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Experiencing Same-Sex Marriage

Individuals, Couples, and Social Networks

Pamela Lannutti

This book provides an understanding of how the legal and cultural debates and advances and limitations on same-sex marriage are experienced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, same-sex couples, and their social networks. Using data collected from hundreds of GLBT people, same-sex couples, and their social networks over the past decade, the book examines the following topics: same-sex marriages’ impact on how GLBT individuals view their relationships and community; same-sex couples’ decision making regarding whether to marry or not; the interactions between same-sex couples and members of their families-of-origin regarding same-sex marriage; the same-sex marriage experiences of understudied members of the GLBT community; and the interactions between same-sex couples and members of their social networks in locations with restrictions against legally recognized same-sex marriage. These findings are examined through the lens of the social scientific study of relationships. They are based on a communication studies perspective on personal relationships, and therefore emphasize communication concepts and theories relevant to the understanding of same-sex marriage experiences.
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Chapter Three. Should We Get Hitched? Same-sex Couples Deciding to Marry or Not

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I was living in Boston in 2004 when Masachusetts became the first U.S. state to have legally recognized same-sex marriage. After the initial surprise and elation of learing about this historic change in relationship recognition, my friends and I turned our thoughts to our own relationships. What were couples going to do now? Within my social circle, there were many long-term same-sex couples. Most of these couples had never given much thought to symbolically expressing their devotion to one another through something like a commitment ceremony, but many of them shared a common social network, were involved with each other’s families, owned property together, had designated each other as beneficiaries in their life insurance policies or wills, had assigned each other as health care proxies or given one another durable power of attorney, had pets together, and/or were raising a child together. Although these relationships were well established, they were now considering marriage for the first time. And, despite their commitment to each other, the decision to marry or not was not an easy, no-brainer decision for most couples. Rather, these couples deliberated privately, and sometimes publicly, about the pros and cons of getting married. While some of my friends are now happily married to a same-sex partner, others remain in a committed, non-married same-sex partnership. What happened among my friends is a small glimpse into what some same-sex couples experience when legally recognized marrage becomes a possiblity for them.

This chapter examines the experiences of same-sex couples...

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