A US study author has said the country’s gay couples take advantage of new equal marriage rights more quickly than other legally recognised unions when they are introduced.

The study, by The Williams Institute, was designed to create a country-wide representation of the demand for legal recognition among same-sex couples. It compared data for states with full marriage equality and states with civil unions.

In the US, over 140,000 same-sex couples have had their relationship recognised by state law and nearly 50,000 have married.

The data showed that same-sex couples are marrying at higher rates than they are entering civil unions or other legally recognised partnerships, particularly when the options are first introduced by a state.

Gay couples entering such relationships are predominantly female and are generally older than newly-married straight couples.

When a state allows full marriage equality, the study says, over 60% of those who marry come from other states to take advantage of the rules.

M.V. Lee Badgett, Research Director of The Williams Institute said: “We see a lot of evidence that same-sex couples strongly prefer marriage over civil unions or domestic partnerships.

“Same-sex couples marry at higher rates in the first year they have the option than we see in civil union states, for example.

“Our findings are consistent with other research showing that couples value marriage more for its social meaning than for its practical benefits.”

Jody L. Herman, a fellow at The Williams Institute said: “Couples are much less likely to travel out of
state to enter non-marital legal statuses. This is further evidence that same-sex couples prefer marriage.”

If the identified trends continue in the state of Massachusetts, gay couples will be marrying at the same rate as straight couples in 2013. Marriage equality was introduced there in 2004.

Same sex marriages can also be performed in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, New York, Vermont and the Native American Coquille tribe, located geographically in Oregon.