Belief in God, parenthood prompt gay partners to make commitment

July 30, 2008

Which gay and lesbian couples are more likely to legalize their relationship and hold a commitment ceremony? Those with children and strong religious beliefs, says a new University of Illinois study.

"Opponents of relationship recognition for same-sex couples often say that we have to protect children, or that same-sex relationships are against God. But this study suggests that lesbians and gay men who seek relationship recognition may be acting to protect their children and enact their own religious beliefs," said Ramona Faith Oswald, a U of I associate professor of family studies.

In the study, 190 persons who were cohabiting with a same-sex partner were surveyed to gather a broad range of information about lesbian and gay persons living in downstate Illinois. Within this group, a subsample of those who had legalized their same-sex relationship by making a will or granting power of attorney to their partner was identified.

Length of relationship was the strongest predictor that a couple would legalize their relationship. Legalizers in this sample were more likely to belong to a supportive religious congregation than non-legalizing cohabiters, Oswald said.

"Faith communities may be important sources of legal education and advocacy for same-sex couples," she noted.

From the legalizers, Oswald identified a still narrower group she called ritualizers, couples who had both legalized and participated in a commitment ceremony.

Having children and identifying religious beliefs as being very important in their daily life were the strongest predictors that a legalized couple would ritualize their relationship.

In fact, mothers and fathers in this study were 3.5 times more likely to have had a commitment ceremony than lesbians or gay men who lived together and had legalized their relationship but had not been part of a commitment ritual, she said.

Most children in this study were from partners' previous relationships, she noted.

"Couples may be using commitment rituals to build cohesion within stepfamilies as the role of gay and lesbian stepparents is often vague. Such ceremonies may help couples validate their sense of belonging and obligation to each other while also demonstrating to friends and relatives that they are a family unit," she said.

Most children in the study were teenagers at the time of the commitment ceremony, Oswald noted.

"It's interesting that couples were motivated to have a commitment ceremony when their children were at this developmental stage, just starting their own romantic explorations.

There may be an element of parenting going on here, with couples wanting to give their children an example of commitment by formalizing their own. It's an interesting question for future research," she said.

With the Religious Freedom and Protections Civil Unions Act under consideration in the Illinois House of Representatives, Oswald hopes this study will help to explain the motivations of gay and lesbian couples who wish to obtain civil unions.

"This study is an important contribution because it separates the legal and ritualistic aspects of solidifying a relationship. Not all same-sex couples want legal protection or ritual recognition. However, those who do appear to take these steps for the same reasons straight people often do—parenthood and religious commitment," she said.

"This common ground should be part of our policy debates," she added.

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Explore further: Premarital births no longer predict breakups

Related Stories

Premarital births no longer predict breakups

September 30, 2015

Examining changes in parental unions near the time of childbirth, social science researchers have found that premarital births do not predict breakups so long as couples marry – at some point – after a child is born.

Life's short, have you had an affair?

August 21, 2015

Today, millions of very nervous adults are furtively checking sites like "Have I been Pwned" to check if their account details at Ashley Madison have been leaked. Others are checking if their partners or acquaintances had ...

Things to know about Ashley Madison breach: Who's affected?

August 21, 2015

The spectacular breach at adultery site Ashley Madison gave rise to sordid tales of horrified spouses rushing to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, frantic phone calls to lawyers and torrid confrontations with ...

Dating apps are changing US courtship rituals

July 29, 2015

From adulterous middle-aged marrieds to millennials who say only freaks chat up people in bars, millions of Americans are finding love online as technology corners the market in romance.

The couple who Facebooks together, stays together

July 27, 2015

Becoming "Facebook official" is a milestone in modern romance, and new research suggests that activities on the popular social networking site are connected to whether those relationships last.

Recommended for you

Chimpanzees shed light on origins of human walking

October 6, 2015

A research team led by Stony Brook University investigating human and chimpanzee locomotion have uncovered unexpected similarities in the way the two species use their upper body during two-legged walking. The results, reported ...

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...

The hand and foot of Homo naledi

October 6, 2015

The second set of papers related to the remarkable discovery of Homo naledi, a new species of human relative, have been published in scientific journal, Nature Communications, on Tuesday, 6 October 2015.

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 30, 2008
I am personally opposed to gay marriage since the point of the institution is really to protect children, and every study has shown definitively that children do best in every measure when they are raised in a home with one mother and one father. The point of the institution is not to gratify people's need to "be accepted" or whatever.

But what a dork nilbud is. Even if you disagree with homosexual lifestyle, which I personally do as well, it just makes you look like an ass and makes people more likely to side against you on that basis alone if you can't make a more coherent argument than to insult people. Anyway, nilbud is probably gay himself but never admits he goes to truckstops or public bathrooms seeking "company". That is usually the type of person to have this kind of a reaction to all things gay.

Anyway, I give the story a 1. It is obvious people who believe in God in general are more likely to seek commitment, so it comes across as another propaganda piece trying to legitimize something a lot of people have rational reasons for rejecting.
not rated yet Dec 08, 2008
I respect eveyones own opinion but think if one wants to comment to at least state the facts clearly. All studies done in recent times show that children, at least in lesbian housholds, do just as well as those in heterosexual households. Do your research and then use it to state your opinion. Ignorance is not strength when used to support your claim.



Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.