Study Showing Enthusiasm for Marriage Among Same-sex Couples

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A new study published today by UCLA’s Williams Institute finds that same-sex couples eagerly take advantage of the ability to marry or form civil unions when presented with the opportunity. More than 85,000 couples have already signed up for legal recognition in eleven states—40% of all same-sex couples in these states.

The report compiles data from the eleven states that recognize same-sex couples through marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships, or other legal statuses. These data also show that same-sex couples who marry or register are more likely to be female couples than male couples, and same-sex couples tend to be younger than existing different-sex married couples.

The findings also shed new light on the current experience in California, where thousands of same-sex couples are reported to have already married.

"Marriage clearly gets the most enthusiastic response from same-sex couples, as we’re seeing in California," explained co-author M. V. Lee Badgett, research director of the Williams Institute and director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. "In Massachusetts, 37% of gay and lesbian couples got married within the first year that marriage was available, but only one in ten gay couples registered a civil union or domestic partnership in the first year after the introduction of those statuses."

The study predicts that if every state offered marriage to same-sex couples today, approximately 370,000 couples would marry in the next three years.

"Not only are same-sex couples getting legally partnered, but their relationships are just as stable as marriages of different-sex couples," noted co-author Gary Gates, senior research fellow of the Williams Institute. "Only 1-3% of same-sex couples dissolve their legal relationships each year, which is comparable to the 2% of those in different-sex marriages who divorce annually."

The US Census Bureau recently confirmed that they do not plan on counting same-sex married couples in the 2010 Census, instead relegating all of these couples to "unmarried partner" status. According to study co-author Gates, "This report demonstrates why it is so important for government agencies like the Census Bureau to find ways to count the more than 85,000 same-sex couples who are in legally recognized unions."

This study is the second in a series of four reports made possible by a grant from Merrill Lynch.

The Williams Institute for Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy advances law and public policy through rigorous, independent research and scholarship, and disseminates its work through a variety of education programs and media to judges, legislators, lawyers, other policy makers, and the public. This study, well as findings from the first study on the cost impact of differential taxation between domestic partner and spousal health benefits for both employers and employees, can be accessed at the Williams Institute website: www.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute.