Gay & bi people get more politically active after they get married

May 21, 2019: Pro-choice activists protest on the steps of the Supreme Court after states sought to pass restrictive "heart beat" abortion laws.
May 21, 2019: Pro-choice activists protest on the steps of the Supreme Court after states sought to pass restrictive "heart beat" abortion laws. Photo: Shutterstock

A new study has found that straight couples become less politically engaged after getting married, but for gay, lesbian, and bisexual couples, marriage has the opposite effect.

The study was designed to examine whether or not marriage made a difference in political activism and if the sexual orientation of the couple mattered.

Eric Swank, a clinical associate professor at Arizona State University West Campus and the author of the study, explained, “This study addresses the links between marriage, sexual identities, and joining social movements. Earlier studies have noted several trends.”

“First, few people join social movements but getting married seems to lessen the support of antiwar, feminist, and racial justice social movements among heterosexuals. Second, marriage also seems to slightly increase the likelihood of joining pro-life activism as well. Third, the research literature is uncertain as to whether this pattern of marital conservativism applies to lesbian or gay married people.”

The sample consisted of 3,815 individuals who identified as heterosexual, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. 95.5 percent identified as heterosexual. The mean age was 51.6 years, and 50.8 percent identified as cisgender males. 66% identified as White non-Hispanic, 14% as Black, and 14% as Hispanic.

The respondents were classified as currently married, widowed, divorced or separated, and never married. Political activism was measured through involvement in conservative or liberal social movements, engagement with LGBTQ+ rights activism, and participation in a protest march.

Across the board, married couples and widowed people were less likely to engage in LGBTQ+ rights and other social justice movements than single people. But marital status didn’t change participation in conservative social movements or protest marches.

But the study points to a “sexuality gap” for liberals. LGB people were more active in social justice issues than straight people. Bisexual people were slightly less active than gays and lesbians in liberal movements, but sexual orientation had no influence on conservative movements.

Marriage generally decreased involvement in liberal social justice movements and increased support for conservative causes for heterosexual couples. But it had the opposite effect on queer couples: lesbians and gays were more likely to participate in protests.

“The political effects of marriage varies by sexual identity,” Swank added. “Lesbian and gay married people are more likely to join liberal social movements than single or divorced lesbians and gay men. This marital increase for lesbians and gay men is most pronounced around LGBT activism, but the marital boost also appears in feminist, environmental, and antiracist activism. As expected, heterosexual marriage had the opposite relationship for heterosexuals.”

The majority of Americans support marriage equality at record high numbers

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