Studying the longest ‘legal’ U.S. same-sex couples: A case of lessons learned

Esther D. Rothblum, Kimberly F. Balsam, Ellen D.B. Riggle, Sharon S. Rostosky, Robert E. Wickham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We review methodological opportunities and lessons learned in conducting a longitudinal, prospective study of same-sex couples with civil unions, recruited from a population-based sample, who were compared with same-sex couples in their friendship circle who did not have civil unions, and heterosexual married siblings and their spouse. At Time 1 (2002), Vermont was the only US state to provide legal recognition similar to marriage to same-sex couples; couples came from other US states and other countries to obtain a civil union. At Time 2 (2005), only one US state had legalized same-sex marriage, and at Time 3 (2013) about half of US states had legalized same-sex marriage, some within weeks of the onset of the Time 3 study. Opportunities included sampling legalized same-sex relationships from a population; the use of heterosexual married couples and same-sex couples not in legalized relationships as comparison samples from within the same social network; comparisons between sexual minority and heterosexual women and men with and without children; improvements in statistical methods for non-independence of data and missing data; and the use of mixed methodologies. Lessons learned included obtaining funding, locating participants over time as technologies changed, and on-going shifts in marriage laws during the study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-276
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of GLBT Family Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
for this research was provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development R01HD069370 (Kimberly Balsam, PI).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Civil unions
  • gay father
  • lesbian mother
  • same-sex marriage
  • same-sex partner

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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