Updated: Nov 13, 2019
Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage in California, was just overturned. Many people have been asking us whether marriage really helps gay/lesbian relationships last long term.
Marriage does help same-sex relationships. Here are two important pieces of evidence:
An important article in the Journal of Developmental Psychology in 2003 followed up with Vermont-based couples who went through civil unions from 2000-2002. It compared those unionized couples with a) their gay un-unionized friends' relationships, and b) their heterosexual married friends, to see how long the unionized couples stayed together.
It found that the gay/lesbian couples who unionized stayed together at the SAME RATE as their married heterosexual counterparts, and LONGER THAN their friends who had un-unionized relationships. In short, a union that is recognized by the government helps couples stay together longer.
(Are "marriages" better than "civil unions? I haven't read published research discussing this, but that doesn't mean it isn't out there. One would assume that separate is NOT equal, and if the government wants to promote long-lasting relationships, then they should call them the same, with the same benefits, in order to get the same positive outcome.)
Secondly, important research by the country's leading relationship researcher, John Gottman, Ph.D., showed that couples (gay or straight) last longer when they create meaning together.
What is "meaning"? It's anything that gives tangible legitimacy to the relationship, and can include moving in together, exchange of rings, developing fun rituals together, putting pictures on the walls, having children, etc. "Marriage" goes into this bucket.
If you think about it, this makes sense.
Your "meaning" is the stuff that stops you from breaking up when things get rough. Before walking out the door, you consider what it would be like to separate belongings, find someone new to develop fun rituals with, and all the new pictures you'd have to take. All your future plans/goals might evaporate. It stops you in your tracks.
Remember, "gay marriage" also offers the potential for "gay divorce", but this isn't such a bad thing, because the thought of having to divorce might stop you in your tracks, long enough to get help from a counselor or advisor who knows their stuff.