Office of Public Affairs / News & Media Relations
Rice sociologist available to discuss US Supreme Court decisions on DOMA and Prop 8
HOUSTON — (June 26, 2013) — The Supreme Court today ruled 5-4 that the Defense of Marriage Act, which limits federal married-couple benefits to unions between a man and a woman, is unconstitional. The high court also dismissed an appeal over California’s Proposition 8 referendum, which bans same-sex marriage, on the grounds that private parties lack standing to defend the state’s voter-approved ballot measure. Rice University sociologist Justin Denney is available to comment on the potential health benefits of marriage for sexual minorities in response to these court rulings.
Denney’s 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,” said Denney, an 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. “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.
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Justin Denney photo (Credit: Rice University): http://bit.ly/15A0qNs
Justin Denney bio: http://sociology.rice.edu/denney
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