the potential to directly affect the emotional well-being of LGBT people. This study uses population-based data to evaluate the impact of the Obergefell decision on two aspects of well-being—happiness and life satisfaction—among LGBT adults before and after the decision and compares their outcomes to those of non-LGBT adults. The study finds that:
- Prior to the Obergefell decision, there were significant disparities between LGBT and non-LGBT adults in their happiness and life satisfaction. Fewer LGBT adults reported feeling happy (84%) compared to non-LGBT adults (89%), and fewer LGBT adults (58%) rated their life satisfaction higher-than-average than non-LGBT adults (68%).
- After the Obergefell decision, more LGBT people were happy (87%) and reported higher-than-average levels of life satisfaction (62%)—reducing disparities between LGBT and non-LGBT adults to non-significant levels.
- LGBT residents of states where marriages for same-sex couples were not recognized prior to Obergefell had the greatest gains in life satisfaction, increasing from 46% reporting higher-than-average life satisfaction to 58% reporting the same after the decision; however, this difference was not statistically significant.
- There were no statistically significant changes in happiness or life satisfaction among non-LGBT adults in relation to the Obergefell decision.
The day that Obergefell was announced was an important moment for LGBT people in the United States, and this is reflected in their self-reported well-being immediately following the decision. Future research should evaluate how other public policies (e.g., LGBT non-discrimination protections, paid leave) impact the economic and emotional well-being of LGBT people.