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Respect for Marriage Act Protects Health Care

By December 13, 2022February 9th, 2023No Comments

Washington, DC – Today, President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) into law, bipartisan legislation which will ensure crucial protections for same-sex and interracial marriages, including health benefits like Medicare coverage and the ability to make medical decisions. LGBTQ+ Americans experience a range of physical and behavioral health disparities stemming from discrimination. Affirming laws and policies — like the Respect for Marriage Act — are important steps in fostering better health outcomes, along with other actions to prevent discrimination and make health care more affordable, accessible, and equitable for all. 

The Respect for Marriage Act passed the House and Senate in a bipartisan vote. This historic legislation will repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that allowed states and the federal government to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other states; enshrine marriage equality for the purposes of federal law; and provide additional legal protections for marriage equality.

“The Respect for Marriage Act is a historic victory in the continuous pursuit for equality in America, including making health care more accessible and equitable,” said Anne Morris Reid of Protect Our Care. “After the conservative Justices on the Supreme Court signaled that same-sex marriage could be next on the chopping block, this legislation affirms the rights of LGBTQ+ couples to live openly and love without fear. It is a critical step in addressing the inequities faced by the LGBTQ+ community and takes the vital step of protecting a couple’s rights to secure access to health benefits and support better health outcomes.”

“Today’s signing of the Respect for Marriage Act is monumental for couples in same-sex marriages across America, including my husband and me,” said Mitch Harle of Protect Our Care. “We got married in October, and the health care benefits that come with marriage are hard to understate. Before marriage equality, LGBTQ+ couples could be denied visitation in hospitals, the ability to add their partner to their health insurance or access Medicare benefits, and even the denial of making major medical decisions for their partner. In repealing DOMA and codifying Obergefell v. Hodges, the RFMA brings so much peace of mind to my husband and me, along with the over 700,000 Americans in same-sex marriages, knowing that we are treated equally under the law.” 

The Positive Impact of Marriage Equality.

  • The National Bureau of Economic Research partnered with Vanderbilt University researchers found that protecting and affirming marriage equality has led to a significant increase in health insurance rates, access to care, and health care utilization. This research provided the first empirical evidence which confirmed protecting marriage equality directly leads to better health outcomes for the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Multiple studies have shown that LGBTQ+ individuals living within states which have banned marriage equality see markedly higher rates of psychiatric disorders requiring treatments than states who have affirmed and protected marriage equality, with one study finding that LGBTQ+ individuals living in states with bans saw a 248.2% increase in generalized anxiety disorders.
  • Protecting the right to marriage has seen expanded access to quality and affordable health insurance, with employers in all fifty states required, if they provided a fully insured health plan, to also provide this plan to an employee’s spouse regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
  • LGBTQ+ individuals repeatedly experiencing forms of social stigmatization consistently see higher rates of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, by working to further decrease this stigmatization, through laws like The Respect for Marriage Act, members of the LGBTQ+ community should continue to see these rates fall.