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Rostosky Looks at Effects of Anti-LGB Legislation

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Dr. Sharon RostoskyWhen marriage amendments are on the ballot, lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people experience acute psychological stress and downturns in general well-being; they also become more politically active. These findings, particularly pertinent in the wake of the passage of California’s Proposition 8 are contained in two articles to be published by University of Kentucky researchers.

Sharon Rostosky, associate professor in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology, and Ellen Riggle, associate professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, along with Sharon Horne from the University of Memphis, used surveys to study the emotions of LGB adults following the 2006 general election, during which eight states had “marriage amendments” on the ballot. Following the November 2006 election, participants living in states that passed a marriage amendment (an amendment defining marriage to exclude same-sex couples from marriage rights) reported significantly more minority stress stemming from exposure to negative media messages and negative conversations, and more general distress, including more depressive symptoms, than did participants living in states that did not vote on a marriage amendment in 2006.

“The mere fact of these amendments makes me sad, annoyed and outraged, and the inanities spewed in the public debates have alternately made me laugh, cry and scream,” said one survey respondent.

These findings indicate that passage of marriage amendments creates an environment associated with negative psychological outcomes for LGB individuals. Their article “Marriage Amendments and Psychological Distress in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) Adults” appears in the January 2009 issue of the American Psychological Association Journal of Counseling Psychology.

Riggle, Rostosky and Horne also will publish in the March 2009 issue of Sexuality Research and Social Policy their research indicating that negative messages targeted toward LGB individuals become more frequent during state elections involving marriage amendments. In the article “Marriage Amendments and Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Citizen in the 2006 Election,” the authors note that LGB persons report more frequent exposure to negative messages about lesbian and gay issues, along with associated higher levels of reported negative affect, stress and depressive symptoms. No previous research has empirically established LGB individuals’ perceptions of exposure to negative messages surrounding marriage amendment campaigns. The findings indicate that while LGB individuals experience stress and depressive symptoms when marriage amendments are on the ballot, resulting in an acute negative impact on the well-being of such persons, having a marriage amendment on the ballot also is associated with increased political participation and voting by LGB citizens.
Special thanks to Allison Elliot in UK Public Relations.