I do, but i can’t: The impact of marriage denial on the mental health and sexual citizenship of lesbians and gay men in the United States

  • Gilbert HerdtEmail author
  • Robert Kertzner


Marriage is a fundamental institution in American culture that provides a socialstructure of advantages for wedded couples. Unlike heterosexual citizens in the United States, lesbians and gay men are denied the tangible and intangible benefits of marriage, a deprivation that restricts their citizenship and hinders their mental health and well-being. While research findings confirm the psychosocial capacity of gay men and lesbians to form committed relationships and to parent successfully, marriage denial continues to perpetuate an opportunity structure that disenfranchises gay men and lesbians in the socio-cultural, legal, economic, and political aspects of their lives. This article reviews the particular impact of marriage denial on the mental health and well-being of gay men and lesbians and provides an analysis of the historical and cultural factors present in the United States that serve to maintain denial of marriage as an act of discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Key words

same-sex marriage discrimination heterosexism LGBT rights 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Sexuality Resource CenterSan Francisco
  2. 2.San Francisco

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