Pulse on Health: A marriage proposal

The state's Nov. 6 marriage-amendment vote should be considered as a public health issue, says Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Edward Ehlinger.

"There is growing evidence that the benefits of marriage extend beyond heterosexual couples to same-sex couples," Ehlinger said. Same-gender marriage can lead to better physical and mental health, he said.

After same-gender marriage became legal in Massachusetts, Ehlinger said, a study showed a 14 percent drop in healthcare costs among gay men.

Marriage leads to lower rates of depression, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, smoking, substance abuse and cancer, Ehlinger said. The implication? We're voting on life-or-death issues, not just what we like or dislike.

Would Ehlinger and I have braved discussing this topic during the Civil Rights Movement? I hope so.


I speak today on behalf of those who fear job loss or other injury if they take a public stand. Mayo Clinic says it values and promotes diversity, with benefi ts for same-gender couples. But Mayo has taken no public stand on the amendment.

A "yes" vote is to change the state Constitution, to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. A "no" vote opposes the constitutional change — but even then, same-gender marriage would remain illegal under current laws.

Ehlinger worries about bullying of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender kids.

"A marriage amendment could add to the social stigma they face every day," he said. Meanwhile, nearly one-quarter of same-gender couples are raising their own children, he said.

More than 25 years of research shows "children raised by same-gender parents fare as well as those raised by heterosexual parents" with no relationship between parents' sexual orientation and "any measure of a child's emotional, psychosocial and behavioral adjustment."

The UCLA Williams Institute estimates that almost 26 million people — 11 percent of the U.S. population — has been attracted to a person of the same gender at some point.

My two female friends got legally married three years ago without harm to society.

These two women, long in love, can now legally visit at the hospital and make life-or-death decisions for each other. They can inherit shared property if one dies. And they got to hold their marriage ceremony in their yard without fear police would intervene when they shared a wedding kiss. Seems to me the right side of history improves health of people like them, instead of doing harm.

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