Finally, Same-Sex Marriages Return to California: Supreme Court Same-Sex Rulings Assure Brighter Future for LGBT People

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San Francisco psychotherapist Michael Halyard, MFT argues that last week’s Supreme Court same-sex marriage decisions and quick resumption of same-sex marriages will pay big dividends for LGBT’s in terms of better mental health and stronger relationships and families.

Last week’s Supreme Court rulings striking down both Proposition 8 and the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) marks a new chapter for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the United States. San Francisco psychotherapist Michael Halyard, MFT argues that the ruling translates into better mental health and stronger relationships and families for LGBT’s.

Proposition 8 was a voter-approved constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California in 2008. Having been declared unconstitutional by lower courts, Prop 8 supporters appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also considered a constitutional challenge to the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) which defined marriage as heterosexual only for federal purposes.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions on same-sex marriage. The court “punted” on Proposition 8, but the effect was restoring same-sex marriage to California. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the proponents lacked standing--or the ability to represent the proposition--in the Supreme Court. This returned the case to the Federal District Court in San Francisco decision, effectively ending Proposition 8 and restoring marriage equality.

In the other decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), ruling it unconstitutional. Striking down that section of DOMA is crucial. Same-sex partners legally married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage can now receive the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples. These benefits include Social Security survivors’ benefits, health insurance and pension protections for the spouses of federal employees, benefits and support for military spouses, joint income tax filing and federal estate taxes exemption, and immigration rights for binational couples.

Before the marriages could start again in California, the 9th Circuit Court had to lift its stay. The 9th Circuit had originally issued a stay after Proposition 8 was ruled unconstitutional by Judge Vaughn Walker in 2010 in order to provide Proposition 8 proponents time to exhaust their appeals.

After Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, California Attorney General Kamala Harris urged the 9th Circuit Court to lift its stay so that same-sex marriages could resume immediately. The 9th Circuit Court had initially said it would take the court at least 25 days to act following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. To the surprise of all, late Friday afternoon the 9th Circuit Court issued an order lifting the stay, and the weddings began again Friday afternoon and have continued in San Francisco all weekend long. A last ditch effort by Prop 8 proponents failed, and the weddings continue!

“This Pride weekend everything came together so magically. It couldn’t have been better timing, the decision came down on Wednesday, and the weddings started on Friday afternoon. People got to celebrate all weekend long, as dozens of couples tied the knot. This in addition to beautiful weather all weekend long,” says San Francisco psychotherapist Michael Halyard.

Halyard is a San Francisco gay therapist and can be found on the websites and

“Proposition 8 was demoralizing for California's gay men and lesbians. It’s one thing to never have a right and fight for it, but it’s devastating to win a right, and then have it taken away by a slim majority of voters,” adds Halyard.

“Many of my gay and lesbian clients were distraught when Prop 8 passed--exacerbating any depression and anxiety that already existed. Even my gay clients who didn't ever intend on getting married were upset by this ruling, as it took away the option to get married and relegated gay people to second class citizens," explains Halyard.

Studies show what Halyard has seen in his practice: Proposition 8 has been traumatic for gay men and lesbians and bans on same-sex marriage have a traumatic psychological effect and increase the risk for depression and isolation.

A comprehensive literature review demonstrated that when denied the right to marry, gay men and lesbians experience increased stress-related disorders, low self-esteem, guilt and shame, substance abuse, and depression. The study also outlined how marriage gives couples more social and emotional support than couples who are not married and marriage reduces the rates of psychological disorders.

One study points to discrimination as being responsible for the mental health discrepancies between LGBT persons and heterosexuals. Another study demonstrated that gay men and lesbians living in states that passed initiatives banning same-sex marriage have higher rates of depression and anxiety. And finally another study demonstrates that being legally married provides additional protection against depression when confronting homophobia and stress related to aging.

When same-sex relationships are recognized as equal under the law, the mental health of gay men and lesbians improves! For example, one study demonstrated that gay men's mental health care and medical visits declined after legalizing same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

“When people are treated like second-class citizens, by the law or by society, they tend to feel like second-class citizens. When people have equal rights, they are able to participate as full citizens,” says Halyard.

“The bottom line is Prop 8 and DOMA were inherently unfair, and marriage inequality destabilizes our families and increases mental health problems in our community. Marriage has the power to transform LGBT individuals, couples and families. In California, there are over 40,000 children being raised in same-sex households, and marriage strengthens these families,” says Halyard.

“Like everyone, LGBT people have the same kinds of hopes and dreams as everyone: we want to have good lives, we want to be fulfilled in our careers, contribute to society, and most of all we want to have companionship and love. LGBT people are part of the fabric of our community, work in every conceivable field, contribute to our economy and society--it’s about time LGBT people get the respect we deserve,” adds Halyard.

“The Supreme Court decisions finally recognized the humanity of LGBT people…we are finally equal! It couldn’t have been better timing…beautiful weather all weekend, and Gay Pride…unbelievable,” exclaims Halyard.


Michael Halyard, MS, MFT is a San Francisco Marriage and Family Therapist and specializes in LGBT issues, depression, anxiety, addictions and couples counseling in his private practice. He can be found on the websites and

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