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Attitudes Toward Legal Marriage
Results from Partners’ Survey of U.S. Lesbian & Gay Couples
© 1996, Demian

Following are results and sample written responses from a survey conducted on the Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples World Wide Web site in August 1995. The survey could be completed directly at the site and was also made available via e-mail upon request. It was publicized primarily through electronic media aimed at the gay and lesbian community, designed to assess the community’s attitudes toward legal marriage. Participants needed internet access and therefore the survey does not represent the community of same-sex couples as a whole. A total of 800 survey responses were submitted; the first 400 were tabulated for analysis.

Data from the first 400 participants
All 393 respondents who answered the question thought that same-sex couples should be able to legally marry.

2 percent did not know that same-sex couples are barred from legal marriage.

79 percent were in a same-sex relationship roughly equivalent to opposite-sex marriage.

      62% gay
      27% lesbian
      5% bi female
      4% bi male
      <1% hetero male
      <1% hetero female

Ages ranged from 15 to 58 years and averaged 33.9 years.

232 gave state/country of residence, 29 were non-U.S.

The following where answered only by those in a same-sex relationship
60 percent said they would get legally married if it were possible.
22 percent were not sure whether they would get legally married.
2 percent said they would not.

53 percent had not prepared legal documents like wills and powers of attorney.
47 percent had prepared legal documents.

45 percent had, or were planning to have, a ceremony.
27 percent had not, or were not planning one.
28 percent were not sure about whether to have a ceremony.

Types of discrimination experienced as an unmarried couple:
      56% employment benefits
      56% taxes
      50% insurance
      23% membership
      20% credit/banking
      9% immigration
      9% housing
      8% employment
      6% adoption
      5% hotels
      5% hospital visitation
      1% foster care
      13% other

92 percent of the same-sex couples live together:
      95% live together full time.
      5% part-time.

Relationships averaged 5.9 years in duration.
      6.6 years average for gay male couples.
      4.8 years average for lesbian couples.
      2.2 years average for bi female couples.
      4.2 year average for bi male couples.

The shortest relationship was <1 year.
The longest relationship was 38 years.

Results are rounded and may not total 100% because of unanswered questions.

Sample responses to “Why we would, or would not, get legally married.”
  • We are committed life partners. We married for love — but the societal recognition and benefits wouldn’t be bad either!
  • Unsure — I’m not convinced that imitating any heterosexual institution is healthy.
  • Yes — It would be so wonderful just for our marriage and relationship to be, and not have to fight for it every day.
  • Yes — So we can stay together — my partner is not an American citizen and may have to leave the country soon.
  • No — With proper use of the legal system it is not necessary to get “married.”
  • Unsure — I don’t personally believe in marriage, but who knows what I’d do years down the road if it were legal. I do believe, however, that queers who do want to get married have every right to do so.
  • Michael and I wish to make our commitment to each other publicly and legally binding. Michael was in a heterosexual marriage for four years and has two children. We would like to be legally considered co-parents of these wonderful kids.
  • As libertarians we do not feel that we should obtain any kind of license or other permission from the state. Our relationship is based on mutual consent and is not dependent on another entity’s permission.
  • Yes — We believe we are not different from a heterosexual couple in that we share our lives, pay our taxes, support each other. We would like this to be recognized legally with the same benefits and respect accorded heterosexual married couples.
  • No — With my partner sick we are getting more assistance than if we were legally married.
  • Yes — My partner has Multiple Sclerosis and an extremely homophobic family. She has serious concerns that if she were to become incapacitated, her family would swoop in and not follow her wishes. Susan and I own a home together.
  • We would get married for the legal protection, the tax advantages and the public affirmation of our relationship.
  • Unsure — Both Asian and uneasy about cultural ramifications.
  • We want to solemnize our relationship on the same legal basis as everyone else.
  • Unsure — Not sure if I believe in the patriarchy associated with traditional marriage, or how it would relate to us as a couple. At the moment, we have the privilege of having to write our own traditions and rules. There are loads of het-divorces right now. Should we subscribe to a societal tradition which is so obviously littered with moral insecurities and problems? Marriage at its simplest/personal value, however, still holds a somewhat romantic image which we are, as a couple, rather fond of. Hmmmm.
  • Unsure — We have been together for only a year. For me, that is not enough time to decide on marriage. However, when I do find the right person, I will want to marry.
  • Yes — To demonstrate long-term commitment to one another. To avail ourselves of rights/benefits which are generally available to married spouses. These include: health insurance provided by employer, sick/bereavement leave, airline flight-pass benefits (IRS rules don’t allow free pass benefits for non-family members), filing joint tax return. This year, the IRS would not allow us to electronically deposit our tax refunds into the same (joint) checking account unless we provide a marriage certificate.
  • Unsure — We’re hesitant to follow “traditional heterosexual” routines. Registered partnership sounds better than marriage since it does not imply the same heterosexual, Christian baggage that marriage does.
  • Yes — To enjoy the same sense of legitimacy that heterosexual couples have. Also as an added measure of protection for each other in the event of serious illness, accident or other life-threatening situations.
  • Mixed feelings here. We would probably not get married, just have our ceremony as we have planned. If so much of the system (taxes, business ownership, property, etc.) wasn’t built on being single or married. Also, legal issues like hospital visitation rights, wills, and child custody pay no attention to a domestic partnership relationship unless you have gone out of your way through power of attorney wills, and special contracts to ensure these rights. If we could get married, and this would all be understood, that would be great, though the concept of “marriage” does bother me.
  • We would marry to legally recognize our union mostly for tax, retirement and health care related reasons. Our love already bonds us emotionally.
  • Unsure — My partner is ready to settle down, but I’m not yet. So it’s not an issue of whether or not gays should, for us it’s whether or not we’re ready. As is the case with any hetero couple.
  • Yes — To be entitled and to receive, under the law and within society, the same rights and benefits as heterosexual married couples.
  • Yes — Marriage provides a socially-recognized stability to a relationship.
  • Unsure — My partner is against it, says we don’t need it. I would like to. He’s not ready for the “outing” it would entail.
  • Yes — Because we love each other and want to be legally responsible for one another. We are concerned about parenting together without being married. We are also concerned about hospital visitation, etc.
  • Marriage really is only a piece of paper, but we would get married to protect my partner from my ex-wife and children. The tax benefits would also be nice.
  • Yes — For equal treatment in student aid, taxes, assurance of inheritance, hospital visitation. Also my partner is not a U.S. citizen; I just said “goodbye” to him after 3 years until we can figure out a way to get him legally into the country.
  • Yes — While marriage is only a piece of paper, it gives couples rights and privileges they would not otherwise have. People also seem to take married couples more seriously. My mate’s family still thinks it’s a phase she’s going through after five years.
  • Yes — Even though opponents of same-sex marriage cannot give a single rational reason why they should have [the] power to keep me & my spouse at opposite ends of the globe. It is an unconscionable deprivation of human rights & an assault on our basic human dignity.
  • We would make our marriage legal because our society considers families to be generated in two ways: by birth or by marriage. We want to be recognized as a family by society. My biological family recognizes us as such — the rest of the world should too.
  • Yes — To provide gay and lesbian couples with the same level of rights heterosexuals take for granted.
  • Yes — Freedom of choice.
  • Yes — A public expression of a private reality.

© 1996, Demian.
Please contact Partners for permission to reproduce.

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