By Sunnivie Brydum
A new study reveals the scope of psychological damage done by Indiana’s 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning Hoosiers. Although the study, led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Center for LGBT Health Research, stops short of suggesting Indiana’s law directly caused LGBQ people to feel physically or mentally unwell, researchers noted that Indiana was the only state of 21 studied where LGBQ people reported a significant spike in the number of “unhealthy days” over the course of that year.
Not only was Indiana the only state whose LGBQ residents reported more “unhealthy days” in 2015, but the number of LGBQ people experiencing those days for at least half the month had nearly doubled between the first and last quarter of the year. Then-Governor Mike Pence signed the first iteration of Indiana’s RFRA on March 26, and then amended it a week later amid national backlash in an effort “clarify” that the law did not void existing non-discrimination protections. But the damage was already done.
The study analyzed 2015 data reported by 21 states to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of its Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, focusing on the self-reported mental health of 5,000 people who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or “unsure” of their sexual orientation. Researchers compared the number of “unhealthy days” reported by residents of each state, using the CDC definition of “the total number of days in the past 30 that people reported that their physical and mental heath were not good,” according to the press release announcing the study’s findings. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System does include a question that allows participants to identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming, but states are not required to include that question in their surveys.
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