How Marriage is Changing Our Relationships


This story is a part of AfterEllen’s Toast to Marriage editorial series with SKYY Vodka and Freedom to Marry. Now through June, the campaign is encouraging supporters of equal marriage in every state to show their support by raising a Toast to Marriage on social media and encouraging friends, family and followers to do the same.


Way back in 2003 when Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage, those opposed to it claimed that a number of terrible crises would befall us if we allowed such an atrocity to occur, including the destruction of heterosexual marriage, the end of “religious freedom,” and the demise of civilization as we know it (I guess no one told them about overpopulation).

Remarkably, more than a decade later, as the Supreme Court is (hopefully) poised to legalize same-sex unions across the country, opponents are still making absurd declarations, to the tune of 66 friend-of-the-court briefs that were filed against gay marriage, claiming that it will lead to, among other things: 900,000 abortions, “early death” and disadvantaged children, despite, well, a lot of evidence to the contrary (more on that below), and a movie starring Julianne Moore and Annette Bening.

But is marriage, in fact, changing the relationships of same-sex couples, aside from making their taxes more annoying? Here’s what we know.


Same-sex marriage is changing the view of those who oppose same-sex marriage

According to a Washington Post/ABC poll conducted in April 2015, for the first time ever, those in support of marriage equality rose to 61 percent, the highest it’s ever been, and those opposed fell to 35 percent. Even those in the 65 and older crowd now support same-sex marriage by 46 percent, up from 38 percent in June 2014.

Married queer couples are healthier and happier than their single peers

It has been well-documented that marriage is a boon to the health and happiness of straight people, and research conducted by San Francisco State University and UCLA found that married gay, lesbian, and bisexual people also have lower levels of psychological distress than their unmarried counterparts. According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2013, which asked 47,000 LGBT people about their relationship status and mental health, researchers concluded that “being in a legally recognized same-sex relationship, marriage in particular, appeared to diminish mental health differentials between heterosexuals and lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons.”

Marriage equality is good for your physical health, too

In addition to mental health, another study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that gay men in Massachusetts were in better physical and mental health after that state became the first to recognize same-sex marriage. Researchers examined the medical records of 1,211 gay and bisexual men who went to “a large, community-based health clinic” and compared the patients’ use of medical services. What researchers found was that gay men took fewer trips to the doctor after same-sex marriage became legal, thereby “reducing health care use and costs among sexual minority men.” Plus, same-sex marriage allows previously uninsured folks a chance to join their partners’ insurance plan, if they are lucky enough to have one. (Queers are far more likely to be uninsured than our straight counterparts.) 


Same-sex marriage is great for the economy

As any lesbian will tell you, we are great at saving things—whales, orphans, Jennifer Beals’ career, etc.—so it might not surprise you that gay marriage is also saving the economy, and I’m not just talking about in the arena of vegan wedding cakes (though the wedding industry does generate about 1.5 billion in sales tax revenue). Using more than a decade of research by economists and analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, University of Massachusetts Amherst labor economist Lee Badgett found that “state and federal budgets will … get a positive boost if gay couples are allowed to marry.” He also found that marriage equality is good for business and creativity: “Tolerant policies and environments … are essential for nurturing creative workers who will drive economic growth. By that reasoning, businesses, cities, states—and maybe even nations—that allow same-sex couples to marry will also send a strong signal to every worker that his or her talent and creativity will be valued.” GAY MARRIAGE WILL SAVE THE ARTS.

It’s not all equal housework and Tofutti Cuties, however

Women in hetero marriages are more likely to initiate divorces than men, and research has also shown that “lesbians are twice as likely as gay men to split up.” Lesbians are also more likely to get married in the first place, however. A Williams Institute study in 2014 found that “women comprised 64 percent of the same-sex couples who formalized their relationship with legal recognition in the form of marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnership.” Researcher also found that marriage has a stabilizing effect on both gay and straight relationships, and that married same-sex couples were far less likely to break up than unmarried same sex couples, at a rate of 2.6 per year for married folks, compared to 12.8 percent of unmarried folks.

Married same-sex parents raise top shelf offspring

And, of course, when it comes to same-sex marriage and parenting, the kids really are all right. A 2010 Stanford study found that “children of same-sex couples are as likely to make normal progress through school as the children of most other family structures.” A 2007 Florida State University paper concluded that “children (of gay and lesbian adoptive parents) have strength levels equal to or exceeding the scale norms.” And some studies even suggest that children of same-sex parents are emotionally, academically, and socially at an advantage than their straight peers.

Time will tell if nationwide marriage equality will alter our relationships in further or lasting ways, but I think many of us can agree that marriage has dominated the discussion for a long time and we should probably move on to different, more pressing topics, such as countering violence against trans people, reforming the prison industrial complex, and saving Jennifer Beals’ career again.


This post is sponsored by SKYY Vodka and #ToastToMarriage. Visit the AfterEllen and Toast to Marriage Tumblrs for stories from married same-sex couples.

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