Perspectives on Marriage Equality in 2024

June 2024

Using data gathered from 484 married LGBTQ+ people living in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., researchers examined couples’ reasons for getting married, their perspectives on marriage equality, and how marriage has impacted their lives.

The vast majority of same-sex couples married for love, companionship, and legal protections.
Marriage equality improved security, stability, and life satisfaction for same-sex couples.
The majority of couples surveyed worried that marriage equality will be overturned.

Executive Summary

This year marks the 20th anniversary of legal marriage for same-sex couples in the United States, starting with Massachusetts on May 17, 2004. In recognition of this 20th anniversary, this report provides a portrait of married same-sex couples based on survey responses from 484 LGBTQ+ Americans. These couples come from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. They are diverse racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically. On average, they have been together for over 16 years and married for over nine years. Over 60% were married after the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that brought marriage equality to all 50 states. Over 30% of these couples have children, and 25% want children in the future.

This report focuses on these couples’ reasons for getting married, how marriage has impacted their lives, and the ways they have come to rely upon their spouse and their spouse’s family for support. It also addresses the experiences that some of them have had with discrimination, the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on them, and their concerns that Obergefell might be overturned.

Overall, these couples appreciate the ways that marriage has strengthened their relationships with their partners, provided security for their children, and provided legal protections, financial security, and greater acceptance by family, friends, and the broader community. They are also worried about the future of marriage equality and the increasingly hostile climate for LGBTQ+ people in many parts of the country—so much so that some are considering moving to another state.

In sum, two decades after the first state in the United States permitted same-sex couples to marry, they report that marriage equality has had a profound positive impact on their lives but are concerned about the future security of their families.

Key Findings

Why same-sex couples got married

  • When asked why they got married, the vast majority of same-sex couples said love (93.0%), companionship (74.0%), and legal protections (75.0%).
  • Almost two-thirds said they married for the symbolic value and meaning of marriage (63.8%), and almost half said they married for increased financial security (49.4%).
  • Couples in longer relationships before marrying were more likely to cite legal and financial reasons for marrying.
  • Some also married to protect their current (3.5%) or future children (12.4%).
  • When asked about the positive impacts of marriage in general, members of same-sex couples also strongly endorsed: marriage as a symbol of love and commitment (89.3%), the ability to access rights and benefits (76.0%), including health insurance (66.7%), financial benefits more generally (74.4%), and societal (62.2%) and family (66.7%) recognition and acceptance.

How marriage has changed same-sex couples’ lives

  • Relationship and life satisfaction. When asked how marriage changed their lives, 83.1% of participants reported positive changes in their sense of safety and security, almost three-fourths (74.6%) reported positive changes in life satisfaction, and almost two-thirds (61.0%) reported becoming closer to their partner.
  • Stability and security in their relationship. About two-thirds (66.9%) of participants said that marriage provided more stability to their relationships, including legal protections, financial stability, mutual support, long-term planning, and a stronger sense of security and commitment in the relationship.
  • Shared life planning. Many couples reported that marriage had profoundly changed how they made life plans. Where to live. Over 60% of participants (61.4%) affirmed that marriage affected their life planning in terms of making decisions about moving and where to live, including moving for their partner’s job or to be near their partner’s family.
  • Work and income. Over 60% of participants (61.0%) felt that marriage affected their life planning in terms of working and earning income. Many said that marriage enabled partners to designate one to work at a steady job so the other could take career risks, pursue satisfying but less lucrative work, go back to school, or stay home with children.
  • Financial planning. Almost 60% (59.3%) said marriage affected their financial planning in terms of saving, investing, and planning for retirement, the ability to care for each other in case of illness, buy a house, and afford to have children.
  • Workplace benefits. Over half (51.9%) of married same-sex couples said that marriage equality provided them access to workplace health insurance benefits previously unavailable to them.
  • Parenting. Almost one in five (19.8%) reported that marriage affected their plans about whether or when to have or adopt children and how many children to have. For many, marriage was a “prerequisite” to becoming parents.
  • Stability and security for children. Of those who had children, almost 60% (58.1%) reported that marriage provided more stability or security for their children, including by providing legal protections, offering a greater sense of legitimacy for their children, and conveying a sense of stability in their family to their children.
  • Caretaking. Over one-fourth of participants reported they were living with a disability, and over one-fourth reported that their partner had a disability. Just one partner had a disability in 112 couples (23.1%), and both partners had a disability in 73 couples (15.1%). Regarding caregiving, 14.5% of respondents reported that they were a caregiver for their partner, and 12.4% reported that their partner was a caregiver for them. More specifically, in approximately one out of six couples, one or both partners were caregivers: one partner was a caregiver in 50 couples (10.3%), and both partners cared for each other in 28 couples (5.8%).

Reliance and Mutual Support

Many of the ways that marriage has impacted couples are related to how partners within a marriage support and depend on one another. For many same-sex couples, this mutual reliance did not start with their wedding but long before and extended not only to their partners but their in-laws.

Reliance prior to marriage

  • Most (93.4%) participants lived with their spouses before getting married, with 69.7% seeing living together as a step towards marriage. Participants lived with their partners for an average of 3.83 years before getting married.
  • Almost three-quarters (70.9%) were engaged to their partners before they got married. They were engaged to their spouses for an average of 2.3 years. Among those who were engaged, almost all (96.2%) saw being engaged as a step towards marriage.
  • Some forms of mutual support were high at each stage in these couples’ relationships. For example, while they were living together, engaged, and married, approximately one in five of these couples helped pay for each other’s education costs; provided caregiving to the other when they needed help due to a health condition or aging; or moved when the other got a job in a different location. In all three stages of these relationships, over 60% shared savings goals, like buying a car and a house.
  • Some forms of mutual support dramatically increased when couples got married. For example, married same-sex couples were more likely to buy a house together (47.1%) and have a shared bank account (68.2%) than when they were living together or engaged.
  • Compared to when they were living together or engaged, married same-sex couples were more likely to have or adopt children (11.6%), share child-raising responsibilities (18.0%), and decide to have one partner not work to devote more time to childcare (11.6%).

Reliance on family and in-laws

In addition to members of the couple relying upon one other, marriage also meant that the couple had two families—or sets of in-laws—that they could rely upon.

  • Over 40% (40.9%) of participants and their partners relied on each other’s families of origin in times of crisis, such as to help meet financial or health care needs
  • For example, of couples with the following needs, over three-fourths (76.1%) reported that their families had helped out during a health crisis, 60.5% had relied upon their families for financial support, 31.3% had relied on their families for occasional help with childcare, and 14.5% had relied on their families for regular help with childcare.
  • Of those who had a wedding (77.3%), 35.8% said their family helped pay for the wedding, and 29.4% said their partner’s family helped pay for the wedding.


  • Participants reported experiences of discrimination both when planning their weddings and as married couples.
  • 10.7% of those who had a wedding said they experienced discrimination while planning their wedding, with another 7.2% indicating that they were unsure of whether they experienced discrimination. Types of discrimination included discrimination by participants’ churches or synagogues, city officials, and wedding vendors.
  • Some participants said they believed they avoided discrimination because they only sought out vendors and officiants known for being LGBTQ+ friendly, lived in an LGBTQ+ friendly area, or did not disclose that they were having a same-sex wedding to certain vendors.
  • In response to an open-ended question, several participants indicated concern about the increased visibility that marriage had brought to their relationship, which made them more vulnerable to discrimination.

Impact of Obergefell v. Hodges decision

In 2015, the Supreme Court extended marriage equality to all fifty states through its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

  • Almost all participants indicated that the Obergefell decision (94.2%) made a difference to them. In fact, most participants were married post-Obergefell (62.8%), even though their relationships started before 2015.
  • Approximately three-fourths of those in married same-sex couples reported that what made a difference to them was full legal recognition in terms of rights and responsibilities (79.5%), that marriage would be recognized in all 50 states (74.6%), and having marriage equality validated as a constitutional right (72.5%).
  • For over a third (34.7%), Obergefell made a very practical difference: they lived in one of the states that didn’t have marriage quality until the case was decided.

Concerns about the future of Obergefell

  • Almost 80% (79.3%) of married same-sex couples said they were very (40.9%) or somewhat (38.4%) concerned about the Obergefell decision being overturned.
  • Being trans or having a trans partner, being older, and having less education were associated with being concerned about the future of Obergefell.
  • About one-fourth said they had pursued various actions out of concern that marriage equality might be challenged. Some sped up their timeline for marriage to make sure it would still be available, and others sought second-parent adoptions to ensure that their legal relationship to their children is protected. Others sped up their timeline for having children to ensure both parents had a legal relationship with their child.
  • Concerns about the future of marriage equality, as well as the current anti-LGBTQ+ climate in many states, are prompting many couples to consider moving to another state or another country.
    • Asked about whether they currently wanted to move out of state, over one-quarter (29.0%) indicated that they did.
    • Considering just those participants who indicated that they very much or somewhat wanted to move, their top three reasons for wanting to move were related to the socio-political climate (52.9%), concerns about anti-LGBTQ+ laws (48.6%), and fears about losing rights as an LGBTQ+ person

Download the full report

Perspectives on Marriage Equality in 2024