It's complicated: The impact of marriage legalization among sexual minority women and gender diverse individuals in the United States.

Laurie A. Drabble, Angie R. Wootton, Cindy B. Veldhuis, Ellen Perry, Ellen D.B. Riggle, Karen F. Trocki, Tonda L. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This mixed-methods study explored perceptions of the impact of marriage legalization in all U.S. states among sexual minority women and gender diverse individuals. Survey data were collected from a nonprobability sample of individuals 18 years or older who identified as lesbian, bisexual, queer, same-sex attracted, or something other than exclusively heterosexual—as well as individuals who identified as transgender or gender nonbinary (e.g., genderqueer, trans woman, trans man, nonbinary, or gender nonconforming). The analytic sample included 418 participants in an online survey who responded to open-ended questions about the perceived impact of marriage legalization. Qualitative analyses revealed perceptions of marriage legalization that situated individual meanings in the context of broader political and social factors. Four themes represented the complex perceptions of participants about marriage legalization: (a) establishing a victory in civil rights, social inclusion, and acceptance; (b) creating a paradox between positives of legalization and limitations of marriage as an institution; (c) amplifying concerns for unaddressed safety and rights issues; and (d) contributing to the erosion of queer identity and community. Quantitative analyses revealed several differences by demographic characteristics, such as greater concern about the erosion of community among unmarried participants compared to participants who were married. Findings underscore the importance of policies that advance equality for sexual and gender minorities (SGMs), as well as the importance of research exploring how policies are perceived by and impact SGM subpopulations. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved) Public Significance Statement: Legalization of marriage for same-sex couples in the United States was generally perceived by sexual and gender minorities (SGM) as a civil rights victory and marker of increased social inclusion and acceptance. At the same time, findings underscore remaining concerns such as inconsistent policy protections against discrimination, structural stigma and stigma from family and extended networks, and how centralizing marriage may undermine SGM community connectedness and appreciation for diverse relationship structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-406
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association


  • gender nonbinary
  • marriage legalization
  • sexual minority women
  • transgender

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • General Psychology


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