Rice experts available to discuss US Supreme Court hearings on DOMA and Prop 8

David Ruth

Amy Hodges

Rice experts available to discuss US Supreme Court hearings on DOMA and Prop 8

HOUSTON — (March 22, 2013) — As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear cases March 26-27 regarding Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, Rice University experts are available to comment on topics related to the debate on same-sex marriage.

Brian Riedel, professor in the practice of humanities and assistant director of Rice’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality (CSWGS), is available to comment on how the Supreme Court’s decisions will impact marriage and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in the U.S.

“On the one hand, a ruling maintaining either California’s Proposition 8 or the federal Defense of Marriage Act would maintain the status quo of state-by-state debates and perpetuate confusion among the states and at the federal level,” Riedel said. “Restrictive Supreme Court rulings would also send a jarring signal in the current social climate, given the four state ballot victories for marriage equality in the last election cycle and publicly shifting views among both Republican and Democratic leaderships. On the other hand, a ruling striking down both Prop 8 and the federal DOMA might allow the focus of LGBT social justice work to shift to issues that impact non-married and married people alike, such as employment nondiscrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”

In addition to his administrative role with CSWGS, Riedel teaches “Introduction to LGBT Studies” and other courses at Rice. He holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Rice and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Riedel has presented internationally on LGBT activism in Greece, and his work has been published in the Journal of Mediterranean Studies.  His other research interests include the preservation of Houston’s LGBT history.

Justin Denney, assistant professor of sociology, associate director of the Kinder Institute’s Urban Health Program at Rice and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, is available to discuss the potential health benefits of marriage for sexual minorities. His recent paper, “Families, Resources and Adult Health: Where Do Sexual Minorities Fit?” is one of the first studies comparing the health of married heterosexual couples and cohabitating same-sex couples; it shows that there may be health disadvantages to cohabitating versus being married.

“The evidence is growing that sexual minorities in relationships are as satisfied with their relationship as married people report and they are as committed as anyone,” Denney said. “And although same-sex couples also have more income and education than married people – all factors that are usually good for health – same-sex couples still report worse health than married people.”

Denney said that one reason same-sex couples report poorer health might be the difficulties they face in sharing resources typically shared in families, things like health insurance coverage. Another reason that is more difficult to measure and document is the increased stress from stigma and discrimination.

“We know sexual minorities face increased daily stressors. Being told you cannot marry your intimate partner is a type of institutional discrimination that is typically not good for one’s well-being,” Denney said. “If there are actual health benefits to being married, how can we justify excluding a population from marrying?”

Denney is a health researcher with a Ph.D. in sociology and demography from the University of Colorado-Boulder. He is interested in identifying individual and structural conditions that jointly contribute to health and mortality inequalities. His work and collaborations within and across disciplines has led to published articles in leading scholarly journals, including Social Science and Medicine, the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Journal of Marriage and Family, and Demography. These publications have addressed topics such as the effects of family formation, socioeconomic status, and neighborhood context on individual health and mortality risks.

Rice University has a VideoLink ReadyCam TV interview studio capable of transmitting broadcast-quality standard-definition and high-definition video directly to all news media organizations around the world 24/7.

To schedule an interview with Denney or Riedel, contact David Ruth, director of national media relations at Rice, at david@rice.edu or 713-348-6327.


This news release can be found online at http://news-network.rice.edu/news.

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Related materials:

Brian Riedel photo (Credit: Rice University): http://bit.ly/11s2pqv

Rice University Center for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality: http://cswgs.rice.edu

Justin Denney photo (Credit: Rice University): http://bit.ly/15A0qNs


Justin Denney bio: http://sociology.rice.edu/denney

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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.