January 13, 2010
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. www.scotusblog.com
P: Married couples live healthier, less likely to engage in dangerous behavior, less likely to smoke, less likely to drink in excess.
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.