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How Same-Sex marriage Affects Gay Couples: A Tale of Two research studies

Tuesday Oct 14, 2008

A study conducted 13 months after same-sex marriage in Massachusetts became legal found that obtaining legal protections and making a public statement of commitment were the most often mentioned motivations for same-sex marriage.

It also found that lack of family approval and difficulties planning and paying for the wedding were the most noted obstacles to marriage. The study, "Attractions and Obstacles While Considering Legally Recognized Same-Sex Marriage," was conducted by Pamela J. Lannutti, PhD,
associate professor of communication at Boston College and was published in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies, Vol. 4(2), 2008.

"The arrival of same-sex marriage brings up many issues that often lurk in the background in families. It forces same-sex couples and their parents to confront their deepest feelings about same-sex love," said Robert-Jay Green, PhD, executive director of Rockway Institute, a national center for psychology research, education, and public policy on sexual orientation and gender issues.

For this study, Lannutti's sample of 263 partners in same-sex couples had an average relationship duration of 7.5 years. Seventy-two percent had gotten legally married in the 13 months after same-sex marriage became legal in
Massachusetts, and 28 percent planned to marry within 16 months.
Attractions to marriage listed by the respondents included legal protections (24 percent), making a public statement of commitment (20 percent), feelings for partner (15 percent), means to acknowledgement from family (14
percent), legal protection for help in having children (13 percent), means to acknowledgement from friends (eight percent), political reasons (four percent) and religious reasons (two percent).

The couples' comments converged around the theme that security was an important motivation for marriage. One person said "We thought we should get married so that we could take better care of each other as we got older;
or if someone got sick... nobody could take our right to provide for each other away."

Another concern was raising children. One man who had adopted a son with his partner said "It felt like maybe after that marriage, nobody could
threaten our family." Couples mentioned a desire to declare their commitment publicly. They also mentioned the need to make a public statement. "It seemed wrong to be a committed couple with the right (to marry) and not
use it," said one. Another said "we want our presence felt when they try to take marriage away from us in the future."

Obstacles to marriage included lack of family approval (41 percent), difficulties in funding and planning the ceremony and reception (27 percent), philosophical or political objections to marriage (14 percent), the legal
limitations of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts such as no federal recognition or benefits of marriage ( (10 percent), lack of approval from friends (four percent), or unresolved previous relationships (four percent). "Lack of family approval" usually meant parents' approval, Lannutti reported.

"We almost didn't get married because my parents were so angry and mean about it," said one female participant. "We almost changed our minds about getting married," said a male participant, "We thought our families were OK
with us as a couple, but when we wanted to send out wedding invitations, his parents freaked out."

Couples reported their most frequent strategy for overcoming these obstacles was to ignore them (58 percent). Other strategies included discussing the
obstacle with their partner (22 percent), discussing the obstacle with the person causing it (eight percent), or engaging in political action (12 percent),
such as demonstrating, donating money and volunteering in activist causes.

The above data gathered 13 months after same-sex marriage was legal in Massachusetts complemented earlier data Lannutti had gathered in 2003-2004, before same-sex marriage was legal. The earlier study titled "The
Influence of Same-Sex Marriage on the Understanding of Same-Sex Relationships" was published in the Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 53(3) 2007.

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