Marriage Equality for Same-Sex Couples: Counseling Psychologists as Social Change Agents

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29 Scopus citations


The denial of civil marriage rights is a specific example of minority stress that can negatively affect the psychosocial well-being of self-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals in same-sex partnerships, their families, and their allies. Counseling psychologists have an important role in addressing the minority stress that same-sex couples experience as a result of the lack of marriage equality. In the service of social justice, counseling psychologists can use their training as practitioners, advocates, and researchers to effectively intervene at multiple levels of the ecological system. The purpose of this practice forum is to suggest interventions at the micro, meso, and macro levels that support the goal of social justice for same-sex couples and their families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)956-972
Number of pages17
JournalCounseling Psychologist
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Counseling psychologists have many roles to play in confronting marriage inequality at the micro, meso, and macro levels of the system. The social power that we have by virtue of our education and training can be used to challenge the cultural narratives that shape the rhetoric about marriage, to raise awareness about heterosexism and its impact, to design and evaluate interventions, to conduct basic research in support of the health and well-being of same-sex couples and their families, and to recommend and advocate for responsible community and organizational actions that are consistent with the core professional values of fairness and equality. Privilege, in the form of education and professional training, is a social resource that can be put to good use in the effort to build a just society. Although marriage equality will not end all discrimination and prejudice against same-sex relationships, counseling psychologists can use their professional skills and social power to lead the effort of examining, labeling, and challenging privilege and oppression in all of its forms. The coauthors share equally in the authorship of this article, which is based in part on “The Impact of Marriage Restriction Amendments on Minority Stress and Well-Being in the LGBT Community,” a talk sponsored by the Sexuality Studies Program at Ohio State University, Columbus, April 9, 2009. For more information about other studies conducted by the coauthors, please visit . The authors declared no potential conflicts of interests with respect to the authorship and/or publication of this article. The authors received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.


  • bisexual
  • gay
  • lesbian
  • marriage
  • social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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