Answers to Your Questions About Same-Sex Marriage

Are same-sex marriages different from heterosexual marriages?

Like heterosexuals, many lesbian, gay and bisexual people want to form stable, long-lasting relationships and many of them do. In fact, researchers have found that the majority of lesbian, and gay, adults are in committed relationships and many couples have been together 10 or more years.

Scientists have found that the psychological and social aspects of committed relationships between same-sex partners largely resemble those of heterosexual partnerships. Like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples form deep emotional attachments and commitments. Same-sex and heterosexual couples alike face similar issues concerning intimacy, love, loyalty and stability, and they go through similar processes to address those issues. Empirical research also shows that lesbian and gay couples have levels of relationship satisfaction similar to or higher than those of heterosexual couples.  

How do laws that limit marriage to heterosexuals affect gay and lesbian people?

Being denied the right to marry reinforces the stigma associated with a minority sexual identity. Researchers have found that living in a state where same-sex marriage is outlawed can lead to chronic social stress and mental health problems. Psychologists are particularly concerned that such stigma may undermine the healthy development of adolescents and young adults.

The families and friends of lesbian and gay couples who are denied marriage rights may also experience negative physical and mental health consequences similar to those experienced by their loved ones.

Do same-sex couples make fit parents?

The vast majority of scientific studies that have directly compared lesbian and gay parents with heterosexual parents have consistently shown that the same-sex couples are as fit and capable parents as heterosexual couples, and that their children are just as psychologically healthy and well adjusted. For instance, one recent study (PDF, 169KB) found that children of same-sex couples do just as well in school as children of heterosexual couples, and these children are equally popular among their peers. 

Why is marriage so important?

Marriage bestows economic and social support to couples in committed relationships, which can result in substantial health benefits. Researchers have found that married men and women generally experience better physical and mental health than comparable cohabiting couples. Additionally, same-sex couples in legal unions are more likely to remain in a committed relationship than those denied marriage rights.

Taken together, the research shows that there's no scientific basis for denying marriage rights to same-sex couples, and doing so can adversely affect them as well as their family and friends.

This fact sheet is based on APA's amicus brief in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry and APA's Public Interest Government Relations Office fact sheet on Marriage Equality and LGBT Health (PDF, 111KB).