New study finds state recognition of marriage is associated with improved well-being for same-sex couples

For Immediate Distribution
July 28, 2016

Contact:
The Williams Institute, williamsinstitute@law.ucla.edu, (310) 267-4382

In marriage equality states prior to Obergefell, same-sex couples experienced less psychological distress and fewer feelings of isolation.

LOS ANGELES -Same-sex marriage recognition at the state level, prior to the recognition of marriage in all US States, was associated with less psychological distress about being LGB, according to a recent study. The study, entitled “Impact of Civil Marriage Recognition for Long Term Same-Sex Couples” by Ellen D. B. Riggle (University of Kentucky), Robert E. Wickham (Palo Alto University), Sharon S. Rostosky (University of Kentucky), Esther D. Rothblum (San Diego State University and The Williams Institute) and Kimberly F. Balsam (Palo Alto University), also finds that long-term same-sex relationships are beneficial to the health and well-being of couple members, regardless of marital status.

The study examined the possible benefits of marriage and marriage recognition for long-term couples using data from a sample of 307 couples in a civil marriage and 50 with no legal relationship status. The study was conducted prior to the recent Supreme Court ruling bringing same-sex marriage recognition to all US States, and it tests the associations of marital status and living in a state that recognized civil marriages of same-sex couples with self-reports of positive and negative LGB identity, social support, and daily discrimination.

“We know that many same-sex couples who got married right after the laws changed had already been together in long-term, committed relationships for many years, or decades,” said Riggle. “For these long-term couples, the impact of the change in laws is more about the change in their environment and how much support they feel for their relationship within their communities and from institutions.”

Key findings from the study include:
• State recognition of same-sex marriages was significantly associated with experiencing less motivation to conceal an LGB identity, less vigilance and fewer feelings of isolation;
• Being in a long-term relationship has benefits for well-being similar to marriage; in fact, most of the indicators used in this study were not significantly different based on marital state or state recognition, which is consistent with previous findings;
• The recent changes in marriage laws and the continued debate over the recognition of marriage at the time the study was conducted may have made LGB identities more salient for people in the study who were married;
• And marriage may also reinforce commitment within a relationship, leading couple members to feel more positively about their relationship with their partner.

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