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20 October 2008
Security cited as main driver for same-sex marriages
by George Atkinson

Obtaining legal protections and making a public statement of commitment were the most often mentioned motivations for same-sex marriage, a new study in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies reports. Conducted 13 months after same-sex marriage in Massachusetts became legal, the study also found that lack of family approval and difficulties planning and paying for the wedding were the most noted obstacles to marriage.

The study involved several hundred same-sex couples who 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. "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," noted one respondent. 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 also mentioned a desire to declare their commitment publicly. "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, study author Pamela J. Lannutti reported.

Interestingly, Lannutti found the possibility of marriage can change the criteria for potential relationship partners. Some participants who did not favor getting married feared they would have difficulty finding potential partners who agreed. Participants reported looking at current relationships more carefully, and considering different characteristics when dating prospective partners. "Just having the option to marry, whether we use it or not, is changing us already," said one respondent.

The availability of legal marriage also brought to the surface long-hidden feelings about romance, Lannutti reported. Some participants realized "their desire for idealized 'traditional' romance in their relationships," she wrote. Others "realized their resistance to the romantic ideal." Because marriage has not been an option, many participants have 'put away' thoughts of traditional ceremonies and romantic symbols. Legalizing marriage suddenly made those abandoned dreams possible. Lannutti concluded "Whether a same-sex couple marries or not, same-sex marriage may have an influence on their relational outcomes."

Related:
Gay Marriages As Robust As Heterosexual Pairings
Gay Couples More Honest And Mature Than Heterosexuals
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Men In Relationships Happier
Monogamy Unnatural in the Natural World

Source: Journal of GLBT Family Studies




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