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Ten years ago this week, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to begin granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Today we are joined by 17 states plus DC in acknowledging and codifying the right to marriage equality under the law. It was a historic moment for the Commonwealth and a groundbreaking achievement for our nation in the advancement of equal rights for gay, lesbian and bisexual people everywhere. Since then, thousands of same-sex marriages have been performed in communities across Massachusetts.

Between May 17, 2004 and December 31, 2013, there were 25,739 same-sex marriages performed in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, the march towards full equality for the LGBTQ community continues – and that includes equal access to high-quality health care. At DPH we are renewing our commitment to reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes for all LGBTQ residents of Massachusetts.

Historically the Department has offered a number of prevention and treatment programs which have been tailored to meet the needs of LGBTQ people in a way that treats them compassionately and respectfully. Some of these programs include suicide prevention, substance abuse prevention and treatment, HIV/AIDS care and services, and infectious disease prevention and treatment.

Read: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick Celebrating Marriage Equality.

In 2013, the DPH Office of Health Equity expanded its Making Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services Happen guide to include advice for health care providers on the appropriate and respectful delivery of services to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning community.

Our efforts to reduce health disparities among LGBTQ people are also about looking for ways to ensure that we have the most accurate, complete, and robust data on the health and wellness of this population, and the attitudes that LGBTQ patients have about the care they’re receiving.

While DPH has long gathered data on sexual orientation through various surveillance programs, that data has been collected in different ways and through different formats. While each of these data sets is valuable in its own right, that lack of standardization has made comparisons across data sets difficult.

The Department is currently underway in an exciting new project to catalog and standardize all of our LGBTQ data collection – including the specific language of how survey questions are formulated. Our intent is that by providing clear guidance to researchers and providers on standardized language for LGBTQ health surveys, we can increase the overall LGBTQ response rate – leading to an even larger data set on which to base future programs, services and interventions.

In all, the Department is dedicated to a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to ensuring equal access to high-quality health care for LGBTQ people in Massachusetts. This will require constant collaboration between all DPH programs which provide services or treatment to the LGBTQ community. To facilitate these partnerships, I’m pleased to announce the creation of a Department-wide Liaison for LGBTQ Health under the Office of Health Equity.  This Liaison will play a central coordinating role for the Department’s extensive data collection and targeted health promotion work directed to the LGBTQ community of the Commonwealth.

Written By:

Communications Director, Executive Office of Health and Human Services

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