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Liveblogging Day 3: Part VI – Letitia Peplau


By Paul Hogarth

[UPDATE] 1:53 PM: We’re back from lunch … no news yet from the Supremes about whether the trial can be broadcast on YouTube. I believe that Frank Schubert (who ran the “Yes on 8” campaign in California, and “Yes on 1” in Maine) is in the same room with me right now.  I’m doing my best not to pay attention to him … they only want us to be angry at them.

They have just trained a new witness: Dr. Letishia Peplak, social psychologist from UCLA — an expert on relationship research.  She has done research work on same-sex couples since the 1970’s, and has been a pioneer in this field.  Not sure who the plaintiff’s attorney is.  Will hopefully get the name later …

Peplak says she is an expert on four issues: (a) marriage brings important benefits, (b) relationships between same-sex and heterosexual couples are similar, (c) gay couples who can marry have the same benefits, (d) gay marriage will not harm heterosexual marriage.

Peplak: Many people view getting married as an important life goal.  91% of Americans have either been married or plan to.

Attorney: Do lesbians and gay men feel the same way?

Peplak: Yes, most would want to get married if they could.

A: Do people value domestic partnership as much as marriage?

P: There were studies to see how many gay couples took advantage of domestic partnerships.  Whereas only 10-12% of gay couples in the first year that civil unions took advantage of it,  37% of Massachusetts gay couples took advantage of marriage during the first year.  This suggests that gay couples are three times more likely to act on marriage than civil unions …

[UPDATE] 1:57 PM: The US Supreme Court just ruled — no cameras.  It was a 5-4 decision.

P: Married couples live healthier, less likely to engage in dangerous behavior, less likely to smoke, less likely to drink in excess.

A: Why?

P: Selection effect.  Maybe people who are healthier are more likely to attract a partner.  The second theory is the “protection effect” — there are things associated with marriage that enhance and contribute to health.

A: Why a protective effect?

P: Four reasons — Marriage brings a change in identity.  Attaining a life goal brings higher self-esteem.  Marriage also brings a sense of maturity — “now I’m an adult, so I’m going to be more responsible.  I’m no longer just in it for me — I’m in it for my partner.”  There are ways for married couples to help each other and support each other.  There’s a broader social network for when people get married.  Marriage links two families — so that now you have two networks or groups of people to help them.

A: Present four articles that Dr. Peplau had looked at to base her opinion on the benefits of marriage.  Now let’s talk about similarities of gay and straight relationships.  Have there been studies to prove that?

P: Yes, there have been quite a few and it has been well received.

A: What are the primary topics of studying this body of work?

P: It has studied the quality of same-sex relationships.  We’ve looked at stability, durability,– and the process of these relationships.

A: Does this research show there’s a similarity?

P: One of the striking things about it is the consistent findings of great similarity across couples.

[UPDATE] 2:07 PM: Peplau — Researchers have done observational studies, they have measured the “level” of love.  How much warmth does the couple express for each other?  What’s the quality of their interaction?  Despite many different methodologies, the consistent findings are that gay and straight couples are very similar.

A: Any stereotypes?

P: Yes, there’s a stereotype is that same-sex relationships are inferior and less stable.  But there’s no foundation for it.

A: Has relationship been done comparing stability of gay v. straight relationships?

P: Yes.  One of the best studies was by Carpenter and Gates in the journal Demography.  61% of lesbians said they were in loving cohabiting relationships, with 46% of gay men.  62% of heterosexuals.

A: Are there professional organizations that have weighed in?

P: My own organization — American Psychological Association has recently been adopted a position paper on that topic. [She then is asked to review that position paper.] One of the findings says “Many lesbians and gays have formed durable relationships.”  Another finding is “satisfaction, stability and commitment is relatively the same between gay and straight.”

A: Is it true that gay relationships don’t last as long as straight ones?

P: No evidence, but it’s been suggested.  One reason could be because marriage has a stabilizing form.  Another is the stigma of homosexuals.

JUDGE (First time he asked a question today): What’s the difference between married straight couples and co-habitating straight couples?  Is there a difference in the durabiilty?

P: Yes.  On average, straight co-habitating relationships are shorter than straight married relationships.

[UPDATE] 2:18 PM: Peplau talks about the rate that couples argue with each other.

A: Is there a consensus in the research that the similarity exists between gay and straight couples?

P: Yes.  There is a similarity.

A: Do you have an opinion whether gay and lesbian couples would benefit by having the right to marry?

P: Yes, and I support it.  And the American Psychiatric Association has issued a policy statement.



  • 1. AB  |  January 13, 2010 at 6:59 am

    Whose twitter?

  • 2. L.A. Guy  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:00 am

    The psychologist's name is Peplau

  • 3. DuRand  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Prop 8 Court TV blocked
    Lyle Denniston | Wednesday, January 13th, 2010 4:49 pm

  • 4. Gus  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:01 am

    camera ruling as expected, the Supremes don't want the cameras to creep toward them

  • 5. Lane Darnton  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Don't you mean 3 times more likely to act on marriage than civil unions? . . .

  • 6. Nicki  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:02 am

    those cowards ! No camera's eh ? i am beyond steamed.

  • 7. kristin  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Yahoo news has the story here about SCOTUS' ruling:

  • 8. Michael  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Do you have that last part backwards? i'm not following that. Did you mean that they are three times as likely to act on marriage than civil unions?

  • 9. Chris  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:03 am

    I believe the witness is Letitia Peplau – she's a psychologist at UCLA (iirc) who has written numerous papers on same-sex relationships.

  • 10. ASW  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Don't you mean gay couples are 3x more likely to act on marriage than civil unions?

  • 11. Philip  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:04 am

    It is so valuable to me to read your live blogging. I have said thanks before, but If you don't mind, I have to repeat myself in thanking you.

  • 12. L. Atwood  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:09 am

    (my first visit to the site) I too must thank you for your comprehensive coverage especially since SCOTUS has no-no'ed the cameras. As a straight, I'm distressed that children (good little kids, of course) are marriage's aim. Those of us over childbearing age can't marry? Must we get a divorce once the female finishes menopause? What about vasectomy'ed guys? (actually, under the defendant's thinking, vasectomy would be sacrilege). Anyhow, as a female at age 64, I'd like to marry my 62-yr-old male lover. But since we can't have children, that's not allowed? Give me a break.

  • 13. Tom  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:10 am

    BTW all – NOM tweeted this web address today so be prepared for their members to infiltrate the comments on here. Should be interesting.

  • 14. FishyFred  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:11 am

    My list has several folks tweeting the proceedings live + one Yes-on-8 source in case they say something interesting.

  • 15. OS2Guy  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Yes – OF COURSE he means 3 times more likely to act on marriage then civil unions. It is common sense. The guy is under a lot of pressure to get this information on line.

  • 16. Steffi  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:13 am

    I like all those scientific arguments^^ being a scientist myself.
    also those beneficial health effects are great. never knew there were studies about it. I might go and actually read the papers :)
    beneficial effects can have many causes it's really fascinating for me (esp. since I have a lot to do with health issues in my epidemiological studies)

  • 17. Reiuji  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:15 am

    If I'm reading this right, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Stevens all dissented with Breyer writing the dissenting opinion.

  • 18. Steffi  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:16 am

    looking forward to it :) lets have some reasonable arguments with them if they're willing :) (and not just post things like "you're all disgusting sinners" [while completely failing to see that here are lot's of straights too;)])
    but on the other hand: d'you think many of "them"(= those who voted yes) are following the case?

  • 19. OS2Guy  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:18 am

    I fret, re today's SCOTUS 5-4 decision. When this case does hit the SC we'll need someone from that 5 group to switch sides.

  • 20. Tom  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:20 am

    Hard to say – I never thought they would spend so much and do so much grass roots work during the campaign itself. You never know if they are sitting there with their rosary beads praying that the court rules in their favor.

  • 21. AB  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:21 am

    OS2Guy, I had the SAME thought. We're in some major trouble.

  • 22. Steffi  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:22 am

    Interested in one of these papers about relationship stability?

  • 23. Reiuji  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:23 am

    I don't know if we can take this as any forecast of a SCOTUS decision at all, it's largely unrelated as far as legal matters are concerned.

    If anything, we can hardly be sure they'll even grant certiorari. If they don't, we still win and turn 9 states to our side (the entire 9th circuit).

  • 24. Warren  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:25 am

    This case has always been about Kennedey. I'm not sure that this is a ruling we should read too much into re the merits of this case. But you are right we need Kennedey to win.

    That said a 5-4 decision with a very strong dissent is also helpful in future cases. The dissent in Hardwick was very important in Romer and Lawrence (which overturned Hardwick).

  • 25. Robert A.  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Maybe not, this 5-4 wasn't about this case, but about the video broadcast, the opinion chastised this court for not following the federal rules.

  • 26. Calvin  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:26 am

    That part of the case before SCOTUS is only regarding whether federal trials can be viewed on television or on Youtube. It had nothing to do with the content of the trial itself.

  • 27. Michael  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:28 am

    JUDGE (First time he asked a question today): What’s the difference between married straight couples and co-habitating straight couples? Is there a difference in the durabiilty?

    so he is awake? and BAM! what a great question, followed by a terrific response by Peplau!

  • 28. Rover Serton  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:30 am

    If you want an immediate responce, the 5-4 decision might be a problem. I am a straight married 52 year old. I vote, my 2 kids vote, my wife votes. In the short term , we have had a bad strech (New Jersey), but times, "they are a'changin". Equal rights are coming, not quick as I wish but they are coming.

  • 29. Mike  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Not really, the issues of broadcasting a trial at the last moment and the issue of gay marriage will not be decided on the criteria of "I'm for them or against them" Kennedy has ruled in favor of gay isses before, this is not a gay issue, it is a court procedureal issue.

  • 30. Steffi  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:31 am

    I also found the actual Paper they were talking about which is: Christopher Carpenter
    Gary J. Gates
    Gay and Lesbian Partnership: Evidence from California
    Demography – Volume 45, Number 3, August 2008, pp. 573-590 though it's not an open access document i had to download it with my university account

  • 31. Steffi  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:32 am

    maybe he had a good lunch 😉

  • 32. Whitney Weddell  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:33 am

    I dunno if I trust that it had nothing to do with the content of this case. The conservatives on this SCOTUS may not want to allow anything that makes their rulling in support of prop 8 any more difficult. We know that Scalia and Thomas are homophobic. They just made it a little easier for NOM to win. I am not sure that personal anti-gay sentiment did not enter into that ruling.

  • 33. jon  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:49 am

    agreed — way to drive the point home (scientifically).

    whats amazing to me: I naively always assumed that the court-based arguments were all finance/insurance-policy-integration/etc-based I had no idea it was so blatantly … just… a struggle to drive *opinions* home.

    What I mean is, the fact that someone has to present *scientific* studies to convince others of a *non-scientific* matter (in my opinion) is really discouraging — for instance, what the statistics weren't comparable in numbers:
    >61% of lesbians said they were in loving cohabiting relationships, with
    >46% of gay men. 62% of heterosexuals.

    what if, instead, it was:
    – 30% lesbians
    – 30% gay men
    – 62% heterosexuals

    I would honestly feel, "so what — thats irrelevant to the bottom line of this case" — but the fact is (as my rant is pointing out) — that its being *made relevant* by the people who have issues with this.


    (sorry if some of this is repeat, but I barely had time to read the post, let alone read comments)

  • 34. Billy  |  January 13, 2010 at 8:04 am

    Great stuff. I am to understand that this installment 5 (V) not 6 (VI), yes?

  • 35. Eric Thut  |  January 13, 2010 at 8:06 am

    Straight guy here, but yeah, I am a disgusting sinner.

  • 36. missdk  |  January 13, 2010 at 8:35 am

    I've been using this link all week! Thanks, Fred :)

  • 37. Marlene Bomer  |  January 13, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Not necessarily… depending on how long it'll take to go before SCOTUS, a couple of the justices may decide to retire before then.

  • 38. Yaira  |  January 14, 2010 at 5:43 am

    I was hoping for streaming video to be approved because I want to watch it and it would be a lot of information for the public, on the other hand, I'm ok with them not televising it or giving it much press lately. It definitely makes the negative animosity decrease around the trial and everyone can see this in a more rational light. The media tends to throw things around and distort them just for the spectacle of it all. I hope this all passes well and everyone gets surprised, then those pro prop8 can whine for a while and get over it after all is said and done.

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