For gay couples, married matters
Posted on May 25, 2009
Filed Under Uncategorized
Five years after the first same-sex weddings in Massachusetts, gay and lesbian couples express deeply traditional reasons for deciding to wed and cite equally conventional benefits flowing from marriage, according to a study being released this week.
A significant majority of the 558 gay men and women surveyed said that since marrying, they feel more committed to their spouses, more accepted in their community, and more likely to be open about their sexual orientation at work.
The survey indicates that there is something universal about the legal protections and social advantages afforded by the institution of marriage, said the study’s authors from the University of California, Los Angeles as well as independent researchers. And it suggests, they said, that a ritual once scorned even by many same-sex couples has the power to ease discrimination.
“This really helps us confirm and makes us understand why same-sex couples demand marriage – if it’s just about the legal rights, why wouldn’t they be happy with civil partnerships?” said Stephanie Coontz author of “Marriage, A History.”
“They want access to that word that is so highly valued by our society and by other people.
“It is one thing not to invite your child’s girlfriend or boyfriend to dinner,” said Coontz, a professor at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. “It is quite another thing not to invite the spouse.”
Same-sex marriages began in Massachusetts on May 17, 2004, after the Supreme Judicial Court declared that gay and lesbian couples had the right to wed. The ruling ignited a political and social maelstrom in Massachusetts and beyond, but since then four other states – Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, and Vermont – have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. Lawmakers in New Hampshire are currently debating whether to make their state the next to do so.
The study was prepared and paid for by UCLA’s Williams Institute, which examines legal and public policy issues related to sexual orientation and is funded by foundations and individuals, including supporters of gay marriage.
The authors of the survey, which consisted of about 30 questions, said they regarded it as an initial assessment of gay marriage, largely designed to explore issues arising during public debate rather than to delve into more personal aspects of couples’ relationships. For example, researchers asked whether respondents’ children had faced taunting as a result of their parents’ same-sex marriage – only 5 percent had – but did not ask how happily married partners were.
“We’ve been interested in the impact of marriage for a long time,” said Lee Badgett, researcher director of the Williams Institute and senior author of the study. “I’ve been combing the universe for data, but there just aren’t that many places to look at same-sex couples who are literally married.”
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