Religious refusal laws have mental health effect on LGBTQ
Religious refusal laws are currently threatening our rights. But they may also making us more anxious than usual such that they have a mental health effect on us already.
So if you’re finding yourself worried over the recent news of the Supreme Court decision favoring the baker who discriminated against a gay couple, it’s not just you.
How religious refusal laws affect our mental health
Researchers of the Boston University came up with a study noting that legislation leading to religious refusal laws could lead to mental distress for LGBTQ adults.
The study looked into self-reported mental distress– including stress and depression.
More importantly, this distress is felt by members of the community living in states that allow denial of service due to religious objections, and not just those who experience the discrimination.
The researchers discovered that these laws were linked to a nearly 50 percent increase in the proportion of LGBT residents living in those states that reported mental distress.
“We are at a turning point with laws permitting the denial of services to same-sex couples in the United States,” said Julia Raifman, study lead author and assistant professor of health law, policy, and management.
“This study provides evidence that laws permitting the denial of services to same-sex couples harm the health of sexual minority adults without benefiting the health of heterosexual adults,” Raifman said.
A survey on the effect of religious refusal laws on the LGBTQ
Published May 23 in JAMA Psychiatry, the study used survey data of adults ages 18 to 64 living in three US states that had enacted religious refusal laws: Utah, Michigan, and North Carolina.
For comparison, the researchers tagged six demographically similar states that don’t have religious refusal laws, i.e. Utah with Idaho and Nevada, Michigan with Ohio and Indiana, and North Carolina with Virginia and Delaware.
In the nine states, 23 percent of those surveyed identified as LGBTQ reported they had mental distress in 2014. This is compared to nearly 13 percent of straight adults.
In 2016, those LGBTQ adults struggling with mental distress went up by more than 10 percent in Utah, Michigan, and North Carolina while those heterosexuals with mental distress went up by less than one percent.
Meanwhile, in the comparison states, LGBTQ adults with mental distress went up by just 1.3 percent, while those heterosexuals in these states went up by 1 percent.
Researchers noted the increase in mental distress after the implementation of religious refusal laws is suggestive that this type of legislation has widespread repercussions– though association rather than cause-and-effect.
Current state of religious refusal laws in the US
As of present, while same-sex marriage is legal in the US as of 2015, 12 states have allowed religious refusal laws to be enacted.
This allows residents of the state to refuse services like baking wedding cakes, facilitating adoptions, and even issuing marriage license to same-sex couples based on religious or moral grounds.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated: “Everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs, but when you operate a business or run a publicly funded social service agency open to the public, those beliefs do not give you a right to discriminate.”
Unfortunately, the US Supreme Court had recently issued its ruling on one case favoring Masterpiece Cakeshop v. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.
Raifman pointed out that in a phone interview with NewNowNext that these religious refusal laws “may harm lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) people by communicating to them– and everyone else– that LGB people are unequal or not deserving of equal rights.”
In the case of the SC decision, Raifman said: “It’s not about going somewhere else to get your cake or going somewhere else to get your marriage license or going somewhere else to adopt a child. It’s about that services denials are permitted– and they shouldn’t be.”