Legal recognition of same-sex relationships in the United States: a social science perspective

Am Psychol. 2006 Sep;61(6):607-21. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.61.6.607.


Whether and how civil society should recognize committed relationships between same-sex partners has become a prominent, often divisive, policy issue. The present article reviews relevant behavioral and social science research to assess the validity of key factual claims in this debate. The data indicate that same-sex and heterosexual relationships do not differ in their essential psychosocial dimensions; that a parent's sexual orientation is unrelated to her or his ability to provide a healthy and nurturing family environment; and that marriage bestows substantial psychological, social, and health benefits. It is concluded that same-sex couples and their children are likely to benefit in numerous ways from legal recognition of their families, and providing such recognition through marriage will bestow greater benefit than civil unions or domestic partnerships. Trends in public opinion toward greater support for legal recognition of same-sex couples are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Civil Rights / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Civil Rights / psychology
  • Family Relations / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Homosexuality / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Marriage / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Parent-Child Relations / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Social Sciences*
  • United States