This research shows that gay people are less likely to get married or adopt children as a result of their first sexual relationship
As a positive study on the sexuality of middle-aged lesbian and gay adults in America shows, many gay people who go public are seeking acceptance and are not intending to remarry or have children. But the researchers acknowledge that straight people who raise the issue as an argument against same-sex marriage may be reducing the voices of people whose views on the matter are at odds with their own.
The National LGBT Information Clearinghouse (NILC) and the GLSEN Respect Campaign report looks at how same-sex marriage laws affect heterosexual couples and their children.
Sara Mainzer, director of research and policy at NILC, says: “We tried to focus on information that’s in the public domain that the Straight and Gay Task Forces and others often focus on. So, for example, the Understanding DOMA and Other Laws to Opposite Sex Parent studies showed what happens with same-sex domestic partnership (DLPs) and it really made the case that it’s not necessary or as important as first thought, that you can have marriage without it.
“There are a lot of studies out there that say it’s actually sexless marriage and that marriage doesn’t matter. There’s a lot of research that really shows that it’s an option for some people, but it may not be important for others.”
Mainzer points out that there is wide diversity of opinion. “There’s not a single stereotype that’s the right answer for everybody,” she says. “When I talk to people in the field, I don’t get a single, orthodox opinion.
“That is really refreshing and encouraging, and that’s what I think our work does,” she says. “It’s not just ‘I feel good about myself, I feel good about my partner, I feel good about our sex life’. We wanted to make clear that the stereotype that all straight people feel in denial or hate or shame about a lesbian or gay person isn’t true. Some people are open to acceptance and openness and understanding, but a lot of them are really conflicted and uncomfortable.
“You have to adjust your narrative so that you can meet everybody in the middle,” she says. “It’s going to be a struggle.”
The Equality Act of 2010 does not explicitly provide same-sex couples with spousal or adoption rights. Gay and lesbian couples must show that either they or a member of their same-sex relationship have been married or registered as domestic partners for at least three years in order to be eligible for those rights.
The act allows public sector employees to refuse to enter a legally binding domestic partnership or register a domestic partnership on the grounds of religious belief or conscientious objection. For many couples and individuals, that distinction is an important one.
One study shows that gay and lesbian Americans ages 38-44 are less likely to stay married or marry a woman than gay and lesbian Americans of any age. Specifically, those aged 38-44 are more likely to have entered into a monogamous long-term relationship than heterosexual, white Americans in their late 30s and early 40s. Yet those in this group also report being more likely to have been raised by a lesbian or gay parent than those in any other age group.
Moreover, many live with the knowledge that their straight friends and family have known that they were gay for years. Mainzer says: “What we found is that the majority of the people we spoke to really wanted to be seen as themselves and weren’t interested in secrecy. The more people tried to hide who they were or change the way they acted to be better viewed or avoided discussion of their sexuality, the more they felt rejected and hurt.”