Pioneers in partnership: lesbian and gay male couples in civil unions compared with those not in civil unions and married heterosexual siblings

J Fam Psychol. 2004 Jun;18(2):275-86. doi: 10.1037/0893-3200.18.2.275.


This study compared 212 lesbians and 123 gay men who had civil unions in Vermont (during the first year legislation made this available) with 166 lesbians and 72 gay men in their friendship network who had not had civil unions, and also with 219 heterosexual married women and 193 heterosexual married men consisting of civil union couples' siblings and their spouses. Married heterosexual couples had been together longer and had more traditional division of labor and child care than did lesbians and gay men in both types of couples. Lesbians in civil unions were more open about their sexual orientation than those not in civil unions, and gay men in civil unions were closer to their family of origin than gay men not in civil unions. This is the first study on same-sex couples with civil unions, and the first to compare lesbians and gay men with their married siblings. At a time of legal changes for same-sex couples, these results indicate that legalized same-sex relationships are related to visibility of same-sex couples to their family and the general public.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality / ethnology
  • Heterosexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homosexuality, Female / ethnology
  • Homosexuality, Female / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homosexuality, Male / ethnology
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Marriage / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Partners
  • Social Support
  • Vermont