A growing body of literature provides important insights into the meaning and impact of the right to marry a same-sex partner among sexual minority people. We conducted a scoping review to 1) identify and describe the psychosocial impacts of equal marriage rights among sexual minority adults, and 2) explore sexual minority women (SMW) perceptions of equal marriage rights and whether psychosocial impacts differ by sex. Using Arksey and O'Malley's framework we reviewed peer-reviewed English-language publications from 2000 through 2019. We searched six databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, CINAHL, Web of Science, JSTOR, and Sociological Abstracts) to identify English language, peer-reviewed journal articles reporting findings from empirical studies with an explicit focus on the experiences and perceived impact of equal marriage rights among sexual minority adults. We found 59 studies that met our inclusion criteria. Studies identified positive psychosocial impacts of same-sex marriage (e.g., increased social acceptance, reduced stigma) across individual, interpersonal (dyad, family), community (sexual minority), and broader societal levels. Studies also found that, despite equal marriage rights, sexual minority stigma persists across these levels. Only a few studies examined differences by sex, and findings were mixed. Research to date has several limitations; for example, it disproportionately represents samples from the U.S. and White populations, and rarely examines differences by sexual or gender identity or other demographic characteristics. There is a need for additional research on the impact of equal marriage rights and same-sex marriage on the health and well-being of diverse sexual minorities across the globe.

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Published in PLOS ONE, v. 16, issue 5, e0249125.

© 2021 Drabble et al.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Dr. Drabble and Dr. Trocki are supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R03MD011481 (https://www.nimhd.nih.gov/). Dr. Veldhuis’ participation in this research was made possible through an NIH/NIAAA Ruth Kirschstein Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (F32AA025816; PI C. Veldhuis). Dr. Hughes is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R01 AA0013328, https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/).

pone.0249125.s001-with-cover.pdf (237 kB)
S1 Table. Articles included in scoping review on the psychosocial impact of equal marriage rights among sexual minority adults. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0249125.s001

pone.0249125.s002.pdf (508 kB)
S1 Checklist. Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for scoping reviews (PRISMA-ScR) checklist. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0249125.s002

pone.0249125.s003.docx (13 kB)
S1 Text. Definitions. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0249125.s003